What I did on my winter vacation part I

So looking back, it’s been a little over a month since my last post. And I’ve been, um, just a little busy. That might be an understatement, though.

At Thanksgiving last year, my sister asked me to accompany her and her husband to China to assist in bringing home three children they were adopting from there. I jokingly called myself a “child wrangler” or their “handler”. I kept it under wraps for awhile and letting only a few people in on my plans. I was not sure that China would approve my visa. And if they did, if my work would approve the time off. Once everything was in place, I scheduled 12 days vacation for the travel.

I have been overseas, living in London more than a decade ago. But I have never been to a country where English was not the primary language. And I will admit I had high anxiety going in to this trip. The language barrier was a major source of it. My other major anxiety was dealing with three new children I knew little about. Oh we had pictures and reports, but you really have no idea how well the children are going to react to being adopted until you meet them.

The good news is my anxiety about both were soon quelled, but that left room for new things to worry about (ie squatty potties. I have never been more thankful for a real toilet in all my life! At least all of our hotels had the toilets to which I was accustomed. I will admit to using many, MANY handicapped stalls because they had them, too.)

The trip was broken down in to three major parts: Beijing, Guiyang, Guangzhou. I am going to break them down in to separate blog postings just to keep it to a manageable size.


We were able to see a performance at the Drum Tower. In ancient times, the Drum Tower was used for communication throughout the city.

We began our journey in Beijing. The agency purposefully schedules a few days at the beginning of your trip for sightseeing so the parents get a sense of the culture of their child’s homeland. For us, that meant four days in Beijing.

Some highlights:

* We were able to see the Forbidden City where the Emperor lived and the Summer Palace where he stayed in the warmer months. Both were equally impressive in size and architecture and left me declaring how little history and significance our buildings have.

It was here we realized how aggressive the Chinese sometimes be. We were a novelty in that country with our different colored hair and eyes. My blonde haired, blue eyed nephew was especially popular there. At first, he was intrigued by the attention and requests for pictures with him. But after awhile, he tired of it. It happened EVERYWHERE! If they weren’t begging for pictures, they were stealing them from afar or wanting to ask where we were from or just plain staring. The staring got old after awhile. I understand they do not see Westerners often, but I did not appreciate that sort of attention.

Me at the Great Wall. I think it should be renamed The Great Liability. HA!

* We were able to walk the Great Wall of China which would have been a lot more exciting if my sister didn’t have a bum ankle and I hadn’t pulled a leg muscle the day before. I believe, in all my pain, I declared the Great Wall a liability, but I can say I climbed it. Not far, mind you. But dammit, I did.

Tiananmen Square – I know very little about Tiananmen Square other than the massacre that happened there in 1989 and no one speaks of that at all while you’re there. Housed in the same area is the body of Chairman Mao. We were on limited time here as we were visiting before our flight to Guiyang, but I will say even with more time, I’m not sure I would have stood in line to see him. Depending on the day, it could be an all day wait.

I will say that the Chinese reverence for Chairman Mao is interesting considering how the  States labels him. Our guides said the people saw him as a great liberator for them and hold him in very high regards.

My nephew discovered he doesn't really like tea at all. I had to finish most of his samples.

* Tea Ceremony – we got not one, but two chances to attend a tea ceremony. This would have been way more exciting if it didn’t turn out to be the exact same show. Word for word. There are a lot of instances in china were you feel hoodwinked in to buying something. They will show you the process for making something (eg silk, carving jade), and then at the end of the process they will take you through a shop where you feel obligated to purchase something in return for your free educational moment. The tea ceremony was no different, but at least I did learn that I like oolong tea and don’t really dig on the flowery kinds.

* Chinese New Year – We arrived at the end of the official New Year celebration. We were disappointed to see not many people in the city (although this was a blessing in disguise because it made travel so much easier with fewer people around). However, we were able to see the elaborate decorations they had up everywhere. And the fireworks! There were firecrackers all the time, in large doses, and large firework displays at night long after our bedtime.

These were just some of the New Year's decorations at the Bird's Nest.

I’ll cover the other two areas we visited in another post.


About indie librarian

a recently MLS librarian's observations
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