Now I have time to write!

The current status is this: We’re awake on Saturday morning and we’re all nice and rested after what could only be described as harrowing days of travel. Not being negative, just wow. Anyways, more about that later. I’m going to try and start at the beginning and catch up with where things stand today. Robyn has Ellery on her chest and they’re both taking a small siesta. Luckily for you that means I have time to describe all of the recent events that have been going on, so without further adieu:

The Wall

Aside from the train, this was the one thing that I was looking forward to more than anything else (obviously, I mean aside from getting our little “cute butt”). I have read and seen SO much about the Great Wall that it was just awe inspiring for me to be there. It was just stunning. To be walking on those steps, to be making that climb, Wow. The one thing that brought me back to reality was the brutal cold – and the crowds. In some sections you were shoulder to shoulder with people going down while you were going up. Plenty of people in China, yep.

The construction was pretty impressive too. The day we went the winds were literally howling through the tops of the wall and through the buildings. It felt more like scaling Everest than climbing the Great Wall at times. And when I say howling, that’s no exaggeration. We had bundled up pretty well (you can see in the pictures), and it was still cold, cold, cold. I don’t want to seem like I am complaining, getting to hike up the wall was great. Surprisingly, it was physically demanding. The steps are uneven, which is something that never occurred to me. I don’t know why I expected them to be perfectly even, but they weren’t even sorta like that. And the railing was VERY short, many times I had to lean over to use it. Again, in the overall scheme of things I didn’t care – I was just happy to be there. Out of breath a lot, sweating a lot, but happy to be there!

We were there for two hours, but it felt more like ten minutes. We were bundled up, and you would have laughed to see all the business men in dress shoes and suit coats walking up right beside us. And women in heels. That boggled my mind!

Jade Factory

One thing we learned really quickly is that most businesses (the jade factory included) don’t have HVAC. The show room and the dining area of the restaurant that was attached to the facility DID have HVAC, but the factory where the people worked? Did not. And the public areas of every civil building we’ve been in so far, also did not have HVAC. So, when it was 1-2 C, that meant it was only a little warmer inside.
The Jade Factory started with a brief tour of the facility that explained the many different types of Jade and the ways to spot real Jade from fake Jade. It was a very well practiced and nice introduction, but we immediately felt that we were just kind of along for the “commercial ride” as we were shown the workers who were busily making these beautifully ornate pieces and then led to the showroom. It wasn’t over the top, and we certainly weren’t required to buy anything, it just felt a little contrived to me. And this was only the first taste of it, there was much more to come. I also want to be clear that we weren’t blindsided by this, we came to China knowing we wanted to buy things, oh yes, a great many things. :)

The Hutong

Hutong is a traditional Japanese living area where one family would spend their lives all in relatively close proximity. The particular Hutong that we visited was a quadrangle of living space, kitchen, eating area and rooms. We were taken to this Hutong via Rickshaw. Which probably really stunk for our driver guy, but he didn’t complain – he moved us right along. I should also point out that the Hutong was not only a popular destination for Westerners (Big Noses as we’re called), but it was also a very big destination for Chinese. Seems that many come to see how those just a generation or two before them managed to live.

Our Hutong visit was finished up with a tea ceremony handled by the gentlemen who had bought this particular Hutong for his family to live in sometime around 1946. He was extremely nice and his Oolong tea was VERY good. He was very open and answered every question we had. He seemed genuinely honored to have us visit his home and even shared a story of how last year a young couple who had just graduated from Harvard had come to be married in his home. The experience with him mirrored many other experiences we’ve had so far, people are very kind and open.

I’m going to go ahead and post this segment now, and then I’ll put the rest of the activities in a follow up post (in just a few minutes).

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