Sunday, February 15, 2009

Today's the Big Day

videoLast night at the end of another jam-packed day we arrived in Nanchang, a smallish (by Chinese standards) city in the southeast. From what I can tell the city doesn't have any particular significance, and doesn't get a lot of tourist traffic. However, Nanchang has a great deal of personal significance for us--it's where we're going to be getting our daughter, just over four hours from now. For now I'm just hanging out at our glorious hotel, with the really cool sounding name "Galactic Peace," once again up way too early thanks to jetlag. Monica, I should add, is still sleeping like a baby. I don't know how she does it, but I'm jealous.

Yesterday began with a trip to Tiananmen Square, the world's largest hunk of concrete surrounded by Chinese government buildings. The Great Hall of the People, essentially the PRC's "Parliament," stands along one side. The massive mausoleum where Chairman Mao lies encased on a glass tomb stands on another. Highly aggressive souvenir peddlers abound, and when they saw a group of Americans they began buzzing around us like moths around our back porch light. Zhou advised against buying anything from them, or at least against paying more than 20 Yuan (around $3) for anything they had to sell.

Although it was a brilliantly sunny day, it was very cold and windy--probably in the 20s. None of us had been expecting these kind of temperatures, so we didn't have winter coats. A few (including Monica) didn't even have gloves. Nevertheless we pressed on toward the Forbidden City.

The Forbidden City (see video) was the palace complex of the Ming and Qing emperors. Parts of it were built in the 15th century, but work on it was pretty much ongoing until the fall of the Qing Dynasty in 1911. It was "forbidden" in the sense that ordinary people were forbidden from setting foot within its walls, on pain of death. Mao's government made a big production of opening it to the people, and there sure were plenty of them there yesterday. I'm told that during the regular tourist season the crowds are much larger. I'm not sure I ever want to be there then.

From there we went to a silk factory. We saw another demonstration of traditional techniques, then were turned loose in the store. Now, it was never our intention to buy a lot of expensive stuff in China, but it's hard not to. The silk, for example, is of outstanding quality, and available at much lower prices than we could ever get in the United States. We bought a 100% handmade silk quilt, with cover and pillowcases, for less than $600, and that included shipping to the United States (we're going to have enough to carry home, as it is). I almost bought a silk robe for myself, but concluded that it wouldn't be a terribly practical garment for northern Ohio.

After doing some damage at the silk factory we went for lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe. I must admit, Monica and I sneered when we learned we'd be going there. We're in China, we thought. Why wouldn't we eat the local food all the time? We consider ourselves fairly adventurous eaters, and we'll try just about anything. Well, after only a day and a half of eating the local fare (my favorite example--"pear and white fungus in rock sugar soup") we were thrilled to have an honest-to-goodness burger and a cold beer (Singha, from Thailand) to wash it down. The bad news is that unlike just about every other place in China, the Hard Rock Cafe was really expensive. Our burgers came out to be about $20 each. Maybe I'll give the white fungus another try.

Then it was off to the airport for the flight to Nanchang. I've come to the realization that every airport in the world is pretty much the same. Same basic layout, same announcements ("now boarding China Air flight 2018 for Hangzhou....Those requiring extra time or assistance in boarding are now invited to....," etc., etc.). The flight was delayed by about an hour, but we really had nothing else to do for the rest of the day. By around 9:15 we were at the hotel; by 10:00 we were in bed.

The hotel, as I said before, is spectacular--spacious, well furnished, and with a great view (and--yippee!--it has a cigar bar!). They're undoubtedly used to catering to adoptive families (the adoption center is right across the street), so our room is equipped with a crib, stroller, baby tub and potty seat. I don't think we're quite at the potty seat stage, but the other things will no doubt be helpful. This morning after breakfast we're headed to a nearby Wal-Mart (yes, they have them all over China, stocked with tons of stuff made in China. Just like home.) to pick up whatever baby things we've forgotten. Then, at 10:30 representatives from the nearest orphanage (about three hours away) will meet us across the street at the adoption center to introduce us to the newest member of our family. Plenty of photos and video to come!

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