Friday, August 24, 2007

How To Distinguish Elaina From Wolverine

I grant you there are certain similarities hair-wise, especially after she has just gotten up from a nap.



But there are also important differences. In case you become confused, here is a handy chart:

Wolverine: Yes
Elaina: It seemed that way for two years, but no.


Elaina: Very
Wolverine: Well, not to me. Not that there's anything wrong with that if you think so.

Moody, gruff:

Wolverine: Yes
Elaina: Only right after getting up from naps.

Has Tony award:

Wolverine: Yes
Elaina: No*


Disembowels irritating people with retractable adamantine claws:

Wolverine: Yes
Elaina: No*


Fond of suddenly grabing and twisting father's right nipple through shirt:

Elaina: Yes
Wolverine: I sure hope not.

Missuse of image prevented by menacing and vigilant lawyers:

Wolverine: Yes
Elaina: Just try it.

Minor umbilical hernia pops out after big meals or when crying angrily.

Elaina: Yes.
Wolverine: Not sure. Does Wolverine have his shirt off after a big meal or during a crying jag in any of the movies?

Look On My Works, Ye Mighty, And Despair

Surely some far future archeologist will wonder how the religion with the big M spread so far so fast.

Duck..... a staple of the Chinese diet.

Thursday in Wuhan

Catching up on the week here.

Elaina is getting more comfortable with us, and showing us many more smiles and the chuff-chuff-chuff breathing that is her laugh. She particularly loves airpline rides and rasberries blown on her stomach, which produce her face-transforming smile. She still loves to do bridges, and has ambitions regarding sumersaults:

Hair remains an issue; I've seen Katrina gaze speculatively at the scissors she packed. Elaina's hair is an untidy waterfall; soft and fine, but untamable, particularly after naps. We paid a ridiculous amount for a meagre assortment of barrette and scrunchies at the department store, but they do little good - the hair is defiant, and Elaina has twice managed to extract a barrette from her hair and get it into her mouth.

She's getting good naps during the day and sleeping pretty well at night -- though she still wakes up in the middle of the night and will only be satisfied by a bottle. Katrina firmly believes that this is a habit that must be changed, but is notably less firm about getting up herself to manage Elaina's behavior at 12:30 a.m. -- she's slept through two of these feedngs.

So Thursday we went for a morning expedition to a bonsai garden not too far from the hotel. Our guide explained that the garden used to be the estate of a noble before it was, for want of a better term, nationalized for the benefit of the People. I was surprised to learn that the art of Bonsai originated in China as penjing, as I had always associated it with Japan. I was more surpised to look this up when we got back and learn that it was true and not a national boast. Dad, Google "bonsai wikipedia" and check it out.

The garden was not terribly impressive, as bonsai goes. But the estate also included a sort of natural history museum focussing on minerals and fossils. We saw several dinosaur skeletons that the kids would have loved: Evan and Abby, one fossil was of a small elephant with straight tusks:

and some were of little dinosaurs the size of Meeko or Maverick!

Even more impressive, though, were the stones. There were great slabs of soft jade polished until they shined,

great crystals that caught the dim light and seemed to glow from within, and huge smooth stones with fossilized seashells protruding from them like polka dots. We particularly liked the wide variety of what they call chrysanthemum stones. These are pieces of volcanic rock, ususually worn smooth by time or careful hands, shot through with bits of crystal. The effect is like a jet-black stone decorated with delicate flowers. The effect is quite striking, expecially in a stone taller than I am with hundreds of the crystal flowers.

The most beatiful ones had survived multiple volcanic eruptions, so that they were covered in crystal blossoms on all sides.

Let it be known that I behaved. When members of our group asked what province of China a particular fossil came from, and the guide responded "Tibet" or "Taiwan," I did not even roll my eyes.

There were also stones sectioned to show different geological strata. Some of these had been painstakingly worked into pictures, so that a orangish-brown strata of stone formed a tiger or rooster against a milky-white strata.

I should have enjoyed it more. Unfortunately, this was when the trip caught up with me. Perhaps I did not sleep enough. Perhaps it was particularly hot and humid. Perhaps I had only had coffee with breakfast and no water since the night before. But suddenly my legs went rubbery and the air felt like a wet electric quilt and my balance went all finished-the-whole-bottle-of-wine, and I spent some time sitting down with my head between my knees. Elaina took the opportunity to pull my hair, an experience that was unsatisfying for both of us. I chugged a half-liter of water on the bus and felt much better.

Thursday night we took a short walk to another local restaurant. Once again I was struck by how overstaffed such places are: a phalanx of ladies greets us at the door, there are more broom-and-dustpan-wielding older ladies than in a circus parade, and the waitresses and waiters are six deep. This results in a relentlessly friendly presentation and a great deal of widespread interest in good service, if not in particularly speedier or better service. Once again the meal was excellent. The beef ribs were crispy (I think they fry them after cooking them, an almost American indulgence that made me nostalgic for my sweet and brave land where you can get deep-fried twinkies), the snow peas were perfect (crisp, fresh, only lightly flavored by a brothlike sauce), the dates were sweet (everyone agreed these were the only dates our daughters would have until, say, 2025), and the surprise hit was a lotus root cake, crispy and with a sliver of pork for contrast. Excellent! Snow beer, a new friend, flowed freely.

Afterwards we walked out to the plaza beneath the hotel that I have mentioned before. It was early, so not yet too crowded, but there was plenty to see. Young boys with shaved heads shouted with laughter as they executed perfect bootlegger turns on souped-up big wheels. Mothers held daughters on carts shaped like horses and carriages and one made to look like a Red Army jeep, complete with rocket launchers designed strictly for defensive purposes.

A boy of perhaps two wearing split pants over spindly legs shrieked as he chased a remote-control red car directed by his father.

Skaters young and old, driven and casual, whirled about a great circle, somehow managing not to collapse into a ball of limbs of varying skill level and padding.

The girls watched placidly from their strollers. It didn't feel like Disneyland, or even like our local park -- it felt more like this was the courtyard of a group of families who liked to spend time together as dusk gave way to dark and the hot, sticky air relented.

In Guangzhou

I know, I'm falling behind on the blogging. I'll catch up today and tomorrow. It's Saturday at about noon here. We're in Guangzhou, the last stop in our journey, at the beautiful White Swan hotel. More about all of that later, along with stories from Wuhan. Elaina is down for the midday nap, and Katrina is at a paperwork meeting, and I'm relaxing in the room. More later.