Friday, October 30, 2009

October 30, 2009

Well, it has been over two weeks since we have returned from China and been reunited with our entire family. It was great to see many of you at the airport to welcome us home. We appreciate our house being stocked with food and the many meals that we have received. It is a blessing to have many family and friends supporting us.

However, its been a rough couple of weeks for our family, but not from what you would think. Within almost a one week period, Chris or I had taken:
Three children to the Dr. for illness on one day (Trent, Derek, Nicole)
Elsie for a well visit the next (although she was sick)
Trent back to the ER the same day
Trent back two days later for x-rays and blood work
Elsie back to the Dr. a day later for fever and congestion. (she now has the nickname Vader, because the way she sounds when she breaths)
Elsie back a few days ago for a flu shot.

In all, we have had two antibiotic prescriptions, one steroid and two inhalers and a host of other prescriptions. That’s a lot of MD office and prescription copays. Turns out that Trent had a viral and sinus infection. He had been running a fever for nine days with some other medical issues starting on the day we returned from China. During the time he was ill, we were notified that someone from our travel group had an infection of the colon. When we consulted the pediatrician and took into consideration our trip abroad, that prompted the ER and lab work.

Jet lag is behind us and we feel like things are finally getting back to normal, although I am not sure what normal is anymore. Elsie is adjusting well and everyone has fallen in love with her. The girls now share a bedroom and Elsie doesn’t seem to mind her crib. She sleeps through the night without any problem except for the first few days. That may be more attributed to her illness and jet lag. We had to set up a humidifier in her room and it now seems like it is a permanent figure. Nicole would often come into our bedroom at night and give us updates on how Elsie is doing. Nicole has turned into a little mommy. Often, we would peek into their room after they went to bed and see Nicole sleeping at the foot of the crib. It is neat as a parent to see each of our kids form their own bond with her. Even Derek, who is always in his own little world, competes for her attention. And there has been competition, mostly from the boys who fight to hold her or sit by her at the table. Elsie is bonding well with Chris now. She had not disliked him but more just tolerated him. Often in China, Elsie would refuse to be held by him, partly because I was right there. We knew that it is a hit and miss thing with orphans so it never bothered us while we were in China. When we arrived home, Chris noticed how Elsie would widely accept other men (i.e. grandpas) and play with them. Upon someone’s suggestion and my disapproval, Chris shaved off his goatee. He has had it for probably eight years or more and only shaved it off once in that time for scuba diving. The results were immediate. Prior to him shaving it off, he went up to her to hold her and she refused him like many times before. Within a half an hour, he returned with it gone and approached her again. She came and they were able to play on the floor together. She even crawled all over him, something she had never done up to that point. Who would of thought that a goatee would cause Elsie not to bond with him.

Elsie is quite the mimicker. She watches all of us and will copy things we do. She will wave good bye and blow kisses. Her vocabulary is minimal and she can only say a couple of English words. While we were in China, when people discovered that she was a orphan they would speak both Mandarin and Cantonese to her without much response. We are unsure if she was just shy at that point or perhaps she only knew a few words. Nevertheless, we see her improving everyday. She likes to do somersaults and enjoys the swing and slide in our backyard. Although, it took her awhile to figure out if she likes grass. She would stop right at the edge of the patio and cautiously put her foot down. When she fell down on it, she would roll around, not wanting to touch it with her hands. I don’t think she had much exposure to grass while at the in China. We do think we saw a little bit of her personality come out the other day. My sister-in-law stopped by last week with her daughter who is almost 1. We were all in the family room watching Elsie and my niece play near each other with some toys on the ground. Elsie then, got up, walked over to Bailey, and then laid on top of her. We all laughed and thought it was silly, but then picked up Elsie and moved her away. Elsie preceded to do it again and again. We repeatedly pulled her away. We then noticed that Elsie was defending her toys against Bailey. It reminded us of a conversation we had with Elsie’s nanny when we first got her. We asked the nanny if there was anything funny or special that we could tell Elsie latter on in life about her early childhood in the orphanage. The nanny told us that Elsie would eat her food, then after that steal the other children’s food. When we were told that, we just look at innocent looking Elsie and though OK, whatever, the nanny just had to tell us something and perhaps it just happened once. The other night at dinner, Elsie did it again. She ate her own dinner, then was trying to steal food from Derek’s plate.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

China By the Numbers

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Today we got Elsie's Visa. Applied for it at the consulate at around 9:30 am. Took our oath at 2:00, and received the visa at about 2:05. Our coordinator told us we broke two records. First the longest stay for an adopted family and the shortest visa turn around time (5 1/2 hours). The rules changed on October 1st and it should have taken three days. The consulate officer told us that they were taking extra ordinary steps to get us through since we have been here so long.

Now here is our trip to China by the numbers:

16 - The date in September in which we left Fresno
28 - Number of days spent in China (3 1/2 Beijing, 24 1/2 Guangzhou)
14 - Number of unscheduled days in China (All spent on Shamian Island)
16 - Number of days we had Elsie in China
2 - Number of kids we took to China
3- Number of kids we brought back
3 - Number of Hotels we stayed in
13 - Hours of flight time from Beijing to Los Angles
3 - Hours of flight from Beijing to Guangzhou
25 - Number of minutes our airplane taxi'd on the runway at Beijing Airport after landing from LAX (The airport is huge and that’s with the plane going at a good rate of speed with no stops)
12,000,000 - Approximate number of people in Guangzhou
10,000 - Approximate number of bicycles we saw in China
100 - Approximate number of brides seen on Shamian Island posing for pictures.
6 - Number of brides seen at one given time.
8 - Number of trips to starbucks
6.75 - Number of Chinese Yuan in a US dollar
700 - Cost in Yuan of tea that Chris mistakenly ordered from the Fine Tea Menu on first day in China (Yes, its over $100 US, think of it as fine wine. Bad part is, I did not even like it)
50 - Approximate number of times our kids were either asked to be photographed or secretly photographed.
4,000 - Approximate number of people we saw smoking in China
50 - Approximate number of street sweepers we saw (Not a vehicle, but a person with a broom)
0 - Number of non military helicopters we saw flying (I know that it is random, it's just an observation)
5 - Approximate number of people we saw in wheelchairs (Also random, but I noticed these type of things. The place is not accessible at all for wheelchairs)
7 - Number of times we ate at Lucy's (famous for Chinese adoption families)
24 - Number of 6" subway sandwiches we ate
10 - Number of times we took the subway
2,001 - Number in feet of tallest structure in Guangzhou (3rd highest in world)
2,000 - Approximate number of Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) security cameras we noticed
60 - number of television stations at our hotel on Shamian island
11 - number of stations operated by China Central Television (government run TV, also abbreviated CCTV, coincidence, I think not)
50 - Approximate number of TV stations broadcasting the National Day parade. (The news reports that day stated that the viewership set a new record. I wonder why that is when no one worked on that day and most stations were broadcasting it)
12 - Approximate number of TV stations that broadcast Chinese soap operas
11 - Approximate number of Chinese soap operas where the theme is centered around the military.
10 - Approximate number of times I saw commercials with Jackie Chan endorsing a product.
2 - Number of sports channels devoted to ping pong, badminton and other sports like synchronized diving
30 - Number of minutes for the best fireworks show we ever saw.
4 - Number of shop owners on Shamian island that we tried to visit daily
2 - Number of Sundays that at least one of us went to Church
1 - Number of times our family stepped out of building and almost got hit by a car driving on the sidewalk.
4,000 - Approximate number of car horn honks we heard.
5 - The apparent age in which they teach you marching in school
14 - The apparent age in which they have the boys run through rifle drills for PE class (when we saw them they were practicing the bayonet lunged while yelling something in Chinese)
7 - Number of western stores or restaurants we visited (Pizza Hut, Papa John's, 7-11, McDonalds, Ikea, Starbucks, Subway)
1,500 Approximate number of steps climbed at the Great Wall of China
15 - The date in which we fly into Fresno (9:55 AM)

Friday, October 9, 2009

Friday, October 9

OK, we want to be home now! Kind of tired of living out of a hotel in a foreign country. Now that the Chinese holiday period is over, things will start happening. Just need to hold out tell 10/14. On a good note, we took a huge excursion today. More like a safari, and it was. We boarded the metro once again and went to Guangzhou Xiangjiang Safari Park. We now know the difference between a good metro station and a bad one. A bad one, as in the case of the other night, has metal detectors and security screening. Once inside the park, we took a tram and got to see various kinds of animals that you can't find at the Fresno Zoo. There is also a snack bar with food that you would not find in Fresno either. Speaking of food, we were at a local café here on the island the other night. It had a small selection of western food so Tamra decided to get the deep fried chicken. Sure enough the entire chicken came out head and all. So Tamra ate a starbuck's muffin that night for dinner. At the safari park we saw several shows including an elephant, monkey, bird and white tiger show. Elsie liked the bird show and would point to all the birds flying overhead.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Monday (10/5)

Elsie has made tremendous progress and is breaking out of her shell. We can get her to laugh and giggle quite a bit and even see glimpses of her character. She now says mama and dada and points to us. Kind of neat. Elsie spent almost the entire afternoon in a baby bjorn strapped to Tamra. After seeing more brides taking their wedding photos then we cared to, we decided to venture out to Baiyun Mountain (white cloud) and Yantai Gardens. We had to get on the metro (subway) again. The station is about a 1/2 mile from the hotel. After making one transfer to another subway line we got off and hailed a taxi. We have been told that some taxi drivers are from the rural areas and the best thing you can do is bring a map along and point to where you want to go. It worked for getting there. Getting back was a different story. Anyways, the garden was amazing, lots of vegetation all around. Afterwards, we took a gondola to the top of the mountain. I realized why the locals called it white cloud mountain. All you can see when your at the summit is the city enveloped in a white haze of smog. So we had to take a taxi back to the subway station. I found a taxi and pointed to the subway station on the map. We got in and I thought everything was going smoothly until the cab driver stopped and motioned that we arrived at our destination. I was kind of concerned and asked him where the metro station was. He ran his hand back and forth as to indicate that is was near, maybe right under us. We got out of the cab and realized we were not in Kansas anymore, wasn’t even sure it was China. I've heard of enclaves in the states like Little Italy and such. Well, we were in Little Africa or more precisely Little Nigeria. Every other person was African. OK, did not expect that. I asked a police officer (for there were many) if he could direct us to the metro station but he brushed me off. On a side note, Tamra has been really surprised how quickly I ask for directions since we have been in China Went down the road a little further and asked a shop owner how to get to the metro station. Within a few seconds, a crowd had converged on us as if we were some kind of freak show. I have been known to block out all sorts of things around me that concern Tamra. Well, as I am trying to communicate with this guy I feel this tap on my shoulder. Tamra is white as a ghost and tells me we need to keep moving because we are attracting a crowd. I look up and say, "Yea.... yea, your right, lets keep walking." So after about a brisk 10 minute walk we finally see the metro escalator. That was a good feeling.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Just Pictures

Here are some pictures of life around the hotel...

Sunday, October 4th, 2009

Sunday (10/4)
This morning I went to the Christ Church of Shamian Island. Obviously, the church is not one of these home churches you hear so much about and actually is located right next door to a a police substation. They had a Mandarin/English service at 11:00 AM. Trent was not feeling well so Tamra, the boys and Elsie stayed at the hotel. I was quite amazed, and perhaps so were the other attendees, for I was the only non-Chinese. It was the first time for me that a Chinese person wanted to get my picture (It happens to the boys frequently). So there I stood at the entrance to the church with some guy I never met posing for a picture. Soon after I sat down, the women I met early in the week sat down by me. I really enjoyed the service, although you could say that half was all Chinese to me. The service started with a chorus in English, then the music leaders would switched to a different song in mandarin. One thing caught my attention very quickly, the English song was not necessary a upbeat praise chorus song like you would in hear in the states. It was more a cry from the heart of someone in despair, kind of like a psalm of David. I have since tried to google some of the song lyrics, but have been unable to find them. The song included phrases like, "how do you go to a land that has no hope" and "people that are in a place with so much pain". I think that everyone there knew exactly what that song means. For in being there, they must have been rejected by their own family, forsaking the traditions of Buddhism. The message by the pastor was on the difference of justification and sanctification and it was handled quite well.
The pastor would speak in mandarin then an interpreter would translate into English. Only the prayers would not be translated. They had responsive reading from the Bible and when the congregation spoke in Mandarin every syllable was in unison, like the soldiers marching in step in the parade days before. When they spoke in English I cringed, for it was sloppy and jumbled. It was kind of neat, because I think believers may come to the combined service just to better understand the English language. Many people do not have the access to higher education, so the combination of Mandarin and English may help them. The sermon included several references to the old and new testament, and it was very encourage to see the young and the old flip through the Bibles. Some had Chinese Bibles, some English, some had a version with both. About half way through the service I notice a closed circuit TV security camera on the wall pointed directly at the front of the church. I could only ponder, was it there to prevent theft during the week or is big brother watching? By the way, since I have been in China, I have never seen so many CCTV security cameras and police in my life. There are even people wearing red armbands that I guess are employed by the police to be a kind of neighborhood watch (Reminds me of Obama's civilian army proposal). Some of you have asked if we feel safe here. Well, with the cameras and police at every coroner the answer is I feel safer here then in many parts of Fresno. Later in the day, our family went out to visit our friend to
give her our laundry (I think most people here have a side business of doing foreigners' laundry). On the way back we decided to stop at Starbucks. At the table next to us, there was a group of younger people having a bible study (not all that much different then what you would see in the states).

Lately, our days have consisted of staying in the hotel and taking short walks around the island. It is not necessary what we would like to do, but just what has happened. Sometimes our boys are not feeling well, other times Elsie is in need of a nap. She gets very fussy around 11:30. There is a play room in the hotel, where we do find Elsie is able to come out of her shell a bit. I did venture out on the subway again with the boys yesterday. We were trying to go to a specific area of the town where they sell jade. We got off the subway and hit a wall of people. With the national holiday, everyone is out and about doing shopping. We were told by our guide that we should expect this until the 9th. We may try later to go to a museum or hopefully an animal safari park. The fireworks show the other night was phenomenal. From the country that invented fireworks, they really know how to put on a show. Since the island was packed with people we decided to stay in our hotel. We all went to the 8th floor and watched them from a stairwell, not a bad view at all. I must admit that I usually get bored at fireworks shows. Sometimes they all look the same to me, just different colors. Not this show. It went on for 30 minutes with different themed fireworks every few minutes. After the show was over, we came back to the room and watched the show at Tiananmen Square. From what I head, they used 10 times as much fireworks at that show as they did at the Olympics. When they camera would pan the crowd all you could see is teenagers and college age kids waving the Chinese flag. The government is very aware of what is displayed on the TV. They would lead you to believe that everyone is happy and if your
not, your strange.