Hebei #1 – Music Town and NYCPM

The next adventure we took-not counting the multiple, tedious, trips around Beijing to get our visas renewed-was to Hengshui (pronounced Hungshway), a “small” city in the province Hebei. The Hebei province sort of “spoons” Beijing so the train ride was only about four hours. The catch was that we took a traditional train there, not the high-speed train we would normally take. This train was dirtier, less private, and much louder then the high-speed trains are, but it was a short ride so we survived. Now like I said, we were told that Hengshui was a “small” city so we were not quite sure what kind of accommodations to expect. When our host Professor Lei checked us in to our hotel we were quite reassured that this trip would not be a Yangling hotel repeat (whose accommodations were a little less then…erm..modern? Sanitary?). This hotel was even equipped with a phone by every toilet so you can even do your business while doing your business! (PS: this small town has a population of approximately 4,340,373…yeah, so small..) Continue reading “Hebei #1 – Music Town and NYCPM”

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Beijing Botanical Garden

Our “90 Day Mark” in China would soon be upon us.  What makes this particular day so significant?  In case you don’t know, you have to have a visa to enter China.  The type of visa you are given determines how long you can stay in the country.  Our particular visa type gave us 90 days in country.  After 90 days, we would have to either leave China or apply for an extension.  We were told this extension wouldn’t be a problem and could be handled once we were in China.  Well, this deadline snuck up on us and to make a long story short . . . we spent some significant time at the police station for not registering with the police when we arrived in Beijing and would have had to pay a hefty fee had some university officials not come to our rescue.  This is also important because we found out that because Scarlett wasn’t officially part of our family (although after living three months with this crew . . . we were definitely family!), they would not be renewing her visa and she would be heading home several weeks earlier than we had planned.  Although Scarlett had planned to return to the States in late October anyway, her new departure day was instead now only a week away.

One attraction that Scarlett had wanted to visit since arriving in Beijing was the Botanical Garden.  She had talked about going several times, but she had not made it there yet.  With her new departure date coming at us quickly, we decided we’d better get this destination checked off her list.

Unfortunately, because we were now into the month of October, the Botanical Garden didn’t have as many plants blooming as I’m sure it had the couple months previously.  We still enjoyed several hours hiking around the grounds.  The weather was beautiful that day . . . not too hot or cold.  Since we went on a Wednesday, Tyson didn’t accompany us on this adventure.

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Because it was still the week of the “National Holiday” here in China, there were plenty of other people taking in the scenery of the garden.  Fortunately, the garden is spread out over many, many acres, so it didn’t feel terribly crowded once we were inside the gates.

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We took several pictures along the way.  Of course, stopping to take pictures with our crew tends to draw a crowd . . . so you can’t stay in one place too long!  Here is a beautiful pagoda that the kids enjoyed running up to see.

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By far the most favorite part of the visit was toward the back of the park.  We had walked along for quite a while on a path and came to this small creek that was running adjacent to the path we were on.  A couple of kids were trying to create dams in the creek.  Of course, my kids were anxious to also get their hands wet and play in the stream.  This kind of activity was exactly what my kids had been missing back home in Oklahoma!  While the older kids devised how to make dams to stop the water, Abel enjoyed throwing rocks into stream.  It was great to see the kids enjoying nature with more of a “hands on” approach like we are used to living on our acreage.  We, of course, were the subject of several pictures as people walked by.  A couple young girls nervously tried to practice their English with me while standing there.  After an hour or so, we needed to head back to the entrance so we could catch a bus home before rush hour hit.  Of course, before leaving we had to have a snack!

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All we had to do now was get home.  Well, this proved to be our most crowded bus ride yet (and we’ve had some crowded situations before)!  I will never forget how full the bus was and how long it seemed to get home that afternoon.  I think it will be a while before the Ochsner Family complains about riding in the van to get around Stillwater.  All I will have to do is remind the kids of that experience and hopefully it will induce some major thankfulness!

–Stephanie

 

It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

20160930_172417       20160930_174626            On a Friday afternoon in September, we decided to go to the “Hutongs”. Hutongs are alleyways and lanes of old and close together houses that are arranged around a central courtyard. Most Hutongs are found by the Forbidden City. We took the bus and subway to get to there. Once we arrived, we immediately went into a leather working shop. That would be one of the many shops we visited. Here are some of the other shops we saw : a “snuff” shop, many food vendors, amber rock shop, bubble drink vendor, tea shops, and music shops. (We all learned not to drink the dry ice in the bubble drink!) I liked all the food we tried, including lamb kabbobs and the “candied fruit on a stick”. Continue reading “It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”

The Great Wall

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Well, we finally made it. And we were so glad we waited. September 28, 2016 was the perfect day to be on the Great Wall. It was a clear day, we got a direct bus ride there, and the Wall was not the least bit crowded. (After looking at video and pictures of the Wall during the holidays we especially realized how lucky we were on this subject!) After an hour/hour and a half bus ride to the wall at Mutianyu we bought on a shuttle bus and went up to the base of the wall. Because it was such a large hike to actually get up to the wall, we decided to take the easier, and more fun, way up. To help me tell the story of the Great Wall, I’ve enlisted the help from the other Ochsner 6 to each tell us about their favorite part of our adventure. Continue reading “The Great Wall”

The (not so) Forbidden City

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We were so ready. We had rented a van. We were all rested up. We had picked out our warmest clothes. We had gotten our snacks packed. We were going to the Great Wall.

The next morning we woke up to a massive wind storm. The Great Wall is on top of the mountains…I don’t know about you, but it blowing off the Great wall doesn’t sound so fun to me. Huh.

We weren’t going to the Great Wall….

So we settled for the next best thing, the Forbidden City. We packed into the van and off we went. Continue reading “The (not so) Forbidden City”