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!

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Starting the New Year Icily, Part 3

We had experienced the Gaylord's sound & light show a few times in the past, but it was always either as we were passing through the atrium (thus usually getting stuck trying to see things from behind a building or a tree or a column or any number of other opaque objects) or while sitting in an "outdoor" cafe at the opposite end of the atrium -- neither being an ideal place to get the full effect. This year we made a point of trying to position ourselves closer to the action, and we ended up a short distance off one end of the fountains by some small potted evergreens. We were a little sorry that we weren't part of the crowd standing directly in front of the fountains (in effect smack-dab in the middle of the show) but soon came to realize we were all in a much better spot.

Waiting for the elevator to the lobby (something that became a hallmark of our stay), we had a great view of the atrium and harbor areas beyond. I got my first good look at the massive Christmas "tree" hanging in midair at the back of the atrium and realized that it wasn't really a refugee from some direct-to-video science fiction movie -- it was a series of huge stars stacked sideways one on top of the other with the "tree" shape outlined by long ropes of lights that spiraled down from the top to the bottom. The sight of the huge tree with its "moving" lights spiraling downwards, the dozens of smaller real trees strung with white lights, the colored spotlights placed around the expansive glass ceiling, the multicolored fountain, and the huge ferris wheel in the harbor outside whetted everyone's appetite for the upcoming sound & light show, and by the time one of the elevators finally deemed us worthy of a trip downstairs we were all ready for the show.

The sound & light show started right on time, and for the most part did not disappoint.  The entire atrium went dark -- accompanied by a cheer from the crowd -- and then music began blasting out from the sound system and the fountain waters began "dancing" in time and changing color. The water burbled gently in its basin, then would shoot up in columns easily two stories high, then come back down and go up & down at different levels in time with the music and constantly-changing lights within the fountain, on the main tree, in midair, and in all the smaller live trees. All this was accompanied by loud music and an increasing number of yells & screams from the crowd.

I was standing next to the two young boys in our group, and as the show began they were so excited that they were grabbing the small potted trees in front of us and pushing & pulling them in time to the  music. (They weren't trying to break anything; it was just a case of two young and excited kids being young excited kids.) I had to gently stop them a couple of times, and as the music reached the first of several crescendos and the fountain began blasting water upward in earnest, I began to admonish them for a third time when I realized they both had their hands at their sides. No one else seemed to be touching the trees, and we were indoors so the was no breeze, so why were the trees moving...? 

I got my answer a moment later as a blob of water came splashing down onto the tree in front of me from a height of nearly thirty feet, leaving droplets on my camera's lens and educating me as to why all the people standing directly in front of the fountain (right where we had wanted to be) kept screaming as the show progressed. Every time the water jets cut off and then shot up again, the rising water would collide with the falling water from the previous shot and splash outwards, soaking everything and  everyone within a 10-15 foot radius!

Happy to have some protection, and making a mental note to avoid standing in the "good" spot for future shows, I dried off my camera and continued to enjoy the show. The one minor disappointment was that this year's indoor "snowstorm" didn't really work. We could see it start to fall waaay up near the roof, but not in the volumes we'd seen in previous years and most of the flakes melted away long before getting down near the floor -- but that really was a minor thing compared to the thumping beat of the music and the moving & ever-changing lights and fountain.

 Everything peaked frenetically with the addition of dozens of moving, spinning spot- and floodlights up in the ceiling and even more changes in both the fountain and main tree, and then the show came of a sudden (and loud!) end to the cheers of the crowd. (NOTE: My video is a very large file, so I've posted some animated GIFs instead.)

Laughing at the soggy (and in some cases soaking wet) people who had been standing directly in front of the fountain during the show, our group walked to the Granite City Food & Brewery restaurant a few blocks away in the National Harbor complex for dinner. I was a little concerned about how well we'd fit with the crowd there with so many kidlings in tow, but as soon as we walked in it was obvious we weren't the only families there. Our entire group was seated at a large table in the back and spent a very pleasant evening just enjoying the food & each other's company (and some excellent beers, including my first taste of a brewed root beer -- not soda, real beer -- that definitely won't be my last).

Eventually everyone's batteries began to run down so we all headed back to the Gaylord and settled in for a good night's sleep. In our case, the preparations for bed were accompanied by the occasional loud but unhappy sound from AJ as her shins once again found the corner of her bed frame, much to the (concerned) amusement of both her daughter and older brother. Eventually I was in my old gym shorts & a ratty tee, AJ was in her nightgown, and the Pipsqueak was in her pjs and we had all the lights turned off. I climbed into my bed, got myself situated comfortably, and closed my eyes...

...and caught myself rolling out of bed. I found another comfortable position, laid back, closed my eyes -- and almost immediately began to slowly but surely roll toward the opposite side of the bed. Trying to not teach my niece any new words we didn't want her to know, I felt my way around the mattress and discovered that it was convex, with enough of a slope to give me a gravity assist in getting out of bed. (Once she'd stopped laughing, AJ double-checked and found that she & Miri had a nice flat bed.) Mentally adding another paragraph to my planned complaint letter, I carefully draped myself evenly over both sides of my personal mountain range and soon drifted off to the sound of Miri's quiet little snores.

Up next: a cold but fun morning to close out our adventure!

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