Friday, May 25, 2007

The HK Mouse! (May 25, 2007)

Well it is our last night before heading back to The States. We had a great day at Disneyland Hong Kong capped off by the fireworks show viewed from the window of our room with TV music accompaniment. It would be foolish to try to describe Disneyland but we can say that Peng was pretty happy with the whole experience. After a simple kiddy ride, we started with a 3D movie with wind, rain and smell effects shot in our face during the show. It was spectacular even for us. Peng has probably never seen a movie in a theatre before so he was literally laughing, screaming and rolling on the floor at various points during the showing. His other favorite was the Buzz Lightyear laser-shooting ride which we did 3 times in a row (lines were almost non-existent all day). I am sure David's brother Craig would not have approved, (he is a pancake natzi and Disney nazi—long story) but we took a break for a couple hours in the middle of the day to come back to the pool at the hotel. It was about 100 degrees and 99 percent humidity.

Well packing and posting need to be done. We look very forward to arriving in Atlanta late tomorrow night and getting back into our own beds on Sunday!

100 Turnstiles! (Thursday May 24, 2007)

Today was another busy travel day. The only thing that made the day fun was that Frank and his daughter, Sarah, came from Hong Kong to spend the day with us. Today is a national holiday in Hong Kong because it is Buddha's birthday and all of the schools are closed. We ate some breakfast and packed our bags and headed off for a morning at the Guangzhou Zoo. This zoo was very nice in many ways, but disappointing in others. The grounds were large, beautiful and well kept. There is a big pond in the middle of the zoo with beautiful swans, ducks and huge pelicans all happily doing their bird things. The monkey hill was a great habitat, and Peng was especially thrilled with the elephant who was reaching over his fence to eat the tree right above him. The big cats and bears, however, were in very small cages and were often pacing back and forth. We were really looking forward to the Giant Panda, but there was just a single one sleeping and we could not get very close. Unlike the rare chance to see a Panda in the US, this was nothing special to these zoo-goers—just another bear cage. We ate a nice lunch at the zoo restaurant and headed back to the hotel.

Peng was really happy that Frank spoke Mandarin and it was really nice for us as well. One of Peng's first questions was, “why can you speak Mandarin, but my parents can't?” followed by “how do you know them?”and “how old are they?” Peng really seemed to get along well with Frank and Frank was really great (and patient) with Peng. At the zoo Peng would tell Frank that if two adjoining cages were together which animal would win the fight, for instance, he was sure the elephant would beat the tiger. Peng also really wanted to know what we were doing the next day and the day after that—he seemed a bit anxious about these upcoming days. We also got to ask a lot of questions translated by Frank, which was phenomenal. Peng was first told about him being adopted about 2 months ago when our final approval was issued. This is when he moved back to the orphanage from the foster family. He also told us that he had one more foster-sibling that we had previously known about and we learned some of his favorite foods. It was great to have a translator and friend for Peng for the day.

After the zoo the travel fun began. Frank took the two Sarahs on a little shopping excursion while Heidi, David and Peng checked out, took the bags on a bus and went to the Consulate to do the final procedures and pickup his Visa. This took a couple hours and after finishing that, our bus dropped us off at the train station nearby. We met Frank & Co. there and started the trek. First we took at train to the Hong Kong Border. It was a really nice modern train that moved along pretty fast—at one point topping 125 MPH. Frank had bought Peng a “Transformers” model and they worked together on it while we traveled. When we arrived at the border we had to exit the train system, go through exit immigration, Hong Kong entry immigration, Hong Kong Customs, and then onto the Hong Kong subway system train. All of this with three kids, 4 backpacks, and 6 other suitcases. We made it through (thanks Frank!) and stopped at the university where Frank works and met his wife and other daughter for an excellent Chinese dinner at a campus restaurant. After dinner, Frank graciously offered to drive us to our hotel instead of us getting back onto the subway even though it is very much in the wrong direction from his house and quite a distance away. We arrived at our hotel, which is the Hong Kong Disney Hollywood Hotel at about 9:30pm (sorry Mom that we missed our skype). The hotel is very nice and Zion would love it. Zion is a big Mickey Mouse fan, and of course there are ears on everything from the elevator doors to the shower curtains. She would be constantly pointing and shouting “Mickey Mouse”. It made us miss her more, just seeing the symbols all over.

Treasures! (Wednesday May 23, 2007)

Today was another another easy day for the adoption process. We simply had to be available when our guide took our paperwork to the US Consulate in case there were any problems with the forms. We got a call around noon that everything was fine and headed off toward a market that was on the outskirts of our little hotel map. The market was big, several square blocks of what we thought were dried foods, but after talking to someone later we learned much of it was actually a medicine market. We saw all sorts of dried creatures—snakes, frogs, toads, eels, etc. At one store you could buy bundles of straight dried centipedes, each about 7 inches long. They would hook about 25 of them together with plastic bag material for packaging.

Although we found this whole area amazing, we were also in search of some small gifts for some people and (except for maybe Steven and David) didn't think dried spiraled eels would be that appreciated, not to mention hard to get through customs. We asked several people where you could buy beaded bracelets by pointing at the ones they would be wearing. Everyone seemed to be pointing us in the same direction and we even got a cardboard note that we could show to people along the way for further pointing.

As we walked we passed the wine store with the dead animals in the jugs with the fermenting wine. We saw lots of snakes of different kinds just aging in the jug of wine This is apparently a tradition—the most famous of which is Three-Treasure-Wine. Legend has it that it is made with a Dragon, a Phoenix and Tiger, but since dragons are hard to get into fermenting barrels (as Dave Barry would say--”and I am not making this up”) they use a snake, a chicken and a cat. They actually put these dead animals in the barrel, fill it up with wine and let it sit for years and sell it as a delicacy. Heidi, being the wine taster of the family, decided to try it.


Well on we went toward the jewelry place that everyone seemed to know about. We came out of the little street side shops and instantly we are in this huge, modern shopping street. There are Reebok stores, McDonalds, KFC, Electronics Dealers, huge advertising signs and a 40' wide video screen showing Western style content. It was like a small Times Square in the middle of the city. On the one side of this street was a mall and we decided to step inside. It was huge—6 stories tall with glass elevators and escalators going back and forth at several places along its length. Additionally more hallways led to more shops behind the ones facing the open atrium on each level. We estimated at least 300 stores—a huge mall. Not exactly what we were were looking for, but we found this bead shop on the second level and Heidi bought a few beads. We asked the shopkeeper where we could get bracelets and she tried to give us directions but finally said “follow me”. David decided to take a break from walking and get a drink at KFC—with the arrangement that Heidi and the kids would come there next.

The shopkeeper took Heidi through this back hallway to someplace where there were lots of beads and jewelry in every store. Heidi looked around and with so many beads in so many stores she decided that this was something David had to see and started back toward KFC. She couldn't find it—the mall was all there in all of its beaded size and glory but KFC was no longer on the second floor on the end. Finally she wrote down KFC on a paper for someone who sent her in the right direction, back to the first mall where the KFC is. Either it was some time-space-continuum-alternate-universe or there is a second identical size and shape mall, completely full of beads and jewelry. It is incredible.
300 stores of beads—a entire shop of blue beads, another of purple, and the next one half red and half yellow. Several more in a row of only green jade. One full store of just jewelry findings, more stores of just pearls. I think if I were reading this and had not seen it, I would be saying “right—the Sneaths had a bit too much Three-Treasure Wine” but it is there. All three hundred shops of roundish objects with a hole through the middle.

Well we found some nice things and headed back toward the hotel—stopping to buy a suitcase along the way. A large lightweight suitcase was about $12 and we always need big cases when we take stuff to the Dominican Republic so we got one. We stopped for spaghetti at a coffee shop and went back to the hotel, ending our last full day in China.