Thursday, July 12, 2007

GZ: The new Vegas

Being in Guangzhou is like being in Las Vegas. It seems like there is one purpose for each city... Las Vegas is to gamble, and in GZ it is to shop. And there are similarities between the cities:
  • Ungodly hot
  • No clocks, so you have no idea what day or what time it is
  • Lots of people whose purpose is to keep you on task (gambling or shopping)
  • Easy access to food so you can quickly be back on task when you need a break

Our official business in GZ is now complete - that of receiving our children's visa's into the United States. I processed through on Weds with about 60 other families. A similar number processed through yesterday from what I understand. The hotel (White Swan) is a 5 Star hotel that has a new second purpose in the last 10 years - hosting the American families who are waiting to bring their children home. It was convenient - just a few blocks to the consulate. However, the consulate moved a year ago, and we still have the WS as our base - I think because it would be too hard for all the businesses supporting the adoptions to move to another location. And, here on Shamian Island, we are nicely isolated from the rest of this 14M person city.

Earlier in the week when we arrived (last Saturday - egads, it's almost a week) there were probably over 200 families here at the WS (not counting those who hang out at the Victory). Now there are very few families left, people like me who could not get flights out. Starting today and tomorrow next weeks batches of parents and their kiddos will start to arrive. Thankfully, I get to leave on Sunday and I'm beyond thrilled. At this point, all you want to do is to get home. Three weeks is a very long time - and while I'm still hopeful that the wait list will pop my name onto it, I don't think that it is going to.

Monday, July 9, 2007


Well, it's Monday night and we got into Guangzhou (GZ) at noon on Saturday. It's amazing at this time in the travel how fast everything seems to go. Saturday was just settling in, finding our way around, etc.

On Sunday we got to do some sightseeing - we visited the Six Banyan Buddhist Temple and got to tour, and have the babies blessed by the monks. Very cute. We also went to the Chen Family Academy (was a home, then a school, now a museum/gift shop). I've been to both places 3 times now, so the initial suprise is sort of gone. At the temple I just went shopping - found a great Tanka (Buddhist silk and painted hanging) at the Tibetian Buddhist shop near the temple.

At the Chen Academy I have been enthralled every time I've been there. They continue to restore the building and the amazing ceramics that are on the ridges.

They also have updated their museum displays, and it was really interesting this time around. They had puppets, displays of furniture that were in the home, embroidery (very cool) and lots of carvings.

After the Academy we were off to the local Jade carving factory. These stores are government run, but sell the highest quality of jade that is guaranteed in writing. It is very, very expensive. It is fun to look, but I will stick with the "B" or "C" quality jade and be quite happy, thank you very much.
Sunday afternoon after naps (2 hours this time) we met as a group to do paperwork. The dads took the kids to the play room here at the hotel, while the moms took off to do the paperwork. A grueling 2.5 hours later, we were done - thank goodness. Lucy held it together while I was gone, which was great - and then we grabbed dinner and went to bed.
Today was Monday, and it flew by. We met at 8:30a to head to the medical appointment. It was tough being ready so early, but I'm so glad we did. By the time we left at 9:30, there was a HUGE line of adoptive parents waiting to have their kiddos checked out.
At the medical office, there are 3 basic stations - height/weight; ENT; general health. Passed all with flying colors and the doctor who saw Lucy liked her - and thinks she has "spirit". Too bad she isn't around when her "spirit" is in full force... then maybe she wouldn't think Lucy is so cute!
After we were done getting our approvals for medical, we were off to walk through the traditional medicine market - they had all sorts of stuff there, and you could have medicines mixed for you based on what a doctor prescribed. You could also purchase pets near the market, and you could also get animals - snakes, turtles, scorpions - to purchase for medicine.
We walked for less than 50 minutes, and I was soaked straight through. We went to the pearl market and looked around - but the prices were FAR more expensive than the Hongqiao Market in BJ. Far better deals there for same or better quality pearls.
After that, Lucy was toast (literally) and we came back and went straight to bed for our nap. She slept today for 3.5 hours! We got up and went to the pool, and swam for another 2 hours, had dinner and went right back to bed. And, that is a typical day here. Up, eat, paperwork, nap (lunch if we are lucky), small play, dinner, bed.
Tomorrow is the consulate appointment #1. This one we don't go to, but we are around the hotel in case they need us for something. We go to the consulate on Weds and swear our oath that we will be great parents to our children. I wonder if our children would always agree to what we said we'd do... I guess that is why they don't always have choices in these matters...

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Busy two days

Well, we are now back in Fuzhou, and it is Thursday night. We have one more full day here, and then we are off to Guangzhou on Saturday for the last part of the trip.

On Tuesday Michelle, Travis, Shen - along with Lucy and me - headed to Xiamen. I thought it was hot in Fuzhou, but it is not even funny how hot it was there. Yikes. Lucy was still running a low-grade fever, and we've now progressed to a healthy little cough. Tylenol Cold seems to do the trick, and she is sleeping well, although having fits. If temper tantrums were an olympic sport, Lucy would be a gold medalist.
Yesterday (Weds) was a big day for us in Xiamen - not only was it the 4th of July - but we were able to visit Lucy's orphanage, get her original surgical notes from the Xiamen University hospital, and visit her findng location. Not bad for a Wednesday.

We started in the morning with visiting Lucy's orphanage - Xiamen Social Welfare Institute. I had heard from my pediatrician that it is one of the best orphanages in all of China - and doesn't need any groups like Half the Sky in there, so I was prepared for the best. We got to the main door, and then hiked up to the 3rd level. On the 2nd level we could hear kids, and saw some older kids, but we weren't able to visit there.
Up to the 3rd level, and we met the Director in her office. The 3rd level is also home to the younger kids - there were about 40 kids there, from preemie newborns who were just TINY, to kids just shy of 3 years old. There are two rooms with cribs - the 1st room with the pink cribs was for the littlest babies - although there were some older kids in there getting extra attention. They were amazingly well cared for, although I don't think that this would replace a family to care for these kiddos at all. The children were all beautiful, and you had to wonder with some why there were there. Almost all were girls, and some had obvious issues - downs syndrome, missing digits, extra digits, preemie - but then there were others that were there just because they were girls. There was a sweet little guy who looked like he was new (they list birthdate and date of entry to the SWI on their cards) and had obviously been severely neglected wherever he had been. They were giving him extra loving care, and I hope that he will respond well. Some of the newborns were just that - newborn. About 2 looked to be significantly premature, and all were being well cared for.
In the second room was the older kids - with the silver cribs. This is the room that Lucy has been living in for the past month after returning from living with a foster family. I have a picture of her crib that I'll put below - when you see a silver crib witihout anyone in it, that was Lucy's. Here the kiddos were older - anywhere from 8 months to 3 years - and about half were in the midst of playtime, and the other half looked like they were just waking up from morning naps.

I have more pictures that I hope to post later on this week, or once we are in Guangzhou.
So after the visit to the orphanage we went on a tour of Gulang Yu - a small island off of Xiamen Island. However, by the time that the ferry ride was done, Lucy was so tired, hot and still fighting her fever, she has pitched a fit at least 3 times...and so I headed back to the hotel with her to get her to sleep while the Michelle & Travis continued to look around Gulang Yu. Lucy had a great nap, and then at 3:30 I met our guide, David, and we walked a couple of blocks to the Xiamen University hospital, which we can actually see from our hotel. We walked up, saw the Heart Center building, went there, and soon were on the 11th Floor at the medical records department, asking for copies of the surgical notes from Lucy's VSD surgery that she had. We had to show my passport, as well as the adoption documents to prove she was mine, but in less than 15 minutes we had them all copied for all of a 50 cent charge.
From there, a suprise - David had the information on Lucy's finding location, and so we found a taxi to bring us there. The first taxi drivers didn't know where it was, but we got lucky with the next driver. He knew the area well, and off we went. And it was remote, we drove through dirt roads, under a tunnel and to the end of the road, and he told us to go up the stairs, and we'd be there. I had been told that it was a train station - but really it was just a train crossing. It was a mean, tough, poor part of town. Lots of people there, but it was definately out in the elements. Dirt was the norm, trash was everywhere, and it was just the concrete where the train crossed - and that is where in August 2005 Lucy was left at 4 months old to be found by someone. At first, I had thought that if it was a train station, she could have been from anywhere. When I was actually there, it was obvious that only people who lived around there knew about this spot, and she came from this little neighborhood.

Right about where I'm standing is where Lucy was found. If interested, I have additional pictures to post, and someday I can share them with her - but the experience definately moved me. It was sad to think that there are over 100 thousand kids each year - girls and those with medical issues like Lucy - who are abandoned in the attempt to have a boy, or a healthy child who the families can afford to care for.

It strikes me odd that in this communist country, where it is supposed to be about equality of the people, that you have to pay for education if you want one, pay for medical care... Even in the US, which is supposedly the bastion of commercialism, we get a free education, and while healthcare access is tough for some, you can get emergency care if it's needed. Here most children are delivered in the home still because you have to pre-pay before you can even walk into a hospital... Now, housing is subsidized, and other costs are currently still low. However, as their middle class increases, and costs increase as China embraces this new world of free market enterprise - I wonder that we won't see the rich continuing to get richer, and the poor staying still amazingly poor. But, that is something else to think about for another day. There is so much growth here, it reminds me of either the old west or the early 20th century, with growth happening as a sprint, not a marathon...

Today we returned to Fuzhou from Xiamen, and it's nice to be back "home". We went out for dinner tonight, and then for a walk. We made it down to the local park where there is ballroom dancing each night, when Lucy lost it. However, right up to the shoulder, and she was asleep in just a minute! We made it home tonight, and she barely woke up as I got her into jammies and into bed.

Well, here is a last picture of Lucy when we got home tonight from the park. Busy day tomorrow - we get to visit the Fuzhou Social Welfare Institute where Shen had lived, and then the police station in the afternoon, which is the start of our last adoption work in the province.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Yes, we are still alive

Well, it's been a crazy two days. Yesterday we completed the adoption processing and everything in Fuzhou is official! It was a lot of driving around in the van, and then a lot of paying officials money.

Lucy did fairly well through the morning, but was ready for a nap when we got back to the room. In the afternoon we went shopping for a few outfits for Lucy, since she is too small for anything I brought. My guess is that she'll be in 12-18 month clothes once we get home. Also picked up some snacks and water, so we'll be set for the next few days.

Today (Tuesday) we drove the 3 hours to Xiamen, where Lucy's orphanage is. It was a beautiful drive, but both Lucy and I took a nap for part of the trip. We went out for lunch, and then to our hotel. Lucy is running a low-grade fever, so motrin time, and then naps. We have played it low-key this afternoon, just resting, and she went to bed at 8p as normal.

Tomorrow is the 4th of July - so we'll have a celebration, and also visit Lucy's orphanage. More to write then!

Sunday, July 1, 2007

She's here!!!!!

Well, today was the big day. I finally have a few moments to type while Lucy is sleeping on my bed, and I listen to the screaming of Shen from the next room, who is just fine with his new mama and baba as long as the door to the room is open. :-)

We got into Fuzhou and found out that they would be ready for us early - at 4p instead of 5p! That meant that instead of an hour or so to prepare, we'd have about 15 minutes. And that is just what we had - just enough time to get our luggage, tear it open and grab what we think we would need. Thankfully, we met the kids on the 3rd floor in a conference room, so that was quite nice.

There was another family from LaVida also meeting their child at the same time -- a cute 7 year old boy who broke into a huge smile and ran to his family when he saw them. And then, coming with him was Lucy - looking very serious indeed!

She isn't in a diaper here, and I kept thinking that she is going to pee on my leg or arm! Here are some shots from when I first met her...

We actually got quite a bit of paperwork done, and we'll complete the rest tomorrow. I will have to go and exchange money at some point tonight in order to have enough for everything tomorrow...
Once we completed the paperwork, we headed to our rooms to bond. We played for quite a while, and Lucy's personality really started to come out. First off, she is such a two year old - everything that she touches is hers, and she gathers it close to herself and won't let you touch! She is quite serious in observing things, but started to ham it up in the room. We put hats on and then played peek a boo when we took them off. We tickled tummies (she is very ticklish), and she pulled most of the TP off the roll in the bathroom - and when I took it away, she started to pull out the tissues from the wall. She was worse than the cat, and she just gave a grin like you would not believe!

She is quite a ham, and has some great dimples. I'm not sure if she'll be up for the big girl bed - my guess is she is about the size of Gwenn at 18 - 24 months, max. The 2T jammies hang off her bum like a plumber, and the size 3 diapers are HUGE! I think about half of the clothes that I brought will be too big, but we'll see in the morning.

Just to show that she has warmed up here are some pictures from us chillin' in the room:

Lorna, I think that in the PJ pictures she looks a bit like Penelope - she has that same impish grin, for darn sure!

So, now I'm getting ready for bed and getting ready for tomorrow. It will be another big day, with paperwork and the adoption finalization (although I already have a red thumb, so that is good).

I'm hoping that everything continues to go so well. My mind is just abuzz with questions about Lucy, insights into her personality, and watching how she is coping with the adjustment. Right now she is still asleep on my bed, and I will soon move her into the crib - or attempt to. The only times she cried today was when I took the bubbles away (complete boo-boo face) and when I laid her in the crib... More later tomorrow afternoon after we are back for a rest...