It is around 6:00 a.m. Sunday morning here. We will shower, eat breakfast in the hotel, and check out. Our driver is coming at 8:30 a.m. It will be a 1-2 hour drive to the Great Wall and that much back after we walk it. Our guide seems to think we should not just climb to the top, but to walk the wall, and if yesterday was any indication of how far we will walk, I am sure my feet will be swollen for the next few days!!
Regarding food, Aleah has photographed nearly every meal she has eaten. She was pleased to find a food she has always remembered fondly but was unable to tell me what it was. It is Lotus Root and she ate it on New Year's every year. It was prepared here very hot and spicy, but she said it was not spicy at all in her province. For breakfast yesterday, she had steamed corn-on-the-cob, noodles, steamed sweet potatoes, soup, watermelon, rice, and various other dishes you would not expect for breakfast. We ate lunch with the family from St. Louis and the best dish was beef with scrambled egg in some kind of sauce. It looked a little weird maybe, but was really good. The Kung Pao chicken was too hot for my tastes, as was the shrimp we ordered last night at the hotel. We ordered water, thinking it would come in a bottle as China's water is considered to have bacteria and can make you ill. Instead, it came very hot, so apparently it had been boiled. I was surprised when Aleah agreed with the other little adopted Chinese girl who came with the family from St. Louis that "American Chinese food" is better!! I saw they were selling canteloupe slices on sticks at Tianneman Square. There was some police presence at Tianneman Square - one police cruiser driving on the grounds, and several police officers in their sharp green uniforms and white gloves. I noticed they were all very young men. One was so skinny, I think my hands could have spanned his waist!!
I am sorry to miss two family graduations this weekend! Not only that, but I didn't have time before we left to SEND MONEY!! I promise I will when we return. I will also be sad that my son, Andrew, will turn 24 while I am away. I will have to have a birthday party/meet your new sister party for him when we return.
Interestingly, as our Boeing 777 was descending to land, a strange smell entered the plane just as we were about to touch down. Aleah asked me what it was. I don't know what it is, exactly, but I remembered it. It is the smell of China. China has an unmistakable smell to it. I've heard people from other countries say the same thing about America. I took a photograph of Aleah as we exited the Beijing airport. She is standing in the line to have her passport inspected - the "foreigners" line. I teased her, of course, about China now considering her a foreigner.
She became so excited in Chicago as the crowd grew of Chinese people waiting for the flight at gate K12. She chattered away to the middle-aged couple she met, drawing their picture as they sat together. When we boarded the plane, she stood up and waved back at them, telling me "Look mom, our friends are only three rows back!" She used what little Chinese language she knows when speaking with them. They told her the shape of her ear lobs meant she was 'lucky" and last night she repeated that as a fact, giving credit for her ear lobs for her luck in getting to live in America. She is clearly identifying with her culture. After having been in China a day or two, she tells me "Mom, these people look like me and I don't feel short anymore." The Chinese are so superstitious and so into "luck." Our guide told us if we decorate our homes "feng shui" we will not have headaches, and we will have a balanced, healthy life. If we do not, we will become ill. They balance everything out (everything has to be symmetrical to be lucky) and they place high value on certain numbers which are "lucky" and avoid those which are "unlucky," Odd numbers are unlucky. Even numbers are lucky numbers, etc. Our guide discussed China not having a religion, and said their former emperor worshipped "heaven" Their famed "dragon lady" crushed pearls and put the paste on her face and even today the people insist that her skin was smooth and unwrinkled and she looked like a young woman when at an old age.
When I asked Aleah last night what she thinks of her trip so far, she said "It's sad." When I questioned her, she said "Because the people are so poor." I know she is referring to the many "hawkers" we saw today who can be very aggressive in forcing their wares into your line of vision. She wanted to know if that was their "only job" or if they were supplementing their income and have another job they actually do. I saw the heartbreak on her face when we were descending a ramp to go underground behind the Chairman Mao structure in Tianneman Square and someone had placed a beggar there. The ramp was concrete and had small ridges on them for stability which would have been extremely painful to lay on. The man had stumps for forearms and if he had legs, they must have been drawn up underneath him, as they were not visible. He was lying on his belly and someone had placed two small yuan about two inches from his face as he lay there, with a few small coins being on top of those. He was speaking as everyone went by him, and I think he was saying "thank you" in Chinese, but I am not certain, as there was such a crowd. Aleah looked shocked to see him and sort of cried out "Oh!" She was ahead of me and it was so upsetting to her she fell back a little to grab my hand, and whispered "That's so sad!" We have seen other beggars, but none as pitiful as that poor man.
I must shower and get Aleah up as this is check-out day. It is 6:15 a.m. here on Sunday morning, so it is 5:15 p.m. at home on Saturday night. Miss you all!
I'm not surprised to hear my grandson cried when Aleah and I left the states - he will miss his "Aleah" as will everyone else who knows her. I hope to have her home safe and sound on the 31st. Happy Graduation weekend!!