I had allowed for an hour to get to the train station. Our train was to leave at 8:23 and at 7:45 we got into a cart. I prayed that we would get there safely as we have been avoiding carts because of all the accidents we have seen recently. They are not the safest mode of transportation. Secondly I prayed that the train would be a little late. It's not often on time so I wasn't really worried that we would miss it. And we didn't.
We got to the station at 8:10 and the doors to the platform were still locked with a crowd of people standing around. I went up to the person I deemed most able to speak English, should they not understand my Chinese, and asked (while showing my ticket) if my train had left. The young man looked at his ticket which was for the same train and told me "no" in English. He started talking to us and we found out that he works in Dubai and is quite fluent in English, having to speak it at work.
The train finally arrived, about twenty minutes late and he got permission for us to go to the car that he was in which is also more spacious (he had a ticket for the sleeping car where there are bunk beds, three high, and not as crowded) and we chatted for a good portion of the trip to Beijing.
Once in Beijing we got in a super short line (only 3 people ahead of us, unlike 58 on our trip in October) and got return tickets for Sunday. Then we found the bathrooms and I managed to keep our stuff safe while we went about our business in there. Then to the bus which takes an hour to get up to the north west side of the city where my friends live. As usual, Nathaniel fell asleep. He woke up in the process of trying to get off of the bus and me putting the backpack on. He refused to walk for any portion of the 15 minute walk to Teri's house. To say I was exhausted would be an understatement!
We ordered McDonald's for lunch (they have delivery via bicycle for 8 yuan extra!) and after a short rest went to Wal-Mart to pick up some stuff while Teri taught her last class before Christmas. Nathaniel loved riding up and down the escalators in the shopping cart (the store has three levels) and I was again amazed at how much Chinese and American Wal-Marts smell the same! We then took a subway to meet Teri and then a taxi to a small Italian restaurant. After dinner we went grocery shopping at Jenny Lou's a store catering to foreigners. Some cheeses were discounted, so I stocked up! On our way back to Teri's we went past some amazing light displays. Well, amazing for China considering they don't generally celebrate Christmas. But we were in a part of Beijing where there are lots of foreigners (and most of the embassies) and Chinese who have lived abroad, so it's a bit different than the other parts of the city.
On Friday we spent the morning at IKEA with several friends who were both buying lots of stuff for their houses. We were there for four hours and while on our way to check out, Nathaniel fell asleep. After we got home and he woke up, I took him to a local park where he played for just 10 minutes before he asked to use the bathroom. When we finally found a bathroom, it was too late. Of course there were no taxis to be found, the subway seemed too far to walk to. We waited, asked people where we might find a taxi, and saw two who refused to take us because "I am waiting for someone who will be here in just a minute." Ten minutes later they were still there. I finally got smart and started walking towards Teri's and ended up walking the whole way. Oh, in the middle of this, the IKEA delivery guys called wanting to deliver the furniture and I was supposed to let them in. Luckily they got lost and I was there long before they were. Teri was exhausted when she got back, Nathaniel was crabby and because of the taxi shortage, we decided to stay home from the Christmas Eve service. We wanted to order pizza but they refused to talk to us, then tried KFC and placed our order but then they said it would be delivered at 10:30 pm...three hours later! McDonald's was able to deliver in 15 minutes so that's what we ate.