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| Crunch Time!

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Crunch Time!
There's more to Hong Kong than the city.

There’s more to Hong Kong than the city.

We had a great time touring parts of Hong Kong yesterday that we had never seen before. In typical jet-lag fashion, we were up before dawn each morning and ready to go even before the breakfast opened at 6:30. We mis-read the bus schedule (a regular thing that happens often on these trips!) and missed the free shuttle from the hotel that would have taken us to the subway station, so we had to pay the $9 for a taxi instead. This is only the first of many of these types of mishaps, I’m sure. We hopped on the subway to the main section of Hong Kong where we took the open-top double decker “Big Bus Tour” that we loved so much in Shanghai last time. It’s a great and fun way to see the sights and hop-on and hop-off at many of the touristy attractions. We were able to drive by the “most popular amusement park in Hong Kong” (I thought it was Disney, but what do I know!?), ‘Ocean Park’, but in order to get to the rides up on the top of the mountain you actually first have to take a Chinese-type thrill ride bucket mover up the steep hill to get there. I am still recovering from the bubble tram experience from three years ago, so I will stick to Disney! In fact, if it were up to Joey for the plans this day, we would not be touring Aberdeen and Stanley Market, but we would be visiting Lantau Island’s most famous attraction, the giant Buddha that requires a crazy glass-bottomed cable car ride that goes to the tip-top of a huge mountain to view. There is just no way.
Ocean Park - at least, the half that requires a bucket ride across the mountain to enjoy.

Ocean Park – you can see the rides on the top of the peak if you look closely. This is the half of the park that requires a bucket ride across the mountain to enjoy.

An old ramshackle neighborhood surrounded by urban vertical growth.

An old ramshackle neighborhood surrounded by urban vertical growth.


We hopped off first at “world famous” Stanley Market, a beautiful seaside coastal town with supposedly a great shopping experience (it looked to us like any other Chinese stalls of endless rows of loot), but I did find a pair of sunglasses to replace mine that broke in the carry-on. So, at least I can say ‘I came, I saw, I bought’ here. The rumor was true that it was a less stressful shopping experience than most markets in mainland China. At least there weren’t store employees following us around and throwing things at us to buy. It was a more relaxed atmosphere, but still some haggling to be had. Fun!
After about an hour of strolling around the boardwalk area and admiring the beauty of the sea (though it was a cloudy day), we got back on the bus to resume the tour to Aberdeen and the wharf area. Here we took a traditional sampan ride around the bay where hundreds of Chinese junk ships are docked or float around in the harbor. We were amazed at how many of these fishermen actually live on these boats- think of it as a trailer park of boats, because that’s exactly what it looked like.
Essentially, it's a maritime trailer park.

Essentially, it’s a maritime trailer park.

It's a stark contrast to the city around them.

It’s a stark contrast to the city around them.

Imagine living in this boat.  People do, not out of necessity, but a desire for simplicity.

Imagine living in this boat. People do, not out of necessity, but a desire for simplicity.

We exited the sampan boat at the “Jumbo Floating (overpriced) Restaurant”- a really neat place for ambiance where we ordered the cheapest thing we could find on the menu that we recognized that the girls would eat. By this time were were feeling the later afternoon effects of jet lag setting in and knew it was quite a trek back to the hotel, so we completed the one-route of the Big Bus Tour and headed back to the hotel where the girls talked Daddy into taking them to the pool. We played some rounds of cards with the girls in the lounge and just relaxed- a rare treat!
The famous Jumbo Floating Restaurant.

The famous Jumbo Floating Restaurant.

We're so local.

We’re so local.

The best part of the restaurant.

The best part of the restaurant.

We took the time while waiting for various buses and transportation to practice some phrases to use tomorrow when we meet Chaela. I’m sure we will completely butcher it, but I hope she knows we are trying- the girls have it down better than we do, so they will help us. In fact, even if we were fluent in Mandarin Chinese, it would not help us completely because Chaela thinks, speaks and writes in a local dialect- Mandarin is not her first language. They teach Mandarin Chinese formally in the schools, so she does know it on a basic grade-level, but that’s it. It’s been that way for each of our adoptions- Charlotte was from a rural village that spoke a strange dialect of Cantonese that even the Cantonese speakers in Guangzhou couldn’t understand, and Carrigan’s orphanage spoke a combination of Shanghaiese and Mandarin. Who knew there were so many variations! Chaela has expressed that her biggest concern and fear is learning the language and how to communicate with us- and I think we feel the same. Surprisingly most other mothers I know in the adoption community have assured me that this issue is not as big of a deal as I am expecting, and it isn’t the biggest issue- I really don’t know if that’s a good or a bad thing!
These pretty ladies are tough to beat, too.

waiting for the people on the upper deck to exit so we can sit on the open-top!

Jammin' on the Big Bus Tour.

Jammin’ on the subway.

The girls are having a blast!

The girls are having a blast!

Obviously in an ideal world, she would be adopted by a family in her own country where this wouldn’t be an issue- she wouldn’t have to lose her culture, her language and her way of life. But, for the children of China who are older and/or with special needs of any kind, International adoption is their only hope. Healthy babies found by her orphanage are adopted locally within a month, but the sick ones and those with disabilities are sadly left to die and the lucky few will be put on the International adoption registry or grow up in the orphanage to ‘age out’ at 14 with no one to call their own. We will never forget our guide telling us in our last adoption that because of the one-child policy (this is before it recently opened up to two), people only want a healthy, beautiful, white-skinned baby- and even a birthmark is considered a ‘special need’. It’s an unfortunate fate. It’s so exciting to know that now because of her orphanage opening up to International adoption recently that some of these children like Chaela will have hope and a bright future. I despise man-made rules and regulations that have put some of these children in situations where they cannot be adoptable- even in America each state has “rules” that prohibit families who would like to give a child a home and family from doing so. We aren’t allowed to foster or foster-to-adopt in our home state of TN because of having more than 6 children in the family already. If countries didn’t unnecessarily make restrictions the way they do then we could each adopt “our own” and it would be easier for all involved, especially the innocent children caught up in the system. That’s just not the world we live in, and I’m thankful that because of modern technology and (relative!) ease of travel that it is now an option and privilege to make a beautiful blended family of different races, tribes and tongues.
I am now typing this with sweaty palms as we ride on what feels like a rickety old “Hong Kong Express” plane into Yunnan Province on the morning of March 6th, which is the evening of the 5th for those of you at home. Kunming is the capital of the province and where we will be staying for the next 5 nights. Chaela will be brought to us at the provincial office here tomorrow after a long 6 hour car ride for her. Kunming is supposedly the “land of perpetual spring”, which I was excited about after leaving a New York winter, though at 42 degrees in Kunming this morning, it’s hardly my idea of spring! Kunming is also the most ethnically diverse of all provinces in China, which I find interesting because I didn’t really realize there was much diversity in China at all. As it borders with Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam, with Thailand and Cambodia nearby, I guess it shouldn’t be too surprising that there is a mixed people group here, and we’re looking forward to experiencing life so different than ours in this part of the world. As an interesting side note, Kunming is significant because it marked one end of the Burma Road that was used as a supply route during WWII.
We later found a sign, "Do not climb on statues."  Whoops.

We later heard it mentioned on the Big Bus tour that you should never touch statues here because they may be someone’s god. Whoops.

Lookin' fabulous.  It's international.

Lookin’ fabulous. It’s international.

A little Captain & Tennille  instrumental to give the IFC Mall some ambiance.

A little Captain & Tennille instrumental to give the IFC Mall some ambiance.

   We haven’t yet been able to connect with the kids back at home, and we are missing them all terribly! The time zone difference makes it a small window of opportunity to try to FaceTime with them, but we hope to soon. My mom has been sending some pretty funny updates to me on how things are going and I told her she should write her own blog about life at home with 6 kids while we’re gone! Carrigan has been asking her repeatedly if she is going to China, and when the older kids have left to play with friends if they are going to China, etc. Poor guy. He already had insecurity issues, and this certainly isn’t helping. I know in the long run he’ll be just fine, but either taking or leaving him was going to be tough for him. If it were do-able, I would have brought every one of them, and my mom, too. Now, that would be an adventure and a sight to behold. Someone on one of the buses we were talking to already asked us if we had our own reality TV show when she heard part of our story. That’s certainly not our goal or desire!
We're gonna need this.

We’re gonna need this.

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