Wednesday, November 29, 2006

And Then There Was One

Only one diet coke left. I drank it like champagne to celebrate our last day!

Today started slow, we woke up without any rush and went down for breakfast in the hotel, a very large spread covering all the continents for sure. You can have omelets, french toast, baked beans, dim sum, cheese and crackers, hot wings, fruit, whatever you like! While we were at breakfast, we saw this guy working very hard at rowing his heavy boat upstream just outside. I thought it was such a contrast right outside our five star hotel restaurant. Only in China.

After taking some pictures in front of the fountain in the hotel, Chris took Jack to the play room because mom was not feeling all that well. We then lazed around for most of the morning alternating between packing and watching the Discovery Channel.

While Jack napped today, I was laying next to his crib and he just about melted my heart. He woke with a start and looked up at me and said, “Mama, mama!” and clambered out of the crib, into my arms and gave me a big hug! Very sweet. I am such a softie, I then let him sleep next to me…

We woke Jack up from his nap a little early and got on a bus for the 30 minute drive to the new US Consulate location. It is located in a beautiful, newer area of Guangzhou with numerous high rise buildings. There were about 65 families there today to take “the oath.” You would think that it is some sort of important ceremony, as it is the last step in Jack’s US citizenship, but, its not. Everyone stands up together and raises their right hand while many babies cry in the background because it is actually nap time. Then we all strain to hear what we are to be repeating and try to comply - then she announces, “Congratulations!” Our guide hands us a brown envelope to give to the customs people in San Francisco and we are done. Pretty anticlimactic.

We then met the rest of our remaining group at Lucy’s for dinner. Before we left, I finally gave in and took my Cipro. Chris and I have eaten nearly the same the whole time we have been here and I have no idea what might be making me not feel so good, but my stomach is in this continual churn. Chris seems to be fine. Jack polished off his customary two bowls of chicken congee and ate my sandwich and some of his crackers. I drank water. On the way back to the hotel, I took a picture of Chris with another funny sign warning spitters of their potential punishment (note that 20 yuan is about $2.60 and yeah, that is Chris pretending to spit). I also took a picture of the exuberant, “MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR!” sign on the side of our hotel. You will notice the elaborate Christmas decorations in the background of the hotel photos as well. We thought this was interesting and asked our guide in Chengdu if people in China celebrated Christmas. She laughed and said, “No, just the hotels do.” Too funny.

Anyway, enough of all that. Jack is getting into a new phase. I started out signing, “No,” until I realized he can hear that word just fine. I discovered this when I said, “No,” when my hands were full. His response? A big frown. Now, when we say, “No,” to something – like for instance, hurling a grilled cheese sandwich at the lovely girl across the table – he turns and hurls a second piece! Then, when removed from the situation, he launches into a bawl that says, “MY PARENTS JUST CHOPPED OFF MY LEG!” Some might think that this is cute. His parents thought it was cute – the first time. Now, not so cute. Another thing to work on!

So, Jack has been going to bed without much fuss lately as long as you leave a hand on him while he settles down. Tonight? He takes my hand a positions it EXACTLY where he wants it. Demanding little fellow, huh?

He is darn cute when he wants to be and smiles a lot now. If we smile at him, he smiles back. He loves to be twirled around and giggles out loud at this. He jabbers a lot when we are in the room and today got a big kick out of dropping stuff so I would say, “uh-oh!” He is holding his own sippy cup now and is still eating non-stop.

A few last thoughts about our experience…

We leave China this time with a deeper understanding of the culture and heritage of our children. The Chinese people, though not typically religious, are very spiritual and have been kind and helpful. We have enjoyed learning more about the rich history and traditions of China and look forward to bringing all of our children back here someday!

As we have shared our journey with our family and friends, we once again are reminded how blessed we are to have such a wonderful support network. You all have been awesome! Thank you all for your kind words and everything that everyone has done to help out in various ways.

Lastly, we pray for a safe journey home so that little Jack can be united with his forever family. He has waited a long time for this and we can’t wait to be home with him!

Next post – from Sacramento!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Daddy's boy

This morning, we stayed in bed late. Primarily because Jack is still getting up several times a night and it is wearing on mom. After Dad made his bottle this morning at about 5:30am, Jack and I snoozed a little later. This will have to get worked out when we are back home…

We sauntered down for breakfast, and we introduced Jack to french toast, which he devoured. We have been restricting his diet a bit due to the bad bad diapers. This has gotten better, so we are letting him eat a few more things besides rice and noodles now. Hopefully, no more digestive issues (I know you are all glad I shared that with you).

Chris took Jack to play in the play room while I snuck in a workout and showered. It was nice to have some quiet time of my own. We then had to wait in our room for a confirmation that our paperwork was in order. Chris took Jack into the hall to play with the Rife family and then we played some more in the room with some toys Jack confiscated from Emma.

Good news, our paperwork is all in order and all we have to do is go to the consulate tomorrow and take “the oath” and we are done! Jack will then be a US citizen upon setting foot on US soil! We are excited to finish all this.

Chris then put Jack down for a nap. When we got up, Jack was clearly liking all this Dad-time and was not giving me the time of day. He started to cry whenever Chris left the room (even to the bathroom). If I tried to hold his hand today, he put the hand on my side behind his back and snubbed me (this was usually reserved for Dad). It was sort of nice to see him make this shift.

This afternoon, we had the traditional “red couch” photos taken. You will see in the photos, Jack suspicious of the pending torture, me informing Jack of this pending torture and then Jack actually BEING tortured.

After the photo torture, we went on another formula-hunting-trip/adventure. We took a cab (with Maggie, our guide’s help) to Carrefour, which she described as the French version of Wal-Mart. Let me tell you, it was a confusing maze of aisles and escalators and people! We had a heck of a time finding the formula – I think it took us about an hour of searching. Of course, NO ONE in this place admitted they spoke English. This time, we did ask for the scoop – which in China mysteriously does not actually come with the formula, you must ask the clerk for it separately. She dug around behind all the bags and dug out the scoop. Now, Jack can have his formula measured! Chris has been semi-guessing. Something we would have NEVER considered with child #1 (Darby, you lucky girl). Child #4, no scoop? Chinese soup spoon and a good eyeball will work just fine. Throw a little extra in for good measure since he’s skinny…

This evening, we went to dinner at Lucy’s with most of the group to bid a fond farewell to some of the families that will be leaving tomorrow. As I sat there at dinner, I was in awe. Here we sit with children with various needs; one child blind due to cataracts, one child with a cleft nose, two repaired cleft lips and Jack and his cute little ears. All these parents, taking a leap of faith that all will be okay, willing to do anything for these children. They are all special and their little personalities are beginning to emerge. It is wonderful to see them all opening up, willing to share a smile and even laugh. They all know by now that their parents are here for them and will take care of them forever. We all face varying degrees of therapy, surgery and challenges, but I know the Lord is with us all.

Before bed, Jack got a dose of Benadryl (for itching) and a head to toe scabies treatment as this seems to be spreading. He was definitely not thrilled with having cold lotion smeared all over his itchy body. Hopefully this will do the trick and maybe I will get some sleep too.

Last day in Guangzhou, tomorrow.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Medical Exam Day and some adventures

This morning after breakfast, we had to go to the clinic for Jack’s medical exam. He was not thrilled with being examined. The pictures speak for themselves, but I will say that he was never tortured while at the clinic. Interestingly enough, he passed the hearing test! He turned when the nurse made the sounds in each direction.

We then met with the Rife Family and walked to the department store in search of Jack’s brand of formula. An interesting walk. No success on the formula, but we then ventured into the back alley jade market and found some neat little treasures. We walked back and after Chris had told the Rife boys (teenagers) about the meat market we ran across two years ago, they wanted to see it. Well, we found it. I suggested we turn back after a half a block – yuck. Chris and the others insisted they saw dog carcasses among the goats. It was disgusting.

So, after this little adventure, Jack took a short nap in the room and then we met some other families for some tours. We went to these same places when we were here two years ago, but thought it would be good to get out of the hotel for the day. We toured the Six Banyon Trees Buddist Temple and Jack was blessed by the buddist monk here. We also lit some incense and made a wish for each of our children.

Next, we toured the old Chen family temple. The Chen family is the largest family name in the Guangdong province. The temple is beautiful and now serves as a museum and tourist attraction. It was originally built as a place for the family to pay their respects to their ancestors and school their children.

Last, we went to a provincial craft shop and poked around a bit. It was here that Chris and Sal (one the dads we were with), found some snake wine that one could try a sample of. Snake wine is maybe not what you would expect – it is liquor with a snake in the bottle. Yes, a whole, real snake. Probably a bit more disgusting than tequila with the worm, huh? Well, my dear husband actually willingly tried the stuff (and paid a small sum for the privilege)! He did not give it a good review – something like the most disgusting thing he ever had in his mouth…

Tonight, we met some families at Lucy’s for dinner. Families who have been here before will be saddened to hear that the noodle shop next to the White Swan has closed. This was our favorite place for pan-fried dumplings and we were looking forward to it! So, Lucy’s down the street instead tonight. Jack was presented with his first french fry and poked at it like it was a twig. He was happier to eat his chicken congee (overcooked, watered down rice with chicken bits) and devoured two bowls.

Jack is really comfortable and content with us both now. He is very interactive and smiles a lot. He listens very carefully to us and now responds to “Jack” consistently. We are also pretty sure that he is speaking some Chinese to us. Today, we noticed that Jack has two small patches of pustules – one on his leg and one on the small of his back. We immediately suspected it was scabies so I took a snapshot and sent it to the pediatrician in CA (isn’t technology awesome?). The Dr. confirmed the suspicion and we will spot treat tonight and hope it fades. Other than that, Jack is perfectly healthy and ready to grow!

Tonight, he had a little chat with Chris about his siblings and grandparents – view the video to hear his sweet voice!

Tomorrow, we will get the final okay for our paperwork – only a few days left!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Paperwork and Pictures

Our second day in Guangzhou was a bit of a lazy one. We slept in a bit, which was nice as Jack is still waking up startled about every few hours each night. He does go right back to sleep, but this is wearing on me a bit. The breakfast buffet here is amazing, so we took advantage of that. Jack sat in a high chair for the first time, which was great so that he can smear his goo on his surroundings and not his loving parents.

After breakfast, we went to get Jack’s picture taken. You’d thought they filled his mouth with lemons, but he actually just hates to have his picture taken and you have to sneak up on him to get a good one. They weren’t interested in being very sneaky. We also picked up our freshly laundered clothes (I had to include a picture of this - it was 92 yuan for this - about $12).

After that little adventure, Chris took Jack to the play room and I filled out paperwork for his visa. Then, while Jack took a nap, I snuck a little shopping in. This afternoon, I spent a few hours with Jack in the play room. He made all kinds of friends and definitely loves the trucks! This play room is definitely going to get used by the Herne’s – Jack loves it in there.

This evening, we went to a Thai restaurant that was very yummy. Jack polished off two huge bowls of congee and some Thai crackers and some pumpkin. Only way to say it is that this kid can truly EAT. He should be about 4 pounds heavier by the time we leave China!

We played in the room this evening and then mister-I-don’t-want-to-go-to-bed was tortured into a slumber.

We have a few adventures planned for tomorrow, so I will keep this short!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Day 1 in Guangzhou, Ornery Boy and WORDS!

This morning we crammed and shoved and squeezed all of our Chengdu treasures into our bags BARELY getting it all in. I am down to two diet cokes and Chris didn’t make me drink them before we left. At the airport, our bags were slightly overweight and we were lucky or our fabulous guide Sandy said something sweet, because I still have two diet cokes and our bags were all clearly overweight. We were sad to say goodbye to our very wonderful guide, Sandy. She will remain in our hearts forever and we will definitely be keeping in touch with her.

Jack was pretty excited in the airport and insisted on carrying his little lunchbox through security and to the gate. We survived another gate change announced in Chinese. I have found a good strategy is to identify a “marker person” – today it was a lady in orange. When she moved, we moved. We got on the right flight and Jack sat nicely in his own seat and made mischief. He drew his first picture on the China Daily (and partly on the drop-down tray), read the safety card over and over, played I-drop-it-and-you-pick-it-up and ate the mystery lunch. He was very cute and garnered a lot of attention. Once again, when we showed people our explanation card, we got the “thumbs up.” He was a big smiley boy the whole way and didn’t nap.

We met our guide, Maggie and headed off to the White Swan. We understand that the US Consulate has moved since the last time we were here. Maggie says the only thing that has changed around the White Swan is that there are more stores – go figure. As soon as we arrived, we saw many of our Beijing group and everyone seems to be doing well. It was nice to see everyone with their children.

Jack has really opened up today. He is interacting with other people (he played “kick the beachball” in the hall with another little boy) and smiling a lot. He hung out with Chris outside some shops while I poked around and was perfectly happy (and Dad didn’t even have food). But, when we went to dinner, and he really showed his ornery side! He was grabbing stuff on the table and pounding things with the chopsticks and generally being a handful! He really does not like it when I tell him “no” and frowns or jerks away from me in defiance. A little pickle he was indeed!

So, when we get back to the room, I figured I would try to settle him down a little and grabbed the books and the photo album and sat down with him. I was pointing to the pictures and telling him who they were. We got to the last page, and I was saying, “grandma, grandpa.” He liked this page, so I repeated it several times. Then he VERY CLEARLY said, “rampa,” “ramma.” He said this several times and pointed to the correct picture each time! Wow! I even closed the book and he pulled it back, opened to the right page and repeated it several times! So, his first official verbal word is, “grandpa.” Then, he went on this little verbal rant, jabbering and slobbering all over the room. He pointed to me and said “mama.” He pulled out the little baby picture books and babbled his way through them. This is really the first sounds we have heard from him and if this is any indication, he is going to give Jaden a run for her money! He seems to be perhaps speaking some Chinese, because he makes the same sounds for the same pictures every time. His favorite pictures were definitely the cars and trucks.

Anyway, this was all a very exciting end to our travel day. We begin our visa paperwork for Jack tomorrow…

Friday, November 24, 2006

Photos - Last Day in Chengdu

Last Day in Chengdu – Panda Research Base

Well, today is our last day in Chengdu and we have to say in many ways we are sad to leave. We have really enjoyed our time here, getting to know Jack’s birthplace. This is a great city, full of the old and new and rich in history. The people have been both curious and friendly and the food has been tremendous. It will be sad in some ways to leave Jack’s roots behind, but he is feeling more comfortable with us and it is a good time to move on…

This morning we got up early and Sandy took us to the Panda Research Base. The Sichuan province is very well known for Pandas as their natural habitat is primarily contained in the province. The Panda Research Base here in Chengdu houses 50 pandas and is beginning to release them back into the wild. They have made tremendous strides in breeding and have raised many baby pandas here. We were able to get very close to both the Giant Pandas and the Red Pandas. The habitat that these pandas live in is really amazing and very natural with lots of space. Bonus for me – Jack let Chris carry him for most of our visit!

After another wild cab ride, Sandy brought us Chinese fast food to our room and we paid about $1.50 for the whole thing and it was yummy! We got two orders of spicy dumplings, two orders of spicy noodles and a huge order of Jack’s favorite, chicken dumplings. Jack is eating non-stop and we are seriously wondering where this kid is putting it all – he will rival Carter!

This afternoon we spent trying to cram all of our treasures into our luggage, strategically placing things so as to not be overweight on any of our bags – a true art form! This evening, Sandy took us to a tourist area for our last great Sichuan meal and a nice walk.

Jack has officially pounded the spinner toy into submission and it no longer works except as a hammer. He is smiling a lot now and will walk with us no problem. He is going to sleep in the crib with only a short protest and is just a sweet little guy! He played on the bed today for a long time putting all his toys in and out of his lunchbox and pounding them all with the spinner. He is signing “more” consistently and knows the sign “no” (he responds with a resounding frown). He can definitely hear and responds to his Chinese nickname “Guo Guo” (which sounds like go-go) if there is not too much background noise.

Next post: Guangzhou!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Catching Up on Photos




(Isn't this one enough to just melt your heart???)





Happy Thanksgiving - we have documents!!!!

Chris' thoughts:

Today we got Jacks adoption registration form from the Sichuan provincial government, so he can travel to Guangzhou with us on Saturday. Along with that we now have his Chinese passport so when we get to Guangzhou we will need to complete his visa paperwork and then we are home free.

Tonight Sonja and I have decided to tag team the blog. There are so many things here that I find amusing that I thought I should spend some sentences detailing them. So here goes: the main topic on the board is traffic and riding in cabs. If you don’t know, you cannot drive in China unless you have a Chinese drivers license. After riding in cabs and busses for the last week I can tell you that most 2nd graders who have driven the bumper cars at any amusement park in the US should get a grandfathered drivers license in China. This trip to China we have seen many more traffic signals than our last trip, which is not many. Chengdu is a city of 6 – 8 million, and they have about the same number of traffic signals as the city of Fair Oaks. Of course as in bumper cars, these signals are only a suggestion of what an organized society would expect from drivers. If you stand in our hotel room and look down onto the intersection below, it is 8 lanes wide by 8 lanes wide and always full. In Chinese, 8 lanes wide equates to 10 – 14 cars wide, plus 4 rickshaws, 20 bikes, and 10 to 30 pedestrians. This total does not include the brave traffic officer standing in the center of the intersection with the lighted wand directing it all. If the officer was the maestro, and traffic an orchestra then the music would sound like Iron Maiden crossed with Liberace. From the ground level Sonja and I have crossed these streets daily and we feel fairly safe, but it is crazy because the cars will turn into the pedestrian area against a red light, and it is commonplace. The cars do not travel fast because then there would be mayhem, but they do manage to get around. So my ranting is done, and if you ever find yourself in a Chinese Cab, I suggest closing your eyes like I do.

Sonja’s thoughts:

Early this morning, we met Sandy and took a cab to the silk brocade factory. I have to say, this was amazing. The silk is woven on these huge looms that take two people to operate. The patterns are loaded on the top of the loom and the top person is responsible for pulling up the threads at the right time according to the pattern. The person on the bottom of the loom is responsible for pushing the threads through one by one. As a team, they can weave just 7 cm in one day! Many of the patterns they were weaving here are over 2000 years old and all of them have some particular meaning, often spiritual. The history of silk weaving can be traced to Sichuan, and so Chengdu is an area well known for the silk brocades produced here. In fact the trade route from Chengdu to the Middle East was known as the Southern Silk Road. So, the silk weaving and silk embroidery done in this area is well known for being very beautiful and of high quality. We really enjoyed the tour. Really, though, the big news here was that Jack allowed Chris to hold him while we walked around. Of course there were some caveats; Chris had a never-ending supply of crackers, and I had to be within view. Good nonetheless!

We then returned to the hotel, once again via cab (I think this is why Chris has the cab rides on his mind!), and had lunch in our room while Jack napped. It is raining outside and we are very weary of the attention we garner when out and about, so it was nice to stay in. Unfortunately, housekeeping did not clean our room since we were in it. So, the next time we left, we had a bilingual conversation with housekeeping. Well, okay, so my definition of bilingual is we spoke English and they spoke Chinese. When we walked away, we figured either they were a.) going to clean our room while we were out, or b.) they asked us if they had cleaned our room yet because they couldn’t remember and they thought we said not to bother.

We met Sandy downstairs and she took us (via cab) to the pearl factory. This was very touristy and full of Koreans. Interesting, but we only stayed a short while. Again, Chris and his crackers were a hit with Jack and he is liking Dad more and more.

We then headed to a restaurant for our big Thanksgiving dinner. It was Sandy’s idea to take us for Beijing Duck (aka Peking Duck). This was another wonderful meal (Sandy added some of our Sichuan spicy favorites to the order too)! So, we all agreed that we have much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. We have now 4 amazing children and an incredibly supportive and wonderful network of friends and family that just couldn’t be better! How great is that?

I will close with a little more about Jack. He is starting to get a little more inquisitive and curious. Today, his smiles are emerging and he is feeling much more secure. As I type this, he is supposed to be sleeping. Instead, he has figured out that there are switches on the nightstand that turn lights off and on. He also just peeled off his pajama bottoms under the covers. I think we will be hopping when he teams up with Jaden back home…

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Jack is opening up – he has his first word

First, let me please apologize for the technical difficulties! For some reason, we were unable to access the blog for the last week. Good news – after some help from the US (thanks John and Christy) posting everything up through yesterday, we are mysteriously able to log on to blogger now. So, hopefully our posts will appear daily from now on. Ironically, I have now been able to load some video clips into YouTube and they are linked here, BUT I am not having great success posting photos, so those may be added a little later. For now, enjoy the video!

This morning, we took it easy. Sandy is busy pursuing our paperwork and needed the morning for some meetings, so we just hung out at the hotel. We are little bit tired of our rock-star status and everyone staring at us and whispering. Jack is walking around now, so we cruised around the hotel floors and made nice with all the staff. Jack does not want anyone to touch him, but he loves to wave goodbye to everyone.

Before his nap, I was feeding Jack some crackers and teaching him the sign for “more” - big news, he signs this now by himself! So, his first word is “more.” Smart little boy! Jack cried for about 30 minutes before his nap, which we thought was a HUGE improvement. When he got up, we fed him ramen noodles for lunch on the bed again and then met Sandy for the afternoon.

First, we went to see the spot where Jack was found. From the police report, we know that he was found under and overpass on the west side of town. Sandy tells us that there are a lot of migrant workers that live in this area and many of the people are very poor. She said that she believes that Jack’s birthparents left him in this area because it is close to the location of the old orphanage that is now a senior home. She believes that they were probably migrant workers and did not know that the orphanage had moved to its new location a few years earlier. The sign outside the building still says it is the Children’s Welfare Institute. It is a bustling area where migrant workers wait for day-labor opportunities so there are many, many people around all the time. It is likely that his birthparents could not afford any medical treatment for him and were forced to make this tragic choice. It was a very emotional day for me to think about two years ago what painful decisions his birthparents faced that resulted in Jack being placed in our arms. We are so pleased to have some photos and information that we can share with him.

Next, Sandy took us to get a massage at a local massage place. The massage was AWESOME. The young people who did our massages were very curious about Jack and asked Sandy a lot of questions. They just couldn’t understand why we would adopt a child when we already have 3! The one child policy certainly has a far reaching cultural impact. I don’t think there is anything we could have said that would have helped them understand. They enjoyed looking at the pictures of the kids and said Jack was a lucky boy (there was no explaining that we were the lucky ones).

After this, we went to a Sichuan restaurant for dinner and Sandy ordered only local spicy food for the adults and some dumplings for Jack. She told us she would never order that food for her American clients and we were so glad she did! It was very flavorful and we loved it. I don’t think Sandy slipped anything by on us this time – I think we ate chicken – but I guess we will never know for sure… At dinner, I discovered that Jack is indeed a little ticklish and I was able to get him to laugh. He is definitely feeling more comfortable with us! Tonight, only 5 minutes of crying and the fingers went in the mouth and he was sound asleep shortly after that - what a relief...

So, a little more about this precious little boy… He eats non-stop and will eat anything we put in his mouth. He has been eating nearly all day. We have discovered though, that we have to watch that he is swallowing. Yesterday, he had watermelon for breakfast and then an hour later when I gave him his bottle, he spit a whole bunch of watermelon at me! He loves his little light spinner and has been pounding it on stuff all day. Now, it has a vibration problem as the spinner is no longer straight. He doesn’t seem to care and is sleeping with it again. He sucks his forefinger and thumb on his left hand – at the same time – when he is sleepy. His finger has a huge callous on it from his teeth we think. He has a very sweet smile and loves to run into my arms. He is very smart and conscientious. If something falls on the floor, he runs over to pick it up and hand it to me. He is just a very sweet boy and we are very blessed!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Transition and Super Dad

Nov 21

Well, yesterday was an exciting day for us and clearly a terrifying day for one little boy. At the orphanage, the director told us that she knew Jack was our son because he came to me and was not crying when I held him (of course, I had the food). He really didn’t want to have anything to do with Chris, but he was stuck to me like Velcro. By the end of the day, my back was killing me and I was covered in slobber (I think a clear sign of a happy mother?). He finally gave in to sleep on my chest after a long cry and then we let him sleep between us for the rest of the night. He just seemed so scared.

Today is definitely better. This morning, he let Chris feed him his morning bottle (without me next to him). Though he is two, we think he is accustomed to 3 bottles a day. This is good for us as it provides a nice time to bond with him. So I actually got to take a shower without my Velcro. We then headed to the Registrar’s office to complete the adoption registration. After this paperwork, the adoption is final. He is just going to have to get used to us now – he is stuck with us!

After the adoption registration, we took a walk to the People’s Park. Right now in Chengdu, the Chrysanthemum Festival is going on. There are flowers everywhere and the People’s Park is really pretty. There were some signs everywhere that had peculiar English translations that we got a kick out of. There were many people in the park doing dances, exercising, playing games at tables and walking through the park. We really enjoyed our time at the park and bought some cool souvenirs at a more “local” stand. Us carrying Jack around generates a lot of interest, so we show people the note our guide has given us explaining why we have him and everyone gives us the “thumbs up.” So, by this time my back was really killing me as Jack won’t let Chris carry him without making a complete scene. So, I talked Chris into taking a rickshaw back to the hotel. If you hear in the news that a rickshaw driver had a heart attack after pedaling two Americans in Chengdu, China, I am afraid we are to blame. Poor guy, we gave him a workout!

So, when we get back to the hotel, Jack is very tired and still terrified to go to sleep. Super Dad to the rescue! Chris stuck it out with Jack and got him to sleep IN THE CRIB! Chris then encouraged me to get a massage to help with my back (oh, and I think he took a nap with Jack, so don’t think he is too generous). I went down to get a massage and I can tell you that it is hard to convey to the Chinese beauty salon that you want a back massage when you don’t speak Chinese! I got a neck and head massage instead and it felt good, though my back is really no better. Oh well.

So after all this, Jack wakes up a happy boy. He ran over to me from across the room smiling this afternoon and is right now sitting on the bed eating some strange Chinese crackers that are both sweet and salty. The notary came to our hotel room and notarized all of our registration paperwork (while I fed Jack the Chinese version of ramen noodles with chopsticks on the bed). I thought that was all kind of weird. We paid him and now we are done with all of our paperwork here in Chengdu. We just have to wait now for the official copy of the adoption certificate and then we are off to Guangzhou.

This evening, our guide Sandy, took us to a local Chinese restaurant. At this place you can order small samplings of several different kinds of dishes. They were all very good and many were very spicy. Sandy let us just dig in and one of the dishes Chris and I both liked happened to be cow stomach. Sandy got a big laugh out of this. I have to say if she had asked beforehand, I would have declined and it was actually pretty good.

After dinner, we went to the local opera. The show was wonderful and Jack enjoyed it as much as us. The colorful costumes were mesmerizing to him and I think he heard the music as it was quite loud.

So, Jack is finally asleep in his crib after a long, hard cry. He cries and cries and almost falls asleep and then looks around and realizes where he is and launches off again. I think falling asleep is just especially scary for him. Overall he did much better today and even gave us several smiles. He walked around the room and stood in the bathroom this evening while I took a shower. He has been carrying this light up toy that we gave him non-stop and is even sleeping with it now. He is so happy that he has figured out how to push the button by himself. Anyway, better today and better tomorrow I am sure.

I am off to bed, it is late here. Darby, Carter and Jaden, we miss you much and can’t wait to be home!


Gotcha Day!

Nov 20

We woke up early without an alarm clock this morning, imagine that! Sonja and I were both a bit too excited to get the day started so we were up and waiting for our guide a full half hour before our meeting time.

We loaded into a nice cab and rode about an hour thru the city of Cheng Du to the orphanage on the far western side. It was another crazy cab ride and raining off and on to add to the excitement. We arrived at the orphanage at 9 am and were greeted by the director herself, plus her staff. After introductions and document signing, Jack was brought in within a whirlwind of activity. He took to Sonja without delay which in our opinion is a good sign. Soon after we got Jack, we got to visit with 2 other children whom are waiting to be adopted, Sonja has been in contact with their families and they asked us to check on the kids while they wait for their travel approvals. Both kids were fantastic, dancing and singing for us as well as eating as much candy as we would put on the table. Jack also liked the candy pretty well, other than he did spit out the M&M’s that we brought along. We got to tour the orphanage and it was immaculate, both the grounds and the building are amazing. The kids in this orphanage have it better than most kids on the planet when it comes to housing and yard.

Without fanfare, we left with Jack on our ride back to the hotel. One item of note here should be that there were no men in the orphanage, all ladies. This presents an issue as Jack has been a bit scared to come near me, so he has been in his mom’s arms all day and also why I am writing tonight’s post rather than Sonja. This has been a tough day on the little guy and he cries pretty hard when Sonja puts him down or acts like she might put him down, as well as when he gets his diaper changed. We were able to peel the layers of his orphanage clothes off (to dress him in the clothes we brought), and as most of you know the Chinese are fundamentalists when it comes to layers. I think he might go to bed at some point tonight (this is prayer request here) with less clothes on than he has ever had before.

So we got back to the hotel, ate a small lunch in the room and he took his nap (in Sonja’s arms). When he woke we wandered thru the local shopping district and found him a couple of outfits so he now has more than one pair of clothes. Our guide took us to a diner called Western food for dinner, it turned out that they only have silverware, not chopsticks. I kind of liked the pizza with carmelized onions, chicken bones, and some other sort of meat, but it will not become a fad in the US is suspect. We came back tonight and started our registration paperwork which we will submit at 8 am tomorrow. Somehow I forgot about all the paperwork that goes on when in China. So that is the post for today, I hear the baby snoring in Sonja’s arms right now. Each time she has tried to put him down for the last 3 hours he has screamed, so he might be sleeping where he is tonight, on our bed next to his crib. I am learning a bit already about hearing impaired children, they like to be able to see you at all times. I suppose this comes from them not being able to hear you if you are behind them, anyway so all day he has wanted to keep both Sonja and I in front of him. I suspect our dog Rugger is going to love this part of his personality.

We had a great Gotcha Day and we look forward to completing this section of our trip so we can get to Guangzhou and then back home. We have missed Darby, Carter, and Jaden something fierce so the sooner we get home the better.

Nov 19 - Chengdu

Nov 19

We made it to Chengdu! We have had a GREAT first day here in Chengdu!

This morning, we got up bright and early for our flight from Beijing. Our guide helped us check in. We had one bag that was slightly overweight and they let it go – so, I didn’t have to drink one of my precious remaining diet cokes. Our guide helped us check in and we said goodbye to her at security. Our gate was 25 and when we got to the gate, there was actually 25A-H. So, we looked up our flight on the board and proceeded to gate 25D. We were in a sea of Chinese speaking people and NONE of the announcements were in English. We are assuming this is like a typical puddle jumper gate area and we will be on a small plane. Well, after a while, we realize that people are boarding through the gate, so we start following. At the last minute, we realize the flight number has changed! Yikes! Over to the board again and sure enough, we must have missed the gate change announcement and people are boarding our flight over at 25H! We race over and get on our bus to the plane. When we board the plane we were astonished to get on an Airbus 330 – which seats the same number of people as our United flight from San Francisco to Beijing! We were seated 8 across and the plane was about 90% full! Big flight! We left and arrived on time and found our luggage no problem.

One crazy taxi ride later and we are at our hotel, the Yinhe Dynasty Hotel. It is a local hotel, and is very nice. We then settled into our room and met our guide Sandy for a little walk around the area. Man, there are a LOT of bikes here! Sandy says that there are 300 new cars on the road every day, but the bikes seem to far outnumber the cars. Rickshaws everywhere and bikes, bikes, bikes. Sandy took us to the grocery store for water and then on a little tour of the area. Our hotel is downtown, so we are in the middle of a lot of shopping areas. She showed us the department stores, which are government run, and the local private market stores in a pedestrian area. There were just so many people everywhere it was just plain crazy. Little street vendors selling food, jewelry, toys, etc. and people walking, riding bikes, mopeds everywhere. It is Sunday, so there were a lot of families out and about. Sandy went back to the hotel and we went back out ourselves to buy a few things for Jack for tomorrow. We found a cute stuffed giraffe that plays music and some crackers. We have found some stores to go to tomorrow to buy him some clothes and shoes and will also let him pick out a toy or two. Darby will be pleased to know that orange seems to be a very popular color here. Carter, the street vendors are selling little turtles about the size of your fist. I thought of you when I saw them, but I am sorry to say that I don’t think I could bring them on the plane!

Sandy says laundry is a little expensive, so while we were out, we bought a Tide soap bar to do our laundry ourselves. When we got back to the room, we washed our pants and it was completely disgusting. I can’t believe I was wearing those clothes. They were so filthy and we think it is just from the pollution and maybe the places we have been sitting. Now we have clothes hanging all over the hotel room and it will probably take everything 3 days to dry .

After the laundry, we met Sandy for dinner. We could not get a cab, so we took rickshaws to the restaurant – boy was that a crazy ride! We told Sandy that we like spicy food and that we wanted to try the Hot Pot, which is a local favorite. I have to say, this meal was definitely a major highlight of our trip so far. I am not exactly sure what all we ate, but boy was it good. The best way to describe Hot Pot is that it is the Chinese version of fondue. They brought out a huge bowl of broth with spices including a slew of red chili peppers and brought it to a boil on the burner under the table. Then they brought out a variety of things to toss in the pot; noodles, fish, spiced beef, lotus root, potatoes, other vegetables, some mystery seafood, sausages and I think some pork. We tossed this stuff all in the pot and then fished it out with a slotted spoon when it was cooked (with chopsticks!). We then dipped it in sesame oil with a bunch of garlic in it and ate it up. This was one of the best meals we have ever eaten! It was fabulous. Darby and Carter, you guys would have thought it was fun and we missed having you here for this! We ate at a table outside with a fabulous view of the city lights. We really had a great time.

Lastly, Chris may be holding out on me as he is saying that he is not sharing my misery, but I can barely walk without my quads reminding me of my day on the Great Wall yesterday! Man, am I sore! I have told Chris that I am sure it is because the steps were about waist high for me (okay, maybe not waist high, but they sure seemed it!).

So, now we are back at our room and the crib is here, all ready for Jack. We are all packed up for our trip to the orphanage tomorrow morning and excited to meet our new son!

Next Post: Gotcha Day!