Monday, November 24, 2008

Thoughts from Home

(NOTE: I'd intended to post this back on Nov 24th but had left it in draft state.)
Last time in China, there was little time for thoughts or conversation. We just tried our darndest to stay on the conveyor belt and get all of the documents processed and back home without imploding. Partly due to Bella's more easy-going nature and with one adoption under our belts, we were more relaxed and able to enjoy/observe the whole experience.

1) Shamian Island, where we stayed in Guangzhou, is as close to ideal for adopting family as it gets. As one travel-mate observed, it didn't feel so 'foreign' there. At one point, several "Western" consulates were housed on the island. British/Western influence is evident in the architecture on the island. Until recently, the U.S. Consulate that processes all China adoptions was on the island. Much of the island's economy dependends on the adoption industry. Thus, you can buy any baby supply, all kinds of gifts/trinkets, and will easily find English-speaking shopowners.

2) In speaking with a new Shamian Island resident, I had one of those lightbulb moments. She mentioned that how "foreigners" view children differs significantly from how Chinese view children. For many Chinese, children are viewed in terms of what they will eventually provide for parents. Lest anyone judge, this set of values dates at least back to Confucius if not longer. Children have an undeniable obligation to care for their parents when they grow older. "Foreigners," on the other hand, view children in terms of what they/we, as parents, can provide for the children. These differing perspectives go a long way toward explaining this whole China/Internationl Adoption phenomenon.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Monday, Nov 17th

Our facilitator met with with the US Consulate today and confirmed that all of our paperwork is in order. Tomorrow, we take the final step of attending the Oath Ceremony (similar to a regular Naturalization Ceremony but with children) and picking up the U.S. Visas. The Visas the children get are actually specialized visas. When they step on US soil, they instantly become US citizens.

When we got Luke, we were much more stressed and didn't enjoy the trip nearly as much. We've spent the last couple of days walking around the island and shopping while enjoying the company of others in our group. Unlike last time, this part of the trip actually feels like a real vacation. We've eaten well, relaxed, swum, and just hung out. At this point on the last trip, we were SO ready to be home. While I look forward to returning, I wouldn't mind extending this vacation by a few days.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Gotcha Video

After some time playing with our new video editing software, here's a version of the video from the day we got Bella that actually fits on YouTube!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Nov 15th

Shamian Island has a unique and interesting history. () Until recently, the US Consulate in Guangzhou was on the island. Any American families adopting from China would've stayed on the island at some point in their journey. A good part of the economy on the island is due to the continuing stream of adopting parents traveling through. Even though the US consulate has since been moved off the island, parents still stay on Shamian Island.

The White Swan Hotel was the first 5-star hotel in Guangzhou. It's an older hotel (smaller space) with excellent food/service. In the hotel is a play room sponsored by Mattel with toys/games for children. Each adopted child is greeted by a unique Barbie doll (Barbie holding black-haired baby). Most of the shops on the island sell baby clothes/supplies and touristy trinkets as much of our time on the island is spent waiting for the US visa for our children.

Our travel group continues to get along fabulously. We have great fun everytime we're together.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Nov 14

Friday the 14th was our last day in Bella's province. We got all of the paperwork (birth certificate, adoption certificate, Chinese passport).

Before we left, our guide took us for a tour of the "Ethnic Village". China was originally a bunch of minority tribes/ethnicities. Each Dynasty in Chinese came about as one minority took over control of the country. Today, the Han are the majority and ruling ethnicity. The population of Bella's province is composed of about 40 minorities. The Zhuang comprise 60% of the population so it's probable that Bella is at least part Zhuang. The Ethnic Village we visit had replica buildings of different minorities.

Our flight left Nanning at about 6:30 and arrived in Guangzhou in an hour. While tired, we were all very excited for the last leg of our trip. Bella did very well on the plane. She cried a couple of times but no major incidents.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Nov 12-13

After a blitz of paperwork on Tuesday, we had a scheduled 'free day' to allow us to bond with our babies. In the short time we've had Bella, she's already grown in some many ways. First and foremost, she's gained a permananet foothold in our hearts. She's brought out the nurturer and protector in all of us, including her brother. Luke's been asking to feed her, and today, he finally got his wish. Bonding-wise, she continues to grow more and more comfortable with us. On the first day, we had to coax her into eating anything. Now, she's proven herself to be an eager eater. Physically, she sits more upright and can walk a lot steadier now. I think that she'll be walking by herself within a couple of weeks.

One of the good things we've seen with Bella is that she does have a very healthy appetite. There's no doubt when she's hungry as she's learned to say "uMMMMM." At dinner last night, she was grabbing at any food in sight. After grabbing at everything, she "settled" for a small bowl of porridge/congee, two slices of watermelon, a few bites of egg, and some soup. It's bittersweet to see her healthy eating habits as I can't help to wonder why she's so small.

On Wednesday, our guide took us to a local park, "Green Mountain Park." It's not hard to see why it's called Green Mountain and why Nanning's nickname is "Green City." You can find out more about the park here: . We had a wonderful time running around and taking pictures. One of the highlights was a climb up a nine-story pagoda which sits on top of a hill. From the top, you get a panoramic view of Nanning. Even with the haze and fog, we had a beautiful view of the city. All the girls in the group have shown a marked improvement in their bonding.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Nov 11th

When we first get Isabella, it's actually on a probationary basis. The next day, we have to sign and process some paperwork to make her legally and officially hours. By noon on Tuesday, 11/11, Bella is legally part of our family.

It's amazing how much progress we'd made within 20 hours. We could easily tease a smile out of her, which is especially amazing since she has a cold/fever and is teething. She slept through the night. When she woke up, she played by herself quietly. She trusts her mommy and daddy to help her walk. She plays easily with her older brother.

Bella is behind in her physical development. Not only is she small for her age, but she also lacks certain motor skills. She cannot walk without help. She cannot seem to pull herself to a standing position. We've yet to see her crawl. Even when she's sitting, she needs support to stay upright. However, she seems alert, curious and intelligent. We believe that she'll thrive once she has the support and opportunity. We've heard of other cases where children were unable to walk when adopted and, within weeks, were on track developmentally. We would appreciate your continued prayers.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Nov 10th, GOTCHA!

We got her! We left Beijing on a 7:40 flight and arrived in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region (the equivalent of a province) at about 11 AM. After a bit of time to get settled and get our paperwork together, we drove to the nearby Civil Affairs office. Luckily, they didn't keep us waiting long as we were all at our emotional edges.

From China: 2008, Nov 10 Gotcha!

Isabella is beautiful. Like the other babies, she cried at first. But then her big brother came up and started singing to her ("Amazing Grace"), she settled down. One of the other families, the Cornetts, had some corn puffs that their daughter didn't like. Isabella loved it. There are few things more precious than a new child trusting you enough to take food from your hand.

I know we'll still have ups and downs, but the bonding has already begun. Isabella has already laughed and smiled with us and made significant eye contact.

Today, Nov 11th, we're off to the Civil Affairs office again to complete the paperwork. At the end of today, she'll be legally ours. We'll then wait a few days for them to complete processing the paperwork before we fly off to our next stop.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Saturday, November 8, 2008

November 8: Great Wall

The main item on our itinerary for Saturday was the Great Wall. It was sandwiched between trips to a cloisonne factory and a jade store. We left at 8 AM, which isn't that early when you're awake at 3 AM. Cloisonne is an ancient artform used for making trinkets, vases, etc. with copper and enamel. Originally limited to the imperial families (we'll see more pictures tomorrow, Nov 9, when we visit the Forbidden Palace), it's since become a favorite among us commoners. Most in our group did some early Christmas shopping! After the factory, we headed up to the Badaling section of the Great Wall, which is over an hour north of Beijing. As we got close, to everyone's surprise, snow started falling! Our guide couldn't remember the last time it snowed this early in the season there. Badaling was a strategic outpost with visibility in eight different directions. While we were prepared for the cold weather, nobody was prepared for the snow. The Great Wall is one of those sites that's just surreal. The Wall is built along the contours of the mountain, so even though it's paved, there are some steep inclines. With the snow, the inclines, and the Saturday crowd, it was not an easy hike. Afterwards, we went to a Jade factory, first for lunch and then some shopping.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Nov 7

We had the option to fly straight to Nanning to pick up Isabella. Two main reasons we came to Beijing a few days early: 1) Allow our bodies to adjust, and 2) Bond with the other families in our group, who, by sharing this experience with us, will forever be part of our extended family. Objective two is right on track. Everyone has been wonderful. We come from all over the country, although I think we're the only ones West of the Mississippi. Objective #1...we'll, let just say I'm glad we have these few days because my body is not quite adjusted. The first night, we all woke up at 2 AM. Tonight (since the sun isn't up yet, I'm still considering this moment part of this night), I woke up a 3:15. Our facilitator says we'll wake up about one hour later each morning until we're fully adjusted.

Yesterday, we mostly lazed around. We had the group orientation to set our expectations for the trip. A few key nuggets: don't drink the water, drivers do not recognize that you have the right of way, soak in the culture, the babies WILL be afraid of you at first. We then set out for the supermarket. The most popular items purchased were bottled water, cup 'o noodles, and misc snacks.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

14.5 Hours!

We leave tomorrow. Everything's packed except for Rick's stuff. But how hard is it to pack a pair of jeans, socks and underwear? We're all very excited. We probably won't sleep a wink tonight, but that's okay since we've got 12 hours for that tomorrow. God, we put ourselves in Your hands as we know that You have the power and the love to keep us safe and deliver little Isabella into our loving arms.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

2.5 More Days

As THE day approaches, it's been a busy couple of weeks. Earlier last week, we finally got our full in-country itinerary. The first and last parts of the journey in Beijing and Guangzhou should pretty much be the same as when we got Luke (if you'd like to see pictures from that trip: Each piece of detail on the trip adds to our excitement level (as if it can get any greater!). The danger with getting so excited is forgetting some important minutiae. So me, being the way I am, dug up the packing list from last time. Can you believe there were close to 150 items? We even tracked each piece of clothing on our backs when we got on the plane. There's a term for people like me, but since this is a family friendly site, I won't say it.

For those interested, here's the itinerary. We're fortunate in that we have a direct flight from SF to Beijing. Others in our travel group have two transfers.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Room Update

It's coming together! Here are the latest pictures. We still have to do some touch-ups and get some other pieces of furniture in. Because of the lighting, the colors of the crib look more washed out than they are.

Isabella's Updated Measurements

Earlier this week, we got an update from China. They took updated measurements of her the previous week, at 14 months:
Height: 72.5 cm. > 28.5 inches
Weight: 6.8kg > 15 lbs
Head: 42.5 cm. > 16.7 in
Chest: 42.5 cm. > 16.7 in
Foot: 11cm. > 4.3 in
Teeth: 6 > 6

She's very small for her age. Any prayer warriors out there, we could use some prayers! We're more anxious than ever to get there and have her in our arms (18 days before we leave and 23 days before we have her).