Friday, June 26, 2009

Friday...leaving for Beijing and then HOME!

Friday was our last day in Guangzhou, and as of yet, we had not really bought much, so we set out to get some gifts from the remaining open stores on Shamian.  (It's kind of a ghost town these the mall everybody *used* to go to.)  This didn't sit well with Ross YunLong, who would grab something from nearly every aisle and beg us to buy it for him.  He knew (it had been explained) that we were getting a gift for each of his siblings back in the states.  A little temper tantrum, and a refusal to eat lunch, checkout of the hotel, and then it was time to meet our guide.  We had a few hours to kill before heading for the airport, and she offered for us to go to a museum or the zoo.  We asked the kids, and they (of course) wanted to go to the zoo, and we felt that was best.  Our guide didn't seem too happy about our choice, but oh well.  When we got there though, we saw they had a separate part of the zoo that is more like a Sea World (in a smallish, not so nice kind of way.)  We exchanged our tickets and went there instead, since we'd already been to the zoo in Kunming.  

Again...what a difference from things in the states!  At Sea World, during the dolphin show, there's usually the obligatory "pick the girl out of the audience and let her pet the dolphin and it then kisses her cheek" bit.  Well, here...they have the girl get in a blow-up raft and the dolphins pull here around in the VERY deep show pool!  (Can you even imagine the insurance premiums for the liability of someone falling out of the boat here???)

Inside the aquarium part, there was a shark tank that was only waist high...and open on the top!  You can just stick your hand right in with all the sharks!  There's just a gal posted in front of it who says, "Just be careful!"  Then, just like at the zoo where we fed the lion, they had a tupperware full of fish parts so you could feed the sharks.  Bo, of course, had to let the kids do that!  They gave them each this grabber thing.  They loaded fish on one end, held it in the water, and the sharks would come at it and grab it vigorously, splashing water everywhere!  Quite cool, actually!

Then we were off to fly to Beijing, much to Ross' chagrin.  He kept saying he didn't want to go to Beijing.  He wanted to go to America!  We got in late, slept, and then left for the airport in the morning.  The flights from Beijing to SanFran, and then on to Denver were largely uneventful.  The kids mostly watched TV.  (In fact, they didn't sleep on the flight over, and only slept on the flight to Denver.)  

Kara was timid, getting off the plane here, but Ross was skipping and jumping and excited to meet his new siblings.  He was silly and playing with all of them from the get-go!  

Don't Say I Didn't Warn You!

I told y'all I was a terrible blogger!  I'll try to recap as best as possible.  

Thursday in Guangzhou started off great!  Lucy's (which re-opened today) for lunch, and then met our friend back at the hotel.  We took a cab with her to a sewing factory that employs girls who have aged out of their orphanages.  It's really a ministry, and was started by a woman here in the states.  (It's called DORCAS, but I can't remember what the acronym stands for.)  Currently, there are 6 girls working, sewing those cute outfits that we all love from the store on Shamian, A Gift From China, as well as beautiful purses and other items.  We even got to see the apartment the girls live in.  

After that, we all went to our friends current residence.  (I say current because they just moved in, but it's being borrowed from friends and they will likely be moving in 3-6 months.)  They live there openly as missionaries, although they can only attend the international church or the Three Selves Church.  This family is amazing, and just hearing about the years they've been in Guangzhou and all the struggles of adjusting to life there was very humbling.  Six months before they moved to China, they too had adopted their youngest daughter from Hunan, and they know how families are feeling by the end of their trip....ready for American food!  They graced us with a fantastic dinner of fried chicken, mashed potatoes, salad, and dessert.  Oh, and be still my heart, sweet tea...with ice!!!!  
They are now foster parents to a nine year old girl with pretty severe CP.

Kara and Ross got into a BIG fight (their first) while we were there.  It actually was good, because at least we had someone there who could interpret for us rather than trying to comfort and calm without any words. 

Thursday, June 11, 2009


After 1.5 hours delay, we finally got into Guangzhou late last night. It's so good to be in the homestretch! The Victory isn't as nice as the White Swan where we stayed last time we were here, but we're only here for 3 nights, so it's not a big deal. First thing this morning (Wednesday) we went to take our laundry to Tiffany's, with an obligatory stop at Starbuck's for Bo. We ran into Jordan though, and decided to take the laundry to his shop. Everybody who's been to Shamian Island knows Jordan! He did the kid's name in calligraphy, and then we had to head back to meet our guide and head to their medical examination.
I was absolutely dreading this. It took three nurses to hold Ellie down last time we were here, and all they were doing was checking her heartrate and temperature under her arm! Now, because of the Hague laws, the kids *have* to get shots. I totally expected YunLong to decide to take a hike upon hearing about the shots, but he and XiaoMei both were total champs. They didn't even flinch! Two shots for Ross, and four for Kara!
The kids weren't hungry yet for lunch, so we walked over the bridge to the "scary place" as my friend Ang calls it. I actually thought it was totally cool and fun! We loved walking through the blocks of traditional Chinese medicine. Our other guide told us that basically they pull everything they can out of the sea, and call it medicine. There were herbs and dried lizards, dried seahorses, and all manner of other things considered medicinal here. Then there were a couple blocks of domestic animals for sale; puppies, kitties, rabbits, fish, as well as chipmunks and iguanas. Suffice it to say, PETA would not be happy with the condition of the animal crates and the lack of water for the critters.
We headed to the jade market, and then to the pearl market, and by then the kids were starving. Lunch was in a Chinese restaurant at the mall, and then back to the hotel where we had planned to go swimming. Unfortunately, the pool was closed for maintenance. After resting in the room for a little while, we did some shopping here on the island, and headed for Lucy's (YES!!!! AMERICAN FOOD!) Unfortunately, they are also closed for maintenance!!! Arrrrrgh! We just can't catch a break!
We decided that we'd better take our only chance (dinner tomorrow will be with friends who live in Guangzhou) here to order PaPa John's Pizza (not normally a fan, but here, it's GREAT!). Knowing the kids would probably not like it, we got them dinner to take back to the room from the most interesting place. Our room looks down on the restaurant, and I'd been watching it, just fascinated. The have a pool set up...the 3 foot or so deep kind you get at a Walmart type store....and there are a couple of different types of fish swimming around in it. I'd seen people pick the one they wanted, the worker grab them out of the water and take it back, and then return with a filleted fish to be prepared. Not unlike our picking out the lobster we want, just in a much larger scale! We, however, stuck with rice, rice noodles, and a beef dish for the kids :-)
Some goofing off in the room, a skype call home, and it'll be time for bed. Tomorrow our guide will go the consulate for us. Because Kara XaioMei is 14, she herself has to go and sign, as well. Tomorrow should prove to be a really interesting day, and I can't wait to update!

Happy Birthday, XiaoMei!

Monday, June 8th is Kara XiaoMei's 14th birthday! We celebrated by heading to Green Lake Park and renting a motor boat (as opposed to the paddle boat we got the other night.) There were also bumper car rides, although XiaoMei chose to not do them this time. We had a pretty quiet afternoon in our hotel room, waiting for our notary papers to arrive, but finally celebrated with cake (actually strawberry mousse) and opening presents. If you look closely at the picture, you'll see it's garnished with not cherries, but cherry tomatoes! Our evening was really fun though. We stayed out later than we have any other night here so far. We shopped for more shoes for XiaoMei, as well as a new skirt.
We discovered that we were within easy walking distance of Walmart, so we headed there for more clothes for YunLong, since he wasn't much in a shopping mood the day we got him. Tonight, he was all for it though, and was even mugging gangsta' style with the ballcaps. Dinner was below Walmart at KFC, and then back to the hotel for a very late night, drawing in the new books they got.
Tuesday, June 9th...I'm writing this from the Kunming airport, and our flight was just delayed one hour. We again took a walk around the park this afternoon; more basketball games, bumper cars, and lunch in the hotel room before we left for the airport. Not too much to post about, other than it's going really well. When we were getting ready to leave the hotel, YunLong asked our guide if we were leaving for the states! He's ready, and excited. XiaoMei, as always, is much more subdued. We'll get into Guangzhou and probably have a late dinner, maybe from Lucy's. We changed where we're staying though. At first, our guide and friends thought we'd be better off staying off Shamian since the kids are so much older and there's not much for them to do there. They thought they'd like the excitement and activity by the Holiday Inn Shifu. However, upon meeting and getting to know the kids, we all felt it better to be in an area that is far less crowded and where we can better keep an eye on XiaoMei (our independent girl) and YunLong (our monkey boy.)

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Sunday, June 7th

Today was a really good day! We went to a Children's Park that had all sorts of rides, and surprisingly hardly any shops or people hawking their wares. You paid an admission just to get in, and then you bought individual tickets for rides. (Can you say coming and going?) YunLong had been here before, and had ridden some, but not all of the rides. XiaoMei had never been to a park like this. Sometimes she would be hesitant to try a ride, but YunLong was always encouraging her to try it, and that it was fun, not scary. He also is now quick to reach for Bo's hand to come ahead and see things with him. He's doing so great! It's harder for me to tell how XiaoMei is doing, but our guide says that whenever she asks her, she says she is very happy.
Towards the end of our time at the park, Bo and YunLong went into a building that has snow, and tube and sled riding, and forts. They give you a parka to wear, although YunLong had on shorts and Bo had on sandals, so they got quite cold. During that time, Jane and I got to talk with XiaoMei about some things at her orphanage. Through Jane, I told her that she will always be a part of our family....that it's forever.
YunLong wanted MeiDonLaw (written phonetically, I have no idea of the pinyin for that) which is McDonald's. He tried to convince XiaoMei, but she wasn't having it. She's not such a fan of American food! We ended up getting some take out from McD's and taking it back to the hotel room, since we have noodle bowls to heat up here for her. She ended up eating some of YunLong's drumsticks, after all though. (Their menu also has KFC type stuff on it here.) And just like last time we were in China....FRIED pies! You don't get any sweets here, and we've pretty much eaten rice noodles this whole trip, so it's a nice break from the monotony.
The whole day was incredibly fun, and the only iffy time was right before bed. It kept getting later and later, and they would not settle down. Constantly getting out of bed, turning on lights, noisy video games, even though they asked if they could just stay up to read, etc. Then the notes started. YunLong was writing notes, and XiaoMei was totally cracking up. I'm pretty sure they said something to the effect that we're schlumps or something! Oh well, today was certainly more than two steps forward, one step back. Closer to five and one, I'd say.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Highs and Lows

Saturday started off well. I caught the kids looking together at their photo albums that they each received, comparing the pictures. We got ready, had breakfast, and then headed out for the Minority Village. (Like Epcot, basically...not a "real" minority village.) It features typical architecture and costumes of the 20 or so minority groups, all in Yunnan. Anyways, we pay for our tickets, and are just inside of the park and see you can either hire a costumed guide for the day, hoof it, or rent one of those 6-seater family bikes. We opted for the bike, since the kids thought that would be fun. Bo and Jane were at the counter paying for it, and XiaoMei and YunLong were goofing around and pedaling the bike forward, while I was goofing around and holding them back or letting them get a little ahead and then pushing the bike back to its original spot. Two ladies walk up, one with a small child, and in rapid-fire Chinese start talking to me, and I could tell I was being thanked. Then the woman says she is "......(can't understand)........Mama," gesturing to herself. Now, we've many times in China, especially with Ellie's adoption, had people thank us for adopting, usually getting across the point that the children will have a bright future in America. But, this time it seemed different, and I gestured back, and in my limited, mangled Mandarin asked if she was his MaMa. She started nodding her head yes, hugging me, and then went over to YunLong, trying to hug and get him down off the bike to see him. He kept his head down, but I could see tears starting, and he was getting very upset or mad. I called Jane over and told her I thought this was his foster mom. She quickly came over and found out that indeed, she was. We aren't sure if YunLong had mentioned coming here the next day (although Jane didn't hear him say that) or if they took a gamble, knowing that adoptive families usually visit this tourist spot. Anyways, we hugged, said our thank-yous, to her for loving and caring for him all these years, and to us for giving him a family and a future. (The other woman was her sister, I believe, and the child was like YunLong's cousin.) Jane was quick to get us on our way though. It was very distressing to YunLong, and we got him down off the bike for a quick, face downcast picture, but then he got back on the bike and would not speak to them. Clearly, he was hurting. Within about 15 minutes though, he was enjoying himself again at the park. Absolutely crazy, but it did allow for some more closure, we believe.
After resting in the room for a few hours, it was time for a walk to Green Lake Park and the boat ride we promised the kids yesterday. We took a paddle boat out on the lake for about 50 minutes, and had a very pleasant time. The kids took turns paddling, and when we were in areas where there weren't other boaters, they both steered and paddled. Then we were off to a Sichuan style restaurant across from our hotel.
Now, YunLong is incredibly smart. Although he is the younger of the two, he is the one who speaks and explains things to XiaoMei. Now, this is not to say she is not bright! She definitely is! It's just that her cleft lip and palate were not repaired till she was much older, and she never received any kind of speech therapy. Her orphanage basically felt she couldn't do much in the way of schooling due to her lip, so there you go. She will definitely have a tough row to hoe, but we'll do what we can to make sure she receives the help she needs. YunLong has definitely got a sweet side, but the "little emperor" side can come out, too, and it did tonight. He was the youngest in his home, with sibling far, far older. The Chinese tend to be far more permissive than we are anyways, and because he was the baby of the family, we don't believe he had any discipline. The kids tease back and forth and have fun, but tonight at dinner it went too far. YunLong was really making fun of XiaoMei. She laughs it off, usually, or swats at him, but he took it even farther. We let him know, and then had our guide explain that making fun of her lip and saying derogatory things about her because of it are completely unacceptable. He (begrudgingly) acknowledged this rule. Back at the room, however, he started up again. So, he got told (in Mandarin), "NO!" with gestures about her lip. He took off to his bed and pouted. He did allow me to go in and rub his back though, and I told him (again, in Mandarin) that we love him, but we also love XiaoMei. I sent the kids in to get their showers, and XiaoMei came out without her hair washed. This wouldn't be a big deal, except that she had done that yesterday, as well, so I told her to go back and wash her hair. She shook her head no. So, I said that yes, she needed to go wash her hair; again, no. One more time, then I told Bo to tell her. She AGAIN said no! And he, more firmly told her to, and she did! I actually take this as a good thing. I think she's comfortable enough to risk NOT doing what we say! Oh, and after YunLong came out, I could tell that he had just run the water for enough time to have taken a shower, and then came out, un-showered.....
Sneaky little monkey.
We'll deal with that another day :-)

Friday, June 5, 2009

A New Day

Wow! Seeing as how difficult yesterday was for YunLong, I had no expectations for today to be much better, if not quite a bit worse. I was incredibly (and thankfully) wrong. YunLong woke up, knowing that today we'd eat breakfast and then head to the zoo, since our guide had explained that to him before bed last night. He woke up amicably enough, and I had him choose between his new clothes what he would like to wear. Bo, XiaoMei, YunLong, and I then headed to breakfast. Breakfast was fine, no incidents, and then it was time for the zoo.
We spent several hours at the Kunming Zoo, and had so much fun! This zoo would never be allowed in America. Besides the fact that many of the walkways were stone walking paths (definitely *not* ADA approved), there were steps and steep ramps everywhere. And the displays were so much closer to the animals than we are used to at home. The kids were quick to take over with the camera and the flips (video cameras) so we have MANY, MANY photos and videos! Everytime we got to steps or ramps, YunLong took off running up them, always waiting for us at the top though. He led us from place to place, and was familiar with the layout of the zoo.
The part that clearly let you know we weren't in Kansas anymore was the lion display. For around $1.50 each, the kids got to have a bamboo rod with string attached. On the end of the string was about a quarter of a chicken. They could dangle it over the lion, and tease it, and get it to jump after it, till it finally was quick enough to grab the meat. Course, for $12, we could have thrown a live chicken into the cage! (Really!) YunLong informed us though that it's cheaper to buy a chicken in town, just about $3, so we should get one there and bring it to the zoo!
After lunch at McDonald's (YunLong wanted it, and asked XiaoMei if we could have that), we went back to the hotel. The kids watched some Tom & Jerry, and YunLong set up ramps and tunnels for his remote car. Then the jumping on the bed started! After that, they looked at pictures on the computer. YunLong took over the clicking and picking what he wanted to see, also allowing XiaoMei to have turns choosing photos and clicking. I showed them the iVideo on my computer; you just click it and the built in camera can film you in front of it. Then....the BOOTY DANCE! YunLong is a total ham, and as soon as he saw he was on the computer screen, he jumped up on the bed and proceeded to act like a monkey, make faces, and the icing on the cake was the booty dance. There were even some "Walk Like An Egyptian" type moves at one point! XiaoMei and I were cracking up! (Bo was asleep in our adjoining room, so he missed it, but got to check out the video later.)
Dinner was at a local Yunnan style noodle house, complete with entertainment. YunLong did get reprimanded a little though when he went and unlocked windows. We took a stroll afterwards around Green Lake Park, which is beautiful. Tomorrow we'll go back in the afternoon and rent a little boat.
The most amazing part of the day though was when we got back to the hotel this evening. Jane had talked with YunLong about his foster family and what he knew. He didn't want to write down the address, although he knew it, because he said it was in his head. We wanted to let him call his foster family though, since he hadn't been allowed to say goodbye. Sure enough, he did know the phone number. Jane spoke with his his foster mama first, making sure it was okay, and then he got to talk. His foster brother and sister came home while they were on the phone, so he got to talk to them, too. I can't share much more on here about that, but suffice it to say it was a positive thing for him.