Gil and I had the trip of a lifetime going to Beijing, China, to visit our son Carl Kitchens, Jr. and his family end of August, 2012. We flew from Little Rock, AR, to Chicago, then took a 13 hr. flight with United Airlines to Beijing, arriving on Aug. 29th, our 37th wedding anniversary.
Ed (as I have called him most of his life), his wife Debora and the granddaughters, Suzanne and Destiny, were there to meet us at the airport in Beijing. It was wonderful to see them all again after 2 1/2 years of not being able to see them in person. Destiny (DJ) was only 5 mo. old when they moved to China for her father to teach English as second language at a private school there. Suzanne was only 12 yrs. old at the time. DJ had turned 3 yrs. old the day before we arrived and we had a birthday party for her the next weekend.
We took the subway across town which was a very crowded ride for about 1 1/2 hours, then a taxi to their apartment in the very southern part of the city. What a culture shock this was! The Chinese people are very friendly and helpful but there are SO MANY of them in that city! We were very tired for a couple of days and the weather was very warm when we arrived. It rained on Sunday after we got there and then the weather cooled off and was very comfortable the entire month of September - shirt-sleeve weather comfortable for walking and enjoying our visit.
The area where they live is a gated community with 54 buildings inside a fenced area, each building being at least 15 stories, each floor having six apartments. Thus, this area alone housed more people than our town in south Arkansas of about 10,000 population. The city of Beijing is comprised of about 20 million people. I think half of them were on the subway that day we arrived.
We did not go out to see the things most visitors to the city see, but stayed at the apartment many days to visit with the granddaughters while their father taught school and their mother shopped for groceries or ran errands. We were content with that but did venture out a couple of days to attend church at the Beijing International Christian Fellowship or go to a restaurant. We did take a bus ride to the city center one day which was interesting, but very tiring.
Many days we took DJ down to the courtyard to play or shop. The shops near their apartment included several small grocery stores, a pharmacy, a beauty shop, a barber, cleaners and realtor offices. We also walked several days to the nearby open-air market where we purchased fresh fruit, vegetables and needed items for the family. The market was open 7 days a week from about 6:30 am until about 1 pm. Vendors set up their booths early each morning, displaying their wares or food products, and then took down the booths early each afternoon.
While there, we witnessed the country of China in a very heated dispute with Japan over some islands which both nations claimed. There were demonstrations throughout the country of China, one of which was very large outside the Japanese Embassy which happened to be across the street from the BICF (church) where we worshipped on two occasions. During the most heated demonstrations we were warned to not go near that area one Sunday. We were very glad when this international situation calmed down to the point that there were no longer demonstrations.
The Chinese food in Beijing is very different from the American/Chinese food we find in restaurants in this country. We did not find much to our liking in the restaurant we ate at one evening but did attempt to eat with chopsticks with some success.
Everywhere we went, DJ was the star of the situation. Everyone wanted to talk to her, play with her or touch her. The Chinese were fascinated by this little blond, blue-eyed American girl. The children and adults in restaurants, in the courtyard, in the subway and on the buses gathered around her and wanted to take her picture with their own children. The children all enjoyed playing with her and she with them. It would be so nice if all peoples of the world could get along this well - with no regard to color of skin or nationality.
Before we knew it, our 33 days in China were over. Suzanne had her 15th birthday on Sept. 30th and we had to leave on Oct. 1st which happened to be National Day (holiday similar to our 4th of July). This is the day each year the nation of China celebrates that they are no longer subject of an emperor. We were somewhat concerned about getting to the airport on such a holiday, especially with all our luggage. We felt like we did not want to take the subway again and the taxi cabs were all very small. Naturally our son and his family wanted to see us off at the airport so we hired a private car (through my son's friend at work) to take us. It took only 35 min. to get there and the ride was very comfortable for us all.
It was hard to leave them that day, but we hope they will be able to come to Arkansas next summer for a visit. Suzanne is in her senior year of home schooling and plans to attend college here in the USA. She will be staying with us when the family comes next year. The flight back to Chicago was only 12 hours because of a tail wind and not quiet so tiring as the trip to Beijing but we were glad to get home. Now skype will be our only connection to them again!