from day 3

We left the hotel with our adoption group at about 9:00 this morning. Our first stop was Tian'Amnen Square, the largest city square in the world. I was having a little trouble understanding the tour because of the guide's Chinese accent, but these are the facts I

think I heard.

Apparently yin and yang are the most powerful underlying religious understanding of the Chinese people. Even leaders such as Mao believed it privately.

There was some sort of master of the yin and yang who told Mao privately that he wasn't the main dragon of China, only a small dragon. To keep the main dragon at bay during his lifetime, he needed to insert a sword in the Dragon Line (determined by Feng Shui), which falls through the center of Beijing. So, Mao built a sword shaped monument piercing that line that documents the history of China. I think the guide told us Mao feared the main dragon was a capitalist. I'll try to include a photo of the sword monument.

The crowds were intense in Tian'Amnen. They were friendly and fascinated by us, but especially by JD. A crowd of pretty older teenage Chinese girls grabbed him and made him take pictures with each of them. Our guide started laughing and called him a "chick magnet." He translated what the girls were saying (at least some of it), and apparently they were in love with the good-looking American teenager. JD just laughed and said, "My friends are NEVER going to believe this."

The Forbidden City entrance is found across the street from Tian'Amnen square. However, it was more crowded than normal (sometimes 100K people a day go through it), and so humid we were dizzy and a little faint. It took three hours of walking in that heat for our tour to make it through the crowds.

The gardens and architecture were fascinating. But it was sad hearing about how isolated and selfish the emporers were who lived there. It was hard to enjoy the beauty knowing how many lives that city cost the people of China. In fact the name "Forbidden City" was given by the common people of China, who felt a severe divide with the country's leadership. I got the sense that many Chinese people visit the Forbidden City now, because they feel a unique freedom through communism to experience something that was off limits for hundreds of years.

After the Forbidden City, we were taken to the Silk Factory. This was incredible. We learned about and felt the difference between single and double silk worm cocoons (doubles are unique to China). We learned how to soak the single cocoons in water for thirty minutes and take a broom to find the starting outer fiber. Then, we watched a machine take eight cocoon fibers to feed into spools of silk thread.

The double cocoons have a unique structure that cannot be unwound by machine. So, each is soaked then stretched onto a wooden frame. Then, those cocoons are stretched by hand onto frames that make single, double, queen, and king size fillers for duvets. They let us help them stretch a few. These functioned a little like down, but they were softer than anything I have ever felt in my life.

The silk factory is owned by the government, and prices are high. So, we didn't buy anything there. However, it was amazing to feel and see the different types of silk fabrics, clothing, and other products.

After the silk factory, we went to a Thai restaurant. I'm not sure what we ate. I know both kids tried chicken feet, and at that point, I stopped asking. We watched some women do an Asian belly dance, and then one guy dressed like a woman did a seductive bellydancing solo. That was definitely something we've never seen before.

I finally talked the waitress into selling me another bottle of Coke. At first, she said, "No. You can only have one glass. Sorry. Sorry." We were all sitting there trying to ration out one SMALL glass of coke for a plate full of Thai food! (And water is not a given at restaurants here.)

To end the day, we were invited to the private living quarters of a friend of our guide. This is apparently the section of town where the richest people in Beijing live, because the small houses can be purchased instead of rented through the government. Our whole gruop rented rickshaws, and I prayed like MAD as we dodged cars, motorcycles, and vans through narrow streets. Bars line one side of the street, but they have outdoor seating with massive cushions in fuschia and purple. They felt more Middle Eastern than what I typically think of as Chinese.

I am struggling to describe how totally different this part of the city was from anything I have ever seen before. I would have thought it was a shanty town for the city's poorest residents, if I hadn't heard about the exclusive nature of the neighborhood. Yet there was a certain old-world charm to it, too.

There is a central garden inside eight tiny houses, and we were invited into one of them. There are tiny rooms without air conditioning, and all eight families share a single toilet. A massive photo of Chairman Mao adorns the wall, and the people are very affectionate about him. I will try to upload some photos so you can see, but they won't describe it adequately. By the time we got back to the hotel room, we were exhausted. We were given suggestions for local Asian food restaurants, but I did something I promised myself I would never do before we left home. I simply couldn't look at another plate of Asian food, so we went to McDonalds. I normally hate McDonalds, but I put my face into those chicken nuggets and just inhaled. Ahh!!!! Crazy. I know. But the smell of Asian food (it's sort of like fish + Eastman + burned yams I've decided) permeates everything here, so you just want to get away from it sometimes.

I am still amazed by how kind and charming most of the Chinese people I have met are. We have met people from many classes and levels of education, and of course there are people who beg and steal. They are poor and desperate. But the majority seem unhardened and without cynicism. Tender is the word I think I should use. Daily, I am shocked by how mothers are so affectionate and patient toward their children.

I've heard that belief in "luck" rules Chinese culture. But so far, it seems like belief in the rules of yin and yang are a stronger factor. This is a significant difference for me, because "luck" is a condescending, Western term. Westerners randomly pick things that are "lucky" for no apparent reason, so we can laugh at them.

But China's roots are artistic, symbollic, and thoughtful. So there's almost a math to why certain things are lucky or not. These people aren't just ignorantly fearful... at least at the historical core behind their traditions. There's usually a reason that makes total sense in light of their beliefs. They are bound to the only explaination of the world they have at their disposal. Thinking about this makes me cry to type.

One example? (And this is inadequate.) No trees are planted inside the Forbidden City walls. That's because the Chinese character for "trouble" apparently shows the symbol for "tree" inside the symbol for "gate." Even though that would never prevent me from planting a tree, when you consider the visual power of a pictoral language, it makes sense. They don't use letters of an alphabet. They use picture words. There are layers and layers of meanings behind words as a result, and it has a huge impact on the psyche. We just don't have that sort of framework in our culture.

My heart aches for these beautiful people. They think so much. They feel so much. They are vibrant and full of laughter. I wasn't expecting any of that. Asian music (is it the pentatonic scale?) explains a lot about what I am experiencing here. It's rich and longing like Chopin, with a sense that there is more to the world if we would just think and feel a little deeper. Watching old men sitting around practicing a Chinese character over and over, just reveling in the beauty of each line, makes me want to run and hug them.

Once again, I had to finish this post the next morning. I'm just too tired in the evenings to type. Today we will visit the Great Wall and the Jade Factory. Then tomorrow, we will fly to Zhengzhou. The day after tomorrow, we will pick up Moses!!

We are so grateful for this trip. And I'm grateful for this time we have had visiting Beijing. Originally, I wanted to just pick up Moses quickly and go home. But I don't feel like I could have understood or respected my son's birth land without seeing this. I feel so humbled to be taking a child home from this culture. What a rich heritage he has. I can only
dream about the future in store for his life.

P.S. Apologies for the sloppy writing. Our time is so limited, I don't have time to refine. But I don't want to lose these memories. Also, our tummies are a little icky today, so prayers welcome. :)

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About This Blog

Welcome to our family’s adoption journey. As you read, you will see us stumble and take wrong paths. You will see our hopes surge and fall. You will see the gaps in our humanity, and how our God realigns us to His purposes over and again. We think the messiness of this process is important. Sometimes walking with God isn’t a neat, linear package that can be summarized in bullet points. More often, life ebbs and flows around our plans, while God works His sovereign wonders from it all. We are learning so much through this journey. And we are super excited about our new son. If you’d like to join us, we’d love to have you along for the ride.

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