Another eventful day in our journey. After breakfast Jenn thought it was time to try the pool. Since we didn’t know what kind of reaction Penelope would have I got in the pool and Jennifer took pictures. She loved sitting on the edge of the pool, splashing her chubby hands on the side and watching the water rise up to meet her. I stood in front of her, wading in chest high water, praying the chlorine content was high enough to kill any protozoans floating around.
Penelope would push me away when I got close to her. I would pretend like she was exhibiting super strength by falling back into the water, eliciting joyous laughter. Once she leaned forward a bit much and fell into the pool. I caught her just as she went under, lifted her up and placed her back on the edge. The look of surprise as she was falling forward will forever be the one image I wish I could have captured with the camera. She was a big girl and didn’t cry. She wiped her face, sat stunned for a moment comprehending what just happened, and went back to splashing.
I took her across the pool a few times. The further from her safety zone the more distressed she became. Once on the other side she realized she was safe and we could head back. Before we got out she was comfortable with me holding her in the water while she splashed around. She strikes us as a fiercely independent little girl who needs to see things are OK before proceeding. Tonight when it was time for bed I tried to hold her and rock her to sleep as we’ve been doing. She struggles and kicks, waves her hands with those wolverine fingernails at us, only falling asleep when she’s exhausted herself. After a few minutes of this I just put her in her crib and told her it was bed time. She propped herself up on her knees and I immediately pulled the, back down to get her in a laying position and told her to go to sleep, rubbing her back gently as I spoke. She laid down and was asleep in minutes. I can only assume she knows we aren’t going anywhere and its safe to sleep now.
Jenn has been very busy doing our laundry in the sink and drying it with the hotel hair dryer. If only there was a microwave in the room!
After a brief lunch Jenn went to Starbucks while Penelope and I took a nap. In Starbucks Jenn asked if they had green tea. They said no, only white. She couldn’t remember if she liked white tea and said she didn’t like it. “Do you want to buy a cup?” Jenn wondered why she would want to buy a cup after saying she didn’t like it and made her exit.
Next she visited another woman in our group, Stephanie, who is adopting two children on this trip. Our guide Jason was already at her door speaking to Stephanie. Her little girl has a kidney infection and her son foot-in-mouth disease. We are hoping they all get better very soon. There is a chance they may not be able to travel back on Saturday if Hope, her daughter does not feel well enough. It has reminded us how fortunate we’ve been on this trip that Penelope is so healthy. We just need to make it a few more days. When we get home we are scheduling a doctors visit for a full exam.
Jenn returned to the room just as I was getting up. Our group photo was scheduled for 2. We had 30 minutes to get down to the Imagine room where the pictures would be taken. Neither of us wanted to wake her but as the time drew closer we had no choice. She did surprisingly well as we put her shoes on and popped her in the stroller.
Downstairs the families available for the photos gathered and had pictures taken with their children. Penelope was saving her crankiness for this moment as she started crying when it was our turn. And when it came time for all the children to sit together she was the only one in tears.
Afterward we had another meeting with our guide Jason to go over the agenda for the next few days. I remember that there is a brown folder we must give to immigration when we get to Atlanta. Its sad that I’m more concerned about there being a paperwork problem in the US than while we are China.
We spent the remainder of the day at Shamian Island, home of the White Swan. If the Swan were not being renovated that is where we would be staying. Currently it is a shell, every room visible from the street appears to be gutted. Merchants line the streets and come out when they see or hear us. The cheapest souvenirs are crammed into tiny shops. Jenn was less impressed than I was with many of the wares, only relenting to get an outfit, a doll, and beads for grandma Rose to make something for Penelope.
In the park Penelope marveled at the children hurtling themselves around the jungle gym in a drunken orbit, occasionally colliding, always shouting. She was more interested in observing the chaos than participating in it. Jenn helped Penelope up and down the stairs of the main slide, getting down when the older children refused to regard her presence.
Or dinner we ate at Lucy’s, an American style restaurant with everything from spaghetti to cheeseburgers and milkshakes and iced tea. There must be some confusion in the kitchen at Lucy’s, or they have mistaken some of “I Love Lucy”s gags as representations of American culture. My salsa was ketchup with diced tomatoes. One family had burgers which they said tasted nothing like burger. Our mini milkshake tasted like slightly thickened Ovaltine. Our grilled cheese had the crust cut off and the mashed potatoes tasted like grits. Maybe this place was amazing before Shamian Island became the Asian equivalent of a deserted New Orleans. Jenn and I were not impressed.
We caught taxis back to the hotel, having the women and children loaded into the first taxi as though the island were a sinking ship we may not escape from. As their taxi was taking off I hailed a taxi and the 3 husbands followed their wives, commenting on the extremes in culture we were experiencing.
Tomorrow we bring Penelope back to the doctor for her TB results. Everything looks good and we do not anticipate the need for an X-ray.
4 more days. We’re going to take Stephanie’s advice and make the most of it.