Saturday, June 30, 2012

Hong Kong

Cooper enjoying his book at dinner

This morning we had our last breakfast in China at our hotel in Guangzhou and at 10:00, along with three other families, we boarded a van for Hong Kong. HK is a part of China but it is a special Economic Zone with its own legal system, currency, and the people of HK have their own passports. We had to go through the China border and show all of our documents and then a few yards later we had to go through the HK border and show all our documents again. Th border crossing took about 30 minutes and the entire trip was about two and a half hours. The vans were very nice and the air conditioning was excellent. They drive on the "other" side of the road in Hong Kong, so the van driver was on the right side of the van. It took some getting used to, and then all of a sudden, I looked up and we were on the wrong side of the road. I missed the crossover, and I've always wondered how that works. Ronda and I are both excited to he back to the US where we have car seats! Cooper sat on our laps, and took a nap in the baby carrier on Ronda's chest in the back of the van. A car seat would have been much easier, not to mention safer.

Ummm, wrong side?

We arrived at our hotel in Hong Kong around 1:00 and checked in. We had to change some money, because they use the Hong Kong Dollar and not the Chinese Yuan. I had some Chinese money left, so I tried to change it, but they only accept 50's and 100's. I only had one 100 and a bunch of 10's and 5's. So I was stuck with 80¥. Then I realized it's not that big of a deal since its only about 12 US dollars. Since we arrived before check-in, some of our group's rooms weren't ready yet. They gave the bellman their check-in luggage and brought their carry-ons to our room. Then three of the families, including ourselves, decided to take the hotel shuttle to the local shopping area recommended by the concierge.

Outlet shopping near the hotel

We are staying at the Marriott next to the airport. While it is going to be very easy to catch our flight on Monday morning, it really isn't that close to much else. So I was a little skeptical about what we were going to find at this "shopping area." Much to my surprise it was a huge outlet mall with a gondola and several stores we actually recognized. We settled on a Spaghetti restaurant for dinner, and got a table right as a huge storm was blowing in lots of rain. The food was very good, and everyone was excited about finding a place to eat that they really enjoyed!

Ronda and Grizzy at dinner

After dinner, we split up and two of the families (yes, us) decided to take the gondola. Ronda had read about a huge Buddha statue in Hong Kong and we saw some photos of the statue around th shopping mall. So, after some conversing with the gondola operators and ticket salespeople, we figured out that the gondola actually takes you over the bay and to the island where the Buddha statue is located.

Gondola ride!

Family photo on the gondola

It was still windy and a little rainy when we boarded the gondola, but halfway over the bay and up the mountain, the clouds cleared and blue sky appeared. It was really beautiful aand the sights were breathtaking! After about 20 minutes, we finally sighted the huge statue. It was so cool. We arrived at the end of the gondola about five minutes later and started walking towards the statue. The statue was closed and the last gondola left about 45 minutes after we got there, so we hurried to see as much as we could during our short time. It was one of the coolest things we have done on the trip so far! It is a Buddhist monastery and temple, and there are brahma bulls walking around, and sleeping dogs all over. Cooper really liked the animals. Since it is at the top of a mountain on the coast, the wind was whipping, and the flags were really flapping. We saw as much as we could, and then got back on the gondola. We got back to the bottom and took the hotel shuttle back to the airport hotel.

The statue

The flags we really flapping!

Bull lounge

We have one full day left here and we plan to make it count. We are planning to go to the Stanley Market tomorrow as well as a popular Asian garden in the center of Hong Kong. We may even attempt the metro! We leave here on Monday morning at 11:00. One more day and we are going to make it count!

Until next time, Ryan.


Friday, June 29, 2012

Last Day in Guangzhou

Today is our last night in mainland China. Tomorrow we take a three hour van ride to Hong Kong. That means we are almost home!

We had a very relaxed morning until 10:30am when we met in the garden for group pictures. We started by taking pictures of each individual family and then we did the whole group and then a picture of just the children. Everything was great until we put the babies together for their picture. Cooper has his first public meltdown! For some reason he was not happy and as you will see in the picture he is not a pretty crier! His entire face turns red. After the photo shoot I picked him up and he continued to sob so I took him to the room and gave him a bottle followed by a three hour nap. Our plan for the day was for the three of us to visit the fabric market. I volunteered to stay at the hotel with Cooper. Ryan was a good son and took his mom to buy some fabric. They came back and she had spent $4.00! Wow big spender!

While Cooper was still sleeping Ryan and I decided to go to the Guangzhou Museum. It is located in the big park we visited a few days ago. We had to hike up a huge hill to get there. I cannot stress enough how hot it is here. I thought I was going to die. This park is amazing though and after the museum we walked back to the hotel through the park. I would really love to visit this city in either the spring or fall.

At 4:00pm we had a meeting to pick up our child's visas and to say goodbye to the first family who left. We got Cooper's passport back with his US Visa allowing him to enter the United States. We also got a large brown envelope that has three seals on it and is also sealed in a plastic bag to give to US Immigration. We were given strict rules to not open the brown envelope or we will ave to go through these past two weeks again! The Immigration officer in San Francisco will know what to do with it.

We had heard about a few Irish pubs in the area so we joined another family and caught a cab to check on of them out. It was delicious! I wish we would have found this place sooner because we probably would have eaten every meal there.

We have almost everything packed. Check out is at 10:00am tomorrow morning so this is our last post from China! ~Ronda


Thursday, June 28, 2012

Consulate Appointment

On the Bus to the Consulate!

Today was the day we've been waiting for for a really long time!!! Today we met with the consular officer and took the oath for Cooper to become an American citizen! We started the day with another breakfast at our hotel, and then met our group in the hotel lobby at 9:00 to board the bus for the US Consulate in Guangzhou. Everyone dressed up a little bit for the day, and lots of people wore their red, white, and blue for the occasion. Cooper, Ronda, and I wore our coordinating flag colors like everyone else. We took some photos in the hotel lobby and then got on the bus.

Ready for the Consulate Appointment!

We arrived at the consulate and bypassed the lines of people waiting to get their US visas in order to travel to the United States. We were led to the fourth floor, where we had to leave our strollers, cameras, phones, and iPads and go through a metal detector. Once past the security check, we were led into a waiting room where we found a few other couple who were also waiting to meet with the consular officer, but they weren't part of our group. Once we were all seated, a woman (from behind a bulletproof window) introduced herself and explained how the process would work. Then she administered the "oath," which turned out to be more of a promise that we hadn't lied about anything we put in our adoption paperwork, and less like a citizenship oath. Then they started calling names, and Ronda, Cooper, and I were the last ones called. We approached the counter, handed the lady behind the glass our paperwork, and after two minutes of pap shuffling, she gave us a few forms back and that was it. Not a lot excitement for this much fanfare. Then we followed our group back past security, got our phones and cameras, and went back to the lobby, where we took some pictures withe the consulate sign and the flag. We got back to the hotel by 11:30. The morning went quick.

Lines to get US visas outside the Consulate

Appointment Complete!

We then decided to meet with some other families at the pool to hang out in the afternoon. We put Cooper down for a nap (Grizzy volunteered again to watch him) and got some quick takeout from Starbucks and McDonald's, and went to the hotel pool. We swam for about an hour, and then went back to the room and got Cooper and Grizzy and went back to the pool. Cooper loved the water. He swam, and swam, and swam!! He wore his new trunks that barely fit, and his little red swimming shirt to cover his belly. But he loved the pool. We stayed there for a couple more hours, just swimming and hanging out with our new friends.

Ronda and Cooper at the Hotel Pool

We have really got to know some of the families really well, and we hope to stay in close contact once we part ways in a few days. It has been so awesome watching all of these kids get better and better acquainted with their parents and their surroundings over the past week. The difference from last week in all of these kids is night and day. It has been great to have other families that are going through the same sort of issues that we have, to talk to and bounce ideas back and forth, and we have really grown into one big family over the past 14 days!

We met our friends for dinner at a restaurant in our hotel called "Food Street" which is an attempt to capture Chinese street food favors in a large, loud restaurant setting. They got the large and loud part right, and it was a good thing that the restaurant was loud before we got there. We showed up with about 22 people for dinner and found two big tables in the back. We laughed, talked, and ate some Chinese food, and the kids were overall fairly happy in their kiddy seats. One of the couples ordered a Peking Duck for dinner. When they asked the waitress for the duck, she said that it came in two courses, and that would be too much for them to eat alone. So they agreed to only one course. When the duck came out, it looked spectacular, and they did a nice presentation. Then the waitress began to carve it and she only carved off the skin! That's the first course, just the skin. I guess the rest of the duck is the second course, and most people have it prepared in another dish once the skin has been removed. It was funny to watch, and the couple laughed about it, but I'm sure they went to McDonald's after the meal was over, because there was lots of leftover duck skin!

Carving the Peking Duck!

The Food Street Chefs

How Much is that Ducky in the Window?

We finished dinner and came back to the room, gave Cooper a bath, a bottle, and he went right to sleep. Very tired from a big day! I am so excited that he likes the water, and I can't wait to get him in the lake! Tomorrow we will take our group photo and then we are planning a trip to a fabric market for Grizzy. In the afternoon we will get Cooper's passport back with his US visa in it. Once we land in San Francisco, he will automatically become a US citizen, and we can apply for his new, blue US passport. We will leave Guangzhou on Saturday morning in a bus destined for Hong Kong. Our trip is nearing its end, but we have a few more exciting days ahead of us!

Until next time, Ryan.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Pearl Market, Pet Market and Shamian Island

First I want to say that my heart is breaking for my city that I love. We have been trying to stay up to date with the fire. It is so very sad. I am sending my prayers.

Cooper at Breakfast

Today was a free day. Our guides organized a shopping trip for us so we left the hotel at 11:00am to head off to the Pearl Market. It is a six story shopping mall filled with pearls and any other kind of bead or stone imaginable. We went to a store on the top floor where we got a lesson on pearls. There are many classes of pearls and the price ranges depending on the quality of the pearl. I've read about this market before and knew I wanted to purchase a strand. My hope is to someday give them to Cooper's wife. I decided on a high quality stand (so they say) and they string them right there and add a beautiful clasp. I think they are beautiful and I'm very happy with my purchase.

Pearl Market

Strands of Pearls for Sale

We left the shopping mall to walk to the famous Shamian Island. Most all adopting families used to stay at The White Swan Hotel which is located on the island but it is now closed for renovations. The quaint island has many Western influences. We walked from the Pearl Market to get to the island. We passed a pet market and a spice market. They are two things that would never pass strict American health and safety codes but were quite interesting to see. Walking to the island I started to feel very dizzy and sick to my stomach. We decided to have lunch first at a restaurant called Lucy's. It is a popular eating establishment for adopting families because they serve American food. Before we got to the restaurant it started to downpour. The rain does not cool anything off here. It just makes it more humid. Have I mentioned its very hot and humid here? At the restaurant I started to feel worse so unfortunately we had to cut our time on the island short. I'm pretty sure I had heat exhaustion. We took a taxi back to our hotel and I slept all afternoon. We were in the taxi about 20 minutes and it only cost about $4.00!

Lizards on a Stick! Yummy!

Fish for Sale at the Pet Market

Spices on Wholesale

Ryan, Grizzy, and Cooper Cruising Through the Market

Ryan and Grizzy spent the afternoon entertaining Cooper while I slept. He is such a smart little guy. I really can't wait for everyone to meet him. Tomorrow is the day we have been waiting for, our US Consulate appointment. ~Ronda



Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Guangzhou Zoo

Today we went to the Guangzhou City Zoo. We had breakfast at the hotel and left on the bus at about 9:30. Most of the families in our group went today, the ones that didn't go with us had already been there on previous adoption trips. It was very hot and muggy today, so that made the zoo trip and all the walking up the stairs with strollers even more fun!!

The first main exhibit we visited was the Asian Bears. They were very cool, and one of them was in the pool, just swimming with his head above water. There was another one that was pacing along the bank of the pool. They looked like black bears in the USA with bad haircuts! They were really funny looking, but fun to watch. Cooper doesn't know the difference, so he didn't get the haircut joke. Next we saw the tigers, and Ronda filmed a young pair of tigers playing in a pool of water. It was another cool thing to watch. They play pretty rough! The last main exhibit we saw was the pandas. I have heard people say you need to do two things while you are in China: climb the Great Wall and see some pandas. If that's the case, then mission accomplished, let's go home.

The Main Entrance to the Zoo
Funny Asian Bear Taking a Dip
Tigers Playing in the Water
Panda Watch
Don't Pet Me!
Cooper had a good time at the zoo, but the humidity combined with the increasing heat made for an extremely sweaty time. We were happy to get back on the bus and ride back to our 5-star hotel. When we got back, Grizzy got us lunch at McDonald's and we had lunch in the room while Cooper took his nap. Grizzy volunteered to watch Cooper while Ronda and I went to the pool, so we took advantage of the offer. The pool at this hotel is very nice, and we had a good time hanging out talking with a few other couples in our group who were also try to get some relief from the heat.

Cooper's Nap Time
At 4:00, our reps met with us in the hotel business center to go over all the paperwork needed for our consulate appointment on Thursday. It was exciting to get out all the documents we've been preparing, notarizing, authorizing and mailing over the past six years, and placing them in a pile for their final purpose... to get our son a visa in his passport so we can take him home!!

For dinner we decided to take Cooper for a walk back down the street to the restaurant we ate at on Sunday night. We think that the medicine he is taking to get over his cough makes him a little drowsy, which also makes him a little cranky. He fussed the whole way the and back, which made the whole trip somewhat difficult... I know, welcome to parenthood!

Tomorrow we go the the Guangzhou Pearl Market and we're going to visit the Shaman Island area for some shopping. Another day of fun before our main purpose here, the consulate appointment on Thursday. Until tomorrow, Ryan.

On the Bus... No, there aren't any car seats.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Medical Appointment and Pearl River Dinner Cruise

We had another crazy thunderstorm this afternoon. I was wishing I could send the rain to Colorado to drown out the terrible forest fires I have been reading about. My thoughts and prayers go out to everyone affected. I feel a million miles away from home right now and wish there was something I could do to help.

Wow. What a day. Have I mentioned that it is really hot and humid here? Ok just checking. Today started out with our medical appointment for the US Consulate appointment and Visa photo. All the families boarded the bus for a 20 minute trip to the medical office. Cooper got his picture taken for his Visa application and did great. We then had three stops at the medial appointment. First was weight and vitals. He weighs just about 19 pounds. I looked up a chart and he is less than 3 percentile for weight and height. He doesn't look that small in pictures but he is tiny. Next was E.N.T and he passed all the tests. Last we saw the doctor. He was finishing the paperwork from the previous child so we went in the room and took off Cooper's clothes to get ready for his exam. When the doctor came in he saw Cooper's tummy and did an involuntary "Oh!" he asked a lot of questions about Cooper's diet and his general health. The doctor prescribed a cough medicine because we can't seem to get rid of this stupid cough and runny nose. Cooper didn't care for the doctor too much. I think he felt a little violated! But everything went really well.

Cooper fell asleep on the bus ride back to the hotel so we put him in his crib and we ordered Papa Johns Pizza. It was pretty good and the best part was that they delivered! After nap time we walked to a huge park next to the hotel. It is very difficult to cross the streets here so we used the subway tunnels to get there. It worked out great! The park was beautiful but we only stayed about an hour because of the heat. It is very tropical here. On our walk we visited a shopping center that had 8-9 feet transformers in front of it. They were really cool.

Tonight we went on a dinner cruise on the Pearl river. I really can't get over the size of this city. It is huge. There are 15 million people that live here. It is a very beautiful place and there are so many skyscrapers and so much to see. We saw a tower that we were told is the second tallest tower in the world. It changes color every few seconds. We really enjoyed the tour.

Today we have had Cooper for a week. He is such an amazing little boy and we already love him so much. Everyone told/warned us that our lives were going to change once we became parents. I knew it would change but I had no idea to what extent and how I would feel so differently. It is a wonderful feeling. I can't believe all that he has learned in just one short week. He already knows his name, he can wipe his own face, he can now walk with no help, he can give high fives, and so much more. He is so loving and he smiles all of the time! I am the luckiest mom ever! ~Ronda

Scary Doctor at the Medical Appointment
Walking with Daddy at the Park
Hanging with Mommy on the Boat

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Guangzhou City Tour

Today started with another great hotel breakfast. Since we didn't have any formal appointments today, our reps planned a morning of tours for us. So we spent the morning with several of the families in our group, and a couple new families that joined our group here in Guangzhou. They picked their adopted kids up in other provinces, and have joined us here to do the US Consulate appointments together this week. Some people have asked where in China we are, so here's a map for reference (we are the blue dot)!
We boarded the bus at 9:20 in the rain and headed to the Buddhist Temple. It was really amazing to see. There were at least four separate prayer rooms with big statues in each, and the main one had three statues in it that were huge! It rained the entire time, so we sort of spent our time moving from cover to cover, and we really didn't get to enjoy each one as much as we would have liked. At one of the smaller temples, they had brought in several coolers with fish in them. The fish were going to be blessed and then let go in the river later today. Pretty cool.
The Pagoda at the Buddhist Temple
Inside the Main Hall
Coolers of Fish Ready for the Blessing!
Next we went to the Chen Family House. It is a very cool place that was built by the Chen family in the late 1800s as an academy for their family to study the family history. It now doubles as the Guangzhou Folk Art Museum. The entire place has several buildings with very ornate decorations and rooftop carvings. It is obvious that this place took a long time to build. The doors are all carved wood stories and the rooftops are covered with statues that also tell stories. We shopped at the stores and found lots of stuff that we couldn't live without. While we were at the Chen House, the rain stopped and the sun poked its head out. I'm not sure what's worse... 90-degree heat with rain, or 90-degree heat with 95% humidity. We ducked from room to room enjoying the air conditioning and fans, but the bus was the only place we got real relief from the ridiculous climate here.
One of the Lions Outside the Chen House
Inside the Chen House
The last place we visited was the arts and crafts bazaar. It was another government-guaranteed place that our guides found, but in our opinions, the prices were nearly double what they were at other places. Grizzy bought a refridgerator magnet. Once good thing, while we were there, we visited a local shop across the street and bought some diapers at about half price we have seen at other places. We got back to the hotel around 12:30 and picked up McDonald's for lunch (it's right next to our hotel).
After lunch, Ronda and I left Cooper napping with Grizzy and we went with a few other families to a big new shopping center. The main reason for the trip was for some of the other families to pick up some items like formula and diapers at the Walmart, but we also found a few toys and enjoyed a Starbucks coffee treat. We also visited the local Apple Store and walked the halls of the mall. It was a familiar layout, but we didn't recognize any of the store names.
No caption required.
Fish for sale at Walmart
We got back to the hotel around 4:45, got Grizzy and Cooper, and met the rest of the group for an organized dinner at a local restaurant called Macau. Our guides ordered for us and we really enjoyed the food and the company. Ronda's favorite was the Curry Chicken and I really liked the Pan Fried Noodles. Cooper ate everything that we fed him.

Curry Chicken with Potatoes

Our table at dinner

One cool thing about tonight - we realized that Cooper really needs his exercise! We walked with him the entire way to the restaurant and back, which was almost two city blocks one way! He sings and squawks the entire time, but very much enjoys walking. He still does need someone to hold his hand because with his tummy it makes his balance a little off. When we got back to the hotel, we went to the garden area that has a playground and a foam floor. Cooper ran around and bounced up and down. He even did the swing and the slide! He does love to play, that was today's lesson. Tomorrow we have our physical appointment and we are taking a Pearl River Cruise in the evening. Should be fun!
Until tomorrow, Ryan.