Friday, August 31, 2007


Beijing -- We Made It! Hi Everyone! We are in BEIJING!! It's currently about 3:30 am on Saturday morning (which is about 2:30 pm Friday Afternoon Central Standard Time in the US). Our flight arrived on time yesterday at about 3 pm local time. It took about an hour to get off the plane (we were in the VERY back row), get through the passport check, find the luggage and then find our guide, Rui. Her name is pronounced just like the American name "Ray" and she is a very sweet young woman that I know we will enjoy having as a guide for our short stay in Beijing. She took us to the Poly Plaza hotel and got us checked in at around 5 pm. We were one of the last families to arrive so Rui had already scheduled a quick trip to a small grocery store nearby for 5:30 pm so we just had time to bring the luggage up to the room and exchange a bit of currency before heading out. When we met in the lobby for the grocery run, we were able to meet four of the other families from our group and while we were all very weary from the long trip it was a nice little spark to meet others who just can't wait to get to their babies and children! Rui lead us to the grocery store which is just about 3 minutes away from the hotel. A whole group of Americans walking along like baby ducklings to the grocery store was enough to make a few heads turn!
We bought some bottled water, sunscreen (which I had forgotten to pack) and a few little cups of something that looks like pudding but is a fruit gel (we haven't tried them yet). Finding sunscreen was quite interesting as most of the products are actually "whitening screens" which means they have an SPF factor to keep the sun from burning/browning your skin, but they also have an added agent that actually lightens the skin as well -- it reminds me of American whitening toothpaste. Since I have problems with whitening toothpaste in the US, there was no way I wanted a whitening sunscreen! But we were able to find one bottle that is just an SPF so we bought that to use on our tour trip today.
The Poly Plaza is very nice -- probably the quietest hotel we've stayed at in years. The hotel is VERY clean and has some luxury items in the room which we don't find in the US -- very nice fluffy bath robes, slippers, living sprigs of Bamboo, a ceramic tea set with choice of teas, a hot pot to boil water (you can't drink any water from the tap in China, even in the 5 star hotels), a small refrigerator and a safe. Also, they provide a toothbrush and small toothpaste for each guest besides the traditional shampoo, soap and shower cap. We just looked briefly at the lower level of the hotel and there is a nice little lobby store for snacks/water and a tea room which seems to serves noodles and desserts. The hotel includes a breakfast buffet which we'll be at shortly. The hotel has what we understand to be the traditional twin sized Chinese beds which are solid like concrete! I actually have to sleep only on my back as my arms fall asleep and my shoulders and hips hurt when I lay on my sides as it feels to me just like laying on the floor. Kevin says it is actually a tiny bit more comfortable than his hiking mat simply because the bed is a bit wider and longer. The other thing we are not used to here is that even when you are in air conditioning, it's hot by our standards. Now, having said that, we keep our house COLD so what we consider warm others may think is just normal. But, this is our blog and so I'm telling our story - Ha! The hotel room is the coolest right now it's been since our arrival probably due to the fact that it's night time outside so the outside temp is cooler as well, but right now the room is about 78 to 79 degrees F. And the A/C is cranked to the coolest setting.

A few little FUN FACTS so far:
1. Sitting in the very back row on a 14 hour overseas flights is interesting to say the least. There was a small open area right behind our seats which gave a bit of space before the bathrooms and galley. This area was used as a place to stretch one's legs or for children to play in. Some of those stretching there legs liked to hang over the back of our seats and watch what we were watching on our Ipods!
2. Our flight took us up over the North Pole and then down into Beijing. We passed over Siberia and on the overhead screen it said that the current temp outside the plane was -79 degrees F.
3. The first American store I recognized on the bus ride to the hotel was Lenscrafters and the second was Subway. We actually picked up a quick sandwich from Subway with another couple from our group and we not only able to order by number for the sandwiches we wanted but both of the girls working there spoke some English -- actually quite a bit of English. We picked up cans of pop which have the metal pull-tab tops which I haven't seen in years. All the cans were completely in Chinese except for the word "Coke." After eating we realized we already broken one of the "rules" we had told ourselves we wouldn't -- we ate uncooked veggies in the form of the lettuce, peppers, cucumbers, etc that came on the sandwiches. But, no ill effects so far! And the sandwiches were very tasty!
4. Take to heart when people tell you not the try to cross the street unless you right along side a Chinese person -- they know what they are doing and you do not! It really is like the old game "Frogger" here -- can't even begin to describe the traffic with all the cars, bicycles, pedestrians, etc.
5. One of the families in our travel group has a blond haired toddler. In the lobby while we waited to go on our grocery run, you would have thought the little girl was a ROCK STAR! Hotel employees and others in the lobby was so taken by her that they came over to see her and then went and brought other people over to see her! Should be an interesting trip today for the Beijing tour! I'll close for now and try to get another hour of sleep before the big tour day.

Sorry, no photos yet but we promise to take LOTS today! We are able to get our email and love to hear from you all! And we can access most of the websites we enjoy in the US, but we the blog site is blocked so I'm emailing this to Hayley for her to post for us --- THANKS Hayley!!!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

And We're Off!

The bags are packed (mostly), the airline tickets are purchased and the hotels are booked. It is now just a matter of hours until we depart for China and (more importantly) a few short days until we see our girl. We can hardly wait!

Before we leave, we wanted to take a moment to thank everyone that has been there offering their support and encouragement along the way. Family, friends, and even people that we have never met have taken the time to show their enthusiasm in conversations, phone calls, and kind comments left on the blog. For those that have left comments on the blog, we want you to know that we appreciate your thoughtfulness.

We hope to be posting regular updates with photos while we are in China as time permits and for at least a little while after we get back.

Friday, August 24, 2007

September 3 -- Gotcha Day!!!

We just received our final itinerary for China! Looks like we will have three different guides while in China (Rui in Bejing, Michael in Nanjing and Kelly in Guanghzou). The hotels look awesome!

Aug. 30 -- Fly to Beijing (traveling through time zones as Beijing is 13 hours ahead)
Aug. 31 -- Arrive Beijing in late afternoon, check into Poly Plaza Hotel
Sept. 1 -- Tour Great Wall (photo above), Forbidden City and Tian An Men Square
Sept. 2 -- Fly to Nanjing, check into Xuanwu Hotel
Sept. 3 -- MEET YAN at civil affairs office!!
Sept. 4 -- (morning) Return to civil affairs office to finalize adoption
Sept. 4 #2 -- (afternoon) Visit Nanjing Children's Welfare Institute (orphanage)
Sept. 5 -- Sightseeing tour of Xuanwu Park
Sept. 6 -- Sightseeing tour of Fuzi Temple
Sept. 7 -- (late afternoon)Receive Yan's Chinese passport
Sept. 7 #2 -- (early evening) Fly to Guangzhou, check into White Swan Hotel
Sept. 8 -- Yan's medical exam and photos
Sept. 9 -- Sightseeing tour to Chen's Family Temple (second photo above)
Sept. 10 -- Documents delivered to American Consulate
Sept. 11 -- American Consulate interview, oath taking and receive Yan's US Visa
Sept. 12 -- Fly to Hong Kong and then HOME (traveling back through time zones)
Sept. 12 #2 -- Arrive home in late evening!

Let the packing begin!!!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Consulate Appointment - Sept. 10

Just received the news that we have our US consulate appointment locked in for September 10. Our whole trip hinges on this date, so knowing this date is set means that we can indeed fly out on August 30! September 10 will be the date her paperwork is filed at the US Consulate in Guangzhou, but the actual oath-taking ceremony at the US Consulate will be on Sept. 11.

We have our US to China air travel plans and are just waiting on our inter-country flights and hotels. Here is our tentative schedule:

Aug. 30 -- Depart US
Aug. 31 -- Arrive Beijing
Sept. 1 -- Beijing Tour of Great Wall, Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City
Sept. 2 -- Fly to Nanjing
Sept. 2/3/4 -- Meet Yan!!! (waiting on exact date confirmation)
Sept. 3 to 6 -- Paperwork in Nanjing, Visit orphanage, Tour City & Shop
Sept. 7 -- Fly from Nanjing to Guangzhou
Sept. 8/9 -- Yan's doctor's appointment, Visa photos
Sept. 10 -- US Consulate appointment to apply for Yan's US Entry Visa
Sept. 11 -- US Consulate Oath, pick-up Yan's US Visa
Sept. 12 -- Fly home as a Family of 3!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Hip, Hip, Hooray for TA!!

Our TA (Travel Approval) document has arrived! Our agency has requested an appointment for us at the US Consulate in Guangzhou and once that is confirmed the travel agency can begin to make our travel arrangements.

Looks like we will be leaving the US on Thursday, August 30 -- just 10 days from now! But most importantly, we'll be meeting our Yan on Monday, September 3 -- just 14 short days away!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Ba Ba's Birthday Card from China!

This morning Kevin received an email birthday note from Qiu Yan!!! She wrote it on a notepad we had sent in her care package and then the orphanage took a photo of it to email to Kevin. He LOVED it!!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

A Special Piece of Mail

On Friday afternoon, our daily trip to the mailbox was more like a lucky day in Vegas -- a letter from our daughter. As we raced back to the house to open it, our hearts were beating a mile a minute. Once we opened it, several different thoughts hit rushed through our heads. It was beautiful -- excellent penmanship and a few little smiley faces drawn in the margin displaying her artistic side! This was quickly followed by the realization that, while Chinese characters look very nice, neither one of us are able to read them. At this point, we both are staring at the letter like some piece of magic will enter our brains and allow us a moment of clarity and understanding. Yes, at this moment in time, rational thought had clearly gone on vacation.

And here is where we owe a strong debt of gratitude to Al Gore for his fine work in inventing the Internet. While we may not be able to read Chinese, we are fortunate enough to have met people who are both able to translate and kind enough to help us out (a special thank you from the bottom of our hearts to the wonderful lady that translated for us). Through the wonders of digital photography and the Internet, we were able to take pictures of the letter, send it in an email, and get a translation back that same day.

While we do not want to post the whole letter, we would like to share with you some of the information:

• She love to laugh and enjoys comic books, joke books and magic shows.

• Art books and hair/fashion magazines are also listed as favorites.

• She likes to swim.

• A couple of her favorite school subject are Chinese, art and music.

• Her favorite foods are beef, yogurt, bok choy, mango and seafood.

• Favorite colors: pink, white and baby blue.

• She is working on improving her English.

We can’t wait to fly to China and bring our girl home!!!

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Visas Are Here!

HA!! Double HA! Yeah! Double Yeah!

Our passports just arrived with our China Visa stamps nicely stuck inside! Now, we need to get our TA (Travel Approval) and once that arrives our agency can schedule our appointment at the consulate in Guangzhou, China (see Day 12 below). Then, we get our tickets booked and we FLY to China to bring our girl home!!!

Our agency has given us a *tentative* outline for our trip. This may change and we'll know the exact information as soon as the travel department books our travel. Lots of things can change on the below outline but it gives us a guide.

Day 1 (a Thursday) -- Leave home and fly to Beijing
Day 2 -- Arrive Beijing
Day 3 -- Tour Great Wall, Tiananmen Square and Forbidden City
Day 4 -- Leave Beijing and fly to Nanjing
Day 5 -- Meet Yan!!!
Day 6 -- Adoption notarization, interview with officials
Day 7 -- Apply for Yan's passport
Day 8 -- Site-seeing in Nanjing (hopefully visit orphanage)
Day 9 -- Notarized documents and Yan's passport arrive
Day 10 -- Fly to Guangzhou
Day 11 -- Yan's medical exam and her visa photo taken in morning. Shopping/tour in afternoon
Day 12 -- American Consulate appointment to apply for Yan's US entry visa
Day 13 -- Pick up Yan's visa
Day 14 -- Fly home

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Twists & Turns of Fate

“Our lives are made
In these small hours
These little wonders,
These twists & turns of fate
Time falls away,
But these small hours,
These small hours still remain.”

(Rob Thomas -- “Little Wonders”)

This little piece of lyrics from a recent Rob Thomas song really strikes a cord. We started this journey back in June 2005 and at the time were anticipating bringing home a baby from China in the summer of 2006. However, we managed to start the process right as process started moving from a fast pace, to a slowdown, to a crawl. Deb and I spent many days frustrated, angry, and sad and joking to each other about our “wonderful” timing. Little did we know at the time that it wasn’t “wonderful” in the ironic sense, but in the very real sense. Without the slowdown we would have never had the opportunity to “meet” our daughter. A very real “blessing in disguise”!

The wait wasn’t the only little “twist & turn of fate”. For those that don’t know us personally, one of my hobbies is backpacking. I’m working on hiking the Appalachian Trail (a 2100+ mile trail from Georgia to Maine) in 1-3 week sections each year. This year I was planning to start my hike around April 23rd. However, Deb (who is a wonderful cook) found out she was a finalist in the National Cornbread Cook-off held in South Pittsburg, TN (home of Lodge cast iron cookware). Since this was only a couple hours from where I was planning to start my hike this year, I decided to hold off a couple extra days so I could go to the cook-off with her and then she could drop me off after the big day.

The cook-off was on a Saturday and our agency posted their waiting child list on Friday. Since we were in the car driving most of the day Friday, we didn’t see the list until after the cook-off was over and we were back in the hotel on Saturday evening. That is where we read the file on Yan and both of us quickly fell in love. Her file contained no photos, just words … but even without pictures we could “see” her. So, we “met” our daughter for the first time in Tennessee!

We had not previously contemplated an “older” child, but when we read about Yan it was like the little light bulb went on. I was supposed to leave on my hike the next morning, but we ended up postponing that a day so we could fill out the application right then and there asking permission to adopt Yan. If Deb hadn’t have been in the cook-off, I would have been out on the trail when the file was posted and not been back for three weeks. Without both of us being together when that list came out and being able to talk about it at that moment, would we have found our daughter?

One more little piece of fate along the way is important to the story. When we decided to adopt, we knew we would need a bigger house. As our daughter’s grandparents all live about 8 hours away and are retired, we knew that as soon as she was home our guest room would likely be full on a regular basis and our house at the time just wasn’t big enough. Being the anxious “soon”-to-be parents that we were, we had rushed out to buy a crib, stroller, high chair and some other baby gear even before we moved.

When we were preparing to sell the house, a home inspector came by. When he saw all of the baby stuff in the boxes sitting around, we told him about starting the process of adopting from China. As soon as we mentioned that, he lit up and said his daughter and son-in-law were doing the same thing! This introduction allowed us to meet her and her wonderful family and we have become good friends. They are back home with their beautiful daughter who is almost 4 and who has quickly wrapped not only her parents but her big brothers and sister around her little finger! She is a jewel!

Words cannot express how happy we are to have Yan in our hearts and very shortly in our home. She is the “baby” that was meant for us when we started down this path 2+ years ago. We did not always know where we were going when we were walking down the path, but it is clear that we ended up in all the right places along the way.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Yan's New Room

Yan's new bedroom is all ready for her!!!! Oh, we wish she were here already!!! We've done the room in hot pink and lime green. The walls are done in a pink to match the bed skirt and the ceiling is painted sky blue with fluffy white clouds accented with sparkling silver glitter (plus a moon on one side and a smiling sun on the other).

Above her bed is a mural made to look like a window with a pond outside. And, yes, we realize that if you are looking OUT a window to see a pond there is really no explanation as to why shutters are painted on what would be the inside of the home, but it's a cute mural that came with he house when we bought it. If Yan would prefer, we can paint it over in hot pink! This part of the wall is inset and has electrical outlets so she can store things inside and plug in a light (or a cell phone charger!). Right now, we have a gorgeous little red ladybug table-top light that a friend gave us and stuffed ducks with rain hats on that we thought looked like they went with a pond.

The window has five kinds of window treatments -- okay, we might have gone a little overboard! We were trying to go for the teen look and have a hot pink cotton shade over a white twist shade (as the room gets lots of sunlight and one shade didn't really darken it too well) with lime green sheers on the outside, long lime green beaded panel in the middle and a valance which is green with hot pink ribbon trim and dangling beads.

Yan also has a 6 drawer dresser with mirror, night stand by her bed, study/computer desk and ceiling fan. Now, if we can only get the rest of the house ready!

Friday, August 3, 2007

THANK YOU so much to all of you wonderful people who have viewed this blog and for leaving your delightful comments! We can't thank you enough for sharing our joy as we prepare to travel to China to bring our Yan home! For more information and to see her referral photos, please scroll down to posts below.

For those who have expressed interest, just a few facts about us! Kevin is a Professor of Finance and Debbi is a homemaker. We have been married for 17 years and were high school sweethearts. We started our adoption journey in May of 2005 and our LID was December 5, 2005. We started out in the NSN group because, to be quite honest, we were clueless as to the waiting children's programs. Over time, we kept looking the waiting children's lists at our agency and then one day we read about a young 13-1/2 year old girl who seemed to have such desire and spirit that we fell in love with her immediately! We applied that very day for Yan! If anyone has questions about waiting children or the process, we are no experts by any means but will do what we can to help answer questions or direct you to someone who can.

------ NOW ~ NEW PHOTOS OF YAN!!!!! ------

We were very fortunate to receive updated photos of Yan! The first one shows her at her school, the next 2 were taken at a science museum and the last one was taken at the orphanage. We can't wait to meet her!!!! She has such spirit and spunk -- we love her more than words can say!

Her hot pink and lime green room is almost finished and we'll be posting photos soon!

Plus, Daddy ordered her an IPod and then contacted several of his students who are from China and asked about popular Chinese music. The students recommended various pop music (Jay Chow, S.H.E., Jolin Tsai, Cyndi Wang, etc) so Daddy hopped online and ordered several cds which are being shipped direct from China. Once they arrive, he will add them to the IPod along with several tv shows he has downloaded that she might like! Hey, she's a teenager!!!

Again, our sincerest thanks for sharing this journey with us.