Thursday, June 12, 2014

Summer in the City: Day 1

Hello, dear reader.
It has been far too long since I've clicked 'publish' on this site.
My brother, Brad, has been visiting us for about 4 weeks, so we've been very busy hanging out with him and showing him around Shenyang. We also went to Beijing for a few days, and I wanted to at least blog about that trip. There's so much I'm behind on. Willow's 3rd birthday party, Noah's 9 month post AND his 10 month many other things here and there along the way. I don't know why it has been infinitely more difficult to keep up with this blog lately! 

Ok, so we went to Beijing.
Adam was already there because he was touring the city with the 8th graders on their spring adventure trip. Instead of returning to Shenyang at the conclusion of the week-long school field trip, he met us at our hotel. We decided to fly to Beijing, though it would have been cheaper to train. I was worried about the convenience of taking the train, or rather I should say the inconvenience of it. And since my dad had funded our trip, basically, paying a little more to fly on a Chinese airplane was totally worth it. I just couldn't figure out how we'd take the train, since Willow would need to use the toilet on the train (which is basically a hole in the floor, and you can see the train tracks whizzing by) and I predicted she'd freak out about that. Also the train station in Beijing is insanely busy. Tens of thousands of people shoving each other and pushing through large halls as everyone pours out of the station like an evicted ant colony. I wondered how we'd navigate that with two little kids, someone who has never experienced that sort of press of people before (brad), and luggage. I'm so thankful we were able to fly. Taking the train would have been an all day event, whereas flying gave us time to get to the hotel, check in, go swimming, explore some shopping areas, and eat dinner. The kids were also able to take naps at the hotel, and we had a relatively nice day settling in. We were so excited to meet up with Adam in the morning--Willow was especially eager to be with Adam again since he'd been gone all week. 

Read on for: 
Some stories from the flight.....
Some stories from the commute to the hotel....
Some stories from the shopping mall...

Willow has fairly glorified airplanes and air travel over the past year. But she hadn't flown since September, so she could barely remember the actual sensation of take-off and landing. She also had forgotten the less pleasant parts, such as turbulence, which makes her feel ill. Anyway, as we were going through each process of checking in and security, she was so excited! I mean, she was excited to get in the van that was transporting us to the airport, and the fact that we had packed suit cases. But as we were waiting for the plane to take off, she was super happy. She had her own carry-on, her little owl backpack, which she had packed with snacks and toys and coloring activities. She got right to work, with her tray table. "Ok, now I need to eat a snack!" "Ok, now I need to color a picture!" and so forth.

When the plane took flight, she sat back in her chair, a little shocked at the butterflies in her stomach. She gripped her arm rests and yelled, "Ahhhhh!!! Whoa!!!!" And then started giggling. Noah, on the other hand freaked out, nursed for two minutes, and then passed out. He coped fairly well, I suppose, by taking a nap. Willow struggled with the air pressure, but was mostly so excited to be flying.

As we were approaching the Beijing airport, Willow could see we were nearing the ground again. She saw many green fields and yelled excitedly, "It's rugby! Oh, there's another rugby!" Apparently this city girl thinks any large green area is a rugby field, since the only time she really sees large green fields is when Adam watches rugby games on tv.

The plane was just about to tough the ground, and Willow had buckled her favorite stuffed cat, Poppy, into her seat belt with her. The other passengers were very quiet, so I'm sure everyone heard Willow when she started belting out, "Oh no! We're falling!!! We're GOING TO HIT THE GROUND!!!!" I was trying so hard not to laugh at her.

When Noah woke up, he proceeded to flirt with the four women sitting in the row in front of us. He's such a flirt. I shouldn't say that. But he is! He's quite the charmer, and he particularly likes Chinese women. But perhaps he's not flirting, and he's just overly friendly towards Asian ladies. They loved him--the fashionistas were draping their long hair over their chairs so that he could play with it, and they were handing him their bracelets and was ridiculously funny.

When we exited the plane, we were on the tarmac. We had to bus to the terminal. It was so hot on the blacktop, I thought it felt like we were being cooked alive. Beijing was 15 degrees hotter than Shenyang, plus the heat from the buses and was pretty intense. We also had trouble finding our stroller,  but eventually did find where it had been delivered. A man found us, somehow knew we needed a stroller, spoke perfect English and directed us towards the other side of the baggage claim. I don't know how he knew what we needed, since we had merely been standing there...but it was definitely the Lord looking out for our needs at that moment.

We decided to take the Airplane express train towards downtown. Willow made a friend on the express, a nice lady who knew a little English. Willow was so eager to talk to her, she took out her Buzz Lightyear and her Woody toys and played with the lady. At the end of the line, the lady gave Willow a sparkly pen as a gift.

Then came the part where we needed to catch a taxi to take to the hotel. We walked around quite a bit in the horrid, overbearing heat. We had so many carry-ons and totes. Willow was in a stroller, Noah was in the Ergo...they were both very hot and starting to act lethargic. Noah was as red as a lobster and I started to worry that they were suffering from a heat stroke. It was over 105 degrees and it was sweltering even in the meager shade we eventually stood in. At one point, we were in a bus transfer station that was probably 115 degrees inside. I think that the panic I feel that temperature is very unique.

We finally found a taxi that would take us. Though he used AC, it took the entire 30 minute ride for us to start to cool down. The kids drank all the water we had from the plane, and I promised Willow that we could go swimming at the hotel. We were so hot! And hungry. It was mid afternoon and they hadn't napped or eaten lunch yet.

Finally we arrived at the hotel, with our 7 carry-ons + stroller + two kids. We checked in. Drank some water, and decided to find somewhere to eat. We found a McDonalds in the same building as our hotel, and ate there since it was fastest. Willow ate a ton of food. Noah was a normal shade again. We returned to the hotel and took naps. After we woke up we explored the shopping malls around our area. The mall we walked into first was huge, and four of the ten floors were food courts and restaurants. Brad was intrigued by the architecture of the building. Some elements were cool, some were stupid, and mostly it looked like student projects, he said.

We did go swimming after all. It was freezing cold water. The "gym" was located around the poolside. Haha! It looked bizarre and oh-so-China. There were no locker rooms or towels, life guards, or any sort of safety equipment, and the lighting was mostly just two flood lights. But it was still fun to swim with the kids. Both Willow and Noah were both excited and terrified of the water. Willow did not like watching Brad swim, and Noah cried when Brad would swim under water.
Willow slipped on the slick tile, and I was very worried at first. But she exhibited no signs of a concussion, though she did cry a fair amount. We were so ready for bed that night. When we woke up in the morning, Adam was knocking on our hotel room door. Yay!

Stay tuned for the actual site-seeing pictures!

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