This was a travel day and as such, there's not too much of interest to relay. We left our hotel at 11am this morning and headed out on a one-hour trip to the train station. The station we were leaving from is in south Beijing. It was constructed for the 2008 Summer Olympic games, and is the largest in all of Asia. Angela helped us navigate the busy station, which resembled an airport in many respects. When the time came we said our goodbyes to her and boarded the train. The Bullet Train was long and sleek. We were in 1st class, and the inside of our cabin resembled that of an airliner. The seats were comfortable and the staff was pleasant. There was a free snack, plus more items available for purchase. Our seats were slightly separated, so Manu and I sat together, while Leslie was in the rear, adjacent row. I think she actually enjoyed being on her own for a bit, as while I was playing games with Manu, Leslie had a little bit of alone time to read in peace on her tablet. The ride was quick and smooth, stopping about 4 times at other stations before arriving at our destination; it was much more pleasant than flying. Our trip lasted just over 2 hours and we got to see a good bit of rural China along the way. The only snag was when, after we left the station in Jinan, we couldn't find our new guide, Missy. We looked and we looked, but we didn't see anyone who seemed to be looking for us. I had her phone number, so I started to dial her up when out of nowhere she arrived and asked if we were the folks she was looking for; a few tense moments, but problem averted.
After about 20 minutes we arrived at our hotel. Missy assisted with checking us in and getting us into our room. We asked her about nearby grocery options for items we were needing to purchase, and she offered to take us there. We walked out of the hotel, crossed the street into the large town-square. We then headed down some steps and into a department store that seemed to gone on for miles, It was like an entire mall inside one very large room. Being Saturday, the place was packed. Whatever you're imagining when I say "packed," just multiply that number by 10. Although Jinan is a small city of only 6 million people (Beijing's official number is 27 million, but Angela said that the real number might be pushing 40 million,) it feels more congested. We bought some snacks, bottled water, paper bowls, and some chop-sticks for the room; haven't used a fork since arriving in China. We headed back to the hotel and made arrangements to meet Missy tomorrow morning so that we can head to the Bank of China to exchange some cash. We said goodbye and headed up to our room.
Our room is a nice-sized suite on the 9th floor. We unpacked a bit and decided it was time to head out and find dinner. We thought that it would be easier today to eat in the hotel, and the restaurant on the second floor was offering a dinner buffet, so we just went there. There was a nice selection of Chinese, as well as American, Japanese, and Korean offerings. It was good, if slightly over-priced - we're in a hotel after all. What I'll remember most about this meal, though, is the hoards of people all converging on the buffet, pushing and cutting to get to where they were going. That, and none of the staff really spoke English, so we were like fish out of water trying to figure out what to eat, hot to get around, and how to explain to the staff that we needed more napkins. But, after a few trips to the buffet, I was pushing and shoving with the rest of them. No one seems to take offence, as this just seems to be the Chinese way. The nice thing about the buffet was that it included all the red wine and beer you wanted; just grab a bottle or pour a glass yourself. I will admit that a glass of wine really settled my nerves a bit. Even though we have been in China for three days already, we're going to be on our own more now, and this was a bit of culture shock. Manu fell asleep in Leslie's lap before we left. We carried him back to the room and he's snoring away. He's been a really good sport about all of this so far, and I'm really proud of him.
So here is the plan for tomorrow: We'll go out and exchange our money and come back to the hotel. Min Jing and some of the orphanage staff will arrive at 2pm. They will bring her to our room where we'll meet her for the first time. We'll sign the preliminary adoption paperwork and they will leave her with us. We expect some tears, as she'll be left by the only people she has ever known, in a new place, with strange-looking and funny-sounding people. While this will be a happy day for us, we understand that it will be a day of great loss for her, and we only hope we can help her feel as comfortable as possible as she transitions into our family, and a new phase of her life. Wish us luck, and we'll see you tomorrow, as a family of 4.
|Manu on the Bullet Train|
|Train car #11|
|The Bullet Train|
|This speaks for itself.|