We got up, gave Izzy a bottle, got dressed and went to the breakfast buffet. Izzy screamed her head off of course, because why not? I spent the entire meal bouncing her in the carrier trying to eat, sip coffee and feed her. She was not having it. Yes we were THAT family.
We met Guide Susie in the lobby and were loaded into the van, Izzy was in Paul’s Ergo and we headed to the Civil Affairs office which was about half an hour away from our hotel. Of course the office was up several flights of stairs.
When I rounded the corner I see Gabby down on the other side of the room in an off white princess dress with a little sweater. A man and 4 ladies were with her. The man turned out to be the director and the ladies were all nannies from the orphanage. They had made the 4 hour trip the night before and stayed 2 nights to meet us, finalize the adoption and say goodbye to our pint sized dynamo with the huge personality. Paul told me later that the director watched me like a hawk through the entire meeting with Gabby. He probably wanted to be sure we were going to take good care of her.
They gifted us with a 7 foot tapestry and sent Gabby home with a new suitcase, new clothing, 1 pair of sandals, 1 pair of sneakers, a quilt, a stuffed panda, a pink stroller, linen jammies, bowl and spoon, and A CHOP with her Chinese name. Absolutely amazing because generally you are lucky to get a diaper and formula. Gabby was very well loved in her orphanage.
After the appointment we went to Walmart to pick up a few things to get us through the next few days. We grabbed a TON of yogurt, formula, baby pouches, snacks, diapers, wipes, a bath basin, and a beach towel. Once again we were dumped off and left by our guide. We went to the restaurant next door to the hotel for lunch. We got a Mango Smoothie and I think little miss Gabby horked the entire thing down (much to Dad’s dismay). It was at least 16 ounces.
The kids played in the room and dinged around. For dinner we ordered from the hotel kitchen and the food was fabulous. We loved this spicy beef and rice dish. The surprise was however that the rice looked as if it was just plain steamed white rice and it was not.. It was hell rice. It was super spicy hot. What invisible spice had they cooked this with? I had no clue. The food was good but it was really HOT. This did nothing to stop us from ordering more the next night.
We bathed the girls separately in the little wash basin and got them ready for bed, watched Chinese cartoons and relaxed. We had two cribs in our bedroom and we could still get around! I loved that room. The kitchen was super convenient and I really missed it when we left.
We got dressed, ate breakfast at the buffet. We tried plain congee for Izzy and that was also a no go.
We met our driver out front of the hotel and drove to the Civil Affairs Office for “Family Day”
We signed untold amount of papers and put our red fingerprints on every sheet. We did a couple pictures for Izzy’s book before heading back to the Holiday Inn.
We returned to the hotel had lunch at McDonalds and walked around the mall before meeting our guide and driver.
Denise took us to the airport, got us checked in and made sure we got through security. We were taking Shehnzen to Chengdu. Shehnzen has a reputation for being late and it did not disappoint. They were two hours late and every announcement in the area was yet another late, delayed or cancelled plane.
After we get to our seats and get settled a woman came to get into the window seat, we let her in. A short time later, before takeoff she has a full out panic attack because of Isabella. She had to be moved. This did nothing to help my mood.
We got to Chengdu and looked for our guide. We had been assigned Susie. I had heard not great things about this gal and had specifically requested we not get her. Awesome. So we can’t locate her anywhere and after 30 minutes I was LIVID. I texted our in country coordinator to locate this gal, finally she breezed in, grabbed our cart and took us to the waiting van.
Our driver was a super nice lady. They took us to The Chengdu Sommerset, apparently this is not Susie’s preferred place to for families to stay because it is not near to many restaurants or shopping areas (meaning we’d ask her to take us). We were dumped off in our room and our guide made a hasty retreat. Not Impressed!
The room was very spacious with a kitchen, dining area, separate bedroom, small desk area and a gigantic living room. This was by far the largest room we stayed in while in China and it was amazing. The views were nice, the extra room was great for the kids to play in. I really liked the place. The only drawbacks were that they did not have a tub so we had to buy a bath basin (5 bucks at Walmart) and the location not being convenient to many eateries.
We were really busy with all the events of the day and didn’t have time to be nearly as freaked out about picking Gabby up the next morning. We didn’t get to the hotel until late, we were tired and ready to wind down.
We got up and got dressed, went to the breakfast buffet (which was amazing) It was large and varied. This is where the Holiday Inn became phenomenal.
We met Denise in the lobby, climbed into the van for the drive to the Civil Affairs office. It was my turn to be nervous and Paul was calm. It was a surreal day for sure. I thought I would barf all the way there.
We pulled up and there was our baby in the arms of the orphanage representative Coco. She handed Izzy off to me and I thought she would scream but after a moment of fussing she laid her head on my shoulder threw her arm around my neck and it was fine. We signed saying we would be her guardians overnight for the “Harmonious Period”. She was not interested in any of the toys but was happy to walk around the office with help and eat cheerios.
We headed back to our new favorite eatery in the mall and got lunch. We ordered her congee and she was not interested NOT.AT.ALL.
Our laundry was delivered to the hotel lobby (perfect).
We ordered room service for dinner, gave Izzy a bath and put her in pajamas, we played on the bed for a while before putting her down. She is such a quiet sweet baby and seemed much younger than her 19 months.
Sunday morning we met David in the lobby and checked out of our hotel. We drove to the airport and said goodbye to our driver. David was kind enough to take us into the airport and get us checked in and made sure we made it thru security. With the TSA in China they want all electronics together. Battery packs, cameras, cell phones, iPads etc. It was a little nutty because we had brought so much tech. Seriously DON’T DO IT. If you are reading this and getting ready to travel PACK LIGHT. We did not and I regretted it bitterly.
We were flying China Eastern and of course our flight was delayed. It was delayed for about an hour. The gate took forever to even be assigned, it was crazy.
The flight was shorter than we had anticipated and when we arrived in Nanjing, we collected our luggage and headed towards the exit. Our guide Denise was waiting for us with a big sign.. she knew exactly who we were (inconspicuous?). We were sure glad to see her. We climbed in the van and drove through terrible traffic and high flood waters to the Holiday Inn.
The room was large but it felt damp-ish and was not super clean. We were both glad we were not going to be there very long. I had heard great things about this hotel and perhaps because we paid using points we got the crappy room. It certainly did not live up to the hype. The main area had a large window into the bathroom (What is with that anyway?) and the blinds did not work (awesome).
Denise arranged for our laundry to be picked up at our hotel. The lady was so nice. We needed her services because we wore most all of our clothing in Beijing.
The Holiday Inn is attached to a mall, Shoppers start your engines.. That’s right a mall connected to the hotel. They had a number of restaurants on the lower level and(not to mention a grocery store) we picked a favorite and ate there a couple of times.
We ventured to the mall and shopped around. I was a little stunned at the price of the children’s clothing. It was pretty expensive. Considering we buy a ton of clothing made in China here in the US, I felt it was pretty shocking to see we would pay more for the same thing there. We picked up diapers and wipes and said goodbye to our sanity and our selfish lives. We picked up a few snacks at the grocery store. Paul was freaking out about meeting our new baby girl the next day, I was strangely calm.
Saturday we started out at Tienanmen Square, then we went on to the Temple of Heaven, we watched all the activities, dancing, exercising and games. Fabulous place to people watch. Both places were crammed with people.
We went shopping at The Pearl Market (called that because there is a huge faux pearl statue out front), it is really a flea market for everything. Bags, scarves, table runners, t-shirts, shoes, jewelry, carvings, scrolls etc. hundreds of little stalls all hawking one thing or another. We bought two back packs (one sport type and one plain), we found something nice for each of the big kids.
Then we headed over to the Old Beijing Noodle Shop for lunch. Thankfully we had reservations, it was crazy busy (Paul had the traditionally prepared noodles with the bean sauce) we all had the potato string stir fry, fried rice, a sweet chicken dish etc I’ve only eaten with chopsticks when we are out and in spite of not being fabulous at it, I am actually sustaining myself. Score!
Paul and I rested and cleaned up for an hour, went to a shopping mall with nothing but tech stuff to locate another camera battery. We found it at a great price. Our guide took us to this amazing acrobatic show. Wow is all I can say. It was freaking amazing. The talent was phenomenal. They did crazy, insane stunts. It was like a circus without animals. I am not going to lie, the motorcycles in the ball had me on the EDGE of my seat the entire time. This is a must see. We did get an ice cream sandwich from the gal that comes around before the show similar to the old style cigarette girls at the theater, but way better because .. Ice cream! Loved it!
After that we had dinner at another older style restaurant right next to our hotel. I could not eat the Peking Duck because of the sauce, which is really sad because as I recall Peking Duck is juicy, tender and fabulous. We had this stir fry dish with celery, a beef tomato soup, and fried rice. It was all excellent. We stopped at the local quick shop for snacks before heading to our room for the night. We bought our first fruit yogurt there, and yogurt in China is WAAAYY sweeter. I shamelessly ate it daily after that. .
We packed up our bags so we were ready to head to Nanjing the next morning.
The next morning we ordered room service for breakfast. We ordered omelets, a smoothie, yogurt and coffee. All delicious. We met our guide David in the lobby early to head out to the Mutianyu section of The Great Wall. It was about an hour and a half to get to there.
The drive was interesting and I liked seeing all the things along the way especially the CAMELS and Horses in the dry reservoir. Yes I said Camels, and I couldn’t believe it either. There was a hotel there too. It seemed sort of an odd place for it.
We passed little towns or villages and several larger restaurants catering to those folks coming to see the Great Wall. They were so big it seemed like they could handle all the residents of the entire nearby village and then some.
We arrived in the parking area and boarded a bus to head up to an unloading area ten minutes away. We walked up an incline to an area filled with vendor stalls, shops and eateries. They were hawking every sort of tourist trinket you could ever dream of.
We got on the rickety looking ski lift to take us to the top of the wall. Plan on moving quick. The view was incredible, but I was nervous as we looked down on all the tree tops and then assessing the look of the lift.
The Great Wall itself was pretty amazing, each brick had the seal of the brick maker who made it. The engineering for the time was really brilliant. The wall had built in drainage system to keep the deterioration to a minimum. We walked quite a ways on the wall taking in all the incredible views.
I was also participating in my favorite sport…People Watching. Sometimes you just want to yank the Selfie Stick out of someone’s hands and beat them with it. I saw a family and the mom must have taken at least 300 photos of herself. At one point the little girl says I’m not in the picture mom. OMG! Just stop already.
Paul did the toboggan down, I however was not up for that. Our guide told one of the workers that the toboggan track had a broken section!! What? Yeah I think I will pass. The workers scrambled out and went to fix it right away, but I am a huge chicken.
We did the Hutong Tour and had lunch at the home of a local family. I had sent word in advance about my dietary restrictions and they graciously fixed items I could eat. Everything was delicious, probably the best meal we had in China actually. They served a fried celery dish, a rice noodle, these delicious peanuts and several other dishes I am forgetting (if you go take pictures because you won’t remember later). Everything is so crazy you forget the details.
We went to a Jing Shan Park to get an overview of the Forbidden City. There were a lot of stairs but the view was incredible. David was such an incredible guide and had lots of information and history. David answered all of our questions and pointed out little interesting details. We had such a great time and learned a good deal while we were at it. I have nothing but great things to say about David Wang as a tour guide.
That evening we took advantage of our executive club benefits and had a few snacks in the Executive Lou Itnge. They have drinks as well but we were just there for the snacks! We started eating breakfast there for the remainder of our time in Beijing. They had an amazing little buffet spread every morning. Made to order omelets, congee, sausages, bacon, fruit, egg cream cups that were to die for and so much more. I really felt like they took care of us. They also had the coffee machines and believe me this hotel had the best coffee of anyplace we stayed in China. I looked forward to it every morning. Every employee of the hotel was always impeccably dressed and very nice. You can check out my here review on Trip Advisor.
We were all packed from the night before save for a couple of last minute items. Our driver from Seattle Town Car and Airport Shuttle (Jeff) texted me five minutes before he arrived at the house for our 2:15 pick-up. Jeff grabbed a bunch of our luggage and hauled it down to the waiting Town Car. He was really a nice guy we liked him a lot and hoped he would be our driver on the return trip.
Did I mention that just a couple of days before we went Paul and I each had a deep tissue massage. Is it bad when two days later you still feel like someone beat you with a length of chain?My neck was not nearly as knotted up but I flinched every time I sat down and my back touched anything.
We hauled all of our luggage into airport and got all checked in. We checked 2 28” Eagle Creek Tarmac Bags and one 26” random bag, then we each carried one Ebag Motherlode Jr backpack (I tested this one as a carry on here) and Paul had his A-pap machine plus I was carrying a Jujube Be Prepared (which is a HUGE baby bag). Now if you have made this trip you are on the ground laughing. Thank you.. I know it was WAYY too much crap. The issue was that how do you know if you have never been there?? I also packed a Flower Power Starlet bag in my luggage because I was sure we would need another baby bag with two toddlers and a long flight. PRO TIP: Leave the baby bag at home. Use your Motherlode Jr as a baby bag while out and about. It is a backpack and much easier to haul than an over the shoulder bag. I regret bitterly the amount of crap we hauled to China.
I took 8-9 different China Adoption Packing lists and compiled them into one. Added the stuff we would need and then tried to remove what I thought we wouldn’t want to haul. As you can see I was not brutal enough in hacking that list down. I figured if people said I wish I had brought X,Y and Z then I’d want to be sure to have it. Fatal Flaw in my plan, all this crap is heavy or takes up space.
After we got all checked in we went to the Dungeness Bay Seafood House on the S concourse and it was okay. We were pretty excited (I have no idea why) so everything was extra tasty.
While at the airport we met another family going back for their second adoption, shortly after we started visiting we were called up to the desk by the Delta folks, our passports were re-verified and we were told to get on the plane. We did and shortly after we were seated, boarding stopped and our flight was delayed for an air conditioning issue. The plane nearly needed to be switched out, It was similar to a sauna. Yeah more time stuck on a plane for no reason. We were delayed for an hour.
We took off finally and got underway. There was not a lot of sleeping on that flight. It was very long and uneventful. I paid the 40.00 for GoGo in flight WiFi (highway robbery) and I got on Facebook, surfed the web, found something to buy on eBay etc. I sent a FB message to David, the guide we hired in Beijing that our flight would be later than we thought. We landed Thursday June 25th in the late evening.
I had no way of knowing if David would get the message or not. When we landed in Beijing, went through immigration and collected our bags I was sure relieved to see David Wang holding a sign with our name on it. As we exited the airport it was hot.. I mean HELL HOT outside. Oh I had forgotten how hot it can be. We waited for a few minutes for our driver to come and we loaded everything into the car. The car was air conditioned and fabulous! They had water ready and waiting for us. I have no idea why but on the flight you really dry out.
The drive to the hotel was about 45 minutes.
When we arrived at the Renaissance Beijing Wangfujing, we walked in and I believe it is the most beautiful hotel I have ever seen. It had a boutique hotel feel but was gigantic. What I love about the hotel is that not only is it lovely but if you have any issue and you call down someone is there to assist you in moments.
The bathtub/shower room had a HUGE window with a fabulous view of the city. It was really phenomenal. On the little desk the hotel staff had left several apples on a plate with a knife and a napkin. What a fabulous surprise! They were delicious and hit the spot after hours of travel and terrible airplane food.
We ordered room service because we were hungry and tired and ready for a snack and bed. We ordered a burger to split. That creme brulee was delicious! Paul was not a fan because the beef tastes different (the cows are probably eating different types of grasses so of course it tastes different). We were in China, the whole thing felt like it wasn’t real.
We did a lot of preparation for our trip to China. When your mind is in that adoption fog and you are excited, scared etc all at once trying to nail down details is a little nutty.
One of the things I did was buy a “deal” for Freshly and have 12 meals delivered the day we arrived home and the following week. This is a HUGE help and one you can really use because you are tired and cranky on the return and having to figure out food is just an added annoyance. Some of you may have friends, family or neighbors willing to do this for you, but if you don’t seriously consider getting the food figured out before you hit the road.
We had stocked up on baby food pouches, puffs, toddler formula and teething biscuits for when we returned. I purchased a Foodii and steamed a ton of apples, pears and yams, added them to the Foodii pouches and froze them all to add to my supply of baby food.
I also found a sale on Little Tikes Cozy Coupe cars and Little Tikes shopping carts, they were delivered while we were gone so I had Carl put them together for us. Apparently there was a lot of cussing during assembly. Glad I missed that.
We arranged to have a car service pick us up and take us to the airport in a town car and then pick us up and bring us back in an SUV when we got back from China. We ordered two full car seats for that return pick up. This was we were not relying on a friend or family member to have enough space of get our seats installed correctly etc. You can check out my review of Seattle Town Car & Airport Shuttle here on Yelp. Believe me the return trip was not so great.
We set up VPN services so we could keep in touch with family and friends following along on Facebook. We bought an unlocked Apple iPhone S4 on eBay as a travel phone and had a China Unicom chip from 3G Solutions in China sent to our hotel for when we checked in. It was easy. We set up the VPN on the phone before heading out too. I bought extra data and minutes and I probably didn’t need to, I did however use it often. We packed a power brick with us every day just in case.
We ordered meals for our toddlers for the flight home. Pro tip: If you have a one year old and a two year old.. order both of them the baby meal. They will not eat the horrendous “toddler meal”. We flew Delta.. so Baby meal all the way.
We booked a guide and driver for our time in Beijing. David Wang came very recommended. I know some agencies insist on providing a guide (and charging you for this) I liked doing it myself, I was able to communicate with David in advance and things went very well. I also liked that David had previously worked in the adoption industry as a guide so he knew what we would be seeing in the next few days. I felt like he was not only personable & friendly but very knowledgeable and just an all around nice person.
I know it has been a while since we have posted.. I am going to try to catch you all up on our trip, and all the things that have happened since.
Our gal with the agency actually went into the office at midnight last night to check on our Travel Approval. How awesome is that? It had finally been uploaded to the system and she immediately wrote to the US consulate in China and secured our consulate appointment.
We got that news on the way home from Ganga’s house last night after having Pho and watching the most recent Game of Thrones. The pho was from Pho King in Tacoma (always good), The Game of Thrones was pretty shocking. I do not feel like this season has stayed true to the spirit of the rest of the George R R Martin books. I can’t wait to see what George R R Martin actually does when his book comes out.
I got several e-mails from the travel coordinator and I was a little annoyed that apparently the provincial guide gets to book your travel. We had booked our own hotels with points and now this gal was trying to get me to cancel and pay in cash. Um no. I said this is a way we are affording the adoption is to be able to cover our hotel expenses with points. Then I find out the provincial guide who get PAID to be our guide AND who gets required tips also wants to book the hotel so they can add 10% or so on. Just ridiculous. At this point we still owe the agency another $5500, plus the airfare for in country travel, and it isn’t like I am going to miss a meal anytime soon right?
I am still test packing, weighing and trying to whittle down. We are allowed 44 pounds on in country flights. Man that other 6 pounds that we are allowed on the US flights makes a HUGE difference. I have crap all over the girls’ room. ALL.OVER.
Then this morning, we got some really amazing news. We were awarded a $5000 grant from A Child Waits Foundation. WHOO HOO They are sending a check overnight to the agency. I nearly burst into tears when I got that call, we are so happy and relieved. The trip will be much less stressful now.
Later in the day I saw a little post from Andrea, the advocate that helped us with Gabby. Her husband Eric posted the most beautiful and eloquent message to any husbands out there, I am re-posting Eric’s words here with permission:
Hopefully there will be a husband out there that will be smart enough to follow his wife’s lead, like I have 5 times, and will understand what a great decision it is to say “yes”. He will think he is saying yes and thus saving a life, when in reality he is saying yes to his own happiness and the life and soul saved is his own. So if you are considering this child or know someone who is, and if you or your husband have fears, I challenge you to let go of the fear based decision making and choose a path of happiness that you fight for. This path brings never ending gifts and eliminates complacency. You will never take your family for granted. You will appreciate the time you have with your wife and children. Even food tastes a little better.
I promise you the road may look rough but what a beautiful path it is. All you have to do is take the first step.
Pass that on to any husbands that are on the fence. I will leave it there and post my progress tomorrow of Sunday. The countdown is ON folks!!
Article 5 drop off happened in Guangzhou (at the US Consulate) on and then out Article 5 was picked up on and sent off to the CCCWA in Beijing. We are an expedite so our paperwork was processed without the DS-260. Let me tell you what an annoying document that is. I tried two, three, four times a day and I kept getting a message as if it was not in the system. I spoke to the Consulate and they said it was a WORLDWIDE issue (now this issue has been going on for WEEKS), I am pretty appalled no ones head is on a spike (I know I know I’ve been watching entirely too much Game of Thrones), I think Microsoft should send a Tech envoy to fix this mess. In all of it a gal named Brenda at the US consulate in Guangzhou has been helping us (super nice gal, I hope I get to meet her in person). I *FINALLY* got both our DS-260’s done late last night. I hope I didn’t screw anything up. Everyone is relieved.
I asked about our dates and our agency gal said we could relax because Gabby’s medical update was so good. I really wish that was true but in reality it only means that there is no more organ damage going on currently and that we will not have to hassle with hauling oxygen from the US. Oxygen is not allowed on any domestic Chinese flights so it would be a total nightmare logistically and we would need to take the bullet train everywhere. This is fabulous if the train ride is not 14 hours. The plan was to leave on Wednesday the 17th.. yes of June. We will end up having to push it back one week because apparently even though we are an expedite it is going to take 15 days after TA is issued for the passports to be ready. PPFFTT. That make zero sense.
I am annoyed because we have to change the days and we lost the great room we had. Not happy.
I have not heard anything from A Child Waits Foundation, still hoping for pixie dust.
We got 2 bright orange big girl chairs, I think I need more! The P’kolino Little Reader Chairs are perfect, small and lightweight. I fear the girls will need to fight to use the chairs. The only one that has not gone over to hang out in one is Ginger. Those chairs are the perfect size for the dogs!
I’m ready to just get on with it. Almost everything is packed and ready to go.