Monday, February 15, 2010

Happy Chinese New Year!

What a great blessing to have other good friends sharing the same blessing from God at the same time we are! We got together with the Bennetts and Giffens last night for a Chinese New Years celebration with all of the kids. The Bennett's son Hamilton is from the same orphanage in Inner Mongolia as Fisher, now they live within walking distance of each other. The Giffens returned from China with their precious daughter Lia Kate the week before we left. The kids all did great together and it was wonderful to share stories with each other and have such unique commonalities with other brothers and sisters in the Lord.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Just One of the Gang

Well it's been two full days and Fisher is just one of the gang for sure. He is doing well and acts like he's had 4 siblings forever. He roams from one to the other looking to play, annoy them, hug them, hide from them, etc... It's amazing how children find ways to communicate, even if they aren't speaking the same language. There seems to be very little that Fisher, Eli, and Dutch can't communicate with each other one way or the other. They've turned the downstairs into a testosterone play land!

As expected, Eli is having some issues. He is no longer the baby, a role he relishes and plays well. One minute he's fine and the next he's upset that Fisher picked up a toy he had no intentions of doing anything with. None the less it upsets him and goes into a short funk. He eventually snaps out of it, but for sure he's having to adjust. The one reassuring thing about watching this is Fisher picks senses when Eli is upset and has had his feelings hurt. He doesn't like to see Eli sad and typically will try and console him in some fashion. Not sure how long this will last before full fledged brotherhood sets in bringing indifference, but it's sweet for now.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Fisher is an American!

We made it home to Birmingham pretty much on time this evening, yeah! Somehow out of 6 bags, only 1 made it from Chicago so the adventure is still ongoing.

We made it to the house for just long enough to grab a bite to eat and head out for Dutch's basketball game. Nothing like jumping into the mix, sink or swim Fisher, there's a lot going on around here. :-)

Fisher took very well to the boys and they've been running all over the house wrestling, playing balls, cars, guns and anything else they can get crazy with. He and Eli ran up and down the hallway at the basketball game laughing until exhaustion, hiding behind doors and corners from each other. I think he is going to enjoy the stimulus and his 2 brothers.

Now off to bed for some much needed sleep.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

This is China, right?

On our last night in Guangzhou we took one of the river cruises on the Pearl River (3rd longest river in China we're told). All we can say is woooooow! We are struggling to come up with a comparison in the states to equate to this experience. I guess it would be akin to Las Vegas meets New Orleans, New York City, and San Francisco all mashed into a single location. It was almost 2 hours which gave us quite a bit of time to chat with our guide Thomas. It was a live history lesson for the girls as he shared how much things have changed in the last 20 years. He shared with them about his participation in the university student movement in 1989 which resulted in the standoff in Tieneman square. His account was fascinating to say the least. He shared how his first job was assigned to him, but that has now changed and everyone finds their own job now. He also shared how they could not move at will from one city to another which has also changed along with the citizens ability to criticize and question policy, to some degree. On the surface it's very difficult to notice the differences between modern day China and other western, democratic cultures. There are enough hints though it's not quite the same. It was an amazing boat ride for the scenery and living history lesson from Thomas.

Getting to the boat was an adventure in and of itself, much like all things China. We walked from the hotel to where we thought we could take one of the many river boat tours. As a guide, Thomas typically never has to pay for the activities he takes families to. Upon questioning the tickets, he was told he had to pay. This kicked off an aggressive negotiation and dialogue that was quite amusing for us to watch. We couldn't understand a word but it was obvious Thomas was not at all pleased with the two women that were badgering him incessantly. He finally told me we could just go by ourselves because he wasn't going to pay, to which I said no because we wanted him to spend the evening with us. He told us there was another place further down we could probably go so we said fine, and handed their tickets back to them. That initiated a whole different level of cat calling and squawks from the two ticket ladies as we strolled away. Within a minute we heard another women running up behind us speaking very animated and very fast.

This women looked more "official" with a clip board in her hand and some type of badge sash draped around her. She lit into a very quick dialogue with Thomas and kept pointing in varying directions, obviously providing additional information we needed to be aware of. Thomas finally turned to us and said, "she says to come with her, there is another boat they have down river that he can go on with us for no charge". Turns out the boat we were inquiring about wasn't a tour boat but one of the transportation boats. Hmm, even in Chinese, Thomas and the ticket ladies were not understanding each other apparently. So we headed across the street which lead to the "official" looking lady and one of the previous ticket taker women engaging in another animated banter, several radio and cell phone calls to who knows where. All of a sudden a mini-van pulls up to the curb and the two ladies motion towards it. The sliding door flings open and a women and child are ushered out along with a mango plant being removed. Hmm, did we just toss out a mother, child, and their plant so we can take a river cruise? They really wanted our $49 badly. Have to give them an A for effort. Who says there is no capitalism inChina?

Upon piling into the van and being whisked away, radios calling somewhere on the river obviously, I looked at Melissa and said, it's our own Amazing Race Asia! Your task is to convince a tour boat guide to let you take a tour in another location by absconding a mini-van, displacing a family with plants, and getting to the dock by the designated 7:30 p.m. deadline. If you fail to meet your deadline, you will be subjected to a dunking in the river and made to eat un-identified mystery meat balls (Fisher loves these at breakfast, yuck!) After about 10 minutes careening through traffic in a personal van, we pulled to the curb and were told, go, go, go! We whisked through a gate, ran down the sidewalk onto a dock, promptly onto a river boat with 3 decks, which pulled away immediately upon our stepping onto the deck. Whew, we made it, no dunking in the murky Pearl River! The rest of the night was a relaxing and amazing tour around a city sky line nearly indescribable in it's uniqueness.

We're off to Hong Kong in about 3 hours, will be home tomorrow evening!!!

Check the web album for pics of the river cruise.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Worshiping in China

Today I did something I can honestly say I would have never expected in my lifetime. I was able to worship Jesus Christ in mainland China, openly. I took Fisher to the Christian Church here on Shamain island. The service we went to was in both Mandarin and English, just enough to keep Fisher somewhat engaged. He absolutely loved the praise and worship as they clapped and sang. He LOOOOOOVES to clap and sing. I think his foster family must have had a karaoke machine. The sermon was in Manderin and translated as we went along into English. Some of the songs were in Manderin but some we sang in English. As we were singing one praise song in English it struck me what we were doing and to be honest, I felt very humbled and insignificant. I'm sure many people suffered greatly for this church and service to even be a reality. My small part of the world in Alabama and in God's vast plan seemed infinitely smaller this morning. 

This trip has made me realize how arrogant we are sometimes (i.e. Americans swooping into Haiti and attempting to sweep children across the border without permission). All of this, including countries that openly denounce the existence of God, is part of something so much greater than I am, so much longer lasting than my influence, and worthy of so much more thanks than I give. The foreign nations and tongues from Babel we read about in church have seemed like only stories, almost like fairy tales for me. Seeing modern day China and being in that church this morning made those biblical accounts more of a reality for me. I saw Chinese nationals vehemently praising and worshiping in a way I probably should be. 

My perceptions of China certainly have been knocked off their foundation since being here. Although much of what we hear is definitely true, much seems not to be. I can certainly say I was not expecting an open Christian church service and am not even sure how/why they are "allowed" to do this, except by the grace of God. What I do know is there were a few hundred committed Christian brothers and sisters from China gathered together today, so I know the Holy Spirit was there as He promised He would be when two or more are gathered. It was a beautifully amazing thing!

Saturday, February 6, 2010


Well today we went to the Zoo Safari. Thanks to the Giffens who let us know how great this was. And it was!!!  We took the train tour first and then we walked and walked. It was worth the drive and the money. Who knows where else you would see this many pandas  and koalas in one place. The pandas were really fascinating. Fisher had the BEST time. He talked and laughed and pointed and snacked and had a super time.  He crashed on the walk to go find a taxi and slept all the way home. It was neat to see the city of Guangzhou. You really have never seen so many apartments in your life. All the skyscrapers you see are not office buildings, they are endless apartments. Apparently they have not invented dryers here yet b/c all their laundry is hanging in the windows and balconies. They may not have washers either but we don't know that for sure. Every alleyway is another line of market vendors. 

There are people everywhere. We all know that China is overpopulated but when you actually see the people you realize how many there are. How many people are in America? 300mil or something like that.. and China is 1.3 billion. That's insane! I'm trying to wrap my brain around that. And the history is so amazing. My brain is really swimming with seeing this country in all it's glory. It really is the experience of a lifetime. I'm trying to drink it all in b/c who knows if we'll ever be back here again. China is something everyone should experience. It will really give you perspective about America. Our country is so new and this one is soooo old. It's kinda freaky. I am really thankful that we got the chance to see it.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Qinping Market

Fisher's trip to the medical clinic for his TB review went just fine, no problems. No redness, so no chest x-rays, yeah!

Spent some time in and around the Qinping market today, boy was this an eye opener for the girls. This is authentic China as you would picture in your imagination. We barely scratched the surface and will definitely be going back to explore, capture more images and videos. All we can say so far about it is, wow! Check out the web album for a lot more pics of the market.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Shamain Island Guangzhou

Here is where we are staying in Guangzhou (the White Swan hotel). As you can see it's actually a small island, it reminds us a bit of Key West just without the ocean smell. It has it's own unique odor as you might imagine. As you can see Fisher is enjoying himself at one of the local playgrounds and with another family from Alabama we met today. They are from Camp Hill.

View Larger Map

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Finally Guangzhou

Well here we are. We survived our 8 days in Huhhot. BRRRRR. That place is cold. The weather here today is low 70's and humid. Love it! It's kinda like a chinese key west. The view out our window is the Pearl River. It's really beautiful. This part of Guangzhou is an island. It's called Shamian Island. Guangzhou is about 10 million people so it's kinda nice being away from the hubub of the big city. We are in the famous White Swan hotel. Well, it's famous for people who adopt chinese children. This place is full of Americans. This hotel really caters to adoptive families. Thank goodness. I wish we had connecting rooms but they were all taken when we arrived. So we are just next door to the girls.

Fisher is doing great. He gets a little better everyday. He's a really happy boy but I think he gets frustrated when we can't understand what he wants. We know certain phrases like "I need to potty" but other than that we're a little lost. He likes to play with the girls and they like to play with him but it can get outta hand pretty fast and someone ends up getting hit or bit. (The girls are not doing the hitting and biting) He gets so wound up and can't seem to control himself. He's a really smart kid, but it's kinda like breaking a wild horse. He's never heard the word no, so we are having to learn some serious self control.

We had his medical exam today. He passed with flying colors. We just have to wait a couple of days for his TB test to come back. He got 5 vaccinations and was not a happy camper, but he settled down pretty fast. There's a big playground nearby and he went crazy. We'll be going there a lot. There's also a playroom in the hotel. It's sponsered by Mattel so it's full of their toys. They also provided us with "Adopt a Chinese Baby Barbie". It's hilarious. It's a barbie doll with a little chinese baby girl strapped to her chest.

We ate a late lunch at Lucy's. Cheeseburgers, french fries and blt's. It was awesome. We even got to sit outside. Have I said how much I like the warm weather. If I could find a flip flop shop I'd be in heaven. Bailey pulled mine out of my suitcase before we left so I don't have them here.

Well I better go see if the kid crying is my chinese kid or someone elses chinese kid. They're everywhere!

Monday, February 1, 2010

It's Moving Day

We've finally reached our stay in Hohhot and are flying to Guangzhou tonight. This is where Americans have their Embassy appointment to be able to leave the country with the children. Should be interesting with Fisher on a plane, will be a good indicator of how the long flight will go. We will be spending quite a bit of time today packing up, our rooms are an explosion of clothes and toys. Yesterday was an fair day. Fisher was tired from the onset yesterday morning and like any tired and cranky 3 year old, he wasn't particularly nice to his sisters. We did meet a nice family from Sweden that received their son day before yesterday. He and Fisher ran around and played together for quite a while yesterday. They were a joy to watch jibbering and running crazy together and belly laughing so hard with each other. He has shown the propensity to share well with the 2 boys his age we've met so far, perhaps there is hope for him and Eli. :-)

We spent quite a bit of time in the pool which he is absolutely crazy about. He plays and plays until he is literally shaking uncontrollably from eventually getting cold. Last night Channing got to Skype with her Social Studies class for about 45 minutes which they all loved very much. Her classmates had a list of prepared questions she answered for them. I think it was informative for them as she explained things are not as primitive as we all would believe it to be. She was able to show them on the camera the bottles of Coke, Sprite, etc... with the Chines writing on it which they all thought was very cool.

We'll see everyone on the southern end of China in a day or two.