Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Carrie's China Post

Sorry we were unable to post more throughout our trip. We have been so busy . . . this whole experience has been such a whirlwind.

Danny did quite well on the plane ride over. From Houston to San Fransisco he got a little fussy, but the businessmen on either side of me were kind and understanding. He and Kaya both did great on the long haul to Hong Kong. Danny fussed a little at times when he got too tired, but because it was such an empty flight, I was able to lay him down to sleep on two seats. By the 10th hour of the flight we had a pretty good system going. Kaya and Danny had fun sitting up and playing together in the big seats. The food on the flight was fine - two meals and a snack of instant noodles. We met up with Matt in customs in Hong Kong.

Our tour guide, Matthew, met us there and helped us get loaded into a small 15 seater bus. We headed to the hotel on the island of Kowloon. Hong Kong is several islands with the 3 main ones being Hong Kong, which is the business center, Lantau, which is less inhabited, but home to HK Disneyland, and Kowloon, where there is a lot of shopping, museum, theatres, and restaurants. Our hotel was decent, but a little old and run down. Its location couldn't have been better though - right in the center of everything. We were right by a MTR (subway) stop too, so we could get places quite easily.

After unloading and getting checked in, we wandered around and found a local cafe to eat at. It was humorous trying to communicate what we wanted. Though Jerry speaks Toisanese, the dialect he learned as a boy, it is different from Cantonese and most people in HK couldn't understand a word Jerry spoke. Matt, confident from his week in Shanghai, was able to order some food, which was pretty tasty.

Side note - I'm writing from the White Swan hotel in Guangzhou. Matt is at the market looking for gifts for coworkers. I stayed back to let Danny finish a much needed nap. Because this THE hotel for adoptions in China, they have really nice little cribs for the rooms.

So the first night in Hong Kong was AWFUL because Danny was so confused. Poor baby. It was worse than any night of his life. Matt and I were dead tired from the travel. Danny was too, but his body said it was playtime, so he woke up. And screamed when we tried to convince him it was still bedtime. We felt really bad for our neighbors. Nonetheless, we all survived (and much to our relief discovered one of our neighbors was the elevators) and headed out with our tour guide the next morning. We all woke up early so before actually leaving on the tour, Matt, Danny, & I wandered around by our hotel to find some breakfast - sweet breads from a bakery.

That day our tour guide took us all over - we walked on a beach and got our toes wet, rubbed a statue that makes you wealthy and a Buddha that makes you have babies, tossed a coin in a fish that makes you wealthy, saw the driveway to Jackie Chan's house, rode a boat through Aberdeen (a fisherman's wharf with a lot of houseboats), saw a jewelry factory, and rode to the top of Victoria Peak. Considering the night, Danny did OK. He was a real trooper, and while he did lose it a couple times when he was too tired, he did pretty good overall.

We had dimsum for a late lunch back at the hotel and then we all took 3 hour naps. It was after all bedtime in Danny's mind. That night the Matt Hong family had our own excursion. We bought MTR passes and rode to the waterfront on Kowloon. It was fun figuring out everything by ourselves without a tour guide. Almost everything in Hong Kong is in English, as well as Chinese though, so it wasn't too hard. We watched the nightly laser light show which is on the skyline of the Hong Kong side buildings. It was pretty cool, despite the foggy evening. Then we walked along the Avenue of Stars, where Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee both have handprints. Danny fell asleep in the stroller as we walked around. He had a much better night of sleep AND Matt prepared our room for the worst. He set up a late night play area (which did get use) and had the teething tablets and children's tylenol close at hand (which we did not need to use).

Monday we traveled to Lantau to see the Big Buddha. To get there we took a subway, two different ferries, and a bus. Danny didn't really enjoy being cooped up on the bus, but he loved the Buddha. After eating a Buddhist, vegetarian lunch, Matt bjorned Danny to carry him up the 100+ stairs. Danny thought it was great and smiled and laughed at every person we passed. He got a lot of attention for being so happy. We decided he really is a Buddha baby, not just because of his big belly. The day was really foggy, so even when you reached the huge Buddha, you could only see a silhouette of the top. It was cool nonetheless. The Buddha was on top of a high hill. Rather than ride the bus back down the windy roads, we took a cable car down. Because of the fog, the views were not as clear as we would have liked, but it was incredible nonetheless. Lantau was neat because the areas we were in were very lush with foliage and there were no high rises. The wilderness of Hong Kong is very beautiful and green.

After a short rest back at the hotel, Matt, Danny, & I ventured out to find the HK temple. After a few mistakes (which would have cost us big time in the Amazing Race) we eventually found it. It looks like an office building and is sandwiched among apartment buildings and office buildings. Nonetheless, the tiny courtyard had very peaceful, beautiful grounds. Across the street was a park and we let Danny swing for a while. He really enjoyed that! Then it was off to the Lady's Market to bargain for a few souvenirs. We didn't have much time, so we didn't do too much bargaining. Anyway, we decided it was a little ridiculous to argue too long over 5 Hong Kong dollars which is less than 1 US dollar.

We met up with the rest of the crew at a nice Cantonese restaurant. We had all kinds of tasty dishes. Danny fell asleep in the stroller. I almost fell asleep at the dinner table, so we took a taxi back to the hotel. We were all exhausted!

The next day we left early to catch a train to Guangzhou. What a funny looking crew climbing aboard the train with two babies and lots of luggage. Our next tour guide, Daniel, met us at the train station. I'm confident if we had stayed to go to Beijing we would have had a guide named Carrie. He took us to a big lunch and then we drove to Kaiping, a city near the village. Danny had a rough day today, with several breakdowns of screaming. We were regretting the decision to bring him since it was so tiring on the little guy to be out of familiar settings. But then when we got to the hotel (a very nice one), Matt's great aunt and uncle were waiting. He always cheered up for the relatives. It was priceless to see this little old Chinese man and woman, Danny's great, great aunt and uncle, pinching his cheeks and babbling to him in Chinese and trying to make him smile. Wow. That night we had a banquet in Toisan, the city closest to Jerry's village, with all of the relatives. It was Jerry's mom's brother and all of his children and their families. It was overwhelming with so much introducing and laughing and trying to communicate. Very loud and exciting and daunting. I was grateful for my previous experiences in China so I wasn't quite as surprised or revolted by the fancy dishes they had for the celebration - turtle soup, shrimp with the heads on, whole fish, whole chicken with the head on the plate. Danny, fortunately, missed much of the whole thing while he slept in his stroller. Fortunately because it meant he wasn't grumpy. He woke up just in time to be grumpy on the bus ride back. Tired boy. Again, we were second guessing ourselves about bringing him and just trying to make it through.

And then today. It was absolutely amazing. We drove to the actual village where Jerry was born. We were greeted enthusiastically by all the family. Danny was as good as can be after having a good night's rest and a good nap on the bus. Some of Jerry's cousins really loved him - he kept getting passed around from cousin to cousin. Danny smiled and giggled and laughed. We started in the house where Jerry was born. It was a completely different world - concrete floors, wood burning stoves, curtains for doorways, lofts for storage. Only the pictures will be able to describe it. They had a huge roasted pig. Incense was lit and they had a whole feast on the table next to the pig. First, we all showed our respect to the sky god. This was done by bowing at the feast, and then bowing again with money in your hand. After everyone had shown their respects, the $ (fake) is burned. So we all showed our respect to the sky god, then the ancestors, then Jerry's mom. After all the respect was shown, fireworks were lit outside the house to scare away the evil spirits.

Then the pig was carried outside the village and we showed our respect to the village god, then to one grave followed by the graves of great, great grandfather. It was extremely hot and humid, even for the Houstonites. The family members were so kind and friendly - giving us water and sharing umbrellas with us to help provide shade. One of Jerry's cousins was particularly fond of Danny and she carried him around the whole time. He was happy and smiley and giggly. When it was time to feed him, she ushered me into the one car that was there so I could stay cool and have privacy. Later, he fell asleep when we were eating the pig and she insisted on holding him so I could eat. When the group was heading back from the graves, she made me ride in the car since Danny was still asleep. And then when it was time to feed him again, she let me use a back room in her small home. Danny was an angel - such a good boy. And he made the whole experience more incredible. All the Chinese women giving me advice and babbling to him in their native tongue.

The entire experience was surreal - from watching great uncle (85 years old) ride on a small motorcycle up to the graves, to an 8 year old Chinese boy fanning Danny with a scrap piece of cardboard. From eating the cut up pig on pieces of plastic layed on the ground to bowing to the ancestors to receiving lucky red packets of money from people whose income is less than $2000 a year. It was incredible and despite the great challenges of having a six month old baby traveling with us in China, it was all worth the experience. I hope that tomorrow when Danny is screaming on the plane and there is still 8 hours left on the flight that I can remember our experiences today.


LaRue said...

Oh, Carrie. You made me cry. When you wrote about Danny's great,great aunt and uncle pinching his cheeks and talking to him in Chinese. How precious. And all the care and concern for you as a mother. Motherhood is the same language everywhere. Sorry Danny had such a hard time. It was quite an adventure for the whole family. I'm sure it will be more pleasantly remembered that experienced. Can't wait to see your pictures and to see Danny when I come. Love Mom

Suzanne said...

Hi, folks....Kerry is sharing this blog with me and I am so happy to get to hear your experiences. How awesome it is for all of you (well, most of you)to be there seeing the old ancestral area. What a nice little family you Matt Hongs are!

Your very distant relative (from Adam and Eve Hong), Suzanne Hong Johnson, who works with Kerry and kind of grew up with Matt's aunts and uncles.