Saturday, July 2, 2011

Thursday the 9th

Today was the longest day of travel I have ever experienced.  We were at the airport by 8:30, for our flight to leave at 11:00 am.  We had some time to kill so ate breakfast and shopped for some candy.

Steve thinking:  "Why are these seats so $%^*ing close together?!
Our flight was 12 hours long to San Francisco.  Many have asked how the baby did.  She did amazingly well considering how boring 12 hours stuck on some one's lap is.  She fell asleep right before take off and slept maybe 2 hours and was awake the rest of the flight!  Yikes!  I had hoped she would sleep longer.  She ate food, played with toys, climbed up my body and waved at everyone behind us, walked the aisles and stopped to talk to anyone who was awake, waved at everyone and smiled her charming smile.  She also ripped up all the magazines, threw toys, and screamed really loud (but no tantrums thank goodness).  Luckily they fed us a lot so she was happy about that.  I did not sleep a wink.

Our plane arrived in San Fran around 10:00 am and we had a 5 hour layover to look forward too although to us it was really like midnight and we all just wanted our beds.

We made it through customs and immigration and then took Daisy outside to step on U.S. soil and officially become and American citizen.

First one foot...
then the other!  It's official!  Daisy is an American citizen!
Steve wanted to take the BART into the city and see some stuff which made my mom, Zack and I want to cry.  So we didn't.  Instead we got into the security line so we could go find our gate and wait out our now 4 hours.

While coming through security they made me wake up Daisy who was finally asleep in the carrier strapped to me so she could go through security in my arms instead of strapped to me with fabric.  Isn't that what x-ray is for?!  Whatever!  Then they "randomly" pulled Zack aside to PAT HIM DOWN.  But, they made him wait in this glass box until the official groper could come do his thing.  He was clearly terrified and I tried to pantomime to him that it was OK but I could see the tears forming.  They finally did their thing and we were through, Steve gathering up all our many items, all of us trying to put our shoes back on, me holding a baby not in a sling, trying to keep her asleep and trying to comfort poor Zack who was still terrified and now wailing and shaking in fear.  I have never been so livid.  I had to spend some time reassuring Zack that he had not done anything wrong and that they were all a**holes.  Allowing an innocent, sleep deprived, 8 year old child to be terrorized in the name of security does not give me comfort while flying.  It makes me never want to take my child on a plane again.    

After this trauma, we staked out a table near our gate and tried to rest.  About 2 minutes after I sat down, Daisy woke up.  Great.  We spent the next 4 hours chasing her through the airport as she tried to meet strangers, eat anything on the ground, poop her pants, and scream bloody murder.  It was awesome.  I was so tired I think I was hallucinating.  Zack slept on the bench at the table for most of it.

Finally, we boarded our plane bound for home.  I think Daisy was asleep on Steve but I don't remember because I immediately fell asleep with my head in my lap and was only roused when the plane landed at 5:00 PM.  Did you know sleeping hunched over like that for 2 hours really hurts once you get up?  I had a headache of migraine proportions and my whole body ached.  Death would have been a welcome relief.

But, there was no time to die.  Luggage had to be gathered and we had to get home.  My cute sister Ally and my dad picked us up at the airport and Ally had a darling candy basket and balloons.  We got into our car and had a nice quiet drive home without any near death experiences on the road.  What a welcome change that was.

When we got into our house it was clear we had had a home invasion!

My cute friends in our neighborhood had come and decorated our house with tons of balloons and streamers and posters to welcome us home.  They has also brought dinner for that evening and lots of good food to eat the next week and a gift bag full of stuff for Zack.  I almost cried!  Our other friends, the C family were perfect to think of Zack and they left him a darling candy gram poster.  It was so nice and we have the best friends and families who are always so caring and supportive!  Thank you all!

That night I got 4 whole hours of sleep!  Yea!  Welcome home baby Daisy!

Wednesday the 8th

Today was our last day in Guangzhou.  We had another good buffet breakfast and then Steve got to packing.  My mom and I ran out to do the rest of our shopping.

At our breakfast buffet.  Do I look like I'm about done with China?

I wanted to get Daisy a white dress for her blessing and for when we take her to be sealed in the Temple.  I was told the only place you can get white dresses for babies is on the island (they cater to Americans remember) because white is usually for funerals in China.  (Although there were tons of brides all over the island getting their bridal pictures taken and wearing our traditional white wedding dresses.  The island is really pretty with lots of foliage so it makes sense that there are tons of photo shoots happening there every day.)

Anyway, we hit a couple of shops, got some squeaky shoes for the baby and the cutest white outfit and some other souvies.  We got back to the hotel and Steve had just about finished the packing.  We were able to get checked out and they held our luggage for us while we grabbed a taxi and went to find the Dim Sum restaurant that Ann had suggested.  I think Dim Sum was about the only meal left we had wanted to have in China that we had not had yet.

Our assortment of Dim Sum dishes.  They were mostly all good, we especially liked the ones with shrimp.
Steve eating some scary chicken feet.  Yum.

By some miracle we found the restaurant in a mall fairly close by.  When we walked in we made a spectacle again, being the only foreigners in the place.  No one seemed to speak English, so when we sat down they brought a cart over with tons of bamboo boxes, each with about 4 dumplings and Steve just chose a bunch of stuff for us to start with.  It was pretty good, but not to die for.  We got full quickly because dumplings fill you up!  The baby slept through lunch on the bench next to me.  When we were done we went up to pay and there was a HUGE glass jar (more like a barrel) on the counter.  I glanced at it and realized that there was a humongous snake inside, all pickled up and ready to eat.  Yuck!

The pickled snake.  We couldn't read the sign on the jar but it had a 15 yuan symbol at the bottom.  I don't know if that's the price for the whole snake or just a slice!  Disgusting!

It took us a while to find a taxi back to the hotel and then we grabbed our bags and met our guide in the lobby.  He picked us up in a van and then we went and got the H family from the White Swan.  They were scheduled to leave on the same train to Hong Kong that we were.

The van dropped us at the curb of the station and we had to lug all our bags through the big station and it was no easy feat with the baby.  I had bought another suitcase in Kunming to fit all of our souvenirs so we had one more bag and a baby to take care of.  And a really tired 8 year old who didn't much feel like helping out.

After our trek, paperwork, security clearances and saying goodbye to our guide, we were all settled in the waiting room.  The H family has a boy Zack's age so they were constantly chatting and playing games and goofing off.  It was great that he was there so Zack could have a friend.  We only had to wait about 30 minutes and then boarded the train.  For some reason I had it in my mind that the train ride was only about 40 minutes.  Wrong.  For that reason, the trip seemed like an eternity to me but was really only about 2 hours.  We arrived in Hong Kong around 8 PM, rented a van through the tourism booth in the station and they took us to our hotel.

When we were planning the trip, it was difficult to know where to stay.  We just used trip advisor and hoped for the best.  Well, we all know how that worked out for us, so I was very nervous to see our hotel.  I kept telling myself at least it was only for 1 night!

When we got to the Harbor Hotel, it looked like a modern boutique hotel.  I thought that was a good sign.  We checked in and went to our floor and we walked in to the tiniest hotel room I have ever seen!  It was smaller than our room on the cruise we took!  There was a queen size bed a night stand and a small table and a small walk way to get to the bed from the door.  That was it.  I had no idea where we were going to put our luggage.  Luckily Steve had thought to pack everything we would need in just one case so we didn't have to open more than one and we managed to get it all in and then just tried to shuffle around it when we walked to the door or the bathroom.  It did seem clean though and the bed wasn't too hard.  Of coarse the air conditioning sucked in our room but my mom switched us rooms so we could have a turn with good air conditioning.

Our bathroom!
Zack and Grandma's 100 degree, 100% humiditiy room.  This was literally all of it, with a bathroom off to the side!  Our room was only slightly larger.
As you can see, there wasn't even room to lay out a suitcase, they had to stay standing up or there was no room to walk!

We were all hungry so we trooped outside to see if there was anywhere to eat.  We happened upon a street that was busy and had a lot of restaurants and I looked up and saw a sign for hot pot!  We had wanted to eat hot pot in China but had never seen any so we were excited to try it.  It is very similar to shabu shabu in Japan.  We went in and ordered and had a good meal.  We had a plate of thin shaved beef, some pork, shrimp, veggies and noodles.  I felt bad every time I left a restaurant because where ever Daisy had sat there was a huge mess on the floor!

At the Hot Pot restaurant waiting for our hot pot to arrive and eating some peanuts and drinking Cal Pis.
Our hot pot simmering away.  You can see the delicious thin sliced beef next to Zack and some of the veggies.  
Daisy looks as crazy as we all felt at that point.  We left an extra good tip because of the HUGE mess she left for them to clean up!

After this we went to a night market and Zack got some Poke mon cards (a whole slew, I think 115 for $8), and a toy and I tried to buy some stuff but the prices seemed ridiculously high after China so I didn't end up getting anything.

We were all exhausted after this and went back to our miniature rooms and slept until about 6:30 am at which time we had to wake up, pack, check out, find 2 taxi's and drive to the airport 40 minutes away.

If we weren't so excited to get home we would have liked to explore Hong Kong some more.  It seemed like a neat city, maybe some day we can go back.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Tuesday the 7th

This morning was our consulate appointment at 0900.  We got up early and went over to the White Swan Hotel to meet our guide Eva and the H family who is with our agency.  We got on a bus with some other families we didn't know and we were off.  The consulate used to be on the island but they moved it about 40 minutes away.

When we got to the consulate we had to go through major security like at the airport but we also had to surrender all electronic devices including cameras.  Then we went and waited and after a while we were all sworn in together and then one by one each family went up to the window to present our paperwork and get visa's for our children to enter the United States.  I don't remember what the swearing in consisted of, I wish I would have written it down sooner.  Anyway, I almost missed it because I was in the bathroom changing Daisy's poopy bum.

I think we were there for probably a little over 1 hour.  Then it was back on the bus and to the island.  We had planned to go to the safari park after the consulate so we freshened up, packed up our backpacks with snacks headed out to find the subway.  We had tried to find it another time but got lost and ended up taking a taxi.  This time we asked the hotel people first and found it right away.

It was a hot day and when we got to the safari park we realized most of the people getting off the subway with us were heading over to the water park next door.  Much better idea!  But, it was good because the safari park was practically empty!

This was hands down the best zoo we have ever been to.  At each exhibit there were tons of animals.  I swear there were like 15 elephants!  They were all playing in the pond and wrestling and everybody looked healthy and happy.  The place was clean (in China!), well taken care of and you could get really close to the animals.  They had a cool panda exhibit and koalas too.  When we got to the giraffes, we were able to buy a branch of leaves for less than $1usd to feed to the giraffes.  The giraffes came right up to us and ate the leaves from our hands and licked us and they were so close!  It was awesome.

Gorilla crotch garbage can

Poor Daisy was sweating buckets!  (As evidenced by sopping wet hair)

We had never seen elephants wrestle before!

It was nice and cool in the Panda exhibit.

The panda lets it all hang out!  Zack thought this was hilarious!

Daisy looks freaked about the giant fake panda

Guinea Pig heaven!  Zack loved this exhibit.

What would we have done with out grandma?!

Feeding the giraffe with joy!

Oh, mom was at the zoo?  One of three pictures of her.

On the safari train ride

Next, we made our way over to the safari train.  We boarded and it took us on a ride to see all the other animals.  There were tons of 4 legged animals, like deer, things that looked like deer and things I had no idea what they were because we don't have them in the mountains of Utah.  They had hippos and rhinos and there were also all the big cats.  They happened to be throwing meat chunks to them when we went by and it was cool to see them attacking their food.  The ride took about 30 minutes.  Daisy loved looking at all the animals and pointing to them.  She loves to point her little pointer finger at things.

After this were were bushed so we exited the park and took the subway back to our island paradise.  We had planned to have dinner with our friends the H family if we got back in time so we called them and planned to meet down the street from our hotel.

We met up with them and they knew of a street close by with shops and restaurants so we headed that way and ended up eating at a big restaurant called the Guangzhou Restaurant.  It was good and probably the most expensive restaurant we had eaten at, about $40 usd per family.  Big spenders!

After our meal, I was tempted by all the shops on the street.  Everyone wanted to go to the park by our hotel and let the kids play so my mom and I let them go and we stayed to shop.  We were after some cute shoes.  Ha!  Did you know my size 8 feet are HUMONGOUS in China?  My mom is a half size bigger so good luck finding shoes for your giant feet Sharon!  We went in a couple of stores and they just took one look at our feet and shook their heads.   My mom did find a store that had a pair she could squeeze into and she bought them.  Then... we stumbled upon the most awesome shoe store ever!  It had great music playing, hip people shopping, and tons of shoes just my style.  You would show the girls the shoes you wanted and say the size and they would say it into a little microphone.  Then a few minutes later the shoes would come down a shute from the ceiling!  I started ordering every cute pair I could find in size 39 (a tight squeeze) or 40.  Most of the shoes did not come in those sizes but I was able to find a few and I ended up buying 2 pair.  One cost $7 and one $10.  It's probably a good thing I couldn't find my size because I would have bought soooo many shoes and Steve would have been mad because he had to figure out how to pack up all our stuff and cart it through air ports.

One of the pairs of shoes I bought.
We shopped until they were all closing up and then we carefully found our way home through the dark streets of Guangzhou.

Monday the 6th

Today, we woke up and ate a delicious breakfast our our hotels buffet.  They had made to order omelets, tons of fruit, pastries, Chinese food, cereal, rice, bacon and juice.  It was the first really good breakfast we had had since Japan.

After breakfast, we headed out in a taxi to see the Six Banyon Trees Temple.  It was cool but we were disappointed to find out that you could no longer climb up the temple to take in the views.  It has become some kind of official historical site so they closed it up.  We walked around the grounds, saw some shrines, smelled lots of incense and got stared at some more.

Statues at the entrance to the temple, there were two on each side and they were very colorful and interesting.

The Six Banyon Trees Temple.  It is old and tipping over so no one is allowed to go inside anymore.

It was rebuilt in 1097, appears to have 9 stories from the outside but really has 17 stories on the inside.  Too bad we couldn't prove it by climbing it!

There were a lot of shrines on the temple grounds and a lot of burning incense.

On the way in to the temple there were a lot of beggars outside and Zack let me know that he wanted to give his money to some of them.  I thought that was really cute.  Problem was, if you gave to one, the others would mob you.  We had to make a quick get away.

After that we walked to a park which housed the Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall.  Mr Sun was the head of Nationalist government in 1923.  Chinese history is very confusing to me but I think this was around the time communism started up.  We walked around the park for a while, drinking our Coke Slurpee's, and then we took a taxi back to our hotel because we were meeting Ann of Red Thread to go shopping.

The Sun Yat Sen Memorial in a really pretty park.

A really cool, old tree in the park.  We couldn't resist having Zack pose in it's roots, they were huge!

I was told on one of the on line forums that you could hire this Ann to take you shopping.  I was all for it but worried that Steve would give me grief for paying someone to help me spend money.  But, after my fragile state the last few days I think he decided anything that would make me chill out a little would be good.  We met her in our lobby at 2:00 and she is the cutest little thing!  I thought she would be older because she owns her own business (she sends care packages to the orphanages and gets updates for adoptive parents before they travel.)  She was in her 20's and all of 75 pounds with energy like the energizer bunny!  Before we left I had the foresight to rent a stroller.  I think it was about $2 a day from a little store down the street.  Best idea ever.

Tired, sweaty baby strapped to a tired sweaty mama.  Time for a stroller!

We all piled into a taxi and we were off.  I told her before we left what I was interested in buying.  Pearls, jade, clothes for the baby (traditional Chinese clothes) and some general souvenirs.  She took us first to the pearl market.  There is a certain section of town where all the pearl vendors are and a good portion of them are housed in a big mall.  Floors and floors of booth after booth full of pearls, beads and every jewelry making piece you could ever want.  Oh that I had a whole day to spend here!  Alas, there was only time for pearls.  I got a necklace, bracelet and rings for Daisy and I each.  Hopefully they were the good quality that I was told they were.  I will give Daisy her bracelet on her 16th birthday, her ring on her 18th and her necklace when she gets married (hopefully not till she is at least 25).  I also got extra pearls to make earrings with.  My mom also got some pearls.  They were sold in strands and I bought 3 strands and then we waited while they strung them up for us and mounted the pearls into the rings.

This is the only picture of our shopping excursion, I think from Zack's camera and it is really bad quality.  But, you can see the rolls of pearls at one of the shops in the pearl market on the right.

Next we were off to the Jade district not too far away.  I wanted a jade bangle but the man Ann buys from did not have any big enough to fit over my man hands.  They even pulled out a plastic baggie to put on my hand and then tried to jam it on but the only way those bangles were getting on my arm was if I broke my hand first!  Boo.  But I bought one for Daisy to wear when she gets a little older.

After this disappointment, we went and bought some stretchy jade bracelets to give as gifts and such.  At least I can wear one of these!

As were were leaving the maze of jade booths to go find some souvenirs, we were winding our way through, trying to keep up with Ann and realized Zack was suddenly missing.  (Literally he was right there one second and then gone the next.)  We ran back the direction we had come and all these Chinese vendors were standing around pointing the direction we should go.  They knew the white haired child wandering around by himself must have belonged to us!  We found him quickly and reminded him the rule to stay put if he's lost.  He was not happy to have been lost!

Some cats just hangin' out on the ice cream freezer in a store.  I don't think that would fly with the health department in the U.S.!

Next it was off to find souvenirs of tigers (me and Daisy are both the year of the tiger - yea!) and dragons and chopsticks and other fun things.

Lastly we headed over to a giant mall to buy Daisy some clothes.  Unfortunately the store Ann uses was closed because it was a holiday.  She quickly made some calls and found a store on another level that would work and we raced up there before they closed.  We were able to buy Daisy a Chinese dress to wear every year until she is grown.  I don't know if she will always want to wear them, but they are cute for pictures and literally only cost $4 usd each! (They probably won't last more than one wearing anyway, ha!)  They we all got some Chinese clothes!  Yea!

By this time it had been about 4 hours of racing after Ann and we all felt tired.  We asked Ann to recommend some food places and she told us about a Dim Sum place to try for lunch the next day and then we got in the cab to go back home.  On the way we asked her if she would like to dine with us, she declined but recommended some places.  They when we were almost to the island she told us she would take us to a secret restaurant on the island that only locals eat at.

She took us to Jordan's shop (if you have stayed on the island you know this shop) and we went up 4 flights of stairs to the top where there was a very casual restaurant with only Chinese people there.  She ordered for us and we got cold coke and a fruity beverage (she told us there was no alcohol in it but I beg to differ :) and to eat:  fried chicken, green beans, noodles, rice, and I can't remember what else.  The thing about the chicken is it had tiny little splintered bones in it.  This is when we realized they just smash a whole chicken, cut it up and fry it up, splintered bones and all.  It was good, but just scary to have to eat around the tiny bones.  We had a lot of interesting conversations with Ann about China and the culture while we ate.

We paid Ann about $50 usd for the day and it was worth every penny!  We never could have accomplished all that by ourselves!  (Too bad we didn't get a picture of her, duh!  I guess she was just too fast, no time to think of taking pictures!)

There are a lot of these kind of statues all over the main street on Shamien Island.  We had fun posing with them but most of the pictures didn't turn out.

The only picture we got of Steve the whole day!  Sad.

Not sure what Daisy is foraging for but I'm sure she ate it when she found it!

After that, we played around and took pictures with some of the statues on the street, then it was home to bed!