When we were making plans for our "Beijing days" at the end of the trip, we were very happy with the hotel David recommended...both for the price and the location. The hotel's website promised walking distance to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City and while riding around the previous day we had seen just how close we were.
Ian and I had in mind that Friday before we headed home we would walk down to the square and mill around a little. And back in our pre-parenthood days we likely would have done so despite the drizzle the morning brought us. But we had five tired kids on our hands, so we killed time in the hotel instead. This morning reminded me much of our rainy days in Changsha...hotel hall olympics anyone?
Directly across from our hotel was a small hutong neighborhood. This type of housing is rapidly disappearing in Beijing in favor of big roads and high-rise buildings.
Hall olympics, repacking suitcases, a little TV and suddenly it was time to head to the airport. While we didn't get to walk over to the big sights, we did at least pass them one more time on the way out of the city.
The air quality may have been a slight detraction that day as well. Visibility started poor and continued to drop all day. Seriously...like by the time we boarded the plane you almost couldn't see the end of the jetway from the windows inside. So maybe not taking a brisk walk from the hotel to the square was in the best interest of our health.
We arrived at the airport, got checked in, and after what seemed an eternal wait post nap time to board, we found our row on the plane.
Our 777 had seats that were three, three, and three, so we actually did take up the entire row. I sat with the two littles, Ian sat with "the twins" and Ky sat with her grandmas. It was of course long, but the on demand movies and TV shows and cat naps passed the time and in all it wasn't a bad flight. Natalie did amazingly well with only one five minute crying jag that had to do with turbulence and me interrupting her nap to make sure her seat belt was indeed fastened.
Finally we touched down. There we stood, Natalie's feet on American soil for the first time...technically she became a US citizen there in Detroit according to the immigration Visa she had in her passport. It seems funny that all that paperwork, all those forms, and there is nothing "official" or "ceremonious" about becoming a citizen. Thankfully the kind woman who sat behind Natalie on the plane offered to take our picture to capture the moment.
|so realizing how rough we looked after the 14 hours...|
As we moved toward customs ~ actually where her citizenship became official, but you can't take pictures there ~ it seemed that Natalie was aware of the significance of the moment.
And of course we had to stop and get our flag shot.
We had an interesting opportunity to eavesdrop on foreign nationals who were trying to come into the US for a few months while waiting for Natalie's immigration papers to clear. Made us realize how much "power" that little blue book gives a person when coming back into our own country. Other folks were questioned and searched for about 30 minutes but once our envelope made it to the top of the stack, we were out the door in about 45 seconds.
From there it was time to head to our gate to board the flight that would bring us back home to NC.
The last flight didn't go so smoothly...thankfully most of the passengers were able to view us through a lens of grace in our extremely weary state.
And then...finally...30+ hours after we had gotten out of bed in Beijing, we were almost home. What a blessing it was to come up the escalator out of the secure area and see most of our adoption fellowship group, my sister and her family, and a few other friends there to welcome us back. Tears began to well up just being reminded how much we...and most importantly, Natalie...are loved.
Now begins the the rest of the story...