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 Auntie Nicki’s Blog
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Day 18 - The long trip home

Posted by admin on November 9th, 2007 filed in China Adventure 2007
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Today was our long flight day, starting with a 3 hour flight from Guangzhou to Beijing, then the 13 hour flight to Newark.  I am sitting in a hotel in Newark because we got here too late for me to get a flight back to Minneapolis, so I fly home in the morning.  The rest of the crew caught a late night flight to Manchester, so they’ll make it to Joe’s parents house tonight. 

The flights went well.  Our monitors didn’t work on our long flight, so we didn’t get to watch any movies, which was kind of crappy.  But we did a lot of sleeping anyway, so it was OK.  Pan Pan had a really hard time falling asleep, but once he was there, he was out cold.  He was sprawled on the seat and eventually just rolled off onto the floor.  He stirred a little, then stretched out on the floor under our seats and sleep for about 5 more hours. Ahh, to be 3 years old.  Anna had to cry a little, but she did pretty well.  We made it through customs and immigration without a hitch, and Pan Pan is now a US citizen, and officially named William Joseph Winter Casciari.  Welcome to America, kiddo!

I had to say goodbye at the airport, and I’m still crying about it.  I love those two little peanuts so much.  I hope to see them at Christmas, at which point I expect Will to be speaking perfect English.  He’s already on his way, saying “Hello” to anyone who would look at him in the airport.  I think Anna and Will are going to be great friends.  Billie and Joe will have their hands full for, oh, about 16 years (or more), but they sure have two great kids.

I can’t wait to finally get home tomorrow and see Tony and Thatcher and Moss (my kids).  I feel like I’ve been gone for about a year.  It will be hard to get back into my boring routine at home.  I had such a wonderful experience in China, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.  But it will be good to be home.


Day 17

Posted by admin on November 9th, 2007 filed in China Adventure 2007
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Today was a free day for shopping and packing.  We went out around the White Swan hotel, which is on Shamian island in the Pearl River, to several little tchotchky stores.  Some of them had very nice sales people, some were way too aggressive.  But we were able to spend our remaining Yuan and get some nice souvenirs.  Packing was a major task, so that and dinner took the whole evening.  Tomorrow it’s back home to the USA!

One last picture at Lucy’s, the restaurant by the hotel where we ate at least 4 times.

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Day 16 - the Zoo

Posted by admin on November 9th, 2007 filed in China Adventure 2007
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Today we visited the Guangzhou Zoo.  It was quite a nice zoo.  Although some of the habitats probably weren’t as nice as we would see in the USA, all the animals looked healthy and well fed.  The highlight of the zoo trip was feeding the monkeys.  Joe and I took Anna and Pan Pan into the monkey habitat and we fed the monkeys little pieces of melon.  Billie has a video of it on her blog.  The monkeys were very light - when they jumped on your shoulder it wasn’t even as heavy as a cat jumping up there.  They were soft and fluffy too.  I would say I wish we could have brough a monkey home, but we did bring Pan Pan so I guess that’s pretty close.

 In the afternoon, Billie & Joe & Pan Pan had to go to the US Consulate to take some oath, so I was back on Anna-sitting duty.  It all went really well until the end - we were watching TV and playing, but she was so sleepy she was falling asleep standing up.  So I tried to get her to lay down for a nap, and she just exploded, crying and screaming.  Fortunately, her Mom & Dad came home about 5 minutes after that, and her Mom got her to sleep in about 30 seconds.  Of course, Joe was convinced I’d been chewing on Anna’s leg all afternoon, since I am the Da Hui Lang (the big gray wolf, apparently a children’s story villian that Pan Pan knows well).  Grrrrrrr….

Eeek!  It’s the Da Hui Lang!

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Feeding the monkeys

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Chinese preschool children at the zoo - so cute!!

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The Guangzhou zoo actually had a habitat for a bunch of rats.  Big rats.  Yuck!

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Anna and I compared our foot size to the gorilla’s

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Day 15

Posted by admin on November 8th, 2007 filed in China Adventure 2007
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Today was a pretty slow day.  Our guides took Pan Pan’s paperwork to the US consulate to get his visa, so we had to wait in the room in the morning case they called with any questions.  There weren’t any questions, so that was good.

 In the afternoon, Pape Joe stayed home with the kiddos and Billie and Trish and I went to the pearl market with the tour group.  It is a huge shopping mall with all kinds of jewelry stores, not just pearls.  The prices are excellent, but I restrained myself very well.  There were a bunch of other stores, including the DVD store that had tons of DVD’s for 16 yuan each (that’s about $2).  There was also a Nightmare Before Christmas store.  A whole store.  Believe or not, I did not buy anything there, but I did look.

My stomach has pretty much given up on digesting food, so I’m just trying to get by on as little as possible until I get back to America.  One of the few advantages of being an overweight American is you can actually survive for several days without eating at all.  I haven’t put that to the test yet, but I’m thinking about it.


Day 14 - Sightseeing

Posted by admin on November 8th, 2007 filed in China Adventure 2007
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Today we did a sightseeing tour around Guangzhou.  First we went to the Temple of the Six Banyan Trees, so named because the monks chopped down the six banyan trees to build the temple.  It’s nice to see that people haven’t changed much in the last 2,000 years or so.  We threw our coins in the good luck iron incense burner thing, and saw the HUGE golden buddhas, and some of the children were blessed by a monk.  It was all very pretty.  Then we went to the Chen family art museum, which was a fancy old house turned into a museum of local arts and crafts.  Then we went to the govermental store, similar to the store we visited in Beijing, to shop for junk.

In the afternoon, Pan Pan had to have his physical exam, so I babysat Anna.  I distracted her by letting her put lotion on her hands and feet, which is something she loves to do but her mom rarely lets her.  She didn’t even notice that the rest of her family had disappeared.  We watched cartoons and played quietly til they came back.  Anna sure is a special little girl - I hope having a brother doesn’t toughen her up too much because she needs to keep some of that sweetness.

At the temple:

The longevity iron pot.  I don’t really know what this thing is, but they had us all try to throw coins through the hole at the top.

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Pan Pan admiring a statue

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I was amused by this monk talking on his cell phone

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The monk blessing the children in front of the big golden budha’s

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At the Chen museum:

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Billie and Anna with the puppet display.  I don’t know why I like puppets and marionettes so much, and yet I am freaked out by ventriloquist dummies.  Go figure.

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Day 13

Posted by admin on November 4th, 2007 filed in China Adventure 2007
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I feel much better today.  I am functioning at about 90%, which is a huge improvement from yesterday.  Today we had breakfast, then Billie had to go fill out a bunch of paperwork, so Joe and the kids and I sat in the room and played and watched DVDs.  Then we went to Sherry’s place with Trish and Buck and Izzy-B to get the kids outfits for their official red couch photos (they are really just a chance to take pictures of your kids in a nice spot in the lobby, and the CCAI reps get photos of each family for their records).  We made the poor worker at Sherry’s store tear the place apart to find the right outfits, and Buck and Joe gave up and took the kids back to the hotel.  After the ladies got done shopping, we went back for the photos.  By this time, it seemed like all 3 kids were both overtired and overstimulated, and they were all flopping between giddy and miserable at the drop of a hat.  We lived through the photos with a fair amount of tears, and now everyone is napping, so maybe this evening will be better.  We are supposed to go on a river cruise tonight, which at this point no one is that thrilled about, but I think we are still going to try it.

Here are some of the red couch photos.

I hope someone got a better picture of our family than my camera, since neither of these are very good

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Trish, Buck and Isabella

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The kids in our adoption group (with a couple of sisters making sure they don’t escape)

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The big group photo, in which our family actually looks pretty good

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Here are some of our “outtakes”.  Thank goodness we had Anna keep her shorts on under her dress!

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Day 12 - Travel to Guangzhou

Posted by admin on November 3rd, 2007 filed in China Adventure 2007
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The only thing I can tell you about today was that I was suffering from the Chinese version of Montezuma’s revenge (Chairman Mao’s revenge?), and we had to get up at 5:00 to ride a bus, take a flight, take another flight, ride another bus, and finally get to our hotel, the White Swan in Guangzhou.  I’ve never been so happy to get to a hotel in my life.  I spent the whole day just trying to not explode like the guy in “Alien”.  The rest of the group went out to dinner and did a little roaming, but I just stayed in the room and slept.  The rooms are very comfortable, and after a nice long rest, I am feeling much better.  Hopefully I have conquered whatever Chinese bug got me, and I can start to enjoy Guangzhou - based on the view from my window, it will be more fun than Ningxia.

As promised, here’s some pictures of the kids playing in the park in Yinchuan:

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Day 11

Posted by admin on November 2nd, 2007 filed in China Adventure 2007
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Today was a quiet day.  We did a little shopping, found a park for the kids to play in, and had lunch at the KFC.  Then back to the hotel for naps, dinner, and watching Shrek on DVD.  Tomorrow we have to leave the hotel at 6:00 am to catch our flight to Guangzhou.  Billie assures us we’ll have more choices for food for those of us who don’t care for Mongolian mutton and fish head soup.  Ningxia has been very kind to us, but I won’t regret leaving here.  Every little thing is so hard to do here.  Everyone wants to help you so hard, but no one speaks English and they have no idea what to do to help, so they just do random things.  It gets very annoying quickly - I know they are trying to be helpful, but us Americans just like to do things ourselves.  We must seem so rude to them here.

Today at the park, we had several people who wanted to take pictures of the kids, and one group of young men even wanted us all to pose for a picture with them.  It’s interesting to me that the men seem just as fascinated with the kids as the women.  It makes sense to me that women would want to coo at the babies and play with them, but the men are the same way, especially the young men.  I think that since there is the one child rule here, children in general are just rare, and everyone wants one.  Men have to be 22 before they can marry here (women 20), so I suppose there are some men under 22 who really want kids and they have to wait, so they like to admire the babies too.

I have a few pictures from today, but I have to get up in 5 hours so they will have to wait.  Wish us luck in Guangzhou!


Day 10 - Happy Halloween!!

Posted by admin on November 1st, 2007 filed in China Adventure 2007
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The Chinese don’t celebrate Halloween, but we’re Americans, gosh darnit, so we had trick or treating in our hotel hallway.  We were going to do it last night, but we were all so tired, and we logic’ed that if we waited til morning, we would be trick or treating with the Americans because of the time change.

The kids went to all three of our rooms and knocked on the door and shouted
“TRICK OR TREAT”, and they got goodies at all three rooms.  I think we replicated the American trick or treat experience pretty well.  They got candy, stickers, cookies, books, toys.  They  might be disappointed in the real trick or treat when they don’t get so much stuff at each house.  We took over the hallway and sat on the floor sorting and sampling our goodies.  That was our main activity of the day.  Billie and Trish went to the notary office to verify all the paperwork - the rest of us didn’t leave the hotel all day.  We basically ate, slept and watched TV.  Pan Pan is getting the concept of cartoons, and has started to zone out in front of the TV.  He also has started to sing and dance along with the Backyardigans, so I think we got a kid with good taste.

This morning I helped Trish and Buck feed Isabella (Izzy B), so they could eat breakfast.  That kid is a true hoover.  I would put a spoonful of congee in her mouth, and she would be clamoring for more before I could refill the spoon from the bowl.  She ate a whole bowl of congee (it’s the rice version of oatmeal),  a boiled egg, some croissant, and various things off her mom’s plate.  She has several very sharp teeth (Trish calls her Sunny after Series of Unfortunate Events), and she did take a bite out of my hand once, thinking it was food.  To her, it might have been food.  She’s like a baby bird, just sitting with her head upturned and her mouth open, waiting for food.  But once her tummy is full, she sure is a good natured baby, laughing and playing and making funny faces.

Here’s the photos of Trick or Treating

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Day 9 - Sightseeing

Posted by admin on November 1st, 2007 filed in China Adventure 2007
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Today we went sightseeing around Yinchuan.  Ningxia province is tucked up into Inner Mongolia, so we are essentially in the Mongolian desert.  We first visited a mausoleum, which is known as the Chinese pyramids.  They are more like burial mounds,  but they are impressive because you can see them scattered around the desert for miles.  We had a tour of the museum given by the director, since he spoke English.  I’m sure it was very educational, but Pan Pan Will was getting very bored, so he and I gave up listening and walked around on our own.  Really all I got from the tour was that the guy buried in the big mound was a leader who was killed by his own son after he stole the son’s wife.

After the mounds, we road on the worst road ever for about an hour.  We all gobbled snacks in the van because we didn’t know what we would get for lunch, and that turned out to be a good idea.  Then the kiddos fell asleep and we arrived at Sand Lake.  Sand Lake is a large lake right in the middle of the desert, and it’s been turned into a amusement park of sorts.  Of course, it was freezing cold and windy, so there were not very many people there.  We first stopped for lunch in what looked to be the nicest food shack there.  There were large fish tanks outside with big fish in varying degrees of aliveness.  We then found out that the specialty at Sand Lake is fish heads.  Laura sensed we wanted something more “ordinary” (her word), so we got pork and mutton.  I can’t eat lamb because it makes me naseous, so I just had a little pork, which was actually quite good.  The proprietress must have either felt snubbed or that we were missing out by our not ordering fish heads, so she brought out a big bowl of fish head soup, free of charge.  The kids all wanted some and gobbled it up, so I dared to try it.  It wasn’t  half bad.  It tasted like a seafood chowder, and the fish head meat wasn’t identifiable as a head, it was just little chunks of very soft white fish.

 We rode a speed boat across the lake and then took a trip up the big sand dune on camels.  The camels were really pretty and they seemed much better tended to than camels I’ve seen in the US.  Once at the top, we had our choice of activities, like a big slide or a jeep ride, but Will and Anna and I decided to just play in the sand.  We had a very good time.  Then it was back to the hotel, and the pizza debacle, which Joe’s blog describes in much better detail than I could.

The Chinese Pyramids.  The best part about this place was all the open space for running.

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The van ride

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Mmmmmm…fish heads…

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Camel rides and playing in the sand dunes

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Everyone thinks these kids are so cute, but this is what they really look like most of the time

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