Well, we are in Guangzhou and I've discovered that I can load my blog but the pictures and videos appear to be blocked and there is no link for me to upload new posts. Frustrating! So I am experimenting with emailing info to Phil so that he can put it online for me. It's a bummer because I enjoyed posting things for everyone on our last trip and seeing everyone's comments on the blog. This time, it appears we won't be able to see any comments until we return to the US. My Multnomah email is also blocked here so if you want to get anything to us electronically, an email to email@example.com is your best bet.
Our transfer in Beijing was a bit of an adventure but we survived it. For whatever reason, I think I'm feeling a little more culture shock right off the bat than I felt last time. I'm not sure why.
Anyway, changing planes in Beijing is not for the weak of constitution, at least when you're flying Hainan. First of all, the aisles on the plane are too narrow for your pull-along luggage, so you have to heft it all out of the plane, bumping each seat along the way, then navigate two stories of stairs (in driving rain, in our case), walk to a crowded shuttle bus for a ride to the terminal, then haul yourself and your bags up several flights of stairs (escalator, what's an escalator?), go through customs, retrieve your checked luggage, then figure out that you have to walk about 15 minutes to another terminal to find your flight to Guangzhou. Wow. Honestly, I have no idea how folks with physical limitations pull it off.
One interesting little thing about our layover in Guangzhou is that the airport has free wifi, but to access it, you had to take your passport to a machine that scanned your passport info and then spit out a wifi access code. Here's a picture of what the Multnomah University website looks like in China. Yep, it's blocked.
Our flight to Guangzhou was delayed by over an hour, so we didn't have to rush, though I felt bad for our guide waiting for us in Guangzhou. We didn't land until after 11:00, then had to get our luggage and drive almost havel an hour to our hotel, and by the time I got to bed, it was after 2:00 AM.
We're at The Garden Hotel, which is quite nice, as you can tell from the picture of the lobby. A little too nice for me. Anything fancier than an Embassy Suites is just too much for this po' boy. We actually had visited The Garden Hotel for lunch on our last trip.
As you would guess, there are many, many things that are different in China than in the US. One interesting thing was the entry to our room . . . we couldn't find the door! The doors just blended right into the walls of the hallway!
We got up in time to go to brunch, then walked around the neighborhood a little until we got the Jusco department store. I'm not sure, but it seems as though the store is actually a compilation of individually owned businesses, like a mall inside a store. In some cases, such as the "United Nude" shoe section, this seemed rather obvious while in other areas, they kind of blended together. Lots of Hello Kitty stuff. Prices were a mixed bag. We found little girls' sweatsuits for about $10 but a couple aisles over, their little tennis shoes were $50. We also went into the grocery store and picked up some bottled water and soft drinks.
This afternoon, Melody braved the chilly swimming pool and Jeannette and I got out in the sun. Just FYI, you can get an order of french fries poolside for just $9.26 and a hot dog for a mere $15.65. Ouch.
The temperature is in the upper 70s, which is cooler than Jeannette would like but given the fact that folks in this area don't exactly crank up the air conditioning, it's just as well. We had an early dinner at The Italian Restaurant (yes, that's the name of it) . . . the same restaurant we ate at on our first evening in Guangzhou six years ago after getting MelodyJoy, then walked over to Haagen Dazs for dessert. (As Jameson will recall from his time in China, it can be hard to find good ice cream here! At $5 for a single scoop cone, well, we spent as much on dessert as we did on dinner!)
Tomorrow is the big day. We meet our guide at 2:00 in the afternoon. I have to confess that I'm extremely nervous. I know it will all work out, but I'm honestly just a little bit freaked out about how it's going to go, mainly in terms of how this little girl is going to react and what will be going through her mind as we take her from her foster family and orphanage to a 5-star hotel and a new family that can't communicate with her. I've had moments of thinking, "What are we thinking?"