Shamain Island is the wonderful, resort-like place of Georgian buildings, banyan trees--102 of which are so old as to be on some protected historical tree list, and wide nigh carless streets where we stayed when we were here before. It is a man-made island, a piece of land along the Pearl River separated from the mainland by a canal. For years, the US Consulate was here, in various different buidlings--which is why it became the place to stay for adoptions.But there are other reasons that it is perfect for adoptions as well. It is a pleaceful beautiful place where everything moves slowly in an old fashion way, with lovely bronze statues everywhere, old buildings with columns on them, and brides getting photographed everywhere. It is a perfect place for getting to know your new child...and not having to worry about the little ones running off into trouble.
I am so glad we stayed on the Island last time, rather than in the city...I cannot imagine our adoption experience without the sheer beauty of the island.
The center of all this used to be the White Swan Hotel, the first 5 star hotel in China. Only the White Swan is currently being remodled and is not open to guests. Rumor has it that it will not be used for adoptions when it reopens, but for government functions. I hope not. It is an ideal adoption hotel and the local merchants rely on it.
I did not realize when I was here the first time that you cannot find silk dresses and jade figurines everywhere. But in all the shopping we have done, we have not seen any of the cute pretty touresty stuff you can buy on the island. It is all there to cater to the Americans who want to bring back a piece of China.
It took a long time to get there. Ping-Ping had never heard of it and her friends told the taxi the wrong place. By chance, the wrong place had a Starbucks. I found somone in Starbucks who spoke English and had her write down the address for the Starbucks on Shamain Island. This got us there...despite the protests of my daughter that her friend and her "little brother" who was with us, did not want to go.
I cannot tell you how happy I was to be back!
First, it is beautiful there. Second, I had happy memories of being there with John, Ping-Ping and YiYi the first time. (YiYi was ill yesterday and could not come.) Third, there were things I wanted to do there.
Fourth, and most important, for the first time in a week, I was oriented!
Normally, I always know where I am. I carry a map in my head of every place I go and fill it in as I learn more. But here, I have been being wisked about in a taxi, and I have no clue where anything is. I have not been able to find a map of the city. (I plan to look online.) So, it was REALLY nice to come to a place where I recognized where I was and could find my way, even to placest that were farther afield.
First, we went to see Dong at Susan's Place. He had been my favorite shop keeper the first time. John and I bought our Chinese jackets we wear for book signings from him, as well as the Chinese outfits the boys wear to church and Ping-Ping's pink dress that doesn't quite fit her. He also serves free tea.
Dong was there, to my delight. He is a slender young fellow at least six feet tall...rare in China. He remembered us and our friends who had been here, what we had bought and when we visited. He even pulled out pictures of me drinking tea with him last time! I bought a few more things and drank some really good tea with him. My daughter and her friends bought and ate instant noodles, which they love.
Then, we left the island and found the apothocary market across the street where they sell all manner of amazing dried things, most of which I did not recognize. They also sell pets...the children loved the kittens, puppies, and baby rabbits. There were exotic birds, too, and all matter of gear for animals, beds, leashes, etc. And, they sell knicknacks...at much cheaper prices than on the island, so I bought a few as gifts. (That was why I wanted to go. last time I bought the same stuff on the island and paid much more...even though it was still rather cheap.)
Finally, I went back to Starbucks, had a coffee, and met with some other American families who were there adopting. By one of those amazing quirks of fate that no one would believe in fiction, a particular online friend from the adoption communty happened to be in town adopting another daughter...the whole story is too long to tell here, but it was a friend for whom I had prayed fervantly, even though the situation I prayed about had seemed hopeless. Meeting her in person was like having God tell me that all that prayer had been worth it! I loved her and her family--her husband, Chinese son, and darling new daughter. The other two ladies I met were charming, too. One was adopting her seventh child!!!
So, that was my day. I had a wonderful time. I was so glad I had insisted on going!