The cattle driving continues and holy crap, is it ever hot. I thought the itinerary was ambitious when I read it months ago, and now I am living it,, plus the heat. Oh good hell.
We have to be in the lobby at 6:00 am this morning and I’m so afraid I’m going to over-sleep that I’m not sleeping, so might as well get in some keyboard time.
On the third day, don’t ask me the date; I haven’t known the date since we left SLC. Nora’s birthday is Saturday, but other than that, there’s no reason to know the date because I relinquished control of my right to make choices when the plane landed, so I’m not bothering with dates any more.
But I digress, on the third day, the whole crowd of families was invited to enter the Great Hall of the People on Tiananmen Square for a ceremony marking the 15th anniversary of the China Center of Adoption Affairs (n/k/a CCWelfareAA). My first adoption application was caught in the turf war between the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Civil Affairs for control of the CCAA. The Ministry of Civil Affairs won that battle and is the supervising authority for the CCAA and the (wise) vice chairman of the Ministry of Civil Affairs addressed us at the ceremony. But here’s the thing, it was ho in the Great Hall of the People.
Each of us was issued a greeting card-like invitation that was punched with an Office Max hand held hole puncher at the door. I watch as other non-event related Chinese people entered the other doors and they all had the same card, just, presumably, a different page inside marking the purpose of their visit. Then we were herded up a few flights of stairs into a large, large room, with high high ceilings, where a five tier riser had been set up ahead of time. In our matching t-shirts, parents on the top levels and kids on the bottom, we stood on the risers in the hot and air-less room while each speaker, and there were five, made their remarks which also had to be translated, and if it is true that there are no atheists in foxholes, there were no atheists straddling the crack between two risers on the top tier with no railing in back and sweat running in rivulets down her back praying not to be the first parent to become faint and fall to her certain death on the marble floor 20 feet below. Oh my garden peas. That was some kind of endurance test . I kept thinking that nothing similar would ever be expected of us in the States. We would have been quizzed about our health status in advance along the lines of does anyone have a condition that would not allow them to stand for an extended period of time in oppressive heat, packed next to your neighbor like tissues in a box where you would not be allowed to sit? Yay for our group, no one croaked, fainted, vomited or fell. It was a triumph of the American spirit.
After the ceremony, each child was given a letter from the (wise) vice chairman and a stuffed panda bear embracing (or as YuYu noted, choking) a baby panda bear. Yay, four huge stuffed panda bears that we must say good-bye to this morning because we have no room in the luggage. Ah, it’s the thought that counts.
Our smaller sub-group was scheduled to walk around Tiananmen Square, then lunch at the obligatory lunch for tourists in large dining room over government run jewelry store and then on to the Summer Palace. Ten years ago, we were in Beijing, about the same time of year, seeing the same sights, and I don’t remember the crowds although China was just as over populated back then. It finally occurred to me that now, China and its citizens are more prosperous and these folks have enough disposable income to spend on travel and they are all here seeing the national treasures same as us. The line to get into Mao’s mausoleum was hours long, the long corridor at the Summer Palace was full of people catching the breeze and on the
Fourth Day, at the Forbidden City? The place was teeming with people, teeming I tell you. Inconceivable. The Forbidden City is so large, hard to wrap your head around the wealth and man power it took to build it on that scale, and now it is filled with Chinese people enjoying their own antiquities, just wild. My photos won’t do it justice especially after I kept passing from one more gate into one more huge walled area with an even larger gate, and the sweat was pouring off my head and into my eyes and I was more concerned about trying not to be a sweat spectacle and needed to mop my brow with cheap tissue that kept shredding. I don’t have the words to describe my sweatiness other than damned embarrassing.
After the Forbidden City, we drove to the edge of an older neighborhood that has been spared the wrecking ball called a hutong (narrow alley) but now hutong just means old traditional housing. When we visited in 2001, we told our guide that we wanted to see a hutong neighborhood and he said sure, we walked out of the hotel and he started knocking on doors until someone let us in for a visit. This time, we rode rickshaws supplied by the Beijing Hutong Tour Co. to a home of a couple who is paid by the tourist board to let us in and fix us lunch and it was great, but not the same. And don’t you know I slipped our rickshaw driver an extra ten spot (US) for hauling me all over creation. Hercules. I was so thankful there weren’t any hills in that neighborhood.
In the evening, still sweating, we walked from the hotel to a duck restaurant, and it was fine, not great, not like the Peking Duck memory from 2001, but that was the topper of our four days in Beijing.
I need to take a shower, like that matters, really, one step outside and I’m dripping anyway, and get us fed and in the lobby by 6:00am for our 7:50am flight to Xian where it is even hotter than Beijing. My poor poor children, no one else is sweating like me. No one.
We’re all well, kids are sooper dooper troopers, spoke to YuYu’s foster mom, she is excited to see her girl, all systems go, more from Xian.