Thursday, February 02, 2006

Giant Buddha

Argh, woke up a little groobly today. Or, as David would say, "not perfectly rested." Still, we don't want to lie about in bed if we aren't sleeping because we need to be daisy-fresh at 8:00 on February 6 when we meet the girl! :) Those of you who have expressed amazement that I seem to be entirely focused on my exciting international vacation have prodded me into examining my denial. But I think for the most part a combination of denial, jet lag, and the diversions of this amazing city have been serving me well! :) And on a related note, THANK YOU all for your great comments--it's been such a great comfort to know you're all there and thinking of us!

Yesterday was an incredible adventure, and we didn't get back to the hotel room until nearly 11:00. Towards the end, as we navigated Nathan Rd. (in search of an Indian restaurant) and its blazing neon signs and dozens of hawkers shouting "Copy watch, madam? Copy handbag?" into any available ear, I could have been tipped like a cow in a field. We ended up in gales of giddy giggling when the restaurant reverberated with a trio of singers and drummers and a procession of dishes so spicy we sent up a cheer when the naan finally arrived. Anyway, a quick shout-out to Mary and Paul for being such awesome travel companions. They are fun and funny and flexible and always have some Purell or soda change for a friend in need. ;)

Our day's journey began like the previous one, with a walk to the Star Ferry, this time with a detour to the gorgeous Peninsula Hotel, circa 1928, with its ornate lobby full of revelers enjoying afternoon tea (Hi Miss J! I thought of you!) The ferry took us to Central, where after a bit of meandering we found the port for the Outlying Islands Ferry to Lantau Island. The boat to Lantau was leisurely and lovely; we had a table for four right in front to enjoy the view, and it took about an hour. On the way, we had Hong Kong Island on our left and Kowloon on our right, and eventually a series of tiny, uninhabited islands covered in nothing but scrub and rocks. Mui Wo harbor on Lantau sort of shocked me, since I had expected verdant greenery, a soundtrack of tropical birds, and little else, but instead the first thing I glimpsed on disembarking was a McDonalds. But soon enough we were ensconced in an airconditioned motor coach winding our way up a hill and the greenery and panoramas of ocean inlets began to fall in line. We passed the occasional small town with pink and white houses, some of them crumbly, and the ubiquitous decoration of laundry lines strung across every window (even in downtown Hong Kong, you can admire people's bras dangling in their windows.) After what seemed like forever we pulled up behind a dozen or so roaring buses amongst a cluster of kiosks selling packaged snack foods and Cokes, leading Paul and I to comment that we'd apparently arrived at Buddha Disneyland. I was a bit cranky and travelworn, but right away we could tell there was something amazing about this place. "Look up," I whispered to Mary, and there he was--the world's largest bronze reclining Buddha. I know, I know, that's a lot of modifiers, seeming like it wouldn't end up amounting to much, but WOW. Luckily David's photos will make up for my lack of eloquence, but I have never seen anything so impressively situated. Buddha sits comfortably atop a mountain reached by 240 steps (Mary counted!) and holds one hand aloft, a hand on which each finger is taller than a man. He is surrounded by green mountains. More on Buddha in a bit.

First, we were hungry, and encountered a mad crush of diners in the vegetarian restaurant queue (only vegetarian food may be consumed on the premises.) There was a lot of shouting and pushing and it took us some time to figure out how to purchase a meal ticket for the "VIP Restaurant," but soon after that we were set up at a round table with a Lazy Susan, daintily spooning up soup. Or so we thought, until the pointing started. Accompanied by the laughing. And the staring. Suddenly I realized we were the only non-Chinese in the place, and evidently were occasioning a great deal of mirth, either by the way we were using our chopsticks or something else. At first I felt incredibly anxious, since the pointing and laughing began to spread like wildfire amongst the other guests, but soon it became clear that there was no malicious intent. One family stopped by to bow to us in greeting, and a couple others had their babies wave to us. And the food was delicious. On the way out, we spotted a family of three dining together--mommy, daddy and toddler clearly adopted from China. I felt too awkward to say anything, but Mary was brave and just asked that I stand with her while she made an introduction (she was brilliant!) Within seconds, we'd determined that this family is actually with CCAI also, in group 908 (we're 906!) and we'll be seeing them again several times during this trip. Their daughter was a cutie (though she asked us not to disturb her while she was eating ;0) and they are soon to pick up her sister in Jiangxi. It felt so good to connect with them, and I commented that we ought to have a secret handshake for such moments.

We went on to explore the monastery, which was rocking because of Chinese New Year. There was a mass of people watching a lion (dragon?) dance demonstration and a contortionist doing something that looked like yoga, only with clapping. We wandered into quieter areas, several little temples filled with orchids, incense bowls, and little altars stacked with oranges and other offerings to ancestors in honor of the new year. Several people made use of the kneeling cushions to pay their respects at the altars. Climbing some stairs, we found ourselves in a quiet area almost in the woods, with stone nooks and pillars containing more incense altars. Several of the stones had swastikas carved in them, which was jarring for just a second, since of course the Nazis co-opted the swastika from more peaceful belief systems.

Mary got us some incense to burn at the huge, communal pots near the entrance of the monastery, which was very cool though I got a lot of smoke in my eyes. Then we braved the stairs to the Buddha. The sun was starting to go down and the light was shining on the bronze and the surrounding hills in amazing ways. I had a moment just leaning over the stone railing at the top, surveying the mountains that stretched out all around us and meditating on how life had brought me to this pivotal moment on an island off the coast of Hong Kong, only days before my relationship to everything will change in ways I can't even comprehend. It was a serious thought, and yet I felt peaceful, too. I will offer whatever I can to each challenge ahead.

Next Entry

(click on photos for larger images)


Anonymous said...

You are perhaps the only person I know who can embark on the journey of parenthood in a state of peace. Wow... you are already an amazing mother.

aaryn b. said...

we love the pics...feels like we're right there with you.
thank you so much for keeping all of us up to date on your experience. we feel priveleged to have this window into your journey to parenthood.

Anonymous said...

Hello Sam and David! So glad to see you all are having such a splendid time! Hong Kong looks to be quite the exciting place. Great pics. by the way! We can't wait to see your first "family photos!" Feb. 6th is fast approaching...! That'll be 4:00pm Sunday here...we'll be thinking about you guys and Mary and Paul. There won't be a dry eye in the house.

Have fun, be safe, take care,

Ben, Debbie, Tay & Zach

Anonymous said...

Thank you for letting us be there with you through your blog and photos! I'm enjoying it so much.

This really will be Super Sunday (for those of us on Pacific Time)! Forget the football!


Anonymous said...

Hi Sam and David!

Again, what beautiful writing and photos. Thank you so much for allowing us to share in your experience. As soon as Anton is old enough, a trip to Hong Kong is looking mighty good :-)

I wish I had something interesting to tell you from home: Anton has figured out the baby sign language sign for "bath" and is demanding one all the time now. We were giving him so many his skin got too dry and he got a little rash. Still, thumbs up to parenthood. :-)

I am having visions of our Animal Crackers Playgroup this summer. I bought a little "flower" sprinkler from Toys 'R Us the other day, and I have a giant blow up pool that will fit adults as well as their little tikes so we can all cool off together. I also ordered two more toddler swings from Amazon, so we have will have a total of 4 in our backyard (no more crying because someone is hogging a swing, wink ;-)).

You knew I would have to wax poetic about adoption at one point or another, so I will leave you with one of my favorite adoption poems tonight:

Not flesh of my flesh
Nor bone of my bone,
But still miraculously
My own.
Never forget
For a single minute:
You didn't grow under my heart
But in it.

© Fleur Conkling Heyliger

I tear up every time I read this. Have another amazing day. Love, Lisa

Anonymous said...

Something about the photo with the bird flying over Buddha feels like such a good sign, in addition to being a pretty spectacular pic.

Fliss and Mike Adventures said...

I have to say that your blog has been a very interesting read and makes me look forward to my 'adventure' to China more and more... though, I have a bit of a wait yet... thanks for letting me read it...