Saturday, April 21, 2007
For some reason our sidebar has sunk to the bottom of the blog and you now have to scroll ALLLL the way down to read it. Does anyone know how to fix this? This has happened before but I forget what I did to fix it.
We have the guestbook dooown there, too. Feel free to stop and write a hello!
If you'd like to read our journal of our adoption trip from the beginning, you'll need to scroll down to the bottom and work your way up!
Zai Jian for now!
Monday, April 16, 2007
(Mei Lin on her way home!)
**DISCLAIMER: Whew, this is long, but this is my way of remembering things I know I'll soon forget. I haven't journaled throughout this trip except what I've written here, so bare with me while I ramble for posterity's sake...
There really is no place like home....one's own bed, more than 100 square feet of living space, a refrigerator full of one's own food, potable running water, a dishwasher, a washer and dryer, sitting around in one's pajamas all day...ahh...THIS is home.
And after a terrible day of air travel, home was never more appreciated.
Thursday morning, departure day from China, we were to have our packed luggage outside our hotel room door at 4:45 AM for the bellboy. Then we were to meet downstairs at 5:30 AM to take the bus to the airport. Apparently with all the changes in schedules (with the US Consulate issuing Mei Lin's visa at the last minute the night before) and our group being able to leave on Thursday, the bus driver didn't know he was to arrive that morning. He was late, so we were about 45 minutes late getting to the airport.
After a long wait for check-in where we were praying we wouldn't miss our flight, we were told by Northwest that there were no reservations for us on that day's only flight out of Guangzhou to Tokyo (then the US)! Even though we'd called the night before to reclaim the reservation we'd changed when we thought we didn't have Mei Lin's visa, there was no record of it on the computer in front of them.
I must admit panic set in and I said something to the lady like, "no, we confirmed this flight last night and we NEED to get on the flight TODAY!" They were sorry about four or five times, but there were no seats left on that plane and it had been overbooked by about 15 people already!! We quickly called the US 800 number we spoke with the night before and spoke with their adoption services who confirmed our reservations. THEY could see the reservation on the computer, but China couldn't. Hmmm. Finally we handed the lady at check-in the phone so she could speak with the US. After she finally did see the reservation we realized it didn't matter anymore anyway. Our seats had been given away and we weren't getting on that flight.
So we were sent off to another airline, China Southern. There were plenty of seats on the flight that would take us to Tokyo in time for our connecting flight to the US. Thank you, God! But first we had to get on the flight before it left and now we were waiting in another check-in line!
I was fervently praying when one of the NW employees looked over and said, "Don't worry, you'll make it," with a sweet, reassuring smile. I asked her if she saw me praying and she nodded.
She whisked us through airport security and arranged a shuttle driver to take us to our gate. We now call her our angel. At one point I looked at her and noticed her cross earrings. We thanked her a hundred times as we ran onto the plane. "God bless you!" she called back.
Just one of many wonderful experiences meeting the growing number of brave, beautiful Christian people in China. And another way God showed his provision and care for us through them.
It's amazing, isn't it...everything could have gone perfectly and I would have been able to say that God is good for taking care of us. But God's hand is never more apparent than when we face adversity and overcome! I think that's why Christianity is so strong in countries like China where there is persecution. They see God's hand in so many areas of their lives because they struggle and overcome.
Well, the rest of the day wasn't much better. Our seats on the next two connections were given away also and we had to fight for seats similar to what we paid for...and seats together. We were scattered all over the plane otherwise. Then our flight from Detroit to home was delayed 1 hr 45 min, but we made it!!
Thankfully Miyah and Megan slept almost the whole trip home. Mei Lin didn't sleep more than an hour or two the entire 20-some hour trip!
And, of course Mei Lin didn't want anyone but Pat the whole way home. Poor Pat. I tried to relieve him, but she'd just scream...and I mean scream. A long flight isn't the place to fight that, so Pat had baby duty for that long, harrowing trip. We each only got an hour or two of sleep. I'd had only two hours of sleep the night before because I stayed up packing. So, I'd now had only about 3-4 hours sleep in two days!
It was never so good to be in our own beds that night. My mom had made us a wonderful meal and we were all ready for bed soon after.
Miyah and Mei Lin are having a hard time adjusting to the time change and both of them are up in the night. I was so delirious the first night I don't even know how Miyah ended up in bed with me and Pat in the girls' room with Mei Lin...then everyone back in our bed. The girls were giggling and having a party in our bed at 3 AM.
The second night home the girls again woke in the night and had trouble falling back asleep. I took Miyah in her room and we both slept a while and then relieved Pat in our room. Mei Lin does great with me during the day, but when she's tired only daddy will do. So, she screamed in my arms for 20 minutes until she fell asleep from exhaustion. She's a prize-fighter for sure. I had to hold her tight in a cradle position because she was fighting me so hard and I held her free arm so she didn't hit me. She was MAD!! I spoke quietly and reassuringly to her which made her even madder. I don't know exactly why she rejects a mother figure for comfort, but I know it most likely has something to do with all the changes and transitions in her life. She's had several mother figures in her life and she's lost each of them...first her birthmother, then the nannies at the orphanage for 7 months and a foster mother for another 7 months. Maybe she's learned that "mommies" leave...I don't know. Or maybe she's just afraid of my big nose and blond hair!
I just grieved along with her that early morning and prayed for healing for her little spirit that has known so much pain and loss. I can't even begin to imagine all that she's been through. The good thing is that she hasn't rejected us all. When a child is in foster care or is attached to a nanny, the grieving and transition can be more difficult, but that also means that she can attach again. We'd be more concerned if she didn't show any signs of grieving.
Anyway, the next morning I was still holding her when she woke up and she whimpered a little to see my face instead of Daddy's, but then she was perfectly happy with me all morning while Pat slept. I even put her down for her nap...for the FIRST time. She usually cries for me to put her to bed and she didn't even whine when I gave her a bottle and rocked her. WOW! I guess what I did during the night was akin to "Holding Time" therapy, which never felt right to do with Miyah, but now seemed necessary to do with Mei Lin. She really needed me to just hold her through her raging at me and know that I could handle her anger and not leave her, I guess. And I'm sure the prayer helped a lot. It's going to take time and a lot of work for her to trust me and know that her new mommy is a "forever mommy".
When Pat is around she gets a little whinier and sometimes turns into "Velcro baby" where she just wants to be attached to him. I've been wearing her in the baby carrier a bit each day to help a little.
On top of all the transitions she's also cutting some molars and eye teeth. She's also getting a lot of gas...probably from all that strange food she's eating. We may need to back off the American diet with her a little. We probably all need to back off the American diet (LOL).
She also had a hard time at nap time yesterday. Pat rocked her and then ended up just sitting in her room until she stopped crying and fell asleep.
Last night Miyah slept through the night, but Mei Lin was up again. She had to be touching Pat or she'd get restless and cry. Poor Pat isn't used to all this "mothering" and he seemed to have the beginning of the flu in the middle of the night (chills and fever), so I took over. Mei Lin hardly struggled with me to comfort her and after some gas drops and teething gel she lay on my shoulder and went to sleep. We're making progress! Right now it's hard to tell if we have sleep issues or if it's the time change/jet lag or the gas and teething. We're just treating it like it's "all of the above" just to cover all the bases.
Besides all the sleeping and daddy issues, Mei Lin is doing very well. She seems happy most of the day and loves all her new toys. She happily plays by herself, but she does put her arms out to be held and seeks appropriate attention so far. She began walking unassisted a couple of days before we left China and is now cruising and walking most of the day. She does crawl a little, but not often. The crawling and moving around on the floor is slow, like she hadn't had a lot of time on the floor before.
She's also eating well and taking a bottle of formula for a little bonding time. It was a little work to get her to take a bottle at bedtime, but now she looks forward to it.
She seems to like Levi, our big golden retriever. She repeated, "doggy", when we introduced her. She didn't get too close the first couple of days, but now she'll go up to him and pat him.
She doesn't say a lot of words, so "doggy" was a bit of surprise. She calls "Ma" for Miyah and "Dada" for daddy. On the flight home, while lying in Pat's arms (of course), she looked me in the eye as I played with her and cooed "Mama" a couple of times with a little smile. We were told she was beginning to speak Chinese, but we don't understand any words if she is saying them.
She loves Pat-a-Cake, flowers and plants, sweets, taking books off of the bookshelf, taking things in and out of containers, and her bath.
Miyah is doing very well as a big sister. I think she's doing better (emotionally) at home than she was in China. She was just so excited to be home. She ran up and down the hallway at the airport when she realized she was HOME. In the Detroit airport she asked if this was her new home. Then when we landed at our airport she asked if we were going to our "new home". She's been on a few vacations, but after all those hotel rooms and airplanes, I don't think she completely understood that she was going to HER home.
Miyah sometimes wants to pretend she's a baby, but we just pretend along with her and she's over it very quickly. We're also making sure she has one-on-one time and gets a lot of snuggles. She loves snuggling and reassurance that we love her no matter what..."good times, bad times, happy and sad times, I always love you!".
Megan bounced back from all that jet lag and even woke up Friday morning and went to Bible study! Later that day she went to dance class, then woke up Saturday morning and went to ballet from 9 AM - 4 PM. She missed a lot of dance while we were gone and they're getting ready for the recital in a few weeks.
Matt was happy to see us all, but especially his sisters. He missed them a lot and spent a lot of time with Miyah the first few days home. He even volunteered to wake her up when she was sleeping too late one morning. Now the kids are back to their normal bickering-selves again. I wish they could just miss each other all the time.
Mei Lin has taken a little while to warm up to Matt, but she lets him hold her without crying and has even given him kisses.
We let Matt stay home from school on Friday, but he's back again today. It was just so nice to spend those first few days home all together. We didn't go anywhere and even had a pajama day.
My mom did some laundry and cooking for us and then left Friday afternoon. It was so great to have her here, but it was also apparent that Mei Lin was a little nervous around her. She seemed happy when it was just our family again...I remember Miyah being the same way when we first came home.
So, there's the long, boring details, warts and all. Later today I'm hoping to go back and add our journal entries for Guangzhou. It's the only way I'll remember what we did those last few days. We were so busy this trip that it was difficult to find time to do any journaling.
Well, if you've made it this far you must have nothing else to do today or you're peeling your eyelids back to stay awake, or maybe both. Thanks for hanging in there. I hope to update with pictures soon.
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
It's Wednesday....or very, very early Thursday morning and we're all packed up and ready to go. Leaving China is always bittersweet. We really do love China, but it'll be so nice to get home to see Matt and get into a normal routine.
We leave in about four hours so I really should be sleeping. I'll have to post a picture of our room a couple of hours ago. I've never seen such a mess. Let's just say if I ever have to pack a bag again it will be too soon!!
Thank God we're even able to leave tomorrow. When we got to the US consulate this afternoon to swear the oath, we were told that there were communication problems between the computers at the US consulates around the world and the US government in the US. SO, Mei Lin's visa was not going to be ready until the next morning. Since our flight left at 8:20 AM, we couldn't leave on Thursday. We were scrambling to make airline reservations for the next day....but there weren't any seats on the only flight that leaves Guangzhou for Tokyo that day. We ended up booking flights for Saturday even though none of the seats were together, dreading the idea of missing Matt for two whole days more!
Then tonight Elsie called and the consulate had Mei Lin's visa!! Praise God! We were so excited. We were able to get the original flight rebooked and then had to scramble to pack. God is so good!! We prayed that things would be fixed and He answered our prayer. We have been so blessed to see his hand faithfully work throughout this trip. We have some great stories to tell of how God has worked; some of them we can't write about here, but we're once again so blessed by this amazing country and its people!
Anyway, we'll be arriving home at about 4:15 PM Thursday night (from Minneapolis) if anyone wants to briefly meet Mei Lin.
We are really looking forward to being home.
HOME SWEET HOME HERE WE COME!!
We can't wait to see you, Matt!!
After breakfast, Pat and Megan took a taxi to Beijing Road to do some quick shopping for my sister (and me, too). They took our friend, Millie, along for some help with interpreting, etc. I didn't go along because my job (as usual) was to pack while the little ones slept. Packing is overwhelming, to say the least. We have so much "stuff" to bring back with us and I have no idea how we're going to make get it all organized into suitcases.
This afternoon we went to our consulate appointment to swear the oath and then get Mei Lin's visa to enter the US. The oath is so anticlimactic....after you sit there while the coordinators are busy doing their thing, someone (consulate general?) comes out and has all the parents stand and raise a hand and swear that everything on our child's paperwork is true and blah, blah, blah....no one really heard him because of all the screaming babies in the room. There were about 55 US families in the room.
After the oath, they dropped the bomb on us. Because of a big communication snafu in DC, we weren't receiving the baby's visas that day and so, we weren't leaving China the next day as planned. Well, actually there were about six families that did get visas, the rest of us were going to have to wait until the next day.
Anyway, details were whirling through our heads....change flights, need hotel rooms for extra night(s) (and rooms are few with the trade fair coming to Guangzhou), have to call Matt and let him know....argh!
We stopped at the Northwest office immediately after leaving the consulate. The bus dropped a few of us off and we each took turns trying to get reservations for flights out on Friday now, instead of Thursday.
I had difficulty convincing the guy at the NW office that we didn't need to pay $200-some dollars to change each ticket because we had bought transferrable and refundable tickets (through the NW adoption services). I couldn't convince him, and didn't know what to do at that point, so I let the other families go ahead of me while I talked to Pat and decided. By the time they got back around to me, there weren't any tickets available on Friday. In fact, they told our travel companion, Gene, that there weren't seats available for them for WEEKS because of the class ticket they'd booked!! I must admit I began to panic a little. The only option for them was to pay for entirely new tickets for FIVE people...can you say "unexpected expense"? I saw the look on Gene's face and I immediately said, "We need to start praying!". A few minutes later the man found seats for Gene and his family! Praise God!
It was early morning here in the states so we couldn't speak with a Northwest representative that could help us explain to this man that we would not need to pay to transfer our tickets, but we had him hold the seats and we'd work on it that evening.
When all the Northwest office employees left, except for this man that was helping us (it was well past 5 PM - this was taking quite a while), he asked us if we were religious. Three of us said, yes, we are followers of Christ. The man said he heard me mention praying about the flights and asked us if we believed in miracles. We all said yes and he went on to explain that suddenly seats were available and he couldn't explain why he couldn't see them before or how they opened up....he, too, believed it was a miracle.
It was so wonderful to see God work in that way and have an opportunity to hear of this man's strong faith. Hopefully it was a testimony to the lady that was working on our flights with him at that time, as well. God is amazing!
We took a taxi back to the hotel and Pat and the kids were waiting for me for dinner at the restaurant. We were to meet with a Chinese pastor of an underground church and his family. It was an amazing opportunity to meet them and learn a little about the underground Christian church in China. I can't say much more, but let me tell you that their faith and strength are so encouraging and humbling. Please pray with me that God continues to use them and protect them and grow their ministry.
While we were finishing dinner, we got a call from Elsie saying Mei Lin's visa was ready early and she was heading to the consulate to get Mei Lin's visa!! We were so excited, but now it was nearly 8 PM and we needed to get our original flights back and PACK!! I hadn't even gotten close to finishing packing. Plus we hadn't bought our suitcases to pack all our things in and I still wanted to get some last minute shopping done.
We were (supposedly-read on to tomorrow's post) able to get our seats back on the flight we'd canceled a few hours earlier and then headed over to one of the shops to buy two medium suitcases and a few other odds and ends. It was 10 PM and I was still shopping, calling my sister at home to ask her what she wanted me to buy exactly. Needless to say, I was up late packing that night!
Always a new adventure!!
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
We did some shopping near the hotel and had lunch at Lucy's, then met for group pictures (which was a surprise...we weren't dressed or ready for them) and then for the girls' traditional Red Couch Photos. We took some with Grace and Mei Lin and then later their little friend, Addie, who was adopted from Kunming through a different agency, joined them for photos, too. The girls were so funny. Grace couldn't sit still long enough for a photo and then they shared snacks, but fought over toys. I think the pictures tell all...
We were planning to go out to dinner with our old friend, Millie, but it was raining so we decided to order in pizza from Danny's Bagels. Millie came to our hotel room and we caught up and played with the girls. It was so good to see Millie again. When we came to adopt Miyah in '04, she worked at one of the little shops and we've kept in touch with her for these two years. Now she's only working very part time and works full-time as a translator for some company.
The McQuades and Graffs joined us for our little pizza party in the "cul-de-sac" (outside our room at the end of the hall with ample play space), but we were quickly asked to go to our room because we were too loud.
Once again we've been so blessed with the most amazing travel companions on this trip. Jennifer and Mike are wonderful people and it's been so much fun spending these last two weeks with them. We're going to hate to say goodbye in a few days. We're already planning to get the girls together on a regular basis. You can check out their blog here... http://ourjourneyofgrace.blogspot.com/
Since the Graffs were with another agency, we only spent a little time with them, but they are wonderful people, as well, and we hope to get to see them again in the future. You can see their website at ...http://www.babyjellybeans.com/web/do/site/home?ID=136859
Good food and catching up with old and new friends...it's all good!
Monday, April 9, 2007
Pat had paperwork to do with Elsie and the other two families, so Mei Lin joined us at the park after her exam. The exam is really just a technicality. The US wants to hear that she's healthy enough to leave China/enter the US. I've never actually been to the exam with either Miyah or Mei Lin, but that's what I've heard. Last time Megan was sick and I stayed back at the hotel while Pat took Miyah to her medical exam.
Mei Lin loved the slide and is walking so much more.
After the park, we stopped at Starbucks for some coffee and then went to A Gift From China (my favorite store!) to do some serious shopping. I just love this store and love the idea that all their proceeds go back to Chinese orphans.
After the paperwork was completed, all the families went to Liwan Plaza (the Pearl and Jade Market) to shop for pearls. We hadn't eaten any lunch so we stopped at McDonalds. Mei Lin loved the fries and nuggets!
We found some pearls for Mei Lin and a few other things, but we didn't have much time to shop and frankly, that place just overwhelms me! Floors of little shops selling jewelry. We were hunting for a cross pendant for Mei Lin's dedication like we bought for Miyah last trip and finally found it after searching dozens and dozens of little shops. I think it was in the same little shop just outside the plaza.
Then we took a taxi over to Beijing Road for some serious shopping. Beijing Road is a pedestrian street with a lot of nice shopping. Both feet barely left the taxi before a hawker hooked us into following him to look at handbags. My sister, Michele, was hoping I'd find her some bags and I don't think she'll be disappointed as long as we make it through customs!
Then we walked around and shopped a bit. Megan found some shoes and we hit Pizza Hut for dinner.
We were all exhausted by the time our taxi brought us back that evening. Thankfully our girls are good shoppers!
H A P P Y * E A S T E R!!
This morning we went to the Christian church here in Guangzhou, just about a block from the White Swan Hotel.
What an incredible experience to worship with fellow Chinese Christians. Some of the service was in English and we knew many of the songs. The children's choir sang and the young people led the worship. The pastor's message was good, too. Mei Lin slept through most of it, but we left a little early because the service was two hours long and that was just a little too long for Miyah to sit quietly.
The church was packed and as we were leaving we realized that there were dozens and dozens of people listening from outside.
The rest of the day we relaxed around the island. Guangzhou is so much like home. They even have a Starbucks here! All the salespeople at the little shops say, "Hi, Pat and Cindy! How are you?" as we walk by...they're good at making a sale!
Saturday, April 7, 2007
(Run your cursor over the photo to read captions)
Today was a free day and we were so grateful to be able to sleep in a bit.
Mei Lin is doing really well. She's begun to warm up to us all, but still prefers daddy...especially when she's tired. She's showing us more of her personality and laughing a lot more. We've finally tried putting chicken broth in her bottle and she seems to like that. Anything to get her some liquids right now.
We had a lot of shopping to do, so we took a taxi to the bird and flower market. We were trying to find things to give to Mei Lin every year on her "Family Day" and thought it would be nice if they came from her province.
The flower and bird market was fun. Miyah loved all the animals. They were selling fish, birds, bunnies, mice, and turtles. It was as good as a trip to the zoo for her.
We've been getting a LOT of stares in Kunming. Everywhere we go people just stop and stare at us. Many know the word "beautiful" in English (because they use it to describe the things they're trying to sell you I guess) and they comment on how beautiful Megan is. Our guide said she looks like the actress from the movie "American Beauty"...I have no idea who that is! Many people stare at Megan. We need to watch her because the young men are giving a lot of "beautiful" comments. Most everywhere we go we are the only caucasians so we do stick out. Many times they ask if Miyah and Mei Lin are Chinese (I at least understand "Chinese" in Mandarin - "Chung gua ren"). I don't think they understand how two caucasians have Chinese children.
Very few people speak any English in Kunming, but thankfully they're all very friendly and helpful. Whenever we ask for something from housekeeping, they always bring towels. We had similar experiences in Beijing, too. I tried to order room service two nights in Beijing and the woman who answered the phone didn't understand me at all.
We're staying at the Jin Jiang Hotel. The hotel is very nice, but the location isn't the greatest. Our local guide told us it wasn't safe to go right out of the hotel, towards the train station. When we arrived at the hotel there were several beggars in front of the hotel and it's just a dirty part of town. We've driven around Kunming and there are beautiful areas. The climate is always springlike and the flowers are beautiful. The hotel's location makes it difficult to find food and laundry services so it isn't the most convenient, but it's been a great experience seeing another part of China.
I have learned a few useful phrases in Mandarin and I'm very glad I did. Last trip we were in Guangzhou on Shamian Island the entire time where everyone knows how to speak English. This time any little bits of Mandarin are helpful. The only problem is that once you begin speaking Mandarin the Chinese people think you will understand them when they begin speaking back to you. Thankfully I learned how to say "I don't speak Mandarin". Or "I speak Mandarin just a little".
Today Miyah needed to use the restroom while we were at the bird and flower market and so I asked the lady "niao, niao" (like meow only with an "n") while pointing to Miyah and she showed us to a garbage can. The Chinese really do let there children go to the bathroom just about anywhere! We said, "bu", no and she pointed the way to a public restroom. We still had no idea where it was, so I again asked in Mandarin, "Excuse me, may I ask where the bathroom is?" and thankfully they understood me and led us to a hideous public squatty.
The other night Megan and I tried to get take out at a small restaurant down the street from the hotel. For the life of me I could not explain that we wanted the food to go. Elsie has now taught me how to say "to go"...it sounds like "da bao".
One useful phrase has been "bu yao" (pronounced "boo yow"). It means "don't want". Whenever sales people get a little zealous I just say "bu yao" and they immediately understand....they usually laugh and repeat "bu ya". I think I probably say it funny.
This afternoon we couldn't resist another meal at Wei's after a long day of shopping! Miyah and Mei Lin enjoyed the playroom. Miyah hasn't had a lot of kid-things to do on the trip so this was a huge treat!
Don't tell my mom, but later that afternoon, Megan and I went right outside our hotel to do some shopping at an open market. The prices were much better than the bird and flower market.
Tonight I stayed up until 2:30 in the morning to pack all of our things. We leave for Guangzhou in the morning. Somehow we already have two suitcases-full of souvenirs from Beijing and Kunming. Some of that is the warm coats we bought in Beijing....which we've been very glad for. It's actually been cool in Kunming - in the 60's.
Thursday, April 5, 2007
Have I mentioned that Steven, our guide, has kept us busy? Today began at the Dragon Gate, a network of narrow corridors, shrines, and grottoes dug out of the hillside by Toaist monks a couple hundred years ago. The views from the side of the mountain were beautiful and the architecture impressive. Walking amongst these shrines just a few days before the celebration of Easter was a grateful reminder of the peace that comes from knowing a God that blesses us with every good thing; not because we perform ceremony or rituals, or because we've rubbed the right stone for "good fortune", but because of His unconditional love for us and because of the debt paid by His son. We had a few opportunties to share that gospel with our guide and he is very curious and interested.
After the trek up the mountain we stopped at some little roadside shops set up for tourists. We began bargaining with the first lady and she pulled out a pen to write the price....it just so happened to be a Toprol XL pen...the drug Pat's company sells! We gestured for the lady to hold it up for a picture and I think she thought we were crazy.
Then we took a bus ride to a beautiful park. A little girl gave Miyah a hard boiled bird egg. Miyah didn't know what it was and took a bite without peeling it. The egg was tiny, like a robbins egg.
All week I'd been asking Steven about trying a hot pot meal for dinner. So Steven arranged for us to try what he kept calling a mushroom hot pot. We asked him if there were other ingredients besides mushrooms...like chicken,etc. and he said there were veges and chicken also. Well, the hot pot was not what I expected it to be. There were mushrooms....lots of mushrooms...probably ten different kinds of mushrooms....and I hate mushrooms. There were also squid or fish balls and other strange ingredients. Lets just say we ate a lot of rice that meal.
Then we went to a silk factory and watched how they make silk comforters. It was very interesting, but the fashion show was a little strange. They put the show on just for our little group and of course the models were showcasing the silk made by the factory. There was a picture of international officials with the Chinese president wearing traditional silks made by this very factory...including Pres. George W!
Lastly, we were treated to a tea ceremony at "Dr. Tea". It was quite educational and thanks to the great saleswoman, we came out with $100 worth of tea. It looks like we'll all be drinking a lot of tea. Yunnan is known for it's puer tea (pronounced like "poor"). We saw puer tea shops all over Beijing. According to the saleslady it's pretty close to the fountain of youth (ha!)....it's good for cholesterol, weight loss, skin, wrinkles, old age spots, stomach digestion...you name it. It comes in a pressed cake and we bought two, plus jasmine, black, and green tea. Since we'll be living forever with this miracle tea, we should be all set with tea until eternity.
We (Jennifer, Mike, and our family) took Elsie, our guide Steven, and his fiance, Meggie out for dinner. We were starving after our lunch of rice, so we decided to take a taxi to Wei's Pizzeria to get some American food. I can't tell you how wonderful it was to eat pizza and french fries! The Chinese food has mainly been good, but it was still nice to have some familiar food...especially for the kids. Wei's even has a little playroom for the kids on the second floor...and western toilets. Small, but much appreciated luxuries.
Wednesday, April 4, 2007
(We posted more photos below for Tuesday, too)
We had a wonderful day today. I know we've been terrible at updating our blog, but we've been so busy seeing so many beautiful places in Yunnan and around Kunming, that we haven't had time to get on the computer. We usually leave the hotel by 8:30 and don't return until even when we have to find dinner, get the girls baths and to bed, then clean and organize things to get ready for the next day.
Having two little ones along on the trip is tiring. Miyah's doing incredibly well, but I think that if I didn't worry about how she would have done without out us for two weeks, I would have left her home. It's not an easy trip for a three year old. She's hungry all the time because she often doesn't like the food and we aren't exactly doing things typically interesting for a three year old. A lot of walking and early mornings/late nights. And that would be fine if it were somewhere like Disney...she did great there. It's really fine, just not easy for anyone.
Anyway, this morning we drove an hour to the Stone Forest. We first stopped at a little shop and bought a carrier made by the area minority people. You see women carrying babies in these all over Kunming. We thought they would be fun to have just for the embroidery, but it also came in handy for carrying Miyah or Mei Lin because we only had one carrier and a lot of walking to do.
The karst formations that make up the "forest" are beautiful. I wish we had time to explore because it would be fun to do a leisurely walk through the whole forest. It was extremely crowded and dozens of people asked Megan to have their picture taken with her. She had a crowd waiting in line for pictures! She was a good sport and smiled through the whole thing. A few times we had to tell them no more.
The Yi people are guides at the forest. They are a minority group in Yunnan and wear interesting clothing. I'll post photos from the Stone Forest later.
After the forest, we did some shopping on the way back to the bus. We bought some beautiful embroidery handmade by the minority groups and some dolls and outfits. It's amazing how cheap the embroidery is. It must take them many hours to make, yet they sell it for $5-$10.
Then we stopped at a restaurant for another wonderful lunch. Once again, Megan ate only the fried rice. She pretty much fills up at the breakfast buffet at the hotel and then eats rice the rest of the day.
We were so blessed to get a wonderful tour of Mei Lins orphanage. We brought some donations from Pat's mom and they seemed so happy to have them.
Then we were taken around the large orphanage complex. I can't tell you how impressed we were! The orphanage was extremely clean and the people were friendly. Several workers saw us and ran up calling Mei Lin's Chinese name, "Pan Jun Xia!". She was obviously loved and well cared for. Many of them signed the book given to us by the orphanage. The book is a treasure! There are dozens and dozens of beautiful photos of orphanage and foster care life. It was made in July 2006, so Mei Lin was actually living there at the time. We were told she lived there for 7 months and then in foster care for 7 months.
There is a school, library, physical therapy room, doctor's office, music and dance room, many play rooms, and each beautiful, clean and staffed by happpy, loving staff. We were told there are 7 doctors, 60 full time staff and 200 part time staff. Mei Lin's physical therapist spent a lot of time playing with her and gave the girls a toy from the room.
We saw a few babies be carried, two to a lady (front and back) around the grounds and many older children returning from school and doing their homework under the trees on the beautiful grounds. There are a few gazebos amongst the beautiful landscaping that made you feel like you were at a resort.
By the end of our tour there were many children returning from school escorted by orphanage staff. It was obvious that the children were getting the best care possible at the orphanage. We feel so blessed that Mei Lin lived in such an atmosphere.
We have a lot of photos of the orphanage to share, unfortunately I wasn't able to give each photo a caption due to some computer problem. Maybe I can fix that later.
Our guide planned for us to go to the Kunming Zoo, but we decided to lay low and just get to know Mei Lin today. We've been on the go since arriving in China and we're all pretty tired.
The weather took a turn for the worse today and it's cold and rainy. We went out for lunch near the Green Lake area and then onto WalMart. We needed to buy some diapers, wipes, formula, cups, etc. Megan found a whole candy section and decided to buy some. It was more complicated than simply loading up a bag of candy. Each candy had a category for price and had to be put in a separate basket. The meat department had very fresh meat...even live creatures.
Mei Lin decided late yesterday that she only likes daddy and Miyah. She's even hit me and yelled at me when I've tried to hold her. I know that children bond to one parent at a time...she just needs time. The strategy is for me to be the "nice guy" and feed her and give her goodies. These evening I was feeding her some delicious oranges we bought at WalMart (Kunming has awesome fruit!) and she toddled over and gave me a big smile and kiss.
Mei Lin doesn't seem to like formula or a bottle. We're having a hard time finding things she likes to drink. We've tried several kinds of bottles and warm, cold, and in-between temperature drinks. So far we haven't gotten much down her, but she does love broth and eats rather well.
Grace and Mei Lin are both close to walking. I think they will be by the time we get home.
We discovered that Mei Lin is a finger sucker. Hand her a blankie and her fingers go in her mouth with a bit of blankie tucked between the upper lip and fingers. So far she's been a good sleeper.
I gave an orphanage official a book of questions about Mei Lin to answer and Elsie has translated them for us. It looks like Mei Lin lived in a foster home from 7-14 months with two older boys (the parent's bio. sons), and two other foster children (one of them being Grace). The family are rice and vegetable farmers and they apparently smoked (ugh!), but it is obvious that they took very good care of her. She seems healthy and happy.
Monday, April 2, 2007
Mei Lin is almost walking, but she has some gaps in her motor development. She creeps and crawls a little, but I suspect she hasn't had a lot of time on the floor. She has taken several steps today without support and I wouldn't be surprised if she isn't walking by the time we get home.
She's quite sturdy, too. She's wearing about a size 12 or 18 months. I have to try some outfits on her yet, but some of the 12-18 months I brought her (the biggest size I packed for her) look like they'll be too small. The little capris I put her in today Miyah wore last summer! She's definitely not petite, but she's not especially chubby either.
Goodnight from China!
Sunday, April 1, 2007
I couldn’t sleep this morning, so I decided to update the blog. Miyah woke up hungry again so I got a call at 5:30 from Pat asking for something for her to eat. Cheerios and Goldfish crackers are about all I had left. She’s eaten through most of the snacks already.
We instant messaged with Matt this morning and then called to talk to him. Miyah wanted to say hi and tell him how much she missed him and loved him. When she got on the phone though she began quoting movie lines and singing to him.
Grace from CHI met us at the hotel to bring us to the airport. The Beijing airport was definitely busier than I remembered it, but we didn’t have to wait in line to check in and they didn’t even charge us for the extra piece of luggage or for each piece being overweight. After all that weighing and shifting and reweighing we find that so far none of the airlines even care how much our luggage weighs. Northwest didn’t even weigh our luggage when we left home. I did mention to Chloe here that we had an extra piece of luggage for orphanage donations and she said that the Beijing airport isn’t very strict especially if they explain that they are donations. So I don’t know if Grace explained that or not, but we didn’t have any problems. I’m so glad we decided to take things for Mei Lin’s orphanage instead of donating them in Beijing.
We’re now on our way to Kunming. I’m so excited to see a new part of China. From everything we’ve heard and read, Kunming is supposed to be beautiful. Most families prefer it to Guangzhou even. Here’s a little blurb about Kunming from Frommers:
"As the capital of Yunnan Province, Kunming, also known as the ‘city of eternal spring,’ is one of the most pleasant and relaxed cities of China. And Lonely Planet says this about Yunnan: "Yunnan is without a doubt one of the most alluring travel destinations in China. It’s the most geographically varied of all of China’s provinces, with terrain as widely diverse as tropical rainforest and icy Tibetan highlands. It is also home to a third of all of China’s ethnic minorities (nearly 50% of the province is non-Han - the majority people group of China) and half of all China’s plant and animal species. If you could only got to one province, this might well be it. Yunnan is also well known for it’s mild climate year-round. Kunming has a flavor all its own that seems more than half a world away from Beijing...."
Yunnan contains the nation’s highest number of species of flora and fauna and has been called the "Kingdom of Plants/Animals", "Garden of Heavenly Marvelous Flowers and Plants", and "Hometown of Perfume".
We are also excited to see Elsie, our CHI coordinator, again. Elsie was our coordinator in 2004 and our family fell in love with her. She’s a sweet, kind young woman. We’re so pleased to spend the rest of our trip with her! And we’re also excited to meet the McQuades who’ll be adopting their little girl from Kunming, as well.
Saturday, March 31, 2007
After being out in the damp, cold air, Miyah has a cough. She actually began coughing and gagging up phlegm on the way to the acrobat show yesterday and it ended up all over me and her (lovely). Please pray that her cough goes away. It isn’t easy for her to sleep when she has a bad cough.
We needed to do some shopping before we left for the Great Wall. We desperately needed warmer jackets and mittens. It was an incredibly windy day and I imagined the Wall would be bitter cold.
We found some little shops, and one shop owner in particular was quite earnest in finding us what we needed. She called for someone to bring her the smallest North Face jacket they had and what they came with was a boys jacket way too big for Miyah, but she insisted that it fit by rolling up the sleeves a few times. We didn’t’ have many options at that point and she was persuaded to sell it to us for $10. Megan and I also found really nice Columbia jackets for $15 each and some gloves and hats. We were outfitted for the Great Wall!
Our first stop was lunch. We had Peking Duck, Kung Pao Chicken, Spring Rolls, and other dishes served family style.
On the hour long bus ride we saw a few of the buildings being erected for the 2008 Olympics. The aquatics building is really interesting, but the National Stadium for the opening and closing ceremonies is incredible. It looks like a bird’s nest made of metal twigs. We also saw where the athletes will be housed. All of this construction has required blocks and blocks of temporary housing for the construction workers. They’re little shacks really.
When we finally reached the Wall, Miyah was so excited. While we climbed she said, "This is the greatest mountain in the whole world" and "Can you believe we’re in China?" So far her favorite thing about China is all the bus rides I think. She loves buses and we’re on one every day.
Pat was determined to get to the top, or at least high enough to get a Hero Card. He was disappointed to find they don’t have Hero Cards anymore, but he and Megan got a nice little plaque engraved that says they climbed the Great Wall on March 31, 2007.
Miyah and I only climbed a little way. Enough to get some photos and check out the beautiful views. The cherry blossoms were beautiful and it really wasn’t as cold as we thought it would be. We enjoyed walking around and stopping at the little shops and eating ice cream bars. Miyah got a Great Wall t-shirt with pandas on it and she’s worn it last night and today. She has definite clothing likes and dislikes and I’ve figured out she likes clothes with animals on them.
On the way home from the Great Wall Megan needed to use the restroom, so the bus driver pulled over to the side of the road for her to find a tree. Our guides were kind enough to take us to find a public toilet. There were new hutongs being built in this area. It’s interesting to see new buildings in this style of living. In the old hutongs, and I assume in these new hutongs (alley communities), many of the homes don’t have private toilets. We stopped in one of their public toilets to find that the squatty potties didn’t even have doors or stalls. I guess it was better than a tree.
In case you’ve never seen one, they’re pretty much a hole in the floor. Every one I’ve ever been in has had the strongest smell of urine you’ve ever smelled. And very few have toilet paper in the stall or soap near the sink...hmm...We’ve had our fair share of squatties this time. Thankfully we prepared Miyah for this phenomena by showing her pictures and describing how to use one. There is a definite technique in order to keep dry! They’re probably not as bad as they sound....no worse than restrooms at most public gas stations in the states.
We were all tired so we ate dinner in the hotel. Interesting fare on the buffet...shark fin soup, pig’s ear soup, boiled ox tongue, and some kind of squid. We didn’t eat much, but we were tired enough that it didn’t matter.
We put Miyah to bed in Pat’s room while I packed the suitcases and she fell asleep immediately. Pat went down to get a massage in the hotel. We leave for Kunming tomorrow!!
Friday, March 30, 2007
Anyway, we're all having a great time, but Megan is missing her brother terribly. We all miss him a lot, but it's been sad to see Megan so upset about missing him. We've talked to Matt each day and she instant messages him, and that usually makes her miss him more. It is really sad that he isn't able to be here.
Where do I start? Friday we (Miyah) woke up about 5 AM, and got ready at a leisurely pace and went down to breakfast. Our plans to sleep in were a joke, so we decided to join the tour that morning.
There are only 3 families adopting special needs children this time. We'll meet one of the families in Kunming and the other family is here in Beijing. When we went to meet for the tour in the morning, we realized we traveled with the same family last time (Nov 04) and they live like a mile from us! Gene and Louise have two girls, Victoria (8) and Diana (almost 4). Miyah is so excited to have two little friends along. They've become good buddies already. Anytime we're not with them she asks where her friends are.
We first visited the Temple of Heaven. The park was beautiful and it was just amazing to see the number of retired people socializing. China is so different than America that way. People are always out of their homes talking and doing things together. They're very active, too. We saw the people dancing (ballroom type dancing), dancing with ribbon sticks (we had to buy some of these because it looked so fun and beautiful), there were men doing some sort of game with string on sticks and an object that they swung across the sting (forget what called). They played poker, chess, mahjong, had singing clubs, all sorts of activities. Pat was invited to play a game I think our guide said was Tai Chi ball. Of course we found out they were trying to sell the ball and racket sets, so we decided to buy some.
It was kind of hard to enjoy the park because we were all terribly unprepared for the cold weather. I could have kicked myself for taking the gloves and turtlenecks out of the suitcases thinking it would be warmer.
We've had several people stop and ask us if we could have our pictures with them, but it's interesting people respond to Miyah even though she's Chinese. One lady came over to Miyah in her stroller and began chattering in Chinese. I was able to use my very limited Mandarin to tell her she doesn't speak Mandarin. I was so proud that my first whole sentence in Chinese was actually understood. What she wanted was her picture taken with Miyah and proceeded to try to take her out of her stroller! I told her "bu", no and our guide told her something so that she stood next to us and got her picture that way instead of holding Miyah. I've been very surprised that my shy girl hasn't been afraid of the Chinese people's attention. She even let our driver hold her and help her on and off the bus. Anyone who knows Miyah knows she isn't keen on strange men. I think she realizes that the Chinese people are just very friendly and seem to love children. They all call her a baby.
After the Temple, we went for lunch. The food was great and we even had a little entertainment. We were able to buys some gloves at the little shop in the restaurant.
Then we went to the drum tower where we climbed numerous steep steps to the top of a tower of....you guessed it, drums. These were drums used for telling the time.
Then we took a rickshaw tour of the hutongs (back alleys) of Beijing. By this time it had begun drizzling a little. Megan and I were a little worried because our driver (bicyclist) looked and sounded drunk. We stopped at a couple's home and sat in their little bedroom where they entertain people for lunch. Yes, their bedroom had a little table in it right next to the bed. The kitchen was unbelievably small. Our guide asked us if it was different from American kitchens and I said "Oh, yes!".
We then stopped at a kindergarten, but all the children were gone on a picnic. It would have been fun to see all the little ones Miyah's age. Kindergarten in China is for children ages 2-6. Most of the children live there 6 days a week and only go home on Mondays! Again, so different from America. We explained to our guide what the program is like for American preschoolers and that they don't stay overnight and she was surprised. The families actually have to pay for their children to attend kindergarten, but they say most children attend. Primary school is then paid by the government. I guess since nearly all Chinese couples both need to work, kindergarten is the same as day care for them only they don't need to pick them up at the end of the day.
After the hutong tour, we went to the Beijing Acrobat show. It was amazing! I can't even begin to describe the things those young people can do. Megan was most impressed with the girl who did an arabesque on pointe, on a man's shoulder while he moved around.
Miyah fell asleep while we drove to the acrobat show and slept through the entire thing. We got back to the hotel at 7:00 and I went right to sleep with her while Pat and Megan went to get soemthing to eat. Miyah slept from 5:00 until midnight. She woke up very hungry since she missed dinner. I made her some soup I had brought with and some dry cereal. Another night with only a few hours of sleep! I called Pat at 1:30 and he took over while I went to his room to sleep for a few more hours. Miyah went back to sleep at 3:30 and slept until about 7:30.
Thursday, March 29, 2007
Our flights were pretty uneventful, but the flight to Tokyo was delayed nearly an hour which meant once we landed in Tokyo, we were running to catch our connection to Beijing. We had less than thirty minutes to get off the plane, go through security at Narita (Tokyo) and then get to our gate. The line at security was long, but they held the plane for us and we were able to make it in plenty of time before take-off.
The flight from MN to Tokyo was long (12 hours), but we survived. We arrived in Tokyo in the middle of the night (3:45 AM our time) when we would have liked to be sleeping, but sleep didn’t come easily anyway. Miyah had the hardest time, but eventually she just crashed. I think we’ve each only slept about 3-4 hours and even those weren’t consecutive hours. Miyah tossed and turned and woke up every 20 minutes or so. I hope she sleeps really well in the hotel room tonight. I never thought I’d be anxious to climb into a Chinese bed, but I certainly am.
I was a little worried about how Miyah would do, but she’s been great. She’s still in good spirits with only a little sleep and a lot craziness. I wouldn’t call it a pleasant trip over, but it’s definitely survivable.
We miss you and love you so much, Matt!! We've thought about you throughout the day and wish you were here.....you should be glad you missed this part of the trip though, because all the flying really isn't fun. We'll try calling you again tomorrow.
Oh, and we got the suitcases of donations off to NHF, Rebecca. Thank God all of our luggage made it here safe and sound.
We have a few pictures, but I haven't figured out how to upload them on this computer yet. Pat will help me, but right now he's sleeping in his OWN ROOM! Yes, strange, but he has his own room down the hall. They couldn't even put us in rooms next to each other. I think we'll ask to just cancel the other room because there's room for us all to sleep in one. Apparently they only allow more than three people in a room at this hotel, but I think they may be able to be persuaded.
Oh, I can't believe it, but no sooner did we step off the airplane (no exaggeration), than two different ladies scolded me for not dressing Miyah warm enough. It was so hot on the plane that she was in a short sleeved shirt. It's not like we deboarded outside either and the airports are stinkin hot in Japan and China. The first lady literally ran up behind me and said, "Excuse me, but it's colder here in Beijing, she needs something warmer". Right after that a lady came around the corner and speaking Chinese to another women, pointed to Miyah's arms and said something disapproving in Chinese. It's funny because we never experienced that in last time. We were in Guangzhou with Miyah the whole time last trip and maybe because it's so much warmer there.
Anyway, when in China.... So, now you will see Miyah pictured in at least six layers of clothing. No lie...they really bundle up the children in China. They think it keeps them healthy. It'll be interesting to see if Mei Lin comes bundled even though it's in the 80s in Kunming. Someone recently received a Kunming baby all bundled in a half dozen layers.
I wondered if Miyah would ever settle down to sleep, but I just took a shower and came out and both girls are sound asleep as I type.
Okay, I can't believe I'm babbling on when I haven't slept more than six hours in two days. I had a really hard time sleeping the night before we left and barely slept on the plane. I think my circadian rhythm is kicking in and I'm ready for lunch (it's nearly 1 AM here).
Good night from China! Tomorrow we plan to meet our coordinator for lunch and skip the Temple of Heaven tour just so we can sleep in a bit. Then later we have a hutong tour (rickshaw tour of the old historic back alleys of Beijing) and then we see the Beijing Acrobats.
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
It's been a crazy, busy day and I'm just going to be so glad to get on that airplane and not have to think of what else to pack and where to pack it.
Sunday, March 18, 2007
I put a little information about Mei Lin's orphanage and Yunnan Province on our family website http://pkonfam.tripod.com/ourfamilywebsite2/id32.html. If I get some time I'll post some here later.
Time to pack!!
Saturday, January 20, 2007
The great news is, we MAY be traveling to China to get Mei Lin in a little over two weeks! I know, I can't believe it! Our agency sent us our travel packet last week and the note written in it said to be ready to possibly travel March 8 (which would be March 6th for us since we plan to go early to spend more time in Beijing)! There's a chance that we won't travel until the end of March, but we can hope!
For now you can catch us over at http://familyalwaysandforever.blogspot.com/