Yesterday we ventured out for the first time without a guide. To get our feet wet we walked to the mall a few blocks away, and discovered a whole floor of kids-fun stuff. Since tempers and temperaments weren’t the steadiest, this turned out to be quite a blessing. With some gestures and smiles we managed to exchange a few Yuan for tokens, and the girls rode little cars around the floor. Right next to the unprotected stairwell heading down.
Next up, the girls strapped into belay harnesses and clipped into ropes hanging from a steel track overhead. They then clambered around a course consisting of obstacles of various difficulty suspended about waist-height above the ground. Some were easy, some required bailouts from Papa. Then, indoor boats. Probably 45 minutes of close attention to gathering up all the little balls, throwing them back out, repeating. Mom and Dad finally declared lunchtime.
Then, Walmart! Enough said.
After lunch at the apartment we caught a cab to Seven Star Park. The driver was formal and polite and charged us exactly what the meter said, which was exactly what we expected. We paid four admissions but then the ticket-checker measured Phoebe as less than 1.2 meters tall, and so with much gesturing and incomprehension, sent me back for one refund. The park is a few hundred acres of flat areas and karsts. The first bright spot was feeding the goldfish from baby bottles on the ends of short poles. This was a huge hit, as was the adjacent troop of monkeys.
The rest of the zoo consisted of large animals in small pens, at which the girls became quite indignant. It’s amusing how difficult it can be to catch a cab at rush hour in a foreign place. They pass you by and you ask yourself “Wrong place to stand? Wrong type of wave? Wrong time of day?” Eventually we perched at the upstream side of a bus stop and a cab picked us up despite having another passenger. We took an interesting tour of industrial side streets as we dropped him off.
Overnight Kristen and Miranda both got sick, probably food poisoning of some kind. Oddly Phoebe and I were fine, but we can’t identify anything they ate and we didn’t. I’ll spare you the specifics. About 10:00 Phoebe and I cut out for Elephant Hill Park, a site of some renown to our girls due to its appearance in Big Bird in China. Our specific target was “Sun and Moon Pavilion, South Gate”, which is the center of a tourist area that contains the park. Our guide had written out this phrase in Mandarin for us, which worked perfectly when going to Seven Star Park the day before. Today, with a different destination, four consecutive cab drivers looked and the paper and then refused us for some reason I could not puzzle out. It’s not plausible that they didn’t know the area, so I can only guess it had something to do with the destination not being clear enough from the written phrase. When the fifth cab stopped I pointed to Seven Star Park again, knowing that it wasn’t all that far from Elephant Hill. This again worked fine, although we ended up at a different gate to the park despite pointing the driver to exactly the same Mandarin text.
The plan was to cut across the north edge of the park to a bridge over the Li River, but nature called so we bought another admission to Seven Star and hiked through it instead. Emerging at a southern gate, iPhone maps in hand and Phoebe on piggyback, we trudged over to the river, hitched north to the bridge, then walked along the quay down to the park itself. It was much farther than I anticipated.
We spent a few hours wandering around and over Elephant Hill, then headed back to avoid the rush-hour-cab-hailing difficulties of the previous day.
Mom and Miranda spent the day mostly in bed. They seem to be stabilizing but not well.