It's our last night on the road! Tomorrow morning we will eat the lovely buffet breakfast available at this hotel, then pack up our things and head back home again. It's been a good trip. I thought I'd share some highlights with you . . .
The time shared with our friends in the capital city was truly refreshing. We enjoyed staying together, meeting together, eating together, and letting our kids play together! It was really a special time of refocusing and connecting; I'm so glad we had this opportunity. It was especially great to have this dedicated time to meet together since our normal, once-a-week meetings are more brief and compact--in this situation we had more time to share and discuss things.
The women had a super evening out which included Starbucks and dessert at TGI Fridays, and we even found some time for shopping--you've got to hit the import store when you can! Perhaps if you've never lived outside the US you might be wondering, "What's the big deal about the import store?" Well, the big deal is that usually a good import store (and there are several in the capital city) has some items which are virtually nonexistent in our city. If I want some graham crackers or powdered sugar, for instance, I need to buy it in a larger city and take it back home with me. So here's a sampling of my purchases this time (in no particular order of importance): Dijon mustard, canned artichokes, Goldfish crackers, Spray-n-Wash laundry pretreatment, blueberry muffin mix, and the find of the day--Johnsonville Bratwurst, John's absolute favorite! We will really enjoy that treat! However, I looked several places and never found Karo syrup. The supplier for that must have run out and never restocked!
John and I have had a good couple of days investigating the possibility of giving birth here in a city only 2.5 hours from our home (by train). Yesterday we visited the hospital, and though in many ways it looks and feels like a typical Asianese hospital, (i.e. not so clean, no nursing staff to speak of, everyone crowding in to see the doctor at the same time) today we were able to meet with an English speaking doctor who allayed some of my concerns about delivering here. She seemed willing to work with me personally and said that if I called ahead for appointments I could see her and she would be my doctor, similar to what we would do in the States. She also seemed willing to go along with my ideas of natural childbirth, which encouraged me. It helps somewhat that this is my third baby, so though I have fairly strong opinions of what I want and don't want, she didn't discredit them since I obviously have some experience in the matter! So we are hopeful that it will work out to be here.
One interesting conversation came when we did the ultrasound. There were three people present--me, a nurse, and the ultrasound technician. Here's how things unfolded:
Me: I really want to find out the baby's gender. Now I am in the 21st week so I hope we can see if it is a boy or a girl.
Nurse: Yes, probably we can see clearly. Do you hope for a boy or a girl?
Me: It doesn't matter--as long as the baby is healthy that is ok.
As I am getting on the table . . .
Technician: How far along are you?
Me: 20 weeks complete, I'm in the 21st week.
Nurse: Yes, she already has two girls and wants to see if this is a boy or a girl.
Technician: (not having even touched me with the ultrasound wand yet) Oh, at 20 weeks we cannot see clearly.
Nurse: Really? It's still not clear at 20 weeks? When is it clear, then?
Technician: Well, it's hard to say. But now it's not clear.
At this point, I was inwardly quite upset at the technician's attitude. She did not even want to try to see the baby's gender, and I was really hoping to find out! I felt like saying something not so nice about the quality of the machine or how I had found out earlier than this with my other two pregnancies, but figured it wouldn't help and so just held my tongue. She rushed through the procedure and soon I was out of there. However, later I found out that because it is against the law for the technician to say anything about gender, even to a foreigner, the technician was just responding in a typical Asianese way--giving me the runaround rather than just telling me directly that she wasn't allowed to tell me. I thought that maybe since this was an international clinic, the standard would be different, but I was wrong. So there you go, we'll have to wait another 7 weeks until I have an appointment in Hong Kong. I just hope the baby won't be too big by then to get a good look! If so, I guess we'll just do what our parents and grandparents did--wait until the baby is born!
The housing options in this city also look promising, and happily, there are Starbucks within walking distance of all three potential apartments we are are considering! The hotel we've been at the last two nights has a Starbucks just a 5 minute walk away. Last night after the girls were in bed, John stayed with them and I went out for a late-night latte. (I drink decaf all the time anyway, so the time of day makes no difference). I ordered a decaf tall gingerbread latte and it was just perfect. Perfect! Just the right amount of whipped cream, foamy milk, and hot, strong espresso-gingerbread flavor. My only regret was that it was so good, I drank it so quickly! I savored every sip, though. It was wonderful! I couldn't have made it better myself!
Another fun highlight for the girls has been swimming at the hotel pool. Our first time swimming, Chloe was a bit uncertain and cried, though I held her close and we gradually got into the water, going deeper and deeper. She soon discovered the pool was like a big bathtub and started splashing around and having fun, though she didn't want to leave my arms. Tonight, though, she knew right away what to do and kept wanting to throw herself out of my arms so she could "swim" by herself! She also saw Clara Anne confidently swimming out in the deep water, climbing up and down the ladder, and playing on the steps, and I'm sure that encouraged her too. But I didn't have floaties for Chloe tonight, only Clara Anne, so I had to hold Chloe back a bit. I was surprised how quickly she took to the water! The girls looked so cute in their swimsuits too! Fun times!
So it's been a good trip. We are eager to get home, though, and back to normal life and routine again. I enlisted Lou, my helper, to get the house ready for us so we should have a sparkly clean home and dinner waiting when our train arrives tomorrow. That will certainly help, since traveling in this country always seems to sap my energy. I think the girls are ready to be home again too. I know they're tired of reading the same 8 books that I packed for the trip!
Next time, pictures from our fun times! Stay tuned!