We fell in love twice on this trip.
Once with our new son, who has adjusted so incredibly well that he seems like he’s always been a part of this loud and crazy team.
And again with his birth city.
Wuhan City is officially our entire team’s favorite place in China. We would transfer here in a second. We honestly love it that much.
Last night, as we sat at a restaurant round table spinning the lazy susan to access the bean vermicelli and the spicy beef dish and the steamed pork dumplings and the Peking duck that have become our favorites since we arrived on Sunday, all of us lamented the loss of the best Chinese food we’ve ever tasted.
The people of Wuhan know how to cook. And their famous spicier dishes and real Peking duck have won the hearts of this team of foodies who unashamedly plan their travels around their very next meal.
We’ve been so blessed while here in Wuhan to be accompanied by two local families who have shown us the ropes, taken us to the best local places and ordered for us the very best food.
When we arrived on Sunday, we reunited with the coach of the Odyssey of the Mind team we met and played with for four days in May. Superhero 1’s O.M. team earned a place at the World Finals competition, and there, his team was matched with an international buddy team from around the world.
Of all the countries and cities they could have been matched with, they were matched with a team from China.
From Superhero 4’s province.
From right in his exact city of Wuhan City.
When we said goodbye to this Odyssey team back in May, we exchanged WeChat information with the coach, and when we arrived in Wuhan on Sunday, the beautiful woman I now just call friend and her entire family picked us up at the hotel and gave us a tour of their incredible city.
And WOW. What a city it is.
Wuhan City is the capital of Hubei Province, and at 12 million people inside the city and about 30 million in the suburbs, according to our friends, the place is just HUGE.
As they drove us over a bridge to our first stop, the Hubei Provincial Museum, we asked what river was below us.
Oh, just the Yangtze.
The same famous river I studied in my fifth grade social studies class when I researched ancient civilizations.
Just that one.
Multiple beautiful massive bridges cross the Yangtze and lead to the three sections that make up the city. Along one bank of the river are miles of walkways and adult exercise machines, and along the other are beautiful office buildings and sky scrapers that light the river with color-coordinated flashing lights at night.
The entire city limits long.
Our friends parked near the river and walked us to the famous Hubei Provincial Museum, considered by many to be the best museum in China, where they led us through gallery after gallery of more than 200,000 ancient artifacts, including one of the Hangyan Ancient Man skulls and the actual massive chimes found in the Tomb of Marquis Yi of Zeng.
After two hours gaping at artifacts 100 times older than our own country, this beautiful family, who brought their English-speaking nephew to help translate for us, since they didn’t speak English and we communicated mostly through a translation app, then took us to dinner at one of the most famous places in Wuhan: Mr. Xie’s.
When we arrived in the lobby, which was beautifully decorated with fresh flowers and traditional wall hangings, we knew it was going to be good.
But when the hostess then led us to a private VIP room that our precious friends had reserved for us, complete with its own in-room bathroom, we knew it was going to be AMAZING.
Hua asked me through her nephew if there was anything we were afraid to try, and Superhero 1, who returned to China firstly to meet his brother and secondly to eat, told her to bring it on.
And so she did.
For two hours, our team got the privilege of tasting sweet pork and Wuhan spicy chicken and duck skin wraps and jellyfish. The boys tried squid and goose liver patties and shrimp with eyes and fish with heads. And just when we thought we were done, that we’d eaten every amazing and exotic food that we could muster, the server brought out more.
By the time we finished, our entire massive table was completely full with dishes that we passed around the lazy susan and ate family style with our beautiful friends.
It was beyond delicious, and Superhero 1 was on Cloud 9.
When we wrapped up dinner, our sweet friends asked us if we had the strength to play for a bit more. We were still adjusting to the time zone, and all of us thought we might fall asleep on them at any second, but we didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity of a lifetime to be shown this beautiful city by people who had lived here all their lives. So we said yes.
Hua’s family then took us to the park on the riverbank, and the boys just kept looking around and pinching themselves that they were really here.
It looked like something out of a movie — the kind you want to step into and enjoy for a moment yourself.
In front of us was the ancient river that held so much history that entire books had been published just on the topic. To the right were dinner cruise boats playing traditional Chinese music we could hear from the banks. On the platform in front of us were locals out dancing with ribbons doing what Hua called “exercise,” playing their music and stretching their legs and making beautiful traditional ribbons dance behind them.
Hua and her husband led us down the riverwalk, where there were bikers and walkers and joggers and families, all out enjoying the evening, all being active together. Halfway down the path, a crowd gathered before a huge screen to enjoy an outdoor movie in the park, and friends with light-up kites held tight to strings that made their airborne objects dance in the wind.
Hua disappeared for a moment, and when she returned, she spoiled the boys with light-up toys that they could launch high into the sky. This beautiful family had already brought us welcome gifts — wooden puzzles for the boys, two beautiful scarves for me and this incredible dragon glass tea set for Super-Spouse — and they hadn’t let us even touch the bill at dinner. We were so overwhelmed by their generosity and told them we just couldn’t thank them enough. But their smiles and their nephew kept telling us what a treat it was to have international friends come to Wuhan. They said through the translator app that they just wanted this day to be special.
It absolutely was.
By the time we returned to our hotel that night after flying in that morning, we had already fallen in love with Wuhan, and we couldn’t wait to experience everything else our friends told us we had to try.
We stayed close to the hotel on Monday, because after a traumatic Gotcha Day morning for our sweet boy, we wanted to keep his world very quiet, intimate and small.
But by Day 2, this little man had broken free from his supposedly shy little shell and was pointing to the Ergo carrier to show me he wanted to go somewhere.
And so we went.
Tuesday, while our guide, Kathy, took care of paperwork for us at the office, her delightful 16-year-old son took us around the city. Wuhan’s public transportation is out of this world, and we could literally access almost everything within an hour and a half radius of the center of the city by using the Metro lines.
Leo, our guide’s son, took us to the Metro, where, on our way to the kiddie amusement park, we became quite the spectacle.
In nearly six days in Wuhan City, we have not spotted or heard another foreigner. Period.
Kathy and Leo told us that Wuhan is not like America — it’s not a melting pot here. And although Beijing and Guangzhou host many Westerners doing business and visiting for travel, in Wuhan City, that’s just not so.
Which made us quite the attraction to the people who filled the packed-out Metro lines.
Every time we boarded a train, we felt the whole car go silent, and then the cell phones and video cameras appeared, and the questions from the not-shy-at-all-to-ask locals began pouring in.
The cooks in our hotel restaurant had whipped out video cameras to attempt to discreetly tape us as we walked through the buffet line at breakfast, so we had already experienced a taste of being spectacles, but the onlookers taping us now didn’t even try to be discreet.
Old men grabbed our children’s arms for pictures, and mamas sent their little girls to come sit by us so they could say they met an American.
My Chinese is absolutely horrible, but on almost every train, I could hear the people around me exclaiming, “Si?!” which I knew meant “Four?!”
Yes, four. One, two, three, four boys.
One man grabbed Leo’s arm when he saw him speaking to us in English and said something sharply to him in Chinese, then pointed for him to ask us in English.
Leo sheepishly asked, “This man wants to know why you adopt two Chinese boys when you already have two beautiful boys. What’s your reason?”
We told him that we loved children, that all four boys were a blessing and that we believed every child deserved a chance at a forever family. God loves us so well as His children, and it’s our privilege to get to love on HIS children.
The man, whose face had previously displayed sharp disapproval, then smiled, took my hand and said, “Xie xie,” or “thank you” in Chinese.
After breaking free from the fish bowl that was our lives every time we boarded a subway train, we exited the Metro and arrived at the local kiddie park, which also featured a beautiful lake and gardens the boys got to explore.
After a few rides on the merry-go-round (which Superhero 4 just LOVED) and the little train, Leo helped us catch two cabs to a local Chinese restaurant, where he ordered for us more of the dishes Wuhan City is famous for, including a real Peking duck that the chef came and carved in front of us.
Seriously, for real, absolutely some of the best food of my life.
The food here in Wuhan has been so incredible that, even after eating Chinese food three times a day for a full week now, not one of us is sick of it. Instead, we’ve been fighting over which restaurant we want to hit again before we fly to Guangzhou tonight.
On Wednesday, Kathy, who has gone so far above and beyond her duties as our guide that she even took our laundry and had her friend do it for us so that we could save the price of sending it out through the hotel, took us to the famous Yellow Crane Tower.
All six of us climbed the five flights of stairs to the top, where we had the most amazing views of the bridges, the city and the place where the Yangtze and Han Rivers join.
It was such a surreal and very cool “China” experience, and the boys loved hearing the fable of the yellow crane for which the tower was named, even in the pouring rain.
Following our morning at the tower pavilion, Kathy and Leo took us off agenda for an extra special treat … a 10-mile bike ride around the new East Lake Greenway, a 28-kilometer set of paved biking and running trails that line the massive East Lake.
Our friends helped us rent bikes (for only 1 RMB an hour! Although sadly, they don’t offer helmets in China, and so disclaimer — we did the bad parent thing and allowed our children to bike for the first time ever without head protection — thank you, Lord, that 10 miles later, they were just fine) and all six of us enjoyed the first sunny afternoon of our trip biking this idyllic path surrounded by beautifully groomed landscaping and a lake dotted with small, low fishing boats. In the background was the skyline of Wuhan City, and to the right, traditional Chinese structures that gleamed in reds and yellows in the sun.
The local government had placed hidden speakers all along the paved path, so as we rode and marveled at the views, we also got to experience the peace of background instrumental music.
Two hours later, we all concluded it was our favorite activity of the trip so far.
Yesterday, on our final full day in Wuhan, Kathy took us down the narrow streets of Old Wuhan, where we got to experience everyday Wuhan life and of course, the farmers’ market. (See 15-second video HERE; slow internet speeds won't let me upload inside this post today.)
There’s something about live fish, frogs and eels in holding basins that I will never quite get used to. (See farmer's market 10-second video HERE.)
Then, while Kathy picked up our notarization documents, Leo took us to the local 22-floor shopping center, where the kids played on the large play structure and Super-Spouse had to rent footie hose that they called “socks” for a dollar to chase the boys through the tunnels.
We enjoyed one final amazing local dinner near the shopping center, which Leo once again ordered for us (Peking duck wraps, how do I find you at home?!), and we returned to the hotel, where all of us crawled into bed by 7:30 p.m.
We’re packing our bags this morning and preparing for our flight to Guangzhou, where we’ll attend our appointment at the U.S. Consulate and prepare to make Superhero 4 an official U.S. citizen.
But we’ll miss this beautiful city, we’ll miss this amazing food, and we’ll definitely miss these incredible people, who have so generously given of their time, energy, love and hearts.
Wuhan City, we just adore you. Someday, we hope to be back again.