Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Paperwork Day and Packing for Guangzhou

Some of our travel mates: Jack, Melonie and baby Kaitlyn

Nancy, Steve and baby Marissa

This is the view from our room on the 31st floor! This was a relatively clear day.

These are the cribs the Dolton Hotel provide....not quite up to our safety standards in the USA. I can put my arm through the bars.

Sweet girl playing in the room

Pretty in every color.

Hi Everybody,

Today was dedicated to completing paperwork for Guangzhou; one spouse went to a meeting room and it took over two hours to complete the paperwork!

We are packing our stuff up for a noon check out. Tomorrow is one week since Aubriana was placed in our arms, and what everyone says is so true, you get the perfect child for you!

We love her so much in just a week, we can't imagine life without her as our daughter.

Next time we check in it will be from Guangzhou and a week closer to coming home.
Love V

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

April 29 - Misc. Stuff

Aubriana is a great napper on the go - no wonder with the many bus rides and heat....I would cat nap too.

This is our guide, Grace, she is so sweet and has a well developed sense of humor that belies her elegant exterior.

A day at the park and napping while dangling.

Today the group went to a local zoo, which we opted out of going in exchange for a relaxing day. I've had some health issues come up and it was nice to just be still for a change.

Tomorrow is paperwork and passport day, then we can pack and leave Thursday for Guangzhou.

Hope everyone is well.

Love V

Monday, April 28, 2008

Embroidery Factory & Hunan University

Daddy & his princess!
This is our guide, Grace, she is so sweet, and we always sit in the same spot up front with her, so she knows Aubriana very well.
Cutie pie baby girl!!!
Changsha is known for embroidery, these samples illustrate the artistry of their work. There are no knots visible, and it looks like a painting.
Aubriana got a lot of attention again at the University Of Hunan, this was a girl showing us some amazing art work using sand.
We were stopped three times today with Chinese families with little boys who wanted to see Aubriana, I'm not sure, but I think we may have agreed to an arranged marriage at least once today!

The tiger and panda are one one and the same piece of silk, you can not tell from either side that the other image is on the reverse.

University Of Hunan - over 1000 years old.

Even though white is a color worn for mourning, it is becoming very vogue for brides to dress in Western Wedding Attire, I thought this young woman was lovely and there were two couples taking pictures at the University today.

Blogger is taking forever to load and post, so I will try to add some more pictures in a different post.

We sure miss everyone back home - Shout out to my M-3 Girls, I can't wait to see you all.

Love V

Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Museum and The Park

Hi All,

Saturday we went to very popular local museum, the line was around the block (thank goodness we had a touring appointment and didn't have to wait). I am not a big museum person, but the thing that struck me was how many people of all ages were to interested in spending their free time touring a museum of ancient history. These people are so interested an involved in education and honoring their history.

Once again, being Americans with Chinese babies created the "super-star" effect, which grew old after the first hour here. Michael Jackson, Britney Spears, Bradgelina, and all the other famous people have my very deepest sympathies.

Sunday we went to a local park which dates back 2000 years. You have to pay to get in and it has many aspects of a outdoor museum.

Saturday night was "pizza hut" night, just like home, and tonight was another group dinner out to a restaurant that serve "Western-style cuisine and traditional Chinese food. We sat at the advenntursome Chinese table while the traditionalists sat at the American style table. Just like in the states, our "Chinese" food is not real Chinese food, their "American" food is not real American food.

We also made a second Wal-Mart run and you can see some pictures of the seafood and dried meat departments - Yummy!

We have finally memorized the names of all of the people in our group and their babies.

Tomorrow we are off to Hunan University and maybe an embroidery factory.

We miss everyone, and keep the comments coming, it is so good to hear from home.

Love V

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Checking In

Hi Everybody,

It has been a whirlwind 2 days. We went to a group dinner last night at a traditional Chinese Restaurant, our guide pre-ordered everything for us and it was very tasty and very affordable!! The evenings have been very pleasant and cool, and even the heat has been bearable...I'm sure Guangzhou will be much hotter.

Aubriana is getting stopped everywhere we go, the people are very curious and think nothing of touching and even taking your baby from you to hold - quite different from the American perspective of personal space.

I'm happy to oblige, they all seem so charmed by her, and when they read the card we wear around our neck explaining why we have her and our promise to love, educate and provide for her they seem very happy.

I've been yelled at for having her in short sleeves, in the 80's!!! It is all well intentioned but such polar opposite views from our temperature preferences.

Here are some photos from the last couple of days, I hope you enjoy.

Love, Valerie & Gary & Aubriana

Thursday, April 24, 2008

More pictures.......

Technical Difficulties:

Blogger is having issues loading photos right now. So after multiple attempts I was only able to upload this one photo. Will try to put more up later!!!

Good Grief and Gotcha Day

Hell - O

This was another day for the memory books. We all got up and met in the lobby of the hotel promptly at 10:15 for our 11:00 appointment.

We took the tour bus and placed our lives in the hands of what, I am assuming, was a not too long ago releasee from a mental institution and headed towards the civil affairs office.

We were there right on time and waited for about 20 minutes when two ladies walked in with two babies right at 11:00. We are a group of 6 families from one orphanage and two from the other. This was very exciting as we knew who these two must belong to and were all taking pictures and oohing an awing over the adorable babies.

We sat, and we sat, an nobody was allowed to get up, and nobody came out to explain anything.
This went on for about another 20-30 minutes, and then the two families were called forward and signed some papers and were handed over their babies.

Meanwhile, we were all scratching our heads wondering where our six babies were? The guide came out and told us our bus was stuck in fog and would be delayed another hour.

Somebody kick me hard in the head, because nothing has gone as planned in this entire adoption. We all got back on the bus for with two extra this time and were told the babies would be brought to the hotel, in the hallway outside of the elevators on our floor!

I had two thoughts:

a) the lighting in there will make for some pretty crappy gotacha day photos.

b) if this is an option, why don't you always bring the babies to the hotels; so we don't have to travel the roads of China and challenge death to a dual?

So we all went back to the hotel, and waited for another hour until 1:00, we all headed out to the hallway, like some sort of sick emergency drill....and stared down 6 elevators; we stared at elevators until 1:30, then come 6 people, men, women and some Hotel Good Will Host we all call Mr. Happy who is on some sort of mood altering drug, cuz there just ain't nobody that freaking happy all the time.

We were all anxiously waiting to hold our babies, but wait where was our guide....we called the lobby, her room -nothing. Mr. Happy called, and then pulled out his cell and called a top secret number....nothing.

Somebody give me another quick kick to the skull because how hard is it to get up the elevator and start the proceedings?

Finally she arrived...and slowly started to call each of us forward. After about 20 minutes of dealing out babies...she informed us; We have to be back at the Civil Affairs and will leave at 3:00 to complete all of the paperwork usually done 24 hours later!!!!

We had about an hour and a half to assess our child and then get back on the Bus of Doom to compete the "RED" tape.

Whatever, the babies were all beautiful and seemed very healthy.

So back on the bus, and then one by one we were called to the various departments to pay the individual fees. I had instructed my husband to grab the cash out of the safe and I did EVERYTHING ELSE.

They called for the final department where you swear to love and educate the baby and hand over the orphanage donation when G discovers he can't find the $3,000 cash!!!

OK - I am not a violent person, but except for the threat of life in a communist prison....I would have done things to that man that are usually reserved for the criminally insane.

I just sat there - utterly defeated, thinking well this is it; I now know that the way I will die is going to be spontaneous combustion in the middle of a Chinese Civil Affairs office.

Everyone reassured us this was not a big deal - WTF???? I don't know about you, but I don't have a whole lot of extra bundles of new, crisp hundred dollar bills lying around.

We were somehow allowed to take Aubriana back to the hotel with us, where I was trying to figure out how much money G's kidneys would garner on the open market.

LOOOONG story short, we found the money in the diaper bag (?) and everything worked out in the end - if you don't consider high blood pressure and increased risk of stroke a high price to pay.

She is BEAUTIFUL - SWEET - AND AS OF THIS MOMENT A COMPLETE MAMA'S GIRL! (she may be miffed that Daddy almost cost her her US Citizenship.

We proudly introduce Aubriana Rose:

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Planes, Trains & Automobiles

Ni Hao (Hello) from China!

After getting in a car @ 5:30 am we headed off to the airport; where Valerie set off the security monitor for what would be the first of three security stops for the day.

Then is was on a plane headed for San Francisco, we had upgraded to Economy Premium Access which gave us a whopping five extra inches of leg room - that is the equivalent of less then the length of a dollar bill, but we took what we could get and it was bearable for the 3 1/2 hours.

Then we headed off to go through the security check point again....I knew I had a magnetic personality, but give me a break, I was setting off more lights and whistles then a slot machine in Vegas. Then we got on our flight for Beijing, we were actually able to upgrade to Business Class for this leg of the flight....OMG...what a difference. Reclining seats, china and glass, Evian water being continually filled throughout the flight, 15 channels of movies and shows to choose from. It made the long flight more than bearable for me, and joy of joys the bathroom was literally within spitting distance from my seat.

I had to get up and stretch my legs several times, and I took a gander at 1st class where everyone looked like Pod People in some sort of capsule contraption....then I went into the belly of the beast and saw Coach.....good grief.....I don't know how people stood it back there, they were crammed in like cattle going to market and I felt guilty for having it so good in our nice seats. I don't understand why everyone can't travel in comfort and with dignity....if you are planning on this type of whatever you can to upgrade people.

After traveling in some form or another for over a day we landed in Beijing where we had 2 hours to get deplane, go through customs, get our luggage and get to another terminal and catch our last flight to Changsha.

Well all that glorious peace that accumulated on the flight over quickly dissolved into the hustle and bustle of being a stranger in a strange land. We got through customs quickly enough and then followed the masses to a train which was supposed to take us to the baggage terminal which was nowhere near where we had gotten off the plane.

We followed signs forever saying baggage claim and domestic transfers when it suddenly dead ended at a subway train, which only said Terminal 3 - we didn't know from Terminal 3 but being the good lemmings that we are we all squeezed into this stand only train. We had our carry on items which was already heavy and too much to handle (tip #1 PACK LIGHT), then we had to stand excessively close to all these people. It is the first time I have been in situation where I was the minority group represented. Very strange to feel so awkward and looked at.

We got our luggage and then needed to get to another terminal which we did not know which one as it wasn't on our tickets, this is where it started to fall apart. Nobody speaks English; or if they do they say a little bit and that is exactly what they mean, they can say "A Little Bit" and nothing else.

I think it is a courtesy thing, they want to be helpful and rather than say I don't know, they would rather tell you something to make themselves feel better. Well about 6 people made themselves feel better by sending us all over the airport. We went up the elevator, we went down the elevator, we went outside, then we went inside, we went over a bridge, then back again.....all the while tugging along way too much damn luggage (TIP: PACK LIGHT).
Finally someone told us we needed to get a shuttle bus to the domestic terminal which was no another walk and a half to get to.

The bus waits until it is literally overflowing with people and luggage before it will take off....I was looking very anxiously at the clock as we had already been on the ground for an hour and only had an hour before our last flight took off.

This guy drove us to what felt like a completely different took about 15 minutes to get to the domestic terminal. Then we had to get in another line to check our luggage....I was sweating...the girl was on the phone while she checked us in and wasn't paying close attention.

We then ran over to the security check point and waited in line again....we had about 20 minutes before our flight left and were really panicking. The security guy took my passport and boarding pass and kept looking at it funny, and asking for my ticket. I said that is my ticket...he said "no, not this, ticket ticket" I reiterated, that is my ticket, I just got if from over there...pointing at a mass of humanity behind me. Then he called over someone else who said the same thing all over again....ticket, ticket. WTF; I pulled out every scrap of paper I had on me and they wanted the little receipt that is torn off and handed back to you which no body ever asks for. But apparently some critical information was missing from it (Gate and flight time) which was coincidentally already listed on the BOARDING PASS. They told us to leave the security line and go back "straight and left" ....what the hell is Straight and Left, those directions lead to a new stand, some chairs, possibly a garbage can and the ticket counters we had just left which gave us the bogus tickets.

I was watching the minutes tick by, when we saw a kiosk that said "Manager On Duty" well I am quite familiar with going to management to settle my complaints. This guy looked at the little stub, wrote on the gate and time (which was on the boarding pass) and stamped it with red ink - that was it??? They wanted the gate and time???? At this point we ran back to the security check point....where there were even more people - at this point it became apparent to me we could not wait in line again. We went to the front and showed the girl our flight time, and asked her to rush us through; which she did.

Well apparently when you see a couple of Americans scampering all over the airport and cutting line, and yelling at each causes interest in you. I set off the third security alarm (Tip. don't where any shirts with metal embellishments on them).

The girl spent more time waving the wand over me then a tailor making a suit. Then I was off - until they called me over to search my bags...which they emptied completely. I had already cleared DFW. SF, and now China was giving me trouble about getting on a domestic flight. They went through everything and then motioned me off to a more extensive search area....where this girl went through literally everything in my quart bags and medical bags. I went out of my way to bring brand new unopened items to keep this simple. She looked at my bottles of insulin and said bring. I told her it was medicine....she asked me to open a bottle, which you aren't supposed to do until ready to use....but whatever, she broke the seal, and then tried to smell the bottle which is a rubber covered top which is in place and the insulin can only be removed via a syringe. She took out a box cutter and motioned she was going to slice the rubber open.

Let me tell you, this ticked me off. I need this stuff to live, I only have so much of it and how could she not know what insulin is? I yelled NO WAY, and put m hands up to move the blade away from the bottle, she leisurely put it down and then proceeded to open up brand new bottle of vitamins and the told me m 2 oz bottle of hand sanitizer was flammable. I said no it isn't, she then put some on a blade and lit it with a lighter, I saw nothing happen and told her to just keep it.

At this point is was 5:00 and I knew we had missed our flight. We were re-packing our crap and lamenting how the heck to get another flight...when Gary noticed on a board that our flight was delayed by an hour. Thank God for that.

We then got on another 2 1/2 hour flight and landed in Changsha around 8:30. We went to bed around midnight here, all on about 3 hours total sleep for a two day period.

The beds are right out of the Flintstones, one of our travel mates said she slept like a rock and I said "Well I slept on one."

We are just tyring to get settled in, till the big day tomorrow. I'm sorry for the long post, but I just needed to vent.

We are off to battle the A/C, lack of toilet paper and other things that spoiled Americans expect and take for granted.

Our Gotcha Day appointment is 10:00 am I think.

Please pray it goes well for everyone.

Love Valerie

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Words From The Heart

Dear Sweet Daughter,
As a girl I had a common dream, to be a mom someday.
My baby would have eyes of blue and hair the hue of hay.
But now my dreams have been transformed, new visions fill my head;
Now the tresses that I long to stroke are raven black instead.
And in my dreams those eyes are not so big or blue or round;
Now in my dreams they're almond shaped and colored cocoa brown.
And in my dreams my arms can stretch across enormous seas.
They reach half-way around the world and hold you close to me.
As you grow in your mother's womb, carefully knit together,
you're also growing in my heart, where you will stay forever.
And in my dreams the moment that your mother says good-bye;
I'll be right there to comfort you and hold you as you cry.
Our features may not look alike; we're different as can be;
But still I know the Father has created you for me.
And though I've not yet kissed your face, or held your tiny hands,
and though we're half a world apart in very different lands;
I'll be right there to get you just as soon as God allows.
But 'till He says the time is right I give to you this vow.
I'll pray for your protection every night on bended knee.
For God will hold you in His arms, until you're here with me.
-Gayle Leubecker

Thursday, April 10, 2008

We're leaving on a jet plane....

I never thought this day would come; but we have booked our flights for China and will be picking up our beautiful daughter on April 24!

Per usual, the process is about as smooth as walking on broken glass; we literally were told at 1:30 today we had until 3:00 tomorrow to book our tickets for our trip to be in China by the 23; today is the 10th (no pressure there).

Our group is being squeezed in during some annual convention or something and therefore we are skipping the 3 extra days in Beijing and have been instructed to arrive in our child's province the day before our Gotcha Day; nothing like a little jet lag exhaustion to set the mood for Gotcha Day.

Luckily for us, our dear friends Robyn and Paul (see reference pictures below) just returned a week ago today. We had them over for dinner last night and a through debriefing on what to expect, do, eat, et al. Thank you for sharing your time with us and letting us spend some time with your wonderful family; Avery is such a sweetheart doll. I look forward to many play dates with our children.

There are more things to do than I feel can possibly get done; all I know for sure is the huge mountain in front of us will soon be under us and then behind us and our lives will change forever.

I hope to update while we are on this amazing journey to complete our family circle.

We appreciate any and all prayers to help us through this.

Love V