Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Our Last Post from China

This is what is so cool about China...in the middle of a city of 9 million people...look at this beautiful park!

A beautiful stroll through the park!

From Pete: Well, we are in the final stage here…we are packing for home. Do we want to pack the half bag of gold fish crackers or the half bag of cheerios…hmmm…which weighs more, take which ever is lighter. We bought a ten dollar suit case on the street today just to cart home all the stuff that we “acquired” as we rolled across China…from souvenirs, to a package of jeans to deliver to a Chinese student in Canada, to a box of “dirt and sand” from Quanzhou…sheeesh…

Our final full day in Guangzhou was fun…we spent the morning shopping. It’s a week long holiday here so the “pearl market” (think lots and lots of little jewelry shops) and the “market street” (think outdoor shopping mall) were packed with wall to wall shoppers…it was fun, but very crowded. Some of the day-to-day goods the Chinese buy are pretty darn affordable…like $5 jeans and $7 men’s dress shoes. But, the best part is the people watching! You gotta’ feel a bit sorry for Charlie, being carted along on shopping junket after shopping junket…but he still seems to get a kick out of seeing all the people, experiencing escalator rides, and hopping in and out of the “tour van.”

Shopping on 9th Street...talk about crazy!

Oh, and meet "chicken man"...not sure what he's doing!

After shopping we went to a really nice restaurant our tour guide Connie recommended…it was traditional Cantonese cuisine…we were fortunate to share the lunch with Joe, Jody, Chloe and Caleigh (thanks guys). After lunch Lisa, Charlie and I decided to check out the neighborhood around the restaurant before heading home…we were glad we did, about a block away we entered what we thought was a small park, but it turned out to be a very large park with a beautiful lake in the center…we were the only westerners there and the park was bustling with folks (again, since it was a holiday). The park had beautiful gardens and all the typical dancers, card players, and singers…well not necessarily the typical singers…as we walked through the park we heard this odd singing…kind of a combination of Milton Berle and Ethel Merman…only from an Octagenarian Chineses couple…Karyoke style…really odd. After the park we hopped a cab back for a leisurely afternoon of napping, shopping and an attempt at swimming in the pool…but Charlie will have none of the pool…so we’re not sure if he’ll follow in his older brother and sister’s footsteps as members of the Chase Club Shark’s Swim Team.

Pete and Joe braved eating "fried pidgeon"

But, the best event of the day has been Charlie's bedtime…yes, bedtime…that moment of dread this past week when the tantrum and tears would start at the slightest hint of heading to the crib…well tonight after we did some packing…Charlie walked over to Lisa and basically “asked” to be put to bed…AMAZING…and what a relief…not even a tear…wow…its time to head home.

Some final pictures from China...Don't ya just love it!!

Some Quick Advice on Traveling to China (for Adoptive Parents)...from Pete

Observations and reflections on the TRIP for the families that follow us (take ‘em or leave ‘em):

Do bring a computer w/ you and DO USE SKYPE if you really want to keep in touch with any family left behind in the states…Charlie has talked to AND seen his brothers and sisters multiple times over the past week…and is even pointing at them as they talk “real time” over the video-conference! We did the Skype set up as a last, if we have time thing…and we sure are glad we made the time to do it…actually its been crucial to helping us keep our home sickness at bay.

Pack about 1/3 less clothes than you think you’ll need, and take advantage of the laundry services at your hotel in the province and at the stores in Guangzhou…this will help keep your baggage weight down (which you have to cart all over heck and back) and it will leave more room for that expensive Ming Vase for grandma (this was rhetorical grandma, you’re not getting a Ming Vase…sorry).

HBO in your hotels shows the same three movies over and over…either bring some DVDs or a couple of books…unless you really want to memorize every line from Police Academy 3…which is about as big a blockbuster as China’s HBO seems to air…

Do stay at the White Swan, it’s a nice hotel and its just full of other families to share the fellowship of this adoption journey…BUT be warned…save your money…don’t buy anything there…the place is too expensive for our tastes as far as food and gifts go…take twenty steps out the door and the prices fall dramatically (by half)…and then by half again if you…

…realize that you can get most of the stuff in the gift shops for between 40 and 50 percent less than the initial price they quote you…just be firm and don’t budge off your price and they’ll come around…although it does get a little ridiculous when you realize you spent the last 20 minutes of the negotiation haggling over $1.

Be adventurous as often as you cans as often as you can…experience China…for example…

It’s worth it to go off the beaten path…and even, maybe…just once in a while…without a guide (gasp)! Yes, you can do it…and as long as you have $2 to spare for a cab ride back to the hotel from wherever you got lost to…you’ll be fine. Lisa and I saw some of the most amazing things and we had the most fun…when we were “off the script” so to speak on our own winging it.

Also try the food…and get as exotic as you can…so this might not be for everyone…but I didn’t have any gastronomical issues from the chicken feet, cow’s stomach, giant clam, or pigeon I had on this trip…hey if its good enough for a couple of billion Chinese…for a couple of thousand year’s…it must have something going for it right…just try a little…you might like it, and you’re liable to make your Chinese hosts very happy.

Faith...and the Red Couch

In less than 24 hours we leave for home. This journey has been incredible and our trip has been perfect. Our new son is everything we have prayed for! And, pray, I did! I feel like we took a huge leap of faith in our journey to Charlie. In about 10 months, we became a family of 6! While we had definitely contemplated adoption for a long time, last year at this time I could not have imagined where we'd be today. When we started this process with our agency 10 months ago, we had doubts. But, I kept being pulled in this adoption direction. And, finally, we decided to give way to what we thought God had in store for our family. And, how thankful we are that we did! Look at this amazing child! And, he is ours!

And, here are the "red couch" photos that adoptive families take...just a big, uncomfortable red couch at the White Swan (the couch is as hard as the beds are)...here are Chloe and Charlie, Chloe and her new family (minus a brother and sister at home), and our new family (minus 2 sisters and a brother at home)! Think of how many newly created families have sat on this sofa (including my own sister-in-law)...what a blessing!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Tantrum to Happy in 3 minutes flat!

It's 11 am on Monday. Charlie and I were stuck in the hotel while our guide, Connie, went for our consulate appt. (Pete went to try to find the Toy Market in Guangzhou). It's hard entertaining a 2-year old in a small hotel room. He took a long bath, we played with blocks and he had a snack. Then, he got mad because he wanted to run around with his pants down! I said "no"...I know, mean mommy again. Boy was he mad. I got out the playdough and, boom, new child again! Ahhh...this should be an interesting day!

Cute Animal Videos (Lisa with baby tiger)

Clara, CJ and Amelia! Look at mommy with the tiger!

Many faces of Charlie (and video of him falling asleep)

Guangzhou Safari Park

Charlie on the safari tram

Trying to climb in the monkey exhibit

Just a quick post tonite. It is 7:30 pm on Sunday and Charlie has not napped at all today. We got home from the Safari Park at 2:30 and decided to forgo the nap for an early night sleep. Needless to say, Naughty Charlie is dominant.
Lisa got up and went to the local Chinese Catholic Mass this morning. It was at a small historic church...built in the mid-1850's. There were about 75 Chinese and 2 westerners. I really enjoyed worshipping with the locals. Two differences...no collection of money and no handshake for the sign of peace (just hands together and bow to your neighbors). I was so glad to be in church again and glad to experience it in Chinese!

Then we were off to the Safari park...we took a 30 min tram ride thru a wild animal park (seemed like mostly deer) and then walked for 2 hours thru the zoo with the other CHI family. We enjoyed getting to know them and their girls a little better. The zoo was quite nice (although it was overrun with school children on a field trip). We saw many beautiful animals...white tigers, pandas, elephants, etc. Unlike in the US, you can "feed the animals." You just pay 10-30 yuan (less than 50 cents) for bananas, peanuts, branches. They had many baby animals in incubators and separate areas...adorable tigers, monkeys, etc. AMELIA...you need to see these pictures...your mommy actually got to hold a real, baby white tiger!!

Look Amelia! Mommy holding a baby tiger!

Sweet baby monkey
The children were as interested in us as they were in the animals!

Baby tigers in an incubator

Serious Charlie and his new friend !

We hung out at the hotel and then had dinner at a Cantonese restaurant. The waitresses were all over Charlie. Everywhere we go people point, talk etc at him. I keep saying how we have a really special boy. Pete says they do it to everyone (I'll keep thinking my way). However, how many kids do the waitresses hand feed, wipe their mouths, and give them sips of their drinks? That's what they did tonite.

In for an early, quiet evening. Tomorrow we have to hang out in the room from 10-2 while the guide goes for our consulate appointment. We may have our swearing in ceremony tomorrow since the offices are trying to close early for the National Holiday. Which means we technically could have gone home on Tuesday, but no one knew they'd be doing it this way. That's ok...one more day for shopping!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Video of Charlie's Medical Exam

Charlie getting his ENT exam...what a patient, sweet boy!

Friday, September 26, 2008

We are in Guangzhou!

Our last day in the hotel...this is our fabulous guide (and now friend) Katherine. I miss her already!

It is 1:45 pm on Saturday in Guangzhou. Before we left Fuzhou yesterday, our fabulous guide Katherine had a big surprise for me. I had requested that we get to visit the "beach" while in Quanzhou. However, due to uncertain typhoon weather (and an already full day), we were not able to visit. So, after Katherine picked us up from the hotel to go the airport, she said we would be able to go see the beach in Fuzhou! It is right near the airport so we stopped on our way. Growing up in California, I am definitely beach girl. I have now seen the Taiwan Straight and put my feet in the water! It was warm and the sand very soft. What a gift she gave me! Thank you Katherine!

Kathrine and I on the beach (Taiwan Straight)

It was obviously low tide here...there were tons of teeny, tiny little crabs scurrying about the sand.

Well, after a 2 1/2 hour plane delay last night, we arrived in Guangzhou at 10:45 pm. We arrived at the hotel about midnight! Charlie had his first airplane ride and, even with the delays, he did fabulously! He did not want to buckle his belt, but after showing him how mommy and daddy had to buckle (and the bribe of a lollipop), he let us buckle him in. He fell asleep after the lollipop and woke up when we landed (just over an hour). Whew!

We have already had a full morning here. We met the other family from our agency here. They have adopted a beautiful 4-year old girl and have their other adopted daughter with them (she's 3). They also have 2 children at home...they seem like a warm, loving, Christian family. We are blessed to share this part of the trip with them. While we enjoyed being on our own in Fuzhou, we are now surrounded by many, many adoptive families here. It is comforting in a way. We are staying at the White Swan hotel. It is a lovely hotel and we are lucky to be staying in a 2-room suite on the 27th floor. What a view from here! View from our hotel room...see the river on the left? The hotel is on Shaiman Island.

Charlie had his required passport pictures taken this morning and then his medical exam. The doctor was quite intrigued by his special need (removal of a kidney). He read all the reports (very carefully), discussed some things with our guide Connie (who said he may want x-rays done), and did an exam. I told Connie that we didn't want any tests done...turns out, we didn't have to have it done. However, even after the exam, the doctor came out to find us in the waiting room to see if Charlie was on any medications. Connie said it is a very unusual special need and the doctors were curious about it. We were glad to leave there. Afterward, Pete brought Charlie to the room to nap and I spent about an hour completing the paperwork for our consulate appointment (on Monday).

Outside the passport picture taking office

Medical examination office (very busy and crazy)

Exam by the ENT...yes, he has ears and can hear

Exam by the medical doctor

Wedding photographs being taken (there were about 5 brides with pictures being taken)

Children in school on Saturday. They will get a week off for the National Holiday (starting Monday) so they had to go to school today.

Until next post...

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Last Day in Fuzhou

OK…I realize this is a family blog and everything…but I gotta tell you…last night Lisa and I decided to venture back into the alleyways of Fuzhou to find our Lil’Dumpling Restaurant…for a nice dinner…and I gotta tell you Lisa was HOT…I mean she was H – O – T, HOT…and when we got to the restaurant…it was crowded, with little air conditioning and then she was SMOKIN’ HOT…yup…it was like 94 degrees last night and we decided to push a stroller through the streets of Fuzhou to find the little spot we had lunch at (we obviously liked the place). Well we found it all right…but we are not built for this weather…Lisa almost melted on the way there and then we sat down in a restaurant where the food is all steamed…so the heat from the kitchen is pretty strong. But the food was excellent again…we had noodles, soup, dumplings, and a large beer for about $6…I’m cheap so this was the perfect evening…no taxi fares (we walked), cheap food…perfect. Getting home after dark did not go so perfectly however…now I usually have a pretty good sense of direction and retracing our footsteps would have been easy…but we decided to take a quick detour by HagenDaz to get some ice cream…so this may have thrown my gyro-scope, compass, whatever off a tad…after ice cream started back to the hotel…somewhere along the way we missed a turn…you can imagine the old cliché of the husband and wife, lost, needing directions…

Lisa: “Pete, I don’t recognize this area, are you sure we’re going the right way?”
Pete: (testy voice) Yes, I’m sure this is the right direction, I’ve gotten this far haven’t I?”
(A little later)
Lisa: “Pete, really I think we’re lost…”
Pete: “We are not…I remember this area…there were a bunch of Chinese people here…see they’re all still here…”
(A little later)
Lisa: “Ok, this is crazy we’ve been walking too long this direction…”
Pete: “I remember there was a corner up with a sign in Chinese…see there is a Chinese sign…”
Lisa: “All the signs are in Chinese…we’re lost…”
Pete: “OK…were lost…”

Anyway we reversed direction and found the corner we missed and we made it back… It’s the next day now, and we are finally packing to leave for Guangzhou…and the final leg of our Journey. Both Lisa and I ready to go…not that we don’t like China (we do) but we really like the United States and we miss the rest of the family. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t have made it to this point without the Diet Coke…yup, the Diet Coke…its so hot here and the craving for an icy cold diet coke started to build from the day I landed in Fuzhou…well I couldn’t find it in any of the stores or beverage stands in the city (unlike Beijing which even had Coke Zero!)…anyway…I finally discovered a day ago that they do have it here at the hotel…ahhhhhhhh…I’m now on my 5th or 6th DC and all is right in the world…oh yeah, and Charlie is doing even better…He is actually showing much more of his little personality…actually I’ve identified four distinct little personalities. For starters there is the Charlie we first met…lets call him “Robot Charlie”…he is super calm, almost mechanical…he sits still, eyes the world slowly but won’t make eye contact, moves on command but engages little with Lisa or me, his programming seems to be all about order and possession…he has his space, his toys, and they all have to be lined up precisely in the right order on his spot on the couch…then there is “Happy Go Lucky Charlie,” we’re seeing more and more of this guy. As we told you earlier this guy emerged without warning after our trip to the orphanage…this Charlie will run around babbling in Chinese, slap his Dad’s legs playfully, give double thumbs up signs, and will repeat English words he has heard randomly. This guy is a lot of fun…but this personality is not yet dominant…and easily gives way to the third Charlie…that would be “Little Chairman Naughty Charlie”…this Charlie likes it his way or no way and Lisa and I are clearly here to serve his every whim…he yells at us in Chinese, points at things he wants delivered over to his little “throne” on the couch or worse yet yells at his parents/servants when we are out at restaurants or in public generally…this Charlie will refuse to eat or demand more food all within milli-seconds…occasionally he will slip into his final personality “Mean Ultimate Fighting Champ” Charlie…this guy emerges only at nap time and bed time…the lights are turned low, he sees me closing the drapes or moving him toward the crib…then the eyes narrow (I swear they glow a little red back there…) and you can hear the theme from Kung Fu somewhere in the background…first the wailing starts then the crying and then its all kung fu kicks and flaying arms until sleep finally overtakes him…as he fades into sleep, I’m pretty sure that “Happy Go Lucky Charlie” is in there somewhere, because his final word before a long sigh is… “Ma Ma.”

Anyway today we took a final tour of the park with a combination of “Happy Charlie” and “Chairman Naughty Charlie.” If I have not said this before…its hot here…oh, yeah it’s the underlying theme of all my posts…but anyway we walked around the island parks (in the lake)…it was a lot of fun…and again we were subject to a lot staring…this time a couple of people even braved taking pictures of us…one elderly gentleman pulled us aside and in broken English said: “…he is Chinese…?” We said: “yes”…He said: “And you are…?” We said: “Americans”…He said: “…But he is Chinese???” and then we said: “We are Mama and Baba…” Then he seemed to get it, he smiled, and shook our hands…he walked away… After the park we decided to walk around the neighboring city streets (we had gotten lost in this area the night before, and thought we might fair better in the day light…). About a block in we ran into Katherine (our #1 guide in Fuzhou!!!)…this is kind of funny…to run into your guide on the streets in Fuzhou, I mean really what are the odds…they gotta be pretty astronomical. We chatted a bit then parted ways as we hunted down a little bakery we saw the night before….we found it, ordered some bakery items that looked tasty…they were except for the dried “fish products” in the middle of the rolls…not to our taste, but luckily they were to Charlie’s taste…boy…dinners at the Schmidt house are going to be interesting…some weird kind of fusion of California Organic meets MidWest Meat and Potato meets Chinese.

Well we have to pack for the final run out to the Airport…only an hour left before our ride arrives…we’ll update you all from Guangzhou…see ya.

Drum Mountain and More!

It is Thursday, September 25, 2008 at 3:30 pm. Charlie (and Pete) are napping. First, I will say I think we now have a different child! Did someone flip a switch last night? He woke up happy and chatting. Everyone told me after a few days they become a new person, but I wouldn’t have believed that 2 days ago. He is funny, animated, silly and giggles a lot!! It melts my heart! OK, he’s still absolutely obsessed with order and neatness, but that has to change, doesn’t it?? He has to wipe his face if he gets a drop on it, pick up each and every grain of rice that falls, line his fork and spoon and bowl up just so, etc, etc. I told Pete at least it entertains us!

Katherine (our #1 guide in Fuzhou) took us to Drum Mountain today. It is about 45 minutes up to the middle of the mountain. Up a twisty, windy, Chinese-driver filled road. Talk about barfy! Thank goodness my upset stomach had settled, otherwise I’d have lost it! The temple is incredibly beautiful! Katherine said it is 1500 years old. There are several buildings filled with gigantic Buddha statues with many people praying and monks walking about. And, the view to Fuzhou from up there is breathtaking!! What a lovely morning!

Then, off to Pete’s favorite thing…SHOPPING! We went to get “chops”. They are carved stone stamps with the kid’s names on them. Shhhh…don’t tell them we got them (it’s a secret). Oh yeah, they read this blog. Oh well. Then to the jade store to do some bargain shopping. As a side note (on Charlie)…he had to go pee pee. I took him to the squatty potties and he freaked out! He doesn’t like dirty bathrooms…he refused to go (I don’t blame him).

Katherine asked us if we wanted KFC, Pizza Hut, etc. for lunch. I think that the guides think we Americans live on that stuff. No, I know she is being considerate to us…she wants us to feel comfortable. But, I’ve made myself a promise not to eat any American fast food while we are here. I think I can do it…only 6 more days! Ah, but if we find a Starbuck’s, I think we’d break down and cry! So, we said “NO! fast food.” She ended up taking us to a tiny, little, local dumpling restaurant. We had loads of food (delicious…are you getting the theme of our trip here…FOOD!) and guess how much it cost? For the 5 of us (us and the driver and Katherine)? Less than 10 dollars!! We are going back for dinner.

That’s it for now…sleeping boys will be up soon. Tomorrow evening we leave for Guangzhou…the last leg of our trip before we go home!!