Today was pretty much a free day except for our scheduled group picture. Each family had their picture taken on the steps inside the hotel. (H. is wearing one of the dresses we bought for her yesterday.)
And then all fourteen families (including assorted siblings) and fifteen newly adopted children had one (very) large group picture taken. The China Hotel is pretty swanky (and large), so those are escalators you see on either side of us.
After we were done we had the rest of the day free. After some lobbying on A.'s part, we decided to head down to "the island". Those who have never adopted from China will need a little background first. The island is Shamian Island. It was originally a colonial concession, split between the British and the French and the architecture on it reflects that history. But, as far as adoption is concerned, up until several months ago, it was also the epicenter of adoption in Guangzhou. This is mainly because the White Swan Hotel is on the island and it was the primary hotel that adoptive families would stay in while they did the US immigration paperwork. In response, many businesses catering to these families sprung up on the island as well. The island appeals to Westerners because it is a little oasis in the cacophony that is the rest of Guangzhou. And then the White Swan closed for renovations and most of the agencies moved their primary hotel to the China Hotel which is not within walking distance of the island. Because of everything else the island has, many adoptive families still visit, but not in the same numbers as before. (And many of those small businesses which catered to adoptive families are struggling as a result.) Given all this, we wanted to see what all the fuss was about.
But instead of taking a cab, J. was pretty sure he could figure out the subway system, so we took that instead. By ourselves. (Obviously, since I am posting from our hotel room, we made it back. It was very easy. So easy, I'm going to write a completely separate post with detailed directions in case anyone else wants to be adventurous and try it on their own as well. I'll probably get to it some time tomorrow.)
While it is an island, it just barely qualifies. The Pearl River is on the south side, but just a canal separates the island from the rest of the city on the north. (The picture was taken from the island side.)
The island is very quiet, with a lot parks and broad streets and very little car traffic. There are also statues all over the island. You can get a sense of the scale of buildings, boulevards, and (lack of ) crowds in this picture.
As well as being an adoption destination, it is also THE place, it seems, to have your picture taken. All over the island we saw brides having elaborate pictures taken and other young woman doing more fashion-type shoots. Some were wearing 'normal' clothes, but there were also some odder ones. For instance this:
We had a lovely time walking around, buying some more gifts, and just generally enjoying ourselves. H. continues to become more adventurous. Here she is holding my hand as she walks along the edge of the plantings.
I know that most people wouldn't consider a 9 year old balancing on a short ledge to be even worth mentioning, but there is something I haven't mentioned in regard to H. We are not entirely sure she is seeing much of anything. I have always wondered if the eye on the affected side of her face was functioning and I think I've come to the conclusion that it is not. I'm pretty sure she has no depth perception. This was evident by the number of steps she missed or tripped over the first few days with us. Now we make sure to point out any change of elevation. She also walked very, very slowly and I often felt as though I was dragging her along even when moving at a slow pace. As she has become more comfortable with us she has been moving more quickly, but I think it is because she trusts us more to guide her when she can't really see what's coming.
I know she sees things, but I'm not sure how clearly. For instance, when she colors or does anything close, she puts her face right down to where she is working. This is what I do without my contacts or glasses. To see anything I have to have it two inches from my eyes or it is so blurry it might as well not be there. It looks to me as though H. must get almost as close to see what she is doing. I am 100 percent sure she needs glasses desperately. I can't wait for her to get them and see everything she has been missing.
A couple of other things about H. Her English is growing by leaps and bounds. I'm pretty sure she has doubled the number of English words she uses in the past 24 hours. We also spent some time this morning playing Uno. She got it right away and now easily uses the four colors in the game. She was so excited when she won one round. There is really nothing wrong with her brain, even though according to her paperwork she was labelled as mentally retarded. As if! I have some theories as to why that diagnosis came to be, but right up on the top is that she CAN'T SEE! How can you take a test if you can't see it?