Sunday, August 28, 2011

The China I expected

As the train pulled out of the Guangzhou station, jammed with what felt like 1000 Chinese people, 10 Italians and our little American family, it really hit me that we were taking Cici away from her place. The place where she was born. The place where she has who knows how many blood relatives. All week questions began to swirl in my head about her story. Was she really from Yangxi? Or was she taken there to be found because the orphanage takes good care of the babies and many of them are placed for international adoption. Did someone in her family know this and want a better life for her? As the highspeed train to Hong Kong began to pick up speed, I thought hard about the person who let her go and who I am sure has been wondering about her for the past 11 months. And so I began to whisper all my promises to this little girl, mostly into Cici's ear but really I wanted the words to escape into the universe for her other mother.

Watching the flashes of China pass by as we hurtled through small towns on our way to the southern coast of this country, I felt a pang of disappointment that I didn't connect as well with China as I had hoped I would. I had visions of photographing markets, beautiful architecture, and people with expressive faces. But none of that happened and it wasn't only because I was a mom of a baby again but because our location didn't offer much in the way of those scenes. I was sad I didn't find the China I expected. I was sad I didn't have the time to go find it.

The train took less than 2 hours to reach Hong Kong and 15 minutes after collecting our bags, we were pulling up to the Salisbury YMCA. Yup, you read that correctly. We stayed at a YMCA in Hong Kong. gasp. Why you ask? Well Nana left us for Croatia by way of Italy and without our third adult we found ourselves for the first time in our lives, outnumbered by children. Both China and Hong Kong have strict rules about how many people can stay in one room and most HK city hotels do not have rooms that sleep 4 and would require us to book 2 rooms but at the same time would be unable to guarantee that the rooms would be connecting. Lucky for us the adoption crowd is particularly chatty and loves to offer advice and one family I knew of who traveled recently with their large crew, stayed at the Salisbury YMCA because they had FAMILY rooms as well as regular guest rooms. But what really sold me was that they had HARBOR FRONT family rooms. After verifying with a few people that this place was not a flea bag hotel, I booked a family room for a very reasonable price and after we checked in, we were delighted to find a gorgeous view of a completely lit up harbor. So as strange as it felt to be checking into a Y.M.C.A, I was comforted by it being in a super cool neighborhood, right next to the Peninsula Hotel, and a 20 second walk to the Star Ferry which shuttles passengers every 8 minutes between Kowloon and Hong Kong Island.

Our 2 days in Hong Kong proved to be just what I needed. We found our stride as a family of 5. We put Cici through the paces of what it is like to be a part of this crazy traveling family and she passed with flying colors. We rode a crazy long and super high tram across nearly 6km of Hong Kong's mountainous terrain, explored back alley food markets, and haggled with vendors at the kitchy Cat Street market which felt like a Chinese Brimfield Fair. In the end, I found my China and then we left with the best part.

Hong Kong cityscape from our hotel room!

HK Landscape - Lantau Island- from the tram on the way to see the big buddha

Playing with her reflection in the window of the tram

View of Buddha as we arrive at the mountain top

Inside the Buddha there were offerings to ancestors and what looked like these name plates.

Offerings usually include fruit and other foods.

Walking back to the tram from the Buddha through the park. Very pretty but with all this stone and very little shade, it felt hotter than the sun.

Food markets on Hong Kong Island

A worshiper at Man Ho Temple on Hong Kong Island. We watched locals come and go as they took the time during their busy work days to worship. Buddy was very interested in trying it so we bought some candles. We lit them and did the bowing.

PS For those about to plan their adoption trips, I wanted to offer this advice. getting around HK with a stroller is surprisingly easy. The metro is very clean, each station seems to have elevators, and the trains run very smoothly. Find the family/handicap entrance for a wider turnstile though. The people at the info booths we talked to had very good English. For the Star Ferry, ride on the less crowded but more expensive upper deck. Tickets for the decks are bought on the levels used for their entrances. So to buy an upper deck ticket go upstairs at the terminal. Have some coins ready, they were $2.5 HK (about $0.30US) for an adult and $1.5HK for children between 3-11. 

My next post, I will reveal some info on my Pearl shopping and where to go!


bbk said...

I can relate to being out numbered by children! :)
Glad you found "your" China, but more importantly, you were matched with Cici!
GREAT pictures!

Glinda said...

OMG, is there anything you don't do well! You are an inspiration; I on the other hand am all perspiration, so don't expect too much from my photos or my parenting skills when I finally make it to China, just the anticipation is exhausting.

Your photos are fabulous.

I can only aspire!

Anonymous said...

I love your writing and great photos of China. My husband and I will be traveling 1 Sep to China to bring home our daughter. Looking forward for your next post. I hope Nana love the Croatia?My home town is Rovinj.

Charity, Gary, Katie and Louie said...

Great post! Thanks all of the info. I'm looking forward to making use of it soon. xoxo

MsPicketToYou said...

love this all. having contact happy.

Fliss and Mike Adventures said...

Love, love, love the photos... so awesome... reading what you wrote etc made me feel I was back there... hugs...

shelley said...

Your photos are so great!!!! Loved watching your journey, thanks for sharing.