Monday, September 28, 2009

Land of Milk and Honey

It's been three days that Rebecca has been in the land of milk and honey or the more modern analogy the land of Wal-Mart and Brittney. She is still learning to adapt to an environment that is totally foreign. I tried my hand at cooking some Chinese dishes including a chicken soup complete with Chinese vegetables including Bok-Choy, green onions, bean sprouts, and half a chicken. I also tried making pork filled dumplings also called Potstickers. In all I think she was impressed or at least really really hungry.

She met some of the neighbors but she still tends to be a very shy little girl. She will open up a little under the right conditions but most of the time she is just real hesitant. No one should be insulted because she is still trying to understand her new environment; I mean I spent two weeks in China in a 250 square foot room and could barely get the kid to look at me. Everyone should understand it will come with time as she begins to trust both me and her mom. Hopefully, in the next month she will be to the point that she feels comfortable meeting people in a social situation.

It has been a fun couple of days. I got to spend several full days without the group dynamic like we had in China. It gives her some time to see me in the home and she will begin to realize that I am not some security guard following her around paying for her meals but I am useful tool to have around. I mean I can carry items, occasionally scare away the occasional rodent and even change a light bulb. Speaking of changing a light bulb for the first time over Julia and Trenton’s house the other day I played with some kid’s toys. We never had kids so I have never in my adult life played with kid’s toys, alright I have an Xbox, but I mean real kids toys like a Goofy 15 piece puzzle. My kid put together not one but two 250 piece puzzles while we were in China and I felt like a mental midget the other night trying to figure out how to put together a 15 piece. I was always taught the round peg went into the square hole.

Anyway we found out that Rebecca likes electronic games and toys that make a lot of noise, lucky us. Well, the vacuum cleaner makes a lot of noise, so check out the photo.

Now if we can just get a boy then I won’t have to cut the grass….LOL. It did say in her file that she liked helping the caretaker clean and it was right. We are trying to get her back on a regular schedule because right now she is up at 4AM, napping around 4 PM and up til around 0100 or 0200. Today we are trying to keep her up until 6PM so that she can sleep through the night.

I am going to write a little something to help any family that reads this and may have questions about logistics decisions when going to China.

Well we’re lucky because every family must go to Guangzhou when going to China because the American Consulate is there. The stay I think varies because some families will stay in the province of the child for different lengths of time but the stay in Guangzhou will be at a minimum of 7-10 days I think. The agency told us we would be staying at the White Swan Hotel but we chose to stay at the Victory Hotel for a couple of different reasons.
The first reason was because the Victory Hotel had a desktop computer in the room which had internet access at no extra charge. This was pretty good since we both used it extensively. We also bought a MagicJack USB device at Wal-Mart for 40US registered it here in America and when we got to China all we had to do is plug it into the computer and it was like making a local call in the US. There was no per minute charge at all it was free. I know I was skeptical at first but it worked we called all of our family members in the US for free. If you want to call China from your room its fine because we called several times in the room and it was about 10 cents each time. The computer will not be able to access websites like Blogger since they are blocked. You can however access Hotmail and shopping sites which can be helpful in getting a deal. For example, I bought a handmade chess set for the Friendship Store which is the Government run artisan store for 550 Yuan or about 85US (exchange rate when we were there was 1US to 6.83 RMB of Chinese dollars). I went on and found an identical set in their worldstock section from China for a 100US. I then found a similar set at one of the stores nearby our hotel that was asking only 250 RMB about half what I paid. The bottom line is the only thing I would buy at the Friendship store is Jade because a lot of the stores are selling the fake stuff. The government store guarantees it is real. The rest of the paintings, dresses, handmade stuff, I would go to several stores and bargain. In fact, on tactic that worked well for me is to say the store across the street gave me this price and most probably they will beat it.

The second reason was price. The White Swan was 140US per night and our hotel was 500 RMB or 74US per night. We also added a cot in our room and two breakfast buffet that brought the price up to 650 RMB a night. That still was cheaper than the White Swan and Starbuck coffee was right under our window. That being said I would point out a couple of differences. The Victory had an installed water purifier in the bathroom because you can’t drink the water at either hotel. The White Swan did not have a purifier. The Victory had a small restaurant that offered some choices but it was not extensive nor would I call it gourmet. The menu was mostly Chinese food with some American foods like spaghetti. The White Swan food was top notch but you paid for it. There were several restaurants close by like Lucy’s, an Italian Restaurant, and a German Restaurant. There was also a Thai restaurant that was around the corner from our hotel called the Cow and the Bridge. There were also several local restaurants like right across from Lucy’s that was pretty inexpensive but good quality. We ate there a couple of times for about 25US for a complete meal for three.

I don’t want to seem cheap but we saved about 800US staying at the Victory. There was a couple of draw backs. I think the carpet in the Victory was old and probably had some mold because there was a damp smell throughout the hotel. I would not say it was unbearable but it was noticeable. The service was good but not exceptional. The play room in the Victory was lacking compared to the White Swan. The White Swan had a lot of toys and dolls along with a television where the Victory had a small slide and a couple of balls. The Victory has two locations. We stayed in the west building which is only two blocks from the White Swan. The west building does not have a pool or an exercise room. You can go to the one in the east building but it is another three blocks away from the White Swan. The pool at the Victory has a spectacular view because it is on the roof but when the sun was up it was like an oven I mean you will bake up there where the White Swan had a large waterfall and shade trees with beautiful landscaping. Additionally, if you chose to pay each time to go to the White Swan it will cost you about 15 each person each day. This alone will make up what you saved if you do it everyday.

The bottom line is the White Swan is right on the water on the island although you won’t get a room overlooking the water for 140US. It has a grand entrance with a beautiful indoor pond and sitting area overlooking the river. The decorations and presentation is far superior to the Victory. The Victory is more of a business type hotel that is geared more to functionality than appearance. Now the East building has a grand entrance and a Spa but it is still inferior to the White Swan. The other drawback is that every time you meet with your guide it will be at the White Swan. In all I was satisfied with our decision and if I had to do all over again I would probably still stay at the Victory because I am not the type of person that prefers elegance over functionality.

The other point I would make is that I would go to Beijing again. We got to see all the sights and it was well worth the additional expense. I was impressed by the history and the city itself.


  1. Rebecca is the absolute cutest little girl! What an awesome surprise to have her walk into my office today. I love the way that she looks like she's taking the whole world in with her eyes. I expect more visits!! And babysitting!! I will even watch the Goat - she's THAT cute. :)

  2. I wish I had been there when Rebecca and Margo came by the workplace earlier today, but I didn't get there til later. I'll bet that a few years from now she'll be something of an extrovert, a real social butterfly. Thanks for continuing to share all these wonderful pictures (and word pictures, too.) And again, welcome home. -gm

  3. Wow I bet my parents want me to do that now thanks but thats so cute that she likes vacuuming now you just need her to do laundry am i right lol your little girl is so sweet

    little lex

  4. So glad you are home. My thoughts and prayers are with you. Looking forward to meeting Rebecca. Love, Paula