The island has four or five excellent restaurants. Local cuisine, Thai, French and an American style restaurant are all available. The only downside to the island is there isn't a "fast food" place. Our friend Ed decided that the noodles and fish balls at the 7-Eleven would be an acceptable option to curb his appetite. Ed didn't strike me as the kind of guy who would walk into a 7-Eleven here in the states and grab a couple of chorizos that had been rolling around on the heater for a couple of days so why a pot of steaming noodles and fish balls in a Chinese 7-Eleven seemed like a good idea I will never comprehend. Ed paid the price for several days and I don't think he would recommend them to anyone else...
Despite the fact we laughed at our guide and only took the phone number to be polite, Papa John's pizza in China tastes very much like it does over here...all three times. We didn't order it because we didn't want to go out to get some local grub, but at 6 o'clock at night with a tired little girl it was just the best, safe option.
The US Consulate and Physical Examination Center have both relocated off the island and we were part of the last group of families to go through before the move. Some shop keepers indicated that foot traffic in their stores has decreased due to the closing of the White Swan. I'm sure some of those shops will close down. There are plenty of them and they all sell the same things. I hate to see them lose their shops but that is capitalism in socialism at its best. The restaurants were full of locals so I'm sure they will not be affected by a decrease in Westerners. Unless a strong case against staying on Shamian Island could be made to me, I would definitely prefer staying there to other locations. But, "you don't know, what you don't know."
John Feng...pronounced John Fung. Demand him by name as your personal guide. As a guide he was professional and knowledgeable. As a person he is a warm, caring and fun individual who seems to have a passion for the kids. He volunteers with a few organizations that help the orphans with what little spare time he has. I could go on and on about John but I will stop so as not to embarrass him.
Do you enjoy blogs? I realize at this point probably not as much as you used to... Nothing embodies freedom like the ability to know that Sally "just burned her toast" or Bob "is upset about the Spartan's loss but his perfect cup of morning coffee is easing the pain." We are accustomed to quickly disseminating such vital information through Facebook or Blogger. The government of China is aware of the chaos such information sharing can cause...72 friends all confirming that they too have burned toast...and therefore seen fit to block access to some web sites. If you would like to access these web sites, you will need to have a VPN (Virtual Private Network) before you go over to China. I picked two and signed up for a one month subscription at a cost of about $12 each. The one we ended up using was Overplay. Very simple to use. The second one was HideMyA$$. I'm not saying their product doesn't work...it just didn't work for us and I wouldn't use it again.
In order to charge our computer and cameras we borrowed a power converter from a friend. Initially we purchased one from REI but on closer inspection of the user guide it cautioned not to use with computers. The one we borrowed (from Brookstone) may have originally had the same statement, but we didn't have a manual with cautionary notes and therefore didn't have to worry about it. Anyway, it worked well and kept us in the videography, photography and Skypeology business.
*** ADOPTION ***
As Rebecca has already written on this blog, adoption was her idea. I was content, and sometimes exhausted, with just the boys. I had always thought I would have a large family when I was younger. Part of that thought process did not account for getting married at 31 and not having our first child until I was 34. Fast forward 3 years and numero two comes along when I'm 37. Between our two boys sometimes I feel 70 years old. When we discovered that we would not be having a third biological child I didn't have the same sense of loss as Rebecca did. I suppose that's a guy thing. Just conceiving our sons had been quite a process. Sometimes I felt that space exploration would have been an easier endeavor...and I'm talking deep space, not just a few rotations around the planet. If you're familiar with the movie 'The Right Stuff' and the astronaut selection scenes, that's about what the process begins to feel like. Not to mention the abuse I saw Rebecca put her body through injecting multiple drugs into her system trying to get the right chemical balance to conceive...and then there were the miscarriages...
So Rebecca comes to me with this adoption idea and I enthusiastically reply, "okay." As time passed I occasionally ask if she had learned anything new about the adoption process..."where are we at?" As if "we" had been doing anything.
Time goes by and the details get fuzzy but I know Rebecca kept plugging along with the paperwork. At some point Rebecca mentioned her blog to me - but it was still private. Only her first post so it was more like a diary. After nagging her for awhile she finally logged on and let me read it...I'm not sure she wanted me to...but that's the power of nagging. I got it. I was all in. I read words that expressed things Rebecca had never directly said to me...and it was not the part about me being a "wonderful man." Rebecca has a way with words so I probably read better than I actually am.
We knocked out the home study and eventually started the matching process. We received our first two files and before we opened them I reminded Rebecca that we did not have to accept either. Rebecca has already detailed our process with those files. We were moving forward with Princess Petals. She was cute as a button and we were excited. But, time goes by and some of the excitement wears off. We talked about Princess Petals, we thought about her, we tried to celebrate her, but the fact was that we didn't yet know her and she was at this point just a picture of a little girl on our fridge.
Yes were were making efforts to bring her to us, but at this point we did not know her. Some people write that their heart is bursting with joy, love and excitement about their soon to be child. I don't want to take anything away from them, but I don't get it. Yes, I love all children. I want the best for them. It makes me sad when I see images of children suffering around the world. But that's just it, they're images...and so was Princess Petals to me at this point. There's no shame in feeling this way. During our home study process I had already expressed thoughts along the same line. Can I love my adopted child as much as my biological children? Especially considering some days it seems like a struggle just to love them :)
Day 436 of Princess Petals' life. The big test. We meet for the first time. How will it feel? Will I feel something for this girl who up until now has been a picture on our fridge? I would have to wait my turn to get my hands on her. Rebecca called first rights. So I waited patiently with cameras at the ready to capture the moments. I watched my wife light up as she made eye contact with her new daughter.