Saturday, April 3, 2010

The trip home

April 2, 2010
The trip home. Boy, am I tired! We are in the Newark Airport, waiting for our 3rd and final flight home. With all the airport time and layovers, the total travel time (from when we left the hotel) will be 30 hours!! When we arrived at the airport in Guangzhou, we found out that our flight to Guangzhou had been canceled, or perhaps rescheduled. It's funny because as we left the hotel I asked the guide if she double checked the flights on the internet early in the morning. I always do a quick check the morning of departure, just to avoid last minute snafus. She looked at me as if I was crazy, and I let it go without further comment. In Beijing, I had to insist that the guide pick us up for the airport 30 minutes before he wanted to,and that took some persuading on my part.I absolutely want to get to the airport 2 hours before a flight, and everyone else thinks I'm nuts. Well, the guide in Guangzhou was absolutely frantic when she realized that we had missed our flight! There was a whole ton of running around (on a golf-cart!) and a frenzy of activity and phone calls. It was a bit chaotic and sticky in the airport for awhile. In fact, at some points we weren't certain that we would make our connecting flight in Beijing to fly to the USA. We waited in several lines, changed our tickets several times,and took the bus to another terminal to wait for the next flight. Finally, everything fell into place and we were able to get on a flight that would connect on time to get us to NYC. It was rough overall. Actually the day didn’t start out on the right foot either. I checked out of the hotel at 7am, and discovered that John made 57 phone calls (over 4,400 Rmb, or nearly $700) to his friends. Actually, the first 20 or so calls were just trying to figure out how to make the call back to Beijing, but the hotel still bills a minimum charge every time an outgoing call is dialed. Honestly, we spent a ton of money to adopt, and I wasn't planning on a $700 phone bill. Naturally, I flipped out on him, right in the restaurant over breakfast. He KNEW that he wasn’t supposed to use the phone, and so he was making the calls from the bathroom. Dummy me, not thinking of telling the front desk to block all outgoing calls. I should’ve seen that one coming-- especially after John asked our guide to ask us if he could call his friends back home, and we answered "No." So our very long day began with me losing my temper, and John crying. In fact, once he started crying, it took awhile for him to stop. He clearly didn’t want to leave China and all his friends, and he wasn’t happy about the situation one little bit. Our guide showed up in the middle of this crisis, and she spent awhile trying to talk to John too. He admitted to her that he knew he wasn’t supposed to use the phone, and he called secretively, etc. Our guide told John that he might not understand everything now, but he needed to respect and obey us. After all that, our guide told me it was a communication issue, and that once John knew English we wouldn’t have these problems. I assured her that we would indeed have these same problems in the future. Every parent has these types of rebellions and communications problems when it comes to teens! It’s a given. We don’t like it; it upsets us; it makes us yell sometimes. But all of this is normal in a family. Normal, happy families have trouble communicating sometimes; it is reality. So, no, I don’t feel any regret adopting John. We just know that it’s growing pains, and adjusting, and that things will work out in time. Austin might be a great big help too, since John finds Connor too young, and Austin can be the role model that John needs. Back to the actual trip home: the boys all watched video games and TV for the first five hours, and then slept for at least seven hours. Then there was breakfast and more TV and games; it was all kid heaven. We couldn’t have asked for more. The kids actually traveled better than we did. David and I had stomach issues during the flight, and honestly, we did not have a great trip. The children were just amazing, and I mean absolutely amazing. 30 hours later, we finally arrived home, safe and sound. Linda and Victor (and Dan) were there to meet us, and they brought stuffed animals for the kids. Ben was thrilled with his monkey, and John rolled his eyes at the Panda (and immediately passed it off to Ben).Point taken. We collected the luggage, and drove home around 11:30pm. The kids gave the boys a quick tour of the house, and by midnight we had everyone tucked into bed. David and I were still not feeling well (and we're shocked the kids were not affected)and we stumbled into bed about 1am. Of course, I was up for the day at 3:45am., after Ben called for Ba (Dad) to take him to the bathroom. But that is the next blog, since it is now the next day.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

April 1st, 2010

Today we went to the Guangzhou Zoo with the kids. The weather was hot, and it was not too far from the hotel. We took a taxi there, and the taxi was only 11 Yuan (which is less than $2.00). We have found that things are inexpensive here, with the exception of wine, which costs triple U.S. prices. The admission for all five us at the Zoo was 60 Yuan, or less than $10 total. The zoo was larger than we expected and much cleaner and nicer. The only disappointment is that the panda cage was undergoing renovations, and the pandas must have been moved to another zoo during construction. Darn; we are in China, home of the pandas, and we didn’t get to see them. Overall, though, we had a great morning. I took over 150 photos, and most of them were of the kids. I even took photos of a school group that was visiting the zoo. The school must have been a special “English School” because the Chinese teachers (and one American college-aged kid) were trying to get the children to say things in English. For example, I was standing nearby with a camera, and the teacher told the students, in English, “Say hi to Auntie.” And then all the children (maybe 5 years old) said, “Hi, Auntie!” to me. I responded, “Hello.” The American student-teacher was playing “Straw, straw, straw, Go!” with the children. Notice, he used the word “Go”, and not "shoot," as they would use in the U.S. It must be a weapon thing. Anyway, the kids were all very cute. The school children were dressed in several layers of clothing, which is typical of children in China. For some reason, it is customary here to bundle children up, no matter what the weather. It was 81 degrees, and the kids had on t-shirts, long sleeved-shirts, and then sweater vests on top. Tucked into the back of their outfits, by the back of the children’s necks, they had bibs draped. Basically, it looked like a there was a big rag, tucked into their clothes to absorb the dripping sweat! We did reach one important milestone today at the zoo; Ben told Connor, in Chinese, that he loved him. It was when Connor was carrying him piggy-back through the zoo. As I mentioned before, Ben often asks to be carried now. This is quite a change from when we first met Ben. The first few days we would pick him up to go down the long flights of stairs (down to the subway) and he acted like he just hated to be carried. He held himself stiffly and struggled to get down. He can’t yet alternate his feet when walking downstairs, so in Beijing we carried him downstairs and through the city crowds, despite his protestations. Now, he often asks to be carried; or at the very least he will come up and take one of our hands. He also will now walk around without shoes sometimes. The first week, both Ben and John insisted on wearing shoes 100% of the time; they wouldn’t even go to the bathroom in the middle of the night without putting on their shoes first. Another difference we have noticed is that now Ben will physically go after Connor sometimes. It’s hysterical to watch. We can’t help but crack up when we see this tiny little guy hurl himself at Connor, fists flailing, yelling at Connor in Chinese, when he doesn't get his own way. Connor and Ben are already very close and it’s gratifying to see. John stands separate and just rolls his eyes. He’s a typical teenager. We gave our guide the list of things Connor wanted to see in Guangzhou, and asked her to ask John which of these sights he would like to visit. Of course, he wasn’t interested in seeing anything. He wanted to go swim in the pool, and that is not an option because it doesn’t open for another few weeks. The zoo received a resounding "No" from John, but since there wasn’t anything else he wanted to do, we decided to go anyway. We knew Ben would enjoy the zoo. After the zoo, we sat around the hotel room waiting for our guide to bring us the boys’ passports with their visas stamped. Tomorrow evening, we have to go through the “non-resident” line at the airport in New York, and then apply for U.S. passports for them later. We are thrilled to be finally going home, but I’ll bet the boys are extremely nervous. I can’t imagine how scary it must be to know that you are leaving your country forever, to live with a foreign family. Our guide brought us the boys’ passports at 4p, with the IH-3 visa inside. We found out that the US Consulate has issued well over 100,000 (wow!!) visas to Chinese children adopted by US citizens since the late 1980’s. Holy Cow!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

March 31st

March 31, 2010
As you can tell from Connor’s blog, we’ve had about enough time together in close quarters. The kids are bickering, and I’m heartily sick of the TV. We rarely watch TV at home, and we don’t even have cable; here both TVs are on constantly. This is the longest we’ve ever been away from home, and we miss our dogs and Austin too. The only one who still seems happy- go -lucky is Ben. He entertains himself most of the time, and he finds humor in everything. I awoke this morning to the sound of Ben laughing hysterically. What a cutie. Connor told our guide yesterday that although Ben wakes him up during the night, he doesn’t mind because Ben is so cute. The other night, Ben woke up and yelled at the top of his lungs, “Ba? Ba!” He was calling in Chinese for Dad. He sleeps in the living area of the suite, (there is only a sliding door separating our bed from his), but since he couldn’t see David immediately upon waking, he was upset. He has obviously bonded with his dad already. John is still not certain of his place, I think. As Connor said in his blog, he seems to be battling for a position in the family hierarchy. And just so you didn’t misunderstand Connor, I did say that Connor can defend himself if necessary, but I am not encouraging the boys to duke it out. For instance, this morning John supposedly “flipped off” Connor. I told Connor that he shouldn’t be a tattletale, but he also shouldn’t accept any bullying from John; basically, Connor needs to treat John as he would Austin. I asked Connor to think about how he would react if Austin acted like John (which he does sometimes!). Connor told me that he will give it more thought. Remember, this is the son who wants to be a priest, and he is struggling with how to deal with a new older brother who isn’t nice sometimes. I think the best thing I can do is back off and let the boys work it out. I did remind Connor that John lived in an orphanage of 200+ children. He might need to be taught how to relate to other people in a constructive manner. What I actually said is, “Can you imagine the power struggles when 200 children are struggling just to survive? Would you want to live there?” Again, Connor told me he will give it more thought, and since our talk this morning, things HAVE improved. Ben’s needs are so simple compared to John’s. But he is trying to adjust. For instance, he teases me every time we pass McDonalds. He says, in Chinese, let’s go to McDonalds—and then I make the noise of vomiting. It’s a joke (as lame as it is) that we share. It’s a start anyway. And he obviously adores Ben, as do we all. He watches out for him (and Connor too sometimes) when we least expect it. Yes, it might be a challenge, but we know John will be O.K. in time.
On another note, last night, we went on a Pearl River cruise. The weather was nice and balmy, and it was a lovely outing. We went with the other couple I mentioned previously, and our guide. I took 107 photos, and the kids ran around the boat and danced to Ricky Martin music. I invited John up to the open deck alone, before dinner, just to carve out some one-on-one time with him. He seemed to be excited to be on a boat. We spend so much time doting on Ben; I don’t want John to feel like he’s not important too. After the cruise, there was a man on the sidewalk with a trained monkey. I took a photo of the monkey, and, of course, the guy then demanded money. David gave him some change, but the man was angry because it wasn’t enough. It was funny, really. For the most part, we feel that we are just in a holding pattern, waiting for the trip to be over. Our guide wants us to tour around Guangzhou, and we just aren’t in the mood to sight-see. To us, Guangzhou is just another big city. It’s not any more ancient or Asian feeling than Beijing. Most people who adopt, do so from a rural, poor, village. They visit the rice paddies and farms that we didn’t get to see on this trip. We decided to adopt from Beijing because our pediatrician told us that the children from Beijing have the best medical care and educational opportunities. Although this is probably true, I sometimes envy the other families who were able to see the “real” China during their adoption trip. On the other hand, I am also happy we stayed in five-star hotels the entire trip!!! And tomorrow, the pool might be open!

Connor's post, March 31st

March 31, 2010 by Connor
John and I are not getting along all that well. He slept in until 9, and when I woke him up, he was really mad at me. All I can say is that when he gets to America, he has to wake up at 6 everyday, and that is going to be a rude awakening. John was also being a jerk when we went to the roller-skating rink. John is better than me, so he kept on coming up to me a pushing me over and laughing. Then, when he fell, I laughed at him and I got in trouble. The world is a stupid place…
The Pearl River Cruise (March 30, 2010)
At 5:25 pm, my family, and the Turner family (another family adopting a baby) left to go on a Pearl River Cruise. It was fun. There was a buffet going the whole time, and I was never hungry. It was cool to go on the top of the boat and see the Pearl River lit up. I had a good time. Bye!
March 31, 2010 (again)
Today we woke up at 8 (John woke up at 9) and watched cartoons. We then went to the breakfast. The buffet was nothing special, and at 10:30 we went over to the health club to play tennis. The health club manages the entire hotel athletics program. After playing tennis for about an hour, we went back to the room. And here I am now, typing this blog…
Back to tennis (and John)…
I am probably the best person at tennis in this family. Dad is OKAY and John hits the ball to hard and it goes out of bounds. I think John fights with me because he is the “Gege” (older brother in Chinese), and should be the “dominate” one. But since I am stronger than him, he feels it is necessary to insult me to prove that he is the older one. Mom says that I should not put up to this, and I do have the right to “Defend” myself when necessary. But she will not constantly referee our fighting, she said. We need to work it out ourselves. Maybe I should show him that I am not going to be pushed around. I guess I will think about it…

swearing in ceremony

This afternoon we went to the American consulate to do the “swearing in” ceremony. This is merely a formality, since the adoption is actually already (technically) ,legal in China. However, at the American Consulate all the families (over 300 per week!!) swear an oath that they told the truth on the adoption paperwork, and they promise that will be good parents to the children that they adopted. It was quick, but a little emotional too, at least for me. I actually teared up a bit. It is the final step in the adoption process, and finally we are done! Really, 100% done--finished. Unless, of course, we decide we want to re-adopt the boys in the US. But that is another whole story, and we don’t need to worry about that now. So, back to the beginning of our day today; we left the hotel at 2:30pm for the oath (I was quite happy to go there, because really, I just couldn’t stand not even one more minute of TV) to drive to the consulate with our guide. She left us there while she went to go pick up the Visa packet for the other family; we hung out in a waiting room, until they called our name to sign some documents. While we were there waiting, I noticed a boy approximately Ben’s age. I struck up a conversation with his parents, and, amazingly enough, they are from Syracuse. They just adopted a boy that was only a year younger than Ben!! They also have a 15, 13 and 11 year olds at home! Our new sons played with the toys, and the adoptive mother and I just hit it off and talked and talked and talked. They are Christians too, and our reasons for adopting seem to be similar. She even graduated from SUNY Geneseo, and she knew our area well. Of course, she blogs too, and she thinks she might have actually read our blog! She follows a blog from a Geneseo soon-to-be adoptive family, but she’s not sure if it’s ours or not. How many Geneseo adoptive blogs can there be? She will look up the link when she gets home, and send it to me (if it’s not actually us). Anyway, I as usual, I pause to wonder why I am always amazed at how things work out. We decided (and you need to realize, we only chatted for less than 30 min) that we would meet this summer at Letchworth Park. Honestly, it was that quick. We just knew we each had met someone of kindred spirit, and yes, I again stop to wonder why I am continually amazed at how things work. At the risk of boring many of our blog followers, I will say, on record, that God works in mysterious ways. After all that emotional experience, we had a simple dinner at the hotel, and then, out of the blue, Cheng’s parents called us at the hotel. It was almost a tearful reunion. They miss us all so much, and of course we (and our children)miss them. She spoke to each one of the kids on the phone, and they were so happy to hear from here! And, although we don’t speak the same language, Cheng’s mom told Connor she will see him again soon in America. Hmm. It looks like we might have Chinese family visiting soon!!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Connor's post

Hey, this is Connor again! Yesterday, we had the whole day to ourselves. Well, the whole day except for the first half. But we went shopping at the Guangzhou market, and that isn’t boring like going to the hospital or offices. So, I still consider the two hours spent at the Guangzhou market to be leisure. I cannot believe that we spent half of the day at Guangzhou market, and only bought a cheap drum rattle thing. There was nothing I was really interested in buying, except for a sweet knife that the ancient Chinese warriors used. Of course, mom wouldn’t let me buy it. It’s not like I’ll go around injuring people. Well, I know that I can’t get everything I want.
When we were browsing in the Guangzhou market, there were a number of animals in cages that you could buy as a pet. My family passed a cage with three little puppies in it. There was a golden retriever ( just like Maggie when she was a puppy) and two huskies. They were so cute we couldn’t help but pet them, even though mom said they might not have shots. A few days ago, we were walking from a restaurant, and we saw a golden retriever on the corner that looked Just like Maggie and Luke! I really miss them. They are such good dogs! Anyway, that was fun. Too bad I didn’t really get to buy anything.
After shopping, we went to a roller-skating rink we saw in the park. I forgot how hard it was to skate. I haven’t skated in a long time, plus they were the type with 4 wheel arranged in a square. I have never used those kind before. I fell an awful lot, and my knee kills from falling. Well, that’s about it for yesterday. I have to go now, and I will probably write more later. See ya!

I am back from breakfast! We just went down to the buffet on floor #1. I was talking to Ben about the dogs. I said in Chinese, I love dogs, do you? And he answered I also love dogs. Ben keeps calling me Counner (Connor). He is so cute. I love him!

Monday, March 29, 2010

March 29th, 2010

In the morning yesterday, we went shopping in China. No, not Prada, Gucci or designer clothes; although the city is absolutely teaming with designer labels. It would be a fashionista’s paradise. Instead, we went to a Qinqping market and Shanxiajui pedestrian street. Qingping market is where local Chinese people buy herbs, spices, roots, dried lizards, and snake skins. It was quite interesting to see. We did not go to the part of the market where they sell the meat (live animals for butchering) though. We did pass through the pet-store area too. Then we headed to the wholesale jade market, and the wholesale pearl market. What an amazing sight! Floors and floors of jewels, piled high. Businesses come to Guangzhou to buy jewels in bulk. The only thing we ended up buying was a noise-maker toy for Ben. As you know by now, I’m not a shopper, and have no interest in buying jewelry. It was fun to see, though, for a few minutes. We returned to the hotel by 1pm, and sat in the lobby with the kids eating ice-cream. After a nap, at 4p we took the boys roller-skating at the park that is 15 min. walk from the hotel. Our guide showed us how to get there the other day. I rented a pair of skates too, and I was surprised that I remembered how to skate pretty well. David chased Ben around, since he is too little for skates at this particular park. John knew how to skate already, and Connor figured it out fairly quickly. I did feel sorry for Connor though, because John kept laughing at him whenever he fell. I hope he’s not going to be a mean big-brother to Connor. Austin picks on Connor enough. I was hoping John would be kind. David tells me that is just how brothers are; I shouldn’t intercede unless someone is going to get hurt. So far, we all baby Ben. He is quite small, and we all treat him as if he is 3 or 4 years old. Ben even asks to be carried everywhere. David puts him on his back usually, and people stare at us as we walk around the city. Our guide asked us if we wanted to go on another city tour today, with a stop at another park. I thought it was better than sitting around the hotel room, but during dinner last night (Italian food) both Connor and John said that they didn’t want to go anywhere. Both boys just want to sleep in and be lazy in the morning. Yes, they are bored, but they also don’t want to be shuffled out the door every morning. It’s almost 9am now and both John and David are still sleeping!! I’m wondering if John is up during the night. I always hear Ben when he awakens, but I haven’t heard John wander around at all. However, this morning my computer was again set on the Chinese language. I’m going to have to make it time-out and request a password. Our guide told me that John has a QQ account (or whatever it’s called) and he wants to talk to his friends online. Of course he misses his friends, but chatting with them online in secret at night is not be the best way for him to adjust. At home, we don’t let the children use the computer unless it’s for homework, and our internet is limited anyway. I guess I have to diligently monitor the internet for awhile.