Wednesday, July 8, 2009

group email from June 27

Hi everyone! We've been gone a week. Our trip is half over, I can't believe it. Sorry I haven't written again. Friday we had a super busy day. We had our day trip that day. We met with our tour guide at 9am. I can't remember his name... I think he said his name was Mark (we've noticed that people give themselves a "western" name a lot of the time.) First we went to the 6 Banyan Tree Buddhist Temple. This temple is 1500 years old!! It was amazing. So gorgeous. We saw the main worship hall and it had three gigantic Buddha statues. They were bronze with gold leaf. The three Buddhas represented the past, present and future. The first Buddha (of the past) had his hands palms up on top of eachother on his lap. The left hand represents forgetting. Any troubles or mistakes in past should be left in the past- they are forgotten. The other hand is on top of this hand and it represents forgiveness- Buddha forgives all past wrong doing. The middle Buddha, the present, has the left hand still palm up on his lap. People still worry about their past, so this is a reminder to live in the present and forget the troubles of the past. The right hand is on his knee. Bad spirits influence people to do wrong, so Buddha is ready to grab those spirits away from you. The last Buddha, the future Buddha, has the forgetting hand still on his lap. And his right hand palm out on his knee. This is symbolic of the problems of the present, even if you have current troubles, don't worry about them because the other hand palm out shows us that the future is still there for us and we have a new life a head of us, so don't worry about your current problems, look forward to the future. Isn't that great? Kevin and I were very moved by these statues and their meaning. Unfortunately we weren't allowed to photograph them. I would have loved to have a photo of them. We so often have discussions about this very thing with our children. And as a Christian I find this philosophy very much in harmony with my own beliefs. Like I said, it was very moving. After the Banyan temple we visited the tomb of Nanyue. This tomb is 2200 years old!!!! It was built on the top of a hill. The entire hill is surrounded by the museum that houses the tomb and all of the artifacts found in it. What does this mean?... it means STAIRS!! Oh my gosh. There were A LOT of stairs up and down..up and down. I think we almost killed C. I think I almost killed myself. But it was worth it:-) It was so amazing! There were these gorgeous elaborate carvings out of solid jade. There was also a lot of iron work which I guess caused the rewriting of all the Chinese history books because until this tomb was found they didn't believe iron work existed that early, because most artifacts (swords etc) from that era were made of wood. After Nanyue's tomb we went to a public park (all public parks require a fee to enter- it keeps the homeless out- that's what we were told) to see the symbol of Guangzhou- the statue of the five rams. Okay, here's the story. Hundreds of years ago the pearl river used to flood every summer and many people died. Then in the winter, people would starve. So times were extremely hard and the people suffered terribly. Then five men came with five rams. These men taught the people how to plant and grow rice. Because they could now grow rice, no one starved in the winter. When the men left, they left behind the five rams for the people. And ever sense then the Pearl river has never flooded the area. Today Guangzhou is known as the city of the five rams. In the statue (the symbol of Guangzhou) the largest "father" ram has rice in his mouth. The park was gorgeous and would have been worth the visit even without the statues. There were a lot of butterflies (huge butterflies!) and C loved seeing them (she could've cared less about the statue:-) ) After that we had lunch at a Chinese buffet. Sorry dad, there wasn't any Orange chicken, or fried rice... or anything that we think of as "Chinese Food" which I'm pretty sure is all fake Chinese food that Americans came up with. However, there WERE steamed beetles, fried pigeon, shrimp with their heads and legs still on, fruit I've never seen before, and every other thing you could imagine:-) C wanted some beetles....she got her first taste of having American parents that day because there was no way I was letting her eat those hahaha- I'm pretty sure I would've "lost my lunch" if I saw her eating that. However, we DID have some pigeon. It was pretty good actually. We also had some fruit that was called Dragon eyes. It was about the size and shape of an eyeball. You peeled the shell off and inside the fruit looked like a peeled grape with a black pit in the center... and it looked very much like an eyeball. It tasted like a cross between a grape and a plum. We also had another fruit that had a dark purple shell. You peeled off the shell and inside it looked like a white peeled orange. It was a little slimy but tasted good. I was so proud of Kevin, he tried (and ate) both kinds of fruit! If you know Kevin's dislike of fruit in general and to have something like this- that was amazing:-) He even agreed that it wasn't bad! So we have to go to China for Kevin to eat fruit apparently...:-) After lunch we went to the Chen family academy. It was actually an ancient family compound (for the Chen family.) Centuries ago the two Chen brothers became very famous architects and were responsible for many of the buildings in the area (in ancient times.) Later they ran a school of architecture. The school continued after their death and taught their style. Again, this was centuries ago. The original compound still exists and all of the buildings are preserved. It was really neat to walk through them. All of the wood was so intricately carved with so much detail! The buildings were undergoing a renovation and many of the painted surfaces were being restored, so you'll see in the photos that some of the painting is really bright while chipped and weathered looking in other places. Many of the buildings are also used as museums and showcase ancient and even modern Chinese Art. There was a building full of ancient ivory and bone carvings that were amazing and so detailed you wouldn't believe it! Lastly we went to another Buddhist Temple- the Hua Lin Temple. This was the temple that Kevin and I found while wandering around several days ago. This temple is dedicated to 500 Buddhist saints. They were the first 500 missionaries that taught Buddhism in China. Buddhism originated in India. They had 500 wooden statues covered in gold leaf that represented each saint. We were allowed to take photos inside of this temple. It was also gorgeous. This temple was around 1000 years old. I can't even comprehend the ages of the things we saw that day. There was another part of the temple that we were told was "new"- it was only 500 years old:-) In another part of the temple they had the three statues of the three Buddhas I mentioned from the Banyan Temple- but they weren't as large but they were more ornate. I really wish we could've photographed those first ones that we saw! It was a full day! We saw so much and it was SOOOO worth it!!! Today we've been hanging out at the hotel. Mostly because I was deathly ill this morning...I think pigeon and dragon eyes don't agree with me:-) But I'm feeling much better now. We also found out some interesting things about Shamain Island during our tour. It was built by the British about 150 years ago. All of the buildings are old European style buildings, which explains a lot. There are two very old Catholic churches on the island and that surprised me, but it makes sense now. Later, the French owned about a third of the Island. The first western restaurant in China was on Shamain Island- it was a french restaurant (today it is an Italian restaurant.) Later some Italians and Germans came to the island as well (which also explains the German restaurant and the now Italian restaurant) In 1949 when the communist party took over, the British were kicked out and it became a part of China again. The oldest Banyan trees in all of Guangzhou are on the Island and they are over 200 years old. Kevin photographed one of them. Again, we learned a lot from our tour and are so glad that we took it! C is doing great. She's already starting to learn a few English words. Her favorite, and most often used, word is "tickle." She runs up to Kevin and says, "tickle!" and runs away and Kevin has to chase her and tickle her:-) It is very cute. She also tickles him. Today she told him to "tickle mama." hahaha! She is also saying: toilet, no, eat, wash hands, and color (for coloring book.) We also found out today that she knows half of her ABC's and the days of the week in English! We did not teach that to her! We were told when we picked her up that she has been being prepared to be adopted... I wonder if that's what they meant. We bought her a fan yesterday. Today she was doing a "fan dance" for us. It is obviously a real dance and so cute. I know for holidays and celebrations at the orphanage kids perform, so this must be one of the dances she knows. I kept trying to get in on video but she would get too embarrassed. She is obviously very smart. She understands a lot of what we are trying to explain to her. We use the few phrases we know, the recordings of the phrases that my mom's neighbor made for us, the children's Chinese/English dictionary that we brought, and flash cards that we brought. With a combination of all of these things, we can pretty much get everything across that we need to. She even uses them on us! At first she would show us flashcards but has decided it's just easier to say what she needs/wants... and we are figuring out what some of what SHE is saying means. That is one of the things that is soo awesome about adopting an older child- they can communicate so much more! We've been exchanging money at the hotel but decided to try the bank to see if they had a better exchange rate. When Kevin got there he said it was a mad house with tons of people waiting. They were handing out numbers and then calling them out... except that we don't know the numbers in Chinese! BUT C does and she knows that we don't. She took the ticket and when a number would get called she'd shake her head. Then when ours was called she said "okay!" (oh, that's another word she says...) Then she took Kevin by the hand and took him to the correct counter! How cool is that? What a smart kid she is! She is doing really well. She has started to test us. She will be pretty naughty and then see what we do. It got pretty bad LOL! She was one naughty girl! So we had to start putting her in Time-out...though technically they call what we were doing a "time-in." That's where you put them away from something but sit there with them. She threw some mini tantrums at first. But all of this is expected and still normal. And much milder than our previous experiences... this had been going on the last couple of days but today... she is being a good girl. She'll still do something that she knows she's not supposed to sometimes but she's getting much better. We needed to go out shopping this afternoon (she had been being pretty wild in the stores lately, I think it's a combination of over stimulation, tiredness, and testing...she also gets naughtier the more tired she gets) we had a good talk about her being well behaved and not grabbing things or running off in the store (again we use all of the above mentioned things to talk to her and she totally understands.) When we got there she was being so good!! She even kept her arms folded. Towards the end she started to lose it again a little bit but it's obviously over stimulation. But she did so well and tried so hard!!! I was so proud of her!! I think it says A LOT about her. She is a good girl, she is just going through a lot right now, but she DOES know how to try to behave and think about her actions- and implement the things we talked about...and again, keep in mind how smart she is that she's understanding all the the things we are saying to her with all of the crazy ways we are having to communicate because we don't speak Cantonese!! It really is amazing. Anyway, we have way too many photos again, so Kevin made another mini website. It's a website of our first week here. Some of the earlier photos you've seen plus there's some you haven't seen from our first few days and of course there are all of the new ones too. And of course even all of those still don't come close to how many photos Kevin has actually taken:-) And of course... just kidding, I thought I'd say that again because I said it so many times:-) Anyway, here's the website:
I think we're going to take it easy tomorrow too. I think we've been over loading C too much...another reason for her having a tougher time. So we're taking it easier on our good girl. Monday we have her medical exam for her US visa... I wonder how that will go...

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