May 17th

We were tied down in the room for the morning because Rosa and Maggie had taken the group’s paperwork to the American Consulate, and we had to be available in case there were any questions. Wayne teased that we should call some group members and pretend to be someone from the consulate, saying there was a problem with the paperwork and they would have to forfeit their child. But that was too mean even for his joking. We had heard of people having to stay and extra week because of paperwork problems, but all of us did ok.

In the late morning, we decided to go for a walk, exploring the area. Instead of going across the overhead walkway to the usual stores, we just turned right out of the driveway of the hotel. Strange choice, since we walked past construction of the sidewalks, a jackhammer, stairs up to a higher sidewalk then down (as a woman in a wheelchair and her friends were trying to figure out how to get her up the steps).

We have noticed a great lack of handicapped accessible places here. The sidewalks are irregular with steps, and there often aren’t ramps off the sidewalks to the streets. The restrooms rarely have handicapped signs – we wonder how wheelchair people could possibly use what we call “squatty potties” which are just floor-level toilets you squat over. Wayne and I often have to lift the stroller to get into buildings. There also is a lack of diaper-changing places. We’ve learned to use park benches or bus seats, since there aren’t drop-down changing stations in many of the restrooms.

Anyway, we walked a couple blocks down the busy street and went into the only store with an English name, Office Box which was like our Office Max. There were normal looking office supplies. We ended up getting a little sign that says “toilet” in Chinese and English, to put on our downstairs bathroom door. As I was standing in line, some of the women were flirting with Amanda a bit. There was a group of people in front of me who obviously was buying a large amount of merchandise, since the total price was about 13,000 Yuan, but there was some problem with the billing. Gee, it seems like home. The women in back of me started saying something to one of the employees, pointing my way, and someone motioned that we could pay downstairs. Interesting that we were able to communicate with gestures and nods, without any understanding of each other’s language.

We continued our walk around the big block, feeling very much a minority. I don’t think we encountered any other Caucasians. We passed many Chinese restaurants, but realized we would have no idea what to order if we went there for lunch. There were fruit vendors who pointed to interesting looking fruits, but we had no idea what they were and didn’t really dare buy them. We were in the heart of the neighborhoods, with wash hanging from the balconies and Chickens being hauled into a market with their feet bound. We emerged onto a fairly main street near the hotel, deciding to eat at McDonalds once again. We ran across another family we know, who handed off their table to us, and we ended up handing the table over to another of our group’s families when we left.

We bought a suitcase nearby the hotel, for $45 US which we thought was good, but we later found out that people bought similar suitcases for $14 on Shamian Island. Oh well. We put Amanda in the suitcase for a photo, symbolizing our readiness to pack up and go home.

When we returned to the hotel, we immediately went out again with friends, taking a taxi to Shamian Island. Three adults with two children in the back seat was a bit full for the VW Jetta taxi. At the island, the heat was oppressive, and we sweated our way around the shops, sitting in a park near a water fountain at one point. We were sweating while just sitting, but there was a military troop doing calisthenics nearby. There was a photographer and his assistants shooting wedding photos for three different couples while we were watching. We were told that wedding photos are done there every day. It obviously wasn’t their wedding day, so the photographer had plenty of time to set up the shots. Wayne says he usually has to shoot a majority of the photos for a wedding in the time they were doing just a few shots. At one point the bride was standing up on the cement edge of the fountain, and her dress was hanging into the water. Wayne motioned to the photographer’s assistant that the dress was getting wet, and he motioned back that it didn’t matter. What??! In America, that would have ruined the day! We figured the dresses might be rented so it might not matter.

The White Swan Hotel symbolizes an adoption hotel for US babies, because the US Consulate is very nearby. But we talked to an American who said the US Consulate will reportedly be moving an hour away, so in the years to come, the White Swan and Shamian Island probably won’t be such a hot spot for American adoptions.

We ate at a restaurant on the island (the island is separated from the “mainland” by a canal). For about $15 we fed the three of us Palmers, including cokes and tip.

Then back to hotel, where we reveled in the air conditioning. It’s too hot around here, but we’re told the hot streak is just beginning. We had been worried about the reported “clothing police” for the children, thinking we had to have them covered. But it’s been too hot, and we’ve bought a lot of cooler clothes for the babies, standing them in front of fans or air conditioning whenever we can. Amanda is definitely fussy when she’s too hot. She perks up when she’s in cooler air. Because Amanda probably hasn’t seen the sun before, we’ve made sure to slather her up with sunscreen before we head out.

Amanda has had a little bit of a cold, coughing occasionally, but not enough for medicines. I’ve checked her ears while she’s sleeping, and she’s ok. Then today she managed to have 5 stools, getting a little loose. Once was at dinnertime, and Wayne and I excused ourselves, heading outside to the park with a diaper, changing pad, and wipes. We’ve developed a tag team approach and we’re getting pretty good at it. I just made sure I didn’t dump the dirty diaper in the “recycle” section of the trash can! We hope things settle down, since we’ll be traveling in two days. We can’t exactly tag team changing her in the airplane bathroom!

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