Thursday, February 28, 2008

To the temple

Today we went to a famous temple in Hangzhou. As far as temples go, this one was very large and beautiful. There weren't too many people there (in comparison to the "busy season") and so it was fairly easy to get around and see the many Buddhas.

Min hates to walk and is always asking to be carried. This is turning into a little problem, because she is quite heavy despite her thinness. She's very tall! Tall, skinny and heavy.

OH yes, I meant to add in my previous post that Min's thinness is in no way because of lack of food. She was offered all the food she could want. She's a picky eater.

Here are some pictures of our adventures today:

Buddha says, "Do not wait to be a Grandmother to have blue hair".

Min has done a fair amount of crying today and feels very sad. She misses her foster family. She looked at some pictures of herself from a couple of months ago that the orphanage gave her and she broke down in sobs. She wants to be held while she's crying so we hold and rock. Hold and rock. Hold and rock.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Unpeeling

Yesterday we went to Min's Orphanage. Min cried when we came into the gate and while we were talking to the director and the assistants. She calmed down after a bit and was happy to meet her teachers and the staff members who knew her. I was hoping to get some pictures of the kids that will be coming home to their families soon, but the kids weren't there. They have a longer break for the mid-winter vacation and actually the kids won't start school again until March 3. The staff knows that the waiting kids are placed and are looking forward to meeting the families. All of the kids are well taken care of and the staff love them. I gave greetings from a few families and told them that T.A.A's family and B.Y.C's family are doing well and send greetings. The staff was happy to hear that things are progressing well and encouraged us to send pictures and updates when we can. We took some pictures but they're not that exciting.

When we got home (home meaning the hotel) and had some lovely dinner (can you eat too much Jiaozi?) I decided that against much protest, it was time to strip Min naked and give her a bath. We waited for 2 days, at it was time. She had a "special smell" and it wasn't getting any better.
So, the "peeling" began. One sweater, another sweater (the smelly one), a long sleeved cotton shirt, socks, one padded pant, another padded pant, one pair of cotton leggings, and boys underpants.

As her clothes came off her size decreased and I could see what a whisper of a little body she had. She looked as thin and fragile as the last five minutes of a bar of soap. She screamed and was extremely unhappy that I had taken to her this insulting level of vulnerability, but she really needed to be washed. I did the quickest bath ever in the world for her, including washing her hair, which she also really, really hated. After I washed her, I picked her out, wrapped her in a big fluffy towel and sat her in bed where she whimpered loudly, and sucked her finger. Poor thing. I dressed her in her soft pajamas, brushed her hair and put it into a sleeping braid and turned on the TV. She calmed down, snuggled close and fell asleep. she slept very well that night.

We're having a little problem pottying. She hates the western toilet and is loathe to use it. Of course she will because I lift her onto it and tell her to go, but she cries. She has not used the toilet for any "solid" purposes yet and I'm getting a little worried. It's not because she doesn't need to go, I think she's trying very very hard to keep everything inside. If we don't get some sort of "movement" by tomorrow, I'm going to take medicinal action.

Jorg's gotten a chest cold and is coughing a lot.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Now on day two

We're well into our 2nd day with our daughter, Min. We are now, in the eyes of the Chinese government, her parents. We went to a ceremony this morning and we were handed her official adoption certificate.

After we went there, we had to go the police precinct near her social welfare institute to get the paperwork for her passport. We had to get her passport picture taken there. She was very unhappy with the idea of sitting in a chair to get her picture taken and she started to cry. Our guide tried to stay with her and hold her had, but she still cried. They told me to try and stand with her and hold her hand, and you know what? She stopped crying! She didn't smile, but she was at least not crying.

In all of the photos that we got of Min before we met her, she was quite stoic and didn't smile for any of the pictures. I have heard from Adriana that she was quite animated and talkative, but there was not proof on film. Until now. Here's some hard proof that once her stoic shell is breached, little Min is quite a goofy little girl:

On the other side

Well, it's 7:00 AM right now and we met Min at 10:00 yesterday. We hung out in the room yesterday and had a quiet day. She started to become somewhat comfortable with us, but is very sad and wants to leave the hotel. She's tried to get her shoes and coat on a few times. She wants to be held all the time and we're happy to hold her. She slept in the bed with me last night (we have 2 slightly larger than twin beds in our room). I haven't had any chance to download pictures yet, but I'll hopefully do that soon. we have a big day of appointments and then some more rest in the afternoon.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Thoughts about right now

So here we are in Hangzhou, finally. We have our appointment time: 9:00. At 8:30 we will meet our travel guide and she will escort us to the Provincial office and then we will meet Min. I'm going to let you know about some of my thoughts right now.

Today in the hotel lobby, I saw a woman with a little boy, he was about 3 years old. They were walking across the lobby towards me. The little boy was being carried by this woman, he was holding her around the neck and they were chatting about something. I started imagining that this woman walked up to me and put this boy's hand in mine and told me that he was mine now. I imagined how this little boy would feel, being handed off to a stranger and then being walked away from by this woman who he felt very happy and comfortable with. I imagined the little boy crying and struggling hard to get away from me, I imagined him crying and calling out. I imagined the woman crying and looking back at us but still walking away. I felt my own struggle with the situation of wanting to protect this child and look for his best interest. What was it? What was his best interest? It's a question I can't answer, because this was imagination. It wasn't real.

I struggle with this question of "best interest" and I know it's been struggled with before. Bastard Nation and International Abductees have very strong opinions in this area, I know. I'm feeling sad for Min because she won't know what it's like to grow up in China in her home culture. I feel sad that her life as she knows it is gone. I wonder sometimes how I would react if I find out tomorrow that at the last minute someone here in China decided that they would adopt her and that she will stay here. I know this is just a pretend hypothesis, but I wonder anyway. I would be sad at the idea of not having her in our family. I would be happy that she won't be leaving here. I would be happy that she had a family.

Family. Min has a foster family. Many kids grow up and that's all they have, a foster family. I'm not discounting them at all. I'm sure they love her. She loves them, too, I imagine. But in the end, she's still a ward of the state. The state determined that she was going to be a child eligible for international adoption. The state sent her file to the CCAA. If we didn't adopt her, for sure she would be adopted by another family. I like to think that our family is a good and nice family. We have our faults, but we're OK. We will be a family without a tag, hyphen, category or subclassifications or modifier. We will be what she doesn't have right now. Family. Full stop.

How does this weigh compared to staying in ones home culture? I don't know. Suppose I was given this choice: I can stay in lovely Orange County, home of Disney, Irvine and parallel streets, but I will never, ever see my family again. I will be in my own home culture forever and ever without my family. OR I can choose to go to a remote Polynesian Island where the people don't wear clothes, eat strange meats, talk a different language and stage elaborate dances, but my family, including my extended family will all be there and we're expected to try and absorb into the Island life. What would I choose? I don't know. Again, I don't have to know, it's pretend.
Family. Culture. Family. Culture. Little Min...I don't know the right answer. There is no right answer, for you little one. Your life has been thrust in the hands of us bumbling grown ups that don't have the right answers for everything and in the end the only thing we can do is the best we can. So, now it's 11:00 PM China time and we have only a handful of hours left until it's our turn to try and do the best we can. People will say you're lucky. We know that lucky children don't have these traumatic things happen to them. I really hope that in 20 years or so, you can look back on this and feel lucky. I feel lucky. Scared, nervous, a little bit sad, but very, very lucky.

On Purple Mountain

We went to the Purple Mountain Park in Nanjing on Saturday. If we were in Nanjing 2 weeks later, then we could have gone to the Plum Blossom festival. As it was, there were still some beautiful flowers on the trees, the weather was fairly nice, and families came in droves for a walk around the park, picture taking, a picnic and just to relax and have a good time.

One of the things you should do is to take pictures of the trees and also have your picture taken with tree. OK, so this is one of the about 25 pictures I took of plum blossoms. Oh yeah, and me with a tree.

There is a Ming tomb there in the park. It's not unlike the Ming tomb that is very popular for the tour guides to take people to in Beijing. It's almost just as exciting as the one in Beijing, too! Among the many statues of animals that were around this tomb, there was an ancient turtle. We listened to one of the tour guides here tell us that people will get good luck by stroking the turtle on the head, and then also stroking the turtle on it's backside. Here's a picture of Jorg getting good luck by petting the turtle butt.

Here's a family taking a picture of Grandpa.

And here is Grandpa.

This is a family enjoying a picnic together in the plum forest.

This is a kind of a ride you could take at the top of a hill. For about a dollar and a half you can sit in the chair and these guys will take you for a bouncy ride around the top of the park while some traditional folk music plays. It really looked like fun, but I didn't want to do it. Maybe next time!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Let's's Saturday night and it's been a busy last couple of days. On Thursday Jorg went to work and I went walking around Nanjing. We're staying in an area of downtown called "Xin Jie Kou". I walked around and went to department stores and looked at lanterns that were made for the lantern festival. I haven't really been shopping in China for about 10 years. I have to say that I think that there isn't anything that you can't get in China anymore. There is everything here. The styles are cute and fashionable. The home products are stylish and of good quality. There is cheese and butter in the supermarkets. Would you like a bosch washing machine? They have them. How about adorable shoes? No problem. Cream cheese on your bagel? Yes. I can get that. What about rollerblades. Yep, got those. I'm trying to think of things I didn't see. I can think of Cottage cheese, black licorice, and I don't think I saw a size DD bra.

Friday Jorg went to work again. I walked to the presidential Palace where Sun Yat Sen lived and also Chiang Kai Shek hung out for a bit. It wasn't the most amazing tourist attraction, but I had a nice time walking around.

Saturday we went looking at plum blossoms at the purple mountain and also went to have a look at the Yangtze river.

On Friday night, we went to the house of Jorgs business partner and the mother in law fixed us all dinner. It was fantastic. Spicy beef, shrimp, chicken, different vegetables and two different fish dishes. Oh yeah, there was another one. The lady of the house described this dish: It's like a fish, but not a fish. It can swim very well. It can jump very well. (At this time I guessed it was a frog). Yes, it's like a frog, but not a frog. It's very big, we call it "cow frog". Hmmm...cow frog. Oh yes...bullfrog. Yes, we had toad for dinner. It was pretty yummy. It tasted like meat that has spicy delicious sauce on it. My general rule for eating in China is "Don't ask...just eat. If it tastes good, eat more". I had several delicious bites of toad!!

Let's find a picture to post--

These are from Beijing: A really HUGE abacus.

We were very put off because the temple only had a 2 star toilet. (just kidding. It was a lovely toilet, clean and with doors. There was only one "western toilet" but I don't use those in the public bathrooms anyways. I find it easier to just use the squat ones).

How beautiful are the colors in this roof?

Tonight I'm thinking of little Min. She's probably sleeping in the orphanage away from her foster family and missing them. Of course she may be thinking she's having a fun time at a big slumber party. At any rate, she might know that her American family is coming, but she doesn't really know what that means for her. I hope that she's not too traumatized and scared. I'm afraid that she'll be afraid. I'm feeling quite anxious for her. So, I'm feeling rather helpless to do anything right now. I'll just have to see how it goes. 2 more sleeps--better get sleeping, I'm tired.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Today's little bit O' wacky...

I love chips. Almost any kind of chip will be fine with me, but I have some favorites. Let me introduce you to one of my favorites that I really can only find in China. I have found a bag or 2 at the 99 Ranch, but it's rare to find it in the states. Meet Oishi brand chips. I don't think that Oishi chips are indigenous to China. I think they are actually Japanese. But I have only ever had them from China, and a couple times in the states. They're tapioca starch/potato type chips. They have a smooth texture on the outside and they're slightly shiny. My tongue sticks to the chip and the chip starts to absorb from my watering mouth as soon as it touches the chip. It's sort of like a thick, salty, spicy communion wafer. Yummy!! This chip was a sort of "comfort food" surrogate when I lived in Jinan. It's a food that I call "almost, but not quite". It's sort of like Pringles, but not quite. I know you can find Pringles here, but now, I like to find foods that bring me a nostalgic "when I lived in China" feeling. These Oishi chips do it for me.

Check out the Mascot. Isn't he cute? A cartoon of an Indian Chief with the full head dress standing next to a pile of Potatoes. There's nothing that says "Tapioca starch Chips" like a little Indian Chief with a rainbow headdress, is there? Oh yes, and these are Inca Chips. Yes, this little guy looks so very Inca, doesn't he? He's cute, though.

My next most favorite thing about these chips, aside from their salty, spicy flavor is the NAME of the flavor.

Did you catch that? Yes, these chips are ETHNICAN flavor. I LOVE this name!! The next time you want to talk about someone who is of any sort of mix of all sorts of backgrounds, you can refer to them as being Ethnican. People will smile and nod and act as if you said something really wise and still have no idea what you're talking about. Ethnican people of the world, Unite!!

Oh yes, we're in Nanjing today. We flew from Beijing to Nanjing this afternoon. Here's a Chinese Lesson: Bei means North and Nan means south. Jing means something like "capital". So, Northern Capital to the Southern Capital. We are on the 44th floor of the Crown Plaza tonight. My ears pop as we go up in the elevator. Tomorrow we will do some more sightseeing and meet a woman who lived in Shiyan City 2 years after we did!! She's from FH Ulm, just like Jorg is. That will be interesting!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Afoot and afield in Beijing

This morning we stayed around Xiao Yuan's house and talked.  Then around noon we headed out for some lunch and sight seeing.  Wrongway (who I've been told should more correctly be nicknamed "runway" and Xiaoyuan took us to a great Beijing noodle restaurant.

After lunch, Jorg and I went to a Taoist temple that depicted all the departments in heaven that had jurisdiction over the different kinds of hell depending on how good or bad your were in this life.  It's a beautiful temple with some interesting things to see.   We had a chance to push a stone grinding wheel,  that was great.  My favorite bit of wackiness was the Magical Donkey.  Since we touched the Magical Donkey, we are sure to have good health.

Tomorrow we will go and  visit Xiao Yuan's work and meet her boss for lunch and here are some pictures of the day's adventures!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Hanging around in Beijing

Today was a nice take it easy day.  We all got up late, drank coffee, talked and watched some TV.  At noon we drove over to another part of town near the Sams Club and we ate a Chinese lunch (sliced pork and leak with tofu skin wrappers, mala noodles, fish poached and steamed in tin foil, dry sauteed green beans, and kung pao chicken).  After lunch we went to Sams club to go shopping.  I bought some ingredients for the meal I cooked tonight.  I made Oatmeal patties, mashed potatoes, broccoli, and mushroom gravy.  I guess it was OK, I would need cottage cheese to make it better, but that was not available.

We decided not to register with the PSB.  Xiaoyuan said it's no big deal and no one really cares.  So, we won't do that, but yes, Joelle, I remember Jonathan and the PSB--remember officer ratface?  I imagine his face in my head and I want to go poke him in the eyes. Lee Hen described him as "oily".  I just think he's a ratface.  Sorry--I'm going a little inside joke here.

I don't have any pictures to post today, but I will tomorrow.

So--I'm tired and going to bed.  Laina is doing just fine according to my parents!

Oh, No worries, Terri-  Mai/Min--no big deal!!
Kisses all around!!

Friday, February 15, 2008

already left...on a jetplane

So here I am on a flight to Beijing.  We’re in the 21st row and I’m in the middle.  Jorg is on my right and there’s a woman who is going to visit her family in Mongolia on my left.  Right now, we’ve just finished flying over Alaska and we’re on our way to the International Date Line.  There are 7 hours left in our flight.  The airplane is old and worn.  The back Lavs have stopped working and there are 2 middle ones still functioning and the rest are in the first class section and the attendant gives you a “look” when I went to use them, but what can she say?  She doesn’t want me to drop trou in the aisles, does she?  Jorg’s seat doesn’t stick upright.  The catch is broken or something and so he’s always in a reclined position.  He tried to get a different seat but he would only take one that could have us sit together.  He tried to finagle a seat in business section, but he was wildly unsuccessful in that endeavor.  So, the next leg of the trip will take us to Beijing and to Xiao Yuan’s house.  Her husband’s name is…well…I think it’s Rong Wei.  Of course I always call him “Wrongway” in my head, so I’ll call him Wrongway for my blog.  We’ve learned that in order to be legal we have to register with the local police department within 24 hours of arriving at our lodging if it is other than a hotel, guesthouse or other “public accommodation”.  So, in order for us to keep Xiao Yuan out of trouble, we’ll go to the PSB (Public Security Bureau) on Saturday.  It shouldn’t  be a problem.  Friday I’m cooking dinner for all of us.  I’m going to make Oatmeal Patties, broccoli, mashed potatoes and mushroom/onion gravy.  Xiao Yuan needs to know that this is not a typical American meal, but rather a good Adventist meal.  I think she’ll like it, though.  Sunday and Monday we’ll tour around doing something.  We may go to Tiananmen or something, who knows.  I’d rather go someplace new.  If it weren’t so cold I’d say lets to the Si Mi Tai Great Wall trip.  There’s this cool hike that my siblings did when they were here where you hire a taxi to take you to Si mi tai and then you ask them to pick you up several hours later after you’ve hiked to Badaling or something like that.  It’s too cold for that kind of thing, though.

So—if this posts it means we’re safe and sound in Beijing!!  Next post will be telling about our adventures around Beijing.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

It's the Final Countdown...

OK cue the band..."Europe" are you guys on stage now, ready to sing your famous one hit wonder? OK and 1,2,1,2,3,4
doo da doo dooooooo.....dit da doo dooo dooooo

doo da doo dooo did di doo doo doo

It's the final COUNTDOWN.... Seriously, I think this guy can sing it better:

That hair is FANTASTIC!!! Laina was watching this video with me and her comments were; "Mommy, is that a man or a woman?" I asked her what she thought and she said, " I think that's a woman or something". I told her they were all men and she said, "How come they don't put bands in their hair, they're going to get all their hair in their eyes".

And now, Min's theme song performed by "Pink Martini" here's the song that was inspired by a ketchup advertisement that said "hang on little tomato".

Friday, February 8, 2008

Pre-Trip To Do

OK, Everything for the adoption and the trip is technically taken care of. I mean, if someone said, "You must leave tomorrow morning", we could stuff a few clothes in a bag, grab our adoption file and be out the door. But, I've got a few things that I need to remember. I'm going to write them all down here just so I can see it.

1. Empty the fridge of things that will get nasty.
2. clean the bathrooms really well
3. put clean sheets on the bed
4. vacuum the house
5. mop the kitchen floor
6. make a list of things I.'ll need to have for the dinner I'm making at Xiao Yuan's house
7. print out some pictures for Min's foster family
8. Pack up Laina's clothes for her stay at my parents
9. Wrap up the little presents for Laina for each day we're away
10. Update our Will so that my parents will know what to do in the unlikely event of a water landing.
11. Pack up Min's clothes
12. Order tickets for the "Baby Loves Disco" party.
13. Make sure I know the "direct send" address for this blog.
14. Make sure I have all my camera equipment packed.
15. Call and make sure how many "gifts" I need to bring and for whom.
16. Make sure that Oscar the Cat has all his needs met and his caretaker knows the drill.
17. Get a house key packed.
18. Figure out if my parents will need 2 carseats or just one.
19. Call Grandma
20. do all the laundry
21. Pull more weeds in the backyard if I can.
22. Find a good book to read on the trip, one that's a paperback and not too expensive so I can ditch it if I have to and not feel bad.
23. Try not to flip out, scream, rip off all my clothes and go running down harbor blvd wearing nothing but a tu-tu and hiking boots.

Yeah. That's all I gotta do. biggie. I worry about it tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The TODO list updated

Send LOI (letter of Intent to Adopt): (Done August 13)
Wait for PA (prior approval): (Done September 14th)
Send Dossier to China: (Done September 15)
Talk to Social Worker to get home study addendum: (Done September 18th)
Get Home study Addendum (Received on October 3)
Receive Letter of Acceptance (Received on December 14)
Sign and Return LOA back to the Agency via FEDEX (Completed on December 17th)
Apply for Travel Visas to China (Picked up from L.A. Consulate on 1/23/08)
Receive Travel Approval (Received on 1/22/08)
Agency Makes Consulate Appointment (DONE on January 28. Scheduled for March 4)
Get the go ahead to book plane tickets (DONE on January 30)
Leave to Pick up Min!!

We have a schedule! We're taking off on the 14th and coming home on the 6th. We have a very fun trip coming up and I'm really looking forward to it. We start off in Beijing and we're going to stay at Xiao Yuan's house. Xiao Yuan was my student when I was teaching at Shandong University. She was a freshman at the time and in my first class I told her class that my husband was looking for a Chinese student to talk with him and help him with his Chinese lessons. After class Xiao Yuan ran up to me and told me that she wanted to have the job if it was OK. She came to our house every Friday for the whole year. That school year we spent the Chinese New Year with her family in Chong Qing. She graduated from University in 2001 and now works in a very big language institute in Beijing. She and her common law husband just bought an apartment and moved in recently. It will be very fun to see them.
After the weekend in Beijing, we go to Nanjing to see some business contacts that Jorg needs to talk to. We'll also do some touristing around there. I haven't been to Nanjing since 1998 and I'm sure things have changed. It will be interesting to see.
We get to Hangzhou on Sunday the 24th.
Sunday the 25th is Meet Min day. From that day forward, she will be our daughter and we will be responsible for her. I hope that we will meet her expectations or at least the basic requirements for a good family. I'm gearing myself up for some traumatic times ahead. Planing for the worst, hoping for the best. Breathe, eat, drink, love, lather, rinse, repeat.