Saturday, August 31, 2013

Jade Crazed, Great Wall, and Chinese Acrobats

Today we started things off at the jade manufacturing plant where we picked up a few items, including a hand-carved jade "Family ball."  They carve them on-site along with tons of other jewelry items and knick knacks.

Carving a "Family Ball" (layers of jade spheres nested within one another carved out of a single ball of jade).
We then jumped back on the bus to head over to the Great Wall.  The section near Beijing is the newest part of the wall (~600 years old) and most intact, making it a good place to do some climbing.  We hiked up countless numbers of stairs to post high up in the mountains.  We took many breaks along the way to find some shade from the sun and get some water.  On our way back down, our legs were so tired they were trembling.  We were trying to think of all the people in our lives who would join us on the trek or sit it out.  We'll let you know which list you fell on at a later date.  And yes, the girls were once again stopped by old Chinese women to take pictures on numerous occasions. 

Quite a long way up to our destination.

Slow and steady wins the race.

The view looking back at our beginning from the top.

The requisite picture with the foreigners.

After some lunch we briefly passed by the 2008 Olympic Village where we grabbed a few photos of the Bird's Nest and other Olympic structures.  We had a short rest back at the hotel, and were then
treated to a spectacular acrobatics display.  Regina was taking copious notes on exactly how each of the flips, contortions, and human pyramids were performed.  We'll start practicing tomorrow.

2008 Olympic Stadium "Bird's Nest"

Crazy strong acrobats

Can we get one more person on that bike?

At one point, they had 8 motorcycles in this cage.

Tomorrow we leave for Zhengzhou - Madeleine's hometown.  We'll get settled there on Sunday in preparation for the big day on Monday!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Touring Beijing

Today we spent a full day touring Beijing.  We started the day with a ricksha ride to a local resident's home in the protected 2nd ring area around the city center.  Mrs Wu invited us in for tea and chinese apples, and talked to us about her life in Beijing and her residence of 50+ years.  It was a humble home, to say the least, but she'd say she had everything she needed.  

Ready for our ride!

Having some tea at Mrs. Wu's home

Next we went to a silk factory where we learned how they take the silkworm's cocoon and carefully pull 1300 meters of silk thread from each.  There, the girls picked out a silk fan as a souvenir.

Spinning silk thread from the cocoon

The girl's displaying their new fans.

 On our way to lunch, we saw a pet store with some dogs and cats in the window.

Beijing Pet Store

The rest of the day was spent at Tiananmen Square in the city center.   We were focused on the beautiful architecture and the history, but the rest of the crowd (it seemed) was focused on Keegan and Regina.  Everyone was staring at that them and coming up and boldly sticking their kids next to ours to snap a quick photo.  We warmed up to the idea quickly, and starting taking pictures of our own.  We felt like the paparazzi were after us.  People were gathering around the girls trying to capture a photo of these strange looking creatures.  They kept telling us how beautiful the girls were.  The older woman would come right up to them and pat their heads and stroke their cheeks.  One woman (in the silk factory's toilet no less) went up to Regina, picked her up and spun her around in the air. She plopped her down and then did the same to Keegan.  It was a pretty bizarre scene - one that took us by surprise, for sure.

The famed Chairman Mao photo

A Happy Native gets her picture taken with the girls.

"Sure, get comfortable, the girls don't mind"

Now, there's a line forming to get their picture taken with K & R.

This little boy was reluctant at first to take a picture with girls, but he came around.

This girl's mother kept pushing her closer and closer to Regina to get a picture, but she wasn't so sure.

And, it wasn't just Chinese people.  This Korean man had his english speaking daughter ask us for a picture. 

And this girl was all too happy to get a picture with the girls.

We snapped a picture back at the crowds of people circling the girls to get a photo.  They'd all gather around and pull out their point-and-shoot cameras and phones to grab a quick photo.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Day 1.5 of our China Adventure!

Flew 15.5 hours from ORD to Hong Kong, stayed in Hong Kong overnight, are are heading to Beijing this morning.  Uploaded here are just a few candids along the way, starting with our enormous pile of suitcases.  We survived the 15.5 hour flight just fine with plenty of electronics and multiple meals. We were all a bit restless with about 3 hours left in the flight, but that's to be expected.  More updates soon.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

We're Outta Here!

Well, not until August 27, but we are now in full out preparation mode: packing, planning, getting the house ready, wrapping up our work. SO EXCITED!