Kai really didn’t have time to be fussy this evening because we had to be up at 6AM and he only went down around 11PM the previous night. Up until now, Kai was getting a good 12 hours of sleep every night. So, we knew he was going to be a handful today.
The alarm hit us hard but on the plus side, we had air conditioning. With Nancy having a respiratory issue she didn’t want it too cold but sometimes around 2AM she told me she was too hot and allowed me to cool the room down a bit more.
As usual we got up and checked our e-mail and saw that a few family members had replied to our email about arriving in Guangzhou. We are starting to get the pattern down on how long it takes to get Kai ready for breakfast. With the nights being so late, I’m not getting to shower before bed like I prefer so we have to both shower in the morning.
I let Nancy shower first while I play on the computer and then I shower next.
We had been hearing about the White Swan’s breakfast buffet for months on the Internet and from the other families in our group and now that we are finally at the White Swan we were going to get an opportunity to see what all the hype was about.
I wasn’t 100% sure where the restaurant serving breakfast was located so we stopped on the 2nd floor to talk to reception and they pointed us to the location which is on the 1st floor.
This is where things definitely went bizzaro on us. Up until now we were one family amongst about 13 that consisted of “white people”, as soon as we walked into the dining room for the breakfast buffet, this gigantic dining area was filled with families of white people and their Chinese kids.
I hope people aren’t offended by the use of the term “white people” but in reality, that is what we are talking about here. I haven’t seen a single adoptive family that wasn’t white while in China. So, we often just refer to ourselves as the “white people”. But, here in China, the white people are an overwhelming minority and as seen in yesterday’s post, we do experience a bit of different treatment that isn’t always fair (our being asked to not board the plane until every Chinese person has boarded).
The breakfast spread in the restaurant was fantastic. Take the breakfast buffets at our last two hotels and combine them and you still wouldn’t have a buffet as large as this one. There were tons of fruit and bread options and the hot food options were ranged from continental breakfast standards (sausage, eggs, pancakes and French Toast) to Asian breakfast items.
The restaurant has a pretty good view of the Pearl River and they seat us near one of the windows overlooking it. They also had a real easy time conjuring up a high chair which seemed to be a rather difficult feat in Zhengzhou.
Instead, I found the scrambled eggs in one of the chaffing dishes in the hot food line.
I came back to the table and proceeded to feed him. Fortunately, he likes to eat and makes it pretty simple to feed him. The hard part is that he likes to people watch and if he’s distracted by something more entertaining he won’t pay attention to the person trying to feed him.
I sort of had an appetite but not really, so I ate light. Nancy did the same thing and her voice is now completely gone.
The sickness thing is really starting to suck because we are now in the warm part of our journey and we cannot enjoy it.
Once breakfast was done, we headed back to the room to get ready and to make sure that we had everything on Grace and Maggie’s checklist for today.
It’s pretty nice because every night we get a letter slid under our door telling us everything we need to know, in detail about the next day. It includes the weather forecast, events with times and places we need to be and what we need to bring for each event. They even provide checklists for the fun events.
I bet you are wondering why he needs a Visa when he’s going to become a US Citizen. Well, he’s not a citizen until he clears US Customs in the United States. Well, to get to that checkpoint, he’ll need a visa to travel. So, while he’s on that flight home, the United States still considers him a Chinese Citizen and he, in fact, will be flying on a Chinese Passport. What is funny, is that from my understanding, that since we are the legal guardians of Kai after signing the papers in Zhengzhou he is really not a citizen of China anymore. So, if anything goes wrong with his visa application he essentially becomes a kid without a country.
We got all the stuff together that we needed. Instead of trying to dig out just the papers we were told to bring, I brought the entire packet. In addition to that we packed up Nancy’s backpack with formula, diapers, wipes, toys, etc for Kai. I had my shoulder bag with the video camera and had my camera around my neck. Since, Kai won’t let me carry him, Nancy was using the ERGObaby carrier and I had the backpack being utilized as the diaper bag on my back.
We met everyone at the designated location on the first floor of the White Swan and when all heads were counted we headed out the back door and started walking. Well, as luck would have it, the weather decided to rain on us. It wasn’t a driving rain but enough of a drizzle that I had to worry about my camera.
The first place we were heading was to the Victory Hotel to pick up our group members staying there. Everything is pretty close here, so it wasn’t that long of a walk to get there.
Once we had them we had to go to where our kid’s visa pictures were going to be taken.
The place the pictures were to be taken was tiny so only a couple families could be in there at a time. So all the rest of us were lined up outside. There was some shielding form the rain but not for everyone.
I also forgot to mention that there is a whole lot of construction going on. Alot of the construction tarps and canopies were providing shelter. The construction is in part due to the fact that Guangzhou is hosting the 2010 Asian Games and they need to get everything spit polished for the ever scrutinizing eye of the world media.
When it was our turn to go in and get Kai’s visa picture, we were faced with a very tiny room with a high chair against a wall. Next to the chair was another chair for a parent to sit in. We weren’t allowed to touch the child and obviously the child had to look at the camera. Maggie stood behind the lady taking the picture with a squeaky toy making a lot of noise to draw the attention of the child and have them look at the camera.
You could tell this wasn’t her first rodeo and she was a pro at getting the kids to look their best for their visa photo. If only someone like that could’ve been around for my visa photo. I looked like I had been hauled in for a mug shot after a heavy round of partying.
After the picture we were to get in the next line for the clinic next door. The clinic we were going to was literally the next building over.
When we walked in the place was what you’d imagine a clinic in China to be like. It was very open and the technology didn’t look to cutting edge. There was a lot of tile that didn’t look dirty but at the same time didn’t have that feeling of surgery ready sanitization that you often get the feeling of from American medical facilities.
There was a doorway in the back that every person who has ever read a travelogue of a trip to bring home a new family member form China has seen. Outside that door were two rows of metal benches and that’s where Nancy and I parked our butts. Many other people crammed their selves inside the waiting area inside.
I did try to capture some pictures but it quickly was getting very crowded. For you see, there are limited hours for this clinic on a Saturday and there were groups of adoptive families with kids from many different provinces using many different agencies all converging in Guangzhou at the same time and were all here on Saturday.
We got a bit lucky in the fact that we were sitting in the outside hallway because that is where Grace got to first to hand out the paperwork that we needed to fill out before any of the doctors would see us.
It was a pretty simple 4 question sheet and a signature, then we were told to visit 3 stations: ENT, “Height, Weight, and Vision”, and “Surgery and Examination”.
As soon as we signed, the doctor in the ENT room must’ve seen that I had done so because she motioned us into her little room. I’m not sure what she was doing, but she was making a lot of noise and I guess she was making sure that Kai’s reactions to the noises were as expected. Then she looked into his ears and nose which he hated a lot. The way he was screaming, you would’ve thought they were poking him with needles.
After we finished up in that room, we noticed a long line for the “Height, Weight, and Vision” so we went to the ‘Surgery and Examination” room. It didn’t take long for us to get in there and this time we had a male doctor.
He asked us to remove Kai’s shoes and socks. Then he proceeded to look Kai over. If I didn’t know any better the way he was looking Kai over was like he was inspecting a head of cattle before buying it. When he took his diaper off you could see the surprise on his face and he looked at us and exclaimed, “A boy!”. After that, everything he looked at, he just kept saying, “A boy!”. It was kind of funny. He had me sign something and then it was off to the next room.
I can tell you one thing, this place was muggy and hot and it was technically considered the winter time in Guangzhou. I couldn’t image how miserable it would be in this clinic in the height of the hot season.
When we got into the last and final room we knew there wasn’t any way they could test the vision of a 18 month old. So they just weighed him (7.8kg) and measured his height (we didn’t see that measurement). They had us sign something and then we had to find Grace.
I couldn’t even use the term “organize chaos” to describe this process. It was strictly unadulterated chaos. It was every family for itself and things were pretty courteous amongst families that knew each other but amongst strangers, the game was on.
Since we are a Hague Convention Family, Kai is going to need to have all his shots current before the US Government will allow him to have a visa. So, Grace was facilitating with the vaccination registration people to make sure we were put in a spot in the line so that we got the shots and got the correct ones.
The crowd around the area to get the actual shots was immense but we were amazed at how quickly we got notice from Grace that we were next in line.
None of the nurses giving the shots seemed to speak English. They quickly prepped all the needles. Based on the shot record printout I was given by Grace, it looked like Kai was going to get 4 injections. I appear to have read it correctly because the nurses prepped 4 syringes. One of the nurses handed me the 4 empty cardboard boxes for the vaccines but as luck would have it, they were all in Mandarin and, as you know, I don’t read Mandarin.
After we were done, we were told to wait 20 minutes before leaving just in case he had any kind of negative reaction to any of the vaccines.
It turned out that Jason and Robyn had gotten done with their stations with their daughter but were in a predicament. From what they were led to believe from their daughter’s Chinese caregivers she was allergic to a whole slew of medications and no one wanted to give her shots without knowing if it could harm her. So, they were either going to have to give her shots anyway or leave. They were waiting to find out from Grace what to do.
Our 20 minutes passed and Robyn told us she was just waiting to speak to Grace but was under the impression that they were just going to make their daughter get the TB skin test (she was 2 which means new US CDC law requires that all immigrants be free from TB before entering the country) and then leave, but she needed verification on that. She told us if we were tired of waiting to just leave and they would understand.
We waited a bit more and we decided to just head on. As we were walking into the main lobby we saw that Robyn was talking to Grace and we decided to wait a bit more to see what she had to say. It turns out that since they had to come back on Monday to get their daughter’s skin test read, the could just get the shots done then if it turns out it was necessary because allergies were not standing in the way.
As I mentioned earlier, there was a ton of construction going on. This, unfortunately, had the affect of masking all the landmarks. Everything looked the same with all the construction walls and scaffolding.
Fortunately, Jason remembered something that told him that we need to turn and got us going in the right direction back to the hotel.
At least, now, it wasn’t raining anymore.
It really seemed like it took less time to get back to the hotel than it did to get to the clinic. It may have been due to the fact that only 4 adults and 2 kids were going back when 13 families were in the group originally heading over.
Our next event for the day was at Grace and Maggie’s room at 3PM to fill out our consulate appointment paperwork. It was something like 11AM now and it was definitely nap time.
We were pretty impressed in how quickly Kai bounced back from 4 injections. He was back to his normal self pretty much by the time we sat down with Robyn and Jason waiting for our 20 minutes to end. So, the trip back to the hotel wasn’t one that entailed a screaming child.
When we got back to the room, Nancy took some Benadryl and Kai was put in the crib. Both were out for the count rather quickly.
While Kai and Nancy were napping, someone from the hotel brought by our Adoption Barbie. Apparently, Mattel toys makes a special Barbie for the White Swan hotel that has her holding a Chinese Baby. These things are highly coveted by the families who adopt from China. Even though Kai is a boy and probably will never be interested in playing with Barbie's (but it wouldn’t matter if he did), it will go in the display case of other collectibles.
I spent the time watching a bit of TV and also working on blog posts and surfing the Internet.
Sometime around 2PM, I really noticed an all too familiar smell coming from Kai’s direction.
But, he eventually woke up on his own and I was keeping him in his crib so I could keep working. But that odor was getting a bit too much. So, I picked him up out of crib and put him on my bed to change him. As soon as I popped open that diaper, I was like, “WHOA!”. Wouldn't you know it, the first time I try to be brave, I get enough mortar in his diaper to mason the entire Great Wall of China.
So, I quickly grab a towel and put him on it. I didn’t want to mess up the sheets on my bed. Then I started trying to remove the diaper. I should point out that Kai is not screaming or freaking out any more than he does with Nancy. In fact, when I reacted the way I did with the discover inside his diaper, he laughed at me.
Now, Nancy has woken up as I’m trying to get this diaper situation resolved.
Now, the embarrassing part. The stench was more than I could handle and I should point out that I have a rather diminished sense of smell. I actually tossed my cookies while trying to change his diaper. I’d like to blame it on being sick, but I pretty much did the same thing in June when my nephew Collin tossed his cookies while we were visiting them during our Disneyland trip for Nancy’s birthday. Certain smells just trigger my gag reflex.
Nancy was going to jump in and “do it” for me. I refused to let her. I told her I was going to finish it. I had Kai’s legs up in the air holding his two ankles with one hand while scrubbing him clean with baby wipes with the other. This was a 5 wipe job and then it came to the part, even as a boy, I didn’t know what to do with…..the uncircumcised penis. Nancy had warned me earlier that we had to clean it and I was trying to figure out how to get that darn skin out of the way so I could make sure no poop got where it wasn’t supposed to. That’s when Nancy got frustrated and pushed me aside and was going to do it herself.
Fortunately for my ego, she wasn’t able to manage it any easier but she did get it to happen. Then we couldn’t get it all to snap back to the way it was before we started. Now Kai was really screaming. You’d think we were poking him with red hot irons. This boy definitely doesn’t like anyone touching his boy parts.
We got a bit snippy at each other. I always view Nancy as being the super nurse who knows everything and kept asking her what is going on and she didn’t know and we were both kind of freaking out because we didn’t know if we broke him. I finally said, let’s just put his diaper back on him and if he’s still having problems on the next diaper change we’ll have to start seeking out answers from other parents of boys.
The next challenge was trying to find a stupid empty plastic Wal-Mart bag to toss all that stinky toxic waste into.
Since one whole large suitcase was full of dirty clothes and the rest were still pretty much packed we had no idea where anything was. Eventually, Nancy found a bag and I tied everything tightly inside and put in the bathroom trash.
After I came out of the trash, I very proudly pointed out to Nancy that:
- I attempted the diaper change unsolicited
- I had everything under control until the end
- If Kai had been circumcised, I would’ve had the diaper on him without needing any help.
She gave me that victory :)
She did say that she wasn’t going to sit there and watch me get physically sick while changing diapers. I told her that my mom didn’t do throw up and poppy diapers so it probably runs in the family but I will do it even if it means I drop a couple pant sizes due to stench induced bulimia.
After we got him situated, it was time for me to go to Grace and Maggie’s room to get the US Consulate paperwork situated.
There were only 4 Hague-convention families so it should go quickly. I was running a bit late but when I showed up they hadn’t started yet.
I sat down on one of the beds and Grace handed me a copy of Kai’s passport and some other information that I’d need to finish the paperwork. Plus, she gave me the application form that we’d be filling out.
I did notice that Jason or Robyn weren’t there and I was going to call them because I was worried they fell asleep or something but before I could get to the phone, Grace had started the process and I didn’t want to miss a step.
It was great because they told us exactly how to fill out the forms. That was really helpful because nothing about any form provided by the US Government has been intuitive.
What made me laugh was that we had this huge checklist of documents that we needed to bring and so far we’ve only referenced a few of them and I have no idea what the rest are for. I guess they are here in case we have any issues arise at the Consulate’s Office about our application for a visa.
Robyn did arrive halfway through the instruction. After I had all my paperwork done (and I needed a lot of help figuring out what in the heck I had and needed), I saw that Robyn was really frustrated. Apparently, all their paperwork was in a very organized format but due to the chaos at the clinic and their desperate search for the paperwork from their daughter’s caregivers listing her allergies, all her paperwork was now out of order.
So, I sat down with her and took half her stack and helped her look for the forms she needed to finish her paperwork. Then, I told her what information came from what form and went where on the application.
I headed back to the room and Nancy was ready to track down a place to get some laundry done. She had tasked me with asking Grace the name of a place to get laundry done outside the hotel since the hotel’s rates were so high. She also wanted to know how the process worked.
Grace had given me the name of 3 places she’d recommend and told me that if you dropped off in the morning, you got it back that night. If you dropped off in the afternoon, you got it back the next day.
Nancy had all the laundry in plastic bags and ready to go. We threw Kai into the carrier and away we went. She wanted to try Michael’s Place because she swore she had heard the name mentioned by friends either online or through her Freshwater Ladies (her group of friends back home that all have adopted from China and they meet at Panera every Tuesday to just discuss things that are going on)
We got to meet Michael and he was very friendly. He told us to come back tomorrow and our laundry would be ready. It sure was a relief to have that taken care of. We were quickly running out of clean clothes and I’ve been wearing some items multiple days in a row to make sure I didn’t run out of clothes.
After we dropped off the laundry, we decided to do some window shopping. I had to remind Nancy that you just look and show no interest and not to linger.
Well, it is a lot harder than it sounds on paper. The shop owners really work for their money. They talk to you, want to hear your story and try to find something that they can shove into your hands and get you to buy.
At one store, Nancy’s Achilles heel was found and that was something called “squeaky shoes”. She even said she’d buy them without asking the price. I had to ask for her. I told her this wasn’t the States and prices weren’t fixed and by saying you’ll buy before prices was discussed you pretty much allowed her to set any price she wanted. Fortunately, the shop keeper was kind and set a reasonable price of 45RMB (about US$6.60). I did try a ploy and opened my wallet and claimed I didn’t have any money. But she didn’t try to hard sell only told me she’d hold them for us.
In reality, there is a big counterfeiting problem here and we were told to be wary of where we spend large bills where larger bills would come back (i.e. give a 100 with a 50 being part of the change back). So, I needed to split a 100 somewhere safe. We were planning on going to 7-Eleven anyway to get water so that would be where.
7-Eleven was a couple doors down so we eventually made our way there after looking in all the shops between. In one of the shops, there was a very dirty dog. Kai seemed to not show any fear and an interest in getting closer to the dog. So we hope that means he’ll accept Belle and Coco.
7-Eleven was a tiny little shop and unfortunately,didn’t sell water by the case. It really is hard to stay hydrated when you only get 2 small bottles of water for free each day and the tap water is not potable. You have to boil water and then it takes forever to cool off. Plus, I still am wary of drinking boiled water.
So, we grabbed to 1.5litre bottles and some goldfish crackers and made our way back to the shop to pick up the shoes.
After paying our 45RMB we made our way back to the hotel and parked our buts for awhile.
Eventually, Nancy got hungry for dinner (we didn’t eat lunch) and I asked if we should see what Robyn and Jason were doing. I walked down to the room but they had the “Do not Disturb” sign on the door so I didn’t knock.
I went back to the room and notified Nancy so we decided to head out. Just as we were leaving, the phone rang. I answered and it was Jason. He was asking about 7-Eleven and wanted to know if we needed anything. I told him we just got back from there and we were going to get some food from Lucy’s and it we’ll pass right by 7-Eleven on our way and we could just show them.
They were interested in food, so we decided to all go to Lucy’s together.
The walk to Lucy’s wasn’t too bad. We did get stopped a couple times by shopkeepers with flyers. With all the construction, many of the stores are almost hidden by all the tarps, scaffolding and debris. They really have to draw attention to themselves to get us to their stores.
When we walked into Lucy’s you could quickly tell that they were trying to look like an American restaurant. They had lots of US license plates and posters from US movies on the walls. In fact, I saw a vanity plate for Walt Disney World on the wall behind the table they sat us at.
They also made it clear you don’t tip the wait people and they don’t accept US$100 or HK$1000 bills (probably due to the counterfeiting problem I mentioned earlier).
The service was something to be desired though. It took forever to get someone to take our order and then a longer time to get the food to us and even longer to get a bill. The food was really good though.
We scarfed down our food and drinks and paid our bill as soon as we could get it brought to us. What shocked was that all our food came to 108RMB (~US$16) for all that food.
As we walked back to the hotel, We parted ways at the 7-Eleven as Robyn and Jason needed to make a quick run for snacks and stuff and we needed to get Kai a bath. Especially since he decided to spit up a bit of his dinner. We are now learning that Kai will eat more than his stomach can hold. So, we are going to have to stop him a bit sooner.
When we got back to the room we wasted no time getting him bathed and Nancy rocked him to sleep with his nightly bottle. Shortly after he was in the crib, Nancy was out too.
I stayed up a lot later working on 2 blog posts to get caught up to Friday. While I worked on the posts, Kai would frequently wake up crying and then quickly fall back to sleep. I would go over to his crib and make sure all was fine because we do need to worry about aspiration. One time he didn’t got back to sleep and it was because his arm had gotten caught in the crib bumper and he couldn’t roll over.
Another time I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. He had his bottle, he wasn’t stuck, he wasn’t cold and he wasn’t hot. Well, I picked him up and stroked the back of his head (one of my mother-in-law’s friends was an expat in China and fostered kids and told her to pass onto us that Chinese console their kids by stoking the back of their heads). Eventually, he stopped crying and I laid him back in his crib.
I did all this without waking Nancy. Around 1AM I got the final post done and went to bed. The next day was a half-day touring day and it sounded like it was going to be fun.