Monday, November 30, 2009

Journey to Kai – Day 11 (Guangzhou Tour)

What can I say, but a pattern has developed.  Nancy goes to bed when Kai goes down in his crib and I stay up working on the blog posts.  Kai wakes up periodically and I try and calm him down before he wakes Nancy up.  That is how things are starting to fall into place while we are here in Guangzhou.

I went to bed around 2AM and 6:30AM came early.  Some people would say, “What’s the point”, but these trip reports really let people know, in great detail, what we are doing.  Some of those people reading these posts are our family back home that are missing out in bonding experiences that they would have gotten to experience if this was a family member who entered through usual means.

All the others enjoying these posts, are very much appreciated as well.  There are a lot of been there done that folks.  I’ve had a few of them e-mail us thanking for the detailed posts that helped jog their own memories of their trip to be introduced to their own family members.

After waking up, as usual, the computer is fired up and checked for e-mails, facebook status updates, and twitter replies.

China_20091129_1527_Day11 Breakfast is also starting to fall into a routine.  Once we sit down, I grab some yogurt and eggs for Kai and then Nancy goes and gets her food.  Kai is still letting me feed him and we are getting better at shoveling in larger portions per spoonful so that we don’t take so long.

The hardest part of feeding him is keeping his attention. This kid loves to know what is going on around him.

China_20091129_1513_Day11 I still, as of yet, have been able to get any decent photos of the breakfast buffet.  Unlike a trip to Walt Disney World, people in a hotel typically aren’t used to people with cameras documenting every minute detail like they are at Disney.  Even though most people here are on trips that will probably never be repeated, they still aren’t documenting every detail…well, I doubt they consider the breakfast buffet a detail worth documenting…haha

One of the cool things about the breakfast buffet is that they have decorated for Christmas.  Guangzhou is pretty much the first city China_20091129_1532_Day11 we’ve been in that has really gone to town with Christmas decorations.  It could be due to the constant stream of Westerners.

Also, the area around the restaurant has a giant Koi Pond with a waterfall.  A lot of the kids who are staying in this hotel are getting hours of enjoyment hanging out by the water and watching these giant fish.

Today is pretty much a free day and we have the opportunity for a half-day tour.  We decided that it sounded interesting so we went back to the room to pack up Kai’s diaper bag and grab my gear.  Then we met the group down on the first floor.

The first place we were going today was the Temple of the Six Banyan Trees.  We piled on the bus and made our way to the temple.  The ride wasn’t as exciting as the ones we had in Beijing.  Apparently, it is outlawed to use the horn in Guangzhou as have motorcycles.  The only motorized cycles allowed on the road are those licenses to handicapped people and they are a very specific model of orange colored bikes.

It didn’t take long to get to our destination, but due to all the construction in preparation for the 2010 Asian Games, and the narrow roads, it was harder for the bus to find a place to drop us off.

Before we were allowed to get off the bus, Grace informed us that there will be beggars there waiting to pounce on us and to just not make eye contact and keep moving.

We got off the bus but I didn’t really experience any of the beggars China_20091129_1552_Day11 we were warned about. 

Once we got inside the Temple, we were informed that this temple was built back in 537AD during the Liang Dynasty.  That is got it’s name from a famous poet who visited and wrote the characters for Six Banyan Tree and the name stuck.

China_20091129_1559_Day11 We were told that this was going to be a small Buddhist Temple, but if this was small, I’d like to see what they consider a large temple.

We also had the opportunity to get a Buddhist blessing for our children. I was rather impressed to see that almost if not all of the children were blessed.  Nancy went in with Kai while I stayed behind the railing to document.  We talked about it and I wanted to be there with them, but if I did, then there would be no photographic documentation of the event.

I not only took pictures, but I took video.  I’m not sure how jumpy China_20091129_1565_Day11 the video will be. I won’t know until I get home.

But the actual ceremony was nice.  A monk rang a bell and beat a small drum while chanting, then he shook some water on all the families.  Once he was done, everyone bowed 3 times toward Buddha while they were supposed to make a wish for the child. 

China_20091129_1576_Day11 After the ceremony, they allowed some time for pictures to be taken and then we wandered the grounds some more.

It is funny because my parents have dragged me to more than one of these Buddhist temples during my teenage years and some of them were pretty impressive, but I hated it.  Now, I seem to really enjoy it.  I know why that is and it’s because I now have photography as my crutch and I didn’t China_20091129_1593_Day11 have that back then.  Nancy could probably drag me to a lot of events if it had photographic potential.

We were only given 40 minutes at this location before we had to pile back on the bus and go to our next location.

Next on the itinerary was the Chen Clan Ancestral Temple (aka Old Chen House aka Chen Clan Academy). 

From what we were told this home was built by the 3rd largest clan in all of China, the Chen Family.  We also were told that Chen and Chan are the same family.  This is the China_20091129_1611_Day11 same clan that Jackie Chan is ancestrally tied to.

Sometime around 1959 the Chinese government assumed control of this compound and has maintained it ever since.  Grace told us that this was done at no great upset of the family because it was costing them a fortune to maintain it and now it’ll be the government’s responsibility.  Under the Government’s care, it has become a Provincial Folk Art Museum but the members of the China_20091129_1621_Day11 Chen family still come to the house to pay their respects to their deceased Ancestors every years.

There were some really impressive relief carvings on the outside of the building and along the ridges of the roof.  Plus we were taken through some exhibition halls showing examples of Chinese embroidery art and bone carving.  The Embroidery was pretty China_20091129_1683_Day11 impressive in the fact that many of the pieces you’d assume were painting when in fact it’s all sewn thread.

The bone carving was also impressive. The level of detail on the microscopic level was intense.  Some of these pieces were huge yet the eye for detail was precise.

We had about 50 minutes to wander around this place before we all China_20091129_1692_Day11 had to meet back up and go to our next location.

What I failed to mention was that all the CCAI groups in Guangzhou at this time were also doing the same tours.  So, it was close to 30 families spread over multiple busses going to all the same locations.  Plus, these tours were being enjoyed by families in town for adoptions with other agencies as well. 

Our next stop was the Guangzhou Arts and Craft store.  We had only 40 minutes here but this was were we were told to be able to pay better prices for top quality jade. Before going in we were given a quick lesson on jade’s 3 classes:  A, B, and C.  Class A jade is the best in all ways.  The more green the jade the more expensive.  Class B jade has some China_20091129_1737_Day11 imperfections that needed to be removed by chemical processes.  Class C is colored jade and is the cheapest in price and is what we are most likely seeing at all the souvenir stands around the hotel.  I do kind of agree with one of the people I overheard saying that since we don’t believe in the mystic properties of jade what do we care about the quality.  But,China_20091129_1738_Day11 I’m sure it does matter if you ever want to resell it.

We went in and immediately Nancy saw a sandalwood carved family ball.  We saw these in jade at the Jade Factory in Beijing.  A solid piece of material is carved into multiple inlayed balls.  The more layers the prosperity for more generations.  She wanted one of these but I wanted her to do all her looking first. 

I had to keep reminding her that with time crunches you cannot just stop and look at everything.  She needed to scan the store, then go back to what interested her.

China_20091129_1747_Day11Nancy was looking at some jade pendants for Kai and herself.  Apparently, all Chinese will get 3 pieces of jade, at a minimum, during their lifetime.  At birth, parents will buy a piece, then you’ll get another when you are married, the 3rd will come from your kids.  So, we wanted to get Kai a pendant (girls often get bracelets).

So, we picked out two jade pendants (the circle pendants represented family) and went back to looking at the carved balls. We did ask about the Jade carved ball but it was outrageously expensive because it was a Class A piece and was only about the  size of a golf ball.China_20091129_1751_Day11

I broke down and got Nancy the sandalwood one she wanted.  I  personally think it’ll look good on the mantle at home.  The jade pendant we got Kai will probably stay in storage until he graduates from high school.  At the price we paid (not outrageous but still not cheap) I want to know he’ll respect the gift.

We paid for the purchases and then got in line to board the bus.

On the way back to the White Swan, Nancy reminded me that she needed to get something to eat and she didn’t want to go anywhere.  She wanted me to bring her something.  I hate when she asks me to do this, because I often cannot figure out what to feed myself and China_20091129_1746_Day11then she asks me to get something.  I ask her what she wants, and she tells me that we’ve been married for almost 8 years and I should know this by now.  Once again, I’m 38 and still don’t know what I want to eat.

I overheard some of the other families talking about Subway.  Apparently, there was one on the island.  I asked her about that, and she thought it was perfect.  Eavesdropping pays off again….

The problem was that I didn’t know where Subway was located.  So when we got off the bus, Nancy went back to the room while i waited for Grace to get off so I could ask her where it was located.  One of the other families asked me what I was waiting for so I told them.  They were gracious enough to tell me where I needed to go.

China_20091129_1844_Day11 Once I got back to the room, I wrote down what Nancy wanted from Subway and went on my way.  I was also tasked to bring back our clean laundry.  I decided due to how much laundry I was picking up, that I’d do that on my way back instead of carrying it all over the place.

Subway was a bit tricky to locate since it’s storefront was covered up with construction walls.  It was also tiny.  But, I did find it and went in to order our food.

The first thing I noticed was that the menu was reduced and so was the available selections of bread.  The “sandwich artist” also was very frugal with the toppings.  I swear, when asked for pickles they only put 3 on it.  In the United States that pile that stuff on.

China_20091129_1765_Day11 I got my usually Italian BMT, but when I asked for mustard, I was expecting yellow mustard and she put honey mustard on it.  Apparently, that was the only mustard they have available.  I was wondering what this was going to taste like.

The sandwiches came out to 70RMB (~US$11) and I paid and got on my way to get the laundry.  When I walked into Michael’s Place, Michael wasn’t there.  I told the person who greeted me that I was there to pick up my laundry.  They told me it was ready and led me to two sacks of clothes.  They asked me which one was mine.  I had to look and could tell the first one wasn’t mine because it contained button down dress shirts.

China_20091129_1768_Day11 In the second bag there was a claim ticket in it and I could see Nancy’s name on it.

The final bill game to 96RMB (~US$14).  I was pleasantly surprised at the price considering the amount of clothes we gave them would’ve easily filled one or two laundry baskets at home.

The bag of clothes was extremely heavy and I was glad I was only having to walk a short distance back to the hotel.

Once I got back to the hotel I had to show Nancy how neatly they China_20091129_1771_Day11 bundled our laundry.  It was in 3 bundles based on price point for that particular garment.  Then the final cleaned bundle was wrapped in sealed plastic.  Not the thin Saran Wrap type but thick clear plastic like you’d find a piece of hard candy wrapped in.  It also crinkled like that too.

To top it off Kai was down for a nap (a late one) and I didn’t want to wake him up.

Nancy and I sat down to eat our sandwiches.  I can tell you one thing, honey mustard tastes horrible on an Italian BMT.  I almost couldn’t finish mine.

After eating, I ran by Jason and Robyn’s room to see if they were still going to do the group dinner this evening which was going to be Thai.  They were in the same boat as us that they ate a late lunch (Papa John’s for them) but they were going to go anyway.

China_20091129_1779_Day11 Well, Kai didn’t stay down for long and he had energy and we had no way to expend it in our tiny hotel room.  So, we decided to try and track down the Swan Room.

The Swan Room is a play room in the hotel sponsored by Mattel. 

We went down to the first floor but first Nancy wanted to go by the water and allow Kai to look at the fish.  I took some pictures of them relaxing by the water and some general pictures of the area.

Then, we decided to try and locate the Swan Room.  Well, after China_20091129_1793_Day11 some wandering we couldn’t find it.  So, instead of wandering aimlessly, we went to the second floor to find the concierge.  We asked her where it was located.  She asked me if I had my room key, which I responded, “yes”.  She said that it was hard to explain where it was and to just follow her.

She took us back to the first floor and was heading toward the location where we met every morning when we were going to go somewhere off property.

China_20091129_1795_Day11 I felt real stupid when she showed us that it was literally right next to that location we meet as a group.

We used our room key to go inside and the room was not only bright and well stocked, but it was clean too and the toys were not in disrepair.

There was another couple families in the room when we got there.  Kai was originally a bit apprehensive about what to do.  It’s very well possible he had never seen a room this large and full of toys that he was allowed to freely play with.  But, I highly doubt that was the case considering I’ve seen pictures of New Hope where he was a resident most of his young life.

Nancy ended up taking him to the rocking horses and putting him on China_20091129_1811_Day11 one.  He enjoyed himself for a bit, then he got bored.  Well there were two others there and he wanted to ride all three.

Then he got down on the ground and crawled quite a bit.  Then he kept finding toys that interested him. With each new toy he quickly figured out how to interact with it.  It was awesome to sit there and watch the wheels turn inside his little head.  Based on what I’m seeing, Kai is a very bright boy.  He’s also very inquisitive which for parents is a blessing and a curse.  I’m sure my parents remember that time when I took an old vacuum cleaner apart.

China_20091129_1826_Day11 The highlight of the excursion was when he found the toy that is some kind of convertible toy that grows with your kid.  It starts out as one that the kid can ride on and push himself along with his feet and then later, it converts so they can walk behind it. 

Well, Kai pulled himself up and was walking with it.  He wasn’t just slowly plodding along, he was zooming.  He just would walk until he got stopped by something  (like a wall).  Then one of us would turn him around and he’d keep going.  He did this for what seemed like hours and was just laughing and smiling the whole time.

I could swear he finally saw a bit of freedom and enjoyed every second of it.  The funny part was that his little butt couldn’t hold up his pants so they kept falling down and we had to keep pulling them back up.

Not only did I get photos of this, but we recorded some video too.

Eventually it was getting close to 4:30PM and we had to be meeting the group at 5PM at the first floor elevators so we could walk to the Thai restaurant together.

So, we gathered up our stuff,  put our shoes back on and made our way back to the room where we made sure we had enough stuff to cover any incident with Kai.

The walk to the Thai restaurant was quick.  It actually wasn’t far from Subway.

Once inside it quickly plunged into chaos.  Remember how I told you China_20091129_1836_Day11that several CCAI groups were doing the tours with us this morning. Well, this was another event where we were all at the same place at the same time.  So the entire restaurant was CCAI families.

To top it off, even though we know the restaurant knew we were coming, they really didn’t seem to know how to handle a group that large where it was predetermined that every family would have a separate check.

China_20091129_1837_Day11 They tried giving everyone a piece of paper so your order could be put on it and then they wrote a number on the placemat of one of the members of the group, but after they had taken your order and submitted it, many people were getting the wrong copies of their order tickets back and getting someone else's.

Also, even after you’d already gotten your food someone would come to you and try to put another plate down of food you didn’t even order.

There were also these chips they put down that Kai absolutely loved China_20091129_1841_Day11 despite them having a slight kick to them.  The taste reminded me a bit of Lays Barbeque Potato Chips.  Later I found out they were chips made out of prawn.

We really had a hard time finding food that we were interested in.  So I got the beef satay, Nancy got the Thai-style fried rice, and kai got steamed eggs.

I fed Kai while I tried to eat my satay. Since my food was basically meet on a stick, it was easier for me to eat my food and feed Kai than it was for Nancy to eat rice and feed him.

The food really wasn’t that great in my opinion, but I really am not a fan of Thai food.

When we got the bill we were a bit shocked at how high it was considering the price of the entrees we got.

Since the receipt was all in mandarin there was no way to know what we got charged for. 

Later, outside, I found out that they charged us for the moist toilettes they gave us when we sat down and those prawn chips that none of us asked for.

Add in the outrageous price for drinks (since we cannot drink the tap water) and you have an expensive meal.

After dinner, Robyn,Jason, Ying, Nancy, Kai and me decided to poke China_20091129_1848_Day11 our heads into some shops.  The first shop was one near subway.  Sure enough, the shop keepers start chatting us up wanting to know about our kids.  There really wasn’t anything in this shop that interested us.

The rest of the night was seeing us going in and out of shops.  We eventually ended up in one where Jason and Robyn found some shirts they bought and Nancy liked the people who ran it and told us they could tailor o ne of the little silk suits for Kai so he’d have one for his group picture on Wednesday.  Apparently, it’s a tradition to get your photo on some red couch here at the White Swan and they dress the kids in the “traditional” silk suits (not suits like white collar workers wear). 

We were told to come back the next day when the tailor was back.  She didn’t work after 6PM and it was now way past 6.

China_20091129_1855_Day11 One thing is for sure, these shop keepers work for their money.  Jason asked about a shirt depicting a famous military figure from the time of the founding of People’s Republic of China and one of them ran to another store they own and came back with one.  You could tell they were rather impressed he knew who this person was.  I honestly didn’t, so he had to explain to  me who he was.  After he filled me in, I vaguely remembered the history from when we were taught it back at my days at Singapore American  School.

This was the last store we stopped off at so it was back to the hotel room.

We said our goodbyes on the 10th floor and went to our respective China_20091129_1861_Day11rooms.

Back in the room, Kai was rather rambunctious.  Since he had that late nap the last thing he wanted to do was go to bed. 

So, we decided to give him a bath.  He is starting to get really wired at bath time and his splashing is getting more and more aggressive.  Plus, he finds new ways to splash.  He’s also starting to jump up and stand in the middle of getting washed and trying to walk in the tub.

At one point, he fell but caught himself but still managed to land face first in the water. We think he inhaled some of the water but didn’t drink it.  He didn’t scream or cry but we didn’t know what that would mean.

Well, when we were drying him off, I felt this distinct vibration coming from his middle back.  I told Nancy he was going to blow and sure enough, those steamed eggs decided it was time to revisit us.  So, two towels were now soiled and unusable.

So, we threw him back in the tub and cleaned him up again.

This time, we had to use one of the big, adult towels to dry him off and again, he threw up.  This time it was after we got the pajamas on him, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as the first time.

We eventually got him all ready for bed and the vomiting ceased.  We think we may have overfed him but it’s hard to tell when enough is enough when he keeps asking for more.

He still didn’t want to go to bed, but Nancy was desperate for some shut eye so she put him in the crib.  Once the lights were out he got the hint and laid down.

I, of course, went to the computer and worked on the blog post.  Kai once again woke up several times and I tried to console him.

At one point, he just was inconsolable so I picked him up and walked around the room with him.  He eventually reached for his bottle and I knew he’d lay back down.  Sure enough it worked.

I had over 300 pictures taken this day and I wasn’t going to stay up waiting for it, so I set up the process to start and went to bed.

The next day was our consulate appointment.  We didn’t have to do anything but sit in our room to wait for a phone call which either would say we had a problem or we were fine.

So, until tomorrow….

So far….. (Nancy’s version)

So far I have learned more than I ever thought possible! This last week has been a crash course in parenting 101.  Some of my highlights (sorry that is all I have time for).

-This new little man loves his momma!  He wants to be with his momma all of the time!

-No matter how much is on his face, he can’t stand to have anything on his hands and will let you know the instant that he gets anything on his little fingers.

-Kai is going to be a cuddler!  On the bus yesterday as we were going to tour the 6 Banyan Tree temple, he decided to lay his head on my chest- just to cuddle.  It wasn’t even close to nap time yet.  At nap time and bed time he would much prefer me to any crib.  He also has no problem with holding on to me when I carry him.  He acts like he was carried a lot and knows what to do, which is very reassuring to me. China_20091129_1735_Day11

-Kai loves to sing!  He must have had someone sing to him because he is constantly singing the same little tune.  If I hum or sing to him, he will sing back to me.

-He already has me totally and completely wrapped around his precious little fingers.  I have already told him countless times that I will do anything for him and buy him anything (good thing he won’t remember this time right ;)

-He has started a new thing where he likes to crinkle his nose.  He will scrunch up his nose and then giggle.  He especially liked doing this on our plane ride from Zhengzhou with two younger females (early 20’s) that were cattycorner from us.  What a little flirt already!China_20091129_1521_Day11

-He has learned to wave and loves to wave hello and goodbye to everyone around us.China_20091129_1787_Day11

-Kai is super smart!  It take him no time at all to figure out a new toy (even complex ones) and to figure out how to get around whatever we are asking him NOT to do.China_20091129_1814_Day11

-If he can turn an object into a percussion instrument (anything that you can hit, strike, strum, or bang) he will!  HE IS ALL BOY!  He may just take after his momma with the drums though and that is OK by me.

-He loves to people watch.  He is fascinated by others.  No matter where we are, he can stay entertained for a relatively longtime (for his age) just by watching people.  It’s only a problem at feeding times when we need his attention, but otherwise he is just social and will interact with the people he is watching.

-For right now a bottle can cure just about anything.  There is rarely a time that this boy doesn’t have a bottle in his mouth!  Sometimes he uses it for eating but most of the time he just chews on it.  It is his pacifier. If he gets fussy- give him his bottle.  If he gets tired- give him his bottle. I am not going to fight this one any time soon. It is helping us to have the kid that everyone else envies while we are out and about. They all just think that he eats a lot, and that is fine by me. He does need to chunk up but I am sure that his bottle will be the way to get that done.

-He has no problem sharing things unless it is his mommy’s lap.  He will share his cheerios, toys, bottle- but a little girl tried to climb into my lap in the playroom and he made a direct line over to reclaim the lap. No violence, just lots of whimpering and dirty looks.  It should be interesting to see what kind of arrangement Belle and him work out when we get home.

-Kai is slowly warming up to his daddy.  Just last night they were able to get some cuddle time in and he sat on his lap for Skype calls this morning.  It may be a slow progression (slower than Ray would like) but I see changes in the interaction every day.  Soon enough they will be inseparable buddies.  And Ray is doing AWESOME as a dad!  I know that he is hard on himself, but he is doing amazing! China_20091126_1356_Day08

-Many of the locals think that Kai is too pretty to be a boy.  Even the doctor at the physical kept repeating- Oh it’s a boy- in a very surprised tone once the diaper was removed.  His huge eyes and little dimple on his right cheek that just jumps out at you when he smiles are hard to resist. (again this boy has me suckered)  

-The things that I was most worried about and the build up of anxiety surrounding these issues- squatty potties, changing diapers while being out in strange surroundings, bonding issues, etc have really not been that big of a deal.  Feeling crummy with terrible mattresses and not getting a good nights sleep is the worst!  I am not much of a complainer (worrier yes, but complainer no) but you try sleeping on the floor (basically on these mattresses) while being 6 months pregnant and see how your back feels in the morning.  Add to that a 17 lb weight that you can’t hand off all day- the exhaustion may just get me by the end of the trip.  BUT would I trade in the momentary discomfort and fatigue for missing out on this trip? NEVER!!!!!!! 

I know that I am probably leaving out over a hundred things that I want to remember forever.  I will just have to blame that on the fatigue for now.  Hopefully I will be able to get them all down before the real chaos starts- once we are home.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Journey to Kai – Day 10 (Clinic Day)

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).

China_20091128_1391_Day10The 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.

I immediately went to locate eggs and yogurt for Kai.  I found the China_20091128_1400_Day10yogurt rather quickly but I couldn’t find the egg station to get him  his scrambled eggs.

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.

China_20091128_1403_Day10Well, today wasn’t a fun event.  This was the very much known about trip to the clinic for Kai’s physical.  This is part of the US Consulate’s requirements for his visa to come into the country.

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 China_20091128_1404_Day10 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. 

China_20091128_1409_Day10 Since it was warm enough that I didn’t need to be wearing my fleece pullover (I had it wrapped around my waste in case it was needed), I used it to shield the 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 China_20091128_1411_Day10partying.

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.

China_20091128_1416_Day10It reminded me more of a high school cafeteria than it did a medical clinic.

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.  China_20091128_1417_Day10

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.

In addition to all the adoptive families, there were also local families China_20091128_1420_Day10in the clinic getting their needs taken care of.

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 China_20091127_1498_Day10that 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.China_20091128_1427_Day10

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.

China_20091128_1429_Day10 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 China_20091128_1437_Day10 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 China_20091128_1440_Day10 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 China_20091128_1446_Day10 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. 

China_20091128_1459_Day10 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.

Kai was a trooper. They gave him a shot in each leg and each arm China_20091128_1460_Day10 for the total of 4 that he was due.

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.

Since we had to wait 20 minutes anyway we told them we would China_20091128_1465_Day10 wait for them and we’d walk back to the hotel together.

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.China_20091128_1469_Day10

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.

China_20091128_1472_Day10 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 China_20091128_1475_Day10 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.

China_20091128_1480_Day10 I tried to ignore it as much as I could. I knew that Kai was not going to have much joy in my attempting to go anywhere near him. 

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 China_20091128_1482_Day10 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 China_20091128_1484_Day10 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 China_20091128_1489_Day10 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 China_20091128_1492_Day10weren’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 China_20091128_1496_Day10back).  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 China_20091128_1497_Day10 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 China_20091128_1499_Day10 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).

China_20091128_1504_Day10There were other families from our group there already, plus families who went there for lunch recommended it.

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.

All the adults got the “Great American Burger” with cheese and Kai  China_20091128_1505_Day10got chicken congee and Ying had a steamed vegetable plate.

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 China_20091128_1506_Day10to 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.

Until Tomorrow…..