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Adoption Journal: Emmaline

All times are in China Time (UTC/GMT-8). For reference, Pacific Standard Time is 16 hours behind.

Please note: the most recent posts are listed first. For a full sense of our adoption travel experience, go to the bottom of the page and work your way upwards.

Welcome to Emmaline Anne Ding's adoption website. This blog details our family's adoption of this beautiful little girl from China in 2005. While the focus of the blog is to record our trip to China, you can also find more about her adoption by clicking on the links to the right.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

So happy! What a pretty girl!

More and more every day, lots of grins!

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Emmaline's getting used to her new home

Emmaline is getting used to her new home, thankfully. She smiles a lot and enjoys exploring, scooting around and sitting up on her own:

Here's a photo I couldn't resist. Here she's laying down next to our friend's girl Arrawynn, who's only a month older, but much taller and bigger. Little Emmie, you've got lots of room to grow (and we aim to please!):

As I posted below, we may continue to periodically post on this blog with adoption-specific notes; but for regular updates on our family and "musings", come often and visit our main blog site.

Friday, November 11, 2005

AWAA response to my critique of our travel experience

Anna Nicolaisen, Travel Program Director for America World as well as our family coordinator, was kind enough to leave a comment responding to my initial post about what we might've done differently. We appreciate her openness to critique and hope that our feedback and that of others will result in many improvements for future adoptive parents.

For those of you just now visiting this blog, these are the posts which summarize our thoughts on our adoption travel experience through America World to get our daughter from China:

Things We Might've Done Differently
Ah, Jet Lag
Summary/Evaluation of AWAA

"Going to China..."

Hilarious. Matthew is rolling around my luggage around the house singing to himself, "Going to China, going to China..." to the tune of "You Are My Sunshine." I really am glad we brought the boys, as hard as it was. They love playing with Emmaline and I think Matthew will actually remember for a while the experience.

Thanks for following the blog. Check back over the next month or two, once in a while: I'll try to post a link to a compilation video, if I ever get around to it, of our adoption trip.

Summary/evaluation of AWAA

I think if we were to do this again, we'd go with America World again. They have a very supportive, responsive and supporting staff. Their Christian love is very evident throughout the process and afterwards.

The main thing we'd likely do differently is that we'd do our own in-country travel arrangements, either through a different agency or all on our own. The tradeoffs of traveling with a large groups, and the stringent requirements and limitations of doing so, and our own relatively extensive international & domestic travel experience make us think a more "custom" trip would be more appropriate for us.

Ah, Jet Lag.

It's 3 am in the morning on the west coast and all the kids are up. They have been since about 1:30am ... and yesterday the same (didn't go back down til 4am). Ah, the joys of jet lag in transpacific travel.

Here's another reflection, since I'm up, on our adoption travel experience. Unlike most of the families in our travel group, we stayed in one location (Guangzhou) the whole time since our daughter was from the Guangdong province, and she was brought to us in the same city as the U.S. Consulate in China where adoptions are processed. That is part of the reason we felt so strongly about the poor choice/location of the China Hotel.

Also, for those of you planning on doing laundry in China, here's fair warning: when we had our guides pass our dirty laundry to their service of choice, it was neither cheap nor perfect. Though about 1/3 cheaper than hotel laundry, it did cost about $15 per bag of laundry (using the hotel laundry plastic bags). In addition, though the clothes came back clean, folded and wrapped in plastic bags; they also reeked of what we recognized as a Chinese incense fragrance. Whether incidental or on purpose, we recommend that any of you sensitive to such smells make it very clear to your guide(s) that you do not want any such perfumes added to your clothing. We'd recomment that you hand-wash your clothes if at all possible, to remove the possibility of any problems. Of course, for us, keeping up with 3 adults & 3 young children was a bit much to ask of me, which is why we ended up deferring to the laundry service.

Oh, and with regard to formula and clothes. We were told by AWAA not to bring too many clothes or formula since both could be "easily purchased" in China. We did not find that to be the case, especially for good quality clothes. If you have a young daughter that you're adopting, we'd recommend if possible bringing clothes ranging from 3 months younger to 3 months older than her age. Rarely are kids bigger than their typical age group, and often they are much smaller. Emmaline, though 9 months old, fits into 3-6 months old clothing (12-17lbs recommended, she only weighed 13 lbs at the medical exam). We also wish we'd brought more American formula—we only brought a small sample can of Nestle Good Start provided by our pediatrician—we switched her over within a day of receiving her, and she's gobbled it up since. The orphanage had been providing a half-half mix of rice cereal & Chinese formula through the bottle, but we frankly feel that American-made formula provides at least if not more nutrients by itself. "Your mileage may vary," of course.

If you do bring clothes, be prepared for illness along the way, of the diarrhea sort. Many children, including Emmaline, made a habit of spitting up and diarrhea. One family's little girl went thorough six changes of clothing in one morning cuz of the "runs."

I don't want come off like I'm complaining and just griping. It's just that so much of the in-country travel experience depended on our guides' approach, and I think it's the "little things" that can make or break a trip. We feel that the in-country guides failed to really work hard at keeping us up to date on upcoming events—since we were unable to attend several of the group tour events. A nightly briefing or printout of the next day's events would've been especially helpful. Except for a random comment from one parent or another, we might've missed some significant meetings. We're happy with the end result—a new member of our family—but feel that a number of improvements could've made the trip much more pleasant. Every single travel group member that we spoke with agreed that they wished the travel was shorter and that the travel guides were more transparent with upcoming itinerary items.

Having traveled in China before, visiting relatives, Lois suggested that many Chinese nationals often assume that Americans are simply loaded with money to burn. Perhaps that explains the choice of touring destinations and stores; as well as a normal desire to display a "better face" of China to foreigners. Yet most if not all of our fellow adoptive parents were of modest means—though rich perhaps compared to most Chinese nationals (though with proportionally higher cost of living in the U.S. as well). I would hope that future travel itineraries and guides, rather than assuming that we're well off, would provide more modest & economical options to American couples going to adopt children.

One more note: we traveled, as you know, with our two young boys, ages 3.5 and 18 months. I'm not sure if we'd bring them both if we had to do it again. The older one had a tough time behaving with all the changes and living in a hotel room; the latter had a real time adjusting to the new surroundings and timezone. The result was frazzled kids and frazzled parents. That being said, I'm thankful that they could've been there for the experience, and especially Matthew (the older one). They've both, I think, bonded that much more quickly with little Emmaline as a result of having been there. I think we'd have missed our boys and they us terribly if we hadn't brought them. So in retrospect, I think I still would've opted to bring them; but without Lois' brother Tim to help it would've been probably disastrous. As it was, it was hard but a positive experience for all.

I'm also grateful that Emmaline took to us, it seems, as quickly as we took to her. While initially somewhat reserved in her behavior, within a couple of days, she warmed up to us; and is now quite generous with smiles now that we're home. I think it helps that she's younger and also that we ourselves are Chinese and thus similar in appearance. Several other children adopted in our group had very traumatic transitions, including one young girl who spent the entire week and half practically glued to her new mother—and bawling otherwise. It wasn't until the last couple of days that she began to warm up to her two new older sisters (blond) and not bawling at the sight of her adoptive dad. So we're grateful that the transition has been seamless.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

We're home.

The flight was great. It was practically half-empty (or half-full *grin*). So we all had the kind of seats we wanted and plenty of room to stretch out. The kids all slept for prolonged periods and I couldn't have asked for more. Thanks be to the Lord.

Walking back into our home, we were struck by how clean it was and how it didn't smell like China or like a hotel. =-) Yay. And some dear friends left a nice banner on our front door welcoming our little girl to her new home!

Thanks for following this journal. I may post one or two things in the new week or two as we settle back in...

I love fast internet access. =-)

Back home... almost.

I'm now blogging from the Hong Kong International Airport. We landed here at 3 pm local time and are awaiting our 10 pm departure flight back to SFO. It's an amazing airport... but the long travel is sure to be as tough as it has been for the past 5 hours. Nevertheless, a sense of humor is not lost on me. Check out this photo of Matthew who fell asleep on the last few minutes of our flight here from Guangzhou:

And since our boarding time (9:15pm) is more than 2 hours past Emmaline's bedtime, we've put her to bed on a couch in the large Hong Kong airport lounge, creatively creating a tent for her using our multi-purpose Maya Wrap baby sling (that's her little foot sticking out on the right):

So if you happen to have a free moment and it's not yet 6 pm PST on Wednesday, please say a prayer for us and our traveling companions, the Jang family (who are bringing back their baby girl Michaela). It's going to be a long flight.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Things We Might've Done Differently

As our trip nears its end, we've been thinking about ways in which we might've done this trip differently. I jot some notes here in the hopes of helping ourselves in the future or others who plan to come to China to adopt a child, especially with America World.
  • We might've arranged to take the train from Guangzhou back to Hong Kong to save $400. As it stands, not knowing how the train is setup and all, we had our adoption agency arrange to fly us from CAN to HKG. The plus side of this arrangement is simplicity once we get to Hong Kong, not having to transfer ourselves and our luggage from the Kowloon Hung Hom train station over to the airport.
  • We would've stayed on Shamian Island, probably at the White Swan hotel. The China Hotel by Marriott, while a nice hotel, is in the middle of a business district and provides virtually zero options for tourism or shopping within walking distance. The White Swan, on the other hand, is right across the street from dozens of stores and services catering to adoptive families as well as numerous dining options.

    UPDATE: According to a phone conversation I had with AWAA's travel coordinator, Anna, they previously situated adoptive families at the White Swan and moved to China Hotel because: (1) the cost was much less negotiable, because the White Swan has such an ideal location (2) it was also much harder to deal with them when trying to book reservations for large groups (3) the rooms are probably about 1/3 smaller than those at the China Hotel. That being said, if we ever do this again, I might look for other locations anyway.

  • While our guides have been very knowledgeable, if we were to come again, we might go by ourselves or with a different in-country agency. The price of our in-country package through America World was about 50% more than we'd anticipated, and other families in our group agreed with that assessment based on what they paid respectively. We were not given any warning of the amount of the package nor was there enough time to choose alternatives when it was provided (with a few weeks remaining before travel). Not only was AWAA unable to give us a breakdown of the in-country package price (how did they come up with it then?!?!?!), but taking into account an educated guess for the airfare and hotel and food costs as well as travel costs, I still find myself thinking that we overpaid by about 25% at least.
  • Related to the previous point, rather than being taken by our guides to the outrageously expensive Friendship Store as well as several other expensive "tourist trap" locations, we would've cut our trip shorter by several days: one week instead of the week and half that we have stayed in Guangzhou. We wish our guides had taken us to the more moderately priced Carrefour for grocery shopping as a group, rather than the Friendship Store. Instead, we had to discover that option by ourselves.

    UPDATE: Again, AWAA suggests that given the constraints of paper processing first with Chinese authorities and then with the U.S. Consulate, that the 1.5 weeks for travel is really the shortest practical timeframe. I'll take their word for it, though even a day fewer on the front or back end would've made it seem more bearable.

  • We would've gotten more savvy more early as to dining options. For the first week here in Guangzhou, we ate McDonald's, hotel restaurants and room service. It was only on Sunday that we accidentally discovered the "Delicatessen Corner" in the hotel here. Instead of the average 70RMB for a meal that most restaurants charged, we could get lunchboxes of home-style Chinese food for a mere 10RMB (that's $1.25 USD!). This is where all the locals and businessmen in the hotel attending meetings grab a bite to eat, understandably. And again, why wasn't this suggested as an option by our guides? Instead, they loosely coordinated group dinners at the various expensive hotel restaurants. Either they think we're rich, or don't really care that we aren't!
  • One of the downsides of traveling with a large group—AWAA had about 50 families here—is that the schedule and communication is somewhat rigid. When we missed a couple of the outings, we also inadvertently missed a number of announcements. A number of families expressed similar thoughts. We'd rather have been provided more insight on daily/weekly activities. Instead, we were only ever given at most 12 hours notice on most activities and meeting times. Again, while well-run, we talked with other families who agreed that it seemed like we were treated like incompetent babies at times rather than adults. But again, on the other hand, I can appreciate that trying to manage a large group in a foreign land; one sometimes has to cater to the least experienced travelers rather than those who are more experienced.
I plan to summarize some of the above thoughts, and others which come to mind, in the hopes of providing America World with constructive feedback for future improvements... as well as fair warning for other families reading this blog in preparation for their own adoption journeys.

All of the above notwithstanding, the most important thing is not lost on me. We have our daughter, and money and inconveniences are but a small price to pay to have her.

UPDATE: One family who adopted through AWAA in the last year has shared with us via email very similar experiences and agreement with all of the above points. For those of you considering using AWAA or who are already doing so and anticipating travel, please consider the above accordingly as NOT isolated incidents.

Monday, November 07, 2005

A few more photos, return trip is in sight

Today was a relatively uneventful day, but important. Our daughter's visa application was submitted to the U.S. consulate in the morning and was accepted without fanfare. Our guides pick up the visas tomorrow, when we go to the consulate for a very brief swearing-in ceremony. This morning we stayed in just in case any issues arose: for those reading our blog for future adoption trips, it's important to bring copies of the amendments page of one's passport. In Lois' case, there was a brief but important note re: her name change after we got married.

In the afternoon, we went to Shamian Island with the group, but didn't buy anything in the little shops. The weather was oppressive: humid and quite warm; even though the skies were as gray as anything. The smog didn't help. Andrew also missed his afternoon nap, so by the time we got on the bus to return to the hotel at 6pm he was a sobbing mess. He went down early tonight.

Well, not much else to report. Tomorrow is low-key, with a quick formality at the consulate. And we pack for home. We leave Wednesday around noon to catch a flight to Hong Kong at 2pm (CZ307 landing at 3pm); then homeward to SFO on a 10pm flight. We hope to check our bags in at Guangzhou straight through to SFO. Our only remaining concern will be trying to get good seats: hopefully against a bulkhead so we can get a wall-mounted bassinet for Emmaline.

Some more photos, and a video now..

First, a photo showing off a very modern trend in most of the world outside of the U.S., and especially in China & Europe: text messaging via mobile phone. We saw this scene outside the White Swan Hotel today on Shamian Island:

A few photos of our children in various contexts:

And lastly, a delightful video of our little Emmaline giggling (coerced, of course!).

Blessings and grace to you all!

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Sightseeing in Guangzhou, more photos of Emmaline

Until today, we'd opted out of sightseeing partly out of fatigue, partly because unlike most of the other adoptive parents here, we not only had one young child, but three. However, since we're returning to the U.S. on Wednesday, it was our last chance to go with the travel group out to see sights. Today's itinerary included a visit to a folk art museum situated in the "Chen Clan Temple" and a teahouse where we could sample tea. The former was interesting, as it was an open space museum, with courtyards of bronze sculptures as well as more traditional art such as vases and wood carvings. We found especially well-done hand embroidered art (photo below) of various sceneries and subjects (including the current Premier of China).

First, though, some photos of our lovely daughter hanging out in her crib:

As you might infer from the last photo, she has begun to warm up to the boys. When at first she joined us, she would cry when they'd come up to her, even if they tried to be gentle. However, today she grinned when either of them started to play with her. So we're sure that before long they'll be great friends! In addition, we've begun exclusively feeding her American-made formula that we brought. She has been taking in huge portions (7-9 ozs. per feeding), so we're really encouraged by that. Lois' brother Tim says he even thinks her cheeks look a bit fuller than a week ago when we got her.

Here are some photos taken today at the museum / former temple, including an example of the embroidery that I mentioned above:

After the museum, we went to a "tea house" about 10 minutes from the hotel. Here were offered numerous kinds of teas as well as accessories such as teapots -- some fancy, some simple. All overpriced, IMO, but then, we come from the SF Bay Area, where such items are commonplace and easy to acquire. In addition, we were able to sample a few different kinds of teas. The only drawback to this portion was that the teas were made with local tap water (boiled), which has a bit of an unpleasant taste to those of us accustomed to filtered water back in the U.S. Nonetheless, the experience was enjoyable, and it was good to get out of the hotel and spend time with our travel group. One funny part was when a group of us sat down for the tea ceremony/service, the translator looks at me—I'd asked a few questions in Chinese—and said (in Chinese), "You translate for me, okay?" Ha ha...

Here's a few photos, the first of which is us with the Jang family, who hail from south S.F. and who we knew from previously getting together back home:

These last two photos are our first actual full-family photo, taken in front of the museum. As a likely harbinger of future photo opportunities, none of the kids are smiling or looking at the camera <grin>. The latter is of our little lady in her carseat:

Also, lest I neglect our previously added kids, check out a video of our dear Andrew, who's been so cute this whole trip, as he's demonstrated how much he comprehends of what we say. In this little video, I caught him walking in circles around the base of a lamp in our room. When we realized that he was on camera, he started to walk away! And then I said (in Chinese), "No, keep turning!"... which he did! What a cutie!

(UPDATE: the incorrect permissions on the above video have been fixed, it should be accessible now)

Tomorrow, our guides will be taking our paperwork to the U.S. Consulate to apply for our children's visas on our behalf. In the afternoon, we go visit Shamian Island, which should be nice. Tuesday will be relaxing and packing to prepare to head home on Wednesday (yay!).

In closing, the Lord has been very faithful to our family this week. Many of the families, including ours, has had some sort of ailment, whether diarrhea, colds, etc. But in spite of this, we've all been in pretty good spirits. Thanks be to God who cares for us and guides us in His will.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Some more photos!

First, some photos detailing life in the hotel, including...

A “gourmet” meal of instant noodles:

We did some handwashing of clothes before giving up and sending our dirty clothes to the laundry service. It's hard to keep up with 3 kids by hand while living in a hotel room! Keep in mind, this next photo was taken in a five-star hotel:

Here's a photo of the McDonald's with the hotel in the background:

... and a major intersection we encountered a couple of city blocks away. Rather than stoplights, they use roundabouts at major intersections, not unlike Europe:

Lastly, some photos from Emmaline's medical exam this morning, first from outside and then a few of Emmaline being examined by a nurse:

Friday, November 04, 2005

More pictures, the latest happenings

I've gotten some comments about the lack of pictures in two recent posts. Part of the reason is that we've more or less stayed in the hotel for the past couple of days, so we haven't taken that many new photos. But you ask, we provide, so here are photos not necessarily from the past two days.

First, here are some photos from the building which houses the Adoption Registry Center of Guangdong Province (where we applies for Emmaline's adoption decree). We took these on our second trip there, when we were meeting with the public notary officials.

This first one is the outside of the building, which also houses other businesses as well as a hotel:

This is the building directory (the registry center is on the 5th floor):

These next three are of the actual adoption registry center.

The photo to the right is of Lois standing with Emmaline's primary caretaker / nanny at the orphanage. On Gotcha Day, after getting Emmaline, we brought her back into the room where the nannies were sitting (they had ridden a bus about 5 hours that morning to drop the babies off). We wanted to find out some details about Emmaline's habits, schedule, personality, etc. As we walked in, a bunch of of the ladies immediately recognized her and called out with affection, "Mi mi, mi mi" (her Chinese name). But this one in particular seemed most familiar with her. Lois had a chance to talk with her and because we speak different Chinese dialects, their conversation was limited (though another nanny did speak both Mandarin and Cantonese and served as a go-between). The nanny told us that she’s very fond of Emmaline and kept telling Lois that our little girl was very beautiful. She could tell that the nanny was a bit choked up. The nanny also suggested that we should bring Emmaline back when she’s older so she could see her. Maybe someday... Trivia point: when I asked our translator/guide how to ask who her nanny was, he said, "a yi". That also happens to be the generic word for "auntie".

This morning we went for the basic medical examination for all the babies. In short, she's healthy -- and we got more comments on her being a beautiful girl! Who are we to argue? =-) In addition, we learned that she only weighs 13 lbs (at 9 months old)! Considering that 3 months ago she was only a pound lighter, and looking at how scrawny her body is; we're pretty sure she was somewhat malnourished. Against an American pediatric weight percentile chart she comes in at under 3%!!!Some other girls from other orphanages that arrived in Guangzhou yesterday appeared much chubbier -- so we think orphan care is definitely dependent on each orphanage. So again, we have some work to do to get her up to "normal" weight percentiles. Despite her low weight, though, her motor skills and development seems normal. She can turn over, grab things, and also scoot on the floor.

Hopefully, we'll have more photos later on this evening from our visit to the medical clinic this morning. If not tonight, then tomorrow. Thanks for visiting! Here's a couple more photos for those of you who hung in there to read all of the above. The first is of Matthew holding up a drawing he mostly by himself while we were in Hong Kong. The second is of him helping to feed Emmaline after we brought her back with us to hotel.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Not much to report, feeling a bit cooped up

It turns out the Marriott China Hotel that we're staying in (arranged by our adoption agency) lies smack in the middle of the business district of Guangzhou. So there are really very few family-friendly attractions within walking distance, if any.

Historically, many adoptive parents stay at the White Swan Hotel on Shamian Island. We went down there yesterday to find out why (we took a taxi). Turns out there's a bunch of little shops catering to adoptive families just across the street. There's a lot less street traffic, etc. I suppose our agency chose the Marriott cuz its prices are lower, but many of the families in our group are kinda bored and looking for things to do besides channel-surfing ...

So we're feeling a bit cooped up. Tomorrow morning, we take our girl (with our group) to get a medical examination to verify that she's in healthy condition before going on Monday to the U.S. Consulate to apply for her travel visa. The boys are holding up okay, considering the circumstances. Emmaline herself seems to be adjusting well as well. She hasn't displayed any attachment issues, and smiles when we play with her.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Everyone's in bed, a pretty good day today

In my last post, everyone's nerves were a bit frazzled from lack of sleep and living in close quarters. As someone else in our travel group noted, we'd love to head home right now! But we have one more week before we jump on a plane for home, so we need to tough it out.

The toughest challenges were getting the boys' naptimes somewhat normalized, especially Andrew's. Being 18 months old, he probably had the toughest time; since he's neither old enough to really understand much of what's going on, nor young enough to be ignorant of it. As I blogged about last time, yesterday evening he was an absolute mess. This morning, he again woke up at 4:30 am local time. We all ended up getting up at 5 am this morning, to our chagrin.

By around 9 in the morning, Andrew was again acting tired -- but the last thing we wanted to do was let him sleep, only to see a repeat of last night's meltdown at dinner. So Tim and I brought the boys down to the "Kiddie Land" playroom in the hotel: not much bigger than a typical church nursery, but with toys, a much better option than a hotel room with furnishings. It has a small toddler slide, some building megablocks (like big Legos) and some various other toys. So we hung out there for nearly 2 hours and finally headed up to our room at 11:15 am to put the boys down for naps.

Well, Andrew didn't sleep long, only an hour, but Matthew managed to sleep for over 2 hours! Lunch was again McDonald's, oh well. Tim and I walked around the whole city block after putting the boys down at 11:30 am and encountered a number of local restaurants. However, after checking them out from outside, we don't feel really comfortable eating at any of them (unsanitary, etc.). So we may end up eating more "Mickey D's" this week and a half than we've eaten over the past two years! Andrew doesn't seem to mind: he loves French fries (to the exclusion of everything else)!

So this afternoon, the six of us, after relaxing in the room for a while, decided to head out to do a little look around town. Most of our travel group went in the morning to a park/garden somewhere outside the immediate vicinity for sightseeing, but we opted out because we felt it would be too much for us. So we felt the need to get out. Our walk around town turned out quite fun -- having been to China before, and being Chinese ourselves, we didn't feel terribly afraid of getting lost or anything. We did get stares, though, for each adult having a kid: Tim and Lois each pushing a stroller, and me carrying Emmaline in the baby sling. =-) The highlight of the walk—though I missed the camera shot—was seeing a bunch of kids getting out of primary school, and several of them (boys) pulling down their pants by the curb in respective places and relieving themselves right onto the street (some into sewer drains)!!! We got a kick out of that!

We got back from our walk at 5:00 pm, a bit tired and a bit sweaty. The skies look cloudy and overcast, but the climate is actually muggy and warm. So looks are deceiving for those of us not accustomed to tropical climates such as that here. So we retired to our rooms and then ordered some room service an hour later. The rooms are a bit smaller than the equivalent level of hotel in the U.S., but mainly in the absence of a table. So what does room service to? Cart in a folding table on wheels, complete with settings. It was nice, and we may resort to it again during our stay here since the restaurant selection nearby is at best limited and we weren't impressed with the main Chinese restaurant in the hotel.

Well everyone's in bed now except me and I mean to head up in a sec from the lobby where I'm connected to the 'net.

Oh, one more little fun story. Yesterday after visiting various officials to complete our various adoption paperwork requirements, our travel group was bused over to the Guangzhou "International Friendship Store" to do some shopping for any needs we might have had. For those who haven't been to China before, these Friendship Stores are basically multi-level department store which have basically everything you might need. The idea was to purchase any baby clothes, accessories and groceries we might have needed. The big problem? They cater to foreigners, and as such, they are an upscale store with upscale prices! The atmosphere and prices are comparable to Macy's, which is saying a lot, since Chinese nationals make a whole lot less money than Americans do!

So after 15 minutes, which included deciding that we weren't interested in spending $5 USD (minimum!) on a simple baby bottle, Lois and I decided to go trekking (again, a boldness partly helped by our being Chinese). At first we were looking for something quick to eat, but as we walked about 500 yards down the street (past a Starbucks) towards a KFC sign, we noticed a storefront with a sign "Trust-Mart." As we got closer, we realized it was a locals' (less expensive) version of a Friendship Store: a Chinese version of Target. So we plunged in and exited with a good deal of stuff. Our most successful find? A baby bottle for the equivalent of just $1.38 USD! =-) Yay for being frugal and God's provision in our striving to be good stewards. One of our fellow travel group members, when they heard about our little sidetrip tonight, said, "We had the same impression of the Friendship Store (too expensive)! I wish we'd gone with you..."

Well I'll sign off for now (it's almost 9 pm here now) and head to bed. Thank you all again for your kind encouragements and participation in our adventure. Just one more week and we head home... we can't wait!

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

More photos, sleep deprivation update

Well we didn’t blog last night because the combination of 3 kids with different sleep needs & schedules finally converged to make a bit of a tornado evening.

We tried to go to a “nice” dinner downstairs in the Food Street restaurant in the hotel, which specializes in Cantonese cuisine. Unfortunately, Andrew’s nap schedule was so contorted that by the time we got there he was a mess and inconsolable. So Lois had to finish up quick and take him upstairs, she herself being exhausted from a sleep-deprived night. The only consolation is that the food was at best edible: I suppose we’re spoiled from all the excellent Chinese cuisine in the Bay Area!

As any of y’all with kids knows, vacationing with kids is not easy. It throws everything off for the kids, including sleep schedules, routines, etc. And the result is a small bit of chaos. So please continue to pray for God to help us as parents to respond in wisdom to help the kids to enjoy our time here (so that we might enjoy our time as well).

To make up for the lack of blogging last night (though most of our readers were sleeping), check out some video footage of Emmaline from “Gotcha Day”.

Finally, here’s a few photos from yesterday, during which we acquired our official adoption decree (she’s ours!) and applied for notarized documentation and her Chinese passport. Enjoy!

Lois with Emmaline in the baby sling:

Emmaline enjoying a feeding:

And our most important document, the adoption decree:

Monday, October 31, 2005

Small gripe...

Internet access from the hotel here in Guangzhou is slow and stuttery, sorta like a slow DSL line back home but with hiccups.

But then, beggars can't be choosers. I'm accessing the Internet via free wireless from the lobby. Paying in the hotel room would cost something around $9/day, which I just can't justify for posting blogs once or twice a day and checking email briefly.

Besides which, I should consider it a small miracle that I can access the net at all!

We got her!

She's a bit skinnier and smaller than the few pictures we'd had indicated -- room to plump up. But on the whole, she's healthy. First impressions of personality: quiet & mellow, especially compared to our boys. But then our two boys are as energetic as you get! Thus far, she hasn't evidenced any attachment issues, she seems pretty comfortable with all of us, including Matthew, who took a little peek at his "mei mei" sleeping before climbing into his bed. All the kids are sleeping now in the same room and contentedly. We got our first experience with bottle-feeding a baby which went quite well.

Here's a few nice photos. The first was taken of her at the Civil Affairs Office during the 3 hours of waiting to complete paperwork (of dozens of different families). The second is of Matthew expressing his affection and the last of me doing the same:

Sunday, October 30, 2005

T-minus 1 hour and counting...

Well, thanks be to God, we made it safely and smoothly to the hotel. After a nice 1.5 hour train ride, we showed up at Guangzhou East Train Station and went smoothly through entry & customs. As we neared the exit, there were a number of small booths set up with hotel names, including one with ours. So rather than having to get a taxi, we were smoothly escorted onto an awaiting shuttle bus that took us straight to our hotel! Yay.

Then we had our first meal in Guangzhou: McDonald's. Oh well, what are you gonna do when the one kid is sleeping, you gotta eat fast, etc.? =-(

Most importantly, we got in touch with our in-country guide, and we're meeting with the rest of the Gaozhou families at 2 pm local time (1 hour from now!) in the lobby to go pick up our daughters!!! Woohoo!

Well that's all for now... the next post will have photos, Lord willing! NOW I'm excited!

Tucked in bed, ready to get our girl tomorrow

Since we gotta get up early tomorrow morning to head off to the train, I''ll just post one more ditty before heading to bed (the kids & Lois are already in bed). Our bags are mostly packed and ready to go.

Tonight we had dinner with a couple friends of Lois' family, Anselm & Sharon (the latter of whom had helped us get to our hotel from the airport when we arrived). The dinner was at the very nice YMCA International House restaurant. Unfortunately, the mealtime experience was rather difficult. We had to rouse both kids from deep sleeps in order to head off and neither had an appetite nor a pleasant disposition. The jet lag, I think, is wearing most heavily on them because they haven't the wherewithal to understand why they need to force their bodies to be awake or asleep at a given hour. Fortunately, I think we've only got a day or two more of this and they should be adjusted. As difficult the experience, so too are children good at adapting.

Tomorrow morning we take the express train into Guangzhou, where we'll have to get a taxi ride by ourselves (no "old contacts" in town) and get to the hotel. While the station is supposedly not so far (about 6 miles I think) from the hotel, this is very much strange and less "lawful" territory than what we're accustomed to in the U.S. Therefore we ask your prayers for safety in travel: that we'd neither be pickpocketed, ripped off, nor in any other way taken advantage of in this next leg of our journey.

Thanks so much again for your partnership in this journey and your prayers.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Tomorrow's "Gotcha Day!"

For those of you keeping track, or more for those who aren't, tomorrow (Oct 31) is gotcha day! We've already gotten tickets for the 8:25am express train tomorrow from HK to Guangzhou. Then after contacting our in-country travel guide we go meet and pick up Emmaline sometime later that day! This has traditionally been called "Gotcha Day" for obvious reasons.

The remaining week and a half of our trip will be spent taking care of both Chinese and U.S. government paperwork. Of course, what with jet lag and caring for our two current kids, we haven't even given much though to Emmaline, even though it's "why we're here!" I guess our hands will be "even more full" with one more in the quiver. =-)

Familiar Friends in a Foreign Land

It so happens that our adoption trip overlaps with that of our friends Andy & Grace Dao who are visiting family in Hong Kong. Though they only live about 10 minutes from us back home, we arranged beforehand to try to get together while in Hong Kong.

So last night, even though we were all still fatigued, we got together for dinner. They and their 2 year old boy are still adjusting to local time here, despite having arrived 3 days prior. Yet in spite of weariness, it was fun to be with friends so far from home -- especially since we don't speak the dominant Chinese dialect here in Hong Kong (Cantonese). To the left is a photo of us last night at a restaurant a couple of blocks from our hotel.

Everyone ate well, except our little Andrew. We had to wake both of the boys up to leave for the restaurant. They were both "out cold" as our friends arrived at the hotel (see right). Andrew's waking however was temporary: as we settled into the restaurant, he conked right out and slept straight through dinner as Lois had him comfortably tucked into the baby sling.

Last note: It's 3:30am Hong Kong time and I'm blogging from our room (the hotel wireless router appears to be two floors directly underneath us, so I get a weak but usable signal)! But that means it's 12:30pm California time... so the kids are also awake right now & playing behind me.... here's to long days. =-)

Safe and mostly sound in Hong Kong

Well, we've made it to Hong Kong in one piece. It was a long flight! We'd forgotten how grueling a 14 hour international flight can be. But the kids did okay, considering the circumstances, so we're happy. Andrew finally fell asleep at 12:15am while we were waiting for our 1:30am departure. Matthew amazingly stayed up until 3:30am Pacific time! The plane ride was tough -- pray for the inevitably more challenging return leg with 3 kids.

What's more, as we were walking out of customs, we were greatly surprised and pleased to see Lois' family friend "Auntie Sharon" waiting for us! She and her husband live in Hong Kong part-time and part-time in the San Jose area; we'd talked to her a few days ago but hadn't anticipated her meeting us at the airport. It turned out quite providential and fortunate, as she escorted us onto the right bus, helped us get off at the rightp stop, walked with us to our hotel, and even took us to a simple congee breakfast. After all that, we realized that but for her help we'd have been really lost! So thanks be to God for her kindness to us at meeting us at 6:45am local time at the airport!

We're now checked in at the Booth Lodge (Salvation Army) hotel, which is pretty decent. We have two adjacent rooms, and we're just working on the inevitable jet lag effects. That's also where I'm accessing the web from -- a wireless lan set up in their lobby.

My top prayer request at this point, now that we're set up to go to Guangzhou on Monday to meet Emmaline, is for our current family dynamic. Both kids and parents are frazzled and easily irritated from lack of sleep. Pray especially for God's grace to pervade our spirits, so that especially Lois and I can be particularly gracious and patient to Matthew, who's having a tough time with new environs and fatigue combined.

In the meantime, thank you for all your encouraging words and prayers!