Journey to China

Friday, February 16, 2007

16 February -- Back in the USA!

After a mere 12-hour flight plus a total of about four hours in various airports, we arrived at Steve's parents' house in Huntington Beach totally exhausted, of course! Melissa handled the flight pretty well, and it's been quite an adventure getting used to the 16-hour time change. Hopefully we'll only have a few more nights of 3am feedings and play sessions before we establish a more normal schedule.

Upon landing at LAX, Melissa automatically became a US citizen. Of course, we still had to wait a couple of hours to retrieve our baggage and for the immigration folks to process Melissa's visa.

Steve's folks rented a giant SUV to haul everyone and everything back from the airport, and we've been settling in trying to establish our new schedule (What? No more breakfast buffets?). Melissa is doing great with the grandparents and their dog, and she's already been checking out where Steve grew up.

We'll be catching up with some of Steve and Suzanne's family and friends over the next couple of days. We're going to take Melissa in for a checkup on Tuesday, and next Thursday we start heading east.

We promise to get some more pictures out soon!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

13 February -- Guangzhou -- Update

Yeah! We have Melissa's US visa in hand! We're all set to travel, and we'll be leaving China in just over 24 hours.

The processing at the Consulate went very smoothly. About 100 people, including parents, adoptive children, brothers and sisters, facilitators, and other family members boarded a bunch of buses at the White Swan and headed across town to the US Consulate. We then had an "interview" which consisted of a Consulate official confirming that the child and parents matched the paperwork they had. After a short speech by the head of the adoptions unit, all the parents swore that we were providing correct information, and we then received Melissa's visa paperwork!

We were a little concerned yesterday about Melissa's visa since the US consulate had a question about our address. But after a mad 45-minute dash across town (think of "dashing" across Guangzhou like "dashing" across Manhattan or LA), we raced up to the US Consulate just before lunch time to answer two quick questions, and our hassles were eliminated. Ironically, one of the problems was that one of the pieces of our Chinese paperwork spelled our last name "IIerin." In the font that was used, Suzanne and I didn't even spot the error.

Melissa continues to charm and delight us. She's become quite the daddy's girl. She loves eating yogurt and carrots, tolerates shopping, and is a big fan of Eighties' music (particularly Blondie and Squeeze). She's got a tooth coming in, but doesn't seem to be in any particular pain. She's so easy it's a complete joy (especially compared to some of the kids at the consulate today!).

Can't wait to see everyone in the States soon!

Monday, February 12, 2007

13 February - Hanging out in Guangzhou, and more photos!

After a couple of days of relaxing, shopping, and hanging out, we're heading over to the US Consulate this afternoon for the Swearing In Ceremony, when Melissa will become a US Citizen! After the ceremony, we'll pick up her visa and head back to the hotel to pack for our flight tomorrow back to the US!

Shamian Island, the area in Guangzhou where our hotel is located, is beautiful, with lots of trees and flowers and a very nice park next to the river. Our hotel, The White Swan, is fabulous, and everywhere we go, we see other families with their adopted Chinese children. It's so much fun to see all the children and we are really enjoying spending time with Melissa. She loves to play with us and she laughs all the time! We've been having a great time together!

We haven't posted many photos, so we thought we'd post several from our entire trip so far. We'll be back in California on Thursday, February 14, so we probably won't post again until the weekend. Enjoy the photos and have a great Valentine's Day!

At Tiananmen Square, at the beginning of our trip

It was amazing to see the Great Wall for ourselves

At the Minority Village in Kunming

View of the mountians outside Kunming

At Melissa's finding location, next to the small metal bridge at the market

Downtown Kunming

Shamian Island, the park next to the river

Melissa likes going out in her stroller

Melissa likes her carrots!

Saturday, February 10, 2007

10 February -- Guangzhou

Today was a relatively stress-free day and also included the last official adoption processing that we had to complete.

After eating at the White Swan breakfast buffet (along with dozens and dozens of other adoptive parents), we met up with the other couple from our adoption agency in Virginia and walked across Shamian Island to the photo studio (for the babies' visa pictures) and then to a medical clinic for the visa medical exam. Melissa did great at both places. She received a clean bill of health, and her weight was 17.7 pounds and 28 inches long -- a future supermodel!

We met up with our facilitator and the other family for an afternoon outing to a Buddhist temple, the Sun Yat-Sen memorial hall (Sun Yat-Sen was the founder of the Chinese republic), and lots of shopping. We didn't buy too much, but we had to get some Melissa some shoes and we also got her some Chinese lullabies to remind her of home.

We have nothing planned for tomorrow (yeah!). Our consulate appointment is on Monday morning, but we actually don't go -- our facilitator will go in our place. We have to stand by the phone in case there are any questions, but if everything goes well we'll have Melissa's visa on Tuesday -- and back to the states on Wednesday!

Fortunately, I've finally found an English version of Blogger, so we're going to try to update the blog with pictures, so check previous entries for all the photos.

9 February -- Kunming/Guangzhou

First, the good news: Suzanne has been upgraded to "Just plain lousy" so we were able to survive our last day in Yunnan Province.

Our intrepid facilitator was able to obtain Melissa's Chinese passport today, and after a mad flurry of packing (our motto: Throw it in the suitcase and we'll sort it out later) we rushed off to the airport. After some fond farewells to Xiulan and Zhou, we checked in for our flight to Guangzhou. Our flight ended up being delayed an hour, and the boarding procedure was so confusing even the Chinese didn't know what was going on (you can imagine how confused we were). The flight to Guangzhou was a quick one (one hour and twenty minutes), and it was so nice to arrive to a nice new airport and warm weather (approximately 65 degrees at 8:00 PM).

After a forty minute ride into town, we arrived to a heavenly site: The White Swan Hotel on Shamian Island in Guangzhou. And babies. Lots of lots of babies. More American families and their adopted Chinese babies than you can imagine! The setting is beautiful as well; Shamian Island was originally the home to British and French traders, and no Chinese were allowed on the island for many years. So even though the island is tiny (less than a half mile long and a quarter mile wide), it has lots of European architecture and wide, tree-lined streets.

We feel like were in heaven here. The hotel really lives up to its five-star rating, and we feel like country bumpkins since we're tired and unkempt after a day of travel. We splurged for room service, and after a quick trip to the 7-11 across the street we turned in.

Tomorrow: Chinese history and shopping!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

8 February -- Kunming -- And Then the Fun Began...

Today hasn't been the best day. Poor Suzanne has been sick all day with what we suspect is a case of Traveler's Sickness (we're calling it Kunming's Revenge). Melissa is her perky self, and we're glad to see that she had a case of the thrush that's clearing up nicely. Our facilitators were great and rushed over to the hotel when they heard Suzanne was sick. They brought some "guaranteed" Chinese medicine (the jury's still out on it) and offered to take Suzanne to see a doctor if she wanted. So far we're relying on lots of water and sleep. We do have some antibiotics just in case, but we'd rather not resort to them.

So today was Daddy Day with Melissa. After making sure Suzanne had improved from "gawd awful" to "sick as a dog," Steve took Melissa on a stroller expedition in the neighborhood around the hotel.

The printer at the police station (where you get the Chinese passports) was on the fritz, so we still don't have Melissa's passport. We've been assured that we can get it tomorrow and still make it to Guangzhou tomorrow afternoon. We're keeping our fingers crossed that all that will happen and that Suzanne will be mobile enough to make the trip.

We're enjoying Melissa so much and she keeps getting more active and communicative every day (we've learned that the legs waving in the air means "Look, I'm making Mommy and Daddy a present!). We do miss home, and can't wait to see everyone stateside soon!

7 February -- Kunming

Today was our first family outing. Our facilitator Zhou took us to the Yunnan Minorities Village -- it's kind of the Kunming EPCOT. There are over 20 ethnic minorities in Yunnan Province, and this attraction has recreations of several different minorities' villages. We saw the Dao, Wa, Tibetan, and other villages. It's a pretty place about 20 kilometers south of Kunming. It's definitely a tourist trap, but it was a pretty day and Melissa enjoyed being outside in her stroller. She's definitely a traveler! She's always peering around seeing what's new. We also survived our first diaper change and feeding on the road!

Later in the day, Steve and our facilitator completed the paperwork for the US Consulate General. We also received Melissa's birth certiciate and certificate of abandonment. It's official -- she's all ours! We're waiting on her passport, and we'll then be all set to start heading home!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

6 February -- Kunming

Another day, another passle of paperwork. We should be done with our Chinese paperwork now. We have a lovely official document that we believe is the registration of adoption. It has a great picture of the three of us with all of our vital statistics. We also applied for Melissa's Chinese passport, and we should have that soon.

Melissa continues to fascinate and delight us. She's so easy-going and has only had one or two crying fits (funny, after we fed her she was fine). We've figured out her signs for "feed me" and "pick me up." She slept well last night, although we had to get up to get her a bottle early this morning.

And let the record show, it was Steve who changed her first poopie diaper. He should be out of intensive care soon....

Another thing we did today was a bit bittersweet. We received a copy of Melissa's "finding ad" -- an ad the Chinese authorities place in the local newspaper for 6 months identifying all abandoned babies -- and we visited the spot where she was left. It's not far from where we are staying, near a market with an old pedestrian bridge crossing a small stream. We were glad to be able to experience the sights and smells that Melissa experienced the morning of 19 May 2006.

We've found a great restaurant to hang out at, but it's in the Lonely Planet guide, so the place is full of Western backpackers. Actually, it's been nice to see some English-speakers. We also ran into a group of Americans from another adoption agency at the passport office -- we'll probably run into them again in Guangzhou.

We also survived a visit to a branch of the Carrefour supermarket (based in France). Crowded beyond words! Especially since Chinese New Year's is coming up.

Tomorrow we are visiting the Minorities Village. Yunnan Province is the home of many ethnic minorities, and this place is a tourist attraction showing off their various cultures -- it should be interesting.

Hope people got the photos we sent out -- if not, leave your e-mail in a comment and we'll try to forward -- still haven't figured out this Chinese-language browser!

Monday, February 05, 2007

5 February -- Kunming -- And Now We Are Three

Today was the most exhilirating, rewarding, and frightening day of our lives.

We headed out early to a close-in suburb of Kunming where the orphanage maintains an apartment for the handing over of the children. We walked in, and there was Shu Ping! She's so much bigger than her last picture -- and she has lots of hair now!

She settled down immediately with us and didn't have any problem with either Suzanne or Steve holding her (much to Steve's relief). She's a beautiful baby with a wonderful disposition. She likes to babble, and she loves the set of rings that we got her. She was bundled up (as Chinese babies typically are), but she's been so easy we still can't believe it!

She's fighting a cold, and she's on antibiotics for something, but she's happy and there's no apparent health issues. Our facilitator was a little concerned about her hearing, but once we got her away from distractions she was fine.

There were a couple of other adoptive parents in the apartment at the same time (Dutch), and after a raft of paperwork, some official chops, and a baby footprint later, we now have guardianship of Melissa Kathleen Shu-ping Herin; the adoption will be finalized in a day or two.

We received information about where she was found, and we'll be visiting that site later this week. We tried to get the paperwork started for her Chinese passport, but there was a slight problem -- how do you say "The computers are down" in Chinese?

We're taking it easy today, and once we get the passport paperwork completed tomorrow we hope to just spend quality time with Melissa.

I'm trying to get pictures loaded, but the computer at the business center only displays Chinese. We'll try to get them up as soon as possible!

Sunday, February 04, 2007

4 February -- Kunming

We arrived in Kunming today after a smooth flight from Beijing. We're now starting to feel like we're in the "real" China.

We were met by our facilitator (who promptly scolded us for having too much luggage) and then settled into our hotel. Our facilitator then took us to Walmart (yes, they are everywhere!) where we stocked up on some baby supplies. We also created more than a little scene when our facilitator took offense at something a shopgirl said to her. Let's just say we don't think we'll be back there soon with her....

The biggest news is that tomorrow is "Gotcha Day" -- we'll finally get our sweet Melissa! We're keeping our fingers crossed that she is healthy and doing well.

We promise to get some pictures up, and we'll definitely have some of the new arrival!

Saturday, February 03, 2007

3 February -- "It Is Indeed a Great Wall"

Yes, the immortal words of President Nixon came to mind as we scaled the Great Wall today (well, about 1/2 a kilometer of the Great Wall).

It is an awesome sight; it's a bit touristy, but you have to go see it if you're in China!

We did a little shopping and then spent the afternoon at the Summer Palace. It's a beautiful area just outside of Beijing.

There are about 80 people staying in the same hotel who are part of a large adoption agency (including moms and dads to be, siblings, grandparents, etc). We also saw a large group at the Summer Palace with their new children.

We leave for Kunming tomorrow, and there's even a chance we'll receive Melissa! We can't wait!

Friday, February 02, 2007

2 February -- Beijing

We arrived in Beijing yesterday after a long and tiring journey. Our flight from Los Angeles to Guangzhou was pretty smooth -- it was the best 16-hour flight we've ever had!

After a few hours in Guangzhou, we journeyed on to Beijing. Of course, with the time change we lost our Wednesday! Fortunately, the only hitch was that our carry on bags were too big to fit in the bins of our crowded flight. So they were put in first class!

Upon arrival in Beijing, we were met by our guide Pan and driver Mr. Chen. They took us to our hotel where we had to wait a few minutes for our room. After a well-deserved rest and freshening up, we went to the nearby shopping area where we did some sightseeing, grocery shopping, and we stopped at a famous restaurant for a dinner of Peking duck -- it was wonderful!

Today we were met by Pan and Mr. Chen and toured Tiananemen Square and the Forbidden City. We then had lunch in a hutong (old neighborhood) -- homemade and wonderful. After a rickshaw tour or the area, we did some shopping. Besides the old area, we also went to a silk shop where we were shown how silk is obtained, and we then went to an authentic tea house for a demonstration of the tea ceremony.

We hope to get soe pictures up soon. Tomorrow it's off to the Great Wall. And in the mean time the wait for Melissa gets shorter and shorter!