I figure I’ll finish up the full travel part of my blog before I head into the Leadership portions of it… I hope that’s okay with all of you who are following along!
After a bit of travel we landed in Beijing. I have to admit that Ken and I were thinking it wasn’t likely that we would particularly like Beijing. We were thrilled to be going but weren’t sure we were going to love it. Upon arrival at the airport we meant our tour guide who affectionately refers to himself as Jimmy. Upon some discussion we found out that Jimmy has had some pretty amazing guests as tourists including the USA Olympic Basketball team including Coach K! I thought that was super cool because I LOVE college basketball and Coach K is absolutely epic! And apparently the Duke basketball team also came to Beijing and Jimmy got to be their tour guide as well. Personally I knew we had to be in really good hands if those guys trusted Jimmy and I certainly wasn’t wrong!
The first day there wasn’t loads of time to do much other than get settled into our hotel room and have some dinner – that said we all were super excited to get a really awesome shower after having been in the Gobi for so long. I do have to say the Crowne Plaza in Beijing has really great showers!
The next morning we got up and headed directly to the Great Wall of China. Apparently there are 7 separate sections that you can climb as a tourist. Jimmy very wisely took us there early so we missed the crazy rush of tourists on the way up. It certainly was a LOT of stairs to the top of the area we were at. The stairs were not at all even or standard which made climbing even more interesting. Looking at the Great Wall we all couldn’t help but marvel at the great engineering feat that it was.
Of course it is also a massive graveyard of sorts because when people would die while working on the wall they would simply be buried within the wall. Not everyone decided to go to the top but those of us who did were rewarded with an incredible view. It was also interesting because a bunch of the teenagers (and some adults too!) wanted to take pictures with us at the top of the Great Wall. I am not sure if they were interested to see Westerners or if it was a joke of sorts – either way it was a bit amusing to us! What an amazing treat to be able to see one of the great wonders of the world!!
After that we headed to a Jade Gallery where we got to see jade being carved and we had an amazing lunch after a bit of jade shopping. It was incredible the things that they have made out of jade!
Then it was off to an elementary school where we did a presentation but we also got treated to performances from the students as well! They honored each of us with a red scarf which is something the students have to earn through hard work.
Then we headed off to see the Olympic Village. I was especially excited about this because I LOVE the Olympics! As a little girl I remember I used to cry during the Closing Ceremonies because I was so sad it was over and the next one was so far away! I was lucky enough to have the chance to go to the Olympics when they were in Atlanta, Georgia in 1996. My totally awesome Mom took me as a graduation present. How awesome! So it was really neat to get to see such iconic buildings as the Birds Nest and the Water Cube up close and personal. I wish we’d had more time there because I would have loved to have gone into the Water Cube but maybe next time! And I am hoping while in London for our upcoming Mission Discovery that I will get a chance to go see the London Olympic Park!
After Olympic Village we had a little extra time so we headed to a tea room for a traditional tea ceremony where we tried a variety of teas. Yum! Then it was off to a University for another presentation. What great students they were and obviously super excited about space especially because of the impending Chinese launch as well. That was a super full day!
Our last full day in Beijing was another fun filled one of lots of sights! We started off at The Temple of Heaven where many people come for leisure during the mornings once they’ve retired. Hundreds of people do sports or dancing or just hang out and chat or play games. It’s really delightful to see!
We even jumped into the fun and did a bit of dancing – we weren’t very good but we had fun! The Temple itself is quite striking – I really love the colors.
We enjoyed some time there and then headed off for a bit of shopping. Needless to say you can get just about anything you want to buy in China! We also toured a silk shop and saw how silk is made.
Then Jimmy had a really amazing Szechewan lunch planned for us in a super neat restaurant before we headed to the Lama Temple. The Lama Temple is still an active temple so it was very neat to get to see people there for this reason as well as visiting as tourists. Our last stop on our whirlwind tour of Beijing was to The Forbidden City also known before as The Imperial Palace. The Forbidden City has 9,999 rooms in it and took only 14 years to construct – obviously they had a lot of manpower and motivation to get this huge project done in such time!! It’s an immense place with so much history – you really have to see it to fully appreciate it’s impressiveness!
Ken and I both discovered that we REALLY enjoyed Beijing and would happily return so I can honestly recommend to everyone to go check out Beijing if you get a chance!
We had a fun evening of dinner and a bit of karaoke (nope – no videos!) but then sadly the next day it was time to say good-bye to all of our new friends and head back to home – various places for this group! Before leaving I found out something that was pretty cool though…. I saw Michelle Hynes luggage tags and realized her and I have the same initials. I commented on this and then was shocked to find out her middle name is Lynette – my middle name is Lynn because my Mom’s name is Lynette! Crazy! Then Gillian (Michelle’s sister) mentioned that her middle name is Laureen – I have an Aunt named Laureen (she’s my mom’s sister) – Double crazy! Clearly Gillian, Michelle and I were meant to be friends!
I can’t wait for the next adventure and I hope some of you will come along with us!!