Yesterday we started off the day with a trip to the Six Banyan Tree Temple. This is a Buddhist temple built in 537. It is kind of cool to see something that old, but we old know from my post last week how I feel about all these temples. The pagoda was pretty cool and we got some good pictures. The weather was also perfect for an outing, which made it fun just to be outside. I am loving the 70 + degree weather in January.
Later that afternoon we venture off with a couple of other families to visit Shamian Island. This is where I stayed when I was here for Abby's adoption in 2010. Several years back this island became a second home for adoptive families, because the U.S. Consulate used to be located there, as well as the medical exam clinic used for the adoption exams. So basically, you would park it in Shamian and be walking distance to all the places you had to be for official business. This attracted a lot of business centered around the adoption community, and there were dozens of little shops scattered about the island selling cheap souvenirs and baby / children's items.
By the time I was here in 2010, the Consulate had moved off the island. The clinic was still there, though, and parents as well as adoption agencies frequently opted to use the White Swan or the Victory, the two major hotels on the island, for their adoption trips. Everybody would dress up their child in the traditional Chinese silks (or fake silks) and take a picture on the famous red couch at the White Swan. It was just tradition.
Shamian island was a beautiful place to spend your first days of bonding as a new family. It is a quiet little retreat, and you feel like you are away from the rest of the world. There is very little traffic and there are beautiful old European style buildings everywhere (Shamian Island belonged to the British and the French back in the 1800's). You can spend all day just walking around and visiting little shops, playing at the various playgrounds, and enjoying the sunshine. Sadly, even the clinic has now moved off the island. The White Swan Hotel where most adoptive families used to stay is currently closed for renovations. With all these changes, most adoptive families are no longer staying at Shamian.
In 2010, I got to spend the entire adoption trip (outside of touring Beijing) on Shamian Island. You always have to travel to the capital of the province where your child is first, and this is where the actual adoption takes place. After that, every American adopting a Chinese child has to come to Guangzhou to take care of the U.S. side of the adoption and to obtain the child's U.S. visa. Because our kids are not officially U.S. citizens until they step on U.S. soil, they have to travel on their Chinese passport and require a visa to enter the U.S. (yes, this means Evie will not gain citizenship until we move to Maryland this summer. Luckily her visa will not have expired yet). Anyhow, Abby happened to be from Guangdong province, which Guangzhou is the capital of. So I got to come here to get her and the just got to stay put. Evie was in a different province (Zhejiang) somI had to travel there first and then come down to Guangzhou for the U.S. stuff.
Because I was on Shamian the entire time the last time I was here, it is no surprise that the island holds very special memories for me. I loved strolling through this time and reminiscing. It was very emotional for me and really made me miss Abby and James (who was with me last time). Although a lot has changed, a lot remains the same. I saw a lot of the same shop owners and little shops as last time, and ate at everyone's favorite restaurant on the island, Lucy's.