Monday, January 24, 2011

Copied from Travel Blog, 2010

Last day in Guiyang – flight to Guangzhou

We had our last buffet breakfast at our Chinese Ramada this morning – we all got our usual items – the kids had plenty of yogurt and orange juice! 
Daddy loving on two of his girls
We thought our guide, Vicki, was supposed to meet us at 10:00 with Lyric’s passport and other paperwork but after Kevin waited in the lobby for her for about 20 minutes he came back to the room and gave her a call.  Turns out the paperwork wasn’t done yet.  So we stayed in the room and everyone entertained Lyric while I packed up all of our stuff. 
Vickie came to the room at about 12:00 with the passport and other paperwork.  We looked it over and everything was in order so she headed out to lunch – we would see her again at 3:00 so we could head to the airport.
I meant to get all of our packing done so that we could take one last walk outside, but it took me the rest of the time to get it all done.  Down in the lobby we were disappointed that our regular driver wasn’t taking us to the airport (because we wanted to say goodbye), but we still got there in good time.  Vicki held Lyric for a bit on her lap in the front seat (no law about wearing seatbelts here!), but then she wanted to come back to me, and I was glad to have her.  Later, Vickie said that she really likes Lyric.  She said she was very pretty and a very good girl.  I could tell she would miss her a lot.
Hanging out in the hotel room
At the airport we had gotten out of our van and were heading inside when we saw our regular driver walking towards us!  He had a big grin on his face and was happy to see us – we were happy to see him too!  We had never gotten to say goodbye to him before or told him "thank you".  I had bought some old-fashioned root beer barrels with me for gifts that had been made in Indiana and I gave him a package of them.  Uh oh!  The bag I gave him was already opened!  Well, that was kind-of embarrassing!  I had to think quick and remembered the other bags were safe in my backpack so I quickly pulled out an unopened bag and exchanged it for the other.  He is a good man and just smiled and laughed.  It was nice to say goodbye to him.
Vicki made sure we got in the airport and waited for us while we passed through security.  While we waited a lady who stood behind us asked Vicki what we were doing with a Chinese baby.  Vicki says to me, “Should I tell her what you told me to say the other day?”  She was laughing and said, “I am just kidding!”  We had someone ask before what we were doing with a Chinese baby.  I told her to tell them that I had two husbands!  :)
At the airport we were happy to meet another adopting family who we had met earlier.  They had their biological son with them, their previously adopted daughter, and their new daughter.  Their new daughter has a cleft lip but what a beautiful smile – and she sure does like to eat - the mama had to be careful of her fingers sometimes (the moms, not the babies)!  Their son did wonderful with both of his sisters – very impressed!
We had about a 3 hour wait for our plane so we all sat together.  There were a bunch of Chinese men and one woman sitting next to us.  One of the gentlemen could speak a little English so Kevin spoke with them some.  One man seemed very impressed that I had 4 children – his look of surprise was very funny!  Our family is small compared to some of the ones we know back home :) and I still think we are a small family!
Peanut butter on a chop stick!  Yummy!
Eventually the men asked if they could take pictures with us.  Kevin smiled and said, “Sure – only 100 RMB” (about $15.00).  The guy smiled and translated and they all burst out laughing.  Before we knew it, they were taking turns sitting between Tyler and me on the seats while someone else took a picture.  The other family sat across from us and had their picture taken as well.  I wonder what they said about us later...
Our lunch earlier consisted of peanut butter on a chop-stick for each of us (didn’t want to bring the peanut butter with us so we had to finish up the jar!) and oranges so we were still hungry.  Kevin and Lyric took a walk to look for something for us to eat while we waited for the boarding call.  Boy, was I surprised when he came back!  He had bought ice cream for each of us – and even Lyric had her own that was shaped like a snowman’s head and his hat!
The ice cream was messy to eat b/c there was that hard chocolate on the outside that breaks as you eat it.  I took a bite and then gave my anxious Lyric a bite – she sure was surprised by how cold it was!  That didn’t stop her though and she soon wanted another - and another!  I knew she had her own ice cream so I didn’t want her eating too much of mine.  When I wouldn’t share with her as much as what she wanted me to, she put on her pouty face once again…and crossed her arms at me… I know she shouldn’t be doing this, but it is just so incredibly cute! 
Lyric's crib at the hotel (we did empty it each night!)
Kevin wanted to feed Lyric her ice cream so he quickly finished up his and got out hers.  When she realized he had ice cream for her she quickly scrambled down my lap and onto his.  Lyric gobbled the whole snowman right up – hat and all! He didn't even have time to melt! Ahh, Kevin did have one bite – he said it tasted like tea – tea-flavored ice cream!  We should have known.
Awhile later one other adoptive family arrived with their blond haired son and new daughter who is 2 years old.  She is very shy right now, but I managed to catch a smile and she sure has a beautiful one – her whole face lights up!
We soon got the boarding call, and Lyric learned a new word when we were going onto the plane.  We had to walk down a long ramp and I would bounce her and say, “bump, bump, bump”.  She would then copy me by bouncing herself and saying the same thing – she is our little mimic.
Lyric's first ice cream!  She loved it!
On the plane we were surprised to see that all three of our families were sitting right next to one another.  Not one Chinese person separated us – now who do you suppose arranged that?  We are all with different agencies :)
Kevin held Lyric on his lap and strapped her in with his seat belt even though she had her own seat.  It is fun to hold her, but this time we were running out of ideas on how to keep her occupied!  After we were airborne I got to hold her, and she soon fell asleep.  I tried to wake her for the meal, but she just wouldn’t wake up – just plain tuckered out!  She slept until we landed.
At the airport we waited for our guide but were met by another guide until ours could get to us.  I really liked this guide and he liked Lyric.  At one point she made her pouty face, and he thought that was really cute. 
We had to wait at the airport for about ½ hour until another adoptive family arrived from our agency.  While we waited, I held Lyric and she would say “hi” to everyone that passed by.  Poor girl, she didn’t really like it when they didn’t respond back, but she kept trying!
Across from us was a little snack store where four very pretty Chinese young ladies were being very entertained by us.  They thought Lyric was adorable how she would wave to everyone.  They would try to get her attention and have her wave to them also.  One soon came over to play with Lyric and then another came over.  They talked with her in English but Lyric couldn’t understand, and I told them to talk in Chinese.  They were surprised.  So many people here don’t understand or know just how many children are adopted into families from other countries.  The girls started talking in Chinese to Lyric and she shyly responded a couple times, but soon our regular guide was there and we had to leave.
We walked quickly with our guide and the new family to our bus, which was surprisingly parked far away!  Our guide was in a hurry and kept us moving.  I now know that he is always in a hurry!
Lyric, Laurel and I went all the way to the back of the bus and were joined by the other adoptive mom and her new daughter, McKenna, who was 6 years old.  Her special need was her age and her lazy eye, which shouldn’t be too hard to get fixed at all!  She was very pretty and didn’t talk a whole lot, but she was brave enough to touch and feel Laurel’s blond hair, which made Lyric want to play with it also.  (Update: Laurel became really good friends with McKenna, and we spent a lot of time with her and her new family: the Bates.  We also later learned that Laurel and McKenna's birthdays were on the same day - October 17th!).
Thankfully, we were soon at our hotel and checked into our room.  We have a junior suite, which is a room with a bed in it and then a room for a sitting area.  There are pocket doors that separate the two rooms.  This is great when we put Lyric to sleep for the night, and it is a little quieter for her.
By the time we blew up the air mattresses and got settled in it was after midnight.  This wasn’t good for Carissa and Tyler.  They hadn’t been feeling well and each had sore throats, stuffy/runny noses and itchy/watery eyes.  I really looked forward to laying down and going to sleep on a nice soft bed, um… did I say soft?  I meant a really hard bed that feels like you are sleeping on box springs :) (I call one of the blow up mattresses tomorrow night!” 
Night everyone!

Copied from Travel Blog, 2010

Ancient Town aka Stone City: Thursday, December 9th

View of one of the streets
We weren’t originally going to visit Ancient Town, but I am so glad that we did.  We had to pay a little extra and have our tour guide rearrange our tours for us to go, but I had heard this was a good place to visit and I was looking forward to it.
The town was originally built in 1378 and was made entirely of stone!  I was a little surprised when we arrived there because I didn’t expect all of the merchants, but it was fun none-the-less! The drive out to the city was very nice because we actually got to drive through some of the country to get there.  The kids had asked many times when we would get out of the cities we had been in – they wanted to be in the country!  We got to see some of the unusual mountains as we drove to the city, and I can only imagine that each one was thinking how neat it would be to get up close to them.
Our first fun experience in the town was when our guide asked us if we wanted to try this one type of flat, round, dough-like bread that was being fried on one of the street corners.  Being the adventurous sort (after I asked if there was any seafood or such items in it) we said we would love to try it!  The first nibble was good – the green stuff tasted like spinach.  Second bite was good.  Third bite – oh, no!  There was a brownish rose syrup mixture in the middle of it and it dribbled all down my hair and onto my jacket!  Embarrassing!  I know our guide and driver knew this was in the middle – I wonder if they do this to all the tourists they take there?  I think there was a hidden camera someplace.  Before I could warn Laurel she had already taken a bite of hers and had gotten the rose syrup on her face and jacket sleeve.  Please try to picture us standing on a corner in an ancient town as foreigners eating this delicacy and getting it all over ourselves.  Tons and tons of people were watching us make a mess of ourselves.  One kind gentleman saw Laurel’s predicament and helped her clean up her sleeve with a napkin he had.  (She gets A LOT of help here in China!  People just want to touch her.) 
Another street view
Well, the more we ate of the “bread” the more it didn’t taste good.  We had each been given our own “bread” to eat and were trying to do the best with what we had been given.  The syrup mixture in mine had already dripped in my hair and it was starting to make an even bigger mess.  I didn’t want to be rude by throwing the rest of the bread away so I just shoved the last few bites in my mouth at one time and then cleaned up my hair with the one wet nap I had left in my backpack.
After I quickly did this, I discovered Tyler and Laurel didn’t like theirs either, plus they had bought one for Lyric.  I wasn’t about to get a mess all over her!  Hoping not too many had their eyes on me, I ate the rest of Ty’s and Laurels (they weren't really that big, each one was smaller than the palm of your hand) – I didn’t want to be offensive, but I secretly wrapped Lyrics in plastic and threw it away a bit later!  Oh, and towards the end of this fiasco Laurel had her picture taken again with some people (starting with the gentleman who helped her clean her sleeve) and then all of us had our pictures taken with them.  I’m sure it will be a wonderful, laughing memory for them every time they look at it!
Stinky Tofu - love Ty's facial expression!
Besides the architecture, Ancient Town is also known for two other items; its rose candy (which we did buy some to bring home and have friends try – it’s interesting…), and Stinky Tofu – Yes!  I really did say Stinky Tofu!  Don’t worry, we aren’t bringing home any of this!  If you are wondering if Stinky Tofu (kind-of fun to say its name) really does stink, the answer is “Yes!”.  And we ate it.  Even the kids.  I think Laurel plugged her nose when she ate it.  I’m not sure if I can describe the smell for you or not but I’ll give it a shot – At one point while we were eating the Stinky Tofu I wasn’t sure if Lyric had done something in her diaper (diarrhea) or if it was the Stinky Tofu I was smelling!  How is that for a description? :)  It was the Stinky Tofu I was smelling and not Lyric! And again, people were watching us eat this food, including the women who cooked it, so we forced ourselves to eat all of it – Kevin ate the majority of it!  There were also fried potatoes and some round balls that were bean curd tofu and had the texture of fried mushrooms.  All in all, it was a memorable experience!
View outside Ancient Town
I had read online that there was a Christian Church in Ancient Town and I asked our guide to show it to us.  The church building didn’t look as old as I expected it would but a nice surprise came when we went inside – we met a Chinese Christian!  The guy we met in the church was the Pastor of it.  He and his family live in the parsonage, which is a part of the church building.  I guess I didn’t really realize it before then, but the people actually live in the Ancient Town.   I thought they just came there to work. 
Kevin and I were surprised that a small Christian Church was allowed to be active in China.  We had gone to the church in Beijing but that one is mostly for foreigners.  This one though, well, anybody could go to it!  Praise God!  It was good to hear that things were a little better than what we always hear through the media.
Working in the fields outside Ancient Town
We walked through the city and then headed back the way we came.  There were a couple of places where a person could try on minority or traditional costumes and have their picture taken and the girls wanted to do this.  We tried to get Tyler to dress up but he has never been into costumes so he shied away.
Part of the costume was a heavy headdress type thing with what looked like bull’s horns sticking out of them – and the girls (Carissa and Laurel) had these on their heads.   They had to keep their necks very steady!  I expected the shop workers to take the pictures inside the store, but instead the girls were brought out in front of an old building, which they had to walk to in their costumes, to have their pictures taken.  They looked beautiful! 
Tyler having fun
Afterward they were allowed to pick out two photos each to take home.  It was a fun keepsake!
We had a really good time today, and I am so glad that we were able to arrange visiting this town.  I have a feeling there was a lot more that I missed so if I ever come back here, it is a place that I would like to explore a bit more.
The way back to the hotel was a quiet one.  So much time has passed since I wrote this that I have no idea what we did in the evening!  That is why it is so important to take notes on each day as it comes in case you don’t have time to blog about it right away (Lesson I need to remember!)

Ty pointed these men out to me - we think those are pipes they are holding!

Our beautiful daughter #1

Our beautiful daughter #2

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Copied from Sunday, December 12, 2010 Travel Blog

Wednesday, Dec 8th - Attack of the monkeys!

Beautiful Qianlin Park
What an exciting day today, full of adventure and new experiences!  We started our day again with the breakfast buffet.  The staff is beginning to anticipate our needs – even with getting the booster seat for Lyric.  That seat makes eating a meal go a lot smoother!  We do try to catch her when she tries to slide the food into her mouth by bending her head low to the plate.  She only does this when she can’t get the food on her fork.  It is so natural to her that you know she had to do this a lot in the orphanage.  Sad.  She is a quick learner though – very smart girl!
Strange pigeon girl
We met our guide at 10:00, along with our favorite bus driver, and headed out to what we call Monkey Park – it is also called Qianlin Park.  It was beautiful there.  So many people were out exercising – and not our kind of exercise either!  Many were in groups and practicing different forms of tai-chi.  I really did think it was beautiful there.  Some people would do the tai-chi (not sure if that is exactly what it is called) with swords.  Did I mention how beautiful I thought it was?
There were pigeons in the park that you could feed for just a bit of money.  We weren’t going to but then the kids talked Kevin into it – so glad he did.  Lyric wouldn’t get too close to them, but Carissa had them on her arms.  Kevin tried to get them on his shoulder, but I don’t think the birds knew the seed was there.  Laurel and Tyler didn’t get too close, but they loved it.  I told them we could do this in the states, and they wanted to know how soon!
Laurel once again drew some attention and had some ladies come up to her.  One of them touched her hair and her cheeks.  She looked very happy to see Laurel.  I told Laurel just to smile and say, “Ni hao!”  She did, and the ladies got a big kick out of it.
I love this shot of Lyric and our guide
Oh, and they practice tennis here but not the same as us.  We will practice hitting the ball up against a backdrop, but their ball here is attached to a rope which is attached to the ground.  They hit the ball and it comes back to them and they hit it again.  I wanted to play too!
He looked like he really knew how to use that sword!
After the “exercise park” we got back in the van and headed further up the mountain – on the look-out for monkeys.  It wasn’t soon before we spotted some!  A little further up, we got out of the van and started to walk up the hill to the Buddhist temple while keeping an eye out for more monkeys.
It wasn’t far before we came to some steps leading up the side of the mountain.  The kids (and Kevin) wanted to go up so our guide, Lyric and I waited at the bottom.  After awhile, Tyler and Carissa came back down.  Carissa followed a monkey down the road and took some pictures.  At the same time, we saw that Kevin and Laurel, who had both started to come down the steps, suddenly went back up them again.  We soon heard Laurel calling down the mountain.  I thought she was saying to come up.  She was pointing and was really excited.  Tyler went back up to see what was going on. 
Walking around the park
A minute or two later, this huge male monkey comes wandering down the road and starts walking up the steps!  Carissa had just come back from taking her pictures so we decided to go up the steps to see what Laurel was so excited about.  We left Lyric with our guide and followed – guess who? – the monkey right up the steps!  He would go up a few steps and stop.  We would go up a few and wait for him to go up more.  Soon he would, and we repeated the process.  It was fun, but we were nervous also.  He was a big monkey (with a backside that wasn’t very pretty!) :)
Tennis anyone?
Finally, we made it to where Laurel, Kevin and Tyler were.  Laurel was excited b/c she had seen a monkey in a tree and here we come following one up the stairs!  All of a sudden, we see more monkeys a little further away.  There were big male ones, and female ones and baby ones!  And you know what?  They were all coming our way!  We were really excited!  What an amazing experience!  This isn’t anything like the zoo – these animals are wild.  They are used to people, but still – they are wild.  The monkeys kept coming closer and passed right by us.  We saw a few babies holding on to their mamas!  One held onto its mama underneath, on the mama’s belly and another rode on its mama’s back!
Well, here we are happily watching all of this, taking pictures and videotaping when – ahhh!  - the monkeys start fighting and running all over the place!  You should have seen us jump!  It was really scary, the monkeys were really loud and had screamed and growled at each other!  They calmed down after a bit (we were  huddled in a group at this time) and decided it was time for us to visit the nice, calm Buddhist temple – we had enough of the monkeys!  As we were walking down the steps (slowly walking down the steps!) the monkeys  started fighting and running again!  Well, we jumped together again that’s for sure!  They weren’t coming after us, just each other, but they were very close to us and could very easily have attacked us.  When we first arrived we were told not to bring any water into the park b/c if the monkeys saw it they would come up and steel it, and they aren’t always nice about it!
We didn't really try to get close to the monkeys!  They came to us!
Phew, back at the bottom of the steps we get ourselves calmed down and continue heading up the hill.  On the way, we pass a family from America who had one son with them, one adopted daughter with them, and their new daughter who had a cleft lip.  She was beautiful.  I wish I had gotten their name.  I wonder now if they have a blog.
Soon after, we come up to one more American family, and it is a family that I have been emailing back and forth.  We knew that we were both in Guiyang at the same time and our daughters are close in age to one another.  They brought their son, who is just as blond as Laurel, with them.  Their new daughter is younger than Lyric, is very pretty, and she is taller than Lyric.   We are hoping to get together with them before we leave the province.  Oh, and I think they are on the same flight that we are on when we go to Guangzhou on Friday.  It will be nice to be with them in the airport. 
This is the monkey we followed up the steps!
As much as we wanted to stay and talk, we had to get to the top of the mountain so we could see the Buddhist temple.  At the top, the kids and Kevin took turns trying to touch the center of, well, I’m not sure what it was, but they said if you stood so far from the wall, kept your eyes shut, walked to the wall, and touched one certain part of it, that you would have good fortune.  We had fun doing this – I had fun laughing.  I’m not sure what everyone else thought who was watching us!
Going into the temple was interesting.  We learned part way through that there were still some 80 or so monks still living in the temple.  As much as I liked the architecture, I was saddened by the statues/Buddhists that the people would pray to.  There were different ones, like one that controlled the rain and another that controlled the wind.  One had a ton of arms with eyes on each arm, she could see everything with her many eyes.  People would pay for an incense stick, light the stick, kneel, bow and pray to these things.  The kids were really bothered by it, but it was good that their eyes were opened some to these things.  They were really saddened by it, so were Kevin and I.
I think he is yawning! 
Oh, our guide and driver bought some coins for us so we could drop them into a little “pond”.  There were little bowls in the pond and if your coin landed in one, again, you were supposed to have good luck or good fortune, or something like that.  I think each of the kids landed some coins in – mine missed each time!  Our driver had his go in each time – good thing we have him for our driver!
It was so cool to see all of them!
After the coins we headed up to eat a meal.  A monk came up to Lyric and tried to get her to go to him but she didn’t want to (Carissa was holding her at this time).  He held her hand and said some things to her.  She still didn’t want to go.  (That is a good thing; it means she is attaching to us!)  We had our guide ask if we could get a picture of him with Lyric in it and he said yes, so we now have a picture of Kevin and Lyric standing with a monk in Guiyang, China – I think that is pretty neat!
For lunch we had rice, tofu, tea, eggplant, beans and shredded potatoes.  The potatoes were good, same with the rice.  I didn’t try the eggplant, but ate some of the tofu – mostly to be polite.  I’m not a huge fan of it.  We ate up all the potatoes, but I pretty much stopped eating after I found the little, really it wasn’t very big, spider in my rice.  I’m sure I have eaten many other bugs/insects but, well, this one I could see and it made me wonder if there were any others hiding in the food…
And more of them!  They just kept coming!
After lunch, we got back in the van and headed to a museum.  I’m not a huge fan of museums but it was interesting to see some of the different styles of clothing and the displays about the different minority groups.  Tyler had me take a picture of a really old crossbow.  It looked pretty neat!
Sweet monkey!
Laurel was the only one to find something in the gift shop – a musical instrument (which she likes to blow in the hotel room… loudly) It's pretty neat looking.  We should find out the name of it to see if we can find out how it is played online.
After the museum we made an emergency stop for diapers again.  We had bought some the day before, but they were a Chinese brand.  They are more like a pad that you place in a cheap plastic liner.  I tried it on Lyric – once.  Poor Lyric pooped in it and made a big mess.  The plastic taping broke off one side and there was no way I was taking her out in public with a diaper that wouldn’t do very good with leakage! 
Just taking a break!
In the store, I grabbed the diapers, a huge container of water, a small box of Oreos and a Snickers bar (ahh, chocolate comfort food!). 
Back at the hotel, we ate our Ramon noodles for dinner and called it an early night!

Wish I knew what this is all about!  I should have asked our guide.

Kevin will have good fortune the rest of his life!  Wahoo!

So glad our driver had all of his go in!
The monk Lyric and Kevin got their picture with.

Beautiful scene within the temple gates

At the museum - Kevin carried Lyric like this a lot - she is out like a light!

A bit about Guizhou, where Lyric is from.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Copied from Sunday, December 12, 2010 Travel Blog

Tuesday, December 7th – best meal in Guiyang and Lyric is attached to me!

Entrance to Joshua tower - across a bridge
Today was a lazy day for us in the morning because we didn’t meet our guide until 2:00 for a tour to Joshua Tower, which was nice place to visit.  The tower was old with neat lanterns in it.  The lanterns originally only held candles but were now wired for electric.
Carissa going up to the top
We took a walk along the river and then watched a gentleman fly a dragon kite for a bit.  Lyric saw some dogs also and got really excited about them.
We had our best meal in Guiyang today, and it was right off the river.  Vicki thought we had ordered too much, but this time our meal was excellent and we gobbled up all of it – I think we surprised her!  She didn’t expect us to eat much based on how much we had eaten before :) (when we didn’t like the food!)
Really neat lantern/light fixture
Oh, and everyone at the restaurant loved having us there.  We were really like movie stars sitting at our table b/c a lot of the workers were taking pictures of all of us.  Today I wondered just how many pictures we have of us floating around China and am curious to know if we were doing anything embarrassing in any of them!  Well, maybe I don’t want to know!
The best moment of my day happened at the restaurant.  A couple of the waitresses wanted to hold Lyric – but guess what?  She didn’t want any of them!  She stuck close to her mama – me!  That was the first time it seemed like she had truly attached to me.  It felt so wonderful, and it was an incredible blessing.
View from Joshua tower - I think part of this view is/was a school at some point
Back at our hotel Kevin and Tyler went and played pool.  I wish I would have been there to see what happened to the two of them, but the girls and I decided to stay in the room.  The pool table is in the same room of the hotel as an actual pool is, but the pool table is set up at a higher level than the pool.  While playing pool, Tyler bounced his ball on the table and it almost went off.  Kevin told him that he should be careful, otherwise it could bounce right off the table and land in the pool.  Well… a few minutes later someone’s ball bounced off the table, rolled across the floor, fell down to the next level where the pool is and decided to take a dip in the pool itself!  I won’t mention names (Kevin!) but I would have loved to have seen the look on their faces!  I guess they improvised some kind of net-thing to get it out.  :)
We saw these lions a lot
When they came back to the room we called it a night.   We were all tired from the day out and about.  Oh – we did make an emergency stop for diapers earlier in the day!

Beautiful bridge

Enjoying the view

Entrance to Joshua Tower

This is the most we saw of bamboo - all cut down!

Just a nice shot

The kids (and I) had fun walking on these!

Not sure what made them pose like this - but I love it!

"Help! I have been here so long that my legs are buried!"
Pay phone

What a darling

How about those baby carriers?

Nice shot
Carissa watching the kite

The kite watching Carissa :)