Sunday, June 30, 2013

First Days in Guangzhou

Yesterday after checking into our hotel, Evan and I checked out the entire hotel.  We ran into our guide from last year and talked to her for a while. We were able to meet the director of Lifeline, our agency last year.  We had some good conversations.   We then went outside and had dinner at Pizza Hut- Evan's choice.  He hardly ate anything...I thought I was picky- geesh!   We came back to the hotel and skyped with the other kids at home and with dad for the first time (well earlier in the day- middle of the night at home- we did skype with dad just because we hadn't seen him or talked to him much at all with him being out of town the week we were preparing for the trip).   It was good to see all the kids and they were so funny- they were trying to figure out how to get to me via the computer.  Lena was signing 'mom' and 'I love you.'   Evan was telling Jayce how much he loves him and Jayce was quick to tell him back that he loves him too. :)   I was a zombie by the point- could hardly keep my eyes open.  I was nodding off at the computer earlier, waiting for the time to skype them.  We then showered and went to be- ready for our first real full night of sleep.  I think we both slept like a rock, though I woke up at 6:30 on my own and had to work a little harder to get Evan out of bed shortly after 7 a.m.

We were going to get money out of the safe and it started beeping over and over.  We called down and they had someone come up and use a machine to re-set it and open it.   We then headed for breakfast.  Evan was so excited about the bacon and hard boiled eggs- he took 3 of them!   We met a few families at breakfast and saw a few families we had me in the hotel the night before.  We were one of the only families here as of this morning waiting for gotcha day.  Many of the other families had gotcha days last week either here or in another province and recently got here for the remainder of the trip.  Almost all of the kids we saw were under 3.  There is one little boy who just turned 5 who was adopted by an Australian family.   It is such a cool feeling recognizing a child from an agency list and just being able to see them in person.  Little 'Cullen' and 'Lorelai' who were with Lifeline are just precious!   After eating, we headed outside to check out the fish and the gardens around the hotel.  Such a beautiful area.   Evan enjoyed feeding the fish and going over the little bridge.

We then headed to the 7-11 for some drinks and came back to the hotel to catch a cab to the island.  We went to Shamian island to get some shopping.  I wanted to get some of the gifts we are looking for, for our Chinese kiddos crossed off my list...just in case we have issues that prevent us from being able to shop or go out in public much since I am the only parent traveling.  Last year I was able to leave Lena at the hotel with Rick and Evan while I went to the island with a few other moms. Not an option this time.    We enjoyed shopping at Judy's- this was a new shop for us.   LOVE her!  She is pregnant with her second child- hoping for a son.  She has one daughter and she will pay the fine to have a second child.  You could tell how much of a blessing it is for Chinese people to have a son.  She just adored Evan and was really hopeful to have a son herself.    We then went to Christ Church on the island for part of their English/Mandarin service.  There was a line to get in- the prior service had not let out yet.   We learned that many people come and go as they please throughout the church service, some staying for just a prayer or just one or two songs.   There were two women sitting in the back pointing out areas that had space.   One was not afraid to tap a woman on the shoulder for laying her head and upper body on her boyfriend.  That couple didn't stay long after that.   But, was amazing to see the heart some of these people have for Jesus!  They were singing and quite loudly, I might add...even the man behind us who could  not for the life of him carry a tune.   I saw a few people holding out their hands or raising a hand up- that kind of surprised me.  There were a few foreigners, but 99% of the people at that service for Chinese.  Most of the service was done in Mandarin and then in English.  They were really good with their English..I was impressed.   The sermon was about the Great Commission- Matthew 28:18-20. 

From church we headed to Jennifer and Sherry's place.  Jennifer actually came out of her store and tracked us down on the sidewalk.  We were heading there anyways, but I found her to be a little more pushy this time.  I think they are desperate for business since not many families are staying on the island compared to before.   We got some things we got last year for Lena for Reid at both places.  I got a nice tea set for our family.  Sherry was very nice- kind of followed us around, but was not pushy.  We walked through the main cobblestone path filled with statues and pretty buildings.  We saw a lot of modeling shoots going on- for shoes, purses, wedding dresses, clothes, etc.   There was a vendor fair of some sorts going on in that area as well.  I picked up a cheap watch because I had accidentally left mine at home and it will be pretty essential to have the time over the next two weeks.   Evan was stopped at least twice for a picture- a blonde boy with blue eyes is quite the site.  One girl even wanted me to take her picture with Evan by one of the statues.   We then went back to Judy's to get one thing that was cheaper at her shop.  I forgot to mention that she told me she was a Christian and how much God has changed her it.

We then walked to the Victory Hotel to catch a cab back to the Garden.  This was the first time I have ever been in a cab that stopped and not at the location we wanted to go.  He had to use the public toilets and it was apparently quite urgent!   We got back to the hotel and rested a bit and went through our purchases for the day and then Evan wanted to go swimming.  Many families were in the pool with their little ones and some even fell asleep in their parents' arms in the pool. :)   This is where I met the Australian family and another family who are also with Madison, from Illinois.  Evan played in the water for quite awhile while I made a list of questions I want to have answered and read through our itinerary.   We then headed to the room to get ready to go eat dinner.  We had skipped lunch and just had a light snack.  I saw we had a message on our machine- it was Sara...a mom I have been talking with on Facebook for months.  Her daughter is at the same orphanage as Reid and she will have gotcha day tomorrow as well.   We set-up a time to meet in the lobby for dinner and then headed down.  We showed them a few places and then went to Tekila for some Mexican food.  A few other families had the same idea and we joined the family from Illinois at their table.   We had a great time and it was nice to get to see them in person and to know them a little better.

We came back to relax and then I got a call from Stacey, another mom who just got in today and who is meeting her son, Mason, who is one of Reid's best friends tomorrow.   We had a great long conversation.   We are waiting to skype the kids and Rick again before they take off for Rick's grandma's 95th birthday party and family reunion. 

It is hard to believe in less than 24 hours that we will be having our gotcha day and celebrating our son's 6th birthday, his first with at least part of his family!   My mind is full of questions as to how it will go, how he will act, and certain things I just have not experienced with adopting yet, since we have adopted children 17 months and 2.5 years old in the past.   I guess we'll just wing it, go with the flow, and take each moment as it comes.  That and pray.  That's all we really can do.   Still feels surreal.  Tomorrow we will meet some of the other families for breakfast and head to the Trust Mart to get some food for lunches so we don't have to go out to eat so often.   Then we'll just hang out until 12:30 when it is time to exchange money and prepare.  At 2:00 p.m. we will leave the hotel for the provincial civil affairs office.  This is where it will get weird for me- we had a gotcha day last year in a hotel conference room and were the only family there.  This time the room with be full of families, waiting for their child to be brought out to them.  There will be some crying and who knows what else.  It will be loud and probably a bit overwhelming to just about everyone.   I know of 5 families for sure who will be there.  There may be 15 or more...not sure yet of the exact number.

Please say some prayers for us and for Reid- he is leaving with his good friend so that should help and he will have Evan, but he is also leaving the only home he ever remembers having and everything he knows.  Pray for his heart, for his grief, and for God to give him a sense of peace.  Pray for Evan and I to be able to say and do everything we can to help comfort him and make him feel loved and safe, but not too overwhelming. 
Hoping to have some great news tomorrow!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

From TA to Travel- a Whirlwind!

We've never had this short of notice for traveling before so this was a unique situation.  On Monday morning I got word that our consulate appointment was confirmed, but I needed to wait to get confirmation that our provincial business was in order and that we could have a July 1st gotcha.  I think I heard later that night that that was in line as well. I called around on Tuesday morning for price quotes for flights and booked tickets late Tuesday night.  Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday were full of busy work, crossing little things and big things off the to-do list.  I stayed up far too late the night before we left finishing packing, but it had to get finished.  Rick came home from an Ag teacher convention really late that same night.  We put the bags in the car and I tried to sleep, but didn't sleep well...combination of worrying about what I was forgetting, missing everyone at home, and the fear of the unknowns with travel. 

Thursday morning came quick and it was time to say goodbye.  Always so hard.  Rick, Evan, and I got in the car at about 6:30 a.m.  We stopped at Rick's school to make a few last minute copies and  check Rick in for his domestic flight and then headed to Chicago.  We got there around 8:30 a.m.  We took the subway to the terminal- Evan and I said a quick goodbye and then headed to the international terminal.  Rick headed towards his domestic terminal.  We got our first work-out for the day when we went up and down the terminal searching for United only to find out that United has its own terminal along with a couple other
airlines.  Oddly enough- United was listed in the Subway under just about every concourse and it did say international terminal...hmmm.  So we got back on the subway and went to terminal 1.  It didn't take too long to check in our two big bags.  Getting through security took a little longer.  We then found our gate and did some walking around and hanging out.   We talked to Rick before he took off for Nashville to train a team of teachers.  We even got to talk to him after he landed.  Our flight was at 12:30 p.m.  It was delayed to 1:15 p.m. for mechanical problems. That turned into 1:45, which turned into 2:30.   We eventually did load the plane and everyone was in their seats with their bags stowed, ready to go.  Many had started a movie.  YES- we had a movie screen in our seat this much better than last year.   We also got put in the Economy Plus section with a little more leg room because the Economy section had one open seat and we would be split up.  We were only one row ahead of another adoptive family I had connected with prior.  We were feeling good.  Then they came on and said that because things had taken longer than originally planned, they would need to find a whole new flight crew.  We had to get off the plane, with all of our carry-ons.  They said that we'd go at 6  p.m. and to be back in the concourse by 5:15 p.m. to load.   We got in line for food vouchers and then headed to get some dinner and make a few calls.   We came back shortly after 5 and eventually the screen said 6:30 instead of 6:00.  Then we watched a storm come in and the runway get backed up.  They still weren't ready.   Finally we had a new crew, but they had a bunch of paperwork to fill out.  We loaded around 7:00 maybe and sat on the plane for about 2 hours between waiting for the plane to pull back (still finishing paperwork) and waiting on the runway.   It felt so good to FINALLY be in the air. 

Evan was a trooper on the plane-only once he was not feeling so good.  He slept a chunk and watched a number of movies.  I watched quite a few myself and slept maybe a couple hours.   Evan seemed wide awake and full of energy the last hour or two, which made me worry he was not going to be able to go to sleep when we got there.   We landed shortly after 1:00 a.m.  Saturday morning.  Our scheduled time was 5:20 p.m. Friday night.  Go figure- the line for customs and immigration was enormous!   Went through that and then headed to get our bags.  That part was pretty easy.   Now was when I started to get nervous because it was between 2 and 3 a.m. and there were no shuttles running and everything inside the airport was closed.  I wondered how I'd change money to get a cab to the hotel.  We walked almost out and saw an ATM.  I got in line and when I went up, I put in our credit card.  Got almost all the way through only to find out you needed a pin and I am not aware that we even have one for our credit card and I don't own a debit card.   I tried the only 4 options it could be...nothing.  This is when God intervened not once, but twice.  A many behind me from the states offered to trade me some American money for Hong Kong money- he would just take extra out.  I got enough to cover the cab.  Thank God.   We walked out of that area to find the man who had been sitting next to Evan on the flight (goes to China often for business) waiting for us.  He already had gone to the Marriott desk and got a card for us with the address of our hotel.  He then gave me a $50HK bill in case we didn't have enough for the taxi.  He showed us where to line up for the taxi to Hong Kong island.  What a blessing!  I was in awe of how two strangers could be so kind and helpful...and oh so thankful.  We got in a very long line for a taxi to Hong Kong island.  Talked to two girls living in Hong Kong, but originally from New Zealand.   Caught the cab.  It was an expensive cab- crossing islands and adding tolls is not cheap!   We finally got to our hotel on Hong Kong island and checked in.  By the time we showered and got our stuff out for the morning, it was already 5:30 a.m.  Evan slept 4 straight hours til 9:30 a.m. I could only sleep 2 and even that was broken sleep.  I got ready to go at 7:30 a.m. and got online for a bit while waiting for Evan. I had to shake him pretty good to get him up at 9:30.   We finished getting ready and headed down to check out.  After checking out we caught a cab to the Hung Hom train station on Kowloon island.  We walked around the station to find the train heading to Guangzhou.  Found the desk and got our tickets.  We waited to board.  The train was a bit delayed.  We left around 11:45 a.m. and got in around 1:45 p.m.  A nice man from Hong Kong, originally from England, helped us get our bags from the terminal onto the train.  Yes, I do think I over-packed once again.   We found our seats and ended up talking to a lady behind us with her son and nanny- originally from Canada and her husband waiting for her was from Italy, but they were living and working in Guangzhou.  She had another son waiting for her too.  She was shocked that I could have so many kids and not have help.  She thought for sure I'd have a nanny.  I told her not many people by us have hired help. :)      We passed through many towns with orphanages I knew, including Bao'an- the area our son is from.   When we got close to Guangzhou, the man that had helped us earlier came to our part of the train and said he'd help me get the bags off the train to the platform and up the escalator.   The woman said she'd help too.   That was a little crazy, but I should have known- the Chinese people are always in a hurry, have little patience, and want to push there way through.  Cutting in line here happens OFTEN.    It was a zoo getting off the train- people in such a hurry and pushing to get up the escalator.  We made it to the top and got in line at the immigration desk.  Got our bags back together and  in order for me to handle myself and said our thank you's and goodbye's to the two nice people who had helped and talked to us.  We found the desk for the hotel shuttle and waited about 15 minutes for a shuttle.  Man is it humid here.  You just forget how humid it is- so hard to breathe even. 
Evan after arriving at the Hong Kong airport!

 Views from our hotel in Hong Kong after our couple hour sleep.

 Views of Hong Kong from our taxi to the train station.

 At the train station in Hong Kong waiting to board.
 Views of Hong Kong from the train.
 On the Train!

 View of China from the Train.

Waiting for the airport shuttle in Guangzhou, China! 

Our shuttle finally came and we got loaded and then dropped off at our hotel. It was such a good feeling to get checked in and to have our bags in our room.  And of course, air conditioning was nice too!   More about Guangzhou on the next post.