Monday, November 30, 2009

Journey to Kai – Day 11 (Guangzhou Tour)

What can I say, but a pattern has developed.  Nancy goes to bed when Kai goes down in his crib and I stay up working on the blog posts.  Kai wakes up periodically and I try and calm him down before he wakes Nancy up.  That is how things are starting to fall into place while we are here in Guangzhou.

I went to bed around 2AM and 6:30AM came early.  Some people would say, “What’s the point”, but these trip reports really let people know, in great detail, what we are doing.  Some of those people reading these posts are our family back home that are missing out in bonding experiences that they would have gotten to experience if this was a family member who entered through usual means.

All the others enjoying these posts, are very much appreciated as well.  There are a lot of been there done that folks.  I’ve had a few of them e-mail us thanking for the detailed posts that helped jog their own memories of their trip to be introduced to their own family members.

After waking up, as usual, the computer is fired up and checked for e-mails, facebook status updates, and twitter replies.

China_20091129_1527_Day11 Breakfast is also starting to fall into a routine.  Once we sit down, I grab some yogurt and eggs for Kai and then Nancy goes and gets her food.  Kai is still letting me feed him and we are getting better at shoveling in larger portions per spoonful so that we don’t take so long.

The hardest part of feeding him is keeping his attention. This kid loves to know what is going on around him.

China_20091129_1513_Day11 I still, as of yet, have been able to get any decent photos of the breakfast buffet.  Unlike a trip to Walt Disney World, people in a hotel typically aren’t used to people with cameras documenting every minute detail like they are at Disney.  Even though most people here are on trips that will probably never be repeated, they still aren’t documenting every detail…well, I doubt they consider the breakfast buffet a detail worth documenting…haha

One of the cool things about the breakfast buffet is that they have decorated for Christmas.  Guangzhou is pretty much the first city China_20091129_1532_Day11 we’ve been in that has really gone to town with Christmas decorations.  It could be due to the constant stream of Westerners.

Also, the area around the restaurant has a giant Koi Pond with a waterfall.  A lot of the kids who are staying in this hotel are getting hours of enjoyment hanging out by the water and watching these giant fish.

Today is pretty much a free day and we have the opportunity for a half-day tour.  We decided that it sounded interesting so we went back to the room to pack up Kai’s diaper bag and grab my gear.  Then we met the group down on the first floor.

The first place we were going today was the Temple of the Six Banyan Trees.  We piled on the bus and made our way to the temple.  The ride wasn’t as exciting as the ones we had in Beijing.  Apparently, it is outlawed to use the horn in Guangzhou as have motorcycles.  The only motorized cycles allowed on the road are those licenses to handicapped people and they are a very specific model of orange colored bikes.

It didn’t take long to get to our destination, but due to all the construction in preparation for the 2010 Asian Games, and the narrow roads, it was harder for the bus to find a place to drop us off.

Before we were allowed to get off the bus, Grace informed us that there will be beggars there waiting to pounce on us and to just not make eye contact and keep moving.

We got off the bus but I didn’t really experience any of the beggars China_20091129_1552_Day11 we were warned about. 

Once we got inside the Temple, we were informed that this temple was built back in 537AD during the Liang Dynasty.  That is got it’s name from a famous poet who visited and wrote the characters for Six Banyan Tree and the name stuck.

China_20091129_1559_Day11 We were told that this was going to be a small Buddhist Temple, but if this was small, I’d like to see what they consider a large temple.

We also had the opportunity to get a Buddhist blessing for our children. I was rather impressed to see that almost if not all of the children were blessed.  Nancy went in with Kai while I stayed behind the railing to document.  We talked about it and I wanted to be there with them, but if I did, then there would be no photographic documentation of the event.

I not only took pictures, but I took video.  I’m not sure how jumpy China_20091129_1565_Day11 the video will be. I won’t know until I get home.

But the actual ceremony was nice.  A monk rang a bell and beat a small drum while chanting, then he shook some water on all the families.  Once he was done, everyone bowed 3 times toward Buddha while they were supposed to make a wish for the child. 

China_20091129_1576_Day11 After the ceremony, they allowed some time for pictures to be taken and then we wandered the grounds some more.

It is funny because my parents have dragged me to more than one of these Buddhist temples during my teenage years and some of them were pretty impressive, but I hated it.  Now, I seem to really enjoy it.  I know why that is and it’s because I now have photography as my crutch and I didn’t China_20091129_1593_Day11 have that back then.  Nancy could probably drag me to a lot of events if it had photographic potential.

We were only given 40 minutes at this location before we had to pile back on the bus and go to our next location.

Next on the itinerary was the Chen Clan Ancestral Temple (aka Old Chen House aka Chen Clan Academy). 

From what we were told this home was built by the 3rd largest clan in all of China, the Chen Family.  We also were told that Chen and Chan are the same family.  This is the China_20091129_1611_Day11 same clan that Jackie Chan is ancestrally tied to.

Sometime around 1959 the Chinese government assumed control of this compound and has maintained it ever since.  Grace told us that this was done at no great upset of the family because it was costing them a fortune to maintain it and now it’ll be the government’s responsibility.  Under the Government’s care, it has become a Provincial Folk Art Museum but the members of the China_20091129_1621_Day11 Chen family still come to the house to pay their respects to their deceased Ancestors every years.

There were some really impressive relief carvings on the outside of the building and along the ridges of the roof.  Plus we were taken through some exhibition halls showing examples of Chinese embroidery art and bone carving.  The Embroidery was pretty China_20091129_1683_Day11 impressive in the fact that many of the pieces you’d assume were painting when in fact it’s all sewn thread.

The bone carving was also impressive. The level of detail on the microscopic level was intense.  Some of these pieces were huge yet the eye for detail was precise.

We had about 50 minutes to wander around this place before we all China_20091129_1692_Day11 had to meet back up and go to our next location.

What I failed to mention was that all the CCAI groups in Guangzhou at this time were also doing the same tours.  So, it was close to 30 families spread over multiple busses going to all the same locations.  Plus, these tours were being enjoyed by families in town for adoptions with other agencies as well. 

Our next stop was the Guangzhou Arts and Craft store.  We had only 40 minutes here but this was were we were told to be able to pay better prices for top quality jade. Before going in we were given a quick lesson on jade’s 3 classes:  A, B, and C.  Class A jade is the best in all ways.  The more green the jade the more expensive.  Class B jade has some China_20091129_1737_Day11 imperfections that needed to be removed by chemical processes.  Class C is colored jade and is the cheapest in price and is what we are most likely seeing at all the souvenir stands around the hotel.  I do kind of agree with one of the people I overheard saying that since we don’t believe in the mystic properties of jade what do we care about the quality.  But,China_20091129_1738_Day11 I’m sure it does matter if you ever want to resell it.

We went in and immediately Nancy saw a sandalwood carved family ball.  We saw these in jade at the Jade Factory in Beijing.  A solid piece of material is carved into multiple inlayed balls.  The more layers the prosperity for more generations.  She wanted one of these but I wanted her to do all her looking first. 

I had to keep reminding her that with time crunches you cannot just stop and look at everything.  She needed to scan the store, then go back to what interested her.

China_20091129_1747_Day11Nancy was looking at some jade pendants for Kai and herself.  Apparently, all Chinese will get 3 pieces of jade, at a minimum, during their lifetime.  At birth, parents will buy a piece, then you’ll get another when you are married, the 3rd will come from your kids.  So, we wanted to get Kai a pendant (girls often get bracelets).

So, we picked out two jade pendants (the circle pendants represented family) and went back to looking at the carved balls. We did ask about the Jade carved ball but it was outrageously expensive because it was a Class A piece and was only about the  size of a golf ball.China_20091129_1751_Day11

I broke down and got Nancy the sandalwood one she wanted.  I  personally think it’ll look good on the mantle at home.  The jade pendant we got Kai will probably stay in storage until he graduates from high school.  At the price we paid (not outrageous but still not cheap) I want to know he’ll respect the gift.

We paid for the purchases and then got in line to board the bus.

On the way back to the White Swan, Nancy reminded me that she needed to get something to eat and she didn’t want to go anywhere.  She wanted me to bring her something.  I hate when she asks me to do this, because I often cannot figure out what to feed myself and China_20091129_1746_Day11then she asks me to get something.  I ask her what she wants, and she tells me that we’ve been married for almost 8 years and I should know this by now.  Once again, I’m 38 and still don’t know what I want to eat.

I overheard some of the other families talking about Subway.  Apparently, there was one on the island.  I asked her about that, and she thought it was perfect.  Eavesdropping pays off again….

The problem was that I didn’t know where Subway was located.  So when we got off the bus, Nancy went back to the room while i waited for Grace to get off so I could ask her where it was located.  One of the other families asked me what I was waiting for so I told them.  They were gracious enough to tell me where I needed to go.

China_20091129_1844_Day11 Once I got back to the room, I wrote down what Nancy wanted from Subway and went on my way.  I was also tasked to bring back our clean laundry.  I decided due to how much laundry I was picking up, that I’d do that on my way back instead of carrying it all over the place.

Subway was a bit tricky to locate since it’s storefront was covered up with construction walls.  It was also tiny.  But, I did find it and went in to order our food.

The first thing I noticed was that the menu was reduced and so was the available selections of bread.  The “sandwich artist” also was very frugal with the toppings.  I swear, when asked for pickles they only put 3 on it.  In the United States that pile that stuff on.

China_20091129_1765_Day11 I got my usually Italian BMT, but when I asked for mustard, I was expecting yellow mustard and she put honey mustard on it.  Apparently, that was the only mustard they have available.  I was wondering what this was going to taste like.

The sandwiches came out to 70RMB (~US$11) and I paid and got on my way to get the laundry.  When I walked into Michael’s Place, Michael wasn’t there.  I told the person who greeted me that I was there to pick up my laundry.  They told me it was ready and led me to two sacks of clothes.  They asked me which one was mine.  I had to look and could tell the first one wasn’t mine because it contained button down dress shirts.

China_20091129_1768_Day11 In the second bag there was a claim ticket in it and I could see Nancy’s name on it.

The final bill game to 96RMB (~US$14).  I was pleasantly surprised at the price considering the amount of clothes we gave them would’ve easily filled one or two laundry baskets at home.

The bag of clothes was extremely heavy and I was glad I was only having to walk a short distance back to the hotel.

Once I got back to the hotel I had to show Nancy how neatly they China_20091129_1771_Day11 bundled our laundry.  It was in 3 bundles based on price point for that particular garment.  Then the final cleaned bundle was wrapped in sealed plastic.  Not the thin Saran Wrap type but thick clear plastic like you’d find a piece of hard candy wrapped in.  It also crinkled like that too.

To top it off Kai was down for a nap (a late one) and I didn’t want to wake him up.

Nancy and I sat down to eat our sandwiches.  I can tell you one thing, honey mustard tastes horrible on an Italian BMT.  I almost couldn’t finish mine.

After eating, I ran by Jason and Robyn’s room to see if they were still going to do the group dinner this evening which was going to be Thai.  They were in the same boat as us that they ate a late lunch (Papa John’s for them) but they were going to go anyway.

China_20091129_1779_Day11 Well, Kai didn’t stay down for long and he had energy and we had no way to expend it in our tiny hotel room.  So, we decided to try and track down the Swan Room.

The Swan Room is a play room in the hotel sponsored by Mattel. 

We went down to the first floor but first Nancy wanted to go by the water and allow Kai to look at the fish.  I took some pictures of them relaxing by the water and some general pictures of the area.

Then, we decided to try and locate the Swan Room.  Well, after China_20091129_1793_Day11 some wandering we couldn’t find it.  So, instead of wandering aimlessly, we went to the second floor to find the concierge.  We asked her where it was located.  She asked me if I had my room key, which I responded, “yes”.  She said that it was hard to explain where it was and to just follow her.

She took us back to the first floor and was heading toward the location where we met every morning when we were going to go somewhere off property.

China_20091129_1795_Day11 I felt real stupid when she showed us that it was literally right next to that location we meet as a group.

We used our room key to go inside and the room was not only bright and well stocked, but it was clean too and the toys were not in disrepair.

There was another couple families in the room when we got there.  Kai was originally a bit apprehensive about what to do.  It’s very well possible he had never seen a room this large and full of toys that he was allowed to freely play with.  But, I highly doubt that was the case considering I’ve seen pictures of New Hope where he was a resident most of his young life.

Nancy ended up taking him to the rocking horses and putting him on China_20091129_1811_Day11 one.  He enjoyed himself for a bit, then he got bored.  Well there were two others there and he wanted to ride all three.

Then he got down on the ground and crawled quite a bit.  Then he kept finding toys that interested him. With each new toy he quickly figured out how to interact with it.  It was awesome to sit there and watch the wheels turn inside his little head.  Based on what I’m seeing, Kai is a very bright boy.  He’s also very inquisitive which for parents is a blessing and a curse.  I’m sure my parents remember that time when I took an old vacuum cleaner apart.

China_20091129_1826_Day11 The highlight of the excursion was when he found the toy that is some kind of convertible toy that grows with your kid.  It starts out as one that the kid can ride on and push himself along with his feet and then later, it converts so they can walk behind it. 

Well, Kai pulled himself up and was walking with it.  He wasn’t just slowly plodding along, he was zooming.  He just would walk until he got stopped by something  (like a wall).  Then one of us would turn him around and he’d keep going.  He did this for what seemed like hours and was just laughing and smiling the whole time.

I could swear he finally saw a bit of freedom and enjoyed every second of it.  The funny part was that his little butt couldn’t hold up his pants so they kept falling down and we had to keep pulling them back up.

Not only did I get photos of this, but we recorded some video too.

Eventually it was getting close to 4:30PM and we had to be meeting the group at 5PM at the first floor elevators so we could walk to the Thai restaurant together.

So, we gathered up our stuff,  put our shoes back on and made our way back to the room where we made sure we had enough stuff to cover any incident with Kai.

The walk to the Thai restaurant was quick.  It actually wasn’t far from Subway.

Once inside it quickly plunged into chaos.  Remember how I told you China_20091129_1836_Day11that several CCAI groups were doing the tours with us this morning. Well, this was another event where we were all at the same place at the same time.  So the entire restaurant was CCAI families.

To top it off, even though we know the restaurant knew we were coming, they really didn’t seem to know how to handle a group that large where it was predetermined that every family would have a separate check.

China_20091129_1837_Day11 They tried giving everyone a piece of paper so your order could be put on it and then they wrote a number on the placemat of one of the members of the group, but after they had taken your order and submitted it, many people were getting the wrong copies of their order tickets back and getting someone else's.

Also, even after you’d already gotten your food someone would come to you and try to put another plate down of food you didn’t even order.

There were also these chips they put down that Kai absolutely loved China_20091129_1841_Day11 despite them having a slight kick to them.  The taste reminded me a bit of Lays Barbeque Potato Chips.  Later I found out they were chips made out of prawn.

We really had a hard time finding food that we were interested in.  So I got the beef satay, Nancy got the Thai-style fried rice, and kai got steamed eggs.

I fed Kai while I tried to eat my satay. Since my food was basically meet on a stick, it was easier for me to eat my food and feed Kai than it was for Nancy to eat rice and feed him.

The food really wasn’t that great in my opinion, but I really am not a fan of Thai food.

When we got the bill we were a bit shocked at how high it was considering the price of the entrees we got.

Since the receipt was all in mandarin there was no way to know what we got charged for. 

Later, outside, I found out that they charged us for the moist toilettes they gave us when we sat down and those prawn chips that none of us asked for.

Add in the outrageous price for drinks (since we cannot drink the tap water) and you have an expensive meal.

After dinner, Robyn,Jason, Ying, Nancy, Kai and me decided to poke China_20091129_1848_Day11 our heads into some shops.  The first shop was one near subway.  Sure enough, the shop keepers start chatting us up wanting to know about our kids.  There really wasn’t anything in this shop that interested us.

The rest of the night was seeing us going in and out of shops.  We eventually ended up in one where Jason and Robyn found some shirts they bought and Nancy liked the people who ran it and told us they could tailor o ne of the little silk suits for Kai so he’d have one for his group picture on Wednesday.  Apparently, it’s a tradition to get your photo on some red couch here at the White Swan and they dress the kids in the “traditional” silk suits (not suits like white collar workers wear). 

We were told to come back the next day when the tailor was back.  She didn’t work after 6PM and it was now way past 6.

China_20091129_1855_Day11 One thing is for sure, these shop keepers work for their money.  Jason asked about a shirt depicting a famous military figure from the time of the founding of People’s Republic of China and one of them ran to another store they own and came back with one.  You could tell they were rather impressed he knew who this person was.  I honestly didn’t, so he had to explain to  me who he was.  After he filled me in, I vaguely remembered the history from when we were taught it back at my days at Singapore American  School.

This was the last store we stopped off at so it was back to the hotel room.

We said our goodbyes on the 10th floor and went to our respective China_20091129_1861_Day11rooms.

Back in the room, Kai was rather rambunctious.  Since he had that late nap the last thing he wanted to do was go to bed. 

So, we decided to give him a bath.  He is starting to get really wired at bath time and his splashing is getting more and more aggressive.  Plus, he finds new ways to splash.  He’s also starting to jump up and stand in the middle of getting washed and trying to walk in the tub.

At one point, he fell but caught himself but still managed to land face first in the water. We think he inhaled some of the water but didn’t drink it.  He didn’t scream or cry but we didn’t know what that would mean.

Well, when we were drying him off, I felt this distinct vibration coming from his middle back.  I told Nancy he was going to blow and sure enough, those steamed eggs decided it was time to revisit us.  So, two towels were now soiled and unusable.

So, we threw him back in the tub and cleaned him up again.

This time, we had to use one of the big, adult towels to dry him off and again, he threw up.  This time it was after we got the pajamas on him, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as the first time.

We eventually got him all ready for bed and the vomiting ceased.  We think we may have overfed him but it’s hard to tell when enough is enough when he keeps asking for more.

He still didn’t want to go to bed, but Nancy was desperate for some shut eye so she put him in the crib.  Once the lights were out he got the hint and laid down.

I, of course, went to the computer and worked on the blog post.  Kai once again woke up several times and I tried to console him.

At one point, he just was inconsolable so I picked him up and walked around the room with him.  He eventually reached for his bottle and I knew he’d lay back down.  Sure enough it worked.

I had over 300 pictures taken this day and I wasn’t going to stay up waiting for it, so I set up the process to start and went to bed.

The next day was our consulate appointment.  We didn’t have to do anything but sit in our room to wait for a phone call which either would say we had a problem or we were fine.

So, until tomorrow….


Marni Sigmon said...

Nancy and Ray,
It looks like you are having fun and staying busy in GZ. Kai is a precious boy and I cannot wait to meet him! I hope you will bring him to FW next week!

Poppie said...

I love reading your updates.I know I have said this before but IT IS like being there!

Kirby said...

Six Banyans. Chen Family Temple. Exactly the same as our last trip in 2000.

Looks like you never made it to the Journey to the West Attraction
I'm still wondering if it is still there as I seem to have the only video of it online.