Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Some more pics

Might be the last post for now!  We fly to Hong Kong late tomorrow night and then home to Indy on Thursday!

  Riding the zoo train.



 Alex loves bathtime!
 Lighting incense to call to the Buddha who protects mothers and children at a temple in Guangzhou
 Two of my three boys along the Pearl River in Guangzhou
 Painted porcelain on the roof of an old building in Guangzhou that now houses their art museum
Happy boy!

Play Days

Alex is back to his happy self and we've had a few days in Guangzhou to sightsee while waiting for our visa appointment at the US Consulate, which is this morning (Tuesday). 

Since we've been in Gzhou, we've been with two other families from our adoption agency.  They are wonderful.  One couple is from southeast Michigan.  She teaches first grade and he is a state trooper.  They have a 5-year old son who is traveling with them and is a great kid.  They adopted a 14-month old little girl with a cleft lip and palate.  The other family is a woman traveling with her 5-year old daughter that she adopted from China two and a half years ago.  She adopted a 4 year old little girl this trip.  The sisters are precious and this woman is a rock star for traveling by herself for the last 2 weeks.  It's really nice to have their companionship.

On Sunday, we went to the Chimelong Safari Park.  Knowing how awful Chinese zoos treat their animals, we were a bit hesitant until we read some positive reviews.  So, off we went, and it was pretty incredible.

Alex was a bit unimpressed, but Nick and I loved it.  The first section was an open area with several animals (non-carnivorous ones) roaming freely.  Our train had to stop several times to allow an emu or water buffalo to cross our path.  They had an amazing tiger exhibit, including the largest group of white tigers anywhere. Nick was able to feed some white tigers by throwing them chicken pieces.  The tiger center was amazing.  They have a breeding facility and we saw several cubs playing together as well as babies so new that they were still in incubators.

My favorite part was the koalas.  I've never seen one in person.  We even got to pet one (photos to come, we ran out of space on the camera so one of the other families took pics for us).  They also had a great panda exhibit and lots of babies.  The other highlight was feeding giraffes leaves, even Alex did it.

Yesterday, we were on a guided tour of Gzhou to some traditional sights that our guide recommended - a temple, a beautiful old building that they've turned into an art museum and their pearl market (which was a huge bust).  We've also spent some time on Shaiman Island (which was where I was hoping we were staying).  It's part of old Canton where many of the Westerners first stayed when it opened to the West.  It's less China and more New Orleans, with quiet streets, a Starbucks and nice shops.  It's also where many adoptive families stay.  That area is only about 6 blocks from our hotel and is a welcome respite to the loud streets where we are staying.

I need to hop in the shower to get ready for our appoinment this morning, but will try to post photos later.

Two more days and we're headed home!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Never ever go to a Chinese hospital if you can help it (not ever)

Sorry for the lack of posts, but we have had our hands pretty full.  Alex had a low grade fever since we got him last Sunday night.  The fever got much worse on Thursday night and he started vomiting (I am probably one of the few moms in the world who had never had her child throw up on her, until now).  There was a health clinic at our hotel, so as soon as it opened Friday morning, we took him in.  He still had a fever and was throwing up - the doctor said he had a "cold."  She didn't have any medicine that would work for him, so advised us to go to the hospital. 

Now, Friday was a pretty critical day for us to continue moving paperwork forward.  Our guide had to meet with the police that morning to get Alex's passport paperwork completed and then we all had to meet that afternoon to sign some more papers and get his passport before flying to Guangzhou.

Nick has warned me about Chinese hospitals before.  He went to some when he worked in Shanghai and always said that if one of us got really sick, that we needed to get on a plane to Tokyo or Hong Kong as soon as possible.

I knew it would be challenging, to say the lease, when a block before the hospital, traffic was at a standstill - it was because all of the cars were trying (unsuccessfully) to get to the hospital.  So, we hopped out of the car and walked the rest of the way.

I don't think I ever quite understood the term "sea of humanity" until I saw the droves of people trying to get into the front door.  Hundreds, if not thousands, of people were crowding every inch of space.  The best I can describe it is as Black Friday fior healthcare.  If you were able to get to the front of the line first, you would get seen, even if it meant pushing your way through (which I quickly learned). Penny guided us back to the emergency area so that we could be seen quickly.  We walked past some very, very sick and injured people on our way, very disturbing.

Finally, we made it to the room for pediatric emergency.  It was about an 8ft x 10ft. room with about 20 people and their sick children inside.  I couldn't quite see what was going on, but everyone was crowding around one small area.  It was the doctor sitting at a desk and one chair.  She examined each child as everyone else huddled around her and waited their turns.  To say that it was chaotic, is a little bit of an understatement.

Alex and I went down a "quieter" hallway to wait while she and Nick got in line for the paperwork.  He was freaking out because of the noise and all of the people, and I was ready to, too.  Unfortunately, they don't shut doors in Chinese hospitals because Alex and I were sitting outside of a "transfusion" room that looked like something out of a 1960's mental institution (or what I imagine it must've been like).  There were poles with hooks that dropped down from the ceiling where the bags of fluids were hung.  People sat below staring into space while their treatments were being done.  I'm not sure if these were blood transfusions, chemo or what, but I was keeping my distance.  Imagine all of the germs (Jakie and Keri McGrath - I thought of you two the whole time)!

About 10 minutes later Nick and Penny grabbed me and said we could go in the pediatric room to wait our turn.  We think that being foreigners actually worked in our favor - Penny said we got in more quickly that normal.  But, now we had to push our way through to the doctor.  From living in both Japan and China, I have a unique ability to work my way though people traffic, so I put those skills into action (meanwhile holding a 30 lb little boy and trying not to have either of us breath in God knows what germs).  I nosed my way up to the chair where people were seen.  A mother was holding her infant who had gauze around her head.  She was so tiny and I thought about how sad it would be to think that this was the only way for your child to be seen by a doctor, even with what appeared to be a fairly serious condition.

Knowing that we had to get in and out quickly, as soon as the mother got up from the chair, and seeing a father and his child ready to pounce in the seat, I hooked my foot around the leg of the chair, pulled it toward me, used my large American hips to jump in and sat down.  The doctor was stunned, but continued to examine Alex.  She took about 3 minutes looking at him, gave him a prescription for Ceclor (a wonderful antibiotic made by Lilly!), B6, and what I think is either Tylenol or Ibuprofen. 

So, we ran out of there as fast as we could (while we were sitting there a mom and her toddler daughter came in and the little girl had an IV bag hooked up to her arm).

Nick and Penny went to get the Rx filled and I made my way outside to get away from most of the people.  It was crazy!

My guess is that he had something similar to what a lot of the kids in the US have been getting lately. I've seen several FaceBook posts from friends with vomiting kids and fever.  It was probably exasperated by the stress of the transition to being with us.

We made it back to the hotel in time to pack our bags and meet the police officer with Alex's passport.  Another family (from Salt Lake City) was waiting with us and about two minutes before the police officer arrived, he threw up all over the two of us.  We rushed into the bathroom and Nick had to run downstairs to find an extra change of clothes for me. 

And so began one of the longest hours of my life.  Since our flight was just a few hours away, and we had an hour drive to get to the airport, we had no choice but to leave.  Alex cried the entire way, but luckily, his fever broke during that time and he was actually pretty happy by the time we got to the airport.

Our flight was delayed so we had to kill three hours at the airport, but we finally made it to Guangzhou in one piece.  And, Alex has felt great and had no temperature since.  Thank God.

Yesterday (Saturday), we had our medical appointment, which we need for his visa to the US.  And, as crazy and "Chinese" healthcare as it was, it was one of the most beautiful sights I've ever seen.  The medical center is where all of the Americans, Australians, Spanish and Swedes (the four nationalities who adopt the most Chinese children with the US adopting more than the top five combined) take their kids. At any one time, there had to be about 30-40 families waiting to see three different doctors - and, every single child had a special need.  We saw several cleft lips and palates - boys and girls - as well as a myriad of other minor and major medical issues.  All of the people we saw were Americans and we really enjoyed each other's company while waiting the 2 hours to be seen.  It was incredible to see the diverse families adopting the kids.  There were young couples, older couples who brought their other older children with them, an alternative couple with dyed hair and tatoos, and couples who had already adopted internationally and had their kids with them.  Truly, it was all I could do to not cry every 10 seconds at the love and compassion in that room.

We made it out and went to Carrefour, which was one of the big supermarkets that I used to go to in Shanghai.  My favorite moment of Carrefour besides seeing several other adoptive families searching for Oreos and milk, was when I tried asking a young worker where the diapers where.  I acted like I was putting on a diaper and pointed to Alex.  He quickly directed us to a section of the store.  We went down there with another family that we're traveling with only to discover that it was ADULT diapers!

More later.  Today and tomorrow are mostly sightseeing days, and we will try to get more pictures up soon.  It's been a challenging few days, but Alex is feeling much better, and we are counting the days until we're home!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

More with Nate's little brother

We've had Alex for three full days, and he is a good, good boy.  The toughest part is communicating with him since he can't speak, but he is gradually learning his new name and a little bit of English comprehension. Although he is almost 3 years old, he reminds me more of a child that's about 2.  That will change quickly once he's home - gets his lip and mouth repaired (it is worse than we expected and he has already had two surgeries).  He'll have no choice but to learn to speak in order to keep up with his big brother.

He has taken to me very quickly and is slowly loving daddy more each day.  We bought a stroller at Walmart (which made me recall my headache-y days of the Shanghai Walmart, but it was much less crowded), so we've been taking two walks each day around the large lake and park that our hotel is near.  We've seen a couple of local sights - one was a beautiful Buddhist temple - and for all of the temples that we've visited throughout China, Thailand, Vietnam and Japan - it is one of the nicest ones we've seen.  We also went to an old section of town that used to belong to the wealthy until the Communist government took it over.  It's now a series of shops and restaurants.  Alex enjoys the walks and is taking everything in.

There is also a huge important Communist party meeting that's taking place at our hotel and the nearby conference center, and many of the officials are staying at our hotel, so we ride in the elevator with them every day.  On Monday, one of the officials asked us where we were from and then looked at Alex and said with a very sweet, tender smile, "very good."  It was as if he knew that his own people would not care of our darling boy, but that we would love him no matter what.  We're really wondering what kind of meeting it is, though.  There are security guards everywhere, which we were told we're standard security they are part of the Chinese army.

The town we're in, Fujian, a second tier city by China's standards, is actually quite nice.  The population is 8 million, but it feels smaller.  It's fairly clean unlike the larger cities of Shanghai and Beijing.  And, there almost no Westerners anywhere.    We've seen three since we've been here.  So, we get a lot of looks.  We did see one other US couple who adopted a little boy about the same age as Alex, who was Albino, but they are not  staying at our hotel.

Right now, we are just waiting for his passport to be issued.  Tomorrow, we make sure our paperwork is correct, and Friday, we meet with the police who will give us his passport and then we fly to Guanghzhou, where the US paperwork and meetings take place.  We're glad to be about half-way through our trip.

We've done some sightseeing in the mornings and we nap and walk the lake during the afternoons.  Today we went to Panda World, which was awful.   There were four or five Giant Pandas, and eight red Pandas in very sparse conditions.  The highlight was changing Alex's diaper at their public toilets.  They were awful, so we went behind the building and changed him there!  We're newbies with diapers and trying to potty train!

Lastly, Alex's Chinese name, given to him by the orphanage director is "Xiao" which means sun "da" which means achieve, which is funny because I've always called Nate "sunshine," so now we have two sunshine boys.



Back from the Shanghai days, a funny sign


Monday, January 28, 2013

Meet Alex (except that I can't post the photo for some reason)

Our flight to Fuzhou from Hong Kong (just about 80 minutes) was over an hour late, so as soon as we got to our hotel, Alex was waiting for us!  He toddled around the lobby until I ran over to him.  He was a bit shy and nervous, and we went up to a conference room so that we could sign temporary custody papers.  And with that, we had him for the night!  He cried for almost two hours until he finally fell asleep.  Poor boy!  He actually preferred sleeping with us rather than the crib in our room, and when he woke up a few times in the middle of the night, he just looked at me and fell back asleep.

When we woke up this morning, we had a different boy.  He was happy and laughed and really started to trust us.  We had breakfast and then went to sign our official adoption papers.  So, today was our family day!  We had to make a few official stops and even ran into another American couple adopting their little boy, who looks about the same age as Alex.  Penny, our "fixer" told us that a couple of years ago, there might be 10-15 American families adopting children from Fuzhou each week, and now it is rare to have even one a week.  International adoption statistics came out yesterday, and tragically, US adoptions of international children are down for the 8th straight year.

Our first "unofficial" trip was to Walmart to buy snacks, a stroller and diapers (yikes, I will need help from my friends with potty training!).  We went back to the hotel for a nap and then went on a walk around the lake in front of our hotel.  It's a beautiful area with several parks, paddle boats and a museum.

Alex is a very sweet and gentle boy.  His lip repair is much worse than we anticipated and he can make sounds, but so far, has not spoken.  He loves playing with the toys we brought him, and responds well to us talking to him.  Right now, he is sitting between us on the bed, looking at a book (Thank you Meg Fuertges!). 

For some reason, I cannot post a photo, so any FaceBook friends, go there to see our first pic together!  I need to turn attention back to our darling boy as he is minutes from bedtime, and I think I might be too!

Love to you all!

16 hours in the middle seat

We made it to Hong Kong on Friday night, although I was completely contorted for 16 hours of sitting in the middle seat. We got up early and walked along the promenade of Victoria Harbor, and even ran for a bit. We met some friends of ours for lunch and a little walking tour of the city. Hong Kong is fantastic. It was like Shanghai, but more civilized. No spitting on the sidewalk, no trash on the streets. You can feel and see the British influence despite twenty years under Chinese control. Afternoon tea is still a very important ritual. We ate snow fungus, a new treat, and went to the top of Victoria Peak at night - a beautiful sight despite the fog and light rain. Once we got back to the mainland side, Kowloon, where we were staying, we got caught in a downpour walking back to our hotel. Sunday was a bit more relaxing as it was the day that we traveled to Fuzhou and to Alex. That's next! My brain is totally fried because I'm still catching up on jet lag, and I'm forcing myself to stay awake another two hours so that I don't wake up at 4am tomorrow. So I apologize for the haphazard nature of my writing.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Our journey to Alex

It's been almost a year since my last post because we've been busy being mom and dad to one amazing little 5-year old. Now, we're off to China to bring Alex home. First stop is Hong Kong, a place in Asia we haven't traveled to yet (I had a layover there during my first trip to Vietnam). So, in addition to catching up on jet lag, we hope to see a few sights and we'll get to visit a friend from when we lived in Shanghai. On Sunday afternoon, we fly to Fuzhou and will get custody of Alex either that night or Monday morning. I'll blog as I have time - depends on if Alex likes to nap or not, and if mommy wants to join him! Thanks for all of your prayers and well wishes. We are so grateful to complete our family with this precious little boy.