Sunday, August 12, 2012

China Post #3

It is Aug. 11 and we are on the first leg of our trip home, flying from Guangzhou to Beijing. One thing that was included in our time in Beijing that I forgot to mention was an amazing acrobatics show. It was very dangerous and no nets. I can’t describe the whole thing but one of the acts was a chair balancing act, I think there were about ten chairs by the end with the acrobat doing a one-handed handstand. After we left Xian and the Terra Cotta soldiers etc., we arrived in Cheng-du, the fourth largest city in China. The big attraction there is the giant pandas. It’s in the western part of the country. The first day there was pretty relaxed. We went to an outdoor tea shop where you could get a massage and ears cleaned! None of the Loomis’s opted for the second but most of the others in our group did. We also walked through a beautiful bamboo park and got to see people doing tai chi and other martial arts and dances. The rest of the day we hung out at the hotel, which was a much needed break. The next day we saw the pandas. It was awesome to see so many in one place, and they were fairly active. We also saw a one-week old in an incubator. They showed us a movie explaining the breeding process and also the rescues they have to do when the mother tries to kill the baby. It doesn’t always happen but often. In the evening we went to what they call a face-changing show that included everything from shadow puppets to a musical with video and canned sound added in, ballet and gymnastics, and finally the face-changing which was really dramatic. The use of costumes in China is incredible, and for this part they used masks and changed them instantaneously. Our tour guide said no one can figure out how they do it. I thought that along with everything else the show had somewhat of a magic show spin to it. To me it seemed disjointed but entertaining nonetheless. Our next stop was the very scenic Guilin that attracts tourists from all over the world. It has a mountain range with very jagged and somewhat small mountains. There’s a river that runs through the mountains called the Li River; it then turns into the Pearl River but more about that later. The two days we were there were very pleasant and included going to a beautiful cave, taking a river cruise, and visiting a local farm. At the end of the day I finally spotted some rice fields, yay! I thought I might not see any in both trips to China but as it turned out I finally did. On our way back to the hotel we stopped at a Pearl Museum. We had already gone to a pearl market but this one was special because in South China they have fresh water pink, black, and gold pearls. I bought a special pearl for Samantha since her orphanage is only four hours south along the river where they get the pearls. Finally orphanage day arrived. We split off from the rest of the group and our tour guide rode the bus with us to Wuzhou. We continued thru the mountain range and saw many more rice fields in the valleys. Samantha’s city reminded me a little bit of San Francisco but not as steep. It also reminded me of Orlando with all the palm trees. When we adopted her they brought her to us in the capital city of the province which is more flat. She really loved her hometown and got treated like a princess at the orphanage. They had a welcome home sign on the new building that’s still under construction. As well, they gave us gifts and we donated a printer and some baby items. Unfortunately, there are very few if any small babies there any more! It’s no longer that kind of orphanage but rather cares for special needs children thru a US funded program. We got to see many children and interact with them but didn’t get a sense of what life used to be like for the babies. Since Samantha was in foster care for most of the time, it wouldn’t have given us any context for her situation, but we were still curious about it. We had requested to meet her foster mom but not surprisingly were unable to. They said it was because they couldn’t reach her, maybe so, maybe not; our orphanage people haven’t been very helpful as we’ve compared notes to what other ones allow. It varies a lot depending on each province and other factors. They did show us the finding site where Samantha was left and that helped give us a lot of context. Her birth parents put her somewhere where she’d easily be found, not far from the orphanage. We took a picture of that place but again it’s different than it was ten years ago according to the information we received. After staying in Wuzhou one night, we traveled by bus again to Guangzhou, our exit city. It was also our exit city when we adopted Samantha. Many adoptive families from several provinces go there to have their final medical examination and get their Chinese visa for their child. We didn’t have time to go to some places we saw before but did meet up with our group again and had a great Western dinner together. We compared notes about our orphanage visits and were realizing that not as many babies are being abandoned anymore. Less international adoptions are taking place and more domestic ones are.

China Post #2

On Wednesday we went to the Great Wall. It was Samantha's first time, our 2nd, same place. It was fantastic, except for the rain! Imagine trying to climb very uneven stairs and ramps in the rain. Dave and Katrina made it to one of the higher towers and Samantha and I made it about a third of the way. On our way to the Great Wall we stopped at the jade factory. Lots of impressive stuff, very expensive. On the way home we stopped for lunch at a porcelain factory. The Chinese have their tourist restaurant/factory/gift shop areas down to quite a science. On Thursday we went to the Summer Palace in Beijing, which was very beautiful. Weather cooperated so we had a nice boat ride on the lake. Samantha enjoyed seeing all the intricate paintings on the walkway around the lake, including the monkey king. While there we also had lunch at an older style building, very nice. The rest of the day was getting to the airport, flying to Xian, and getting settled in our new hotel. Today we headed out to see the Terra Cotta Warriors. On the way we stopped at a factory where they make the smaller replicas. The kids got to make their own. Then we did a little shopping and headed out to the site. Talk about amazing, hard to describe but we'll post pictures either sometime during the trip or when we get home. Tonight we're scheduled to go to a dinner show. Always and Forever is taking pretty good care of us. Our local guide isn't quite as good as the one in Beijing but she's okay. The hotels have been decent, not first class but still very nice for China. Every bus ride has been pleasant with plenty of air conditioning and water bottles.

China Post #1

We have finished our 2nd full day of touring in China. We arrived safely on Sunday, and immediately met up with our tour guide. Traveling went well including my back and leg. I had to take some extra pain medication and it worked fine. We have a very nice tour group, a total of four families consisting of four couples, four 9&10 year olds, and three teenage girls. As I write this we have the Chinese coverage of the Olympics on our hotel TV. We miss the US, especially since FB is blocked! Ethan is very kindly putting this up for us. When I say FB is blocked, what I mean is that it is blocked completely for everyone here! Before I go into detail, I want to say it's been very interesting so far doing pretty much a repeat of everything we did the first time around, the main difference being summer vs. winter. Yesterday was very hot but we started early so enjoyed fairly good temperatures for awhile. Today was raining all day. Yesterday the day started out by touring the Temple of Heaven and surrounding park. It's a very impressive series of round courtyards and temples. Everything has been preserved well. In the park, many people were playing games, dancing and exercising, and just hanging out in general. The kids had some opportunities to do paddle ball and play with streamers. We visited some shops and tried to avoid the vendors by constantly saying Bu-yao. After that we made a quick stop at Tianemenn Square. From there we went to the ancient part of the city that's under restoration. First stop was the drum tower, sort of like a bell tower but with several huge drums. Then a rickshaw ride along a canal to our next stop - lunch provided by a local host. It was delicious food and a fascinating experience. More and more dishes kept appearing, and at the end they explained the layout of each shared household. The individual dwellings are about the size of a living room, and the one we were in had the cook's bed, serving area with tables, a small couch, and some highly valuable family heirlooms as the hostess would have been a Manchurian princess. Other dwellings served other purposes, such as laundry etc. In the afternoon we went to a tea house and had a private presentation. Really fun! Sort of like a wine tasting but with tea and a demonstration of how tea is made, special teapots with cool features, even a jasmine tea ball that turns into a flower in the water. Finally, the kids enjoyed watching "pee-pee boy"; I'll leave that to your imagination but his purpose is to show that the water is hot enough. The adults enjoyed it too and it was certainly a selling point for tea since a free one came with each purchase. Today as I said it was raining, but we still enjoyed our excursion to the Forbidden City where emperors lived for a long time. The next place was a silk factory. The presentation there was fascinating, and of course we did some shopping afterward! Then onward to a very nice restaurant for lunch where we had a full duck meal, minus bringing out the whole duck this time like they did our last trip. That was sort of a relief because Samantha would not have liked that! Finally we went to the free market and did shopping for about an hour.