Back in the USA

This is us walking up to the orphanage gate. Two of the 3 directors came and met us just outside the gate. We were allowed to take pictures here but were not allowed inside.

This is the orphanage director presenting Mia with a gift. It is tradition in China that gifts are not opened in the presence of those who gave them so she waited to open this after we left. It was a large red know that represents “Happy Family”. We were so surprised that they gave her a gift.

We had made and gave to the orphanage a book about Mia’s life in the US. Here they looked through the book. Many of the local people that we talked to expressed how much they appreciate us bringing Mia back to her hometown. Amongst the locals we were told that there is some rumor that these girls that are adopted are sent overseas and their organs are harvested. Such a sad understanding of the world of adoption

One of our favorite things about our time in Guiping was getting to meet the local people. These are many of the people who came outside of their homes while we were at the orphanage gate.

Making new friends in the orphanage neighborhood.

This grandmother asked me to hold her granddaughter, she was a doll! I loved this lady, despite our lack of a common language we had a very lively and interesting interaction with one another.

The first few people are brave enough to approach us in Guiping.

We are standing at Mia’s finding spot location. On a very busy street, right across from a hospital. We choose to believe that her parents wanted her found quickly and safely.

Kayla was a rock star in Guiping. Locals often pulled her aside and asked to take a picture with them.

It was National CHildren’s Day in China and this is the main public square in the town. We were a big attraction for the children. This is the group that followed us through the square. You can make out some of our family in the middle of the photo.

We are currently sitting in the Seattle airport, 2:30pm Seattle time. Our next flight is at 3:15pm to Chicago and then finally home. Time changes put us back in KC around 11:30pm. It was nice to hear the customs agents say, “Welcome back to the US”. Customs agents in China and HK are not quite as friendly.

I’m going to attempt to add photos from some of the days that Tim missed.

Interior of a house in Guiping. VERY different than what we have in the US.

In the Guangxi province, gas prices are very high and a typical mode of transportation is a scooter, even for entire families. We saw families of 5 riding together.

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Peaking…

This is the view that the Saunders have out their living room window every morning (but we hear that there’s been less pollution in the air since we arrived…we assume that’s not a coincidence).

Here’s a look at their family room. This is the nicest place we’ve stayed in China. 5 stars!!

Well, I think we may have peaked today in a number of ways.  The most obvious is that we actually visited “The Peak” among other Hong Kong highlights.  I think we’re also peaking on the amount of vacation we’re able to handle.  It may or may not have been voiced directly, but I think there are times each of us have thought how nice it would be to be back in our own home.

Our Friday started in the usual way — everyone spilling out of bed at various times and grabbing a quick bite and reading the morning paper to find out what’s new in Hong Kong.  The girls are usually the first up and find a way to play so that others may rest (maybe we should credit Molly with helping with that — she’s usually the first up to make sure Lydia is off to school on time).  Kathleen and I are next and finally Megan or Kayla emerge a bit before it’s time to leave.

Today we left around 9:30 or so to head to “The Peak”.  To get almost anywhere far, we have to either catch a shuttle from their apartment to the bus stop, or hoof it to the bus stop (about a 10 minute uphill hike).  These days, it’s pretty warm even in the morning.  Today we hoofed it.

As we neared the bus stop, our bus was arriving and if we missed it we’d have to wait another 15 minutes in the heat, so I ran, like an all-star.  Kayla said I had good form.  The ride into the city takes around 40 minutes, but there’s a great view most of the way.  One thing I love seeing is this speedboat that looks like a spaceship.  It’s always near the same spot.

Below is a photo taken in Hong Kong Park. It is a very beautiful park in the midst of all the sky scrapers. As we walked through you would never know the amount of traffic that was just on the other side of all the buildings, it was very peaceful. We walked through there on the way to see The Peak.

 

What a fun fountain!

Another view of Hong Kong Park

The Peak is what they call the top of the mountain in Hong Kong where the wealthy used to go in the summer to get away from the heat. We took an incredibly steep tram ride up the mountain that took about 10 minutes. Years ago before this tram was even a thought people were carried up the mountain in a sedan chair. I can’t imagine how exhausting that would have been for those people doing the carrying and how many hours it must have taken. We were fortunate enough to be there on a clear day and had an amazing view.

Buildings, buildings, buildings, as seen from the peak.

The girls have been real troopers but they were getting a little weary of touring. Anna’s ongoing joke is, “Are we going to another park with trees and statues?”. Following our trip to the Peak we headed home to meet Lydia after school. Typically within minutes of Lydia coming in the door from school, Anna, Mia and Lydia are all in their swimsuits and asking to head to the pool. I had asked Anna yesterday what her favorite part of Hong Kong had been and she said, “Staying at the Saunder’s apartment.” I told her that I (Kathleen) would agree. Staying here feels like an excellent resort, rooms for each of us, swimming pool and playgrounds outside the door, fabulous guide services (i.e., Molly and Dave) and best of all wonderful friends to share it with. After an afternoon swim we then headed to Kowloon, which is another part of HK near the harbor where we had dinner. We got to try another mode of transportation to get there, a ferry. On our trip our kids have been able to try airplanes, taxis, double-decker buses, pedi-cabs, mini-buses, vans and a ferry. I think my mini-van in Lenexa may seem boring to them once we are home.

Every evening at 8pm they do a laser light show in the harbor. The shear number of lights is quite impressive.

The ferry we took to dinner.

A welcome Italian dinner, that was excellent!!

The Staleys take in the Hong Kong night life.

 

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Helping out the Hong Kong economy

Today our wonderful guide and host, Molly, took us out and about again to show us more of the older parts of Hong Kong. We visited  a local temple with more incense than you can imagine…

Each of the round coils is a different piece of incense. It was quite aromatic.

and then went to a jade area known locally as…

Here was how they listed the jade market on the subway sign.

It was a bit bizarre with an “i”.  There was booth after booth of different jewelry and nick-nacks and paddy-whacks.  Here’s a shot of one of the booths…

There were a LOT of booths that looked very similar.

After the jade market, we headed to Mong Kok (a.k.a. Shanghai Street) that specializes in kitchen goods.  Kathleen and I agreed that it would have been difficult to pull Kathleen’s sister Anne Marie away from that area.  Right before we hit that area, we took the kids for a fuel injection at a McDonalds.  They (and I) were weary from our rigorous day at Disney yesterday and needed some energy food.  Our dining options were slim since we were in the city area.  We were pretty proud of how well the girls have handled shopping and touring public sites, and we’ve realized that a small injection of “home” seems to help the girls push on through a bit more of things they aren’t familiar with.

Re-energized, we went to Sham Shui Po and visited some shops to stock up for some crafts.  The first shop was a ribbon store that had more ribbon than I’ve ever seen…

And there was MORE ribbon inside!

From there we headed to a variety of bead stores.  If I had a dime for every bead I saw…

I found myself about 40 feet inside of this man jail. The aisles were insanely narrow and my escape was blocked by numerous women who wanted nothing more than to slowly look through the 1,448 bins of different beads. The only saving grace was the air conditioning that had lured me in.

Once most of us had reached our physical limit for shopping fun, we reversed our path and headed back toward home.  Back on the train, Anna caught this interesting shot…

Anna has mastered the Chinese “squat” (no…not the one that involves no toilet). This is the one where you stand flat-footed and pretty much sit just above the ground without touching the ground. It’s sort of like a catcher in baseball, but flat-footed. I’m not nearly limber enough to pull that move off. Anyway, while in that position on the train, she took this picture.

Once we had everyone home, a few of us headed to Stanley Market nearby the Saunder’s home (5 minutes) for some additional shopping.  It’s sort of like an art fair with booths that also have clothing and shoes and just about any other odd item you can imagine.  Two stores tried to talk me into buying a remote control car that could go up and down a wall and even worked on the ceiling.  While I thought this was brilliant, I had visions on car marks on our walls and the parent side of my brain won out…

Kathleen, Megan and I found a number of items we couldn’t live without. I last visited this market 8 years ago and while it has changed, it still has some of the same charm that I so enjoyed the first time. There were a few more “stores” and a few less “stalls filled with stuff”.

Our day ended with a yummy Mexican dinner featuring cheese quesadillas for the kids and rice and bean enchiladas for the parents.  Dave made homemade salsa (there aren’t many good options for salsa here and his recipe was very good — we’re excited to try it back home once he has fresh ingredients!).

After dinner we taught the Saunders Anomia, a fun card game where you have to think quick.  They picked it up right away.

At bedtime for the kids, I caught this image…

Mia and Lydia do a little reading before bed. Lydia is a little camera-shy and my camera gives off a little “beep” before taking the picture, so she was cued to cover her face!

Once the kids were asleep, the rest of us watched the pilot and first episodes of Modern Family and then it was our bed time, too.  I know it sounds odd, but being on vacation (especially so far from home) takes a lot of energy.  Sleeping at night never seems to be an issue for any of us (thankfully!).

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Day 12- A surprise for the girls

Kayla, Anna and Mia did not know when we came to Hong Kong that there was a Disneyland here. We surprised them today by getting up and getting ready to to to a “park”. We had to take a bus and 2 subway lines to get there but when you switch to the second line it is a Disney line and the train has Mickey windows, plush seats and statues of all the characters throughout. Just before we boarded the subway we told the girls where we were going. We didn’t get the reaction we thought, but I think they were in a bit of shock until we actually got on the Mickey train. We had a great day together, despite the heat and humidity. In typical Disney fashion all the employees were extremely polite and helpful. Most spoke some amount of English and you could find out the information you needed. There was one employee though that I asked the location of the nearest bathroom and she said, “No, no food in the theatre”. I looked on for someone else to help me.

The park is not as large as the one on CA which in the end turned out to be a good thing, it was just manageable for one day and I was actually glad that it closed by 8:30pm which made us go home instead of pushing ourselves to exhaustion. As we were leaving, I asked Anna how she like today and she said, “That was WAY better than a park with statues and trees” which is what many parks have been in China and what she envisioned at the start of the day. It was fun to be able to take them to this today, they have all been excellent travelers and it was fun to give them an experience that didn’t push them to see, hear or taste something new…just have fun and enjoy.

Off to bed, another busy day tomorrow. Hello to all and thanks for following along with us, it is fun to read your notes from home as well.

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Day 11

HHHHHHHEEEEEEEELLLLLLLLLLLOOOOOOOO!!!!!!! Kayla will be telling you what went on today on this most beautiful and humid day in Hong Kong. First of all I want to let you know that I feel very powerful right now because you are going to keep reading this no matter what I put because you want to know what the Staley’s are doing in China.           

Well last night everyone stayed up fairly late (at least late for people who are doing a lot of activities when we’re really supposed to be sleeping). And I woke up about 7:50 am China time so it would about 8:50 pm back in Kansas. When I got up everyone was already up and I was thinking these are crazy people! I only got out of bed because I couldn’t sleep any longer and I was hungry.

Lydia who is the Saunders daughter and the Saunders are the people that we are staying with. So anyway Lydia had to go to school and was gone before I was even up. Mr. Saunders also had to go to work and was also gone before I got up. Anna and Mia went to the park at like 8:30 am with my dad and Mrs. Saunders, while my mom, Megan, and I stayed up in the apartment (which by the way is really big like abnormally big for Hong Kong). They came back to the apartment at about 9:15 and we all left to go to a music concert at Lydia’s school. To get there we took a double decker bus, which was really fun. When we got to the school we got to take a tour of Lydia’s school. It has 7 floors but isn’t really wide. It has 2 playgrounds one on the 2nd floor and one on the roof. There is also a pool on the roof of a different building that the students use during the day.

When we went into the music room all the seats were taken so we had to sit on the floor in the front of the room. When the teacher saw us she said something like “Oh looks like we have some new faces here.” Then we told her we were from Kansas and she started talking about farms. In the show Lydia had a duet, but the other girl had a cold and didn’t sing very loud so it was really like a solo. She was really good. It was really cool to see the school. Oh I forgot at the school there was a sign that said, “Say no to shark fin soup”.

After we left the school we walked to a beach where we swam and just hung out for at least 3 hours. When we came back to the apartment we all just hung out until Lydia got home from school. Then we went swimming for another 2 hours. It was a really big a cool pool. As I’m typing this I’m smelling the dinner that Mrs. Saunders is making and it smells delicious. I’ll let you know how it is.  Oh that was good! We had spaghetti and salad and cauliflower. Probably one of the better meals we’ve had. Anyway the rest of the night we just hung out.

Well thanks for reading what I had to say. I hope you enjoyed it. And aunt Serena I do have some moves to show you.

(A few things from Tim)

Kathleen and I came to the realization that this location is more like a resort than we expected.  First of all, the whole island is very lush (something about lots of rain…) and it’s very well maintained.  And there’s palm trees and beaches with cool water and beautiful pools.  Dang…why did it take so long to get here?

Kayla just hit the highlights of dinner tonight.  The spaghetti dinner was probably my kid’s favorite meal so far on this trip.  I mean, what beats noodles and butter and parmesan?  Oh, yeah, and fresh bread!  Well, we also had a great salad and some roasted cauliflower.  And Kathleen had an extra special treat that we’ve never enjoyed in China — a REAL Diet Coke with real ice in a glass.  We bought the Diet Coke at the grocery store in Stanley (very nearby).  It is from the U.K. and had cool Olympics labeling.  And the ice was made from the bottled water in the Saunders house, so it’s all safe.  Wow…what a treat!

Finally, the other thing that was crazy to observed today is the behavior of the Saunders’ cats.  They don’t like to be petted, at least normally.  Jack, the boy, is close to normal.  But when you pet him he stoops really low and seems to be trying to avoid being petted, but he also kind of likes it.  He also sleeps in odd, uncomfortable looking positions.  Daisy does NOT like to be petted in pretty much any normal way.  But, she DOES like it when you pat her pretty firmly on her back.  Dave gets pretty aggressive (maybe it’s called heavy petting) and if it were youtubed, PETA would be all over it.  All the while, Daisy is kinda going crazy and comes back for more when he stops.  I’ve never seen that before.  That’s all.  Just wanted to capture those thoughts before I lost them!

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Day 10

Guest blogger – Megan!

Goodbye Nanning, hello Hong Kong!

After our last (disastrous) travel day, we were all a bit nervous on how today would go. Dad mentioned several times to our guide how we wanted to make sure the driver was there on time, or asked how much a taxi would be from our hotel to the airport last night. I think our guide must have thought that we were crazy, or total idiots because we missed our last flight (he never really seemed to understand why we missed the flight).

We woke up to the lovely sound of rain this morning; it was the kind of morning where I would have stayed in bed with a good book. We (the kids) got a treat while we packed when we found a channel that was showing an American movie in English (“Cheaper by the Dozen 2”) on the TV; so far most of the television has been in Chinese or the news.  After we got all packed we went downstairs where our driver was waiting for us, so no drama there! The ride to the airport was uneventful and we got on our first plane to Guangzhou with no trouble, a welcome change from our last travel day. We even had time to do a bit of shopping in the Nanning airport.

I sat next to Mia on the flight from Nanning to Guangzhou, which was only about an hour-long flight. 30 minutes in, she was done with her activities in her backpack and started talking to me, and talking to me, and talking to me. At one point, Dad leaned over to me and told me that we were talking too much and when I passed that piece of information onto Mia, she said, “No, he didn’t say that, you’re lying to me,” and kept on talking. When we landed, I could tell that Mia was tired and she told me she was done with being on planes. Unfortunately for her, we still have several plane rides to go, including one more today to get to Hong Kong.

For lunch, we went to the ever-popular American restaurant, yup you guessed it: McDonald’s. I had hopes that being in Guangzhou, which is a more “touristy” city then Nanning or Guiping we would have an easier time communicating, but it was still a trick ordering lunch for six people. With our American food in our stomachs, we ventured throughout one of the biggest airports we have been in yet. There were several floors to the airport and we somehow ended up in the bottom floor, with one shop where the water costs $7 US or 40 RBM.

After a short bus drive on the tarmac, we got the chance to feel like celebrities when we climbed the stairs to the plane and we got a picture of Kayla waving like the President as she got on the plane. This ride was shorter and we were in Hong Kong pretty quickly. Getting through immigration was not a quick though. We made it all the way to the immigration checkpoint (it was a long walk from where we got off the plane) and waited in line. When we finally made it to the front, I was first to approach the officer and she told me I had to go off to the side and fill out an immigration card then get back in line. So the whole family got out of line to fill them out. With one more stamp on our passports, we got our luggage and were greeted by a beautiful poster and the smiling faces of Lydia and her mom.

Mom, Anna, and Mia went with the Saunders in their car and Dad, Kayla, and I went with a driver along with the luggage. In Hong Kong, they drive on the left side of the road (like in Europe) and the driver sits on the opposite side then in the States. There was a roundabout and we turned the “wrong” way and I had a minor freak-out thinking we were going the wrong way because I am so used to driving on roundabouts living in Lenexa. But we made it safely to the Saunders’ apartment. Once we got up to their apartment we got the grand tour courtesy of Lydia (including their bookcase and all their storage places). Pretty soon after that concluded, the three younger girls went off and set up a game that took up most of the floor in Lydia’s room. Good to know the last four days hasn’t made them forget how to play together!

Well, after a much-appreciated uneventful travel day, we are now relaxing in the Saunders’ apartment and getting some laundry done before we go to bed.

Note from Tim…We were surprised at the size of the Saunders’ apartment.  They have four bedrooms, which is very handy.  Megan and Kayla have a small bedroom with a futon sofa sleeper (actually softer than a China bed!), Anna and Mia are sharing Lydia’s bedroom while she sleeps on an inflatable in her parent’s bedroom, and Kathleen and I are in the official guest bedroom with an incredible view of the bay.  They also have a large family room/dining room that is off the kitchen, which is roomier than we expected, too (we watch a lot of International House Hunters on TLC).  With full run of the place and 24-hour access to the fridge and pantry, we might have to try this hotel again!

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Day 9

We met our guide David in the lobby around 9:30 for our return trip to Nanning.  Originally the plan was to tour Guiping some more, but it seemed we had seen about as much as we were going to see.  About 30 minutes outside of Guiping, all of the traffic on the two-lane road stopped.  People were getting out of their cars to see what was going on.  After about 10 minutes, some army tanks started going by.  I wanted to take pictures but David said we should be careful about taking pictures.  I remember when we were scolded when trying to take pictures of soldiers on Tiananmen Square several years ago.  I covertly put my camera where they couldn’t see and started snapping.  About then David had crawled across the front seat leaning into the driver’s seat with his camera taking pictures out the windshield (not quite as covert as me).  Maybe 20-25 tanks went by before traffic resumed moving.  It was pretty cool!  Another thing David said he had not seen before.

The rest of our drive took about 4 hours.  Boy were we ready to get out of that van!  We asked David to drop us off at the hotel to check in and then take us to the local shopping area where we could grab a late lunch at Pizza Hut and then shop some at the Wal-Mart.  Lunch was very good.  The pepperoni was better than the cheese.  We also ordered waffle fries as an appetizer.  There were many, many other options for dinner that were very far from pizza in the food domain.  I also had a couple of Tsingtaos and that took the edge off (at least for me!).

After lunch we did go to the Wal-Mart and I think I was the only one who enjoyed it.  It was packed and CRAZY.  There were people everywhere.  We didn’t even make it to the second level to show them the cool escalators.  Too bad.  We grabbed some sweet bread, some candy, some almonds and a few other small things.

We then went back on the square and had an ice cream cone from McDonalds.  It tasted really similar to home, which is always welcome when you’re so far from home.  I did have a little difficulty ordering, but fortunately there were some exchange students there from several non-Chinese countries who knew English really well and helped us out.

Attached to the Wal-Mart was a fairly large mall that we walked through.  There weren’t very many stores with things we were interested in, but somehow I think our family’s panda count expanded a bit before we could get out the door.

By the time we had seen enough, we realized it was a little after 5 pm and finding a cab in such a busy area was going to be tricky.  We were right!  We ended up getting two tuk-tuks (sort of a motorized pedi-cab).  Built for two passengers max, we pushed the limit by holding a small child on our laps, too (Kayla, me and Anna in the first one, and Kathleen, Megan and Mia in the second one).  I thought it sounded like a fun adventure and Kathleen said it wasn’t going to be “fun” until she realized they were actually getting us back to our hotel (which we did, and so, it was fun).

While the girls went to the swimming pool (they had missed having that opportunity while in Guiping!), I went to another grocery store across the street and picked up some water and pop.

After swimming we all enjoyed some various snacks out of the suitcase buffet (crackers, granola bars, leftover bread from the Wal-Mart and some chocolate snacks from Wal-Mart, too).  Then the girls had another movie night, watching Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame.  While they did that, in the other room Kathleen watched a movie on Kayla’s DVD player and I watched some National Geographic channel on TV.  It was mostly in Chinese, but I’ve learned that watching nature shows in other languages is okay because you seem to “get” what’s being discussed without having to understand the language.

After the movie, we all went to bed at our usual time of around 9 pm (I usually tried to stay up til 10 pm watching some show, but found it difficult to stay awake).  With all the excitement and energy spent each day, rest comes pretty easy!

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Another quick update…

We are now in Hong Kong — yea!  That means I’ve been able to take control again of the blog.  You’ll notice that I’ve added some photos for days 1 and 2.  As I have time over the next few days I’ll add more pictures.  As they say, pictures are worth a thousand words!

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A brief update

Quick note from Kathleen. A welcomed slower pace today. A visit to a large Buddist temple, a bit of market shopping and some excellent dim sum for lunch. We walked on our own to a local park this afternoon. Parks here are a huge gathering place and you will find people dancing, playing music and excercising. In typical Staley fashion Kayla joined a group of about 15 women learning a dance and she was a huge hit. We could only think that she had done her aunts Seri and Erica proud!

 
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Day 8

We were awoken early in the morning to construction noises outside our room.  We don’t know what they are building, but it appears to be a fairly large structure by Guipingstandards.  There are several pretty large buildings in Guiping.  Most look like they are apartments.  Within view out our window we can see several 14 and 16-story apartment buildings.

It was fascinating to watch them work.  There were few machines to help them.  It appears they dump/place the materials in different locations and then move them by hand to where they are needed.  There was a group of 5 men whose sole job was to walk over to a brickpile and hand-stack 10-15 bricks and then carry them to where they were needed.  There was another set of three workers responsible for  making the concrete.  They had large sacks of dry concrete mix in one spot, a small mountain of sand in another spot and a pile of unidentified white stuff that looked like marshmallow fluff (perhaps that’s what it was…that stuff is pretty sticky!).  Using shovels they would mix the concrete mix and sand and then right before adding the water they’d add in the marshmallow fluff.  Then they added water and the real mixing began.  Basically, it was a LOT of mixing with shovels to create the concrete.  After they had worked for around 90 minutes they had concrete and the guys carrying the bricks started building the walls with the bricks.  Interestingly, there was a mix of women and men doing work. The heaviest work (carrying bricks) was all men, but the rest of thework, much of it very strenuous was shared by men and women, which was admirable.  The women didn’t appear to be treated any different than the men.  Later, when walking the streets we came across a 3-person team that was doing some similar work and there was a woman there with a pole across her shoulders and a load of bricks coming down from both ends of the pole.  She was not afraid of anything.  I said “Hello” as we passed.  She eyed me carefully the entire time I was passing and then after I had passed and was a bit down the way she called out, “Hello!”

Breakfast was an interesting experience.  The food was all Chinese and for those that don’t know, it would be hard to recognize the difference between a Chinese breakfast or dinner buffet.  I’m sure the dishes were specific to breakfast, but we couldn’t see the difference. I was proud that our girls were troupers and tried a lot of things.  Nothing tasted “yummy” to us except for the watermelon.  After we pretty much cleared out the watermelon plate, we left with a “Shay-shay” (I know I’m spelling that incorrectly – we were later told that is the Mandarin saying for thank you, but that the Cantonese translation is something along the lines of “Mmmn Bao”, I’m probably killing that, too).

Once in the van we wandered about a bit, asking for directions as we went.  We finally landed at the orphanage and eagerly waited at the gate as two of the three directors came out to meet us.  The exchange was very pleasant, but not as heartfelt as I think we had dreamt it might be.  It turned out that this same day was Children’s Day in China and that the directors likely would not have time for us to take them to lunch.  In the end, this was probably for the best.  I’m guessing it would have been fairly uncomfortable at lunch with not much of value being exchanged.  I was looking forward to learning more about the orphanage, but don’t think the woman who was the one who spoke the most, would have been very forthcoming with information.

We ended up giving them our gift of diapers that were purchased in Nanning by our guide and a variety of bags we brought from theU.S. filled with goodies for the nannies and director.  I would have liked to know how that stuff got shared since there were quite likely more people than bags.  I think we brought 6 or 7 total.

They also presented Mia with a gift.  It was rather large and wrapped in a bag that resembled giftwrap, sort of a paper bag/box.  Following the Chinese custom of not opening your gift in front of the person giving it, we waited until we were in the van where we found out it was a large wall hanging that our guide called a “loving family knot”.  That was very nice.

After finishing with the orphanage director, we were approached by a husband and wife with a small boy who wanted to have their picture taken with our family.  We happily obliged.  Soon, several more people had gathered and were asking for more pictures.  We introduced them to Mia and explained that she was from Guiping and they all said “Very beautiful!”  There was one grandmother who was veryapproachable and Kathleen took a special liking to her.

We hopped back in the van and headed to the main street again.  David had us stop at Mia’s finding place where we hopped out to take pictures.  We then walked the street for a bit.  We stopped in a bakery and bought a bagful of breads and cookies that set us back about $3.  The store had speakers the same size as what we use to DJ that were sitting outside the store BLASTING music onto the street area.  Every once in a while a woman in the store would start speaking into a microphone.  I can only guess she was calling out what good things they had that were available.  David bought our family a special cake for Children’s Day. 

We continued walking down the street stopping at a pharmacist who was mixing tea bags that were to be used for making medicinetea.  It was quite interesting.

We then went to the main square which was filled with all kinds of people and activity.  There were a lot of kid-friendly activities from sand art to paint pens and even an eel-catching pond.  Each activity had a small cost and we chose to avoid most since the artwork might not have survived the trip home.  The girls did try their hand at eel fishing (with a net).

The large public square led to an even larger park with a pond.  Past the pond there was a very well-populated kids ride area with bumper cars, carousel, mini roller coaster and several other rides.  It was there that we saw something rather remarkable.  There was a woman with two children who had beautiful blue eyes.  I asked David if that was common and he looked at me with shock and said, “A Chinese person with blue eyes?  I have never seen this!”  We tried to get a picture, but she was apprehensive so we didn’t push it. Her eyes were not just like light blue.  I’m not sure if it was because of her skin color or if it was truly the color of her eyes, but they looked almost radiant and very striking.  We wondered if she felt lucky or ashamed on not looking like everyone else.

On our way back out of the park we had a very funny thing happen.  We stopped at one point to buy homemade whirly-bird toys for Anna and Mia and became encircled by some young children.  After the purchase we had a group of children following us and we felt a bit like the pied piper.  It got so funny that we stopped and had our picture taken with them.  It made me laugh so much.

We then went to lunch at a restaurant across the street from our hotel.  It was pretty authentic Chinese, I think.  We were shown to our own room and dined with our driver and David.  It’s odd, but whenever you enter a room like that, the first thing they do is turn on a TV (32” flat screen).  We watched men’s volleyball.  David ordered for us.  It was Sichuan.  We had beef with vegetables, chicken with crispy fried rice and some vegetables (and they use the WHOLE chicken minus the head and feet and chop it up, bones and all), tofu and vegetables, wide slimy noodles (I bet it didn’t say slimy on the menu), fried rice, pickled cucumber, pickled radish, and Spanish peanuts (again, I bet Spanish wasn’t on the menu).  I tried everything and aside from bones and misc. chicken parts, it was pretty good.  I guess I thought the noodles were slimy, that’s true. 

We then went to the hotel for some R&R.  We had a little picnic in our room with the cake and the other yummies from the bakery.  My favorite was rolls with a very slight coconut flavor.  They were very moist and if you put peanut butter on them, it was quite good.

Back in the van, we went to the original site of the orphanage and I was surprised at its location.  I had seen pictures of it many times, but for some reason did not picture it on this kind of street.  The street seemed more like an alley to me.  It was only slightly wider than the hutongs in Beijing.  We took pictures in front of the building and then had a nice conversation with a young woman (30?) and her family next door.  She said she had lived there since she was a little girl, so at one point she was Mia’s neighbor!  That was a neat moment.  David then led us around the neighborhood and even down to the river.  I remember looking at a map of China after we had adopted Mia and learning that this river in Guiping flowed into other rivers that eventually joined up with the mighty Pearl River that runs right past the hotel we stayed at in Guangzhou.  Since we didn’t get to see Guiping that time, I took comfort knowing that some of the water that was running past us in Guangzhou had also run past her hometown.  Now we were standing right next to her river.  We were told that the home we were standing next to was the oldest building in that part of Guiping (over 100 years old).  We took some pictures and then the family actually invited us in to look around (a true highlight of our trip).  It was small, but nice.  There was one large room in the middle with asmall room on each side that we did not explore.  In the back there was a wooden staircase that led to the upstairs, which I assumed was the same size as the room we were standing in.  They had a small table, a couch and a couple of chairs in the main room.  Before we left, I fished around in my backpack for any remaining U.S. snacks that I could leave as a thank you.  I wished I had had more to share because all I had were some fruit snacks, a granola bar and a new pack of gum.  They were happy.

We went a bit further down and saw another home and were invited in.  It was more narrow and didn’t seem as large.  At the back of the home was another door that opened up to the river offering a nice view.  A small girl sat on a little, little seat on the very small deck and was simply watching the water go by.  She was also eating a chicken foot.  I was surprised that she did not react much to us being in her home (I guess Americans are always walking into her homeapproaching her from the back).

We then walked down to the river and talked to some boys who were fishing.  There were some houseboats there and David said poor people often live on a houseboat.  We also saw a boat “store” where we went and explored.  They had a lot of things – surprising for a boat.  Kayla bought a Coke (they even had refrigerated drinks – go figure!).

We walked one more street, this one with several stores with toys and kid product.  That was kind of fun.  I think Mia was the only one who made a purchase – a hand fan with a panda design to add to her ever-growing panda collection.  We then opted to go back to the hotel and simply enjoy more of our bakery leftovers for dinner.  Before going upstairs I had our guide contact our airline to verify that our tickets were still good since I had heard from Dave from Hong Kong that sometimes when you miss a leg of a flight it can void the remainder of the tickets.  That would have been very bad.  When we learned that we were okay, I bought a tall Budweiser from the local store to celebrate (more U.S. brand marketingmuscle showing up far from home!).

The four girls opted to watch Mary Poppins while Kathleen and I looked around the hotel a bit.  We went to a gift shop and I picked up a wallet on top of the counter display.  It seemed out of place with all of the other types of things they were selling but it looked nice.  I opened it up and didn’t see much, or a price.  When I put it back down Kathleen said it was probably the shopkeeper’s and sure enough, he grabbed it and put it in his pocket (but it looked so new!). We continued looking and saw a picture book we presumed was Guiping.  After looking at it for a few minutes the shopkeeper said something and motioned kind of like shooing us away.  We took it to mean, “Take the book free and please leave.”  When we left he didn’t react at all to us taking the book, so I think we were right.

The rest of the night was pretty quiet and everyone was in bed by 10 pm.  Good night Guiping!

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