Day 5? 6? 7? – We’ve Lost Track

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As much as any place, Guangzhou feels like home to us in China. We’ve stayed here, in three different hotels, a total of about four weeks over the past three adoption trips. Guangzhou feels very welcoming. Trish and I both feel drawn to it more than anywhere else in China. I wish I had a week to just get out with shoes and a subway pass to explore the city randomly.

It’s a very cosmopolitan city. Lots of Westerners live here, and lots of immigrants from Africa and other countries live here as well. It’s far enough away from Beijing that it’s isolated from the politics of China. (Think Texas compared to D.C.) People here seem to have a bit more freedom, although it’s still very much communist China, one-child policy and all.

The city is huge, and if I could get to Wikipedia, I could tell you how huge. (But, you can’t get to everything on the internet in China.) Everywhere direction you look though, dozens of tall buildings dot the landscape, most seemingly apartments.

Guangzhou is tropical, and very lush, and it’s the middle of the rainy season here. It’s been quite a nice change from the sweltering heat of Hefei in Anhui province. But it’s supposed to get hotter over the next few days.

Thankfully, Guangzhou is also honk-free! Whoever runs the city has outlawed honking. Seriously, I know it’s not uncommon in countries other than the U.S., or New York, but Chinese drivers honk for everything. You might as well build a horn button into the driver’s seat. Traffic seems a little more orderly here than some cities in China.

Guangzhou’s also probably China’s greatest commercial city. You can buy almost anything made in China here in the city. Every October, Guangzhou hosts the world’s largest import-export convention and businessmen from all over the world flock here. It has a long history as a commercial city and all the Western trading powers and companies established outposts here in former Canton as early as 125 years ago.

For us, it’s also the central clearing point for every U.S. family adopting from China. The U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou processes all the immigration paperwork for Chinese children adopted by U.S. citizens. Every family must meet personally with Consulate officials, swear an oath to raise the child (beats me what I’m swearing to), and wait a day or two for final immigration paperwork. Without this, you cannot bring your Chinese child into the U.S. legally.

So, in every major Western hotel in Guangzhou, you’ll find at least a dozen or more adoptive families from all over the U.S. It’s always fun to talk with them, compare backgrounds in the U.S. and their experiences all over China. Every family usually compares how well the bonding process is proceeding. You’ll hear some interesting stories, such as one family adopting an 11 year old girl whose foster mother apparently told her she’d get to come back in a couple weeks after her visit to the U.S.

As reasonably intrepid travelers, Tricia and I enjoy meeting other people as much as anything. I’m lucky (as an introvert) to have my extrovert wife Tricia who’ll strike up a conversation with almost anybody. Without the kids, we probably would have had dinner last night with a group of Fed Ex pilots all speaking Tricia’s former lingo.

We’re enjoying and surviving the trip. It’s Sunday morning in Guangzhou, so we really only have a few more days here. We’ll catch the train to Hong Kong late Thursday afternoon, stay overnight, and fly out to San Francisco around midday Friday. Everybody misses home sweet home after 11 days of travel in three different cities.

Day 3 (and 4) – Introducing Olivia Jade!

After a good night’s sleep in Hefei, the capital of Anhui province where Olivia was born, we went to the civil affairs office. Trish and I waited with butterflies in our stomachs for Olivia’s arrival. An eternity later, she walked thru the doorway in the arms of the orphanage nanny, and burst into tears. But, Tricia has the best smile on her face holding our sweet little Olivia for the first time.

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We banished the nanny that brought Olivia to us from the room as quickly as possible (with the help of our wonderful guide Ting Ting). Without that distraction, she settled down a little with the devoted but somewhat smothering attention of Julia and Rion.

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Once we left the commotion of the civil affairs office, Olivia calmed down quite a bit. She lay contented in the arms of her new mother, who looked great for just “birthing” a new child.

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She giggled for the first time at lunch when she poked at Rion’s eye with her chopsticks. (As I’m writing here Tuesday late afternoon, the three kids are running around our hotel room shrieking and laughing.) We can already tell Olivia won’t have any problem holding her own against Rion and Julia.

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Finally, after one of the most traumatic mornings of her young life, Olivia fell fast asleep at nap time.

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After dinner at Pizza Hut, Tricia gave the girls a bath together. Julia loved brushing Olivia’s beautiful long hair afterwards. Olivia played with mom’s sunglasses, and she looked too cool for school already.

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For the most part, Olivia’s been scared of me because she just hasn’t had many men in her life yet. At first, when I tried to approach her, she started crying and shied away. But, she didn’t seem to mind if I gently touched her arm or her back while Tricia held her. She’s very observant though, and she’s watched me interact with Julia and Rion. This morning, at the civil affairs office again to finalize paperwork, Rion fell and bonked himself hard. Tricia set Olivia down to comfort Rion, I held out my arms a few feet away, and without much hesitation she walked over and climbed up on my lap. This afternoon, we finally had some hands free to snap a picture.

 

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Overall, we’re so pleased with how quickly Olivia has adjusted. In many ways, she’s adjusting faster than Julia did four years ago. She loves Tricia’s doting, and the comfort of either of our arms. She loves playing with Julia and Rion, and she has a great little chortling laugh. We’re just so incredibly happy that we get the privilege of being this darling little girls’s parents forever.

Day One – Beijing

imageDespite the flight and a lack of sleep yesterday, we went on a very full day tour of Bejing.  We went to the Great Wall at Mutianyu.  (There are about five or six different places you can go to the Great Wall around Beijing.  Mutianyu was spectacular.  We rode a cable car to the highest section, and then did some up and down climbing.  It’s just staggering to think of the manpower involved in building the wall during the end of the Ming Dynasty in 1404.  We also enjoyed the drive through the lush green countryside.

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Next, we stopped quickly at the jade factory for lunch (Chinese food of course).  After lunch we stopped at the silk factory.  We’ve never been there before.  It was really quite interesting to learn how they make silk bedding and silk thread from the cocoon of the silk moth.  The kids enjoyed it, and the parents did too.

After that, we took a short rickshaw tour of the old hutong neighborhood pictured below.image

In the hutongs, the Chinese lived in rooms surrounding a central courtyard.  They’re very old Beijing neighborhoods, and more and more of them are being destroyed for newer construction.

For dinner we had Mongolian hot pot (think fondue Chinese style), a very traditional Beijing dish.  Julia wasn’t a big fan, but the rest of us enjoyed it.  Then we visited the night food market, where you can buy almost anything on a stick from fruit to more exotic fare like tiny ducklings (head and all), frogs, and many other “yucky” items, as the kids said.   After twelve hours of touring, our excellent guide Stephanie put a very exhausted Rhodes family in the car for our hotel where we crashed.

Health Care in China

We are not getting sick in China.  Thankfully, Tricia’s been three times and I’ve been twice now.  Neither of us have really had any health issues in China, and our digestive systems have handled somewhat adventurous eating fine.  So, knock on wood.

We know a couple (through the magic of Al Gore’s internet) that’s adopting a Chinese girl about Olivia Jade’s age that also lived at the House of Love with Olivia.  They’re arrived home from China just recently, and she’s been recounting their China adoption trip on her blog.  While there, she had a health issue that required a hospital visit in Nanning, China, a city of more than 6 million people.  Here’s her story about her hospital visit.  It was quite a bit different from a U.S. hospital.  But, it seems the prescribed treatment cured the problem.  And, the price was right–$80 for the hospital, the doctor and several medications.

Fundraising Update

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I bet you’re all wondering how our fundraising efforts are progressing. So far, we’ve raised $8,615 towards Olivia’s adoption. Thank you to all our generous friends, family and others who’ve purchased Amazon items through our link, purchased t-shirts, or just donated. We only have about one more month to raise funds because we’re expecting to travel to China in very early July.  Plus, I’ve been “fundraising” at work too.  One of my good clients sent me several projects during May, and I’ve been putting in more billable hours, a lawyer’s best friend, as a result.  So, that’s why we haven’t written as many blog posts in the last few weeks.

You can help us adopt Olivia by

1)   Purchasing items from Amazon through our link:  http://amzn.to/15Wgc7y

2)   Purchasing our t-shirt on this page:  http://bringinghomeoliviajade.com/tees/

3)  Donating a tax-deductible amount through our Adopt Together link:  https://www.adopttogether.org/00230/

Thanks for your help in bringing little Olivia Jade home!

You’re Gonna Miss This

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This was the scene at the foot of our bed this morning when I left at 6 am.  Then, I heard this song on the radio driving to the office.  It’s all worthwhile.

Immigration Approval for Olivia? Check.

hannah 03 12.jpgThings are moving quickly now!  Remember, we just got our official referral from China on April 22.  Friday, we got our official US immigration approval to bring Olivia home.   Now, we’re just waiting for travel approval from the Chinese government, our U.S. consulate appointment, and our visas.  We could travel as soon as 8 weeks from now at the beginning of July!  Yikes.

We are all so excited about traveling to China and meeting Olivia for the first time.  The closer we get, the more I remember going to China to adopt Julia and Rion.  We’re just full of so much nervous anticipation.  We just have no idea how Olivia will react to suddenly being thrust in the arms of two big white people and their two Chinese kids that speak a funny language.  She’s a few months older than two, so she has quite a bit of awareness.

With Julia, she was a little teary and fearful during the first 36 hours.  But, after that she quickly warmed up and started showing us a little more of her fun, silly personality each day.  She’d lived in a foster home for quite awhile, so she understood living as part of a family.  With Rion, we had a much rougher time.  Or, he did.  He lived with a foster family for almost 3 years.  With Olivia, we just don’t know.  Every kid is different.  We hope and fray that we can ease her fears quickly and welcome her to our family with a whole lotta love.

 

 

Overjoyed! We Have Our Official Referral!

032-Yang Yu Zhen2At long last, we received our official referral from the Chinese government Monday formally approving our adoption of Olivia!  We were so excited.  Tricia called me at work mid-morning right after she got a call from Great Wall.  We could hardly contain ourselves knowing we’re getting closer to being Olivia’s parents.  At this point, the waiting is harder the closer we get to our departure date.

For those unfamiliar with the Chinese adoption system, this is really the last big hurdle.  It’s somewhat downhill from here, although it still takes a bit of time.  We need U.S. immigration approval to adopt Olivia specifically.  (We have general U.S. immigration approval to adopt internationally.)  Then, we need approval to travel from the Chinese government.  Finally, we need an appointment with the U.S. consulate in Guangzhou.  Then, we can purchase our plane tickets, get our visas, and we’re off to China!

We’ve been doing things around the house to get ready.  Trish put her engineering degree to good use and assembled the bunk bed we bought for her and Julia to share.  Tricia’s found a third car seat.  We’ve been spending a couple evenings a week learning Mandarin with Rosetta Stone.  (“Zhe ge nu hai zi you yige jiating” which means “This girl has a family.”)  We’ve got a long way to go though.  Mandarin is a tough language.

Honestly, we get more and more anxious as we get closer.  Olivia’s living situation right now is as good as it gets for an orphan.  But, she doesn’t have a family.  The four of us just want to hug her, hold her close and show her how much we all love her.  We can’t wait to make her part of our family!

Olivia’s Safe and Sound Away from the Earthquake

For those who noticed among the Boston news yesterday, there was a 7.0 earthquake in the Sichuan province of China yesterday, as reported in the New York Times.  The earthquake, in the same area as the 2008 quake, was devastating with early reports of 157 dead and 5700 injured.  Olivia’s safe and sound, however, a good distance away from Sichuan.  Olivia currently lives in Guilin, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.  It’s a good 800 miles from the earthquake-affected region.  We’ll write more about the city of Guilin later, which is one of the prettiest cities in China.Pagodas in Guilin

The Hardest Decision

JuliaJulia asked me to read her a story Saturday afternoon.  She picked The Prince of Egypt, which is based on the Disney movie about the life of Moses.  We sat down on the couch and started to read.  I got to the beginning of the second page, “Yocheved (Moses’ mother) made the hardest decision of all:  to save her child, she must send him away.”  BAM, just like that the truth of it hit me HARD.  I fought back the tears that were welling in my eyes, and it was several minutes before I could go on.

One consequence of adopting from China is that you usually don’t get any information about your child except where someone found them—police station, hospital, community park, or other public visible place.  Sometimes there’s a note with the exact birth date, but often Chinese officials just guess and assign a date.  With Julia, however, we know a little more.  Her mother gave birth to her in this subway station in Guangzhou, China.  DSC_0481She was taken to a nearby hospital so they could cut the umbilical cord.  When doctors cut the cord, she ran.

Our guide on Julia’s adoption trip speculated that Julia’s birth mother was probably a young single woman.  Under Chinese population control laws, she was not permitted to have a child.  If she did, the child wouldn’t have access to the government health care or public schooling.  Simon, our guide, also speculated that Julia’s birth mother gave birth in a public place just so that Julia would be found.

Yocheved, Moses’ mother, knew that the Egyptians would kill Moses if they discovered him.  Pharoah had decreed that all Hebrew baby boys should be killed because he feared an uprising from their growing numbers.  So, she set him adrift on the Nile River where he was adopted into Pharoah’s household.

From our perspective, it’s hard to accept a mother’s abandonment of her child.  But, Chinese society is far different.  So, as Julia grows up and wrestles with her abandonment by her birth mother, we’ll try to help her understand.  Her birth mother probably made this most difficult choice:  to save her child, she ran away.  Julia will probably wrestle with this a lot as she grows up, and she’ll feel the loss deeply.  But, I know we’ll be there to listen and seek to understand what she feels.

Xinran’s book, Message from an Unknown Chinese Mother:  Stories of Loss and Love describes the difficult choices made by many mothers.  Xinran, a former radio personality in Nanjing, China, interviewed midwives, students, businesswomen, peasants and adoption workers about relinquishing their daughters.  They talk about the combination of feudal traditions, government policy and abject poverty that causes women to relinquish their daughters.  It’s a heartbreaking read, but if you want to learn the real circumstances behind the stories of these mothers, I highly recommend it.  Written to the “lost daughters,” Xinran tells the story of how much their mothers loved them and how, as one put it, “they paid for that love with an endless stream of bitter tears.”  Ultimately, we hope Julia realizes how much her mother must have loved her, and how much she cared.