Saturday, February 04, 2006

Hong Kong After Dark

What a sensory buffet we had last night! We walked to Temple St. via Nathan Rd. with a brief foray through Kowloon Park. Since it was Saturday, the streets were packed, and since it's Chinese New Year, the trees twinkled with thousands of low-hanging icicle lights. The park was pretty fascinating--first we saw a huge drumming circle of men, women and children who we stopped to watch, prompting one of them to run up and give us a bookmark with information about their religion (if that's the right word.) I am all for religions that involve drumming and dancing in the street--there should be way more of that in general. ;) The park also featured what looked like giant paper lanterns in the shape of animals and flowers, creating a sort of "Through the Lookinglass" tableau all around us. As we drew closer to the market, the streets got even busier, narrower and crowded with signs and stands selling all kinds of foods like "Deep-Fried Mantis Shrimp Heads." I have been having a bit of trouble with the smells on our strolls--there is always a melange of sewage and deep-fried foods wafting around corners and up from drains and it's a bit unsettling to my innards.

Suddenly, we were in the thick of it--closely packed stalls on both sides of a narrow promenade overhung with colorful flags and hundreds of people pushing to get through or to get a little closer to the jewelry or scarves or toys or baby clothes strewn in piles across long tables and hanging from drapes. Growing ever nearer, we could hear and glimpse the drums of the dragon dancers, and Mary pointed out that the street was strewn with pieces and sometimes whole heads of lettuce that people throw because apparently that's what dragons eat and they are good luck. I bought a black cashmere shawl for about 12 dollars that seemed really soft and hey, Inner Mongolia is not that far from here! Mary was loathe to tell me that cashmere is way too expensive to be sold for that kind of money, even in China, so I started called it my "Fashmina" instead. ;) At any rate, we had a lot of fun and only much later did I start feeling like I might pass out if I had to inhale any more cigarette smoke or jump out of the way of another careening taxi.

We were hungry and not feeling brave about the street food, but we happened on an Italian restaurant called Valentino on our way back towards the hotel. Bursting through the door, we discovered that it was our own personal restaurant--not a single other soul entered the whole time we were there. We couldn't stop laughing because everything we ordered was really expensive but really tiny--each salad was about four artfully arranged lettuce leaves, an order of garlic bread that we had to pay four times for (once for each of us) arrived as slim wafers of baguette in a basket, and the two pizzas we shared were as big as butter plates. When a man in a toupee appeared out of nowhere brandishing a guitar and asked if we'd like some songs, Paul whispered "That sounds really expensive." We all agreed that the main benefit to the meal was that we didn't get too full.

In general, we've noticed some interesting things about restaurant culture in Hong Kong. For one thing, it is very difficult to get the bill. You may have finished eating a half an hour ago, your plates are cleared, your drink is dregs, and you are craning your neck longingly in the direction of the server, perhaps even making the "We're waiting for our check" face, but it will all be for nought. When you beckon, they approach with a slightly cranky expression, as if to convey "What can they possibly want now? They've already eaten!" Once the check has been extracted, the server will hover menacingly close to the bill-handler's elbow, breathing meaningfully on his or her neck as they sweat out tip calculations. Also, nearly every menu we've encountered has a section for "mocktails;" I've discovered these can either be quite refreshing or can plunge you into an insulin coma.

It is now the morning of our last day here and we've just returned from breakfast. Many of the CCAI families have already left for the airport and will meet their babies tonight. Group 906 is the last to leave today; we check out at 2:00. We'll be ferried to the airport by our trusty guides where we'll board a two-hour flight to Chongqing. Tonight we'll check in, get our ducks in order, and attempt to sleep on our last night without our daughter. It promises to be an interesting day.

Soon we're taking a walk to the Hong Kong Museum of History, nearby in Tsim Sha Tsui East. Another family told us how much fun they had there, and it should be distracting for a couple of hours. I'll check in this afternoon or tonight if I can. If not, I think you all know what I'll be writing about tomorrow!

Next Entry

11 comments:

Lisa Gillespie said...

Hi Sam and David!

Wishing you joy on your big day tomorrow! I wish I had something more profound to say, but I believe what is about to happen is profound enough. :-)

Since I am at a loss for words, I thought I would grace you with more adoption poetry (I know--GROAN--you can tell me how annoying I was when you get home ;-)wink!) This poem is very special to us, because as you will notice, we took part of it for the wording for Anton's adoption announcement.

May your day be magical as you become three. Love, Lisa G.

•The Chosen Heart

Longing for a child to love,
I'd wish upon the stars above.
In my heart I always knew,
A part of me was meant for you.

I think how happy we will be,
Once I adopt you,& you adopt me.

I dream of all the joy you'll bring,
Imagining even the littlest things.
The way it will feel to hold you tight
& tuck you in every night.

The drawings on the refrigerator door
& childhhod toys across the floor,
The favorite stories read again & again
& hours of fun with make believe friends.

The day you took my outstretched hand
A journey ended but our love began.
Still mesmerized by your sweet face
Still warmed inside by our first embrace.

I promised to give you a happy home
& a loving family all your own.
A house you've now made complete
with laughter,smiles & tiny feet.

A parent is one who guides the way
Know I will be there every day.
Rest easy as each night you sleep
A lifetime of love is yours to keep.

Longing for a child to love
I'd wish apon the stars above.
In my heart I always knew
A part of me belonged to you.

© Teri Harrison

Anonymous said...

I have no words, just chills. I'll be thinking of you all day tomorrow, waiting to hear!

~Caroline

Anonymous said...

Sam and David,
I will be thinking of you as you experience what I hope will be a most wonderful day tomorrow! I am on pins and needles to hear all about it!
Big cyber hugs coming your way!
:)
Amy M.

Anonymous said...

I am just loving these amazing descriptions of your trip, and of course David's fabulous pictures. We were thinking of you at 7pm EST, knowing you were meeting Jarrah as we were at dinner with Mike's San Diego friends, Jim and Jules. It gave us all goosebumps to think it was happening at that moment and we can't wait to hear all about it and see pictures of your beautiful lucky daughter.
Laura

Anonymous said...

And did I mention how obsessively we have been checking your blog? Especially today, most special day...
Laura

Anonymous said...

Love and patience and time.
Best, Gail

Anonymous said...

Hi Sam and David,

Hong Kong have served you well, that is a very good sign. I hope the rest of your journey would be everything you had wished for.

I have been thinking about the hotel name you asked me about, if my guess is right, I believe that it was just a bad translation, 'The Source of Gold' may be more appropriate, it reflects the owner's wish for good fortune.

I wish you all of the luck,

Yiinghong

Kim said...

I literally got tears in my eyes thinking of you going to pick up Ruo-Ruo tomorrow. I couldn't even get through the second stanza of Lisa's poem because I would have been bawling all over my keyboard. Words can not adequately express how happy I am for you. You will all be in my thoughts.
-Kim

Anonymous said...

Loving your descriptions -- I feel as if I have been with you on your journey! I can't wait to read the next entry! Thinking of you both, Liz

jen and craig said...

Beautiful photos! (And I'm very relieved to see Paul looking warm in a jacket!)

We went by Casa Rodman last night, and all looked well. Pulled a few pizza fliers off the doorknob and grabbed some newspapers. Someone had very thoughtfully stacked them neatly and stashed them behind a flower pot. :)

We are thinking of you nonstop today and can't wait for today's entry!

Tia Martha said...

Oh boy, we are so excited for you! :)

It is thrilling to think you will be with your daughter in HOURS!! :)

Our hearts are with you at this special time.

Andrew, Martha and Vince the Prince