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.
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.
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.
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!
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!