Monday, November 23, 2015

Shopping in Guangzhou – Day 8, November 22

Praise the Lord I slept past 3am for the first time since arriving in China! I actually got 10 hours of sleep last night! Today is a new day indeed! Our little buddy woke up smiling as always today, and loves to just look out the window and talk to himself. I’m still not feeling completely well, but I decided that I might try to run on the treadmill this morning since I was actually well-rested. Mom was going to Facetime with family back home so I tried to get that going so I could say hi before I went. We keep having issues with our VPN, so I could not get it to connect. I was quickly running out of time to run, so I gave up and went downstairs. It’s really hard to choose your speed on Chinese treadmills because everything is in km. Who knows how far or fast I actually ran, but I only had 20 minutes before I had to get ready for breakfast. When I got back upstairs they had gotten Facetime to work, so I got to talk to Scott, Catie, Sandy and Lauren for a few minutes! We didn’t get to talk long because we had to get breakfast before we met our group at 9:00. I had everyone go ahead and met them down there.

David is definitely still having some issues related to food. He eats great and doesn’t even mind sharing, but if he drops anything or eats something he doesn’t like, then watch out. Today we have no idea what the problem was, but Mom was sitting with the kids while the other three adults got food, and all of a sudden we hear David crying. Apparently something happened that he didn’t like, and he went into one of his fits where he hits his head, kicks off his shoes, and throws stuff. This time he threw the fork that he was holding in his hand and hit my mom with it! Brian scolded him, took away his food, and took him out of there immediately. He didn’t calm down until we eventually brought him back to his food. I can’t wait until I can use Google Translate all the time and actually talk to him! It’s nearly impossible to teach him anything or discipline him in any way with no communication.

Breakfast finished with no further incidents, and then we met our group in the lobby for a picture. Brian actually missed the picture because he was taking Matthew to the bathroom, but oh well. Our first stop of the day was the Liwan market where you can buy pearls and jade. My mom and I had planned to go out with a personal shopper later that day and she could have taken us to get pearls probably a little cheaper, but since we were already here and wanted to make the best use of our time we just did our pearl shopping here. I got a bracelet for David’s future wife (I got the girls and Matthew’s future wife one last time) and mom got a bracelet too. I was very intrigued by the black pearls, so Brian bought me a necklace and bracelet made out of them. Merry Christmas to me! The pearl shop was a different one than last time, and it was very tiny and very hot! Even with all the kids and dads waiting outside, I could not wait to get out of there. The kids were mostly entertained by drinking the free water they gave us, playing with the stools, and riding up and down the nearby escalator. At 11:00 it was time to head to our next location, Shamian Island.

Shamian Island is where all of the adoptive families used to stay because it used to be the location of the U.S. Consulate and the medical examination facility. Both of those things have since moved to other parts of Guangzhou, so now families stay at a variety of hotels. The island is still home to lots of little shops and restaurants, and is frequented by brides taking their wedding photos. Since we were there on a Sunday the island was very crowded. Last time we went on a Tuesday and we basically had the place to ourselves, but our guides had to change our schedule and we ended up there on Sunday instead. Last time I did most of my shopping for Lily’s gifts on the island, but since I knew we would be shopping with Ann I decided to wait on that. We did let the kids each pick out one souvenir though. We went into Michaels which was the store that gave Lily a little lamb phone last time we were there. Matthew and David both picked out wooden swords, and Caroline and Lily chose wooden frogs that make music when you rub a stick across their ridged backs. Happy with their treasures we headed to Lucy’s for lunch. Lucy’s is a restaurant on the island that is popular among Americans because it has a variety of familiar American food. Last time I was so busy shopping that I didn’t really get to eat there, so I wanted the experience this time. We got the kids quesadillas, mom and dad got grilled cheese, I got a club sandwich, and my crazy husband still got a Chinese selection of beef noodles. That worked out well for David since he didn’t like his quesadilla or fries. We are learning that he doesn’t like to eat food with his hands, and neither of those are fork-friendly. We almost had another food catastrophe when he shoveled a spoonful of spicy salsa into his mouth before we could stop him, but some quick action by us and a water substitution helped. I think the kid definitely needs a nap. He’s definitely struggling a bit today.

During lunch the kids spotted the playground that we had been telling them was nearby, so as soon as the last bite touched their lips they were practically dragging us out the door. My parents went for a walk around the island while Brian and I let the kids play. There’s really not a whole lot to the playground. There’s one section that I’m not even sure how kids are supposed to play with. It’s basically a triangular section that’s closed off with bars all around. It looks more like a tiny prison for misbehaving children. Of course Lily had to go to the bathroom while we were there, and David followed right after us. I found the one stall with a western toilet and had them both in there. It was all I could do to get inside the stall and close the door before the two of them had their pants around their ankles. They were apparently competing for who could get on the toilet first. Pretty much every bathroom in China is disgusting. This one was no different. I was pretty much trying not to touch anything and hold my breath while keeping little hands off the mop and bucket that were in our stall, preventing David from sticking his hand in the toilet, and perching the kids on the side of the seat because the whole front was wet from who knows what. And of course there is never any toilet paper or soap. Totally sanitary. I cannot wait to have clean bathrooms again!!!! The kids lasted about 30 minutes on the playground before they were hot and bored. As we were walking out poor David was completely flattened by a little boy who was jumping down backward off of the playground. He was not happy, so I carried him over to the river. He perked up when he saw the water. We walked down the river for a bit while the boys practiced their sword fighting skills. Then we took them to 7-11 to get some ice cream. We got 5 ice cream cones for $5! All was right with the world, until David’s ice cream started melting. The tops of the cones were wavy, so any time he tilted his cone a drop fell out. I don’t know if he didn’t like the feeling of the melted ice cream on his hand or if he couldn’t handle even one drop going to waste, but he about lost his mind! He started his head hitting screaming fit, which you can imagine when you have an ice cream cone in one hand how that might go. We grabbed his ice cream to try to calm him down, then we would give it back. But each time another drop fell the same thing would happen. We tried giving him a spoon to help him eat it faster, that didn’t work either. Finally I decided he just couldn’t handle ice cream in a cone so Brian took him away down the street and I threw away his cone. I stayed with the other kids while they finished theirs and then we walked to meet everyone in front of Starbucks. Apparently David screamed the entire walk there. My parents could hear him coming! We talked to a sweet Chinese man named James outside of Starbucks for a while who was practicing his English and saving up money so he could come to the U.S. Then Brian and my dad headed back to meet the bus and my mom and I went to meet Ann for our shopping adventure!

We were supposed to meet her at the West Victory Hotel, so we got some cash out of the ATM and headed there. We waited for a few minutes, and then as it got closer to 2:30 and I didn’t see her, I started to wonder if there was more than one Victory Hotel. Mom asked someone at the desk while I went to check a map on the street and sure enough there was! We were at the east building. The man gave us directions and we raced down the street to find the right hotel. Too bad we went one street too far and ended up back tracking! The hotel was literally directly across the street from where we got money out. We didn’t have to go anywhere at all. Whoops. We found Ann right outside, and then walked to the corner to grab a taxi. Since it was Sunday there were hardly any cabs around. We stood on one corner for a good five minutes without seeing a single one, and then decided to walk over the bridge off the island to a busier road. Lots of cabs passed us, but they were all full. Then all of a sudden I noticed that an older couple who had been walking behind us went up the road a little bit to hail a cab. That way they would be seen by the cab driver first and get a cab before us. Not cool! Thankfully they weren’t as skilled at watching the road as Ann was. She pretty much just kept her arm out. An occupied cab must have seen her first, and stopped right in front of us to let his patrons out. The older couple saw what was happening and started running down the road trying to steal our cab! The woman was talking over Ann to the driver and basically tried to body block us from getting in! But we pushed around her and got in the back, and eventually Ann must have convinced the driver to take us instead of them and got in the cab too. Once we were in she told us that the driver wanted to take them instead of us because they were going farther and would have given him a higher fare, and the woman was arguing that they were there first. Ann told her that no, we were there first. So pretty much both the cab driver and the couple were ticked off! But we were happy because we were on our way to our shopping adventure.

Our first stop was a wholesale market to buy silk scarves and traditional silk Chinese clothing. Ann took us in a building and up an escalator to a tiny shop in the middle of a bunch of other tiny shops. Think flea market on steroids. This shop had gorgeous real silk scarves. We both spent a few minutes picking the ones we liked best. I also had to teach mom how to wear a scarf, since we Floridians don’t have a whole lot of practice! The next shop was right across the way and was equally as tiny. It’s so interesting to me how they fit so much stuff in such a tiny space. There are all kinds of things on display, but if you push them aside and look in the back, there is an even bigger selection of everything in all different sizes and colors! I picked out another traditional dress for Lily to wear when she’s older, and I chose two for David. One to wear for the next few years in a deep royal blue, and one to wear when he grows out of those in black and red. I also got a traditional dress for myself, because why not! We have a Chinese New Year party every year. I had to try them on over my clothes because there is absolutely no size translation to US sizes. I think I ended up with an XL or maybe an XXL? I want to know who is wearing the extra smalls! Everywhere we went Ann would tell us the price of things in US dollars, and other the price for the same things in other places. The same silks for David and Lily on Shamian island would range from $10 to $15. I got them for $2.50. Gotta love a bargain! Mom didn’t have a reason to buy a traditional dress, but she did get a really pretty silk robe. The last shop we visited in this building had a bunch of traditional wooden toys. I got each of the kids a little stocking stuffer from there, and I got David a kaleidoscope with Pleasant Goat and the Big Bad Wolf on it. According to Ann, all Chinese kids watch the cartoon Pleasant Goat. I’ll put that away for one of David’s Gotcha Day gifts.

We left that market and grabbed another cab to find board games, jade, and cloisonné. This time grabbing a cab was much smoother, although we did have one refuse to take us first because we weren’t going far enough. When the second cab pulled up we went ahead and got in, and then Ann told him where we wanted to go. Much harder to refuse people when they are already in your car! The ride was about 10 minutes, and we got out in another area that was equally busy and chaotic as the first. I guess if you grow up in China you are able to tell where things are (and probably read street signs), but to me everything is the same and it’s neverending! If you left me alone in the middle of the road there would be no way I’d find my way back. Ever. And I’m usually pretty good with directions. This time we didn’t go into a building, we just walked along the street to find the shops. The first one had awesome board games. I wanted a mahjong set for our family and a chess set for David. My mom also saw this really cool compass outside the door that I got for him too. Ann negotiated the prices for us, then we went on to the next shop while the shop owner got everything boxed up. We were walking along the street when all of a sudden she told us to stop at the corner and wait there while she got someone to let us in. She returned a few minutes later and led us down a tunnel. We had no idea where we were going, but it looked like it used to be a subway or something. Underneath the streets were warehouse shops with huge jade carvings and other large merchandise for sale. Ann told us that they don’t let tourists come down here, this is where the people with big money shop. Then she stopped in front of a locked door and the girl she had gotten to help us opened it up. It looked like a small treasure room in there! There were all kinds things lining the floor. Metal lanterns and sculptures, boxes of Chinese knives, wooden carvings, all kinds of stuff. She led us to a shelf in the back and started opening up boxes of cloisonné ornaments. Ann gestured to all of the things on the floor and said that on Shamian island the shops sell these things as antiques. They aren’t antiques, and they buy them here and mark them up! I bought a box of really exquisite butterfly ornaments for our tree. The entire box of 6 cost me $10, and on the island I would have paid at least that for just one ornament. As the day went on I became more and more glad that I didn’t buy anything on the island! We made it unscathed out of the super sketchy underground lair, and returned to pick up our board games. Ann told us that they man was trying to charge us 520RMB, but that we only owed him 380RMB. We went with what she said, paid him the 380, and got out of there! I decided that I did want to see if there was any jade I wanted to get for David. I didn’t really want to get him jewelry, but since jade is such a big deal in China I didn’t want to leave with nothing. We walked a little farther down the road to a jade shop where the owner had a dog that I thought was a cat at first. In there I got David a jade family ball, a jade rock with a dragon carving, and two lions carved out of jade. At that point my feet and legs and arms were pretty much done, but we had one more stop to make. Mom was interested in seeing some gold so Ann took us to a plaza that reminded me a little of Times Square, but even busier if that’s possible. We went into two jewelry stores there to see what they had. We learned that in China gold is a big deal. In the states, people want diamonds. In China, people want gold. And they want pure gold. None of the 14 carat stuff like we have. I must say, the gold jewelry was absolutely amazing. It was incredibly bright and shiny and had beautiful intricate designs. Since it was such high quality gold, it was also much more expensive. Mom decided to pass, and that completed our shopping trip! Ann helped us hail a cab and we rode back to our hotel, exhausted and exhilarated.

When we got back at 5:30 three kids and Brian were sleeping. Apparently Lily fell asleep leaning over the side of a chair while eating a lollipop. None of us really wanted to walk anywhere for dinner, so I gave David and Lily baths while Brian went down to the hotel lobby to see what food he could find. The food in the hotel is safe to eat, so I was actually able to enjoy a salad for the first time since arriving here! They always have salad available on the breakfast buffet, but I just can’t manage to eat it at 8am. The kids had pigs in a blanket which they were over the moon excited about. After dinner we gave the other two kids showers and let them relax and play for a little while before bed. David didn’t put up a fight at all about going to bed tonight! Woohoo! Even though I got 10 hours of sleep last night, I was still pretty tired to I went to bed right after them. Here’s to another night of sleeping!

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