Day 11 – Getting around Guangzhou

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Day 11 was an opportunity to see more of the culture of the Guangzhou area.  (Ok, I admit it. There was also shopping on the itinerary!) More importantly, we are getting glimpses into the true spirit and personality of  our little girl.  It is truly exciting to the boundaries broken by love, trust and attention.  We are seeing a little girl we have loved in our hearts for a long time, start to bloom in the light.  We also have the privilege of watching our oldest begin to grow in tenderness and protectiveness as a big sister. My attention is drawn to so many fascinating things around me that it is hard to know where to look next!  I choose to focus closer to the heart.

We continue to venture out with the group in order to experience the culture and provide opportunities for ourselves and our girls to see new things.  On Day 11 we spent the day visiting another temple, the family Chen temple and also doing a little local shopping.  It was a great day to see more of the ancient artisan craftsmanship so appreciated by my hubby.  

Little Li is starting to break out of her shell a little to walk with us and talk to us. She has been sleeping through the night and we have to wake her up from naps, lest she sleep the afternoon away! She can say and sign ‘more’ at this point and can say ‘bye bye’ in a way that is about the cutest thing I’ve ever heard.  She has become her big sister’s shadow.  Hulaloo is loving it!

 

It may take 20 years to get a photo with everyone in it AND smiling

 

This is a carving on top of the Chen Family Temple


Chen Family Temple

Getting ready for her first professional photo shoot with windblown hair


Learning to trust Daddy’s hand

Tomorrow is a big day.  Our group has to have physical exams at the consulate.  All children over 2, have to have  blood drawn for a tb test.  That should be fun… (not.)

More to come!  Thanks for joining our journey.

Your friend,

Meredith

LLi

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Day 10 – 1st Airplane Ride

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Day 10 – The first airplane ride

A smile as we land in Guangzhou

Within a week, the little lives we have been charged with have gone from having almost no contact with the outside world, to the breakfast buffet at the Hilton and then a ride on what might as well be a huge metal bird in their little eyes. The purpose of the stay in Zhengzhou was to finish all the paperwork required for the Chinese government for the adoption. With the completion of Little Li’s passport, it was now time to move on to Guangzhou in order to head down the American side of the paperwork mountain (insert audible sigh…) I think its safe to say that none of us were excited to board the plane to head to Guangzhou.  While it moved us closer to our goal of getting home, we now had nine additional children in our care to move through airport security. We knew it was inevitable that one family was probably in for a major meltdown mid-air.  It was just a matter of who it would be.  The nice thing was that we knew we were in it together, and would have at least six other sympathetic families on the flight.

  Imagine 15 adults, 13 children and 7 carts FULL of luggage moving through an airport security check.  Now add the fact that we don’t speak the language.  The line doesn’t move quickly!  Thankfully our guides Yisha and Vivian were at our side to help us through the process.  Thanks to Mom’s small set of travel scissors, I think she now has an official record with the equivalent of the Chinese TSA.  (She must not have looked too threatening, because we FINALLY got through and they even gave her the scissors back.)

From there we boarded the shuttle bus out to the plane.  Most of of the airports we have been to do not have direct boarding into the terminal.  You board a bus to get on (and off) the plane.  For families that means you get to load the the carry-on luggage, strollers and children TWICE for every leg of the journey.  Yay!  (insert sarcasm..)

With the exception of a spilled drink and the ever present threat of boredom for little Hulaloo, our flight was pretty smooth.  Hubby and Mimi sat together while I sat with the girls.  I had an arsenal of treats and activities for take off and landing, but really didn’t need much.  She did great.  She even smiled and clapped when we landed. (I think she may have an adventurous spirit.)  Whew! We were not the family with the meltdown, although our group definitely had one.

Jason our guide for Guangzhou was waiting for us and filled us in on some facts about the city as we made our way to our home for the week. Guangzhou is in southern China and not far from Hong Kong (which only has 9 million people.) It has a very tropical climate and is currently in what is called the rainy season.  Guangzhou is the 5th largest city in China. It is called home by 19 million natives and another 10 million that have chosen to move  here.  The total is 29 million.  To put that in perspective, New York city has about 8.5 million, total.    NYC is  a little village compared to this place!

Guangzhou is the last stop for all Americans adopting in China.  While there are a few US embassies in China, only the consulate in Guangzhou processes visas.  It is the busiest visa center in the world.  It processes on average 2000 A DAY.  Earlier this summer they had computer issues for four days which put them about 10,000 visas behind.  They are still catching up.

Our primary focus while here will be to get a physical exam, a visa and then be sworn in as a citizen.  Much to do, but much to gain! Time is flying by, but we are also excited to get home as soon as we can.

Until next time!

Your Friend,
Meredith

Getting ready to leave

Day 9 – Kung Fu Mamma

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Kung Fu Momma

Our time in Zhengzhou was packed full of paperwork and visits to official locations to finalize the adoption and passport.  In addition to visiting her orphanage, I felt convicted to visit more than the mall and Walmart in the province of Little Li’s birth.  I want her to look back on the photos and know that we made an effort to experience the culture and heritage of her province, Henan. When the opportunity to take a day trip to Shaolin Monastery, we jumped at the chance (even though it meant a late return before packing up to head to our next stop in Guangzhou.)  

The monastery (also the birthplace of the ancient martial art of Kung Fu) is located outside her hometown of Luoyang and was established in about 420 AD.  Kung Fu is an interesting blend of religion and martial arts. The evolution of Kung Fu and its survival through several dynasties is a fascinating historical journey.  Our guide ‘Tiger’ was a young guy just a few years out of college who spoke fluent English.  He helped our group to navigate the traffic, temple grounds and Kung Fu demonstration show in order to maximize our short time there.  (It was a 1.5 hour drive from our hotel.)  The heat was sweltering, although I’m told it wasn’t too bad for this time of year.  

We viewed the burial grounds of the honorable Kung Fu masters.   The oldest site was built in 751 AD and the most recent was 2004.  Note the etchings  on the photo below.  This was a modern Kung Fu master and his students wanted to ensure that he had all the modern amenities in the afterlife.  (See the lap top?)

Tiger telling us about the Kung Fu Masters


Modern Kung Fu Master

The kung fu show was my favorite part.  Young students and instructors demonstrated power and agility by doing back flips with knives in hand and throwing a pin through solid glass to pop a balloon.  Simply amazing!  (Little Hulaloo has since been demonstrating her own Kung Fu moves and we have had to have a few discussions about ‘don’t try this at home!’)
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Day 8 – Top 10 Things I Don’t Understand About China

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Day 7 was kind of emotional and based on the responses I’ve gotten from some of you, I think you agree.  I’m running a couple of days behind because of travel and pure exhaustion, so today we will lighten the mood a bit.  For those of you who don’t know me well, this may give you a glimpse into my slightly warped sense of humor and perspective.

In tribute to the great David Letterman (also a native Hoosier,) I have devised a top 10 list.  

The top 10 things I don’t understand about China:

#10 -Scooters

We were warned multiple times in Beijing and again in Zhengzhou about the traffic in Zhengzhou . You cross the street at your own peril.  Nothing in western culture prepares you for it.  So imagine, my dear friend as you view the photos below that you are crossing the street pushing a baby stroller, holding the hand of a  5 year old and being accompanied by two family members with hearing issues.  I finally decided that if a car or scooter didn’t kill me, a heart attack would!  God was good and we did live to tell about it.

 

Traffic Lanes? Who needs traffic lanes?


There is no such thing as pedestrian ‘right of way’ in Zhengzhou


Obviously the hands-free rule has not been implemented here. The only thing hands-free appears to be the steering column


No car seats with 5 point harnesses in Zhengzhou!

#9 – The Water

Even in the major cities (maybe even more so,) you cannot drink the water.  China’s population and economy are booming (for the most part), but there are elements of the infrastructure that lag behind.  Water is a primary example.  You won’t find microwaves in the room here.  You find water kettles for boiling water in order to purify it. 

Our water kettle

#8 – BYOTP

Yes,  it is a BYOTP culture in China.  (Bring Your Own Toilet Paper.) I guess with over a billion people, that’s a lot of tp that would have to be restocked by attendants.  However, the trees must be sacrificed either way!  I came prepared for this particular issue by creating my own water proof tp dispenser from my favorite dollar store, Dollars N’Sense in Casey, IL .  (www.Facebook.com/DNSense )  Cost me a whopping $1 !

Never Leave Home Without It

 

#7- Air Quality

This is not a very green or politically correct thing to say, but I am going to say it anyway.  I think its great that we worry about the ozone layer and air quality in the USA.  We should be good stewards of God’s creation.  It is the right thing to do.  However, after having been to China, I really don’t think me not using aerosol hairspray is going to offset the fact that people in Beijing see a blue sky a few days a year. This side of the world has got a problem folks, and we better hope they get it fixed because the planet seems to be getting smaller and smaller.  We haven’t needed masks yet, but I downloaded an air quality app just in case!

This is not fog

 

#6 Budda

As a Christian there are many things I don’t understand about Buddhism (even more so now that our newest family was somewhat affected by the Ying/Yang concept.)  I do, however, honor the heritage, beauty and longevity of the culture.  We have seen many breath-taking temples while here.  At one, we saw the only female Budda.  Our guide told us that rubbing her belly was good luck for fertility.  He asked us if our group wanted to pay to rub her belly.  We all looked at each other and said “No thanks!” Many people will also bring her offerings of peanuts which are good luck for having more children.  (One child in our party, who shall not be named, brought me a peanut and said ‘look mommy, free snacks!’ We had a brief discussion about why the peanuts were there and returned the peanuts to their proper place at the alter.  It was also a good time to talk about never taking money OUT of the offering plate at church…)

Are there any peanuts missing from that plate?


Man praying using incense

 

 

#5 The sidewalks

In the USA, the roads are for driving and the sidewalks are for WALKING.  There is no ‘in-between.’  The same rule does not apply in China.  Notice the people, cars and scooters on the sidewalk?

#4 – No Coffee

Yes, its true.  Tea reigns supreme over here.  I packed coffee singles for three adults and thought it would last 2 weeks.  They lasted 3 days.  Walmart to the rescue!  Our hotel in Guangzhou has a Star Bucks.  Praise the Lord!

#3 – English signs not proof read for English.  

I’ve worked on labels for countries all over the world and learned my lesson a long time ago that you need to ensure proofreading by a native speaker to ensure accuracy.  One of these was in CarreFour which is bigger than Walmart.

 

I love good Coocking


What more can I say?

#2 – Split pants

Many baby’s in China do not wear diapers.  They wear split pants.  I will not go into the implications here, but you can use your imagination.  The photo below is from www.cupofjo.com .

#1 – The bathrooms

Public bathrooms deserve their own post.  Mom and I have begun rating our experience based on the bathroom.

Below are 3.  One was at an airport, one was at an attraction and one at a hospital.  Can you guess which is the hospital? Read on..

Squatty Potty


Western Style Toilet

 

Trough Style Toilet

 

The trough style bathroom with the garden hose was the hospital and by far the worst we have seen.  My mother and I will forever be bonded by the experience of taking little Hulaloo to the bathroom there.  (But we have vowed to speak of it to no one…EVER!)

Until next time!

Your friend,
Meredith

LLI 

Day 7 – Silent Tears

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Imagine being completely unable to care for yourself.  You live in a world where you cry, but nobody comes  to your side when you cry.  (Not because they don’t care, but because there are too many little cries in the night to console.) Now imagine the grief and stress of being thrust into a completely different world and separated from the only family you have ever known.  Add to that being unable to communicate with those around you.  You speak, but they don’t understand.  They speak but it sounds like gibberish to you. What do you do?  You learn to cry silently. Because being loud doesn’t get you anywhere.

And that’s what I saw that has shocked me more than anything since I have been in China.  I have never seen a tired, scared two year old NOT bellow with indignation and expect the adults around him or her to bow to their every need.  That’s what what we do in the USA. Right?  Families in the USA teach our kids that we will at least try to meet their basic needs. They learn to ask (and often demand) at an early age.  

Yesterday (Day 7,) we were so exhausted from the day before that we stayed at the hotel most of the day to rest. I put one girl on each side of me on our big fluffy bed just to rest and snuggle for a moment.  I looked to my left and was suprised to see that our Little Li was sitting up beside me with tiny tears streaming down both cheeks. She was not making a single sound.  Not even a whimper. She was just suffering silently.  The exhaustion and confusion from the past few days had finally overwhelmed her little soul.  i gently scooped her up in my arms and we rocked for a bit before she nodded off to sleep.

The same thing happened again today when the girls were playing at a small play set inside the hotel.  The small plastic swing hit her on the chin.  A typical US toddler would have wailed and run to Momma.  She stood there and bit her lip processing how much it hurt.  I want her to know that I hear her and I see her pain.  So even though she didn’t want or demand it, I walked over and knelt down in front of her and kissed her boo boo.  I hope that someday in the near future she WILL bellow like a typical American toddler. It will mean that she trusts us. (Dear friend, I may need you to remind me that I said that!)

It would be easy to only write about the joys of this road we are traveling, but the reality is the road will be hilly with many peaks and valleys.  The view will always be beautiful. Thanks for joining me on the journey.

 

Your Friend,

Meredith

LLI

 

 

Day 6- The Orphanage

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On day 6 the adoption was finalized in China!  She is officially ours. We started the day with boundless energy and excitement then ended by practically crawling through the hotel lobby to our room.  It was a day of memorable moments and once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.  In the words of the Dead Poet’s Society, Carpe Diem!  Seize the day . The day was physically exhausting, but we were determined to see her orphanage and finding spot in order to capture as much of her past as we could.  Let me start at the beginning to give you perspective..

9:00 am – The entire group loaded on to the bus and headed back to the office of civil affairs.

This is the same office where we received custody.  Our guide Yisha warned us that the trauma of the previous day might spark crying and emotional responses in our children.  Our pint size army of kids were troopers!  Not a peep from any of them.  We were greeted by an offical who expressed appreiation to us and then called our family’s name.  We went forward and were handed an official adoption certificate.  (We also found out that the registration office is in flux and are in the process of determining new rates for paperwork charges.  Since it hasn’t been finalized, we weren’t charged at all.  BONUS! That would never happen in the USA. Double bonus for the two families adoptioing two kids.)

 

9:45 am –  The entire group headed on the bus to the notary office.  We had to park a block away due to road construction and then walk up SIX flights of stairs to the notary office.  (Dear friend, think about how many small children we had in tow.  It was no small task! No need to head to the gym after that.) The good news is my fitbit shows that I burned quite a few calories!

While there we had our picture taken with the notary official.  (Notaries in China appear to be a much bigger deal than the USA.  The fee was pretty high compared to getting it done free in the USA.) This was the first time our little one had made a peep all day.  Quite honestly, I think she may have thought we were giving her back.  We left the expected gift on the table and our entourage headed back down the six flights to our bus to head back to the hotel.

 

1:00 pm –  The next phase of the process is to obtain passport for the little one to exit the country.  It has to be obtained in the city the child is from.  Our little one is from Luoyang which is a 2.5 hour drive ONE WAY.  There was one other family  with a little girl from the same orphanage, so we all (including Mimi and Hulaloo) piled into a passenger van for the next phase of the journey. We had 4 stops: the passport office, the orphanage and 2 finding spots.  All on different sides of ‘town.’  Luoyang is considered a town  but has a population of over 1.5 million. It took a while in traffic to make it to all the locations. 

 

Passport Office

 

3:30 pm – We went first to the passport office and our Little Li got fussy again.  Its a good thing I didn’t understand the potential implications or I might have freaked out.  They wouldn’t take her photo until she stopped crying.  No photo = no passport = delay of EVERYTHING.  One family in our group (at another location) had to try for 3 hours before their little guy would cooperate.  Other families in the past have had to go back on another day. Thankfully before we left the states I learned two chinese children’s songs (in Chinese) and started singing softly in her ear.  She quieted long enough for them to get the photo (runny nose and all.)  Whew! 

4:00 pm – We visited both finding spots of both girls.  I’m not going to say much about her finding spot here.  Its a very personal story that I will leave to her as she gets older.  All I will say is it was very moving to stand in the spot and think about another woman I will never meet and wonder what was in her heart and mind over 2.5 years ago .   Our guide shared with us that very often children are brought to locations far from their birthplaces in order not to risk being recognized.  (It is illegal to abandon a child.) Her spot was a very busy location so her mother took a great risk, but she did it for a reason which I won’t share.   Regardless of the circumstances, I am sure there was love. 

5:00 pm– We went to the orphanage where she has been her whole life. 700 little souls live out their lives under the same roof.  Their futures are uncertain and their need for love and affection was written on every little face we saw.  The orphanage deserves way more attention than just a sentence or two.   I will write more later, so be sure to check back if you are interested in finding out more.

Luoyang Orphanage

6:00 PM – We then started home and everyone was hungry, but our guide and driver wanted to get back.  We stopped at a gas station for snacks and drinks. My bill was 35 RMB (chinese currency) and I gave the clerk a 50.  She gave me 5 back. You do the math.  (I did and it didn’t add up! )  I quickly learned that words were not necessary to solve international financial matters.  A direct glare with a wrist roll and finger point (along with a subliminal message of ‘Oh no you didn’t!’) were enough to get my change returned quickly to my pocket.  I headed out with a nutritious dinner of crescent rolls, cookies and Sprite for my lovely little family for our return trip to Zhengzhou.

8:30 pm – We arrived safely back to our hotel and almost crawled to our room.  We have many stories to tell about the traffic here, but much like the orphanage, I want to do them justice so I will save that for later!

 

Until tomorrow!

Your Friend,
Meredith 

 LLI

Day 5 – Gotcha

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Day 5 – Gotcha Day

Introducing Mayah Li 

 

 

Her file said that she is terrified of strangers.  I can’t imagine anything more terrifying at the age of two than being thrust forever into the arms of strangers who look, smell  and sound different than anyone you have ever seen before.  It takes a girl with gumption to do it without falling to pieces.  In fact, she held up better than i did.  (Add one more female to the rank and roll call of strong Williams women.)
 

We arrived at the civil affairs office at 9:00 am and there were children already waiting for their new families.  We watched five other families receive their children while we and another couple also adopting a girl from the Luoyang orphanage waited.  And waited. And waited. 1.5 hours later (just 30 minutes before the bus was supposed to leave,) we saw the door open. I saw her immediately and practically ran over some of the other little children playing in the middle of the floor to get to her.  (Sorry about that kiddos, i have a one track mind!)  

They dressed her in a beautiful frilly peach colored dress that looked lovely with her her skin tone.  Peaches and cream will always be in season at our house!  Her nanny (pictured below) spoke softly to her, calling her ‘Fei Fei’ as she handed her over to me.  She said something to me in Chinese a couple of times.  I will forever wish that I knew what she was saying, but in the chaos of the moment and the process, there was no translator available to help.  Regardless of the words, I saw gentleness and compassion in her eyes.  That was all I needed to know.

I am going to keep this short for now because I am trying to share info with you my dear friend before the sun comes up over Zhengzhou and two little girls begin to stir and chase the day.  I need more coffee before the next round of paperwork begins! Thank you again for your thoughts and prayers on this exciting, beautiful journey.  It hasn’t peaked yet.  It has only begun.

Your friend,

Meredith

LLI