Archive for November, 2007

The Touring Day and Medical Exam

Tuesday, November 6th, 2007

Have to get caught up here, or you all will never know what’s going on! Today was our big GZ tour; the same tour we did last year. Somehow, this year, it did not seem nearly so long or arduous as last year, even though we had to ride herd on a rampaging 3-year old boy! Speaking of which, Joe and Will got along much better today. Joe is easing up on him a bit, and Will is responding well. He’s still thinking Ayi Nicki is the best thing he’s got going, but he tolerated mama and baba better today. Almost no crying jags. He’s really done well in that regard. A few very small episodes of crying, but nothing we couldn’t stop easily. In fact, he and baba were bonding in the bathroom tonight, singing loudly, “We are men of Coleman-esque stature,” referring to some Syracuse basketball player from about 298 years ago when Joe was in grad school in Rochester, NY. Baba even consented to clean out Will’s ears, although it was “not a very manly thing to do.” I’m not sure whether it was the cleaning itself, or the being cleaned that was not manly.

Soooo, back to the tour…

We went with a bus load of CCAI families, many of them with very young NSN babies. (That’s non-special needs, for those of you not in the acronym game.) We began with the Temple of the 6 Banyan Trees, a very old Buddhist temple built about 1500 years ago (yeah, I’m just making that up – there was something today about 1500 years, but I’m not sure what! Please do not take my words as any sort of accurate representation of Chinese history. Just in case you hadn’t already figured that out.)

11-5-07-1.jpg 11-5-07-2.jpg 11-5-07-3.jpg This was some kind of outdoor brazier with octagonal holes on each side.  You are supposed to throw a coin through the correct hole, and then you will have good fortune.  It took me several tries, but I finally got it, and then I did the required dance about the big urn touching all the dragons’ heads.  Perhaps it was longevity, not good fortune.  I suppose it doesn’t work if you don’t actually know what you’re trying to achieve, huh?

11-5-07-4.jpg Some of the children from our group getting blesssed by a monk.

11-5-07-5.jpg One of the monks stopped to chat for a moment to thank us for taking care of the Chinese orphans.

11-5-07-6.jpg Anna and Jason.  Can 2 year olds have crushes?  She’s so silly.  She talks and talks about Jason, wondering where he is, but when he shows up, she won’t talk to him at all.  It was hard to get her to pose for this picture, but she did it.  Sure enough, as soon as he walked away, it was “where’s Jason?!”

Then we moved on to the Chen Family Museum.  We got off the bus in a little different place this year, and walked past a beautiful floral dragon sculpture.

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This museum is where we took the famous “tree” picture of Anna, which some of you may remember.   I love this picture, and I use it as a family photo all the time.  anna-10.JPG We thought it would be really fun to recreate that photo a year later.  Here’s how the attempts went:

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I never even made it into the pictures, Anna was so distraught at the idea of sitting in that tree.  Oh, the horror.

11-5-07-12.jpg 11-5-07-13.jpg You all may remember the beautiful embroidery at the Chen museum.  The displays this year were a little different, but still very impressive.

11-5-07-14.jpg I still do not quite comprehend how the Chinese government could have see our photos, allowed us to be matched with this little beauty, and then let us leave the country with her.  What were they thinking!

11-5-07-15.jpg My two brilliant children trying to make the stone lion eat their flyers.  Yeah, they’re pretty, but…

11-5-07-16.jpg I spoke too soon.  They aren’t pretty all the time.

Next, it was on to the provincial, government-sponsored local arts and crafts store.  I picked up a few knick knacks this year, but restrained myself a bit better than last year.  We got back to the hotel, and had just enough time to run over to the Deli for a bit of lunch before Will’s medical exam for his visa.  Right before we left, Jason told us that there was a problem with both Will’s and Isabella’s paperwork that was done in province.  Something about the names being listed in the wrong order on the adoption decree.  We had gone round and round about this in Ningxia, and they insisted they had done it correctly.  Well, USCIS has different ideas about correct, I guess.  Turns out the woman in charge of the adoption unit at the consulate ultimately said it was OK, but not without implying she was really letting something slide, this time.  We’d better get it right next time!  Whooo, I’m scared…

On to Will’s medical exam 11-5-07-18.jpg

11-5-07-17.jpg Waiting with our group.  Will was very well-behaved over all.  We managed to sneak out while Anna was watching the Backyardigans with Auntie Nicki, so she didn’t have to come to this. 

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Neither Will nor Joe cried much during the exam, although Will did take some offense to the procedure to determine that he was not cryptorchid.  Joe thought that was understandable.  I thought that “men of Coleman-esque stature” ought to be able to handle that without crying.   I can’t imagine what would happen if a speculum appeared. 

After we got back from the exam, Joe was feigning a headache, so we tried to get everyone to take a nap, but Anna had fallen asleep during the tour and napped for about an hour, so she was having none of that.  Will only naps when all other stimulation has ceased for at least an hour, and since Anna was still bouncing around, there was no napping for anyone.  So, Auntie Nicki and I decided to take the kids out for a run around the little riverside park by Lucy’s.

11-5-07-22.jpg Nicki demonstrating hopscotch faster than the speed of light!

11-5-07-23.jpg 11-5-07-24.jpg The two biggest imps in China!

After all of this, we went over with a large group of CCAI families for a dinner at the Cow and Bridge Thai restaurant.  I was tired of taking pictures at this point, so I don’t have any to share.  The kids were tired and didn’t eat well, and Anna melted down a time or two.  We got them back to the room and bathed and they were both asleep within a few minutes, giving me all this time to blog before I drop dead for the night.  I think that already happened but my fingers just don’t know it yet!

Tomorrow morning is our consulate appointment, which we do not actually go to.  Jason will go and just call us if there’s a problem.  In the afternoon, we have our trip to the pearl market.  I don’t REALLY need any more pearls…..

The Pearl River Cruise

Monday, November 5th, 2007

I got the final pictures from my beloved Fuji Finepix F20 uploaded onto my computer today, so I’m posting some of the shots from our Pearl River Cruise last night. It was a very pleasant excursion, even though I think our guides were a bit worried about it. They mother-henned us all over the place, trying to make sure we didn’t come to any harm. I keep wondering what CCAI would do to them if one of us were to get lost. It must be something far worse than simply losing their jobs. They take a lot of pride in their work, and it shows in the way they take care of us. Kathy even went so far as to hand write a slip of paper for each family with both destinations listed: the Pearl River Cruise and the White Swan Hotel, in English and in Mandarin characters, for us to show the taxi drivers in case we got lost. This was in addition to Bruce hailing each taxi for us, telling the driver where to take us, and closing us in securely before allowing the driver to take off. Needless to say, we all made it.

It was a very nice night. I had my fleece on, but probably didn’t really need it. The banks of the Pearl River are brightly decorated, and motoring along the river makes for a beautiful show.

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11-4-07-14.jpg It was very cool to cruise past our hotel on Shamian Island.

11-4-07-7.jpg Baba said Anna had a fantastic time enjoying all the lights.

11-4-07-15.jpg The girls.  Note the angelic rays emanating from both of our heads.

11-4-07-13.jpg My impish son with Ayi Nicki, who is apparently sleeping on the job yet again.

11-4-07-12.jpg This pic is for Trish, to show that Izzy B isn’t always thrilled to be with her baba, either!

11-4-07-111.jpg Some of our friends from CCAI – Carson, Sheila, Teresa, Meggie on the floor, Eric, and just a bit of Violet.

11-4-07-16.jpg The last shot taken with my camera, and the last photo of me you’ll see from this trip, since Joe no longer has a camera.

Go, go, go, go, GO!!!

Sunday, November 4th, 2007

That’s from a Backyardigans episode (Racing Day), for those of you who don’t hear their soundtracks playing in your head all day long. This is actually my second attempt at posting today; I started in late afternoon, but a computer glitch ate my post and the pictures I had laboriously uploaded. So, I had to abandon ship and run off to our next activity. Back to work.

We arrived yesterday afternoon, and rested a while, then we met for visa photos for the new kiddos, and then wandered over to the infamous Lucy’s for a nice dinner. Ahh, American food… We ate with our Ningxia companions, the Krys, and the Berter and Schultz families who we know from our on-line community. What fun to get to meet people in person! The kids got to run around a bit outdoors, and the adults got to drink beer, so a good time was had by all.

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This morning was a paperwork morning for us.  We ate breakfast at the overwhelmingly extensive White Swan buffet, then I had to go fill out all the visa application paperwork.  Joe and Nicki and the kids sorted our laundry so we could take it over to Sherry’s Place for cleaning.  I got the paperwork done, and then learned, much to my dismay, that our flight from GZ to Beijing on Friday is considered a domestic flight, and is thus subject to domestic luggage allowances.  That means only 1-44 pound suitcase per person.  We were at that limit on the way here, and we haven’t even begun to shop!  I’m very concerned about that, in addition to the fact that I learned that we will not be able to check our luggage all the way through to Newark from GZ, so we’ll have to claim it in Beijing and then recheck it.  I was hoping to avoid doing all that with 2 toddlers in tow.  I’m actually upset enough about it that I’m considering changing our tickets to fly out of Hong Kong instead, and just buying new tickets from GZ to HK.  It would add to our expense quite a bit, but would reduct my stress level by a lot.  I can’t believe I didn’t know this!  I just assumed the rules would be the same as when we fly out of Hong Kong.  That was stupid of me, I guess.  Frustration number 1 of the day.

After that, we ventured over to Sherry’s Place to drop off the laundry and start the shopping.  We picked out some matching outfits for Anna and Will, and got some nice PJ’s for mama and baba.  I managed to bargain a bit, even though I’m not great at it.  Then we came back and shot the infamous Red Couch photos!

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It took 2 different shots of our family to get everyone looking reasonably nice.  The whole group did pretty well.

We finally got the kids to nap for a bit after that, and then it was go go go again to get ready for our Pearl River cruise.  Our guides had decided the dinner cruise was too dangerous for us (food not safe, I think) so we went on an after dinner cruise.  It was very pleasant – beautiful lights all along the way, and we got to cruise past the White Swan!  I took lots of photos; I’ll try to edit and post some tomorrow.  The cruise is where disaster number 2 struck.  Somehow, in transfering Anna from my arms to Joe’s, he managed to hit my arm hard enough to fling my camera to the ground and break the lens apparatus.  Yes, my carefully chosen and now, much-beloved Fuji F20 is now defunct.  I’m now stuck with Joe’s Canon.  At least we have another camera.  I’m quite disappointed though.  I’m trying to decide whether just to go ahead and order another one, or let Joe try to get this one fixed.  Sigh.

Tomorrow, we go on the big GZ tour that we enjoyed so much last year, and then we have Will’s medical exam for his visa in the afternoon.  We have a group dinner at the Thai restaurant tomorrow evening.  They have excellent food!

I will try to talk a little more about Will as the week goes on, if life ever slows down a bit.  He is a nice, smart little boy, but he does have a lot of behavior issues.  It’s impossible to tell at this point if they’re real, or if he’s just testing us, or if these are just institutional behaviors.  He’s very moody, and will choose one of us, and then blatantly snub, or even run away from the others and cry when we try to touch him.  The favored adult changes about twice a day.  He also has rather manic episodes where it’s very difficult to calm him down.  Not mean episodes, more just wild play with screaming and out of controlness.  I think we’ll have to get him home and established in our routine with a sense of our version of order before we can tell what’s real and what isn’t.

Quick Hello from Guangzhou

Saturday, November 3rd, 2007

Hooray! Back in civilization! We had 3 hours of flying to get here, I had a squatty potty experience with Anna in the airport I hope NEVER to repeat, and Will is a bit out of control. But, life is better already. We’ve already got our first lunch from the WS Deli Shoppe, we’re planning dinner at Lucy’s, and Anna seems to be feeling completely normal. I’m going to keep dosing her with ibuprofen today, because I fear the fever will return tonight, but I know what to do about it here. And I have Diet Coke. Sigh….

Jason met us at the airport, and greeted me with a big hug. Anna seems to remember him as well. He had to meet another group, so he sent us and the Krys on to the hotel. We met his roommate Bruce who helped us check in. He seems very nice as well, but he is working with another group. We have Jason and Kathy.

We are so happy to be here and NOT in Yinchuan. The only thing better would be being home…

The last day in Yinchuan

Saturday, November 3rd, 2007

It’s late, and we have to be out of the hotel by 6AM tomorrow to fly to Guangzhou, so this will be a short post with few photos.

We started out slowly this morning, since Laura was able to pick up our passports, and we didn’t have to leave the hotel at any particular time. We finally had the experience in the restaurant that so many others have had, with the waitresses fawning over Will, talking to him in Chinese, fixing his napkin and plate, etc., and we had no idea what anyone was saying. It’s frustrating, and annoying. They were even unrolling his sleeves when we left (which I had laboriously rolled up earlier because his sleeves are too long!!!) Grrr. They only got away with it because we were the only ones in the restaurant at the time.

Anyhoo, we went out as a group to do a little last minute shopping and pick up some province-specific souvenirs. I can’t talk about it because some of them are gifts. We did get to go to the nice foreign language bookstore, and I picked up some cute books with English and Mandarin text. Dr. Seuss and things like that. Then we traversed to a little park, and let the kids go on the grass. It was their first opportunity to run since we got here. Will was only interested in pushing Buck and Trish’s stroller around until I got worried he was being too rough with it and made him stop. Then he started running around with Anna and Isabella.

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11-2-07-1.jpg Rough housing with baba

11-2-07-4.jpg The requisite photo that all the locals want to have taken with the very odd American tourists with Chinese babies.

After the park, we went over to KFC and had some lunch.  It was crowded today, and we ended up sitting on high stools at a counter.  I thought it would work OK, but after various spillings of drinks and dropping of corn, etc., it wasn’t such a success.  But we all got some food down, and then it was back to the hotel.

Anna and Will and Baba all went down for naps and Mama started plotting the packing.  Then things got scary, at least for me.   Anna woke up very fussy from her nap, and Baba thought she felt a little warm.  We took her temp, and it was 102.5!  102.5!  OK, time for Mama to panic!  I immediately gave her a dose of ibuprofen, started her on some apple juice, and high-tailed it down the hall to Trish’s room.  Trish is a nurse and has worked in the school system for 23 years, I believe.  She had me bring Anna down and examined her thoroughly, found no rashes or pustules anywhere, and pronounced it a virus.  We came up with a strategy to get her through the night and to GZ successfully tomorrow, where there will be western docs and western medicine in case we need it.  Trish, bless her heart, was able to keep me from calling a cab and taking Anna to the airport immediately to wait for the first flight home!

It took about an hour, but Anna started perking up, and by bedtime, she was acting completely normally.  She drank about 3 glasses of apple juice, ate a healthy portion of ramen noodles and some of the little bun crackers the kids like so much here, and watched Backyardigans.  I drifted back and forth between sanity and panic, trying to pack sensibly without losing my mind.  We never did retake her temp because she felt normal to the touch and was acting fine.   We took a lukewarm shower, and I gave her another dose of ibuprofen before bed.  I’ll repeat it again before we leave tomorrow, and that should hold us to GZ.   Auntie Nicki did yeoman’s work tonight, running over to the market, getting us more apple juice, trying to find us some tylenol to alternate with the ibuprofen if needed, and having a very interesting experience at the little pharmacy there, discussing Chinese herbal medicine with a very nice man who was doing translation for her on his computer.  She actually ended up talking to a friend of the pharmacist on the phone who was an English-speaking physician.  She recommended a particular herbal therapy in addition to the ibuprofen, so Nicki felt she had to buy it after they were all so nice to spend so much time helping her.  I packed it away.  I’ll show it to our guide and find out what it is.   Then Nicki came back and cooked us all ramen noodles since the mama was too loopy to do it successfully.  This was my biggest fear about this trip – that I would take Anna out of the country and then she would get sick, and I wouldn’t be able to get appropriate care for her.  So, I was all primed to panic.

We’re mostly packed, Anna seems to be fine and should make it to GZ without any problems, and hopefully this won’t be too nasty of a virus to ride out.  I don’t know if she got it from Will, or picked it up somewhere else in our travels, and will be passing it on to him in the next few days.  Yippee.  That’ll be just about the time we’re trying to travel home.  And he isn’t over his other cold yet.

Don’t worry about us – everyone except for me is sleeping peacefully, including Anna.  I will post when we get set up in GZ to let you know everyone is alright.  Trish also thought it was possible that Anna might have a temp just from dehydration since she wasn’t showing any other signs, so getting all that juice into her may have helped.  It is extremely dry here (you saw the desert!) and we did do lots of running around, and Anna did spill virtually all of her drink at KFC.  If the fever doesn’t recur tomorrow night, we may be out of the woods. 

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.