Thursday, December 31, 2009


Today I went into the city to pick up the immigration packet while Lisa, Chun-Chun, and grandma spent the day on Shamian Island. Chun-Chun is coming out of her shell now. She had her first ice cream with mommy and grandma and later that night, her first boat ride. While I was in meetings all day, my little girl was laughing it up and having a great time. She's starting to play little games with us and talking more (even though we don't understand a word). We also had our "red couch" picture with a small group of people.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


No pictures from today really. We had our Counsul appointment and the US Embassy does not allow cameras or cell phones so we had to leave them at our hotel room. I've included a few extra pictures from 12/30 (today as I write). We had to go into town twice. In the morning we had our appointment to swear that every thing on our documents were true. The great thing was that she was very well behaved the whole trip and waiting in the waiting room.

We came back to the hotel and had nap time which is always followed by tears when we wake. Lisa and I took a page out of the Chinese book for this one.

The Chinese have to be the "snackingest" people I have ever met. They may be very thin people. You can say that they eat reasonable amounts of food at meal times. However, they have a snack at every turn. The grocery stores sell the in huge bags. There are vendors on every street corner and lane hawking everything from corn on the cob to curiuos fried fruit looking balls on a stick and everyone is eating constantly.

On our second trip into the city I had a poctet full of snacks and just as I thought, we decided to cry. Stick a rice cake in our mouth and we were just fine (reader-please remember that my stock and trade as a special educator is operant conditioning so I am aware of the dangers here). Once at the Embassy our new waiting area had a play area which Chuen-Chuen enjoyed very much. It was nice to see her smile and pull me closer to help her play. After our oath as a citizen, the trip on the bus went much the same way.

I'll have to cut this off now as we are about to have a harbor tour at night.

Monday, December 28, 2009


Today was TB test result day. We started with (as usual) a big breakfast: congee, scrambled eggs, "fried milk" spring roll (like a spring roll with custard inside), bacon, mandarin orange, yogurt, potatoes, and two slices of watermelon. Then I had... After breakfast we always stop to watch the fish in the pond.

We had to meet our Holt representative at 2:00 so we took a walk around Shamian Island. Originally it was a beach that the colonial interests: British and French built into an enclave where the Chinese were not allowed. A canal was dug between the beach and mainland and two bridges built. In succeeding years, various nations built counsulates here. Today the US and Poland missions remain. We tried to have an ice cream at the Rose Garden Restaurant (even though it was in the 50's) but they took so long to scoop ice cream, we had to leave before it came out. Good thing they had Chun-Chun's hot milk out right away.

Back at the medical clinic, Chun-Chun's TB test came out positive. In China, at the age of two, all children are given a TB innoculation. That means that since they have been exposed to the virus, they will always test positive. Fortunately, her chest x-ray came out clear so we are in good shape (So there! Mean old CDC!). The sad thing is that some families haven't faired so well on this point and the CDC refuses to develop a policy to help families. You can find them all over the internet - another thing to write to your representatives in congress.

To celebrate we took a walk to the Kow Lun (sp?) bridge and Lisa and I had an adult beverage and Chun-Chun had orange juice at the Victory hotel. We got back to the White Swan very late for Chun-Chun's nap.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

December 27, 2009
Today was a rather uneventful day in Guangzhou. A cold front had just come through, and it was rainy with highs in the 50's. We spent a lot of time indoors, and found the Swan Room for her to play in. There were four or five other couples there with their young ones, and we had a good visit with them. Xiao Chun was very reserved and pretty much kept to herself in the playroom.
Later in the day Roberta decided to go on the pearl and jade tour with one other family, while Gary and Lisa spent some cuddle time with their girl. We enjoyed a hot drink in the White Swan lobby, and then went to Susan's Place (highly recommended!) to pick up our laundry. We visited another shop close by and found another Chinese DVD for her, as well as a pair of pretty black shoes. To Gary's delight, they ended up being "squeaky shoes" (for children learning to walk). Lisa will have to find another pair of regular shoes for her. We enjoyed a watermelon juice and snack break at Lucy's and then came back to the hotel--enough of the nasty weather! It's hard to believe that we are further south right now than we are in Florida!
We finished up the day at the Cow and Bridge Restaurant, which is famous for its Thai food. Getting to the restaurant was somewhat of a challenge, as they have a lot of construction on Shamian Island. Next summer Guangzhou is to host the Asian games. At the restaurant Gary had braised beef in a curry sauce, while Roberta and Lisa ate fried shrimp cakes. Xiao Chun enjoyed shrimp crisps, warm milk, and pork congee.
Tomorrow we were planning a safari trip to see some pandas, but that has been canceled due to the cold weather. We'll have fun instead, making up our own agenda!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

December 26th, 2009
Today is the day we go for our medical check. First, we had breakfast at the buffet downstairs--anything you could eat was there. Our girl has a great appetite at breakfast. I don't know what she'll do at our house when she'll have to settle for cereal and milk! She does love watermelon, but we insist that she eat her protein first. Afterwards, we met two other Holt families in the White Swan lobby at 10:30 in the morning, and followed our guide to the medical building. First, it was time to get weighed and measured--she weighed in at 27 pounds and measured 37 inches tall. Her 3T clothes are a bit long and baggy, but they'll have to do. Her hearing was checked (great!) and she enjoyed playing the little piano that was there. The doctor checked her all over and didn't even pause when looking at the Mongolian spots on her back. Then it was time to line up with all of the other families to get the TB test. Xiao Chun will come back on Monday to have it read. Since we are an I600 family, she was not obligated to get the required shots that the Hague families were having to get--that was a relief!
We went to a nearby park afterwards where she cautiously played on some of the equipment. She really wanted to play on the slide, but a lot of boys were running around and she was too scared. We stopped at a Starbucks on the way back to the hotel for coffee and a snack--again, eating like there is no tomorrow!
About 3:00 we met with Holt officials and filled out visa paperwork. We cannot say enough kind words about the Holt staff--they really take the time to walk you through the process every step of the way!
Before dinner we went back to Susan's Place. We found some pretty red silk material with dragonflies, which will be made into a dress she'll wear for her "red couch" photo. Dong, the owner of the store, was very helpful. We spent over an hour in his store, and shared some delicious tea with him before we left. Gary had been looking for a Sumi-e calligraphy set and found just the right one at his shop.
We capped off the night with a trip to Lucy's restaurant, not far from the White Swan. They have quite a variety of things and again, our girl ate well--milk, juice, scrambled eggs, fried rice, and pizza.
Sunday will be a free day, with an optional trip to the pearl and jade market.

Christmas Day


This morning is the 26th for us but I'll wish you all a Merry Christmas. Yesterday, our Christmas was all about travel and crying. Our guide Erin brought Xiao Chun' s (or Chun-Chun as we call her) passport and came back at 1:30 to take us to the airport. Chun-Chun has a fussy time after breakfast each day and takes a short nap. Problem is that she's also fussy and crying after her nap. Then she's fussy and crying packing, getting ready, getting into the taxi and going through airport security. I'm sure by now the CCAA is getting letters from Chinese travelers about how we ever qualified to be parents for this unhappy child.

I have to take a moment here to explain something to the reader. Xiao Chun comes from the poorest province in China. She was raised in a city called Bengbu where I'm sure she rode in a bus and car before and is familiar with the sound, motion and smells associated with this kind of transportation. I'm also sure that she's seen a "Fei Ji" flying overhead. She's made comments about them before. However, she was COMPLETELY unprepared for what was about to happen.

Getting on the plane involved more being picked up, pushed around, getting strapped in and generally being restricted. Soon we were somewhat settled (with some tears) when the pilot decided it was time to start the engines. Poor Chun-Chun immediately shot straight up in her seat restricted only by her seat belt. It was as if she were filled with helium with both arms and legs sticking straight up in the air. I swear her face turned purple with a look of sheer terror. She was positive that (2012 aside) this was the end of the world.

After we were in the air she cried herself to sleep which gave everyone a break. It's a really good thing that her foster parents sent her with her favorite security blanket. We wrapped her up in it and she sucked on the corner until she fell asleep. This lasted for a good part of the flight until we began descent, then there was more crying. Once we were on the ground, I stood her up in her seat to get her ready to go again. Again, I'm sure there were a lot of people who wondered how we thought we could be parents.

We were greeted by our guide from Holt and arrived at our hotel, The White Swan, shortly after sunset. We all agreed that Chun-Chun was too weirded out to go to a restaurant and I was delegated to go in search of take out. This is when my adventure began.

Something I've noticed about the Chinese is that they like to have an excuse for a party or banquet and Christmas is a really good excuse. The streets became pedestrian zones by unanimous acclamation due to the fact that there were so many people walking in the streets that cars couldn't move. I had found in my research of Shamian Island that there was a McDonald's here (later I learned they had closed). Failing that I thought I'd try to find a restaurant that would do a take out order. I began walking and walking and came upon a store called Susan's place that advertised they were a grocery, gift shop, laundry and everything else. I stopped in to look around (there really wasn't much in the way of groceries) and the owner, Dong, invited me to have tea with him and his two CHICOM soldier friends. Dude, I had tea with the RED CHINESE! We had a nice conversation about Florida, my job, cooking, etc.

Dong gave me the use of a stroller and a "special discount" for laundry. I really had to extricate myself and continue my fruitless search. I went to a couple of restaurants who were completely unfamiliar with the concept of take out. Then I remembered that there was a Pizza Hut that delivered to the White Swan. I bought adult beverages and headed back. Poor Chun-Chun was in her crib crying and unable to go to sleep. I laid her down on her back and BOINK! she was out--score one for dad!

As far as Pizza Hut goes - they apparently will not deliver to the White Swan anymore. It seems a hotel staffer once refused to permit an employee on the property so they won't deliver here. I asked the management about this and the response was that it was nonsense. Pizza Hut can wait in the lobby while the customer can come down to get his pizza. When I called again to place my order, the English speaking order taker never called my room back. We had to make do with leftover snacks from the airline for dinner.

Let Pizza Hut know what you think:

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve

Here we are, sitting in a strange land where people can barely understand us and us them, surrounded by sippy cups and suitcases. It is Christmas Eve in Hefei, Anhui, China. Our day has been fairly uneventful. Roberta and Gary went to the mall across the street. They found duffel bags and other assorted items to take back to the US. Beggars were a constant problem for them, although Gary figured out a strategy to avoid them. I stayed at the hotel to be with our girl--today has been her saddest day. She cried almost the whole day. Xiao Chun seems to be grieving for her foster family a lot today. Erin, our guide in Anhui, stopped by about 10:00 to check in with us. We think that Xiao Chun was still believing that she would go back to her foster family. Now that two more days have passed, it has become apparent to her that this will not happen.
We ended the day on a happy note at a restaurant called "Noodles". You actually get to watch the chef prepare the noodles with a lot of stretching and banging--very interesting! Eating noodles is very popular in Anhui. Our girl had a great appetite--she ate a whole bowl of fried rice, beef flat noodles, and cumin-beef round noodles. She was just shovelling the food in her mouth and couldn't seem to get enough of it. People were so nice--Xiao Chun has received many candy treats by ladies who work at stores in the same building as our hotel. They keep sneaking candy into her pockets when they think we're not watching.
Tomorrow we leave Hefei and head to Guangzhou on Christmas Day. We look forward to celebrating the holiday season in a new city!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


We've had a rough couple of days and some technical difficulties prevented me from uploading huge video files that document our event. As fate would have it on Gotcha Day (or the "hand off" as Holt prefers to call it) not only was I too busy to take stills or my own video, but my battery had died as well. We only have mom's videos which we have links to here.

Yesterday we had our last appointment with the civil affairs office. We promised to never abandon or abuse her and had out family portrait taken. Just before they could issue our document that says she's ours, all of the power in the buliding went out and they couldn't issue our paper. Erin brought it to us this morning.

Xiao Chun is still grieving for her foster family, more so today than the last couple of days. This morning she cried herself to sleep in my arms. She likes to watch what you're doing and then can imitate it right away. She likes to fold her clothes and does a very good job (better than me). She loves a cartoon character called "Yeow Yeow" and I know I'll never find these DVDs in the US.

Today The girls abandoned me and stayed in the room. They were having a small reaction to the local water but as I write they are better now. If you've ever tried to go in a "Squatty Potty" you know why they didn't want to chance not having a western toilet available. Erin (our guide) and I went to the park across the street. Some 1000 years ago there was a battle that took place there during the Qing dynasty. Today its filled with amusement rides and the only battles are between parents and children.

We rode a carousel but she found it too bumpy and noisy. We spent some time in a field where mothers took their babies to play. Everyone, babies and moms wanted to meet Xiao Chun but she was a little distant.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

December 21st, 2009--Gotcha Day!

Today we met Xiao Chun for the first time at the Ministeries of Civil Affairs in Hefei, Anhui. She was accompanied by two women from the Fuyang Orphanage, who brought her straight from her foster family in BengBu. Although it was 50 degrees outside, she was dressed in three layers of clothes with a coat on top. A big bag of clothes were given to us, in addition to some food she is used to eating. We were also given some toys and two beautiful photo albums. It's apparent to us that she is very loved by her foster family! It was a very sad time for her as the orphanage ladies explained to her in Chinese that we were her new mom and dad. After an hour the ladies left, we gathered our things, and went back to our room at the Holiday Inn. Everyone was very tired, and we enjoyed a quiet evening in our room.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The countdown begins!

(Gary) 12/20/09

Breakfast of congee and steamed dumplings, then off to our Holt orientation. We met another family who is adopting from Guangzhou. We are the only two families here right now. We got updated information: she’s 90 cm tall, weighs 14 Kg and she has 18 teeth. She hasn’t been toilet trained yet and takes a bath every other day in Winter. She likes animals and had a pet dog. We also got updated pictures.

We also had a tour of the Forbidden City and tour of a silk factory. Mom bought herself and us a silk comforter and Lisa bought some material for a dress for Kate. I tried to barter my way to buying a Sumi-e brush and ink set but I couldn’t get the guy off $60, so I walked. Tomorrow, we fly to Hefei in Anhui province.

Flight to China, take two

(Gary) 12/19/09

Air China put us up at a hotel on Long Island for the night. The next morning we couldn’t get any information from them other than some vague recorded message that something might happen at 1:00 PM. After looking at our options, we decided that since we had no information and 1:00 would not leave us enough time to check in for a flight leaving at 3:00 PM (when we thought we were leaving), we would take a cab back to JFK. We asked our new friend and fellow strandee, James, to join us.

When we arrived at JFK there was no Air China personnel and would be none for hours. Airport Security was trying to organize everyone into a long snaking line around the terminal. Mom did her best to point newcomers to where they should stand. Lufthansa, who cannot abide disorder, very kindly gave us the use of an unused counter and set up ratlines for us to stand in and wait.

And wait we did, from 10:30 AM to 2:30 PM before Air China personnel had us check in. They promised everyone a $200 refund which they conveniently forgot about when it came time for us to check in (I don’t think they’ll ever come up with that money) and they bought us lunch. We had to ride the same plane that broke down before and finally left at 6:30 PM EDT.

The last (shall we say) fiasco was when the pilot announced that we were diverting to Anchorage, AK for refueling. This came at almost the exact spot where we had to turn around before. Maybe he forgot he used up four hours of fuel the previous day, Maybe gas prices are better in Alaska – I don’t know. In any case we were an extra hour on the ground in Anchorage and arrived in China at 12:30 PM CST. We arrived at our room at 2:00AM just in time to get four hours of sleep before we had our orientation.

Friday, December 18, 2009


A comedy of errors today. Our first two legs came off without a hitch. We were even able to book two bags each through to Beijing for free since our first leg was on first class. On CA 992, JFK-PEK, we flew with the proletariat. The baggage line was very long, the security line longer, but I really didn't mind so much. It was a very full flight and I had to sit a row behind Lisa and Mom. We spent two hours on the tarmac waiting for our turn to take off, but finally at 5:00 PM we were in the air. Two hours later (near Hudson Bay) we turned around and went back to JFK. We couldn't do the job with this equipment.

It turns out that we were losing cabin pressure at 30,000 feet due to a part that regulates cabin pressure. We were flying at about 18,000 and slower on the way back. Like Ron White said: "The pilot was yelling at the geese; 'Go around, go around!'" Well, we did get there ahead of the ambulance, but we were able to land on our wheels.

The rest of the night involved baggage delays, a rush for the buses and horrific checkin at the hotel. I have to go now, the girls want to get to the airport because we can't raise anyone on the phone and we want to get our seat assignments.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Travel Dates!

We received our travel schedule today, which includes:

Dec. 17th: Depart from Fort Myers
Dec. 18th: Arrival in Beijing
Dec. 19th: Great Wall and Hutong Lane Tour
Dec. 20th: Holt Orientation, Tour Tiananmen Square and Forbidden City
Dec. 21st: Travel to Hefei, Anhui for Gotcha Day!
Dec. 25th: Arrival in Guangzhou
Dec. 29th: U.S. consulate visa appointment
Dec. 31st: Visa issued
Jan. 1st: Depart from Guangzhou
Jan. 2nd: Arrival in Miami

Wow--so much to do before travel!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Consulate Appointment Confirmation

We were just advised that the consulate date will be December 29th! Tomorrow we will know what our travel itinerary will be!

Got My Cursor @