Friday, September 21, 2012

Home at Last!!

We are finally home and it was quite a trip!  It started off well with Mia Jade sleeping during half of the van trip (3 1/2 hour drive), was up playing during the layover in Hong Kong then slept most of the first flight (which left just after midnight).  She was up again during layover in Seoul so I figured we were in great shape for her to sleep on the long flight.  Wrong!  She actually did settle down and fell asleep in the bassinet early in the flight but within a few minutes the captain announced some turbulence and turned on the seatbelt sign.  Unfortunately that also meant that the babies in the bassinet had to be moved to the lap.  That was it, she woke up.  A little later on she dozed off in my lap, I went to put her in the bassinet, again, awake.  This time she was awake for the next 10 hours of the flight.  She was happy mostly but did not want to sit still.  She wanted to be up in my lap, down on the floor, walking around, anything but sleep.  Of course she fell asleep finally with an hour to go.  I was totally exhausted by this point.  It was a long flight but we made it through.  And by the way, Korean Air is awesome and the bassinet seats are the best!

One really funny side note to our travels is that we meet a couple of men getting on the same flight in Atlanta to Seoul when we were going to China.  We spent time talking to them and on the flight and hit it off.  They were from Key West and were going to Thailand on their travels.  We told them all about Mia Jade and the purpose of our trip.  They were super excited for us.  Well, fast forward a couple weeks and as we were waiting in Seoul for the return flight, they showed up on their way home as well on the same flight!  They were so excited to meet Mia Jade.  Their company made the 5 hour layover much more entertaining.  They told us all about their trip and showed us some very cool photos!

When we finally landed in Atlanta, Mia Jade went through immigration and legally became an American citizen!  How cool is that!  Being back in the US was such a comforting feeling even if it was the Atlanta airport.  It was so strange to think we were there just over two and a half weeks ago and now my life would never be the same.  I had Mia Jade now, which was the obvious part but having been in China was a life changer as well.  I really loved China and I know I will fall more in love with it as I have time to reflect on it later.  I also knew home was so close and being in Atlanta again was a great feeling, even if it was the airport!  The last leg of our travels was Atlanta to Jacksonville and I was happy that it was a quick little flight.  Of course she slept for that flight!  During the layover, I got her cleaned up and changed and ready to meet her family!

When we arrived to Jacksonville, it was such a relief.  We were slightly delayed at the gate because the stroller was suppose to be there but they had stuck it down below with the luggage.  So I had to carry Mia and my carry-on's making our reunion a few minutes delayed but when I rounded the corner and saw Mike and Zane and the rest of my family, no words can express my joy.  Finally together.  Finally a family of four.  Finally.  I strange feeling of closure to a long journey, China and 'the wait', and the beginning of a new wonderful chapter in our lives.

Zane patiently waiting
Mike & Zane

Meet Mia Jade

Our family!!!!

So happy to have my boy back in my arms!

First time sharing....will it be the last?!

My awesome sister-in-law.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Day 14 - Last day in China!

Today is our last day in China and I am full of emotions.  I'm so excited to be going home and be with Mike and Zane and start a normal life as a family of four.  And I'm a bit sad to leave this amazing country that produced my daughter.  This trip has seems long and fast at the same time.  It seems so long ago that we were trying to get on the plane in Jacksonville and hit a massive pothole to start our trip and we have had couple other little things go wrong but overall this trip has gone so smoothly.  Mia Jade is adjusting so well but I am eager to get her into a normal routine.  She's going to be shocked to find that there is not an breakfast buffet with any type a food you could imagine back home!

This morning we packed up then went for a walk to the Lake Park again around the corner from our hotel.  We didn't have time to really explore the other day but today we took a few hours to walk around and it was so beautiful.  And of course we did not have our camera; not even my iPhone!  There were people playing some kind of checkers, playing pingpong, singing karaoke, in little boats, all kinds of activities. I have learned that China has so many beautiful parks because their homes are so small with many people plus there is often no A/C so they come outside.  There is also funny exercise equipment that we would not consider exercise.  And really no one running/jogging which I thought was interesting.  The walk was very beautiful and a nice way to finish our visit.   Next up 34 straight hours of travel.

3 1/2 hour van ride to Hong Kong
5 hour wait for our plane
3 1/2 hour plane ride to Seoul
5 hour layover
13 1/2 hour plane ride to Atlanta
2 hour layover
1 1/2 hour plan ride to Jacksonville and HOME!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Day 13 - Consulate Appointment!

Today was our consulate appointment and it went so much quicker and smoother than I expected.  Our guide told me yesterday that he was concerned about the translation of our paperwork done by the notary in our province.  He said that the translation was not very good and it may need to be re-done.  Okay, can you say stressful?  Our guide in our province was fit to be tied with the officials there.  He was frustrated by their "laziness" (his words), lack of doing anything timely and their sloppiness of our paperwork.  He already had to go back and have some paperwork redone the day we were leaving.  I found out today that our guide told our agency that he does not want to be assigned back to our province.  So back to today....  We all met in the lobby of the hotel, loaded up in the van and arrived at the consulate.  We all settled into the consulate room and took an oath as a group.  Then the first name called "Wilson, please come to the window".  My initial concern was that our paperwork was so messed up that it was going to take awhile so they called me first but nope!  He said our paperwork all looked good and proceeded with the process.  One very interesting thing was that he told me her Chinese name had an interesting meaning.  We have received two different interpretations of Fu Han Yu.  Fu is the orphanage denotation and means fortunate and Yu is jade...both of those have been consistent but Han is the part that has been inconsistent.  At referral we were told Han Yu meant "engraved jade".  Her paperwork the next day had it as "cherished jade".  But the consulate man said it meant "jade in the mouth" or to hold jade in the mouth.  He said that was a very fortunate name and to hold jade in the mouth is very rare and special in Chinese tradition.  It has to do with making jade pure and shiny.  (I know that we learned to care for our jade bracelets to soak them in water at least once a month.)  When we were done with the visa application process and met up with our guide, I told him about the conversation.  He immediately agreed with the interpretation.  He told me there is a legend/story of jade in the mouth although I have been unable to find it.  So, interesting that her name has been presented as three different meanings.  I'm going with "cherished jade".  So her visa application is submitted and the afternoon was off to the Guangzhou zoo.  

We had a beautiful afternoon at the zoo but I must admit it was a little depressing. The animal enclosures were so cramped and unnatural for the most part.  It reminded me of what American zoos looked like when I was a child.  But it was very neat to see the pandas.  They were worth the trip to the zoo.  

The evening was filled by starting to pack up.  I can't believe it's time to go!  I have loved China but ready to get home and start our family of four!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Day 12 - Our Travel Group

Here is our wonderful travel group!  Four of the five families started together in Beijing and the fifth joined us here in Guangzhou.  One family we have been together with since we left Atlanta because our girls were in the same orphanage.  It has been so wonderful to meet each of these wonderful people and I expect we will stay connected for a long time!  Another wonderful thing about all of these families is that we are all strong faithed Christians.  

Monday, September 17, 2012

Day 11 - Shamian Island & Pearl River dinner cruise

Today was another beautiful day.  The weather could not be nicer.  It's cooled down a little from what it has been and it's not very humid.  I have heard so many post about it being so sticky and hot here.  We really lucked out in our weather.  We and another family headed over to Shamian Island today to check out the shopping.  This is where families use to stay when adopting but the big hotel, The White Swan, is closed for renovation and it has really hurt the shops financially.  

There are still a few shops open.  I was a little disappointed in the fact that all the shops basically have the same exact things.  We wondered in and out of shop to see the same old stuff and the shop owners following us shoving stuff in our faces.  But we did come across a store that I had heard of, Judy's Laundry.  Judy is an open Christian and loves talking about her faith.   She saw my cross around my neck and got so excited.  She told us about the man who introduced her to Christianity, about being baptized 6 years ago and that she prays for her family who are not Christian.  She also told me that her daughter lives pretty far away in another provide but Judy has a shop here so she only gets to see her a couple times a year.  That made me sad for her.   I ended purchases the items that I was interested in from her.  She was very funny.

This evening we went on a dinner cruise along the Pear River.  It was nice to be out on the water and see the city lights.  The lights on the buildings and bridges are so hard to explain and do them justice and pictures just didn't cut it.  There is a new tower, the fourth largest freestanding structure at 1800 feet along the river that is all lit up with changing color lights constantly.  It is so beautiful...what a site!  All in all, the day was nice but frustrating that no official things happened today (or tomorrow for that matter) to get us home.  Our consulate appointment is not until Wednesday so it's a little frustrating but I  know they built in a couple days in case we had issues with the China passports for the girls.  I love this country but ready to start thinking about the trip home!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Day 10 - Lake Park and the pool

(Okay, I will add photos later...the camera battery is dead but I don't want to forget what happened when)

Today was the first day I felt that we didn't have to rush to be somewhere in the morning.  There was an optional tour that we opted out of and instead took our time to eat breakfast and then stroll around the hotel area.  We found a few shops and headed toward the park that we had heard about.  I had no idea how huge it was!  It is absolutely beautiful and goes on forever.  We strolled around and really enjoyed being in some semblance of nature.  China has a lot of parks because the homes are so small.  People come out to the parks to play games - everywhere from badminton to chess, to sing and dance and exercise.   But I have not seen anything like this in the other parts of China.  We didn't come prepared to stay too long and ended heading back to the hotel before we could really explore too far.  I hope to get back there before we leave.

Then we took Mia Jade to the pool for the first time.  It was not long lasting; she liked it okay at first but got very clingy then scared so we didn't stay too long but it was a nice introduction.

We finished the evening with a group dinner with everyone from our travel group.  It was a nice evening together but the food was not too good.  The food has been a little more challenging than I had expected.  But it as nice to all be together and share how our experiences are going.  Overall it was a pretty low key and relaxing day.  I am getting a bit homesick though.  I miss my boys.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Day 9 - Clinic appointment

Today all the families in our travel group loaded up and headed to the international clinic.  First off, I had heard horror stories about how hot and cramped it was and how long the process was.  We were in and out in no time.  The new clinic is larger, has good AC and 5 clinic rooms instead of one.  Second, as a medical professional, these were the wimpiest physical exams I have ever seen!  I think she could have been missing an arm and they wouldn't have noticed!  But another step crossed off the list!

By the way, I went back and added "Day 7" as a late entry but dated it so it would fall in order ... check it out too!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Day 8 - Goodbye Guizhou

Today was a pack up and travel day.  Mia Jade had her first airplane ride and did well.  We are now in Guangzhou and so happy to be at our last stop before heading home.  The China Hotel is a million times nicer than our place in Guizhou and so happy to be somewhere were we can settle in for a few days.

P.S. - Day 7's post is yet to come.  I haven't had time to download the pictures but I will be filling in the blanks!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Day 7 - Monkey Park and Temple Visit

Today started out raining so we had a quiet morning in the hotel and then in the afternoon went to a really beautiful park in Guizhou.  We walked the path up a mountainside to a Buddhist Temple.  Along the way there were wild monkeys all around.  I am not talking about swinging in the trees, but coming right up to people trying to take their food!  It was crazy!  There were hundreds of them!  And signs in China are sometimes so funny how they translate....this one cracked us up!

Can you see the baby tucked under mama?

At the top of the hill was the temple, about 300 years old.  It was so beautiful.  The details of the buildings, the peacefulness and the history all together made a wonderful visit.  If you ever go to Guiyang, I suggest it as a place to go!

These photos can not come close to doing this place justice. 
These Budda statures were huge!

 We get stares all the time in China because we are Americans and now with the girls, we get even more.  Occasionally someone asks about them, if the girls are ours.  Sometimes we get a thumbs up to show support for our adoption.  But there was a young man, maybe late 20's who come up to us in the lobby and started talking to us.  He could speak some English but he was not confident so he resorted to Google translator and here is what he typed then showed us his computer.  It's broken english but you get the idea.  I wanted to cry that he wanted so badly to show our support that he went to the effort to pull out his computer, put up the translator and type this out.  We have received so many well wishes from Chinese people and that has truly been touching.
"You give a child newborn.  China now there are many helpless situation, social and  resource-poor.  Thank you.  The children are the future of the world.  I wish you good luck!"
 As you can see Mia Jade is doing pretty well.  Her true personality is staring to shine.  She is very independent, stubborn, determined and a bit dramatic... all like her older brother!  I'm really falling in love with this girl!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Day 6 - Visit to Huishui

Today was an incredible day.  We went through a range of emotions as we traveled an hour and a half to the town of Huishui where Mia Jade has lived in the orphanage since July 2011.  The weather was raining and overcast during the drive.  When we arrived to the town the driver was trying to decide where it was located and Kim (the other family adopting) and I looked over and saw the bridge that is in the background of the girls' photos and we told him where to go.  Then around the corner and we could see it on the hill.  The last 200-300 yards was very bad, bumpy and muddy road but we pulled up to a relatively new look building with staff waiting to great us.  They were to happy to see the girls and the girls were eager to leave us and go to their nannies.  That was a little tough but not unexpected.  It was obvious the girls were very loved and cared for.

They showed us the girls' room and play room.  Then one of the nannies pulled out her cell phone and showed me about a dozen pictures of Mia Jade when she was much younger.  I quickly called the guide and he tried to get the photos onto the computer so they could transfer them to me but they were unable to.  I had to resort to taking photos of her camera; at least it is something that I didn't have before.

We learned during their adoption day that our girls were the last two adoptable children in the orphanage.  There was a total of 30-32 but all were in situations where families could not afford them to be home but did't want to give them up either.  But when we went to  visit, there were two new girls that had just arrived the day before.  Maybe one day next year someone will get a referral and we will have photos of them for them.  

When it was time we took a group photo and then took the girls.  They cried for their nannies and didn't want us, which was tough but again I was educated enough to know it was normal.  And thankfully the tears stopped by time we were at the end of the driveway.  Overall, I am very thankful to have had the opportunity to go and visit and was thrilled to see very few children, very clean environment and caring staff.

After the visit we went to the town and wandered the shops.  The people were very nice and it was a neat visit.  But then we went to the "old town" and it was wonderfully neat.  The streets wandered up and down some hill and we stepped into one of the courtyards to see the homes.  The owner said his house was 600 years old!  Columbus wasn't even born!  It was very neat to get out the the countryside and see the rice fields.  What a great day!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Day 5 - Guiyang

Today was an off day of any official meetings or tours so it was nice to relax a little.  We wondered around, keeping close to our hotel because this city is easy to get turned around in.  You have to go down stairs at most corners and go under the street to get to the other side.  And in these tunnels are flea market types of's crazy.  If you don't come up the right steps, you are all turned around.  It was very old and poor the way we went.

Later our guide David took us in the other direction and it was night and day.  Much more modern and nice.  He walked us past an old temple and through a park and ended up at the oldest building in Guiyang.  It was a nice evening out and saw some neat parts of the town.
Our guide David

Our girl can walk

The oldest building in Guiyang - 1500 years old!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Day 4 - Adoption Day

Today was another busy and odd day.  We did not do the financial part yesterday because the exchange banks were closed on Sunday (apparently banks are open 7 days a week in other provinces) so we did it today.  That part was stressful, not because of how much it was but the process of exchanging the money.  They looked at every bill individually, put it through the counterfeit machine twice, pulled up our visa information and checked out visa with our visa applications.  
Then off to the adoption office again.  I thought Mia Jade would panic going back but she did well.  They performed a little presentation in which they thanked us for adopting the children and giving them a better life and gave us a couple gifts for the girls.  One was a wooden doll of a minority which Guizhou is known for and a necklace with a charm which means good luck.  Then we took the official adoption photo and we were presented with our Red Book adoption papers.  She is legally ours now. 

Our families group photo

This means she is ours!

We finished off the evening with a wonderful meal at Pizza Hut - pizza and beer, a taste of home!

Sunday, September 09, 2012


Wow what a day!  For so long I wondered how it would go but it went just as I expected after reading about so many other's "gotcha" experiences.  We had the morning to rest and get ready, which was great because we were so exhausted from the first couple days of touring and all the traveling.  When it was time to go, we loaded up in a van and headed to the adoption office.  I was anxious but not too bad, excited but so ready.

As we pulled up to the office, my mom started saying, "why are those two little girls almost in the road!?"  I look up and saw a little girl basically stepping onto the road before being scooped up and mom then says "That's them, I think it's them!"  We got out of the van and looked and indeed there were two little girls dressed so cute in pink with a few adults; we recognized them as our girls.  We went over and as our guide was talking to them, the nanny tried to hand her to me but Mia Jade would not let go of her nanny, she wanted no part of me.  But I expected that.  Quickly, our guide took us up to the office and we started on some paperwork.  They also brought us a bag of our girls things.  In Mia's bag were the items that I sent in a care package through Ann with Red Thread (my first care package obviously never made it).  There were split pants, hand knitted items including a brand new sweater that someone made for her, and the shirt that she was wearing in her updated photos.  Then a few minutes later they brought up the two girls.  Mia Jade was handed to me, this time being held by another girl but reluctantly let me take her.  (It turned out that this girl was the orphanage director's daughter and did not care for Mia Jade so there was no attachment there).  To say she was wary is an understatement.  She had a very neutral look, taking it all in, for several minutes.  The other little girl, handed off by the nanny (I later found out this lady was the orphanage director, not the nanny), started screaming immediately.  
The not so happy part
Mia Jade looked frozen and scared to death.  After a few minutes, she took a cracker from me and some juice and occasionally would look at me from the corners of her eyes.  The room was so warm with no ac, just an open window and a small fan (no screen, on the third floor).  It was going pretty well until the she looked at Naomi crying and also saw the nanny again.  Then the screaming.  It was hard but expected.  Finally we got all the paperwork done, took our official photo and we were quickly ushered out.  Mia Jade settled down for the ride and looked so tired.  She even leaned her head down against my chest to rest.   When we got back to the hotel, we realized that when I ran into the hotel room the last minute before we left, that I laid down the key and couldn't get in...we had to wait for housekeeping to open the door.  (Good move Kelly!)
At the office where we received her
But we got in, changed our clothes (she spit up on my and her in the office from crying so hard), got her daily schedule from our guide then I put her down on the bed with some stacking cups.  She went to town entertaining herself.  She stacked and unstacked, stacked and unstacked, nibbled on some snacks and would peek up at us every so often.  At one point my mom tickled the bottom of her foot and she giggled...our first glimpse of a smile.  After a while, she started to interact with us by handing us things and then taking them back.  Then a little more eye contact.  I gave her juice and helped her with the cup and there was a look of "okay, you're helping me out, you might be okay".  We sat on the bed and the interactions grew.  I offered her something, I can't remember what and she shook her head no and I laughed.  She looked up at my laughter and shook her head no again and I laughed again.  And again, this time her laugh was included....then it was on!  She would shake her head, we would laugh and she would laugh.  What a feeling!  This photos below were taken during her laughter.
Back at the hotel room 

Wow what a face of joy!  
After awhile, we got some room service; rice for her and burger and fries for mom and me (we had not seen any option for a burger anywhere until here!).  She started to eat the rice and after a few bites I handed her a french fry.  That was about it for the rice, she then only wanted the fries from then out!  Finally as it was getting late, I got her into some footy pajamas and she look at us like 'what is this contraption?', took a bottle and drifted off to sleep.  All in all, I could not have asked for a better "gotcha day"!  Well worth the wait!!

Day 3 - Waiting for Gotcha!

Today is Gotcha Day!  I was able to finally get good sleep last night and actually slept in late (with the assistance from some Benadryl PM).  I was way behind in sleep and feel much better.  Our "gotcha" is scheduled for 5:00 so we have a day to set up the room and relax which has been nice.  Several people have commented on Facebook, asking about the earthquake in GuizHou today.  There was a fairly strong earthquake today which has taken between 80-90 lives.  Fortunately it is far from where we are and far from the girls' orphanage.  We are all good and thankfully it has not affected our schedule.  Just a few more hours to go!

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Day 2 - The Great Wall

The highlight for me today was the Great Wall.  I got kind of emotional as we began our assent.  To walk on the Great Wall really impressed reality upon me that we were in China, as silly as that sounds.  It was a beautiful portion of the wall just outside of Beijing on a beautiful day.  I learned that there are three places around Beijing that you can visit parts of the Great Wall and this section that we went to was actually less touristy so it was kind of nice.  It was so beautiful.  The steps were very steep and uneven.  We met a family with two elderly sisters from China that had been 'training' for a year to come and climb the wall.  It was an honor to see this remarkable piece of history.  We were able to climb to the highest point of the portion that we were on.  I wanted to just stay at the peak and soak it all in.  We took a ton of photos and each one is more impressive than the next.

Coming down
In the morning we went to the Jade Factory.  It was very interesting and I got some pieces for some gifts and a couple things that I will give to Mia Jade later in her life.  (But if you are going any time soon and you want a little advice, let me know!  I would have done it a little differently if I had it to do over.)  I am glad that we got pieces that we will have forever and I got a couple pieces to give to Mia Jade later in her life.  In China, jade is prized much like diamonds in the US.  In fact George told us that in China the men are suppose to get their bride a jade bangle as well as a diamond thank to the western influence.  
Our guide set things out so that we are ready for baby!
This evening Mom and I, along with the Prejean family, left the rest of our group to catch our plane to Guizhou, Mia Jade's province.  We went from the Great Wall, to lunch, to the airport so we were good and sweaty on our travels but I didn't care.  We were heading to Guizhou!  We were met by our guide David who let us know that our "Gotcha" will be tomorrow at 4:30!  He also was able to get us a little additional information on feedings and that she is now walking (in our last update it was reported that she was not).  This is a good sign for her development.  

The last two days were great fun in the very interesting city of Beijing but now the real thing, Mia Jade.  It's the last night I will be without her and her last night without her family.    

Friday, September 07, 2012

Day 1 - Beijing Tour Day

Wow, our first full day in China was amazing.   We started off meeting up with the other families that will be with us in Beijing and Guangzhou (they will travel to different provinces to get their girls); a total of 5 families in all.  What a vary of people - for one couple, this will be their first child.  For another couple this is their second child from China; they have a 4 year old girl and are adopting a 4 year old girl.  Another family has 3 bio children ages 16-26 and a 6 month old granddaughter and are adopting a 2 year old and then Kim's family has two biological children and this will be their first adoption.  I wanted to include their stories because when I started our adoption process, I thought most everyone would have a similar story as ours - no children, unable to get pregnant, but no, there are so many wonderful families who choose adoption for so many wonderful reason.  We have a great group and I imagine I will be friends with them for a long time after this experience.

First we went to the district of Hutong, "Old Beijing",  to see the old houses that surrounded the Forbidden City and got the chance to go through a home that the family has lived in for 5 generations.  To get there we all got in rickshaws (now bikes, not running men) for the ride.  What a cool little experience.

Our guide George discribed how you could tell a famiy's status and the man's job by the exterier of the home.  The doorway to the home had beams over the door, a specific number of steps up, and a small stone figure by the door, either round or square that symbolized all of these things.  He also shared how children had to marry into similar families.  For example, a boy from a home with three steps to the door had to marry a girl from a home with three steps to the door.  And every thing had to balance, very fang shui, evens and odds had to match up such as the steps compared to the posts.  Very complex!
George our CCAI guide
We loved George!  He really made our short stay in Beijing a very special one.  He kept calling my mom "Mom" because he said that she reminded him of him mom!  He said right away that she looked like his mom...really! :-)  He was so sweet and funny.  He always had a smile on his face.  He would gather our travel group by calling out "sticky rice" to have us stick together...and we were all white!  It was so funny to hear all the chinese chatter and then we would hear "sticky rice" and we knew to keep up.  He also talked about the awful traffic in Beijing (and it was awful!) and how he would debate if he should take the bus/subway or drive and whichever he did, he regretted and wish he'd done the other.  But how he told the story I would be cracking up!  He said sometimes his wife would just get out of the car and head for the subway, get home before him and have dinner ready!

Next, we went to the silk factory where we learned how silk is made and watched the interesting process of making double cocoon silk comforters (the silk is the inside "fluff" part).  Really interesting.  Then we went to eat lunch in a wonderful restaurant.  The food was shared on a big lazy susan for a table of 10.  Everything was delicious!  It is very interesting how everyone shares food in China.  It's so cultural to share all the food with others.

After lunch we went through Tainanmen Square and into the Forbidden City.  We had heard about Chinese staring at Americans and especially blondes but it's hard to understand until it happens.  People would come up to mom and gesture that they wanted their picture with her!  And then there would actually be a short line as people waited their turn.  There was a beautiful 16 year old blonde in our group and at one point George had to break up the crowd and basically rescue her!  The square itself was so huge.  It was crazy to think about this was where the demonstrations took place back in 1989.  There is so much history here but this is history we watched live on tv.  I was in college at the time and was in a cultural class called Life in China.  What timing that this took place while I was in that class.  Next we headed into the Forbidden City.  Really no words can describe how grand this place is.  I have heard but until you are there and see how it goes on and on, it really is hard to describe.  These buildings are amazing and you could easily spend a few days going through it all.  I knew that several emperors ruled from the Forbidden City but I assumed that is was added to over the centuries but I learned that one emperor built the entire thing over 14 years.  The detail in the buildings is amazing.  It is also very balanced in the design.  No women could enter through the main gate unless the empress on her wedding day.  No men were allowed in the women's grounds except eunuchs and no women were allowed in the inner courts.  The buildings are all wooden and there are huge iron vats around the grounds that would hold water in the event of a fire.

Mom deserves a big kiss for coming half way around the world with me!  

We were then taken to a Chinese acrobat show which was entertaining.  But honestly I was so exhausted by this point I dosed off several times.  I could have happily skipped this part but it wasn't an option as part of the tour.  When we got back to the hotel, we were exhausted but we took a short walk along some local streets.  That was entertaining in itself!  There were people playing music and dancing in the street for no apparent reason.  We laughed until we were silly!  Mom and I had a fantastic first day and it's only the beginning.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

We are in CHINA!

I can't believe it, we are here after all of these years.  Surreal is the best way to describe it.  We got in after dark last night and it was pouring so we could not see much but today we will be going on a tour of some of the sites in Beijing.  I'm very excited to see my daughter's home country.  But getting here was a little stressful so let me back up.

We were so excited to get to the airport in Jacksonville, walked to the check-in counter about 40 feet into our trip and Mom says "well all is good so far" and we giggle like silly girls.  We tell them our names to check in and the guy looks us up and tells us that there are two people registered as Kelly Wilson and no Sandy Parkes on the entire itinerary.  I wipe out my copy of the itinerary and show him Mom's name on everything but he tells me not in his system and that is was an error by the travel agency... and only the travel agent can fix it.  Ok, major problem because it was 6:00 EST and our travel agent is in California where she will not be into the office until who knows when.  They try several things to fix it and NO ONE can.  Supervisors come, they call everyone they can think of, it's obvious to everyone what the mistake is and common sense says it should be and easy fix but nope.  We spend the first hour and a half of our trip at the check-in counter as we watch our flight time rapidly approaching.  So finally we did the only thing we could do to buy some time and that was to buy an over the counter ticket for Mom to Atlanta where our connection to Asia was hope we can reach the travel agent during our layover.  So, we got on the plane, not elated like I wanted to be as we began our trip but stressed about what was going to happen.

So we get to Atlanta and immediately head to the check-in desk, tell our story all over again and still no one can help but the travel agent they tell us.  We have left half a dozen desperate voicemails, a few emails, I even looked up her name on White Pages and left a message with someone who probably was not her.  And no response...heck it's still 8am there.  The ticket counter tells us if we don't have it fixed by 12:10, then Mom is not getting on the plane.  We start working on Plan B;  Mom says for me to get on without her.....what?!, after all this go without her and pray she gets there the next day on her own?  No, I will go the next day if that is the plan.  Thankfully we have a day built in for touring and it could be the best option.  Or Mom could buy a ticket on this flight as well....nope, it's overbooked.  There is a flight through Japan that arrives about the same time, at $1700.  None are looking attractive so we go with the first; I would delay a day.  Then at 11:30 we finally get hold of her.  She is so apologetic and started working immediately on the issue.  The time is ticking, it's got to be fixed by 12:10...she got it fixed with about 10 minutes to spare.  What a huge relief....we were going to China, both of us!  The rest of the flights were very nice (love Korean Air!) and 24 hours almost to the minute of taking off in Jacksonville we landed in Beijing.  SO happy to arrive!  So learning lesson....make sure you have a 24/7 phone number for your travel agent!

In Atlanta I was so excited to finally meet an online friend Kim and her family.  Their daughter is in the same orphanage as Mia Jade and our girls are born the same week!  We had conversed a lot up until this point and loved to finally be about to meet her face to face.  They were so kind as we stressed over our ticket situation and in fact Kim was the one who got the travel agent on the phone right as she was walking in at 8:30am in California.  I know we will have a great trip with her family; it will greatly add to the experience.  And as we got off in Korea, transferring to the China flight, we met another family getting off and on the same plane who are also with our agency and will be with us in Beijing and Guangzhou.

Mom and I had had a plan, to grab some breakfast before our Jacksonville flight and then a quick lunch in Atlanta during our layover.  We did neither because we were dealing with the ticket problem.  So when we got on the plane finally at 1:15pm we still had not eaten anything.  They bring our lunch on Korean Air, which is Korean food of course and Mom looks down and says "I'm so hungry I could eat seaweed".... our soup, Seaweed Soup.  I busted out laughing as the stress had finally melted away, so that was our quote of the day.  They thing that made me laugh and begin the enjoyment of this amazing journey!

Welcome to our travels!