We woke up on our last day in China! We are definitely all ready to get home. We were doing really well until the late night travel to Beijing and now we're all tired and cold and want to go home. We slept in a bit this morning and headed down to breakfast around 9:00. There's a little play room right off the dining area and when we were done eating all three kids went in there and played together. For the first time in 16 days the three adults were able to have a conversation without kids! It is so encouraging to see Lily playing with her brother and sister and just fitting right into our family. Just two weeks ago she wouldn't leave my side and definitely didn't want me to put her down.
Tian'anmen Square and the Forbidden City were on our agenda for our last half day, and they were supposedly within walking distance. We headed out into the cold (the kids had on two shirts today so they were much warmer) to find them. Two blocks from our hotel is a famous pedestrian shopping street, so we enjoyed walking down that. We kept seeing large tour groups so we used them to determine that we were still going in the right direction. Then all of a sudden they were all gone! We asked a shopkeeper where to go, and she told us to go up and turn right. We turned under this archway that looked promising and ended up in this crazy food market! For the first time I really felt like I was in China. There were food vendors lining the street on both sides selling everything you can think of on skewers. My favorite were the scorpions and seahorses. Ech! The smells were out of control too. Every few feet we were hit with the smell of whatever was cooking at that vendor. Poor Matthew kept saying "It smells yucky. Why does it smell so bad?" Lily was asleep on my back in the Ergo and Brian was carrying Caroline through the crowd so that someone didn't try to steal her from us. It was quite a cool experience! When we made it through to the other side, we discovered that we were no closer to finding our destination. We asked another person who vaguely pointed in front of us so we kept walking. Still nothing. Then we asked a military guard who told us where to go in Chinese and also pointed. Finally we made it to a huge main road with street signs and figured out where to go.
We went into the Forbidden city and walked around the courtyard. There was really nothing that exciting about it, except for all the people staring at us. You can buy tickets to actually go inside the museum, but with 3 kids we decided against that. It was getting close to lunch time so we thought we'd walk across the street to see Tian'anmen Square and then head back. On our way out all of sudden all these street vendors started sprinting past us with their stuff in garbage bags. Apparently they use plain clothes policemen to crack down on the street vendors, and one had tackled a vendor to the ground and they were shouting at each other in Chinese. Just a little bit of excitement! We were glad that for once the attention was diverted elsewhere around us. We crossed under the street to the other side, but didn't want to wait in the long security line so we just looked at the Square from the other side of the barricades. We wanted to catch a taxi back because it was almost 1:00 and we had to be out of our rooms by 2:00, but the barricades lining the street never ended! We kept walking and walking looking for an opening and never found one. Soon we were back at the shopping street and decided to cut our losses and just walk the rest at that point. We did stop into McDonald's to grab some lunch to take back while I packed. Matthew really wanted a chocolate milkshake to give him energy after our walk, so the little cutie froze his hands carrying his ice cream back. Then I once again did a whirlwind packing job, and we made it down to the lobby to meet our driver and head to the airport. I scarfed my rather cold food down in the van. Yum.
The airport was thankfully rather uneventful. We were able to check in and let the kids run around for a bit before getting on the plane. This flight was only 12 hours compared to the 13 on the way over. Woohoo! Followed by a short 3 hour plane flight. Funny that 3 hour flights are now short! Caroline watched a bit of The Lorax, her favorite movie, then fell asleep and literally slept the entire flight! Matthew did great watching movies and slept for a few hours. He thought he was pretty cool and told me that he stayed up all night long. Lily did really well too. She fell asleep for the beginning of the flight and I was able to watch a movie, then woke up for the dinner service. She played with Brian and I, slept some more, and only had 2 crying episodes the entire time. If I could have found a way to get comfortable, I could have slept too. Oh well! After the flight from Guangzhou to Beijing I was really worried about the long flight, but it really wasn't so bad. Thank you for praying for us, we felt it!
We landed in Detroit and made it smoothly through customs and immigration. We did have to go to the non-US-citizens side since Lily had a Chinese passport, but we had our own lane and didn't have to wait in the long line. I waited with Lily to open the infamous sealed brown envelope, and the customs officer very undramatically stamped her passport, took our papers, and sent us on our way. We got our bags, rechecked them for our flight to Tampa, and then spent some time waiting at our gate. I found an outlet and was able to blog about our trip to the Great Wall. While I was blogging Brian came over and told me that Mitt Romney sat down across from them! I finished up my post and headed over. Of course I sneaked a picture of him :o)
We boarded our last flight, and we pretty much all slept the entire time. When we landed in Tampa it seemed to take forever for everyone to get off the plane in front of us! We finally made it out into the terminal and were greeted by an amazing welcome party! Matthew and Caroline ran straight to Daideo and didn't let go of him for a good 15 minutes, and we were able to introduce Lily to our friends. It felt so good to be home!!!! Thank you to everyone who stayed up late (and brought their kids!) to come and see us. It really meant a lot. We love you! We finally made it home around 1am, and found even more surprises at home! We have the best friends! Then we took some melatonin and put everyone in bed around 2:00. Home sweet home!