Day 15 – Our Last Day in China

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Day 15 – Our Last Full Day In China

 
We woke up realizing that it was our last full day in China.  To be honest, it was excitement mixed with a little sadness.  We were so excited to get home to our family, friends and life, but our time in China had been filled with memorable moments and people that we hesitated to leave behind.
 
We had the option of going with our group to one of two zoos.  I admit it would have been cool to see some pandas while in China, but to be honest I have seen Pandas before.  They just lay there. Remember Ling Ling at the National Zoo in DC?  (Even our guide Jason said they are pretty high maintenance and won’t come out when its hot.) This may be way too pragmatic, but my thought was that we can visit 3 or 4 zoos at home by driving just a few hours.  I can watch a bear lay in the shade at home! Our newest family addition was not going to remember it anyway.  I wanted to experience something different and unique to the area.
 
So we headed out to Shamian Island.  This is a special little island just 15 minutes from where we were staying.  Up until just a few years ago, it was the home to most of the consulates in Guangzhou. It has the look and feel of a tropical tourist destination. It boasts quiet tree lined streets with quaint local shops and a totally Americanized cafe named Lucy’s.  The buildings and street sculptures honor the international history that must have taken place there over the last century.  To be honest, after seeing it, I was sad that our adoption experience didn’t take place on the island as it had for so many other families just a few years before. It had way more ambience than the bustling metro location of where we stayed.

View from Shamian Island

 
One of my main goals was to get a photo of Little Li in in the middle of a famous bronze sculpture which shows a violin   teacher and her students following behind.  There is a gap in the line and it is tradition for newly adopted children to fill the gap in the line and have their photo taken. 
 
 
 It was raining and Little Li wasn’t excited about the photo, so we snapped it quickly and moved on for a quick latte at Starbucks, where something interesting happened..
 
 
Before I go any further, I would like to state for the record that my coffee of choice in Terre Haute is Rex coffee.  Its outstanding.  So is the atmosphere and food of our Clabber Girl Bakeshop.  If you haven’t tried it, you should.  The only negative is that we don’t yet have any international locations.  I have to tell you that after being away from the states for two weeks, a Starbucks sign means good old fashioned American coffee and is like a beacon in the desert! I have also spent some time in McDonalds and KFC these last few weeks… but I digress.
 
When I walked into this quaint Caribbean-like Starbucks, a girl walked up to me and asked if i would like a free latte.  (Which is my drink of choice.) I said sure! She told me they would pay for it if they could film the barista making it for me and handing it to me.  I said of course.  (Those of you that know me well, know that I could never pass up an offer like that.  The price was right!) I then found out it was for an international promotion for Starbucks and the latte.  I may have had my 15 seconds of international fame.  Unfortunately, it probably won’t be in English and will never be seen by anyone closer than 7000 miles from home.  Oh well!
 

My 15 seconds of fame

 
The afternoon sun was pretty hot so we walked and shopped for a bit, had lunch at Lucy’s and then caught a cab back to our hotel.  (Which was kind of a downer after walking through the White Swan Hotel on the island.)

White Swan Hotel

The evening was filled with the daunting task of packing everything back up (our hotel room had become our home) and preparing our newly completed family for the marathon plane ride home.  
 
We met with our group briefly downstairs to receive our child’s visa and the people who had become our family for the last few weeks, were suddenly gone.  It was kind of sad.  We were excited to go home, yet this was the group  with which we had the adoption gauntlet .  It was a special bond. I felt like it was hurried process of saying goodbye in the hallway and then it was over.  I needed more formalized closure!  The great thing is that our children have a special bond in that they began their new lives together.  (Some of them share orphanage experiences.) My hope is that we will be able to keep in touch and watch as the other children begin to flourish in their new families. (Our group’s families are located all over the USA.) That is the beauty of the digital age!

Our CCAI travel family

 
 
An now it was time to move on and go home. 
 
Your Friend,
Meredith

 

LLI

 

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Day 14- Flag Waving American, at last!

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Day 14 – A Flag Waving American at last!

With everyone in our group receiving physical approval by the USA to proceed with immigration, it was time for us all to head back to the American Consulate for the completion of the immigration process.  Most of the paperwork had been submitted a month or two before by each family (electronically.)  Now it was time to make it official! It was an especially memorable day because it was my Mom’s birthday.  We had much to celebrate!
 
We loaded up our bus at 7:30 in the morning with all the children in tow (plus Mimi and Hulaloo this time,) and headed into Guangzhou to the US consulate.  The consulate as I have mentioned is the busiest in the world.  Pulling up to it with our children was almost a surreal experience. I have never seen a more beautiful flag flying high as a symbol of freedom. It was like an island of democracy in the sea of communism.  My only beef is it needs to be bigger!
 
Everything in China is built high with multiple stories in order to maximize space usage, since land is at a premium.  The US Consulate stands on a small bit of land in the middle of the metro monstrosity a mere 3 stories high. It looks like David and Goliath.  (However, we know who wins in that story!)  We Americans like to march to our own drummer and our consulate stands firm. Small but mighty.
 
The lengthy line of people winding around the building told its own story of those who want just a temporary taste of what we Americans have come to take for granted.  It reminded me that a great price has been paid by so many in the current and previous generations, for our family to have the ability to share our freedom with an innocent child.  
 
Once again, our agency had worked ahead so that we moved straight to the front of the line (at our own entrance.)  On this trip I finally got to be one of those  people that always annoy me because they have some special inside connection that allows them to move to skip the line.  (I have to admit it was nice!)
 
We went through security and up to the second floor where we were issued a number and waited for our turn.  The paperwork was initiated for each family and then one member from each family was called to the main window at the same time where they took the oath as a group on behalf of their child.  (I was a little bummed because it was over before I knew it was happening.)
 
Each family was then called again to the window where we received  our packets.  (The visas were not issued, but were in process to be received later in the week.) The process probably took a little over an hour.  All the other families clapped and celebrated as each child received approval.  (Citizenship isn’t actually official until they arrive in the USA.)  We then headed back out and paused for a few brief photos in front of the flag.  I have seen other families take pictures in front of the consulate sign, but that was impossible because the line was too long and flowed right in front of it.
We headed back to the hotel, and we told Mom since it was her birthday that we would do what she wanted in the afternoon.  She and I shopped at some stores near our hotel (with Little Li) and hubby and Hulaloo swam at the pool.  
 
We finished the evening off with dinner at the Four Season’s restaurant at the hotel. (Even lambie attended and had tea with us.)  The night was topped off with a birthday cake delivered to our room which had been organized by our guide Jason.  (Have I mentioned that Jason rocks?)
It was a day filled with so many special moments and memories.  I will never forget it.
I hope someday our daughter will come to realize the great sacrifice of freedom that allowed her begin life anew with the privileges of freedom of speech and religion just to name a few.  
 
Let freedom ring!
 
Your Friend,

 

Meredith
 

Day 13 – A Perfect Pearl

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Doing a little pearl shopping together

Day 13 was a free day except for those families (including ours) that had children over the age of two.  All of us had to be back at the hotel in the afternoon in order to wait for our guide to call us with the TB results.  If any child’s results were positive, they had to go back to the clinic for a chest X-ray.  

The optional excursion was a trip to the Pearl Market.  A friend at home (Michelle) who has two girls also born in China, shared with me before we left that she made a trip to the pearl market and bought some sets of pearls for her girls’ wedding days.  I thought that was a fabulous idea!  So off we went.

The three families that went took separate cabs because it was more economical than renting a bus.  Jason gave a card to the driver and told us to stand where we were dropped off and wait. The group would go into the market together.  Once we were dropped off, we waited…and waited…AND waited outside.  It soon became clear we weren’t in the right spot.  We didn’t see anyone in our group.  We got an international package extension on our phone for a  limited time so I tried to text Jason.  No answer. Pretty soon, I saw him running through the crowd towards us.  We had been dropped off at the wrong location and the group was waiting for us.  Jason to the rescue!

I was envisioning a little street market with a few booths to choose from.  Boy was I wrong!  For those of you ladies who like jewelry, you are going to wish you had come along. Envision a six level mall dedicated to nothing but jewelry AND you can bargain on price. Hubby probably thought it was good we were under a time restriction to get back to the hotel, because otherwise i might have spent all day (and probably too much RMB.)  I have to admit that the heat and no air conditioning does deplete my shopping stamina somewhat!

Jason took us to a shop where they spoke pretty good english and he said we could be confident that we would be treated fairly. (I’ve read on the internet that sometimes guides will get a kickback for bringing business to the shops.  I don’t know if its true. But you know what?  That’s ok with me.  As I mentioned before.  Jason ROCKS!  I trust him and he has been by our side for 24 hours a day for almost a week.  If its true, he deserves it.)

The pearls were looped together in long strands and grouped together like a bale of hay.  Cost was based on fresh water, saltwater, size, color and uniformity.  My one and only child care request from Hubby was to watch and entertain the girls long enough for me to pick something out something special for them.  (Mimi helped of course!) I picked out two white strands and clasps and watched as they were looped together.  I also picked out several sets of earrings.  

By the time their weddings roll around they may feel that pearls are out of style and won’t want to wear them.  That’s ok. They may hang on to them as a keepsake and know that it was designed especially for them by their Mama with with love.  Maybe THEIR daughters will want them.

We took a little longer to walk around a bit and then walked back to the front of the market to get our own cab.  We finally flagged one down and handed him a card with our hotel address.  We were back at the China Hotel in no time!

We got our TB results in the afternoon which were negative!  (Praise God.)

All of our group went to a family style local restaurant for the evening meal.  It was within walking distance to our hotel and had a variety of local fare.  Jason headed the efforts and we were able to test our skills with chopsticks and hot tea if we so desired.  My chopstick skills have improved, but have a long way to go!  When I’m really hungry, I just ask for the fork which is always readily available. It seemed like most of the kiddos were not really into the Chinese cuisine except for perhaps some of the noodles and the sweet dumplings.  

Mom sat next to Jen from another adoptive family who’s parents are Chinese and seemed to be familiar with everything that was served.  Mom decided to follow her lead in order to navigate her way through the meal! Hulaloo spent quite a bit of time peering into the live seafood tanks because it reminded her of Red Lobster at home.  

We finished our meal and headed back to our room to call it a day.
Day 14 will be a huge milestone.  Our appointment at the US consulate for citizenship!
One day closer to home and seeing everyone we love most in the world.

Until next time.
Your Friend,
Meredith

PS – Little Li is snuggling with me on the bed as i write this.  No silent tears this time 🙂  She can say ‘More’ , ‘Bye-Bye’ , ‘Mama’, ‘DaDa’ and ‘Mimi’.  Simply amazing.

 

 

Day 12 – Our First Doctor Appointment

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On day 12 we celebrated one week since Gotcha Day.  Our entire group had to load back onto the bus in order to get the required physical exams before our children could be approved for US visas to enter the country. Think about taking a child to their first doctor appointment, but not being able to speak in  her language to console her.  Think about the stress and trauma, now multiply it by nine.  Nine because there were nine children in our group who had to be examined at three stations and several that had to have blood drawn for TB tests.  

The night before, Little Li had been fussy and was running a slight fever (which I knew wouldn’t be good for the day!)  I gave her a little tylenol before bed and made sure she had plenty of liquids and prayed the fever would go down.  Thankfully she acted fine the next morning.  It would likely have delayed us, because our guide on the bus the next day asked  if anyone had a fever before leaving.  Once again, whew!

We started on the first floor in order to take visa photos.  If you have been following the blog, you know that the passport photo didn’t go well.  We were holding our breath, because it could be a long morning for all the families involved if any of the little ones refused to cooperate.  When it was our turn I stepped up and set her on the chair.  She sat there and they took her picture.  It took less than a minute.  No muss, no fuss! Double whew!

Alcohol Vending Machine on 1st Floor (?)

 

The medical office was directly across from the consulate and staffed by personnel approved by the American Government.  The floor was packed with people waiting, but we were ushered to a special wing of the floor marked off especially for adoptive families.  

Mickey mouse was imprinted on the floor and the lighting was literally shaped like clouds to try to create a welcoming atmosphere.  (As welcoming as a doctors visit can be, anyway.)  Families rotated in to the following stations:  #1 -height, weight and temperature #2 – Eyes, Nose, Throat #3 – General Physical Exam.  We got through the first few stations pretty quick.  The physical exam seemed to go fine, but then the doctor spoke to us and led us back to station 2 to sit down again.  He had the ENT look at her again.  He then scribbled out some of his previous writing and changed her record.  We asked our guide to go back to with us to speak to them so we could understand what was happening.  (Our guide Jason ROCKS!) It turns out that they were documenting her eyesight which appears to have some nystagmus.  

Then because she is over the age of two, a blood draw for TB was required.  They took her out of my arms and wouldn’t let us go in with her. (Ugh..)  The only bright spot here was at least we didn’t have to be part of the drama of holding her down and got to be the arms of safe haven when she came out.  She actually reached for me!  That in itself was a victory!

We opted out of the group activity for the evening and spent the time back at the hotel resting.  Even though Jason had warned us about slow service, we ventured into a very large restaurant called the Food Shops with English menus.  We were seated quickly.  Then waited. And waited. And waited. (Now with two very hungry girls.) Hubby, also known as Mr. Patience (not) got tired of waiting and had us get up. We left and went to the restaurant where we eat breakfast every morning. Our waitress understood almost no english, but we finally got an order placed.  Mimi ordered a club sandwich with no lettuce, mayo or tomato (in order to avoid tummy troubles associated with any raw vegetables washed in the water here.)  In essence, it was a turkey sandwich.  The manager came out (sure that our non-english speaking waitress had gotten it wrong) to confirm the order.  She gave Mom a look I will never forget!  As she walked away, Mom said ‘You think I could ask her back in order to get a little mustard?’  The look on my tired face must have said it all.  She laughed and said ‘Never mind.’  

We finished our meal and headed back to our room to call it a day.he has begun to open up to all of us, including Mimi.  For days she has cried every time Mom has gotten close.  (She is terrified of strangers.) On Day 12, she actually let Mom get on her other side and hold both our hands to walk down the hall.  What amazing progress in just a week.  I continue to be amazed at her resilience and adaptability.  So excited to see what the coming days will bring. Thanks for sticking with us.

Your Friend,

Meredith

LLI

 

 

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

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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