Thursday, November 02, 2006

Saxophones and Trombones

Good morning from Chongqing. I am in the business center of the hotel where we will spend the next week or so, the Holiday Inn Yangtze Chongqing. We arrived at the Chongqing airport yesterday about 4pm, no illness aboard the plane, no problems with the flight whatsoever. A car was waiting to take us to the hotel. We arrived around 5pm. We were stunned to see how things have changed even in the two years since we were here last. The skyline is different, they are demolishing the tunnel we came through from the Yangtze bridge to our hotel last time, and there are buildings everywhere with cranes on top, in the process of being built. The air is also much cleaner. There has been a major initiative to improve the environment in anticipation of an upcoming World Expo in Shanghai and also of course for the 2008 Olympics, which should bring a lot of tourists to many parts of China. Yes, it's still too polluted, but our eyes didn't sting and our throats didn't burn - did we bring our cough drops for nothing?

Still, when we got to the hotel, John said "it's as though we never left". We recognized the neighborhood and knew where we were before we could see the hotel. It was so odd in a way to feel so at home here when on our last trip everything was so new. Our room is SO nice. We splurged on a two-room suite and it's a corner room, with windows that take up two walls of the bedroom from halfway up the wall all the way to the ceiling. The view? Downtown Chongqing and the Yangtze River, which is absolutely spectacular at night, all neon and spotlights. It's like having a view of Manhattan across the Hudson, only more impressive. The bedroom has a crib in it already - Mom, please tell JieJie that the little cat she picked out for MeiMei is in the crib waiting for a hug. The sitting room has a sectional-style couch, tv, fridge, dining table and long buffet-style cabinet/counter.Yesterday when we arrived, as we stepped off the elevator we waded into a sea of parents and babies/toddlers. Turns out they were a group from The Netherlands. I recognized a pair of pink pajamas that one little girl was wearing- they were the same pj's our Dutch friends sent to JieJie two years ago.

Last night around dinnertime we wandered down to the lobby and met the K's, from South Carolina. They are in our travel group and(small world) they know the H1's, a family we were here with two years ago! Then we met the H2's who are here from Hong Kong with a 3-year-old daughter and grandparents to lend helping hands.

The H2's wereplanning to go to dinner so we joined them. Wild taxi ride (if someone's in the lane ahead and the driver wants to pass, they just drive on the wrong side of the road for a while) down to a neon-lit strip by the river. We sat outside and had a delicious dinner of soups, stir-fried dishes and noodles, ate our fill for 140RMB for all six of us--that's about $3/person. During dinner a lot of strolling musicians came by and wanted us to pay them to serenade us. One guy had a Kenny G style soprano sax and he played really loudly right by our table and then said "Saxophone!" Mr. H2 said "yes, apparently!" Then we started talking about the English words that are put onto clothing for decoration, much in the way we put Chinese characters onto things to make them look cool, never mind what theymight mean or whether it's even grammatical. I saw a man on one of our flights whose jacket said "Kids Whenever Original Jacket" on the back, and on the front pocket it said "Authentic Trombone". We got back to the hotel, talked briefly with JieJie and my mom by phone before falling fast asleep.

JieJie is fine - mom says she understands "the deal" and is being very cooperative and upbeat. Today John and I will take a taxi to the General Stillwell Museum here in Chongqing. It's the headquarters of American General "Vinegar Joe" Stillwell. Should be interesting. We may also see Red Cliff Village - more about that after we've seen it. Tonight I guess we'll go for a group dinner on Gotcha Eve. Hoping to go to downtown CQ and the huge pedestrian area that's lit up like Times Square at night. Tomorrow we go shopping for diapers and all that stuff, and then at 4:30 we are scheduled to go to the Civil Affairs Office and meet our little MeiMei for the first time. We are really excited, as you might guess!Have a great day, Mom give JieJie hugs and kisses from us,

Louise & John

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