We made it! We overcame our first hurdle with no problems. I had been stressing over our one-hour connection in D.C. for seven months. Our flight from Philly to D.C. left a little early, and we didn't have to change terminals, so we got to the gate in D.C. with about 10 minutes to spare. It was a packed flight, with LOTS of kids, at least 30 kids. I did see a couple babies being walked up and down the aisle, and it took me back 10 years to when we brought Rachel home and spent almost the entire flight from Hong Kong to Chicago walking the aisles with Rachel.
Our flight left on time and we were on our way. Rachel slept a couple hours. I didn't sleep at all. I tried, but it just didn't happen. Overall, the flight was good. They served a hot meal shortly after we left, hot noodles around dinner time, and a choice of a hot sandwich with yogurt and cookies or what looked like lo mein shortly before we landed. I was fascinated with the route we flew. We were pretty close to the North Pole, as the one picture of the map shows. We went over the Arctic Ocean and saw lots of ice, even though we were at 38,000 feet. Then we continued over Siberia, before a slight left turn and continuing into China.
Once we landed and were parked at the gate we were instructed to stay in our seats, and health officials boarded the plane and began taking temperatures. The health officials had on goggles, masks and gloves and used high tech thermometers, pointing them at your forehead, but never touching you. To take all the passenger's temperature, it took about 10 minutes. We were then allowed to deplane and as we walked to immigration, Rachel got stopped at a thermal scanner. They pulled her, with her passports and documents, into a curtained off area. I was not allowed in with her; however, I had her in my sight at all times. They did try to hand her off to a Chinese woman standing next to me, until I motioned that she's mine. I froze and forgot how to say "Ta shi wu de haizi," meaning "She is my child." It all worked out fine and we made our way to immigration. Rachel got stopped again as we were getting to the train to go to baggage claim, but this time they just looked at the tag on her carry-on bag. Then we caught the train, easily found our bags and went through customs quickly. Once you get through customs, it's a bit of a mad house, with people waiting for passengers, holding signs, etc. Our OCDF guide, Le Bing, was right in the front with a bright red OCDF sign. We were just as easy for her to spot, being the only Americans walking with a Chinese child. There were lots of Americans, though, but none with kids.
On the drive to the hotel Bing filled us in on some of the changes that have happened since we were here 10 years ago, such as the fact that there are now more cars than bikes on the roads. Our hotel is in the city center, but not in an overly busy area. The road the hotel is on has lots of restaurants, but we didn't venture out last night. We were pretty tired. Rachel and I did go to the grocery store, and that was an adventure. We got six bottles of water, three sodas, a Gatorade, three bags of chips and some other small snacks, and it cost 42 yuan, or about $7. After we checked out, we realized they didn't give you bags, so we laughed the whole way back to the hotel (about a block), trying not to drop our purchases. Lesson learned....take a bag with us!
Back at the hotel, Rachel fell asleep and Fred was hungry, so I walked to McDonald's and used a card to point to what I wanted, McNuggets and a large fry. I wasn't hungry, just tired and grumpy.
Today is a free day. Bing told us of a Buddhist temple we can walk to that has a large buddha carved out of a tree. She might have said it was the largest wooden Buddha in Beijing, or China, but I can't remember.