Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Picked up Lyric's Visa, Out With Friends, Last Meal With the Inlaws

Sleepy Tyler
Today was another busy, fun-filled day.  It started out with taking a picture of Tyler - he was half on and half off the blow-up mattress.   We had brought two mattresses with us to China, knowing that we would need the extra beds.  They served us well the entire time, and it was well worth it to haul them around in the suit cases. 
Laurel is pretending to be a knight.

We had planned in advance to meet with the Bates Family for a walk around the town and for lunch so we headed over to their hotel, the White Swan,  after breakfast.  On the way we took pictures of the children with the many statues that are around the island.  In the first one, Laurel is pretending she is a knight.  In the second, she is fighting the pawn.  In the third, Laurel and Lyric are with the rest of the children, following the music player, and in the last one, I think Carissa is showing off how tall she is by leaning on the child's head!  (It's official, Carissa is now taller than I am!)

We really enjoyed walking around town with the Bates family.  I know for sure that Laurel and McKenna liked skipping and hopping along!  We ended up taking the Bates to our favorite restaurant and successfully ordered a bunch of good food.  If I remember correctly, when we were all done, we were stuffed.   On the main floor of the restaurant, Kevin and I ended up buying a bunch of single-yoked moon cakes so we could take them home with us to share with friends and family.
Laurel is fighting the Rook.

Toward the end of our walk-about with the Bates family we stopped at another McDonalds for some coffee and hot chocolate.  We sure did visit McDonalds a lot in China!  I don't think we go there that many times in a year back in the States!

After our walk with the Bates, we parted ways and headed back to our room for a bit.  I remember that Kevin had a bunch of business work he had to get done in the hotel room.  It was hard for him to be away from his business for as long as what he was, but in the end everything worked out great.  We rested a little in the room and then it was time to meet Brad, Jieying, and the Wu's for one last meal together.  The Wu's took us to a restaurant that served hot pot.  This time, we had clams in it.  

For some reason my stomach wasn't feeling well that evening so I decided to pass on the clams and just stuck with a few bites of bread and vegetables.  Each of the children hesitantly tried the clams, and Laurel wanted to take the shells home with her!  It was really nice of the Wu's to take us to dinner there. The kids enjoyed the rest of the meal and the evening with Brad, Jieying and her parents. 

Before we knew it, our meal had come to a close and it was time for us to get the kids back to the hotel room.  If memory serves me correctly, we did a little bit of souvenir shopping on our way back to our hotel.  Even though it was late, there were still some shops open.  The kids bought some gifts for friends, and I bought a few little items for stocking stuffers for Christmas.
All the little children following the violin player.

When we got back to the hotel room, I had a lot of packing to do.  In the morning we were taking the train to Beijing! 

We had a wonderful time in Guangzhou, touring the area, and visiting with Brad's in-laws.  It is an experience we will never forget. 

Enjoy the pictures.

Carissa showing off how tall she is!

McKenna and Laurel - two peas in a pod.

Bikes, like the one on the left, are pretty common.

The entrance to our favorite restaurant in Guangzhou.

Caught on camera - Carissa using her hands and Tyler using his chopstick like a spear!

Side street.

Big Mac, Fila-a-Fish, Quarter-Pounder, French Fries... You deserve a break today at McDonalds...

Two beautiful girls drinking hot cocoa together.

One beautiful girl drinking hot cocoa.

Laurel is sniffing her clams.  She wanted to keep the shells...

Sitting around the table for hot pot.

Laurel, delighted with her new glasses.

First Lyric, then Jieying, then Jieying's mom - all in different stages of taking a bite.  Cute.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Folk Art Museum, Traditional Chinese Tea, Christmas in China

Very intricate details at the Folk Art Museum
Today was another adventure starting out first thing in the morning!  Originally, we weren’t going on the FTIA group tour to the Folk Art Museum and Jade Market because we were going to have Hot Pot with Brad at 11:00.  So… we didn’t get up and get moving right away.  But then Brad called and said we would have hot pot at a later time in the day.  So then we decided to go on the tour, but it was already the time that the group was meeting to leave.  Rats.  Wait!  We got a phone call from Ike, our tour guide. "Can you be ready in 10 minutes?"  Not really, but we decided to do it anyway – Ike said the group would wait for us.  We moved quick!  Most of us weren’t even dressed for the day and Carissa's hair as well as mine was still wet.  Ike had said to meet them in the lobby so Kevin ran downstairs with the kids and grabbed some bread, bananas and yogurt while I finished getting ready – and then I soon followed them downstairs. 
I would of loved to look at all the details up close.
When I got downstairs, there was no Ike in the lobby, but we soon got a phone call.  Ike said to have the hotel golf cart driver take us to the White Swan Hotel.  Okay, we're flexible.  We go out to get the cart and find out that it won’t be there for another hour.  Oops!  We will have to walk/run to the White Swan so they don't have to wait for us too long!  We get there, huffing and puffing, and are soon on the bus for the tour to the Folk Art Museum - eating breakfast along the way.

I think many stories were told in the art work.
Wow!  There were a lot of people at the museum!  Really, really, really long lines.  We found out that it was an “everyone gets in free at the museum” day – and people sure were taking advantage of that!  We almost didn’t go in, but then Ike got it worked out and we went to the front of the line and walked right in.  I wonder what all of the people were thinking about us when we walked by them?  We were a bunch of white people with Chinese babies, who didn’t have to wait in line…
Laughing tiger statue.
The coolest thing I saw in the museum was called “bone art”.  It is actually hand carvings made out of ivory.  There was one carving done in the shape of a ship.  It was extremely detailed and very beautiful.  The other thing I liked a lot was the design and architecture of the building.  It had a lot intricate details on it, most of which seemed to tell a story.  I also had a lot of fun going into the shops.  Laurel bought two little items.  I can’t tell what one is b/c she may give it to a friend who is reading this.  The other thing she bought was a necklace with blue on it, and she already gave this one away to McKenna.  Laurel wanted McKenna to have something to remind her of herself and their good times in China.  Very sweet.
I thought we were supposed to go to the Jade Market but we ended up going back to the hotel, which was good.  We were then able to meet Brad for our first experience with the subway system in Guangzhou (pretty easy to use, but I like Beijing’s better) and also for Dim Sum with Jieying and her parents.  Dim Sum is Cantonese food and some of the items were pretty good!  There were many dishes to choose from, including fried rice with pineapple and shrimp in it, a couple different types of bread-like items, con-gee, and many more.  Wasn’t too bad – I’m sure I could find a favorite among the dishes.
Brad getting our sweet potatoes!
OH!  On our way to the subway we passed a street vendor and Brad asked if anyone wanted a hot sweet potato.  The kids and I had read the book Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze awhile back and in the book the main character, Young Fu, often got himself a hot sweet potato from a street vendor.  This was one of the things I wanted to experience while in China.  With only a few days left, I am so glad that Brad saw this and asked if anyone wanted one!  I was really looking forward to eating it, but it was so hot that I had to put it in the side of my backpack until it cooled down. (I never did eat it until just now.  It is about 1:00 in the morning and Kevin just got back from going out with Brad.  I was really hungry and writing about the day reminded me of it.  Call me crazy, but I just thought it was really cool to eat a sweet potato in China from a street vendor!)
At the tea house
After Dim Sum we walked to a little store that served tea in the traditional manner.  It was really neat!  This was also something that I had wanted to experience.  We sat at a table while a lovely Chinese woman prepared and served us tea.  She cleaned our cups with hot water and did not serve us the first bit of tea so that the tea would be free of any dust.  I think we tried about 3 different kinds.  Kevin bought some puh-ar and a flower tea, and I had him get me another type of flower tea, where you add a type of sugar to it while it is steeping.  (Later, Jieying, Brad’s mother-n-law, Carissa, Laurel, Lyric and I bought the sugar at a grocery store so I could take it home.  It is like rock sugar, not like the sugar cubes we have at home).

At the tea house, the girls all got to take turns playing a Chinese Harp.  Where our harps stand up, this one lays down.  It was very pretty and all of the girls, even Lyric, were very excited to play it. 
We had a picture taken of all of us at the tea shop and then the workers wanted pictures also.  They took ones with just Tyler this time (it was all girls, well, young ladies as the workers.  One thing about the Chinese is that I can never tell how old they are!  They could be 30 years old and still look like they were 18!)  Ty was a bit embarrassed but he did well.  Then they took pics with Laurel.   Brad and Kevin stood together in a hug and asked why no one ever wanted to take pictures of them!  After it was translated everyone burst out laughing.  It was really funny!
Look at the tiny tea cups!  (It's good they were tiny - we sampled a lot of tea that day!)
Out of the tea shop, the guys went and got our train tickets while we girls went and got the rock sugar, visited a more traditional Chinese grocery store, and went to the in-laws apartment.
I have to say, the traditional Chinese grocery store was very interesting.  There were live chickens in cages and you could have them butchered right there on the spot!  It was stinky inside the store and there were chicken parts on the counter.  Quite a difference from our grocery stores with our prepackaged meat!  My greatest surprise was to see a black-skinned chicken!  I was amazed and pointed them out to the girls.  Even the head was black!  I thought for sure they had somehow just blackened the chicken but Jieying assured me that it really was a black skinned chicken!  I was shocked.  Really!  I took pics also so if I can ever figure out how to get the pics uploaded I’ll post one of them.  (I did finally figure it out...) The other items we saw included big fat frogs, turtles, eels, a variety of fish, clams and many other items.  I’m glad we got to see these things!
Lyric getting a few lessons.
We soon found ourselves on the 15th floor of the in-laws apartment building, where we had plans to celebrate Christmas with them.  It was so sweet of them - Mr. Wu (Jieying's father) - went and found a small pretend Christmas tree from somewhere, along with garland, and he hung them up in their apartment.  One of the gifts that we brought the Wu's was a Christmas music cd so we gave that to them early in the evening so we could have music.  We brought snacks to share and the Wu's set out snacks as well.  Our meal for the evening was... pizza!  It's so funny.  We wanted to have Chinese food and they wanted to have American food - pizza!  The Wu's were so generous.  They bought our family, children included, many beautiful gifts.  Each of the children received beautiful pen and pencil holders that in all of our souvenir shopping I didn't see anywhere.  They also gave us a beautiful tea set along with many other items.  One day the Wu's may travel to America, and I can only pray that we will be as hospitable to them as they were to us. 
Laurel getting a lesson.

Aside from all of the gift giving, one of the highlights of the evening was when Brad shared the story of our Savior with the Wu's.  Brad would talk in English for our benefit and then Jieying would translate in Mandarin to her parents.  Each of us then took a turn telling what Christmas meant to us.  We pray that any seeds that were planted continue to grow in each of their hearts.

All of us at the tea house.
Early on in the evening Tyler found himself with an earache.  It hurt so bad that we had him lay down in a bedroom for awhile.  He must have felt pretty bad.  In some of the pictures I have of him he looks quite miserable.
Chicken for dinner anyone?

Some lovely memories I have of the evening include Laurel drawing pictures and giving them as gifts, Lyric successfully fitting in a tiny box and looking like she was a perfect Christmas gift (which she really was), and the pure delight on Lyric's face when she received gifts for herself. 
See the black-skinned chicken?  See the eggs in the chicken?
What type of fish would you like?
How would you like your fish prepared?

Brad better watch his fingers!
Lyric was our precious gift this year!
Lyric was so happy to call these gifts her own.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Group Oath at Consulate, Pictures at the White Swan, Adventure in Guangzhou

These 4 sweeties were all considered "special needs".  Beautiful, aren't they?
This morning was a lot like all our other mornings with getting up, getting dressed, and having breakfast at the buffet downstairs.  Lyric ate a whole banana by herself, an egg, a little rice, and a little bit of bread.  We need to get some smaller bananas for that girl!
It is sort of a tradition for families who adopt from China to get a picture of their children on a red couch in a hotel called The White Swan.  (Just for you adopting moms getting ready to come to China – there is more than one red couch at The White Swan!  I always thought there was only one, but there were at least 4!)

Our new family
Getting pictures taken of a bunch of babies on a couch is, in one word, chaotic!  Our agency, FTIA, has 7 or 8 families here who have adopted babies and then we are one of 4 families here who have adopted waiting children.  I hardly even tried to get a picture of the kids on the couch – I couldn’t make my way through to the kids and all the parents were standing so close to the couch that I didn’t think I would be able to get a good shot.  I figured maybe someone would post the picture somewhere and I could be sent a copy of it. 

I love how she sticks out her tongue when she smiles.
We took a family photo in front of a beautiful decorated tree at the White Swan and a family/group photo of all of us with FTIA.  It was a beautiful backdrop for the picture, complete with the Christmas tree and a small waterfall.
Afterwards, we had some time to kill for lunch before we met back together with the other 3 special needs families in order to go to the U.S. Consulate, so we went with another family, the Bates, to Subway and then the husbands ran into Starbucks.  At Subway, there was a little mishap and one of our subs fell on the ground.  The workers didn’t seem like they wanted to replace it (it was our fault that it fell, but a good business would replace it), and they did.
Also, I thought we would finally get out of Subway without Lyric crying – but I was wrong…  She sat on my lap b/c there weren’t other chairs, and I was completely shocked when I gave her part of my sub (mostly with just the bread) and she didn’t cry.  Well, Laurel ended up not wanting all of hers and Lyric wanted some of the bread so I let her eat some.  Then I decided she didn’t need all of the bread that she was eating and I broke it in half and gave Laurel back half of it to eat.  Guess what?  Lyric got mad and cried!  She wanted all of it :)  I ended up standing up with her and she didn’t get any of it.  When I offered her the piece later she strongly shook her head “no” at me…
On the way back to The White Swan, Kevin and Dennis grabbed some Starbucks coffee for themselves and one for Dennis' wife.  Then they ended up buying themselves each a T-shirt that says, “Starbucks Guangzhou” on them.  They got the T-shirts for 25 rmb each which is about $4.00.
We had to take a bus to the US Consulate office, where we took an oath that said everything we had said on our paperwork was true to the best of our knowledge... along with some other stuff.

Beautiful jade ship
Beautiful jade ship with Tyler and his new "glasses"
I haven’t said much about the squatty potties yet or told you about how you can see kids just going to the bathroom on the sidewalk or in the street, but today, well, we could call today a poopy kind-of a day!  (Oh, Kevin just told me that he got a Grass Bunny!  Yeah!  I’m so proud of him!  :) He is playing the DS next to me while I type and the Grass Bunny is on the game).  Kevin and I passed through security and were waiting for the rest of our group in the consulate building when we noticed a pile of something on the floor in the waiting area of one of the offices.  Yuck!  It was a pile brown, splattered poop all over...  someone must of had to go rather quickly!  Fortunately for us, this wasn’t the office we had to wait in and we continued down the hall (when we looked later the poop was gone).  Maybe it was a trick and someone was videotaping our faces to get our reaction :)
Adopting families with FTIA
The Oath taking didn’t last too long and we were able to enjoy some conversations with other families and then we were in the bus again on the way back to our hotel.  We (and the Bates family again) had decided to venture out on our own off the island we are on and into the real streets of China (they are real streets here also, they are just fancy and more Western).  We wanted to find a Carre Four and to walk down a street that sold, oh, herbs and spices, turtles and chickens, tarantulas and alligator tails…
At the US Consulate office
We figured we would find some nice Chinese restaurant to have dinner in.  Instead, we walked and walked and walked!  It was a beautiful night for it and we had a lot of fun.   We never did find the Carre Four (for diapers and medicine) or the street with the tarantulas on it, but we did eat at McDonalds!  How horrible of us right?  Subway for lunch and McDonalds for dinner – where is the Chinese food?
View along the river
I managed to miss this one, but Dennis' wife saw a man going to the bathroom on the street and then later, Dennis stepped in a pile of poop.  It looked like human poop, but it could have been dog poop.  That mystery will just have to stay unsolved!

During the walk, Laurel and McKenna (who is 6 and was just adopted by Dennis and his wife), ran and jumped and hopped almost the whole time we were walking.  McKenna has a ton of energy and really, really likes Laurel – who likes her back just as much!  It amazes me how two children who cannot speak with one another verbally have a language all of their own.  They played together so much.  It was good for both of them.  Want to know one of the coolest things?  After we were done at the Consulate office and were waiting outside for our bus, we found out something pretty special – Laurel and McKenna’s birthdays are on the exact same day!  October 17th! How cool is that?

Chicken anyone?

Lazy Morning in the Hotel Room - Got Lyric's TB Test Checked

My notes are really bare for this day.  I was hoping my pictures would help jog my memory but to my surprise I didn't even take any this day!  The only thing I can remember is that we spent a wonderfully lazy morning after breakfast in the hotel room.  At about 10:50 Carissa, Lyric and I walked down to the medical clinic to get Lyric's arm looked at where she had the TB test.  Thankfully, she passed the test and we headed back to the hotel.

I'll have to ask the rest of the family if they remember anything more about this day and then repost it later.


Pearl Market and River Boat Cruise

McKenna took both Laurel's and Tyler's hands.
Today was packed full of fun things to do!  We started our day by going to another Buddhist temple, but this time we went with most of the families who used the same adoption agency (FTIA) as we did.

McKenna and Laurel found each other right away and sat together on the bus.  McKenna was so sweet.  She not only held Laurel's hand, but she took Tyler's also.  I don't think he knew quite what to think of that, but I thought it was great!

Lyric always sweat in China a lot when she slept - now she doesn't.
Being at the Buddhist temple was a bit disconcerting for our family, but we weren't there for very long.   In a way, I think it was good that the children, myself included, saw some of what Buddhism consisted of.

After the temple we went to what is called a pearl market.  It was a big building with many floors to it.  It seemed a lot like an indoor mall and wasn't anything like the markets where we negotiated prices in Beijing.  I like the places where you negotiate better.

The Bates (McKenna's parents) weren't that interested in shopping and neither were we.  Both families really wanted to see parts of Guangzhou that didn't cater to tourists like us - so we snuck out of the pearl market building.  (We didn't really sneak, we just had a time that we had to be back by).

Laurel wanted McKenna to come home with us.
Out on the streets we payed careful attention to the building we came out of and carefully walked in a straight line in another direction.  When we found ourselves at a McDonald's we just had to get some ice cream for everyone!  We made it back to the pearl market building in good time, took the bus back to the hotel, and relaxed until we met Brad a bit later.

After resting in our room for a bit it was time to meet Brad in the lobby.  He ended up bringing some small blue potatoes (he is carrying them in the picture below) with him for us to try.  I was really surprised that the children didn't want to try them.  They are really good about trying new fruits and vegetables.  I tried them though - and I liked them.  I had to peel the potato skin off before I ate it (which was a bit messy), but it was worth it.
Brad walking in with the potatoes.

The plan for the evening was to meet Jieying and her parents, go out to dinner with them, and then go on a river boat cruise.  Instead of taking two taxis and separating, we found an "illegal taxi" to take.  An illegal taxi is one that isn't registered with the government but since this one happened to be a mini van and we could all fit in it, we took the chance. 

Jieying's mom attached to Laurel right away!
It was so good that we did!  The area where we were meeting Jieying and her parents was extremely crowded because of a holiday.  I'm pretty sure that they saw us coming way before we spotted them!  :)  Kevin had met Jieying's parents when he visited his brother a few years ago, but this was the first time we were honored with meeting them.  You could tell they were really happy to have us there and the whole time we were with them they went out of their way to make sure we had everything we needed.

While walking to the restaurant we stopped in a few stores and did some browsing.  Jieying's mom bought the girls a few small gifts and later they (Jieying's parents) kindly bought them jade necklaces.  The children really value them.

While in the strip of "mall" where the jade shop was, the girls and I took a walk around.  At one point an older lady stopped us and, I think, was asking if the children were mine.  I nodded and smiled and held up my fingers showing 4 for the number of children we now had.  I don't think she knew quite what to think when I pointed to Laurel and Carissa and then to Lyric, but she smiled and laughed as I nodded and laughed and then I went on my way back to the jade shop. 

She is still attached to Laurel (can't blame her though, we're attached also!)
We were soon at our favorite restaurant in Guangzhou.  We liked it so much that later in the week we brought the Bates family back with us!  On the main level of the restaurant is a small bakery/food shop - if you can get there when the doughnuts are fresh and hot you will get a real treat!  Yum!  The food was also really good and the menu was big with lots of pictures in it so we knew what we were eating.  :)

Beautiful colors
After dinner we took separate taxi's back to the river front area and then walked to where we would get on the boat.  On the way, Kevin paused by a street man to show Lyric the pet monkey the guy had on a leash.  I think he paused for a bit too long because before he knew it the monkey had jumped on his shoulder!  (I think he was trained to do this).  When the man realized we weren't going to give him any money (and when he saw the mother-n-law coming back for us), he quickly walked away :)

The river boat cruise was beautiful.  There were so many bridges, buildings, and other boats lit up that we always had something wonderful to look at.  We had a very nice, memorable experience that we will cherish for many years to come.

And after that long of a day, I think we all fell asleep as soon as our heads hit the pillows back at the hotel room!

The lights on this bridge would change colors.
Carissa and Lyric having a great time.

This was pretty also - the lights changed colors often.