Thursday, August 18, 2011

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday

Tuesday in China we had our embassy appointment. Embassy in China is so much different than embassy in Ethiopia. Totally different building setup, and our guide could not go in with us in China. It went pretty easily. After we got back, we did a group picture on the famous staircase. We met the group for dinner that night at the Chinese restaurant in the hotel.

Wednesday we went to Shamain Island with another family from our group to do a little more shopping. We had lunch at the infamous Lucy's. Now we can say we've been to Lucy's restaurant in Ethiopia and China. After we ate we looked up and saw mousetraps in the ceiling. Oops. We did get to the pool one more time in the afternoon, and then we just grabbed dinner at the little convenience store and Starbucks. We also got our packing done.

Thursday morning (this morning) we took a private car from our hotel in Guangzhou to Hong Kong. We were worried about carsickness, but we should have worried about the crazy driving!! I just kept praying that God's covering would be over our car. We had a wonderful driver who got us door to door in just under 3 hours, but it was a wild ride! You cannot pay me enough to drive in China. NO WAY. Even the driver said Chinese driving was crazy. Hong Kong driving was much more civilized. We did get to see some nice scenery on the way, and Brendan did very well in the car. No one threw up. We were handed forms to fill out to leave China and to enter Hong Kong right as we left the first hotel, and I ended up having to hand it over to Pete partway through filling them out because I was starting to feel sick.

We got to our Hong Kong hotel at about lunchtime, got checked in, and ate in the hotel. Then we all took naps, since Pete and I didn't sleep well last night. Did I mention I am thrilled Brendan takes a 2-hour nap each day? After naps, we inquired about taking the hotel shuttle to downtown so we could take photos, but by that time it would have put us back to our room pretty late, and it was more expensive than we thought. We went to the hotel playground and then walked around the airport a little, locating where we will need to go in the morning and getting some cheaper food to eat. We hope to get to bed early tonight because we need to leave our room, ready to go, with luggage, by 6 am. By the time you all are going to bed Thurs night, we will be taking off for home!!

We are so ready to be done with hotels, airplanes, and eating out. Aidan and Iona, we can't wait to give you big hugs!! We will call you from Detroit on Friday afternoon!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Sunday, Monday

On Sunday I skipped out on the folk art museum trip with the group because I had been up most of the night with an upset stomach. I started on the Cipro I brought with, and I'm feeling a lot better now. I just mainly laid around a lot Sunday during the day. We did get to have pizza for dinner with a family from our travel group, which was nice.

Today we went shopping near the embassy and got a lot of souvenirs. We also had Brendan's tb test tb! It was really hot the 90s. I hear there's been cooler weather back home, and we are looking forward to it!! Brendan had his first frappicino and Subway sandwich and seemed to like both. He's napping now. Later on we plan to go to a steak house in the hotel for dinner, since today is our anniversary. We hope to take Brendan to the pool later when it cools down a little. If not tonight, then tomorrow. :)

Brendan is such a happy little boy. He's become quite the chatterbox with us in the room. We've enjoyed watching him play with play doh and bubbles for the first time. He has a few English words: hello, Iona, Brendan, yellow (we only heard this once). We are itching to get home and reunite our family...we think he and Aidan will get along very well.

Tomorrow is our embassy interview, and then we'll get his visa on Wednesday afternoon. Thursday morning we'll take a van to Hong Kong for our flight out Friday morning. We'll be home Friday evening!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Thursday, Friday, Saturday

Sorry I haven't written in a few days. It's been pretty low key, and we've been traveling.

Thursday in Zhengzhou, we basically stayed around the hotel and rested and packed. We did go next door to a bookstore and found a few books for the kids in Mandarin. We also got the rest of our paperwork in hand from our guide. We had a good time laughing with Teresa about cultural confusion and funny language translations.

Friday morning we left for the airport for our flight to Guangzhou. The flight was almost 2 hours long and pretty uneventful. Brendan was excited to go on the plane, but once he was on, he was a bit unsure. We noticed him crying at one point on the trip, towards the end. We made it in one piece and got our luggage pretty quickly. And we found our guide, Amy, right away.

Guangzhou reminds us a lot of Hawaii. It's very beautiful and very hot. It's a bit easier to breathe here, too. It felt so go to be in the hands of a guide who speaks almost perfect English and who really understood us. (Amy is Lineker's wife.) Our hotel is very swanky. Amazing. It's a nice change from the previous part of our trip. And Brendan loves it because our window looks out into the pool. :)

Friday evening we met up with one family from our travel group and went to dinner. Brendan and I went to bed pretty fast after that. Poor kid had basically no nap, and I was exhausted too.

This morning we had breakfast at the hotel...SO MUCH better than all the other hotel breakfasts we had. We will be eating a lot better here. :) We then had the kids' photos taken and the medical exam completed. We found out Brendan has a hernia, so we'll get that checked out when we get home. He passed the exam, even the eye test, which we were really thankful for. Then we did some grocery shopping and bought Brendan a pair of shoes...he loves them because they light up. :) This afternoon we have our paperwork party and we'll drop off our laundry, and then we're doing a group dinner at the Japanese restaurant at the hotel. I hear they have unbelieveably good steaks.

Tomorrow we are visiting a local folk art museum and just relaxing. We can't take Brendan to the pool until Monday, after his tb test is read. He's so excited to go to the pool. Our hotel has a little playground, and there are two more within walking distance from the hotel.

Aidan and Iona, we miss you so much! We are coming home in about a week now! Sending you lots of love and hugs and kisses.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Wednesday in Zhengzhou

On Wednesday morning we went with Teresa to the hospital around the corner so Brendan could see a doctor. We had to go in and request an appointment and then wait until our number was called. Someone in the hospital lobby gave her a doctor recommendation, so she requested an appointment with that doctor. The doc only sees about 27 patients on Wednesday mornings, and we were #25. We were thankful for God’s intervention there.

We decided to walk to a nearby mall to get some sandals for Pete while we waited for our appointment. We were able to see the mall ceremony for the opening of the building. The ladies inside marched like soldiers and spoke in unison when we went in. It was definitely a different experience! We were able to find some sandals on clearance, thankfully, so we got those and then went back over to the hospital to wait.

I am SO thankful for the medical care we have in the US. Wow. We were at a University hospital. It was dirty and loud. We went over to the pediatric outpatient area and sat in this hallway with all the other waiting families. We sat outside our doctor’s exam room. By the time we got there, they were only a couple of numbers away from our number, so we just stayed there to wait.

When it was our turn, Teresa, Brendan, and I went into the exam room. The doctor sat at a table with about 4 students who were watching and helping. There were a few other families in the room at the same time, and we waited on a bench in the room until it was our turn to come to the table. Once we were called up, the doctor examined him and talked with Teresa. She translated here and there and I gave my input too. The doctor was very kind. It turns out we fed Brendan too much food and too much variety…he is used to eating the same small meals every day and this was just a jolt to his system. We got prescriptions for meds for his fever and tummy. The doc was delighted that we were adopting him and was just so patient and kind with us.

We left the exam room and went over to pay the bill and then to the pharmacy area to have the prescriptions filled. It was very quick. The total bill was less than $25 I think (meds and exam). We walked back to the hotel and Teresa explained how to administer the meds.

Since then, Brendan seems to be feeling a lot better. He is full of smiles and laughter when we are alone. He is distrustful of crowds, and I don’t blame him. (Note to those coming to see us at the airport…you will probably not see him smile that night. Just give him time.) His fever has not returned, and we’ve severely limited his food amounts. He wasn’t too happy with us when we said no to some foods at dinner, but at the same time I think we built a huge amount of trust with him by getting him medical care when he needed it. Naptime today was the first time he did not cry himself to sleep. And his tears were silent ones before…the child does not make a lot of noise. He is very soft spoken. You need to lean in to listen to his words. Tonight we heard him say “hello” for the first time!

Brendan is painfully shy, as I’ve said before. He did not use a lot of words at the orphanage, so I’m curious at how his English will develop. It will definitely take some time. It will be very interesting to see, in about 4 months or so, if he is still a painfully shy little boy.

We took him to a park this afternoon, about a 10-minute walk through the busy streets of Zhengzhou. We could see it from our hotel room, and finally today we decided to venture out and get to it. When we first approached the park, Brendan just stood there and looked around. It made us wonder if he had ever been to a park before. We showed him how to do a couple of things, and pretty soon he was laughing and running around. It definitely was not as nice of a park as we have in the states, but it was pretty fun. It was right next to this track we see people running in throughout the day, doing tai chi, playing soccer, etc.

Tomorrow should be pretty low key. We will be getting the rest of our paperwork in hand. (Teresa will go get it and bring it to us.) We’ll be packing our bags in the evening, because on Friday we need to be at the airport by 10 am or so to fly to Guangzhou.

Tuesday in Zhengzhou

Tuesday morning we had breakfast at the hotel and then met Teresa for our appointment at Civil Affairs to finalize our paperwork. It was much less chaotic there that day, though we could tell Brendan was not happy to be back there. We did get to see the family adopting Brendan’s friend from the orphanage again that day. We hope to see them in Guangzhou too. The official didn’t really interview us as much as we expected, and overall the meet was very easy. We got our forms from them and left.

Afterwards we went to the notary office to sign some paperwork. The notary was very kind, and we got to take a photo of our family with her. She is like a Supreme Court Justice in the US. Our guide will pick up our remaining paperwork on Thursday and bring it to us.

When we were done with the meetings, we asked our guide to go with us to a grocery store to get some things we needed. She helped us get bottled water, pop, and food for Brendan to eat for lunches in the hotel room. We were SO thankful and felt a lot better about getting through the rest of the week. The grocery store was right near McDonald’s, so we stopped in and picked up some lunch for us to go. It was nice to have something similar to home, even though it was not exactly the same. (The western food in the hotel is not made the way we would make those same dishes in the states as well.)

We got back to the hotel and just had a much better outlook about our week. We got along much more with Teresa, we had food and water, and we knew we only had a few days left there.

After Brendan’s nap he seemed a little off. We did play in the room and also took a little walk outside and played in the hotel lobby. After dinner, we realized he was running a low fever, and he had been having diarrhea. We have him some Tylenol and a bath, and his fever broke not long after he went to sleep. We decided to call our guide in the morning and get him to a doctor. If he has a fever for our embassy medical exam on Saturday, they will not allow him to travel until he is better, which would mean a delay in our embassy appointment as well. We are praying he gets better soon.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Gotcha Day!

This was a chaotic day, nothing like my expectations, which I tried not to have in the first place.

We had to be down in the hotel lobby in Beijing at 5 am to go to the airport. We were given a bagged breakfast since we had to leave before breakfast opened. I ate a little. Some of it I couldn’t eat (fruit with skin I couldn’t peel) and some I didn’t like (hard boiled egg). I just ate a couple of small muffins; my stomach was in knots about the day ahead.

Our check–in at the airport went smoothly. We knew our bags were overweight for a China domestic flight (44 lbs per person), but we didn’t think it was by much. Sherry, our guide, talked the staff into letting us go through with no charge. We also got through security without hassle. We got to our gate about 45 minutes early. We even saw travel friends get through with a miracle…they had 4 people traveling with about 10 bags and had thought the rule was 44 lbs per bag. Ugh. The Lord parted the waters and caused the belt at check in to be broken, lots of chaos, and ultimately they got through what they thought would be $300 of fines with no fines at all!

Our flight was easy…we think we might have been seated in business class. Lots of leg room. About an hour flight. When we got off the plane, we got our bags and met our guide. She asked if we needed to use the bathroom before we left. I said no. BIG MISTAKE. (I had to but wanted to get to the hotel first.)

When we got in the van, we discovered from Teresa, our local guide, that we were not going to the hotel but straight to meet our son. (Exactly what happened to us in Ethiopia; this only happens about 1% of the time. It happened to us both adoptions.) Our guide in Beijing, Sherry, told us we were most likely going to the hotel to unpack first. So we had no toys for him in our carry on. No snacks. No gifts ready for the orphanage staff. And she said we’d only be there about an hour.

We also discovered pretty quickly in the van that Teresa did not speak English as well as we were used to with Sherry. We had to explain our questions a number of times. This proved to get worse with time.

We got to the Civil Affairs building, and we were ushered into this lobby area. (I tried to go to the bathroom, but the Western toilet was disgustingly dirty—imagine the worst you’ve seen and triple it—and the squatty potties had to toilet paper. We had been carrying around tp but did not bring it with us in our carry ons.) There were only a couple of people there at the moment, but we were told 17 families were coming that morning to get their kids. Little did we know…

Brendan was not there yet, so our guide went into a room to start figuring out paperwork. A few minutes later, some nannies walked in with Brendan and another little boy, both who looked TERRIFIED. We approached him and started to talk, and the nannies were trying to introduce us, but he would have none of it. He just closed off emotionally. We could not get anyone to take many photos or videos. And then Brendan wet his pants all over the floor. Poor kid. While the staff cleaned him up and got him new pants (no underwear, as we discovered later), other staff pulled me aside and sat me down to do some paperwork. By this time we could see other families getting their kids, lots of crying (parents and kids), and other people taking nice video and photos for those families. It was very loud in the room, and Teresa was trying to translate the form for me to fill out and having difficulty. She would ask questions and get yelled at. We would sign forms, and she would get yelled at about how we did it wrong. (I should say the yelling was directed at her, but we have no idea what they were saying.) Screaming babies. Lots of people speaking different languages. And I felt robbed of my gotcha day because I couldn’t even find Pete and Brendan at points. Every time I would get up to try to sit with them and see our son, I was pulled into more paperwork. And then I was told we needed to make our orphanage donation then. So I had to sit and count large stacks of RMB in the middle of the crowd. And then they recounted it. About $5000 worth.

By this point we were a bit upset. We had tried numerous times to ask questions of the nannies that we had about Brendan. We kept getting brushed aside. Thankfully, Pete had gone out to the van earlier and dug a couple of toys out of the suitcase. He literally just came to us with the clothes on his back. Not even anything from the care package we sent him.

The other little boy that Brendan came with turned out to be going home with a family from Kansas. We got to sit down with his mom and exchange information, since we were told Hudson (the boy’s new name) and Brendan were friends. (Sure enough, later as I looked through Brendan’s photos I saw Hudson in many of them.) His mom was really nice. This was not her first China adoption, and she had used our agency in the past. I’m looking forward to staying in touch with her. I hope we see her at the embassy meetings.

At some point in all of this we were able to take photos with the nannies and Brendan and us outside the building. Pete tried to explain that we wanted to have on video the nannies giving Brendan some well-wishes and then have Teresa translate. Never happened. They just didn’t understand us. We did get to ask our questions and felt we got satisfactory answers.

Teresa told us it was time to go, so we all piled in the van. Then we all had to get out, because she said we had to take the family photo for the documentation. (I actually had mentioned this to her earlier because we knew this was taken on that day, and she told me we didn’t do that until the next day.)

By the time we were really ready to go, it was lunchtime. We had been at the CA building for 2 hours. The driver and guide offered to take us to a local restaurant instead of the hotel, so we agreed. Once we were seated, we asked the guide for help with ordering, since in Beijing all the ordering was done for us ahead of time. It took about 30 minutes to discuss back and forth with the guide what we would be willing to order. I asked for a bottle of water, and it took forever to explain what that was. They brought me mineral water, which I did not want. We finally got them to bring a bottle of Sprite. By this point I was in tears. The staff ended up bringing me a bowl of special soup used for people with coughs, because they thought I was sick. It tasted like medicine. Nasty. It turns out we ordered too much, and most of it I didn’t like. Too spicy. Pete ate some, but when Teresa started laughing at him at how he was using chopsticks, he got mad at her. At least Brendan ate a meal he was used to. One thing Sherry told us in Beijing was not to let him eat too much at meals so he wouldn’t get a stomachache. Teresa and the wait staff kept bringing him more and more food. We finally put a stop to it, and they didn’t really understand why we were denying him more food. I ended up just eating rice. We paid the bill (and I noticed we ended up paying for the driver’s and Teresa’s meals too).

At this point we knew we needed to call in the big guns. We knew we couldn’t survive for the rest of the week like this with no one who could understand us. We decided to call the national guide when we got back to the hotel. Teresa gave us our room keys, and we asked for help with locating a supermarket for us to buy water. She vaguely gave us directions and would not offer more help than that. “It’s just down the block,” she said.

We got up to our hotel room and we noticed there was only one large bed. We asked about a bed for Brendan, and they finally brought us up a large crib. We called Linekar, the national guide, immediately. He got us switched to a different room with two beds. Pete told him about the difficult time we were having with our guide, and he said our province is a very hard one because not many people speak English well. He said there was a 5 star hotel in town, but it was twice as much money. (We are in a 4 star hotel.) The nicer hotel had more staff who spoke better English. We decided to stay put, since Brendan was already moved around so much today, and we didn’t know if we could afford the new hotel. He offered to get us a new guide, but it would take a couple of days. He told us to call him with any more issues we were having. It was so nice to finally have someone understand our needs.

In the midst of all of this, we laid Brendan down for a nap, which we found out he takes every afternoon. He was still so, so scared. He laid down and tears began to roll down him face. He made no noises, just cried silently. We sat with him and snuggled and prayed with him for a while. Finally, he fell asleep and took a decent nap. We tried to sleep, but we could not. We were actually a bit worried about Brendan…we wondered if there was some hearing loss or mental delays due to how painfully shy he is. (We knew from the referral paperwork that he was shy, but this was Just. Painfully. Shy.) And it didn’t help that he wouldn’t make eye contact or speak.

I went out in search of the grocery store. I got some directions from the bellboy, but I walked around for a while without finding what I was looking for. I came back to the hotel and asked for more help. The bellboy walked me partway there, and then pointed out exactly where I needed to go. What made it harder was there was construction in between me and the store, and I had to walk around it (on the street, mostly, with China traffic). I finally found the store and went in. I found the water, but it was all expensive mineral water, not the cheap spring water we had been drinking the last few days. I walked back to the hotel, and we called Linekar again. He called Teresa and had her call the hotel to bring us up a bunch of water to our room. They brought us two more individual sized bottles.

By this time Brendan was awake, so we took him down to dinner at the hotel restaurant. We looked at the regular menu, and then they brought us the room service menu. We ordered club sandwiches for us, and they came with French fries. After we ordered, I realized we couldn’t eat the lettuce or tomatoes in the sandwich. We nibbled at the bread, but the meat tasted funny, and there was a layer of egg instead of cheese. The fries were pretty good, though.

After we were all done eating we went back to the room and gave Brendan a bath. He smelled pretty horrible all day, but we wanted to give him some time in his orphanage clothes since the smell was more familiar to him. The bath went well. Then Pete started playing with him, and he really seemed to open up. They were laughing a lot, playing with toys, and being silly together.

By bedtime we were feeling a bit better about the day.

Beijing day 2

On Sunday morning in Beijing we were able to go to an international church for worship in the morning. It was amazing—definitely a highlight of the trip. We had to show our foreign IDs to get in the door. The best part was singing the doxology with Christians in China, knowing we would sing it again with our church back home at the airport.

Next we visited a jade factory, learned about jade, and did some shopping.

After lunch, we went to the Great Wall. Amazing. No words. I didn’t climb much because it was so steep and pretty warm outside, but Pete went up a few towers. Pete put photos on facebook.

We drove back to Beijing and had dinner, and then we went to a Chinese acrobat show. We were all very tired and ready to go back to our rooms and pack, but it was still worth seeing. They would give our local Gamma Phi Circus a run for their money.

Back at the hotel, we repacked and got ready for the morning, when we would go to meet our son!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

day 1 sightseeing in Beijing

Yesterday was a FULL day of sightseeing and a lot of fun.

We met our travel group families at breakfast and in the lobby. (ET families, we've decided we are traveling with some twin families…like the Mitchells, the Schmidts, and the Moles families.)

We got on the bus (our tour bus) and first went to Tiananman Square. LOL—we were not allowed to discuss politics or take pictures of anyone in uniform. There were lots of people everywhere we went. I think there were a couple hundred thousand people in the square. We took some photos and then walked over to the Forbidden City. We walked all the way through, from front to back, through each gate. This was were the emperor’s family lived. No one goes in, no one comes out. (hehe--I was singing the Oompa Loompa song in the shower this morning.) The buildings were magnificent, and we got to see one of the golden thrones. My absolute favorite part was the Imperial Garden. I loved the smaller buildings surrounding it and all the interesting plants and rock structures. By the time we got back to the bus, we had been walking for 2.5 hours!

Then we went to lunch, our first taste of authentic Chinese cuisine. So good! This was probably my favorite meal so far. We ate at a table for 10 with the food on a large spinner in the middle. You just spin the glass when you want a dish moved closer to you. My favorite parts were the leeks and the cucumbers.

We got to visit a pearl factory store and learn about how pearls are found and the difference between ocean and freshwater pearls. Pink freshwater pearls come from China—no where else. We saw some very beautiful jewelry and bought a little.

Next we went to Summer Palace, but it had rained while we were in the pearl shop and so the photos were all hazy. There is a beautiful bridge and a man-made lake that we saw. Across the lake was the palace itself, where the emperor rested.

Then we went to a Silk Factory and saw how silk blankets were made. We even got to try to stretch the silk out for a blanket. We oogled over all the pretty fabrics and the adorable baby clothes.

We drove by the Olympic Village and took some photos of the Bird’s Nest and surrounding buildings. It brought back a lot of memories of the Seoul Olympics for me. The buildings are not really being used now but are owned by the government.

We went to a Tea House and participated in a tea ceremony. We got to try 5 kinds of tea. My favorites were the jasmine and fruit teas. The ceremony was very entertaining…we laughed a lot! Then we got to purchase some gifts.

Finally, we went to a Chinese duck dinner. I didn’t like the food as well, and by this point I was ready to collapse. It was all I could do to stay upright in the chair from jet lag. I liked the taste of duck…it reminded me a lot of turkey. I liked the little pieces I took off the plate myself, but I didn’t like it when they offered it wrapped in an injera/crepe-like thing with vegetables. I wasn’t feeling the best anyway by this point, so I was grateful when we left.

When we got back to the hotel, I put on pjs and was asleep about 5 seconds after hitting the pillow. J

Aidan and Iona, we love you and miss you a ton. We can’t wait to skype with you in the next couple of days so you can meet Brendan. We meet him tomorrow! Please give each other lots of hugs for us and have fun with your friends. We love you!!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

at the airport

In about 23 hours, we will be in China. My stomach is in the usual knots from flying, even though I've done this so many times. I miss my kids, all three of them. Lots of mixed emotions. I'm excited to get going!

Thank you all for your prayers and notes of encouragement. Please keep praying for us, all the way there and back! We are excited to see what God wants to show us in China.

Here is the standard suitcase shot. Praying we see them all in China when we get off the plane!

Monday, August 1, 2011

leaving this week!

We are leaving for China this week! We'll take the kids to our friends' house on Wednesday afternoon and go to the airport Thursday morning. The kids are having a ton of fun with packing.

We're down to the last few things that can't be packed until the last minute. I'll finish laundry tomorrowish and try to clean a little.

In one week we will meet our new son. In Iona's words: "Brendan's coming. I'm freaking out about it!"

His bed is made. We bought him a pillow tonight. His bag is packed, filled with new clothes and new toys for the trip.

We're coming!