China Trip Log

August 4, 2005 10:00 PM
We had our Oath Taking Ceremony today. We all shuffled into a room where a US representative would make sure that we had provided the truth about our daughter. It was very brief but was significant as it stands for the last part of the paperwork process and marks the end of a 15 month journey to bring Lily home. We were a little teary eyed to say the least.

We followed this ceremony up with another by heading out to the Six Banyans Buddhist Temple. This was an awe inspiring place with a very large pagoda. This temple was over 2000 years old and was really very beautiful. We entered one of the temples that housed a very large statue of Guan Yin (the only female Buddha and Goddess of Mercy and Compassion and guardian of all women and children). This was where the baby blessing ceremony took place. A monk very softly chanted as he hit a drum. We were all mesmerized and lulled into a calm state... so calm that Lily fell asleep! It was a very tranquil and soothing service that was meant to send the babies off into the world with peace and love. It was such a wonderful experience and I know Eric was especially touched by this, having been influenced by Buddhism for many years. It was really such a fitting place to end this memorable and life changing trip. Also, Buddhism is such a large part of Chinese culture that it is nice to have had a blessing for Lily in her country in this way. It made us all feel very peaceful and contemplative.

We headed back to the hotel to have one more meeting to pick up our baby’s passports and Visas to exit the country. We then all went for one last traditional Cantonese dinner down the street from the hotel and said our goodbyes to the friends that we will always cherish. Spending this life changing journey with them was something we will never forget. It was very hard to say goodbye. We can’t wait to see how these beautiful girls blossom.

Pictures from this day.
August 3, 2005 10:00 PM
Well we slept like babies after our massages last night... and now for some more shopping! But first we had to prepare Lily her for her photo shoot on the infamous Red Couch. This is where all babies that are leaving China get their last group picture taken for us to all remember each and every little one in our group. Each and every one screamed their heads off for it. Lily may have been the loudest!

Then off to the Jade and Pearl Market for some nice presents for Lily when she gets a bit older. We even got her some pearl earrings for her wedding... or for when she gets old enough to appreciate them... which ever comes first. Lily is feeling much better. She awoke with a gleam in her eye and a bounce in her step... could this have been the promise of more shopping? She is learning well.

We had our "Exit" Meeting today with the Holt staff to go over our exiting china strategy as we all had different arrangements to coordinate. Whoa! We just realized we would be leaving at 5am on Friday... way to early!

We then spent the afternoon shopping once again. We explored the hotel surroundings and all of the small shops that Shamian Island had to offer. These shops were mostly targeted towards Americans staying at the White Swan. They even had stroller rental and laundry service as well as many nice things to purchase. We made a dent in our long list of necessary purchases for Lily and then headed back for a BBQ dinner poolside with all of the Holt families. The hotel is right on the Pearl River so it made for a fantastic backdrop to a wonderful dinner. This was a celebration dinner as tomorrow would be all of the babies final "Oath Taking" at the consulate to allow them to become US citizens when they arrive in the US. Dinner was extremely good and the company could not have been matched.

Pictures from this day.
August 2, 2005 10:00 PM
Lily woke up in her new surroundings after a very nice long sleep. The plane ride was uneventful in all regards, most of the children were quiet (we had 13 babies onboard!). The flight was still stressful for the parents as they were worrying at each bump and loud annoucement that their child would wake and start crying. One thing we have noticed about Lily is that it takes a lot of noise to wake her up which is great.

We were staying at the famous White Swan hotel. A beautiful and ornate 5 star hotel famous for hosting the masses of families that adopt from China. It is on Shamian Island on the Pearl River. Shamian Island is a European styled area with buildings and tree lined streets and many parks. It is a very picturesque place but again, VERY HOT.

We went down to our first breakfast at the White Swan to find a bustling room with hundreds of families who were all participating in this beautiful journey together. We were now one family in a sea of families like us. We were already aware of the crazy schedule ahead so we made sure to enjoy every moment of our breakfast that day.

The day started with a paperwork meeting at 9:30 AM where we checked all of our paperwork and handed in the necessay documents for Lily's Visa processing. Lily woke that day with a slight fever once again and by 10 AM was very cranky and refused her bottle. We took her to the clinic at the White Swan where there was a doctor on duty 24/7.

The doctor prescribed a different antibiotic for her since the congestion was showing in her chest and her ears looked infected. She also gave us two vials of "mystery" liquid to mix with the antibiotic as well as powdered vitamin B. A combination of Western and traditional Chinese medicines seemed the best solution and the doctor was confident she would be better within a few days.

We gave her the first dose and she was also given a very stylish "cold patch" for her forehead that would help her fever come down. This patch contained herbs and Eucalyptus and smelled kinda funny. The patch would not stick to her head so it was held on with a mesh cap that made her look like she had joined an infant street gang! (
see the picture here) We got lots of chuckles and many curious stares from folks as we headed to our Visa photo appointment at noon. The poor thing, she was so cranky and very self conscious (or maybe it was us!) about her new look.

At 2:30 PM we headed out to her medical exam at the US Consulate where she was poked and prodded, weighed and measured. She gave one docter a bit of a scare because he had never seen a headdress like that before. He thought she had a head injury and demanded an explanation from our guides. It all worked out and he learned something that day! We finally got a weight on her, 14.2 pounds! Our little peanut...

We were then picked up by bus and dropped off at a local market that was supposed to be air conditioned. That is if you call a stale breeze and ceiling fans air conditioning. Thankfully it was short and we were back at the hotel in no time. Lily was on the mend by now and was starting to perk up again.

All in all it was a busy first day in Guangzhou. We ended our day with a Mommy massage party at the local spa where the ladies all got a 90 minute massage. The Daddies didn't know until the Mommies got back that they were next for the massage. A bit of a surpise as it was late in the evening but who turns down a massage?

Guangzhou is where all families who adopt from China must go to finish the process and leave the country with their children. This combined with the US Consulate being here means we are seeing many people who speak English and most of the people we interact with on the street spoke more English than we spoke Mandarin or Cantonese! More paperwork tomorrow!
Pictures from this day.
August 1, 2005 10:00 PM
Today is both a sad and a happy day for us. Today is the day we leave Hunan, the province that Lily was born in. We had a lot of packing to do, being as we had shopped quite a bit. How to fit a lot more items into the same baggage... a task one would think impossible became quite the challenge. This last day was touch and go for us as her adoption certificate came back with a minor printing error. So we had to get it corrected last minute to be able to get her through the airport with us. We had a nice group lunch at a very good cafeteria style restaurant in the hotel with some very interesting choices... Pigs stomach, intestines, and lots of pickled things.

We had a hearty meal and headed back to the room to complete the daunting task of getting the goods packed. Our flight to Guangzhou was delayed which extended our visit to Hunan for a few more hours. More time to think about how bad a 1 and a half hour flight with a screaming child would be. The anticipation was killing us.

We headed to the airport at 7 PM. Lily fell asleep in the hotel lobby as we waited for the bus. She slept the entire bus ride, the entire check-in and boarding at a very noisy airport, woke up during take-off just enough to take a few gulps of her bottle and then conked out until landing. She then took a few more gulps and went back to sleep. She slept through the 45 minute bus ride and a late night (12:30 AM!) check-in at our new hotel, the famous White Swan. She was proven herself to be a capable and willing traveler so far.
July 31, 2005 9:38 PM
So, have we mentioned that Hunan province is very hot? Well, it is. In more ways than one, but let's start in the morning. Today was the day we would get to visit a farming village outside of Changsha city. The chances are good that most of our daughters were born to women from the rural areas of Hunan and so getting a firsthand look at the lifestyle and culture that she comes from would be a great memory to take back and tell her about when she asks. We were warned that the trip would take 40 minutes by bus and then we would be walking on very uneven ground for a while as we toured the farms and homes in the area. We chose to travel light and only brought some water, some toys, Cherrios for snacks, an umbrella to keep the sun off, and the baby. It was a good decision as it was a real trek around the chuck holes and ditches that dotted our path through the rice paddies. We went to a working farm and snaked our way through the lines of rice plants, passing other kinds of food plants in various corners and plots. One patch of bright red chilli peppers caught our eye and we exclaimed our delight a bit too loud. Our Holt guide asked us if we liked spicy food and of course, gluttons for punishment that we are, we said yes. She said she and the other guides all go out to a local Hunan restaurant each night and that we were welcome to join them that night for some real Hunan style food. We were in heaven at the thought and agreed to inform the rest of the group about this great opportunity to experience more of the local culture.

Back in the fields, we came upon a small dwelling with a concrete courtyard. Two small boys had been escorting us from the moment we got off of the tour bus and they let us know that the house was okay to visit. We were greeted warmly by an older man in simple clothes and a straw hat tending to some chores in front of his home. He welcomed us into his home without hesitation and immediately poured many cups of tea for us all. He then gave us a tour of his home and allowed us to take pictures and video of whatever we wanted. He was truly one of the most endearing and sincerely welcoming people we have met. I have no doubt that he is representative of the character inherent in all of the people in this beautiful farming community. We showed him a card we have been carrying that has a picture of Lily (in our arms at the time) and a Chinese language version of our story in one paragraph. He was very taken with the card and seemed to be asking if he could keep it. We felt really bad but it was the only one we had so we asked our guide to tell him no. She talked to him for a few seconds and he said he just wanted her picture as a memento since he thought she was so cute. Luckily we had several copies of her photos from her referal and we gave him one of those. He seemed very happy to have it. After some more tea and photo taking, we moved back out into the fields and the heat. Yikes! It was even hotter now... Back on the bus we waved goodbye to the nice people we had met and to the fields and community that could very well have been the birthplace of our daughters, if not in reality then in character.

Remember those chilli peppers? Well, when we got back to the hotel we called each of the families to see if they wanted to try out some authentic Hunan style food. We didn't know if it was everyone's cup of tea but we were delighted to find every single family wanted to go! So we all met in the lobby at the proper time and walked up the street to a local restaurant. We took up most of one whole dining room, what with all of the diaper bags and strollers and other gear. The food came out in typical fashion, many dishes on a giant lazy susan in the middle of the table with everyone spinning to get what they wanted. Our guide, Tracy, had ordered 6 dishes for each table. 3 spicy and 3 mild. It was a good plan since the spicy dishes were REALLY spicy! Everyone was cautious but curious as each new dish came out. Tracy was kind enough to make sure we all knew what was what, though it was pretty obvious from the multiple shades of peppers "peppering" (sorry!) the surfaces of 3 of the dishes. Reactions were very positive and everyone had plenty to eat. Christy and I were over the moon and probably ate too much of the spicy dishes but they were so good it was hard to stop! The nice thing about really spicy food is once you get past the initial hotness, you can keep eating and it doesn't get any hotter. You start to notice the more subtle flavors under the heat and the food takes on more depth. We ate our fill and then some and it was worth the burning lips and stinging tongues. We agreed that it was by far the best Chinese food we have ever had and we are grateful to Tracy and the other guides for allowing us the chance to experience this part of our daughters culture.

On the home front, Lily is living up to her spicy Hunan birthright! What started out as a very stoic and complacent little baby has begun to evolve into a firey, purposeful, and very LOUD little girl! She has been asserting herself more and more each day and as we learn more of what makes her tick we are beginning to see that she was just reserving herself until she understood just what this new part of her life would hold for her. She has quite a set of lungs and she is not afraid to use them. I am sure our neighbors down the hall are not nearly as fond of her singing voice as we are...

Lots of love, Eric and Christy
Pictures from this day.
July 30, 2005 8:39 PM
Today we ventured out to a local university in Changsha that dates back over 1000 years. The buildings were very ornate and the grounds were well maintained. It was filled with students and local tours visiting. We were able to see a performance by some students on traditional Chinese intruments that was very good. Lily was entranced by the bells (they looked like large cowbells). It was an extremely hot day, probably at least 100 degrees if not hotter so the few moments we sat to listen to the music in the air-conditioning was extremely memorable!

As we looked around at the buildings and architecture many people that were curious about the babies approached the group with questions. Most people had a common comment to us... "Lucky baby". It seemed that Americans were rock stars to some of these people. We became the main attraction, being asked to pose for pictures and developing an entourage. It was so nice to talk to the people about who we are and have them ask questions. We have a card made up in Chinese for just this occasion explaining us and the adoption and that we are so happy to have met them so we can tell the baby later about the wonderful people here. The people really are something else. They are so kind and genuinely happy for us and Lily.

So after a few hours of this hot weather we came back to the hotel and then ventured out one more time for some shopping at the local department store. Again drawing looks and questions and many ladies wanting to hold the baby. This is so common here in China, strangers wanting to hold your baby. We can't help but think that the women of Hunan must feel something special for Lily as she is a Hunan girl and you can see it in these women's faces that their hearts go out for her.

We shopped for gifts for our guides as well as some more essentials. We came back to the room for a much need rest before heading out to the meeting room for a good old American Pizza Hut party. We also received some more documents regarding the adoption as well as some very important keepsakes for Lily. The Director gave us her original note that her mother left with her as well as a translation of the note. We were also given her finding ad and some pictures of her at the orphanage. The orphange staff also gave us all necklaces with a Buddha and Guan Shih Yin on the front and back of the medallion to give to the girls later as a good luck token. This was all very emotional for us as it once again brought us to that place where we just knew how much the babies of You Xian were loved. We feel very fortunate to have been able to meet these women and the Director so we can share this with Lily in the future.

Well it's been a very busy and fun day. Lily is smiling more and more and we are quickly learning about what makes her happy. We are so very blessed, she is our little miracle. Goodnight!
Pictures from this day.
July 29, 2005 10:03 PM
So we were told that Hunan province is famous for it's embroidery arts and that the local people are very proud of the Hunan Embroidery Research Institute located nearby. We got an early start and boarded the bus by 9:30 AM for the trip to the institute. Jeez Louise! It was so hot already! The institute was mostly a working embroidery shop with a large area with a museum like quality to explain the history of embroidery in China and Hunan in particular. Hunan is also famous for it's double sided embroidery which is a technique that creates an image on both sides of the fabric being embroidered (sp?). More over, if done with a fitting design, it is possible to have a different image on the other side of fabric! This takes a lot of work and is very visually appealing. Moving onto the work area, we were treated to a large room full of women working on real pieces. We must have been a distraction what with all of us talking loudly, taking pictures and carrying our babies everywhere. The women kept working with aplomb and even played with some of the children as was expected. The tour ended in a series of rooms with many, many beautiful works for sale. We could not help ourselves and made a few choice purchases to remember this place.

Heading back to the hotel a few hours later we made a plan with some other couples to visit the local shopping area down the street. We still needed some outfits for Lily since she only had a few that fit from our trip to Walmart. First stop was The Friendship Store which is a chain we have seen everywhere. The name makes me think of a cult but hey, they have always taken our money so how bad could they be? Unfortunately, we quickly realized that this Friendship Store was rather high end and while the staff was very nice, playing with Lily and showing us their wares, we didn't really need perfume or jade or gold busts of Chairman Mao.

So we moved onto the Apollo farther the street. Why it's named the same as the famous theater in Harlem, New York is beyond me but we are learning to just shrug when presented with strange English signs and names here. It adds character to the experience. This store has a much more varied stock to offer and more importantly, they have a large childrens section with clothing and toys and whatnot. We picked up 4 or 5 nice tiny outfits for Lily and a new pink hat she seems to tolerate. Prices are so good it's hard to stop once you find things that you like or that fit.

The next item on the days agenda was to find the hotel pool and see how Lily reacts to water. A few other families from the group had the same idea and we all hunted through the labrynthian hallways of the hotel to find the pool. Once we found it we had to run the gauntlet of getting a locker, taking a shower first, trading our flip-flops for hotel sandals (slimy!) and then finally wading through a shallow foot pool to wash our feet off. Only then were we allowed to get to the pool proper. The good news is Lily loves the water! She was very comfortable as were all of the babies. I wonder if they had been exposed to water earlier already or just didn't know to be afraid. Either way we are very happy as we would like to have a child that is as happy in water as we are.

Dinner that night was a big group of the families going to the in-hotel "Coffee Bar". This turned out to tbe just that. A Bar that served coffee and where almost everyone was smoking. We were on out way out when the wait staff frantically tried to convince us of the availability of a large room where we could get food and walk around with the babies. So we acquiesed and had a fun evening of microwaved food and hijinx. I managed to spill my drink for only the third time this trip! Somebody should cut me off. dinner

And finally we are very happy to announce that we have passed one of the first and most important milestones of parenting... The first poop! Nothing more on that topic. Just a happier baby.

Eric and Christy
Pictures from this day.
July 28, 2005 10:30 PM
(Editors note: This post is almost a whole day late since we are so busy so please adjust your internal clocks back a day to read this post.)

Okay, so Lily had a rough night with a high fever and was not a happy camper for most of the evening and wee hours of the morning. But once the sun rose a new girly emerged! Her fever was down and she, with both hands securely holding the bottle, finished her first full bottle yet. She was hungry! We went to breakfast where she dined on her usual congee and watermelon.

Then we all boarded the bus to head out for a morning of shopping. Many supplies were needed that we didn't think we would need and some things we had but Lily just didn't like... We needed clothes as almost all of the ones we brought are just falling off of her. We put her jean shorts on with an elastic waist but when we stood her up they fell to her feet! She's just like her daddy, no butt! She is 9 months old but she can wear 0-3 month clothing. The funny thing is, she has the baby fat and is very healthy but she is just petite. Clothes were scarce in her size at Walmart but we did find one or two things that will tide us over until we can get out again.
We got formula as the Chinese brand is what she is used to so we should stick with that for a while. Also some rusk biscuits for her teething, apple juice and baby food by Heinz. We of course could not resist some snacks for ourselves like Lays chips in all sorts of weird and wonderful flavors like cucumber, some Icy Mint Sprite (Eric is on his own with that one), which sounds totally gross, and some other weird snacks that Eric had heard about and wanted to try (Ed. It's called Pocky.).

The people in the store were all very curious to talk with us about the babies as we swarmed in as a group and must have looked like quite a sight to the people there. All of us were darting from one baby section to another with panic in our eyes... we could not read the labels as they were in Chinese and jarred baby food was running low so we all dove for the last few jars on the shelf. It could have been ugly but we have all become such good friends so we tried to divy it up fairly.

Back at the hotel we got to spend some time playing and reading, I mean chewing, some books and then we all finally had a much needed nap. We all went out as a group to dinner tonight at a traditional Hunan style restaurant. And as I have read from several sources the wait staff, or as they called them, "nannies", were very quick to swoop down on Lily and "babysit" as we enjoyed our meal. They even tried to feed her and she was just a happy girl. Back in our lap she ate a bowl of watermelon Congee... her two favorite foods in the same dish... oh boy! And she ate 2 bowls of steamed egg. A feast!

She is really starting to open up and is much more animated as the days pass. We had her giggling a lot today. She is so funny... she does this thing with her tongue whenever she laughs and she just lets it hang out. It's heart-stoppingly cute. She has also taken a liking to watching Chinese soap operas on TV. I think the Chinese voices soothe her and she goes right to sleep!

Okay well we are about to crash out now and we just can't wait to see what tomorrow holds. We are being taken to a local embroidery factory tomorrow. More shopping...oh goodie... I am training her well, she's a girl that likes to shop!
Pictures from this day.
Videos from this day.
July 27, 2005 8:56 PM
Lily is officially our Daughter!

We had a fairly smooth first night except for Eric being obsessive about checking on her every 15 minutes. So neither of us slept but Lily slept well. She woke around 4 AM instead of the 2 AM that her info sheet stated and thankfully Eric was checking her every 15 mins as we would have never known she was awake. She didn't cry, she just started to play with the covers and stick her hands out of the crib while smiling. So we gave her a bottle which was sucked down at record speed. She must have been really hungry. She was up for about an hour and then went back to sleep for an hour or so. She did have a runny nose developing and her breathing sounded a little congested so we figured we would ask the guide who is with us 24/7 if maybe a doctor could come and visit with us just to check her lungs. We bathed her before we left and she just loved the water. Usually she likes them before bed but because the night before we had not, we thought to start the day fresh would be nice. All her clothes are huge so she was swimming in her new pink ladybug dress that we chose for her big day. Looking like the cutest baby we had ever seen (we are extremely biased here) we went to breakfast where she ate some rice and egg congee (thick rice porridge that many people eat at every meal) also she sucked on some watermelon and drank some water.

We headed out to the Civil Affairs office at 8:30 AM where once again we were to meet with the orphanage staff and director and have our final adoption proceedings. We gathered in the room where we first met Lily and sweltered for at least an hour before our name was called in to be interviewed and Lily's and our prints were taken for some documents. We then had our family picture taken for the adoption certificate. Lily was really calm throughout the morning and even let a friend borrow her dolly to cheer her up! We are now officially Lily's parents! Our certificate will be in our hands shortly to prove it and we can't wait to show it off!

The director and staff once again expressed so much love for all the babies and posed for picures with all the families. It was heart wrenching pulling away on the bus as the nannies were crying and waving goodbye. Eric and I definitely had a moment there where we were teetering on the edge of crying hysterically. It was so nice to see how much love they all truly have for these children and how attached the babies all were to the nannies.

Another thing we noticed was that they all played fairly rough with the kids compared to American standards... cheek and arm squeezing and thumping their backs with raised voices. This seemed to overjoy all the babies as this was what they were used to for attention. Lesson learned, we thump her back a bit harder and she loves it!

So we went back to the hotel after a VERY HOT and emotional few hours. We requested at this time that the Dr. come to visit Lily as her cold was progressing nicely... very congested. She took her midday nap when we got back and when she awoke had a slight fever. So we were thankful the Doc was on the way. We have tried all day to soothe her and the only thing that seems to work is walking around (my arm is paying the price... it KILLS!!!!) She has been very cranky and on the verge of a major meltdown all day long. We witnessed her first real tears and she has some lungs boy!

The doctor arrived at 4 PM and said we should administer some Tylenol for the low grade fever and her very sore throat... no wonder she was refusing to drink or swallow this afternoon she was in pain! Also we have to start her on the antibiotics as it is an infection. That combined with Benedryl for her nose and sneezing and she is out like a light right now and so is Daddy. Mommy on the other hand could use a nap but can't seem to and am hoping someone calls soon as I am homesick for a friendly voice. This has been a rough day and my heart was aching at every moment. Seeing such a sweet little one sick is killing me! I am sure she will feel better soon once the meds do their magic.

No more adventures until tomorow when we will visit the WALMART across the street for much needed supplies.

Deep breath... Lily, Eric and Christy are now one and all is well with the world.
Pictures from this day.
July 26, 2005 10:07 PM
GOTCHA DAY!!!!! So we are sitting here in our hotel room in Changsha, watching our perfect little baby sleeping peacefully in her crib. It is taking forever to write this entry because I keep getting up every 30 seconds to look down at her.

This day was both perfect and totally not what we were expecting. It started off with us all meeting for breakfast and comiserating over our lack of sleep the night before. We were all too anxious and excited to sleep. We boarded the bus to the airport at 9:00 am and said our farewells to one incredible city, Beijing. The flight was uneventful and we were met on the other side of baggage claim by our new guides from Holt. On the bus ride to the hotel, which was about 20 minutes, we were briefed on what to expect for the meeting with our child and the orphanage staff at the civil affairs office. We were also aware that we had only a few moments to get settled, pack a diaper bag and head to the bus once again. This bus ride was the ride that would change our lives forever. This was the last leg of the wait that I had only dreamed about until now. We were meeting our daughter Lily for the first time. We were told that we would gather in a conference room and the babies would be brought in one by one. However, when we got into the room, all of the babies and nannies were all there already just waiting for us. It was chaotic. Parents scrambled to take there first look at their new daughters. We searched the room and could not find her sweet face. That is until a gentleman rounded the corner holding a little peanut... our Lily.

She was holding onto a plastic cup and a wrapper of some sort of cookie or snack for dear life but otherwise seemed very unbothered by being handed over to me. I talked to her softly and she just looked so confused. Of course, moments before this major event in our lives, our camera dies since in our haste we put the dead batteries from our bag into the camera instead of new ones! I hurried to get the back up disposable camera that I had packed for just this kind of situation, so I am afraid the moments that we first spent together will not be posted just yet. But good friends loaned us their camera to use so they should have some pics from that time maybe tomorrow. So where was I... Lily went to her Daddy with no issues. She just seems so laid back. She almost seemed relaxed after a few moments. The other children did not seem so comfortable. We were expecting her to have a meltdown... but I do feel that maybe we will get one tomorrow once she realizes that this is more than just a daytrip! We were only able to stay for a few moments with the caretakers. We had the opportunity to discuss Shan Man with the Orphanage Director. Eric made the attempt to tell the Director that we were grateful for his care of our daughter in Mandarin and I am sure this was conveyed to the caretakers. We asked a few questions but he seemed to give us fairly vague answers. We were then approached by 2 of the women which I hugged and said thank you to. They said their goodbyes to the babies and they all seemed genuinely happy for all of us. The bus ride back was much different than the last. The noise level was intense as the babies wailed most of the way. Shan Man was very calm and took to her new dolly and even broke a smile or two.

Once back at the hotel we were able to relax with the baby for 2 hours. We gave her a bottle which she devoured. Then we just played with her and slowly made our way to changing her and putting her PJs on. Which by the way are HUGE. She is not in 6-12 months yet. She is very healthy and plump but so petite. She is a peanut. We then had to head to a conference room for our paperwork prep meeting for the adoption tomorrow. Lily (Man Man is her nickname and she responds to this) conked out as soon as we arrived upstairs and to this very moment is still sleeping soundly. Or will be until her 2am feeding. YIKES! Eric and I could not be happier. We can't stop looking at her beautiful face as sleeps. We can't wait to get to know her and see what her likes and dislikes are. Everyday from here on out is going to be a great adventure.

Well, must go now as I am nodding off. Eric is snoring loudly and so is Lily. We love you guys, XOChristy
Pictures from this day.
July 25, 2005 10:41 PM
This entry will have to be brief. We are leaving tomorrow for Hunan province where our baby is waiting for us and we need to pack our bags for pickup at 7:00 AM tomorrow. There are various arcane and ever-shifting rules about how many bags we can have and how heavy each bag can be for the in-country leg of the trip. We are trying to pack the baby stuff such that we are not in big trouble if we lose a bag enroute. We went to orientation which was great and got to see pictures of our children taken recently. It was hard to guess which baby was which since they have all changed so much since the last set of pictures were taken. Everyone was very emotional and it was a good bonding time for us all.

On to the tourist stuff! Today was an example of how not to visit an interesting historical location. We went to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. In 15 minutes. Well, maybe 20 but it felt like 15. Seriously, we had a good 10 minutes at each major area to take pictures and dowse for water. It was extremely hot as we walked around drawing stares like flies. Because of the potential for pickpockets, I had my backpack strapped to my front and must have looked even stranger than my normal visage. We had a group photo taken in front of the entrance to the Forbidden City with the famous giant picture of Mao in the background.

We had to keep moving according to some accelerated schedule only our tour guide truly understood and thus after 10 minutes in the Square, we moved through an underground passage to the Forbidden City across the street, which turns out to not be particularly forbidden anymore. It was packed wall to wall with sweaty, crispy Americans and other foreigners. The Forbidden City was really very interesting but BIG. Perhaps it was the heat but it seemed like we were walking through courtyard after courtyard to confront yet another identical, yet important building where the Emperor would floss, or where he would practice the trombone. It seemed that way anyway, like I said it was hot out.

I wish we could give more detail but time is short and much is left to be done so check out the pictures for a rough idea of what we saw today. Tomorrow is the *BIG* day and we are freaking out! We'll post about the baby when we have time but it may be difficult.
Eric and Christy
Pictures from this day.
July 24, 2005 10:30 PM
The Great Wall of China! You haven't visited China unless you have risked a heart attack climbing the Great Wall in 90+ degree weather. We started the day off with a breakfast specifically for our adoption group. Up until now we had been having breakfast in the communal buffet in the hotel. Today we met more people going through the same process as us and it was nice to compare notes so far. We had of course already met many people in the hotel who we knew from our internet communications but by having breakfast together we met more in a short period of time.

Our group boarded 2 large tour buses and made our way out of the bustling hotel section of the city towards our first destination, the Hutong area of Beijing. A Hutong is a kind of neighborhood with very narrow alleys for streets and the homes are all very old, at least 200 years old in most cases. The homes are built in the traditional style with a courtyard and 4 rooms arranged around the courtyard. Most homes now have had other rooms built into the courtyard to allow for more people to live there. We had to ride in rickshaws for the tour of the Hutong because the alleys were so narrow. "Hutong" is a Mongolian word meaning narrow alley and they weren't kidding. Our rickshaw driver was very nice but he had a maniacal gleam in his eye most of the time and we cut a few corners at breakneck speed much to his delight. Little did he know we enjoy that kind of thing so it was a blast. It was a surreal roller coaster but very memorable. Much of the Hutong is quite dilapidated by American standards but everyone we saw and met seemed to be very happy and one woman who opened her home to tours gave a little speech about her life in the Hutong and she made a point of saying how colorful and rich her life is there.

After leaving the Hutong we drove into the more rural "Badaling" area where parts of the Great Wall are accessible to tourists and masochists alike. But before the Great Wall could be conquered, we needed to make ourselves lighter. So the tour bus helpfully stopped at a famous Cloisonne factory and shop where many beautiful items could be purchased! Thus our wallets were quite a bit lighter when we moved on to lunch upstairs. Lunch was the traditional game of guess the meat, but was excellent nonetheless as it has been every day so far. Fortified, we went onto the wall itself. At first we were told that we would have to walk up the hill/mountain from the parking lot which was fairly far away from the entrance to the Wall. Our guide then ammended that by saying we would be trying to negotiate with the police at the parking lot to see if we could drive all the way to the entrance. This turned out to be a non-issue as there were no police at all to stop us so we avoided A LOT of walking!

Entering the gate that admits tourists to the Wall, we surveyed our choices. Since it was a Wall, we could go right or we could go left. Looking to the right, we saw a veritable snake of human biomass crawling up the Wall shoulder to shoulder. The thought of constantly bumping into our fellow middle class Capitalists all the way up the climb was not our idea of a good time so we took the left hand path which was much less crowded. After a few minutes of climbing we asked a returning couple why there were so many more people on the other path up the Wall. They said it was much easier to climb in that direction so most people want to take that route. Typical Americans. Enough invective! So we took to the steeper slope and made good progress until our calves started their own revolution and made us stop for water and endless, vaguely similiar photographs of trees, rocks and Wall. It was actually fun since most of the people who took the left hand route were aware of the extra difficulty when they started and so they were as nuts as we were and we all commiserated together as the incline got steeper and steeper. At one point (documented with video), the stairs became less of an incline and more of a wall with very wide toeholds. We literally were climbing at that point and the hand-rail (touched by billions and billions of people before us!) became essential to progress. All of this was taking place in the middle of the day, in 90+ degree weather with no shade whatsoever. We stopped after we got to a point on the climb where we felt smug but not insane. It was just too hot and the climb was really not healthy for us fat, lazy Americans. As we were resting before starting down again, a teenage boy came *SPRINTING* past us on his way up. Maybe he was a pickpocket trying to put some distance between the mark and himself or maybe someone said there was free airplane tickets to America at the top. I don't know but it was possibly the most ridiculous thing I had seen in years. Including the years I had worked in New York City everyday.

So we slinked (slunk?, slunked?, more like fell...) down the wall and perused the shopping available at the entrance. To say that the Chinese have embraced Capitalism is to do a diservice to the enthusiasm the typical retailer here displays towards his customers. Another phenomenon we have noticed *everywhere* is the ubiquitous overstaffing. There is consistently an average of 1 staff to 1 customer in any and all situations. Waitstaff in restaurants travel in packs and anticipate your every thought. One evening, we met another couple for dinner in the hotel and the staff moved a table over to make a 4 person table arrangement. As we settled down, another couple we knew walked over and started chatting with all 4 of us. Before we had said (in English) "Why don't you join us?", *another* table was already enroute to be placed at the end to make a 6 person table. We joked that merely thinking what you want makes it happen here.

Sales people are particularly aggressive but amenable. It seems that merely looking at an item for more than a few moments convinces the sales people that you are indeed willing to buy something. You are doomed at that point. If you ask the price of something, forget it. Walking away at this point initiates a flurry of price drops and bargaining that makes your head spin. You will be chased out of the store if you don't buy it now.

The Great Wall is spectacular but very draining so Christy took advantage of a "travelling massage" service that our guide had pointed out to the group. This sounded a bit dodgy but it was cheap so she took the bait. A hour and 50 minutes for $33 dollars US! I worked on the website while she was treated to the most thorough and professional traditional massage you can imagine! Needless to say, we overpaid her since she clearly deserved more than $33. The kicker is she tried to refuse the extra money! We insisted in several languages and she relented.

Our orientation is tomorrow and we are very excited! More later. Eric & Christy
Pictures from this day.
July 23, 2005 9:30 PM
Today was an amazing yet wet and tiring day. We started the day off by heading to the Temple of Heaven, or Taintan Gongyuan. The Temple of Heaven originally functioned as a stage for the solemn rites performed by the Son of Heaven (The Emperor), who came to pray for a good harvest, seek divine clearance and atone for the sins of the people. Some of the structures here date back to 1420. It was a very serene and tranquil place with much to see in the way of architecture and history.
We walked through an area where many crowds of senior citizens had gathered to dance, play music and chess, and exercise. We found many huddled in groups playing what looked to be the Chinese version of hacky-sack. Eric was in his own little world watching them. And after a few inviting looks from a lone expert among them, Eric asked to join in. This version of the game used a very small disk like object with feathers coming out from the top. The feather seemed to keep the object upright during play and the game seemed to have similiar moves and rules as hacky-sack. Eric then brought out his Western version and you should have seen this guys face. It was now a duel in hacky-sack between Eric and an 80+ year old gentleman who really gave Eric a run for his money! One of the funnier moments was when Eric caught the hacky-sack on the top of his foot, paused, and flipped it back up. The crowd (they had drawn a crowd of onlookers) all reacted with an "ooh, ahh"! Then the serene Chinese man tried to imitate the move and easily succeeded bringing on cheers from his cronies! It was all caught on video and we can't wait to see it on the big screen.

We then headed to the Dizhen Silk factory which is run by the Chinese government. We were given a tour of the full process of silk production. It was so wonderful to see all the beautiful silk robes worn by the emperors (and maybe a "Shrub" or 2). We also had a chance to shop and were able to get a keepsake for Lily, a queen size silk quilt and duvet cover with matching pillow shams. It is a yellow color and has beautiful traditional Chinese symbols for double happiness and longevity. It was a pattern made specifically for the Emperor and only a few thousand are allow to be produced and sold per year. It is truly beautiful. How we will get it home is another story!

We then headed to a restaurant and had a wonderful traditional Chinese lunch. It was nice to sit and talk, as another couple joined us today and we are all still getting to know each other. We are making such wonderful friends on this trip, everyone is just so friendly and down to earth. Also I wanted to mention that our guide for all of this has been a wonderful woman named Gloria. She has been so nice to teach us sayings in Mandarin so we can say special things to our children and their caretakers. She has been a terrific resource as we learn about our daughter's culture and homeland.

After lunch we headed for the Summer Palace which is a royal complex full of temples, gardens, pavillions, a lake and corridors and was once the playground for the imperial court. Although very wet and dreary, we were still able to see its beauty. It was breathtaking. One of the most interesting sections of the Summer Palace was the round altar which consists of white marble in 3 layers. It had many stones and steps that were all arranged in multiples of 9. In the middle, there was a smaller raised circle of stone that was said to represent the center of the universe. The rain was relentless all day... it absolutely monsooned! We were all very cold and wet most of the day however we were so enthralled by the sights that no one really noticed just how soaked we were.

We then came back to the hotel for 15 minutes to change into dry clothes and headed to an acrobat performace in a theater. This truly a treat. They were incredible! This was followed up with a tasty Peking Duck dinner which we could barely make a dent in since they brought way too much food out for us!

All in all it has been a terrific and exhausting day... and we don't even have our child yet! Now we need to sleep because there is another full day planned for us tomorrow at the Great Wall. XOChristy
Pictures from this day.
July 22, 2005 10:53 PM
We woke this morning after only 6 hours of broken sleep (jet lag is still kicking our butts) to get ready for the days outing. We ate breakfast at the same hotel buffet but played it safe with standard American fare. Our tummies were not feeling so hot after some of our meals so far. We met up with our guide and another Holt family in the lobby at 8 AM.

We first headed out to the Lama Temple. This was amazing! The architecture, the colors, the statues of the Buddha and the people worshipping by burning incense all made for wonderful footage and pictures. It was a very peaceful place that dated back to 1694. It was very Tibetan in style which was also crossed with some Mongolian influences. The roofs were intricate and the hand-painted ceilings were breathtaking. We were there for at least 2 hours and then headed to the Panda Zoo.

It was great to see the Pandas although it was sad at the same time. They seemed so melancholy to me, almost as if saying "Get me out of here". I always feel bad for animals in captivity but it was a rare opportunity to witness them so we took it. The Pandas were adorable as was expected, but they did not juggle or dance so we moved pretty quickly.

We went for a traditional lunch at a famous restaurant where the wait staff were dressed in traditional attire and head-dresses. We lunched on pork, chicken, beef, Chinese veggies and washed it all down with Chinese beer and jasmine tea followed by the obligatory fruit. I had my first weird, or should I say "different" toilet experience today at the restaurant. It had a nice formal and very clean bathroom all with automatic sinks and dispensors, however once entering the stall, I realized it was one of the Chinese toilets I had only read about until now. The toilet seat was level with the floor and you had to pull a "camping trick" to use it! It was really "different".

Then we were escorted to a Chinese silk rug factory, the oldest in Beijing. We had a tour of the area where the carpets were hand-woven by craftswomen who had been rug weavers in their families for many generations. This was incredible to watch. An example given to us was that one worker could work for upwards of 5 years making one rug. These rugs were incredibly soft, and also extremely expensive! There was one rug on the wall that was considered the "best" rug in China at a mere $70,000 US dollars... I think we were expected to make purchases, but at these prices, even us "wealthy" Americans could not fathom purchasing one of these rugs. There was a placemat sized rug that we thought we may be able to afford that was $300 dollars, but at that size and price, it didn't make a whole lot of sense.

We were then dropped back at the hotel where we got refreshed and went back out and hit the market across the street again. Our new travel friends from Holt came as well and we shopped until we dropped but managed to not spend too much since the prices here are so good! Eric's Mandarin is improving as he was chatting away with all the vendors with a new found confidence. He even negotiated money, numbers and got us back to the hotel without any "unnecessary" purchases. We were able to buy our orphanage replacement outfits, gifts to come home with, and even some more baby clothes that were just too cute to pass up. Then we came back to the hotel and got ready for dinner.

Japanese was on the menu this evening with two other Holt families (and another showed up during dinner). Everyone is so nice and we all have so much in common... our children! So far we are all first time parents so that was great as we could all share our thoughts and fears and relate with one another. The Japanese food was good, the sushi was good and the sake was very good... until we got the bill. Lesson learned... ask the price! $60 US dollars per bottle was outrageous but much enjoyed. It's funny money right? Well, better get some ZZZ's as we have a huge day ahead of us with tons more touring to do. XOChristy
Pictures from this day.
July 21, 2005 7:00 PM
Last night was a culinary adventure. We ended up eating at a very nice Szechuan (Sichuan here) restaurant. They had traditional Chinese music being played on some other-worldy looking instruments and the menu was completely exotic even for us.
For example: Pigeon, Rabbit, Duck intestines, River Eel, oh and my personal favorite, Bird Poop Soup (I mean Birds Nest Soup). We felt like being adventurous but not that adventurous... not yet at least. Hey, who are we to call this weird? We eat things like peanut butter and jelly... now that's weird! Eric chose Duck and I played it safe with Pork stir fry with Chillies. The meals all seem to come with Chinese tea here. We were also able to sample some English muffin type breads that came with the meal (see pics). That got us giggling at dinner as English muffins were all we could think of and they sure did look like them, just smaller. We also had another "Duh" moment... We ordered a glass of water with ice and downed it forgetting that we are not supposed to drink the water, nor ice cubes... We were living dangerously last night. Pepto saved the day and we retired fairly early as we knew we were going on at least 24 hours with no sleep and really needed to get to bed.

After a good nights sleep we went to an amazing buffet breakfast that served everything you could possibly imagine. American choices were excellent as well as the non American... which Eric decided to brave. He tried Congee for the first time today which seemed like a runny rice pudding that you put fixins in, like pickled eggs and peanuts and seaweed and other more unidentifiable items. Eric seemed to enjoy this. Although not really my cup of tea, especially for breakfast, I could see it being a really yummy lunch though.

Today was a huge leap of faith for us as we hit the streets. No guide, just us and our meager command of Mandarin. We tried to get directions from the Concierge to go shopping but he seemed to think we wanted to go across town in a cab. We were not that crazy... we wanted to stay local, at least for now.
So we headed across the street to a Market with our Mandarin/English dictionary in hand. This seemed more to us like a giant flea market in the States. Many vendors in one large building. It was really neat to walk around and be the center of attention. Everyone was staring at us as if they had never seen Americans before. Which we know isn't true... but maybe we are funny to look at? Comments were made in Mandarin as we passed and we heard English spoken a few times. I think we were being profiled or sterotyped but that was fun. In truth, most people spoke way more English than we speak Mandarin, so who are we to talk? (Pun intended)
We were asked by numerous vendors to buy items that we were just not interested in but they seemed very friendly none the less. We made the mistake once of purchasing an item without the exact money and instead of giving change the vendor insisted we purchase something else. He was relentless. Lesson learned. We drew a small crowd of vendor folk and when Eric tried out a phrase our guide Gloria had taught us, which is "Bu Yao", meaning "I don't want", a lady that was next to us cracked up and thought it was hysterical that we said that... maybe we said something else? Hmmm...

We also ventured up the river and across the bridge to another shopping mall that was more like an upscale Lord and Taylors. It kind of reminded me of Harrods in London, England. Very stylish and very expensive. But interesting to see. We went book and music shopping as well and that was great as they played music for us to see if we liked it and then we could buy what we heard. The CDs were cheaper than in the States... and you know me, the music junkie that I am, had to make a CD purchase or 5 while I was here.

Oh, and for the benefit for those crazy folk over at Cedar Hill Nursery where I work... we were walking down the street and we came across a familiar scenery poster (see pics). Weird... it is the Cedar Hill price book and banner photo from last year. The same exact one!
I am being followed, I can't seem to get away! LOL... very weird!

There are few things that I forgot to mention earlier. We arrived to banners on the hotel stating "Welcome Madrid Football Team". Apparently the Madrid Football team is staying in the hotel and they are a HUGE deal here. There have been fans barricaded in the front of the hotel all day. Police are everywhere. People are screaming and taking pictures, usually of nothing at all. We were heading down to the lobby this morning with one of the Football stars in the elevator. We didn't know it though and when we got out of the elevator we were bombarded with screaming fans and guards and photographers. It was pretty funny. We had to cross an area where fans were being herded around like rowdy sheep just to get something from the front desk and I believe pictures were even taken of us! We don't even look Spanish! (ed. The player in question was Portugese, or at least spoke it with extreme confidence as he tried to pickup a Portugese woman in the elevator with us.) Anyway, it was pretty funny in our book. Now everywhere you go in the hotel it's like the Secret Service and the Red Guard are there. The people here are crazy like the English over football or so it seems. I had no idea that Madrid was such a popular team!

Anyway back on track here... we returned to the hotel to have lunch at the Thai restaurant and had a funny experience there. We could not finish our noodles and Eric wanted to bring them back to the room fridge for a snack later. Trying to get our message across to the person waiting on us about wanting a take out container was hilarious! I don't think they do that here. She finally realized what we were saying and insisted on her deliveriing the take out container to our room for us. We had to fight the lady for it! We won. We also have discovered that fruit is offered after every meal and in every situation.

We then went for our traditional Chinese massages. Eric and I felt like royalty! We entered this private room with very comfy lounge chairs and had a massage in the same room. It was so wonderful and much needed. I do believe the lady giving mine actually stood on my back... it felt good though. Who needs a chiropracter after that? And of course it was followed up by some fruit and water as we lounged in our private room. It was a nice treat and very relaxing. We hit the pool after and then headed back to the room.

We are waiting for other families from our agency to arrive tonight and tomorrow. We head out for our first tour in the morning. The weather is still scorching and moist here and my hand held battery powered fan, as geeky as it seems, is a life saver... and getting me lots of weird looks!
Well that's all for now... keep posted for the Panda Zoo and Lama Temple extravaganza tomorrow. XOChristy

PS. Eric writing now. I just had quite possibly the most surreal experience of my life.
We went down to the lobby to do some quick gift shopping in the little book/magazine/postcard/film shop. While Christy was looking through the postcards, an older caucasian gentleman came in and tried to convince the shop attendant to take his film to be developed. The only problem was he spoke NOTHING but Spanish and she spoke very little English. I watched myself step into the middle of the wreckage of the transaction and start to translate both ways. My Spanish was rusty but much better than my Mandarin and this gentleman seemed to operate on the principle that if he kept speaking in Spanish, eventually everyone around him would learn it as well and would then be able to assist him. As far as he is concerned, it worked since I did indeed start to speak Spanish to him and ask him the questions that the shop attendant was trying to ask him. This went on for a short time, mostly asking for doubles of each picture and how much was a new disposable camera. Just when I think things are under control, his equally Spanish friend walks in and starts the same routine! I didn't hesitate this time and things go much more smoothly. The funny thing is, he doesn't thank me for my help, he just walks out muttering in Spanish with his friend! The kicker is he rides up in the elevator with us to the SAME floor as us and not once does he say anything to us... until we all get out of the elevator and he starts talking a mile a minute... WITH CHRISTY! I inform him that she doesn't speak Spanish and then ask him if he is traveling with the Madrid Football team. He is and he tells me his whole schedule for the next 3 days! Finally he realizes he is walking with us to OUR room and not his and he says adios and runs off.
Like I said, surreal. Who knew my high school Spanish would come in handy in Beijing, China?
Tonight, we are homesick for simple American food. So we ordered in room service... Cheeseburger and fries! Plus some Chinese Sprite.
Pictures from this day.
July 19-20, 2005 3:46 PM
We left for Newark Airport at 7:30 AM on Tuesday the 19th of July. We experienced no traffic and check in was a breeze. Odd. We had a few hours to kill so we ate a toxic airport breakfast and window shopped the "captive audience" shops until our flight was ready to board. The irony of getting to the airport almost 3 hours early for our flight is that we encountered no delays at all. If we had gotten there later, we are sure that we would have hit traffic, and much hassle would have impeded our progress.

Once we boarded the plane, a big plane, the 777, even more evil than a "666", we found that many seats were not filled. We held out for the chance that we might have our 3 seat row to ourselves, selfish Americans that we are. Alas, "Fred" arrived shortly after and took his rightful seat leaving us with no room or privacy. This was "Fred"'s first time flying. "Fred" did not bring anything to do for the 14 hour flight. "Fred" quickly informed us (against our wills) that he was meeting a "Chinese woman" in China. Based on the details that "Fred" divulged to us over the course of the 14 hours we were confined together, we concluded that he was meeting his mail-order-bride for the first time. Way to go "Fred"!

We arrived in Beijing to a thriving city, a bustling populace, and air you can chew. We must state that the Beijing airport was very well organized and we were in and out of the airport in less than half an hour...customs was a breeze. In fact, unless I am mistaken, no one said a word at all. Not one.

We were then met by the most enthusiastic and welcoming guide, Gloria. She walked us to our driver and car and while we rode to the very, very nice hotel we are staying in, she gave us a very thorough orientation on what to do and what not to do. She escorted us to the hotel check-in where we were offered Chinese tea in the swanky lobby lounge area while we waited for our room to be prepared for us. During check-in, our porter made small talk by attempting to ask Eric where we were from. Eric said the United States and the porter replied, what state? Eric answered New Jersey. All of a sudden the porter's face lit up and he exclaimed "Jason Kidd!!!" Eric was stumped for a moment but then realized that he was talking about the NJ Nets....unless Eric was wrong as we are not sports fans...so someone please correct us. It seemed kind of surreal...here we are in China and they are watching NJ sports teams. We had to giggle.

We got settled into our room, unpacked and had our first Chinese beer in China. We have to stay up for a few more hours as it is only 4 PM and we need to get our internal time clocks adjusted. After seeing the extensive restaurant listing in the hotel, we will probably head out for a nice dinner and crash early tonight. Tomorrow we have a free day so we will be able to relax, hang by the pool and maybe take in a massage at the spa. We need it!!! The next 2 weeks are going to be wonderful and very hectic so we need to take this extra time for ourselves.
Pictures from this day.

"An invisible red thread connects those who are destined
to meet regardless of time, place, or circumstance.
The red thread may stretch or tangle but will never break."
-- Ancient Chinese Belief