Monday, February 12, 2018

Hong Kong and Travelling Home: February 9th-10th

Exhausted girls
On Friday the 9th we began our long trek home.  We got up at a normal time, had breakfast, and then got to packing.  By some small miracle everything fit in our bags!  We got packed in enough time to not be rushed to wait on our guide and driver.  Lottie's Visa was picked up and delivered to us when they came to take us to the train station.
Hong Kong at night
View of Hong Kong Island during the light show
When we got to the train station things were crazy.  It was very busy there, just like in Beijing, but at least there was more space for everyone to run around.  The station had four floors!  We went through security, then had to figure out how to get upstairs.  A guy picked up our four big suitcases and checked them through until we got to Hong Kong for a hefty fee.  We really didn't have any choice because without a cart we couldn't carry them ourselves.  We went upstairs in the holding room, Kris grabbed lunch, and by the time he got back and Lottie had a diaper change we had to hurry to move through the immigration process to leave China and wait in another holding room to board.  When immigration interviewed us they asked about Anna Faith.  She had a US passport but they wanted her Chinese name.  We gave it but told them she has had US citizenship for 5 years and has an English name now. They called another agent up who wanted her name in Chinese characters.  We couldn't give it because we can't write in Chinese.  They finally dropped it.  How strange!  They didn't ask a thing about Lottie.  When we went to holding we had to choose between taking an elevator for special needs families (pregnant women, elderly, or parents with small children in strollers) or go in the massive line.  The special needs line was short but the elevator only took a few people at a time and was very slow.  We figured we were better of in the huge line as it was moving quickly.  Good choice.  We could have missed the train if we waited.  We boarded with enough time to be sitting down before it took off.  Much better than Beijing!

The ride there was uneventful.  Lottie was curious and Anna Faith was wiggly too.  They were anxious to get to Hong Kong.
We arrived there and had to figure out how to get our luggage from the station to the hotel.  We were told ahead of time we were on our own to transport it.  No one could help us.  The hotel was a 5 minute walk, but involved an elevator or escalator, a walk up a ramp, and going through a mall before getting to the hotel on the other side.  When we picked up our luggage, they let us use a cart!  We weren't supposed to take it past the station, but figured we could return it when we got it as far as the hotel.  I pushed the luggage, Kris pulled the carry ons, Anna Faith pushed Lottie.  It took 2 elevator trips and lots of muscle, but we made it!  When we got as far as a flight of stairs leading to the hotel, Kris went inside and asked for a luggage cart.  He met us on the top and transferred the suitcase, and just like that we got them to our room!  It was a huge answer to prayer!
By the time we weighed our suitcases in the lobby and made sure they weren't over the limit (somehow we keep it under 50 lbs each!) we bought WiFi for about $7 for the night, got in our room (aka closet) and enjoyed the beautiful view outside of skyscrapers all around us.  We had 2 twin beds to sleep on and no space to walk.  We left the room at 5:30 after settling in and went out in search of diapers for Lottie.  In Guangzhou there were none to be found unless we took a taxi to a department store.  We decided to wait.  In the mall we found a drug store and bought them, then went on outdoors walking to find somewhere to eat.  We wanted to eat outdoors where it was cheaper than a fancy indoor restaurant.  Food in Hong Kong is very high!  We settled on a meat on a stick place and the meat was delicious!  We got food at a local bakery to go with our meat and bought donuts and bread for breakfast since our hotel room didn't include it ($25/person for breakfast at the hotel was out of the question).  We walked around to see the lights and try to find a clearing to see the light show the city does every night at 8:00.  We finally found a park on Google maps and got a fairly decent view from a high point!  It was really cool to watch.  We decided to take the metro back to the hotel and were glad we did.  It was getting late and to walk would get us back much later.  This time we didn't get lost and got out very close to the hotel.  We got the girls settled and put them to bed in a twin bed together.  The way they contorted themselves to fit was so cute.  They ended up laying on top of each other in their sleep.  Lottie fell out once but Kris put her back in.  For Kris and me, it was much harder.  We laid back to back and still were coming off the edges.  He tried the bathtub for a while but couldn't sleep in it either.  We didn't get much sleep, especially since the bed was as hard as a rock too.  Asian beds are normally much harder than American ones.
We got up earlier than planned and started repacking carry ons for the flight to Chicago and then Nashville.  A really nice van was at the hotel to transport us.  We paid a nice fee too, but had no choice. The shuttle service didn't have a schedule we could use to get there and we didn't want to arrive late.
We checked in after being scrutinized by TSA, went through security, then were told we'd go through security again at the gate so couldn't buy liquids to take on the plane.  Hong Kong doesn't mess around with security!  We only had a few minutes at the gate to talk to the boys on FaceTime, and boarded early with the girls.  It was so nice they let us do that because we take so long with walking Lottie and having to get toys, blankets, etc. out for them before packing our carry ons on the plane.
The girls were wide open for over half the flight.  They didn't want to sleep.  Eventually we told Anna Faith to try and she did.  But Lottie couldn't calm down.  It was still daytime in China and she couldn't rest.  But we knew we'd get to the US and it would be morning and she'd want to sleep.  She still didn't fall asleep until the last 4 hours of our 14 hour flight.  By then I had a pounding migraine.  My neck had already taken a beating in the bed in Hong Kong and trying to sleep in the plane was really hard. There were no spare seats to lay across like our flight there.  My legs are so long I can't even stretch them out.  I took 2 melatonin and they didn't work.  I took a migraine pill which normally works and makes me sleepy.  It didn't work either and the pain was getting worse.  So I did what I rarely do: I took a second pill.  The side effects of my migraine medication are nausea, dizziness, vomiting, and rebound headaches.  I took tiny catnaps but could feel I was getting sick.  I tried to eat crackers but they made me more nauseated.  The last hour of our flight as we were descending I could tell I was in bad shape.  Kris could see I was getting pale.  I was afraid to move in fear I'd throw up.  Finally the plane landed and I stayed frozen in place.  Kris packed up all the kids stuff.  I told him "make sure to empty out the seat pockets- there's a lot of stuff in there".  He told me he did.  I couldn't even turn my head to look.  He was across the aisle from me since we switched for him to try to get Lottie to go to sleep mid-flight.  After all the people cleared the plane behind us Kris told me to try to get up for us to leave.  We had 2 hours to make our connection to Nashville but had a lot to do to get to our gate.  As soon as I moved I threw up in the airplane bag- a lot.  I needed a second bag it was so bad.  Afterwards I felt better but was shaking in weakness and was as white as a ghost.  I was so dizzy it was really hard to walk.  I asked Kris again "Did you check all the set pockets?"  He said "Yes, everything is cleaned out!" Kris helped me off the plane and a wheelchair was waiting for me.  I knew I couldn't walk through all the stops and across the airport to our next gate.  My head was throbbing terribly at this point and it was all I could do to open my eyes.  Kris said that four times people asked him if I needed medical attention.  I didn't look good at all with shaking hands and a pale face.  I barely looked up for the next 1 1/2 hours as we made our way through immigration, Lottie's immigration process, customs, transferring luggage, and getting on a train to go to our other terminal.  We went up and down elevators, through security again (where I was thoroughly patted down while shaking because they made me stand up- I almost threw up on the woman examining me), and finally got to the gate.
We were barely seated when they called us to get on the plane first again.  I walked on and sat down and never opened my eyes but a few seconds until we were in Nashville.  I got a few more catnaps but was still feeling so sick it was hard.  The girls passed out by this point and slept most of that 1 1/2 hour flight.  Finally we were done with flying!
We were walking towards the baggage claim when I asked Kris to get out my phone.  I hadn't used it since we boarded the flight in Hong Kong.  He said "where is it?"  I told him "You got it out of my seat pocket so I figured it is in my bag where we usually put it". He said "I haven't seen your phone at all this trip- I thought you had it".  Then it hit us- it got left on the plane when we got off in Chicago.  I started to cry.  It is only 4 months old, but even worse, it had photos and videos of our adoption trip that were never transferred to other places yet.  Fortunately the best ones were shared on Kris' phone or on social media, but others weren't.  I was so sick again.  We got our luggage, waited for a ride to the parking place we left our van, and loaded up before he started calling the airline.  They weren't helpful at all.  They refused to transfer us to the desk at the airport to inquire because they weren't authorized to do so. We had to go home and fill out an online missing article form.  Kris was disgusted.  Likely the plane hadn't even left to go back to Hong Kong yet and if the phone was still there someone could retrieve it.  We could give them the seat number.  If it was brought to the gate they could put a mailing address on it and immediately send it back.  But instead we had to fill out a form that we were told may take 30 days to process.  So frustrating.
By then I was less dizzy, just very jet lagged and weak.  We stopped for Kris to get a Mountain Dew to drive the 3 hours home, and started our drive back.  We explained to Lottie we were almost home.  She smiled really big.  She really understood we were going to our house and she was going to meet her brothers.
We came home to a dark house.  Our Korean friends were keeping out kids the last two days at home with their kids so they could be home when we arrived.  When I walked in first, the lights switched on and everyone yelled "surprise!"  The boys hugged the mess out of me and I got the camera ready to film their meeting their sister.
Happy with her family, finally home!
When Kris brought Lottie in she had big eyes and a serious face.  The boys hovered over her and to her they were giants.  They were so excited and talking to her loudly.  She stuck her lower lip and out and started to cry.  We told the boys to get on the floor and talk quietly.  Within a few minutes she was smiling big.  We brought her in the den and they all took turns talking to her.  Before long she was being toted around like a baby and spoiled rotten.  She was in hog heaven :-)
Our Korean friends who watched the boys the last 2 nights
We had a vase of flowers, a table full of food, and a beautiful frame with well-wishes to Lottie written around the matting by friends at church.  There were streamers and decorations hanging from the ceiling in the hall, kitchen, den and Lottie's and Anna Faith's room.  She even had a couple helium balloons to play with!  The boys made some signs to welcome her as well.  What a special homecoming!
The trip was so brutal, and my phone still has not been recorded as found, but I'm so thankful we are home.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Thursday, February 8th: Guangzhou Safari Park

Only one more day until Lottie’s visa is ready! We waited until our last free day to do the best outing in Guangzhou, because today was supposed to be the warmest weather we’ve had. It was sunny and 67 today! I finally got to dress the girls in their matching t-shirts that say “I love my family forever”.
We tried not to waste time getting ready this morning, because from what we had been told, The Safari Park was huge and there was no way we could see it all in one day. We got off after 9:00 and headed to the Metro which let out right next to our hotel. To ride it only costs $1.80 for our whole family one way to the park versus over $30 one way for a taxi. It was supposed to take less time (under 45 minutes versus one hour drive) too! We were up for the adventure because we had done subways in other cities and countries before. How hard could it be to navigate? Our guide gave Kris directions too.
First we had to buy tokens. The machine was all in Chinese so Kris guessed and stared punching buttons. After some frustrating minutes we realized there was an English option. Then it got easy to choose the fare to the stop we were told to go to. I needed to use the restroom before we boarded. Kris said he’d wait, no problem. But the station didn’t have one. I said I’d hold it.
We went 13 stops and had fun getting squished and counting with Anna Faith in Chinese to get to our stop. We got out, exited the station ( not easy with a stroller, by the way- lots of stairs!) , and realized this station wasn’t the Safari Park location. Kris called our guide and was told he only had it partially right- we switched lines at this station! By then I was really needing a restroom, but this station didn’t have one either (Chinese are better at holding it than me!). We went outdoors and looked around. Nothing but construction zones. Kris asked a guard (they are everywhere) and he pointed across the highway. We crossed the highway and after more instructions I finally found a squatty potty in the construction area. So back down to the station we go to buy more tokens for the remainder of our trip. But Kris was out of small bills for the machine. We searched and found someone to change money for us. Back on the next line and in a few minutes we were there! We walk out and see signs welcoming us! Yay!! A worker directed us to the entrance. It said 5 minutes walking. It wasn’t. It was at least 20. We were already tired when we arrived. We bought tickets and entered. By now it was almost 11:00! We started out looking at the animals by walking around. Lottie couldn’t see much because she was in her stroller. We finally got to places she could see without having to pull her in and out. It takes two people to do it because of the safety bar in the stroller and she’s going on 40 lbs.
She started to take notice of the animals and got excited! She kept looking for them in their zones and would point and smile. I tried to get her to make animal noises with me but she just laughed at me.
We were told correctly about this place: you just can’t see it all. Where a normal zoo would have 2 tigers, they had more like 50! A normal zoo has 2 koalas, they had 20! The monkey areas all started looking the same after a while. We lost count of giraffes- there could have been 50 or more! The baby animals there were in their own areas in age groups- so many and so cute! One section was a drive through. We had a lot of fun taking photos on animals in their natural habitats. The girls had a blast!
We decided to go back at 4:00. The girls were wearing out. We realized a free bus could shuttle us to the metro station ( where were the signs or employees directing us when we arrived?!). It took a while to get picked up but saved us lots of stairs with the stroller and 20 more minutes of walking. At the station we thought we had it made. We knew exactly what to do. But I mentioned to Kris that Lottie was going to run out of diapers before we got home, so we needed to stop at the convenience store near the hotel that our guide suggested. That store was where I saw another metro stop, by a museum entrance. So we decided to stop one stop emerald at the stop with that museum title. It had to be it, right? Wrong. We got out and had no idea where we were. Street names looked familiar but no landmarks. After walking another 20 minutes around a huge block we got on the metro again and went one more stop and cane out at our hotel. We walked to the store, and no diapers. Uggh.
We were so tired by then we decided to be Americans tonight. We picked up carry out Burger King and went to our room to eat!
Lottie was so tired from no nap she brought me a diaper and her skin lotion after eating. This meant she wanted to get ready for bed. I fixed the girls a bubble bath (Lottie signaled she really wanted one last night but it wasn’t a bath night). She got really excited and couldn’t wait to get in! She and Anna Faith played in the water with two wash clothes as toys for an hour.
When I got her out and ready for bed she fell asleep when she hit the pillow. She was too tired to even try crawling to her spot like we have been teaching her. Poor Boo!
Anna Faith brought up several times today that she will miss China. She’s sad to leave, but happy to go home too. She really has enjoyed this trip in more ways than coming to get her sister. She feels connected here. She mentions her city, Nanping, and wants to go back one day. I wish we had time this trip but the journey was too far. She still was able to identify with so much of the culture, and now Chinese instead of English ❤️. We are so proud of her!
We pack our bags tomorrow. I won’t have WiFi at our hotel (it costed $40 extra so we opted out) so may not get to update the blog until we are home. Home. Those words sound so beautiful right now! All five of my arrows finally together. I can’t wait to begin our new life with Lottie as a family of 7!

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Wednesday, February 7th: Consulate Appointment!

Helping brush teeth.  
Today was a big day! The long awaited Consulate Appointment was made for this morning! All of our China trip was scheduled around getting this appointment.
We got the girls up earlier than usual to allow and hour to eat breakfast. They really do eat that slowly! In the meantime I get to talk to other adoptive moms sitting around me 😊.
At the US Consulate to get her Visa!
We met our driver at 8:30 and made our way to the medical office to pick up Lottie’s completed medical report. Our guide was there waiting. She gave us instructions on how to do everything, then walked us across the street to the US Consulate building. We weren’t allowed to bring anything in but our documents and a few small necessities. We got upstairs and the wait began. While there I saw a seminary classmate with their adopted son! We also saw a family from Paducah with whom we have mutual friends. It really is a small world! About ten other families had the same appointment time as us all waited turns. The kids had a small play area to the side. It was so loud since it was a marble floored, glasses in room! We couldn’t hear our name being called so kept guessing and had to go back. Finally our turn came and we handed over the final required documents, including Lottie’s passport issued by her province. And then we were done!
Now we wait two days to receive her visa to exit China, and upon arrival on US soul, she’s officially an American citizen!
With Cordelia, our guide in Guangzhou
We stopped by a store on the way back to the hotel to get one final gift, and while we were in that area, went in The White Swan Hotel, which used to be where all the American adoptive families stayed. There was a red couch there that was used for group photos of the baby girls adopted back in the 90’s when China adoptions were at their peak. We had a photo taken there as well.
At the White Swan Hotel
On the infamous Red Couch!
The highest and most popular tower in Guangzhou
This afternoon we stuck near the hotel and took advantage of another day without cold weather. It was 60 again! We walked with Lottie in the stroller and went to a nearby park on a lake. It was beautiful. Decorations were going up for Chinese New Year and lots of families were walking around. The girls enjoyed the outdoor exercise equipment first. The stares we got! Then we went to the playground. Parents stopped to watch us play with our girls like we were a sideshow. The girls didn’t pay any attention. Lottie was slower getting around but didn’t mind other Chinese kids running around her. When they went down the slide behind her before she was able to stand up Mama stepped in! Anna Faith loved being a big help to her. She was very brave to try new things! She even held onto the monkey bars for 1/2 second at a time without help! Her teeth gritted as she worked.
After naps we went to the same restaurant we’ve been to for 3 nights. It is over a mile’s walk to eat there but it only costs $5 to have two big dishes for all of us to eat from. Kris loves it because it has pulled noodles 😊.
When we got back to the hotel we actually found a decent English speaking movie on: a Herbie movie! Anna Faith loved it. Lottie doesn’t watch tv at all, even Chinese cartoons. I wonder if she has to strain her eyes to see it so doesn’t try.
At bedtime Lottie kept motioning she wanted to sit on the toilet. We tried this last week and she was too weak to hold herself on and we decided to wait until she could sit on an adapted seat. We let her try again and she held on AND went! Once again our girl wowed us today.
Whenever she achieves something she gains more confidence and dignity. I can’t imagine how it must feel to be 5 years old and see kids a third your age doing things you want to do, but you are too weak or uncoordinated  to do it. I saw her at the playground looking at other children play, and wondered what was going through her young mind. Yet she still smiled and she laughed when she couldn’t do something. She never gave up and never cried in frustration. That attitude is going to take this girl places!

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

February 6th: Trip to Baiyun Mountain

FaceTime with brothers over breakfast
Today was another day to explore Guangzhou. For our one tour included in our agency’s travel fees, we chose to go to Baiyun Mountain. It sounded very beautiful. We decided to wait until today to go because the weather was supposed to be around 60 degrees and sunny. It was a great choice!
Pushing a buggy for the first time
Confucious Temple Market area 
We met our guide after breakfast and stopped first at a department store in the city. I got Chinese New Year decorations and some candy for gifts. Then we headed to the mountain!
There is a lot of preparation going on for Chinese New Year since it is just 10 days away. Huge displays, flowers, and decorations are popping up in parks, restaurants, and other businesses.,
We bought tickets to the cable car and rode up. It was a long ride! Lottie wasn’t that scared, but she may have not realized how high up we were because of her lack of depth perception.
View from the mountain of Guangzhou
When we got to the top we could see a gorgeous view of the city! Because of smog it wasn’t crystal clear but we could see a huge amount of buildings and landscape.
A painting of the cable car before we got on
We hiked a little towards one peak until Anna Faith got a little tired. Lottie spent a lot of time in her stroller because of all the walking but we let her explore at the lookouts. She really seemed to enjoy it!
We took a trolley back down and got back to the hotel for naps. The girls didn’t want to wake up for dinner. Teasing Lottie by giving her zurburts didn’t do any favors. I actually scared her! She doesn’t get our teasing and joking or pulling faces at her yet. Our humor is a little strange!
Today Lottie showed she is understanding more English by doing things when we only said to do them in English. We use some gestures but she is catching on! She’s a smart girl.
She is beginning to want to do things on her own now that she’s realizing what she is capable of. She won’t hold our hand if the surface of the sidewalk is flat. She wants to feed herself and pushes away help with her fork or spoon at times. Tonight she even got out her shoes herself and tried to begin putting them on without help! Lottie has spunk and determination that will take her a long way.
Tonight we put the girls to bed early because we have to get up early for our very last appointment: the American Consulate! They will give final approval for Lottie’s visa tomorrow so it can be issued on Friday.
I am getting sick of restaurants. Eating at one for every meal for the 15th day is making me almost sick. What I would do for a home cooked American meal right now! Poor Lottie thinks her new family doesn’t eat at home (home to her is a hotel room right now). She has so much change still coming.

Going up the mountain via cable car
Photo by the Guangdong province flower

View of Guangzhou
At a little waterfall on the mountain

Loving Daddy's sunglasses
Forever Sister

Practicing crawling to her pillow on the bed
Loving on her to wake her up

Now you get a zurburt!  She wasn't happy about it...

Monday, February 5, 2018

February 5, 2018: Touring Chen Clan Ancestral Hall

Today was a second day on our own. We FaceTimed with the boys, ate a slow breakfast downstairs and made our way by taxi to the Chen Clan Ancestral Hall and folk art museum. This place was absolutely amazing. The craftsmanship of the wood, stone, ivory, and architectural detail blew us away! There were subtitled  vidoes and many displays in English so we could learn about the history of this amazing place and the culture surrounding that time period (late 1800’s).
Etched glass from the west with eastern art.  A very rare combination
Anna Faith was a little tired today. History doesn’t make her excited so I had to get creative to keep her interested in what we were seeing.

We wandered around outside the museum until we found a small local restaurant , then got a taxi to the airport
By now the weather was sunny and in the upper 50’s. Yay! My coat came off!
We shopped near the hotel at an outlet type shopping area hidden in the back of a building, and got some dresses for the girls when they are bigger.
We took nap shifts and Kris got in the bath tub to have light to read with. Ha ha, whatever makes him comfortable!
For dinner we discovered a small Muslim noodle shop about 1/2 mike down the road and got some good food for a low budget!
Today Lottie repeated “Hi” and hopped up and down once! We taught her how to crawl into her spot in bed after being lifted into it. She’s catching on to new skills and even grunts with effort. She waits for cheers and even claps for herself.
Tomorrow we see our guide and will go on a tour with her to a park. Only 3 more full days in Guangzhou!

Nap time for the girls = reading time for Daddy