The rain held long enough today that we were able to walk down to Christ's Church across from the White Swan. The family from St. Louis met us in the lobby of the Victory. When introducing Ava, she politely steps forward and bobs her head. Their new little one is almost four and very independent. She has latched onto her dad for now, so mom will have to work on bonding!
The church was absolutely full. I counted over 40 pews of people, all shoulder to shoulder, and some sitting on benches to the side. The service was conducted in Chinese with English translation. They sang praise and worship songs in both English and Chinese, one of them familiar to Aleah and I from church. They gave testimony about their mission work. The whole church was full of people with black hair!
It amazes me that all Chinese people have such black hair. There is very little variation. Aleah's has a brownish cast to her black hair, which she doesn't like, as she thinks it makes her look "not Chinese enough." Ava's hair is jet black. Her skin is darker than most Chinese and I asked our guide about ethnicity. He asked Ava and she said she did not like her dark skin, as it was darker than all her classmates and she thought it was "ugly." I told him to tell her that Aleah wanted white skin when she first came to the States, until she realized Americans try to attain dark skin by tanning, which comes easy to her. Also, I had him tell Ava that I thought her skin was very pretty, even beautiful! Ava identifies as Sichuan, and no other ethnic group, but as our guide said, how would anyone know under the circumstances?
After church, we walked down the street to Lucy's. Lucy's is well known to most adoptive parents. It is an open air restaurant with tables outside under umbrellas in a small courtyard. To order, you have to wave your hand. To get the bill, it is the same. I've decided that to get diet pop here, you have to ask for "zero." They recognize the word Sprite, which makes Aleah happy. Ava does not order drinks with her meal, which I have been told is traditional for Chinese people, as they believe liquid does not aid in digestion. She told our guide later that they brought her the wrong meal, not the spicy Sichuan food she ordered. None of us knew the difference, poor thing! While at lunch, Ava counted to 25 for us in English. She said she can count to 100 in English.
There were people playing hackey-sack (sp?) in the courtyard. It is amazing how they can kick the feathered ball by raising their leg sideways behind them, yet still looking forward. Brad showed Ava a magic trick by making a coin disappear, then pulling it out from behind her ear. Ava has a wide grin when she finds something funny! John says she likes comedy. I am pleased. I firmly believe a good sense of humor will provide you a cushion in life that will help you bounce back from troubles. As long as you can laugh at yourself, you're doing fine!
After lunch, we met John in the lobby of the Victory. The girls changed into shorts and we went to the Six Banyan Temple. The banyan trees are fig trees that can get very old. They reproduce by having their branches bend down to the earth, and those branches then put forth roots and become a new tree.
We had to carry umbrellas the rest of the day. Aleah fell on the wet pavement, but was not hurt. She and Ava were hurrying to get from the van to the temple in the rain. I remember when Aleah and I went to the Banyan Temple in '04. She was so hyper, she began to climb around and around in the pagoda and the higher she went, the more excited she became, and the faster she went. There is only a wooden rail to keep you from falling, and I finally made her stop, as I was afraid she would get too far ahead of me and try to climb on the rail. She didn't remember it, so I am glad she got to see it again.
There were big golden Buddhas there and people being blessed by a Buddhist monk. Aleah was surprised to see people bowing down before the golden Buddhas and she said to me "Mom, we're not supposed to do that, are we?" Ava recognized the statues and seemed to know the history and story of the Buddhist beliefs. Our guide told us more than once that we could choose to be blessed in the temple by the Buddhist monk there, but we all declined.
John says all Chinese people must be cremated as there is no land to bury them on. Their families will have a ceremony and can place their family member's name on an inscription inside the temple. We were going to go see this, but we only made it to the doorway, as there was a family having a ceremony there to place their family member's inscription on the wall, and we did not want to disturb them.
Next we toured the Chen Family House, which was built in the mid 1800's by the Chen family for use as a place to worship and as a family school. It was privately owned, but taken over by the government. There were a lot of mini-stores there, and the girls enjoyed shopping for little trinkets. Ava chose a key chain that was a girl in a kimono. When our guide told her it was a Japanese girl, she went back to the store and exchanged it for a Hello Kitty key chain instead. There is still tension between the two countries left over from the war, and Ava evidently has learned this, because she wanted no part of anything Japanese. I noticed our guide told us that our ipad could be plugged in anywhere in the world to charge and be fine, but Aleah's Nintendo couldn't because it was a "cheap Japanese thing" that would fry if exposed to China's stronger electrical current. lol (This morning I realized there was 110 electricity in our bathroom, so Aleah has been charging up her Nintendos for she and Ava to play games against each other on our flight home.) That is the only 110 outlet I have ever seen in China. The Victory also has a good water filtration system, so they have drinkable water in the hotel rooms.
We had planned to walk through the spice market to the Cantonese restaurant for our evening meal, but because it was raining, the girls elected to eat hot soup noodles from the 7-11 instead. I buy our bottled water there, as you can get it for 2.50 yuan vs. the 20 yuan it costs at the Victory, and it is right around the corner. The girls usually stay in the hotel room and can watch me out the window. This morning I had two of their tea-boiled eggs, just like Aleah and I used to have every night at her insistence. Very salty and flavorful.
John asked Ava if her foster family had parents or relatives in the countryside they visited and she said no, she has never been outside a city. She went with a group of orphanage children to China's Expo in Shanghai once and also to an outing in Hainan province, flying both times. Those are her two biggest trips until now.
Tomorrow we are going to get Ava's TB test results, then John will take the girls and I to the other family's hotel. They have been to Guangzhou four times now and are comfortable using the subway system. John cannot be with us tomorrow afternoon, and he is nervous about us taking the subway. No doubt he would be in trouble if he "lost" Americans in the city. We plan to use the subway to go visit the Safari Park. They have white tigers there - 80% of those left in the world, per John's statements. It will be an all day event, after which we will hire a taxi to return us to the hotel. The girls are looking forward to a fun day. I am hoping it doesn't rain!!
I will try to post some new pictures!!