Dinner

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

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

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

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!

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.

After the first meeting…

February 17th, 2008

After being declared the officially official parents of Ellery Cute Butt we were informed that we were missing one set of pictures that we needed (an extra set of passport like photos for some paperwork). So, we walked to a small photo place that was conveniently located on the corner of our hotel. Oh, and all of our luggage was waiting on us too, since we had to just leave it in the van, oh and we weren’t checked into the hotel yet. Oh yeah, and we had a baby in our arms who had known us a grand total of 45 minutes. So, we were REALLY wanting to get back to the room for a little play-with-the-new-person time.

We walk into the photo place and they take a minute to grab a camera and adjust a background for us. Meanwhile Robyn is slowly but surely losing her mind with impatience, because she’s sure that at ANY moment Ellery is going to start screaming bloody murder and demand that she be taken back to where she came from and for someone to save her from the whole family of big noses.

The photo people fumbled and stumbled around for a good ten minutes and finally managed to snap a picture of Robyn and myself. At long last.

How was Ellery? Perfectly fine. Didn’t make a peep.

We checked in and were taken upstairs to be reunited with all of our ninety thousand bags of luggage and our two separate hotel rooms. We just basically dumped everything and started playing with Ellery on the bed. You can see pictures of that fun time here.

Robyn removed her twenty layers of clothing and put her in a nice comfy onesie. Which was like a dream for her, she immediately seemed relaxed and comfortable. She only cried a little on that first day, when she was going to sleep that night. That’s been pretty much the pattern so far, she cries a little at night and is more or less content during the day. However, we know we’re living on borrowed time. But, we’re prepared for it. We just hope it doesn’t surface on the long plane ride home.

After the first meeting…

February 17th, 2008

After being declared the officially official parents of Ellery Cute Butt we were informed that we were missing one set of pictures that we needed (an extra set of passport like photos for some paperwork). So, we walked to a small photo place that was conveniently located on the corner of our hotel. Oh, and all of our luggage was waiting on us too, since we had to just leave it in the van, oh and we weren’t checked into the hotel yet. Oh yeah, and we had a baby in our arms who had known us a grand total of 45 minutes. So, we were REALLY wanting to get back to the room for a little play-with-the-new-person time.

We walk into the photo place and they take a minute to grab a camera and adjust a background for us. Meanwhile Robyn is slowly but surely losing her mind with impatience, because she’s sure that at ANY moment Ellery is going to start screaming bloody murder and demand that she be taken back to where she came from and for someone to save her from the whole family of big noses.

The photo people fumbled and stumbled around for a good ten minutes and finally managed to snap a picture of Robyn and myself. At long last.

How was Ellery? Perfectly fine. Didn’t make a peep.

We checked in and were taken upstairs to be reunited with all of our ninety thousand bags of luggage and our two separate hotel rooms. We just basically dumped everything and started playing with Ellery on the bed. You can see pictures of that fun time here.

Robyn removed her twenty layers of clothing and put her in a nice comfy onesie. Which was like a dream for her, she immediately seemed relaxed and comfortable. She only cried a little on that first day, when she was going to sleep that night. That’s been pretty much the pattern so far, she cries a little at night and is more or less content during the day. However, we know we’re living on borrowed time. But, we’re prepared for it. We just hope it doesn’t surface on the long plane ride home.

Meeting Ellery

February 17th, 2008

When we first arrived in the government offices where we were going to do all of our paperwork and be united with Ellery the very first thing we noticed was that the offices weren’t heated and cooled. It was about thirty-five degrees outside and only a marginal amount warmer on the inside. We walked into a room with a giant conference table and chairs with yet more chairs pushed back against the walls. When we walked in the room there was another family already present (who we’ve since seen several times here in our hotel in Hangzhou – they are US citizens of Chinese heritage who adopted a very cute boy of about 2.5 years of age). They were already visiting with their new son and we’re filling out paper work as well.

We scanned the room QUICKLY and saw no other children.

Our guide, Sarah, told us that Ellery wasn’t at the offices yet, but that she’d be along shortly. She’d taken a train from Wenzhou to meet us that morning. We were told she was about five minutes away.

So, we started to fill out paper work. Forms and signatures and more forms and a little RMB (money) here and little RMB there. I was completely not paying any attention to anything but the door to the room. And within five minutes – as promised – we were greeted by a little white headed, red hat wearing bundle of sunshine.

We were stunned to see the same little girl who was in the photos. Robyn and I talked about this later, there are some people who you see in pictures who end up looking nothing like they do in real-life. Ellery was the SAME little girl we saw in all those pictures, exactly. It was truly love at first sight. All paper work and everything else ceased as Ellery’s care giver introduced her to us.

She wasn’t scared, actually. Didn’t cry or do anything else. After a few minutes of being around us Robyn held out her hands to Ellery and Ellery held her arms out back.

I was in tears, Robyn was in tears. It’s really hard to describe how it’s possible to love someone so completely and so deeply after knowing them for only a few seconds, but I felt about her right then, right there – like she had been mine since birth.

And like a thousand other love stories – this one has a happy ending.

Orphanage Pictures

February 17th, 2008

I feel I should mention that Robyn and I elected not to go to Ellery’s orphanage. I’ll tell you exactly why very soon when I post about our experience on that first day, but I didn’t want to take the credit for the pictures that were actually taken by Mr. Wu who is the Director of the Gladney program for Chinese adoption. This man sought out all the children to take photos and made sure that there were pictures of everyone. For all those who were waiting for those and who were eagerly looking forward to any other pictures of their (soon to be) beloved little ones – we just wanted you to know. Robyn and I both feel very privileged for the time we got to spend talking to Mr. Wu. He’s truly a humanitarian and he loves helping these children. He told us so many stories about his life and how he ended up working for Gladney. If you believe in a divine calling, or fate or any of the possible ways that someone can end up doing what they are destined to do – he is the best example I can come up with.

Good news!

February 16th, 2008

Well, Flickr isn’t so happy here with this slow bandwidth in Hangzhou, but it seems the all-mighty Google must have a nearby presence, because anything going through google is like LIGHTNING. So, temporarily I’m going to put all the important pictures on picasa until I get a quick connection to put them on Flickr. So, without further adieu, here are some new pictures for you guys to check out!

http://picasaweb.google.com/joe.cotter

Let me know if these don’t work for you.

Oh, and one more thing – I’m not uploading these in high quality, just doing medium quality for now, so those of you who are looking at the orphanage pictures need to know that the REAL high quality ones will go up on Flickr just as soon as I can get a quick connection to post them there.