Friday, September 19, 2008

We're "home"!

Mom and I made it safely back to Birmingham late last night.... it had been a loooong day in the airports of the world, but all went relatively smoothly.

As for our final day in Beijing, we spent it shopping! Of course! We picked up a few last minute souvenirs, and helped Oz and Matt (Ron's teammates) get good deals at the Silk Market for their friends and families. It's really fun haggling with other people's money! :)

That night, we attended the Closing Ceremonies. Show started at 8PM, so we left in "plenty of time" at 5:30. We had the bright idea to go by subway, knowing that we'd have to go that way on the way home since taxis would likely be scarce with 90,000 people pouring out of the Birds' Nest! That idea was a good one logistically, but a nightmare in reality...there were SO MANY PEOPLE trying to get to the stadium that way (at least 85 of the 90K!) and so many security checks (and therefore long lines and x-ray machines and bag-opening and body-wanding) that it took us two hours to get to the stadium. Then we had to climb Mount Everest to find our seats way up in the 3rd tier. By the time we got up there, it was about 7:30 or 7:45, and we had missed the athletes marching in! The whole ceremony was kinda "ehh" to me... the scale was much smaller than the regular Olympics. The 3rd tier thing was disappointing seemed to hold more people than the 1st and 2nd tiers, but we were all under an awning and couldn't see the fireworks or even the flame!! True, we could appreciate the formations of the dancers and stuff way down below, but the precision definitely was not that of the Olympics Ceremonies. It was great to get into the Birds' Nest though... that is one amazing stadium, and you can't get near it without a ticket! The subway trip home was much less hectic than the way there, I guess because there were no security checks to get through...and we didn't have to buy a return ticket, not that they're expensive! The gates were just open for the throngs of people going through!

Speaking of money, visiting China was definitely not bad on the wallet! One dollar is worth 6.8 yuan (or RMB), and things just don't cost that much. For example, in Italy, a can of diet coke would cost us 4 euros (almost $8 I think)... in China, a 20 oz bottle of diet coke cost 3 or 4 yuan (less than 75 cents)! A taxi ride to the airport (about a 45 min. ride from our hotel) cost about 80 yuan, so less than $10. A one way ticket on the subway only cost 2 yuan, so for both of us to get to the stadium and back that night it was like 50 cents total! Oh, I forgot to mention that for lunch while shopping with Ron, Oz, and Matt, we ducked into a little dumpling and noodle restaurant.... this one was seriously local... no English, spoken or written, and no pictures of the food, but Matt had been there the day before and knew what to get. The dumplings were so good... had some filled with vegetables and some with meat (I don't even want to know!), and we ate a lot of them! It was three big hungry athletes plus mom and me...we ate steam-basket after steam-basket of dumplings until we were almost sick, had 4 big bottles of local beer, and a few bottled waters, all for the grand total of 38 yuan. Yes, $8.50! It was amazing!!

Anyway, that was about it for our trip. Travel day yesterday was just took us all morning to stuff all of our stuff into our suitcases! We did A LOT of shopping! I know my bag weighed over 50lbs (it was pushing 40 when we left home!), but they didn't charge me extra... Yay!

Today I'm just in the zone trying to get ready to get down to Auburn...tomorrow! I have done 4 loads of laundry, packed up a bunch of paintings and mirrors and stuff, assembled and packed 2 more wardrobe boxes, and now need to unload my vanity drawers and pack up some of our nicer breakables, and pack Ron some clean clothes for the weekend.... good thing I'm a list maker, and that the movers are gonna pack all the rest of our stuff themselves next week. I'm exhausted...just in time to start my job on Monday! Great.

(Disclaimer.... I am really excited about starting my job! I've worked all my life I guess for this career, and I think/hope I found the perfect job for me! I hate that we're having to move and that we're so rushed and everything, but oh well... we'll get through it somehow... cause we always do. I am a little nervous though! What if I forgot everything I knew over the last 11 days of traveling??)