Saturday, September 22, 2007

Day 15

We're home at last.  Our route took us from Guangzhou to Beijing and then over the arctic to Chicago - all in just 22 1/2 hours.  Y and Z did well considering the length of time spent on the planes.  Once back we were all greeted very enthusiastically by their siblings - all of which were wearing decorated "Welcome Home Z" t-shirts."
We are providing a lot of comfort for Z, who is going through periods of visible grief on a more frequent basis now.  It is clear that he loves to play with all of the toys and with everyone in the family.  He really is a lovable, adorable character.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Day 14

Day 14:  Today was quite eventful.  We hired a driver and van to take Ann (our guide) and ourselves to Qingyuan City about 75 miles away.   The drive to and from Qingyuan was a beautiful one that took us through the countryside on a bright, sunny day.  This is where Y's orphanage, The Welfare Institute of Qingcheng, is located.   It turns out that Qingcheng has a new director.  The assistant director and the caregivers are the same as when we adopted Y last year.   We missed the old Director since Y had a special relationship with him.  We brought with us the childrens' clothing we had purchased earlier and the gifts from our travel group (#46 – you know who you are), and presented them as a donation to the orphanage.   Additionally, once we reached Qingyuan City, we stopped at a roadside vendor and purchased fresh fruit (cases of grapes, apples and some melons) to add to the donated clothing.   After a rather long journey with bridge detours, getting lost and having to stop and ask directions at least four different times, we finally arrived (address: No. 5 First Alley, Huancheng Second Road, Qingcheng District, Qingyuan City).Their website is:   We were pleased to see that there were very few children present, approximately 15, including the two older girls.   They were very welcoming to all of us.  They were so pleased to be able to see Y again.  We were able to play with the children a bit and pass out candy (Y's job).   All recent adoptions have been domestic (though to date none have occurred this year) and at this time 90% are classified as special need (at least 3 cleft and 3 club feet).
Z's progress report: meltdowns are on the rise, however in between he is as adorable as ever!
After returning to Guangzhou, we went on one last shopping walk into town.  We had a great time exploring the alleyway shops, visiting our old friends at the Pearl shop, and spending down our Chinese currency.   Eventually we returned to the hotel, got the kids to bed, and then began packing.  We're off to the airport at 8:30am.   Guangzhou to Beijing to Chicago all in about 18 hours!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Day 13

Day 13:   We are getting quite excited about returning home in a couple of days.  However, first things first.  Today began by meeting with our fellow WACAP families at the White Swan for the traditional "Red Couch" picture.   Though one child was so upset by the idea that he didn't participate, the rest did fine.  Afterwards we went shopping at a place known as the leather market and had lunch as well.   Back we came to meet with the other families and take a bus to the U.S. consulate in Guangzhou.  Here there was a brief swearing-in ceremony and we received Z's immigration visa documents.   These will allow him to enter the U.S. and to gain citizenship status upon being admitted into the country.  The documents were given to us in a sealed envelope, with instructions not to open them under any circumstance, but to hand carry them to the U.S. and present them to a U.S. customs officer.  After a long ride back to the hotel, we had dinner and called it an evening.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Day 12

Day 12:  This morning we had to remain available in our hotel room for a couple of hours while our guide took paperwork over to the U.S. Consulate.  Everything went smoothly which means we are set for tomorrows family trip to the consulate for the swearing in ceremony.  Z will get his immigration visa at that time, and will be set to legally enter the country as a U.S. citizen when we arrive back home.  It's a big day.

Following our morning lockdown, we went on a long walk through the streets of Guangzhou, passing through spice and pet alley marketplaces.  Distressingly, we passed a great number of vendors selling parts of various endangered species (tiger paws and such). We found a nice mall area we had been to last year and were able to do some shopping.   Home for a quick swim and dinner brought this day to a close.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Day 11

Day 11:  Today was a free day.  After breakfast, we joined our guide and two other families on a tour of two historic sites in Guangzhou: The Six Banyan Tree Temple, and the Temple of Chen Family Academy.   We had visited both of these sites last year, but found plenty new to see and were awed by the architecture as before.  Amazing sites.

In the afternoon, our hired local guide, Ann, took us to the wholesale marketplace.   Here we found incredible deals on many things we had wanted to purchase.  It was a bit difficult with two small ones and sweltering heat and humidity, but we survived.   We bought so much for so little, it was a bit mind boggling.  Ann was absolutely wonderful throughout.  Anyone traveling here should consider using her service.  We will be happy to email contact information.  After getting back to the hotel, it was a nice meal at a Thai place and then off to bed.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Day 10

Day 10:  Today began with a very nice buffet breakfast and then we met with our guide and three other WACAP families.   The other families are adopting a 2 yr old boy, a 6 yr old boy and a 9 year old boy, all seem to be doing well with the 9 year old having the greatest problems with adjustment.   All 3 come from the same orphanage and the oldest was in foster care, I'm not sure about the other 2; it's nice to see that 4 special needs boys are with their forever families.   We walked with our guide Wendy, to a very small photo place to take passport pictures of the children.  After a short wait outside, we continued on down the street to the Guangdong Health Care Center.   It was here that Z had to pass a very cursory medical exam.  We did have confirmation by the ENT physician that Z has two fistula's in the roof of his mouth.   He weighed in at 16kg and was 96cm tall. 

It turns out that it is very hot here, over 90 °F and extremely humid.  Sweating only seems to make you wet and sticky – not much cooling effect.   After lunch at Lucy's ( a restaurant that caters to the western palate), we took a cab to the Guangzhou Zoo.  We really wanted to see their one Panda bear.   This we did, but it looked so hot and tired in that iron bar cage that it made us rather sad.  Both Z and M had a wonderful time finding and watching all of the animals.  

Back at the hotel, we arranged to for Wendy to get us set up with dinner.  We ate at a locals "Cantonese" place.  Seemed like a good idea to eat Cantonese while in the ancient city of Canton.   We had an excellent meal, returned to the hotel, wrote this blog entry, and then collapsed in bed.  Z continues his wonderful days and difficult evenings.   Once again he cried for quite awhile once he realized it was time for bed and the lights were put out.  His obvious grief just breaks our hearts.

Day 9

Day 9:   Today was a travel day.  Our guide delivered us to the Luoyang  Airport, which turned out to be very small (we were five of maybe two dozen passengers waiting for a flight).   We took a 2-hour flight on a small commuter jet to Guangzhou, which is quite far in the south.  We traveled here because adoptions must exit to the U.S. through Guangzhou.  Z was so excited to go on his first flight.  Afterwards, on the way to our new hotel, Z was animatedly telling about how much he liked the plane ride.   We checked into the Victory Hotel on Shamian Island. Very nice.  Dinner, a walk, and a swim in the roof top pool finished the day.   Z seems to love swimming as much as M, and that's saying a lot.  He is so enthusiastic about everything.  Tomorrow is Z's medical appointment and passport photo.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Day 8

Day 8:  Where to begin.  We had two big events.   The first was a visit to our hotel by Mike, the director of the Luoyang branch of New Day Creations foster care program. We had been in email contact with Mike as we progressed through the process of adopting Z.  Mike oversaw Z's foster care situation and was very helpful to us.   M presented, and he accepted, a donation of warm fuzzy blankets the Girl Scouts had made, as well as a bag of children's pharmaceuticals that were donated by many wonderful people in the Evanston, IL area.  

The second big event was our afternoon visit to the Luoyang Orphanage.  We were greeting by the deputy director, and given a very nice tour of the site by another person.    We began our tour with a visit to the 5th floor this is the site of The New Hope Foundation, we had collected over the counter pharmaceuticals form the Evanston homeschool community and our adoption group from Y's adoption.   We had over 70 pounds of donation, so much in fact that we left a box in Beijing for Global Grace Outreach, a special needs foster home in Beijing, and we'll try to post the web site.  The director of New Hope, Linda accepted the donations and gave us a tour of the facility.  The children that are brought to them form the orphanage and not expected to live, but with the loving care given to the children by the nannies and the good food, the children our growing stronger.   One nanny takes care of 3 children and they work 12-hour shifts.  At this time they have 42 children and can take 3 more when they have the staff.   Every thing that New Hope does is done with donation, if you haven't gone to the New Hope web site we urge you to.  As we left the New Hope floor, it was like entering another world the world of what a large orphanage it truly like and it's impossible to describe in words what the experience was like.   This orphanage has well over 600 children, with 200 in foster care, and adopts out approximately 40 per year.  Luoyang is classified as a special needs orphanage and we where told that the number of orphans abandoned each year has been increasing.   Although classified as special needs they do have non-special needs children.   Z's foster sister Sarah (New Day Luoyang) is non-special needs. The children's ages ranged from infants to teenagers and we were told that 200 of the children attend the local schools.   We found one little boy, Dang Fu Ke that has long been sponsored (Half the Sky)   by a family in Australia and were able to take his picture.  Check out some of the photos we posted.  The children were wonderful and amazing.   We took many pictures and then showed the kids themselves on the camera screen – a real hit.  The caregivers seemed genuinely happy that we were there and let us play with the children, pass out candy, and take pictures.   We were able to locate one caregiver that had stayed with Z during one of his cleft surgeries (see picture) as well as his crib room and even the specific crib that was his. It was an amazing and very emotional and heart wrenching visit.   We were very thankful for the warmth the adults showed us and the warmth they seemed to show the children. 

Following this visit we went to the street where Z was found abandoned in Luoyang.  Another piece in the puzzle of Z's life was revealed for us.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Day 7

Day 7:  Last night was a bit rougher for Z.  He cried a very sad cry in his mama's arms once the lights were out and it was time to go to sleep.   A bit more overt grieving it appears.  Even after falling asleep, he was rather restless much of the night. 


We awoke to a very smoggy day, much like yesterday.  Today we had a bit of a breather while awaiting the completion of government paperwork.   After a traditional Chinese buffet breakfast, our guide took us to see the famous Longmen Grottoes of Luoyang.  The site was amazing.   In the cliff sides along the Yi River beginning in the year 496AD during the Northern Wei and Tang Dynasties, thousands of grottoes and caves were dug out and figures, primarily Buddha's, were carved within.   The largest Buddha carving, see photo, is approximately 56' tall.  It was all very impressive.  Y and Z had a great time tagging along and keeping us busy.  After getting back to the hotel, Z and his Mama worked on mastering the concept of solving jigsaw puzzles, which he really enjoyed. We are also happy to report that Z started playing in earnest with his new little sister.   He really is a kind and friendly little boy.


Note to potential visitors to this hotel:  we've discovered an interesting service offered each evening, apparently only to the men in the hotel.  Each night our room gets a phone call.   If C answers the phone, a body massage is offered by a female voice.  If either woman in our party answers, the caller hangs up immediately.   Hmmm.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Day 6

Day 6: Today began with an excellent hotel buffet breakfast in Zhengzhou.  We met Celine at 9:00 for the two-hour drive to Luoyang.   The first 45 minutes went by quickly as we got out of town and onto the expressway.  Then came road construction and we were directed off the highway.   It's impossible to describe the harrowing adventure we then began as we traveled for the next three hours on small, sometimes dirt roads, in an attempt to bypass the detour and return to the expressway.   We ran into dead ends, stopped to ask directions many times, and braved the perils of driving on roads with all manner of vehicles that essentially follow no observable traffic laws.   If we had to list the 10 times in our lives that we have been closest to death on a highway, I'm sure 9, if not 10, of them occurred on this one trip.  To sum it up, we had a nice, but crazy driver, no seat belts, two children to hold on to, and roads full of drivers who drove wherever they felt so inclined.   A counter to the dangerous side of our journey was the fascinating slice of rural China we were able to observe.  Individuals pulling cart loads of bricks were not uncommon sites.   It was a wild, dangerous, but also rewarding ride that we all agreed we wouldn't really want to repeat.


After reaching Luoyang much later than anticipated, we checked into the Luoyang Grand Hotel.  Numerous complications with room assignments and availabilities brought us to the brink of going to another hotel.   Finally we were given two rooms on what had been the closed 17th floor.  A whole floor to ourselves turned out quite nice.  The rooms are fine but the bathrooms have even more mold issues than our last hotel.


This afternoon our guide took us to another government office to meet with a notary.  The paperwork will be completed and returned to us on Thursday, along with Z's passport, thus making the adoption official.   After the notary, we went shopping in a local supermarket.  It was here that we discovered that we could buy a top of the line motor scooter, complete with numerous accessories, for about $300.   If we wanted to go for a low end model, the price was about $150.  Wow, what a deal.  I wonder about shipping costs…….   Jud???  Back to the hotel we returned for a quick dinner.  We bought a small, decorated cake and proceeded to celebrate Z's happy forever family day.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Forever Family

Day 5:  Forever family day! What a sweet little boy Z is.  He was brought to us from his orphanage in Luoyang by one caregiver and one office worker.   We were told that he was brought to the orphanage by his foster mother about a week ago.  He was very cautious as we were each introduced to him, and held onto his caregivers' hand tightly.   Y offered him a lollipop and he slowly warmed up from there on out.  We had a chance to ask many questions of his caregiver, which proved a great opportunity.   She obviously cared a great deal about him, having been there when he first arrived.


After a few formalities, we were taken to a photo shop for an adoption certificate family photo – mom, dad and Z.   Z, quite willingly let his mama carry him the whole time.  While walking, he became rather chatty.  Exactly what was said will forever remain a mystery, given our weak grasp of Mandarin.   While waiting for Celine to run the photo up to the office we discovered that Z was thirsty.  He drank quite a bit of water and a whole juice box.   He struggled using the straw, but was persistent in trying and eventually figured it out with a bit of help (and light squeezing).  I'm sure we looked a bit silly as we tried to show him how to suck on a straw in the lobby of this building.   We later discovered that Z could not use a straw due to a small fistula (opening) in his palate, which prevented effective sucking action.  We then went back to our hotel and played with little cars on a plastic road course, which he seemed to enjoy quite a bit, and he really loved blowing bubbles with his Ba Ba.


Later in the afternoon we returned to the provincial Adoption Center to finalize the adoption, with Y last year this was a two-day process.   Z was very talkative on the way there but as we entered the building he became noticeably apprehensive.  Of course we forgot our gifts and Ba Ba had to run back to the hotel while Z gave his hand stamp of agreement to the adoption and I gave my thumb prints.    Ba Ba added his and the adoption was final.  The Civil Affairs officer presented us with Z's adoption certificate.   Y and S stayed back at the hotel and watched Winnie the Pooch's X-mass, Y's choice.  It was still on when we got back and Z recognized the Pooh and was confused as to why he couldn't understand it so S change the language to mandarin and we had one happy pooh loving boy.


Dinner with our guide and a splash in the pool (which he loved!) completed our day.

update - Everything the orphanage worker told us we found out later was not true - Z came to us from his foster family that morning -

Day 5 preview

A post, updating you all on this wonderful, eventful day, will follow soon.  It's been an absolutely amazing event for all of us.  For the moment, we have just posted pictures in the photos section of this blog.  We have also posted some video clips on our youtube account.  See the link below for youtube.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Day 4

Day 4:  Today began with a traditional Chinese meal served by our kind hostess.   It included dumplings, spicy sesame beans, watermelon, and onion/chive scrambled eggs.  We then went for a leisurely walk along a small lake for a bit of cultural exploration.   The stress increased a bit as we went shopping for our upcoming train ride in a local supermarket.  This was definitely a locals market.    Identifying foods from label pictures alone was a bit of an adventure.

We were picked up by two cabs and survived the adventurous ride to the train station.  Though we had a total of 12 items to transport, including 4 full suitcases, 3 carry-ons, two duffels full of donation stuff, one 2-year old and more, the three of us managed to get everything through an x-ray scanner, and ultimately onto the train.  Trust us, this was an extreme accomplishment.   The train turned out to be less than a year old, and one of the new electric bullet trains.  We smoked on down the tracks to Zhengzhou at over 210 km/hr (around 130 mph)!   The scenic trip was enjoyable and took about 5 hours or so, after which we were met by our guide, Celine, at the station.  We were taken to a very luxurious looking hotel, the "Sofitel Zhenghzou."   Walking into the entryway was quite impressive and grand.  However, upon closer inspection (we were wishing we had brought some Tilex with us), the hotel lacked basic cleanliness.   We had great take-out from a restaurant down the street, went swimming, and collapsed for the evening.  We are so excited about meeting Zi Gui tomorrow morning.

As I sit typing this post it is actually 9:30am Monday morning.   We leave in 15 minutes for a 5-minute walk to the government offices where we will receive Zi Gui.  Wow, off we go!

Saturday, September 8, 2007

China 2007 - Day 3

Day 3:  Jet lag is still an issue for us.  We are so very tired most of the time.   We hope to be rested and invigorated by the time Monday rolls around and we get to meet Zi Gui for the first time.

Today we climbed a remote section of the Great Wall.  We had arranged for the same guide, Mr. Lei, that showed us around Beijing in 2006, to do so again.   He is so wonderful, knowledgeable, and courteous.  He took us to a remote, authentic, unrestored section of the Great Wall, known as Badaling.   There were very few people there, and it was terrific.  To get there, we drove by three of the most popular sections of the wall for tourists.   These areas were packed with people, as you can see in one of the pictures we stopped briefly to take.  The section we visited required an arduous climb, but was well worth it.   Y hitched a ride on her daddy's back for much of the way, but did great on her own as well.  The whole experience was amazing, just as before.   The Great Wall is truly GREAT!

After the climb we stopped by a local canteen for lunch.  We had more outstanding food than six could eat (our guide and driver joined us) and drinks, all for about $10.   After returning to our Hutang, we summoned up the energy to check out the popular Wangfujing Dajie (a very lively high end street mall).

Tomorrow the 5 ½ hour train ride to Zhengzhou should offer a bit of adventure as we travel with quite a few bags, including the orphanage donations of blankets and children's pharmaceuticals.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

China Trip Days 1 & 2

Thursday:  We finally arrived in Beijing, China.  The start of the trip was a bit rocky.   Our flight was delayed 2 hours to fix the cabin cooling system.  After taking off, it was still a bit hot, but cooling slowly.   The captain said his cockpit thermometer was still showing 94 degrees.  Hmmm, we couldn't help but wonder how well the 747 was handling with sweaty hands at the helm.   Y settled in just fine and we endured, if not completely enjoyed the flight.  I mean 13 hours in a plane is still 13 hours in a plane.  Anyhow, after 2 lunches, 4 movies, and numerous drinks and snacks, we arrived at 4:30pm, Beijing time.  It was bright and sunny the whole way.  Somehow we misplaced a night.  Jetlag was beginning to sink in by the time we arrived at hotel for the evening.  We had a light dinner in the hotel and then called the kids on the laptop.   Our video call worked great on Skype.  It was really nice to see and talk with everyone, and discover that they were doing just fine.   We were exhausted and went right to bed following the call.


Friday:   We were up early and again had breakfast at the hotel.  We decided to walk to Tianamen Square- about ½ hour away.   It turned out just fine, though it was clear we were not in the "tourist" section of town.  Plenty of sites to see.  Plenty of people checking us out.   We walked around the square, bartered for a few items with the locals, and then walked into the Forbidden City.  We didn't have a lot of time to spend there before having to return to our hotel (an extremely hair raising cab ride) in order to check out and move to our next location, the Mao'er Hutong B&B on the north side of the Forbidden City.   The entrance to this Hutong is down a long narrow drive and is extremely non-descript, however once inside it turned out to be amazing.  Check out the photo's, it's hard to describe.   China of old, elegant, art pieces and silk everywhere, etc. Far more impressive and interesting than any hotel we've ever stayed at.  Everybody's napping as I write this.   In a bit we're off to shop at silk alley, find some dinner, and then we have arranged for a driver to pick us up and take us to see a Chinese Acrobats performance this evening.   Tomorrow is the Great Wall and the Summer Palace with our guide, Mr. Lei.