Saturday, September 25, 2010

China 9. Guangzhou and Home

While in Guangzhou, we didn't get off Shamian Island, except for the night river cruise, but I thought I'd post a few Guangzhou pictures, shot from our hotel room and the balcony at the end of the hall.

And from the river front.

We flew out of Guangzhou late Wed. night for a short flight to Hong Kong, but it wasn't easy.  We left the hotel (in a van with a couple of other adoption families) to get to the airport with a lot of time to spare, but we spent a lot of time on crowded streets before finally getting on the airport freeway.  Then, when we got to the security and customs checkpoint, it was blocked while the security folks dealt with an incident.  That took more than an hour to clear so we ended up running to get to our plane right at departure time.  (We don't know what happened.  It involved soldiers.  An Aussie in the crowd said, The Chinese never explain anything.)

We spent the night in a very nice airport hotel (alas, no breakfast brunch included) then caught our flight to San Francisco late Thursday morning.  The 12-hour flight seemed to go pretty well, particularly compared to our return flight four years ago.  (Susie and I got lucky again, thanks to our travel agent: our two reserved seats had an empty seat between them and nobody showed up to claim it.  It turned out to be the only empty seat in our part of the plane.)  Four years ago Valerie spent much of the flight walking Malia.  This time, Macy slept quite a bit and Malia, of course, is all grown up now when it comes to flying.

We had bought tickets to accompany the kids to Denver, where we would spend Th. night with Mandi and Paul, then fly home Friday.  But, we had checked SW connections from SFO to ABQ, so that was our back-up plan -- avoid the hassle of an overnight offload/onload in Denver.  Getting home was a priority for all of us.

Jeff and Valerie had things under control (we think they concurred), so we went to the SW counter in SFO and found that there were seats available on a flight to ABQ via San Diego.  We caught that but due to a bit of a mix-up at the SW counter our bags traveled on later flights via Los Angeles.  Matt and Suzy picked us up (they had borrowed and taken good care of our PT while we were gone), so we had dinner at Applebee's with them, then picked up our luggage (slight panic when it didn't seem to be there with all the other luggage from LA) and drove home.

A great and very special trip.  Glad to be in Cedar Crest again.

China Cheers,

Susie and Rob

House and double rainbow, June, 2008.

China 8. Shamian Island

Shamian Island.

In Guangzhou we’re staying at the White Swan Hotel on Shamian Island.  This is a small island, about five blocks by two blocks, in the Pearl River, just barely separated from the north bank of the river.  In the mid-1800s the island was granted to the British (4/5) and French (1/5) governments.  Subsequently, it became the headquarters for other foreign businesses and governments.  At one time the U.S. Consulate was here which is one reason the White Swan Hotel became adoption headquarters; I believe every U.S. adoption is processed through this consulate.  Now, the consulate is elsewhere in Guangzhou, but the adoption agencies still use the White Swan. 

Because of its history the island’s architecture is very European in flavor – large, colonnaded buildings, lots of trees, a broad promenade down the center.  Many cornerstones date in the early 1900s.  Most of the buildings are now apartment houses, but still the island has the feel of a colonial enclave.  For one thing it’s not nearly as crowded as most urban Chinese areas are.  Makes it a pleasant place to stroll with the babies.

Here are some pictures that may convey the flavor of Shamian Island:

 The island is a popular locale for wedding and fashion shoots.

There are a Protestant chapel and a Catholic church on the island.  On Sunday we attended a combo Chinese/English service at the chapel.  It was packed and alive.  A couple of the songs were done in English and scriptures were read in both languages.  The Preacher, accompanied by an English translator, preached from John 3:16.  We had attended here four years ago and were glad to see the church still going strong.  Here's the church.

 And here's the steeple.

 Several sculptures like this around.  This one is The Grandparents.

One of the White swan traditions is the group photo of each adoption group’s new kids on one of the red couches in the lobby.  It’s a madhouse as all the parents try to keep the kids lined up and take pictures at the same time.  This was the best I could do.  Macy’s in the left  front.  She’s wearing an outfit that grandma found in a nearby store.  Also bought a matching one for Malia.

I like to go out in the early morning to watch the Chinese exercise rituals along the riverfront.  Some of it is very sedate (Tao Chi, a correspondent has told me), some more frantic.   Some are in groups, some solo.  Some groups bring boom boxes that provide accompanying music that I like to listen to.  

Fans and swords can be part of the exercise.

A popular nighttime attraction is to take boat cruises on the Pearl River.  We've seen the brightly lit boats on both this and our previous trip, but had never been on one.   Well, last night the group outing was a dinner cruise on the river, so Susie and I went.  Some scenes:

The White Swan puts on a light show on its riverside front.  These lights flash in different patterns.  I caught them almost all on.

Nice evening, lots of bright lights.  We had a good time.


Susie and Rob