Tuesday, June 06, 2017

A Rainy Day in Nanchang

Our flight to Nanchang was out of PuDong International airport, which was a 1.5 hour drive from our hotel in Jiading.  Other than the long drive, our flight was uneventful, the best kind - they even served us a lunch of rice and beef with carrots; I thought it was pretty good for airplane fare.  We arrived to a rainy Nanchang around noon, and Janet, our guide for the next 3 days, was waiting for us.  We were supposed to visit a famous temple pavilion on the way to the hotel, but because of the rain we decided to go to the hotel first so we could dig out our rain gear.  Even though it was raining, we went on to the temple pavilion anyway.

This was an important first step for us in Nanchang because Lois and Hannah visited this same pavilion 7 years ago (I was actually sick and in the room that day).  After going through the pavilion we went down to the pagoda overlooking the goldfish pond - 7 years ago, almost to the day, Lois took a picture of Hannah looking through the stone railing at the gold fish, but refusing to feed them her cracker.

And here she is 7 years later at the same pond ...

Our little girl is growing up ...

After the park, we decided to head up the street to the grocery store to buy a few essentials.  And on the way, we made a surprise detour to the Gloria Grand Hotel - the very hotel we stayed in when we got Hannah.  Our guide told us the hotel is very old now and is supposed to be torn down in the next few months, so we felt very blessed to be able to visit the old hotel and take a few pictures.

This is about where we were sitting 7 years ago when we first saw Hannah walk through those doors.

After a somewhat brief stop at the grocery store, where we bought some candy for the children at Hannah's orphanage, we headed back to our hotel.  Our guide helped us order dinner at a restaurant across the street, then we headed back to our room and got a good night's sleep - tomorrow we are going to Ji'An to visit Hannah's orphanage.  It will be a long day (a 3 hour drive one way), and quite emotional for all of us ...

Sunday, June 04, 2017

A Quick Stop in Shanghai

When we left Beijing on Monday morning, we flew to Shanghai.  We didn’t actually spend our three days in Shanghai city.  We were in Jiading, an industrial district about an hour from Shanghai because David had a meeting Wednesday with some folks who use the software he helps develop.  Because it was so far to Shanghai, we decided to stay close to our hotel and since the rest of the trip could be really busy, we wanted to keep this leg quiet and low-keyed.

After we checked into hotel and ate lunch, we took a trip to the supermarket to buy some “dongxi” (stuff) so we could have a picnic in our hotel room later.  We had forgotten how much fun Chinese grocery stores could be, especially during a holiday!  We were there in time for the Dragon Boat Festival.  It is a popular festival and the store was packed buying all their special foods, including one of Andrew’s favorites, Zongzi, little boiled packets of sticky rice wrapped in banana leaves with dates, nuts or meat.  He was so excited when we bought him some.  We also got instant noodle bowls, bread and regular flavored Pringles.  We decided not to try the cucumber or lemon tea flavored chips.  After our shopping trip, we returned to the hotel for some time in the swimming pool followed by our picnic in the room.
Chinese Grocery Store 
Zongzi for sale
You don't see these Pringle flavors every day

Hannah and Andrew with our in-room picnic supplies

Zongzi - ready to eat
One interesting note about the swimming pool at the Hotel - they required everyone to wear swimming "caps" - and they had some for us to "borrow", since we didn't come prepared.  This made for some fun pictures (I thought the skulls were an especially nice touch, don't you?).

Tuesday was a free day, so we slept in (as best we could), had breakfast, then decided to explore the area.  We asked the concierge where the nearest playground for children was, but we were met with blank expressions.  After some basic charades and Lois' chinese explanation, we were told there were no playgrounds in the area.  I still find that hard to believe, but that's what they said ...  So, we opted to go to Hua Long park near the middle of "town".  It turned out to be a really pretty place compete with gardens and a lake.  Of course, the most fascinating part of the park were the electric boats for rent ...  But first, some pictures from the gardens:

Andrew with Confucius and a Warrior
The bell tower

At the top of the bell tower

The very large, very old bell at the top of the bell tower
A pagoda on the lake

A beautiful flower sculpture

Of course, the highlight of Andrew's day was driving the boat - perhaps his first time driving a motorized vehicle?  He did very well driving the boat - Dad only had to intervene a couple of times ...
Lovely orange vests, don't you think?

Captain Cooke

The captain and the crew brightly adorned
Upon leaving the park, we ran across this sculpture - I wonder what the old man with the scroll is thinking?

After the park, it was off to lunch at KFC (a safe place when you don't know the area :>) and then back to the supermarket to buy a few more items for another evening picnic in the room.  What I didn't notice on our first trip was the number of cashiers in this super market - walmart has nothing on this place ...

When we got back to the hotel, there was time for more swimming, then another picnic ...

On Wednesday David had his all-day meeting with Shanghai United Imaging and Lois had the kids all to herself ...  David's meeting went very well and the kids and Lois seemed to have a fun day hanging out around the hotel (exploring, writing post cards and, of course, swimming).  When David finally got back to the room, it was pretty late, and we were out of picnic supplies, so it was off to town and another familiar western restaurant - McDonalds ...  I know, I know ... But it was pretty quick and easy.

Thursday morning, bright and early, we started are trek to Nanchang, birthplace of our very own Hannah Grace Cooke ...

Friday, June 02, 2017

Touring Beijing

Well, spare moments are hard to come by these days.  Seems like we have been on the go since we got here; which is not necessarily a bad thing, just means we haven't had any time to work on the blog.

We had three great days in Beijing.  Our guide, Helen, met us at the airport when we arrived on Thursday and helped us go to our hotel which was very close to the center of the city.  It was rush hour, so we had an hour and a half to get to know our guide.  She also married "later" and now has a 14 month old son named "Jack".  She was very friendly and very helpful - the kids wanted to know if she could be our guide for the rest of our trip as well :>)  Beijing is a city of 24 million people, and instead of one "ring" or beltway, there are 5 - Helen told us the running joke in Beijing is that there is only one rush hour:  all day, every day :>)  Atlanta traffic isn't looking so bad ...

After checking in, we walked to a noodle shop and had Mr. Li's beef soup noodles.  We were too tired to think about taking any pictures ...  We went to sleep pretty quickly after devotions and family prayer time.  Unfortunately, we woke up pretty early (around 5:30, though some of the smaller ones among us were awake looong before 5:30 ...) and had to wait until 6:30 to go down for breakfast.  We all enjoyed the breakfast; some of the favorites:  won ton soup, waffles, bacon, omelettes, bok choy and mandarin oranges.

The first day, we made our trip to the Mu Tian Yu portion of the Great Wall. The weather was perfect and we had a great time!  Because this part of the wall is way up in the mountain, we took a chair lift up to the wall.  We had a choice coming down of returning on the chair lift or "sliding" down bob-sled style.  Guess you can figure out which one the kids voted for (OK, I voted for it too :>)  The "sled" was on wheels and we were on a metal chute - and fun was had by all.  After the wall, we had lunch at a local restaurant featuring local food.  We enjoyed sizzling beef, sweet & sour chicken, shredded potatoes, savory pancakes (not sweet) and spicy green beans (Andrew loved the spicy beans and Hannah loved the sweet and sour chicken).

We were really tired by the time we bog back, so instead of investing energy in trying to decide what to have for dinner, we just went back to have Mr. Li's beef noodles again (they really are quite yummy).

Our second day we slept a little later, but still didn't have to worry abut missing the early breakfast hour. After breakfast, Helen arrived and took us to Tienanmen square.  It was not as "open" as I remember it from 2005.  Security is very tight and everyone must pass through security before entering the square.  It is a little sad to see the square filled with tour groups instead of children running, playing and flying kites (which is how I remember it).

It turned out to be a really hot day (99, I think) - even in the morning (when this picture was taken), you could see the haze in the air.  From the square, we walked across the street to the Forbidden City (which is now called the Forbidden Palace Museum).

We enjoyed the tour (OK, some of us more than others); it is much larger than you might imagine ...  After the tour, Helen took us to a local restaurant where we feasted on more local dishes including the most famous of all, Peking Duck; it was quite yummy ...  After lunch we went looking for a cell phone repair shop in a vain attempt to revive my cell phone (a manufacturers defect has rendered it totally incapacitated :>(  It seems the defect is so bad that China has banned the sales of LG phones throughout the entire country - wouldn't you know it ...  Oh well ...

After the failed cell phone revival, we traveled to the HuTongs or old section of town; we are talking hundreds of years here ...  The homes are very close together and the streets are very narrow, so we toured in rickshaw's.  It was a lot of fun, and a welcome rest after all the walking in the Forbidden City.  We were given golden Chinese knots and instructed to wear them - I decided to attach mine to the button on my shirt; quite a fashion statement, don't you think?  Below we are standing in front of a "4-Beam" home of a military officer.  As you might guess, the number of beams was equated with status, and a 4-Beam home was at the top of the list.  Below that is the courtyard of a typical home; this one was 250 years old.  Finally, our guide in the HuTongs.

After a full and tiring day, we managed to find a McDonald's for dinner - it was quick and easy, and we did have a pretty good lunch ...

Our last full day in Beijing we went shopping, then out for lunch, then to an Acrobat show.  Below is a picture we took with Helen outside the shopping center:

As I mentioned at the beginning, we had a great time in Beijing - and Helen, our guide was fantastic.  It's getting late, so I will stop there and pick-up with Shanghai ...  Good night ...

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Has It Really Been That Long?

Can you believe it has been seven years since we went to China to bring Hannah home? And five years since Andrew came home?  Oh my goodness!  So much has happened in those seven years!  Our home and lives have been transformed by these little people who aren’t so little any more.

We often thank God for how He used China to put our family together.  I (Lois) went there out of obedience prepared to never marry, but God sent David on trips with Harp’s Crossing (my sending church) which started a long series of emails ending in a wedding.  Then, He sent us back to China to bring Hannah and Andrew into the family.  What a joy and blessing it has been. 

Now God has let us return to China as a family to celebrate what He has done, and to let the children experience and enjoy their birth heritage.  They have been so excited over the past year as we have prepared for the trip that began last Wednesday.

Here are a few pictures from the past 2 days.  Yesterday we went to the Great Wall and today was Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and the HuTongs:

Just arrived in Beijing
Mu Tian Yu section of the Great Wall of China

Tiananmen Square (with the Forbidden Palace in the background)

Rickshaw rides in the HuTongs

More to come later, when we are not so tired and have a few spare moments ...