Posts Tagged ‘china’

We’re home!!!

Thursday, January 17th, 2013

Almost exactly 24 hours after we left hotel in Guangzhou we walked in the door in Seattle. It was a VERY long day, but went amazingly smoothly. Unfortunately Amara was sick and had a low fever. We still aren’t really sure if it was just teething or something else, but the upshot was that she slept a good part of the trip home.

First we flew 3 hours to Beijing, took forever to get ourselves to the next flight and then after a few hours of hanging out in the airport (complete with Baskin Robbins Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream for Bebeth!!) we took off again. The flight was 11 hours and wasn’t terrible. We were thrilled to get off the plane. Unfortunately the worst part of the trip was yet to come. Amara was traveling on a Chinese passport (she didn’t become a US Citizen until after customs), so we had to wait in the foreign nationals line to go through immigration. That was pretty quick…..BUT then we were ushered to the waiting area for “Immigrants and Parolees”. Here is where they check all the paperwork that we had brought. There was ONE immigration officer working and they served people in the order you arrived. Not so bad….EXCEPT they took all people in wheelchairs first. Now normally I wouldn’t be opposed to this, except the wheelchair line never empties. As fast as someone would get served out of that line, new people from another line would fill it up. So although there were only 5 of us when we arrived, it took us 2 hours to get through this room. It was painful and a bureaucratic nightmare. Although we’d been warned by others about this part, it was still insanely frustrating. As my mom would say, when Mark starts to get upset, you know things have gotten bad.

Fortunately we eventually made it out and found our way to the baggage area where we were greeted by a VERY happy Bine, my parents, and my favorite sister :) I was rewarded by the best and biggest hugs from Bine…the best present ever. We are beyond thrilled to be back!

Bebeth

All together again!

All together again!

Erhu

Monday, January 14th, 2013

Well we did it … we went and added ANOTHER member to our family .. this time it only has 2 strings. It’s called an Erhu. It’s a traditional Chinese instrument first documented around the 10th century. According to Wikipedia it’s sometimes called a spike fiddle. It’s a bowed instrument but the bow is “trapped” in between the two strings, so the bow is always attached.

Erhu

Erhu

It was a pretty fun experience. We had seen some street performers in Changsha and thought with our love of instruments it’d be a great souvenir to bring  home. Fortunately it’s not a typical item sold in tourist shops which meant we had to get off the beaten path to find an actual instrument shop. With the help of our guide Elsea, we jumped on a local bus and took it to a small instrument shop. Envisioning a store with loads of traditional Chinese instruments I was a little disappointed when we walked up and all I could see were guitars. We were greeted by this lady who at first looked a little confused as to why we were here let alone looking to by a erhu.

Instrument Lady

Instrument Lady

A quick conversation and we were pointed to a little corner in the store and there hung half a dozen erhus. Not having a clue how to play one (nor did the lady that sold it to us) it was sorta weird trying to figure out wich one to buy. I’m used to going into a instrument shop and being able to play the instrument, judge the feel of the fret board, listen to the tones, how much volume can the instrument make, so having zero clue was very weird to me. Feeling like I should at least sit down and make a show of trying to play them, I tried to mimic the street performers I had seen. It sounded pretty much like cat was being strangled. (Back in the hotel I figured out that none of the bows had any rosin on which meant that there was not enough friction, much like new violins) In the end we chose a more expensive one based on the beautiful inlay, if we can’t tell if it’s a decent instrument at least it’ll look good.

Inlay

Inlay

Once we picked one, the lady disappeared into one of the student rooms and returned with this old man. Attaching a digital tuner to the erhu he showed me how to tune the erhu. The two strings are referred to the inner (you press the bow towards your body to play that string) and the outer ( you push the bow away from your body) string. The inner is tuned to a D and the outer is tuned to an A.

Tuning the Erhu

Tuning the Erhu

So my next task is to see if I can use it in the band write  a song with it. Maybe I’ll title it: Guangzhou Breakdown.

Mark

Medical Day

Saturday, January 12th, 2013

Well we are in Guangzhou right now staying in a very nice 5 star hotel. We have internet in the room again so it’s easier to write and upload pictures, which is nice.

Yesterday we had a touching experience while we were standing in line at the airport waiting to check in. There was a mother, who was caucasian, and a daughter that looked asian. When they saw we had Amara, the mom asked us if we were just adopting. We said that we were and they told us that the daughter was adopted 17 years ago from the same province as Amara. They were finishing up a short heritage tour. A heritage tour, if you’ve never heard of it, is basically when the adopted child  goes back and visits the country, province, orphanage that they were adopted from.

Today was medical examination day. It was part race, part family reunion, large part chaotic mess. Basically all adopted children need to run through a medical examine before getting their visas. So our guides had us get on the bus at 9:30am to try and beat all the other families that were also trying to get their medical examination done. When we got there things seemed fairly sane. Just a few other families besides our own.

Reception area

Reception area

As we were herded into the waiting area, we noticed some of the other families from our hotel in Changsha. It was great to see them. We even ran into the two families from our time in Beijing. Everyone seemed to be in great spirits. When we were called in they did just a cursory examination.

First Doctor

First Doctor

 

Second Doctor

Second Doctor

As time went on more and more families showed up at the medial center. Lots of families were being shuffled from one room to another, the guides running around trying to keep track of all their charges, kids running around, kids crying, at one point one of our guides started arguing with another guide that we needed to go before another family, we just looked apologetic and cut in. Despite all this pandemonium it was actually pretty fun to see all of these families in one spot. I’m not sure how we lucked out, but Amara seems to be cut from the same cloth as Sabine, easy going. She didn’t seem to mind the tests too much and once all of our tests were done, she happily went into the ergo and fell asleep.

Here’s a couple of photos to end the night.

Mark

More bath time

Fun before bed time

Families

Friday, January 11th, 2013

We have arrived in Guangzhou, but it was with a bit of sadness that we left Changsha. Although we were ready to move on from the city, one of the unexpected blessings was staying in the same hotel as 5 other adoption families. We all shared the same Gotcha day and got to know each other as we passed at breakfast and met in the children’s playroom. Learning about each family, their new children and hearing each other’s stories was so wonderful.

Silas, an adorable and fiercely independent 5 year old boy with Downs Syndrome, was there with his new mom and dad. When they return home to Ohio, he will meet his 6 siblings, all adopted with special needs from around the world.

Levi, an albino boy with a smile that could kill, was welcomed into a large and loving family. He’s got three brothers, each with redder hair than the next, and a Chinese sister who’s been part of the family for 7 years. Although he will visit the USA soon, he will live with his family in China where they’ve been for the last few years.

Ciara, a quiet, but watchful child with a beautiful smile and mild Cerebral Palsy, was greeted by her single mom and her second oldest brother. At home in Ohio waiting for her is her oldest brother who is taking care of the two youngest kids. She will have 4 siblings to give her lots of attention and help her strengthen her muscles.

Maylie, a fast walking girl with a minor heart defect, will end up in Miami with a large spanish speaking family. There she will live in a house with her legal mother and father, as well as her second set of parents (her father’s twin and her mother’s sister) and their daughter. One huge, happy, and loving family.

Finally, there was Page, a beautiful little girl who was already fiercely attached to her new mother, was welcomed by her new parents and her 2.5 year old sister after a 6 year wait. When they fly home they will return to Baltimore together.

Unfortunately, we have all scattered to different hotels here in Guangzhou, so I’m not sure when or if we’ll see them again. But getting to know them while we were together in Changsha was wonderful.

Bebeth

The whole gang

The whole gang

Settling in

Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

First, I want to say thank you so much for all the emails we’ve been getting from friends and family at home. Although we may not respond immediately, it’s meant so much to us to wake up each morning to a new batch. Our first stop each morning is the lobby for wifi! We feel so lucky to have so much love and support! Baby Amara is already loved by so many…as are we!

Things here are going really well. Amara is transitioning smoothly (knock on wood) and we are all getting to know each other. It’s rather amazing how much you can learn in 48 hours, especially from someone that can’t communicate verbally with you. I think Mark and I both feel like we know here a bunch already. We can distinguish the various grunts and accurately predict what she’s going to want or need. We know there’s tons to learn still, but it’s also kind of amazing how quickly the familiarity came.

We’ve settled into a nice routine here in Changsha. We eat breakfast in the hotel to start the day. Its included, its a buffet, and its HUGE!! So we gorge ourselves and then usually skip lunch. At 10 we meet our fantastic guide Sarah and head out on a morning adventure. Today we went to an old Academy in the middle of the university here. Its hundreds of years old (parts are even thousands of years old) and was beautiful. Then a quick trip to Walmart for some clothes for Amara (yes, you read that right…Walmart :) and then back to the hotel. Amara usually sleeps through half the morning outing. The afternoon is spent napping (until today I seemed to be falling asleep in my tracks at random moments throughout the day) and playing in the children’s playroom in the hotel. Finally we meet Sarah again at 5:30 to go out to dinner. We’ve tried a new restaurant each night and the food has been fantastic!! I think Sarah likes that we have wanted nothing to do with Western food and have been thrilled with every dish she has ordered for us.

Best of all, we got to Skype with Bine this morning. Although my mom has been sending updates daily and I know Bine has been doing great, nothing compares with seeing her actual face and watching her jabber away from the comfort of my mom’s lap. It certainly warmed Mark’s and my hearts!
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Rollercoaster

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

The last 24 hours has been a rollercoaster ride.

When Sabine was born you had pretty much 3 things to worry about: food, sleep, and dirty diapers. As she got older she communicated new things to us: I want a blanket, I want up, I want Mommy or Daddy, I want some new shiny thing. Every week we would say to ourselves, “Did you see she’s doing this” or “Did you know when she makes that particular sound it means this”. 3.5 years later she just tells us what she wants. We can reason with her ( most of the time), she makes up stories and songs, pretends to go to work, and she even catches us doing things we tell her not to do. As Courtney wrote to us, “she seems to have turned into a little 13 year old over night”.

Sabine

Sabine

Amara definitely has a little mind of her own, but she can’t communicate in a way we are used to. It’s both amazing for us when we discover new things she can communicate and overwhelming when you aren’t sure what she wants. She is very alert and many things catch her eyes. Interesting sounds cause her to turn her head to find the source. She likes to keep an eye on us whenever we leave her side. Or when Bebeth was the more scary one, she definitely kept an eye on her to make sure she didn’t sneak up. She can point to things she wants, she’s great a copying things we do, she doesn’t like to be tickled and doesn’t like certain types of touching, e.g. if I tickle her knee she reaches over and forcibly removes my hand, or if I put my hand on her back, she’ll reach around and remove it from her back. When you’ve ignored her pointing for something she’ll raise both hands and drop them to her lap while making an emphatic sound, she seems to rub her ears as well as her eyes when she get’s tired, she can shake her head no when you keep handing something to her doesn’t want (about half the time she’ll just throw it on the ground), she loves to cruise around the room, and will grasp your fingers when she wants to head off somewhere.

Last night around 9:30 the challenges seemed to tip towards overwhelming: Bebeth and I were both tired, my back is hurting a lot, I was worried that Amara was only going to let me hold her for the next 8 days, I thought I was getting some stomach problems, Amara seemed to getting her second wind, and I was missing Sabine. Sitting on the floor I thought to myself, “What did we get ourselves into? Was life so easy that we though we needed this big of a challenge?”. But a little after 10 pm Amara fell asleep, she slept until 7am, Bebeth and I both slept until about 6ish, she seems to have no problem letting either Bebeth or I hold her or carry her in the carrier, we were able to head out today and go for a nice walk around the city, my back seems to be better, and I did not get any lasting stomach issues, life seems so much better already. I still wish we were heading home sooner than later, but everything seems much more manageable now, hence the roller coaster ride.

Amara

Amara after her bath

Baby Amara is here!

Monday, January 7th, 2013

Today was the day. It was a whirlwind…both wonderful and exhausting. We walked into the civil affairs office at 9:30 am and became parents again. Amara is baby 001, meaning she is the first child to be adopted out of Hunan Province in 2013, a lucky number we were told. We were the first family there, so it was very quiet, not at all what I had expected. Although by the time we left there were 6-7 families and plenty of noise, it was silent while we waited. Eventually they brought her in and handed over our beautiful girl. She was so bundled up, she looked huge. Later we learned that almost no one has heat in the province, so she wears everything they have for her! We were extraordinarily grateful that she took an immediate liking to Mark which meant he was able to keep her happy for most of the time we were there. We got to ask the orphanage director a bunch of questions about her and processed a bunch of paperwork. It was all sort of a blur, but eventually we were able to leave and head back to the hotel for a bit.

Because the civil affairs office is busy the rest of the week, we had to go back again a few hours later to finish the paperwork that normally we would have done later in the week. Amara was so tired at this point that she promptly feel asleep in Mark’s arms in the van. Fortunately the second trip to the office was fast and we were all back in the hotel room quickly and ready for another nap. All three of us passed out and slept for over an hour.

Apparently a good nap was what she needed, b/c since waking up she’s been warming up to me and we’ve had some good play and cuddle time. We are extremely thankful that at least for today the transition has gone smoothly. We’ve already had a few smiles and squeaky laughs! Right now Mark and I are holding our eyelids open with toothpicks while we wait for her to be tired enough to put down.

It’s been an amazing and surreal day! Now we’re just counting down the days till she gets to meet the greatest big sister ever.

Are You Excited?

Saturday, January 5th, 2013

 

It’s been interesting comparing the adoption process with other couples. Most of the other couples have gone through a different organization CCIA. There are lots of differences and ones that I certainly didn’t appreciate until now.

Part of the requirements for adopting is taking a certain number of educational courses. While I wasn’t a fan of taking up sunny weekends to go down to our adoption headquarters to take various adoption/parenting classes (though I was usually glad after the fact) I really appreciate that we were able to do it in person. A lot of these couples only had access to online training. While that seems convenient there is something nice about being in a room with lots of other couples going through the same thing, asking the same questions that you have in your head.

One couple we met here did not seem to have an outlet back home to really talk about what it’s like to go through this process. As we talked you could just see the relief of finally being able to talk with people that understood exactly what you are going through. One question that adoptive parents seem to get is the “Are you excited?” question. It’s a yes or no question, right? People just assume it’s yes. And how could you say “No I’m not excited.” But for me it’s always been a “sorta/maybe/kinda” answer. The amount of work, worry, frustration, money, preparation, stress, lack of information/updates, waiting, definitely consumes most of your excitement and as a protection from disappointment I definitely kept myself from getting too excited. There are just so many unknowns. So next time you meet someone going through the process of adopting, don’t ask them are you excited. I’m sure they are as excited as they can be, but probably not as excited as you expect them to be.

Though if you were to ask me now if I’m excited, I can truly say that I am. Having a few days to get on your feet, beautiful weather, and seeing/experiencing China has really let me get prepared for tomorrow. It IS exciting to think that we will be holding Amara aka Baby Eagle, in our arms soon. That all of our waiting and hard work will pay off. Yes we’ll have more challenges ahead, but I have the best partner to go through this with, the best family and friends to support us, and the best ambien to get a good night sleep …

Truly Excited From China, Mark

The Great Wall

Saturday, January 5th, 2013

Yesterday we went to the Great Wall. This was one of the main reasons we chose to do our 2 days of sightseeing in Beijing. We’ve seen pictures of it in the summer, and its packed with people. Having done it once now, I can’t imagine doing it with so many people. Granted, it was FREEZING yesterday, but the lack of people was an ok tradeoff in my mind. They bring you to one main parking lot and from there you can access the wall and choose a couple of different directions. All of them essentially head straight up…stair after stair after stair. They are steep, uneven, and the steps vary greatly in height. Regularly I found myself having to lift one foot above the knee of my other leg. And the railing was really short, so you found yourself hunched over very awkwardly. I never wanted to let go of the railing as I was quite sure if I fell, I wouldn’t stop moving until I hit the bottom. We were given 1.5 hours, so we walked straight up for 45 minutes and then back down. Down was clearly worse than up. But the views were amazing and the wall really a feat. Someday it would be cool to return and do a long stretch of it, ideally when the wind was a little less strong. There were moments when we thought we might actually get blown down the mountain!

Otherwise we’ve been eating yummy food (we did laugh at the tourist lunch stop where we were served french fries in addition to the Chinese food….not a single french fry got eaten….the duck was scarfed up though!) and meeting other families in the hotel. So far no one from Seattle, but we’ve made friends from Dallas and Denver, and soon Chicago. It’s been interesting to hear about everyone else’s process…we’ve all had our own quirky experiences.
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Leaving

Friday, January 4th, 2013

Leaving yesterday was crazy hard. Mark and I have left Bine numerous times for weekends away, but 2 weeks is another story. Bine, of course, was the stronger one in the situation. She kept telling me it would be fine. I knew she would be fine. My parents are staying with her and I can’t imagine anyone else that could make me more comfortable. There’s something just so comforting knowing that your child is with your own parents. I know she will feel exactly as I did growing up…totally loved. But it is me who is having a hard time. I miss having her around. I miss her hand on her hip giving me lip, I miss those crazy eyes she gives me, I miss her huge hugs, and I even miss those absurd dress-up dresses that she insists on wearing!

I long for Monday when we will finally meet Baby Eagle, or Amara as she will become. I know it will make this aching all worth it. But today I don’t know her and while I know the idea is worth it, I prefer to have the reality.

Mark and I survived the trip and even got to talk with Bine on the phone when we arrived last night. Now we’re about to spend the day touring around Beijing. Let the adventure begin!!!