Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Visiting the girls' orphanages was so sweet

Lian's orphanage is fairly small, just 90 kids or so.  When we walked in, they had a big banner up saying "Gu Yi Lian Welcome Back Home" - really sweet.  So many nannies remembered her.  Two nannies had retired, but made a special trip in to see Lian.  Lian's favorite nanny was also there, which was wonderful.  The orphanage director is the man standing next to Eric - we have lots of photos of him with Lian and she spoke fondly of him.  Her favorite nanny is next to me, wearing a black sweater.  The other two nannies (in pink coats) I recognize from Lian's photos - she spent a lot of time with them.  The nanny on the far right pulled out her phone and showed me photos of Lian from years ago - she's kept them on her phone all this time.  Also, I had made photo books on Shutterfly and sent them back - she'd taken photos of each page and had those stored on her phone too.  It was clear that Lian was very much loved there.
We were invited to stay for lunch, and they prepared a feast for us - so many different dishes, and it was all delicious.  We had a lot of time to ask questions of them, and for them to ask questions of us.  She showed off her gymnastics skills, and they were so thrilled to hear that she is healthy and doing well in school.  Due to the bird flu outbreak, we weren't allowed to interact with any children, but it was wonderful to see her nannies - and to have so many of them return to see her!

After Lian's orphanage visit, we went to an old water village on the outskirts of Shanghai.  Harmony stopped us at this bridge and suggested a photo (our guide translated) - so we obliged.

Today we went to Medora's orphanage.  The Shanghai orphanage is much much larger - about 500 children live there.  The nannies tend to turn over more quickly than Lian's orphanage, so we didn't hold out much hope that anyone would remember Medora - it has been almost 5 years.  But we were so lucky - several nannies have been there for a long time and remembered her.  This nanny is the one who brought Medora to meet us on gotcha day.  We toured the orphanage, but couldn't interact with the kids due to the bird flu.  They gave Medora a pin with the orpahange's logo and a DVD about the orphanage.  And - this is the best - they gave us a color photo of the day Medora was found.  The earliest photo we have of her!

Well, tomorrow we start the journey home.  It sounds so simple ... depart Shanghai at noon on Wednesday and arrive Denver at 5 PM on Wednesday.  If only it were that easy!!!!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Cotton candy larger than my head

Today we wandered the crazy, massive, rabbit warren that is the Yu Yuan market (sometimes also called the Dragon's Gate market).  We got a scrapbook for Harmony from the same store that sold us scrapbooks for Medora & Lian in 2008 & 2009 - nice to know some things stay the same.

After lunch at an awesome dim sum restaurant, XinYi noticed a street vendor selling cotton candy.  Oh my, that elicited a lot of excitement.  The portion size was generous as you can see in the photos below. She ate it with enthusiasm - for her first bite, she buried her face in it.  She had cotton candy sticking out of her nose!  Bonus upside of the cotton candy - she spontaneously pronounced it "yummy".   That's a new English word for her bringing the total to monkey, watch (pronounced kwatch), oops, pee pee, and yummy.

After shopping, we swam for an hour and a half.  At one point, 4 local kids joined us swimming and we had a raucous game of pickle-in-the-middle going.  After swimming, we had dinner with friends.

Tomorrow - we see Lian's orphanage!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Ni hao from Shanghai!

Today just did not lend itself to photos, so I'll share some cute ones from previous days:

Reading on a bus ride:
Medora upside down:

We had an absurdly early morning wake up call today to catch our flight to Shanghai.  UGH.  We had the kids sleep in their clothes, which helped with rolling them out of bed early.  The flight was tough.  We had 2 seats in row 35, and 3 seats in row 39.  So not close enough to easily share food and toys.  I sat with Xin Yi in row 35, and Eric sat with the big girls in row 39.  Xin Yi was doing pretty well and even let me put the seat belt on her without much fuss ... until we sat on the tarmac for 60 minutes.  All electronics had to be off, seat belts on, can't get up.  It was not so pretty.  A helpful Chinese older woman seated behind us talked with Xin Yi while she was melting down and that helped ... I wish I knew what she said.   It was very kind of her. The businessman seated next to us will likely never ever have a child after dealing with XinYi for 3 hours.  Then an hour taxi ride to the hotel.  But we made it!

The hotel in Shanghai has a very nice pool and hot tub.  We stayed here in 2009 and requested it again, since aquatics is a popular activity with the whole family.

Tomorrow we have the day to ourselves; we'll hit the crazy YuYuan market to get a scrapbook for XinYi - we have gotten scrapbooks for both Medora & Lian there.  And we are meeting friends for dinner at their favorite local place, which should be really cool.   They are expats living in Shanghai who just adopted a little boy.

Monday we visit Kunshan Social Welfare Institute, where Lian spent her first 4 years.  We didn't visit it in 2009, and I am really looking forward to seeing it.

Tuesday we visit Shanghai Children's Welfare Institute, where Medora spent her first 3 years.  We did visit in 2008, but Medora is looking forward to seeing it as a 7 year old - she doesn't remember much.

And on Wednesday, with a healthy dose of dread as well as pleasure, we start the journey home.  Our flight departs Shanghai at noon and arrives in Denver at 5 PM.  Sounds so simple!   **shudder**

Sorry no great photos today - just surviving the flight and handling munchkins.  A few more cute ones from previous days that I haven't shared:

XinYi and her best friend AiNian.  Turns out AiNian is going home to Colorado too!  We'll get together this summer.

Rocking the swimming goggles and subway map:

Friday, April 19, 2013

Safari Zoo!

Eric and I were feeling a little better today, so we went to the Guangzhou Safari Park.  We'd been twice  before, and knew it was very fun.  But each time is different!
First we happened upon a young (15 month old) spider monkey.  We were allowed to pet him, and then watched him scamper around.  At first XinYi wasn't sure about this but she eventally warmed up to it and even felt brave enough to pet the monkey too.  Bonus - she now has full grasp of the English word "monkey", and used it later in the evening when she was telling me a story.

Next up was feeding baby tigers.  I'm sure this is not considered good zoological practice, but we decided to give it a go.  We were allowed to pet the baby tiger also.  We even heard the little one give a little baby tiger roar.

After lunch, we boarded a little "train" (but with wheels so it doesn't need tracks) and toured the safari part of the park.  It is very cool.  We watched our train driver play chicken with a giraffe.  The giraffe was striding quickly across the road, and our driver just kept going and didn't even slow down.  The giraffe did yield in the end, but only inches from the train.  As a result, I can now say I have viewed giraffe knees from a distance of 8".  They are quite bony and have lots of callouses on them.

After the safari park, we toured the koalas (home to the world's only koala twins!  But they all look the same, so who can tell?!?) and the giant pandas.  The pandas were hot and mostly napping.  But still very cool.

Our last stop was to feed giraffes and elephants.  For the elephants, you bought bananas and chucked them into the elephant area.  For the giraffes, you could buy a bundle of leafy sticks.  The giraffes would lean over and grab it with their tongues and take it from your hands.  Xin Yi didn't want to do this herself, but was okay with watching the jie jies do it.  Until Eric had them turn around to take a picture, and one of the giraffes leaned over to check if there was any more food in the girls' hair.  Xin Yi clearly thought they were going to be eaten by giraffes and started shreeking about her jie jies.  I asked Medora to come over to Xin Yi and show her that she was okay.  This mollified Xin Yi a little, but she modified her shreeking to "liang ge jie jies!  liang ge jie jies!" while holding up two fingers (Two sisters!  Two sisters!).  It wasn't until Lian joined her too that she relaxed.  Poor kiddo, it would be terrifying if you thought your beloved sisters were going to be mauled by a giraffe.

As we rode the subway home from the zoo, it was super crowded.  Xin Yi started talking with a young woman in her 20s.  She chatted that woman's ear off.  I could follow along a little bit - she told the woman she had a mom, and a dad, and two jie jies (emphasizing the two by holding up two fingers).  Then she made sure to point each of us out to the woman.  Then she told the woman all about their matching blue t-shirts.  It was very cute.

Tomorrow we have to be up early to fly to Shanghai.  Until later....

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Funny signs in the nearby park

Both Eric and I are sick, ugh.  Not food poisoning, thank goodness, but miserable head colds.  Thankfully, the kids haven't gotten it yet ... but that means they are raring to go while we just want to curl up and sleep.

Today was an entirely free day.  We rented a paddle boat at the nearby park, which XinYi refers to with the same word as plane - "fay-jee-uh".  Not sure if that's correct Mandarin, but we went with it.  She is eating sunflower seeds, which she loves.

After lunch, the kids went swimming with Eric for an hour while I napped.  XinYi is still refusing to wear a swimsuit.  For dinner, we decided to brave the subway system ... turns out it was super easy to use, and very clean - albeit very crowded.  I preferred it to taxis as the air was cleaner in the subways.

I leave you with some funny signs from the nearby park:

Note the lack of paving near the sign   :)

It was merely mediocre.  Semi clean and bring your own TP and hand soap.

Okay, this one isn't a sign ... but still hilarious.  Contents did not live up to expectations.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Making Puzzle Soup

We had an hour to waste today, so Harmony made puzzle soup and served us all.


Comments welcome.


Because when I think of buying Rice Wine, I think of Mobile Missile Launchers.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Ni hao from Guangzhou!

Yesterday (Sunday) we had an early start to the day and caught a flight from Zhengzhou to Guangzhou.  It was a LONG day for all of us.  From the 5:30 AM wake up, to lots of waiting around in buses and airports and airplanes, we were all shot.

XinYi was super excited about going on the plane (Mandarin word is pronounced fay-jee but with her country bumpkin dialect, she calls it fay-jee-uh).  She did really well except for a freakout about the seat belt.  She kept telling me "Boo chwan" meaning she didn't want to wear it.  She gasped with surprise when the plane went through the clouds and unleashed a stream of Mandarin.  I couldn't follow most of it, but delight was the underlying emotion.
About to board ... she was so excited about the plane ride, that she tried to push her way up the 
stairs instead of waiting in line.  Oh wait, maybe that's just the way the Chinese do queueing!

Our hotel in Guangzhou is very nice (5 star) and thankfully has a swimming pool, since XinYi has turned into a water monster.  It also has a small playground in the courtyard, which is great for letting off steam.  Chinese parks do not have playgrounds as we think of them, so this was a real find and made Medora & Lian sooo happy.  Of course, it doesn't have the same safety standards as the US, so there's exposed rusty sharp metal edges, yikes!  So we have to keep an eye on it pretty closely but it is great to have.  The other nice thing about this hotel is there are 2 humongous parks right next door.

I understand that Guangzhou has had incessant rain for the last 2 weeks, but the weather cleared a few days ago, and we've been lucky to have good weather so far.  I'm hoping it lasts ... I can't imagine trying to entertain XinYi if we couldn't be outside!!!!

Anyhow, Sunday evening, Eric took the girls swimming in the dark ... everyone thought that was a blast.  The pool is outdoors, but is fairly warm.  It isn't super shallow - 3.5 feet at the shallowest.  I wasn't sure how XinYi would feel about that, but she's totally fine with it.  She also loves the fact that planes fly overhead once every 10 minutes or so ... and everything comes to a stop while she points and shouts "fay jee uh!  fay jee uh!"  One of the hotel employees stopped by to ask us about the family and XinYi chattered her ear off.  The worker said that XinYi's accent is so thick that she can only get about 60% of what she's saying.  That makes me feel better!

Post swimming - playing with Polly Pockets before bedtime

Monday (today) was the dreaded medical exam day.  We knew this was going to be trouble, as XinYi is super sensitive to the remote possibilities of doctors and shots.  At the passport photo office, she started crying and saying "Not want shots".  Ditto at the security line to get on the plane to Guangzhou.   Then add the US government requirement that all immigrants above the age of 2 to have a Tuberculosis blood test.  This was gonna be ugly.  We have two guides with us, but there were 13 families going to the medical exam ... so there wouldn't be an option to have a guide explain every step of it to XinYi.  Eric had the brilliant idea to ask if we could hire a personal guide for the morning, and it was only going to be $50-65 to have someone accompany us personally on the bus and through the medical exam.  Sold!  When we met our guide this morning, we were so happy to see that it was Jason - who had helped us in Guangzhou when we adopted Lian!  He is a super nice guy and he was so good with XinYi.

Jason sat with XinYi and me on the bus ride to the medical clinic, and he chatted her up to break the ice.  She knew something bad was going down, and wasn't her normal chatty self, but she did open up at last and told him all about the plane ride - how she climbed stairs to get on the plane, how the plane went up, the clouds, what she ate, and so on.  Then she told him all about the wonderful swimming pool and how she went swimming with Baba and the big sisters.

I had brought topical Lidocaine, so we applied that to her elbows, wrists, and ankles - anywhere Jason thought they might try for the blood draw.  I wanted to make this as easy as possible for her.

There were 5 stations to go through for the medical exam - first, a photo for the US visa, then an ENT station, a general health station, a height/weight station, and finally the dreaded blood draw.  She wasn't happy about the overall scene, but it really helped having Jason there to talk her through it.  She knew what was happening - the four stations then the blood draw.  When they used an ear thermometer on her, she started crying and babbling in Mandarin, so Jason spoke with her at length.  Jason said she thought they were giving her a shot in her ear, poor kiddo!

Convincing XinYi to let the doctor put a tongue depressor in her mouth - she thought it was a shot.

At the general health station, we had a long wait while the doctor read all of her medical reports, and she was convinced the shots were coming, so Jason calmed her by singing familiar children's songs to her.  Then - surprise - at the blood draw, we weren't allowed to go in!  They took her away from us and behind a curtain.  Jason again stepped in and explained what was going to happen and that we would be right there waiting for her when she was done.  The nurses said that she didn't cry for the actual needle stick, so hopefully the topical lidocaine helped.  Jason had arranged that XinYi would go first of the 13 kids in our group, then we went walking around outside while the others had their turn.  I'm so glad we spent the money to have Jason help us.  On the bus ride home, XinYi invited Jason to go swimming with us.  :)
Smugness after the medical exam, while we were walking around outside waiting for the others.  
She was quite proud of the bandaid on her arm.

After returning from the medical exam, we had lunch at the McDonald's next door to the hotel.  They had happy meals, so all three kids were excited about that.  The choices were hamburger/cheeseburger/nuggets, and french fries or corn.  Xin Yi and Medora chose the corn.  Xin Yi didn't want the bun on her cheeseburger, and also didn't like the cheese.  So we scraped off the cheese and tore the burger into bite size pieces.  The hamburger pieces she happily put into the corn, dumped a packet of ketchup on top, and went to town.

After McDonald's, we went swimming - XinYi was sooooo excited about this.  She still won't wear a swimsuit, but we have convinced her to strip down to her undies at least.  Today she started floating using a swim ring without us supporting her.  She's also starting to paddle her arms and legs while she's in it, like she sees Medora & Lian swimming.  She tried goggles for the first time today, but only after ascertaining there would be no head in the water.   After an hour, she was still raring to go, and we had to drag her out of the pool... and that is how a water monster is born.

This one just cracks me up - soggy undies and goggles around the neck.
Medora & Lian are doing gymnastics conditioning moves.

She was so taken with the goggles that she wore them to dinner  ... and then to bed.  We did remove them once she was asleep.  :)

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Water monster

Today was our last day in Zhengzhou.  Another warm, sunny day so we headed to another park named Bishigang.  Because it was a weekend day, there were special vendors/activities set up.  Right next to the ballroom dancing area was an area for kids to do painting - for $2.50, you could buy a picture to paint (the design was printed in black velvet) including a little paint set.  Harmony hasn't shown much interest in arts & crafts yet, but Medora & Lian were very interested, so we got each girl a painting set.  Turns out they all had a great time and spent at least an hour and a quarter painting.

After painting, we bought a small packet of fish food (It is so much fun to try out my mandarin ... I was able to successfully ask people where to buy fish food!) and fed the koi.  Then we headed out of the park for lunch.  This sounds easy enough, but there are only three gates to exit this very large park.  So it took us a while to find a gate, then we had to go up and over a pedestrian overpass, navigating vendors selling everything from wallets to toys to live chicks.  The other side had a super cool open air food vendor market, but we decided that buying street meat was probably not wise.  The only close restuarant we could see was Dico's.  Clearly a chain but we were all hungry so we went in.  Turns out it is a Chinese version of a KFC crossed with McDonalds and its own unique teriyaki/curry flavors.  Yi wasn't a fan of the chicken options (teriyaki dark meat) nor did she like french fries.  But the girl discovered ketchup.  Yep, she ate ketchup for lunch.  Talk about a cheap meal ... feeding your child freebie packets of ketchup.  :)  At first, she was scooping the ketchup up with a french fry and then licking it off the fry (she's not a fan of the french fry ... yet).  Then we got her a spoon and she went to town.  Oh yes, and she got her own Coke.  She's a big fan of Coke and ketchup!

Apres lunch, we headed back into the park for some amusement park rides, ice cream, and blowing bubbles.

After the park, we went swimming in the hotel.  It has a unique feature which they call a whirlpool but by our standards is a kiddie pool - maybe 18" deep and bathtub warm (not hot tub warm, no jets, and no seats).  The first time we went swimming, Yi wouldn't go in the door of the aquatic area.  The second time, she would go near it but not in it and remained fully dressed.  Today, she refused the swim suit again and so went to the pool wearing jeans, a t-shirt and her beloved flower tunic.  She was having a good time horsing around the edge of the pool, even reaching over to splash us with her hand.  But she was NOT going to join us in the pool, or even dangle her legs over the edge.  Then she had a meltdown about sharing a toy with another kiddo, and while I was comforting her, I dipped her bare feet in the whirlpool as a distraction.  It worked ... and pretty soon she was splashing Eric with her legs while I held her on the edge.  That lasted about a minute and then she wanted off my lap and into the water ... still wearing her full outfit.  I figured it was already soaked, and if it made her more comfortable, why not?!?  Once she was in she had a great time.  She asked to take off the pants and tunic after a little bit, so she was romping around in her t-shirt and undies, having a grand time.  She even put her face in the water a few times, and poured water over her head.  She went from adamantly refusing to enter the pool to splashing like a crazy lady within about 3 minutes.  She had so much fun she didn't want to leave to go get dinner.  This is the Food Vacuum turning down dinner to stay in the pool!

Yi was definitely easier to deal with today, PHEW!  Sometimes things didn't go her way (e.g., the amusement park ride stopped and we had to get off) but she was able to roll with it much better today.  We had two meltdowns (see above) but they were fairly short in duration.  I'm hoping we've turned a corner!

That's all for now ... we have to be up early for the flight to Guangzhou.  Wish us luck on the 2.5 hour flight!!!!