Hello one last time!
We just returned home this evening, and since I never was able to get my laptop connected to the internet again, I thought I'd just send off this last email from home anyway. I've also added one last page of pictures to the web site. www.precario.com/annaemma/china.htm. Here's what we've been up to:
Tuesday, September 23, 2003
This morning we had to meet Michele at 8:00 to drive over and pick up Anna and Emma's passports. The four big kids stayed at the hotel and we got back just in time to have our last awesome breakfast at the Gloria Plaza Hotel! We went up to our rooms after breakfast and packed our suitcases. There was still time for one last round of ping-pong for Scott and the big kids, while Anna and Emma took a nap. At last it was time for what we had been dreading - saying goodbye to Michele. We met her in the lobby at 3:30 and gave her a few gifts we had brought, and then we all got in the van headed for the airport. Michele held Anna all the way there, and we talked about our hopes that we can meet up again sometime. Michele is a journalism graduate student, and would like very much to study in the U.S. if possible and we would like to bring the girls back to China to visit someday. So you never know!
When we arrived at the airport we found out that our flight had been delayed by 50 minutes. Evidently some "very important people" had just traveled through the airport and that had delayed all departures! Oh well! Michele stayed with us until it was time for us to go through security, where we hugged and said our final farewell. It was on to Guangzhou, where the U.S. Consulate is. This was Anna and Emma's first flight and they did great! Fortunately it was only an hour flight, and the girls never cried or fussed. They were very content to eat their Cheerios, drink their juice, and climb on Alex! It was a little confusing when we landed in Guangzhou, because it was more of an airstrip than an airport. At least that's the way it appeared at night. We climbed off of the plane onto the runway and just sort of stood there trying to figure out what we were supposed to do. There was no apparent airport nearby, and people were getting onto various busses and vans right on the runway. Fortunately we made the right choice and boarded the bus that the most people were getting on. The bus seemed to drive forever, and I was getting a little nervous that maybe the bus was going right into town and we'd never see our luggage again. At last though, there was indeed a building that we pulled up to and there was our luggage! Our new guide, Daniel, met us just past the baggage carousal and led us on a very long walk to another van which eventually took us to the long awaited for White Swan Hotel!
We had heard so much about the White Swan because all Americans adopting from China must go to Guangzhou, and they all stay at the White Swan Hotel. The U.S. Consulate is right down the block from the hotel, and that is where you must go to get the babies' visas. It's an absolutely beautiful hotel, by far the nicest we've ever stayed in. We checked in at around 8:45, went up to our rooms to drop our stuff off, and Scott and I had to run back downstairs to meet with Daniel to go over all of our paperwork for the following morning. Yikes! What a job that was! There are about twelve different documents necessary to obtain their visas, and each one must be filled out perfectly! Most of them had been filled out prior to our trip, but there were a few things that still needed to be filled in, and everything had to be put in a specified order. This whole process took about an hour. So, it was at least 10:00 by the time we got back upstairs, grabbed all the kids, and headed to the coffee shop for dinner. We should have skipped it and just bought some snacks because everyone was so tired, but hunger prevailed! Anna and Emma fell asleep at the table, so that was interesting eating with sleeping babies on our laps. We finally dragged ourselves upstairs and just about passed out.
Wednesday, September 24, 2003
After such a long night, we had to be up at 5:30 this morning to be able to eat breakfast before meeting Daniel at 8:00 to take the babies for their visa physicals. Bill, Alex, Katie and Rianne ate breakfast with us, but then they stayed at the hotel, while Scott, Anna, Emma and I went with Daniel and another man and daughter from Bethany Christian Services. We first walked across the street to a little photo shop where the three girls had their visa photos taken. (Very cute I might add!) When that was finished we walked about five blocks to the medical building so the girls could get their visa physicals. What an interesting experience that was! This place was packed! I'd say there were about thirty couples in there, almost all with crying babies. First a lady took Anna and Emma and weighed them. Then we waited in line for about twenty minutes to see a doctor who measured them and listened to their hearts. Then we waited a few more minutes to see another doctor who checked their vision, hearing and their throats. She said that Anna and Emma had sore throats, which was news to us! They sure don't act like it! The potential was there for this to be a miserable experience, but Anna and Emma were real troopers and didn't cry at all. It was actually sort of exciting to be there after hearing so much about this process for so many months. It's still so unbelievable that this is happening to us!
As soon as we were finished in the medical office, Daniel dropped all of our documents and visa fees off wherever it was they needed to be dropped off, and we were able to walk back to the hotel. Daniel told us to reconfirm our flight to Hong Kong for tomorrow, and our flight home for Saturday, so we did that as soon as we got back to the hotel. One of us had to stay in the hotel room then, until Daniel came to tell us if our documents were okay, and tell us what time we could go to the Consulate to take the oath for American citizenship. We decided that Scott would stay in the room with Anna, Emma and Rianne (who wanted to take a bubble bath!), and I would take Bill, Alex and Katie out to look around town and do a little shopping. I was having a great time, because I found all the places I had heard about or read about on the internet. We found Lucy's (an American restaurant!), Jennifer's (a very helpful store that has pretty much anything you might need), and The Shop on the Stairs (literally a souvenir shop built right into a stairway), and the Seven-Eleven Store (no description necessary!). All of these, and many other little shops are within about three blocks of the hotel. We spent about one-and-a-half hours walking around, and then headed back to the hotel room to check on Scott and girls. When we got back, Anna and Emma were napping, so we decided to let Bill, Alex, Katie and Rianne go swimming.
Evidently our paperwork was fine, because we didn't hear otherwise, and Daniel told us (Scott, Anna, Emma and me) to meet him in the lobby at 1:30. We did so, along with two other Bethany families, and then walked over to the Consulate to take the oath. Again a line to stand in! It took about an hour to wait in line, have our passports checked, go through security, receive back our passport copies, and then at last, take the oath! There were approximately thirty adopting families at the Consulate, and as a group we had to raise our right hands and swear that all the information that we provided was accurate. That was it! It's official - they're American Citizens now!!!!! We proudly carried our two little Chinese-Americans back to the hotel!
Finally, all the work is done! We met up with the rest of our kids and headed out for dinner. First, though, we stopped back at Jennifer's and bought two umbrella strollers. The baby carriers are great (the girls love them!), but our backs are getting very sore! We decided to try Lucy's tonight, which was a great choice! Scott said it was the best cheeseburger he's ever had. I decided to stick with Chinese, and ordered Chinese fried noodles, which were excellent! It felt so good to just sit in air-conditioning and know that all of the paperwork for this journey is finished. We just pick up the visas tomorrow, and the rest of the trip is just having fun! After dinner, we walked around Guangzhou a little bit and showed Scott some of the places we had visited earlier in the day. We finally headed up to bed, but not before stopping in the hotel lobby to take a few pictures. It's such a beautiful hotel. There is a waterfall in the center of the lobby, which runs from the second floor down to the first and has a little pagoda sitting at the top. Great photo background material!
It's been two extremely busy days, and we're beat!
Thursday, September 25
Thank goodness, we didn't need to be up early for anything today! We actually barely made it down in time for breakfast! After breakfast we decided to take a little walk near the medical clinic we were at yesterday. We had seen a park on the way, where there were about 65-75 older women all lined up doing some sort of dance/exercises, which we had heard they do there every day. It was really kind of fun to watch and we wanted the kids to see it. Unfortunately, because it was so late this morning by the time we got there, they were gone. It was still worthwhile though, because we walked around the block and were able to see a little more of the city. The White Swan is actually situated on a small island called Shamian Island, within Guangzhou City, Guangdong Province. The island was under British control until 1949, so it has a very different feel than the rest of China. A lot of the architecture is very much 19th century British, which I happen to like very much! It's a very peaceful little island, with American adopting families everywhere! We met up with two other Bethany families here. One was the couple we had been on the Hutong rickshaw tour with. They're from out east somewhere, and they adopted a 5 ½-year-old little girl named Emily who is blind in one eye. The other couple is from St. Louis, and they adopted a 2 ½-year-old little girl who is deaf. At home they also have a 9-year-old little biological son who is also deaf. They felt that since they were able to handle it so well with their first son, that they should go for it again! The mom, Andrea, gave me two blankets for Anna and Emma which her mom had made. She had sent a bunch of them with Andrea to give to the orphanage and told her to also give a few to families that they met in China. So we were the lucky recipients! They're really quite cute and soft and will always hold a special story for the girls! There was really a feeling of camaraderie here with everyone coming here for the same purpose.
After a quick stop at the Seven-Eleven for some sodas, we went back to the hotel so Anna and Emma could take naps. Rianne and I weren't quite done shopping, so we headed back out for another hour! When we got back to the hotel, it was time to finish packing, check out, and hop on the bus for the airport. After filling out what seemed like a hundred forms, (SARS screening, immigration departure, immigration arrival, etc.) we were finally in Hong Kong! Once again, Anna and Emma were great on the plane. It was only a 35-minute flight, so I'm sure that helped. The hotel we're staying in here is the Regal Airport Hotel. It's connected to the airport, so we didn't need to travel any more to get here. By this time, we were all starving, so we decided to try one of the hotel restaurants. (The cheapest one!) It's a good thing they had a menu posted outside, because one cheeseburger cost thirty American dollars. Yikes! McDonalds was sounding just fine then, so we walked back into the airport and ate there. We had a great time too, because we had ice cream for dessert and I'm sure this was the first time Anna and Emma ever had ice cream. They were a little hesitant at first, and shook their heads no when we offered it to them. With a little prodding though, they both finally tried a bite and of course loved it! Then they were like little birds with their mouths open waiting for more!
After dinner we walked around the airport looking for a store that had diapers and formula, since we're running dangerously low! We managed to find formula, but no diapers. That's definitely first on the agenda for tomorrow morning! At last we dragged ourselves up to our rooms to go to bed. Everyone else is asleep right now, and I am on my way! I'm so tired I can't type anymore and tomorrow is our marathon "see everything in Hong Kong in one day" day, so I better get to bed!
Friday, September 26
This morning we got up and hit the bricks running! We had one day to see as much of Hong Kong as we could, and we pretty much covered it! It took about 25 minutes to get to Kowloon on the express train. The first thing we did when we got there was to find the jade market. What an interesting place that was. It was row after row after row of jade vendors, selling just about anything you can imagine made out of jade. We spent about an hour walking through there browsing and shopping. After that, we hopped on the subway and rode over to Hong Kong Island. We wanted to go to Stanley market, so then we had to get on a bus to take us there. Stanley market is a huge marketplace that sells all sorts of stuff. They have clothes, shoes, luggage, souvenirs, artwork, pretty much anything you would ever need or want. Part of the market is outside, and part of it is inside. We had no idea how big it really was until we got way inside and it just kept going and going and going! We spent about two hours there, and then had lunch in this great little restaurant that we found in the market. It was called Pepperonis, and it was so good, we wish there was one back home.
The ride back from Stanley Market was rather interesting. We're pretty sure the bus driver was insane! The roads from the market, back to downtown Hong Kong are very winding and curvy around the mountains. They're also very high, and just past the edge of the road, it drops down several hundred feet in many places. Well, this particular driver must have been in a HUGE hurry because we went flying around all the curves WAY too fast! (I could have sworn we were on only two wheels for some of them!) We were all scared to death, and hanging on for dear life! Fortunately we lived to tell about it, and in spite of the crazy driver, the drive was breathtakingly beautiful. Although I will say, I enjoyed it much more on the way there when we kept all four wheels on the ground!
We got back downtown in one piece, and it was time to take the tram up to Victoria Peak. We could not have planned the timing better if we tried! The tram took us up to the top just before the sun went down, so we could still look out over the harbor and see the mountains and the city clearly from the observation deck. After just a few minutes of that view though, the sun went down, and all the lights of the city came on. I've never been to a city as big and pretty as Hong Kong is. It was incredible! There is one very tall building after another, each with its own very unique design and many of them with pretty unique lighting. My favorite one slowly changed colors, from pink to purple to green to blue, and then back again. We got a bunch of good pictures of the city and the harbor, and then road the tram back down the mountain.
The rest of the time we spent just walking around downtown Hong Kong, and then downtown Kowloon. We walked around until 11:00 at night, and the streets were still packed with people when we left. The express train brought us right back to the airport/hotel and everyone fell into bed exhausted!
Tomorrow we are finally going home! We are all anxious to get home, but it has been a wonderful trip! With all the flights, city changes, hotel changes and the language barrier, and with all the documents and legal work that needed to be done, it is just amazing that everything went so smoothly. There was not one problem this entire trip! Bethany Christian Services has done an awesome job of coordinating everything (thanks Kim and Jacelyn!), and I know that everyone's prayers helped a lot! Thank you! We have been so tremendously blessed with these two little girls, as well as the four big kids and I am so honored to have the privilege of being the mother of these six children. I still cannot believe that this has happened to us! God has always been so good to us, and continues to bless us. Sometimes it is so scary being a parent. There is so much that can go wrong! But God is always faithful, and no matter what happens, eternity promises that for those who will believe, all things will be restored some day! With that promise, there is nothing to fear, and so much to be thankful for!
Thank you everyone for your prayers, and for sharing this journey with us. I hope everyone can meet Anna and Emma real soon!
All because of Jesus,
Terri, Scott, Bill, Alex, Katie, Rianne, Anna and Emma