Friday, January 13, 2006

Mission accomplished

What happened to the wonderful little sleeper that slept 12+hours in China? She certainly isn't here . . . sleep schedule is 100% upside down. I kept her awake all day yesterday but she still didn't sleep well last night. Up every hour screaming bloody murder. I finally put her in my bed at midnight. I *had* to sleep. So we enjoyed the Forensic Files marathon between 12 am - 2 am and then she nodded out. She did sleep a little better after that, hopefully this won't last much longer. Jet lag is the devil =/

Since this particular blog was solely for our travel journey, this will be our last post! (E mail me privately if u'd like more specifics on this). Thanks for joining us!!

Thursday, January 12, 2006

USA arrival *updated*

~ Pics graciously provided by Aunti Cleo ~

(Aunti Cleo & Carol)

We made it in . . . very late last night. I was not able to get Mali to bed until 1am, & then she woke up at 5am. After 30 + hours of no sleep, I really just wanted to crash. I'll post back when we are better rested. Just wanted to let everyone know we made it =)

P.S. - Very special thanks to our welcoming committee at the airport Wednesday night (Mary, Carol, Dan, & Glen, too - even though I missed u) . . . and of course to Uncle Brandon for the ride home.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Homeward bound

This will be our last post from China! We're leaving in the morning (5:45 AM) and we've got to pack the laptop tnite.

I have not had an opportunity to get back to everyone who e mailed, signed my guestbook, or left comments. Please know that I read them ALL! Thank you all so much for being supportive. It's nice to know that people who have yet to travel found my ramblings helpful. I certainly would not have felt as prepared had I not lurked & followed the trips of others. The blog world is where you find the most helpful information.

Zai jian, China!! See you in a few years =)
To be continued . . . .

Last day in China

Our 'home' for the past 10 days

Our group 'red couch' photo

Our travel group at the waterfall

At the U.S. Consolate

Busy day - photo shoot in the afternoon followed by our Consolate appointment. The consolate was a lot of waiting, & we stood in a few lines, & then waited some more. A woman came out & addressed the whole room (50+ families) & had us hold up the baby's right hands & recite some type of verse. It was cute =) Then they handed out the Visa's & we were able to leave.

It took us a few hours to pack. We bought one of those cheap suitcases here to pack our purchases in. Low & behold - we actually needed the duct tape. No, not on our mouths . . . the cheap suitcase didn't latch all that well, so we got it to close, locked it, & then circled the suitcase a few times around with the tape. Perfection! I think we got everything in. We'll end up carrying on a lot of the fragile stuff on the plane.

Grammy had a massage tnite at the White Swan - it was reasonably priced & quite an experience. The woman hung from a towel wrapped around a bar on the ceiling (no kidding) & walked around on her back with her feet. I can't get into much more tnite as I'm exhausted & we have to be up at 4:30AM. I was not brave enough to sign myself up for that. She said I missed out . . .

When we arrived here last week, we got to see the White Swan decorated for Christmas. The staff even wore Santa suits. They had a decorated tree near the waterfall - it was amazing. Today we went to breakfast & during the night they had started to decorate for the Chinese New Year - WOW! Huge dragon sitting in the middle of the breakfast buffet, lighted goldfish jumping around the waterfall, & giant lanterns hanging from the ceilings. Absolutely beautiful! We got some pics, but not digital. I'll try to post a few after we get home.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Belinda is the best!!

For anyone coming to GZ, please make sure you visit my good friend Belinda (pink jacket with the sexy boots!) at Gold Dragon's Place. She can find ANYTHING for you! We bought our granite etchings from her, had some custom outfits made, and bought tons of other stuff. If you want it, she'll find it for a good price. Now we're hoping we can get it all home!

Belinda is a hoot - she is so funny to talk to. We talked about everything from Michael Jackson to botox injection & face piercings to finding good husbands & lucky red underwear! While we shopped, the other girls in the store kept Mali occupied, happy & quiet (which is a HUGE chore).

I told her I was posting this, so please let her know you saw her sexy pics on Alison's website.

Shopping day!

We got a lot of last minute shopping done today. Our guide took care of our Consulate paperwork this morning for us, but we had to wait in our rooms for a fews hours just in case she needed us for something. We got the 'all clear' and off we went . . . .

Mali & her prunes

Peek-a-boo with Grammy

Granite etchings.

We ordered etchings last night & caught this girl working on Ian & Quinn's picture. 3 girls were all sitting in a row etching different pieces - they could not have been older than 13 years of age. It's amazing, & cheap. We paid about $5 (USA) per person.

We're having dinner tnite with our travel group in the hotel. Tomorrow we take our 'red couch' pictures & are sworn in at the Consolate. Then we attempt to pack. Tmrw is our last day here. We leave Wednesday AM at 5:45. It's been fun, but we're ready to go home.

Late post today b/c the hotel internet was down. Apparently technology works just as well in China =)

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Buddhist Temple

We visited the temple today - was beautiful. Lots of people walking around with platters full of 'offerings' (mainly oranges, apples, & peanuts) & TONS of incense burning. A few people in our group climbed all 9 floors of this building (not me).



Mali was still a bit grouchy today. We attempted to have her blessed at the temple. She pitched a huge fit and I had to take her outside. I'm not sure that the 'heavenly house' would've appreciated all that screaming during the ceremony. As soon as we got outside, she promptly threw up on herself. She was definitely having belly issues. We've been working on altering her diet for the past few days in a attempt to help her out (per the advice of Dr. Jerry). It seems to be helping. Tnite we had a major breakthrough (quite literally). Hopefully tmrw she'll be a bit more comfortable.

Dim Sum lunch

My skills & reaction time are increasing rather quickly. Today at our dim sum lunch, they had no baby seats. When I requested one, they brought me a booster. The problem: the seats were shiny flat (not real cozy) & wood. The booster seat was basically a block of wood. It did not attach to the chair. No straps to tie the baby in, either. We were starving, Mali is constantly wiggling. I had to eat lunch with one hand & attempt to keep Mali sitting on her 'seat' with the other. I was a bit weary by the end of the meal. She didn't fall (although she slid way down a few times & I had to retrieve her) - & nothing was spilled. Wow, huh? The food was good (well, most of it). You never really know what you're eating. Usually, one person at the table tries it & lets everyone else know how it is or what it is. Even the desserts are surprisingly tasty.

** Food tip - if it's got a dry, pasty brown filling & it's kinda sweet, it's probably bean curd.

When we got back from our trip this afternoon, we had to sit with our guide & fill out (nearly 2 hrs worth) of Consulate paperwork. Mali stayed up in the room with Grammy & took her nap.

We ran out this evening to order some custom goods we need to pick up by Tuesday. We've found one shop in particular that we love, I'll post more about it before we leave. Only 2 days left before we begin our journey home.

Mali just fell asleep with bunny hanging out of her mouth. Right before she nodded out, she had one ear in her mouth & one up her nose. She fits right in.

Tmrw: Some quick checking of Consulate paperwork & our Consulate appts in the afternoon.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Pearl Factory

Pearl shopping was fun - got some pearls to wear for now & some for future occassions. Mali's still a bit restless & a little grouchy, but no more major episodes.

We had dinner at Lucy's tnite & Mali showed us that she can dance. Then we did some shopping.

Mali & the statue outside of Lucy's (the restaurant). Finally caught her smiling.

Mali outside of Lucy's (the store) kicking the hacky sack.
We've got 2 calling cards that will not work. One we just bought this afternoon with all intentions of calling home. It won't work. Now that it's morning & a reasonable hour to call back home, it's too late to go banging on people's doors to see if someone else can hook us up and/or help us call. This happens every night. Now we'll have to wait another 24 hrs to try.
Tmrw is Mali's blessing at the Buddhist Temple.
Gotta run - my night to feed the cockroach ;-)
(just kidding, we haven't seen him since yesterday)

Friday, January 06, 2006

Medical Exam day

It's still very cold here. Mali hates her coat & her hood b/c it restricts her antics. She gets grumpy as soon as we put it on. She passed her exam (it was kinda silly anyway) - only cried when we took her clothes off. There were 3 stations: Weight & measurements, physical exam, and ENT.

She weighs 25 lbs (!)

Clutching her favorite toy - the bag of wipes.

Two of the examiners said, "Oh, very strong baby."

She proved it to us on the 15 minute walk home. Total meltdown - Linda Blair style. She SCREAMED, kicked, arched her back, flipped upside down & writhed for what seemed like forever. She was in the stroller, but I ended up taking her out thinking that's why she was so upset. Nope. She still fought - all the way home. People were staring, but most were kind of giggling. I've been told several times: "Big baby for little girl." That's an understatement - did I mention she weighs 25 lbs? She finally settled down in the room, but it took about 15 more minutes of her wrestling around on the bed, kicking & arching her back. Her bottle settled her down & she's sleeping. I still have no idea why she was so upset . . . bellyache? Maybe. She's still sleeping now. I'm hoping she's in a better mood when she wakes up, otherwise the Pearl factory might not be so fun.

Dinner & G'nite

Mali enjoyed the 'shrimp biscuits' at the Cow & Bridge restaurant. They were not my favorite. They had a fishy odor & were the consistency of a puffed pork rind. Kinda reminded me of TetraFin fish flakes - same smell. Mali ate bout 10 of them & then polished off some steamed egg. She smelled like a shrimp after dinner. The food my Mom & I got was very good - we just weren't fans of the biscuits.
After dinner she had a bath (smells much better now). Her medical exam is tmrw.

This postion gives her the freedom & good range to kick her leg at night.

Bao'an SWI - Jan 5

In the van

Mali's Nanny

Mali's bed

Toddler room

** Photos taken by Dr Jerry who was graciously willing to share =) **

Zhuhai & SWI - Jan 5

Zhuhai Fish Lady

My little buddy

**Photos by Dr. Jerry **

Chen Clan Temple - GZ

Easy day today (finally). We were able to relax a bit this morning, didn't have to meet in the lobby until 9:30am. I've had to wake Mali up every morning since we've been here. She's slept at least 11-12 hrs every night. She's taking a nap now, been bout an hour. It's VERY nice =)

She's such a happy baby, & changes every day. She has also become a little more cooperative, too. She began to babble a lot today. It sounds Chinese & she doesn't really say any words, just makes noises. It's all good, though. That'll come. A few times she woke up crying (SCREAMING) at night, before I went to bed. Full out meltdown . . . mouth wide open, face all scrunched up and volume that the neighbors can hear. And when she stops to breathe, u can see her 'peeking' out one little eye, just cracked enough to see what we're doing LOL

She's grown really attached to a little bunny stuffed animal. She sucks on his ears & bites him. He's looking ragged already. He was supposed to be an orphanage donation, but she loved him too much to give away.

Mali watches me like a little hawk. As long as she can see me, she's ok. If I leave, she cries. She seems to understand when I'm only in the bathroom, etc - but if I walk out the door like I'm leaving the hotel room, her little lip puckers & she cries.

We visited the Chen Clan Temple in GZ this morning for a few hours. It was FREEZING cold. We weren't really prepared for it to be outside. We had the babies wrapped up, but it was still cold. Luckily Mali tolerated her hood. They sold some really neat items & there was a gentleman there who was painting with his hands. You can't really see the picture too well (below), but they were beautiful.

Grammy just went out to buy Mali a warmer outfit. We didn't really have anything for colder weather & it's gonna drop another 10 or so degrees tmrw. Not good shopping weather, we've been hanging out in the room this afternoon.

We found a cockroach in the bathroom earlier. Was just a little one, but the tissue box is now sitting in the middle of the floor. The critter ran in there & Grammy didn't want it on the bathroom counter. I told her there's probably a million more, but she's still creeped out. At least it wasn't a mouse . . . .

I'm still comtemplating posting more orphanage photos. I don't want to invade anyone's privacy. Right now, I don't have any at my immediate access b/c I didn't take any digital pics yesterday. I was videotaping for another family & my Mom has a regular camera (old-fashioned kind with film). I'll see if I can borrow someone else's memory card to post a few modest pics. I'm not really sure if u can really help 'prepare' people to visit orphanages - but I think it might help a bit. The sadness in those little eyes is still pulling at my heart today. It's difficult.

Tmrw I think we have a few appointments (Visa paperwork, maybe?). I try to keep only today's schedule in my mind - otherwise I get overwhelmed. I do know we need to be in the lobby at 10am , good enough for me.

Pics - Chen Clan Temple - GZ

Cantonese Hand painting

Mali & Bunny at the Chen Temple
Chen Clan Temple - entrance

Walls inside temple

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Bao'an & Zhuhai SWI visits

We spent about 9 hours in a van today traveling to Mali's orphanage & another group member's orpahange. AMAZING experience. Mali was excellent all day. A little fussy when we visited her orphanage, but maybe that was to be expected. Anyway . .

The Nannies & director of the Bao'an SWI ran out to greet us. They were very happy we decided to visit. The building is beautiful, very clean. It seems very affluent considering it's an orphanage. They took us all around to the different rooms of children (grouped by age). When Mali saw her favorite Nanny (one that we had not met yet) she got really excited & practically jumped into her arms. So cute!! We saw her bed, too (toddler bed, no crib). The other babies were all being fed (one spoon) as they wheeled around in walkers.

At first, the staff members were nervous about us taking video & pictures. They said only of Mali. I know 2 other families (online) who are waiting to pick up their daughters at Bao'an, so I asked about them. Things kinda changed at that point. They knew exactly which children I was referring to & from then on they allowed us to video & snap pictures of all the children. They even brought one of the kids out to us. I recognized both from their pictures online & was able to video & send pics to their Mommies. It was great. On the way out, they (again) asked me to e mail pictures (to the orphanage) every 6 months & to please visit if we go back to China in the future.

Next, one of the Nannies jumped into the van with us to help us locate Mali's 'finding spot'. This is the spot where she was abandoned. It was hard to find . . .the nanny jumped out to ask for directions about 8 times before we finally found it. It was a beautiful spot. It really made us all feel like Mali's birthparents wanted good things for her. (No pictures posted of this as I wish to respect Mali's privacy). It was very emotional for all of us. We had to leave after only a few minutes b/c it was just too much for us to handle. Mali stayed in the van (per our guide's request). I would've felt uncomfortable bringing her out.

Then on to Zhuhai, where another baby in our group was from. We recieved the same hospitable treatment there. There were a bunch of older kids that seemed to help out with the little ones. They bombarded Dr. Jerry when we arrived screaming, "Santa! Santa!" (hehe) We played for a bit with the video camera & chatted with the kids. I would've taken any one of them home. There was one little boy who came to me & sat in my lap. He also sat in Dr. Jerry's lap for a while, too. It melts your heart right on the spot. SO sad. This particular little boy has a heart issue. He was really little for his age, his lips were slightly blue, and his little sandals were on the wrong feet. It's amazing how these kids live. They are taken care of well in the orphanage & well-loved, but they can only do so much for them. The conditions are really poor. There isn't anyway you can visit a place like this & come back the same person. We are truly 'changed'.

Next, we stopped by to visit (the other baby's) finding spot - which was a public place & much easier to find. Then back to the hotel. Long ride, but Mali slept most of the way.

Mali is showing more of her personality every day. She ate an enormous bowl of chicken congee for dinner. She waved 'bye' to the nice lady who came in to turn down our beds for the night, & she almost had fun in the tub - just a few tears.

We're off to the museum tmrw.


New 'squeaky' shoes

Van ride, not sure what she was doing - it wasn't loud

Boa'an with another cutie

Mali's best Nanny

They took her from me upon arrival, she was cool with that. This is another staff member. They were all so good to us.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

tons o' fun (literally)

Sorry so late in the day, but we didn't have a second to spare today. We had to wake Mali up this morning at 6:30am, she had been sleeping for 12 hrs & we needed to get to breakfast. She did ok with me waking her up, but began to cry when I took her clothes off. She doesn't like to be naked at all. But, she smelled like puke from the night before & really needed to be clean. She was definitely scared of the tub at first. She did stop crying after a few minutes. She was mystified at having water dumped on her & watching it move around. I'm sure it'll only take a few more times for her to love it.

Down to breakfast - she eats very well. She sat in her own little baby seat & ate nearly everything we offered her (she didn't like the watermelon & wasn't crazy about the raisins). She was still pretty quiet, didn't reach out to pull anything down off the table or anything. We took some cheerios & crackers to go & headed out to the lobby to meet our group. Up until now, she didn't want me to put her down . . . she'd cry. But she got brave this morning & allowed it. It wasn't long after that we found out she walks, and runs. She even took the doorman's finger & walked him around for a bit. She kept pulling us towards the ouside doors. She absolutely LOVES outside. She doesn't say much - just an occassional grunt or scream.

We left the lobby & had to endure about 4 hours of appointments, interviews, & paperwork. It was tough. Mali is heavy & she isn't really used to being toted around. She is so curious about everything, and wants to be down exploring (the ground & floors aren't the cleanest here, outside there's lots of spit). Even when being held, she's like a worm . . . constant wiggling, arching her back, swinging her head around, leaning, & she loves to kick her feet. She also kept trying to pick up random bits of trash & paper from the floor & head towards the stairs or outside doors. Most of the other babies were just hanging out, sitting on laps, looking around - Mali would have none of that.

By the time the appointmens finally ended, I was beat. My arms were rubbery from struggling with her all morning. She fell asleep on the way back to the hotel & I put her into her crib. I decided to rest for a few minutes & woke up an hour & a half later, with her staring at me from the crib (& watching TV). She is fascinated by the TV.

An hour later, we were off to the department store to buy supplies (diapers, etc). The cab ride was nuts. White knuckle grips as this guy wove thorugh traffic, nearly missing people, bikers, & other cars. No seat belts, no car seats. Hold on & close your eyes. My mom almost passed out, some of the babies were puking by the time we got to the store. It was brutal. My arms & back were already killing me. The Maya wrap would work well if I could lug her weight around in it. Mali wasn't real comfortable hanging out on my hip & began to get fussy. At that point I was afraid of dropping her b/c my arms were wobbling. I had to keep switching off with my Mom, who was lugging our big ole bag of junk (which was nearly as heavy). It was too much. I broke down & did something I swore I'd never do in China. I bought a stroller. It was worth every penny. We could've rented one in town, but I figured we'd need it for the airport coming home. Mali loves it. She watches the floor go by, chews on the arm rest, & can freely swing & kick her feet. She was less fussy, and so were my Mom & I. We were also able to tie all our baggage on the handles. What a relief. I'm starting to regain the feeling in my arms now.

We got back from the store, cleaned up a little & then headed to a restaurant within our hotel (White Swan). I have no idea what the name of the place was, but they had good pizza. Mali & some of the other girls dined on rice & congee. They all eat really well.

Next was a quick run across the street to Jennifer's to buy some shoes for Mali. She enjoyed kicking the footrest on the stroller with them b/c it made noise. The shoes squeak when she walks, they're cute. I threw the socks she had on today away, they were too gross for words. She finally fell asleep at about 8:30. She cried a bit, but not for too long.

Here are a few pics. Not many today as we could not lug the camera around with all we were carrying. Don't be fooled by her expression, she really does like the stroller.

Lots more smiles today, we'll try to catch one tmrw. Bathtub pictures on the way as well - promise!! (none today b/c she was scared & crying).

Bao'an SWI (orphanage) visit tmrw. Hopefully they'll let us take pics.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Paperwork day

We've got another long day ahead at the Civil Affairs bldg - registration, notary, & passort application is what's listed on our itinerary. Mali's bag is packed, she's still sleeping . . . going on 12 hrs now =) I hope she always sleeps this well! We have been up since 4:30 am. I know I was up b/c we crashed so early last night, I just don't require more than 7 or 8 hrs.

Everytime Mali turns or rolls over at night, she kicks her foot. It's adorable. At one point last night I woke up to find her sideways in the crib, both legs hanging out the rails, kicking my bed. Her pics from the orphanage show that she slept in a toddler bed. Thank goodness b/c I never bought a crib for home. She really is almost as long as this little crib they gave us at the hotel. Her 18 month PJ's (that we thought would be ok if they were too big) fit her perfectly. I'm sure they won't fit for much longer.

I might have to wake her up so we can get ready to go. She needs a bath after last night's festivities . . .

We've been invited to visit the Bao'an SWI (her orphanage) in Shenzhen tomorrow - I hope they let me take pics.

More later!

Gotcha !!!!!

** What a day **
Bunch of pics here as promised. We were at the Civil Affairs office for several hours this afternoon.
We went up to the 5th floor, and stood outside the elevators & waited (I'm not sure why) before we went into our little room. As we were standing there, Grammy was videotaping & 2 Nanny's walked by carrying 3 babies. On of them was Mali. I was (almost) sure . . . I almost lost it right there. I could tell by the look on my mother's face that she thought the same thing.

Outside the elevators waiting & feeling like I needed to vomit (little anxious)

They bring in Mali!! She came right to me - no tears (well not from her anyway). Pictured are two Nannies (black jackets) & our guide Connie (pink shirt). Mali was dressed in all pink - all 3 layers.

Very serious, not sure what she's pointing at . . .

Cheerios!! We had to keep em coming or she grunted and lunged at the bag =)

Mali, myself & two of her Bao'an nannies/staff members. The woman on the left spoke very good English & was quick to make sure I knew what things to be attentive to (like the baby's temperature). I then removed her jacket as she was dripping sweat.

More Cheerios.

Big belly!

We made it back to the hotel & Mali was exhausted. She fought sleep the whole way home. We kept her awake long enough for Dr. Jerry to visit & check her over. She got an A+! She weighs 22 lbs, and has a slight cough. She really only cried when we took her clothes off & Dr Jerry was poking around. She totally was not in the mood for the exam. She wouldn't take her bottle at all, but he said that's all good for today. While she was crying, she vomited several times. My superhero reflexes caught the first load in one of her stacking cups. After that, it wasn't so easy. There was puke on Grammy's bed, in Mali's bed and all over me. Most of it was loads of green snot (sorry!), the rest was oranges (she must've eaten them on the way over b/c we didn't give em to her). I suppose it was just a combination of her being so tired & having such a long, emotional day. Mali's sleeping now, very soundly in her crib. She has a cute way of kicking her leg up into the air when she sleeps. Grammie just reminded me that her personality report from the orphanage said she enjoys 'kicking her crab.' Now I get it . . .they must've meant 'crib.'

This is it for today - gotta go shower. I'm exhausted, sticky (well a little crusty now), and I probably stink . . . but it feels wonderful =)

Crashed out.

** GOTCHA pics taken by our wonderful group pediatrician - Dr. Jerry from Alaska!! ** (Thanks Uncle Jerry!!)