Friday, January 25, 2013

Touring Beijing: (B.J. post)

Touring Beijing:
Today was our first full day in Beijing.  This portion of the trip is designed to provide families with some time to catch up on jet lag, build relationships with each other, and get some basic cultural information along with tours.  Our group numbers somewhere between 20 and 25 people.  All of us have come from different parts of the country and travelled different adoption journeys to get to this point, but we all have a common destination: giving our child his/her forever family.
Today started with quite a spread for breakfast, and once finished, our group headed to the Hotung district, which is the old section of Beijing.  While there, we took rickshaws (with bikes not the kind that are pulled) to get around the narrow streets.  We had the comedian of the group of rickshaw drivers.  We swerved around as he laughed and played with the other rickshaw drivers. 
Our ride ended at the home of a widow, Ms. Wu, who has lived in this section of Beijing (and in the some home) since 1962 when she married.  We all sat in a tiny one room home modestly decorated sipping jasmine tea, snacking on a few treats, and asking her questions while George translated for us.  What a fascinating time we had with her.  We learned about her family's royal past, her life with her husband and family, her desire to live in the old section rather than move to a new apartment because of the strong community spirit in the old section of Beijing, and many other things.
Perhaps the most interesting part of our time was when someone asked what the different wall hangings of Chinese characters said.  George took a few minutes to explain the one in the middle.  I recognized the character as something meaning fortune or happiness or  something.  As it turns out, it is a famous character for happiness.  George then explained the different lines within the character.  One portion of it meant "close", another meant "many children", and the last section meant "land".  So "happiness" as defined by this character means having many children who were close and having enough land form the family (remember this is an agrarian society primarily).  What I found interesting was that here I am a father of five with no idea when we'll stop knowing that the Bible teaches that children are a blessing from the Lord and that happy is the man whose house is filled with children and staring at me in stark black ink strokes upon bright yellow paper is a symbol that basically sums up this teaching of the Bible.
Following our visit with Ms. Wu, we headed off to the silk factory.  We took a tour to learn how silk was made and had the opportunity to do some shopping.  The silk comforters were an amazing deal, and I really thought it would be great to get one, but all I kept seeing was wet diapers that leaked, kids spilling food, and cat pee.  We're just not at a silk stage in our life right now :)
After shopping, we ate lunch.  We had a wide variety of foods from all regions of China.  As an experimental experience, it was quite successful.  I tried a bit of everything and even used chop sticks for the majority of the food.
Once finished, we toured Tianamen Square and the Forbidden City.  I am always awestruck when I get the opportunity to walk where history has walked.  So to walk on paths were built in the 1400s or see throne rooms where emperors once sat was just amazing.  You could easily spend a day exploring this section.  For today, knowing I could not see it all, I decided to limit myself to exploring smaller sections to a deeper degree. 
One area that interested me was a specific room in the center where the emperor would go annually to make sacrifices to his god and receive insights from him.  I had read about this room years ago, and it always intrigued me.  So to finally see it was a real treat.  As I stood there  looking into this room and touching these ancient exterior walls, my heart broke as I thought about this ritual.  It is so symbolic of what we humans do to try and get God's attention.  We make up ceremonies and rituals.  We try to purify ourselves and try to get ourselves on the right track.  We make sacrifices and do good things, and we do this all in hopes of being found acceptable to God and gaining His attention even for just a moment. 
In reality, we are His special creation.  He knit us together in our mother's womb and knows us by name.  He desires deeply to have a relationship with us and longs to talk with us daily.  He does not ask that we get ourselves cleaned up, make ourselves right, do good deeds, or go through rituals and ceremonies.  No, God's not interested in all of that.  He's just interested in us ... and all the flaws we have.  He created us, loves us, died for us, and longs for us to draw close to Him as He draws close to us.  It's when the efforts to be good end and the rituals and ceremonies fade and we simply stop trying and just be that we finally find that Jesus is there waiting for us to follow Him knowing that through the journey of following Him we are made more like Him.
Our time in the Forbidden City was too short, and I hope to come back someday and spend more time there.  After such a busy day, we headed back to the hotel.  We ventured out for a small dinner, and then I had some time to Skype with Rachel and the kids.

A few pics from the day....
               Our CCAI representative, George, giving our adoption group some directions while on the bus.

 Heading in for an excellent authentic Chinese lunch.... George selected dishes that represented the four major regions in China

                                               At the silk factory getting a tour

                Eating lunch with some new friends in our group...we are about 20-25 all together

                                                                 Tianamen Square

Inside the Forbidden City (aka the Emperor's Palace) ... imagine this one courtyard times at least 5 more plus a garden

Speaking of Rachel, I think I am up to four women on this trip who have come up to me and asked me if I am Rachel's husband.  These women (and I am sure there are a few others in our group still) have all connected on Facebook, blogs, and other online forums and have in some ways walked this road together.  It's been fun getting to brag about her to others and tell the story of all that she has done to make this happen.  God has blessed Rachel with such wonderful talents and abilities, and she has done the lion's share of all of the paperwork, contacting of agencies, and planning for this adoption.  She's so good she should teach a class on how to do it.  I love her deeply and am forever grateful for God sending her my way.

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