The base for our brief two-day visit to Guangzhou was the venerable White Swan Hotel. Located on Shamian Island, the White Swan is like a second home to thousands of families who have adopted children from China.
Once a family completes the adoption formalities in their child's home province, they travel to Guangzhou to submit the application for a visa to the U.S. Consulate. This allows the family to bring their new daughter or son back to America.
Since the U.S. Consulate building is located next door to the White Swan, most adopting families have stayed at the hotel during their time in Guangzhou. Even though the Consulate's Orphan's Unit and Visa Section moved to new offices in the Tenghe District last year, the medical clinic remains on Shamian Island and most families stay at the White Swan.
The time spent with each child at the White Swan is truly precious. By the time families arrive at the White Swan they have spent about a week with their new baby and the bonding relationship has begun to blossom. This was certainly true for our family.
We wanted to return to Guangzhou during this trip because it is the one place in China where our daughters, coming from two different provinces, share a common heritage. For years, they have seen our photos and videos from each of their adoption trips. We wanted them to see the actual locations from the photos.
At the White Swan's breakfast buffet on Saturday morning, we met quite a few adoptive families that we had helped either during their paperchase or with their visas. It was great to meet so many friends and see their beautiful new daughters and sons!
Shamian Island was established as the diplomatic enclave for the City of Guangzhou and Guangdong Province. The colonial style buildings and park-like setting make it seem like an oasis in the heart of this busy and prosperous city. Today a variety of shops occupy space in the former diplomatic buildings. Jennifer's place (left) and Sherry's place both have a good reputation for hospitality towards adoptive families. Since our last visit in 2002, quite a few new shops have opened all around the island. Some of new stores now employ barkers on the street to entice you in. The staff at many of these newer stores were aggressive to the point of being rude.
Guangzhou weather in July is hot and steamy - kind of like New Orleans in August! This year was no exception and we found ourselves wilting after walking around for only 30 minutes or so. We were thankful that our adoption trip visits to Guangzhou were in the fall and early spring, when the weather is much more agreeable.
Still, as we walked around the island it was great to see the girls recognize different locations from their adoption trip photos. "Mommy, is that the place where your pushed me in my stroller or is this where Daddy took my photo with the flowers?" were typical questions.