Today marks our last full day here in China, and as such... our last official appointment! This morning we drove to the US Consulate to submit a handful of immigration-related documents (including the results from Little One's medical appointment and "bloody test" on Thursday-- she passed!). Tomorrow, our guide Helen will return to the consulate to pick up Little One's Chinese passport, which will (by that time) be stamped with an American visa. A Chinese citizen today-- an American citizen at our first US port of entry on Wednesday!!
To celebrate, we started packing up our suit cases once we returned to the hotel :) And as we placed our treasures inside, we chatted about what we've missed most from home. In no particular order, though *well behind* the crew we left at home, here they are:
-- fellow English-speaking folks. We've been blessed with wonderful traveling companions, but we've also been fully surrounded by foreign dialects. What a treat it will be to hear our native tongue-- everywhere-- once again!
-- potable tap water. We've been brushing our teeth with bottled water. It didn't take long at all to realize that we've been taking our public utilities for granted!
-- chai tea and Dr. Pepper... our favorite comfort drinks.
-- our washing machine
-- "just being home"
-- Breyers ice cream
-- forks. The guys have thoroughly enjoyed their chopsticks and have even become quite skilled with them; I, on the other hand, miss a traditional place setting.
[My eldest's goal-- to keep practicing once he gets home so he can enjoy Thanksgiving dinner with chopsticks alone. We'll see.]
-- western toilets. And toilet paper. Thankfully, our hotel room is well-equipped with both, but most places around here are not. So whenever we leave the hotel, we make sure to bring our tissues along, just in case...
-- American food. Chipotle specifically. Not that we go that often-- just that we could if wanted to.
-- our normal routine. And swim practice.
-- cooler temperatures and low-humidity days. Thankfully, autumn is upon us-- we're returning home at my favorite time of year!
-- the fellowship of friends and family. Special times-- even ordinary times-- are meant to be shared with loved ones, and we can't wait to share our new sweet pea with special folks.
And because I can't sign off without posting a few pics, here are a few more from the pool... our favorite hang-out on toasty afternoons.
Free time is a beautiful thing. While we have truly enjoyed our sight-seeing trips with our fellow travelers, we're also *really* enjoying a more leisurely, appointment-less pace. Still, we are desperately longing for home!
A few notes:
1) There are a gazillion people here in Guangzhou! Seriously-- there are layers and layers and layers of society who thrive above ground AND below, and there simply seems to be no end to them all! Below street level, an entire shopping district caters to weary and hurried passengers as they commute to and fro-- restaurants, clothing shops, electronics stores, and more all sell their wares to those en route to the metro or to those who simply prefer that dynamic. It's truly a sight to behold!
2) There is a Pizza Hut here in Guangzhou, and it is nicer than any Pizza Hut I've ever seen back in the states. The menu reads like a book, and the pizza... that favorite-of-all-foods has never tasted so good :)
3) There is no chai tea in China. Hot tea, yes. Coffee, you bet. But chai tea-- it's simply not to be found. Starbucks has truly let me down.
4) Last night we fed our family of five a deliciously authentic Cantonese meal for $15. We then proceeded to pay $20 for 2 (small) containers of Haagen-Dazs ice cream.
They were worth every penny.
5) Little One refused a second bite of her brother's ice cream sundae from McDonalds.
She couldn't get enough of the Haagen-Dazs.
6) Clearly, she is *very* bright. And very observant. Curious. Inquisitive. And perceptive. She has already amazed us a handful of times.
A few quick pics:
Yesterday, we visited an ancestral temple built in the late 1880's. I neglected to get a photo of the porcelain pillows. Can you imagine??!
Notice her hand-on-hip. It's a favorite pose.
All girl, this one. All girl!
And a few more from around town~
We're missing home.
And oh-so-very-excited for Wednesday...
though not for the 15-hour flight with our squirmy worm buckled into her seat!
Have I mentioned this little fact-- the Chinese do not use seat belts OR carseats...
There are several large parks here in downtown Guangzhou. The largest, Yuexiu Park, covers over 200 acres and is conveniently located right across the street from our hotel. We meandered through the park several days ago (right after we arrived in Guangzhou) but had not been back since that time. Since we didn't have to meet our guide until 3:00 this afternoon, we figured this morning might be the perfect time to enjoy the park with our little one.
Shortly after arriving, these young gals stopped my eldest...
and asked if they could take his picture.
And then Little One commenced to practice her funny faces.
She and the boys have been practicing!
And then we took out the bubble gun. Big, BIG hit.
And the grand finale... a boat ride.
Only 4 could fit on the boat, so I stayed on the shore to snap pictures.
The boys were hoping for a bit more power behind the wheel...
Little One was fully content in the backseat with Daddy
and eager to wave each time she saw me on the shore.
While I wandered through the grounds (and my crew sputtered through the lake),
I snapped a photo of this little man with his mom.
Seconds later, he wanted me to take another one...
this one with his paper crane :)
And this fun crew was more than happy to pose for the crazy American with her camera!
A fun, fun morning! Hot. And steamy. But fun.
And... bonus: I think we're beginning to reach a milestone with Little One.
Up 'til now, she's offered smiles IF she's been fully engaged in something fun--
pool play, a stomping game (she loves to stomp!), tub time.
But now she's freely offering them when she sees us...
when we walk in to the room after being away for a few minutes,
when we return to the table at breakfast,
when we stand on a bridge and wait for her boat to pass by :)
And those unsolicited smiles...
Day 4 in Guangzhou. Well, really, Day 5 if you count Sunday. But I don't, because it wasn't a full day, AND we didn't have our girl then either. So in my mind, today was Day 4... the day of the dreaded medical appointment.
After a short drive to the Travel Healthcare Center, our guide Helen filed our paperwork while we waited our turn in line. Every Chinese citizen who wishes to travel to the United States must first pass the medical exam, and that medical exam can only be done in this particular office in Guangzhou. No exceptions.
Before this morning, we assumed a US doctor would be performing the exam, but we were wrong. Chinese nurses and doctors completed each step-- a general physical, a dental exam (Little One screamed her way through this one and refused to let the dentist see her palette; I think he checked her off his list anyway because he wanted to be done with us. ASAP.), and a "bloody test" (as Helen refers to it; translate: bloodwork). Details spared, it was not pretty, and it was not easy... on any of us. Thankfully, it passed fairly quickly, and we were off to more exciting ventures.
Like this international marketplace.
Six floors and a gazillion stores, each one nestled in a cubicle the size of a small storage unit back home. And the kicker-- each one sells only one sort of thing-- iPhone cases or lighters or journals or necklaces or Hello Kitty pillows or hair barrettes or clocks. Or, to my eldest son's delight-- rubics cubes. He really wanted one from China, and after much looking (and some excellent direction from Helen), he found an entire store dedicated to that crazy "Mom, I'm using my brain" toy.
The delight in finding the Rubics cube store, however, paled in comparison to the elation that one particular item produced...
The "cheap beats." The holy grail of our shopping trip. The end all/be all of our (meaning-- my eldest son's) wish list from Asia.
(Gramoggie, they're headphones. Wildly popular back home, especially around the pool).
Who'd a thunk it?? An entire store dedicated to headphones. And we found it. My boy can now go home a very happy man :)
As for the rest of our day-- Little One napped. And then took a quick dip in the pool. In the early evening we took a dinner cruise down the Pearl River, the fourth longest river in China. I don't have a decent photo to show of it. It was an acceptable experience but not one we'd hurry to do again.
A few observations about our Little One:
1) She is strong. And determined. And feisty! And yes... strong-willed. I'm certain the Lord will use all these wonderful qualities for His glory in the years ahead. As for now-- God give us strength!
2) She laughs. And laughs. And laughs. And it is music to our ears!
3) The language barrier has not proven as difficult as I anticipated. She's quickly learning our names, and no :) And thank you and please and potty and up and bye bye. I think we're doing alright...
4) A girl after my own heart-- this gal likes things tidy! She picks up her shoes and puts them away, and she carefully lines up her toys... right where they belong. I'm not-so-secretly hoping my guys will take few mental notes as they observe this excellent habit!!
5) She loves to share. Yesterday morning, she gave bunny his own dish...
For the rest of our stay here in Guangzhou, we'll have a fair bit of free time to spend as we wish. On some days-- a small chunk in the morning hours; on others, an entire afternoon. Today our appointment at the police station (because that's where you apply for a passport) was scheduled for 3:00, so we had the whole morning to spend at our leisure. After another successful Skype session with our crew back home (what a wonderfully awesome treat!!) and a delicious breakfast here at the hotel, the boys worked in a short (pool) practice session and a couple hours with their school books (unfortunately, their online classes are proceeding back home without them; we're hoping not to get too far behind while away). So while they read, Chris and I took our little one for a walk. A lonnnnng walk. Because we needed our little spitfire to take an early afternoon nap, and wearing her out on foot was the best possible guarantee! I took my camera along, because I hope to assemble a book once we get home-- a book filled with faces and places and everything in between so our girl will have a sense of her birthplace. I also made sure to include several pics of the bicycles piled high with goods... just for you, Big Man!
And Grandmom... you were asking about a gift??
I think this girl needs a pair of sunglasses :)
Up tomorrow: our little one's medical appointment with a US doctor.
And our eldest son's quest for a set of "cheap Beats."