Thursday, July 30, 2009

Last Day in Nanchang

Just wanted to say thank you to everyone who has sent emails and commented on the blog.  We aren't able to respond to the blog comments but please know that we are very appreciative of the kind words and well wishes.  We wake up every morning between 4 and 5 am and go straight to the computer. 


Thanks to Debbie for letting us know about the morning exercises outside of our hotel room this morning.  We went and it was something to see.  The speaker/boom box powered by a car battery was a hoot.  We were surrounded by women asking questions about Meili.  They wanted to know how old she is and how many teeth she had, etc.  It's amazing how effective a means of communication pantomime is!  Of course, I didn't have our card with us that explains who we are and why we are carrying around a Chinese baby.  That would have been helpful!


Today we are going to go to the park and then to the porcelain district.  After that, we have to pack up for a late flight to Guangzhou.  Please keep your fingers crossed for us as I have caught Meili's cold and am running a fever.  That could buy me a one way ticket to Q-town if I can't get it under control this evening. 


Meili is still all smiles and giggles this morning but will still scream during diaper changes and during her bath.  She is fine once fully clothed again.  Between her thumb-sucking and petite stature, she has earned herself the nickname, 'Thumbelina.'  She will still go to either Matt or I but if she's tired, she wants mama and wants to curl up on my shoulder.  We call that her 'happy place.'  She has an amazing appetite and likes things that are spicy.  She can eat a pile of noodles the size of her head and then still put away some steamed egg and rice congee.


Taylor and Audrey are doing extremely well.  We are so proud of them for how well they are behaving (they usually are at war with one another), how helpful they are and how willing they are to try new things.  They are trying any of the foods put in front of them and actually like most of it.  Audrey put a chicken claw on her plate at breakfast yesterday and gave it a try.  She said it just tasted like chicken fat.  She's looking for some duck tongue to try next.  Audrey was also the first one to get a giggle out of Meili and both she and Taylor have play time with her while Matt and I get things done in the hotel room.  We debated for years about whether to bring them or not and we're definitely glad that we did. 


It may be a while before I post again since we have to pack up the laptop.  I'm hoping that the internet access will be as good in Guangzhou as it has been here. 

Trip to the Countryside

We were supposed to go to the park yesterday but since there was a brief break in the rain, our guide decided to make the most of it and head out to the countryside to show us what it might look like where our daughters are from.  We drove about 30 minutes outside of the city and the landscape soon changed from high rise buildings to small concrete floored, one room homes.  Chickens and dogs roamed the streets.  Children are out of school on summer break and it appears that they are left in their grandparents care while their parents are at work. Audrey and Taylor handed out safety suckers which were a big hit. A cute little elderly woman came out of her home and gave Taylor and Audrey each a peanut.  These people appear to have nothing-no bathroom, no running water, no electricity but our guide told us that what we were seeing was considered middle class.  The smiles on their face prove that 'things' don't make people happy. 

A New Day

On Thursday morning, it was as if someone flipped a switch and our shy and timid little girl came out of her shell.  We started the day with about 15 minutes of constant smiles, giggles and babbling.  By the afternoon, she was clapping her hands, giving us kisses and waving and saying 'bye bye.'  In the days before, she would rather sleep than look at us and would cry if we changed her position on our lap or looked at her wrong.  Now she likes to rip our glasses off of our faces and thinks it's the funniest thing ever.  She had a preference for snuggling up on our shoulders under our chin, but it was more of a way to avoid eye contact with us than anything else.  What a relief to see her little personality start to emerge.  I hate to say it but her lack of interaction with us combined with the assortment of self soothing behaviors that she exhibited in her first few days with us had institutional autism on my mind.  What we were really looking at was one frightened and grieving little girl who was coping in the only way she knew how.  What I see when I look at her now is how brave she is to trust us a little more each day and allow us the privilege of being her parents.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Teng Wang Pavilion

Today we toured Teng Wang Pavilion which is one of the three most famous structures in Southern China.  We're not sure what the other two are so it's the most famous to us.  :)  It's a beautiful12-story building with ornate ceilings, a performance area on the top floor and many gift shops on the others.  We did a little shopping but are holding out for our guide to take us to a 'porcelain street.'  (Lisa-is that where you found your 100 Children tea set?  I'm on the hunt for one...)  I'm sure the view from the pavilion is quite lovely on a clear day.  However, we are on day 3 of rain here in Nanchang City so in our pictures we all look like a pack of wet dogs with some haze in the background.  


After the pavilion tour, we walked to another Chinese restaurant for lunch.  Our guide, Grace, is doing a great job of ordering for our group. So far we have had fabulous meals and haven't paid more than $6 per person for a meal.  I now think of Panda Express as the great American rip-off.  Today's lunch included sweet and sour pork, corn, broccoli, shrimp fried rice, spicy beef, spicy chicken wings, and some sort of chicken dish with celery and carrots that was delicious.  I hope that Meili isn't too ticked off when she learns that we don't put out a spread like this at Casa Bouton very often.


While we were wrapping up at the pavilion, Audrey got a big smile from Meili. She has a big open mouthed 4-going on 8-tooth grin that I can't wait to capture on camera.  I told the kids that the reason why her smiles are few and far between is because it is going to take several days for us to get used to her non-smiling cuteness.  If she came to us smiling, it would just be too much for us to handle!


Our plans for the rest of the day include heading up to the 11th floor at 4pm.  Grace has invited a calligrapher to come and write our daughter's chinese names in calligraphy for us.  At 6, she has arranged another Chinese dinner for our group.  I'm not sure we'll even be hungry by then.  We had a pretty big lunch.  Tomorrow, we are going to a park and then maybe to the porcelain district. On Friday, we might be able to go and see a more rural area, similar to where Meili is from.


I think I'll have to quit claiming to not be a person who cries because at least a couple of times each day I catch myself just being overwhelmed by the fact that we are in China, at how friendly and warm the people are and that we finally have our girl in our arms.  She is warming up to us much more slowly than I anticipated but we already love her fiercely and wouldn't trade her for all the tea in China!    

Hanging Out With Taylor

Meili Loves Congee and Noodles

At breakfast this morning, Meili ate 1/2 a bowl of congee, 1/2 a bowl of steamed egg and a load of noodles.  Some of the noodles she ate from Daddy's chopsticks and the rest she shoveled in by herself by the fistful.  We're glad to see some spunk in her and are hoping that she will continue to perk up and show us her little personality.

Tuesday in Nanchang

Yesterday, it poured down rain all day long.  We got up and had breakfast in the hotel buffet then got on the bus and headed to the notary which here is more like a judge.  She asked us a few questions and signed our adoption registration.  Next we walked to Walmart which is nothing like what we have back home.  It's three stories tall and was really crowded.  There is an escalator thing that you use to take your cart between the floors.  Taylor bought a computer game and I got about a dozen Michael Jackson DVDs and CDs for about 2-3 dollars each.  We also got some Chinese music and children's books, a couple of jade necklaces and chinese toys for Meili.  The funny thing was all the little baby boys in split pants.  Their parents put them into the cart with their 'junk' in direct contact with the seats.  I laugh when I think about how different that is from in the US where parents use padded cart covers and stores have sanitizing wipes to use before putting a fully clothed baby inside.


After Walmart, we came back to the hotel and took a nap.  Matt picked up the pictures from the disposable camera that came with Meili.  The pictures are of terrible quality but we can see her playing with toys and standing up barely holding on to a rail with one hand.  She is definitely holding out on us and can do much more than she lets on.  We have a long row to hoe with her.  She is almost 14 months old but is the size of a 9 month old and behaves more like a 6 month old.  She gave us a half smile two nights ago but we haven't seen one since.  She would rather sleep than interact with us but we keep trying to coax her out of her shell.  She is still sick and is cutting four teeth which isn't helping things.  She is still eating really well and finally pooped yesterday.  We can't wait to get home and get into a routine. 


For dinner, we thought about eating in the hotel buffet but we weren't hungry enough to pay $70 us for dinner for the 5 of us so we headed out to a market and picked up some noodle bowls and snacks to take back to our room.  We didn't have any utensils in our room so we were looking for chopsticks in the store without luck.  I asked, 'Kuaizi zai nali' and three ladies lit up with smiles on their faces and pointed me right to them.  A full grocery sack came to about $2.  We came across a bakery on the way back to the hotel and splurged on a $6 cake.  I'll try to post pics to the blog sometime today and update later tonight after our tour to Teng Wang Pavilion.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Quick Update and Pics From Taylor's Camera

Last night, we went to dinner with our guide and some of the families in our travel group.  I wish I would have taken the camera.  It was the best Chinese food I've ever had in my life.  After what we saw on the breakfast buffet yesterday my expectations were quite low but it was amazing.  We walked over to the place (I'll have to ask our guide what the name of it is) and went inside and hiked up 4 flights of steps.  It was really hot inside but they took us into a private room that was air conditioned (!) and started to bring out the dishes one by one.  There was a spicy potato thing, spicy cabbage with pork, lamb on a stick, spicy beef, broccoli, rice, steamed egg for the babies and a fried banana bread thing that was delicious.  Meili ate a bowl and a half of steamed egg so we figured that she was full.  My favorite part of the evening was when she started to play with my necklace and attempted to feed it to me.  I finally got a little smile out of her as we were feeding each other my necklace!  After that, she seemed to perk up quite a bit.  When the watermelon was served, it got her attention and she ate a few pieces with the most energy we've seen out of her yet. Things are slow but moving in the right direction! Last night we all got a good night's sleep so today should be even better.  Here are some random pics from Taylor's camera.  I'll try to do the same with Audrey's camera sometime soon.

Fu Yan Cong is Officially a Bouton!

For some reason, we all can't seem to wake up any later than 3 or 4 am each morning but we're having a fun time making good use of  those early morning hours by enjoying Meili and coaxing her out of her little shell.  Some developments today are better eye contact.  She is very clingy but will still go to either Matt or I.  It's hard to try to interact with her when she is glued to your body.  I keep trying to sit her on the bed across from me so I can try to feed her or play 'pass the toy' and she won't have much to do with it for very long. Still no smiles but she at times seems like she is thinking about it.  She will now look in a mirror without screaming.  Yep, we're celelebrating the small steps!


Her first bath this morning was a royal failure.  There is a baby bathtub under the sink but the sink and countertop aren't big enough to place it on without the potential for a tipover.  There is no full sized tub-only a shower so I opted to put her directly into the sink.  The only problem was that she would not bend her body into a sitting position to get into it.  So I held her upright with one arm and tried to clean her up with the other while she howled.  Her referral docs say that bathtime is her favorite activity.  I no longer believe anything that is contained in any of the reports that we have received.  :)  I dressed her in a size 6-9 month outfit and the length is good but she still has room to spare in the waist.  She is so petite!  She is the youngest in our travel group by only a few days but looks to me that she is the smallest by at least a few pounds.


We are now staying at the Jin Feng Hotel in Nanchang.  It's a 5 star hotel in the middle of 'real China.' We are certainly not in Beijing any more.  Most of the surrounding buildings look like they could crumble to the ground at any minute.  The people here speak Gan which is a minority dialect of Mandarin not intelligible to most people who speak the standard dialect.   


Breakfast this morning was 'interesting.'  I would love to be able to say that I tried a bit of everything in China but spicy Chinese food just doesn't seem appetizing at 7 am.  I think I had half of a banana and a Gatorade for breakfast.  I mashed up the other half of the banana for Meili but she wasn't a fan.  She would rather have congee or egg.  I guess it's good for us to see what she will feel like in a couple of weeks when all the food around her won't exactly be what she had in mind.


After breakfast, we headed to the Civil Affairs office to register the adoption.  We had our family picture taken, reviewed some paperwork and then we were interviewed by an official.  She asked us questions like, 'What is your occupation?'  'What year were you married?'  'How to you plan to raise and educate your child?' along with 'Are you happy with your child?'  and 'Do you promise to never abuse or abandon her?'  Well, duh.  Of course we are and of course we won't. 


After that, we were able to meet with the director and ask him a few questions. I had grandiose plans to eek out a Mandarin conversation but wasn't able to get past, 'Hen gao xing ren shi ni.' (Very nice to meet you)  He did tell us that Meili has always been in the orphanage and out of the 15 families in our travel group, only Meili and one other child were in the orphanage the whole time.  He also told us that they were both involved in the Half the Sky program. (Lisa, I think Meili and Ava were definitely orphanage buddies!) I asked if there was a memory book and he said yes!  I bawled like a baby when I heard the news.  I haven't seen it yet but our guide, Grace, has it and is translating it.  She says it is taking her a while because it has many pages!  He said that she has been sick for about 3 days.  He also said that he would like for her to learn to speak Chinese and come back to the orphanage to visit.  He seemed like a very kind man and said that he understood that we had been waiting for a long time and why I was so emotional.  Later we took a picture with him and he said, 'Wow, the mom is really tall!'


So, in the eyes of the Chinese government, Meili is officially ours!!!


We came back to the hotel and Meili and I had a nap while Matt, Taylor and Audrey went to the market for some snacks and then went for a swim in the hotel pool.  They also ventured across the street (Frogger style) and dropped off the disposable camera that was sent with Meili.  I hope there are some good pics of what her life was like in the orphanage.  We'll pick up the pictures tomorrow.  We're meeting our group for dinner at 6 which should be another culinary adventure and then we hope to get a good nights sleep.  Tomorrow, we're going to Walmart.  Taylor is hoping to get some video games and I'm hoping to pick up some Chinese music and children's books.  Will check in again tomorrow!  

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Great Wall

On Saturday afternoon, we climbed the Great Wall and it was, well, great!  We all made it to the restrooms just below tower 4 and Matt and Taylor made it all the way to the top eliminating any doubt that they are indeed 'true men.' Taylor was a boy on a mission.  He wanted to get to the top and get the 'I climbed the Great Wall' t-shirt to ensure he would not be mocked by Nicholas and Zhao Yue when he got home.  We took a group photo there and put our lock on the chain and threw the key over the side.  I checked 'Send a Slinky down the Great Wall of China' off of my bucket list even though it didn't work very well.  The steps are too uneven and deep.  It worked best on the sloped parts without steps.  My favorite part was chatting with the people going the opposite direction on the wall.  The Chinese people are so friendly and eager to practice their English.  It's amazing how many functionally bilingual people there are in Beijing.  It was very quickly made apparent to me that I am not one of them.  I only learned that 'bu xie' does not mean, 'no thanks' after an entire day of responding to eager vendors by telling them that there was no need to thank me.  :) 


Climbing the Great Wall is one of those things that you never think you will ever be able to do in your lifetime.  It was quite a feeling to stand there on the wall and look out over the hillside and think about its historical significance.  Matt summed it up best though when he said as he huffed and puffed up the wall, 'Well, I can see why it kept the Mongols out!'


We made it up to the 13th floor conference room of our hotel at about 4:30pm as instructed and were told that the babies had been delayed 15-30 minutes.  Not 5 minutes later, we heard crying in the halls.  I grabbed the camera and ran for it but had to really search for Meili.  She was in the middle of the crowd wearing a cute little lavender dress.  The nanny that was holding her could tell that I had spotted my baby and tried to be discreet about moving to the front so we could get a pic.  We were the first family to be called so it all seemed like a frantic mess but before we knew it, I was holding our girl!


She didn't cry at first and came to me quite easily but made up for it later.  She is a double fisted thumb sucker-she'll switch from one thumb to the next over and over again.  If one arm is covered in a blanket or tucked behind me while I'm holding her, she'll get ticked so I have to hold her upright instead of in a cradle position.  She is very petite.  We changed her diaper and fed her a bottle but have not yet changed her clothes.  She's swimming in the size three diapers we brought and I'm guessing that she will be swimming in the size 12 months clothes we brought as well.  I'm thinking that she is in a 6-9 months size at most.  We haven't weighed her yet but we're sure the 19-20 pound reports were quite exaggerated.


Matt was able to hold her and rocked her to sleep. He also got the bottle right on the first try.  He's still a pro!  Taylor and Audrey are doing great. They've been the camera crew, caddies and designated play patrol.  No smiles yet.  We definitely have one scared little girl on our hands but we're sure that things will get better each day.


Meili is a little sick but nothing to be concerned about.  She has two IV marks (one in each hand) and is coughing and running a slight fever.  Her chest sometimes rattles when she breathes but not all of the time. She came to us with a bag with 4 different kinds of medicines.  One we recognize as the Chinese version of Baby Tylenol.  The other three are 'ancient Chinese secret' and we'll get to play apothecary tomorrow when she wakes up. Our guide came up after the paper work was done tonight to translate the instructions for us.  I asked her why a baby would go to the hospital for a chest cold trying to figure out if she had been much worse and was already on the mend and she explained that there are no private doctors here.  Anybody that wants to see a doctor must go to a hospital to do so and anybody who goes to the hospital gets an IV.  Anyway, she is eating fine and isn't dehydrated at all so we're not too concerned.  I'm sure that the orphanage director wanted to make sure that she had received the best care possible before handing her over to us. 


I'll update more as I'm able.  We're completely exhausted but head over heels in love with this girl!!!   Here are some pics.