Sunday, April 26, 2009

Community Life

On behalf of our Lee family, we thank you all for being there for us. It was scary at times and really hard to sustain optimism throughout the years. Doubts of "can we really do this?" But what has stuck with us is your compassion for our family.

You know how they say it takes a "village." Well, in our case it takes a community. A community of family, friends, church members, neighbors and school folks.

Who are we? We're just a couple working for a church. We don't have a whole lot of money. But today, we sure feel like we won the lottery.

To those who have sacrificed financially to help us, we are indebted to you.

To everyone who have lent us baby stuff or got us clothes and gifts, we are very grateful.

And to all, thank you for cheering us on. Affirmation goes a long ways like in a race with spectators rooting you on.

As we try to get back to the routine of things, we look forward to having Hope meet you.

Besides, don't we all need a little grace, faith and hope in our lives?

Home Sweet Home

Can't believe that our last posting was about our "Hotel From Hell." Gotta give our readers a sense of redemption.
(I did add more pictures to some of the posts)

Hallelujah! WE ARE HOME!!!! Flew back right before tax day, we get a refund, yeah!!!Still trying to get our rhythm back and for me (Grace) trying to get well. I still have this nagging cough and my voice is raspy like Rod Stewart.

Top 10 Reasons-"Happy To Be Home"
10. Blue Skies as opposed to "pollution-gray" skies
9. Clean, safe drinking water from the tap (Thank you San Jose Water Co.)
8. Toilets with seats and TP, minus the stench
7. Sleeping in our own comfortable beds
6. Driving a car and not have to cram into subways with 100's of people.
5. Coming back to a 9.25% sales tax in Calif. NOT
4. Not have to wear a fanny pack (no offense to those who love them)
3. NO SMOKING areas REALLY mean no smoking
2. NO COCKROACHES looking at us and waiting to reincarnate to the next life

Looking at the very first picture we received of Hope. She was an orphan girl in Jiangxi, China waiting for us to come get her.

Today, Hope Tirzah Jong-Ching Lee is our very own, deeply loved and fully accepted.

She loves to suck her toes.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Agonizing Last Leg of Our Trip

After a delicious and abundant buffet breakfast at the Novotel- Citygate Hotel, we were ready to see my relatives on the Hong Kong side. We managed to squeeze into one taxi, 3 adults, one child, one baby, a stroller and 6 pieces of luggage. And it wasn't a van taxi.
My cousin had called that morning and said that our accommodations had changed. Instead of staying at a place that my cousin owned, they had booked us "something else." So, we showed up at the King's Hotel in Wan Chai. When we arrived, we could bearly find the entrance. It was hidden in this back alley. Okay, this was the first sign of "BEWARE." The vestibule was black like you're entering into a lounge or night club. 2nd sign! The lobby was located on the 11th floor. When we asked for a baby bed, they had none. 3rd sign!! They had booked us, ONE room, with one queen and a twin. We have five people. You do the math. It was cramped, stuffy and overlooked a parking garage and businesses. When I say "overlooked", I mean they can totally "look over" into our room.
If Owen can see the two Lamborghini in the lot across from us, it's just too close to home. We could hardly fit all our luggage in.

The bathroom was the same size as an airplane's. And oops, forgot one major gigantic sign- COCKROACHES!Yes that is correct. These signs pretty much says, "Hotel from Hill." It's H-E- Double Hockey sticks! (Sorry photos unavailable, cockroaches move too fast)

We tried to opt out of these "accommodations." But my cousins via a friend, had paid in full. We tried to change our flight to leave early, it would cost us $350/person in US dollars to change our United Flights. Yes indeed, we are in "purgatory." If there were levels, this would be level 10.
My dear optimistic husband is trying to bring out the positive side in all this. I haven't been able to see it yet. He says, "at least we're still alive." Yes, but barely. I've been having coughing spasms. They're so bad that I haven't slept for 3 days now. The coughing is so bad that my back and chest muscles hurt or I have "kegel" problems.
That pretty much sums it up! You do not know how much I want to come home. Monday morning needs to come sooner. Please PRY 4 us!!!

From Guangzhou to Hong Kong

I haven't been able to blog because I've been sick. It's been aweful. So, I'll just back up a little bit and start from Wednesday events.

Wednesday at 10am, we picked up the approved visa allowing Hope to leave China and her legal documents in this special, "Do Not Open" envelope better known in the adoption world as the "brown envelope."

At 3pm, a bus load of us headed off to the Chinese Consulate of Guangzhou. Once there, we were put in a big room with at least 50 or more families waiting to be sworn in. Between the exhaustion and finality of it all, I teared up. We were not allowed to bring cameras, so that moment was not captured on tape. How unfortunate.

For the next 3 hours, we traveled to Hong Kong by bus. Now, leaving Mainland China was tedious. You get out of your bus and you go through the Chinese border patrol. A porter takes your luggage and runs them through a scanner. Did I mention that I was stopped once at another security check at the Beijing airport because I had diaper cream in my carry-on. The guard had to smell it and everything.
Back to crossing the border- after the Chinese border. You get back on the bus and go half mile. Then you do it all over again. You get off the bus, no porter this time. You walk your luggage (all six suitcases and baby in a stroller) through and you get checked by the Hong Kong custom's gate. Then you get back up on the bus and travel somemore.
We finally get to our hotel near the HK airport on Lantau Island. It was beautiful and luxious accommodations, but we were utterly wasted from the bus ride to even notice. This was the last night that we'll see our AWAA families. Everyone would go there own way back to their homes. I was sad to see them go, but again utterly too exhausted to exhibit any emotions. We got some quick dinner and went to bed. What we discovered is the "highway robbery" that occurs at most of the restaurants (excluding "dinky" little noodle places and fast food places)in China/HK. The minute you sit down, they will charge you $10/person for tea. Even though we didn't order tea, just hot water. So, that's $30 for hot water for 3 adults. Then, they give you this little dish of peanuts which you never asked for and apparently it will show up on your bill for $10. Faith is allergic to peanuts, why would we even want it. Appreciate Chevy's chips and salsa, at least it doesn't cost you $10 for it. And they include some kind of service charge on the bill as well. Even though it's HK dollars or yuan. It's still money.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

We Say Goodbye to our AWAA Families

This is our last night in GuangZhou. Tomorrow, we pick up the visa for Hope. We take a bus to Hong Kong. While many of the families will fly out from Hong Kong the next day, we'll stay another 3 to visit my relatives. I wonder what it's like to celebrate Easter in Hong Kong.
We are going to really miss our new found friends. Faith had made two friends on this trip: Jolie and Lily May. Both absolutely delightful girls.

As for Owen and I, we're hanging in there. Thank you for commenting and encouraging us along the way. We definitely need the prys. I definitely have a severe sore throat and feel achy. Owen is still taking it easy. Hope is still runny nose and coughing. And Faith has infection in both eyes. But we will survive. No one's voted us off the island yet.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Mao's Revenge

You've heard of Montezuma's Revenge. You get the runs cause something bad is in your system. Here in China, it's Mao's Revenge. And Owen's had it for 2 days. Sunday night, Owen started feeling bad and that entire night and next day, he was running to the bathroom.

I (Grace) was a little stressed out because Monday, we had the medical examination and we were all suppose to go together. Good news was, my Mom helped me and bad news was Owen was in the hotel room for the whole day. He hasn't eaten anything substantial yet, thank goodness for Trader Joe's "ak-mak" 100% whole wheat crackers. Turns out Hope has an ear infection and we were able to get better antibiotics.

I got an eye infection too. Thank Dad that we have an eye doctor with us and he happened to bring antibiotic drops. I had a fever and still have a severe sore throat. Man, talk about 2nd hand smoke damage. Be thankful that our states have SMOG checks.

We feel very weary and wish were home soon. But we need to wait for the Chinese Consulate to approve Hope's visa to leave the country.

But Hope is a still a really wonderful baby. As sick as she is, she hardly cries. She only cries when she's about to get into a vehicle. Understandable, most likely never been in a car. She cries when she doesn't get enough to eat. And she screams when she takes a bath. She cries like she's about to drown. All the cries only last about 30secs to 1 min. She smells less and less like an "anchovy." Yeah for us! She still looks like she is from Mongolia, those red cheeks. Otherwise, she's a pretty content kid.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

AWAA Families Together Again

Since we all arrived late Friday night, we didn't see any of our AWAA families. But Saturday morning at breakfast, we had our "family" reunion.
Oh what a joy it was to see everyone and their precious adoptive children. Although each of our families come from all over the United States, there was a natural connection between all of us. Not only have we been bonding with our new child but we've been bonding with each other. Why not, we're all sharing this incredible "life-changing" adoptive experience together, one that we'll never forget. And we share a common faith and that my friends is priceless. Everything else Master Card.

Saturday, we spent the morning at Yun Tai Gardens in Guangzhou. It was huge. The locale looked like "Fantasy Island" and the weather felt like "Gilligan's Island" in Vietnam. Welcome to humid Guangzhou! Owen just loves gardens, NOT!

Faith had a grand ol' time swimming with our new friends in the hotel pool. They make you purchase and wear these "funky" looking swim caps. They were colors and patterns from the 70's, something Mr. Roper would wear from "Threes Company." Can you tell I was a "latch-key" kid from the 70's?

Note: A "TT (Tolerate Toilets)" support group meeting will be held today. Location and time will be announced later. We will be working on our "eeby-jeeby" issues.

As for Po Po Annie, she's getting better. She's sick of being sick and was able to see a herbalist yesterday.

As for Hope, our poor little one, is still very congested and has a runny nose. She's amazing though and each day she grows more and more animated. It's like her "Emotional Quotient" is growing.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Nanchang to GuangZhou

What a day it was yesterday!
We are all feeling the "wear & tear" of traveling. We checked out of our hotel at 3pm to head over to the Nanchang Airport. Prior to that, we decided to go to McDonald's for lunch. Well, guess what? I (Grace) got the "Big D." This whole time I managed to avoid getting anything and the minute we decide on a "Western" meal, I get something.

At the Nanchang Airport, we had an adventure too. We arrived early to avoid traffic, it was "Ching Ming" festival, honoring the dead. We rested in a restaurant. Just when my "piping hot" bowl of wonton arrived, Hope had a full on "blow out" that went through several layers of clothing. After rinsing the "blow out" clothes, I sit down to eat my slightly "warm" bowl of wonton. Just before the noodles reach my mouth, Hope vomits on her newly changed clothes and thick jacket. Here we go again. We clean her off. And wrap her in Owen's light jacket. I finally get to my now "very cold" bowl of wontons. I wasn't even hungry anymore.

When it came to boarding we waited by Gate 6, because that's what was on our boarding pass. They decided to change it to another gate that was located downstairs. So, our "vomit-smelling" party of 5 (Exhausted Owen, Big D Grace, Whiny Faith, Throw-up Hope and Still-sick Po Po) pushed our way towards some illusive gate that we weren't sure of yet. Gate 8 had indicated "Guangzhou" so we all lined up there. But Oh No, not in China. Things are never what they seem. Because apparently we were all suppose to be at the next gate, Gate 9 that says "Szenchen." Do you know how hard it is to move with 200 other anxious Chinese people. We were suppose to depart at 8:10, we departed at 8:35pm.

We arrived at "Asia International Hotel" in Guangzhou by 10pm. We were sweating to death. Guangzhou is humid and hot. We had to shed our winter cold Beijing apparel. We noticed a "melting pot" of people everywhere, from Muslims to Indian-Hindus. We're on the 34th floor and it goes up to 45 floors. There's no view, only pollution. This week we get Hope's visa, so she can leave the country. Yesterday, we received her official China passport. Please pring for no more "blow outs" nor "vomit outs." I'm so tired of washing. Owen's gotten a blister from wringing all the clothes.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Visit to Hope's Orphanage

Yesterday, Thursday @ 8am, we headed off to Shang Rao Child Welfare Center. Since Hope was so sick the night before, she was very weak and we were exhausted. She was hot and had a runny nose and severe congestion. We weren't sure whether we should go. There just seemed to be this unseen force of opposition.

We rode in a chartered van for 4 hours, from Nanchang to Shang Rao. We stopped for a restroom break. Again, had to pee in a trench and was terrified that Faith would fall in. The smells, let's just say our portapotties back home smell like Glade airfreshners in comparison.

We arrived around 12pm, the Director met us at the toll entrance of Shang Rao City. She brought us to a restaurant and we had a meal with a few of the assisstants from the orphanage. The Director was a very competent and fiesty individual. Her cell phone was constantly ringing. Busy women.

The orphanage was located off a small windy road off the lake in Shang Rao. The building itself used to be a small hotel. We were only allowed to take pictures of empty rooms, but not of any of the children. But, when we got to the hallways, we only saw 3 children. One albino elementary aged girl, one 9 year old mute boy and a toddler. All the babies were in their rooms. They were all swaddled so tightly with THICK blankets. It's impossible for kicking and stretching. Literally, the facilities looked like an abandoned hotel, with decrepit bathrooms and severely soiled carpet. I didn't lose it there and kept my composure but I wanted to burst into tears.

The Director began to share with us the background of the orphanage. They are building a new facility. There are only 60 infants in the place that we were at. 200 others are farmed out to foster families. The 60 in-house were usually special needs or in poor health. Hope was one of those who had a foster family. There were workers around, but we only saw some watching TV. Some of the infants we saw were in incubators. They were so tiny and stoic.

We told her that Hope was not feeling well. She immediately made a call and this young doctor shows up and takes her temperature and listens to her chest. He gave us some amoxicillan medication, decongestion meds and cough suppressant, all in crystallized form in small packages.

Although we were thankful for the help and visit, we could not wait to return back to our hotel.
It was over, we saw and now we know where our baby Hope comes from. Sobering experience, one that I as a mother will never forget.

Rough Nights

Remember how we had a big decision to make, which was whether to visit Hope's Orphanage or not. With friends back home encouraging us to "go for it," we decided to go on Thursday. But the night before, Hope was very sick. Around 1:00am, she vomited several times. I'm (Grace) a very light sleeper. I can hear a cricket on a leaf hundreds of feet away. So, I jumped out of bed and helped her immediately. I had to hand wash several outfits and our hotel room became a laundromat.

One funny thing about Hope, we noticed that she always smells like fish. Yes, that's correct. Stinky, fermented fish. Now, I love eating fish, but not the smell of fish and certainly not on my own child. We could not figure out why she smells like fish. We would wash her and wash her, to no avail. Owen's nickname for her is "fish head" or "yiu toh" in mandarin. It's like people who eat garlic or curry, you can smell it off their skin.
Then, Owen went to the store to buy more baby stuff. He went to the rice cereal aisle and read a package with English ingredients. Did you know that in China, there's fish flavored rice cereal? The orphanage workers dropped Hope off with a opened can of formula and a opened bag of rice cereal. Our conclusion, this particular rice cereal is fish flavored. We definitely need another flavor, cuddling with a "fish flavored" baby is not easy on the olfactory system.