March 3, 2013

Day 3 in Guangzhou: Shamian Island and more about Meili

Everyone who knows anything about adopting in China knows about Shamian Island. Although none of the "official" things take place on the island anymore, many people still want to go there to visit. We went today and now we understand why! It is a beautiful place, had some great food and got some good bargains!


The trees are enormous and absolutely beautiful and the architecture is much different than anything else we'd seen in China so far. Many people say it reminds them of Savannah, Georgia.


Did I mention our guide is AMAZING? She's just the sweetest woman and takes us wherever we want to go. She arranges everything and makes sure it all goes EXACTLY according to plan.


On the way to the island, she taught us how to bargain to get good deals :)

Many local people enjoy the island as a place to relax, play games or exercise. Many elderly people were doing Tai Chi in the park.



There was also a group playing traditional Chinese folk music. Three dads from our group jumped in and started dancing...but I have no pictures of this because Jon was one of them. It was QUITE the sight! One of the families has a video - I'm SO hoping to get that from them!



Meili liked it too!


The first order of business was to test our bargaining skills! Even though Shiyan said NEVER to buy at the first store you go to, somehow we ended up with two bags at the first stop! The items we purchased were crazy-cheap though, so I don't know how we could have gone wrong. One of the things I REALLY wanted to get was Chinese silk dresses for ALL my girls. They're expensive in the states but very reasonable here. By getting another family to go in with us, we managed to get 10 silk dresses for $3 each!

The stores don't look like much, but there's some serious deals to be had in there!



We had lunch at Lucy's...a famous restaurant among adoptive families. They serve a Western menu which many families seem to appreciate. Honestly, Jon and I would rather eat Chinese. We both love it and it's not like we have a lot of opportunities to have authentic Chinese food. But it's OK, Lucy's was great. We enjoyed our grilled chicken wrap, double cheeseburger and fries anyway.


Meili doesn't look like a terror in the restaurant, but don't be fooled. It's nearly impossible to eat with her. She grabs EVERYTHING like babies do when they first learn they can reach things. Thankfully, I've had practice eating one-handed and we're making it work.

When I found out we were eating at Lucy's, I quietly asked Shiyan if they served cake there. Today is Jon's birthday, and I thought it would be nice if we could celebrate at least a little bit. She said they didn't. But right before it was time to meet for lunch she stopped me and said she found out that one of the hotels on the island had a cake shop and asked if I would like her to go buy one. I said she didn't have to because it was a bit of a walk. She insisted that she would be happy to do it so I finally gave in. Not only did she walk there to get it, keep it a secret from Jon, and explain to the restaurant staff how to serve it...


she wouldn't let me pay for it!! I'll get her back somehow, but really, she's just too sweet!! I know it wasn't much, but I think it really helped make his day a little more special.


After lunch we had just a little bit more time to do some more shopping and looking around the island. Three young girls rushed up to us giggling with delight and asked me something in Chinese. I have NO clue what they said, but they were making a big deal out of Meili and wanted their picture with us. This has happened SO many times, but it still seems so strange!



There were two more things I wanted to do while we were there.

The first one was take a picture with this statue:


See that space between the last two children? Lots of adoptive families stick their new child right in that space and take a picture. I had wanted to do this too, but Meili was having NONE of it. At this point, she was about 1.5 hours overdue for her nap and she wasn't too compliant.

The other thing was to buy some squeaky shoes! Yet another "tradition" that many adoptive parents participate in. For some reason, leather shoes with squeakers in the soles are a popular thing to get here. You can usually barter and get them for just a few dollars a pair. We weren't quite so lucky with the bartering this time. They were the only thing left on our list and we were getting tired. I think the shop owner could tell I was sold as soon as we came in, so we didn't get the best deal. This particular shop owner is known by many adoptive families and is a Christian. She gives a portion of her profits to help local orphanages, so I was OK with not getting such a great deal there.


On the way back to the bus, we stopped at a park. This is the first park we've been to since we've had Meili. These kids are like puzzles, and everything we watch them do helps us put the pieces of their lives together a little at a time.

Meili's orphanage is very poor. In fact, when we arrived in Nanjing, our guide told us she had just recently been to visit the Huai'an orphange (where Meili is from) with another family. She looked at us and said, "this place, it is not good. Very, very poor. It is not a good orphanage." Then she turned to the family with us and told them theirs was a very nice one. Thank goodness that there are SOME nice ones! But it definitely made us worry even more about what we'd find when we met her.

The pictures and video we have of the orphanage (from a family who adopted there in November) show a very small playground outside. Knowing that these kids often spend almost ALL day in their cribs, on the day we adopted her I asked the orphanage staff (through a translator) how many hours a day Meili got to play and working on walking.

Their response? "She walks just fine. She plays in activity room."

Sounds like a way to dodge a question to me. So I said, "We've seen pictures and didn't see an activity room. Where is the activity room?"

Their response was, "She plays outside when it's nice."

Hmmm....OK, so now the activity room is outside?? (this is just one example of the many contradictions we've received from them).

And she doesn't walk just fine. She walks like an 18 month old. Not like an almost three year old. Ok, well at the very least, we figured she'd had some time to practice on the steps and slide on this small playground.

But judging by what we saw today, we don't know if she even got that much. We walked over to the playground on Shamian Island and set her down. She was happy, but had no idea what to do. I thought she might like the slide so I set her up on it and she looked completely confused. When I pulled her down the slide, it was like her world had just been opened wide! She was in heaven! She LOVED it!


Don't mind the slobber....she was WAY too excited to care about that!




To me, this was not a child who had done this before. Or if she had, it wasn't very much!! It was amazing to watch the sheer delight in her face as she went over and over and over again. Unfortunately, we were only able to stay about 7 or 8 minutes before we had to meet our bus. Since Meili has been with us, she has not cried. We think she learned not to cry, because if no one ever comes when you cry, you learn it doesn't do any good. She whimpers and whines, but doesn't cry. When we took her away from the slide, she was as close as she's ever been to crying. It just about broke my heart to make her leave!


After she composed herself, she did this:


This seems to be her self-soothing mechanism. She's done it less and less since the day we got her, but she still does it when she's upset or tired. She puts her arm to her lips and makes little sucking noises. We think maybe she's sucking her tongue? We don't know. It's kind of a cute little thing, but I wonder how it came to be. Most kids suck their thumb or a blanket or something....I wish I knew why she does it this way.


After a good nap, we headed out to walk to supper. Shiyan wanted to take us to an authentic (but safe and clean!) Chinese restaurant.



The food was AMAZING! Shiyan ordered us some typical Chinese dishes that her experience has taught her most American's like. Fried rice, sweet & sour pork, bbq beef (not like bbq at home), garlic broccoli, green beans, fried noodles, beef with vegetables, etc. Everything is served family style so you can try it all. And it was ALL wonderful. I had a picture but can't seem to find it now.

Meili loved the noodles. They seem to be her favorite whenever they're available. She was sticking her whole face in her bowl and sticking out her tongue, trying to get those last few that were hiding in the bottom.


While we were eating, we kept hearing this "zap" sound. Finally, someone discovered this behind us:


Yes, that would be a bug zapper. Yum...just want I want to think about while I'm eating. Oh well. the food was good, the company was even better, and we didn't actually see any bugs. And, this IS China, after all :)



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