Tag Archives: China

Good-bye Beijing

This morning we had our final outing in Beijing: first to Tian’An Men Square and then through the Forbidden City. Reed and I also visited both in 2005, and I’m happy to say that the Starbucks has been removed from the Forbidden City. Julia was surprised I remembered it, but I told her it was only because we stepped inside to warm up from the frigid January air (no coffee was purchased as I thought it was awful that it was in the Forbidden City in the first place). The Square is huge and open, but the winding one-way path through the City was very congested. And there are so many temples and so much history within, it is overwhelming (it is my Chinese Louvre!).

A quick lunch and then we headed to the train station. Julia accompanied us all the way to our seats, which Lina had upgraded to first class. We said our heartfelt good-byes, and we were on our way. I was very impressed with the bullet train (300km/hour!), both in its speed and cleanliness. And Abbie really thought we were something going in such style. While on the 4+ hour journey, Abbie began reading the journal I have kept about her since submitting our adoption papers. She loves it and thinks it’s the best book she’s ever read. 😉

We arrived in Xi’an around 6:15pm, and easily made our way out of the station to our local CHI host, Anna, whom we instantly liked. Xi’an is much smaller than Beijing – only 9 million people! – and Anna said the traffic is not bad. Well, maybe the volume is less, but the style of driving is the same. The lines painted between lanes do not seem to apply, and I find it’s best to just close my eyes at times. Xi’an is full of very tall apartment buildings, which Anna aptly called a “forest,” and we are on the 20th floor of our swanky hotel. I think it may be the fanciest hotel I’ve ever stayed in, but the wifi stinks. 🙂 Oh well, we are here to see the Terracotta Warriors anyhow!

Chinese roller coaster

Today was quite a day for Abbie…a true roller coaster of emotions. The morning was a peak, both literally and figuratively! We climbed 1000 steps (yes, Abbie counted) of the Great Wall at Juyongguan, the same place Reed and I went in January of 2005. Today it was cloudy and drizzly (good for us Oregonians), but still much warmer than my last time on the Wall. It is difficult – some steps are shallow while others literally require some true climbing. Abbie was pleased we went past where Reed and I did all those years ago, and Julia was with us the whole way. It was great fun and the views were spectacular.

After about a 90-minute drive back into Beijing and a delicious lunch, we went to Alenah’s Home, a Children’s Hope foster home for disabled (“waiting”) children. It was established around the same time we got Abbie by a man from Kansas who lost all of his family – including his adopted Chinese daughter – in a flash flood. He has taken tragedy and turned it into hope and healing. You can learn more about Alenah’s Home here, if you wish. Here begins the down-turn of the emotional roller coaster…

After a tour of the bright and tidy facility, we sat down to play with 11 of the 20 children who reside there (9 were at school). We observed ranges of cerebral palsy and Down’s Syndrome, as well as physical deformities, such as club feet. All 11 were girls. Aside from the bulletin board with a photo and bio of each child, we were not allowed to take pictures. However, the images will remain in my mind’s eye forever. Though very well cared for by the four resident nannies, the signs of institutionalized children remain…self-soothing, repetitive behaviors; indiscriminate, brief contact with others; flat affect and limited range of expressions. And there sat Abbie, trying to interact and not quite knowing what to do. How do you get them to respond? Why don’t they play like we’re used to? An 8-year-old named Huihui really got to Abbie. Severe cerebral palsy limits Huihui to a wooden chair. She can’t respond verbally, and loud sounds scare her. Abbie sat by her, let Huihui pull her ponytail, and did her very best to love on her for their brief time together.

Once we departed and were back in the van, Julia shared that when she first started helping at Alenah’s Home, she cried so hard by all of the sad stories. Over time, she has come to see hope in each child, and she reminded us how their mothers did the most loving things they could by abandoning them where they could receive the medical treatment and therapy they need. This echoes what we’ve always told Abbie about her mom…for a reason we will never know, she loved Abbie most by giving her up. And through a miracle as big as the miracle of life itself, she was given to us.

Speaking of that precious moment, our roller coaster ascended again because we were reunited with Lina when we returned to our hotel! She was with us in 2005 when we were given Abbie, and she is a very, very special person. She was thrilled to see Abbie, hear her speak Chinese (thank you Yafei!), and reminisce about those incredible days over 12 years ago. The time with her was too short, but I believe Abbie will return to Beijing one day, see Lina and Julia, and perhaps even volunteer at Alenah’s house. The time with Lina was followed by a dumpling dinner with Julia, re-packing for our departure from Beijing tomorrow afternoon, and some deep journaling and talking with my daughter. This is a day I will cherish always.

Beibei loves Beijing

We had a wonderful day in Beijing! First, we started with a delicious and bountiful breakfast…Abbie (Beibei) loved having noodles and eggs, along with a croissant. 🙂

Julia and our guide, Lee, collected us at 9am, and we set out in the bustling city streets. Lee said 30 million people live in Beijing, and there are 7 million cars (many of which we’ve observed to be German!). We first went to a hutong, which is an old neighborhood with narrow streets. In the hutong we went for a rickshaw ride which was so much fun! We stopped a couple of times to explore, and we found the lake there to be beautiful. Next we went to the Temple of Heaven and walked among its many gates and temples. It is surrounded by a large park, and it was fun to see the locals gathered to enjoy its beauty. There was dancing, arhu and singing, hacky-sack, and even poker games! It was lunchtime and we were really in for a treat = Peking duck! Abbie loved the whole meal and so did I (who knew fried duck skin dipped in sugar was so delicious?!). Abbie also survived her first squatty potty. 🙂

After lunch, we did some bargaining in a pearl market. No pearls were bought, but Abbie did a good job getting the prices down for her purchases to a range Lee had suggested. She also did well using her Chinese, and she was often complimented by the merchants. Next came an amazing acrobat show where we were often on the edge of our seats! Abbie is so very happy here; it is such a gift to share this with her.

We have arrived…

We are settled into our hotel in Beijing after a very long day of flying. Things went smoothly (Air Canada was great!) though we were starting to lose hope in my suitcase arriving with us. Finally it did. Julia from Children’s Hope International was among the sea of people waiting outside customs, and we soon found our driver and made our way through the heavy Sunday traffic. Julia is very sweet and smiley, and she was impressed with Abbie’s Chinese speaking skills already. We found an ATM and picked up a few provisions at the Carrefour market down the street (photo taken along the way). Beijing is much warmer and greener than when Reed and I were here in January of 2005, and the air quality seems good today. Abbie said it sort of feels like a dream to be here…we are both very excited for our day of site-seeing tomorrow!  

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China, here we come!

Today Abbie and I departed Portland for Beijing, and we can’t wait for what’s in store! We are doing what her adoption agency calls a “Homeland Tour,” and the coordinator, Lina, was with us when we were handed Abbie in 2005! We will spend 11 days touring her beautiful native country, visiting many sites in Beijing, Xi’an, and Chengdu before ending our time in her province of Anhui. We have been planning and preparing for months (years!), including Abbie’s translation services (see photo). 🙂 I will post here as I can once in-country (we are currently in Vancouver, BC). Thanks for following along!

 

 

Goodbye and Hello!

All right…we’re off.

Our trip to the consulate went well this morning. In fact, we had a nice surprise after swearing to the authenticity of Abbie’s papers – her visa was already completed. We were planning on a short wait for her entry visa (just this afternoon) but it was nice to get it in hand anyway. Why not have all the papers we need, right? So now we’re all packed and ready to head off to the airport in a little over five hours.

As I reflect back on our two week journey to meet our daughter, I am so thankful for the grace God has given us. In Abbie. In Jackson. In one another. In our family. In all our friends back home. In the new friends we’ve made on foreign soil. And finally in the CHI family and Li Na our coordinator. I guess this is the most important lesson that could have been reinforced for me. God is ever-present with his abundant grace; sometimes it’s hard to discern (like when Abbie was inconsolable in the middle of many nights) but I know that it’s always there, sustaining us.

I’m also thankful for what I’ve learned about China. The people here are so kind on the whole. While it’s not yet ready for prime time, I’ve compiled a wealth of information on China to include in the book that we’ll make for Abbie. In its pages will be a (quick) history of her country of origin and information on her ethnic group as well as her home province and city. That, together with the photos I’ve taken and the words I’ve written while here, should be create a good memory for her. I hope so.

Finally, I am thankful for the growth in my heart toward those in this world who are orphans. Outside of Abbie (our gift from heaven), there is another little girl here who sticks in my heart and makes it soft toward the “alone ones.” If you’ll recall, I included a shot of a little one at the Chuzhou Welfare Institute. She was in Abbie’s group, and appeared to me to be the only one left behind, unadopted.

As is often the case in my life, I pressed the shutter release (this time on my camera, often times in my mind) and passed over a moment without a second thought. As it turns out, I wish I would have spent a moment with her, instead of taking her picture. You see, I learned later that there were originally going to be eight families adopting in our group, instead of the seven that actually went. When the eighth family received their referral, they rejected it (rejecting her) and resubmitted for a younger child. Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t say this to blame at all – their decision was right for them. But in reality, that decision changed that little girl’s future. From what I understand, there will most likely not be another chance for her. She’s alone and will stay that way as 95% of orphans in China do (at least that was the stat we’ve heard while here)…and in turn another found a home. All this makes me believe that the decisions we make have a real impact that last and last.

While not all of us are called to adopt (or adopt again), perhaps we can all pitch in to support work to make orphans’ lives better. CHI has a foundation doing this. And there are many other organizations working on their behalf as well. One right here in Guangzhou is A Gift from China which supports The Good Rock Foundation. Another organization, Half the Sky, has been active in improving orphanage faciliites and even improved the play area and nutrition at Abbie’s orphange. So, there are lots of ways to get involved, many more than I’ve highlighted here. If nothing else, please remember to pray for the “alone ones” as an application of the story we create with God and others.

Well, I’ll get off my soapbox now. Abbie just came to me for a hug anyway, time for her nap… Okay, she’s down (it reads more quickly than it actually happened, but went really well). I guess I should close this down and pack up our computer so that I don’t disturb her.

So I guess this is “Goodbye” from China which is really the beginning of our “Hello” back home. After our 13 hour China Southern flight across the Pacific (flight 327), we’ll hop on Alaska Air (flight 211) from LAX to PDX. So…if all the connections work fine… The next words you hear from us will be words of celebration and homecoming! Celebration in seeing you again (and especially you, Jackson) and homecoming for a girl who is no longer an alone one.

Can’t hardly wait!

ADDENDUM (February 2, 2005):
CHI is so great! After reading the note about the little one left behind, Marge Seaman (our stateside adoption consultant) did some checking for us. She discovered that her name is Chu Yong Xuan and she was born July 1, 2005. She also discovered that the CCAA did end up placing her with another family!!!

Here’s the note from Marge:
I asked Karolyn in St. Louis to follow-up to find out if the 8th child from your group had been placed with another family. She has found her forever home and will be leaving the orphanage soon. Thank you for such kind, thoughtful words Reed – I just wanted you to know the outcome. I hope all of you are getting along just great – Abbie is a beautiful child and such a wonderful addition to your family. Blessings, Marge

Such good news for her and her family!

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Abbie looking over her passport and visa.

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“Yep, looks okay.” Lets go!

Our last night in China

Man it feels great writing this on our last night in China! Now it’s just an oath, a visa, and a short hop across a big ocean and we’re home!

Today started off great as Abbie slept in until about 7:30 and did so after a pretty good night of sleep. She was awake for fewer minutes overnight and was able to self-soothe in order to get back to sleep upon awakening. She’s making progress! And tonight’s bedtime routine, although a little later than normal because we had a farewell dinner, went wonderfully. She had her bottle in my lap and then into the crib she went. What surprised me was that she just stared at me for a while, and then proceeded to get herself to sleep without a fuss. Again, we’re making progress, so much so that Erin came out of the bathroom and said: “You rule!” I like when she says that.

After we had breakfast this morning we had a 30-minute videoconference with Jackson. It was so good to see him and talk to him. It was great to be able to tell him we’d be home soon and that we couldn’t wait to give him a big hug! He was even calm enough to understand most of the time. After we finished I was sure thankful that Al Gore had invented this neat thing called the internet (which, urban legends aside, he never actually said in so many words).

On that subject, the internet situation over here has been interesting. I’ve found that most commercial sights are freely available over here in China (even news sites and bible sites). I guess I didn’t expect that given that I’ve heard that the PRC limits free speech. Contrary to my expectation I’ve been able to access everything on the net that I’ve wanted to with just a couple of exceptions. Most notably any sites hosted by Blogger (oh yes, I forgot to mention that CNN occasionally “blacks out” during certain stories, too). I discovered this when trying to access the Thelanders’ adoption blog and couldn’t. This was replicated by others in CHI who were trying to access other blogs (or their own) in different cities throughout the country. I find it very interesting that we wouldn’t be allowed to see these free-speech oriented sites. TECH-SPEAK COMING, BE WARNED: Never to be stymied, I was able to get around this filtering by connecting through my business VPN and from there to blogger sights just fine. END OF TECH-SPEAK. By the way, it was so wonderful to see that Michael, Joie, and family are now a family of five. I look forward to meeting you Kelly Johanna!

In other news, our Consulate paperwork went through without a hitch. So tomorrow, at 11am Guangzhou time (7pm Pacific Time, Thursday for you) we’ll take her citizenship oath. At this point we could make a legal case to the US courts that she’s a citizen if we needed to. The deal won’t be completely done, however, until we hit the tarmac at LAX. That will feel great and will be a moment of celebration on the flight, I’m sure.

The rest of the day was uneventful. We did a little last minute shopping and then went out for our farewell dinner. CHI took us to a great restaurant on the water (well, us and 39 other families) where their signature is Dim Sum. Even after two solid weeks of Chinese food, I’d say that the Dim Sum was Yum Yum (I’m so un-funny!).

Okay…so tomorrow I’ll likely have a one last chance to post an entry before leaving for the US. In it, I hope to have a few final reflections on our experience her in China and in meeting Abigail.

I’ll sign off now. We can’t wait to see you all! Please pray for our safe journey home to Jackson, and to all of you!

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The Chuzhou Welfare Institute group (plus a few extra families from other provinces).

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Little girls refusing to take a nice picture on the “red couch.” Oh well! Left to right I’ll introduce you to the little girls from Abbie’s orphanage: Maya (lower left), Abbie, Lauren (1 spot right of Abbie), Kira (2 spots right of Abbie), Zoe (3 spots right of Abbie and crying like mad), Jillian (all the way on the right side of the couch with her Dad, Mike, touching her), and Katie (Bottom right corner of the frame, barely seen – at two, she’s the oldest of this group) Note:We had a couple of extras on our couch we didn’t have in our group. They posed with us because they were in a province by themselves.

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They’re now getting ready for Chinese New Year in the hotel. This rooster is part of the scenery now.

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A shot with Li Na, our coordinator. She rules!

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Abbie learning to like oranges (didn’t take any convincing).