Saturday, November 28, 2009

Journey to Kai – Day 09 (Travel to Guangzhou)

I’m actually writing this late on Saturday night and into Sunday.  So, the details may be a bit fuzzy.

As I said in the previous day’s post, we may have gone to bed at 9PM, but the fun only began.  Both Nancy and I were up and down all night.  Even though we were taking Tylenol, we could tell our fevers were getting worse.  I really was getting worried that we weren’t going to be able to get out of the airport.  China is really vigilant about foreigners and fevers.  I was sure there would be temperature scanners at the airport and we’d get busted.

Nancy was sure that the Tylenol would do the trick.  It’s a long standing method to bypass the temperature checks if you time it correctly.  So we were taking it every 6 hours on the dot.

Well, sometime in the middle of the night I became unbearably hot.  The kind of hot where you just want to rip off all your clothes and the sheets.  Then, it just ended.  I wasn’t freezing cold that was common with the shifts in temperature when you are running a fever, but more of a comfortable feeling.  I told Nancy I think I just busted my fever.  She felt hers busted sometime recently too.  For the record, she never recorded a fever on the thermometer and refused to do frequent checks of it.

Kai pretty much slept through the night, but he does cry in his sleep a couple times but that is pretty tolerable considering how bad others are having it even with their own bio-children.

6AM came freakishly early.  We did fire up the laptop to see if Nancy’s dad was on Skype.  It was still Thanksgiving in the United States and she wanted to get a call in while her oldest sister and her brother were still at her dad’s house for Thanksgiving with their respective families.

We had a really difficult time getting a video connection today and that hasn’t been the case prior.  My assumption, based on the time in the US was that many people were using Skype as a means to have family calls for free without using long distance charges.

We eventually connected and Nancy and Kai got to talk to the various cousins and siblings.  I was pretty much horizontal on the bed.

I was still wicked nauseous and had no desire to eat.  Nancy told me to just stay in the room but I could tell that she really needed me to help her with Kai so I went anyway, but I must admit I wasn’t the most pleasant camper in the troop.  I really did try to not let my bad mood and sickness spill over, but with Nancy being sick too, we were just one giant keg of nitroglycerin sitting on the San Andreas Fault line.

At breakfast, Kai was pretty good about eating.  I on the other hand ate nothing.  Nancy nibbled and she had to because even if she’s sick, Kylee has to eat and that can be hard when you are tossing your cookies (for the record, Nancy still has yet to throw up and I think she’s only done so once in our entire marriage).

At breakfast we found out there were several other families that have been bitten by some kind of bug and one mother was having almost the same exact symptoms as I was.  I was glad I wasn’t alone which means that several of us must’ve gotten into the same thing and got us sick.

After breakfast we went back to the room and Nancy did some more packing.  I try to help packing, but I learned a long time ago, that I just get in the way.  I did get my laptop packed up and had it ready to go.

Kai was being really rambunctious so we decided to take him up the China_20091127_1357_Day09 playroom.  That trip didn’t last long.  Nancy put him in the ball pit but he wasn’t having anything to do with that.  Then she put him on the floor and he just sort of sat there and didn’t want to do anything.  So, we went back to the room.

We did get a call from Yisha to go to her room to pick up Kai’s passport.  When we got there, once again, all the families were there.  In addition to Kai’s passport, we got his immunization records and is “searching ad”.  This is an ad put in the local paper with the child’s picture and description.  It is part of the process that must be followed to track down the child’s family before they are officially listed as abandoned.  Unfortunately, the copy of Kai’s ad is a really bad one.  You can make out the Chinese characters, but not his picture.  Also while I was there I paid our new gas tax fee of 100RMB (roughly US$14.81)

Some people had some really nice official immunization shot record booklets, but I just had a simple computer printout.

I ran into Jason and Robyn down there and told them how crappy we were feeling.  They told us that they were heading to the playroom and offered to take Kai and watch him for us so we could get some rest.  I told them that he didn’t want to be there the first time we took him so I doubt he’d be a very willing participant.

When I got back to the room, I told Nancy about Jason and Robyn’s offer and she was appreciative but said I made the right decision.

We didn’t need to have our luggage out for the bellmen until 2:20PM and it was around 11AM.  Kai was getting tired so we put him in the crib and then we laid down.  I set the alarm for 1PM.  That would give us a little over an hour to pack before we needed to have the luggage out for them to collect.

Those 2 hours went very quickly, but it was very productive.  I felt a bit more refreshed after I woke up.  The fact that I took a nap speaks volumes since I never take naps.

Nancy was a highly efficient packing machine at this point.  She had the bags packed and ready for collection way before the 2:20PM deadline.  I was insistent that Nancy pack my winter coat because I didn’t want to deal with it on this trip. I felt that I’d prefer to be a bit uncomfortable for a short time than uncomfortable for a long time having to haul that jacket around when I didn’t need it anymore.  Nancy and Kai were bundled up.

At 2PM I went downstairs and settled up the room bill.  We had put a few meals onto the room instead of paying cash.  I put it on our Credit Union Visa because we would only get a 1% foreign currency exchange fee on that card.  According to the receipt we had only racked up about US$80 in meal charges on the room which wasn’t too bad.  One of the more expensive was room service (of course).

I went back to the room and we just waited for the time to put the bags out.

We didn’t need to be at the lobby until 3PM, but I didn’t want to go down until the bags had been collected.  I just so happened to poke my head out into the hallway when the bellman was collecting our bags, so I tipped him while he was there.

Then, we went to the lobby.  There was a lot of standing around and chit chat going on.  As usual, my sciatica was flaring up fast.  It’s worse on hard, unpadded surfaces like concrete, asphalt and marble.  I have found that if I crouch down and put all my weight on my toes, the pain goes away. I’ve been doing this a lot on this trip and I really don’t care what people think of me doing it.

People were getting their pictures taken with Yisha in front of the China_20091127_1365_Day09 giant, rather pathetic Christmas tree in the lobby (they had an actual real Evergreen which I assumed based on it’s thread bareness was local).

We asked one of the dads to take our picture. He asked me to hand over the huge camera and was surprised when I gave him my little point & shoot.  I informed him that the big camera has to be specially packed into the rolling bag so it’s staying put until we get to Guangzhou.

I was so glad when the bus rolled up to allow us to get on.  They were using a separate van for the rolling carry-ons so I took those bags to the van so they could be loaded. I waited until I saw them get loaded before I went to board the bus.  Nancy was already there with Kai.

China_20091127_1367_Day09 The bus ride was claustrophobic like all of them have been except I now have more lap baggage being that I have my big electronics backpack and Nancy’s backpack which is now serving as Kai’s diaper bag.

Once again, I was cranky and Nancy was having none of it.  In all honesty, I’m a lot like a dog when it gets sick.  I want to curl up somewhere be left alone and if not left alone, I bite.  I’ve always been this way.  Before Kai, I’ve always been able to recuperate this way, I’m having a hard time with the idea that I’m no longer allowed to take care of myself first if that means that Kai will be neglected.  I’m putting him first, just having a hard time with it.

When we got to the airport, Yisha was insistent that the moms and China_20091127_1370_Day09 kids go into the airport where it was warm and that the dads stay and bring the luggage in.

When we were all in, then the dads were told to line up at the group check in counter.  I must say that compared to the Beijing check in, this was much more efficient.  Yisha was at the counter with everyone’s passports and their boarding passes.  When you walked up to the counter, she pulled your stuff out and worked with the gate agent to get you processed.  They stapled the baggage claim tickets to the dad’s boarding pass and you went and waited with the others until all the dads were done. We had a 20kg limit per adult plus an additional 10kg for Kai.  Our bags came in at 11kg and 19 kg.  So we were looking good.  Even if we went over, they were combining all the weight China_20091127_1376_Day09 allowances for the whole group and adding all the actual weights to determine if we needed to pay fines. From what we were told, using this method, they’ve never had an overage fee assessed.

The next step was security.  This is when we said goodbye to Rita and Yisha.  Unlike in the US where you see a person who checks your boarding pass and then you enter a long line for x-ray and metal detector, here they used the person who checked your boarding pass as a traffic cop.  It appeared as if they were only letting one family through at a time. This really helped alleviate the pressure that one feels to get through security.

Based on what happened in Beijing, I decided to remove a few more items from my bag to hopefully get it through the first time and I was successful.  I repacked my bag on the other side and was able to rejoin Nancy without causing her any alarm about my safety…hehe.

We had plenty of time to get to our gate this time and Nancy sat China_20091127_1379_Day09 down and asked me to locate some water. Next to the bathrooms was actually a boiled water room.  So, I went back and got one of Kai’s bottles and filled it up with the boiling water.  Unfortunately, Kai isn’t accustomed to drinking formula at such lava-like temperatures like other babies in China, so I was going to have to wait for it to cool down and we had no idea how long that was going to take.  Fortunately, another family had water and gave us the 4 oz we needed to make Kai a bottle.  In thanks, we gave them one of our Enfamil packets since their formula all was in their checked luggage.

Our flight didn’t board on time and nothing about the boarding announcements was in English so we had no idea why.  But, we got in line when we noticed everyone else doing so.

When we were about to board the plane a stewardess in very broken English said us Americans have too much luggage and must stand aside.  They then let all the Chinese patrons board.  We, of course, observed that they weren’t boarding with any less luggage than we were.  In fact, some were boarding with more. 

China_20091127_1380_Day09 After everyone else was allowed to board, we were.  As we were afraid, we were then told there was no overhead storage and we were going to have to gate check our bags.  I was a bit nervous because my very expensive camera was in one of those bags and I wasn’t allowed to get it out and carry it onto the plane.  At least it was going to be delivered to me on the gang plank when we got to Guangzhou.

We found our seats and sat down…or at least attempted to do so.  I’ve never been on a plane so small.  They said this was a 737-300 but we could barely fit into our seats.  I’m 5’3” tall and my knees were cracking on the seat in front of me.  I could barely get my backpack down between the crack where my legs were supposed to go so I could stow it under the seat in front of me.  To top it off, the seats were very narrow.  Now, I have an idea what it must fee like for a normal sized person on an US domestic carrier.  I could only image how much pain they were in on this flight.

We were really worried about how Kai was going to do on his first flight.  Well, he did remarkably well.  With the cramped quarters it was impossible for Nancy to eat.  I tried my best to help her by feeding her (since I could put my tray table down), but it was almost impossible to do.

To top it off, Nancy was sure Kai had a soiled diaper, but they were constantly bringing the carts up and down the aisle so she couldn’t get out.  I was also, at this point holding all the jackets and Kai’s socks (he was wearing his snow suit so had no shoes on).  Combine that with the zero leg clearance, I was miserable.

Nancy finally got a break in the action and made her way to the  back of the plane where a line had already developed that looked like it consisted of every family in our group.

After what seemed like an eternity, Nancy came back to inform me that his diaper was clean and dry.  So, we just say back and waited for the descent to begin.

It finally came, but as we were descending, I dropped Kai’s container of Cheerios and managed to lose one of his socks.  The Cheerios went between the legs of the gentlemen to my left who made no effort to help me even though he watched it pop out of my hands and fly into his personal space.

I must say, I’ve never been the biggest fan of kids on planes but I have always tried to help the parents when I could and now I have a better appreciation for what they’ve gone through.  I am just glad that Kai was not a screamer.  But, this was only his first flight.  In fact, he spent most of the flight flirting with the girls two rows back and all the stewardesses.

The landing came none too soon.  As with what seems to be common in Chinese culture, everyone pops up and gathers their stuff and starts moving toward the doors before we’ve even come to a full and complete stop.  So, here we were in row 8 and weren’t even going to be able to get out until the entire plane had disembarked.  To top it off, I still had to find my Cheerios and the missing sock. 

At least, once the lights came on, I caught the glimpse of what might’ve been the Cheerios and was able to dig it out from under the seat in front of the guy in front of me, without any help from him.  Despite the fact, that at one point, I practically had my head in his lap.

The sock, I found with a stroke of luck.  It was actually under my seat and I had to perform some serious contortionist moves to get it off the floor.

Well, we eventually made it off the plane and were waiting for our gate checked bags when we were told they would be sent to baggage claim.  Well, I could only hope that all that padding Nancy put around my camera with the clothes protected it.

We made our way to baggage claim and followed the masses.  It was pretty late in Guangzhou (some time past 9PM) so there weren’t too many flights arriving.

Nancy was tired and sore so she sat in some of the chairs to the side, while I tried to muscle my way in to the conveyor belt.

One thing that always bothered me is that an entire family will try and stand there and wait for the bags.  Please, have one representative there or at least 2 (one on each side of the loop) and have all the others wait in a clear and safe distance.  It does no good to the general well being of the mass as a whole to have a kid standing there to just holler out when they see the bag.

The odd thing was that our checked bags came out before our gate checked, but all 4 bags did arrive.

I was going to manhandle all four rolling bags to the bus, because I did it before and I am just good like that, but I guess, with everything else that has happened all day and with us both being easily irritable, Nancy insisted I use a luggage trolley.  Apparently, they are free here and free is my kind of price.

I have to admit that it was a heck of a lot easier to move the luggage this way.

We made our way to our CCAI reps, Grace and Maggie, were taking roll call when we arrived.  After everyone was accounted for, we made our way to the bus.  One nice thing is that one of the families that was with us in Beijing, who didn’t go to Zhengzhou was rejoining us here.

The first thing we noticed after leaving the baggage claim area was how warm it was in Guangzhou.  We left Zhengzhou needing winter coats and here it was balmy enough for shorts and a t-shirt.

China_20091127_1382_Day09We finally made it to the bus and apparently half of our group was going to the White Swan (the most common hotel for adoptive families) and the other half the Victory (often chosen by parents who this isn’t their first adoption because it’s cheaper).  They had us group our luggage by which hotel we were going to.

Nancy and Kai were already on the bus and Nancy was doing her best to keep Kai awake.  We knew if he fell asleep on the bus there would be no getting him back to sleep without help from Benadryl.

Once on the bus, we were introduced to our guides and given the high-level itinerary for the week.  We were also informed that each night they’d provide us a more detailed itinerary for the next day with the weather report and what we need to bring to each appointment.

They also passed out some bottled water.  Bottled water is our lifeblood since none of the tap water is potable and unless it’s bottled you cannot drink it.  You also must not drink water out of any bottle that has had the seal broken when you receive it because it’s not unheard of where bottles have been refilled from a tap and then resold.

The ride to the hotel was pretty scenic.  The quality of the high rise apartments seemed to be a notch higher than what we were used to seeing in Zhengzhou.

When we got to the White Swan all families were told to get off the bus.  Apparently, the Victory wasn’t equipped for such large busses so they were going to have to move all of them to a smaller van to get them to their hotel.

We were also told that all our bags including our carry ons will be brought to our rooms and to just make our way to the lobby to check-in.

When I got to the lobby, Nancy and Kai were already in there sitting on the couches trying to stay away.  I got in line and waited for my turn. 

When I got to the front of the line, our guide Grace was facilitating by making sure there was no communication problems between the person checking us in and us because of language problems.  I secured the room with my credit union visa and got our room keys.  I grabbed Nancy and we went to the room.

It now was somewhere around 10:30-11:00PM.  Nancy immediately put Kai in the crib and she was starting to crash out herself but we still didn’t have our luggage.

I kept looking in the hallway for our luggage and it just never seemed to come.  Eventually I started wandering the hall to see if anyone else had gotten their yet. It appears that most of the families were in the same boat.  Finally, one of the other dads went looking for it and came back to report that it was in the service elevator lobby. 

I went there to tell the bellhop which bags were mine and he hauled them to my room where I tipped him.

I brought the bags into the room where Nancy quickly unpacked them so we could find clean clothes.  We were desperately going to need to get clothes cleaned tomorrow.

I fired up the laptop, paid my 300RMB (~US$44) for a 7 day window of service (the more days you bought the cheaper the per day cost) and sent out an e-mail letting everyone know we had made it to Guangzhou alright.

Up to this point, I am 2 days behind on my trip reports and honestly, I was too sick to care.  I joked that I wanted to just throw up on the blog, “Sick and cannot remember what I did” and leave it at that.  But, ultimately this is a journal for Kai’s future reference and I knew it would get done eventually.

Nancy and Kai were now fast asleep and I was not far behind them.  One of the nice things is that we now have air conditioning and can be comfortable.

Well, after reading these last two posts, I guess I may have given the impression that Nancy and I may be fighting a lot and that isn’t the case.  We have both been sick and during tense moments or moments of stress, we tend to snipe at each other a bit, but a majority of the time, despite the illness, we have been having a good time getting to know our son.  I felt that people who sugar coat the trip reports don’t really do a service to those people who read these wanting to know how the trips are.  This isn’t a vacation ya’ll this is real life and in our case, the start of parenthood in a foreign country with nothing familiar around us and to top it off sick.  I’d be hard pressed to find any well adjusted couple not be getting a bit agitated with each other at this point and if they claim they are, I’d say they were lying or needing to have their names submitted for sainthood.

Well, tomorrow is one of the day’s we’ve been dreading….the infamous physical examination and inoculation day….oh joy

1 comment:

trina said...

Yes, Guangzhou is wonderful! Hope you all are enjoying yourselves. We loved the Victory. Across from Starbucks is Double Happiness. Stop by and visit Hebe. She gives the best deals. Make sure you ask for her because nobody else can speak English there. Her little store is small but if she doesn't have it, she will find it for you. She has stuff in her attic..and her sister has a store,too. I feel so bad for you all since you have been so sick. Thankfully, we were never sick and it really did feel like a vacation. :)....but it is hard work...and worth it all. I think you all will enjoy Guangzhou and you all feel better soon. I am praying no more fevers!