Bibi's Amazing China Adventure

A Diary of her Travels posted on Weblogs at Harvard Law School weblog
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Shanghai

Filed under: Uncategorized July 14, 2010 @ 7:13 pm

July 13

Today we had a blitz tour of shanghai with our guide Heidi.  She is a local and was full of facts and figures.  I was just trying to imagine shanghai as it must have been before WW II and the Revolution.  The Bund was amazing.  We did have a little trouble getting her to understand that we really wanted to eat Shanghainese food – not food that has been edited for American consumption.  We asked for the vinegar to eat withthe dumplings – she was amazed that Americans would want it.  Oh” I said, “we have it at home.  So please forget that we aren’t Asian.”  She thought we were pretty weird but was polite and didn’t show it!

This is a picture of Bibi and Sybille at the Yu Gard

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EXPO – soooo many people!

Filed under: Uncategorized July 14, 2010 @ 7:03 pm
We have just returned from a day at the Expo – go on line and have a look – see if you can find the China pavilion. It was breath taking.  I hadn’t the energy to stand in line for anything else.  Jim and Patti went to the Iraeli one and stood in line for 45 minutes to spend 15 walking through.  Not my thing!  We had a quick lunch with Sybilleand Bibi and watched some Sri Lankan dancers and drummers.  Just the press of humanity wiped me out.  We didn’t wait for the the tour bus at 6:30 pm, but hopped on the No. 1 bus 4 pm and it went directly from the Expo back to the Shanghai Railway Station which is near our hotel.
 
We head out tomorrow, flying at 11 am to Beijing and then on to Boston with a stop in DC where Jim’s sister gets off.  We’ll be home at 10:30 same day! Syb will head back to Dubai and then in 4 days, around the world the other way to Boston.  A lot of frequent flyer miles among us this year!
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Filed under: Uncategorized July 13, 2010 @ 7:19 pm

>
> So we are back in GuiLin aafter another 6 hour drive with a brief stop noodles in a town a little before Yangshuo.
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> The orphanage visit went well – only about 1 1/2 hours. The director Mr. Oh came to the hotel to meet us and then guide us to the orphanage which is in the center of the city. We had the normal meet and greet with him and with the Asst. Dir. Mrs Weh (?sp) Neith were at the CWI when Bibi was there. All the children under their care now are special needs kids and most have severe special needs. Wewere not allowed to see the rooms on the 2 floors. None of the care givers who were there 9 years ago are there now. Most were contract employees rather than government people.
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> We saw one boy – 12ish – walking buy with bags. Clearly a Downs Syndrome child, he is, according to our guide very representative of what they are seeing in orphanages these days. The Chinese pay more than we do as an orphanage fee and the healthy kids are adopted out very quickly.
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> We ate some lichee and watermelon and chatted. We gave them a DVD player that we had purchased in the electronics store in GuiLin and a couple of bags of kids clothes – pretty things – that we had also purchased there. They gave us a beautiful cross stiched and framed with glass picture of a pink creature that is the equivalent of Hello Kitty in China today. It was done by the ADs best friend andframed for this visit. Amazing kindess if not exactly toBibi’s taste.
We asked about Bibi’s file – they handed it over! The AD had it copied and gave us the original. They had a couple of pictures in the file, but they were duplicates of what we had so Ileft them with them.

One of the Gongfamilies asked us to ask about baby pictures of their daughter who was adopted recently at age 6. We did and the AD said she remembered the child because of her medical condition. She went up stairs and got all the pictures in the file and gave them to me! She had a different story about the date of abandonment – off by years! But this is often the case and I now have all the pictures they had and will mail them on when we get to the US.

They said that although there was a little more in our file than I had been given for Bibi, including the name of the woman who found her under the banyan tree in the center of town, more recent adopters have gotten the whole file. They now give all the paper work in the file.

Bibi happily hopped out of the car when we got there and posed for some pictures with the traffic and the trees in the background! for those of you who know her well – you can imagine how amazed I was!

In Bibi’s file there was nothing that we didn’t already have exceptfor the name of the person who found her and took her to the police. It tells us exactly what happened that morning. It did state that a piece of paper was found with her giving the date and time of birth and that they felt it was correct – less than 2 days old. We have that because at the time they handed it to me at the time of transfer in Nanning.

For those of you who don’t know about adoption visits, Guangxi province is very difficult about letting families come back to visit. Our travel coordinator, Louie Yi pulled some major strings in Beijing to get someone way up the adminstrative tree to call and make them let us in. Knowing that I was afraid they might be less than warm but we were delighted to see that everyone was happy to see Bibi and she got several hugs to which she submitted with good grace. We took lots of formal pictures and I’ll post some tonight or tomorrow.

Got to run – we are flying to Shanghai in 2 hours – but I’ll post some pictures to our blog from there if I can get the computer to upload fast…

Bridget

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Here we go!

Filed under: Uncategorized July 12, 2010 @ 7:22 am

We are up now – 7 am! We meet the guide in an hour and the off to see the town and the finding place. We are supposed to take the director and a couple of his staff to lunch. it will be early because we have to be back Guilin by 6:30. Just as well since Bibi won’t eat the chinese breakfast. We stopped at some stalls on the way into town and bought a 1/2 dozen mangos and 1 kg of lichees. We got some asian pears for Jim who doesn’t like the slimy fruit 😉 Syb lent us her swiss army knife so we can feast in our hotel. Bibi has the “split and suck” eating method for the lichees down pat and so was already eating them in the car last night.
Here we go!
I’ll let you know tonight whether we get to see the files on Bibi. Lotus Tours was getting nowhere with direct phone calls to the orphanage – apparently Guangxi is the most difficult province in terms of return visits. Louie Y who runs Lotus made some phone calls to connections in the CCAA or higher and they put the pressure on and we are supposed to be able to meet and, I hope, see Bbi’s file. the interesting thing about this all is that guangxi doesn’t require a fee to be paid. Several other families in our Lotus travel group have to pay $200 -400 depending on where they are going. We don’t expect to be able to see the orphanage itsel, but we do expect to take several people to lunch tomorrow. We’ll see who shows up.
We got 5 photos with our referral in 2001 but Bibi was 15 month at referral. We go a few more after my agency requested a health update at the time of the referral. These were sent after the actual referral (that cost $$ because the orphanage wasn’t required to do .)
Bridget

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Travelling to Pingnan

Filed under: Uncategorized July 11, 2010 @ 11:36 pm

July 11

This morning we parted from out travel group with great waves of emotion. We all had tears in our eys and the some of the girls were up until 11 last night swimming lat at the Guilin Sheraton. They just couldn’t give up the closeness. The bonding has been amazing. the 12 girls and 2 boys have riden together in the back of the bus and as Bibi said the other day, “they are a bit wild Mom!” but it was good. We asked her if they had talked about being adopted and the china experience. She looked at us as if we had two heads! Of course not! Some had already been to their orphanages but most were heading out for that experience. We’ll see them again one day – it was too much like a family leave taking.

the aunties, Sybille and Patti, opted out and remained in Guilin at the Sheraton. Just as well for them, and maybe they’ll be getting another of those amazing massages at the Foot Massage place across from the Sheraton…

This place. Pingnan, is really at the end of the earth – the roads are bad and we drove 6 hours from Pingnan today. Only a small amount of highway even though I cannot imagine doing this with a baby in the van. When we were in Nanning adopting Bibi we wanted to come and see and were told that it was too far. They were absolutley right. We had a nice minivan and driver and guide. They had to stop a couple of times to ask directions. The road in from the Guilin direction is narrow and bumpy and weaves between cement factories and tiny farm plots with tea, taro, corn, longan (lichee like fruit for which Pingnan is famous) and rice. All this almost side by side! the scenery is lovely until you hit the town and the factories. But, the farmers, who own their own land are building multistory joint family houses on patches of land along the road. Amazing – some are finished but most are works in progress. they’ll add a window or a floor when they have saved the money – usually no mortgages in the countryside.

We are staying in one of two “good” hotels in Pingnan – Guangxi Boli Hotel. Our guides thinks this is better than the other so here we are. Two double beds. No window, but reasonably good air conditioning (only works when you have your room key plugged in). the bathroom is clean – two towels and the staff speak no English so we will share. This is pretty deep into China and a good experience. Bibi is again pretty mute. We were working with our Lonely Planet phrase book at supper and we ordered the meal from pictures – as usual too much food – but the young waitress took the phrase book and found the words she needed. What it doesn’t have is the words to explain adoption and the old white “big nose” people with a retty chinese child. She asked in mime and a few English words “Are you her parents?” “Is she your daughter?” and “Are her other parents chinese?” and the answer to all is “Xie Xie” and “She came from Pingnan”. That stopped the conversation for a moment – she and her colleagues wanted more, but we just didn’t have the words to share it. she then moved on to trying to get bibi to talk – no luck there ! But she did give Jim a tutorial on chopsticks. Fun!

And so off to bed – tomorrow is the orphanage and the director and the giving of gifts. Goal of our trip is upon us tomorrow!

Bridget

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Guilin and Yangshuo

Filed under: Uncategorized July 11, 2010 @ 11:15 pm

July 9 and 10

Each night we are so tired we reach the hotel and collapse into a deep sleep.

Yesterday we took a 4 hour river boat tour on the Li river – from Guilin to Yanshuo. It’s scenery is the most famous in China. The valley was once an under water sea. We saw heards of water buffalo, beautiful limestone mountains and fisherman who use cormorants. They put rings around their long necks. They pluck fish from the river, cannot swallow them and are trained to bring the fish back to the fisherman. Last night in Yangshuo we went to a theater that holds 2500 people on the river’s edge and saw a show with a cast of 600 hundred people all dressed in minority costumes. The show was choreographed by the director of the opening ceremnony from the Olympics and also the movie Crouching Tiger.It was a mythic love tale and lit with laser lights and many visual effects. they used the karst formations on 2 kilometers of the Li River as back drop!  You had to overlook the temperature and humidity of close to 100. Today we are off to a tea plantation and to a chinese cooking school where we will work all morning making what will be our lunch. Then we are back Guilin. Each hotel has had a beautriful pool and Bibi and her beautiful new friends swim to escape the heat. The pool behind the hotel is the most amzing we have ever experience – enormous and circular and a mountain descending to the edge on one side with 2 large dolphins in the center spouting water.  Pictures will be posted later! One memorable event is Bibi has been eating ice cream after an eight year hiatus. So far no return of her excema.

This morning we had a cooking lesson! The kids sat in the restaurant and played cards and drank sodas while the grownups wer up on the roof cooking in semi-airconditioning. We made Kung Pao chicken, Beef with ginger and 12 spices and dumplings. Learned some new techniques for working with a wok and Jim did a great job. We’ll post some pictures of him and Bridget and Sybille in their Chef hats – cute! ptti took pictures and Bibi was having a great time with her team of new friends.

Jim and Bridget

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Pandas!

Filed under: Uncategorized July 11, 2010 @ 11:07 pm

July 7

Dear readers,
Today we visited the panda research resort to of course see a baby panda. HOW EXCITING!!!!!!!!!! When we got there a lot of kids were hoping off bus with excitement because a lot of them were going to hold a baby panda. I was also very excited about the pandas because I was going to get to hold a baby panda, plus it is going to be my first time back in China the place I was born. Our tour guides Louie and Shelley were showing us a map of which path we were going to take to come to see the pandas and the way back to the pandas.

Then we saw a big gigantic bronze panda with a baby panda in its arms and took a group picture.

Everyone together

After that we reached the “Happy House” (a.k.a known as the bathroom in China.) Then a lot of the parents took another picture for the kids that weren’t in the “Happy House.” After that experience we went to the first set of pandas we saw were grown up pandas. They were eating, climbing, and relaxing on a wooden platform.

After that came the part that I was mostly looking forward to because I was going to be able to hold a baby panda. When our group came near a resting down place where there were gift shops our tour guide showed the people who were going to hold a baby panda to follow her, and the people who weren’t going to hold a baby panda could just wonder around and meet near the gift shops. When my mom and I were waiting in line my mom was pulling out the money for the pandas (which cost $150.00.) when I was about to get in a little small room to take the panda picture a girl took our money and gave me nurse shoes, shoes, and a dentist-like jacket so I wouldn’t get the panda sick. Once I entered the small room I gave a lady my camera to take a picture of me with the baby panda. The panda was the cutest thing EVER I just wanted to take the baby panda home.

When I saw the panda sitting on the bench I felt SUPER DUPER EXCITED that I just wanted to take the panda home, when they called me up to the bench I past my friend who said that the panda felt warm and furry and that got me more excited. I sat down on the bench and a lady put the panda closer to me and put my arm around the panda and I felt a little shock when I touched the panda, but then some man got some honey and put it on the pandas paws so he wouldn’t like me and would just focus on the honey. Then somebody took tons of pictures and I was done and off the bench and outside again. After that we went to a gift shop and I bought myself a T-shirt and a baby panda magnet that had his eyes closed and mouth open for school because our refrigerator doesn’t hold magnets because it’s made out or stainless steel.

Bibi

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Filed under: Uncategorized July 6, 2010 @ 11:17 pm

June 30

Long flight from Boston – Arrived in Beijing at 2:30 in the afternoon – were picked up by a college student guide named Rita. (Everyone we meet – students and guides who speak English – has given themselves an English name. So far we have Rita and Nancy – a charming Beijing guide.) We find ourselves with 8 or 9 families with 14 kids, 12 girls ranging in age from 6 to 14 and a 10 year old boy named Ben – who fortunately loves his DS Nintendo – and a 16 year old named Gideon. Gideon is patience incarnate and one night over dinner educated the 5th and 6th grade girls on the interesting things awaiting them in high school – expurgated I am sure! Only Gideon is not adopted from China and one 11 year old is from Vietnam.   Amazing to watch the kids bond.  No need for explanations – they all know hat the others have a similar life experience.

Sybille was here before us and sent us off to nap, waking us around 7 to get up for dinner. With the help of the concierge who followed us out to make sure we could get through the swinging security gate behind the hotel, we had a marvelous dumpling dinner in a tiny restaurant in the alley behind the Novotel.

July 2

Beijing

Forbidden City – hot – it hit 40 C – Walking with kids, pouring water on their heads.  They loved the beginning and the big spaces and the bronze animals and pots (you could boil a person in them!)  But the heat and the unbelievable numbers of people were exhausting.  I’ll post some photos soon – need to down load to the computer and that takes time.

Pearls

To get us out of the heat they are taking us into nice cool shops 😉  That means you are enticed in to spending money.  In the government pearl shop we had a nice talk about the farming of freshwater pearls complete with an oyster which our guide had us bet on the contents.  Celia our youngest – 6 – guessed 21 and won a small pear prize.  The kids then went off to make bracelets and necklaces with pearls and beads while the parents SHOPPEd again…China, a shopping paradise 😉  The pearls were amazing however….$$$  not surprisingly China is much more expensive than it was 9 years ago.

July 3

Beijing

Rickshaw ride around the Houtong area and the children learned how to make kites from a kite master.  She makes hawks with wide wings and the tiny ornate kites of the south, which she says are not as marketable.  The kids decorated small kites to take out an fly later.  Lunch with 15 in the Kung Fu family house – best meal yet – dried tofu sauteed with celery was the highlight for Bridget.  The dumplings were good too!   The older son of the house is a Kung Fu master and teaches in houston.  4 generations of the family have been Kung Fu masters.  They open their home to tourists and cook the most amazing simple food for visitors.

Then off to the Temple of Heaven to fly kites on the top of the hill. Hot, Hot Hot!  Before we went up the hill we  watched a group of people dancing under the trees and Bridget and Jim and Kathy joined in.  (Bibi has decided that parents dancing is mortifying and asked me not to do it again…dancing parents is just the beginning of teen mortification!)

Too hot to fly kites although the kids did run with them a bit.

Dreadful meal in a tourist place near the Temple of Heaven – high point of the meal was slices of melon in the pork dish and Gideon’s discourse on high school.

 Packed up the bags and off we went to the train

Night train to Xian – Car No. 4 on Train Z19 a non-stop

July 4

Xian

Dumpling feast – 18 different kinds – the most memorable was the last – a walnut sweet dumpling tha tasted like a German Christmas cookie and then sitting at the same table a folk dance and music extravaganza.  Not an opera but a mixture of dances with ribbon and flowing sleeves and traditional music.  An amazing man sang like a duck – kids loved it –Bridget slept sitting up.

July 5, 2010

Biking on the Xian City wall – Jim,  Patti and Sybille on single bikes and Bibi and Bridget raced along on a tandem.  Hot Hot Hot!  But up on the wall there was a breeze.

Off to the Terracotta Warriors and Lunch –

We went to a replica workshop and the children were taught how to press the clay into forms to make small replicas of warriors.  The workshop is part of a government  factory which makes amazing replicas of the terracotta warriors in all sizes.  The lifesize replicas are fired right a long side the miniatures in kilns built in to the wall of the shop.  The firing takes  4 days and then a day to cool after they break the door. 

This was an endless store – workshop an d replicas, embroidered pictures – a specialy of Xian  – rugs with 2 looms running, lacquer work all made on the spot and you could even order to your own size and specifications – black, gold, inlaid with jade or butter flies or simply engraved with  Chinoiserie – Bridget  nearly persuaded Jim to buy an engraved leather lauquer sideboard in the red that is the theme  of our living room.  Instead and for considerably less $$$ we found an embroidered picture of carp on a silk fabric, a traditional symbol of family unity.   Bibi chose her own replica of a general – she had worked on a simple warrior in the factory workshop but he had one topknot on his head and she liked the  more ornate general.

Lunch – Lunch in another big tourist restaurant.  The Indians on one side were eating vegetarian food with saffron rice.  The Chinese tourists on the other were eating a different array, including a whole fried fish.  Syb and I were envious.  Louie explained that it was carp and the bones were too much for the Americans.  Probably true – we’ll check it out when we split off from the rest of the group in Guilin – fish bones don’t scare me!  Syb says that based on Fuschia Dunlop’s review of the fish farming operations in China you might want to think twice about the quality of the fish, but that probably applies to all the food sources…so don’t think about it.  Just eat and do a aeyurvdic cleaning regime to rid oneself of poisons when you get home 😉 Jim’s Note: We are all losing weight. I’ve learned that when you eat with chop sticks you eat more slowly and less-no shoveling nutrients in with serial forkfuls. We are eating more vegetables, drinking more fluids and walking miles every day.

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HOT, HOT and HOTTER

Filed under: Uncategorized July 6, 2010 @ 11:07 pm

July 6

We got to ChengDu in Sichuan  this evening.  Less hot here than Xian.  We haven’t had much internet access so the blog may get choppy as I load the days I have in WORD.

Just got in from a quick and late dinner at at street restaurant a couple of blocks up from our hotel.  Patti is not feeling up to Sichuan food (think chilis) so she went to bed.  Bibi decided to bail and stay in with her new frind Libby (10) and her sister Celia (6).  They leave us tomorrow to head to ChangDe in Hunnan and Libby’s orphanage.  They are having a lovely evening of a swim and a movie – a watching of the new “Alice in Wonderland” on the end of their bed. 

Happiness for all.  We had a big bowl of Chengdu style fish with chilis and potatos and beans.  Hot, oily and spicy and beer with it.  All the while watching the locals eat the same and watch the Brazil-Netherland soccer game in a rerun.

Tomorrow the pandas.

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We are here!

Filed under: Uncategorized July 2, 2010 @ 6:22 pm

July 1

Awoke yesterday at 6am to make a 9am flight to DC. Picked up Patti and left DC at 12:1 5 on a Boeing 777. Arrived Beijing 2:30 pm after a long but very comofrtable flight.  (Not too bad as to seats but the food was among the more marginal aiplane meals I have had the pleasure to eat.  Note by Bridget)  We all slept for 2 hrs. in the 4 star hotel – we have what amounts to suite with Patti and Sybille in adjoining room and linking door.  Then went out to a divey looking dumpling restaurant around in the back alley behind the hotel.  Concierge says that the staff eat there and love it.  So did we. We had yummy boiled dumplings of many sorts, deep fried little fish with heads and all – the bomes reminded me of Shad)and chicken and cashews.  Also dried tofu fried up with celery – amazing. Dinner all washed down with lovely Beijing beer beer.   Dinner for 5 people $20….

 No adjusting our watches we are just 12 hours later.  Bibi is a great traveller. She watched 4 movies on the way over. Jim read most of the 600 page Girl with the Dragon tattoo-fun read. Bridget listened to her mystery and began a pair of socks from the toes up. 

Today we meet the other 8 families and are off to the Great Wall and later to learn how to make pressed Peking duck.

Jim and Bridget