Thursday, October 04, 2007

The Accidental Tourists

First let me say it - SLEEP!! It's nearly 6am and everyone else in the houe is still sleeping: Mojo, the Peeper and Shaomei. Everyone slept all night, too! Right next to harnessing nuclear fusion and the invention of the portable baby wipe, that is the most incredible thing since sliced white bread...
I have to go back to work tomorrow so I thought it would be a good idea to start getting up at my usual 5am. I also wanted to get back into my routine: get up, brush my teeth, get a glass of water and then downstairs; check the news blogs, read the headlines, weather, check in with my cyberpals like walternatives and kelli (thanks again for the congee, girlfriend - it RULES!)...and blog my own self.
This morning I thoght I'd throw out some images from our trip to China. Not for anything, really, other than just to give some backstory to little Miss Shaomei. And because I toted the damn camera 5,000 miles and I'm gonna damn well get some use out of the results.
First, probably the most overviewed scene of all: the vista from the window of Room 1118 at the White Swan Hotel. Note the haze rising over the hip, sophisticated skyline of Guangzhou (for those who missed this last time, I am kidding. Guangzhou is hip and cool like Fort Wayne, Indiana is hip and cool. It's like Pittsburgh except all the signs are in Chinese.). Note also the mirror-like Pearl River. From the 11th floor you cn't see the early-fall trash run floating downstream to spawn. More about that later.
The upper picture gives you a pretty good idea of how we spent the two weeks in Guangzhou. Mojo will probably say that the small room makes her ass look big. Also note the crib where both girls never slept...
Here's the little family (minus the Peep) in the "Swan Room", Mattel's contribution to international adoption. Shaomei luuuurved her some of this ball. We called this ball "ballylove" because she would hold it, roll it, snuggle it, even bury her face in it and giggle.
You meet pretty much 90% of the IA people in the Swan Room. It is a great place for the kiddos, both newly adopted and existing family. For good and bad: I'd have given money to have a brace of Swan GoonsTM whose job it would have been to drag off certain of the folks who somehow slipped through the homestudy process, like the woman we designated the large unmoving slorg whose style was to squat her ginormous ass in the middle of the room and screech "Gentle!" at her out-of-control daughter as the little girl ran around the room snatching toys and slapping at other kids. Or the wierd, sour guy whose wife chose to stay home and sent him to China alone to pick up their child, who was always good for an almost nonstop rant about how miserable everything was, how miserable he was and how he couldn't wait to be out of the place...
Shamian Island is...well, it's an island. So it's got water all around it. Sort of. The Pearl isn't exactly your Wild and Scenic River. Any illusions I had about that were shattered on one of my dawn circuits of the island (I power-walked around the island most mornings, both for exercise and to keep myself sane) when the fella I thought was a homeless guy huddling at the bottom of the water steps on the canal side turned out to be not huddling but...ummm...squatting.
This puts some perspective to the heroics of the Shamian Dao Recreational Natorial Society (sorry, no picture), the group of old guys who congregated on the river side every morning to swim in the foul and fetid thing. We would go to breakfast and watch the heads bobbing along out in the ship channel. Watch out for the brown trout, boys...
Another odd thing is that all the early morning exercisers - I was only one of a pretty good-sized group most mornings - were forty- to fifty-and-over. I asked "Rob", the agency guide, about that and he said something to the effect that only the old people still did that stuff. All the young people were out partying at night, sleeping in and getting up to make money. Hmmmm...
One cool thing about Shamian Island is the ancient camphor and fig trees along the perimeter. Where the trees have become so ancient that they are in danger of toppling the municipal authorities prop them up with these odd concrete and steel struts designed to look like limbs. Go figure.
Shamian Dao is a - to our Portlandic eyes, anyway - somewhat surreal mixture of the very old, Asian and somewhat to extremely rundown alongside the very new, Western and hypercommercially glitzy. I liked this picture just because of the perspective rising from the old wall, complete with clunky Chairman Mao bicycle and large character exhortation (saying "Joe's Parking", for all I know) in the forwground, the old tile-roofed buildings behind it and, rising above all, the glass-and-steel commercialism of the White Swan. Very much a flavor of the place.
Mojo and Shaomei are strolling along the major north-south street leading from the WSH towards the city side of the island. Note the signs above right. These, too: "Edna's Place", "Jennifer's Store", are an odd feature of the place that appears to thrive on the adoption trade. Nice people, generally, who are keenly attuned to the art of making money from Westerners here to bring home Chinese kids. Not for nothing are the Cantonese known as the "Jews of China", both for their hard work and commercial ethic as well as the Cantonese diaspora that has given us everything from Jackie Chan to sweet-and-sour pork at the Panda Buffet...
One oddball thing we noticed was 1) everybody in Guangzhou does white-on-white for their wedding, and 2) 90% of them have their wedding pictures taken on the main mall running the length of Shamian Dao. I liked this because this couple was getting the thing done right across from a bunch of rather raggedy PLA/police recruits we guessed were practicing for "National Day" which was a short time to come from that afternoon.
And just in case you thought we NEVER left Shamian's a pretty little pathside rest house on the way up Baiyun Mountain Park. Lovely place - nice for me bacause it's very birdy. The odd bit was that the monent we stepped out of the tram it felt delightfully cool as opposed to the dog's-mouth humidity of Guangzhou City. But by the time we were halfway through our stroll we were sweating again. So "comfortable" as a climatic term is plainly very relative. As Northwesterners we just don't do heat and humidity well.
Damn - I thought I'd included the shot of Mojo and Shaomei getting the blessing at the Six Banyan Temple. I'll have to get that in another post. Okay, here's a shot of Miss Shaomei taking a very dim view of Daddy pipetting her some "sweet milk", a loathsome South China concoction of milk with extra sugar added. Yeech. But she loved it - what kiddo wouldn't?
Oh - I've got to tell this story just because. So last night Mojo and the Peeper ran out to Target for an umbrella stroller and other neccessities, leaving me with Little Missy. I played with her while I cooked IKEA Swedish meatballs, rotini and butter peas for supper. With the meal under control I did what any concerned Daddy would do with his little daughter - tried to get her to EAT. Foolish American - I tried her first with just buttered noodles, a Peeper staple. She was mildly interested, but no enthusiasm. Meanwhile I was getting myself around the outside of some delicious meatballs-and-noodles in cream sauce. She tried desperately to get her little paddy-paws on them, so I popped a besauced noodle in the cakehole. Eureka! She ate all my noodles, another cupfull and more! Clearly this child has very adult tastes in food (she also picked two dozen peas off my plate - this is the girl whose brother once ate a half a green bean by mistake and has regretted it ever since? Sweetbabyjesus...).
So that's it for this round. I haven't forgotten all the usual things I want to blog about. Our national slide away from the principles of the Framers...and our loathsome slide towards a wider war in the Middle East. Once I've had the chance to get a little more back on-track I'll be back to blogging about all these. But for now...I am just enjoying being home with our kids. Kids. Plural. That has a nice sound to it.


atomic mama said...

The girl has good taste. Congrats on the sleep milestone. And a little birdie tells me there's another milestone being celebrated up there today, yes? Happy Day! Enjoy!

walternatives said...

Bravo for sleep. And thanks for some GZ pics. Thanks, too, for the link to that park; it's on our list for when we're there.

As for today, I was tempted to broadcast the significance of Oct. 4th in Blogville, but didn't know if that would be appropriate. Happy day, friend, celebrating with your kids - plural.