Monday, November 23, 2009

Journey to Kai – Day 04 (Travel to Zhengzhou)

Well, it was another night I was staying up until 11PM working on writing my blog posts and another night of night sweats because the room was insanely hot. 

Some of the other families told us there was a thermostat control in the console between the beds and I cranked it as low as it would go (15 degrees Celsius) and after a few hours it seemed a bit cooler than it had been previously.  It wasn’t anywhere near 15 degrees Celsius but thought it would be better.

Well, I was still waking up every couple hours.

Well, today we were flying out to Zhengzhou which is the provincial capital of Henan. Henan is where Kai was born and where the orphanage that is responsible for him is located.  So, all the families adopting Henan children need to be in that city.

We were needing to have our bags outside our room at 7:20AM and then down at the lobby by 7:50AM so that we could get on the bus taking us to the Beijing Airport.

  Based on these times, we decided that we needed to get up at 6AM so that we could get some breakfast.

With the frequent waking up and tossing and turning, it wasn’t that hard to get up at 6AM.  We got dressed and headed down to the 2nd floor where the breakfast buffet was located.

It was odd seeing the hotel at that time of the morning.  All the lights were off except those in the restaurant.  Once again the buffet had sometime new on the line.  Today it was pancakes and it just so happened Nancy was craving pancakes today.  We both had our usual 4-5 glasses of Orange Juice.

There was a lot more talk amongst the families today than previous mornings.  I guess being trapped on the bus together for all those hours yesterday has allowed us to bond a bit more.

After finishing our breakfast,  Nancy and I went back to the room to put our bags outside so they could be picked up by the bellperson.

Nancy pretty much had the bags packed and ready to go, but we had time to make some last minute shuffling.  So, we once again re-weighed everything and had some wiggle room.  So, I was able to displace the clothes from my backback to the luggage and get my snowboarding jacket in a checked bag so I didn’t have to lug it through the airport.

We got our bags out with plenty of time and then I finished getting all the electronics into my backpack. Once the bellperson had gotten our checked bags loaded up, we headed down to the lobby to meet the group.

We were one of the first families down to the lobby and it didn’t take long before more had joined us.  It was good to see that we weren’t the only ones with not only two rolling bags but also backpacks.  I was worried that domestic travel in China might not allow for two carry-on bags.

Nancy gave Sindy our red envelope with her tip. We decided we were going to follow the advice given to Nancy online that a customary tip was between US$4-5 per person per day and then increase based on any exceptional work on the guide’s part.  So, for us that was US$10 per day for a total of $30 which roughly came out to ¥200.

Well as the crowd of families started to gather, I noticed that people were at the desk doing what appeared like checking out.  That was a novel concept to me because in all my traveling for business, I rarely ever had to check out of a hotel.  But, I was hearing that we had to do this even if we didn’t have any expenses.

So, I got myself in line.  As would have it, the language barrier did China_20091121_0710_Day04have a knack of slowing down the line since, in some cases,  questions were needed to be asked about charges on the bill.

Before I could get to the front of the line, Sindy wanted to take a group photo with all of us with the bus driver.  So, I stepped out of line so I could be a part of the photo which took a tad longer than expected because the batteries in the camera died.  Fortunately, they weren’t the rechargeable kind and just needed some AA’s and someone had some extras.  We got our picture taken and I jumped back in line.

As luck would have it, since I didn’t have any expenses it just required that I sign something and be on with my life.

China_20091121_0713_Day04Nancy was already out on the bus and told me that our rolling carryon luggage was under the bus in the luggage hold.  It didn’t take long for everyone to pile onboard so we could be on our way.  It was a bit more cramped because we all had our backpacks on the  bus this time.

On our way to the airport, Sindy collected all our passports. This was so she could get us all checked in and get our boarding passes at the same time.

Nancy wanted me to dig out some money to tip the bus driver and wanted me to give him a nicer tip than suggested because this guy knew how to move that bus and get us where we needed to go.  So we gave him ¥100 (~US$14.80).China_20091121_0715_Day04

We were going out to Zhengzhou from a different airport terminal than we came into.  It seemed like it took a relatively quick time to get to the airport in comparison to how long it took to get into Beijing when we originally landed.

When we got to the airport, we all piled off and our luggage was brought out from under the bus.  It was then when Nancy gave him his tip and gave him a hearty thank you.  He didn’t speak much  English so we told him thank you in Mandarin.

We took our rolling bags and went into the airport terminal.  Inside, our checked luggage was waiting for us.

China_20091121_0718_Day04At this point the organized chaos began.  We were to take our checked luggage and line up at the “Group Checkin” counter.  Then, one-by-one one representative from each family will approach the counter with all the luggage and present a single boarding pass.  Then all the luggage would be checked against that one boarding pass.  Now, China has some pretty strict weight limits for checked bags, but it appears that they averaged the weight for the entire group.

Once everyone was checked in, we moved onto airport security.  At this point Sindy said goodbye to us.  There were a lot of hugs as we parted ways.

The line for security was non-existent, but their diligence was noteworthy.  I did like the fact that they didn’t require you to take off your shoes.  But for the convenience I lost all of it when they had to pass my backpack full of electronics through the XRay machine 4 times.  Each time they took more out of it.  By the time it went through the last time, all it’s contents had been removed by a security agent and put in a  large plastic bin after being carefully scrutinized.  I was very apologetic and so was the agent. After the 3rd time, he pointed to the XRay image and told me that they couldn’t see everything in the bag.China_20091121_0719_Day04

Once i was cleared then I had to pack everything back and hope I didn’t leave anything behind.  My backpack and a specific way to pack it or you have things jabbing you in the back and become quite unbalanced, so I had to quickly get it back to homeostasis.

Once I did that, I quickly shuffled out the security area where a very worried Nancy was standing.  She was starting to get concerned something had happened to me.

At this point it was about 5 minutes from when our plane was supposed to start boarding and sure enough, I had to go to the bathroom. But, we didn’t have time.

So we rushed our way to the gate and got in line to board.  I was  sure with China’s scrutiny of checked bags we’d get some guff for Nancy’s carry-on, but they didn’t even look twice at it.

China_20091121_0721_Day04We got on the plane and I wasn’t too concerned about overhead storage because it seemed like every unit was empty.  Well, until you got to the section of the plane occupied by us CCAI families.  Then they were stuffed.  But, we found two slots for our bags.

Oddly enough, it seemed like all families were separated from each other based on their boarding passes.  Nancy and I were on the same row but each had a window.  Other people were several rows apart.  Well, someone was nice enough to switch seats so that we could sit together.  There was actually quite a bit of musical chairs so family could sit together if they wanted to.China_20091121_0723_Day04

Shortly after that, we were on our way. I must say that the China  Southern airline had quite a detailed security video for us to watch.  I’ve never seen so much detail provided on how to disembark the plane in the event of a water landing.  Good thing we weren’t going over water.

I wasn’t sure how long the flight was so I didn’t feel like digging out my iPod.  Nancy decided to read her Dan Brown book.  The gentleman sitting in the aisle seat had an old USA Today from the previous Wednesday and he shared it with me.  Reading the newspaper pretty much took the  entire flight time.

China_20091121_0726_Day04One of the funny things observed on the plane was that they had a video about H1N1 on it with singing pigs in traditional Chinese clothing talking about the perils of “swine flu”.  I doubt anything like that would get past the pork lobbyists.

Also what was different was as soon as the plane landed people started getting up and pulling their luggage down from the overhead bins.  In fact, so many people did this that a flight attendant had to get up and start yelling at them to sit down (well I assume that’s  what he was saying but it was in Mandarin so I couldn’t know for sure).

The plane emptied quickly and there wasn’t a bathroom to be found until we got to baggage claim.

I let Nancy go in first and she was in there for awhile.  When she finally got out I took care of my business and we headed to our carousel to get our bags.

I asked her what took so long and she told me out of all the China_20091121_0728_Day04bathroom stalls, only one of them had a “western toilet”.  As one would expect, that had a line waiting for it from all of us western people invading this airport.

It didn’t take long for our bags to come out and we made our way out of the baggage claim area.

Another thing that was different was that there was only one way out of the baggage claim area and you had to show your baggage claim tickets to them to get out.  They took those claim tickets and compared them to the ones on the bags you had and tore off the ticket if it matched.

Once we were out, we met up with our CCAI guide who was waiting  on the other side.  It turned out we had 2 in this city.  That wasn’t a surprise considering what was going on here (the actual adoption).

After everyone was with us and Yisha (our CCAI Guide) was able to tick off every families name off her list, her assistant, Rita, showed us to the bus.  It was a nice little walk to where the bus was waiting for us.  By the way, have I mentioned my calves were ripping sore from yesterday’s hike up the Great Wall?

China_20091121_0732_Day04We handed our bags to the bus driver who loaded all of them onto  the bus.  Then we found seats inside.  This bus was much, much larger than the one we were used to being carted around in Beijing.  It was going to need to be bigger since the next day every family was going to have 1 more member.

We were told that it was going to be a 45 minute ride to our hotel and along the way we were given lanyards with our names in Mandarin along with our child’s name in Mandarin.  Also we were given an itinerary for the time we were here. On this itinerary was an itemization of each fee we needed to pay in RMB (Chinese Currency) so that we could figure out how many US$ to convert. Apparently banks are open on Sunday and we were going there later to get this money.  I guess having 13 families come to the desk to convert that much US$ would cause them issue.

China_20091121_0733_Day04 Yisha informed us that Josh and Lily, the founders of CCAI, were going to be in Zhengzhou at the Registration Office the next day when we meet our children.  That was exciting news to hear.  They are such wonderful people and for those of us who don’t live near Denver it will be nice to finally meet them.

Yisha went over the itinerary in great detail and was very informative.  For me, this made me feel a lot better, but it didn’t help quell Nancy’s sense of being overwhelmed.

It was funny, but one of the wives of a family we’ve been clicking with told Nancy on the ride to the airport this morning that she had woke up the previous night with a fear that Nancy had never changed a diaper before and asked her that.  Nancy assured her that she had because it’s part of her responsibilities as a nurse in an ER.  Now, me on the other hand,  that is a different story.  I’ve hardly ever held a baby before.

Zhengzhou was a totally different city than Beijing and it was quite apparent on our drive into town.  Also, our driver was no where near as aggressive as the one in Beijing.  You could see a lot of development here too.

When we got to the hotel, we were told to just go into the lobby.  The plan was to provide one single tip for the bus driver and the bell persons since we were going to need to use them alot and it would be simpler if we just tipped them once.  We would discuss the tip at the bank when we were converting our US$.

As we mingled in the lobby, Yisha went and got all our room keys.  She called out the names and handed out the keys.  We were excited when we found out we were only a couple doors down with the couple who was really close in age with us (plus they love Disney).  We’ve been hanging out  with them a lot on this trip.

Now, things changed when we got into the room.  As soon as you opened the door a huge wall of heat hit you in the face.  Now mind China_20091122_0736_Day04you, it was probably only 58 degrees outside.  You only needed your  fleece pullover to feel comfortable.

We turned on the A/C and put it on full blast and I kept the door open for awhile.  Also, we were getting afternoon sun exposure so I closed the blinds and curtains.

After awhile, Nancy decided she needed the door closed and as soon as she did, I could’ve sworn the temperature spiked.

I went outside and Jason, the husband in the other family was out there.  He told me he spoke to someone from housekeeping and they told him that A/C and Heat were both heat.  So we had been really heating up the room when we meant to cool it off.  We were told to just shot the unit off.

I don’t deal with heat well when I’m dressed for cold.  So I was getting very agitated very easy.  We were still waiting for our luggage to arrive.  The bell people were going room to  room asking people to pick their bags off the cart.  They knew how many bags were going to each room.

Eventually they got to us and all our bags where there. 

At this point, we had already fired up the computer and checked our e-mail.  When we saw that it was still at an hour on the west coast that someone might be up, we fired up Skype.  Unfortunately, noone was up.  I decided to try and see if I could actually text someone from my Google Voice account.  So, I looked up Nancy’s sister Julie’s mobile number and fired off a message to see if she got it.  Sure enough, a few moments later she was skyping us.  She was so, very excited to be talking to Nancy.  Nancy and her sister talk all the time and I’m sure they were going through DDTs to have gone so long without speaking.  In fact, Julie was the first person we were audibly speaking to since we left (we had e-mailed people but this was the first time speaking).

I was amazed that with Nancy’s pregnancy and the intense heat she was able to talk to Julie as long as she did.  I’d say it was a good 30 minutes.  Then Nancy’s mom who also lives on the west coast found out we were online and she wanted to talk.  So, Nancy hung up with Julie and called her mom.  It was another long talk in the heat.  I guess I was more cognizant because I wanted to get out of the heat.

Well, as all these conversations were going on, our room phone kept ringing.  Apparently, at the front desk they had our room number listed as being assigned to another family.  So, we kept getting phone calls for this family.

After the second time I informed them that I’d be seeing them in 45 minutes for a trip to the bank. I told them I’d pass on the message.  I was told it was kind of urgent.  By the time Nancy got off the phone this family member had called to more times and this time informed me why it was so urgent.  We immediately tried to track down their room.  Nancy was able to get the front desk to tell us where the family really was and we went to their room and delivered the message.  I know that if the role was reversed and someone was needing to speak to me from back home that I’d want someone to come find me.

We met up with Jason and Robin (the family down the hall) and then China_20091122_0739_Day04went to the lobby to meet up with everyone to go to the bank.  For some reason I thought the bank was right across the street but it wasn’t

We walked a few blocks then had to wait until a crossing officer told us we could go.  This is when things got weird.  You saw people from all sides of the street just pour into the street and go in all kinds of directions.  Not just crossing the street from one side to the other, but also diagonally across the entire intersection.  It was rather amazing how noone got injured.

China_20091122_0741_Day04When we got to the bank, we were told that in Zhengzhou you have to fill out a form to convert currency which you didn’t have to do in Beijing.  So, the plan was to fill out one form to cover all families.  In order to do this all of it had to be against one passport.  A member of the group volunteered their passport.  Then, Rita went around and asked how much each family was going to convert to RMB.  We were going to convert $1140.  We only needed $960 to handle the adoption expenses but Nancy wanted some spending cash for Wal-Mart….yes there is a wal-mart here.

Now we had to wait, and wait and wait and then wait some more. China_20091122_0742_Day04 The chairs in this bank were very uncomfortable.  In fact, it seemed like there was a medal rod running right under the seat like you were laying on a pull-out couch and how that rod always just hits you in the most uncomfortable spot.

Eventually we were told to have one member of each family line up with their cash.  Then you approached a window when your room number was called and hand the cash to a bank teller.  They analyzed each bill and then counted the money, then told you to get in a new line.

Once everyone had done this then we waited, waited, waited again and then waited some more.

China_20091122_0743_Day04Then they called us back again by room number. This time we were given a scrap of paper with the amount of RMB they were giving us and a stack of bills.  We walked with Rita to the side where they had a bill counter.  All the 100’s were counted then she showed us how the remaining portion of our total was derived with the bills they gave us.  Their money is not what you are used to in the US.  They gave me a coin with a 5 on it.  It isn’t a nickel but the equivalent of 50 pennies.  I had small bills with a 1 on them and they weren’t ¥1 but China_20091122_0744_Day04¥0.10.  Odd

After I had my money I went back to the seats where all the wives were chatting away.  It turns out everyone was going to go to Wal-Mart.  But, Nancy, me, Jason and Robin were going back to the hotel first. Apparently, some of the other families had figured out how to open the window and we were going to do that so we could vent some of that heat out and get some brisk Zhengzhou air into ours.

China_20091122_0746_Day04Since everyone had to walk in the direction to Wal-Mart to get back to the hotel we just stayed with the pack.  This is when we got to experience the diagonal crossing of the street.  Quite nerve racking.

When we got to the hotel (we are staying at the Crowne Plaza) we went in while everyone else continued on to Wal-Mart.  It was just China_20091122_0747_Day04another 2-3 blocks further.

It turned out that Rita was going back to the hotel too.  When we walked into the lobby she told us to wait.  She produced this huge bag full of panda plushies.  She told us that CCAI was giving each family a plushie and they had the CCAI logo embroidered on them.

We made our way to our room and it didn’t take long to find the one section of window that opens.  It only slides open about 3-4” but that was enough to get cold air into the room.

China_20091122_0748_Day04Next, we decided to split up our money and put them in envelopes labeled for what each expense was.

When we completed that, we went to Robin and Jason’s room to meet up with them to go to Wal-Mart.   It turns out that the people across the hallway were in our group as well but they didn’t start out in Beijing.  They came straight to Zhengzhou.  They asked to come with us to Wal-Mart and we welcomed the company.

Jason and Robin brought their stroller along with them because it would make it easier to bring bottled water back to the room.  I China_20091122_0749_Day04don’t know if I ever would’ve thought of that.  I guess that is one of those “outside the box” type things parents think of.

It was much less stressful walking the 2-3 blocks to Wal-Mart than it was to get anywhere in Beijing.

It wasn’t easy to miss Wal-Mart because it had a huge sign in front of it.

Apparently it had several stories and we went up the moving ramp to the floor for groceries.

It wasn’t easy to find anything.  Nothing about Wal-Mart looked like a Wal-Mart in the United States other than the uniforms of their employees and the use of the Wal-Mart logo.  It took time to find the water.  Some people picked up some snacks as well.

China_20091122_0750_Day04We wandered over to the baby goods and some pondering was done about diapers but it was ultimately decided that we should wait until we had our kids so we don’t accidentally get the wrong sizes.

When we walked up to the register Jason remembered he forgot to buy the belt he so desperately needed to keep his pants from falling down.  We all lost some weight in Beijing do to all the walking around.

So, I didn’t think it was smart to have him go off by himself I went along.  If we got separated, I would’ve wanted someone with me rather than find my way back by myself.

So we wandered around menswear looking for belts.  We easily China_20091122_0751_Day04found women’s belts but couldn’t find men’s belts.  I eventually spied them and they weren’t not in a very conspicuous location.  Next it was the chore of finding one that fits.  I calculated his size in centimeters but most of the belts didn’t even tell you a size.  So he was picking them up and wrapping them around to see if they fit.

China_20091122_0752_Day04We finally found one for him and made our way back to the checkout counter.  They had already checked out and were waiting on the other side.  I could see that Nancy was giving me a look that husbands don’t like to get and asked her what did I do.  It was at that point, I realized I left her without money.  Fortunately,one of the other families paid for the water and I owed them ¥11.  Fortunately, I had that in my wallet and paid them back.

Once Jason got checked out the more challenging task arose…how to find a way out.  Most if not all signage was in Mandarin.  We occasionally would find a sign, in English, with the Wal-Mart logo on it saying Exit with an arrow.  At some point those signs stopped.  Every time we thought we found a way down we dead ended in the store front of another store and we couldn’t traipse through their store to get out so we looked for an escalator or more signs telling us where to go.China_20091122_0758_Day04

Eventually we found our way out.  It did involve walking down two escalators that had been turned off with a stroller full of 3 cases of water.  Oh by the way, did I mention my calves were ripping sore from hiking the Great Wall yesterday?

The walk back to the hotel was a bit more interesting that the walk to Wal-Mart. Apparently, the sidewalks are used as roads as well.  So, not only did we need to make sure we didn’t get hit by a car when crossing the street, but you had to make sure you didn’t get hit by a car while walking on the sidewalk.

Also, the sidewalks were used as motorways for motorized bicycles and mopeds.

We eventually made our way back, and decided that we were going to try the Italian restaurant in the hotel.

We each went to our rooms and dropped off the water and met back in the hallway.  The restaurant was supposedly on the 2nd floor.

We went down to the second floor but couldn’t find it.  Robin spotted a couple doors with no signage on them and thought they China_20091122_0762_Day04might be a way into the restaurant.  She poked her head in but said it wasn’t.  All she saw was something about coffee.

So we went to the ground floor to ask someone when I saw a sign pointing up another set of stairs to the restaurant.

We went up the stairs.  By the way, did I mention my calves were ripping sore from climbing up the Great Wall of China yesterday?

It turned out that those doors Robin looked through would’ve gotten us to where we wanted to go.  She just couldn’t see the sign for Mama Mia from where she was looking because we could see those doors when we walked into Mama Mia.  She just couldn’t see it because the sign was perpendicular to her point of view.China_20091122_0766_Day04

The food was good at Mama Mia but the service was extremely slow.  It did allow us to talk alot but it did take away from potential blogging time.

We ate our food and the bill came.  It was ~¥276 for Nancy and I to get two pasta dishes, 2 sodas and a bottle of water.  That is approximately US$40.  Not bad for “ethnic” food in China.

We went back to our room and wished each other a good night.  I fired up the computer again so that I could start blogging and decided to see if any family was on Skype.  It was 7:30AM Central Time so I doubted it.  But sure enough my mom was on. We spoke for awhile and talked about what was going on.  As we were ending that call, Nancy’s dad initiated a Skype call.  I couldn’t pick it up because I was still talking to my parents but once I was done we called him back.

We talked with him for a bit and he was assuring us everything was fine with our house.  He’s been watching it for us and making it looked lived in.  I think he’s been enjoying the use of our large 63” HDTV.  He’s working a short contract in OKC and the room they have him in only gives him a tiny 13” TV.  So I’m glad he’s getting to enjoy his football games in luxury…haha.

China_20091122_0764_Day04After we ended our calls, I started working on blog posts.  I apparently couldn’t make people in Nancy’s support group wait any longer for updates since they hadn’t heard anything on this blog since the Day 01 post.  So, I made a point to find pictures and place them on the post and get it out the door.

Then, I started working on this post.  I’m going to get the netbook in the process of offloading today’s pictures, shower and then hit the bed.

It’s 12:39AM China Time now and I need to get up in 7 hours.  In about 12 hours, we’ll have Kai!

Until Tomorrow

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good Morning! It is so nice to get up in the morning and read the next installment:) Love and hugs to all!