Because, China.
Someone taught Caitlin and Claire a new yogurt trick.

Someone taught Caitlin and Claire a new yogurt trick.

I am so encouraged by the bonding progress I have seen in the past 48 hours! Chaela is beginning to come out of her shell and we have actually felt like there have been a couple of times we’ve debated correcting her or “reining her in”. Caitlin, my calmest, easiest child said last night when asked how she felt about her new sister, “I love her so much!!! She’s a little bit wild, though!” This is not the same little girl we were seeing just a few days ago. We’re now seeing a little girl who is not afraid to go grab a can of Coke out of the mini bar in our room (the $6 can of Sprite was one thing, but now it’s an $8 can of Coke at 6PM…really trying to get up the nerve to put the Ka-bosh on that one!) and flip on the Chinese soap operas at every opportunity, as well as load up her pockets with the free candy at the lounge. Thankfully these specific things won’t be issues we will have when we get home, so we are trying to look past them here. She’s gotten up the nerve to try out a few more English words, saying both “Claire” and “Caitlin” and counting with us to ten. She’s asking us for more things, like for me to put some cream on her itchy back (she doesn’t like the flannel p.j.’s I brought- I think she just stalls at bedtime…nothing new to me!), for a second round at the buffets, and to wear not two but one layer of pants (progress!!). We’ve played more rounds of Uno than I have ever played in my entire life combined, and found more hiding places in a small hotel suite than I ever thought possible in so small a space. We’ve discovered that it’s a lot more fun to play in the dark with a flashlight, and that jumping in the elevator just before it gets to your floor is quite a thrill. Through all of this play, I have been wondering why I don’t play like this at home with all our kids- it’s been convicting to realize how often I send my kids off to play, but don’t engage in active play with them, and how much we’ve all been missing out because of it.

Her first set of pearls!

Her first set of pearls! She’ll get used to girly stuff eventually.

What's in that glass?

What’s in that glass? Yes, sweet girl. You can drink it out of a wine glass. We have plenty of cause for celebration!!

Yesterday, Monday, we went to the Guangzhou zoo. We never realized how big it is and how much there actually is to see because the first time we were there, we were on the group’s time schedule. This time we took the taxi back so we had as much time as we wanted to see everything. And, see it we did! We realize now why the animals come so close at the Chinese zoos. There seems to be no problem with people feeding the animals, banging on the cages and tapping the glass, throwing scraps through any open hole in the barred areas- pretty much anything you would be escorted out of the zoo for doing in the U.S. The animals are much more interactive this way, however, and the zoo experience is far more interesting. Animal rights activists would have a conniption here at the Guangzhou Zoo, and it was quite odd and sad to see pigs and dogs in the petting zoo, ponies and camels and snakes for petting, riding and taking pictures with, and also all kinds of circus acts performed by both animals and carnie workers. It was quite a spectacle.

The peacock (or, peafowl, as the signs say) was not amused by our transgression.

The peacock (or, peafowl, as the signs say) was not amused by our transgression.

Camel ride at the zoo?  Sure!

Camel ride at the zoo? Sure!

Real animals aren't enough.  We must have statues of cartoon animals!

Real animals aren’t enough. We must have statues of cartoon animals!

I found this Amber look-alike in the petting portion of the zoo.  The snake was just behind me.

I found this Amber look-alike in the petting portion of the zoo. The snake was just behind me.

We ventured into the “Gold Flsh” area, where not only can you feed the gold “flsh”, but you can also play little carnival games such as disk golf, where you win a ticket (of course in Chinese writing) to redeem at the ticket counter for a prize. The kids anxiously took their tickets to the redemption counter to pick their prizes. Instead, they were handed a plastic baggie with three live goldfish inside. We tried to communicate that we were from the U.S.A and we could not keep the fish! Our efforts were fruitless and we were forced to release the fish into the nearest pond- only China. Our motto here now for any oddity or funny thing that happens…”because China”. You just have to stop trying to figure things out at some point and just go with it.

Best $0.80 I ever spent.

Best $0.80 I ever spent.

Because, China.

Because, China.

An amusement park in the zoo.  You can't make this up.

An amusement park in the zoo. You can’t make this up.

We spent today, Tuesday, at Martyr’s Park, a few blocks from our hotel, exploring an area we hadn’t seen before. The Mexican restaurant we frequented on our last two trips has shut down, so we found a new one on the route, Mr. Ponchos, and it was actually quite good! Who would have thought that in China we would eat decent Mexican food and arguably have pizza as good as what we’ve had in New York (Oggi’s)? Unfortunately, we had a scene reminiscent of National Lampoon’s “Wally World” when we first arrived at the park and the girls saw the children’s playground and rides. They ran toward it at full speed, so excited, only to find it roped off and shut down as they approached. We felt terrible. We wandered around the massive park and looked at historical monuments from the Chinese Revolution instead, and watched elderly people congregated in song and Tai-Chi dance routines and exercising in the outdoor gym that we have found at every park in China. We are impressed with the great sense of community and togetherness the people of China seem to have. It’s something that is lost now on people in the United States anymore, and it’s a shame.

IMG_1662 from Joey Odell on Vimeo.

It is fabulously landscaped.

It is fabulously landscaped.

Chairman Ya and the girls.

Chairman Ya and the girls.

This is the Sino-Soviet eternal friendship memorial. The Sino-North Korea one is across the walk.

This is the Sino-Soviet eternal friendship memorial. The Sino-North Korea one is across the walk.

Martyrs must be buried in ancient burial mounds, or it's not legit.

Martyrs must be buried in ancient burial mounds, or it’s not legit.

This was the "elderly activity area".  Naturally, we crashed the party.

This was the “elderly activity area”. Naturally, we crashed the party.

Apparently this is a big "kiss off" to the nationalists.

Apparently this is a big “kiss off” to the nationalists.

I can't read it, but I know it's awesome.

I can’t read it, but I know it’s awesome. This man was painting a Chinese character into each square tile with water. It was so neat to watch!

Pretty!  The managed landscape is nice, too.

Pretty! The managed landscape is nice, too.

Thankfully, when we went back after lunch to see if the roller rink was open (the sign said something about 0200), it was! It looked like an old, run-down, closed down building, but it was still in operation-we were the only people there, and it was a good thing, because it was dangerous enough without people to bump into.

 

I think about all the “firsts” Chaela is having and will have, and it’s exciting to be with her to witness the wonder at all the new things she is trying for the first time.

IMG_1714 from Joey Odell on Vimeo.

She’s excited to ride an escalator, watch as automatic doors open, and do things we take for granted everyday. I love to watch her as she becomes more bold and brave to speak with us and interact, and try to show or tell us things that just a few days ago she would rather stay silent about. Tomorrow is our last “official” appointment we have before we can begin our travel home. It is the U.S. Consulate appointment where we will be picking up Chaela’s new Passport and Visa so she can travel home with us and once on U.S. Soil, become a citizen. It will be a bittersweet moment for all of us as she leaves her home country and embarks on a new life in a new country with her new family!

Ready to roll!

Ready to roll!

Happiness is a sister and a creamsicle.

Happiness is a sister and a creamsicle.

Official paparazzi - this photo coming soon to a promotional brochure near you.

Official paparazzi – this photo coming soon to a promotional brochure near you.