Adventures of Team Lewis: Michael, Crystal, Aedan and Emma

China

China Day 3 – The Great Wall and Olympic Village

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I know you had almost give up on my blog. Its been almost a year since Team Lewis went to China, and my last blog was about day two. Yep, no excuses, but we now have Europe at our finger tips and I’ve been re-motivated to finish what I started, and take it even further down the road. So without further ado, here is day three of the Wonders of China!!

I have to say, what better way to come back than with The Great Wall of China.  I know its been while, and details have escaped my mind, but hopefully the pictures tell a pretty good story.  Day three started the same, with breakfast in the hotel, Sarah’s favorite meal of the day!  The kids probably had their usual of cherrioes and fruit, while we enjoyed some eggs.  The driver and David picked us up and we headed out of the city. 

The most memorable part of this drive, Emma’s potty break!  She was potty trained before this trip, but any one who travels with toddlers knows that when they have to go, they have to go now!!  Of course we are driving down the highway, pretty much in the middle of no where when she started in.  The driver pulled over, but the guide said there was no restroom.  So we attempted to have her squat on the side of the road and pee.  This was a painful process, and ended with daddy carrying her down the hill and behind some tress.  We think she may have squeezed a tinkle out, but this would have been a great time for one of those travel infalatable potty chairs!

As you can see from our pictures, the section of The Great Wall that was near Beijing, was pretty much all stairs.  Yep, with a three year old and a five year old we were still excited to be climbing The Great Wall.  Of course David had done this tour enough, he didn’t need the exercise, so he waited below.  Aedan did so fanstastic!  He climbed pretty much the entire way up.  Emma did some on her own, but daddy had to carry her alot.  If you can notice in some of the pictures, the height of the stairs came up to her waist in some areas.  Talk about a leg work out!  It got pretty crowded, and in the narrow areas you had no choice but to stand and wait for those in front of you to rest.  And most of the time it was a welcomed rest anyways.  We all made it up a few towers before I knew the kids and I had to head back down with Sarah.  So Michael continued to climb with Pat and Helen up quite a bit more.  I carried Emma most of the way down, and we made it safe and sound.  The next morning getting outta bed, I sure felt the burn!

Once back to the bottom, we had fun trying to spot Michael and Pat coming down.  As you can see, they chose this day to wear their matching shirts.  The fact that they had the same shirt was an accident, but wearing them the say day, totally planned!  They found a shop along the way that engraved a little medal with the kids names and the date, as you can see them proudly displaying.  This was probably my favorite souvenir of the entire trip, because honestly this was the most memorable day.  The kids may not remember much else about going to China when they were so young, maybe the giant pandas, but they remember climbing The Great Wall of China!  Its kinda fun to hear them tell people this, completly out of the blue of course.  Adults always think they are making it up, but I am proud to nod in agreement.  I’m sure this will stick with them always.

The rest of the day was a bit of a blurr.  I know we stoped with all the large tour buses at a large cafeteria style resturante.  Then our next stop before getting back into the city was a temple where we were told some of the emporers were burried, tho we don’t get any where near the actual grounds.  There was a museum type area and a short tour, then we were headed back to the city. Any of the rest of you remember where this was?

Next David took us to the Beijing Olympic Stadium where the summer 2008 Olymics were held.  The “Birds Nest” was a pretty amazing view, even from a distance.  The grounds around this area were vast and I can’t imagine being int he middle of all those people during the actual olympics.  David explained all the things the Chinese Government had built for this major tourist event.  Entire aparment complexes for the atheletes, new hotles, the swimming pool.  Its amazing how it could all get done.

The wind was blowing like crazy, and they were selling these little kites everywhere.  Of course, you know how kids are Aedan was dying for a kite.  By this point, he and David were pretty good buddies and David helped him attempt to fly this kite.  It was sweet.  I wonder if David remembers foundly about the little boy who held his hand every where?  We could tell that he liked kids, but that he didn’t have too many on his tours.

The end of the third day was the famous Peking Duck dinner.  As I mentioned before, the food has all been amazing up to this point, but this meal is one of a kind.  They showed us how to take small peices of the duck and wrap it in won ton skin and drizzle with sauce.  It was fantastic!  I’m sure if Michael could figure out how to make that sauce, he would.  We were all so very tired by this point, and the kids might have had a rough time with manners at this meal.  But what I’ll always remember about this day is climbing The Great Wall and eating a delishious Peking Duck wrap.

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China Day 2 – Tianeiam’ Square, Forbidden City, Beijing Zoo

Ok, I know you have all been waiting so very patiently for our day 2 adventures, you know the saying, “Life gets in the way.”  But here is our recap of Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City on our first full day in Beijing.

As I mentioned in the last blog, we slept pretty good, even on those hard as rock beds, because we were plum tired!!  We started to stir around 6:30 am when the alarm went off.  I was sooo very happy that both kids slept through the night, no problem.  So we were all up and dressed and heading to breakfast down stairs by a little after 7.  The breakfast was pretty much what I had expected, the hotels here in Guam have a lot of Japanese tourist and it was not surprise to see rice for breakfast.  But they had a lot of stir fried veggies for breakfast too, which was different!  Thankfully for the kids (and daddy and grandpa) they had bacon!  They also had something like cheerios and fruit, so the kids ate pretty well.  I mostly stuck to the eggs over easy, bacon and some toast.  I think everyone enjoyed the breakfast, as the choices didn’t seem as “foreign” to us.  Mrs. Sarah will tell you, it was her favorite meal each day!

So 8 am David met us in the lobby of the hotel.  We had packed a day bag to take along which of course contained enough snacks and water for all of us, as well as a stash of clothes.  (This is something I forgot to pack on the plane, which is why Aedan is wearing an oversized T-shirt in all the pictures of the first day.)  Our driver stays with the van while we are out sightseeing, so we were comfortable leaving that type of stuff in the van and only taking what we needed during the tours.  So this was good for us, packed for the day but only carried what we needed.

We knew what the day had in store, LOTS OF WALKING!  First stop was at Tiananmen Square.  This area is the largest city square in the world, in the center of Beijing which separates it from the Forbidden City. The rest of the world may mostly think of the 1989 protests which ended in hundreds of deaths.  But this is the site of many other important historical events in China, and was built in 1415.  Here is where you will also find around the square, the Monument to People’s Heroes, the Great Hall of the People, Memorial Hall of the Chairman Mao, and the National Museum of China.  If I’m not mistaken, the long line, which must have taken hours to get through, was to see the Memorial Hall of Chairman Mao.  We obvious by past this.  Chinese people looked to have come from all over the country to see this memorial.  It was pretty awesome to be here, surrounded by some many people.  They had the national flag flying high, blowing in the wind and guarded.

Here we had our first experience with the locals taking pictures of and with our kids.  Most people were really nice about it, showing their cameras and asking in Chinese.  I was ok with that, a few ladies tried to hold Emma, she was NOT having that and clung to us instead.  But we would just tell them to stand next to us and take a picture. (Well actually David)  They really liked Sarah too, with her bright smile and blonde hair, so she had a few photos ops as well.  What’s even funnier is that they would shove their children next to ours and try to get both kids to smile for the camera.  Most of their kids were just likes our, looking at the foreigners like they were crazy!

The other thing we noticed here were how many large groups of people were getting on and off those large tour buses.  Their tour guides would carry around a flag, and a most of the men would all wear matching hats or shirts or something.  Their tours had probably 50 people following around one guide, and there were tons of them!!  Their tour guides carried a small speaker hooked up to a microphone.  Watching this, we were even more grateful for our own private tour guide.  David really was great.

From here we made our way under the street and to the Forbidden City Gates.  The Forbidden City was started in 1404 but not finished 1420.  It’s surrounded by a 6 meter deep moat and a 10 meter high wall and contains 9,999 rooms inside.  It was pretty crowded here; we hung on to the kids pretty tight, more for fear of losing them than them getting “snatched”.  David was great about the kids the entire trip, and kept an eye out for them always.  The buildings inside were amazing to see.  Again, the architecture and paintings of all these buildings were so detailed, no nails.  The large doors you walk through looked like they would take a dozen men to open, with large gold knobs.  Inside there were many different places to go and see, from the Hall of Supreme Harmony, to the Palace of Heavenly Purity, to the Hall of Mental Cultivation, to the Imperial Garden.  Some of the Halls had museums with artifacts and such.  We even got to see the Royal “bedrooms” where they would sleep, or just rest.  There was so much to look at and just an awesome feeling of being at one of the major wonders of the world. And of course stopped to have the kids picture taken every now and then with the excited Chinese people.

It was about a 3 hour walk from the time we got dropped off at Tiananmen Square, through the Forbidden City and out the other side. We had a short walk along the moat and then meet up with our driver and headed to the famous Wangfujing Street from some shopping.  Well actually it was more just for a look see.  Of course this is a must for any trip to China, you have to see the scorpions on a stick and all the other crazy bugs for tasty treats!  I was concerned my crazy husband and grandpa would be daring each other to eat one, but thankfully David warned us that it wasn’t a good idea. (Thank you David!)   He said it could mess your stomach up pretty bad.  So we just took some pictures instead.  Those things were still moving!!  They were everywhere, so even tho we didn’t see anyone eat one, they must?  We even saw some weird looking birds there for the tasting.  After walking through this market area for a little bit, we came out into the more modern shopping area, more like what you see in Tumon Bay Guam.  The clean modern buildings were covered with advertisements and such.  We stopped in a children’s store just for fun, and of course all we saw were American toys like Disney and Thomas the train.  Go figure!  We stopped by the mall to find a clean bathroom for the kids.  We entered by the cosmetic counters.  Some I recognized, like Clique, but a lot must have been local brands.  The mall was extremely modern, really nice stores. The kids had fun getting their pictures taken next to these statues. I did see the Nike store and of course I was tempted.  But time was up and we headed back to meet the driver and headed to lunch.

After a full belly it was time for the Beijing Zoo!!  Of course the kids were super excited to see the panda bears, but given that we have no access to a zoo on Guam, they loved seeing all the animals.  The first few we saw were behind glass, just hanging out.  Then we found a few more outside, they are so cute for such big animals.  It was so nice to see how excited the kids were, they were even squealing about the roosters in the cages!  The white tigers were another favorite of course.  I think David even enjoyed taking the kids to the zoo and seeing all their excitement, he said most people just went to see the pandas and that was it.  They had several souvenir shops and of course we had to get each of the kids a stuffed panda!  They also ended up with small white tigers.  Great day all around.  But I have to say tho, I was very disappointed that such a large zoo with so many people paying to come to, that the animals cages had an excessive amount of trash in the enclosures.  I’m not talking about a paper here or there, but piles of bottles that people must have dropped over the edge.  I couldn’t understand how they could get away with this.  I’m sure if PETA ever made a trip to the zoo, we would hear about it on the news.  It was sad to see.

We had one other bit of excitement this day, but I think it deserves it own blog. So look for the story about the Beijing Zoo walk around the duck pond next.


China Day 1 – Ricksaw tour, lunch in the neighborhood, and Temple of Heaven

Team Lewis finally made it to China at about 1030 am local time.  After getting off the plane, we went through customs which had honest to goodness face recognition software!  We each had to stand on the foot prints while the machine took our photo and compared it to the passport.  Pretty cool actually.  Then we gathered our bags and followed the crowd out to the main terminal.  Our tour guide, English name David, was waiting for us with a sign.  We may have traveled for almost 12 hours to get there, but with only 4 full days in country, we couldn’t waste a single moment.  We hit the ground running.

After a quick introduction and grabbing some RMB from the ATM we were headed out to meet our driver with the van. (side note, the iphone app which converts currency was a lift saver while in China.  Though the rate was not updated daily because we didn’t have service in Guam, it was close enough to give us an idea how much something really cost!) We had a 12 passenger van and driver for our entire trip.  It was nice to have the same van, as we took the car seats for the kids.  Though it wasn’t law there, we are just more comfortable with our kids strapped in, they wouldn’t know how to act other wise!  Seat belts aren’t even required, they seem to have very few accidents even with the amount of traffic these days. They have more cars on the road then the images I had in my head of the bicycles, but still more bicylces then you would see in any other major city.  The Chinese government puts a limit on how many people can buy cars each month, and 20% each day have to take a day off from driving.  From what I understand its pretty systematic.

First things first, check into the hotel right?  Nope, we were off straight to our first sightseeing adventure, the ricksaw tour.  Now this was pretty neat, we divided up into pairs and got in a cart on the back of a bicycle.  Michael and I had Emma, Sarah took Aedan, and Pat and Helen got in the 3rd one.  This little ride took us around a local neighborhood, the old part of the city.  We went around the side streets where cars would barely fit, but they did.  Lots of people were riding bikes and walking.  It felt like reality being there, without looking at the people, it felt like the other side of the world. 

We stopped at a local family’s house for lunch. Wow, what an eye opener.  We were actually set in a room with a dinner table and a bed.  David explained that their houses are so small that they have to use the rooms for a little bit of everything. We sat down and food started coming with in a few minuets, which with small kids is really nice to not have a long wait. Aedan tried a few things, but Emma wasn’t really interested.  This was pretty much the norm the entire trip.  Thankfully a friend sugessted to pack lots of snacks for the kids.  The food was soooo good!  I was pleasantly surprised.  I also got to take a picture of the area which they cook from.  Amazing how tasty the food was and they had nothing fancy in the kitchen to cook with.  Just fresh food and a wok. 

This was also ourfirst try at the “squat” type potty with Emma.  Thankfully she wasn’t afraid of it.  It was a little ackward at first, but we got the hang of it.  Be prepared for some of them to be dirty, but most of them weren’t too bad.  In the more public places they even had the “sit” and “squat” ones.  But here in the neighborhood, they don’t have private bathrooms in all the homes.  David said about 15-20 families share a bathroom with a few stalls (no doors).  I have 2 tips to share with you here.  First, take your own toliet paper.  Alot of the “toliets” were out, but if they do have some, look for it by the sinks.  They use it to dry their hands as well.  The other tip is to use a good smelling chap stick to put on the kids lips before they go in, this helps if they have a hard time with the smell.  We used alot of chap stick as we weren’t use to the dry weather.

We got back in the rickshaw and rode to a pottery place for a quick walk through, then back to the van and headed to the Temple of Heaven.  This was our first taste of the masterpiece of architecture and history of China.  The Temple of Heaven is in the southeastern part of central Beijing and was first built-in 1420 of pine and cypress trees and painted in beautiful bright colors.  The Temple of Heaven was were the emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties and would pray for good harvest.  Twice a year the Emperor would move here from the Forbidden City.  As David pointed out, the entire structure was built without a single nail, an amazing site to see. 

On the way to and from the Temple, there is a nice park area which the Chinese people gather on a daily basis.  Here you could find people scattered all around playing cards mostly, but also some were singing and playing instruments.  David explained that they may not even know each other, but they just meet there and join in a friendly game of poker!  It was really fun to just watch the Chinese people there, and watch them watch us.  As I’ll talk more about in the next few blogs, our family with two small blonde kids were quite the superstars in Guam!

Next we got checked into the hotel and freshened up for dinner.  We went to the “Grule Store” right across the street. Again the food was coming out right away, and so much food!  We did eat so much our entire trip, lots of different things. David was really good about listening to what we liked and ordered new stuff based on that.  Porage is the main dish for dinners there, like a really thick soup. There were alot ofveggies and mushrooms cooked in with the chicken and pork, not too much beef. We ordered rice with pretty much every meal for the kids.  Emma ate more rice than anything else the entire trip. 

 Then it was off to the acrabatic show.  My pictures of this didn’t turn out well at all, as it was dark and they were moving very quickly.  But it was a great show.  The kids were asleep within the first 15 minuets tho, they didn’t nap at all the whole day.  Even Pat, Sarah and I were nodding off from time to time, but only from sheer exhaustion.  It was an awesoe show.

Now it was time to get back to the hotel and to bed.  Aedan and Emma didn’t even wake up on the walk back, so it was really good that it was only a block or so.  The kids went right to sleep and slept through the night.  So thankful, as we all needed a good nights sleep!

The hotel, it was pretty nice, clean and modern.  We had free internet but some sites were restricted, such as facebook.  But the bed and pillow were horrible!!  Aedan got a roll away cot, Michael and I had seperate beds, and Emma slept on an air mattress we brought for her.  But the good news was we were soooo tired, I could have slept on a rock.  We all slept very well that night, with a 630 am wake up to get ready and have breakfast at the hotel before we were off for our next adventure!