Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Monday, September 28, 2009

Land of Milk and Honey

It's been three days that Rebecca has been in the land of milk and honey or the more modern analogy the land of Wal-Mart and Brittney. She is still learning to adapt to an environment that is totally foreign. I tried my hand at cooking some Chinese dishes including a chicken soup complete with Chinese vegetables including Bok-Choy, green onions, bean sprouts, and half a chicken. I also tried making pork filled dumplings also called Potstickers. In all I think she was impressed or at least really really hungry.

She met some of the neighbors but she still tends to be a very shy little girl. She will open up a little under the right conditions but most of the time she is just real hesitant. No one should be insulted because she is still trying to understand her new environment; I mean I spent two weeks in China in a 250 square foot room and could barely get the kid to look at me. Everyone should understand it will come with time as she begins to trust both me and her mom. Hopefully, in the next month she will be to the point that she feels comfortable meeting people in a social situation.

It has been a fun couple of days. I got to spend several full days without the group dynamic like we had in China. It gives her some time to see me in the home and she will begin to realize that I am not some security guard following her around paying for her meals but I am useful tool to have around. I mean I can carry items, occasionally scare away the occasional rodent and even change a light bulb. Speaking of changing a light bulb for the first time over Julia and Trenton’s house the other day I played with some kid’s toys. We never had kids so I have never in my adult life played with kid’s toys, alright I have an Xbox, but I mean real kids toys like a Goofy 15 piece puzzle. My kid put together not one but two 250 piece puzzles while we were in China and I felt like a mental midget the other night trying to figure out how to put together a 15 piece. I was always taught the round peg went into the square hole.

Anyway we found out that Rebecca likes electronic games and toys that make a lot of noise, lucky us. Well, the vacuum cleaner makes a lot of noise, so check out the photo.




Now if we can just get a boy then I won’t have to cut the grass….LOL. It did say in her file that she liked helping the caretaker clean and it was right. We are trying to get her back on a regular schedule because right now she is up at 4AM, napping around 4 PM and up til around 0100 or 0200. Today we are trying to keep her up until 6PM so that she can sleep through the night.


I am going to write a little something to help any family that reads this and may have questions about logistics decisions when going to China.

Well we’re lucky because every family must go to Guangzhou when going to China because the American Consulate is there. The stay I think varies because some families will stay in the province of the child for different lengths of time but the stay in Guangzhou will be at a minimum of 7-10 days I think. The agency told us we would be staying at the White Swan Hotel but we chose to stay at the Victory Hotel for a couple of different reasons.
The first reason was because the Victory Hotel had a desktop computer in the room which had internet access at no extra charge. This was pretty good since we both used it extensively. We also bought a MagicJack USB device at Wal-Mart for 40US registered it here in America and when we got to China all we had to do is plug it into the computer and it was like making a local call in the US. There was no per minute charge at all it was free. I know I was skeptical at first but it worked we called all of our family members in the US for free. If you want to call China from your room its fine because we called several times in the room and it was about 10 cents each time. The computer will not be able to access websites like Blogger since they are blocked. You can however access Hotmail and shopping sites which can be helpful in getting a deal. For example, I bought a handmade chess set for the Friendship Store which is the Government run artisan store for 550 Yuan or about 85US (exchange rate when we were there was 1US to 6.83 RMB of Chinese dollars). I went on Overstock.com and found an identical set in their worldstock section from China for a 100US. I then found a similar set at one of the stores nearby our hotel that was asking only 250 RMB about half what I paid. The bottom line is the only thing I would buy at the Friendship store is Jade because a lot of the stores are selling the fake stuff. The government store guarantees it is real. The rest of the paintings, dresses, handmade stuff, I would go to several stores and bargain. In fact, on tactic that worked well for me is to say the store across the street gave me this price and most probably they will beat it.

The second reason was price. The White Swan was 140US per night and our hotel was 500 RMB or 74US per night. We also added a cot in our room and two breakfast buffet that brought the price up to 650 RMB a night. That still was cheaper than the White Swan and Starbuck coffee was right under our window. That being said I would point out a couple of differences. The Victory had an installed water purifier in the bathroom because you can’t drink the water at either hotel. The White Swan did not have a purifier. The Victory had a small restaurant that offered some choices but it was not extensive nor would I call it gourmet. The menu was mostly Chinese food with some American foods like spaghetti. The White Swan food was top notch but you paid for it. There were several restaurants close by like Lucy’s, an Italian Restaurant, and a German Restaurant. There was also a Thai restaurant that was around the corner from our hotel called the Cow and the Bridge. There were also several local restaurants like right across from Lucy’s that was pretty inexpensive but good quality. We ate there a couple of times for about 25US for a complete meal for three.

I don’t want to seem cheap but we saved about 800US staying at the Victory. There was a couple of draw backs. I think the carpet in the Victory was old and probably had some mold because there was a damp smell throughout the hotel. I would not say it was unbearable but it was noticeable. The service was good but not exceptional. The play room in the Victory was lacking compared to the White Swan. The White Swan had a lot of toys and dolls along with a television where the Victory had a small slide and a couple of balls. The Victory has two locations. We stayed in the west building which is only two blocks from the White Swan. The west building does not have a pool or an exercise room. You can go to the one in the east building but it is another three blocks away from the White Swan. The pool at the Victory has a spectacular view because it is on the roof but when the sun was up it was like an oven I mean you will bake up there where the White Swan had a large waterfall and shade trees with beautiful landscaping. Additionally, if you chose to pay each time to go to the White Swan it will cost you about 15 each person each day. This alone will make up what you saved if you do it everyday.

The bottom line is the White Swan is right on the water on the island although you won’t get a room overlooking the water for 140US. It has a grand entrance with a beautiful indoor pond and sitting area overlooking the river. The decorations and presentation is far superior to the Victory. The Victory is more of a business type hotel that is geared more to functionality than appearance. Now the East building has a grand entrance and a Spa but it is still inferior to the White Swan. The other drawback is that every time you meet with your guide it will be at the White Swan. In all I was satisfied with our decision and if I had to do all over again I would probably still stay at the Victory because I am not the type of person that prefers elegance over functionality.

The other point I would make is that I would go to Beijing again. We got to see all the sights and it was well worth the additional expense. I was impressed by the history and the city itself.



Saturday, September 26, 2009

“They’re back…..”

Posted by Mike

First, I read all the comments from the posts we had in China. We were unable to read the comments while we were there and I wanted to let everyone know that Margo and I appreciate your thoughtfulness. I hope writing this blog will help other families considering adopting from China understand the process better with the good, the bad and the ugly.

We started our day at about 0500AM on Friday by getting on the bus bound for Guangshou Airport. Rebecca Xiu had cried the night before when we were packing but it only lasted a few minutes. We were picked up at the Victory Hotel and picked up two other families at the White Swan. Kelly our guide was prepared and provided us with a packed breakfast. Rebecca looked as though “you got to be kidding me, where is my breakfast buffet”, but she seemed satisfied.

We arrived at the airport about thirty minutes later and Kelly had everything organized and ready for the group. We went through Chinese immigration and security and Rebecca was great. She seemed so interested standing with her chin on the counter waiting intently for her turn. It is remarkable to watch as she just takes every moment at a time. Every official she came in contact with had a smile on their face when she walked away.

Okay, one thing that kinda of freaked me out was every other person you encountered had a surgical mask on their face. In fact, I remember watching the Chinese fashion channel and they had some French guy on there that made a fancy dress that incorporated a turtle neck that would cover your nose and mouth so you don’t get the swine flu. Come on get a backbone. If you gonna go, go like an American. Yeah, that look would not work over here.

Anyway, after security it was about a 30 minute flight to Hong Kong. For adoptive parents reading this, the flight cost about 200US but the train cost about 30US. We chose the flight because that was what was recommended. A word of caution when flying into Hong Kong; it is a beautiful island from the plane complete with lush landscaping atop a scenic mountain range. It kinda reminded me of photos of Hawaii. But be warned flying into the airport is a little scary. Fortunately, one of the other dad’s had flown into Hong Kong bore and he prepared me for landing. The airport strip is a long narrow peninsula surrounded by water. When we descended you can see huge oil tankers on each side and you don’t the ground until you land. It feels a little like you are crashing in the water. But that didn’t bother my little girl, she looked out the window intently and still no meltdown.

One thing I never would have expected was even a six she has a sense of nationalism and pride in her county. She knows that she is Chinese and she is proud of it. She loves her country. We arrived at Hong Kong airport and it was the most scenic airport I had ever been too. When you go into the bathroom there is some guy’s picture on the wall and of course the form is in Chinese. When I walked up to the urinal I looked over and the guy cleaning the urinal is the same guy on the wall. At first, I thought he I got China’s Most Wanted and I considered thumping him on the head and going to get the first cop I saw. But then it occurred to me, his photo is on the wall because this is his bathroom. He is responsible for cleaning it. I could see he took the same pride in cleaning that urinal as some CEO of some large company for turning a profit. I think in a lot of ways that is what Americans are lacking is pride in any job no matter how mundane or trivial a task or job. You have pride in you bathroom because it represents your country. Every foreign traveler that comes through there will see your work and admire your dedication. I zipped up and thought who is watching my kid.

We got on the plane in Hong Kong and set out for a 14 hour flight. Our flight was delayed about two hours which screwed up our connecting flight. I also brought some Goat so everyone on the plane can experience the haunting singing. Rebecca picked up her bag of M&M’s, she loves them, grabbed her mom’s hand, and walked to her seat. She again sat by the window because she was so curious and waited til takeoff.

I watched her as the aircraft positioned itself for takeoff. She watched outside the window and listened as the engines roared and the landscape moved faster and faster. She never turned to me or Margo, she never grasped her seat, and she never closed her eyes. It was her second time ever on a plane and she acted like she was excited. And still no meltdown, amazing.

Well, I anticipated the 14 hour flight to be filled with the Chinese phrase, “Are we there yet, are we there, yet” but no not a single complaint or peep. She slept for a little bit, colored with her mom, and played with her friend’s computer game. I could not believe it. I purposefully did not wear a watch and after what I thought was an eternity I looked up at the map we were near Japan. I mean that’s like an inch on the map. When I am on my deathbed, I am going to request I be put on this flight because the 14 hours seems like two years. Margo slept, and Rebecca slept but I can’t sleep on the plane. It is probably because I feel like a grown man sitting in a baby stroller. The seats are not made for the big and tall.

Alright we made it to Chicago. We picked up our bag and headed towards immigration. We handed the infamous brown envelope that we got from the US consulate in China to the officer. He did not ask any questions and he was pleasant welcoming us back with our new child. It is official; Rebecca Xiu Kenirey is officially a US citizen. Welcome to the United States; now get prepared to pay some taxes. She still just walked in the direction she was pointed by her mother and went with the flow.

We got to our gate and waited until our flight to Atlanta. Margo took a walk with Rebecca and some random guy walked up to us and gave us a bag of Crunch and Munch for her. She appreciated it and I bought her another bag of M&M’s. She munched away just waiting for the next step. We boarded the plane and Margo and Rebecca sat in front of me. I sat next to a guy that was a software engineer that lived in Alabama and he seemed very interested in the international adoption process. He asked a lot of questions and although I was really tired I knew I wasn’t going to sleep so I talked with him for a while. He told me he had two daughters that graduates from college and I got the impression he was asking because he was considering adopting. I encouraged him and told him it was a long and exhaustive process but well worth the effort. We landed. I kept checking on Rebecca and she just kept looking out the window just waiting.

After landing we picked up our car and it was off to Macon. I thought for sure she would sleep in the backseat but no she just got into her child seat and looked out the window almost anticipating what was coming next. I wondered what she could be thinking. Was she thinking we were still in China or did she realize we were 9000 miles away heading for the armpit of the world.

We pulled in the driveway and she looked at the house as Margo walked her inside. After only a few minutes, Stephanie came from across the street to meet her. Margo continued to show Rebecca around. Stephanie left after only a few minutes. I am so thankful to Michele, Billy, Stephanie, Patrick and the Britts for taking care of the pets while we were away. You guys are the best. And then……it hit her. Like a bag of bricks and the waterworks started. We heard that all too familiar Chinese phrase, “I want to go back to the orphanage.” The first thing I thought was I ain’t back on that plane, kid. But we let her vent for a little. She screamed and shrieked like the very first day and Margo sat right next to her. I tried one time to move in thinking this is finally my in and she gave me the hand. She’d been in America for about 4 hours and she already knew about the hand. Just kidding, it was a pretty emotional experience but it was expected. In fact, I was so glad it did not happen in China. She cried for about a half-hour and Margo stayed in her room with her. I had to go to sleep.

I was beyond tired and spent both physically and emotionally. But before drifting off to sleep, I thought wow I am a dad.

Home!

POST BY MARGO

Yesterday was a busy travel day. We went from Guangzhou to Hong Kong to Chicago to Atlanta. We woke up at 5:00 in the morning and didn't get home to Macon until just after midnight (just over 30 hours of travel time). Rebecca Xiu was a wonderful traveller and did not cry or complain the entire journey. She was able to sleep on the plane.

She officially became a U.S. citizen when her VISA was stamped at Immigration at the Chicago airport. I would have like to take a picture, but no cell phones or cameras are allowed.

When we came home last night, Stephanie, our neighbor was up and excited to see her (thank you, Patrick, for mowing our lawn). Rebecca got a quick tour of our house and then took a tour of Stephanie's house. Then, when Stephanie left, the crying began. This was a similar cry to the one that we experienced on the first day we met her - shrill and emotional. I decided to take the opportunity that she was already crying to go ahead and empty out the suitcase, since that was a touchy subject for her when we were packing in the hotel room. Fortunately, it did not last nearly as long as the day we met, and I was able to distract her after about 15 minutes by encouraging her to explore her room. She was first motivated to cut every label off of anything new in her room. She is very particular about removing the tags and wants to make sure that they are off. And she insists on using the scissors. The crying officially ended when she found her school supplies basket. She was very excited by all of the 'Hello Kitty' items in the room. Thanks to Britt family who supplied 'Hello Kitty' pajamas - which she wore immediately after taking her shower. And also for decorating her room with balloons. Did I mention what great friends and neighbors I have!!!

Let's get to the reverse Jet Lag part of the night...

So, I stayed in her room until she fell asleep, and decided to do some laundry. Sometime around 3 o'clock in the morning, there she was, wide awake! We organized her room for a while, I microwaved some frozen chicken nuggets for her (dipped in ketchup), made some tea for her, and then the 'Ni Hao, Kai Lan' marathon began. This is a semi-educational cartoon on Nick Jr. featuring a Chinese girl. I was actually impressed with how much Mandarin is used on the show, and Rebecca definitely appeared interested in the show. After a couple of episodes, I tried to get her to go back to bed; but no, she decided it was time for a walk. Since 'Kai Lan' had already encouraged me to put on my slippers (in Chinese), out we went at 5 o'clock in the morning around the block in our pajamas. This is half a mile, so I figured it would tire her out, but nope, didn't do the trick.

I decided that we needed to start making flash cards to label everything around the house (in Chinese, pinyin, and English), so we worked on that for a hour or so. Still not sleepy? So woke up Mike to let the dog out. She is really scared of both of our cats and the dogs. Some more shrieking and screaming...

Next we were off to Publix to go food shopping with her. Once again, great behavior at the store. We even went up and down every isle, and no grumpiness at all! When we got back, I knew she had to be tired, so I filled her up with grocery store goodies and sent her to bed. Yeah, at 10:30 a.m. she was tucked back in bed and asleep!

Mike is busy running errands for me and making a big pot of chicken soup for Rebecca. All is great with our little daughter asleep in her room.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Found

BLOG POST BY MIKE

As I sit here typing both my girls are tucked in bed awaiting the long road ahead to America. You know there is something they put everything in perspective for me today. I warn you there won't be any strange twists or any funny anecdotes. We left the consulate today and I looked down at the myriad of forms and notarized official papers and read on thing:

Yang Xiu. F was found abandoned by the wall of back hill of Bo'Ai Hospital East District of Zhongshan City on Feb 13. 2003. She was about 1 week old.

This was the article that was run in the local newspaper in the province where my baby was found. Next to the article is the same photo we received with her file. A freckled face young girl who by age six has shown more courage and bravery than anyone I have known. I have often in the past two weeks thought about the woman who would have so carelessly left her in the darkness to be discovered by strangers. At first, I thought I would slap her in the face but now all I can think to do would be to hug her for the gift she has bestowed upon us.

Tonight we sleep for tomorrow we open a new chapter in all our lives. If I had to title this new chapter it would read the first few words of the ad, Yang Xiu F was found...

Time to Go Home Together as a Family

BLOG POST BY MARGO

Rebecca Xiu cried a soft wimper tonight as we packed all of our belongings into our three suitcases. She will be toting her same backpack tonight that came with her from the orphanage. I didn't have the heart to go through it and empty out the heavy items. Each item inside is a token of her history and she wants it with her. It must be all so scary for her.

Tonight, when I tucked my little girl into bed, I looked into her eyes and told in her half English and half Chinese that we love her and that tomorrow, we are going to America. And that we are her family now and that we will be together forever. Can you believe she simply nodded her head that she understood?

How brave we ask her to be tomorrow...

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

More Smiles

The day started off well enough. We all went to breakfast and Rebecca was still showing a little personality from the night before. She gave up on the 500 piece puzzle I bought for her but went back to one of the older ones. At breakfast she again ate like a champ. Then it was time for our big photo shoot on the red couch at the White Swan. Margo talked her into wearing the traditional Chinese dress we bought for her over her other clothes just for the pictures.

The moment of truth, she donned the red dress, Margo sat down, I sat down, and then waterworks and screaming. She freaked. We stood around until every other family got done and she still did not want any of it. When all was done we were the only ones that did not get the photo.

The rest of the day was spent walking through one of the oldest markets in the city, the Qing Ping Market. Most of the vendors were selling anything from live scorpions to dead sea horses. Apparently a number of these items are used in tea to cure anything from congestion to skin problems. It was very interesting. The end of the walk left us in an updated section of the market that was set up like an outdoor mall. There were lots of clothes and toys. Margo told me she wanted to shop with Rebecca and Michele so I went back to the room.

When Margo returned she said Rebecca had a great time and that Michele and her two daughters were a hoot. She said Michele was great for Rebecca because she was an adult but she was silly and playful and she warmed up to that. Her one daughter was a little bit older so Rebecca looked up to her as a big sister. This was a strong contrast to the bleak start of the day at the photography debacle.

Later in the evening we got on a bus and spent about 30 minutes going to a Szechuan restaurant. Rebecca sat between Michele and her kids and the whole time they played and giggled. When we got back to the hotel they spent 30 minutes running around the playroom and I found out my daughter is a brute. She was doing some wrestling moves that would make Hulk Hogan proud. In the end she said good night and walked back to the room. I saw more energy and happiness in this one night than I have so far in the entire previous week. I was happy and jealous all at the same time. I wished in a lot of ways that she felt that comfortable around me but I know it will come in time.

Only two more full days and then we are homeward bound.

A Day at the Qingping Market

Monday, September 21, 2009

Smiles for HackySack

Buddhist Monks and Chinese Pizza

Today was a very interesting day. We woke up early and called grandma Joan on the phone. It was about 8AM here so 8PM in New Jersey. I told Joan everything was fine here and brought her up to speed on our progress. She said that Aunt Cindy had been keeping her updated and reading the blog to her. She acted surprised we had not told her about the blog. Well, that is because she would have said blog, blog, what the hell is that? Then when I told her it had anything to do with a computer, she would have said, "forgetabbout I ain't getin one of those freakin things" in her best Tony Soprano voice. So, mom sorry we didn't tell you about the blog and we have email too. Sorry, Joan a little fun at your expense to make up for all those years of having some at mine. Oh, and by the way remember all those years of you putting the kabash Irish curse on me by saying, I hope you have a kid just like you. Sorry, it did not work. Anyway back to the blog.

After talking with Joan, we set out for the oldest Buddhist temple in Guangzhou, China called the Liurong Temple. According to the guide Buddhism is the largest religion in China followed by Taoism, Muslim then Christianity. It was built during the Song Dynasty in 420 AD and took seven years to build. It had an amazing pagoda that has been on sight for the last 1000 years. It was pretty amazing to look at the intricate wood and stone work that must have taken pain staking hours to complete. The landscaping was pretty amazing also and it creates a breath taking retreat in the middle of a busy city. The city of Guangzhou has between 14-15 million people. I have been in awe at the natural beauty, the amazing architecture, and the freakin' heat. And did I mention how hot it is here. I can't see how you could be a Buddhist sitting in the same spot on a roof carving some intricate dragon with the sun beating down on you at 120 degrees. I guess the religion must really preach peacefulness because I would beat the guy with a stick that made me climb on the roof, but that's just me.

Rebecca Xiu was not happy at the temple. She did not see the beauty on the landscape or the years of her cultural heritage we were trying to take in, she was just hot and bothered. We spent a couple of hours here and I was once again impressed. We then made our way to the Guangdong Folk Art Museum. This place was set in a park. It again was pretty nice with different types of wood working and artwork on display. This was again an outdoor activity, so no air conditioning. It was nice enough. We went back out the entrance a little before the crowd and me and two other dads spent time playing with a "hacky-sack" type toy we bought from a woman in the park. She played with us for a little bit to show she had some skills. I thought it was strange but she moved better than a three of us and at least two of us were in shape. I let you figure out which. Anyway look to see her in the next Olympics. It cost us 5 CNY to have that much fun, that's like 75 cents. It was well worth the money because I got to see my little girl laugh, even though she was laughing at me.

After the folk museum Margo and Rebecca went back to the room and I went to the Carrefour which is China's Wal-Mart. I bought my girls a 500 piece puzzle since the 250 was too easy and a DVD player. Of course, the puzzle had the Goat on it. When I got back to the room, Rebecca was excited and started on it right away with Margo. I sat on the bed and watched. It is funny because Rebecca gets so focused on the puzzle, she circles the puzzle and hunts for the right piece and then the right place until it's found. I never had that attention span when I was a kid. Of course, as soon as you put the Goat in the DVD player she becomes entranced.

Later in the evening we went to an Italian Restaurant nearby and it was excellent, complete with a bowlegged guy with a limp with an Italian accent. When you entered the restaurant he was standing near a brick oven with two Chinese guys teaching them how to make pizza. The part that made this as close to a Seinfeld episode as possible was he was talking Italian, they were talking Chinese and at the same time he was flirting with the Chinese hostess. Of course, he was covered in hair, was about fifty and she was twenty. The only thing I cared about was that my pizza was great. It didn't hurt that I got to sit about 3 feet away from this to watch this whole spectacle. When one hostess walked away he moved to the next and the funny part was you could tell they were flattered and disgusted at the same time but they had to keep walking back to place and pickup orders. It was quite a racket he has going until another Italian guy moves in to town that knows how to cook pizza. Anyway if the pizza cook thing doesn't work he can get an eye patch and board the first ship and he would be a great fit.

The bottom line was the food was good, the company was good (we ate with Sandy, Tom and Zack), the entertainment better, and my baby still sat in her little shell with the bottom lip dragging. She has her high points throughout the day and her lows but she is like every other kid. I just wish we saw a few more highs than the lows.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Pearl Market

Free Day

Breaking the Shell

The last two days have been a little bit better. Yesterday we woke up and it was our free day. We decided to do some shopping. We got a taxi and went to the Haizhu Square market which is east of our location. It was probably about fifteen blocks away. We got there about 0900AM and it was already hot. I don't feel so bad apparently everyone here knows how hot it is here because the guide told us they have two types of weather here hot and hotter. Today was hotter.

When we got there we discovered that it was both indoor and outdoor. Let's see……I picked air conditioning. Rebecca still has not warmed up to me she will walk as far from me as possible but his will force her to be closer to Margo so that is fine. We walked around and it was set up unlike any shopping location I had ever been to in America. It is a wholesalers market so each floor is geared to one particular type of junk. For example, one floor was dedicated just to toys, one just to electronics, one just to house wares, etc. We stopped at several vendors and bought Rebecca several toys and games but we could not get her interested in anything and there it was. It was like the holy grail of toys sitting atop a mountain. I could spot its glimmer from a mile away. Rebecca pulled Margo as we navigated through the crowd. It was a whole sheet of Pleasant Goat pins. I could here the brain melting chatter in my head "Ya, Ya, YA, YA." Well, since this was a wholesalers market we had to buy a whole sheet. I think it was like 2 US dollars. I looked intently to see if we got a smile but there was none to be had. We did buy another 250 piece Hello Kitty puzzle which would later prove to be another wise investment.

We continued to walk around and found another oddity, a whole complete building nearby filled with stores that sold holiday crap, anything from a Santa outfit to a Halloween costume for Superman. Now you know your wife has a problem when she wants to buy a Halloween costume in China. Yeah, there is no way we will find one of those in the U.S. We then went to lunch at the only place familiar we could find, the golden Arches. The rest of the day was pretty slow. Margo and Rebecca sat in the room and did the puzzle together. It is pretty amazing how content she is figuring out the puzzle.

The next day we woke up for our day of organized shopping at a Chinese artisan store and a Chinese Mall. The artisan store was pretty nice I bought some hand carved chopsticks, a chess board, and a porcelain tea set. Rebecca started to act up a little bit but not nearly as bad as some of the other kids. We then went to the Mall and Margo got a nice set of pearls that she said she will give to Rebecca when she gets a little bit older. The pearl store was amazing just bags and bags of pearls and they strung your necklace while you waited. This was again a fairly short day with our group and we were done by lunch time.

We went back to the room and Margo went to the playroom with Rebecca. Again, she said Rebecca smiles and spoke to her just as I predicted. She is definitely a shy but clever kid and she only shares her trust a little at a time. She seems to be comfortable with Margo so we will encourage that for the time being. I am hoping it gets us to the point where we can get on the plane without another meltdown. Last night before bed Margo was able to put her foot down because Xiu wanted to wear her school uniform but it was wet. Margo told her it was not going to happen and she listened. Our next day will be going to a Buddhist temple. We will be leaving in five days.

Friday, September 18, 2009

A Walk in the Park

Whoever came up with the phrase "a walk in the park" to symbolize the simplicity of an action never took a newly adopted six-year old to a Chinese park. Today the guide took us to a beautiful park. I am sorry I don't remember the name and it was not the one on our itinerary but the English translation was the park by the lake. It was a very green and shaded parked that was meticulously landscaped and there were hundreds of older Chinese citizens practicing dancing, Ti Chi, and some form of hackysack.

We walked into the park and around the lake and everything seemed fine. There was a small playground and as we walked towards it she began to resist and stood at the entrance. We tried to go inside and she would not follow. Margo then tried to take her hand and she was not having it. The guide, Kelly, tried to walk her in and she again was not having it. Then I tried and, of course, failure. Margo then tried to pick her up and Chernobyl again. Rebecca Xiu screamed and the tranquility of the landscape was disturbed. We showed her a little bit about discipline…no pleasant goat today.

We left the park and she dragged that bottom lip. When we got back to the room she asked to watch Pleasant goat and the answer was no. I believe she knew why because she was a nicer to both of us but she still got no goat. She then spent some more one on one time with Margo and Margo said she spoke to her in Chinese and opened up again. I really just think she hates groups. I sat with Margo and her and we did flash cards showing her a picture with an English word. We showed her the card, Margo said the word, Rebecca repeated the word, and I repeated the word and she was rewarded with one M&M. After the whole deck, she had a bag of M&M's but she was forced to speak with us and make eye contact. I was very pleased.

We then brought her out to dinner and then let her watch some goat. The best sign was that she picked her own clothing out for the following day which was a pair of blue jean shorts and the yellow Little Miss Sunshine shirt her daddy picked out. Even with our second mini melt down it was a good day.

We were told at one time by the guide that Xiu new name Rebecca means "beautiful shell" when translated in Chinese. I don't believe there is a better description of our little girl.

More Pictures

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Lions, and Tigers, and Bears, Oh My

Today was a day at the zoo. We woke up early again and went to the breakfast buffet again. It seemed that someone woke up on the wrong side of the bed because we got a little bit of attitude this morning. Margo wanted Xiu to wear an outfit we brought for her. Any of the outfits would do. She whined, whimpered and finally a compromise. She wore a pair of the leggings she brought from the orphanage with a pink flowered pajama top that daddy picked out. We walked out the door and for the first time she did not reach back to hold Margo's hand as we walked out the room door. She just walked ahead with that bottom lip dragging behind her like a fifty pound bag of potatoes. Margo caught up to her and told her to hold her hand and she complied.

While sitting the table she actually sat at the table while Margo got up to get her food. She did not look at me but she did not shy away from me and allowed me to hand her food which is a little bit of an improvement. She again changed up her menu but still got healthy choices. We met a family from New Jersey living in New Mexico. They adopted an eight year old boy who did not seem at all shy. In fact, I walked up to get some dumplings and this is the kid carrying off a plate of about a hundred. His dad told me their child is excited but is a handful. They said he is very stubborn and always wants his way. Hmm, sounds like someone I know. In fact, sounds like two girls I know. They were nice people. They had a seven year old they adopted five years ago who is all American already. She was adorable. We finished and walked towards the door.

I told Margo I did not want to go back to the room, so we walked to Starbucks and then around the park nearby. I also found out you don't ask for cream in your coffee in China because you get whipped cream. I also found out they do not have sweet tea just hot tea with floaties. We walked around and everyone was Chinese - no Americans, no Europeans, no Australians, just Chinese. But you know I found that Chinese problem have the same problem I encountered in Mexico. They stare but not at me. They stared at my wife and kid because she was holding this little Chinese kid. I fixed that problem I stared back and I am not talking about a normal stare. I raised one eyebrow, curled my nose, and snarled a little bit. I figured they either thought I was crazy or retarded but either way it worked.

We met our group at the White Swan again and it was off to the Zoo. I thought she would be excited to see large animals kept in deplorable conditions throwing pooh at one another but no, she was not impressed. There was one exception, she loved the giraffes. We then went to the Noodle King for lunch. We then went back to the room for a nap and more of the Pleasant Goat. Margo has a plan now. She says that each and every time Rebecca wants something like food or electronical entertainment she will have to ask me. We will see how that works. I told her that I had a plan and it was that she spend some one on one time with Xiu to see if that worked for her.

A few hours later Margo returned after a walk and playing with Rebecca one on one and she said it worked like a charm. She said they walked around and went to a shop. Once they got back to the room, they colored, did flashcards, braided Barbie's hair, and played solitaire and with 'Paint' on the computer. She said Rebecca is fine when she is only with her but take her around anyone else and she shuts down. That is a good sign. It shows she will bond very closely with one parent and the other will just come in time. I am willing to wait. We went to dinner, got more Pleasant Goat, and on to bed.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Pictures from 9/16/09

Million Dollar Smile

I have learned in a very short time that when you have kids that anytime you came get through a day without any crying at all, meaning both the kid or the wife, then it is a good day. Today was a good day.

We woke up again very early. Rebecca Xiu woke up about 0700am and again it was like she was ordered to do so. No tears, no whimpering - just shoes on, brush teeth, comb hair, and watch that Pleasant Goat show and I can't get the jingle out of my head. I think what makes it so bad is that I can't watch hardly any television myself with Margo. I did have some fun though today at one point. I turned on what must have been a Soap Opera in all Chinese and as the actors spoke I made up my own lines and you know it actually works. Of course everyone was named Bob or Jim and because of the language it would have been banned but it was entertaining for both me and Margo. Rebecca did not seem amused.

Anyway we again went to the breakfast buffet. Rebecca Xiu sat very quietly and ate while Margo and I discussed the day. We then went to the playroom for about 15-20 minutes. It was pretty adequate - it had a small Jungle Jim on a mat with about six or seven balls and for the first time I saw my daughter smile. It was about half a second but I will take what I can get. Her face seemed to brighten up she seemed to have a fresh outlook on life and I figured maybe she was thinking hey these two aren't so bad I could have done a lot worse and hey life is good but then it was back to dragging around that lower lip. Seeing that brief glimmer of hope made my whole day.

We did not have to meet the group until about 10AM and after breakfast we decided to all go for a walk. Oh, did I mention how freakin hot and humid it is here. We walked around for about two hours and then sat at Starbucks and had some ice coffee. I looked like I just got done running the NYC marathon in August while wearing three pairs of sweats. Rebecca appeared fine and comfortable.

At about 10 am the whole group met and we began walking about six blocks to the clinic to get Rebecca's physical exam done. I was sweating this because she was going to have to get a TB test and the prick of the needle is painful. While walking, the bottom fell out and everyone got drenched thanks to the typhoon. It did not matter much to me because I was wet anyway.

We got to the clinic and we were in and out in ten minutes thanks to our guide. We went ahead of the guy holding the eye ball in his hand, but hey, we're Americans. Rebecca was extremely interested in everything. She was the oldest child in the group and when her turn came she stepped up completed her station and was pulling Margo along to the next station. We were done and it was quick and painless.

We walked around again and then back to the room for a quick nap. We got back to the room and yes more Pleasant Goat. Margo and Rebecca also finished their puzzle. I tried to participate but Rebecca was not having it. It was just for girls. We then got ready to go to apply for Rebecca Xiu's passport. Again thanks to our guide, Kelly, it was quick and painless. We did run into another couple from Fort Myers who adopted a friend of Rebecca's from her orphanage. It is not close but it still might help to have a friend that close. They spoke for a minute and I would have paid a million bucks to understand what they were saying but our guide was busy. They stood there whispering in Chinese and Rebecca kept handing her camera to the little girl. I figured Rebecca was telling the other little girl that if you take off to the right and I take off to the left then maybe we have a shot. We won't be able to outrun everyone but I can escape the fat one. Victory will be mine. Oh, just kidding I quite sure they were discussing the deep rooted political and economic messages of the Pleasant Goat. I was nice to see her interact with her friend.

We then went back to the room and had about an hour before dinner. It is like all I do is sweat, eat, sleep, and sign every day. We did make the mistake of stopping at a local store and Margo wanted to get a few things for our daughter. Okay, I know I am a cynical person but I always see the humor in things. I mean come on a Jew and a Chinese shopkeeper, that joke just writes itself. Anyway the three haggled for awhile. The shopkeeper had to call in back up and Margo refused to pay 67 CNY or 5 US Dollars for five hair pins. Good for her. The shopkeeper did play dirty. At one point she thought she was slick and talking directly to Rebecca I guess hoping she would have a fit and we would be forced to pay what she was asking to please her. Margo stood her ground. I then walked to the front of the store and bought my first beer. I did not haggle over price.

The rest of the night was uneventful. We just went to eat at a Thai restaurant, more Pleasant Goat, and then bedtime. I lay in bed and pictured that smile.

Rainy Day Puzzle

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Breakfast Time 9/15/09

Pictures from 9/15/09

Puzzle Pieces Falling into Place

Last night Xiu went to bed at about 8am and we woke up at 7am. We have been trying to keep the same schedule although I get up most nights and just pace around the room. But Margo and Xiu slept well. Xiu did not need any help getting out of bed. Margo gently called her name and she sat up like it was her first day at boot camp. She immediately started putting her shoes on. The whole time she started to whimper because I think she realized she was not at the orphanage but she quickly recovered and started her morning.

We had breakfast and boy this kid could put a 400LB trucker to shame. She liked the variety at our hotel breakfast buffet which is thankfully Chinese. But she shovels it in and she is not shy while eating. She sat on Margo's lap and even though she is very leery and distant towards me I am so glad she is bonding with Margo. It makes sense because from what we know she was very close to her nanny. She was much closer to her than her peers. This is good because when she finally accepts Margo she will be on her like stink on a pig.

After breakfast we walked around for a bit but it was windy and raining. There was about a foot of water on the ground so Margo picked up Xiu and carried her. Margo is trying so hard and I am very proud of her. I walk around like security but that's okay. Every now and again Xiu looks up at me and I know in time she will accept me as her father but it will take time. I will be patient.

At 1000am we went back t the same government building we got her at. I was not excited about this because I thought Xiu would think she was going back to the orphanage which at this particular point is what she wants because of her detachment to the nanny. Xiu was a trooper though and sat very quietly and took everything in. It was our final paperwork where we both signed to accept her as our child. It was really weird because we had two separate interviews where they asked us if we as parents promise to never abandon her, educate her, and never torture her. The government officials compared our answers with our paperwork. We left there for some retail therapy.

We went to the China's version of Walmart. The only thing I was interested in finding was the cartoon she supposed likes called Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf. I looked on the internet last night and it is now where to be found in the US. It also seems hard to order from China. There it was as near a extremely loud television. I mean I am talking really loud. We got her three seasons of China's answer to Spongebob. Xiu was tired and hungry because it was nearing her nap time. She knew what she wanted though a Chinese Barbie and Hall's menthol cough drops. We also got her some lunch and we sat on a bench just near the check out waiting for the other families and our guide.

While we were standing there two older Chinese couples were sitting near drinking beer and staring at Xiu and Margo. The older lady starting walking towards Margo and I have to say I was thinking because of her age she was going to be old fashioned and she was going to come over and with a drunken slur say something in Chinese and make Xiu cry. I was thinking that all I need that my little girl to drunk 80 year old lady in a head lock. But to my surprise the lady came over and was very pleasant even though she would have failed a sobriety test. She told us she was envious of our little girl. We met back together and headed back to our hotels. When we walked back to the room I told Margo that Xiu almost had a strut holding Margo's hand and me holding two bags full of stuff she picked out.

It was about two-thirty and when we got back Margo said I guess we should put Xiu down for a nap. Margo was then out like a light. I watched Xiu she laid in bed and played with her dolls. For the first time she seemed a little content. When Margo woke up she took out a puzzle that Xiu wanted at the store. The two of them did the puzzle until dinner time. She again seemed very content and interested.

We then went to dinner and Xiu again packed it away. She obviously does not do well being the center of attention nor does she do well in a crowd so she was very quiet. We got back to the room and she kept making tea. She then gave it to Margo and she figured that she must have done it for the nanny. I then set up her DVD. Okay, I have the answer for the whole CIA water boarding issue. Scrap that interrogation method and play this cartoon for an hour to terrorists. They would tell where there momma was hiding. Well, whatever makes my little girl happy.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Our Own Ray of Sunshine

We woke up at about 8AM and had breakfast. The buffet at this hotel is comparable to any American hotel and was continental style. We met our guide, Kelly, along with several other families at the Bank of China to exchange our American money to Chinese dollars. I was impressed at how professional, efficient, and courteous the people were at the bank. We got four stacks of cash and as I left I thought, now is the time that I would get jacked but everything went smooth.

We started briefly looking for a nice shirt I could wear since Margo had me only bring t-shirts. Let me tell you something - there must be no XXL translation to Chinese. We went in several stores including a Polo store and the XXL was like a small, talk about trying to fit twenty pound of bologna into a ten pound bag. It was ridiculous. I did eventually find a traditional Chinese embroidered shirt at a local store. I think they were using it as a pool cover but it fit.

We then drove to the government building to get our children. It was quite an experience. I guess I assumed they brought the children to the families in a private room, introduced us, so that there was not a lot going on. Not so. The children are brought in the same entrance as the parents and are quickly escorted into a room with a red curtain. While we were in this room they brought all the kids from the elevator to the room. I heard a child shrilling and yelling the same phrase in Chinese over and over again. Yes, it was our little girl. She put the 2 and 3 year olds to shame. Momma started crying and said I can't look as they brought her into the room.

We were like the second family called out of thirty and when they brought her out she was gorgeous. She still kept screaming the same phrase and Margo could not understand what she was saying. We brought her to the corner of the room and tried to calm her. She was toting a pink Mickey Mouse backpack. She had a death grip on the backpack and continued screaming the same phrase. Meanwhile, out of the corner of my eye I could see a young Chinese American boy just watching us intently. His parents just got an infant and he was not interested in his new sibling but we peaked his interest. He walked over in the midst of the bone chilling cries and very matter of factly, "she is saying she want to go back to the orphanage." Well no sh!#, Sherlock. I had about two seconds of Chinese and I figured that out. I am sure he was trying to be helpful.

After about an hour of the shrilling, then twenty minutes of the bone chilling crying, we were at the stage where she thanked us very much for flying the 14 hours, kissed us good-bye, and attempted to calmly walk off. Well, that didn't happen, so we were back to the shrilling. Thankfully, our guide sat with us and helped bridge the gap in communication and the lord shined his light on us because she spoke Mandarin and not Cantonese. Margo started spouting off words and she began to respond. We left the government building and started our ride back to the hotel. When we got to the hotel room we had meltdown number two which made Chernobyl look like a minor backyard chemical spill. Margo was right there the whole way comforting her and consoling her. Margo gave her all the clothes we brought for her and the digital camera that was given to us at her shower, thanks Lily. She is very smart and believe it or not whatever government official matched with Margo was spot on because she is also OCD. Yes, I can already picture her and her mommy cutting our CVS coupons and arguing with the clerk, one in English the other in Chinesem that you can use the coupon after the expiration date.

Whenever Margo would move something around the room, Rebecca would move it back to its original location. She sat down and began to color and the only thing I could do was watch and be thankful Margo sacrificed so much time this last year learning the language and it finally paid off. We went to dinner and allowed her to order for us and all ate well. She still had this sad face with her lower lip hitting the ground but she was as cute as she could be. She loves Coke. We let her have a little.

We went back to the room, Margo went in the bathroom as she showered, brushed her teeth, and her hair. Everything has its place as she finished with her toothbrush and toothpaste. She layed down and fell asleep at eight-thirty. It is now three-thirty in the morning and she is sleeping soundly in her own bed ever with the thundering and lightning in the background. The wind has also picked up and it is suppose to storm through the night. It's okay though because at the end of every storm there is a rainbow followed by a ray of sunshine. That is what our Rebecca is to us, our own ray of sunshine.

Forever Family Day Pictures

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Ride of Your Life

POST BY MIKE

Well, only one more day to the "Gotcha day". This the day that we finally are introduced to Rebecca and we both can't wait.

We started the day by waking up at 0400 AM, packing, and shipping out for Guangzhou. This is about an hour away from our daughter's province. We woke up and made it downstairs. When we got down there I did not have my morning coffee so I asked the clerk if there was a place nearby that I could get some coffee. She made a phone call and got me what I wanted. You see coffee is not near as poplar as tea, so they probably had to brew some. That's okay I probably would have paid a thousand dollars for a cup at that time.

We loaded on the bus and headed for the airport. Okay, one thing that is different from American culture that I have already experienced several times is the tipping. For example, the driver who brought us around the two days we were in Beijing was usually given a tip. We were told this is the amount you give and then we were told this is the amount you give to your tour guide. It was explained that this is a custom in China. I guess it is just funny to me because when you're told this is what you tip then it becomes a fee and not a tip. It is not much money but just kind of ironic.

We flew out with no complications. The flight was about three hours aboard China Air and was very comfortable. I was kind of sweating that they would bring me to the seat and I could not fit one leg in the seat but it was very comfortable. They even sat all the English speaking passengers together and provided us with an English speaking stewardess. Margo spent the whole time asking me if I noticed how perfect the stewardesses were in everywhere from their hair to their makeup. I have been married for fifteen years I know a set up when it is coming.

We landed and met our guide, Kelly, who quickly escorted us to wait for our shuttle. She was very helpful and pleasant always asking us if we needed anything. This is good because she will be our guide for the next two weeks. As we drove the hour to the hotel we got to see more of the country side. The highway was still immaculate but some of the city was more of what we expected. The building definitely looked dated compared to Beijing and not manicured as well.

We arrived at Shamian Island where we will be staying. The first stop was at the White Swan Hotel where Sandy and Tom are staying. After a few minutes, we left for our hotel, The Victory. The room is nice but not extravagant. It will meet our needs for the next two weeks. We then walked around for about an hour. It is hot and humid here. I am talking beat down, pouring down sweaty, begging for a sip of water hot. It makes Macon look like a snow covered paradise.

The day is finally over and we are one step closer to embracing our daughter and bringing her home. The whole adoption experience has been exhausting but definitely worth the sacrifices. It is similar to a day at the amusement park on a hot sweaty day. The guy at the front gate tells you to try the roller coaster because there is only a fifteen minute ride. You walk there to find that it has the longest line the whole time cursing that guy. You then stand in line for three hours looking at some 15 year old kid picking his nose and talking on the cell phone who lets only a few people on at a time. You are thinking to yourself why in the heck doesn't this line hurry up. When you finally get there you sit down and relax thinking finally I am here. The cart starts to creep along towards the pinnacle of the ride or the top of the coaster and that's where I feel we are. Sure, you hold your breath as you get to the top, close your eyes and hang on for dear life. But in the end after all the screaming, crying, twists, turns, and vomiting you come to the end with a smile on your face and say to the next joker standing in line that was the greatest ride of your life. That's how I feel right now I can't wait to get over the top and meet my new baby.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Friday, September 11, 2009

Arrived in Beijing!


Mike and I have safely arrived in Beijing. We have checked into our hotel, bought bottled water from a local grocery store, and eaten a nice dinner with another couple. We have a very busy day tomorrow touring the Great Wall, Tianmen Square, and the Forbidden City.

Flight to Beijing


BLOGGING BY MIKE:
Well, my wife has given me control of the blog. Today we woke up at 5am and it felt like 3AM. Of course, Margo had everything prepared, cataloged, and double checked. I love her she is so thorough. We had every aspect of our trip mapped out and asked our generous friends Billy, Michelle, and Elton to take care of our pets.
We headed out and arrived at Atlanta airport with no complications or tragedies. We had all our paperwork and boarded our flight for the windy city, Chicago. We actually landed twenty minutes early, you go United Air, and only had to walk a short distance to our gate bound for China. While we were seated we saw so many children and they were all adorable. We met a couple that already had two little girls from China between 3 and 6 and they named the oldest Rebecca.
You know it's funny. I have told Margo for fifteen years know that she could befriend and talk to anyone and everyone. Before we met I used to ride public transportation in NJ everywhere and never not one single time had someone sat down next to and start a conversation. I say it is because I am not very approachable but Margo says that I am scary. She made sure to mention that people would be scared of me in China. I told her I will probably feel like Godzilla. (Yes, I know Godzilla is Japan not China)
We got to speak to all our friends and family before leaving and everyone is excited but not like Margo. I told Margo she has been like the energizer bunny these last few days. She has been running around making sure everything is perfect for Rebecca "Xiu Xiu" when she gets home.
I am sitting here in seat 25B typing right now bound for Beijing. We have been on the flight for eleven hours now and it feels like 5 days. I have gotten up a thousand times because I am anticipating the next couple of days. I spoke to a man that was born and educated in Beijing but now lives in Minnesota. He is a geologist. He told me that we will absolutely love Beijing and that the whole city is designed for tourism. He did warn me that Guangzhou is a bit different. He explained that there is a lot of opportunists in the southern region that target tourist. Not that I would not blend in. He stated it is a beautiful city but we should not venture too far off the beaten path.
I am spending my time thinking of what Xiu is thinking, feeling, experiencing. I wonder if she is laying in her bed feeling uncomfortable and uncertain because she will be brought to a totally foreign lifestyle. I also wonder if she will grieve over losing her friends from her orphanage. Believe it or not the stranger I spoke to gave me some comfort. He told me that Margo and I are doing a great thing for Xiu and thanked me as a citizen from China for giving her a better life. You know maybe even Godzilla can learn to be a little less scary.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

We're Ready to Go

Packed and ready to go!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Packing

Stuff is piling up:

Gifts for the nannies:


Gifts for men:

Lots of collectible and fun stamps from Grandpa Rick for presents while in China:

No, HuHu, you can not go with us: