Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Animals and Boats – Day 9, November 23

We didn’t have to be anywhere until 11:30 this morning. It was great being able to let the kids play and have a bit of a lazy morning. Everyone but me went to work out, so I busted out the kinetic sand to entertain the kids. David still doesn’t like it when Brian leaves, but he seemed alright when we used Google Translate to tell him that Daddy would be right back, and he was going to stay here with Mommy. The first day of work on Monday is sure going to be interesting. And then when all three kids go to school… yikes. The kinetic sand entertained them for quite a while. Most of David’s ended up on the floor. Thankfully his is tan and so is the carpet, so it blended right in. Once Brian got back we started getting the kids ready for breakfast. We headed down there around 9:00. We keep hoping that we’ll get bumped to the 30th floor, but it hasn’t happened yet. Maybe they aren’t doing that anymore. After breakfast we came back upstairs and let the kids play some more. They did some combination of sword fighting, wrestling, hide and seek chase. Who knows. But they were happy. At 11:30 we met our group downstairs to go to the Guangzhou Zoo.

The kids always want to sit on the back row of the bus, and this time was no exception. We don’t mind, except there are no seatbelts and one kid always wants to sit in the middle which would result in imminent death if the bus stopped short. We arrived at the zoo and were taken on a shuttle bus tour first so that we could get to know where all the animals were. I sat in the back row facing backwards with all four kids and held David on my lap. Matthew kept pointing out which animal exhibits were stinky and Lily enjoyed telling me about all the mommy and baby animals that she saw. (Mommy and baby is completely arbitrary and solely based on their size.) My favorite part was when we drove past the zebras and Lily was beside herself because she was wearing her zebra shirt! She kept saying “Zebra! Like my shirt! Hi zebra! Look at me zebra! Look at my shirt! I have zebra, and that is zebra!” If only the zebras could speak, I’m sure they would have been equally excited about their appearance on Lily’s clothing. After the shuttle bus ride we were on our own to explore for a little while. We started with Ocean World because the kids wanted to see dolphins, but it was completely deserted. Apparently the dolphins don’t come out in the winter? We did see a wooden sword just like Matthew’s though, which was a total score because his broke so we were able to replace it. Next we backtracked to see Matthew’s choice of pythons and Caroline’s choice of turtles. We are definitely spoiled by the quality of zoo in America. They operate on a low maintenance standard here, which means that the animals always have food readily available and the glass is rarely cleaned. We peered in to see the turtles and the snakes. I’m not sure how many snakes were actually in the tanks, because we really couldn’t see in very many of them. We were able to see the pythons though, along with the cute little bunnies that were hopping around in their cage. (See what I mean about low maintenance?) The girls were all about the bunnies, and then Matthew tactfully told them that the bunnies were going to be eaten by the snakes. Moving on! Quickly please! On to the alligators! Thankfully there wasn’t any visible prey in the alligators habitat. We came upon more snakes and some lizards, and David discovered two cute fuzzy little ducklings all snuggled up in the front of one of the tanks hoping to avoid their demise. I had to drag him away from those. Once the violent death section of the tour was over, we headed to find the giraffes, elephants, and zebras. We took a little detour to check out the flamingos and swans and saw quite a few lions. I don’t like looking at the lions. It depresses me. They are stuck in these tiny little cages and they just lay there sleeping. I heard that they actually drug a lot of the animals to keep them docile, and I think that was the case here. Wow, death and drugs. This is a depressing zoo trip so far! Nothing like feeding leaves to giraffes to bring a little sunshine into the day. We paid a few dollars to let each of the kids have a turn feeding the giraffes. David and Lily didn’t like that the older two got to go first and were starting to throw mini temper tantrums. We somehow managed to prevent them from escalating and handed the two younger ones over the fence for their turn. It was getting close to time for us to go, so we started walking back toward the front gate. Along the way we checked out the stinky elephants and tried to see the zebras up close but they were hiding. We did find the tigers, but when we walked up the male was trying to mate with the female, so we orchestrated another quick exit as the kids asked what they were doing. Wrestling. Definitely wrestling. That pretty much concluded our time at the zoo. Then it was back to the hotel for a few hours to rest.

The kids were all pretty tired so we instituted nap time for all of them. David was definitely not having it. As soon as I put him in bed and closed the curtains he started crying and trying to escape. I started the routine of repeatedly putting him back in bed and using my phone to explain to him that it was nap time. It’s really funny to go back and look at all of the things we have translated. You can definitely tell when we are trying to calm him down from a tantrum! I think I tried every trick in the book for a while, and finally told him that if he kept crying I was going to leave the room. So I did. I stood outside the door and listened to him scream for a good long time. Then I went back in and asked him if he was ready to stop crying and take a nap. I pulled him into the bed next to me and started playing the twinkle twinkle little star song I have. The kids love it because it has a little Asian girl doing all the signs for it. That finally worked. I let him watch it on repeat for a while, and then told him that it was time for bed. He didn’t like that and started the crying again, so I started making up lullabies using the little Mandarin that I’ve learned. The one that stuck basically repeated good night and I love you over and over again. He kind of fussed and whined a few more times, but at some point he did voluntarily get under the covers and eventually fall asleep. I decided to take some time for myself and worked on the blog some too. Then I went down to the exercise room and rode the bike for about 30 minutes before our next event.

We met our group in the lobby again for the Pearl River Cruise. We always get there super early and have to wait for our guides to buy our tickets. We waited upstairs where there were couches. Something else I find strange is that there are usually stains on all of the furniture. These couches were no different. I have no idea what people are doing on them, but they are definitely not neat! Even if they technically are clean, you definitely don’t feel clean sitting on them. And I am not a neat freak by any means! Miko came up to give us our tickets. Lily just loves Miko ever since I told her that she was our guide last time, and she always asks where her friend Miko is. I think Miko loves Lily too, because she gave her a few snacks while we were waiting. We all had a taste and they were delicious! It was like a cross between a cheeto and a churro. It was finally time to board the boat so we went downstairs and got in line. You totally have to stand your ground in any kind of line and box people out or they will completely cut in front of you. We got on the boat and found our table right away. We all wanted to sit together and the largest tables they had were for six, so we pulled up an extra chair and I had Lily sit on my lap. Almost the entire time that we were on the boat they were making some type of announcement really loudly in Chinese. They never translated them so I have no idea what they were saying, but I think at some point they announced that dinner was starting because there was a mad dash for the buffet line. Now most of the time when you have a buffet there is a definite starting and ending point and everyone travels in the same direction. Not here. Here you grab a plate and just start doing whatever you want. It doesn’t matter if the person in front of you was there first or if everyone else is going in the opposite direction. You just grab the serving spoon and elbow your way in. I somehow managed to survive getting food for myself and the girls at the same time. The food was definitely not as good as the hotel buffet, and it’s also all Chinese. I tried to stick to the safe things like fried rice, egg rolls, and steamed buns. I definitely did not try the chicken feet. The kids managed to find enough things that weren’t spicy. The cookies were for sure the biggest hit. Good thing we got them when we did, because they were all gone very quickly! All of a sudden the crazy loud announcements started again, and I just couldn’t take it anymore. Since everyone except David was done eating, we handed him a roll to go and headed upstairs to escape the noise. Neon and LED lights are very popular in China, which is also why the river cruise is so popular. All of the bridges are completely lit up along with most of the buildings along the shoreline. The views are really very nice. When we got up to the top deck we walked smack into a line of people waiting to get their picture taken. The girl told me that you could get a free keychain, but I didn’t really want to wait in the long line. So instead we walked around it and took our own pictures right next to them. Both Matthew and Lily have a cold right now, and Matthew wasn’t really digging the boat ride. After about 10 minutes of standing up there he was ready to go back down. I wanted to wait until I saw the Skylon tower and so did everyone else so he ended up sitting on the ground with my mom or Brian most of the time. I could tell David was a little nervous about being on the boat. I held him in the beginning and he would kind of whimper when I got too close to the side for his liking. Even when he wasn’t being held he stayed right next to us and was always holding someone’s hand. We also eventually decided to get our picture taken because the line died down. Caroline of course didn’t want to be in it, so instead of having a picture with a missing kid just Brian and I took one together. Finally we got to the turnaround point with the tower directly behind us. We took a few more pictures and then headed back down to see if they had entertainment like they did previously.

We entered in the middle of a magic act. Or maybe she was an illusionist. I’m not sure, but the part of her act that we saw consisted of her swallowing 5 razor blades and a piece of string, and then pulling everything back out with the razor blades all tied to the string. There were a lot more hand flourishes and dramatic pauses mixed in there, but that was basically the gist of it. The boat high tailed it back down the river, and we arrived back at the dock shortly after 8:00. Right before we got off we asked Aron how to pick up our keychain and she told us to hurry down to the first floor. It was a flurry of activity with a “line” if you can call it that with everyone reaching and talking really loudly. We finally gave our ticket to the guy behind the table and got to see our pictures. The large photo was only about $3 so we bought those in addition to our free key chains. We squeezed through the crowd and made it back to our bus. The kids were all exhausted and I thought we’d lose some on the drive back, but they all stayed awake. As soon as we got back it was time for bed! One day hopefully I will be able to stay awake past the kids’ bedtimes, but it definitely hasn’t happened lately!

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