Saturday, December 7, 2013

Back to the Island and off to Beijing - Friday, December 6th

For our last day in Guangzhou we decided to head back to Shamian Island to do a bit more shopping and to enjoy the gorgeous weather before freezing our tails off in Beijing. We enjoyed one last AMAZING breakfast buffet, and even got upgraded to the 30th floor restaurant so we didn't have to wait. Amanda and I sat with the grandmas and babies again, and Brian and Beau had the other 3 kids. It was of course delicious, and I am already going through hash brown and bacon withdrawals. The Dusseaults headed off on their first sightseeing adventure, and we made one last visit to the fish. We stole little pieces of Lily's croissant to feed the fish when she wasn't looking, and then this nice young guy gave Matthew a piece of bread to feed them some more. Matthew had fun trying to get the one all black fish the food out of the hundreds of fish. I think he was even successful once or twice. The kids were so precious saying goodbye to the fish, my favorite was when they said "see you next time!"

I attempted to do a bit more packing before heading to Shamian Island, because we had to have our bags ready by 4:00 and I didn't know when we'd be back. Then we grabbed a taxi and off we went! I am really dreading/looking forward to Lily having a car seat when we get home. I'm pretty sure she's going to scream her head off while she's in it because she hates being restrained, but at least I won't have to hold her while she's screaming in the back of a taxi anymore!

We were able to find the two stores that we had missed when we were here earlier in the week. One of them A Gift from China, donates all of their profits to orphans. They had some beautiful Christian wooden carvings and displays of verses translated into Chinese so we got some for our house. My mom also bought several gifts, and made me happy because one was for me and it was also helping someone in need. My favorite kind of gift! We bought a couple more things next door at Jenny’s then headed to find some food for our starving children. I was so excited to be able to order some stir fry broccoli! I never thought I would miss vegetables so much, but I guess when you can’t have something you want it! We let the kids play for a bit longer on the playground there, and then made one last stop back at Michael’s to buy an additional suitcase. Side note - I just love how there are people doing modeling photo shoots all over the island. I think we saw at least 15 brides in the two times we were there, and countless other models as well. I’d like to know where these ads are so I can see how they turn out! It was getting close to 3:00, and if you remember our bags had to be ready by 4:00 and I wasn’t quite done packing. We headed to get a taxi, and I started to get worried when several minutes went by and we hadn’t found one. Finally we flagged one down, and then I got more worried when we sat in traffic forever! It’s tough when you have no idea how far away you are from your destination and you have a deadline. And it’s not like you can really communicate with your driver to find out if you’re getting close. We made it back to the hotel at 3:15 and I entered hyperdrive packing mode! We put the kids in their pajamas for the flight since it was going to be late at night, shoved everything into the suitcases somewhat organized, and barely squeaked by getting everything ready.

So all week long the hotel has been decorating the inside and outside for Christmas. The entire front is covered in lights (which we saw them putting up like 5 days ago and have been anxiously awaiting for them to turn on), there’s a huge tree in the lobby that literally changes every day, and it seems like each morning there are additional decorations around. Turns out they were getting ready for a Christmas celebration starting at 5:30 tonight and we were going to miss it! There was going to be free turkey and roast beef, champagne, wine, other food, Christmas caroling, Santa’s arrival, and all sorts of fun stuff. We were originally supposed to have our bags ready at 4:00, pick up Lily’s passport in the lobby at 4:15, check out of the hotel at 4:30 and head to the airport. We were so bummed! Plus, our flight wasn’t until 9:00, was a domestic flight, and we had Beau and Amanda’s rooms to hang out in after we checked out. Simon and Miko were great, and let us stay until a little after 6:00 so we could enjoy our friends and the festivities. Unfortunately, not everything went as planned. After the super stressful packing situation ended we went down to the Dusseaults’ rooms, but Henry and James were sleeping and Amanda and Beverly had gone shopping. We hung out in Beverly’s room, which was great because the kids got to watch some Chinese tv and Lily got to walk around, but we didn’t get to spend time with our friends. When it got close to 5 we decided to head down to the lobby because we thought the celebration was going to start then. Plus we needed to visit the ATM and replenish our Cheerios stock for the bottomless pit herself. We got down there and they were still getting everything ready. We probably should have just gone back upstairs, but we didn’t have a key to use in the elevator and we thought it would be starting any minute. So Brian left for the Cheerios and my mom and I attempted to entertain the kids while preventing Lily from injuring herself. After a few escalator rides we settled on pretending to ice skate on the blue rug and backdrop where I’m assuming Santa would be coming. This actually meant the kids running around in circles, falling on their knees, and shrieking. Did I mention that once again my kids were in their pajamas? Man, when are those crazy Americans going to leave?! Finally at 5:30 they started passing trays with food and drinks and I enjoyed some free champagne. If I had known what the next few hours were going to hold, I would have opted for more than one glass!

After a few Christmas carols and watching them carve two turkeys we decided it was time to get out of the chaos and piled into the van. Traffic was terrible and it seemed to take forever to get to the airport! Or maybe that was just because Lily was crying… Anyway, Miko accompanied us inside and helped us get to the right counter and check in for our flight. We said goodbye to her at the security line, and now we were on our own! We made it through security easily. I laughed at Matthew and Caroline running away from the woman with the wand trying to make sure they weren’t smuggling any weapons in their pajamas.
The Guangzhou airport is much nicer than the Beijing airport, but apparently not as English-friendly. They started announcing stuff and people just got in line at the gate, so we joined in. No idea who they were boarding, but I guess it was ok because they didn’t turn us away. They did however forget to give us back our boarding passes after they tore off the stub and the military officer stationed on the jetway refused to let us enter the plane without seeing them. They also took our stroller from us and told us that we would get it back later. Turns out that didn’t happen, but that’s a story for later. Brian ran back, got the boarding passes, and we were finally allowed on the plane. We sat down and it wasn’t 2 minutes before Lily started crying. Genius me realizes it’s past time for her bottle, so we get it out and Brian goes to ask the flight attendant for water. Lily saw this transaction go down, and was not happy! I think that literally every person on the plane was staring at me and their eyes were saying “Why are you trying to steal this Chinese baby? She obviously isn’t yours because she seems terrified of you and is screaming her head off. And you obviously should not be allowed to be her parent if you can’t stop the screaming.” That’s one thing about the Chinese – they are not discreet. Yesterday on the island this older man just stopped in front of us and stared, going back and forth from Lily to Caroline, for a good 2 minutes. Even my evil stare back didn’t seem to faze him. After what seemed like an eternity, the Brian got the bottle back from the flight attendant. Turns out she was nicely trying to boil water for us, that takes about 10 minutes. We, again, are not up to China parenting standards because we have never used boiled or even warm water for Lily’s bottle. She just doesn’t seem to care! Crisis #1 averted. Happy baby drinking her bottle. After the bottle ran out I attempted to get her to sleep. The flight wasn’t horrific, but it also was not even close to peaceful or easy. Lily slept on and off, but when she wasn’t sleeping she was crying. It may have been the rather loud action movie that was playing overhead (I don’t know why it wasn’t set to play with headphones, but loud cell phone rings, gun shots, and sirens are not helpful for sleep) that kept waking her up, or the fact that they never turned the lights in the cabin off. Caroline was also a bit of a mess, and she cried several times too. Especially during the descent.  By the time we did land, all three kids were asleep and we had to wrangle all three of them and all the bags.
Now, let me take a minute and tell you what my plan was for this trip. I packed our carry-on suitcase with everything that we would need in Beijing in case our luggage got lost. This included all of our coats for easy access. In my mind, I was not going to bother digging out coats to put on because a) all three kids were somewhat asleep and b)we only had to walk from the airport to our waiting car and from the car to the hotel.
Ok, so we had figured out how to each carry a sleeping kid and the bags, and we only had to make it to the stroller which we should be getting back once we got off the plane, then we could put Caroline in there. So we get to the door of the plane and discover that we are not walking into a jetway to our gate, we are walking outside in the freezing cold to get on a tram that is packed full of people. And our stroller is nowhere in sight! So we wait for the second tram, Matthew is almost crying at this point because he's cold, and stumble on with all of our stuff. One nice man offers us a seat, but I can't use it with the Ergo so mom and Matthew sit and cuddle. Then we embark on the LONGEST RIDE EVER. I think we were at least two miles from the airport, and I had to hold on with one hand while straddling luggage and holding Lily. When we can finally get off we have to walk outside again. And to the woman behind me not so discreetly and rudely commenting on what a terrible mother I am because I don't have a coat for my kids, you're lucky my hands are full of luggage and a baby or I might punch you.
We finally get inside and go ahead and find the kids' coats so they can stop shivering. Then we find the baggage claim area and wait for our bags. Now Lily is awake and mad that she's in the Ergo, and Caroline is afraid that we're going to leave her somewhere so every time someone walks away she starts crying and wants to go with them. So here we are standing in the middle of the airport with two crying kids while Brian gets our bags. Our stroller still has yet to show up, so we inquire at the baggage desk. They tell us it will show up somewhere else, Brian checks, not there. At this point it's 1:00 in the morning and we decide to just leave the stroller behind. We find our driver in the terminal and he helps us take our bags to the van and drives us to the hotel. Hiring a driver was the best decision ever, especially since the taxi line was crazy long, outside, and in the cold. We get checked in, make it to our rooms, and fall into bed around 2:15. Good night!

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