Saturday evening we ventured onto the subway with another family in our travel group. They are from Iowa so this was the first time on the subway for the both of them. Our destination was Shamian Island to see a shop owner that we got to know real well the last time we stayed on the island for two weeks. It has been about two and a half years since we have seen her, but have been able to keep in touch by skype and email. As we were walking down her street, she recognized us and gave Tamra a big hug. The island used to be a mecca for American adoptive families. As a note, all Americans adopting children from China have to exit the country via Guangzhou. The immigration paperwork is processed at the US Consulate in this city. The Consulate was previously located on Shamain Island along with some hotels that catered to westerners. The Consulate has long since relocated to another part of the city and some of the other features that attracted westerns to the island are gone. All that being said, some of the shop owners well known by adoptive families have closed down due to the lack of foreign tourist on the island. So it was good to see our old friend still in business. After visiting with her for a while, we had dinner at a place named Lucy’s, which is a western dinner themed restaurant, also well known by adoptive families.
This was a picture of Elsie from our last visit to the island
The following morning, a number of adoptive families went back to the island and attended the Mandarin/English church service. We met up with our shop owner friend and sat with her during the service. What an amazing God we serve. We have brothers and sisters in Christ that can be an encouragement to us half a world away.
The rest of the day was spent shopping on the island (more squeaky shoes) and in the pearl and jade market.
After dinner with our entire group, we came back to the hotel and gave Sophie a bath. This is the first bath in which she did not have a fit. She is making great progress in being comfortable around us, which has been a joy.
Friday was our scheduled travel day in which we were to catch a flight to Guangzhou. Our flight was schedule for evening, so we would be sure to get Sophie's Chinese passport delivered to us. That morning was pretty low key with nothing formally planned, mainly just packing up. However, it was a beautiful day so we could not resist a morning stroll to the martyr's park nearby our hotel.
Wouldn't you know it as we were walking along the park this rat appeared. It looked like Mickey but as many other things in China, he too was just a forgery (they sale IPhones 4S here for $50 on the street corner, right next to the Rolex watches).
We have been discovering that Sophie is quite attached to Chris, and sometimes actually prefers him. There is no secret as to how this has occurred. Chris learned from our last adoption that food is a powerful tool. And this little girls loves strawberry oreos.
We checked out of our hotel room at 3:00 PM and waited in the lobby for our guide to pick us up at 5:00. Traveling makes for long days, because you are stuck "in transition". After 3, we had no hotel room to relax in and not enough time to sight see. So we just waited and tried to make the best of the situation. Then our taxi arrived to drive us to the airport. So we then waited in rush hour traffic. We finally arrived at the airport and got checked in, said goodbye to our guide, then migrated through security. Then we waited for our flight at 7:45 PM. It really is not a long flight to Guangzhou, just about an hour and 10 minutes. Problem was, a severe thunderstorm passed through Guangzhou and delayed all flights into the city. Normally not a problem, however this is the Trade Fair season in Guangzhou and business men from around China and the world are flocking there. After the boarding delay in the airport, and then sitting on the tarmac for awhile, we finally arrived in Guangzhou at about midnight. We thought we had it rough until we spoke with others in our adoption travel group that were flying in from different provinces. Many of them were delayed for more then 5 hours. Through the more then 10 hours of "in transition" time, Sophie did quite well. She has been doing amazing in the last two day and is finally opening up. The problem is that she does not do well between the hours of 1 - 4 AM. This has caused some sleep deprivation on our part, but we are doing well. When we were checking into the hotel at 1 AM, I turned to Tamra and asked what she had done with the diaper bag. She quickly responded, "You mean the one your carrying on your sholder?" Ugh, I just want to sleep.
Saturday after breakfast, our group headed out early to the medical clinic to get the children checked out for the US immigration process. We left shortly after breakfast because our guide said that the clinic would be busy today with up to 60 families. It takes a lot of patience to wait in a room packed full of people with no air conditioning. The outside temperature is about 75 degrees outside with terrible humidity. Inside it's much worse.
However, it is an amazing and overwhelming experience to see all these American families in the clinic. You see a wide variety (age and special need) of children that as of one week ago had no family. Now, all these children will have a family!
Between the thunder storms and Sophie's naps, we have been spending quite a bit of time in our hotel room. We are staying at a Sheraton, so it is not too bad, although it is more of a business hotel. When we go outside we always see Mercedes Benzs, Land Rovers, and even a Rolls Royce parked at the entrance. There are some very wealthy people here in China. Our hotel in Beijing had a Lamborghini and Ferrari dealership down the street.
Sometimes when we are trapped in our room we just look out our window for entertainment. Traffic is usually bad, but gets worse during the rain. Words can not describe how insane the aggressive driving habits of the people can be. There are no rules of the road, there more suggestions. I have had to close my eyes on more then one occasion when in our taxi.
Today we watched a few workers putting up a new billboard more then 5 stories above the street. Sometimes they would use harnesses, sometime not. I get nervous just watching them.
The other day we watched window cleaners repel from the roof.
We did get out this morning (Thursday) and went back to the civil affairs office for an official ceremony where they presented us with an adoption certificate.
After that we went to an embroidery museum/showroom. Hunan is well know for there embroidery. Evidently, it is a vanishing trade, because it is so time consuming.
Sophie took a nap in the taxi on our way to Yuelu Academy.
The academy, a place where Confucian scholars taught, has been around since 976. Mao Zedong even went to school here in Changsha.
It was confirmed that Sophie is officially a Gardner when we took her to Pizza Hut for dinner on gotcha day and discovered that she can hold her own when it comes to pizza.
Actually, it occurred when we went back to the adoption affairs office after the one day "harmonious period" and completed all the Chinese paperwork.
Sophie did not object to her foot print on the adoption certificate so we interpret that as meaning she is willing to live with us. She tolerates us I suppose, but we do LOVE her.
The orphanage director was also at the office. We had an opportunity to speak with her through an interpreter and found out that she is in charge of a smaller, special needs orphanage. From little clues observing Sophie, it would seem that Sophie was well cared for at her orphanage.
We have not ventured out of our Hotel that much. This is the raining season here, and there has been no shortage of it in the last day. At one point in the afternoon, the wind picked up, the sky grew dark and the rain came pouring down. It was kind of funny from our vantage point on the 10th floor to see all the people on the street trying to run to get out of the rain. Since it was about dinner time we opted for room service.
We did manage to get out at one point yesterday and snap a few pictures of Sophie in a garden that the hotel has on the 6th floor.
We did discover that Sophie does not like baths.
It is almost 8:00 and we are getting ready to head down for breakfast. Sophie had a rough night. When we got her she had a runny nose and cough. We have been trying to treat it but it appears that she is still suffering a bit. Not sure how much of it is the cold and how much may be the grieving process that she may be going through, which is very typical.
This afternoon we took a 15 minute cab ride to the adoption affairs office for the Hunan province. Each province in China has the office in the corresponding province's Capital City. Sophie traveled over 8 hours from her orphanage along with the orphanage director and a couple of the nannies. When the taxi arrived at the office, we were escorted to a waiting room and were told Sophie was already in the building. Even though it was a short wait, it seemed like forever. For many of you who have experienced adoption, you may know the feelings of anxiety that can suddenly come over you. We were no different.
Then she came into the room....
After the director placed Sophie on the ground, she cried and wanted to go back to the director and shunned Tamra for a moment. No worries on our part, that actually is a good thing to see because it shows she was able to form some kind of attachment.
It is a wonderful thing to experience and no amount of words can express the moment.
Sophie is deciding if Chris needs to shave the goatee off.
We all agreed that Chris will keep it this time.
There were a few tears
After filling out the paperwork, we made it back to our hotel room where she became a little more friendly.
She loves the blocks
We have been waiting since November 1st to pinch those checks.
Today started out early for us. We both woke up at 4 am and could not go back to sleep. We used that time to Skype with our kids. They enjoyed seeing us, but we were trilled to see them even more so. Technology is truly amazing. I also got the chance to talk with my parents this morning. They reminding me that when they lived overseas in the Philippines, they used a reel-to-reel audio tape recorder to tape one way conversations with their family back in the states. After taping it, they would have to package it up, send it by snail mail and wait weeks for a response. Occasionally, they would be able to use short wave radio, but the conversation would be very limited.
After breakfast we got a pleasant surprise when we attended the orientation for our next phase of the trip. Our guides gave us an update on Sophie complete with pictures. How cute is that smile?
After lunch with our travel group, we headed out to Tiananmen square and the forbidden city. Lots of people all around, but nothing compared to the 1 million people they say it can hold. It also boggles my mind of how much labor went into constructing the emperor’s palace.
After walking what seemed like 2 miles, we boarded the bus and headed to a silk factory. Pretty neat stuff. I had no idea how a silk worm cocoon could be used.
This evening, we took a subway and traveled to a theater to watch a show. Again, on the way over we hit it during rush hour. Never a dual moment. The show was a production based on a boy growing up in a monetary and learning the art of KungFu. It had a good display of martial arts and even had the English lip dubs that reminded me of Saturday morning KungFu theater when I was a child. For some reason even through half the study was Chinese, the performance was in pre recorded English with the actors mouthing the parts. Some of the actors looked to be only 10 years of age but had phenomenal skills.
So now its back to the hotel and getting ready to pack for our flight to Changsha.