This is the first of many posts answering questions. We’ve had lots of comments, emails, Facebook messages, etc. asking all sorts of questions, many of them duplicates. In an effort to hit it all we decided posting would be best. While I really think I should answer some of the questions about Jack first, I want to pray about it. If I post about Taiyuan later, I might forget something.
The Bullet Train: We asked our agency to book the bullet train from Beijing to Taiyuan for us. They sort of thought we were nuts. Frankly, it saved us money and helped us experience a little more of China. No way I would have wanted to try if we already had Jack or I had little ones with me. With just Ray and I and still getting a feel for China, it was great. We booked the “Soft Seats.” Actually our agency booked them because it’s not as crowded. There were television shows in English playing, subtitled in Chinese. One movie Ray and I had already seen and it was in no way appropriate for younger children. It was not just the language it was extremely violent, bad for little eyes and little ears. Ray downloaded Francis Chan’s basic series. It was great. We watched all the episodes he had downloaded. It took about an hour. It was Sunday and we felt like we had a bit of church. The bathrooms in the station were squatty potties. Bathrooms on the train were normal smelly train bathrooms, no big deal. You have to put your luggage over your head. There isn’t room for anything under your feet. I would consider the seats far more comfortable than plane seats though. We saw the country side and made several stops. We went through a very long tunnel. When we disembarked, we just followed the crowd. Our guide was waiting for us.
The Shanxi Grand: We stayed at the Shanxi Grand. The room size was adequate but as I mentioned, we traveled light. Two more suitcases might have been a bit tight with the crib. We had two twin beds again and a crib. The beds were larger than the ones in Beijing and Jack had room to sleep with us if he needed to. We heard the rooms were filthy. We’ve traveled alot. Ray obviously more than I have. It looked old, like some of the hotels in New York City. Our socks were getting gross from walking on the carpet. You have to ask them to clean for you though or they won’t. They also don’t change sheets every day. Jack’s bloody noses recorded that for us. The breakfast was really great. You must take advantage of it. Our picky eater got his day started right. There is a Chinese restaurant I think on the second floor. We tried that one night. We both ordered local specialties. We didn’t get what we were expecting but it was delicious. The Western restaurant is where they served breakfast. It was convenient. Everything we ordered there was very good. There is a teapot and a small refrigerator in the room. We made noodles or rice bowls for lunch that we would pick up at the market. We also bought water and drinks at the market and brought them back, saved a fortune that way.
Taiyuan: We visited the Jin Shrine. It was fabulous. It was nice to get out of the city and into fresh air. It was fascinating and gorgeous. Our guide’s English was a little lacking. We were not with a group. She practically ran through the thing. We would have been happy to stay all day. I know there is a museum that the other adoptive families went to. They said it was nice but I would go for the fresh air if you have nice weather. There is a very large park with rides and boats if you walk a few blocks directly in front of the hotel. We pretty much walked there every day. Jack was in the ergo mostly. If you walk out of the hotel, to the left across the street on the left is the market. We bought noodle bowls, shrimp crackers for Jack etc. They also have a little food cart in the afternoons. If you catch it, you can get dinner there as well. We just pointed to what we wanted and they make a plate for you. Most of the time we could get dinner for all of us for under $5.
Walking: Later I’ll post a video. I know all of you been there done that adoptive families will laugh. We played Frogger to get across the streets. Without Ray, I probably would have been very intimidated. There is absolutely no sense of order. I think I could understand Iceland’s rule of tonage a little better… the bigger person or vehicle always goes first.
Shopping: On any given street outside the hotel if you walk far enough, you’ll find shops. I could have really used another pair of pants for Jack. Our agency recommended traveling with very little. Our guide was absolutely not helpful on the shopping front. We did find a mall just past the market. Every young Chinese girl wanted to hold Jack and walk away with him. Drove me nuts. We are pretty adventurous but no one speaks English. Makes it hard. We didn’t go but there was a Pizza Hut and a KFC across the street from the park.
Last thing… I want this recorded for Jack. The weeping willow is my favorite tree. They were all over Beijing and Taiyuan. When I was little there was a giant willow tree in my yard. Walking the streets of the park, we realized that the family photo we sent Jack was taken in front of a willow tree. The streets in Taiyuan are lined with them. When Ray retires and we land and grow roots, I plan on planting a giant willow tree and telling Jack just how beautiful they were.
Some shots of Taiyuan…