Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Hong Kong Day 3

The next morning I had begun a routine-the same fried rice and steamed buns at the hotel restaurant before meeting Janice. We swung by the 7-11 to grab a juice and to put some more money on my octopus card, then off to the subway, then the bus, and down the steps to the orphanage. When we got up to the room, the kids were having a lesson about sea life. They talked about fish and seahorses, then went to little tables to do a painting craft.

I stayed and played there all morning, and helped feed her lunch. Then they bundled her up (it was in the 60's and she had on a jacket and a winter coat) and we went back to the hotel. She fell asleep on the way, and Janice offered to go get me a bowl of noodles from a little shop and bring it to me so I could eat while she slept. By the time she got back though, Jubilee was already awake and playing, but it was delicious! She also thought I would like a side of 'french fries' and some more milk tea, this time with coffee in it as well. Then Janice left so I could eat my lunch and have some bonding time. She would meet us back in a couple of hours.

 After playing for awhile and having a snack, we skyped with Eric so they could meet. It was the middle of the night there, so we didn't get to see the kids, but she really enjoyed talking to him.
 We went for a little walk-all bundled up
 Before long, Janice was back, and we went back to the orphanage. I fed her dinner, and went with a nanny who gave her a bath and made sure I knew how to put in her hearing aids. Luckily they are exactly the same as Journeys-even the same size batteries-I had been slightly worried that they wouldn't be compatible with batteries here and we'd have to get her new hearing aids, phew!

We got to spend some time with Jubilee's favorite nanny. Jubilee loves her, she was always calling her name. They played and cuddled and I could tell just how much 'C' loves Jubilee too. She showed us the special outfit they picked for her farewell, then she said her goodbye because she wouldn't be on duty the next day.

They also showed me her suitcase...they had warned me on the first day that her suitcase was 'rather large' was bigger than mine!

Then it was time for me to go, and Jubilee cried a little and didn't want me to leave. They reassured her that I would come back again.

I was exhausted on the way back to the hotel and didn't want a big dinner, so I just went to the 7-11 across the street, which has a hot foods counter. But instead of hot dogs like like they have in the US, it was different noodle bowls! I ordered 'curry udon', and the girl behind the counter didn't speak any English, so I had to point at the picture to order. Then she picked up a tan ball out of a container and showed it to me. I attempted to ask what it was, was it fish? But she couldn't understand, so I said no. Then she held up a tan star and offered it to me, saying something in Chinese. Suddenly I heard a voice next to me say "they are fish balls." A high school student had come to my rescue. I declined all shapes of fish ball, and when she handed me my bowl, the high school girl pointed at it and said "this is very spicy!". I thanked her and added an ice cream bar to my tray. It was very spicy, but good, and the ice cream bar was the perfect dessert.

 This was one of the interesting things carried at 7-11-it was in with the sushi rolls and other cold foods...I wonder if it is meant to be eaten cold?

I fell asleep pretty early, but not before hanging out by the window and enjoying the view

Meeting Jubilee

When we got back to the orphanage, I was brought into a room while the nannies prepared Jubilee for our visit. 

So many butterflies and excitement! 

We aren't allowed to post pictures of her face until we finalize in September, but Janice, knowing this, made sure to take some good pictures from both sides. Jubilee had been sleeping, and they woke her up and probably fawned over her while getting her ready, so she looked a little tired and confused when she first walked in. She wore a traditional Chinese dress and held the photo album we sent. They encouraged her with candy to interact with me, but after a few minutes she woke up a little more and started playing. Waiting for her to come in was a little awkward because a few other nannies and orphanage workers came in to watch our first interactions, but as soon as I saw Jubilee, they all melted into the background and I forgot they were there.

Because we weren't able to do the orphanage tour earlier, Jubilee got to come with us and be my tour guide. Then we went into the room where the children play, and I got to play with her and her little friends for awhile. Then it was lesson time-the kids sat in a circle while the teacher sang and talked in both Cantonese and English. Any time she asked for a volunteer, Jubilee's hand shot up and she would say "me!"
The orphanage was really great, they have teachers and therapists on staff, with short, fun lessons multiple times a day. Every nanny seemed to always be singing, whether it was a song like 'the wheels on the bus', or singing about tidying up or taking a bath. Jubilee is very musical because of it, and knows so many songs. 

The next day I would have the opportunity to take Jubilee back to my hotel room to spend some one on one time with her. There were a few things I needed to buy, some things weren't quite clear in her information. She doesn't have a swallow reflex for her saliva, so she goes through about a dozen bibs every day. She also had a fistula in her repaired cleft palate, and because of her syndrome, her mouth is misshapen, and the combination of those issues keep her from eating solid food. I had brought some baby food but thought she could eat rice or small pieces of food, but they said she needs everything pureed. So after taking the bus and the subway back to the hotel, Janice told me the name of a mall I could go to to get the things I needed. She asked the concierge to write the Chinese name of the mall (the English name is iSquare) to give to the taxi driver so I could get there, and I set of on my first unassisted adventure in Hong Kong.

 The taxi ride was just a few minutes long, and only cost about $2 US. I went to the 2nd floor, where Janice had described a store for baby items. Turns out it was Babies R Us! I bought some bibs and some baby food, and a bowl and spoon set, and a board book that has English and Cantonese words in it. Then I wandered into a couple of other stores and bought some souvenirs, and then went out to the street to catch a taxi back to the hotel.

When I got outside, it was dark, but the neon lights on all of the buildings made the sidewalk very bright. 

Trying to look like a confident navigator rather than a lost tourist, I casually scanned the area...and there were no taxis. At the hotel there is always a line of taxis waiting, and this small town girl took that for granted. I started to walk along the sidewalk, figuring with so many stores around there had to be a place where taxis waited for customers. Eventually I found a money exchange booth, and figured I had a good chance of the employee speaking English. He did, and he told me that the taxis don't always stop, but I can hail them from the street and they might stop. So I saw a taxi at a red light, dashed across the street, and leaned over to the window. Just then the light turned green, and the taxi driver didn't speak English and didn't understand the English name of the hotel. I thought I would be out of luck, but he motioned for me to get in anyway, and he drove up the street a little and pulled over. While he did that, I pulled out the card I had gotten from the concierge with the name of the mall. It was written on a business card for the hotel, with English, Chinese, and a small map on it. Phew! He looked at the card for a minute, then we were off. I grabbed dinner in the hotel restaurant and collapsed into bed, exhausted! 

Hong Kong, Day 1, my first sight seeing

I had some trouble sleeping, both because of jet lag and excitement! I had been nervous that I'd be so tired that I'd oversleep and miss meeting Jubilee's social worker, Janice, at 8am. Thank you adrenaline, I got up bright and early, got dressed, packed my camera, and grabbed some breakfast at the hotel restaurant-fried rice, steamed buns, fried potato wedges, and coffee.
My view during breakfast
Then I wandered down the street to fill my Octopus card at the 7-11. The Octopus card is a travel card, accepted by the subway and buses, as well as a cash card that can be used to buy food and other items at 7-11 and fast food restaurants. I wandered back across the street to the hotel. My first taste of the busy Hong Kong Streets. The cars are fast, there's no such thing as personal space, but at the same time nobody looks at anyone else.

I met Janice in the lobby, and after a quick introduction, we were on our way. We walked a couple of blocks to a subway station, rode for a couple of stops, and then walked from there to a bus station. The bus took us up a winding mountain road. We got off right by the orphanage and walked inside.

A sign on the bus...I think it means don't eat on the bus?
The kids were out on their weekly field trip, so before getting to the exciting part of the day, I had meetings with some caretakers and therapists. Everyone had nice things to say about her sweet, social personality and that she is always willing to try things. I was supposed to get a tour of the orphanage next, but they were doing a monthly cleaning with strong chemicals while the kids were out for the morning, and since the meetings went pretty quickly, we had some spare time, so Janice and I set out to see The Peak. The Peak Tram was about a 5 minute walk from the orphanage, mostly stairs because we were already up the mountain a little way. The hill is so steep!

This picture cracks me up because of the angle we are at on the tram, it makes the buildings look tilted :)
The view from the top!

We went to a restaurant on the peak for lunch, I had a delicious udon stir fry, and Hong Kong style milk tea. The table was set with chopsticks, and when Janice said something in Chinese and pointed at them, the waiter ran off to get what I assumed was a fork. I said "it's ok, I can use chopsticks." She said "Oh, are you sure?" and then after watching me use them for a few minutes, complimented me on how good I am with chopsticks. Eric and I both learned as kids, but apparently not everyone does, even those who travel to Hong Kong.

We did some shopping, then got back on the tram. It was almost time to meet my daughter!

My Hong Kong trip-travel

I've been recording my experience in Hong Kong, but between adjusting to the time zone and the new addition and wanting to make sure I don't miss any pictures or details, It has been slow going. I'll get it all up here though!

Somewhere over Canada I think

 Eric and the kids dropped me off at the airport a couple of hours before my flight. I was prepared for long lines and a stressful trip through security, until I got there and realized travelling without kids makes it a piece of cake! The lines were short, and I was at the gate in no time. I felt a little silly pushing a stroller with no kid in sight, and everyone at security wanted to know where my child was, but I got lots of congratulations when I told them that my child is in Hong Kong :)

I left the morning after the Malaysian plane disappeared, and it seemed like it was being covered on every tv in the airport...which added a bit if stress to the fact that I was already flying by myself for the first time, and flying to Asia for the first time. I hoped it meant that the pilots would be paying even more attention that day. I grabbed some breakfast and ate it while eavesdropping on a young man (a phrase that makes me feel old!) in a military uniform who was saying goodbye to his mom, sister, and girlfriend before being gone for a few months. Then, since I would be spending 18+ hours on planes, I took my empty stroller and did laps up and down the hall, ignoring all of the tv coverage of the missing plane.

The first plane ride was short, just to Chicago. My layover in Chicago was short, but I wasn't too far apart could the gates be? Well, if the people in Detroit thought I looked silly walking with an empty stroller, they should have seen me in Chicago! I got off the plane (where I was sitting in the back, so I was one of the last people off) and asked the lady at the desk where the next gate was, and she told me how to get to the shuttle, then looked at my ticket again and said "although running might get you there faster..." Rather than standing around and hoping the shuttle got me there, I decided to put my carry-on in the stroller and run. Through one side of the airport, down an escalator, through a multicolored tunnel, up another escalator, and through the other side of the airport to an empty gate. I was the last one on the plane, and got to walk past everyone already seated on the plane to my row, and make the 2 guys get up so I could climb over their stuff to my window seat. I was hot and sweaty and out of breath, but I was on the plane! I had done everything I needed to do for the next 16 hours.

The second plane ride was one of the things I had been dreading about the trip. 16 hours on a plane! My carry-on was packed with magazines and snacks, but thanks to technology, most of the trip was spent watching the on-demand personal tv attached to the back of every seat. I don't know how people did it before that feature! They did the drink service, then served dinner, and then simulated night by turning all the lights off. The plane flew up through Canada and then down through Russia, which meant flying over a lot of barren, cracked land, which was kind of cool.

I didn't sleep much, with my back it is hard to lean against something and sleep comfortably, but I wasn't too worried about it because I'd be arriving in Hong Kong in the evening, so I'd get a full night's sleep when I got there.

The long flight really wasn't too bad-there was a halfway point where I felt like we'd been flying forever and the minutes were just inching by and I was counting the rest of the flight by the number of 22 minute sitcoms I could watch. I did get to watch Frozen, which was fun, and cute enough to order for Journey's birthday.

Finally I got to Hong Kong and made the long trek to customs, then to the place I needed to check in for my hotel shuttle. There was about a half hour wait before the bus came, so I sat down and just took in the new sights and smells of an airport on the other side of the world.

 The bus ride was about 30 minutes, and even though it was dark out, the city was all lit up and there was lots to look at. I finally arrived at the hotel, checked in, and a bellboy took my luggage up to the room for me. I settled in, made some tea, and attempted to sleep-I would meet my baby in 12 hours!