Monday, April 23, 2018

Sunday & Monday

Sunday we walked from the hotel to a large park across the street.  It was an overcast day but shocking still hot and humid.  :)  We saw something called "Children's Playground" on the map - but in reality it was an amusement park.  Oh well.  The kids rode a small rollercoaster (ZiRong loved it) and another ride.  Harmony, Medora, and Lian also rode a giant swing - ZiRong was too short to go on it, and she really didn't ask to even try it, so it must have seemed a little too much.  More time in the pool in the afternoon.

Monday was the medical appointment day.  The US requires all immigrants to undergo a physical exam and blood tests.  Only one parent is needed, so I went with ZiRong while Eric took the older girls to the park again to ride more of the big-kid / adult amusement park rides (slightly sketchy, but no obvious decrepitude...). 

ZiRong did great at the medical appointment until the blood draw ... then they had to bring in not one, but two, additional nurses to get it done.  :(  Parents are absolutely NOT allowed to go back with the kids.  More swimming this afternoon.  ZiRong is wary of going in the water but loves to splash on the edge and dangle her feet in.  I'm sure she'll love some of the zero-entry pools we have in the US - we'll go visit a bunch in May while the other girls are in school.

Alas, I twisted my foot this afternoon (DUMB MOVE!) and now I can't walk.  Eric called our guides to ask where to purchase crutches - and they instead said he should buy these 2 Chinese medicine sprays.  One is for the first 24 hours, and one is for after the first 24 hours.  They said these sprays are magic.  So we're going to try that.  Eric and the girls are out buying the sprays now, and the guides will come down to apply them - they were very clear that we are NOT to attempt application by ourselves.  :)  In a coincidental turn of events, right now in my Mandarin class, we are studying a chapter about illness and injury - so I just learned how to say and write "my foot hurts" as well as "Chinese traditional medicine" and now am going to be the recipient of 中药 (Zhong yao - Chinese traditional medicine).  :)

ZiRong was concerned about my foot - thanks to the handy-dandy just-in-time Mandarin chapter we are learning in class, I could tell her that my foot hurt.  She brought a piece of paper over to me with a solemn expression.  When she got near, she brandished it with pride and said "A!".  She'd written the letter A on the piece of paper, clearly intending it as a special treat, as she knows that writing letters gets a lot of praise/excitement out of us.  :)  So she's got the capital A mastered.  She also knows that B comes after A and asked me to write a letter B in dots for her to trace.  She's working hard on B, and she already knew the letter C when she came to us.  So ... 3 letters learned, 49 letters to go.  :) 

Saturday, April 21, 2018

... and they gave us plastic gloves in lieu of chopsticks or flatware or plates ...

Saturday, we flew to Guangzhou.  It was an early wake up and an hour bus ride to the airport.  The flight was 2 1/2 hours and Quinn did really well.  I can say this because the way our seats were scattered, Eric sat next to Quinn and I sat in the row ahead.  :) 

One hilarious story regarding Medora - they had served us a hot lunch:  rice with beef or chicken, a bun, a salad, a runny yogurt drink, and something that we think was dried hawthorn circles.  Anyhow, I'd offered to take Eric and Quinn's empty trays up with me, so she didn't mess with the remaining food in the confined space.  Medora was in the aisle and I had the middle seat.  So as the cart came around to collect the food boxes, I stacked four of them up on Medora's tray table (hers, mine, Eric's, ZiRong's).  Just as the flight attendant reached down to pick them up, the top one slid off and the runny yogurt drink that Eric hadn't finished dumped all over Medora's lap.  Then just seconds later, a box slid off the cart itself onto her head and dumped salad all over her head!  At this point, I couldn't help it, I burst out laughing.  I mean - seriously, what are the odds of TWO food boxes falling on ONE person?!?  Medora was a good sport about the whole thing, but I did promise to send her jeans out to be laundered here at the hotel to make up for dumping yogurt on her.  No pictures of Yogurt and Salad covered Medora.  :)

We swam in the hotel pool in the afternoon and ZiRong was really enjoying it - the pool is too deep for her to go in by herself, so we were holding her in the water.  She was enjoying it so much so that she attempted to hop in by herself.  And by hop in, I mean "go from sitting on the side of the pool to sliding into the pool, thereby scraping her back on the pool wall and getting chlorine in her eyes".  Poor kiddo.  She did go back in the hot tub for a little bit after the scare, so hopefully no long term fears.

Then realized it was 6:30 PM and everybody was starving.  So we headed out onto the street and saw a pizza restaurant.   I've eaten enough Chinese "pizza" to know that it really never satisfies.  Their idea of sauce is an impossibly thin smear of sauce, whereas I LOVE extra sauce on my pizza.  But I was super hungry and tired after a day of travel and pizza sounded sooooooooo good.  Well, we achieved the impossible:  we found pizza that is WORSE THAN CHUCK E CHEESE PIZZA.  I honestly thought that Chuck E Cheese had set the lowest bar possible on pizza but no!  Tonight - a new terrible-pizza level unlocked!

My clue-support radar should have gone off immediately when the restaurant gave us plastic gloves instead of flatware or chopsticks or plates ... just gloves.  I present Exhibit A:

Clue support radar should also have alerted me to this impending pizza-doom by the amount of Chinglish on the box - Exhibit B.  I am sad to say that I was not "happy euuyday" after eating that pizza.


Friday was our last day in Xi'An.  Due to popular demand by the kids, we went back to the park with the inflatable rolling water tubes.  The other family in Xi'An joined us as well - they have a 15 year old, 13 year old, and adopted a 12 year old.  The kids all get along great.  We weren't sure if Quinn would have the core strength and balance to give it a go, but she had a blast too.

Lunch was biang biang noodles in the Muslim quarter.  These are wide flat noodles that are several feet long.  A single noodle makes up one bowl!  These noodles are made by hand and involve stretching the dough, then slamming it down on the work surface and repeating this many many times.  The name is derived from the sound of the noodle dough hitting the work surface.  :) 
ZiRong is a champion noodle eater.

Friday evening, we celebrated the birthday of the other family's oldest child.  There was cake with a singing candle, and we sang Happy Birthday in Mandarin and English - and the whole restaurant joined in.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Thursday - our second to last day in Xi'An

Everyone had a bit of travel exhaustion, so we had a lazy morning.  We did homework and then turned on the TV for the first time.  I've been very impressed that ZiRong has not asked for the TV to be turned on once - just has had no interest in it.  But Eric and I were tired and wanted some downtime.  The girls found rythmic gymnastics on the TV and had a dance party.  :) 

When we went out for lunch, we found "black sesame with red velvet sauce" soft serve ice cream and had to try it.  Surprisingly tasty!  Slightly peanut-ty and tasty, if you can get over the fact that it looks like liquified charcoal.

After lunch, we boarded a bus and went looking for some interesting alleyways we had spotted on our travels yesterday from the bus window.  Gold mine!  We spent several hours wandering a warren of tiny alleyways lined with food and household wares.  These were the kind of alleys that sold clothespins, scissors, and you name it - no tourist tchotchkes.  We did not see another white face the entire afternoon.  Along our wanderings we found a mosque built in the 740s - that is not missing a 1 - built 1300 years ago!  These vendors in the photo above were passing time playing a game - maybe Go?

One of the vendors was selling freshly ground chili peppers - you could get them dried or in a paste.  Definitely looked like it would be very spicy.  The blue triangles in the photo below are Harmony's cat ears.  :)

Then we took the bus home and got ice cream.  We have learned the hard way that if we get ice cream for ZiRong, we need to allow a LOT of time for the consumption and we don't want her anywhere near the hotel room.  :)  The first night we got ice cream in the evening after dinner and thought it would be finished by the time we got back to the hotel.  Not so!  ZiRong still had 90% of her ice cream.  Then as we walked down the hallway in the hotel, ZiRong's hand tipped slightly and she left a 3 foot streak of ice cream on the hotel wall.  Oops.  :)

In the evening, we had planned to go see the light-and-water-fountain show at the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, but learned that it was closed for an unknown reason (repairs?).  So instead, we went across the street to the 7 story mall and rode escalators.  ZiRong is CRAZY about escalators.  When she sees one, she giggles and runs toward it.  7 stories of escalators up, 7 stories of escalators down.  Repeat.  Kid never gets tired of escalators.  :)

Wednesday, April 18, 2018


More free time today, so after a morning homework session working on the letter A as well as tracing through mazes.  I tried to introduce the concept of basic addition but that wasn't working so I gave it up for now.  :) 

I found a park on the map labeled "Children's Park".  That sounded promising, but wasn't on the subway line.  So we braved the city bus system.  Xi'An's bus system is amazing - 5800 buses running daily - and super cheap.  60 cents to ride anywhere in the city.   Zirong was super excited to go on a real "gong gong qi che bus" - before this, we'd been riding in a private large 15 passenger van for the adoption paperwork trips. 

The park was surprisingly good.  There was a large rock structure for kids to climb on (YAY).

Then we found the ubiquitous amusement park and threw down for a couple of rides.  Quinn's muscles are not developed - due to lack of opportunity, I think, as she's game for running and jumping, but just hasn't had much chance.  Her core and arms are extra weak, so we need to choose rides where she'll be safe.  So she chose this ride and loved it!

Then the three older girls wanted to go on a ride that appeared to spin.  They insisted an adult go on the ride too.  Eric is not good with spinning rides, so I went on with the kids.  This thing was TERRIBLE.  It slowly turned in a circle on an angle, and would then periodically / randomly jolt.  Picture the worst potholed road you can imagine in a car without suspension jerking back and forth between forward and reverse.  Plus, the children were encouraged to stand up and be jolted around.  I seriously thought somebody was going to lose some teeth face planting when it would jerk.  And joy!  They gave us two rides for the price of one!  ZiRong and Eric were watching from the side, and poor ZiRong started crying, silent tears sliding down her cheeks.  She did not want to go on the ride herself - as best we can tell, she thought we were in danger / being hurt.  Poor kiddo.  We cheered her up with another ride on the planes.

On the way out, Eric spotted this exceptional electrical wiring project - man made kudzu:

We also found the Chinese equivalent of a dollar store - everything is 2 yuan (~ 33 cents).  It is near the hotel and we've walked by it many times.  It appears to be open nearly 24x7 - and has a speaker blasting intelligible Mandarin at TOP volume ALL THE TIME.  I would go out of my mind if I worked there.  Finally, we stopped and I could read the sign enough to figure out that it was a dollar-store type deal.  The kids had a blast shopping there.  :)  It had everything from coloring books, to perfume/hair accessories, to household goods like q-tips and kleenex.  ZiRong chose a small dog figurine, Lian chose perfume, Harmony chose a fan and Medora chose bobby pins for her hair.

Then back to the hotel where we met up with the other CCAI family - they are here with a 15 and 13 year old and are adopting a 12 year old.  The kids all get along great.  We went out for dinner, then played games in the lobby - bingo, skip bo, etc.  ZiRong was yawning so Eric took her upstairs to go to bed while I stayed downstairs with the other 3.  We waited a while, thinking ZiRong would be asleep.  Instead, she was upstairs crying, saying she was missing Mama.  More silent tears leaking out of her eyes.  I felt so terrible!  We had no idea she would react that way.  Poor kiddo.  I gave her some hugs and we got her off to sleep.

I can bring a few of these back for anyo ne who wants one...

The Apple reseller looks totally legit... get your iPone X!

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Tuesday FunDay

Tuesday we had nothing scheduled for the adoption, so we could do whatever we wanted.  We did homework after breakfast.  Even Zirong worked on a preschool workbook, tracing the letter A, writing numbers up to 30, and doing some easy connect the dots.

With homework done by 10:30 AM, we walked over to the Muslim Street and browsed the shops to kill time before eating lunch there.  Eric and I tried something new - having our feet nibbled on by fish.  I'm not sure if it is supposed to feel good or clean your feet or what, but how could we say no for $1.50 for 10 minutes?  It was insanely ticklish for the first 5 minutes, but then it felt okay.

Next up was lunch - we ate in the Muslim food street again - so tasty and cheap!  We had a couple cups of this amazing tasty tofu - see photo below on the left.  We also had a couple cups of delicious potatoes - small potatoes that boil in water (oil?) and then are fried on the spot with crazy tasty spices - Szechuan peppercorn, cumin, garlic, etc.  Lian is eating these in the photo.  Finished this feast off with a "Zhongguo Hanbaobao" - Chinese Hamburger.  The bun is a special kind of unleavened bread we've only seen in the muslim market, filled with chopped beef that simmers in an enormous crockpot.  All this was consumed while standing (or squatting) in the market.

After filling our bellies, we decided to try out the subway system.  China really doesn't have playgrounds like we have in the US, so small amusement parks have to fill the bill.  Most of the larger parks (not parks like we think - the green areas are fenced off and inaccessible - but still a break from the congestion and traffic) have amusement areas with dumpy carnival rides.  Today we went to Revolution Park.  We no longer fit into 1 taxicab, and the subway system is cheap and appeared easy to navigate, so we gave that a go.  $1.50 got our entire family on the subway!  It was pretty easy, and that even included changing between lines.  My point of pride was that I bought our subway tickets using the automated machine by reading the Mandarin on the screen.  Afterwards, Medora noticed the "English" button at the bottom, but I was quite proud that I could get by enough in Mandarin to work the machine.

The park was fun.  We had ice cream - Eric and I tried "Sweet Corn".  The kids went into a large bouncy house and tore around like crazy for 30 minutes.  Good news that we didn't witness any issues with Zirong's exercise tolerance - no blue lips, wheezing, light headedness, etc.  Hope that bodes well for her heart condition!  We also got a bubble wand and bubble juice, which was fun.  Zirong was enjoying clapping her hands to pop the bubbles, but had a couple squirt soap in her eyes.  Poor kiddo!

As we walked the park, we saw all sorts of activities.  There were groups dancing, doing taichi, others doing karaoke in the park, and my favorite - people writing using water on the pavement.

Then we came up on a small pond with rental boats ... and rental inflatable tubes.  Think of the classic hamster ball, but shaped more like a can of soda laying on its side.  Medora, Lian, and Harmony piled in and went to town.  They would all run together and get it spinning, then be unable to keep up and get tossed around.  They had so much fun!  They gathered quite a crowd watching them out on the pond, and soon 2 tweenage boys had rented one of these inflatables too.  A battle ensued between our girls and the boys, each trying to push the other's inflatable.  The Peltier girls crushed 'em.  :)  Eric has some good video - we'll have to get that off the GoPro and put it online.

The inflatable rental turned out to be for 20 minutes.  Amazingly, Zirong sat quietly the entire time watching the jiejies (big sisters).  Once they got out of the inflatable and had their socks and shoes back on, Zirong took Eric's hand and said "Baba, zou ba" - "Dad, let's go".  Pretty amazing patience!!!!

Our return on the subway coincided with rush hour.  CRAZY NUMBERS OF PEOPLE!!!  Insanity.  Bonus points - we didn't lose anybody. 

Our travels today gave us lots of opportunity to observe Zirong's beloved buses and motorcycles, and several times today she spontaneously added the English words "bus" and "motorcycle" after their Mandarin words, as in, she would point to a bus and say "gong gong qi che bus" or "mo tuo che motorcycle".   So that's a good start!!!

And a shout out to Medora, Lian, and Harmony - all 3 are being *amazing* jiejies (big sisters).  Patient, tolerant, helpful - such great kids.

We met ZiRong!

Sunday afternoon, we met ZiRong at the civil affairs office.  She was waiting for us and came to us without tears.  We signed papers, drove back to the hotel, had dinner, and collapsed into bed by 8:30 PM.  We were all exhausted.  ZiRong had traveled by overnight sleeper train on Saturday night, and Eric and I are still battling jet lag.

Monday was an entire day of waiting in offices and doing paperwork.  The morning was spent finalizing the adoption, and the afternoon was spent applying for her passport.  Lots and lots of waiting in offices.  :)

But within all that, we've gotten to know her a little bit - here are some highlights.

  • Fascinated with watching life on the street - we've had at least 3-4 hours on buses these last few days, and she's content just watching out the window.  Watching out the window of our hotel and pointing out things is also a favorite past-time.  Buses (gong gong qi che) are her favorite of all transport items.
  • Food Vacuum - like the other three, she is in the "Food Vacuum" stage, consuming insane calorie counts each day.  Breakfast on Monday was at the hotel buffet.  It is one of the biggest hotel buffets we've seen in China and very tasty.  She ate 6 hard boiled eggs, two salad plates of watermelon, noodle soup, and various other things.  
  • Orthodontia / Dental - that looks to be our first priority!  She won't let us near the left side molars with a toothbrush and she clearly needs some teeth pulling/aligning/moving.  
  • Tidy / neat - yesterday, Eric took the kids to the mall to buy water bottles while I napped.  When they returned, she spotted the disturbed sheets where I'd slept and immediately straightened them.  After dinner last night, she spent 5 minutes wiping the tabletop and edges.
  • Language - she seems to understand my Mandarin fairly well (PHEW!).  She is talkative in Mandarin, and our guide can get most of it, but I can't understand a lot of it.  Partly - she has a lot more Mandarin than I do.  :)  Her orphanage had warned us that her speech was understandable but not always clear.  I can hear that some of the sounds are hard for her to enunciate (-ng is one), so we probably have speech therapy in our future.
  • She's copying English words (bus, car, motorcycle, water, numbers).  
  • Academically, she's like a preschooler.  She can count and write the numbers 1-30 as well as the letters C and Z.  Yesterday, we worked on writing and identifying A.  We've got a lot of catch up to accomplish!  

Monday, April 16, 2018

Terra Cotta Warriors + Xi'An City Wall

Saturday was our last full day as a family of 5, so we hit the Terra Cotta Warriors and the Xi'An City Wall.

The terra cotta warriors were super cool to see in person.  With about 50,000 other persons too that day.  Holy moly, I've never seen so many people in one tourist attraction.  We were told that on the May holidays at the beginning of May, that number swells to 75,000 people in a day.  Crazy town!

After the terra cotta warriors, we rented bikes and biked around the Xi'An City Wall - about 11 miles around.  We got 2 tandems and 1 single bike.  After a few meters ride, we switched things up - Medora and Lian took one of the tandems, Harmony and Tara had one, and Eric got the single.   It was a blast, but the bike seats were killers!

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Amazing menu last night

Amazing menu last night ... I'd like to order every child in Taiwan with small crisp flesh and plain shutter, please.