Friday, September 14, 2007

Back Home

Warning -- this post is a bit whiny at times as it deals primarily with a travel day. Being in China was fun. Meeting Sarah and being able to welcome her into our family forever was beyond a blessing. GETTING TO AND FROM CHINA...not so much.

Our last morning in China started with a very early wakeup call (although there were a couple of families that left an hour or so earlier than us, so I guess it could've been worse) followed by one last run through the White Swan breakfast buffet. A few comments on the White Swan for those that are going to be there in the near future. First, it was easily the nicest of the three hotels we stayed at on our trip. In Beijing, the hotel was quite warm and in Nanjing the room was so small we had to have the sitting chair and coffee table removed in order to squeeze the cot in. The Swan room seemed almost spacious after Nanjing, the cot was MUCH more comfortable, and the air conditioning kept the room more than cold enough. In addition, the setting along the river with all the neon lights makes a trip to the balcony at night very worthwhile.

With the above said, there were two frustrating parts of the White Swan stay (one of which I'll blame on our agency). First, at check-in they wanted to charge us for the cot. We explained that we had already pre-paid through our agency. They couldn't find a record of it, so we agreed to pay if it couldn't be sorted out (our guide had not yet arrived in the hotel). The next morning, we talked to the guide and she said that the paperwork would be sent and everything would be taken care of. Crisis averted...or so we thought. At checkout time, we get hit with a charge of over 1000 yuan for the cot and a few other items (Internet is 300 yuan for the week or 100 a day). This time we spent another 10 minutes trying to explain the situation to three different people and them looking through paperwork before they finally agreed to let us check out without paying for the cot.

The second negative was when it came time to convert our Yuan back to dollars. Apparently, the hotel offers a one-way conversion only. You can convert dollars to Yuan, but not the other way around. While we didn't have a ton of yuan left over (maybe $50-$60 worth), it was still a little frustrating. Fortunately we did have time while in the Hong Kong airport to stop at a currency exchange booth. However, that required conversion from Yuan to HK dollars to US dollars. Lesson for future travelers -- try not to be carrying too much extra yuan on the last couple days as it can be a bit of a hassle to convert back.

One funny moment on the trip back came as the guy in front of Sarah decided to recline his seat about 15 minutes into our Hong Kong to Chicago flight. This did not make her happy and we had to stop her from letting him know about her opinion on the topic. She didn't seem convinced even as we tried to explain that that is part of air travel. Fortunately a stewardess was nearby and helped provide the "official" word. Another incident, this one's not funny, on the long flight was hearing the ever-famous phrase "Ladies and Gentlemen, is there a doctor on the plane?" come over the intercom as we were over the Pacific. We hope it wasn't too serious, but don't really know what had happened.

There was one other family that was on two of our flights back home (Guangzhou to HK and HK to Chicago), so we spent a little time with them as we moved through the HK airport (our outgoing flight was quite a ways from where we came in) and through customs in Chicago. In addition to their new daughter, the had two smaller girls who had come along to meet their new sister. As we were in the airports, Sarah spent most of her time playing with the two little sweethearts (one of the pictures on a previous post shows her playing with these same girls while we were in Guangzhou). Going through customs was relatively uneventful (wait in line here, then go wait in line here, then go through yet another security checkpoint, etc.), but once we were through Sarah was officially a US citizen (YES!).

Once we landed in Springfield, things were looking up. First, it felt SOOOO GOOD to know that the plane portion of the trip was behind us. Second, we got a wonderful greeting by our friends Mary, Gwen, and Lydia when we landed (thanks was really nice to see some friendly, cheerful faces after the long day). Third, we were ALMOST home. Once we hit the road, we got out the cell phone and called Sarah's friend in Portland. She really enjoyed the opportunity to say hi and talk to someone she knew.

As we mentioned in the "WERE BAAACK" post, we were greeted by a decorated home when we arrived. Some friends in town had put a really cool "Welcome Home Sarah" banner up in the front lawn and decorated the inside as well. The last step in the long day was to have show Sarah around the house, have some dinner and then off to bed.

(Kevin wrote the above, and now Deb is chiming in below!)

Since then, time has just been flying by! On Friday we went to Sarah's new middle school and talked with the staff regarding options for Sarah's schooling. Beginning in one week, Sarah will start at school and will be taking two classes -- PE and art. We thought it best to start with these two which are less driven by English. Having her start with two classes will help her get used to the school, the students, etc. Sarah will be in 7th grade and hopefully be starting full time in January.

We also met with her new tutor for the first time and Sarah will begin with the tutor on Tuesday. Her tutor is a visiting lecturer from Beijing who is only in town until December, but we hope the time she is able to spend with Sarah will greatly help the transition to English.

Sarah seems really excited to start school and on Saturday even asked if today was a day she would go to school. To help her understand what is in her future, we printed out a calendar and have written on each day remaining in September what will be happening ... either "home" or "school" or "tutor" etc. She does have a doctor's appointment in there as well. And, family will start arriving to greet her, so it will be a very busy time.

She is a wonderful, cheerful and generally happy girl. While the language is a struggle for all three of us, we seem to be getting by with just a few glitches and misunderstandings. Last night Kevin got Skype to work on our computer so Sarah was able to call her teacher, nanny and a friend in China for the low, low rate of .02 per minute! She had a blast and it was a cheap night of entertainment for her.

The first two days she wanted to watch the movies we had brought back from China which are in Chinese, but since then has been watching US tv programs. I don't know how much she understands of it, but she seems interested and I actually think it may help her language development -- except for some of these silly cartoons!

One area that is a challenge for her is our style of food. We haven't really hit on anything that is yummy for her yet except for all the ramen noodles she picked out. Hopefully we'll find more things that she'll like or she may be getting smaller by the minute!

Thanks again to all for your kind comments and good thoughts.


Emma's Journal said...

That was a well written book! I have always enjoyed reading your blog and will continue on doing that. I'm so very happy for Sarah - she's going to do just fine, it appears she's doing well. We're very happy for all of you. Next time post some pictures PLEASE!!!
Sherri in Florida

amy said...

Welcome home. Thanks for sharing everything-the good and bad!

Shannon and Boyd Bringolf said...

OH MY We live in Athens! Our daughters would love to meet your daughter. Please email me at
s . bringolf @ att . net
remove spaces.
I can tell you more about us if you feel weird with this one..

Shannon B
Mom to three China adoptees]
and host mom to one from Taiwan

Heather said...

Welcome home! I am glad to see that all three of you arrived safely. I admire your courage in adopting an older child, and I have loved reading your story. Thank you so much for sharing!

Mom of 5 said...

We have loved following your journey to Sarah-She is a beautiful girl. I hope her schooling goes well !
She will do great -I am sure.

Lesa said...

Welcome home! I'm so happy that you had a safe flight home. Yes, flying to and from can be very frustrating..been there done that and will be doing it again, when we haven't a clue,but hopefully sooner than later.
Kevin, when you posted about the "Is there a Doctor on board" my mind went back to our flight. We were actually flying back from Hong Kong to San Fran. then San Fran. to Dallas Ft.Worth. On our final leg of the trip we were over NM when the Captain came on asking... well my husband is an MD of Psychiatry and he was kind of hesitant. Since no one else answered up I told him he really had to. So, he did and there was a gentleman in the back who was having a heart attack. He kept him comfortable and talked with a Dr. on ground and told him he was stable and thought we could make it in to DFW. The Captain came and said for everyone to take their seats and buckle up they were going to make an emergency landing. I have never felt a plane speed up the way that one did. We arrived 10-15 minutes early, and everyone had to remain seated while they got the gentleman on the gurney and off the plane.
My daughters were waiting for us with a friend and our oldest(20) saw the gurney going on and said oh no dad is having to be carried off, too funny.
Mind you we had a 13 month old I was tending to the whole time this was going on by myself! Luckily the guy who was sitting by me had kids and helped me keep her calm. He even helped me dress her so she could meet her sister in a clean outfit.
Whew....what a trip! I do hope our next trip won't be as eventful as this one was.
I hope you keep this blog going so we can see how Sarah continues to grow in her new surroundings.

Lesa Lambert GWCA friend

Emma's Journal said...

Hello Kevin & Debbie, I was wondering if by chance I could get your email address? I wanted to ask a question, but I couldn't find it on your blog. My is


Chairman Mom said...

Hi and welcome home!

Do you have a foreign food market anywhere near your house? You may be able to let Sarah choose some foods for herself.

For my daughter, I bought tons of Japanese udon noodles and some Japanese soup stock (it's in a bottle). Then I added Chinese dumplings, added green onion and she was happy as a clam. The frozen dumplings can be steamed separately or cooked in the soup. The noodles, although Japanese, are much more substantial and not fried, like the packaged ramen.

Somewhat familiar food helped the transition enormously. There are also recipes online if you google.

Good luck!

Jenny Flake said...

Pat shared the link to your blog and I'm so glad she did. I've been wondering how the adoption process has been going. I am so happy that you have finally gotten your daughter. Hope you all are doing great!! I added your blog to mine, so I can pop in from time to time! Talk to you soon.

bb said...

Welcome Home! Thanks for sharing your blog with us. My DH's first question to me this morning was asking me how your daughter is doing. Hopefully you can keep us up to date. We are so impressed with Sarah. Tell her we both wish her Good Luck with school and I am sure she will enjoy it.
Beth and Mok
PS. DH(Mok) is from Hong Kong and came to the USA(NYC) when he was 16 by himself.