Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Home and Adjusting

Hi everyone!  We are back home as of Friday night around 7:30 pm. We had a long and tiring trip home from Hong Kong, including missing our flight from Chicago to Charlotte.  The kids were troupers on the 14 hour flight to the States and then as we waited in Chicago for a later plane.  

We were greeted at the airport by my folks, sister and nieces, and many of Ting Ting's grown brothers and sisters. It was so, so good to see and hug everyone after 2 weeks away. TT suffered from motion sickness as we landed in Chicago and on the last flight, but it wasn't as bad for her as we had feared it night be. She was cautiously enthusiastic about meeting the extended family and we had a lot of fun watching her explore her new home once we made it to our house.  

However, TingTing has had a REALLY hard time since we have been home.  She is extremely homesick for her ayi (nanny), friends, and home in China. We knew it could be a hard transition for her despite the good times and attachment we had while in China.  It has been very very rough for the entire family, and even though we thought we were prepared it has been  even tougher dealing with the grief and rage than we thought.  The culture shock, the changes in her life, and jet lag have all contributed.  The first two nights we were up until 6 am with her as she screamed and cried for home.  Last night she had a shorter bout of grief in the nighttime, which is progress in its own way.  

Mark and I see small victories here and there which is encouraging.  She is often very sad but we see glimmers of the happy, funny, spunky girl we met just 2 weeks ago.  We are clinging to the Word, each other, and the knowledge that things will get better for her in time.  We are taking things day by day and trying to establish a simple and predictable routine.  My folks are staying with us and are able to help and provide support for Mark and me as we try to get over the jst lag and meet the needs of both the girls.  I am struggling with some anxiety about all these changes and also how it is affecting AK, but it is getting better day by day.  All of your prayers are felt and so appreciated! 

Monday, March 7, 2011

Fun in GZ

Hi everyone!  It's Tuesday AM in GZ and we just got back from the consulate.  Everything went perfectly and TT's immigration paperwork is good to go.  She signed her name to the papers and everything!  We get her passport back tomorrow with the U.S. visa inside and the "brown envelope" which we hand carry to immigration in the Chicago airport.  We basically have free time the rest of today and tomorrow.  Thursday AM we drive to HK and have an afternoon and evening there (excited about sightseeing there).  Please pray for TT on the bus ride... she is really suffering from motion sickness and throws up almost anytime we go in a taxi or bus-- usually after we get out, which does help.  We have medicine that seems to work some of the time.  She gets embarrassed by this so that's the other thing.  China has been challenging and amazing but I can tell my mind is turning towards home.  We cannot wait to hug your necks!  

Yesterday we spent the AM at this wonderful park that is across the (giant, 8 lane) street from the hotel.  There is a lake (like a river, really) and you can rent paddleboats or "electric luxury yachts" (a slight misnomer, they make the W.P. boat tour look like true yachts) to go around the lake.  We opted for the electric version so the girls could steer and they had a blast.  A well spent $8 for a half-hour tour. We also climbed the rock stuctures and explored the paths.  There are many statues and lovely plant designs so there is always something to see.  Plus lots of older folks dancing, playing shuttlecock, and cards as we strolled around.  The girls could run around and we had a lot of fun just playing.  Forgot the camera, so no pics.  :(

In the afternoon, back to Shamian Island to get the girls' TB tests read.  Everyone passed- yay! Then 3 hours to shop/bargain and stroll the island.  I enjoyed SI way more this time.  The weather was gorgeous -- cool and sunny-- and I knew that we would be stalked by the sales people so I didn't let it bother me too much.  All the families took the girls into the White Swan for a potty break, waterfall & red couch pics.  Actually, our red couch pic has all the kids on the trip-- bio and adopted!  Last night one of the dads in the group, who is Chinese American, offered to take the group to get a real Cantonese dinner.  We took a crazy cab ride through GZ neighborhoods to a restaurant that was huge-- 4 stories tall!  We had a room just for our group and feasted on a lot of "new" things.  I tried sea cucumber (tasty but the texture was strange) and an unidentified sea creature (David wasn't sure how to translate the name into English.)  It resembled calamari, without the breading.  We also had the best-tasting fish- ginger sauce.  Once I got past the fin -- David did request that the head be removed for us gringos-- it was delicious.  We got back super late which has made for a tougher morning.  We were up at the crack of dawn for our consulate appt. and left the hotel by 7:30 am.  

Things are wrapping up as a group... our group pic will be taken in a few min.  This afternoon we plan to find a bookstore our guide recommended to get some books for TT, then prob back to the hotel to swim now that TT has passed her TB test.  Tomorrow, the park, maybe back to Shamian and packing to come HOME!  We are so thankful for all the love and prayers for TT... especially as she is about to face one of the biggest adjustments of all.  

I've missed hearing from all of you... please write!!!  Hope everyone is OK.  

Love and hugs, K for all 4 of us. 

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Made it to Guangzhou!

This is paraphrased from some emails Kimberly and I exchanged.  Maggie and I Skyped with her and the girls tonight (today their time) and it was so good to talk to them.

Hey!!  First time I've been online since Thurs night since they charge for wifi @ the China Hotel.  GZ is awesome... It feels (almost) like home + China.  I love GZ and was honestly really glad to leave Changsha.  Friday AM was a rough one for all of us... TT was worked up over the flight and leaving, AK was a GROUCH, and I didn't feel so great.  Bleh.  We tried to Skype with Hill and the girls but the connection was bad and we were still in the midst of an episode with TT.  Other than being horribly airsick on the flight (good times) she liked it and was so well behaved.  She is a bit more relaxed here in GZ and we LOVE the hotel.  I could stay here the whole 2 weeks and be happy.  We see more and more of her sweet and funny personality each day.  This morning at breakfast she carefully counted out 1 banana and 2 grapes per person and brought them to us.  Amy, our guide, says she is one of the happiest older kids she has seen with a new family, which was reassuring.   

The park (Yuexia, I think) across the street is awesome!  We explored a little yesterday and plan to go a lot over the next few days.  The girls are dying to do the paddle boats. 

TT is having a great time in GZ and has become buddies already with the oldest daughter of the Davison family (8 yrs old but taller than TT!).  AK is super happy to be with her "buddy" Jonah.  Riley, their 8 yr old daughter, is already planning their wedding LOL.  We survived the med exam yesterday (she was nervous about that too) and the TB test.  No vaccines thank goodness-- so glad we do not have to go thru that.  The med exam was a zoo as always.  While we were there I met MissCourtneyK from RQ and little Joshua.  She is super nice and he is a cutie!  

We have sightseeing today, go back to Shamian for the TB test to be read (3 of the 4 kids in our group had to have them done)  and shop tomorrow.  I think Tues is a free day and Wed is our CA.  Apparently with the new proc. starting last week on March 1 things have not been super smooth at the consulate so pray for that!  We have to present our docs in person, then the swearing in is immediately after.  I will say that because Hague requires so much paperwork before you travel, there is much less to do here which is sooooo nice.

We leave Thursday AM for HK, so have the afternoon and evening there!  Kinda excited about that!

When Kimberly wrote this, they hadn't shelled out for internet in their room yet, so she was down in the Starbucks in the bottom of the China Hotel.  She had forgotten the camera and cord so no pics in this post.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Learning to be a family

We are beginning to settle in together.  TingTing (she prefers her Chinese name, and we have not called her Olivia at all yet) is feeling more comfortable with all of us.  She has figured out that Mark loves to romp and play and joke and she is all over that.  She has a really cute sense of humor and with sign language and a steady stream of dialect Chinese language generally gets her point across to us.  The girl can eat and she is all legs and arms. She is already willing to be affectionate with us and is taking all the staring we get from other Chinese (2 white parents, 2 chinese girls = a spectacle) mostly in stride.  People often ask her questions or make comments and I wish I knew what they were saying.  I am praying it is not anything hurtful to TT. 

Today was a pretty nice day, weather-wise:  the first day of our trip without snow, rain, or temps in the 30s.  It was still gray due to pollution but a little sunny and warmer.  So it was a good day to visit the Changsha Martyr's Park, the largest in the province.  We walked and walked and got to see lots of folks dancing, playing cards, musicians, you name it.  I love Chinese parks.  They are so lovely, even in winter, and in China people really do live their lives outdoors.  

Among the day's activities:  the girls got little necklaces with their Chinese names and good wishes carved on rice and then placed in a small pendant.  TT chose a pink apple and AK a smiley face.  TT asked for good luck at school for her wish and had them write "happiness and joy" as AK's wish.  So so sweet!   

We found a fish pond and for 10 yuan the girls had a blast trying to catch goldfish with little nets.  TT caught a bunch and then helped AK capture hers.  (I was additionally entertained by 2 cats who spent their time foraging in the trash for dead fish.  Gross but fascinating).

Next we hit the potties and these were the real thing by Chinese standards:  open squatty potty stalls.  Scary to the Westerner, but honestly, they really are not bad once you get the hang of it-- better than a porta-potty, in my opinion.  Just keep the wet wipes and hand sanitizer handy!  AK finally gave it a try in a moment of desperation and is now an expert! She is pretty proud of herself, too.  TT has given her some pointers for success, LOL!

Next we hit the amusement park in the park and braved a few rides.  Carousel, bumper cars, an up-and-down deal called the kangaroo (AK not a fan, much wailing,  TT loved it) and a playhouse that Mark and TT explored together.  Lots of fun and more memory making.  

We all took naps and then hit the pool, only to find it was closed for cleaning until early evening.  So we decided to explore the neighborhood around the hotel.  I about had a heart attack because Mark almost got run over by a speeding SUV in the hotel driveway... not a great start.  But of course a neighborhood walk is the best way to see the "real" China (our 5 star hotel is nice but not it).  Wow... the most interesting part for me and Mark was definitely all the little, open air markets where they slaughter chickens and fish and even frogs on the spot.  The meat is either hanging up, out in the open (unimaginable to American shoppers) or still alive in a cage.  We saw a lady carrying a large bundle of cages filled with rabbits & guinea pigs.  I asked Mark, are those for dinner and he said they probably were.  Poor bunnies!  We watched an urban, hipster type young man buy a guinea pig, for a snack I presume.  SO FASCINATING.  

We did get to swim after dinner although it was cold!  TT was more comfortable swimming-- and thus quite independent -- tonight! 

I just want to say, Mark has been the most wonderful man through all of this.  He has been my rock in the toughest, most stressful moments of this amazing trip, and I love sharing these days and memories with him.  He is so great with the girls and they love their daddy so much.  I cannot imagine doing any of this without him!

Two more days in Hunan province, then off to Guangzhou.  

Love, Kimberly for all 4 of us.

Scroll down for more posts and some updates with pictures!  The change in the expression on TT's face between Gotcha day and the following days is really something to behold.  She looks so happy.  Kimberly and I have been emailing and she said that TT does not like the white ankle socks that she brought for her but she DOES like the knee socks.  Heehee.  She is also a fan of the glittery sparkle, much like Maggie.  Perhaps Maggie can school her in proper levels of tackiness.  Oh yes, Kimberly also said that TT is a big fan of AK's hair bows, which pleases Kimberly to no end.  I can't wait for them to get home. ~A

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Adoption day!

Tuesday morning she struggled again before breakfast but was brighter by the time we headed for the civil affairs office for the official adoption proceedings.  Mark and I were frankly a little worried she might change her mind about being adopted but she agreed without hesitation and once it was all over she seemed relieved and very happy.  It was truly awesome to see her write on the documents that she wanted to be adopted by us and place her red handprint on the document to seal the adoption.  The civil affairs officials told us that we have a spicy girl in Ting Ting!  They were charmed by AK, too, and let her make a red handprint on a piece of plain paper to show that she is an official little sister to TT.  It was a nerve-wracking but exhilarating morning, and at the end we were a family of four, with two spicy girls! 

In the great American tradition, we celebrated by going to Wal-Mart (to buy snacks, water, and juice) and eat lunch at McDonald's.   Later that afternoon we went swimming and it was TT's first time.  We took her to the pool just to look at it first, and she was willing.  Thankfully, the swimsuit I bought her fit just right and after a lot of confusing conversation with the swimming pool staff about swim caps and fees, we took the plunge.  She loved it and it was a great way to play and build trust and memories.  

Mark and I are worn out taking care of both our spicy girls and sleep tends to win out over blogging and emailing.  Please know that we are so thankful for all the prayers and encouraged by all messages!  China is an amazing place but we feel the distance from home.  

Love, Kimberly for all four of us!

Short update....more to come!

I got an email from Kimberly and they are having a lot of internet trouble in Changsha.  She said she was able to talk with someone at the hotel with the help of their guide.  No pictures, yet, though!  Here's what she had to say about Gotcha Day.

"We have Ting Ting and she is adorable.  VERY active. (heehee--if you know AK at ALL, that is the very description of her as well!--A) She was jumping, happy so excited at the civil affairs office.  She grieved HARD yesterday night and threw up 3 times between a bad case of carsickness and nerves.    Today has been much better and she was happy at the adoption.  She is sweet and bubbly and really very affectionate.  

We have been without internet since Sun. night ... our guide helped me talk to the hotel staff about connection because was not successful yesterday.  Monday left hotel at 5:40 am, arrived Changsha 11ish.  Got settled at hotel, ate lunch at Food Street.  Hunan cuisine leans heavily towards organ meats, feet and ears,  and creatures Americans do not normally eat. Some of the more scary options were: dog meat hot pot, stewed snake and (get ready) stewed chicken with ox penis.  YIKES.  And this is at the 5 star hotel, not the corner cafe, KWIM?  We opted for rice, sliced soy beef and dumplings.  LOL.  It was delicious and not too weird."  

Keep praying for all of them!  Lots of changes in a short amount of time.  I will update again when I hear more.  I can't wait to see pics! :D