Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Busy Days

We have had a busy couple of days.

Yesterday's highlight was Dada coming out of her shell to the degree that the grans played with her all afternoon until she was wound up to a fever pitch, missing her nap. It took her a long time to get to sleep, with Julie and Peggy wrestling with her for over an hour while the rest of us stayed out of the way in Bill's room, eating take-out. The good news was that she was happy the whole time, just out of control. Julie described her as being like "a barrel of monkeys on crank."

Earlier we had had a quieter, more relaxing day. Julie and I took advantage of the grans by going down and using the sauna and steam room at the same time. It was great. No other couple here could have done it and boy did we need it. Julie was a little miffed to learn that the men's side had more extensive facilities than the women's including a large Finnish-style sauna and cold plunge, in addition to the steam room and jacuzzi.

After that we had a quick lunch so Julie could go do more paperwork at 3:00. We shopped around a bit, running into a very nice man who talked to us for a while, took our picture, and then indicated that he ran yet another clothing and souvenier shop, which he would take us too. He was so nice that we felt compelled to follow him and we were glad we did, as he had lots of nice stuff at good prices. His gimick is that he marks all his prices, which are good prices, and his stuff is good quality, so Americans who don't like to bargain can feel comfortable buying stuff. It's a good gimmick because we bought a bunch of stuff, including a darling pair of yellow and gold silk squeekie shoes.

Then it was back to the room, where the grans played with Dada while Bill and I shopped for new luggage--the duffel I bought in Sri Lanka for 5 dollars lost a handle between here and Beijing--can you believe it?! I was outraged. Anyway, I had to spend 12 dollars on a bigger, better suitcase. I'm still grumbling about it.

When I got back to the room, I noticed that Joshua (my collegue from Austin currently stationed at our Gurgaon office in India) was on line, so he and I tried to set up a video conference using NetMeeting (did I mention that I brought two Web cams with me?). We finally got it to work well enough that they could see our video feed. Unfortunately, my collegue Marit in Stockholm couldn't connect--she was bummed.

Julie came back at last and it was down to the bar for drinks--we ended up having a nice chat with Valerie and Karl, the other couple from Austin. After drinks we decided to have take out while Julie took Dada, who was by now clearly tired and overstimulated, up to the room. The rest you know.

Today was "red couch picture" and medical exam day. This is the White Swan tradition where they put all the babies on one of the red couches and take their picture. It's a lot of fun because you've got to get eight or so babies, none of whom want to leave their parents' arms, to sit still on a couch long enough to take their picture. We were very pleased that of all the babies, only Dada stayed calm and collected through the entire process. Karl and Valerie's baby probably would have too except she got kicked in the head by a baby-swinging mom. Hard to stay calm through that.

After the picture we all trooped over to the photo place to have pictures taken of the babies to put on the medical exam forms. This required us to stand around in the drizzle for about 15 minutes while we waited for the pictures. Then we all trooped a few more blocks to the medical exam place, where the babies were quickly weighed and measured, screened for nasty respiratory illnesses, then given a clothes-off exam. Finally we were done and back out onto the street.

We went back to the Golden Bowl for another delicious lunch and then took taxis to visit this big gem and jade market we'd heard tell of. It was pretty interesting--5 floors of stall after stall of people selling all manner of precious and semi-precious stones, carvings, crystals, etc. We ran into an interesting lady from Vancouver, B.C., who imports jade and buys most of her stuff from this market. We also spent a lot of time showing off Dada to people, who were all, of course, gaga for her.

After about an hour it was nap time, so back into taxis and back to the hotel. It took a bottle and few minutes of walking the floor (by Julie mostly) but we got her to sleep. She's just woken up, Julie is back from dropping off the last bit of paperwork and the last big wad of cash to David and we're preparing to go back down to the bar for another quiet evening.

Tommorrow is the consulate appointment, where we get Dada's U.S. entry visa. Then we have one last free day to shop or pack or whatever. Then on Friday we fly home, at last.


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