Saturday, April 30, 2011

It's Good to be Home

Wow, it is really hard to believe we left China 15 days ago!  We thought it was about time for an update.

The journey home was grueling, but Ariana was a trooper.  It was 28 1/2 hours from the time we left our hotel until my sister picked us up.  She only fussed for a couple of hours on the Beijing-Chicago flight and luckily I could walk around with her and that kept her pacified.  The girl does enjoy a little turbulence too!

Our plane was late landing in Chicago leaving us with only about an hour and a half to get through U.S. Customs, a checkpoint to process Ariana's immigration paperwork (and X-ray our bags again?!), recheck our luggage, and get to the gate for our flight to Madison.  We hustled and pleaded our way through only to find just as we checked our luggage that our flight was cancelled.  Unbeknownst to us at the time, there were tornadoes around the country that day that impacted many flights.  We had about 5 minutes to decide if we wanted to take a 3 1/2 hour shuttle bus.  We got Ariana some apple juice from McDonald's, changed her diaper, washed a bottle with hot water that they charged us for, borrowed a stranger's cell to call my sister, and we were on our way.  To be sure life is always an adventure.

A few hours later we got off a bus in a freezing cold spring wind.  None of us had winter jackets and only part of Ariana's cute red, white, and blue outfit remained.  I was exhausted, knew I had a sinus infection, and was covered in pee and Chinese teething biscuits. Nevertheless, we were excited and surprised to see a small but enthusiastic welcoming party waiting outside in the cold for us!  I have to say, I was never so happy so arrive anywhere.

As much as we enjoyed our stay in China, it really makes one appreciate being American.  Some notable things we found we take for granted:
  •  Clean air -  if you've been reading you already know how bad the smog is.  In fact, on the journey home when we touched down in Beijing we were surprised to see the sun shining. Later, while waiting to board our plane we chatted with an American whose daughter lives in Beijing.  She told us that it was clear because the previous day they had launched some sort of rocket that makes it rain.  This is something they do periodically to clear things out when the smog gets really bad!
  • Water you can use right from the tap!
  • Freedom of Speech - the whole time we were in China we had to use a VPN server in order to access our blog
Last smoggy morning in China

Goodbye shop owners.  They would've liked us to stay so they could've gotten more of our money!

Goodbye fancy White Swan Hotel

Goodbye Li Ping, (one of our guides.)  He wrote the 7-year olds notes in Chinese.  I wish I would've asked him to write something to Ariana.
Just before takeoff on Ariana's first flight which was from Guangzhou to Beijing.  She did great!

Who knew we'd be arriving like this?

Cuteness!  B. rocked the pajamas and rainboots.

Touchdown at OHare International.  Ariana is a citizen of the United States of America!

Welcome signs my family made for the airport-adorable.

Getting to know my new cousin.  A few puffs don't hurt.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Last Post from China

The end of this journey is here and little Ariana's journey is just beginning.

As much as we want to get home, tomorrow is going to be  bittersweet as we leave Ariana's birth country.  I can't help but wonder how she would feel about all of this if she were old enough to understand.  She is the greatest gift we could ever ask for.

Our time in China has been the adventure of a lifetime. Today was somewhat sad as we walked around the island.  The shopkeepers know when groups are coming and going and they all had kind words and goodbyes for us and good wishes for Ariana. 

We said goodbye to the Koehens this evening.  We will always share a special bond with our travel group members and look forward to staying in touch in the years to come.

We will leave the motel at 6:30a.m. tomorrow (while most of you are ending your Thursday workday) and and fly to Beijing.  We leave Beijing at 4:00p.m. and arrive in Chicago at 4:00p.m. and then Madison at 7p.m.  That is 26 hours of travel with a 13-month old and we are hoping (really hard) that all goes well.

The bags are packed and our wake up call is coming in less than five hours so I'd better sign off.  Sorry no pictures today, too busy packing.

I really hope Auntie Michelle can hook me up with some of these Puff things!  They are the bomb.

We will see you soon!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Consulate Appointment Day and Red Couch Photos

Tuesday we were out the door at 7a.m. for our appointment at the American Consulate.  This was the final step in the babies' immigration paperwork and visa applications.  I've mentioned before that the girls will fly to the United States on their Chinese passports with American visas.  Since we have preapproved everything with the U.S. Department of State, when they enter the United States they will become U.S. Citizens at that point of entry for us, that will be Chicago.

Security was pretty tight at the consulate.  There were no cameras allowed and we went through airport style security checks.  Even our guides couldn't come with us. 

The Adoption Unit came and chatted with us for about 20 minutes while we each waited our turn.  She was an interesting woman and I wish I had gotten her name.  She shared a lot of  statistics and had some other good insights to share.  Interestingly she lives on Shamian Island.  They change posts every few years and she is headed to Helsinki next.

All the parents had to raise their right hands and take an oath on behalf of the babies.  It wasn't a citizenship oath, but an oath that all immigrants to the United States have to take.  I got a little teary and wish I could remember the words. 

We went back to hotel and after the babies had a rest we all met for our red couch photos.  For those of you new to China adoption, it has become tradition for American parents to get photos of their children on the famous red couches at the White Swan Hotel.  Since all Americans have to come to Guangzhou and most stay at the White Swan, thousands of babies have been photographed on those couches.

Wednesday was a pretty mellow day and we didn't stray far from the hotel.  Mommy and Daddy were game but the new boss of the family was cranky and wasn't into going very far.  Usually she is very content in her little pouch (Ergo carrier) and even naps but yesterday she pitched a fit.  We also only slept about 4 hours intermittently last night.  It is 10:45 a.m. here Thursday and she is napping right now.  Hopefully tonight will be a better night because we leave the motel at 6:30a.m. for the big trip home. 

I'd better get packing.

Outside the consulate

Resting up for my photo shoot

Kari, Sophi, and Lillian the seven year olds who became big sisters on this trip

Why didn't my Mommy put a bow in my hair?  I'll just take Savanh's.

Emilee, Ariana, Savanah, Kimi, Rose, and Ella. Missing was little Liddia who wasn't feeling it.

I didn't think about it until I was downloading these pictures but Ariana is the only one of the group who won't have a big sister :(

Enough of this already!

This is our travel group:  Us, The Hirschis, The Glasscocks, The Sislers, The Blincoes, and The Koehns.  It has been wonderful to share this experience with this awesome group of people.

The waterfall inside the White Swan Hotel

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Daddy's China Birthday-Monday April 11

This year Daddy received the greatest gift ever, his baby girl Ariana.  The hotel delivered a delicious cake to the room.  It was very different from any cake we've eaten in The States. Ariana was delighted with the big box it came in as she loves to play with boxes.

Our little family of three ventured off the island to the heart of Guangzhou all by ourselves.  There is definitely a very different feel to the city than the island.  It is more authentically Chinese I suppose. We got lots of stares and inquisitive looks.  Although "Walking Street", the area we ventured to, is supposedly only a 30-minute walk we took a taxi because it was 90 degrees and we didn't know how long we would be there.  Ariana seems to handle the heat and humidity quite well.

Walking Street is a massive stretch of shops ranging from high-end department stores to vendors crammed in between buildings selling t-shirts.  We walked up and down the streets and took it all in.  We went into one of the department stores to cool off and ended up buying a toy we didn't necessarily want because Mommy forgot the stores work differently here and carried it to the next department!  Lucky for me the prices are so reasonable.

Hailing a taxi for the ride home proved a little more challenging.  I suppose it would be comparable to finding one in Times Square except the people compete and jump right in front of you and run alongside the cabs to make sure they get one.  Since Daddy was "wearing" the baby the job fell to Mommy. After watching for about 15 minutes with a hot and tired baby and realizing there were many more patrons than taxis, I shoved and elbowed my way to the front like a true local.

We ended our day with another meal at Lucy's Restaurant.  Most of the adoptive families who stay at the White Swan Hotel eat at Lucy's pretty often because they offer Western-style food.  It is almost American but everything tastes just a little different. Mommy and Daddy really like it because we can eat outside and are enjoying the summertime weather here.

There is a Cantonese restaurant down the street we may try one night.  Many people in southern China speak Cantonese.  It is close to Mandarin, just a different dialect.  We understand that Yangjiang, where the girls are from, has it's own dialect as well.

Maybe just a taste....

I don't really mind it...

Yes, that is meat hanging in the background.

This was a movie theater.

Food Court

Something with tentacles on a stick

This was taken at the Minghui Jade Plaza, a huge store with store after store selling every kind of jade imaginable.  It was alot like the Pearl Market except with jade.  I could've spent the whole day just walking through there.

Eating at Lucy's again.

More later.