Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween

We went walking around the area today and ended up at Pizza Hut for lunch. The hostess was dressed in an orange witch outfit. Happy Halloween from China.

Sarah is looking pretty in the pajamas my aunt bought her. She really hams it up for the camera. She also likes when her big brother reads to her!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

It's official

Sorry for the delay in posting. We've been so busy trying to do dishes while having to boil the water, doing laundry, school work, shopping and tending to the princess's needs.

Monday at 2:30 we walked next door to the government adoption office. The 5 families sat in a waiting room waiting for each step. First we each had our pictures made with the baby which would go on the final decree. Second we had an interview which consisted of the governmental officials looking to see if we were the same people in the photo (that they just took.) Lastly we each put our thumb prints on the documents. The officials said, "Congratulation!" and she was ours forever. It was very anticlimactic after 3 years of waiting to get to that point.

The "Head Lady" from the orphanage and one of the nannies were there at the government office. They took picture with all the families. They came over to Sarah and said, "Ai Ai, beautiful."

Sarah is the queen of sleep. They must have known how much we love sleep when they matched her to our family. She had 3 naps on Monday and 2 longer naps on Tuesday. We were able to keep her up in the evening so she would go to bed earlier and sleep longer We had to wake her up this morning at 9:00 a.m. to make it to breakfast before it closed - that was about 12 hours of sleep overnight.

Observations from S….

Cokes/Sprite are still distributed with “pull tabs”. Coffee is so strong at the hotel restaurant that your spoon can stand straight up. God bless the person who invented Folgers coffee singles.

No potable water in a 5 star hotel – we must boil water in the room or use bottled water to brush teeth and clean baby bottles – but right down the street you’ll find a Starbuck’s, McDonald’s, Pizza Hut and a Haagen Daz.

Chongqing is the largest city in China with just over 30 million people compared to 8 million in New York City.

Smoking is a national past time in China – hotel lobbies, bathrooms, restaurants, office buildings, etc. Cigs are stocked in the hotel room mini-bar.

Very little, if any English is spoken in Chongqing – far different than Beijing where most attempt to speak English.

If you want a “fresh” dinner just go to the local supermarket to select a live crab, fish, frogs, turtles, chicken feet and other various animal parts.

Chongqing is made up of slums located directly next door to new skyscrapers – major rebuilding of the city to accommodate the rapid growth.

We’ve not seen the sun in 5 days – not sure if its smog, fog or straight pollution but our allergies are going strong.

Buicks, Fords, Chevrolets along with Toyotas, Nissans and other unrecognizable auto brands pack the city streets and highways.

Young children don’t wear diapers – when the urge hits them they just squat no matter where they are…McDonald’s, airport or a city park. J asked if the circle “P” was for no parking or no…

Younger generation…20 somethings…celebrate the gift giving of Christmas not the B.C. Older generation don’t even acknowledge the gift giving. Strangely enough they use BC to recognize years…

CNN (Hong Kong edition) on Channel 43…communist propaganda on Channel 44…and their version of MTV has the communist flag in every music video.

Pre-requisite for driving…a course in the finer art of using your horn…turn signals are optional….

Steak dinners are interesting to say the least…everything is rare to medium rare…I’m not sure they understand the concept of anything past medium.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Settling In

Sarah got to sleep around 10 and slept through the night. Our plans to settle her into the crib instead of the bed went flying out the window.

We're impressed with her abilities. She's just about to walk. She has good hearing and sight. She has the concept of object permanence down. She has good hand/eye coordination and manual dexterity (gimme the cheerio!)

Already, electronics are her favorite toys (cell phone, Nintendo DS) but she is mildly amused with the toys we've brought for her. She also likes reading Field and Stream magazine. (Daddy is pleased). If we take her picture, she wants to see the screen on the back of the digital camera where the image appears. We are pleased with the quality of foster care she received.

Mommy went to Xiulan's room today and did paperwork. We have a meeting at the government office at 2:30 today. Sarah is catching a nap right now and Daddy and J are out looking for lunch right now. They will attempt McDonald's again. Yesterday we were successful there, but not before a bit of commotion trying to explain we wanted plain cheeseburgers. People here either frown at us or smile and want to test out their English on us. Two girls about 12 who also had braces smiled and tried to chat with J. Preteen girls are giggly all over the world.

Sarah's here!

We were told to be in the lobby of the hotel at 3:00 to meet our coordinator, Xiulan. We arrived with her a few minutes before 3:00 and already the babies and nannies were in the lobbies. They were handing out babies before Xiulan was there.

A man was holding Sarah. J and I went around his back to see her face and he handed Sarah to J!!!! She began to cry and he did not know what to do. I took her and she cried as did about 1/2 the babies. The lobby was bustling with activity, people stopping to watch, too much stimulation, so we all headed to our rooms.

Sarah continued to cry and cry. Finally we set her on the bed so she wouldn't have the "giant strangers" holding her. She picked up her shoe and that gave some comfort.

We finally figured out she was tired. We got her to sleep (thus the reason I am able to post so soon.) We'll see what she thinks of us after she wakes up.

Xiulan visited us and said the babies who cry are the smartest babies. She will be a genius. Also, Xiulan said she was spoiled. Since she was in foster care, that may be true by comparison.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Chongqing arrival

Arrived Chongqing late Saturday night. We were met by Xiulan ("Shoe-Lawn") who is an amazing older Chinese lady who is a spitfire. She's the reason we chose this agency.

We're in a BBIIIGGG city! Luckily we have McDonalds and Pizza Hut across the street. We went to the supermarket this morning to buy water and sprite. We scoped out the pampers. When our group walks around we cause quite a lot of stares.

After 3 years of hearing how cold the hotels are in China, we've landed in a hot box. All of us are breaking out our shorts. I suppose no matter the temperature, since it's late October, they've turned on the heat. We borrowed a fan for the room and we have the window cracked.

We were going to travel to the orphanage to get the babies but we found out last night that the girls are coming here. I thought I might be disappointed, but I'm actually glad. We're tired from traveling from Beijing and all our "baby gear" is here in the room. No need to figure out what we should pack for the bus ride. Less than 4 hrs to get the babies....gotta go get cameras ready!!!!


If you want to stay in order, read Friday’s blog first, then this one.
We had a breakfast buffet at the hotel both days. There are lots of choices, and even some we want to eat.  If we drink the water here, we risk getting sick so we drink boiled water or bottled water. This morning in the rush to get packed, I forgot that and put water from the faucet on my toothbrush. It promptly went in the trash.

We checked out and loaded in the van with Phoebe and Mr. Gua, headed for the Great Wall. It was about an hour drive NE to the mountains. Peddlers rush you as you exit the van, wanting to sell hats, t-shirts and postcards. Never pay the price they ask; they will haggle with you.

The Wall was crowded and the climb was a kicker. It was amazing to stand on such an ancient structure. There were “gutters” built to keep rain water from building up on the wall. The steps were all different sizes and heights. It was very challenging at times. We were all glad we did the climb. The tall Americans got lots of looks. Several people wanted to have pictures with Jack including a group of older ladies that kept touching his face.

Afterwards we had lunch at a government-owned cloissone factory and store that caters to tourists. The food was more enjoyable there. Again, chicken and rice.

Friday, with all the fog, around 1,000 flights leaving Beijing were cancelled. We did not know this until we were on our way to the Great Wall. We headed to the airport early. Phoebe was able to get us checked in early. There was some anxiety when something appeared in one of our checked bags on the x-ray machine and S had to unpack the whole thing for the screener. We still don’t know what it was.

Down at gate 25, we ran into one of the families from our travel group and the Alabama family. There was a second anxious moment as the fog rolled in at the terminal. We all wondered if we would get out of the airport or if we would have to spend another night in Beijing. We boarded the bus out to the plane and realized the fog was only near the terminal. We met another travel group family on the plane. Dinner was served – chicken and rice.


Friday we awoke to a weather report of 100% humidity and 0.1 km visibility. It was a foggy day in Beijing. We were picked up by Phoebe and Mr. Gua, the driver. Driving is an adventure in China. It seems everyone makes their own lane. It gives new meaning to “tear on the dotted line”.
Our first stop was Tian’namen Square. S asked our guide to show him where the student uprising occurred. She responded, “that is not part of our history.” Later he asked her, “Can you show me where the protest DID NOT occur?” 

Next we went to the Forbidden City. Built during the Qing Dynasty, it is amazing that it is still in such good condition and so beautiful.

For lunch we were taken to a local restaurant. The food was quite different than what we are used to. Thank goodness for chicken and rice.

We then headed to the Temple of Heaven, a beautiful park also built during the Qing Dynasty where the emperor would worship the god of the heavens three times a year. S asked more difficult questions, asking our guide what was her religion. She replied, “communist.”

Our last stop was the Summer Palace where the emperor and empress would escape the heat of summer at the Forbidden City. It’s on man-made Kunming Lake. We could not fathom how they dug such a large lake before heavy equipment was invented.

J fell asleep on the way to the Summer Palace. He managed to muster enough energy to wake up and make the walk. He fell back to sleep on the ride back to the hotel. He went straight to bed, missing yet another meal. I had peanut butter cheese crackers and hit the bed. S ordered a hamburger from room service that was questionable.

At midnight, J was wide awake wanting to play his DS. We managed to get him back to sleep for 4 more hours.

Bathrooms are an adventure in China. Most don’t have commodes, only a hole in the ground. There’s a little stick figure picture on the door indicating if it is a western-style toilet or a squatty pottie. There’s usually one toilet paper dispenser at the door when you go in. You take in with you what you think you’ll need. Sean swiped the t.p. from the hotel and brought it with us to the Great Wall.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Long day of Sightseeing

We somehow got a private tour yesterday of Tiannamen Square, the Forbidden City, The Summer Palace and the Temple of Heaven. We were supposed to be with a group but Phoebe and Mr. Gua showed up drive us around all day.

We love Phoebe. She was very attentative to J and has a great sense of humor. We'll blog more and send photos soon. The're stuck on the flash drive right now and I can't see them. We're headed down to check out and hit the Great Wall. Mr. Gua and Phoebe will take us around again today.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The best sleep ever

We pushed ourselves to stay up until 6:00 p.m. China time. Sean walked over to the corner Pizza Hut and picked up comfort food from home. Funny thing, they gave us ketchup packets to go with the pizza.

Jack felt lousy last night (sore throat, tummy ache) but he's a new man this morning - yay! We were all WIDE awake at 3:00 a.m. Thus we blog! What else is there to do at 3:00 a.m. in China!

Surely we'll be on time to our 8:30 tour. ha!

A note: We can post blogs from here but we cannot SEE our blog - go figure - so we cannot see comments either.

40 hours later...but who's counting!?!?!

Well, 40 hours later we've arrived in Beijing. We had a delightful 10 hour layover in Los Angeles. Adventures in people watching. We were just glad we made it into and out of the area because the fires were a concern.

The first photo is of a cool follow-along map where we could see where we came from and what we had left to travel.
The LONG flight to Guangzhou turned out to be about 2.5 hours longer than we expected- 14:45 hrs. We had primo seats in Premium Economy. Lots of leg room for the giant family. J and I fell asleep right away. S woke up just as they were serving a meal so he grabbed one. J and I missed out.

About 10 hours later we got breakfast. In between, we were snacking on whatever we could find. It's really hard to know when to eat when you are 13 hours off schedule. We met up with another family getting a daughter from the same orphanage and made friends with several other families traveling to adopt. It's fairly obvious what the American families are heading to China for. We stick out like sore thumbs. I can just read the Chinese folks' minds as they gawk at our family..."look at the American Giants!"

Second photo is of Jack sleeping on the 2:45 hr flight from Guangzhou to Beijing. He feel asleep within 2 minutes of takeoff and completely missed lunch. We were met by a very nice lady named Phoebe who will be our guide in Beijing. We really like her.
We're showering and heading to bed soon 5:00 p.m. local time so we will hopefully be on this time zone soon. (Thanks for that advice Charles!) We all feel wiped out from traveling. We've got a tour in the morning of Tiannamen Square, Summer Place, Temple of Heaven. Then the next day we'll go to the Great Wall in the a.m. and off to Chongqing in the p.m. where we get Sarah the next day!

Thanks for coming along with us!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Yes Virginia, there is a Starbucks... China! I'm supposed to be packing right now, but I took a break to find out if there are any Starbucks in any of the cities to which we will travel: Beijing, Chongqing and Guangzhou. Luckily there are 41 dispersed among those three cities! Traveling just got easier.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Three days to go....

Dear Matt and all other readers,

We have three days until we fly. The big man is panicking, only to be comforted by his new Cabela's travel wardrobe. The dog is nervous about all the suitcases laid out. We have all of J's school work that he will miss.

For the two people left out there that don't know why this blog is named Journey to Clover, I will explain. Two and a half years ago, when the case worker was interviewing J during the home study she asked if he had a name for his sister. His firm answer was "Clover". We have called her Clover ever since. It's reminiscent of my friend Amy who called her daughter Flower Pot in utero. We have slipped a few times calling Sarah Clover instead. We'll keep working on it.
Looking at this photo, some have asked if there is something wrong with Sarah's legs. As far as we know there is not. I think the combination of the seat and position she is sitting in and the split pants that Chinese babies gives the appearance that something is different about her legs.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Join us on the journey

This journey started 3 years ago. Join us as we finally reach our goal of adding a beautiful little girl to our family. Except to tell you that we've named our daughter Sarah Annette Ai Ai, we will not use our first and last names for security purposes. If you leave a comment, please remember not to list our first or last names on this public site. Thanks.

We leave Oct 23 (earlier than we expected) and travel to Beijing for a few days. We then head to Chongqing and receive our daughter on October 28. Usually they bring the girls to your hotel, but we will actually travel to the orphanage to pick them up. That will be an experience.

Around November 3, we travel to Guangzhou to complete the U.S. paperwork. We'll depart November 9 and get home Nov. 10. It's a longer trip than expected. I have gotten J's school work to take with us. There's so much still to do before we go!

We'll keep you posted and try to blog and upload photos while in country.
Thanks for coming along. K

Monday, October 8, 2007

This is a test. This is only a test.

I'm writing from a hotel on a borrowed laptop, making sure I know how to post to this blog from somewhere other than home. It took a few minutes to remember my password - ha.

We found out today that we will travel to the orphanage to receive our daughter (instead of having her brought to the hotel as is the usual practice.) I believe it is a 2 hr drive one way. We're glad we booked flights getting into Chongqing the evening before "gotcha". It will be interesting to see the orphanage. More later.....K