Great Wall of China

So, this is obviously not about Alaska... but we started making plans to visit China while in Alaska so it's loosely related I suppose. We came during the Chinese New Year and today is our third day in Beijing. I just love it here! Day One was our visit to the Great Wall which was fabulous! I learned about, both! the Wall and Machu Picchu in the third grade and was fascinated by both and visiting the wall was just as magical as exploring the ancient city in Peru. Loved it! (Pictures Below!) Part of what made it so special is that we had our own tour guide, Alicia, who went to school with Austin and has since become my good buddy. She has lived in China for 7 years teaching English, learning Chinese, and setting up study abroad programs. She speaks the language fluently and knows all the touristy tricks, like which parts of the wall are least busy and most beautiful, when traffic will be slow in which parts of town, etc.

Day Two saw us visiting the local indoor market where you can purchase most anything you need for daily living. We ate lunch at a noodle shop--DEEEElicious--then spent the afternoon at the home of Alicia's friends who are the kind of folks with whom you immediately feel at home. Dinner this night will be a huge highlight of the trip. It was very upscale dining. There was no wait when we arrived, but if there had been our options while waiting would have included getting a manicure, helping ourselves to free snacks, and, for the kiddos, painting ceramic masks and pottery! Once steated, we selected meats and veggies to include in our "hot pot" (two boiling broths on the table) and created our own sauces in which to dip the items once they were cooked. The best part of this meal was the noodle man. He came out with a small strip of dough and, while dancing, slung it around like a lasso up and around and forward, nearly touching our faces and the floor and the walls.. until the dough had become one long, stretched out noodle which he then submerged in the hot pot! After the feast, we all went back tour friends' home and shared laughs and stories until today became tomorrow. (This jet lag is nothin'!) We returned, exhausted, to Alicia's place but turned in only after we set if some fireworks in the street at12:30am! Fireworks are sounding as I type this at 8:00am, too. I believe that, traditionally, the fireworks were set off frequently during the new year celebration to scare away bad spirits. There are stands all over the city selling the types of fireworks only professionals can light in America. These explosions can be heard anytime if day or night--good thing we're good sleepers!

Today, we're off for more adventures but til then, here are some fun pictures of our day exploring this great wonder if the world!...