Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Food & Feel of China

Finding food that's right for one's palette is always a challenge in traveling. This has been our problem. Everything is greasy, spicy and laced with MSG. I'm getting msg headaches all the time. Owen thinks that if he ever opened up a restaurant here, he would make a killing. It would be "clean, tasty and healthy." Yeah, that's what we would call it, The Clean, Tasty, Healthy Lee Restaurant." It would combine East with West and blend the two worlds with perfect harmony. Okay, too much Travel Channel talk.

The weather always appears to be overcast with gray skies as a constant forecast. But honestly, it's probably the pollution. It makes Southern Cal's smog look like Alaska.
And as for the hustle and bustle of daily life, there are NO pedestrian nor legitimate traffic rules. There are mopeds going against traffic, weaving and turning between lanes. There is about 5 inches between each car, among the lanes. And EVERYONE around us smokes.

One big decision we have to make is whether we should visit Hope's orphanage. Most directors do not allow it but this particular one will allow us. Chance of a life time. There will be a substantial additional fee. Why are we not surprised! The dilemma is that my mom is still sick. She's stopped vomiting but still very weak and Hope is still very congested. It's a 4 hour ride to the orphange and 4 hours back, that's a total of 8 hours. Please talk to our Dad for us to help us make the right decision.

We Have Hope!!!!

Where do I even begin?
Sunday night, we flew in from Beijing to Nanchang. Nanchang is the capitol of Jiangxi Province and Hope is from the city of Shangrao. We were very tired. On this flight, there was a very feisty group of Nanchang locals. They were hilarious to watch. They had no idea what "indoor voice" was about. They were determined to push and shove. They didn't know what half the things were in their seats, so they kept pushing the flight attendant button. One tried to figure out the headset and had a surprising "volumn-high" discovery. Owen and I were laughing until we cried.

Monday, the next day, we woke up with great anticipation. Our in-country adoption guide told us that our adoptive daughter, Hope would arrive at 11:30am. This was the moment, our family was waiting for. I was so nervous. We had our camera all ready, our video camera all charged and Hope's outfit set on her crib.

Just before 11:30am, we decided to test the video camera and guess what happened? The screen decided to malfunction. The most anticipated moment of this adoption and the little monitor breaks. So, we had to use the small view finder.

At precisely 11:30am, someone rings our doorbell to our room, Rm#1619 at the Gloria Grand Hotel in Nanchang. With cameras ready we open the door and guess who it was? It was the cleaning lady. Talk about a "downer." She's probably never seen such a disappointed set of people.

Finally, around 11:45am, someone rings the doorbell and to our wonderful surprise it was our Hope. Two female officials from her orphanage had arrived with her. They had all taken a 4 hour ride to our hotel. Hope went straight into my arms and NO CRYING. She had beet red cheeks and was dressed like the "Michelen Man." She was dressed in three layers of clothing with the traditional Chinese outfit as the outerwear. She went right into Owen's arms with NO CRYING. Faith was playing with her instantly. The caregivers provided a large can of baby formula and powdered rice cereal. This was her usual food intake. We didn't pack any formula thinking that at 14 months, she would be weaned from formula but that is not the case.

When the caregivers left, Hope didn't cry a peep. She has a cold which comes with a runny nose and chest congestion. She only cries when we try to suck the mucous out. She warmed up to her big sister Faith immediately. In fact, Faith was the first to make her smile. We're noticing that Hope has a very mellow temperament. We're not sure if this is because she's sick or that she really is a mellow kid.

We immediately bathed her and we can see some of the old scars from bad diaper rash. Her nails were all so long and filled with dirt. She has 8 teeths already, 4 upper and 4 lower.
One challenge we see is her development. At 14 months, she is unable to crawl and not even used to "tummy time." She's like a little panda bear. Our very own panda bear.

The same day, we had to go to three official places. First to the Chinese Child Adoption Affairs Dept. We took our first family picture, given a very short interview and signed documents. In the waiting area, we met a couple from San Ramon who were also adopting from the same orphanage as us. The husband was a Oakland High graduate like me. Small world.
Second place was the police dept. Third place was some other local gov't dept. All in all, Hope just went with the flow with no crying. Afterwards, we went to Walmart, Supercenter. Yes, Walmart in Nanchang. We had to buy a bottle because Hope was not used to our Advent sippy types of bottles. She didn't like the Gerber stuff either.

As for my mom, Po Po Annie, she is not feeling well at all. She either ate something bad and has food poisoning or she's got the stomach flu. She's been vomiting and has been in bed. It's been difficult caring for a baby and an elderly mom.

So today, Tuesday, I (Grace) have not left the hotel room. Only Owen and Faith have gone window shopping and swimming at the hotel pool. With Hope still very congested and my mom still sick, someone's got to stay behind. We are absolutely estatic that we have Hope and it's been love at first sight.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

One More Day

Yesterday, all of us (eight families) went sightseeing. Our guide says it is also "jetlag recovery" time. To keep us awake and active was the purpose of the day. We traveled to the Summer Palace of the Emperor and walked around the grounds. It was there that I was abruptly reminded that we were in China. What happened? I had to go the restroom!!

Women just cut in front of you and literally stand 1 inch in front of the door. If you were courteous, you would never pee! When you fight your way into a stall, you discover that someone had stolen the toilet. Hee! Well, not stolen. You just get the "squat urinals." When I took Faith the 2nd time, she almost fell in. The next time you go, be grateful for that "lovely" seat called the toilet.

Next, we went to the Great Wall. We managed to climb up the stairs, all the way to a tower. I was hurting, especially my gluteous maximus. You think with over 5000 years of history, China would have built an escalator or even an elevator by now.

Today, we will meet some friends here in Beijing. We fly to Jiangxi Province tonight.

Tomorrow, we meet HOPE! Words can not express all the feelings we have. I'm shaking inside. Still jetlag, we all keep waking up around 4am. Just one more day!

Friday, March 27, 2009

We're Here in Beijng, China

Woo Hoo! or maybe it should be Woo Hau!
We're here. We can't believe it. We got to SF airport at around 8am, boarded at 10:30am and arrived at 2:30pm Friday.
Boy, United Airlines has really cut amenities. There was only one meal and two other snack meals. Good thing Owen worked his "people skills" and sucked up to the flight attendants. We were able to get a few more food items. In fact, Owen started helping them and serving people in the back. He really does have the "gift of helps." There were no kids crayon kit, no "wing" pin, no nothing.

But the last 20 minutes of the flight, the pilot was descending so quickly and there was turbulence that I(Grace) became so "plane sick." I was very close to using that "barth" bag.

Faith did not sleep at all on the flight. It was Hannah Montana, Cody in the House and The Suite Life of Zach & Cody's fault. She had her own phone set and channel controls and the rest is history. I slept most of the time. You think I may have been just a little tired from my women's retreat this last weekend.

We're staying at the Best Western Premier in Beijing. We were on our own for dinner. So we ventured out and just took a risk. We had steamed fish with it's head still on, of course, wouldn't have it any other way. Sauteed wood ear fungus with Chinese yam and celery. Stewed dark chicken soup with gojiberry and red dates and pepper beef on a sizzling platter. No big "D" so that's good.

But I am having "traffic in the Jersey Turnpike," you know "General can't deploy the troops." Choo Choo train can't leave the station. Can't drop the kids off at the pool. Yeah, you get the idea.

We're all slightly jetlagged. Woke up at 10pm, 12am, 2am and 4am. But we're just grateful to be safe and here in Beijing. A culmination of over 3.5 years of waiting and we are finally here. We feel incredibly blessed and thankful we are on this journey with all of you.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

One more day

One more day and it's off to a province we've never been to. I (Grace) have been so overwhelmed. How on earth will I be able to pack for a 30 degree Beijing and than a warmer climate of 60 in Hong Kong. All under 44lbs in each suitcase.
Meanwhile, we haven't received our plane tickets yet, but it is coming.
Boy, do I feel the crunch. Thank goodness a friend is helping us with our taxes. Check that off the list. We heard that the air quality can get pretty bad. We'll find out soon enough.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Our "Lovely" Chinese Consulate Experience

When I say "lovely" I'm being quite sarcastic. Owen had a terrible day today. He drove all the way to SF to the Chinese Consolate, right before it opened. There were 100 people ahead of him already.

The first time around, they required more information. They wanted to know exactly when my mother and our daughter had traveled in China. They had just renewed their passports so previous travels weren't there. To look up this information required a 2nd line in another part of the building.

The 3rd time in line, they wanted to know exactly why Owen who checked "pastor" as his occupation, was going to China. They required that he have a letter written from our church verifying his employment and that he was going as a tourist.

Poor Owen drives all the way back to San Jose to our church. Get the letter. And drives all the way back to SF to the Chinese Consulate again.

But wait there's more....it ain't over yet!
Now, it's the 4th time he's in line. And they are still not satisfied. In fact, they ask him to step aside to another line for an interview.

In this 5th line, they required a interview and ask him again, why is he going to China? They thought he was traveling alone. That's because in the 3rd line (you are tracking with me, right) they took our (Grace, Faith and Po Po's) applications already. He had to tell them about our adoption and the time frame. Praise, there was a merciful clerk and they let him through this time. If Jack Bauer can survive a Chinese prison, Owen can survive the Chinese Consulate.

Thank you everyone for paying. Keep paying please. We're not even in China yet and it's a "lovely" battle already. But we continue to persevere. As Dad is our witness, we will get Hope.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Another Item Completed, Still More to Do

We are excited that our second finger prints have been approved. PTL!!! Now, we need to confirm that these documents gets cabled to China ASAP. Some of these documents aids in getting a visa for Hope to enter into the USA. We feel like it's been non-stop jumping through logistical hoops these past few weeks. But, Dad is GOOD and we'll have everything going according to His plans.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Travel Date Pending

A minor set back today. Our agency just called and said that they can't approval our travel date until USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) has cleared our finger prints for the second time. We are a bit confused because they say we are traveling on March 26th and now we might not be. Please pry this situation.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Travel Date Approved for March 26th.

This past Friday we got an email telling us that our travel date will be March 26th. Now the count down begins before we leave for this long awaited trip to China. There is so much to do before we leave: China visas to process, documents to update for our travel, get Faith's independent study materials and have Grace attend/serve at Westgate's Girlfriend's Getaway women's retreat. This is a big event and I am excited that she gets to be directly involved in this exciting women's retreat.
My goal is to start on the visas for China and to get our IRS taxes ready for filing (April 15 is just around the corner). If I am able to get these two things done this week, I will feel very accomplished.