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!

Monday, March 28, 2016

Starting the New Year Icily, Part 2

One advantage of the special overnight package we had all bought was unlimited access to the ICE! exhibit, which thankfully also let us skip past most of the people waiting to get in and use the special VIP entrance. We still had to wait in line, but our line only ran the length of the entry hall... while the general admission line ran out the door and well down the corridor toward the atrium. There was the usual set of oopses and dontwannas and toobigs as the adults tried to get the kids to fully bundle up while trying to get into their own big blue parkas, but we eventually herded all the cats together to pose for the official portrait and headed out the door to the huge refrigerated tent that housed the actual exhibit.

There was a bit of a crush once inside the tent, but the crowd was mostly well-behaved and we moved steadily toward the ice "building" that marked the beginning of the ICE! exhibit. This gave us time to finish adjusting finicky snaps & closures on assorted jackets, find missing gloves and hats, find missing kids (and parents), and so on. This would be the first time I tried using my current camera with gloves on, so I practiced a bit and quickly realized I was going to have to be careful -- I had to delete two short videos of the floor and several extreme close-ups of my hand or pictures of the ceiling before I got the hang of it.

Waddling like a bunch of giant blue penguins, we headed past the entry sign (made entirely of ice, of course!) announcing the show's theme and made our way to the first scene. Just like last time, I was impressed by how well the ice sculptors had translated the characters from an animated television show into bigger-than-life 3D sculptures. The landscapes and characters were all instantly recognizable and the level of detail was amazing (for example, the individual "envelopes" and "sheets of paper" in the back of the Mailman's funny vehicle).

I tried to crop out the obvious commercial for the exhibit sponsor on the bottom...
Does anyone else think the Mailman looks like a young Fred Astaire?
There was a scrim in front of Old Man Winter, giving the sense of freezing wintery
blasts of wind (augmented by the very real near-zero temperature in the display).
Waitaminit... if Kris Kringle becomes Santa Claus, then who are the
characters who raise him after he leaves the orphanage?
Just a couple of extra members of the crowd...
This is part of the massive (life-size) town square, complete with statue in the center.
It was all made of clear ice backlit in blue, giving the place an ethereal feel.
You can't see it in the photo, but a cooling vent was located directly above this vignette. That
veil was literally waving in the wind, and no one stood here more than a few moments!
All was going swimmingly (assuming you were a penguin) until we got to the huge room about 2/3 of the way through the exhibit that houses a set of two-story high slides running down either side. It's crowded and dark, with just a few spotlights here & there and colored lights inside the slides and walls themselves. Miri and S quickly headed up the left-hand stairs and I maneuvered through the crowd to where I could get shots of them coming down the slide and settled in to wait.

And I waited.

And I waited some more.

And then I waited some more. Everyone was in a good mood and total strangers were happily joking with each other about the antics of scared kids and adults coming down the slides or sharing photo tips, but I eventually realized that I had been waiting more than ten minutes and the people sliding down in front of me had entered the room well after us... and the girls were still nowhere to be seen. I'll reiterate: two young girls, ages six and eight, had disappeared in a very large and very dark room filled to the brim with identically-dressed people.

Yes, I was worried... like very.

It was only after another ten face-numbing and increasingly scary minutes of AJ and I frantically looking round the room and making hand signals to each other that one of the other moms in our group found me and explained everyone had become concerned when we didn't follow them out the other side of the room and had come back to see what was wrong. While looking for AJ, she had accidentally bumped into the girls -- just finishing their 3rd run down the slides on the opposite side of the room. The girls apologized for scaring us and explained that as soon as they had gotten to the top of the stairs, the hotel staffer stationed on the platform insisted his side was too crowded and sent them across the bridge to the other side while funneling literally everyone who came up before & after them directly down the slides where we expected to see the girls.

I think we were all feeling quite a bit warmer (as in hot under the collar!) as we made our way through the ice tunnel that led out of the slide room and I began composing a complaint letter in my mind while trying to admire the rest of the exhibit. (As you'll see, that letter kept getting longer.) The last ice vignettes from the TV brought the story to its happy end, and then we passed through the gallery that showed how the exhibit was put together before reaching its end.

The final vignette in the story, thankfully without any annoying
commercials following immediately afterwards. :-)
We were all excited to see this Chinese dragon in the gallery near the exit.
This young woman (presumably from Harbin) was putting the finishing touches
on a beautifully detailed wolf head as we passed by.
This nine-foot-tall(!) angel watched over the exit.
Just like last time, the air outside the tent felt comparatively warm... but unlike last time it was far too cold to feel "hot" (although "muggy" still applied for the first couple of minutes). We were greeted by a very pretty sunset -- my photo doesn't do it justice, I'm still learning how to use some of the camera's special settings -- and then headed back into the hotel proper.

We dropped off our parkas at the appropriate kiosk and then visited the (chaotic and noisy) area where the official portraits were available for purchase in various forms. We had posed in front of a big green curtain but the digital photo did an excellent job of showing is all in front of the exhibit entrance, magically devoid of the hundreds of other visitors we had actually shared the space with. A few negotiations later one family had purchased the package that included a downloadable digital file we could all have and we headed on our way.

Not too far down the hall we came across a temporary snack bar next to a full-size carousel. Still lacking feeling in our fingers, noses, ears, etc., and seeing the Pipsqueak bounce up and down in excitement, I sprang for a pair of small cups of very sweet & yummy hot chocolate ($3 each, ouch!) while AJ bought a ticket so Miri could take a quick spin 'round and 'round on the nicely decorated horses. The whole group goofed around for a while and then we all headed back to our rooms to prepare for dinner.

Back in our room, the three of us finally had a few moments to catch our collective breath and try to figure out which bag held what. (There was no question about who would sleep in which bed; I simply assumed -- correctly -- that I would be closest to the AC unit where my mammalian biology could block some of the airflow that always left my sister's more reptilian biology feeling uncomfortably cold.) AJ had brought a bunch of holiday gifts for the assorted kidlings and took the chance, with some "help" from her daughter, to figure out what was for who and where it might be hiding. We also discovered that the platforms supporting the bed were low & dark enough to be just outside one's normal field of vision while protruding just enough on the corners to ensure many large, painful bruises on one's shins. This problem applied mainly to AJ, since somehow she never remembered to steer wide while going around the corners of her bed... which, of course, her brother found highly amusing. (Dude, isn't that what big brothers are for?)

The Pipsqueak decided to check out our location on the room's safety map. She carefully figured out where our room was in relation to the other families' rooms, then figured out where the emergency exits were... and then realized I was taking her picture.

Dinner was nice and was followed by the Gaylord's spectacular sound & light Christmas show... but that, dear reader, is for my next post!

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