Tuesday we had nothing adoption related scheduled so we decided to plan an outing. It’s tricky to know what to do before you have your child because you don’t know how they will be grieving. Vincent wanted to see the Great Wall because he doesn’t remember his first trip. Since that’s mostly a long van ride and Matt could carry August in the backpack on the wall we thought it would be a good activity. Happily, today is his 7th birthday so this seemed like a great way to celebrate. I hired John “Yellow Car” (www.beijing-driver.com) on the recommendation of a friend. John is a Beijing native who has worked as a driver for his entire professional life. He speaks excellent English and loved to chat with us on the trip. He isn’t a tour guide but he does help you purchase the entrance tickets. He even had a spare cell phone to loan to customers so we could call him when we were ready to be picked up.
It was a beautiful sunny day–the sky was clear and blue. Yes, it was freezing but it was much warmer up on the wall than down at the bottom. There was hardly anyone there. We went to the Mutianyu section of the wall which is further away from Beijing from the section we visited last time. It is higher up on a mountain too. The nice thing about it for us is that you take a shuttle halfway up the mountain. Then you walk along a little street with restaurants and run the gauntlet of vendors. They were particularly aggressive since there were few customers available. At the end of the street you can take cable car up and down the mountain. At the top you can walk along the wall in two directions. If you walk to the right there is a toboggan ride down the mountain. Or you can take a ski lift from the cable car to the toboggan and skip the wall altogether. We walked to the left which John recommended as having the better view.
We stayed up on the wall quite a while. If it were warmer I think we could have packed a lunch and stayed all day. It’s so incredibly beautiful. We had a few China moments, too. We found a handicapped accessible ramp which was added.
It was essentially a smooth path that you could use to roll Grandma straight down the side of the mountain. At another point Matt heard a noise he was trying to identify. “Is that someone raking leaves??” he finally guessed. We looked around a bit. Eventually we noticed a park employee at the foot of the wall diligently raking leaves next to the wall. A complete exercise in futility considering the miles of wall situated in the middle of the forest! There was no footpath or anything.
When we were finished we summoned John to pick us up. We were hungry so he took us to a local place to eat. I know quite a lot of it was due to a long walk in the cold fresh air but it was one of the best meals we’ve eaten in China. There was soup with little pebble sized dumplings, the doughy American kind, not the filled Chinese kind. We also had a pork dish with peppers and onions. It was heavy on garlic and chili sauce but wasn’t spicy. The pork tasted like cured country ham. Vincent had sweet and sour pork, and we also had a vegetable dish.
Although August was silent and solemn most of the day, he began to perk up after his nap on the ride home. Vincent was playing his DS. August decided to try and grab it. I heard him call Vincent older brother in Chinese but Vincent was soon shouting no at him in Chinese. Brothers already! A few people have asked me how Vincent and August are getting along. Vincent usually gets along well with toddlers because he’s nonstop action. However, August likes to do things like set out all the stacking cups in a pattern then carefully put a toy car in each. He does not like Vincent interrupting his precision concentration by tossing a balloon into the middle of it to try and entice him into a game. I wouldn’t say he dislikes Vincent but he definitely isn’t entertained by him the way I thought he would.
Since we got back to the hotel this afternoon August has seemed much more comfortable. Instead of sitting in one spot he has been walking around the room. He has been smiling at us as he does things like dump everything out of the suitcases. We were very shocked when he started talking after all that silence. We don’t know enough Mandarin to understand everything he’s saying but at one point when Vincent got out a water bottle, August said “Older brother drink water?” very clearly. Early this morning when we were video chatting with our children back home he ran over when he heard them on the iPad. He waved and said “Hi!” In English. So far today he has said hi, no, and more in English. A few minutes ago he was dancing around singing “I’m little brother! I’m little brother!” in Chinese (I’m pretty sure that’s what he was saying). We’re so excited to see more of his personality coming out.