Thursday, November 5, 2009

Day 5 and 6 and almost on the way home!

Guangzhou Day 5 – Wednesday Nov 4th
It’s the day that Nora takes the Oath to give up her Chinese citizenship and become an American Citizen. Technically she wouldn’t actually be an American until her feet touch American soil in Newark on Friday afternoon when we go through customs. The only thing we can bring to this afternoon’s ceremony is a diaper bag and my passport, no cameras allowed. It’s too bad; I think this is a big deal and it would be nice for the children to have something to remember the day when their life changed forever.
We gathered after dinner to celebrate Nora’s belated 1st birthday. I forgot to take a photo of the cake I bought at the bakery down the street, but it was delicious.

Guangzhou Day 6 – Thursday Nov 5th
Today is our last full day in China. Its 2pm here and midnight your time, with daylight savings time Mpls is 14 hours behind China. Nora is down for her nap and I just started to pack for our long day of travel we have tomorrow. We need to leave the hotel at 7:20am to take our 10am flight to Beijing. Then we take at 5pm flight from Beijing to Newark and then Newark to Mpls arriving at 10:15pm Friday.

Today we walked to the Island to pick up the laundry and finished up a few last purchases. We also went to the White Swan to shoot a few Red Couch photos. Sorry I’m not writing too much but my computer is really working slow since last night and I’m wondering if it too has caught a strange bug in China.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Happy Birthday Nora!!!

Guangzhou Day 4 – Tuesday Nov 3rd

Happy Birthday Nora!!!

Not only is it Nora’s 1st birthday but it was also the day of her appointment with the American Consulate. The funny thing about the Consulate Appointment is that she is not present for it. The guide takes all the documents and forms and submits them to consulate staff. I needed to be by the phone for about an hour this morning just in case there were any questions but nothing other than that. We just got the call and there were no questions so now we just go there tomorrow afternoon for her to give her oath (I hope they understand baby-babble) to become an American citizen.

One of Jodi and Keith’s twins still has the stomach bug and now Jodi is not feeling well. Since we don’t have any more sightseeing trips scheduled, I took it easy and just went for a walk to the Island after Nora got up from her nap. I’ve been feeling fine for the most part, but I just have had a little motion sickness since the flights over here. At first I thought it was being on the 30th floor in Changsha but it’s continued in Guangzhou and we’re only on the 9th floor.
Hopefully Jodi and Keith’s family will be feeling better tomorrow and we’ll have a little birthday celebration for Nora.

Here are a few more photos of Shamian Island. It’s totally different than any other part of China that I’ve seen.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Guangzhou Day 3 – Monday Nov 2rd

Guangzhou Day 3 – Monday Nov 2rd
Today Nora and I started the day with a walk to Shamian Island seeking good light for photos and a cup of Starbucks coffee for me. The coffee in the room is instant (ok for one cup but not enough for the day by far), and to order a cup of coffee at the Hotel café it’s 38 Yuan (about $5.70). Yesterday’s breakfast buffet was around 188 Yuan (about $27) so I really won’t be doing that too often. My Starbuck’s medium Café Latte was 26 Yuan so around $3. Before the trip I made this little cheat-sheet to help me convert Yuan to US Dollars without having to do the math.

Yesterday when we went to the Carrefour Supermarket I also pickup up yogurt, crackers, and peanut butter and so along with a Cliff bar that I brought along, Nora and I had a nice little breakfast in our room before our walk to the Island. Side note for anyone traveling, Cliff and Luna Bars pack much better than a typical breakfast bar because they’re so dense, you just can’t crush them.

I don’t think Nora had really been feed that much solid food; according to the instruction sheet that came from the orphanage she was just drinking a thick sludge of formula and rice cereal. She really didn’t seem to understand that a spoon needed to go into her mouth at first. With Isabel I kept her on exactly what she had been fed at the orphanage. I can tell I’m a lot more comfortable Mom this time around; Nora’s enjoying baby food, yogurt, rice noodles, steamed eggs, rice congee, rice, crackers, etc…

One of Jodi and Keith’s twins got a stomach bug last night so she’s taking it easy today which meant that it was just Keith, Katelyn, Nora and I went to visit the Six Banyan Trees Temple. It’s a Buddhist Temple that we also visited during Isabel’s adoption trip. However unlike the last visit, which was last day of Chinese New Year and one of the busiest days of the year at the Temple, today it was quiet, peaceful and very beautiful. The nine story tower is a replacement of the original, but is still around 300 years old.
We were all treated to a blessing from one of the monks.

Nora’s been a real joy. She got a great laugh and is generally good natured, although I’ve seen some hints of a spicy temper. Girls from both Hunan and Chongqing are said to be spicy girls. Two spicy girls in one house could mean trouble for Mom.
Tomorrow (Tuesday Nov 3rd) is both Nora’s 1st Birthday and her appointment with the American Consulate. On Wednesday she takes the oath to become an American citizen. This little girl has a busy week ahead.

Guangzhou Day 2 - Nov 1

Guangzhou Day 2 – Nov 1
Today was a sightseeing day so after a very expensive breakfast (the buffet is not included in my hotel package) we all boarded a van to the Guangdong Folk Arts Museum. I had been there before on Isabel’s adoption trip but Keith and Jodi had not and I enjoyed the architecture the last time so we decided to go there.
It was as beautiful and peaceful (if you get there early enough) as before. One really nice benefit to only having 2 families in a travel group (and flexible guide) is that we have some choices on what we want to see and do.

After the museum we stopped at a Carrefour Supermarket for diapers, baby food, formula and other stuff. I really enjoy wandering around and looking at the products (ie Lay’s chips with Beef flavor); it’s really one of my favorite things to do.

Next stop we went to the wholesale Pearl Market. I bought Isabel, Nora and myself nice stud earrings. The girls won’t get them until they’re 12 or 13 but I thought it would be a nice thing to get them (and me). I also got some other sparkly things. Needless to say I’m shopping a lot more than I did in 2006.

In the evening we walked back to Shamian Island for dinner at Lucy’s, a main stay for many families visiting Guangzhou. Lucy serves both Chinese and American menu. As a mentioned before to get to the Island you need to walk about 3 city blocks to the pedestrian bridge.
And those city blocks offer yet another view of China. The three blocks between our hotel and the bridge to the Island is called the Qin Ping Dong Medicine and Pet Market. We’ve all been told that in China they eat dogs etc… well from what I can tell they must be dressing them with spiderman costumes and giving them little cozy houses before deciding to have Fido for dinner.

The pet market makes up about half of the three block market and the medicine part makes up the balance. This little girl was going home with 2 pet squirrels.

I’ve seen kittens, puppies, hamsters, squirrels, turtles, and fish. With all the accessory items needed for a very happy pet including the above mentioned dog and cat beds, dress up clothes and wide selection of foods.

The medicine market is made up of mostly died stuff that frankly I don’t want to know what it is. I could identify mushrooms but there are also dried snake, what looked like tiger paw and that’s just enough for me to know.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Guangzhou Day 1

Guangzhou Day 1 – Oct 31

Both Nora and I are very happy to be in Guangzhou starting our last week in China. The weather in Guangzhou is hot and humid. I’m just guessing, but it feels like the mid 80’s but it’s very, very humid.

We have met up with our travel group which is one other family from Shakopee MN; Jodi and Keith and their girls (twin 5 year olds adopted in 2005 and their newest family member Kira, age 2, from Inner Mongolia). We will do all our sightseeing and adoption appointments together. They’re a super family and I’m really enjoying their company.
We started the day off with a 9am appointment with the US Medical Exam for Adopted Children. The appointment was on the Shamian Island, a 15 min walk from our hotel. The island has become the beacon for every American family traveling to China for adoption, it is the last part of a journey which nowadays may have started four or more years ago. The Shamian Island was the former location of the American Consulate in charge of processing the Chinese children being adopted by Americans.

The Consulate moved downtown before Isabel’s adoption in 2006, but the businesses that developed to serve the adoption community still remain; the anchor is the White Swan Hotel. The island reminds me of Charleston or Georgetown with their French architectural influences.

Various regions in China’s past have been occupied by the French, British, and Japanese. For Isabel’s adoption we stayed at the White Swan but decided this time to venture off the Island to experience a little bit more of real China. Off the Island was also cheaper and since we’re here during the City’s biggest convention of the year, hotel prices are about double the standard rates.

The Medical Exam was cursory at best, squeak a toy and the baby can hear, measure the head, check the heart beat, weight and height; parents need to acknowledge any special needs in writing. Since my wait began so long ago, Nora was grandfathered in under older guidelines and so she did not get any shots (that will be taken care of the week after we get back at Southdale Peds) and since she is under the age of 2 she is not required to have a TB screening either. One family I talked to at the exam was adopting a little girl same age as Nora with an unpaired cleft palate (no surgery yet) the examining physician found no cleft in the palate at all. I have heard this for heart conditions as well. A baby gets on a special needs list and there is no special need.
After the medical exam and a quick half hour of document preparation back at the hotel, we all head back to the Island for shopping and just walking around to see what’s changed since we were both there last. One of our 1st stops was the Starbuck's Coffee. LOVE the Starbuck!!!

The air conditioning was cold, the drinks were delicious, and for an hour we sat and chatted and pretended that we were at the Excelsior and Grand just sipping a iced latte on a hot day. Jodi and Keith were as ready for Guangzhou as I had been.
After a while Keith took their older girls back to the hotel for a nap and Jodi, Kira, Nora and I went shopping, shopping, shopping. It was wonderful. After a few hours of shopping (Nora napped for 2 out of the 3 in a stroller) we made our way back to the hotel across the freeway, via a pedestrian bridge, that separates the neighborhood between our hotel and the Island. Both on the way to the Island and the way back people just stop to help us carry the strollers up and down the stairs. I have found the people of Guangzhou to be incredibly gracious and kind.

After our return, we regrouped to find some dinner. At the entrance to our hotel we turned left just to see what was there and found another world. We had wondered why this very nice 4 star hotel was in this very narrow-street Chinese neighborhood and now we knew. The back side of the Hotel is adjacent to Shang Xia Jiu Pedestrian Shopping Street. I haven’t Googled it yet but it is amazing and I’m sure you could find more information on the web. Block after block of stores and restaurants. We haven’t checked it out during the day yet but at night it was like Time Square only bigger and longer. We walked and ate and walked some more. Nora experienced her 1st McDonald’s french fry! The stores were so crowded that we just turned around and headed back out to the street to walk and watch some more.