Monday, January 15, 2007

You may notice also that I have changed the name of this blog from Ashanti Girl to Ashanti Child. This is in recognition of the fact that since we are not specifiying a gender, we may end up with a son. It's more likely to be a girl, but I don't want to prepare everything for a little girl in case we are allocated a boy.

If you've ever wondered what the word "Ashanti" has to do with a Chinese adoption, I will explain. "Ashanti" is the name of the place where I meet my online friends. I have friends there from the US, Canada, Ireland, England, the Netherlands and more. I chose the name "Ashanti" for this blog because to me it means that the world is a little smaller than it used to be. These places might be far away but the people are surprisingly close. I think that applies to international adoption also.
I have an online friend known as Fionn who I have known for about 7 years. Fionn is a very patient and talented woman with an eye for detail and she has very kindly offered to make me a 100 Good Wishes Quilt for our baby.

The idea of a 100 Good Wishes Quilt is to welcome a baby into the world and it is a tradition from northern China. Friends and family send squares of fabric and the fabric is sewn into a quilt and the messages that come with them go into a scrapbook as a permanent reminder of who has contributed. We will be blogging the process here and I'll put the link over to the side as well.

(and the rest of the holiday story is coming, I promise!)

Monday, January 01, 2007

The Holiday to China - day 3

We decided to be bold and go out for a breakfast for our last day in Shanghai. The problem was however that almost nowhere had a menu in English or pictures of the food so we wandered frustrated for an hour or so until we found a noodle bar. We managed to point at what we wanted but couldn't order a drink. I only know how to ask for coffee, tea or water but couldn't seem to get across that we wanted a drink of any sort. No problem - the noodles come in soup anyway :). After going back to the hotel to pack up we took a train to a local shopping centre where we wandered for a while just looking at the people and the things we don't have at home. That's my favourite thing about travelling - just seeing what people consider normal that seems so strange to us.

After a cafe meal of frogs' legs and other assorted delicacies, including some exotic teas, we went back to the hotel to meet Holly, our student who was picking us up to go to Wuxi to visit her and her family for a few days. Shanghai was generally pretty easy to get around. The only real problem we had was that the train stations were marked on our map, but after walking for ages to get to one of them, it turned out that half the line was still under construction!

Holly met us with her driver at the hotel and crammed our hands full of chinese drinks and lollies and snacks for our drive. She had really been missing chinese food while she was in Australia so she was really excited to have so much to choose from, and to introduce us to so many new delights.

Wuxi is about 2 hours north-west of Shanghai and for most of the drive it was still pretty built up. Holly called it countryside, but by our standards it wasn't even close. After Shanghai though, it looked like wilderness! We arrived in Wuxi at about 5.30pm and Holly took us to the hotel that her family had arranged for us. It was a lovely hotel, right in the heart of town called the Wuxi Jin Jiang Grand Hotel. The best thing about it was the bed! It was the size of two queen size beds and was made up with giant sheets and quilt and pillow that fit all 4 of us in. I want one at home! We got cleaned up then we met Holly's parents for dinner.

The first night they took us to the Wuxi Roast Duck Restaurant just around the corner from the hotel and we had our first Beijing Duck. Wow, it is so YUMMY. You roll it up in pancakes with spring onions and shovel it in. We were amazed at how much food there was but learned later that that's a standard thing in China - they over-order. Sometimes they take the leftovers home with them, but often just leave it. I've often seen Chinese people in Chinese restaurants with mountains of food on their tables and wondered how they stay so slim, but now I understand - they don't eat it all. I'll never feel guilty over-ordering and asking for a doggy bag in a Chinese restaurant again - in fact I have already done it since we got home.
The Holiday in China - day 2

We found our closest train station, worked out how to buy train tickets (which was thankfully very simple) and headed off to People's Square. This is a big beautiful park, full of people doing Tai Chi and other exercises, and families with small children feeding the white pigeons. The little kids are so cute - all bundled up like Michelin babies. Many of them seemed to be with their grandparents - always the best form of child care! We bought some bags of food and fed the birds with the other families. We were quite a tourist attraction. We've travelled a fair bit but this was the first place where we really stood out as being different. The Chinese gushed over our children as much as we gushed over theirs.

A friend had told us about a good fake market at a train station so we hopped back on the train and headed there. The market was really just warming up, as were we, so we didn't purchase anything except a couple of t-shirts. (Based on the principle of "don't carry coals to Newcastle" we had brought very few clothes with us.) Outside the train station however was the shiny new Shanghai Museum of Science and Technology. We adore science museums so this was a wonderful find. It's not in my (2001) Lonely Planet China so we hadn't been expecting it. It is brand new and still incomplete. It took us a while to work out how to get in but the locals were happy to help (once they understood we had already been to the fake market and didn't want to buy a Rolex or a Luis Vuitton handbag) and pointed us in the right direction.

The museum was great, and once I can remember where it was, I will tell you. It will be better though, once it is complete. We spent 4 or 5 hours there, even having a reasonably priced lunch in the restaurant. The highlight was an interactive kids area with a "battle of the minds." You and your opponent stand at either end of a table with a small silver ball in the middle. You have sensors strapped onto your heads, and the activity of your brain pushes the ball along a magnetic track toward your opponent. Sort of like a backwards tug-of-war but with your mind. I am sad to confess that Gemma & I had our butts kicked by the boys.

We finally left the museum in order to meet up with Champs, an old school friend of Scott's who now runs a ritzy restaurant in Shanghai. We met him at The Bund and he took us to a Chinese restaurant called Shanghai Uncle which he said is a family style restaurant and there are several of them throughout the city. The meal was delicious. Their speciality is roast pork - it's pork belly cut up into chopstick-friendly portions and seasoned - yummy! It had been a huge day and my feet were blistered so it was off home to bed for us. Even the idea of shopping in the Bund area held no appeal by that time.
The Holiday in China (part one)

Okay, after that gentle hint from Emma, I guess it is time for me to update the blog with a bit of talk about our holiday in China. If that sounds about as interesting as coming over to look at our holiday slide show, then you can skip this post and any future ones which I will thoughtfully label "The Holiday in China" for you.

We flew from Brisbane direct to Narita with JL and then took a connecting flight to Shanghai. This is an excellent way to get to China and we felt it was much simpler than going via Sydney. Narita Airport was an eye-opener in itself - doors that open and turn into trains, and toilets that are more high tech than my computer. More about that later though. We took a taxi from Shanghai Pu Dong Airport into the acommodation we had booked - Celebrity Service Apartments. I had booked this hotel on the web and was really pleased with what we got for the equivalent of about $AUD80.00 a night. Also, they provide on their website the name and address of the hotel written in Chinese so you can hand it to your taxi driver. The trip itself was most unpleasant however - it was a van with no seatbelts (as is the norm) and the driver drove very fast (as is also the norm) but it seemed more dangerous than any other trip we took in China. I guess because you are sitting up so high that if anything went wrong, we would have all been propelled throught the windscreen.

The hotel had two bedrooms, each with a double bed, and a bathroom. There was no living area, just two cupboards to put your suitcases in. I wouldn't have wanted to stay there for a week, but for our short visit of two nights, it was excellent. I did take pictures of it to show you but Scott's computer ate all our photos from the first two days so unfortunately they were lost.

We woke up on our first morning in China and raced out to our balcony to see just what was outside. It was quite an eye opener. Everything was covered in a haze and all you could see in any direction was buildings. To our right was a school and we could watch the children going onto parade at 7.30am, the usual time for school to start in China. We took the easy option of breakfast in the hotel for our first morning, then headed out to explore Shanghai.