Wednesday, November 25, 2015

From Guangzhou to Hong Kong – Day 11, November 25

This morning I was thinking to myself that I really wouldn’t have much to blog about today, because the only thing on our agenda was packing and traveling to Hong Kong. Boy was I wrong! The morning was rather uneventful. I was up early, so I went down and rode the stationary bike for a good 45 minutes while all the kids were waking up. When I got back I started gathering clothes for our last load of laundry. My plan was to pack one suitcase to use for our time in Hong Kong and not even have to look in the others, so I gathered everything that needed to washed for our final few days and started the last load. I had made plans to Facetime with our Life Group during their Thanksgiving feast, so I quickly showered before it was time for the call. It was great to see everyone’s faces and let them see David for a second. He of course repeated his favorite “ni hao” phrase and waved. Such a charmer. It was so weird to see them eating dinner on Tuesday night, and for us it was already Wednesday morning! And it was also a bit depressing to watch them eat delicious Thanksgiving food. I am totally bumming out about missing Thanksgiving this year. Last time we had Thanksgiving in China I really didn’t mind, but this time I do. If anyone has any Thanksgiving leftovers they would like to deliver to our empty fridge we will gladly take them!
We went downstairs for our last delicious breakfast. We knew that we might not have dinner available later that evening on the train, so our mission was for each adult to covertly make two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches using the supplies from the buffet and stick them in mom’s bag. Interesting tidbit – the peanut butter there is really runny. Which makes it tricky when you are trying to wrap a sandwich in napkins to keep for later! We were laughing hilariously at ourselves and how un-sneaky we were. Scott and Catie, you can just picture our time in Ireland and you will know exactly how smooth we were. We also squirreled away 6 bananas and two apples. When everyone was finished eating we went out to the fish pond for one last fish feeding. Oh, and we stole more bread for that. I think we cost the hotel at least two loaves today.
The kids had a great time feeding the fish and the adults enjoyed the beautiful weather. At some point Brian decided to start making crazy faces when Matthew was taking pictures, which led to a whole series of ridiculous pictures by the fish pond. The workers cleaning the pond I’m sure thought we were wacko. But we found ourselves hilarious! I finally decided that I should be responsible and start packing up the massive quantities of things scattered all over our apartment so we headed upstairs. Brian put a movie on for the kids to keep them occupied and I worked on packing. We didn’t want to kids to have too much in their backpacks because we really needed them to be able to carry them while boarding the train, so I had to figure out a way to empty out a bunch of their things into a suitcase along with the gifts and souvenirs we bought. I’m not sure how, but it all managed to fit! I had everything packed and was just waiting on the clothes for Hong Kong to dry by lunch time. We weren’t really hungry yet so Brian took the kids to the playground and the fish pond again while my parents went to the fitness center. I had a whole hour of quiet all to myself in the hotel! It was amazing! During that hour the clothes finished drying, but when I started to take them out I noticed they were still damp and needed a bit more time. I put them back in for what I thought was a 15 minute dry, but all of a sudden water started going in the drum! I quickly realized it was a 15 minute wash and stopped it. But now everything definitely needed more drying time!
Everyone returned to the room so we could go get some lunch at McDonald’s. I wanted to go ahead and take out the clothes so that everything would be packed before we left. Too bad the door to the machine wouldn’t open! I couldn’t get the cycle to pause, and even when I turned it off the lock was still engaged! The shortest drying cycle was two hours, and we were leaving in a little over an hour so letting it finish the cycle wasn’t an option. After everyone took a turn trying to figure it out we decided to call housekeeping. The first woman that tried to fix it was unsuccessful and just told me to let the cycle finish. I explained to her that I couldn’t do that but I’m not sure she understood. Then she started trying all of the other cycles to get it to unlock. I was watching and ready to pounce on the stop button the second I heard water filling that drum again! After a few minutes she decided to call maintenance. At this point we were going to be crunched for time if we wanted lunch, so Brian and I went ahead with the kids while my parents finished getting ready and helped with the washing machine situation. When we left there were a total of three people trying to figure it out!
The walk to McDonald’s is quite short which is great. This McDonald’s has been completely redone and was different from when we were here two years ago. You actually order on a touch screen kiosk, which is great for completely eliminating the language barrier! I did feel slightly uncomfortable though, because two of the workers were literally standing over my shoulder while I ordered. I think they were just waiting to jump in if I needed help, but I felt like I was being monitored during a standardized test! We got our meals, and everyone ate except for David. I had used google translate earlier in the day to tell him our plans for the next few days, and we thought he might be nervous or maybe getting the lovely cold that half of us have. When my parents left they told housekeeping that we needed the clothes out by 2:15. They were going to try to let the cycle finish, but if it didn’t then they would call the engineer to open it. I was starting to get a little nervous that I would run out of time and miss our train, so we had the girls pack up the rest of their food and we headed back. When we got there they told us that they had gotten the door open but the clothes were not quite dry. Well that was definitely an understatement. I don’t know what cycle they put it on, but all of the clothes were soaking wet. I may have had a minor freak out because not only did I not know how pack wet clothes without getting everything else wet, but now half of us didn’t have underwear for the next few days! I was so mad! On what planet does it make sense to wash clothes when someone is about to leave! Thankfully mom came to the rescue with some quick problem solving. We stood in the kitchen wringing everything out the best we could, then we put the clothes inside a plastic bag and inside a laundry bag. Hopefully we will be able to find some way to dry them when we get to Hong Kong. During this time I also noticed that David was starting to feel a little warm. I quickly found the medicine I had packed and tried to give him a dose. He didn’t want to drink it, so we asked the bellhop if he would explain to him in Chinese that it was medicine and tell him he needed to take it. He took one sip and then refused the rest. I think it was too sweet for him.
One last sweep of the apartment and we headed downstairs to the lobby. We met Miko and Aron there with David’s passport and immigrant visa! Woohoo! There is always a chance that there could be a problem issuing visas and you are delayed leaving. I think that Thanksgiving worked in our favor though, because normally you get the visas around 5:00, and they were able to get them early today. We needed to change our yuan over to Hong Kong dollars, so Brian quickly ran off to do that at a bank around the corner before our shuttle came. He returned empty handed ten minutes later because they wouldn’t change it without his passport which I had! Meanwhile poor David was sitting on Matthew’s suitcase literally falling asleep sitting up. He was also very warm. I mentioned to Miko that he wasn’t feeling well and wouldn’t take medicine, and she told me that I had to get him to take it. She said that they check people’s temperatures when they arrive in Hong Kong and they won’t let you in if you are sick. The only way you can come in is after a lengthy medical exam proving that you don’t have some contagious flu. I relayed this message to Brian, and we didn’t know what to do! We definitely didn’t want to arrive at the train station and be sent back to Guangzhou, and we also didn’t want to spend thousands of dollars to change our plane tickets and fly out right then. We decided to have Miko talk to him and try to get him to take it, and then just force it down his throat on the train if he refused to take it. Desperate times folks. She did convince him to take it, so we felt much better at that point. I think Miko took pity on us at this point and offered to come to the train station with us. Originally we would have met here there with David’s visa around 4:30, but since they got them early that wasn’t necessary. Miko said we could change our ticket to an earlier train since we no longer had to wait for it. That sounded good to us! The shuttle took us the station (David totally passed out on me during the trip) and a bellhop came and got all of our bags. Then he started sprinting across the station with them with all of us struggling to keep up! We went through security, then headed upstairs to the ticket office and waiting area. Brian waited with Miko to change our tickets and the rest of us followed Speedy Gonzalez the bellhop up to the waiting area on the fourth floor. Of course Lily had to go to the bathroom, so my mom took her and Caroline while we were waiting. Apparently Lily didn’t want to wait for my mom to find a bathroom with a western toilet, and just pulled her pants and underwear around her ankles in the middle of everything! A Chinese woman was pointing and yelling at my mom to fix the situation. Then we started calling her name, so Lily never did get to go. While she was doing that we learned that we needed to fill out our departure cards, and we needed to do it quickly so we could make the earlier train! I so love that in the US it’s one customs form per family. I had to fill out that card for each kid! Crazy! We got the cards done and took off at another jog to the boarding area. At that point we said goodbye to Miko (and our luggage hoping that the bellhop would indeed deliver it to the train) and entered the boarding area. It took them forever to scan all of our passports, so by the time we got in it was time to get on the train! We were in coach 10 and had to walk all the way to the back of the train. It worked out nicely though, because our car wasn’t full and we were able to spread out a little more. We didn’t buy tickets for David and Lily so they didn’t technically have a seat, but we had enough room for them.
I sat with the boys and Brian sat with the girls to start. Matthew had some school work to do, so he did that while David colored. He did a great job coloring and it definitely kept him busy! The only problem was he kept dropping the markers and caps and I had to go fishing for them. I think the sixth time I hit my head I handed him off to Brian for a different activity. The train ride was very peaceful and I enjoyed seeing a tiny bit of countryside after being in a city for so long. Lily ended up sleeping most of the ride, and we fed the kids their PBJ sandwiches. It took us a little over two hours to get to Hong Kong from Guangzhou. Once we arrived we exited the train and were immediately swarmed by two masked Chinese wielding temperature devices that looked like laser guns. Poor Caroline was in the front, and she looked around panicked trying to figure out if this strange masked person was going to shoot her! I told her that they were just taking her temperature so she stayed still for them. They checked all four kids, and praise God they let us pass. I am so thankful for Tylenol and answered prayers! All the kids are pretty much constantly sneezing or coughing, so I willed them to keep in inside until we got away from the germ inspectors. Of course we had to stop and fill out an immigration card for each person again, which takes a small eternity. Lily kept coughing and I was sure they were going to make her go back and be examined. Hallelujah they didn’t and we made it through customs in Hong Kong. We grabbed our bags and headed out to find a taxi to our hotel. I really expected the train station to have more in it. Like an atm or signs for where to get a taxi. But it didn’t. When we walked outside we were met with a very nice Indian man who offered to take us in his van to our hotel. At first I was a little hesitant because I didn’t know if he was legit, but he had business cards and spoke English and seemed very trustworthy. And he said he would take our Chinese yuan since we hadn’t gotten to change it yet. Is it weird that I totally trusted him because he spoke English and wasn’t Chinese? He ended up being a very nice man and gave us his card if we needed a ride during our stay here. We definitely needed that bit of encouragement and help after the calamity of events from earlier in the day.
We arrived at the Holiday Inn Golden Mile without incident and checked into our rooms. Poor David had a pretty bad screaming fit when Brian left the room to get money. He did let me hold him, but I couldn’t get him to stop crying for any length of time. The poor kid had to be exhausted and confused and definitely not feeling well. Brian came back and we got him to sleep. Then I took Matthew and Caroline over to Baba and Daideo’s room since it was Lily’s turn to sleep with David. Tomorrow we have the day to explore Hong Kong, and then we fly home on Friday!

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