When we arrived at the Beijing Airport, we had to transfer to another terminal to pick up our luggage. Things went smoothly since we followed the other people from our plane and the few signs that were in English. We were only on the train a few minutes. By the time we figured out where to pick up our luggage and went to the bathroom, we were among the last to go through the check in to get to the gate.
I was still carrying the $4.00 bottle of water I had bought in Chicago. Because the flight attendants were so good at offering drinks, I had only sipped about 1/4 of it. It was taken away from me and tossed. That’s the last time I buy big bottles that I won’t have time to drink.
The plane to Dalian was already boarding. We were supposed to meet friends of my son at the gate. They were coming from South China for the wedding. I spied someone looking around and smiling just as she got to the front of the line. She looked like her facebook picture so I waved. It was really strange when I got on board and realized my assigned seat was right next to hers and her husband’s. We had about an hour to get acquainted. I could understand why they and my son had become friends. I liked both of them immediately.
Julie’s family all turned out for the reception at the airport. There were probably ten people there. Aunts, uncles, cousins, parents…all had come to greet us. Nathan was there to greet us with bouquets of flowers. We hugged each other and I didn’t want to let go. I almost started crying. It’s hard to see your son only every 18 months or so. I had sent a message to Julie that I was looking forward to her calling me Mom. She hugged me and did just that. It sounded wonderful.
It had taken quite a while for our luggage to arrive. Nathan’s friends had gone out first. Becky was standing there holding a bouquet as well. I wondered why but didn’t say anything. Julie’s grandmother grabbed my hand. She is only about eight years older than I am but she is very strong and healthy. When we started walking, I thought she was preparing me for a marathon as we headed to the car.
The trip to downtown Dalian was really a trip! I didn’t see any accidents but I was prepared for one at any moment. Those people cut in front of each other with centimeters to spare. I get nervous when there are only a few feet in between me and someone cutting in. I was astounded at the drivers. Traffic was flowing freely, literally bumper to bumper. It was amazing. I tried to relax but I was glad when we stopped and I could breathe again.
We checked into the hotel. Nathan and Julie went with us up to the room and turned on the air conditioning and checked to see that everything was o.k. The other couple was in the room next to ours. Since it was about 10 at night there, we went to bed. About two in the morning, both of us woke up. It was getting warm. The a/c had been turned off. That even included the fan. We made it through the night and in the morning we opened the window to let in some air.
The breakfast was part of the charge for the room. Nathan and Julie joined the four of us. I had a couple of brown (soaked in tea) hard boiled eggs, some orange liquid that was supposed to be juice, and a variety of non-descript vegetables. After breakfast, a tour around Dalian by van was arranged for us.
Dalian is a lovely city…or at least it would be if there were not so much construction going on. I don’t believe we drove a single mile without seeing at least two projects. They took us along a road that bordered the coast. We could see the East China Sea in the distance.
Nathan and Julie had arranged for everyone to eat at this lovely restaurant. There were eight of us, including the two drivers who were giving us the tour. When we entered I saw tank after tank of fresh live seafood. We were taken to a private room upstairs and waited while Nathan and Julie went downstairs to pick out our food. It was our first exposure to eating Chinese family-style.
There was a large Lazy Susan in the center of the table. As the dishes began to arrive, they were placed there. The others picked up their chopsticks and began eating right from the dishes, one bit at a time. The last dish to arrive was a fresh fish (I don’t know what kind) who I called “George”…as in, “George, I knew him well….”. He was the first George. Before our trip was over, we had been served at least four more. I told the story about George Foreman and his sons to Julie. Each new fish now became another George. They were by far, in my opinion, the best part of the meal. I’m in love with Chinese steamed fish…heads and all.
After a rest back at the hotel, we met one more time for supper. This was kind of the “rehearsal dinner”. There is a popular restaurant chain called “The Hot Pot” where Becky, Bob, Barb, Julie, her parents, Nathan and I went. It was delicious as long as I, like the noon meal, didn’t ask too many questions as to what we were eating.
Unfortunately, when we got back to the hotel, we realized the a/c was still not working. Barb and Betsy went down to the desk. They thought that translators were being called. Instead, Nathan and Julie arrived. At that time of night, nothing was done. We had to sleep with the window open which meant the traffic noise was unceasing. We got little sleep. I was so proud of Nathan. He kept his cool the entire time he was trying to handle this. Here it was the night before his wedding and there were still things which needed attention. I smiled as I realized the calming effect Julie had on him. I could see the tension, but he didn’t explode. I fell in love with her even more so.