Archive for February, 2008

Yeah, Flu

Monday, February 25th, 2008

Ugh. Aside from only being conscious about twice a day – I’m having some of the most insane dreams. Oh, and I recommend the Flu to anyone looking to lose weight. I haven’t eaten since… oh… Wednesday. Okay, off to bed to go shiver, sweat and shiver some more.

Home, Sweet Home

Sunday, February 24th, 2008

It was a BRUTAL last few days in China for me. I’ve got the Flu and it was a punishing 17 hours in airplanes to get home yesterday. But, I took a bunch of medication this morning – and if that doesn’t help me soon I’m going to bite the bullet and go to the Emergency Room. I’m just sitting here now praying the meds work.

In other news, seeing Ellery play with all of her new toys and walk around the house is a surreal experience. We sat her down yesterday in the living room with a small pile of a few things and she said “Xie Xie” (which sounds like shay shay) which means “Thanks” in Chinese.

I almost cried.

And speaking of crying, I did, yesterday when a lot of our friends and family were waiting for us there at the airport. My Dad, Wicked Step Mother, Uncle Larry, Aunt Sue, My cousin Melissa (and her two boys which were NOT happy to be there – but were there anyway), The Edwards (Ken was working, but he got his notice in) and The O’Hanlons (who graciously drove our truck to the airport and let me drive it home).

We smelled bad, looked bad, felt bad – but none of that mattered. We were so happy to be home. The emotions of seeing everyone were overwhelming and had I not felt like I was dying already, I would have probably been a lot more overcome. We have days worth of pre-prepared meals and a nice sign on our garage welcoming our dog home (Thanks O’Hanlons!). Our friend Ken (who was working yesterday in the Nashville Tower) made sure to pass along his congratulations, and the congratulations of the rest of the tower as he was the first one to officially welcome us home. The pilot made an announcement to the plane about our family and our trip, we got a nice applause. Again, overwhelmingly amazing friends and family we have. I just want to thank you all for the warm wishes and the good thoughts while we were gone. EVERY SINGLE comment was poured over and appreciated as we battled with home sickness (and regular old sickness as well). In the next few days, providing I don’t die from whatever I have, I’m going to be sharing a few stories of the return and other things you may find interesting.

But now? Ellery is home – and I can hear her downstairs saying “Uh-oh” every few minutes as she is discovering her way around. :)

On our way home

Friday, February 22nd, 2008

YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

In Guangzhou

Wednesday, February 20th, 2008

We made it!

It’s been a LONG time since I boarded an airplane via a stairwell and tarmac, but that’s what we did yesterday. The Air China flight was nice, however. Got us here right about on time.

We’re staying in the Victory Hotel which seems to be pretty nice for us, we have adjoining rooms and for the first time the entire trip Maureen doesn’t have to sleep on on a couch or chair. She appreciates the little things. :)

I came down with a little bit of something yesterday too, that’s why this post is late. But, I’m trying to stage a quick recovery because I was just called by our local guide (Sampson) who told me that the US Consulate wants to move our appointment up to today! That means that we get to have Ellery be official (with the US) one day sooner. The only problem is that Robyn and the kids are all out shopping (as I lay sleeping in the bed). So, we’re going to have a quick lunch, a little nap for grumpy bug and then off to the Consulate!

I’ll post more later, just wanted everyone to know we’re here.

Our Last day in Hangzhou

Tuesday, February 19th, 2008

We’re really starting to get a little sad at the prospect of leaving here. Our guide, Sarah has really been amazing and more helpful than we could have ever hoped for. She’s been a dream.

On our last day here we went to the Tea Museum. Tea is a very important product in this portion of China and there is a nice, large museum devoted to its history. We toured that museum (and took lots of pictures) and then went to her friends house again, since it’s right next to the museum, for some more fresh tea. We sat and ate sunflower seeds and enjoyed the day out on their front porch. It was very relaxing and very nice.

We then asked Sarah and our driver, Mr. Liang to join us for lunch at what Sarah said was the nicest restaurant in Hangzhou. It was on the water and at one time (not so long ago) served lunch to former President Nixon. We ordered the shrimp, a river fish, a beggars chicken and some friend rice. There was PLENTY of food and the best part? It was cheaper for all seven of us to eat there than it was for five of us to have the western buffet here in the hotel! The local food was excellent, and prepared (and served!) with care and pride. I took some pictures of the restaurant because it was so beautiful on the inside. Then we walked through a garden we found on the way back to the hotel. I took a lot more pictures in there, since it was just so stunning.

If we’ve learned nothing else in our time here, it’s that Hangzhou is some place we would like to come and visit again. The people are wonderful and the sights are inspiring.

We’re packing now and preparing for the early departure in the morning. Plane leaves at 9:30, so we’re going to be heading out of here at 7:30. I’ll fire up the laptop again once I’m there and let you know about the plane ride to Guangzhou (a short two hour trip).

Wednesday we’ll be four short days from getting back home! Yay! Did I mention that we’re really starting to miss home now?

Dinner

Monday, February 18th, 2008

We decided to give the kids a little treat and be typical Americans and go for some regular American fare. Connor and I decided to head up the street a little bit and get some pizza. Turns out that it was a passable version of US style pizza. The crust was spot on, the cheese was different, not bad – just different. The ham on the ham and pineapple pizza was awesome. So, all-in-all a good experience on our next-to-last night here. Tomorrow I think we’re going to the Tea Museum and then maybe to lunch at Sarah’s friends house (provided it isn’t raining) and then we’ll be packing like crazy people for the flight to Guangzhou. 9:30am flight. Short flight too – only two hours, yay! And with that, it’s about 8:00pm here. Robyn just laid Ellery down after her bath (crying, but better this time – we think we’re figuring it out!) and we’re going to be heading to sleep soon.

Robyn just reminded me of a moment I need to mention. Earlier today Ellery was running, well, running how she runs – kind of like a drunken sailor (think: Jack Sparrow) and she ran into the bedroom here, where I was uploading pictures and I was “booping” her on her butt. Which is poking as she is running away screaming in laughter… Anyway, one time she ran up to me and I said “Give Ba Ba a kiss” and made a kissing motion – and she walked up closer to me and SHE GAVE ME A PECK ON MY CHEEK! I’d like to point out that I was the VERY FIRST to receive this gift. Right after that Robyn called her into the other room and asked Ellery to make her day by giving her one as well – and she did! Then Maureen and Connor got pecks on the cheek as well. It was a very sweet thing for her to do and it made us all warm and happy. :)

Robyn also just pointed out my grammar. I’m going to apologize now for the “shotgun style” I’m using. It’s how I get my thoughts out – and I don’t have time to make second and third passes over it like I would if I were writing something for work. Sorry it’s annoying, but when I sell my first book the grammar will bees perfects, I promises.

See that? Humor right there. It’s late, and the humor is getting worse.

Today – caught up

Monday, February 18th, 2008

This morning we got up late and had breakfast disturbed by a ummmmmm, what’s a nice way to describe it…. number two moment. So, we quickly left breakfast to go downstairs to our room. After a quick change we met Sarah to go to the passport office (we were trying to pickup Ellery’s passport), but it seems that it wasn’t ready yet, so, we’ll go again in the morning.

We then went to the mall, not the touristy mall, the REAL mall. Where the locals go. Which was nice. We had some nice people come up to talk to us, one really nice older gentlemen who spoke perfect English. Robyn bought Ellery a few outfits (wow, it was like being at home!). Anyways, we boguht some lunch there at the mall and brought it back.

The blog is now current! Yay!

Currently it’s 2:33am at home, but it’s 4:33 here. So, we’re about to be thinking about dinner time. Then we’ll have a nice bath, and off to bed. Ellery has been making her displeasure with her nightly bath be known, but Robyn has been a trooper about just getting it done and letting Ellery be mad, but still understand that a bath must be taken.

Not sure what we’re going to do for dinner at this point, but we’ll figure something out. Right now the kids are in there playing with Ellery as I am typing this and Robyn is figuring out how to repack for the flight to Guangzhou.

After Wenzhou

Monday, February 18th, 2008

We had a day of rest. And it was good. We walked around the hotel, we prepared a mountain of post cards. We did a lot of little things that we had needed to do for days. Repacking, organizing, playing. You know, important stuff.

The next day we asked Sarah (our local guide) to meet us to take us for a tour of the lake area. She met us at 10am, so we had plenty of time to sleep-in, have a nice normal breakfast and not be rushed. We’re not good rushers, overall. So, we avoid it when possible.

Sarah took us for a walk through the West Lake park areas which seem to surround us here. After we initially got out of the van we were set upon by the baby-dressing police. Seems that they didn’t approve of how Ellery was only dressed in three layers of clothes (it was 45 degrees or so, and she was in a sling on Mommy, nice and warm – she was sweating). After being sure she was good and wrapped up they noticed Maureen. Oh boy, did they notice Maureen. It was like she was a rock star. There was a crowd of people suddenly around us (see pictures) that all wanted to have their pictures made with Maureen. It was pretty darned funny. She must have made a picture with ten different people. So, now she knows a little of what it’s like to be like her hero Miley Cyrus.

We saw a great many beautiful gardens and then got on a tour boat which was to take us around the lake in a lazy forty five minute tour. Just before we took off another larger group joined us from Thailand. They also seemed to have a love of Maureen as everyone in their group of twelve people or so, all made a picture with her.

We enjoyed the cruise and then we asked Sarah to take us to a Tea farm, just in the other side of the road from the park where we were started the Hangzhou tea farming area. We already told Sarah we had been to a "commercial" tea place and wanted something with a local flavor. Turns out that Sarah knew of a man who had his own tea farm there and he was less than five minute from us. He had served in the Navy with her husband and they were friends. When we heard we immediately accepted! Turns out that the locals (on the weekends) all go up to these local tea farms to have fresh green tea and lunch. They take their families and spend time talking and drinking tea and letting the kids play. We sat in with them and were given a demonstration as to how the process worked.

You see, real Dragon Well tea doesn’t have contact with machines, it’s all hand done, or else it isn’t Hangzhou Dragon Well tea. This area is known far and wide for its green tea. And did we EVER enjoy this experience. It was wonderful to sit out in the sun with all of the locals enjoying tea and chatting with Sarah. The tea was amazing and the whole experience was just magic. No cheesey sales pressure to buy or whatever, just fresh tea, relaxing environment and lots of nice locals who gave our table some candy. Sarah had said she hadn’t ever taken a family there before, but then, maybe some families wouldn’t appreciate it like we did. When we said we wanted an "authentic" experience, Sarah delivered.

After this we enjoyed dinner at our hotel and a relaxing evening of games and some CCTV Channel 9 (English channel!).

Bump in the Road

Monday, February 18th, 2008

The next morning we got up and went down to breakfast before we started the next part of the journey. In December, China changed the rules for new parents and now require that you do passport paperwork in your child’s orphanage province. Which meant that we needed to travel to Wenzhou. Which is a pretty well-to-do part of China. It also meant a five hour van ride there, with Ellery.

Off we went.

The five hour drive was not so tough, we stopped a few times and were instantly the sensation of where we were. The locals in these areas didn’t see many Americans, so, we drew crowds and lots of interested stares. We got to see a great many different cities and we went through twenty tunnels! Yes, we counted. Some of them were MILES long. Impressive engineering to say the least.

When we got to Wenzhou we were met by the ladies from Ellery’s orphanage who immediately ran from their car and came over to goo-goo and coo at Ellery. And Ellery was having none of it. She became very upset and cried. Which had been the first time she had done that. So, the ladies got back in their car and we followed them through the insane traffic to get to the passport office. Here is where it gets annoying…

Once in the passport office one of the caregivers, apparently a caregiver who spent a lot of time with Ellery and even took her home occasionally, was in her face talking to her and then grabbed her out of Robyn’s arms. Well, this made Robyn mad, made Ellery mad and made me mad. Ellery was screaming her head off at being with this lady and the situation really started to get tense at this point. In our mind Ellery was confused and not happy about being back in her old “life”, but to this lady Ellery was a constant little companion, so somewhat after the fact, we understood a little better, but we were pretty mad right then and there.

We could hear Ellery crying and howling as she was sitting for her picture, which we will have to remember that moment forever.

Finally that was over with and Robyn explained to Mr. Wu and Professor Liu (our local guide who also taught at the University) that this was just unacceptable and wrong to do to Ellery. Talk about confusing! She is in her Orphanage, then with us, then back with her caregiver? Could you blame her for being upset and confused?

Mr. Wu completely understood and explained the situation to the local orphanage Director. Once Robyn got Ellery back in her arms I would have bit someone in the face if they tried to grab her again. Thankfully, that didn’t happen as I stood between Ellery and the lady whenever she was around. And I realize, now as I type this, that this sounds harsh – but you have to understand, we’re trying to introduce Ellery into our family and giving her glimpses of old life and new life all at once is just too much for a small toddler to have to cope with. I hope you guys understand how we were feeling at this point – VERY protective of our girl.

We ended up having to leave the passport office and then go to a local police office (this was the first time this orphanage and Mr. Wu had done this new procedure). The local police office had to approve some things, then the passport office would be free to complete the paperwork. Thankfully the local police office was EXTREMELY helpful and nice. Everyone there oooooh’d and aaah’d over Ellery.

Once all the paper work was done we retired to our hotel room. We had ditched the idea of two rooms and asked for a suite instead. We all like the idea of being together, it just works out better.

We played and ordered room service for the rest of the night.

And I should mention that this hotel was only a three star hotel (I say that like it’s a bad thing, it isn’t), but that when we called to ask the front desk for a room service menu in English, the manager offered to come up to our room and read the menu to us while we ordered! Amazing service. Just amazing, and just like all the other hotels – they fully understand the concept of service here. I should note that the manager didn’t have to do that, she found us a menu and then sent a very willing and nice bellman to take our order. We got steak over noodles that was to DIE FOR! It was some of the best food I’ve had here in China.

The next day was a trip to the passport office to finalize everything and then we were back in the van for Hangzhou. Unfortunately this time there was traffic… a LOT of it. So, the five hour trip, became a seven and a half hour trip. Ellery? Not so much as a peep in the van. She ate, played, slept, etc etc the whole time. Talk about a trooper!

Also, before we left Wenzhou we asked if the driver could take us to the place where Ellery was left. She was found abandoned at the entrance to a fairly nice subdivision. Seems her Mother had hoped that some wealthy family would find her and adopt her as their own. I don’t know about the wealthy part, but I hope we would fit the bill. I would very much like for her Mom to know that Robyn and I will see to it that Ellery gets every chance that life has to offer.

At long last, we finally got back to Hangzhou, and checked back into our hotel (and requesting a suite) and all was right with the world once again. I’m almost caught up now as well. This occurred a few days ago, so not many more stories to go!

Also, I’m adding captions to the pictures in Picassa. And the pictures (unlike the blog at this point) are current. The West Lake area is stunning in its beauty, just stunning. But, I’ll tell you all about that soon.

Thanks!

Sunday, February 17th, 2008

I appreciate all the warm comments from everyone, it’s fun to know you are following along. I’m going to try REALLY hard to catch up, but it’s been more difficult than I imagined with Robyn and I splitting turns with cutey and when I’m not doing that I try to spend some time with the kids. They get a little bored sometimes.

I’d also like to tell Stephani (The Boy and the Bulldog) that Robyn and I were absolutely glued to your blog during the time you were here in China – we felt like we learned so much from you.

To all of our other friends we love the notes and we’re reading them with big smiles. We miss you guys and hope to see you all very soon. We’re counting down days at this point. It’s Monday here now and we leave for Guangzhou on Wednesday. And that’s our final stop before we head home. Just wanted to say thanks and I’m going to post this real quick and work on the next portions of the story.