HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MOM!
Two years ago today, we bid farewell to Nanning and (after another hasty but almost-under-control breakfast) took a little ride. We got all our luggage loaded onto the bus, we got all our us loaded onto the bus, and we set off on the G-72 Quannan Expressway for Guilin. At first it was kind of interesting, watching the passing scene (and noticing that every bridge over the road was completely covered with advertising, all prominently featuring website URLs)... Then we began to notice that our bus could have had better suspension... Then we began to get nervous as highway crews would suddenly pop up in the middle of the road without warning, nonchalantly sitting in the middle lane with only a few orange plastic cones for protection as they resurfaced the road by hand a few square feet at a time... Then we began to notice that every slab of concrete making up the highway was a slightly different height than every other slab of concrete making up the highway... Then we began to notice our bus should have had better suspension... Then we began to notice that while the traffic on the highway was lighter than in town, the insanity level was no better because what was lacking in volume was more than made up for in speed... Then we began to notice our bus really, really needed better suspension... You get the idea.
One "highlight" of the road trip was a big, modern roadside rest stop. Just after getting off our little bus, a big tour bus pulled up alongside and disgorged a horde of well-dressed Chinese tourists, all heading directly for the restrooms. I figured that many people couldn't be wrong and followed the crowd. I took maybe two steps into the men's room and my eyes began watering so badly from the fumes that I could barely notice a complete lack of Western-style toilets, followed almost immediately by my noticing a complete lack of Western-style hygiene. I quickly exited the area with the newly learned lesson that so many people could indeed be wrong and quietly vowed to myself that I could hold it in for the rest of the trip, no matter how much it hurt. (I also noticed that many of the women coming out of the restroom were holding handkerchiefs over their mouths & noses, had runny mascara, and decidedly grey/green complexions.)
Other highlights included many safety warning signs in English, an overturned truck that had dumped its load across the roadway on a particularly sharp hillside curve on a particularly narrow section of road, and an unexplained flurry of obviously agitated calls our guide Lisa received or made on her cell phone. The latter was explained as we (eventually) pulled into Guilin proper; our hotel had cancelled our reservations, but Lisa had gotten us into another hotel so not to worry (once our bus driver figured out where it was... but we had a nice tour of the downtown area while he tried to find the right road).
Things got much better once we arrived and settled in; despite a definite run-down air to the hotel (and a wonderful view of the building next door from our room), the room was clean, and we had a large private dining room to ourselves for our group dinners each night... with a Western view that was really hard to beat.
One year ago today, we were still in the middle of party preparations, but I wasn't feeling well so I crashed at Mom & Dad's house for a few hours where the birthday girl pampered her eldest offspring back to good health.
Today we had a quiet family birthday celebration with a selection of uncles, aunts & cousins. (AJ & the Pipsqueak started their day by taking one of the cats to the vet, but all was well by lunchtime.) After a big feed (followed by cake & ice cream & the Pipsqueak loudly singing along on "Happy Birthday"), Cousin J used my laptop to go through a slideshow of his recent trip to Thailand. A couple of my friends (who've known the family since we were all in junior high) stopped by to say "Hi!" and wish our folks a happy birthday, and a bit later Miri (who'd taken a nap, then unhappily lost part of lunch when she woke up) got the promised Wiggles & Barney videos on my computer. The evening ended with her happily bouncing on Grandma & Grandpa's bed, and then everyone headed home at the end of a low-key but extremely pleasant day.
My niece joined the family on July 12th, 2010. This special young lady's mother is my younger sister, which in classic Chinese culture makes me her Jiu Jiu (舅舅-- thus the title of this blog. Here I intend to semi-regularly post reflections, thoughts, stories, and assorted whathaveyous pertaining to our trip to China, adoption in general, and (mostly) watching my niece grow up. Since the web is a very public place, I will attempt to maintain my family's privacy while telling the story... but I invite you to follow the blog and come along for the adventure!