Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Beijing Day 2

OK, so everyone knows that this is what the Great Wall is supposed to look like:

What most of you may not know is that for 99.9% of the time, climbing the great wall really looks more like this:

...and that's because for the entire exhausting climb, you really can't afford to look around to enjoy the view because you risk tripping on the unevenly-spaced steps and tumbling to a humiliatingly ignoble death. Or possibly being trampled from behind by the masses trailing in the wake of your feeble footsteps. Or slamming unexpectedly into the poor bloke who's stopped abruptly in his tracks, gasping along with you in perfect harmony.

From afar, one inescapably feels the overpowering awe, beauty & wonder of the Wall, the only manmade structure visible from space.

From anear, one inescapably feels like a triathalon followed by a marathon would have been the wiser choice:

Things improved once we made it (almost) to the highest point of this particular section of the Great Wall. We decided we'd stop one watchtower short of the actual highest point. Call us slackers, but honestly, after you've gotten that far and see the view at that height, another couple hundred yards of burning pain just doesn't make that much difference. And of course there's always the return DOWN that stands ready and waiting to do you in.

We also went to see the Ming Tombs, where 13 of the emperors are buried. This was probably the highpoint of the day, believe it or not. We learned all sorts of things about the history of the emperors and their beliefs in the afterlife.

We also learned that when the emperor died a couple of his concubines were offered in sacrifice. This is where they ended up:

That beautiful huge building behind me is just the gravestone marker for one of the emperors. Talk about money to burn. And that's me standing at the door to the afterlife and crossing over it, hoping for the best.

We also visited a Jade museum. Here is our guide showing us a "family ball" - one solid block of jade that has been carved into three balls that spin inside each other.

And this is my best Happy Buddha impersonation:

Tomorrow we leave for Xian. I think most of the day is traveling so I don't know if you'll hear from us. Then Friday we'll visit the Terracotta Warriors and see what those old guys have been up to lately.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Day 1 in Beijing

China is beautiful!!! We had a blast today, going to the Forbidden Temple, the Summer Palace, Tienamen Square, a pearl shop, a silk market, a tea shop (yummm).

Jason and I were the only people with our guide, so we got to do whatever we wanted, which for me primarily consisted of wandering off to take a huge number of photos. I tried to pare it down a bit, but I think there's still gonna be a ton that end up on the blog. Ah well... What can you do when everywhere you turn there are such beautiful and ancient artifacts?

Being blonde and blue-eyed, I got a lot of stares and quite a few requests for my photograph to be taken. At first I thought I was doing something I wasn't supposed to be doing, because all of a sudden there would be a volley of explosive words directed my way as they headed straight toward me. But no, I wasn't in a forbidden place in the Forbidden Temple. I was just American. Between that and having a personal tour guide/chauffer, I felt like a celebrity. Jason was a little jealous, so later that afternoon when some solitary soul pleaded for his photograph with HIM, he got all excited and wanted me to document it. So you won't see any photos of me with my assorted Asian entourages, but you will see Jason with his lone fan.

In the Summer Palace there were all these cool old trees and rocks. I'm sure they have more sophisticated names, but "gnarled trees" and "holey rocks" will have suffice for my narrative purposes here. I had to get my picture taken, crawling all over this neat rock formation. Jason didn't think I should be climbing all around the thing, but I was having fun and my papparazziism was in full gear. Unfortunately, as soon as I climbed back down, what do you suppose I saw right behind me? This HUGE placard that said ABSOLUTELY NO CLIMBING ON ARTIFACTS.

Fortunately for me, this time there was no security officers around. (There was a near-incident on the bridge that involved a guard, that famous photo of Mao, and my desire for a picture, but that's another story....)

There are these humongous red doors that have nine golden doorknobs that run across horizontally and nine more that run vertically (nine being the number of power and perfection for the Chinese). People are really superstitious - everyone passing by had to rub the doorknobs as they walked by. The knobs at arm level are all shiny, the finish completely worn off by the 20,000 visitors that pass by each day. Oh, and don't step on the threshold as you walk through. Legend says the evil spirits can jump on your pantleg and gain entrance along with you.

Check out the huge unevenness of this brick courtyard. Our guide told us that the top layer of bricks goes horizontal but there's a second layer underneath that runs vertically (to prevent enemies from tearing up the road/courtyard).

Apparently I got a little over-eager on the door knobs and latches that are all around these old palace courtyards. I have tons more of similar ones, but I'll limit it to this one.

Well, we're gonna think about dinner and an early bedtime tonight. Tomorrow we walk the wall and visit the Ming tombs!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Asian Invasion!

We crazy kids have arrived, safe and sound!!!

After leaving Logan (Boston) at 9 a.m. Sunday morning, we finally arrived at Destination Beijing around midnight Monday night... Long. Very, very long. (Considering how stir crazy I was getting, I'm already not looking forward to the return with a 4-year-old...)

The last leg of our trip was delayed by 2 hours (plane brake lines weren't working, so I take it as a very good thing that they kicked us off the plane and had us reboard a different one.) But we were so travel weary and yet hyped up, it made it hard to sleep last night. Definitely betting sleep will come with a heavy hand tonight...

It's about 5:15 a.m. Tues (that would make it 5:15 p.m. Monday for all those back home) and I'm sitting here in our hotel room in Beijing showered, dressed and ready to see a big wall. But our guide isn't meeting us until 8:15, so breakfast first....

But I've been dying to blog (we couldn't do it in Tokyo) to let everyone know we made it! Wild.

Because we arrived around midnight, we haven't seen much of anything to take a decent picture of. And with our bleary bloodshot eyes, pictures of us definitely don't count. But we'll take tons today and download them when we get back later this afternoon.

Big huge hugs to everyone who prayed and sent us off with words of encouragement. An extra special big hugs to our moms & dads....and the rest of our "families" scattered near and far! Love you all and thanks for your unwavering support!!!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Watching the minute hand...

The waiting really is the hardest part. One of my church friends was saying yesterday how awful it is to have to anticipate. It’s ridiculously annoying.

And we have 6 more days of it to go.

There’s nothing productive that you can do about any of the unknowns. Stewing and worrying about what might (or might not) be won’t make anything any easier. Trying to anticipate it just makes my head spin.

On the other hand, when you’re feeling incredibly excited and completely energized, you have to contain yourself because you remember you still have 6 days to go and people look at you funny when you giggle and dance about and forget to answer their questions in a straightforward manner. It’s a no-win.

Jason and I were chatting this morning as we drove in to work together, and I kept randomly coming up with a myriad of small worries. One after another, all sorts of tiny negatives kept popping into my head. Mind you, not one of these things was a serious problem or potential disaster; just a string of my telltale, random quirkynesses.

Finally he said, "Emily, do you think that maybe – just maybe – your low-level anxiety is kicking into gear, heading out onto the open road, obsessively scanning the horizon for any and all appearance of a storm cloud?"

I said, "Yeah, I think even my anxiety is starting to get stressed out."

Jason’s right: it’s high time to pull that anxiety scout into the garage for a while and take JOY and EXCITEMENT and ENERGY out for a spin…

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Look, Ma, no dishes!

We couldn't do a complete remodel in the kitchen, but we decided to spruce the room up a bit. We are so excited with how awesome our kitchen patching-caulking-repainting project came out, so we thought we'd share some pics with you, our favorite reader(s).

I've artfully orchestrated it such that you will all labor under the delusion that I am a marvelous housekeeper. A more accurate reality would be to say that my kitchen in this state of cleanliness and superb organization is such an anomaly that it was deserving of photographic documentation strictly for posterity's sake.

Truth be told, Jason is often the one who does the dishes and laundry during the week. Is that shameful to admit?

Not only is Jason full of domestic handyness, but I will admit -- since it's Sunday and I'm in the confessional mode -- he is also my resident interior decorator.

Back in the fall when we started our very first remodeling project (the bathroom), he and our contractor friend Dylan went to Home Depot to pick up building supplies. But since they were already there (I was later told), Jason decided to grab all the fixtures as well (sink, tub, shower, etc). He was on his way to checkout when Dylan took him aside.


"What?" An oblivious Jason.

"You sure you want to do this? Y'know....without checking with her first."

In a bold move, Jason said, "Yeah. It'll be good. She'll like it."



Dylan sighed. Since Jason and I've been married slightly longer than he has, what could he say? He shrugged his shoulders. "Duly warned."

In full confidence Jason pressed on: "Duly noted."

The verdict?

It looked sweet! (Go back to January's post to see pics for yourself). Jason really did have an eye for this redecorating thing.

So what do you suppose happened the next time he went out and came home with more new household fixtures, this time for the living room?

Good ol' Doubting Thomasina here looked inside the various Home Depot, Target and Lowes bags, raised her eyebrows and promptly raised all sorts of grief. Such-and-such definitely would not work; this doohickey was highly dubious; that thingamajig was, well, eh at best. On and on I went with how I just didn't think his choices were going to work. Harumph.

You'd think once I'd witnessed what he could do in redecorating the bathroom I'd be slightly more acquiescent and at least willing to hear him out. But you have to understand, most of the sides of Jason I get to see involve wrist locks, bacon, arm bars, steak, takedowns, roast beef, jujitsu grappling, spam, or some other highly testosterine-driven or artery-clogging personnae. This is a whole new -- dare I say sensitive? -- side to my man that is unfolding. Maybe I should re-introduce tofu.

So when we went to pick up curtains yesterday and within 45 seconds of scanning the aisles (after I had been there for at least 10 minutes feeling overwhelmed) Jason pulled up something that wasn't really in our new kitchen color scheme, this time I didn't bat an eye.

I think I'm learning.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

We're not ignoring you...

Just a quick post to let you know about how to "post a comment" on our blog because some people have written us lovely missives that have instantaneously vanished into cyberspace without Jason or me having the chance to peruse your prose.

What's happening is that many of you have been getting e-mailed versions of our blog posts delivered to your inbox, but some of you are then trying to post a comment while you're there in your e-mail.

No can do. If you want to respond, you must go directly to our blogspot and enter your comments there. I know, I know. It's an extra step. But I assure you the opportunity to converse with moi and enjoy my scintillating wit will be so worth it. :)

Also, I know we haven't written in the last few days.... we've been foolish enough to decide to patch and repaint our kitchen since it was the only room downstairs that didn't get a complete makeover. It was looking rather shabby in comparison and, to be honest, confessed to feeling rather left out. There's nothing like an emotional kitchen to guilt one.

Besides it's FUN to cram your few remaining weeks before embarking to China chock full of "minor house projects." (If you look closely, you can see I'm giving you my best poker face.)

We thought some basic TLC would not be overly time-consuming (foolish mortals!) and might give a bit of a facelift (happily, true!). It's actually working! We didn't think it'd actually come out this swell! Hopefully I can upload some pictures later...

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Travel Plans Booked!

We have booked our China shindig! For those interested, here’s how it’ll go (or some close approximation thereof, because when do things ever run smoothly and on time?):

Sun, April 27 leave Boston at 9:00 am/arrive Beijing (eventually) at 9:25 pm on 4/28

Mon, April 28–Thurs, May 1: four days in BEIJING
We’ll see the Great Wall and Ming Tombs, Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven and Summer Palace. Then on May 1 we leave in the afternoon for Xian:

Thurs, May 1–Sat, May 3: XIAN
We’ll enjoy a full-day tour of terra-cotta warriors at Qin Tomb complex, see Xian’s massive City Wall, the Drum Tower, Bell Tower and Big Goose Pagoda.

Xian is about 6 hours from Zhengzhou (where we will meet Jesse Yong) but there are no flights, so we get to take a train ride for $30. We are VERY excited about this, because that means we get to see the countryside, relax, and just decompress from our adventures before we meet our son.

The train leaves Sat, May 3 at 2:30 in the afternoon and arrives in Zhengzhou at 9:30 p.m. So from there we’ll go directly to our hotel. Supposedly, we are to meet Jesse Yong on Monday, which means we’d have Sunday free. But I know many times people have arrived on what was supposed to be “the day before” they were to meet their child and discovered the child is already there at the hotel, ready and waiting (and in most cases screaming) for them. We’ll hope that’s not the case, at least the screaming and wailing part.

Jesse Yong will either be brought to our hotel or to the Civil Affairs office in that city. I wonder just how scared he will be and I pray that God would put His hand of peace and assurance on his little heart. Such a life change, something most of us have never experienced. What survivors these kids are! Wow. I really am overwhelmed for him. He may never have even been in a car before…

We don’t know how much he will have been told or if he’s been in any way prepared for this huge change. He may literally have been tucked into the car and told about his new parents on the long drive over. And here he will be, hours from the people and place he knows and plunked down in a new city with new strange faces…

We will spend the next few days doing a little sight seeing but also waiting on lots of paperwork for Jesse’s passport, etc. I know we’ve said this before, but SERIOUSLY there’s a lot of paperwork involved in adoption. So if you’re feeling green today, plant a tree on behalf of us.

On Fri, May 9 we head to Guangzhou where we’ll do lots of fun things and shopping and sightseeing. And there are lots of Starbucks to keep us energized. We have our Consulate Appointment Mon, May 12 and our oath swearing Tues, May 13. We head back home Wed, May 14 at 8:20 a.m. to arrive (eventually) in Boston at 6:55 p.m.

It will be a wave of relief and comfort, knowing we are HOME and all is well again. We’ll be safe and secure in our familiar surroundings once again. But Jesse Yong will feel displaced, confused by the language and the culture and the food, away from those he knows and loves, and those who loved him.

He’ll feel like we did in China, except for him it’ll be permanent. There will be no going back; this is his forever family and his new life. Jesse Yong’s Chinese name means “courage,” and I know his caregiver called him that for a reason. We know he’s a survivor. I would go so far as to say I think my little boy is the hero of this China adventure.

Godspeed, my courageous little one, on this journey that lies ahead. We can’t do it for you, but we’ll be there to hold your hand.