Friday, September 13, 2013

Almost home.

I tentatively titled this post, "Day 16... more chinese food" but I figured I'd focus on the brighter side of things and talk about our preparation to come home.  Maddie was successfully granted a U.S. Visa to enter the U.S. with us, so we will be bringing her home : )  We were waiting to get her passport back with the visa from the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou Thursday afternoon, and as soon as we secured that, we headed out back to Hong Kong.  Leaving Guangzhou was somewhat bittersweet.  We were all VERY ready to leave, but this also meant parting ways with our travel companions and in-China support network.  I was a bit skeptical at first that such strong bonds could be created when traveling with a group of people, but the shared experiences, triumphs, and tribulations will surely tie us together for life.  We were blessed to have so many great families on this trip.  However, life goes on, and so does our trip.  We took some group photos, said our goodbyes, and hopped in a van to Hong Kong.  When we found out we'd be traveling back through Hong Kong, Darlene had the idea to take a quick day trip to Hong Kong Disneyland as a reward to the girls (and to herself) for a successful trip with limited meltdowns.  This served as a time for us to celebrate, as a family, the best way we know how - spending some time with the Mouse.  Hong Kong feels like the closest thing to home this whole trip.  It truly is a modern-day city that feels like any other metropolitan area in the U.S.  We navigated the public transportation system with no problem, went to a local grocery store and found all our familiar snacks, and have pretty fast wifi in our hotel room.  We'll have one last night in Hong Kong, and be on our flight to Chicago tomorrow morning.  We leave Hong Kong around 11AM on Saturday the 14th, and get to Chicago at 2PM on Saturday the 14th - talk about super fast flying...  We can't wait to see our family!

Maddie wore her USA gear to the U.S. Consulate for our Visa appointment

We spent a LOT of time at the pool both to stay cool and alleviate boredom.

Darlene feeding the local feral cat colony

The girls got some Chinese dresses, which they wore our last day in Guangzhou for our group photos.

Here's the motley crew!

And here are all the "babies" that were adopted.


Maddie's first ride was the winnie the pooh ride, and her second was the carousel.  She enjoyed all the rides (whew).

Entrance to "It's a small world"  

The castle at Disneyland is MUCH smaller than Disney World.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Racoons in a Zoo

Took a trip to the Guangzhou zoo.  Two things of interest here:  1.  The animals seem much closer to the people than in any zoo I've ever been.  The gorge that typically separates you from the lions seemed a bit too shallow and not wide enough.  2.  Racoons are foreign enough to the Chinese that they are a specimen in the zoo.


Begging bear

White tigers

Monday, September 9, 2013

Tears and Cheers!

Yesterday was Maddie's official checkup in order to receive her immigrant visa.  We arrived at the Guangzhou clinic in the morning, and luckily they had a small section of the clinic quartered off just for adopted children.  Most of the checkup went pretty well, and everyone seemed to cooperate.  Since she's over 2 years old, Maddie required an additional blood draw to test for TB.  Unfortunately we couldn't be with her in that room, and as nurses scurried in and out of the room, we tried to grab glimpses of the happenings inside, but they quickly closed the door behind them.  There seemed to be a bit of tension in the room for which we attributed an inability to find a vein suitable for tapping.  As she emerged from the room, tears filled her eyes, and we immediately presented her with her reward - a strawberry sucker.  She recovered quickly, and then we could inspect her arms to find multiple venapuncture wounds on both arms.

After naps, we went for a dinner cruise on the Pearl River.  The girls thought it was awesome.  The food was adequate, the views spectacular, and the entertainment, well, entertaining.  They really light-up the buildings and bridges along the river.  Of course the girls were, once again, treated to a photo shoot.

ENT Check

Big sister Regina demonstrating "Ahhhhh"

Keegan and Regina's new best friends

Just reward for a job well done.

The lobby of the clinic has a wine vending machine.

Getting ready to board the boat.

Colorful spire along the Pearl River

Regina getting a ball spinning demonstration.

Chinese paparazzi 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Goodbye Zhengzhou, Hello Guangzhou

Yesterday was a travel day for us. We said goodbye to Maddie's hometown of Zhengzhou and traveled by airplane to Guangzhou.  It was Maddie's first trip on an airplane, but like everything else on this trip, she took it all in stride and had fun.  Arriving in Guangzhou was quite a shock.  It's very humid and hot, and our local guide told us we're lucky to be here in September.  It's sort of like going to central Florida in the middle of July, but I wouldn't know anything about that ; )

Today (Sunday) we opted out of the official city tour in hopes of making it to Mass at the nearby cathedral.  We were on our own in terms of getting there and back and so we were a bit anxious about the trip.  We asked the hotel concierge to translate the address of the cathedral into Chinese, and to give us a Chinese business card of the hotel so we could hand it to a taxi driver on our way home.  The Cathedral of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Guangzhou is the seat of the Archbishop of Guangzhou and is situated on the north bank of the Pearl River.  We arrived just in time for the 10:30AM high mass and were quickly ushered to our seats.  This mass would be in Mandarin with earlier masses in Cantonese, and the 3:30PM mass in English.  It was a very gothic-styled church with magnificent stained glass windows and intricate carvings all over.  Sure, we couldn't understand a word being said, but you can still follow along and know where you are in the mass at any given point.  Two interesting notes:  1.  The Homily was MUCH longer than we've ever experienced.  I think perhaps it went on for about 30 minutes.  I'd like to think the Bishop was preaching a fantastic homily.  2.  The exchange of peace was very interesting.  The norm in China is to bow to each other, not shake hands.  You could have probably guessed that, but it was still interesting to see.

After mass we decided to explore a bit.  We made our way down a narrow side street with tons of vendors hawking their wares.  It was quite an adventure.  We saw some crazy health code violations along the way, live animals, and a lot of food items that were completely foreign to us.  We stopped at a little toy store so the girls could pick out something.  They decided to go with masks.  I think they were a bit uncomfortable and wanted to hide themselves.  After spending ~30 minutes trying to hail a cab, we finally made it back to our hotel room in time for a quick nap before our evening festivities.

The whole reason we're in Guangzhou is so Maddie can get her immigrant visa to the U.S.  The U.S. consulate in Guangzhou is the only consulate in China that permits U.S. immigrant visas.  So, here, we'll do a bit more paperwork, get a medical exam for Maddie, and prepare for our trip home.  It's sort of apropos that we'll be in the US Consulate in Guangzhou on September 11th where we will take an oath, on Madeleine's behalf paving the way to her U.S. citizenship.  I doubt we'll be able to take pictures there, so we'll just have to describe the scene at a later time.

Getting ready to leave Zhengzhou

Inside the Cathedral

Cathedral Altar with the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Side altar for Mary.

Exterior of the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Posing in front of the Cathedral

On our way to explore

Darlene thought maybe we should pick up a few steaks and grill tonight!

Or maybe we could have Chicken or Pigeon for Dinner

Keegan and Regina with their "Dollar-store" find

Friday, September 6, 2013

Welfare Institute of Zhengzhou

Today we toured the orphanage welfare institute where Maddie spent some time before she was placed in foster care.  (When we called it an orphanage, we were quickly corrected by our guide that it's not an orphanage, it's a welfare institute.)  We also brought with us a suitcase and a half of donations given to us by our family and friends.  About 2/3rds of the donations will stay at this orphanage, and the other third will go to the other orphanage in Zhengzhou (on the other side of town).  There were mixed feelings going on throughout our trip.  On the one hand, the conditions are poor.  It's situated on the furthest outskirts of town, near the garbage dumps and some industry.  The roads leading to the orphanage were in horrible condition.  From afar, the building itself looks pretty good, and (as with much of China) they were doing a lot of construction on the building itself.  However, once you go up to the building and in the buildings, you feel like you're in a third world country.  On the other hand, I'm sure the people who are working there are doing their best with the resources they've been given. With roughly 700 orphans to take care of, any institution that depends on charity and government subsidy would have a difficult time keeping up.  Everyone we met there was very nice and greeted us with a Hello.  We went to a specific wing of the orphanage that is occupied solely by CCAI staff and children who will be made available for adoption through CCAI.  There we held some babies, and talked with the caretakers a bit.  In all, it was good to see and have the experience.  I'm sure, with plenty of notice given to the director and a limited tour, we were treated to only the best parts of the orphanage, but regardless it's a decent place that I'm glad Maddie didn't have to spend much time in.  Oh, and in case you're wondering, it's a balmy 80 degrees in the rooms and all the babies are in full onesie pajamas with a blanket over them all.  Auntie Kelley would be going nuts!

Darlene says:
To me, this was more emotional than when we met Madeleine on Monday. 700 orphans, I can't even wrap my mind around that. We saw the "adoptable" babies...the ones that will more than likely have families in the near future. Moms and Dads like Ryan and I that will travel across the world and make a contract with the Chinese government to love these children that have been abandoned. But, we also caught glimpses of older children, kids that have been passed over for adoption. Some seemed completely "normal" while others were obviously low functioning and very special needs. What is going to happen to these children? In a city of 9 million people, and a very elementary social welfare program, it's anyone's guess. Who is going to take care of these children???

Distributing our donations to be divvied up between the two orphanages in Zhengzhou.

The orphanage director (middle, white shirt) doing the paperwork for the donation.

The playground.

This room is for ~6 month olds.

Maddie with one of the caretakers.

I guess it's always Christmas in Zhengzhou

This room was for infants.

A nice sentiment

Uh-oh, Darlene's found a little buddy.

Sleeping quarters for some of the toddlers.

Keegan and Regina testing out the playground equipment.  They give 1 and a half stars.