Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Day

Christmas_20091211_0015_2009 Today we got to celebrate Christmas together as a new family!  I already received the best Christmas present ever- I was able to have Kai home by Christmas.  It was so fun to see him tearing the wrapping off of the packages and playing with his new toys, and we loved being able to share that with part of the family through the web cam. It was exciting to see him try monkey bread for the first time (cinnamon pull apart bread that is a tradition in the Harkness family).  Of course he loved it and kept asking for more.  It was a blast getting Christmas Eve pictures by the tree (will post later). He loved looking up at the lights from below the tree!  He also liked crawling back and forth to daddy in between shots.  He would just sit in Ray’s lap and giggle, then crawl back to the tree for another picture.  Everything about this Christmas has been new and exciting!

Every day is an adventure with this little guy!  In the 3 weeks that we have been home, we have already been to 2 pediatrician appointments, the oral surgeon that will do his palate surgery, gotten the palate surgery scheduled for January 13th, and been evaluated by Sooner Start for services (the Oklahoma services for kiddos with delays to get them caught up for school). Never a boring or empty day here!

We are starting to get some resemblance of a routine started which has been a big help.  At least I know when the relief of nap time is coming ;)  Don’t get me wrong- he still has a great temperament, but I am EXHAUSTED.  My ever expanding belly reminds me that baby #2 will be making a debut before too long and she keeps me tired all of the time anyway.  Add to the equation a toddler that has endless energy and you get one tired mommy!

Kai has started to feel comfortable in his new surroundings.  We can tell by the fact that he is testing boundaries and entering into power struggles (not wanting to go to bed at bedtime).  Even with this new found spunk ;) I still wouldn’t give up one second with him.  Going back to work is going to be incredibly difficult when that time rolls around.  There is nothing like being able to just stare at him when he is cuddling in my arms at nap time or belly laughing at his daddy when he plays with him.

I truly do have the best Christmas presents ever!  I have the most wonderful family!  Merry Christmas to everyone!  I hope that your Christmas is full of wonder and awe too!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Kai’s Progress with Walking

Well, after a couple days, Kai made big progress walking.  I didn’t get to capture it on my High Definition video camera but was able to on my Canon PowerShot S70 point & shoot so the resolution is fairly poor.  But, it’s enough to see how much he’s progressed.

First, I captured him walking from his push toy to Nancy then I went and sat next to his push toy and captured him walking back to me.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Kai's First Trip to Target

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Kai’s First Steps

I captured this video of Kai taking his first steps as he was playing with Nancy’s and her dad.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Journey to Kai – Day 12 (Consulate Appointment)

OK.  It was another night hitting the rack after 1AM.  The usual routine was had in the morning so I’m going to skip ahead to where things are different from normal.

Today is our Consulate Appointment.  At first, when I was given the schedule for the week I thought we were going to have to be driven down to the US Consulate and be interviewed by someone.  That was because we were told that the purpose of the appointment was for Kai’s visa application interview.

Last night we were told that all that we have to do is stay in our room until 10AM and wait for one of two calls: a call saying there was a problem or a call saying everything was fine.

While we waited for the call we played with Kai and goofed off on the computer.  Skype has been a godsend on this trip.  It’s amazing how well you can keep in touch with people back home with such tools available.

We received the call from Grace at around 9:50AM telling us that there were absolutely no issues with the paperwork and we were free to leave our room.

In fact, today was the day we are scheduled to go to the Pearl Market.  We are told it’s a great place to find pearls and other jewelry.

With Nancy still not feeling well, it took a bit for us to get ready after receiving our phone call releasing us from our sequestered state in the room.  So much so, that Grace had to call to see if we were still going on the excursion.

We finally made it down to the rendezvous location (the 2nd floor of the hotel next to the jade boat) and everyone was already on the bus so we ran out to the parking lot.

It turns out that there were more people wanting to go to the Pearl Market than there was room on the hotel shuttle so there were still a couple families waiting for a van to load the overflow into.  So, we weren’t holding anything up.

The van was pulling up about the same time as we arrived so we all piled in along with Maggie (Grace’s assistant) and we were on our way to the Pearl Market.

TChina_20091130_1892_Day12 he ride to the Pearl Market was pretty quick and we got there way before the larger bus full of the rest of the group.  Apparently, there was more than just our CCAI group going.

Once we got to where we were to be dropped off and everyone from both busses had arrived, we were given a brief lowdown on the lay of the land.

Where we were was a huge shopping center but it wasn’t the Pearl Market.  We had to do some walking to get there and cut through China_20091130_1893_Day12 some other shopping center buildings.

Once we got into the Pearl Market, it was a 5 story shopping center where every floor had something to do with jewelry.  We were told that the top floor typically had the best deals and that is where we went.

By the time we got to the top, my sciatica was really acting up but China_20091130_1903_Day12 we immediately went to a pearl store.  Nancy liked walking the aisles of the small store looking at all the pretty stuff.  The difficult part was that nothing was priced.  Negotiating wasn’t allowed because price is fixed but you had to ask someone for the price and some wouldn’t really tell you what it was unless you told them you wanted to buy it.

After prying a few prices out of the sales people it was easy to see China_20091130_1921_Day12 that nothing in this place was in a price range we felt comfortable with.  Everything we looked at appeared to be above the US$100 range.  Since Nancy isn’t a pearl necklace/earring type of lady, that wasn’t an option either.

Apparently, Americans like to buy pearls for their daughters when they are born and since most people adopt girls from China, that is why pearl shopping is so important for them.

China_20091130_1933_Day12 After leaving this store, we decided to check Kai’s diaper since he was being fussy.  Sure enough, it was wet so we changed it on a bench outside the store.  Then we wandered through a few more stores until we realized there really wasn’t anything in this entire place that looked like it was something we couldn’t get in the United States so we left.

We were pretty much told we were on our own anyway so we didn’t feel bad going our own way.

China_20091130_1957_Day12 Once we managed to navigate ourselves back to where we were originally dropped off Nancy let me know she was hungry and we decided that we were going to try and get something there.  One of the many shopping center buildings was touting a Papa John’s Pizza so we thought we’d go check it out.  Worst case scenario would be that we’d be taking a pizza back to the hotel with us in the taxi.

The Papa John’s was on the 3rd floor of this place and we had to go through a giant electronics store to get from floor 2 to floor 3

China_20091130_1964_Day12 When we finally got to Papa John’s we were pleasantly surprised to find out that it was a sit down establishment.  I think in the United States Papa John’s is all delivery.

We were the only people in the place and it still took forever to get anyone to take our order.  We are starting to detect this as a trend here in China.  We thought it was because the menus were open, but even after closing them and trying to get someone’s attention, we still couldn’t get speedy service.

Nancy just wanted breadsticks and I ordered a 9” pizza with China_20091130_1961_Day12 mushrooms.  For drinks we ordered a Coke and a Sprite.

The pizza was just as good as home but I don’t think we’ve ever done breadsticks from Papa Johns since Nancy doesn’t care for their pizza.  So, we aren’t really sure if the breadsticks are the same as home or not.

Nancy tried giving Kai some of her breadsticks but I don’t think he liked the hard crust on them and at one point, I think he got a piece of it stuck in his cleft palate because he started freaking out like one does when they get a piece of popcorn caught in their teeth.

China_20091130_1969_Day12 After enjoying the pizza, we attempted to make our way back to the first floor.  I wasn’t listening to Nancy so I kept taking us to the wrong place to locate the down escalator.  Plus, we kept getting attention from the various purveyors wanting us to look at their cell phones, electronics and clothing goods.

We finally got out of the building and made our way to where we originally were dropped off.  We had no problem locating a cab. 

Communicating with the cab drivers is often difficult due to the language barrier and without an address written in mandarin you may not be able to get where you are needing to go. Fortunately, many of the nicer hotels have printed their room keys such that you just need to show it to the driver and they know where to take you.

It took about the same amount of time to get back to the hotel as it did to arrive.  I was a bit concerned that we’d get the ole “give the tourists the scenic drive to wrack of the fare”, but that didn’t happen.  The final fare was 8RMB which was inclusive of the 1RMB fuel surcharge (~US$1.19). I’m sorry but good luck finding a taxi ride that cheap in the united states.  Heck it costs something like US$25 to just get from one resort hotel to another at Walt Disney World.

China_20091130_1971_Day12 When we got back to the room, we gave Kai a fresh bottle and tried to get him to lay down for a nap.  But, because he caught some z’s while being carried around in the ERGObaby carrier, it was not in the cards.  He was chock full of energy and was all over the bed. 

We put him on the floor and tried to play with him, but the room here is tiny and quickly became difficult for me to do it comfortably. 

Nancy was trying to write a blog post of her own that has already been posted and can be found here.  Kai’s fussiness and unwillingness to allow me to play with him was making it hard for Nancy to do what she wanted to do.  So, I was presented with a crossroads.  Do I just let Kai win again and Nancy doesn’t get to do what she wants (write her post and relax) or do I bite the bullet and see what happens if I take him to the play room.

So, I snuck up behind him and scooped him up in my arms.  I grabbed the backpack/diaper bag and told Nancy that I’m going to the playroom.  I didn’t take the camera or put shoes on his feet.  I just left.

Nancy asked me if I was sure, and I told her, “Why not?”.  I told her  if it went bad, I’d just come back but felt the playroom may be just enough distraction to make it tolerable.

Kai started crying as soon as he realized that he was going one way and mommy was staying put.  He cried all the way to the elevator, but once we got in the elevator it stopped.  He does this sound that we really like that sounds like he’s making a question.  An upswing in his “voice” and he looks at you like he’s saying, “OK, I like what you are doing”. 

He also seems to get great enjoyment out of seeing his reflection in the mirror.  I have been able to console him a few times by just taking him to a mirror where he can touch his reflection with his hand.

The elevators have mirrors in them so I let him look at his reflection and down we went to the first floor.

When we got off the elevator I saw one of the other dads and pointed out to him that I had Kai and Nancy was nowhere to be seen.  He knew about our problems with Kai rejecting me and gave me the thumbs up.

We quickly made our way to the playroom and when we got inside there was another dad and their daughter already in there.  I put Kai on the floor and let him crawl around a bit as I took my shoes off and stashed the diaper bag (they want you to take your shoes off).

China_20091130_1977_Day12After I was ready to play, I took Kai to the rocking horse and put him on it.  He got really bored with the horse real quick and then moved onto some other toys.  He eventually found a few that kept his attention for awhile. 

While I interacted with Kai, I also talked to the other dad.  He was Chinese but lived in Michigan and was also adopting from China using CCAI as his agency. He was really nice and Kai seemed to find him interesting as he talked to my son in Mandarin.  He helped me with my pronunciations of Kai’s middle name and the province and city in which he was born (Luohe, Henan)

Eventually more families showed up and there were a few more kids in the room.  Kai seems really tolerant of other kids but at times China_20091130_1979_Day12doesn’t really like when they want what he wants. 

I did locate the toy that lets him walk behind it and set it up for him.  This one toy was the major point of Kai’s interest.  This time, instead of letting him walk in one direction until he ran into a wall or some other obstacle that would stop him, then turn him around to do the same thing, I walked beside him and gently guided the toy so that he could continuously walk.

I was able to keep him going for a really long time without a break. I need to get those little legs of his nice and strong so he can get back on track for his age.  I know I’ll regret it when it happens, but we need him walking.

Somewhere in the middle of all this fun, I caught the telltale whiff of something in his pants.  We all remember how much fun I had the last time I tried to change his poopy diaper and the carpet was a bit nice in here and I really didn’t have a bathroom to run to if I tossed my cookies again.

Plus, I have only changed one diaper thus far and I really only got as far as cleaning the kid up and Nancy put the new diaper on.  So, I really was embarrassed and didn’t want the other dads (and mom) in the room critiquing my technique.

I started giving serious consideration to taking him back to the room where Nancy could help me if I got into a bind.  But I quickly dismissed that idea because I knew if I did, there was no way Kai would ever be cooperative if he saw mom.

Granted, he may not be cooperative with me down in the playroom either, but it was more assured he wouldn’t let me do it if I went back to the room.

So, my new plan was to wait until everyone left and then change the diaper.  It took awhile for that to happen and the entire time I was just sure everyone could smell his diaper and were asking themselves how I couldn’t smell it and want to change it.

Eventually everyone left.  Then I waited a few more minutes to  make sure they were really gone.  There is a blind corner in the playroom where I took Kai, the new diaper and the package of baby wipes.

I knew I had to be quick before another family came in the room.    I first checked for signs of blowout before putting him on the carpet.  I needed to know if there was going to be a need for some kind of protective layer.  Then, I whipped off his pants and unsnapped his onsey.  Kai, made a quick attempt at being fussy and then seemed to start laughing.

I pulled the onset up to his arm pits and then popped open the diaper.  The smell was nowhere near as bad as the last one I tried but I was warned by Jason about this kind of diaper.  The “stuff” was baked onto Kai’s little butt.  I had a to use a few wipes to just scrub him clean. 

I remembered that the character on the diaper’s waistband was supposed to go on the front and I positioned Kai over the diaper.  He made a reach for the dirty diaper and I went to move it out of his reach and then he was up on his knees and gone like a shot.  I quickly grabbed him, but it was funny seeing how much fun he seemed to think crawling around naked was (well half-naked).

I got him repositioned on the diaper and strapped up.  For some reason it didn’t look like it was on correctly, but I couldn’t figure out what I did wrong.  So, I left it as it was.  I figured if it was not going to fall off then I could have Nancy double-check my handiwork when I saw her again.

After I got Kai dressed and he had an opportunity to play a bit more, we saw Nancy come into the playroom.  I don’t know how long we were down there but she basically came looking for us.  I think she said we were down there for close to 30-45 minutes.

Nancy was armed with a camera and took a few pictures of us and I told her of my success with the diaper.

We didn’t stay long in the playroom before going back to the room.  Nancy wanted to go to shopping therefore I needed to go get my camera and we needed to get shoes and socks on Kai.

The first place Nancy want to go was back to the store next to Subway where she saw a diaper bag she was interested in. 

I took one look at the inside of the diaper bag and told her that I didn’t like it.  Currently, we are not liking the use of a backpack as a diaper bag because it’s a giant sink hole for everything that is put inside it.  It because a great chore to find anything especially if that object had any kind of weight to it because it all sinks to the bottom.

China_20091130_1980_Day12We decided to walk down Sha Mian Street to see what stores we ca me across that we hadn’t already seen.  We came across a store (I think it was Helen’s Place) and they had a really nice selection of leather squeaky shoes.  Squeaky shoes are exactly what their name says they are. They squeak and people have claimed they help promote walking.  Nancy is wanting shoes for Kai but his feet are so darn small.  The shoes he came to us in are a US size 4 but you can easily pull them off his feet even when tied tightly.

The shopkeeper told us that the smallest size she had was a size 2 and it was too large for Kai, but she knew that Jenny’s Place had shoes in smaller sizes.  We had a hard time understanding her English and couldn’t figure out where she was telling us to go.  So, she walked us over to the store which was down the opposite way along the same street.  If you were coming China_20091130_1986_Day12 from the White Swan you’d make a left on Sha Mian Street (the road with Starbucks on it) instead of a right.

The construction along this area is intense.  In fact, when we got  to Sherrry’s Place the sidewalk in front of her store was completely ripped out and there was muddy soil running all in front of the shops. 

There as a plywood bridge for us to walk across in order to get into the store.  Later we were told that another American dad put that there to make it easier for people to get into her shop.

China_20091130_1999_Day12I am amazed that many of these stores are staying open with all this construction.  There are many that are completely obscured by the construction walls, scaffolding and construction netting (this green mesh that is wrapped around all the faces of the buildings being worked on).

Inside Sherry’s Place was a nice selection of kids squeaky shoes China_20091130_1991_Day12 and  they did indeed have a size 1 which is what we were thinking would fit Kai.  They let us put the shoe on Kai to be absolutely sure before purchasing.  In addition to the one pair of size 1, we also bought 2 more pairs in the next size up for Kai plus one pair for Kylee.  Those 4 pairs of shoes cost of 145RMB (~US$21.50).  That’s not bad for 4 pairs of kids shoes (US$5/shoe).

China_20091130_1997_Day12 As we were shopping here another one of the families from our group came in and was shopping as well.  After paying out we went across the hall to another shop and saw even more people from our group.  This shop was tiny and we didn’t stay long because it was a bit cramped with all the Americans inside.

As we left, we decided to stop in a few more stores.  One store was one who donates a good portion of their proceeds to China’s orphanages.  We also looked inside a store that sold art and they had some hand stitched quilts Nancy was interested in.  I vetoed the quilts because despite their uniqueness they weren’t really very Asian in design and the fabrics were pretty plain.China_20091130_2014_Day12

It was starting to get dark and we still needed to eat dinner, so we  began our trek back to the hotel.  On the way back home we stopped in the Tailor Shop because we were going to get one of the little traditional silk outfits tailored to fit Kai.  Well, when the tailor saw the top and sized it up against Kai she told the shopkeeper to ask us to put it on him because it looked like it would fit him.

Well, sure enough, Kai has some broad shoulders and the shirt fit just fine. So,we didn’t have to pay extra for the tailoring.  Then we picked Kai up another one in cotton so he could wear it more.  In addition to Kai’s 2 outfits, we got Kylee two outfits and our niece Regan an dress.

This cost us 380RMB (~US$56.30) which isn’t too bad for 5 outfits four of which were silk.

China_20091130_2017_Day12 On our way out, we were called into an art store that is adjacent to the Tailor Shop but in the same building. It turns out the owner was also a teacher who helped establish schools at the orphanages.  In particular, the Lily Orphan Care Center in Luohe, Henan where Kai was officially cared for (he was really in New Hope, but officially he was from Luohe).  He talked to us for a bit and explained his mission to build schools and showed us pictures of his students.

Next we went to 7-Eleven to pick up a couple more big bottles of China_20091130_2018_Day12 water and headed back to the hotel.

We dropped our purchases off at the room and then decided we were going to try the Italian restaurant for dinner.  I called Jason and Robyn’s room to see if they wanted to go as well, but there wasn’t an answer.

Looking at the crude map drawn for us to reference, if we hang a right on Sha Mian Street (basically make a right at Starbucks) we’d run right into the restaurant.

As we were about to leave the hotel, Nancy realized it was a bit chilly outside and asked me to go back to the room to get her and Kai’s coats.

China_20091130_2025_Day12 I ran back up to the room and retrieved the coats and came back down to the first floor to find Kai and Nancy standing by the water looking at the waterfall and Koi in the giant water feature near the restaurant we ate breakfast at every morning.

We decided to attempt to go the Italian restaurant the way we saw on the map which was to make a right on Sha MIan Street and keep walking.

China_20091130_2026_Day12 After we passed all the construction, we eventually ended up in territory that was distinctly different than where we started.  The shops and stores catering to the adoptive families were now gone and it looked like very local-friendly hotels and apartments.

We passed a playground that was chock full of local families at play even though it was dark out and not very well illuminated.

Eventually, we ended up at the Italian Restaurant and from the outside it wasn’t fitting my expectations.  One of Nancy’s friends from the Freshwater Group mentioned that they ate here all the time during their last adoption trip and for some reason I had in my mind the type of Italian restaurant with the red and white checkered table clothes and tomato-sauce based pasta dishes on the menu. 

Well, the entrance was a bit posh in appearance and they had a menu on display outside where a hostess was standing at a podium. I was immediately concerned about the price and whether or not I’d find something I’d like to eat.  For you see there is many different kinds of Italian food and I know that I’m not a big fan of Northern Italian cuisine and that is what I thought this would be.

China_20091130_2028_Day12 Well, we get inside and immediately see Robyn, Jason and Ying. They told us they looked for us in the playroom and then called our room before heading out, but assumed (correctly) that we must be out shopping.

It’s times like this that I really missed being at home.  If we were in the US, they could’ve just texted me (or called my cell) and asked what we were doing for dinner.  Instead, we are stuck living like it was the early 90’s where you called someone on a home phone (in this case hotel) and if you didn’t get them, you were out of luck.

China_20091130_2031_Day12 Jason immediately warned me about how expensive the beer was.  It didn’t really impact me because I’m not that big of a beer drinker and when I do, it’s usually a Guinness Stout and I wouldn’t consider buying one of those in China.

I did find that there were different kinds of pasta dishes on the menu and opted for the spaghetti with meat sauce.  I don’t recall the exact price in RMB but it roughly converted to US$8 and I thought that was a really good deal.

We continued to to talk to Robyn and Jason during our meal.  One interesting thing was that when we got our drinks (once again brought to us in extremely tiny glasses), our Coke and Sprite came with crazy bendy straws.  The straws definitely didn’t fit with the rest of the restaurant’s atmosphere.

It was also interesting to note that the chef at this restaurant was an actual Italian. 

China_20091130_2033_Day12 The food was nothing to write home about.  I’ve definitely had better spaghetti at Olive Garden and Johnny Carino’s back home, but it was palatable.  We also used this opportunity to let Kai try some spaghetti. We cut it up into tiny parts so that he could eat it without choking on it.  We sure will be glad when his teeth come in like Robyn and Jason’s daughter Ying because she was easily chomping down on steamed vegetables.  Kai is no way capable of doing anything like that yet.

Robyn and Jason left when we were halfway through our meal.  We opted to not get any dessert and paid for our meal.  I was a bit taken aback by the price because at US$8 per plate I wasn’t expecting a US$30-something price tag.  Well, it turns out that sodas were almost as expensive as the spaghetti. This is constantly frustrating me.  The fact that there is no potable drinking water means that every restaurant knows they have you backed into a corner.  If you want to drink, you are going to have to buy it.  There is no free option unless you really enjoy extreme intestinal discomfort and have a sick love affair with porcelain gods/goddesses.

The walk back to the hotel seemed to go a bit quicker than the trip to the restaurant. 

When we got back to the room, we gave Kai his bath and I started working on this post.  Unfortunately, it didn’t get finished as I was very tired and went to bed thinking that I’d get it done the next night.  Well, that didn’t happen either (as can be told by the fact this is being posted after I got home).

The next day was our “Oath Day”, we were really excited about it since it’s the last step of the legal portion of this journey.

Until Tomorrow…..

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….