What a full day we had today!
We started by visiting a genuine Chinese Fish Market within walking distance of our Hotel just off Shamian Island.
It was pure pandemonium and I loved it! The experience was authentic China with all its unregulated gritty craziness. (Thanks to Paul Cyphers for the great suggestion to visit this market!!) If you’ve ever been to a real fish market in the U.S. (like the Pike Place Market in Seattle), then put that on steroids, tweak up the insanity factor, and cross it with the Cantina scene in the original Star Wars movie, then you’ve got the Guangzhou Fish Market. We saw animals I couldn’t identify and smelled smells that weren’t meant to be smelled.
The Chinese are said to be obsessed with freshness when it comes to their seafood so the fish markets don’t sell much seafood that is dead. The standard is to buy seafood alive so the whole market is literally hopping, flopping, swimming, and wriggling wherever you look. The crocodiles were already gutted though, probably for the safety of the people who would have to handle them otherwise. (Why are crocs in a fish
have no idea. Remember, I mentioned it was insane.) The Manta Rays, Eels, Snakes, Tubeworms, Geoducks, Crabs, Lobster, Shrimp, Turtles, Crustaceans, and untold species of Fish were all very much alive as were other species of critters that I couldn’t readily identify.
I was reveling in the authenticity of it all when poor Joshua announced that he was feeling nauseated about 20 minutes into it. Emma was not far behind him, so we made our way out. The smells, sights, and sounds did make for an intense sensory experience but the kids recovered quickly upon exiting. I will try to sneak back there early tomorrow morning. Julia seemed to love the whole thing packed up high on my back in the baby pack.
The kids rallied once were out and were then up for trekking immediately off to a Chinese medicine market and a pet market. We walked to these as well and found them also to be super-engaging experiences of authentic China. The Chinese Medicine market is not medically-oriented in the sense of Western Medicine but rather it is a street market filled with all sorts of crazy items meant to be eaten as cures and treatments
for countless ills.
The pet market was small and consisted of birds, kittens, dogs, turtles, rats, and rabbits. I asked pretty frankly as to whether the Chinese “pet” market could have potential culinary implications but was told emphatically that these animals were only intended as true pets. I remain uncertain on this point if not solidly unconvinced.
The most important event of the day though was in the afternoon: We all packed up and traveled about an hour by bus to the center of Guangzhou and visited the U.S. Consulate. The purpose of this critical trip was to take the oath for United States citizenship on behalf of Julia. An immigration officer came out towards the end of the whole process and gave a great little talk about how it all worked. (See the end of my recent post about the history of drug trade on Shamian Island for a description of the funny details of when Julia will technically become an actual U.S. citizen.)
Then we all had the opportunity to take the oath of citizenship on Julia's behalf. I was prepared for the oath to be some verbose pledge about upholding the constitution or resisting
threats to U.S. sovereignty or renouncing allegiance to foreign powers but it was actually more of a mundane attestation that we had simply told the truth on her immigration application paperwork.
There are no pictures allowed in the consular section where the oath is taken. In fact, we had to go through a metal detector and have our belongings X-rayed just like passing through airport security. But once we were done and our camera was given back to us, I thought we could take pictures. However, when we were setting up to do so, we were scolded as even in the outer rim of the consulate pictures are prohibited. We do have a single blurry photo of me holding Baby Julia though which was a test picture that Shannon took as she was setting up the shot for a family portrait that never happened. We took a super brief family picture outside the larger office building in which the temporary U.S. Consulate is housed. (There is a much bigger stand-alone Consulate building under construction in Guangzhou which will open in a couple years.)
The important thing though is that we all made it through the long day and
by doing so all but guaranteed Julia’s U.S. citizenship by the end of the afternoon. When I stop to think about it, I realize that sweet little 11-month-old baby Julia has already moved between more disparate realms of Earthly existence than most of us will do in an entire lifetime! Born into a Chinese family in a rural inland province, then made an orphan living in an orphanage, then living with a foster family, then back in an orphanage again, then coming into our family where we’ve lived in China for the better part of a month, and now about to travel to live with her Forever Family in the wealthiest nation on Earth as a full U.S. citizen. She has already crossed so many cultural boundaries and socioeconomic barriers in her short life so far that I realize I may never fully appreciate what she’s been through in just her pre-verbal first year of life in this world.
By now the entire group is very focused on shipping out and getting home. The flights home are monster long for everyone, usually in the 12-15 hour range on the trans-Pacific leg of the journey. Our family will have a
2 day, 2 flight itinerary to get home but no one else in our group is able to do it in less than 3 legs from what I’ve gathered. Tomorrow night (China time) we will board a late flight from Guangzhou direct to Los Angeles and then spend the night in LA only to get up the next morning and fly back to Denver. My parents will fly from LA to Seattle that same day. They have been a wonderful help and blessing to us throughout the entire trip as they made it possible for us to take Emma and Joshua with us and still focus adequately on the baby.
We are ready to come home!
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