This is my life...a series of dreams come true on a daily basis. Join me as I run down my dream - maybe you will find your dream in the process.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Goodnight from China!

So now I am putting the blog from China to bed.  I will continue the blogging once we come back home.  Tomorrow is the last full day before we leave, and we want to pack up early.  Some of you have asked for our flight information, and I am happy to give it to you if you will email me.  I just don't want to post it publicly on our blog. Sara S., I'll email you the information.

Our trip to China was better than I could have ever imagined.  Not only did we complete our family, make new friends, and show our daughter part of her birth country, but I fell deeply in love with China all over again.  I cannot wait to come back.  In many ways, it feels like home.  In others, as alien as another planet.  But I love it just the same.  It has left an indelible handprint on my heart and my soul.  Someday I will come back.  Someday...

Red Couch and Consulate Oath

Today was another laid back day.  After breakfast, the kids played in the Swan Room (basically a huge room with toys in it) for a couple of hours with a break only to come upstairs and Skype with Nana and Poppie.  It was so good to talk to them after having not being able to for so long.

At 10:00 a.m., the group met downstairs to take the famous "Red Couch" photos.  I am sad to say I am the parent of the only child that cried for the entire photo shoot.  Poor Jackson.  I cannot imagine what was going through his mind.  Whatever it was, he cried and was only comforted once I picked him back up.  Here are photos from the couches:

And finally the photo of our entire group.  It's a big group, but not as big as our last group.

I made this photo extra large so you could see all the sweet children's faces.  The oldest child in our group is 10 years old - the youngest is 9 months old.

After lunch and a short nap, we all traveled about 45 minutes to the United States Consulate in order to take the oath of Citizenship on behalf of our children.  Apparently, there is some sensitive areas to the Consulate, as we were not allowed to take photos.  We did, however, get a picture of the sign.  If you can see the small letters under the flag, that was it.

So that was our day in a nutshell.  As Scarlett was singing on the way back, "One step closer to U.S.A." to some tune I cannot put my finger on.  Rock on, Scarlett!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Fun day with no plans

Today was the first day we had nothing planned.  We did a little bit of everything.  We started out as always with the huge breakfast buffet at the White Swan.  We sat overlooking the Pearl River and watched the riverboats and ferries go by.  Simply lovely.

After breakfast, we all took a walk around the island and yes, did some more shopping.  James is now officially known as the shopper extraordinaire among the group.  We bought Jackson some more 18-24 months clothes, and Scarlett a couple of dresses that she fell in love with.  She has some very extravagant tastes, that girl!  We picked up some souvenirs for family and friends, then James and Mom headed back to the hotel while Scarlett and I hot-footed it to the little park.  There we met up with a family from Wilkesboro, NC - grandmother, mother, older daughter Olivia (6), younger daughter Lydia (2).  Scarlett and Olivia played well together, as did Jackson and Lydia.  We will hopefully see them around some more.  They were staying at the Victory Hotel, which is just down the street.  Also at the park, we met up with another Bethany family who adopted an 8 year old boy.  I only remember the mother's name is Kendra, and the boy is Matthew.  They are a sweet family from Michigan.
Scarlett and Jackson were hot, dirty and sweaty by the time we left an hour later, so we headed back to our hotel for baths.  On the way, we saw some ladies practicing Tai Chi.

Of course, we had to dodge all the construction on the island.  The streets and sidewalks are not without their perils.  Some of the streets are just muddy paths, and the sidewalks are often blocked. 

But at least the 7-11 was still open - business as usual!

After baths and a quick lunch at Lucy's, James, Mom and Jackson went back to the room for naps and reading.  Scarlett and I headed down to the pool to try it out.  IT WAS FREEZING!  The water must have been in the 50s.  Needless to say, we did not stay long.  We ran back up to our room to warm up and take a quick nap.

After our naps we sallied forth again to further stimulate China's economy.  We did a fine job, as we bought several outfits for both kids at two stores.  I hope that we are almost done with the purchasing.  We already had to buy another suitcase (the first we one bought in Changsha turned out to be too small, so we sold it to another family).  It is my sincere hope that we will NOT fill this one  up!

So that is the latest news from Guangzhou, China.  Tomorrow we go take the oath at the U.S. Consulate and have the famous "Red Couch" photos with the kids in their traditional China clothing.  One day closer to coming home.  As our friend, Mike Coffey, said Monday, "I'd gladly pay $1,000 if I could just go home today.  We love China, and her people, but there truly is "no place like home."

Monday, April 19, 2010

God took care of us!

Today we went back to the Medical Exam Office to have Jackson's TB skin test read.  His little arm looked like a wasp had stung him.  The skin rash was very red and raised.  As we feared, the skin test showed positive.  So we had to get a chest x-ray of the little guy to be sure that there was no sign of TB in his little chest.  This medical center is extremely crowded, hot and close.  But I can say that the medical personnel there were all very sweet, extremely competent and we felt very well taken care of whil we were there.
I had asked another couple, Mike and Sherrie Coffey, to please pray that Jackson's test was a false positive and that we would not have any problems.  They prayed with us, and God took care of the rest.  We are happy to report that Jackson's chest x-rays show his lungs as completely normal.
After that little drama, James, Jackson and I did a little looking around the island.  Mom and Scarlett played in the park and did some shopping of their own.  As we were walking around, we saw some soldiers practicing what appeared to be riot control exercises.  Since this area will be home to the Asian Games this fall, I am guessing that they are preparing for that.  Although some of the drivers we have seen could use some riot control.
After lunch at Lucy's (yes, again), Mom, Scarlett and I went to the Pearl Market and Jade Market with Ann of Red Threads.  Ann is this tiny little wisp of a girl who can flat out move.  I tried to get a photo of her, but it just came out as a blur.  Seriously.  I am not kidding.  But I did manage to get a photo of the loads of pearls in the market.  The ladies there let you pick from what look like thousands of strings of beads to make a pearl necklace.  Then, they tie knots between each pearl as you wait.  It is simply amazing.  We bought Scarlett a two strand pearl necklace to wear on her 16th birthday and/or wedding day, as well as Jackson one to give a future bride someday.

Choosing the pearls.

Creating the jewelry.
The cab ride to and from the jade and pearl market was not without its perils.  I thought the bus ride was scary.  Whew!  The cab ride cost 10 yuan, but I tipped the driver an extra 10 yuan for just bringing us back alive.

Street scene from inside the death cab.
Anyway, just another way that God took care us.  We made it back in one piece to the hotel, and had a blast with Ann.  If anyone reading this plans on coming to China anytime soon, I hope that you consider using Ann at Red Threads.  She is does a fantastic job at facilitating in the pearl and jade markets.

At night here on Shaiman Island, I believe I have mentioned that there is a light and laser show.  I was able to capture some of the action last night in photos.  So, until Tuesday!

Laser and light show.

Another on of James' signs he loves to collect photos of.

Two very life-like statutes we found.  They kinda look familiar...

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sunday Excitement

Sunday was an exciting day.  Shiyan took our group to the Guangzhou Folk Art  museum, also known as the Chen Family Museum.  It was a series of buildings build around a common courtyard that the Chen Family used for ancestor worship and to stay at when they were in the city for important events.  It had also been used as an academy.  The buildings are all over 100 years old - relatively new when you think about all the history of China.   This is also where our camera battery died, so enjoy the photos of the day!

These are pottery and lime sculptures on the roof ridge of the museum.

Badminton is popular here.  This is in a little park adjacent to the museum.

Good outside view of the museum before the battery died.

After the museum, we went to Yuelu Park in Guangzhou.  It is one of the most famous parks in all of China.  The large statue of five goats is purportedly known by anyone in China.  This park is where we lost one of our group members and left her behind to find here own way home. I could not believe that we left her.  It really upset me.  The good news is that she was able to hail a taxi and make her way back to our hotel with no problem.  She is an experienced world traveler, so to her, it was no big deal.  To me, and the majority of our group, it was so upsetting.
I will try to find photos of this park from my Mom's camera and add them later today.

The five goats statue that is famous country-wide.

Here are some great photos of the inside of the White Swan Hotel.  There are innumerable artworks here in jade, wood, stone, etc. that we just had to take some photos.

Large jade bullfrog. Purple Rosabelle (Scarlett's African dwarf frog) has something to aspire to!

Jade ship in the lobby.

Scarlett showing Jackson the Koi in the hotel pond.

Waterfall in hotel lobby.

We did some more shopping this evening (big surprise, huh?).  Scarlett is turning into a little James with the shopping.  Watch out!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Adoption Paperwork, Supper at Lucy's and Shopping Crazy

After the medical exam portion of the day, a group of us met in Shiyan's room to fill out our consulate paperwork and do some trading at Shiyan's free store (which was basically stuff other parents had left behind and she was giving away).  We exchanged some little girl swim diapers for 5 pullups and a sippy cup.  The paperwork was completed and left for Shiyan to take to the consulate.

Afterwards in the evening, our adoption group all went to Lucy's for dinner together.  We enjoyed the companionship of friends and catching up on all the sweet children.  The youngest child in our group is 9 months old and the oldest is 10 years old.
Our rather large group has about 11 families in total.  You can see the group in its entirety down the long line of tables.  Scarlett is the little pink shirt on the left about half way down.

Below is Scarlett and Jackson Xinqiang chowing down together on the fried rice.  As we had more than enough rice, we shared it with our friend Kathy and her daughter. who did not like the chicken quesadillas that her Momma ordered.

After supper, some folks made a whirlwind trip to the Carrefour for some necessities of life.  James purchased pull ups, wet wipes, bibs, and little girl underwear (we did not bring enough, apparently).  While he was doing that, Scarlett and I left Jackson with my mom and rushed back to Jordan's for a little tea set she had seen earlier in the day.  When we got to Jordan's the lights were off and it appeared he was closed.  Scarlett was crushed.  But then, out of nowhere like the angel he is, Jordan appeared and opened up his store so my little girl could buy her tea set.  Jordan is absolutely one of the sweetest Christian men I have met in a long time.

Around 8 p.m., the hotels along the Pearl River (the White Swan is one of several) take part in some sort of laser show that lasts about a half hour.  I attempted to take some pictures of the spectacle.  Not sure how well they turned out.

Tomorrow we are going to the Guangzhou Provincial Museum and a park so the children can run amok.  Should be fun.  Hopefully, we will get some good photos.  Until then, enjoy one of Jackson with his new cell phone.

First part of medical exam is over

We are done with the first round of the dreaded medical exam.  Jackson did very well until the doctor wanted to look in his ears.  Nobody messes with his ears.  He is very particular about that.  Well, we can mess with them, but no one else!

We are fortunate that we are an I600 family.  We only have to have a TB skin test and no shots here in China.  The other children who are over two years old and under the Hague I800 have to have FIVE shots all at once.  This seems very cruel to do to these children.  I can tell you that this is NOT China's requirement, but our own country's requirement.  Several families (mine included) are petitioning to get this practice halted.

On the way back from the medical exam, James, Jackson and I stopped at Jordan's store to see if we could find a play cell phone.  We were able to find one that plays really loud, obnoxious music that Jackson loves to dance to.  I am thinking the batteries could mysteriously go dead by the time we leave.  We also picked up a pair of squeaky shoes, a police car, an airplane that makes noise, and a calligraphy of Jackson's name in Chinese.  Jackson, in Chinese, means "Excellent Glory".  Quite a moniker for such a small little dude.  Jordan himself did the calligraphy.  Jordan is just as wonderful now as he was five years ago.  I am betting we will be visiting his shop again this week.

After Jordan's, we all went out to eat at Lucy's Bar and Grill, where some of us had hamburgers and french fries.  Jackson had his noodles and fruit, Mom tomato soup and broccoli, and I had linguine with basil, parmesan and olive oil.  Yummy.  Oh, and real iced tea!  Loving the iced tea.  Haven't had that since leaving home.

So now Jackson is napping, the rest of the family are out shopping (and have my camera - hence no photos until later).

So, until later this afternoon!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Thank goodness I can access Blogger!

We are finally in Guangzhou at the famous White Swan Hotel.  The good news is that I can now access Blogger again.  The bad news is that I am just too tired to do anything about it tonight.  I want to move some of the information from the Journey to Me site over to this one as well.

Suffice it to say that we all made it to the hotel in one piece.  Some adventure was to be had, but we made it through fine, thanks to our guide, Vicki.  More on that tomorrow!

Until then, enjoy some photos from the past several days:

Our lovely guide, Vicki.

Ceiling of temple at Yuelu Academy

James and his peeps

How cute am I?

Some of the dishes we partook of recently:  Bok Choy, watermelon, Unknown food item, Another unknown food item, rice, noodles, Scared to even ask food item.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Hutong or Bust!

After the Forbidden City, James and Scarlett toured the hutong by rickshaw.  Laura and Lee chose to stay on the bus as they were cold and wet.  We have no idea what James and Scarlett saw, but we had a great time people watching from the bus!  Garbage pickup was done on a tricycle-type thing with a box on the back.  The man used some huge wooden tongs to pick up trash and place it on the box on the back.  He also had a brush broom (think witch's broom and you will have the type) to sweep up trash.  I'll try to get the photo from Mom.

We saw lots of interesting car models that are not available in the states:  a Nissan Bluebird, a Daewoo Retard bus (no kidding!), some cute, cute mico-mini vans that Laura fell absolutely in love with (I gotta get me one of those!).

James and Scarlett came back from the hutong with a horror story of a misplaced camera - James had left it on the rickshaw but got it back.  Strangely, it had a photo of their rickshaw driver on it.

My girl and my hubby.

The rickshaw driver - a most helpful fellow, according to James.

Tiannamen Square and Forbidden City

Today was the tour through Tiannamen Square and the Forbidden City.  We began our day at the breakfast bar again.  Mom finally figured out how to get more than one cup of coffee.  The trick was to tell the waitress that everyone at the table drank coffee.  Even the little girl?  Yep.  Even the little girl.  I think we counted seven cups of coffee that Mom gulped down before 7:00 a.m.

We then all loaded up the bus and headed for the tours.  The day was cold and rainy.  We were all frozen to the bone.  The Tiannamen Square is huge.  No other word for it.  The Forbidden City was beautiful.  It was the palace where the Emperor resided in Beijing.  Our guide Joy told us that one emperor, who was only four years old, was forced (as was custom) to sit with the bodies overnight of the previous emperor and his grandma.  The child was terrified.  The rational was that the officials believed that the spirit of the previous emperor transferred in the night to the new one.  Scary stuff - even if you are not four years old.

The above is Chairman Mao's Mausoleum.  People still come to pay respects to his grave.

This is the photo of one of the temples within the Forbidden City.  The stone sculpture is carved from one stone.  No one was allowed to touch it - not even the emperor.

The trip back to the bus was not without some hilarity.  Our driver kept trying to get the bus to us.  Joy had us waiting at the pre-determined spot, but saw a police car.  So we walked on down the road a piece.  Well, the police car kept following us (not really, but it seemed like it), so we crossed the street on the driver's advice so he could pick us up there.  Then he was followed by a police car, so we crossed the street.  Again.  After some Laurel and Hardy hijinx, we finally made it onto the bus.

From there, the tour of the hutong.  More on that in the next post!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Great Wall and Pizza Hut

I ran out of steam for posting more last night.  My sincere apologies.  Yesterday after the Cloisonne Factory, we visited the Great Wall of China.  It was breathtaking in its beauty.  We had seen it before five years ago under a blanket of snow, but yesterday was clear and bright.  It seemed all of China came to see the Wall.

We rode cable cars up the mountain and were treated to spectacular views of the valleys below.  The rocky pathways were uneven, so Lee, Laura and Scarlett didn't walk around too much.  James did make it to the top.

The bus ride to the Great Wall was CRAZY!  We must have seen at least 5 accidents (none were serious) and 100 near misses.  I have to say that drivers in Beijing are some of the best drivers I have seen anywhere.  They are very intent on what they are doing and not multi-tasking like we Americans tend to do.  They also do not drive as fast.  However, they use their horns - a lot - to let each other know they are coming through.  Lanes do not seem hinder these drivers, they are merely suggestions.  The Beijing driver uses the entire street - both directions.

One the way back to the hotel, our bus was blocked from turning wide into a narrow underpass from the Great Wall area.  Our driver was literally centimeters from scraping the wall and a couple of totally stupid people who tried to squeeze through the underpass with us.  He gained a hearty round of applause for his fine effort.

After coming back to the rooms, we ordered Pizza Hut.  The best tasting food I have had since we left home.  We then crashed and burned for the evening.

Beijing and Cloisonne Factory

Today was a crazy, busy day!  We began with the buffet breakfast in the hotel again.  This one was much more to my liking with scrambled eggs, bacon, toast and jam.  After a quick bite, we all met in the lobby to board the bus to the Cloisonne factory in Beijing.  Along the way, we saw some sites:

The Olympic Stadium a/k/a Bird's Nest

The Dragon Building

The Beijing Jingbei Hospital

Wait a minute!  How'd that get in here?  The dreaded squatty potty.  Yes, Scarlett and Laura both tried it out and managed to NOT fall in!

The Cloisonne Factory was on the outskirts of Beijing and the oldest cloisonne factory in China.  We were treated to a tour by Stephen (who had trouble remembering his name) of the factory and process of making the cloisonne items.  

The process is quite complicated.   First, an artist draws up the design.  Then, a copper worker glues copper strips on the metal body to create the framework of the design.  After that, it goes to the painter.  The painter take tiny brushes and uses minerals to make the colors.  The painter chooses the colors.  After that, the piece goes for firing at least two times.  Then it gets cleaned and smoothed.  Final touch is the glaze.

We purchased a Panda Pencil cup for Jackson.  Scarlett bought herself a bracelet, some chopsticks (she is getting quite good using these) and a glass globe that is painted inside.

After leaving the factory, we went for lunch.  More to follow...

Friday, April 9, 2010

Friday - grocery, acrobats, and dinner

Today some of us woke up at 2:00 a.m., much to my dismay.  I did manage to stay in bed until 5:30 a.m.  We had breakfast in the hotel.  All I can say about that is that I will not gain weight on this trip.  After breakfast, we met our guide, Joy, and the other families in the lobby for a trip to the grocery store.  It was a fun experience - truly!  Here is a photo of us checking out from the grocery.  Nothing too bizarre in this market.
We purchased bottled water (you can't drink the tap water here - even if it says it is safe), some cheetoes-like item that, instead of cheese, had strawberry cream on the top, some flip-flops, laundry detergent, Diet Coke (called Coke Light here) and some green apple candy.

We attempted to buy some bananas, but apparently didn't handle that correctly.  We were supposed to get it weighed by the weigher-girl, and didn't.  So they didn't come home with us.

After the grocery run, we all went to the China Bank to exchange our U.S. currency for Chinese yuan.  The currency rate of exchange for U.S. to Chinese is .675 right now, and we needed to change the money for the orphanage donation fee for Monday.  The bank transaction took a bit of time.  Here are a couple of street scenes from our trip to the bank and grocery store -
Street vendor for fried rice.

Apartment area.

After the bank, Joy suggested that we all come back and take a short nap before the acrobat show.  Lee (Laura's mom) and Scarlett napped while Laura downloaded photos from the cameras, read, and generally relaxed.  We met back in the lobby at 4:30 p.m. to ride the bus across town to the acrobat show.  This was at the same place we saw the show five years ago, but the show was different.  The acrobats were amazing.  I wish we had been allowed to take photos. 

After we got back, the Kari and Tim Rinkleberg and Kathy Schroeder and her friends Juelle and Mary Jo and James and I decided to take Joy's advice and treat ourselves to an authentic Chinese dinner out.  We walked about a block (taking our lives in our hands crossing the street) and had a fantastic family style meal of prawns in sweet plum sauce, steamed pork dumplings, beef and vegetables, noodles, and tofu.  We didn't eat everything - there was too much food!  I'll try and post the photo later.

If anyone wants a fun job, we saw someone this morning mopping the flag pole outside our hotel.  Not sure why this needed to be done, but I can assure you that we have the cleanest flag pole in all of Asia!

We enjoyed skyping this evening with family and friends.  We will try again with a few others that we not on-line this evening.  Love to all!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Some general observations

It is 7:20 a.m. on Friday morning here in Beijing.  At least I think it is Friday.  I am not exactly sure.  Anyway, I wanted to post some of our general observations about our trip thus far so I don't forget.  so here goes:

  • There are no beds at this hotel  Oh, there are slabs of concrete made up to look like beds, but that is just to fool you into thinking you are sleeping in a bed.  Needless to say, this ain't your bed back home!
  • The Chinese people are very friendly and eager to please, even if they do not always understand what the silly Americans are trying to say.  Patience is a virtue.
  • The breakfast buffet at the Chang'an Hotel is not a western buffet.  No worries about over-doing they Weight Watchers points here.
  • The traffic in Beijing is very heavy.  I don't remember it being as bad as this the last time we were here five years ago.  I would not be able to handle driving in it.  Helen, if you are reading this, if you can drive here, you can drive anywhere.  
  • Internet in the lobby is free, but in-room service for internet is $6.00 a day.  Skyping will be entertaining for those around us, to say the least.  We will try to Skype in the next day or so from the room so we can have privacy.
  • The Chinese meals on board United airlines are better than the Western ones.  Go for the noodles.
  • I wonder why a five-star hotel does not offer a massage therapist.
I will post more this evening.  Joy is meeting our group in the lobby to take us to the grocery store.  I am going to look for the green apple candies that Helen buys here.  That and some bottled water.  

Thanks for all the emails and notes!  We miss you all!  Lots of love,

What a day!

First of all, we all made it just fine to Beijing.  We were met by Joy at the airport - for those of you in our first travel group, you will remember her BIG smile.  It has not changed a bit.  We met up with two of the families traveling - the Rinkelbergs from Iowa, and the Dugans from Michigan.  The Rinklebergs are adopting a little girl and the Dugans a 9 month old girl!

Scarlett has traveled like the trooper we hoped she would  She and Mammaw are inseparable.  We have connecting rooms, so we are running back and forth.  No mishaps; no missed flights.  All was good.

The best time we had was when we got to meet up with Lynsey and Olivia Ferris in O'Hare.  Although we only got to talk an hour, it was SO good to see them again.  Scarlett and I managed to thread our way through the busy airport and find them at the baggage claim.  Lynsey had checked Olivia out of school so she and Scarlett could visit.  The girls hit it off like they'd always known each other.  Lynsey and I tried best we could to catch up in the brief our we had.  Time was just too short!  Here are photos of our visit -
As you can see, they are a couple of gorgeous, but silly, girls!

Here is one of their mamas acting equally silly -

Just in case Scarlett's teacher (Mrs. Butler) checks, Scarlett IS doing her homework.  In fact, here is a photo of her working hard on the airplane ride over -

We had dinner in the hotel this evening. It was hilarious watching my mom try to convey that she wanted a vegetarian meal to the waitstaff.  Everyone is as nice as can be, but the ability to understand "complicated orders" is just not there.  I kept waiting for someone to yell, "Security! Security! These people have got to GO!"  Just to be safe, I ordered a coke and nothing too complex.

So now I am sitting in the lobby of the beautiful Chang'an Hotel in Beijing.  We are able to access blogger just fine.  Tomorrow we head out for the grocery store and bank.  Later in the afternoon, we will go to the Acrobat show.  Should be a lot of fun.

So it is 8:00 p.m. here.  We've been up since 5:00 a.m. on the 7th (it is the 8th now).  I am going to go back to the room.  James just came downstairs to collect me.  Maybe tomorrow's post will make some sense.  We are so tired that this one probably makes none at all.

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