Saturday, June 30, 2007

Leaving Beijing

Well, it's been a crazy few days. On Friday we visited Tiannamen Square and the Forbidden City and were rained on - actually we were soaked!

It is enormous and we saw new and different things than the last time there, which is great since much of the central structure is under reconstruction in preparation for the Olympics next year. It is still a popular draw, and even with the rain it was still packed. Here are some pictures:

I also discovered that there is indeed a Starbucks in the Forbidden City. They don't have a sign hanging in the window any longer, but they have a stand in the gift shop. Here is my picture with the local barista. The presence of the Starbucks has caused many issues in China recently - and part of me understands not wanting such a commercial enterprise in the middle of the Forbidden City. But, if they go would the space be replaced by a Chinese version of Starbucks with barista and coffee? If so, I don't think it matters who it is (although I believe Chinese pride would say yes, it does matter....)

Yesterday we went to the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall - farther out from Beijing than Badaling, and I'm so glad we did - it was incredible! We took a cable car up to the top of the wall, which is perched on the top edge of the mountain, and then you can walk along the wall once you are up there. I walked to the base of where the stairs went up the mountain one direction, and down to the 1st tower the other direction - a huge distance - maybe 1km where it was easy walking around...

It poured almost the entire time we were up there, and we watched the fog come up, and then go down again - and it was just stunning.

in this picture you can see where I walked - all the way to teh far right corner before it starts going up the hill again - other families went all the way up!
On the way down we realized that we were riding in the Bill Clinton car, so we have a great picture of that lucky piece of travel!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

For Gwenn & Ella

Hi Girls,

I wanted to let you know I had a fun time shopping for you yesterday. Gwenn, I got you exactly what you asked for - and Ella, same for you! I love you and miss you, and cannot wait to see you again.

Today I'm going to a Forbidden City, and tomorrow to the Great Big Wall... I will be on my web camera for you tomorrow afternoon, and I'll try one more time before I leave for the day.

Love you,


Morning of Day 3

Yesterday we saw so many kiddos, and each one I saw I thought if that one would be about Lucy's age and size... I'm definately beyond that surreal feeling as you travel, and travel and travel - and now in the reality, which is much better. It's been a long wait - although not as long as the families who are here meeting their children. Most of them have been waiting for over 18 months for a referral, and probably longer if you consider their paperwork!

Today we'll see Tiannamen Square and the Forbidden City. It should be interesting. We also have another family joining us who will be in Fujian with us! That is so great! I hope we all get along as well as the Dynes family and myself...

Well, I actually slept through the full night and woke up with the wake-up call. What a change! I'll write more this afternoon, since we'll be back early!

Wow - 2nd day in Beijing

Well, we have already seen and done so much it's hard to keep track of what we've done.

Today was our day at the Summer Palace, and the Lama Temple.

So the Summer Palace just what it says - the summer palace of the emporer. Think of it as the lake house, in MN speak. That is in the middle picture above. I love the girl posing on the right - with the fake blond curls attached... More comments later. Just pictures to share. I'll write in the morning...

Split pants in action...

Wednesday, June 27, 2007


Peking Opera and Mao Watches

Just when we had decided for a night of acrobatics, our guide Peter has arranged for us a night at the opera! So, for a "mere" $35 we will have tickets tonight. I'll write more later, but it should be fun.

Also, we have had our successful journey to purchase a WATCH. After being bawled out by our guide for being late this morning (none of us have watches) we were told to go and buy a watch. I'm sporting a groovy style that will be passed down as a gift for Natasha... (N - just like you asked for:)

Mine is a little bit different - instead of a star for 12, it is a sun. But otherwise, remarkably the same. And what a deal that I can use the gift before giving (Tashi, thanks for letting me use... if it breaks I'll get another).

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Day 1 in Beijing

Well, we are into the afternoon of day 1 in Beijing, and we are having one rip-roaring MN-type thunder storm. The skies were so dark just before the rain started - and our timing was perfect. Now it is just pouring down, and I have the windows open in my room to catch the breeze that is coming in. It is lighter now, and it smells fantastic. Earlier the heat and humidity were just oppresive, so this is a welcome relief.

A group of families travelling with Red Thread reunion tours are in the hotel. They are the first that I've met, and I talked with a woman from Mankato today, and she and her girls are having a super time. It looked well organized, and the girls were certainly having a good time...

Today was our hutong tour. Hutongs are the old streets/family homes in Beijing and northern China, and there are very few left. Thank goodness there is such a thriving tourist industry to keep the rest of the hutongs from being torn down!

Many of the hutongs are being sold to the wealthy, where having one of these old homes is now quite a status symbol.

Our first stop on the tour was at a local elementary school. It was fantastic. I could not believe what these kids in primary school were studying. We sat in on a calculus lecture, and it was great - for the 10 year olds! All schools in China (aside from kindergarten) are private, so you have to pay for your education. There were lots of boys, many girls and they had a great time. It was very interesting - the teachers had a firm control of the class, but they had a raucus class discussion going on... kids were shouting out answers, encouraging each other - very different from our controlled classrooms, but it worked. I think Gwenn and Ella would do well for a while in this school! Here are some pictures..

After the school we rode on the rickshaws to the Bell Tower. For those who remember me talking about it before, it is the very cool tower at the top of the center of Beijing with the wicked stairs that reach to the sky. Interestingly, getting up wasn't so bad - it was getting down them! Here is a picture of those treacherous stairs. :-)

After making it up and down from the tower, we got to have a tea ceremony. I doubt it was really traditional, unless being a stand up comedian is part of the tradition. We had a great time learning about local tea's, and some lore around how to seep the tea, and then serve it. While we were there a group of Canadian families came in with their newly adopted children - many under 10 months old. They were pretty darn cute, and made me look forward to what is coming.

At the end of the tour we were lucky enough to have lunch at the home of one family in the hutong, and it was fantastic. We also learned how to roll the dough for dumplings, stuff them and pinch them. Needless to say, none of us will be quiting our day job...

The food was fantastic, and I want to try some of what we ate today at home when we get back. I had dumplings with scrambled egg, cucumber, carrots and something else? mixed it, and they were to die for.

These last two pictures are just general pictures I snapped on the tour. It was quite muggy as you can see, but beautiful. I wish I had a picture just before the rain started - it was incredible.
Well, I'll write more later. Tonight the other couple (Michelle & Travis) and I have to purchases watches, since we started out today almost 30 minutes late!

Thoughts on arriving in Beijing

Well, I've made it to Beijing. Here it is about 8p Tuesday night, and it is around 4am Tuesday morning in Seattle... I'm glad to be here for a few days.

So - my thoughts on travel today:
  • Road rage turns out to be universal. As Beijing (BJ) continues to add cars, this will become more and more of an issue
  • I've heard more Christmas music today than I have in the last 4 months. The man on the plane next to me had "Ode to Joy" as his ring tone.
  • There seems to be no sun in BJ... just smog/haze/muggy hangover on the city
  • They are building at a frightening rate - I have no doubt they will be done, but with hundreds of thousands working 24/7 to get it all done

I'm also tired of seeing my blogger entry in Chinese instead of English... I want my English logon. I'd also like to view my blog, which I can't because it's blocked. I can input, but not view. Lorna - you can screen shot and send to me if you'd like. Also, I can't seem to see comments - or at least, if I can, I don't know it because my input screen is in Chinese. So, apologies to not replying to anyone. Just email me at either address and we'll be good.

It is much more expensive than the last time, although I haven't determined if I think that it is the agency or just Chinese inflation. I'm also sad to say that I don't see the standard 8rmb exchange rate for $1.

Tonight I hope to sleep well. Family - I am going on tours starting at 8:30a here in BJ tomorrow, and if I'm not online when you are, it's because of that. We'll find time and be sure that we can talk on the webcam soon. I miss you all so much girls!

OK. More later I'm sure, but for now, just rest...

Monday, June 25, 2007

Notes on Travel

Well, the best part so far is that the entire interface on my blogger account is now in Chinese. These things are way too smart for me.

So the trip into Guangzhou was great, but long. The first flight into Tokyo was delayed by an hour or so... and I arrived with basically no time for the transfer to the flight to GZ. Thankfully, I made the flight - and so did my luggage. I was able to sleep a big which was great. Sat next to another MS person who was headed to Beijing (BJ) for meetings, and we had a nice time talking. The flight from Tokyo was bumpy and long, and I was glad to be done with it.

When arriving in GZ I had to wait to get the stroller. When they opened the doors to the outside it was like getting hit with a blast from the oven. Gwenn & Ella - you would not believe how hot it was. Imagine if granma made cookies, and you opened the oven - that is how hot it felt.

I know that it was been a few days already for you, but for me it feels like only once since I had such long airplane rides. It is now Tuesday AM, and this afternoon I'll be in BJ.

I was a bit nervous about finding my way to the hotel, when leaving teh customs area, there was Anna waiting for me with my name on a sign! I have to say that the relief of having that waiting for me at 11p at night was comforting. And good thing - it would have been a 10 minute walk in the sauna of GZ, so I was glad for the ride.

The hotel here in GZ (Novotel) is stunning. The hotel has been open for 4 months, and it is spectacular. For $80 a night I can get one of the nicer rooms that I've had in Asia. However, one feature of the rooms is a bit too modern - especially since I was going to have a roomie along! The bathroom walls are glass, so you can see directly into the showers and tub! :-) I was quite glad that it was just me last night, instead of telling someone to turn around for the 20 minutes while I took my shower!

According to my laptop it is now 2:45p on Monday afternoon - but it is already 5:45a Tuesday morning here. I'm a bit too thick to do the math, but I think it is about a 15 hour difference...

I'll write more from BJ, along with some pictures. Miss everyone!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Leaving in a few hours

Well, last post until I'm in Beijing on Tuesday - I've got one big suitcase, my duffel bag, stroller and backpack. YIKES! I wish I could post the photo of it - but the camera is already packed! I'll try to get it later.

By Monday night I'll be in Guangzhou and spend the night at the hotel there, and then off to Beijing. Then a couple of days before Fuzhou and Lucy. I'll write more soon!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Packing and getting ready

Here is what I have so far:

Packing List for Infants
  • Diapers -- purchase according to weight. Some parents bring just a few, some bring many. I brought enough for the whole trip, and when they were used, filled the space in the suitcases with gifts.
  • Baby Wipes -- travel pack, or bring half of a big container, and you can pre-pack in Ziploc bags for smaller quantities that are ready to go!
  • Formula -- talk with your pediatrician about milk or soy based. I brought a minimal amount, and after the first week slowly started to add it in with the Chinese formula that I bought there. By the time we returned to the US, she was adapted. This time around I'm bringing some to supplement, since it's fairly healthy and Lucy is young enough
  • Sippy cups - bringing a bunch of disposable, and 2 of the nice ones...
  • Clothes -- up to the parent. However, I brought 2 outfits that I thought would be too small, I brought 8 outfits (mix & match) that I thought would fit, and one outfit that I thought would be too big -- when I got there, I figured out what she wore, and donated the rest to the orphanage. (Also a great outlet for shower gifts that you are less than thrilled with...) We went through 1-2 outfits a day, and did laundry at the hotel -- it was inexpensive and good.
  • Baby Bjorn or other carrier -- bring a chest carrier or backpack with you. Strollers can be purchased inexpensively, and rented from many hotels for about $1 a day. However, on my second trip I brought my own stroller, and I will do so again this time.
  • Maclaren stroller - best that there is
  • Ziploc bags in all sizes (great for stinky diapers that hang out in the hotel wastebaskets
  • Cheerios or other baby snacks
  • Duct tape (we used it to fix everything)
  • Medicines -- see medical resources listed below, and talk with your pediatrician

Medical List of stuff to bring:

  • Acetaminophen - Baby Tylenol
  • Baby Motrin
  • Antibiotic -- prescription, reconstitute in China only if needed
  • Pediacare
  • Elimite -- presciption creme for scabies
  • Lotrimin -- for yeast infections & infected diaper rashes
  • Vaseline -- for use with an anal thermometer
  • Thermometer -- anal under age of 2 (yes, it works!)
  • Dosage spoon or syringe -- ask your local pharmacist - they will often give them to you for free, especially when you tell them what it is for!
  • Measuring cup for reconstituting medicaitons
  • Band Aids
  • Q-Tips
  • Hydrocortizone Creme -- 1% under the age of 4; 2% okay over age of 4 (verify with your own pediatrician)
  • Alcohol swabs -- for use with an injection
  • Syringes -- Check your local laws if you can carry these in the US. (Lara's note: I brought a variety for both Gwenn and myself. My doctor gave me a handful in a variety of sizes -- I felt like an addict, but I was glad to have them -- I did see doc's re-using needles)
  • Tongue Depressors -- some places still reuse these, although most medical clinics in
  • Guangzhou now give each child a clean one (I brought a handful as well)
  • Lice Treatments -- 1% Permethin (Dr. Borcher recommends!) -- others have used RidX
  • Benadryl --
  • Pediacare
  • Neosporin
  • Pedialyte -- there are brands that you can constitute yourself, and that makes your load lighter
  • Cipro - for the parents
  • Z-Pack -antibiotics for parents just in case

Packing list for older kids:

  • Clothes -- 4-5 outfits that you think will fit, 2 outfits that you think will be too big, 2 outfits that you think will be too small -- and then buy more there!
  • 1 pair of shoes that you think will fit, and buy the rest there
  • Pull-Ups (there may be some regression with potty-trained kids) - Since Lucy is over two, I'll have both diapers and pull ups with me.
  • Photo Album from home -- to start getting used to what it will look like!

Toys and Stuff:

  • Little backpack for Lucy to put her own "stuff" in
  • Coloring books (small) with little crayons
  • Stickers
  • Board books
  • Soft ball
  • Stuffed animal
  • Nesting cups
  • Blocks
  • Bubbles

Other Stuff to consider:

  • Dish liquid
  • Oxy for washing clothes in the room
  • Cheerios - and bowls to store in
  • Books to read, and Sudoku
  • Digital Camera, Digital Camcorder, Laptop
  • Tide to go pen (to fix those little spots)
  • All the documents you can carry
  • Money (lots
  • Gifts to bring for local officials and orphanage, foster family, etc (about 8)
  • Something to put over your eyes so you can sleep when you need to
  • Water bottle to keep bottled water in (buy a case in every city you go to on the first day)

My clothes packing list:

  • It's in the upper 90's with high humidity. I have 5-6 pairs of capri pants, no shorts and one pair of long jeans for the trip.
  • 3-4 pairs of comfy walking shoes. I'm a Privo fan and will have two pair on the trip
  • I'm bringing 7-10 loose, comfy t-shirts and about 2 tank tops
  • Bathing suit
  • One medium weight sweater and two zip hoodies
  • One skirt, with spanx... for walking comfort
  • Travel Guide - if you don't want the huge book, tear out the section on the places that you will be visiting.

And, it all has to fit into one large suitcase and one small duffel to check, and the backpack to bring on board.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Cambodian version of the Bermuda Triangle

Sometimes, you have to travel where the road takes you. For the Evans family, it lead them to find the birth sibling of their adopted child in Cambodia, and now they are living in Cambodia trying to get permission to bring this unwanted birth sibling (orphaned, and living on the street) to their home in the US.


Please consider supporting the Evans' family by contacting Senator Pryor's office at and mentioning the John and Kerri Evans family and asking his help in bringing them, and their legally adopted children, back to Arkansas from Cambodia.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

My Generation

Cool darn video

Monday, June 4, 2007

Natasha Graduates

Natasha standing out in the crowd...

Well, there are other things that do occur in my life, and one of them is Natasha's graduation. She is now a college graduate - Bachelors of Arts Degree - from Gustavus Adolphus College.

Here are some of the pictures!

Ella posing for the camera

Gwenn as the day started out!

Finally - a graduate!

It was hot and sunny. Thankfully, we had lots to drink and do while we waited. The band played, people walked in, there was lots to do and see. The speakers were fine, and moderately motiving. The day was great, but by the end of the day, Gwenn was tired and ready for a long nap! I'll post more graduation pics soon, but wanted to get some up.