Thursday, August 31, 2006

Thursday, August 31, 2006: Pearl Market and Consulate Oath

Again, I didn't snap many pictures today-- not because I forgot the camera, but because there just wasn't that much to see in places where we were allowed to bring a camera.

I know I said I wouldn't write about poop any more (and I'm not going to here), but I didn't place any bans on vomit. Those of you who know me know I am a self-proclaimed chain-puker. I just don't like the smell. So you may be amused to know that yesterday on my way to breakfast, I had to chide my mom and Jason when I looked in the elevator mirror only to discover there was still curdled milk (also called spit-up) in my hair. Yuck. Well, that was nothing. . . in the middle of the night Marcie woke up. This surprised us because she has been sleeping through the night. But because we removed the rice from her diet and have been holding back on solids, I think she is getting hungry more frequently. So at midnight we gave her a bottle. Which she inhaled. I am not exaggerating. She finished the 8 ounces in maybe a minute. And because she has been spitting up, I thought I should burp her before putting her back down. So I patted her back, and she burped. And then she started coughing. Hacking, really. And the next thing I knew, there was vomit all down the front my shirt and my pajama bottoms. And I got up, completely freaked out, to walk over to the bathroom, where Jason had scampered to find me a towel, when she upchucked again-- right into my hair. We changed Marcie, wiped down my hair, removed my stinky clothes, and put Marcie back to bed. I wish I'd done what Jill (whose daughter also threw up last night-- only from being sick and not because she drank her bottle too fast) did-- Jill just got in the shower with all her clothes on. And no, I didn't think to get any photos of this incident, so you'll just have to use your imagination.

We had plenty of time for breakfast this morning before we took taxis over to the pearl market. The pearl market is just like a big mall. The prices on pearls was really good. So good, in fact, that I had to question their reality. But Lauren, the doctor from Michigan, says he knows pearls, and these were really high quality fresh-water pearls, so I'm glad I got myself a pair of earrings. The picture is of me and Marcie at the pearl market.

After the shopping excursion, we returned to Lucy's for lunch, where I had a cheeseburger and Jason had a ham and cheese sandwich (and they removed the crusts of his sandwich!). I gave Marcie some pieces of my fries, which she gobbled up. She also gobbled up cheerios. So far, she's liked everything (which means prunes and Benedryl, french fries and cheerios) except for watermelon. She spit that back out. Then we returned to our room to get ready for our trip to the consulate.

On the bus ride to the consulate, Kathy (the guide) explained that Dana (read yesterday's blog for the details here) was already there with Raymond. I'd been thinking about her earlier in the day, and when I bumped into her aunt in the hallway, I asked how it was going-- she said they were only 75% in the clear. Once we got to the consulate, I asked Dana how things went, and she explained that there was a form that the Illinois DCFS sent to the consulate after their referral, but it apparently got lost. The consulate was supposed to notify the Illinoise home study agency to confirm its receipt of the form when they received it, and her home study agency didn't catch that the consulate never contacted them. And our adoption agency didn't catch it either. So this was a case of no one doing things as they were supposed to-- and all the safety measures failing, too. Then, once at the consulate, they said she needed an additional form-- one she had never heard of and Raymond had never seen (in 10 years of doing this!). Talk about frustrating! Dana asked to speak to the consul general (she told me she wasn't going to leave until she did), and he waived the form requirement, allowing Juliana (Dana's daughter) to get the necessary visa. When Raymond handed out Juliana's visa and immigration packet to Dana after the oath, our whole group clapped and cheered and whistled. It was another one of those emotional moments-- I was just so relieved for Dana, and for everyone really-- who knew it would be such bureacracy once we got here?

Anyway, the consulate was exactly how I remembered it (how could it not be? I was just there yesterday!). We all filed into this big room next to the room I was in yesterday. I think there were like 80 families. Then our guides gave us photocopies of our passports and Marcie's passport, and we got in line. The woman at the window compared our passports to the photocopies to our faces. Then she stamped the passport photocopies with the word "Guangzhou" in red (it looked totally unofficial, so that was weird). Then we returned those papers to Raymond and Kathy. Then one of the consulate employees (named Jason) took the microphone to speak. He explained that Marcie will become a U.S. citizen when the customs person at our port of entry stamps her visa. Once we walk through, she will officially be a U.S. citizen and we can apply for her U.S. passport immediately (and should). We also have to enter through the "foreigners" line because Marcie isn't a citizen yet. He also explained that the U.S. does not honor dual citizenships, but because Marcie has a Chinese passport, China will allow her to travel there with that instead of getting a visa on her U.S. passport. Of course, then if she runs into trouble in China, the Chinese government doesn't have to let the U.S. government help her because she'll be in China as a Chinese citizen. I think we'll just hang onto the China passport as a keepsake and part of her history. . . we are also going to readopt her in California so we can get a U.S. birth certificate issued.

Anyway, after Jason told us these two things, he had us all stand up and raise our right hand. We had to swear and affirm that all the information we provided during our adoption application and registration process was truthful and honest to the best of our knowledge-- and that was it! So it's over (well, almost over-- we do still have to cross through customs in Los Angeles). We took a bus back to the hotel, and we had a photo taken of us after the oath:

A bunch of the families went to the Thai restaurant for dinner, and said our good-byes at the restaurant. Then I found some cookies n cream ice cream and headed back to our room. A bunch of people are leaving very early in the morning tomorrow (bags outside their rooms at 5:00am). We are not leaving until 5:00 pm, so we have the day to pack and relax and do last-minute shopping, if we want. We said good-bye to a lot of people at dinner, and Jason decided to connect with some of the other fathers downstairs in the cigar room, which is where he is right now.

It's a little crazy to think this group of 13 families came together as strangers, a mere 15 days ago-- at first it seemed like a tour group. But as the days creeped on, we came to know each other as friends, as fellow journeypeople, and most importantly as parents. I have really come to respect many of the people on this trip, and I can't really imagine having had this experience with anyone else. I feel like we really came together for a common purpose, worked together to make sure we all achieved our goal. We really worked as a team. . . There was: Paul and Jackie who are so amazing with their son Nathan and now their daughter Abigail (the kind of parents I hope we will be to our children); easy-going Larry and Kyndra with their animated Cassidy; always-smiling Jill and David who lost the same piece of luggage twice on this trip, filled with Alexandra's clothes; and performers Brad and Joia who miss their children Jack and Cademon at home while they are here with Ava as much as we miss Casey; quiet Lauren and Elizabeth who know their way around pearls and are bringing home beautiful Catherine-- a mere two pounds lighter than Casey; Dana with her friendly band of extended family to help her through the journey to bring her daughter Juliana home to her husband and two boys; and Lisa and Nathan who knew they wanted to adopt from China since forever ago and finally achieved their dream as they celebrated their tenth anniversary-- their daughter Noel sure is one lucky little girl. There was also Annette, who knew she wanted to adopt a girl from China and caught CCAI at the right time, lucky for her daughter Emma! There was: Jeff and Sarae with five-year-old Marissa, welcoming Josceline into their warm Nebraska home; Vicki and Robert who have rearranged the next six months of their lives so they can both be home to spoil little Katelyn; Joe and Margrit whose three grown sons are about to begin spoiling Jane, the newest member of their family; Laura and Brian whose six-year-old Stephanie just became a big sister to Hannah; and ever-calm Natalie whose daughter Naomi gave her a rough start but has come around for her Mama in the days since her placement. There were also many travel companions who helped out in large in small ways-- like Gene, the ever-present second-set of hands who accompanied Jason on his weird food-testing excursions; Howard, who protected us from beggars outside of markets and helped us feel safe around town; Lois, a friendly face and warm smile; Kairen who knew how to shop; and all the other extended family members our group brought along to help wrangle siblings, run out to buy diapers, and to share in the adventures of Beijing, Chongqing, and Guangzhou.

Now that this trip is almost over, I can hardly believe it's all been real. I keep thinking I need to pinch myself to make sure Marcie is really ours, we really did climb the Great Wall, that really was a Starbucks in Chongqing, and I really did visit the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou-- twice. But I know it's all real-- I've got the blog to prove it! So thank you to all of you who e-mailed me, posted comments, and sent your good wishes and prayers from halfway around the world. There is comfort in knowing we're not alone over here in China, that their are people tracking our whereabouts, and awaiting our arrival to great Marcie with oodles of love. Just as I can't imagine the experience with another group of travelers, I can't imagine it without all of your thoughtful comments and support along the way. When we set out to adopt Marcie in November of 2004, I never dreamed it would take so long, that we would run into as many glitches as we have, or that we we would feel so amazingly rewarded by our beautiful baby girl . . .

I don't know that I will be online tomorrow-- and if I'm not, it will probably be in the middle of the night Friday to Saturday that I will post (I imagine I won't be sleeping if only because on Marcie's body clock, it will be the middle of the day). We have quite a klan of people greeting us at the airport (well, not just us-- Mom, too). So, just to make sure you recognize us, here are a few more snapshots of Marcie:

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Wednesday, August 30, 2006: Consulate, Six Banyan Temple, and Chen House

Today should have been uneventful. But I forgot the immunization affidavit in the United States, so Raymond and Kathy took me to the U.S. Consulate to get the form notarized. I met them at 8:20am and left Marcie behind with Jason and my mom. I expected the consulate to be a safe haven for an American. I expected people to be warm and friendly and helpful-- and to speak exceptional English. I don't know why I expected these things-- upon reflection, that hasn't necessarily been my experience with government employees inside the U.S., so I don't know why it would be in China. (I should mention that when we got our new 171-H after we redid our fingerprints, the woman who helped me in the federal building was actually warm and friendly and helpful.)

The U.S. Consulate is about a 30 minute drive from the White Swan, and it is on a floor of a giant building, where there is also an AIG Insurance office. The people at the security check-points do speak English, but their Chinese (I don't know which dialect) is clearly superior to their English. When I got to the room where Kathy and Raymond were dropping everyone's paperwork, I took a number and waited. I was amazed at the number of people who just didn't wait for their number. They seriously walked right up behind people who had waited their turn and started talking to the employees. Again, I don't know why that surprised me-- it was obviously silly for me to think the consulate would be a bastion of American cultural norms. When I went to the window, I explained what I needed. Then Raymond (our guide) re-explained what I wanted in Chinese to her. She told me to take a seat. As I sat, I watched Kathy submit all the other paperwork. I sat, and waited, and rubbed my forehead, and waited. Raymond came over to me to ask if I had any money with me. I did because I didn't know how much the notarization would cost. He explained that one of the hundred dollar bills was rejected (yes, I'm being serious) because it had a stamp on it. All I had was a hand full of twenty dollar bills and ten dollar bills. They are worn and wrinkled, but Raymond traded the hundrend for them, and I guess those were good enough. Go figure.

It was an agonizing ten minute wait, until this friendly face called my name to her window. And she pronounced my first name and my last names perfectly! She was clearly an American-born employee. She notarized my document, and it turns out she is the vice consul here in Guangzhou. It also turns out a presidential commission never expires. It's pretty cool to have that notary stamp on a document-- but not cool enough that I would ever recommend leaving your affidavit behind to have the experience! When she finished, I asked if she'd make me a copy, and she explained why I wouldn't need one, but said she'd do it anyway if I wanted. I told her that I hoped I wouldn't need one, but I'd prefer not to risk it. She smiled kindly and made the copy-- then congratulated me and asked me how the adoption was going. I couldn't even speak. I was so emotionally overwhelmed. This is the third time I have felt this way on our trip-- so emotionally drained I couldn't speak for fear the lump at the back of my throat would burst out of my mouth and I would become a walking ball of sobs. The first time was when I saw Jill waiting for us in Beijing (after our experience in Guangzhou trying to make our connection, I was so happy to discover a ride to the hotel had been arranged for us!). The second time was in Chongqing, when I wasn't sure if our traveler's checks would be accepted by the bank, and I discovered the entire group had waited with me to make sure my money was accepted because they weren't going to leave me (or Marcie!) behind-- they were ready to pony up the cash on my behalf. And this was the third time. I guess I thought the trip to China would be the easy part-- smoothe-sailing. Boy was I wrong.

Speaking about it not being all easy here, our guides here in Guangzhou have been phenomenal. Kathy came by our room after 11pm last night because our paperwork was missing two signatures. Then she left a note and called at 6:45 am this morning because we were missing a page. Then she took me to the consulate with Raymond. This afternoon, she helped us change our keys at the group reception area because we have such a late check-out on Friday (which CCAI arranged for us). And just a few minutes ago, Raymond and Kathy came by our room to give us a letter to carry to the U.S. in case we run into difficulty in Los Angeles going through customs, and to give us other customs paperwork. They are working very hard for us-- I honestly cannot imagine going through this process without their help, or without CCAI's expertise and experience. Boy does our agency know what they are doing!

Anyway, after I got back to the hotel, we ordered lunch from Danny's (a place run by people from New York), and then we went for an afternoon city tour of the Six Banyan Temple and the Chen House. The Temple was beautiful, and I'd love to post some photos of it, but I left the media card in the hotel room, so we didn't snap any pictures. We did take video of it, though. We were supposed to have a blessing for the girls there, but the monks were busy in a service, and after waiting 30 minutes and learning their service would be at least another 30 minutes long, we moved along to the Chen House. The temple was very interesting architecturally. Jason had predicted there would be an altar, sandlewood incense burning, monks, and chanting. He was right on all four counts. The only real surprise for me was the number of beggars asking for money outside the temple. I wasn't really prepared for that.

Next we went to Chen House, which is a family temple- Raymond explained that Buddhists believe in reincarnation, and that families go to pray to and for their ancestors at family temples (as compared to public temples like the six banyon temple). This had a lot of interesting parts to it-- there were people making rosewood cabinets. There were displays of ivory and bone carvings, and there was a beautiful garden. There was also a high-pressured shop with air conditioning, where the employees kept asking us to "make an offer." We booked out of that place pretty quickly.

Because I don't have any photos of what we saw today, I'll throw in a couple of shots Jason snapped yesterday:

Yes, there really are fish in that murky, muddy water. Cool lighting, huh?

Can you tell what they are doing? They are hacky-sackying a badmitton "ball." Crazy!

For dinner, we ate at the Cantonese restaurant in the hotel. We were going to try the place that boasts it was voted best Cantonese food in Guangzhou for 2003, 2004 and 2005, but after seeing thing slike crocodile claw on the menu, Kyndra decided we should head back to the hotel, and we obliged. Gene had purchased little cakes for everyone to help Nathan and Lisa celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary. Pretty impressive. In fact, at our tables, Jason and I were tied with Brad and Joia for the shortest period of time married at seven years. Kyndra and Larry have been together for nine years, and Nathan and Lisa for ten. This is interesting in part because each of our couples has thirty-somethings. Maybe that's not all that impressive-- it just seems like a lot of marriages end around the four-year mark, so I thought it was cool.

So that's about all for the day.

Poop Watch 2006
This will be my final poop-related entry of this trip-- unless something really funny or really gross happens that I just have to document. Marcie pooped on her own today (yippee!). During dinner. No grunting, no groaning-- not even any squatting. I just smelled it. And it was relatively soft. She did have another six ounces of apple juice today (it just kills me to give this to her-- we didn't even introduce juice to Casey-- not even watered-down juice-- until he was three). So she is apparently trying to or starting to regulate herself. We are keeping her off table food and rice cereal until we can get her back to the U.S. and transitioned to a better formula. But we are just so happy and thrilled for. Thanks for all your prayers and good wishes-- and keep them coming. After all, we do have a couple more days here in China!

Tomorrow morning we are off to the pearl market, then we go to the consulate to take our oath (to finalize the adoption, though we will re-adopt Marcie in California), and to pick up our visa. We are all going to meet at the local Thai Restaurant for a farewell dinner-- most of the families leave at 5:00am to catch their flights to Hong Kong, and then to the United States. Although I have been antsy to return to the U.S. pretty much since we received Marcie, these past few days have really flown by, and I can hardly believe I will en-route to the United States in a mere forty-eight hours (if all goes according to plan). In the mean time, for those of you sending well wishes and crossing fingers and praying, please keep Dana and her family in your thoughts. Dana's husband stayed back in the United States with their two boys (who are both autistic), and she is here right now with her aunt. She is missing a form that is required because her husband isn't here. They told her she wouldn't need it, but she does. On top of that, Illinois requires some documentation about the adoption that her home study agency neglected to fill her in about. The U.S. Consulate won't issue her daughter's visa until it receives these two forms, with Dana's husband's signature on them. And the forms have to be notarized. If the consulate will take faxed copies, Dana can submit them tomorrow. If the consulate refuses faxes, Dana will have to wait here in Guangzhou until the documents can arrive-- which could be as long as four or five days because of the upcoming holiday weekend. I imagine Dana will not sleep well tonight. I imagine the taxi ride to the consulate in the morning will be a dreadful, long thirty minutes. I imagine Dana will feel, tomorrow, much like I felt today. So I am hoping and praying that it all works out so Dana can get home to her boys-- with her daughter-- on Friday. Please keep her in your thoughts as you work today, and as you go to bed tonight.

Here are the photos I did manage to snap today:

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Tuesday, August 29, 2006: Visa Application, Physical, and Red Couch Photos

This morning we got off to a late start-- admittedly my fault. I stayed up until 11pm last night so I could call China Southern in the U.S. (which is only open Monday through Friday from 8am to 5pm Pacific time) to confirm our tickets back to Los Angeles. We have to confirm at least 72 hours in advance. But when I tried calling last night, it turned out we only had four minutes left on our calling card, and we were on hold for those four minutes. I was completely frustrated. This morning, I tried calling the local Guangzhou number for China Southern three times. Each time a woman answered and I explained (in English) what I wanted to do (confirm tickets) and she said something in Mandarin and hung up. The fourth time, Jason called and asked if anyone spoke English. He got an earful, in Mandarin, and then hung up with them. We rushed down to breakfast, where there was a long line to eat the buffet. I guess 140 families with their newest members is a lot to feed in a short period of time. I scarfed down a bowl of rice krispies before we headed off to get Marcie's visa photo and physical examination.

The visa photo place was right next to a 7-11 (they are all over the place here in Guangzhou), so I bought a new calling card. After we had Marcie's visa photo, we followed everyone over to the office for physical examinations. My favorite part of the walk over there was watching Cassidy put herself to sleep in her stroller. I thought it was a riot-- she refused to lean back in her stroller, even though her parents tried.

Once we all arrived at the clinic, we moved through three separate stations. In one station, they measured Marcie's head, listened to Marcie's heart and had us remove her diaper to check things out. Another station was the ENT station. This doctor was the roughest with the kids. Kathy, one of the guides, told us the ENT would be checking the girls' eyes, noses, and teeth. We thought this was amusing. . .

In the third station, they took her temperature (with a thermometer under her arm), which was 97.6 and they weighed her. Marcie weighed in at around 21 pounds. I think she's lost a little weight since we took custody of her. Catherine comes in a close second, weighing around 19 pounds. It's hard to believe Cassidy (in the stroller in the photo above) only weights like 4 pounds less than Marcie (she was around 17 pounds)-- because Marcie is such a big girl in comparison. Then again, when you are under 2 feet long and weight only 17 or 21 pounds, 4 pounds is roughly between 20 and 35% of your body weight. That's no small thing.

We did a little shopping along the way back to hotel. When we got back to the hotel, Jason went off to complete nearly two hours' worth of visa and adoption paperwork for Marcie and I went to the concierge to have them help me confirm our flights on China Southern. Thankfully, they were able to help me. Back in our room, I tried calling United to confirm our L.A. to San Diego flight, but without luck. Every time I called, I got this message about the TSA restrictions, then nothing-- and it went dead. I didn't even think to say "agent" or anything-- or to consider the fact that the U.S. phone system might not recognize the tone from overseas. Instead, I called my brother Bryan and asked him to call United for me. I don't think we really need to confirm a domestic flight, but I do think we need to inform them we're traveling with a lap child. This ticket confirmation business was a real pain, so I'm glad we're done with it.

After Jason completed the paperwork, we headed off to Lucy's for lunch. I had the sweet and sour pork, which was very sweet. Jason had Malaysian fried rice. My mom had a noodle dish. The most remarkable thing (to me) about the place was the trees growing up through the restaurant. That's a tree trunk to Larry's right in the photo. . .

Mom, Marcie, and I went back out in search of a little Chinese outfit for the red couch photo and were able to successfully locate one we liked. We also bought these cute little Mary Jane shoes that Jason fell in love with. All the kids shoes here have squeakers in them- so when the kids walk around, they sqeak every step they take. I find this incredibly irritating, and there is no way I'd purchase squeaker shoes for my kids. I don't even really like buying squeaky toys for the dog! Fortunately, the nice woman at the store showed me how to remove the squeakers! This greatly pleased me-- I know there are parents out there who think the shoes are super cute and note that children just get such a kick out of jumping around on them, squeaking as they do. Those parents have very lucky children. My kids are apparently not as lucky. I'll just leave it at that.

Anyway, we all met up with the kids for family photos and a group photo and a photo of the girls on the red sofas a the White Swan. This is a big tradition-- I don't know if every agency does it, but CCAI does. And the photos are just so cute.

Here is our "family" photo. I put "family" in quotation marks because it's not really our family photo since Casey is missing. I wish they'd told us we'd be in a family photo-- I would have put on some make up-- combed my hair-- and perhaps not worn a shirt covered in formula stains, Marcie spit and stretched out of shape. Oh well, I guess this is the real me. . .

Here is the group photo. I haven't checked anyone else's photos to see if I can swipe a better one. This is a nice group photo because the travel companions are in it. We have a professionally taken group photo from Beijing. Well, we had one. Apparently I left ours in Beijing. Oops.

We also took some photos of the girls-- they didn't turn out very good-- I picked this one because it came out the best, but it's missing several of the girls. Like Alexandra, who was put into the photo right after I snapped it. Again, I'm hopeful someone else got a better shot than we did.

These next two photos are probably my favorite photos of today. Marcie, Cassidy, and Ava went clothes-shopping together with me, Kyndra, and Joia today. I think the girls look totally shocked --or perhaps frightened by the faces Gene is making at them?

And I just like this one-- still Marcie, Cassidy, and Ava.

After our photo session, we went to dinner at the Japanese restaurant in the hotel, and then to buy some diapers and water. If I haven't mentioned it, the hotel is absolutely beautiful. Here is a photo of the lobby. And one with my mom in front of the waterfall.

Oh, yeah! And I almost forgot-- though I thought the clothes we had laundered in Chongqing looked cool, all packaged in the plastic bags, they were kind of stiff, and looked like they'd been scrubbed by rocks (which they probably had), and they didn't get any stains out. So Jason has been hand washing his laundry tonight. (Well, mostly his laundry- I did toss in the shirt I was wearing this morning, which Marcie threw up prunes all over. Blech.)

Poop Watch 2006
If you're still following our adventures in poopville, we have some happy news to report! Today Marcie grunted and groaned and squatted-- but no tears. Yup-- she pooped on her own. And it was normal poop, not all hard and abnormal looking. Apparently all the prunes and apple juice helped. Today she had another half a jar of baby food prunes and four ounces of apple juice. We are hopeful this will maintain our momentum. In the meantime, we have decided to withhold the rice cereal from her diet until we get back to the U.S.

Tomorrow there is an optional afternoon tour, which we may or may not go on. In the meantime, here are some more photos of beautiful Marcie. There were a lot of photos on the blog today-- hope they didn't take hours and hours to download. There's just so much to drink in here-- and sometimes a picture just tells a clearer story than words do. . .

Monday, August 28, 2006

Monday, August 28, 2006: Depart Chongqing, Arrive Guangzhou

Our morning began extraordinarily early when Marcie awoke rather abruptly at 3:33am (I looked at the clock, which is how I know the time). By 4:30am, we were exhausted. One nose aspiration, one diaper change, one bottle, and one dose of Benadryl later, Marcie finally fell asleep-- and slept until 8:30am. We opted for the Bendryl because she was so congested, and a study was published in the U.S. a few months ago explaining that antihistimines are better for drying out coughs, etc. than cold medicine.

After our final breakfast at the hotel's buffet (which for me consisted of noodles and a bowl of corn flakes), we headed back to our hotel room to complete some last minute packing. . . Jason took off for more squid on a stick (which he was supposed to photograph and forgot), and Mom and I hung out in the room while Marcie napped. Then we boogied off to McDonald's for our farewell Chicken McNugget experience, and returned to the hotel.

We scooted out the door by 1:45 and went downstairs to pay the bill. Boy, one thing that I will probably never get used to is how (literally) pushy the people here are. I was in line, next to pay, and as Gene stepped away, a Chinese gentleman pushed right in front of me and checked out. Then, when the next spot opened up, and I took it, after I'd given the desk clerk my room keys with the room number, a Chinese woman stepped up next to me and pushed her keys across to the hotel employee to check out-- despite the line of people 4 deep behind me. In the end, we were able to check out just fine and pile onto the bus for our ride to the airport. You can see Marcie on the bus ride in the picture to the left.

One great thing about CCAI is how they take care of us with the in-country travel. When we arrived in Chongqing, we were already checked into our rooms, and Marie had our room keys. When we were ready to depart, Marie had us put all our luggage outside our room, and the belhops collected it. Then Marie arranged for our passports and bags to get to the airport and picked up all our tickets and boarding passes for us. The luggage guys have a great relationship with the airport, and they explained we were here for adoption, so no one had to pay any fees for heavy luggage or extra pieces (I think we would have been okay, but it's nice not to worry). At the airport, Marie distributed our passports, Marcie's passport, and got us all the way through security. She even checked us in by family so that we all had seats together! It was incredibly smooth. Our flight was delayed by about 20 minutes, but we didn't really mind. You can see a photo of us waiting at the airport to the right.

There were some storms in the skies, but our pilot did a great job landing the plane. And Marcie was a real trooper on the plane. The girl will eat anything. This is so strange after raising Casey for a few years. Casey eats basically nothing. Marcie gobbled up the Benadryl on the plane like it was candy (we used it to help make sure her ears were clear). Then, during take-off, she ate three prunes. She had a bottle once we were at cruising altitude, and she sucked down some water in a bottle during the descent. There was a little fussing, but not bad at all. You can see how Marcie did on her first airplane ride to the left.

One nice thing about the in-country travel here in China is that the airlines take pretty good care of you. The flight from Chongqing to Guangzhou was only an hour and a half, but they fed us a snack (you can see it to the left), and they came by twice with beverages. Despite our disappointment at the lack of apple juice for Marcie, we were pleased to have pineapple juice (yum!) and good coffee with cream and sugar.

We arrived to a rainy, steamy Guangzhou. And our guide Raymond was there waiting for us, along with his assistant Kathy. They were able to corral us-- this is no small feat when you consider the amount of luggage we all brought. You can get a sense of the sheer amount of stuff we all had in this photo, which only captures maybe a third of the group.

So a forty-five minute bus ride in Guangzhou landed us at the White Swan hotel. This is certainly a more western hotel than the Golden Resources, where we stayed in Chongqing. And we are the last of the families to arrive through CCAI. Raymond told us there are around 80 babies, and our 14 are the last-- the others have been here a couple days. I guess that's becuase our passports weren't ready until this morning. In reality, though, Guangzhou is more expensive than Chongqing, and we were already there and settled in, so there a couple more days or here a couple more days-- what difference does it make? For cost comparison purposes, though, the cheesburger we ordered through room service in Chongqing was around 58 RMB, or a little more than $7.00. The cheesburger Jason just ordered tonight was 138 RMB, or more than $15.00. And the rooms, though very clean, offer twin sized beds, instead of the king size we had in Chongqing. But the television does have more English-speaking stations, and our room has an amazing view of the river:

Marcie seems to be a relatively good traveler, though- here she is in our hotel room after our arrival:

Poop Watch 2006
For those of you sending prayers and crossing fingers with respect to Marcie's bowel movements, thank you. I wish I could say we are out of the woods, but I'm just not convinced we are. After breakfast this morning, Marcie did finally grunt and groan and push and screech and cry and moan and whine-- until she pushed out some poop. This completely exhausted here, and she immediately sacked out for a two-hour nap (that's Marcie napping to the left). After she woke up, we repeated the ordeal a second time (minus the nap). Poor, poor Marcie I'm so proud of her for going on her own, but I hate to see her in such pain. We are continuing to withhold the rice cereal from her formula. We did three prunes today, and we'll follow up with baby food prunes tomorrow, and also with apple juice (I verified with a doctor here in our group that apples bind but apple juice helps with constipation). We don't expect another movement until Thursday, though we are hopeful she'll regulate herself before that and without the pain. Please continue to keep your fingers crossed and keep Marcie in your prayers. . .

Tomorrow we will begin to learn our new surroundings, visit the doctor, and take photos for Marcie's U.S. visa. It looks like we have a couple opportunities for some half-day exursions while we are here-- and we are the last family to leave Guangzhou, on a red-eye for Los Angeles this Friday (only four more days until we get to see Casey again!).

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Sunday, August 27, 2006: Family Photo Day

Today was relatively uneventful again. I really don't know where the time goes, to be honest. We slept in a bit and went down for breakfast at 8am. I was pleased to discover the corn flakes a few days ago, and this morning when I went searching for them, they weren't where they usually are. After a brief moment of panic, I discovered they had just been moved to a new area. Phew! I also ventured into some Chinese breakfast food-- including the "hoof of crab." That was really a crab claw breaded and probably deep fried. Whatever it was, it was yummy.

After breakfast, we all met up in the lobby for our group photos. Boy, was that an ordeal. First we did a photo of all the families. Then we did the moms and the babies, then the dads and the babies. Then just the babies. Here is how some of the photos turned out:

The whole group. We're near the left. Marcie isn't really paying attention. For another group photo, visit Ava Farmer is Coming . (I stole the second one above from Cassidy Tao's Trip Home-- thanks, Kyndra!)

Mothers and daughters. You will notice Marcie is still not paying attention.

Fathers and daughters. Gene stepped in as Emma's "dad" for photo purposes.

You'll have to just imagine this one without the other camera in the way . . .

And chaos ensued. . . not two minutes after this photo was snapped, Marcie reached out and grabbed Ava's face (Ava is to Marcie's left, facing the photo), so I stepped in to "break it up" and pulled Marcie from the photo shoot. . . she didn't seem to mind. And within a couple minutes, she was ready for her nap.

You can see how mellow Marcie is here, ready to go to sleep. Oriole is to our left (facing the photo), and Marie is to our right.

After Marcie's nap (which lasted all of 20 minutes), I shot a few more pictures of her, and then we played some more, and then she ate some more, and then she went down for another nap. During her second nap, Jason and I snuck out for another foot massage. I guess I lambasted the hotel pretty hard yesterday on my post. Perhaps I was a bit harsh. And everyone else had such a great experience, I thought I should give it one more shot. I'm pretty glad I did. Jason and I went together this time, and instead of having a male, I got a female. The photo to the right is what the room looks like when you enter. It looks like two beds.

Once again, they brought in dark water, which we figured out was tea. While our feet soaked, they massaged our arms. No weird pinching of the nerves this time, though. And they spent at least 20-30 minutes on each foot. Then they did our legs and our upper backs and necks. Getting a massage with Jason is pretty funny. Whenever something hurts, he just shouts, "Ah-YAH!" and essentially jumps up from the table. I supposed that is the international way to tell someone the pressure is too strong! He is still a wee bit sore from climbing the great wall, so the massage was nice. Anyway, if I'd had today's experience yesterday, I wouldn't have hesitated to return. All I can say is I wouldn't request employees 801 or 811. But the women who worked on us today were good-natured and very good at what they do. After the massage, we were able to tip them, and even snap a cute photo with them, which you can see here. (Doesn't Jason look happy and relaxed?)

After our massages and Marcie's nap, we wandered out again, this time in search of baby food prunes. Jason and I stopped and bought some regular ones at the grocery store under the hotel, but we figured we look for more elsewhere. (Marcie gobbled up two of the prunes, by the way.) We stopped at McDonald's for a cone, and then we stopped and watched some of the fountain show on our way back to the hotel. Here's a picture of me and Mom and Marcie in front of the fountain. Marcie's only partially visible because her face is in the baby carrier (thanks, by the way, to Grace and Keely for loaning me your baby carriers-- we've actually used them both!). They also run a fountain show at night, with all sorts of neon lights. Here is a picture of it from my mom's hotel room window (the fountain is the round part):

We had a meeting in Marie's room to go over tomorrow's schedule. We will be getting Marcie's passport at the airport when we leave. Marie gave us her immunization record and her finding ad today-- so we are one step closer to coming home. . .

For dinner, we ate at the Cantonese restaurant in the hotel again, with Joia and Brad (and Ava) and Gene, and with Larry and Kyndra (and Cassidy). Joia and Kyndra brought white wine, which we all shared. Our waiter from the previous two times we'd dined in the restaurant, Ivan, was also there-- he told us if we all came back in another year, his English would be much better. I have to admit, though, the service around here is really exceptional. And they are making great efforts with the language.

They served us chicken feet again. This time, Gene and Larry both tried them-- that's Gene to the left. Joia gave a nice toast: "To no teething, a good night sleep, and a nice poop." And we added "And we wish that for the girls, too."

After dinner, we headed back up to the room for bed time. And to start packing-- FINALLY! I've been telling Marcie all evening that tomorrow we are getting on a big airplane and heading closer to home. I imagine she will be a little anxious tomorrow. . . I noticed a bit of "Mommy shopping" going on today. A lot of people want to stop and touch and hold Marcie. After all, she is awfully cute. And Marcie seemed a little more interested today than she should. She definitely recognizes me and Jason and our voices, but it's really important that she attach to us, and not any random person who picks her up and speaks in gentle tones. . . so for those of you back home reading this, please don't be offended if we don't hand Marcie over to you to feed or to play with for a while. It's just really important that she come rely primarily on us-- and that she knows that, no matter what, we will always be here for her. . .

So I'm starting a new section of the blog. . . Introducing:

Poop Watch 2006
For those of you following our adventures in the land of constipation, we have now passed the 48-hour mark, and still no bowel movement. Yesterday evening we gave Marcie about 3 ounces of apple juice, a warm bath, and a tummy massage.

Today, we have given Marcie about 8 ounces of apple juice, two prunes (which I broke into little pieces and she ate), and half the plastic container of prunes our friend (and perhaps godsend) Jill gave us. We have done numerous tummy rubs and we have done the cycling-thing with the legs. We have opted not to do another glycerine suppository today because we read online that it can teach kids that pooping is painful, causing them to hold it in . . . I am contemplating calling our pediatrician on Monday in the U.S. By then it will have been 72 hours without a bowel movement (actually a bit more than that), but I am not sure what else to do. And I'm not sure he'll be able to help us from 5,000 miles away anyway. It's around 9:30pm right now, and I hear Marcie stirring in crib next to me. I am not sure if it's because she is just not tired, if it's because her cough keeps waking her up, or if it's because her stomach is bothering her. None of those are good things, though. The good news is that it that it appears Marcie will eat anything. The bad news is that it apparently stays in her system for a loooong time.

As yucky a topic as this is, please keep your fingers crossed that poor Marcie will poop soon . . . and preferrably not a river of it on the flight between Chongqing and Guangzhou tomorrow.

Ok. Here are some cute photos of Marcie to end this post:

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Saturday, August 26, 2006: Night Tour to See Lights

This post will be short partly because we really didn't do anything today and partly because I'm completely exhausted and probably should have gone to bed an hour ago. Jason and I both caught this cold (we think from Marcie), and we are relatively confident it's about to hit my mom, too. It's wiped us out. So yesterday we took Sudafed 12 hour in the mid-afternoon. Totally a dumb idea. The stuff kept us wide awake until I'd guess around 5am this morning (maybe a little before that for Jason because I heard him snoring while I was still laying in bed awake). Plus the stuff gives me crazy, crazy dreams that seem real but make no sense. Anyway, when Marcie woke up around 7:15 for her bottle, I got it ready and fed her, then Marcie and I left (with my mom) around 8:30am to head to Starbucks with some others. We left Jason behind to get some sleep.

I made the mistake of ordering a blended cream frappacino, which is not like a regular one. But at least the banana walnut muffin was good. After Starbucks, we hung out with Marcie in the room-- I napped for about twenty minutes, then we went to play group, hosted by Jill. I didn't think to snap any photos of either of these activities, so I'll have to borrow from others later.

When Marcie went down for her noon nap, Mom and I decided to try out the foot massage in the hotel. We'd heard it was great-- and I was surprised Mom wanted to try it because she hates massages. I, on the other hand, love them. This was not a very good experience though. They started by soaking our feet in a hot water mixture and massaging our arms, which is fine in theory. But I think the guy sought out and hit every nerve in my arm. I still had numbness in my pinkies when the hour and a half experience ended. Then the guy decided to rub off all my callouses. I know it's gross that I have them, and if I'd known what he was doing and could figure out how to tell him to stop, I probably would have. Plus, they charged extra for it (and for cutting my toe nails really short, which was odd because I already keep my toe nails very short by American standards because I run). It took a long time to build up my running callouses, so I'm a little bummed they are gone. After he scrubbed my feet, he massaged my feet and legs. Again, he was very rough. The rubbing was hard enough, but all the slapping and stretching- it nearly brought tears to my eyes. And he didn't use lotion, so it was dry skin (his hands) on dry skin (my legs), so it felt like he was pinching me. . . I'm not sorry I opted to try it out, but it's not something I'll do again.

Later in the afternoon, we headed out to do some grocery shopping. We found our way to Carre-Four and bought some Pringles. Then we headed over to the grocery store in the sleepless town below our hotel and picked up diapers (we thought they were cheaper).

After Marcie had a bottle, we headed back out in the heat to Pizza Hut because I had a hankering for it. It's strange to me that you can't get diet soda in many restaurants, and Pizza Hut is one of them. Jason tried to tip our waitress and she got really embarrassed. She said she wasn't allowed to take the money. Marcie was pretty good during dinner, but her teeth were bothering her. I gave her some cold apple juice, which really goes agains my typical parenting approach (Casey didn't have juice until he was 3), but I'm feeling kind of desperate to help her have a normal bowel movement. Jason got online today to read about what to do, and we think another glycerine suppository might not be good for her. We looked for prunes in the store, but we didn't find any. We might begin searching more diligently for apple sauce tomorrow, though.

After dinner we walked over to the department store we call Summersale. It's not really the name of the department store. The store is something like DCDS (I know those aren't the right initials), but we call it summersale because it has a bunch of signs outside that sa Summersale (as in they are having their summer sale). We picked out a couple hats for Marcie, which you can see below:

Then Mom and I headed out on the night tour to see Chongqing. Marie explained that Chongqing used to be pronounced Chong-king but in the 1950s when the government decided to standardize the langugage (into Mandarin), the pronunciation changed to Chong-chin. This was also the same time that Peking became Beijing. Anyway, the tour started with the People's Square and building-- this is the same building that is on the metal plate the adoption registration center gave us for Marcie. But the lights weren't on, so my photos are terrible. Then we went to where the Yangtze River meets the other tributary (I forget its name and will have to add it back in later when I'm not so tired and I've looked it up). This was very pretty, but my photos of it stink, so you will just have to take my word for it.

While I was off on the night tour, Jason gave Marcie a bath and put her to bed, which is where she is now. Tomorrow we have group photos and we get final instructions for our departure on Monday to Guangzhou. I can't believe Monday is almost here-- that is one step closer to Friday, when I can hug and kiss my sweet angel Casey again. . . I can hardly wait until our family is finally together.

Oh. And here is one more photo of Marcie for good measure. . .