Guangzhou, Shoppers beware!
6:00am, Tuesday, May 23rd, Tyler's awake and mostly patiently waiting for someone else to wake up so he can get out of bed. I can't believe it's already 6:00, but I get up anyway - which is a good thing because I like to get up by 6:00 at the latest so that I can talk to Tom before he leaves the store back home anyway. I look outside, but all you can see from our window is another building close by and a couple roofs. It's not raining, but hard to tell if it has been or not. Our guide told us yesterday that it had been raining most of the last week here.
We eventually all get up and around. At 7:45, mom & Tyler have to go for his physical checkup a block up the road. Danni and I were told we could come if we wanted, but didn't need to and the office wasn't very large, pretty much telling us not to come, so we stayed in the hotel room. About 8:30, mom and Tyler return with Tyler crying. Mom said the physical went well until they wanted to take his temperature with a thermometer under his arm. He must have thought they were going to give him a shot and started crying and didn't stop. He would hold his armpit once in a while, although mom said it was even the wrong arm. The physical was very simple, height, weight, a general look over, temperature, hearing and color blindness test. After the temperature episode, he didn't want to cooperate with anything so they couldn't do the color blindness test. The hearing test sounded interesting though. They got him involved in something and then made a loud clap near one of his ears. He turned that way - yep, he can hear.
Consoling him wasn't working, so we decided to go for a walk and see what all was on the island we were on. We started walking down some of the streets and saw a lot of people exercising and walking around. We didn't get very far when we were greeted by Jordan, a friendly resident of the island. He talked for a little bit and introduced himself saying that he owned the store called Jordan's. Mom had heard of this store from the other adoptive parents on the lists she's on, all of them saying that his store is a must to go to. We followed him back to his store and he opened up for us - he was actually on his way to go exercise, but who wants to turn down a sale? One of the things on his sign and that people have said about him is 'no pushy sales'. No big deal, right? Well, come to China and shop in the small shops. Even before getting to Guangzhou, we know how pushy the small Chinese shops can be, or so we thought. We looked around Jordan's for a little while. Everything was marked with a reasonable price and we ended up buying several things. Jordan got along great with Tyler and wanted to teach him something in English. He decided to teach him to say 'OK'. Tyler didn't want to say it and didn't, but in the process he asked Jordan 'Why should I talk English?'. Well, Jordan was great, but it was time for us to go on and see what else there was to see.
We took our purchases back to the hotel and got some more American money to trade in for Chinese Yuan. We hadn't grabbed it before because the bank where we could exchange it wasn't open until 9:30 anyway. This is the first place that the hotel didn't have a place in the lobby to exchange money. Xi Xi, our guide, said that they will do it at the counter of the Victory, but they charge for it... you only get about 7 Yuan for a dollar instead of almost 8. We got to the bank and were instructed to take a number and fill out a form for the exchange. Luckily any form of photo ID would work because we didn't have our passports with us. I used my driver's license. At the hotels, we hadn't needed any photo id. Also, at the hotels, it took us a couple minutes to exchange our money, here it took us about 1/2 an hour (and when we had to exchange more the next day, it took a little under an hour). Once we got our money exchanged, we went back to the hotel room again because Xi Xi was supposed to call us around 11:30 to let us know if they had any questions with our paperwork at the consolate and we wanted to be sure to be there when she called.
Xi Xi's call came right at 11:30. No questions, no problems, we were now free until 2:00 tomorrow afternoon when we were to check out and meet Xi Xi in the lobby to go to the consolate for our swearing in ceremony and then leave for home. Our hotel was on the center of the south side of the island We had gone up the center street to get to Lucy's last night and to get to Jordan's today. We had gone east another block and up the street to get to the bank this morning. Lucy's and the bank were on the very north side of the island which is only about 3 to 4 blocks. When we left our hotel this time, we decided to go west since we hadn't been that way yet. We walked around the edge of the island looking to see what all there was and ended up back at Lucy's for lunch. There are a few other restaurants on the island, but we were wanting the Americanized food and the only other restaurant that looked real Americanized also looked expensive and we liked Lucy's last night, so we decided to eat there again.
After lunch, we started shopping again. As you walk by the local stores, workers are standing or sitting in or at the doorways asking you to come in and look around. While you're looking around, they are right beside you trying to sell you anything that you act slightly interested in and some things that you don't act interested in. Nothing is marked with prices, you have to ask what the price is. They'll tell you a price and if you don't act interested in the item after they tell you the price, they'll lower the price. This is where you're supposed to barter and bargain which we aren't good at anyway. We did buy some stuff and managed to barter and bargain a little. Once you acted interested in something though, they kept after you about it even if you didn't want it anymore. We walked all around the island, which is only 6 blocks from east to west, or at least that's how it is on the map. Their blocks are about twice as long as they are deep though, so in distance it is actually about 3 times wider than it is deep. Almost all of the shopping area extends all the way from north to south, but is only in the center few blocks east to west. There are probably about 30 - 50 shops in total. It's hard to say how many for sure because we found out while we were shopping that when you go in to the door of a shop and wander around in there, you aren't necessarily always in that shop. There are several shops that you have to go in through a different shop to get to, there is no external door. It would be like wanting to go to a store in a mall, but to get to it, you have to go through the middle of a different store selling a lot of the same type of stuff. You then pay for your stuff and have to walk back through that other store to get back out.... it was very strange.
In the day and a half of shopping that we had while we were here, we visited several of the local stores. There were all kinds of things to look at and buy including a lot of traditional style Chinese clothes. There was one that we visited twice because Danni had seen a silk robe there that she liked the first time we were there and hadn't seen another one like it anywhere else - and they had a reasonable price on it comparatively. The only other store that we visited more than once was Jordan's, which we ended up visiting 4 times in total. That is also where we bought probably 3/4 of the stuff that we bought. He has figured out that Americans, which are the main customers on this island because this is where all the adoptive families stay, don't like the pushiness that the Chinese store owners usually use. He sits back and lets you do your shopping with plainly marked, reasonable, no bargaining needed prices and is very friendly. On Tuesday night, our second visit to his store, it started raining before we left so he gave us umberellas to walk back to the hotel with and just told us to bring them back the next day when it wasn't raining. In his store, we figured out that a few of the things that we had bought at the other shops we paid a little too much for, but one or two of the things we had gotten a little cheaper too.
Here are just a couple more short examples of the pushiness of these Chinese shop owners. Before we left, Danni wanted to find a Panda t-shirt and Jordan's didn't have any. She found a light colored one hanging at one of the local stores and we went in to ask about it. They started looking for one like it in her size and while they were looking they showed her a different black panda shirt that she didn't care for. As they continued to look, they showed her the same black one trying to convince her to buy it instead. It ended up that the only sizes they had in the one she wanted were all way to big. Since they didn't have one in her size, they found another white shirt that had some chinese character on it and said that it was a real nice shirt and wanted her to buy it. Before we left with no shirt, they had tried to sell her the black panda shirt about 5 or 6 times and the white Chinese character shirt 2 or 3 times. This same type of thing happened with some painted balls that we got our names painted in. While we were picking them out, they tried to sell us a fourth one, one with pandas on it. By the time we left after having our names painted in these balls, she had tried to sell us another panda ball at least a dozen times, even trying to sell it to us as we left with the three that we had chosen, and we had never shown any interest in any of the Pandas to begin with. Shopping here can be fun and you can get some good bargains, but you have to be willing to bargain and not afraid of saying no over and over.
On Wednesday, we got done with all of our last minute shopping and decided to have lunch at the hotel restaurant. It was about 12:30 and we had to be packed and ready to go at 2:00. We didn't figure it would take us more than 30 - 45 minutes to pack because we hadn't unpacked much from our last trip, we just had to pack all the souveniers and gifts that we had purchased here. We ordered three orders of spaghetti with meat sauce, 3 cokes and a hot chocolate. There was one other table of 8 people in the restaurant. We waited... and waited..... and waited...... Danni had her hot chocolate gone by 1:00, the rest of us had been sipping on our cokes trying to make them last until we got our food. Finally at 1:15, I got up and found the waiter and told him that we had to go up to the room and pack because we had to leave by 2:00 and requested that they bring the food up to our room. We paid our bill and went up to the room to pack - our cards didn't open the door anymore because the cards say you have to check out by 12:00 even though Xi Xi had arranged for us to be able to check out by 2:00. We had to find someone to let us in to our room. Once we finally got in our room, we started packing quickly. At 1:30 our lunch finally arrived! I coulnd't believe that it took a full hour to get three plates of spaghetti, one of the things in most restaurants that is the quickest thing to order. We had Tyler sit down and eat while we finished packing and then we very quickly ate once we were done. The bell boy came up to get our bags before we were done eating. We gave him the bags, quickly finished eating and went down to the lobby to check out, Xi Xi was waiting for us. We liked the Victory hotel ok, but the restaurant in this hotel does not get our praises at all!
We went with Xi Xi over to the White Swan Hotel, a little fancier hotel that most adoptive parents stay at, but also more expensive. We had to pick up a father who had come without his wife from Las Vegas that was adopting a little boy as well. Once we picked them up, we went to the US Consolate to get all the final paperwork and the Visa to get Tyler back in to the US. This is also where we had to do the swearing in ceremony. We got there before they opened so we would be first in line. Once they opened, there were a lot of other families here. Everyone went up to give them the final paperwork and about an hour or more later, we were doing the swearing in ceremony. Before they started, they told us a little information including the fact that the US adopts nearly 8,000 Chinese babies and kids a year. The swearing in ceremony starts, she tells everyone to raise their right hand. She then asks if everything you have reported on the papers are true and factual. Everyone says yes. She says that's all..... that was the long awaited 'swearing in ceremony'. We had to wait another 20 mintues or so to get our paperwork back and then we were ready to leave to come home.
The train station was only a couple blocks from the consolate, so the trip was very quick. Xi Xi took us in and made sure we were in the right place and that we were ready for when the gates opened to let us on our train. Once we had everything ready and just had to wait, we said our goodbyes and thanked her for everything. We waited here for about a half an hour until the gates opened to let us in to the security area to get to the actual train gate to wait a little longer. Our train left on time at 6:20 and we were on our way to Hong Kong where we would leave for home tomorrow.
This was the first time that I have been on a train. The ride was nice. It felt a little like you were just floating. It was quiet when we were going slower, when we were at the higher speeds, there was a metal clanking noise that sounded like it came from the car in front. It didn't sound like the wheels on the track, but it may have been. I didn't think it seemed like we were going real fast and mom said that it didn't seem as fast as the Am Trak, but we were moving faster than the cars on the expressway beside us. The ride was about a 2 hour ride. We got our luggage and went to find our hotel that was right at the train station. We found it easy enough, it was right across the street. But getting to it was a bit trickier since you go across the street by crossing over it into a shopping mall. You then go through the mall to get to the hotel, at least if you getting to the hotel from the train station. We got checked in, went back over to the train station to eat at McDonalds and then went back to the hotel again and went to bed.... another late night. We got to bed about 10:00 again.
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