Archive for November 1st, 2007

The transformation is complete

Thursday, November 1st, 2007

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It only took us slightly more than 48 hours to turn our new son into a television junkie.  Soon he’ll be out selling his plasma just so he can afford a new Backyardigans DVD.  Ah, the joys of Nick, Jr. mind control…

The Halloween Post

Thursday, November 1st, 2007

Well, at least I had clean jeans today.  A bit soggy, but clean.  I may just burn the khakis I was wearing the last 3 days.  Not sure they’re worth saving.  OK, on to the good stuff…

We did not have the energy to trick or treat last night, although I had made a modest attempt to decorate the room a bit.

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After the “Great Pizza and Laundry Debacle of Yinchuan, 2007” we decided that our kids would never know the difference if they trick or treated the morning of All Saint’s Day rather than All Hallow’s Eve.  We ate breakfast, and then when the kids started getting really antsy, I sent Joe and Will and Anna out into the hall to run up and down for awhile while I got their treats ready.   Nicki and Trish were doing the same.  I think they started at Trish and Buck’s room, and got cute flashlights to carry.  They then came to our room, hollered “trick or treat”, and got little collapsible pumpkins and a collection of Wonka candy, pop rocks and slimy rubber critters.  They went back to Trish’s room, and each got a little book for their bags, and then to Auntie Nicki’s room for another little goodie bag with cookies and stickers and a T-shirt and a new blankie, etc., etc. 

11-1-07-1.jpg Anna and Will both”up high” on Baba

11-1-07-2.jpg Trick or Treat at Trish and Buck’s room

11-1-07-3.jpg Miss Isabella posing in the hall

11-1-07-4.jpg Stopping to check out the goodies.  You’ll notice that you can’t see Anna’s face in any of the pictures from today.  She was so busy examining the contents of her goodie bags that I could never get her to look up.  Seriously, in all of the approximately 2,384 pictures I shot of the Halloween festivities, you cannot see her face in a single one.  Takes a lot of concentration to keep yourself focused on your loot for that long!

11-1-07-5.jpg Trick or Treat at Auntie Nicki’s

11-1-07-6.jpg Anna’s new T-shirt

11-1-07-7.jpg 11-1-07-8.jpg 11-1-07-9.jpg An orgy of candy consumption by all parties took place in the hall.

We all ate lunch in the hotel restaurant after the candy fest, and then the kids and babas and aunties went down for a nap while the mamas went back to the notary office to check over all the official documents.  We got all of our official copies, so now we just need the kiddos’ passports, which we’ll get tomorrow morning, and then we’re free to leave the province.  Of course, we are in one of the most remote areas of China, and you truly can’t get there from here, so there’s only one option for flying out each day if you want to go to Guangzhou, and that’s to leave the night before.  Yeah, I know that made no sense to anyone who doesn’t already know that I am the opposite of a morning person.  I go to bed around the same time much of the world begins its day.  In short, we have to fly out of Yinchuan at about 7:30AM on Saturday morning, getting to GZ around noon or so.  That means leaving the hotel around 6AM.  To me, that’s the night before.  That’s also why we can’t leave tomorrow.  The only flight out that can get us to GZ leaves too early in the AM for us to collect our final documents on Friday. 

So, tomorrow is another lazy day.  Laura will pick up the passports, and then we will probably do some last minute shopping, trying to get some province-specific gifts, and then check out Yinchuan’s nicest park so the kiddos can run their little bottoms off and burn off some energy.  We also have to pack madly, because the volume of our belongings always expands proportional to the number of days we stay somewhere, even when we haven’t really purchased anything.  I’ve never figured that one out.

The rest of the story

Thursday, November 1st, 2007

Too many hysterical things happened yesterday to contain in one post, so consider this part 2 of the sand and camels post.  You might recall that I mentioned Joe had located a pizza place about 2 blocks away that made a decent pepperoni pizza.  Of course, we shared this precious information with Trish and Buck, and so we were all looking forward to dining on delivery pizza Wednesday night.  Trish was especially needful of a taste of home – she’s missing her son back in Florida, and having a difficult time reaching him reliably via Skype – I can’t imagine being separated from my child for this long!

We got home from the long day’s adventures, and Laura called our laundry place to see what time the laundry would be ready on Thursday morning.  Lo and behold, they decided it was ready NOW!  So, she and Joe and Buck walked over there to pick up the laundry.  In the meantime, it was Nicki’s and my job to get the pizza ordered.  This is where the first disaster struck.  When Nicki talked to “Uncle Robin”, he apologized and said their power had been out all day, and they were unable to make pizza that day.  Hopefully tomorrow.  He was unable to recommend another delivery pizza place in Yinchuan.  Of course he wasn’t’; what if we tried somewhere else and liked it better?!  Anyway, we had to panic for a few minutes, and then, Nicki jumped into action, calling the porter to see if he could find a place that made American pizza.  He called back in a few minutes, saying he had found a place, and he had called a cab for us since they didn’t deliver.  We would have to go, order the pizza, wait for it, then come back with it via cab.  No problem, he wrote everything down in Chinese for the taxi drivers.

Joe and Buck got back right at this point with the laundry, so we broke the bad news to them, and sent them right back out the door to get the cab.  They dutifully traipsed off, and we sat in our rooms with baited breath, waiting  for news.  I got the bright idea to go through our laundry, and sorted out all the clothes.  I found that the jeans were still wet (but neatly folded), the underwear and socks were damp, and not sorted or folded, but the shirts weren’t bad.  A bit annoying for taking so long and being relatively expensive, but at least we had clean pants!  I sat and looked at the piles for awhile, and suddenly realized that we didn’t have any of Anna’s clothes back, other than her socks.  This laundry had made a HUGE deal out of counting every last sock when it was dropped off, so that was quite annoying.  I called Trish to see if they had put them in her bags, but no such luck.  Grrr.  Trish and Isabella came down to our room about this time to wait for the boys.  (As far as the laundry goes, I really think that when Laura called last night, they just took our laundry in whatever state it was currently in, put it in bags, and told her it was ready so they didn’t have to mess with us today.)

We waited.  And we waited.  And we waited.  And finally, we heard Joe’s key in the lock.  He came striding in proudly, and dropped two boxes, about 10 inches square, beautifully tied up in purple ribbon, on the bed.  This was the product of their almost 2 hours of labor.  (We found out later there was beer involved on this trip, but it hardly made a difference in the outcome.  I think.)  I opened the boxes, and inside the first was an Egg0-sized pizza with ham and pineapple on it, and inside the other was a slightly larger pizza with some sort of mystery meat and assorted veggies.  This was the result of an order for a LARGE ham pizza, and a small veggie pizza. 

By this time, we were all rolling on the floor in hysterical delirium, so the story got quite muddled, but apparently they got to the place with no problems, but they couldn’t get the non-English-speaking staff to understand that they wanted to carry-out the pizza.  This place had carry-out boxes, so they clearly do this kind of thing, but they just couldn’t get it, despite Joe’s best efforts at miming carrying out a pizza.  Buck did a lovely imitation which had me in stitches.  I guess they kept trying to get them to sit down, so they finally did, and had a beer, while trying to get the pizza ordered. 

They finally got their pizza, paid a pretty exhorbitant price for it, headed home in a cab, and proudly presented their “kill”.  To end a long story, it was inedible pizza.  Even Miss Isabella, the hoover of the Ningxia Hua Autonomous Region, would not eat the stuff.  We gave up, called room service, chose between chicken or tuna pizza (chicken, of course – tuna=blech!), and had it brought up.  It wasn’t wonderful, but was edible, and we each had a slice and then went to bed. 

I think you all can see why I didn’t have enough energy left to blog after all that.  You can check out Joe’s blog for his description of the day’s events, along with a pictorial representation of our children at Sand Lake.  I might have to enter that one in an art contest.  Primitive cave drawings of the 21st century. 

A day of sand and camels

Thursday, November 1st, 2007

We had a very busy day of touring today.  Our poor guide, Laura, had planned a nice day of museums for us to visit, but nothing with room to run for kids, and no camels.  Since riding a camel was my #2 goal in Ningxia (after adopting Will, a close second!) I advocated hard for visiting Sand Lake instead.  It turns out we were able to visit one museum and Sand Lake in one day.  It was a long day, but worth it. 

We first went to the mausoleum of the emporers of XiXia Dynasty, which began in 1038.  I would have liked to pay more attention to the history, because the director of the museum himself gave us the tour in English.  I’m sure it was very interesting.  Will and Anna were bored to tears.  Will was running around like a ninny, and Anna was picking her scab on her nose.  She made it bleed so badly, blood was running down her face and everyone thought she was seriously injured.  Sigh.  Of course, my little bandaids were in the van, so Laura came to the rescue with a full-sized bandaid that had to be folded up so it didn’t cover her nostrils, but it did the trick.  If I have time later, I’ll try to find a link describing what we saw so you can figure it all out.

10-31-07-1.jpg 10-31-07-2.jpg 10-31-07-3.jpg Baba, Anna and Will discover the lost mobile home of the XiXia dynasty!

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After finishing up at the mausoleum, and a harrowing trip to a WC, where an entire bus of Chinese tourists literally ran to get there ahead of us (it was a typical squatty potty, although relatively clean by cleanliness standards), we got back in the van, stocked up on Goldfish and little buns and granola bars, and headed off to Sand Lake.  It was a harrowing 1 hour drive, over a highway under heavy construction.  We were in the back of the van, and our heads only hit the ceiling once, so I guess it was alright.  Thankfully we had taken our motion sickness pills before we left.

We arrived at Sand Lake in one piece, and the first order of business was to eat lunch.  Laura chose a restaurant, and we learned that the specialty of Sand Lake is fish heads.  Yew.  We ordered a very spicy mutton dish, a pork dish and a veggie dish.  The mutton wasn’t great, but the sauce was fantastic.  Anna had fallen asleep by this time, and she was snoozing in my lap, so I was challenged with trying to eat over her head, with chopsticks, without spilling all over her.  I was partially successful, but probably only because I didn’t eat much.  I did drink 2 glasses of beer, so that helped.  When we were almost done, they came out with this huge tureen of soup, which turned out to be fish head soup, of course.  No charge.  Yippee!  Since I don’t even eat clam chowder, I didn’t try it, but both Will and Anna sucked it down.  Yuck.  We then had our next toilet adventure.  This one was worse than any we’ve seen so far.  Wet floor, two holer.  I would have granted this one negative stars.  I will now be searching for convenient bushes if faced with that kind  of toilet again.

10-31-07-7.jpg Anna visiting the Sand Lake delicacy.  No, they weren’t quite dead.  We told the kids they were just sleeping.

On to the amusement park.  Sand Lake is a resort area with a big lake, a desert and various amusements. 

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10-31-07-12.jpg We rode a small speedboat across the lake to the sandy area.  I’m still trying to figure out if this area is part of the Gobi Desert.  I’ll try to look that up later, too.  I have discovered that adding toddler number 2 has caused a geometric decrease in my powers of concentration.  Anyway, we arrived at the other side of the lake, and headed straight for the camels.  This is, of course, the reason we came!

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After about a 2 minute camel ride, we got to the top of a sand ridge, with an amazing view.  Will got scared up here, and actually held up his arms to me a couple of times and said “Mama, bao!”, or mama, hold.  I picked him up and carried him as long as I could (he’s about 33 pounds).  As soon as we got back off the ridge and he couldn’t see so far, he was fine playing in the sand.

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There was a long slider thing going down from the ridge to a play area.  Joe and I were adventuresome enough to try it, along with our guide Laura. It was pretty cool, but the trudge back up almost killed me.  I could only do it once because of that.  Joe went twice.

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We climbed down to the boat dock, rode back to the main gate, and headed home.  It was about a half hour van ride, and Will fell asleep then.  I put videos on then, and created my little TV zombies.  Thankfully, Mr. Energetic is quickly becoming just as much of an addict as Anna.  Keeps them quiet in a small room for a bit, so the adults can regroup. 

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Then began our laundry and pizza adventures, but they take more time to tell, and Joe and Nicki are threatening to go to sleep if we don’t eat lunch, so I’d better wrap up this post and start another one later.