Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Day 12 - So Long, China & What to Expect When We Return

Ni Hao!  Today was our last day in China.  It's hard to believe that we've been here 2 weeks.  We normally would be SOOO ready to come home from a trip this long, but as Philip and I were discussing this morning, it's been such a great trip that we are ready to come home, but not just miserable.  We had a very leisurely day today at the hotel packing.  We start our L-O-N-G airplane ride home early in the morning.  We will take a van to Hong Kong (about 90 miles from here) and fly out from there.  I believe the flight is 14 hours.

We would love to see as many of you as possible at the Nashville Airport on 5/1, but we understand if you can't make it.  Our flight is scheduled to arrive from Chicago around 6pm.

Many of you have asked what the protocol will be when meeting Olivia.  I don't think that she will cry, but more than likely, she will just have a blank stare on her face…..taking it all in….she isn't used to a lot of people.  So far when we've been in a crowd, she has just observed everything and has been very slow to enter in.  She doesn't like for people to get right in her face, so please give her "personal space."  I'm sure that you'll understand this, but more than likely, I'll hold her the whole time.  I know you are dying to get your hands on her, but I want to make sure that she continues to know that Philip and I are her primary caregivers, her parents.  Also, please let Philip and I give her food, gifts, toys, etc. at first.    Imagine how confusing it might be to her if all of a sudden a whole lot of people are giving her things.  We've really bonded well thus far, and we don't want to confuse things at this point.  Please don't' take take this the wrong way…..we are just looking out for what's best for Olivia at this point.  We went through several hours of online training around bonding/attachment, and we trust what they stressed in the training.  Thank you for your understanding.

Also, please be sure to give Ansley some extra love and attention.  She kind of had a rough day today.  I want her to feel that the homecoming is for her as much as anyone, because everyone missed her so much.

Also, I'm not sure how quickly we will be "entering society."  I hope to be able to get out and about very soon, but again, we need to make sure that Olivia is comfortable in her surroundings.  Pretty soon, she will see her new home, her room, her toys, etc.  All of this will be new to her and overwhelming, I'm sure.  We hope to come back to church soon, and eventually, we will come to Camden to introduce her to all of our wonderful friends and family there.  I can't wait to see what our "new normal" looks like.

Thanks be to God for His guidance.  Even though it has taken a while for this chapter of our lives to end and begin a new one, Ephesians 3:20 tells us, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.”  God is good, and we are blessed.  He knew all along what was best, and this all happened in His timing.  We want to thank each and every one of you who have followed us on this journey.  We couldn't have done it alone; that's for sure.

We covet your prayers for a safe and "happy" flight for everyone.  We can't wait to see all of you very soon!

Take care,

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Day 11 - American Consulate Visit & Guangzhou Zoo

Howdy from China!  :)

Today was the day that our whole trip centered around….our American Consulate appointment.  While we were in Changsha, we finalized the Chinese portion of things and got her passport.  While we are in Guangzhou, we finalize the U.S. side of things.  The only thing standing in our way right this second is getting her Visa.  We should receive it tomorrow afternoon around 4:15 pm.  Once we have that, we are ready to come home, and once she steps foot on American soil, she is an American citizen.

We had to leave the hotel at 7:40am this morning in order to make our Consulate Appointment time, so we had to get up early to get everyone ready and have breakfast.  It takes a little more time getting and extra kiddo ready in the morning, and Little Miss likes to take her time eating!

In this picture, Olivia is carrying the photo album that I made and sent to her a few months ago while she was still in the orphanage.  I never knew if they received it, or what they did with it.  The orphanage workers said that they "prepared" her for this, but who knows.  She sits and looks at the pictures, so maybe she has seen it before.  I think today I heard her say, "Mama," but it may have been wishful thinking.  The disposable camera that I sent had not been opened.  :(

This is drinkable yogurt that Olivia has here.  You put a straw in it, and drink.  The first day, I was feeding it to her with a spoon, and an older Chinese woman stopped and said, "Need straw; no spoon."  So, from then on out, we've gotten the little straw.  The yogurt is much more liquidy than ours.  Olivia loves it!  She also had watermelon, noodles, and rice this morning.

This little girl has impressive noodle-eating skills already.  I can't explain it to you, but the Chinese can eat noodles like nobody's business.  Most of the restaurants here don't have napkins, except for the small box on the tables (and some of those are Kleenex material)…..that's how good they are. Clearly, Olivia inherited that gene.  She is also showing quite a bit of interest in feeding herself.  
She's quite messy, but that's okay.

U-S-A!          U-S-A!  
We were all dressed in our red, white, & blue today!  Look at that cute little dimple on her left cheek.

They are very strict at the American Consulate and for good reason.  We were only able to take a clear Ziploc bag with us.  No backpacks, no phones, no cameras.  The only place we could take pictures was outside the building; then, we had to give our cameras to our guide, Simon.

Unfortunately, Olivia got car sick on the way to the Consulate appointment and threw up in the van.  I did have some wipes with me, but no extra outfit since I could only have a Ziploc bag.  Thankfully, it wasn't too bad.  We first went back to the medical clinic to pick up the medical tests.  We waited outside while our guide went in to get everything.  We had to leave the envelope sealed and place with our other paperwork for the Consulate.  Here we are waiting for Simon.

I forgot to mention that we got Olivia some light up shoes while we were at Shamian Island yesterday.  She is fascinated by them!  That's what she is doing here.

The Consulate was an interesting experience.  Before this appointment, we had to double and triple check our paperwork.  If anything, and I mean anything was askew, it could delay us days.  That is why we met earlier in the week to go over everything with our guide.  He also reviewed everything again last night.  

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the Consulate moved recently to this new building, and it is nice.  There were basically 3 lines:  one for adoptions, one for immigration visas (people wanting to move to the US), and travel visas (people wanting to travel to the US).  The line for the immigration visas was by far the longest.  I wish I had thought to get a picture, but it was so crazy that I didn't get a chance.  The Chinese people were dressed very nicely to enter the Consulate.  I imagine they had to be interviewed.  Here are the only pictures we could take outside the building:

Olivia is uninterested in being photographed here.

We went through our special line, through a metal detector, into a courtyard, and into another door.  Then, we went up to the 2nd floor and had to get a number from window #7.  We were number C507.  There were 10 windows.  I have no idea what all of the other windows were for; we only used about 3 of them while we were in there.  It would remind you of a bank with different teller stations with chairs set up theater style in front of the windows.  The officers/workers are behind glass with microphones.  Most of them were Chinese that also spoke English, but the head lady was American.  There was also a little play area for the kids.  Again, an awesome experience seeing these children from all walks of life play together, even though they all don't speak the same language.  There were probably 10 other families in the room with us.  The head lady (American) had us all stand and take an oath that basically said that all of our paperwork was filled out by us and was true to the best of our knowledge.  Then, they started calling families up one by one. Only one parent had to go up, so Philip went up for us.  They confirmed my maiden name, looked through our paperwork, took a fingerprint from him, and he sat down.  Very painless and anti-climactic, considering how important the day was in the big picture.

While we were waiting, I got to know a couple from Cincinnati.  This was their 2nd adoption from China.  Their newest little girl (aka "newbie") is also 2 years old, and just a few days younger than Olivia.  Their little girl had a cleft lip, but it was very minor.  She was definitely stockier than Olivia, but about the same height.  I have met so many wonderful people on this trip, and everyone and every child has a story.  They aren't just a number like sometimes I feel they are treated.  Each one is special in his/her own way and deserves a loving family.

After the Consulate visit, we rode back to the hotel, freshened up, and went on another adventure… the zoo!  The subway system is only 2 years old here and is very clean and nice (and has English!).  We only had to go 2 stops, but it was a big deal for us to get there and back on our own.  Simon went with us but did not go into the zoo, so we had to find our way back.  The subway station is right outside our hotel, so that is so nice and convenient.

The zoo was pretty nice.  Again, they charge by height, so our kiddos were free once again…..for the zoo and the subway.  The zoo had a lot of different animals that we don't have in our zoos:  pigs, deer, peacocks, and panda bears (except for a couple of zoos in the US), just to name a few.  It wasn't as nice as the Nashville Zoo or the National Zoo in DC, but it was pretty good.  Olivia slept through most of it, but that's okay.  She woke up at the end and got to see a few animals.  (Many of you have asked how big she is; she's wearing a Carter's 18 month dress in these zoo pictures.)   

I love that Ansley has made a new friend.  This is Emily from Arkansas.  She is 8 and was adopted a few years ago.  She came to get a little sister, age 6, I believe.  

This is where we bought the subway tickets.

Outside the zoo….they are decorated for May 1st.  It is their "Labor Day" and a holiday.  
Most workers get 2-3 days off to celebrate.

Snoozing away...


Some people dress up to come to the zoo, and here in China, I've seen many of the men carrying the wife/girlfriend's purse….interesting….

Oh, and neck bibs were out in force again today, just no pictures to show.


The elephant was hot and inside his "house."  All you can see here is his trunk and tusks.

This is the panda habitat. 
Unfortunately, they were inside their house having lunch while we were there.

Ice Cream Break!

After we got off the subway, we walked to a store called Aeon.  It is basically a Super Target that is about 5 stories high.  The bottom level is the supermarket, and the upper levels have baby supplies, clothes, toys, adult clothes, shoes, housewares, etc.   We needed some diapers and a new sippy cup.  (Unfortunately, we left Olivia's favorite cup at the Chinese restaurant the other night, and she is not happy with the others that I brought.)  

We then walked a couple of blocks to McDonald's.  Let me tell you how excited I was for a hamburger and french fries!!!  I cannot even begin to tell you!!  We had a great time there and then walked back to the hotel.  The girls then napped.  It was a busy day yesterday and today, so it was nice to get some rest.  After that, I took the girls to the indoor playroom here at the hotel, and Philip walked to Pizza Hut to get pizza.  We had a pizza party in our room.  Definitely not a healthy diet for us today, but after many days eating what we've been eating, I didn't mind to splurge!   After dinner, it was bath time.  Olivia will now sit down in a regular bath tub and has so much fun with Ansley.  It is such a blessing to hear their giggles while playing together.  I never really thought that day would come, and I can't ever imagine growing tired of hearing it.

It's hard to believe, but tomorrow is our last full day in China and then we start the trek back.  We have a free day until around 4:15pm, when we meet our guide in the lobby to get the kids' visas.  Our plan is to take our time in the morning with breakfast, possibly take the girls to the pool, and then pack…..we basically have no plans, which is nice.  We have to leave the hotel bright and early on Thursday morning, so it will be an early night for us tomorrow night as well.  We will be taking a van to Hong Kong to catch our flight.  We fly to Chicago and then on to NashVegas!!!

It has definitely been the trip of a lifetime.  For all of you parents in the process, or getting ready to travel, it is true what you hear:  if you can make it the week in the province, it will feel like a mini-vacation once you get to Guangzhou!  Trust me! This 2nd week has flown by!!  Granted, they've kept us pretty busy, but the hotel and surroundings are just so much nicer!

You know, it is so amazing how you immediately bond with these families, and when someone asks, "How are you doing?" it means so much more….it means, "How is your newbie doing?"  "How are you sleeping?"  "How's the transition going?"  "How are the siblings bonding?"  "How are you bonding with the newbie?"  And, since Olivia is seriously the only healthy one that I've seen this trip, I don't mind asking what the special need is….if I can't tell.  Everyone is so open about sharing their journey and their story.  We are so blessed that God chose us to be in this special circle of wonderful people.  

We understand that the weather has been bad in the Southeast.  We pray that all of you are safe.

Until next time,

Day 10 - One Week with Olivia, Shamian Island, and Pearl River Cruise

Ni Hao!  Sorry for the delay in this post.  I am one day behind.  We got in so late last night and had to be up so early today that I just didn't have a chance to blog.

I can hardly believe that we have had our precious little Olivia for one week!!  Part of me feels like we've had her forever, but part of me feels like just yesterday when we were in Changsha on the van ride over to get her.  I was a nervous wreck.  We've come a L-O-N-G way in just week; I can't imagine what the future holds.  She is THE BEST!  She pretty much goes with the flow; she's pretty easy-going;  she does a great job playing by herself; she is almost always happy; and she is definitely coming out of her shell.  We still don't have many Chinese words, but a few are popping out here and there.  She is beginning to understand what we're saying to her, and for the most part, she responds when we call her name, "Olivia."  We hardly use "Yu Yu" anymore.  She will also come when you say, "Come on, Olivia."  She hums when we walk down the hall together and even appeared to be singing a little song this morning on the way to breakfast.  I can't wait for you all to meet her.

We had a free morning, so we took our time at breakfast and then played in the hotel outdoor play area.  Olivia enjoyed learning to slide.

Crazy hair!

Yesterday (Monday) was a day that I had been looking forward to.  You see, for as long as we've been in this process, I've been reading blogs and blogs of people who had walked through this journey.  One, to stay connected and hopeful that ONE DAY we'd be the ones to walk these streets, too.  Two, to glean any and all helpful hints from the BTDT (been there done that) parents.  While following these blogs throughout the years, one thing was common:  everyone stayed at the White Swan Hotel on Shamian Island.  I've seen a gazillion photos of a particular statue, adopted kids on a red couch at the White Swan Hotel, heard about Jenny's Place, and Lucy's Restaurant.  I was so excited to finally get to go….after all these years.

One reason why they stayed at the White Swan was because the American Consulate was very nearby, within walking distance.  The White Swan actually closed for renovations back in 2010-2011.  (For my hotel friends, you know that it doesn't take 3-4 years to renovate a hotel, so I don't know what's really going on.)  Since then, most adoptive families have been staying at the Garden Hotel, which is where we are now.  On top of that, the American Consulate moved to the "newer" part of Guangzhou a few months ago, which is closer to the Garden Hotel rather than the White Swan.

Unfortunately, due to the White Swan closing, a lot of the little businesses on the island have had to close.  There were a few still open, so we got a little taste of what it was like back then, but nothing like it was before….especially in the "hay day" of international adoption.  Yesterday, we were the only Westerners on the island; I tried to imagine it full of American families adopting Chinese children. Something kind of neat that we learned while we were here is that an American family paid for the famous red couch from the White Swan to be shipped to them in the US.  We are going to try and research to see where it ended up.

Shamian Island is beautiful with a New Orleans (Neo-Classical French Architecture) look and feel to it.  There is a lot of green space, and it is surrounded by water (hence the island name).  While we were there, a group of school children, dressed in their PE uniforms, was outside for recess.  They were jumping rope, playing badminton, and playing with what they called a yo-yo (not the same yo-yo as ours).  Adorable and great to see that in person.

This is the exterior of the White Swan.  You can kind of see scaffolding on the left.

This is the statue that I've seen all these years.  
It brought tears to my eyes to finally get to put our little one up there as well.

This statue reminded us a little of Nashville:

Shamian Island is a very popular place for wedding portraits.  We saw no less than 10 brides & grooms getting their photos made.  Weddings in China are paid for by the groom and last for hours and hours.  The brides wear white during the day and typically change into red for the evening banquet.  (Red is a traditional color in China that represents good luck.)

We found a Subway on the island for Ansley to have a "meat sandwich."  
She was very happy about that.

Ansley is enjoying getting to know some of the other children on the trip.  This little boy is 7 years old and is being adopted by a family in the Philadelphia area.  He is precious and loved seeing bubbles for the first time.  He was a big hit with the other kids.  It is so cute to see all of the children interacting, even though they all don't speak the same language.

Olivia is actually clinging a little to me more the past couple of days.

These are some of the little shops that are still open on the island.

While we were on Shamian Island, we received word that all of the children passed their TB tests….yay!  That is great news for all of us.

After Shamian Island, we came back to the hotel to freshen up for the Pearl River Dinner Cruise.  It wasn't exactly the General Jackson, but it was still fun.  They charge for children based on their height.  Fortunately, Ansley is on the short-side, so she was free.  They served a dinner buffet.  You should see the Chinese people go after a buffet!  Olivia ate more than any of us.  She really enjoyed the noodles and rice.  After the dinner buffet, we went outside to enjoy the lights, and then we saw a short show.  It was a Chinese lady that did some tricks with a parasol, ball, and some straw-looking hoola-hoop things.  Guangzhou has some amazing lights at night.  The weather was perfect for a cruise.  It wasn't too hot, and it wasn't too cold.  Unfortunately, during the dinner, Ansley began to not feel well.  By the time the night was over, she had a pretty high fever.  So, we didn't get to enjoy the cruise as much as I had anticipated.  As soon as we got back to the hotel, we gave her Tylenol and put her to bed.  Fortunately, she woke up feeling much better this morning.

We met another "miracle family" on the cruise.  They have 17 children:  8 biological and 9 adopted.  They got 2 children on this trip, so they've been here for 3 weeks now because the children are from 2 different provinces.  They live in Kansas and are simply amazing. Most of their adopted children have special needs of some sort, and they home school.  I tell ya, these stories really get to me.

Well, I believe that covers yesterday.  It was another amazing day.  The girls are doing well together, and we really couldn't ask for things to be any better.  It has been a great 2 weeks, but we are ready to come home.  We'll see you all in just a couple of days!

Take care,