Category archives: Guangzhou

Last Day in Guangzhou

Well this is it.  We are essentially packed with one less carry on than we had coming from Nachang.  Of course, we have decided to ignore the weight limit and just pay the fine on our packed luggage.  Have not even weighed the bags.  It is quite different packing everything for the multiple days for Lili versus coming to Guangzhou where we only packed for that plane ride.  Although I know that my baby will eat almost anything(still can’t get her to like banana), we don’t know what will be available or when so that made packing a little more of a challenge and then we always have Thom who travels with multiple carry-ons to begin with.  I must say that this trip has built up my arm muscles what with lugging around a 7kg baby and then all our “stuff.”  I weighed Lili today on the scale and I think she has gained about 1/2 a kilo or about 1 pound since we first weighed her.  Thom made some big deal about the scale not being zeroed out and it not being the same scale, etc, etc but I am going with her gaining the weight.  She certainly feels heavier.

How do I feel about leaving?  I am not like most people who seem to be dying to get home.  Of course, I really cannot think of a trip I wanted to leave all that badly.  Going back to reality will be tough.  Here I live in a little world where all we have to do is focus on Lili and that has been great.  No cooking, no cleaning (although neither of us is great at that), no laundry, etc.  We have loved China and the people we have met both Chinese and American.  We have enjoyed eating.  Today we went to a great little place on the island and had some fantastic food.  We seemed to be the only westerners there and we do live for that.  We have learned a lot about the country although I feel that it is a drop in the bucket and I anxiously await the day that we can all come back as a family and travel around and see even more of China.  All in all, Thom and I have really enjoyed everything that we have experienced the best thing, of course, being getting Lili.

On the other side of things, we look forward to getting home and showing off our wonderful baby girl.  She has such an addictive smile and when she is in a good mood, there is not a happier baby in the world and we have to admit that she is in a good mood a lot of the time.  It will also be nice to have her have some scheduling because things have been a little hectic in terms of scheduling here. I would like to know for instance if she could take a longer than 45 minute afternoon nap.

Today was a relaxing day for us in a way.  We spent the day just hanging out on the island.  Thom went into a flurry of last minute shopping.  By the way, never let Thom tell you he does not like to shop.  He loves it especially if it is for himself.  To be honest, he usually buys something for you or someone else while buying for himself.  Lili had a tough day.  She had 2 big crying jags sounding like she was in pain which, of course, led to Mom breaking down and checking her ears which led to even more crying.  No ear infection.  I think it might just be teething but she was so upset this afternoon she actually cried herself to sleep.  I have to admit it was heartbreaking because there was little to do to comfort her.  However, after her evening nap, she was in a good mood and ate her usual large dinner with a big smile on her face.  She learned today how to put something large into her mouth if she is holding it in her hand and was quite proud of herself for doing it.  She actually took a bite of the shut up cookie with her new top teeth nubs, which have not fully come in yet.  Of course, if she has the cookie hidden in the hand she does not know how to get at it.  She went to bed tonight with her usual crib aerobics and is sleeping soundly for now.  We’ll see what comes of tomorrow. -c

Once again I can’t defend myself because I was out foraging for dinner. We tried to get dim sum to go, specifically dumplings but we had no luck so I defaulted to Thai food once again. Safe and tasty. Here are today’s photos along with some mental aerobics.  

GhuangzhouTaxiChaos

The taxi rides should be packaged and marketed by Six Flags. Here you see more contestants of Human Frogger, count how many people you can see.

GhuangzhouFoodstick

Count and identify the types of food on a stick.

RandomTemple

While trying to find a cab to get back to the hotel I ran across this beautiful little temple. A nice quiet respite from the absolute chaos which passes for normal city life in Guangzhou. Count the number of Buddhas.

And here are the pictures you are actually waiting for.

 LiliTigger

Lili meets Tigger and makes a new friend.

LiliFoodVictory  liliFoodeating

Hey what do I do with Teeth? Victory over the shut up cookie, you can just see her top two tooth nubs. (if that’s the correct term)

We might post tomorrow night, otherwise the blog will have to wait until the jet lag wear’s off. -t

Guangzhou Zoo

Today was a busy day for our Lili and she did amazingly well considering it was not her best night (or mine). She has gotten her Dad’s(and now my cold) and she hacked and coughed for about 3-4 hours last night.  The room is really dry and I don’t think that helped matters and I spent the time trying to figure out the best way to keep her head elevated. We finally found a solution that made both of us feel better but she did awaken at her normal 6:30 and Thom took over giving her her bottle and then taking her out on a walk so I could sleep longer.  Here are some pictures from their walk.  Thom will have to fill in more details. 

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One type of morning constitution
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 A different type

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Morning commutes in Guangzhou city

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 View of Guangzhou from the bridge

Shamian Island is an interesting place in the morning.  Everyone is out doing their morning constitutionals and it is very fun to walk around and see people in their normal daily routines versus trying to sell us something. Don’t get me wrong, however, people do still try to sell you something if they are a shop keeper.  They seem to have all different kinds of group “aerobics” going on in the street.  Thom even heard the older people doing their exercises to “Like a Prayer” by Madonna complete with 70 year olds doing pelvic thrusts, or at least that is what Thom tells me.

After Lili’s morning nap, we headed out to the zoo.  Originally, we were going to try the metro because it is supposed to be much faster than the driving.  Of course, just about everything is faster than the driving and if you want to find cities with roads that seem to circle about endlessly, China is the place to come.  They have taken the Massachusets rotary and made it a spiral stairway.  Lili, however, was not feeling to well and since we were unsure exactly where the metro was and how far from the zoo we ended up, we decided to take a cab.  I had found a restaurant in the Rough Guide(which is only 1.5 years old) that specialized in soups from Jiangxi Province and was near the zoo, so that sounded good for lunch.  Our cab driver could not find it so he got out to ask the doorman of a hotel and after they both looked blank about the name that the hotel had written down for us, we concluded, correctly, that it no longer existed. The doorman indicated that Thom could go into the hotel and ask and he came out with the brother of the owner, who was named Robert and spoke excellent english and took us down the street to a restaurant and then offered to order for us and we invited him to eat with us.  Once again Lili was a hit.  She loves to eat and gets this huge smile on her face while eating and totally plays the crowd.  The food was fabulous and we tried some new things including a pork that is almost like peking duck.  Lili and I both thought that and the dumplings were the best dishes although I also thought the greens were quite good.  I think Lili found them a bit to bitter for her infant taste buds but she is definetely a girl that does not like plain food.  We tried giving her white rice the other night because it was really the only thing she could eat that we got and she would only eat it after we poured a sauce over it.

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Thom and Robert outside the restaurant

Robert then pointed us to the zoo which was a short walk away.  We are sure that our friends Kim, Ben, Teagan and Kaelan will appreciate the fact that we found a zoo they have never gone to and we have taken Lili to her first zoo at the age of 10 months. Maybe we will be able to match their zoo count when she is as old as they are but I doubt it.  We enjoyed the zoo although we sometimes felt like a walking exhibit. We went up behind the ostrich exhibit and this couple wanted to have their picture taken with us.  First he took the picture of her standing with us then she took the picture of him with us.  It was quite funny.  At another point, we stopped to have our picture taken at the plastic chickens and the next thing Thom knew Lili and I were surrounded.  At the dinosaur exhibit, when we finished having our picture taken people flocked over to the dinosaur that we had been sitting on.

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Posing in front of the plastic On the triceratops

 

As Thom says the zoo has a feel similar to what a zoo might have been like in the US in the 70s with small exhibits and a lot of cages, but clean with some interactive exhibits. Of course, it also had some weird things like the Pekinese in the children’s zoo but I guess dogs have not been common in China as pets until recently. 

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Ostrich with personality Toucan  Crane like on Lili’s wall

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Flamingos standing and nesting  Pelican  Dog at zoo

 

Thom’s favorite part was when he had the chance to go and feed the Macaque monkeys. The zookeeper even showed Thom what to do to get the monkey to climb onto his arm for the food. Could he look more thrilled?

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Thom feeding the monkey

Tomorrow, I think we will hang out around the island and the area just over the bridge and get some packing done.  We need another suitcase which is not surprising although I am pretty sure that Thom will still end up with about 9 carry-ons.  Since we are not travelling with the group, we are willing to go over the weight limit which will not be hard since Lili does not count as a person with luggage yet and I am sure that there will be most of a suitcase for her.

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My big smile attracts a crowd as I get my picture taken. -c

 LiliDinnerHappy

This is what I look like at dinner after I’m full and happy, before I melt down from being tired. I’m also learning how to model for daddy. Apparently he wants me to hold still for a complete second so the picture won’t be blurry. I don’t know how to do that yet, but I’m trying the best I can. I don’t know why but he keeps pointing this big black thing at me. I wonder if he’ll stop anytime soon…. -L

Lili is still a star

After spending several days here on Shamian Island in Guangzhou – which is essentially adoption central for families from the US because of the old location of the US Consulate – and where it’s fairly typical to see caucasian families with their chinese daughters (and occasional sons) and the only people who really take an interest are usually the proprietors of gift shops, we ventured out into the city today in search of the mythical $100 suit and cheap custom shirts. We ended up in a nice shopping area where we were surrounded by shop clerks all very interested in our little daughter. At one point we had 5 floor attendants all clustered around us – I know this because I counted out loud in chinese – “yi, er, san, si, wo” and pointed at each woman as I did. They all laughed, apparently I’ve finally found an audience of people who’ll laugh at my jokes.

Back to the mythical custom suit. Ever since WWII men have come back from Hong Kong and China talking about these great custom suits and shirts, made in 24 or 48 hours. Supposedly dirt cheap and they look great. The cheap hong kong suit was even a featured Sgt. Bilko episode. I’ve never actually met anyone though, who’s had it done themselves. Since our Chinese Visas won’t allow us to go to Hong Kong on this trip, I did some investigating and found a place a whopping $2.50 taxi ride away. So after Lili’s – and our’s as well – morning nap and a simple little lunch at this outdoor cafe, we hopped into a taxi. We found the place (well Catherine did anyway) and quickly discovered they aren’t cheap at all. I don’t really need an $800 suit, no matter how nice it will look and custom shirts can be had with english speaking tailors in the US for less than their $120 per shirt price. So we left still suitless and shirtless.

A little background. I have a size 18 neck, which coupled with my size 46/48 chest means all dress shirts billow around my waist like a loose main sheet in a fresh breeze. So I’ve been trying to figure out how I can have nice, crisp, refined dress shirts made for my hard-to-fit frame for a long time. I did find a very nice custom tailor once, but his suit/shirt sets start around $2,000 and go up. Given the impending, and now actual, addition to our family that was a purchase that didn’t seem very prudent.

Back to today, after the first tailor we walked around this shopping district just enjoying the warm 75-80 degree temperatures and not even bothering to window shop since neither one us are likely to find much in the shops that will fit us. We wondered into the “Trust-Mart” in hopes of finding a WC (water closet which the chinese seem to have adopted as a universal term for restroom). We succeeded in that quest, if finding squat toilets can be considered successful. After a quick change of our little Lili, we started looking around the stores and found a store called “Happy Store”. It turns out it was a children’s/baby store. We stocked up with a hat for Lili, a new drop cloth (or whatever you call those spitup/feeding cloths), a bulb syringe for her stuffy nose and a pair of child’s training chopsticks. We also attracted loads of attention from the staff who all though Lili was a beautiful “Xiao Bao” (little baby).  We then ventured up to the trust mart. It was like Walmart, but less frenetic. Since we needed diapers we picked up enough pampers to make it home.

After leaving the trusty Trust-Mart, we went to the fabric market. It isn’t a market as much as a large multi-storey building filled with separate 3×6, 6×8 and 10×12 little kiosks and shops all with their own slightly different fabric sold by the meter. We did find a nice woman with good wool suit fabric who spoke with a tailor across the corridor who didn’t speak english but said it would 500 Kwai (slang for the Yuan). We also asked the shop keeper how much fabric we would need for a suit. Her response – “for you?” followed by gails of laughter by her, Catherine and finally myself. She finally settled on about 3 meters which would have cost about 280 Kwai. So If I had been willing I could have had the $100 but since the tailor spoke no english, had no samples of her work making western suits, and wanted five days to finsh it (we only have 3) I decided to let that opportunity pass by. But we did enjoy the fabric complexes, we walked through two buildings all the while thinking how much fun Brett or Ann would have wondering through there. Every conceivable kind of fabric for clothes, bedding, curtains, tapestry not to mention all the yarns, buttons, trim, etc. I’m sure there are people who would have known what to do with such a bonanza, we weren’t those people. As it was we found two pillow covers so ridiculously cheap that we had to buy them and a table runner for about 1/7 the price of what they are charging for them on Shamian Island. Someday my suit will come.

Through all of this shopping Lili was her usual charming self -see the new pink hat along with the traffic coming at us as we are stopped for several light cycles in the middle of an intersection.

Lilitaxi

You may notice that Lili is secured in the baby bjorn and not in a car seat. I’ve been in China two weeks now and have yet to see such a contraption. Hopefully Lili will not complain when she gets strapped into her first car seat after a 30-hour-trip.

We took another nap before dinner before discovering that once again Lili really doesn’t like baths, as in face completely wound up, massive screaming and crying, crocodile tears, the works. A nice preview of what she’ll look like when I turn down her request for her own car on her 16th birthday, only with no shouting. Catherine turned in early because she has the cold, I’ve had twice already, and has now migrated to her and probably to Lili as well. Apparently we are doomed to travel through China with low-grade nuisance illnesses, which I guess beats the 4 day hospitalization a recent adoption traveler we know experienced a few months ago.

That’s all for now. BTW, what happened to all the commenting? We were really enjoying reading everyone’s comments to each other in the morning when we wake up, but they’ve been diminishing recently. Is anyone out there still reading our long-winded posts? Let us know either way. Zaijian -t

Chinese HackeySack, new pictures and other thoughts

Apparently in Guangzhou there is a game similar to Hackeysack except it’s played by men and women of all ages and the hackeysack is an oversized badminton shuttlecock except with plastic washers where the rubber bulb would be. There are hundreds of people playing this game all over the park I tried to ask what the game is called or even what the shuttlecock/hackeysack is called and all I got was basically it’s called Guangzhou….Yea, somehow I don’t think they knew what I was asking. Of course the fact that I’m asking in English and they speak Mandarin or Cantonese might have something to do with it. My Mandarin seems to have devolved down to a few stock phrases and numbers. I occasinally break out with a word or phrase from my tutoring sessions but it’s usually a surprise to me and even more of a surprise to whomever I’m speaking with. So I repeat the word or phrase and then the person with whom I’m trying to communicate usually smiles, laughs, repeats what I said and then says, in english, “your chinese is very good”. As you can tell from this story the culture of saving face and politeness is alive and well in China.

ChineseHackey 

A typical co-ed group of people playing Chinese Hackeysack (once I find out the actual name, I’ll start using it)

Back to Chinese Hackeysack. I was playing in the park today during Lili’s nap with several men and women, most of whom were over 60. They could do amazing tricks without seeming to move a muscle or breaking a sweat. I, of course, had sweat streaming down my face and missed many opportunities to “hackey” the shuttlecock. Occasionally I’d get lucky with a behind the back desperation lunge using my size 13 feet and I’d earn several thumbs up and even a mei hua – (beatiful, fine, etc.) I was definitely the novelty and several people would join our group of 5 or 6 with apparently the sole goal of seeing how good the “Lao Wai” was, because I got far more than my fair share of shots directed my way, after a few minutes demonstrating I could in fact handle the simple shots, the group just kind of gelled and focused on keeping the shuttlecock in the air, tapping it only once and making sure to include every member of the group. Every 10 minutes or so, 1 or 2 new people would wander over and mumble something in mandarin or cantonese and join the group as others left. Basically the core of the group was a 60-year-old woman and a living breathing caricture of an old chinese man with grey hair and a long wispy beard, and me, the balding slightly paunchy American. Of course they were incredible and would have impressed even the most jaded group of deadheads hackeying outside a Phish concert. (is that a verb?) All in all, I held my own without embarrassing myself too many times. But we all knew who was teaching the game and who was being schooled even though we weren’t having many in-depth conversations.

After an hour I was beat, but the men in their suits and the women in their flats were still going strong. In fact several of the people I was playing with were still at it several hours later when we all went out for lunch. Of course then I was no longer the star since Lili was with us. And boy is she a star.

LiliLunchGuangzhou

After lunch we went out and about in the city riding in a couple of Taxis, shopping, and generally trying to get something of a sense of this massive city. It’s size is truly amazing and the density of population makes NYC look like a ghost town without the tumbleweeds.

GuangzhouStreetLife 

Let’s play find the Lao Wai (foreigner) in this photo.

GuangzhouTaxi

No, that isn’t an optical illusion the taxi won’t fit in the gap. But unlike in the states there was no animosity, no road rage, no middle-fingers upraised in an angry salute, just a quiet peaceful acceptance punctuated by horns. The traffic is the most chaotic I’ve ever seen. People randomly stop until they decide whether to turn or not, bikes, mopeds, handtrucks, three-wheelers, pedestrians, Buses, taxis and luxury sedans all mix together in this glorious stew that is Ghuangzhou traffic. It makes Brazillian drivers look like calm, patient, orderly, little old ladies out for a Sunday drive. It makes the Costa Rican drivers look like model citizens aiming for another AAA discount. Of course German Drivers would be in apoplexy here because there doesn’t seem to be any rules to follow. But given all that there are surprising few accidents.

 

HotelWaterfall

Indoor waterfall at the White Swan Hotel with a large number of very hungry Koi fish, some almost two feet long.

The White Swan hotel is quite an experience. After Nanchang, where for a week we didn’t see a single non-asian person who wasn’t with our group (they were a few Indian, Vietnamese, and Thai guests at the hotel however), this hotel must have 75-100 or more families all adopting. So imagine a breakfast dining room packed with couples in every flavor of American, all of whom have at least one small chinese person at their table. Sometimes they have two or more since they been down the adoption path before. Sprinkle in a few asian and american business men traveling solo and wearing suits and you have a very surreal meal. Most of the kids seem to be between 1-2 years of age, mostly girls, but there are a few boys. Lili is probably the smallest baby we’ve seen and probably one of the younger ones in residence in the hotel, but of course she is the cutest and we have the photos to prove it. We’ve been very thankful that she isn’t walking and toddling, yet, because watching the parents going from no kids to an instant 2-year-old, looks exhausting. In fact tonight at dinner with our 10 families in a local restaurant, the girls started their first chorus of crying. It wasn’t one or two girls, it was almost all of them. Both they and their parents looked exhausted (that includes us and our perfect Lili) and people quickly gave up thoughts of eating and fled back to their hotel rooms.

That’s all for now. More pictures tomorrow.  -tjm