Sunday, January 31, 2010

Leavin Huhhot

Can I tell you how excited we are to leave tomorrow. I don't know if it's the cold weather, the stares, or the terrible sewage smell in our bathroom but we are ready to get the heck out of dodge. In Guangzhou it's in the 70's, the people there have seen way more white people so the gawking shouldn't be as bad and hopefully the room smells better. One thing I should have brought, glade plug ins. And if hear or see one more man hack up the biggest loogie of his life and spit I'm going to throw up. Ugh that's disgusting. And I'm not just talking about outside.

The one thing I'm sad about is leaving Louise. She will see us to the airport and then she goes back to Beijing where she lives. We will then meet Thomas in Guangzhou. He will be our guide the rest of the time.

We met a new adoptive family today from Sweden. They live in a small town in northern Sweden near the arctic circle. It's about 0 degrees there today and they just got about 3 ft of snow, so this weather must feel great. They speak very good english. They aleady have a chinese daughter who is turning 6 next week and they are here to adopt a 2yr old boy. His new name is Axel. Cute huh. Another family arrived yesterday from Germany to adopt but they aren't very talkative. We are so happy to see anyone other than chinese we probably talk everyones ears off.

Chris, Channing and Fisher are downstairs swimming right now. He LOVES to play in the pool. Bailey just went downstairs to get a pop and I need to take a shower so I'll write more later.

Historical Culture vs. Current Culture

So today we split up and viewed Hohhot in strikingly different ways. Fisher and I went with Louise to the newly opened Inner Mongolia Museum while Melissa and the girls went to the mall. We each explored Hohhot's culture, one from the historical and the other from the modern day vantage point. The museum had a very modern look and the displays inside were akin to any museum I'd expect to walk into in the states. Seeing the history of the grasslands and the Inner Mongolia territory was quite impressive. Viewing dinosaur structures that were pieced together from finds supposedly in the region, was spectacular. According to the museum, the People's Republic of China is responsible for the unification of the Inner Mongolia region and freeing the region from constant Imperial encroachment by the Japanese. I'll have to research that upon returning to the states to see if the world's history account of these events is the same. 

Fisher enjoyed the museum pretty well. He wanted to point out every animal in the displays and explain them, ask questions, touch them, etc... Good thing I had our guide with us, not only would I have not been able to explain what these animals were in English, I certainly couldn't in Mandarin.He wanted to walk for the most part and then push his own stroller without any help from me or Louise, he was adamant about this point, just like any 3 year old; "I do it myself!" 

Melissa and the girls went to one of the several malls nearby. We are apparently in one of the busiest sections of town with some of the newest shopping buildings, some are still under construction. Nearby is McDonald's, Pizza Hut, KFC, high rise buildings with video displays, etc... it's a bit like a miniature times square. I do mean miniature but has some of that same sensation as you are wading across the intersections with the masses while dodging cars, motorbikes, buses that continue to turn on red long after the light has changed. I believe they felt a bit like famous people must, minus the paparazzi. There are very few if hardly any white people in the area, let alone fairly tall blondish females. They elicit long stares of disbelief and wonderment. They are quite annoyed by it at this point so fording the masses in the mall was a bit much I believe. Unlike in the states, staring is obviously not considered bad manners. Here it is verging on gawking. When i say masses, i do mean masses. I'm amazed at how many people get into certain places here, personal space is non existent. 

From the wide open spaces of Inner Mongolia's roots of the grasslands, to the extremely crowded streets, shops, stores, and restaurants of modern day Hohhot, it is quite the dichotomy in one location. 

Saturday, January 30, 2010

We're Not in Kansas Anymore...

Today has been a good day. Everyone slept until 7 and was pretty lazy until we ate breakfast around 9. Fisher eats really well and eats just about whatever is in front of him. Breakfast is always an adventure with the staff as getting a high chair is a major ordeal. They must take the one we get every morning to the basement when we leave because it takes about 10 minutes the next morning to locate it again. Then getting coffee, even though it's basically the same word in Chinese, takes another 5 minutes. It's not really that bad, just kind of funny it's the same routine each morning so we have to laugh about it. 

Bailey, Fisher, I and Louise went to what I am told is the largest Buddhist temple in the area, Dazhao Temple. It was apparent we weren't in the Bible belt for sure! The odd thing is there were various types of Buddhas that differing folks were paying respects and praying to. Our guide was explaining how it was like praying to our God in America. Uh, ok if you say so. I guess we do "worship" a lot of different deities as Americans, but as a culture we typically agree on a single God. It was strange seeing the different Buddhas that you could pray to all in the same location, just different buildings. We walked there this morning through the city which was quite a site seeing everything close up on foot. For those of you with those images of amoeba like swarms of bicycles careening around the city, you would be like me, surprised and wondering where are all of the bicycles? It is apparent the bicycle is dying a slow death as the cars have begun choking the roadways pushing the bikes onto the sidewalks and other not so easy navigable areas. All in the name of progress and modernization. I would not propose to deny anyone their desire to own a car or improve their lot in life, but I feel like I'm looking backward in time while we are here and know where they are headed as we have seen it in America. Much of the historical images we have in our minds and have seen over the years are fading away with what appears to be prosperity and improvements, we'll see.

Fisher crashed hard in the stroller walking back to the hotel so we just left him in there upon return, he is a really hard sleeper! Another fireworks show in front of the hotel didn't awaken him from this slumber. I snuck to the pool for a few laps which didn't last long before Melissa had him in tow looking for me. While my workout ended, we got him in the pool for the first time. I think it was indeed his first time in a pool. After a bit of trepidation he warmed up to it really quick and we had a great time in the kiddy pool for the afternoon. He eventually was shivering uncontrollably as he got cold, but was absolutely distraught I bundled him up and left, just like a 3 year old. :-) We'll definitely be doing the pool from here on out to pass some of the time.

Here are some pics from today's walk about the city and temple:

Here a few more videos from today including some pool time. (if taken to login page, click Need a Password, put in your email and whatever password you want for viewing)

Friday, January 29, 2010


So another day has passed and we're all tired. I think we are all tired of each other, not sleeping well, the freezing cold, being constantly stared at, tired of the ebbs and flows of hitting, laughing, spitting, kisses, biting, hugs, rinse and repeat. I'm sure Kem can relate as it seems the boys in this situation are all coming with the same behavioral characteristics. A two year old here in the hotel is similar, but he's only 2 so it's not quite as aggressive. Fisher is like a 5 year old in his strength so he is really wearing on the girls who are tired of getting beat on. This isn't to say this won't pass as there are longer and longer stretches of goodness.

Tonight Fisher finally played with the girls in their room for about 30 minutes which was a relief. The other family came by today for a while and he shared his gold fish with the other little boy and was in playful spirits the whole time with them. One of the videos today shows one of those joyful stretches where he wanted to sing, and sing, and sing. 

All of the paperwork and official stuff has gone well and as planned. There have been no issues and we are in good shape to receive his passport on Monday and head to Guangzhou. Now to pass the time until then, which is a challenge when it's so cold out. We have to dress like we are going skiing just to walk to the store or something. There is a really great park a block from the hotel but we haven't been yet as it's tough to enjoy with the weather. At least it's sunny and we could actually see the mountains yesterday as the smog was lighter yesterday for some reason. 

We have also seen at least 4 firework shows in the last 4 days from the hotel. I don't mean fire crackers, I mean full blown 4th of July firework shows. There was one in the front of the hotel today to celebrate a wedding being held here. Apparently this isn't uncommon and occurs regularly in celebration of birthdays, weddings, events, etc... The other video is of the one in front of the hotel today. Now off to attempt the going to bed ritual..... (you may be asked for login credentials, simply click need a password, put in your email and whatever password you want, this should give you access to these videos I believe).

Thursday, January 28, 2010


Yes we are bored. Fisher is bored, the girls are bored, Chris and I are bored. It's just too cold to be outside for long and nothing much to do in the hotel. We leave here on Tuesday and it's only Friday. The family from Jersey left today. Lucky them. This hotel is beautiful but it's meant for businessmen not families. We are watching a lot of movies. We've seen Get Smart a few times, Sydney White, and now we're watching the Pelican Brief. It may be time for Fisher and I to take our daily walk. We walk the hotel a lot. There's a wedding going on today. About noon they shot off about 20 minutes worth of very loud fireworks right in front of the hotel. Just as we got Fisher down for a nap. It didn't phase him. He's a good sleeper at least. I guess fireworks don't need to wait til night around here. This was our third firework show in 4 days.

well we are getting restless so we are going to go walk again. Bye

No fear!

This kid has no fear. He does everything 100%. He's a lot happier today than he was yesterday. He still has a couple angry moments but more happy. He's starting to learn the word no. He responds to Chris really well. He is very much a daddy's boy at this point. The only time he deals with me is when we go on walks to give Chris a break.

Louise is our guide and today is her 30th birthday. We ordered a cake from the restaurant and told Louise to meet us here at 7pm. So I guess we'll go to dinner now so we can be back in time.

Did I mention I'm ready to go home?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

He's Perfect!

Well we are finally together. We met Fisher (Tian Tian) yesterday at 3pm. Bless his heart he was scared to death and did not want anything to do with us at first. Bailey ran back to the room to get the balls we brought for him to  play with. He snatched the balls up and then began to throw them. First it was an angry throw then it turned funny and happy. We soon learned he is a lot like Hamilton. He likes to hit, kick and push. He is ALL BOY, just like Hamilton. I'm a little scared for Eli.He is also about twice Hamiltons size. He is a hoss to say the least.

We came back to the room as soon as the paperwork was completed. He cried a lot. We sat at the window seat and stared at the crazy cars for a solid hour. We ate some gummies and snuggled. After Chris and Louise (our guide and translator) came back to the room Louise talked to Fisher and tried to help him understand. He kept saying I want to go back to mama. It broke my heart. Then he told Louise he wanted to go outside, so we decided to walk to McDonalds. It was a longer walk then we wanted right then but he really warmed up on the way. We ran and laughed and held his hands and flew him through the air. He was great. He ate some fries, a bite of chicken and spilled everything on the table. He turned into crazy boy. He learned to say ok and said it about 100 times.

He fell asleep in Chris' arms on the way home. That was about 7pm and he just woke up at 7:30. He slept through the night in his crib. It was too perfect. I'm waiting for the next storm to hit. He looks healthy and well cared for. I can't wait to get to know him better. I love him so much.

Corrected Video Link

Sorry to those that couldn't see the videos from the link provided last night. This one should work correctly today. More details to come later today from Melissa on her perspective of yesterday.

We received Fisher today!

We made it to Hohhot today via 1 hour flight from Beijing. We had been at the hotel for about 2 hours before receiving Fisher. It was not a particular easy transition and was a struggle for all as he was confused, not at all happy with the circumstances, and had a keen sense of what was going on. The girls made the transition somewhat easier as they were able to be silly with him and play with him while we did some paperwork. Everyone is exhausted and in bed tonight. We will write more tomorrow about the evening out of the hotel, the grocery store, etc..

I'm hoping these videos are viewable.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Just Smile and Wave Boys, Just Smile and Wave

If you've seen either of the Madagascar films you'll remember these pesky penguins, always with a plan, and always trying to be inconspicuous in the process. This is how we have felt for the past 2 days while visiting the Great Wall and especially today at the Summer Palace. We were stalked a fair amount yesterday by the street vendors at the base of the climb to the Great Wall, but nothing prepared us for the aggressive elderly trinket sales folks at the Summer Palace and the shop keepers at a market we went to afterward. For folks from Alabama who preach no thank you's, yes ma'ams, and no sirs, saying no thank you simply becomes redundant and you have to smile and wave and continue on. It seems rude but after about the 5th no thank you to the same elderly lady circling the group, you realize she is not going to stop if you continue making eye contact with her. It's a hard tactic and one that we are not at all familiar with in the states. 

Baily was approached by a handful of teenage girls wanting to take their pictures with her and they were very polite and thankful, quite unlike the vendors. She was flattered and gladly posed with them. Channing had another group of young girls smiling shyly, waving, and saying hi to her too. Our guide said it was a holiday and likely they were from outside of the city and have not seen too many, if any caucasians, let alone a tall blond female. I think we were just about the only caucasions at the Summer Palace today, indeed an odd feeling. 

We needed to purchase a coat for Fisher today as we leave in the morning for Hohhot. We went to a local 4 story market which was claustrophobic and nerve racking for all. Once we found the children's area, we were swarmed at the entrance to every booth, imagine a flee market but inside with small 5x10 booths packed floor to ceiling with clothing. We spotted a coat that seemed to be about what we needed, so then the bidding began quickly and firmly. We got what we needed for a reasonable price and headed out without much further eye contact or pausing to browse as it was unnerving a bit, so we headed for the exit. It was a good precursor of what we will likely encounter in Hohhot as there are hardly ever any white people in that area. Just smile and wave boys, just smile and wave...

Great Wall and Summer Palace

This is Melissa's perspective on China. I really like the country. The people are very friendly and curious. We get lots of looks, especially Bailey, tall and blond you know. Our guide Louise is wonderful, she is very knowledgeable of everything Chinese. We went to the great wall yesterday. It was about an hours drive. The scenery was nice, but disturbing somehow. We passed a million trees on the way. However each tree was perfectly placed. They were in perfect rows, thousands of them, mile after mile after mile. It gave you a headache b/c you couldn't look out the window without your eyes following the lines of the trees. It was just so unorganic, so planned, so perfect, almost creepy. We would see a rogue tree out in a field and tell everyone to look. How dare that tree decide to grow wherever it wanted to.

The Chinese do not like to be cold. Everywhere we go they have the heat blasting. We are sweating to death and the chinese still have coats and hats on. This is my kind of place, except it's so extreme even I'm warm in most places. We can only turn down the heat so much in our hotel room without it becoming air conditioning which Chirs is threatening to do.

The great wall was unbelievable! So many different people and cultures coming together to view this wonderful sight. Mouths agape, ooohing and aahing. Trying to imagine what it must have been like back then trying to build this wall. We saw a family from Tibet in traditional dress. Very interesting. People from Russia, Australia, South Africa, and anywhere else you can think of. America seems like a very small place right now.

Today we went to the summer palace. It was over 700 acres and very beautiful. We climbed a million stairs. At the top some young Chinese girls asked if they could take their pics with Bailey. Some other girls waved at Channing and said HI. Louise says that a lot of these people come from rural areas and have never seen caucasions before.

Our flight for Huhhot leaves tomorrow at 11:30 am. We may have to reconfigure our luggage b/c they don't allow as much weight as the airlines in America. We bought Fisher a coat today. We didn't know exactly what size to get him. I'm sure it will be too big for him but better that than too small. I cannot wait to meet him. I'm praying for his little spirit. I'm sure he won't be happy or understand what is happening. He will be leaving everything he knows. I love him so much already, I'll want to squeeze him and kiss him but I have to try not to scare him. We are about to be a family of 7.

We are really enjoying our time in China so far. It's fun to interact with the girls without the interruptions of tv, cell phones and computers. They have hardly fought with each other. We seem to be a little more understanding here.


Sunday, January 24, 2010

Everythings a Dollar

That is until you want to actually buy something. We spent a few hours at the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall today which we were told really translates into the long wall. I guess somewhere along the line someone decided that wasn't as marketable of a title. There is a cool cable car ride up and back which reminded me of the old gondola at Vail. This was truly a sight to see and is impossible to describe with any justice. All we could think of was how could they do this prior and during the Ming dynasty yet we can't put a fence up on the Mexican boarder in the 21st century? The other amazing concept was that anyone would be trying to traverse across this area, survive, and then still be able to attack with any significance. The terrain is mountain goat like and certainly perilous for human travel.

It was the girls first experience with street vendors and boy are they energetic! Talk about not taking no for an answer, what a sales force they would make. Apparently everything is a dollar until you actually attempt to purchase said item for the low price of a dollar. At that point an eager and rapid dialogue begins with the "quality" of the item of interest and how what they were actually willing to sell for a dollar is not of the same quality of what you have chosen and your item is much more authentic, of higher quality, hence worth much more. Never mind you picked out the very item they were holding in their hand claiming to be a dollar as you walked by. Talking about your classic bait and switch. I think we have laws for these sales tactics don't we? Nonetheless it was a fun experience and worth the show for an 8 dollar t-shirt not worth more than 5 probably, but hey it's 100% cotton which we were told about 20 times during the sales pitch.

The remainder of the Great Wall adventure can be seen at

At least I think so as I can upload to Picaso web albums via an app but you can't view them from China as they are filtered.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Made it to Beijing

We successfully arrived in Beijing, and about 20 minutes early at that. Shortly before landing I pointed out how thankful I was we had such a short travel route of less than 19 hours compared to many of the other routes available that are approximately 24. The extra 5 hours potential travel time wasn't lost on the girls as they were desperately ready to disembark from that plane. We had no issues getting through all of the check points and meeting our guide Louise, which is a sweet Chinese adoption guide who has been doing this for 5 years now. She will be with us here in Beijing and Hohhot with Thomas (the Bennett's guide) meeting us in Guangzhou.

The girls did get their first glimpse of the differences in other cultures as they went into the first women's restroom in the Beijing airport. There were apparently "normal" toilets and then a Chinese toilet which they described as the bowl of a regular toilet on the ground, guess you have to be a good squatter. Needless to say they came out giggling. Everyone tried to stay up last night as long as possible but all of the girls were finally asleep by 8 p.m. local time, They were all up at 4:30 a.m. so i'm sure we'll be dragging this evening after a day at the Great Wall. 

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Bon Voyage

Well the long awaited journey has come to the beginning of the end as we leave at 9 tomorrow morning. Glad to see as we leave tomorrow, our friends the Edwards have managed to get out of Kiev with their 2 newest family members and will be back in B'ham tomorrow night! Thanks to everyone for their prayers this week leading up to tomorrow and the amazing display of God's grace. See you on the other side of the world!

Monday, January 18, 2010


Jan.23 Arrive in Beijing at 16:25
Jan.24 Mutianyu Great Wall with lunch
Jan.25 Tour to Summer Palace with lunch and acrobatic show in evening
Jan.26 Fly Beijing-Hohhot CA1111(11:25-12:30)/Receive Fisher in the afternoon
Jan.27 Registration and notarization
Jan.28-Feb.01 other adoption process
Feb.02 Get Fisher's passport in the afternoon fly Hohhot--Guangzhou
Feb.03 Medical exam.
Feb.04 Medical exam.
Feb.05 Get medical report
Feb.06-07 Free
Feb.08 9:30 appointment with the US Consulate
Feb.09 Go to the Consulate for Oath
Feb.10 Get Fisher's visa in the afternoon, take train to Hong Kong
Feb.11 Home to Birmingham - arrive 4:30 p.m.

Friday, January 15, 2010


Here are the "hops" on our trip, Beijing (2 days) to Hohhot (7 days) to Guangzhou (10 days) on a map to get some perspective of the vast travel required.

View Larger Map

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Dates, dates, and more dates!

The dates are pouring in! We received our Embassy appointment in Guangzhou for February 8th, one day before the last one possible. We are now booked on flights for next Friday the 22nd to Beijing. We'll arrive in Beijing late afternoon on the 23rd and spend two days there touring sites in Beijing that we think we can handle in the cold. We have to be in Hohhot on the 26th so will fly from Beijing to Hohhot on that morning, about a 1 hour flight to spend a week in Hohhot. We'll then fly from Hohhot on the 2nd of February to Guangzhou and leave for home on the 11th. Thankfully we found great flights this morning with only 1 stop in Chicago and minimal layover so we couldn't have found better flights and they were as cheap as any we've seen or heard for this trip!

Prayerfully all will go as planned because if we are not out on the 11th, Chinese New Year begins the 14th and we'd be stuck for a while. Our friends Dan and Leslie are stuck in Ukraine right now because of a silly printing shortage of blank passports! See blog to the right and pray for them!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

God's Timing - Romans 8:28

One thing Melissa and I have attempted to stress in our life decisions is that when all is said and done regarding a particular life event, we want the story and details of the events to clearly point to the grace of God and His ultimate control and ever present hand in our lives. While waiting for travel approval to arrive this week, we knew we did not have the funds to actually complete the process and actually go get our son to be. Yesterday we had to pay $540 just for the four visa applications to get into China. Upon opening yesterday's mail, there were two checks to us totaling $521! While some will say we had those coming any way, I can only say that in God's timing only does that happen, which it continually seems to occur in our lives.

That's just one example as this story is continuing to unfold in Fisher finally becoming a Freeman for life. Today, a family member wired us the money necessary to complete the process of getting Fisher home! We now have the financial security to complete this adoption, days away from having to book flights.

We are now awaiting for an Embassy appointment in China which is getting down to the wire. Chinese new year begins on February 14th so EVERYONE is trying to get appointments before it all shuts down for a country wide celebration. If we are not done by the 13th of February, the immigration paperwork for Fisher expires and we have to go through that whole process again adding months to the process. Either way, it will be a story, that when told, will glorify God as it should. It's during times like this, we can either live out our theology or not and if we believe Romans 8:28, this is an instance to live it out in our actions, thoughts, and prayers.

Monday, January 11, 2010

We're Going to China!

We received our travel approval today and waiting on a call from Villa Hope with an embassy appointment date. Once we have that later tonight or tomorrow we will be able to book our flights.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Happy Birthday!

Today is Fisher's 3rd birthday! Wishing he was celebrating with us, but sounds like we'll be with him soon enough. We've heard the travel approval is in route via mail so we should have more definitive dates early next week. It's running right up against Chinese New Year so the embassy appointments and travel are getting very tight. Pray we can get it all in and back before the 13th of February otherwise his immigration paperwork expires. Hmm, wouldn't that be interesting to get stuck in China?!