Tag Archives: Leo

Trip home

Boy, was that a long trip home! Matt said I had done my math wrong, and he was right. We got up at 4 pm EST on Thursday and didn’t walk in the door at Don and Linda’s house until 9 pm EST on Friday. For the most part, the flights went smoothly. We continually had a problem with our tickets, so for two of the three flights home we spent about 45 minutes at the check-in counter. This made gave us very little time to make it to the flight, and each time we had to go through security twice, and it seemed like we had to show our boarding passes and passports about four times each trip. It seems redundant to have to show our passports to get the boarding pass, the boarding passes and passports to be able to get on the plane, and then have the stewardess standing by the door to the plane request to see it all again! They actually held our flight for us in Shanghai, and we spent so much time getting processed through security and running from the domestic to international terminal with suitcases and a 30 pound toddler on my back that we didn’t even have time to use the restroom or get a drink of water. It was such a relief to step out into the cool weather at home after a week of being constantly sweaty in tropical Guangzhou.


Since Leo is barely under 2, we decided to purchase a lap ticket for the flights home. We figured he would be clingy and not want to sit in his own seat, anyway. He slept most of the flight from Guangzhou to Shanghai on my lap, and during the flight from Shanghai to Seattle he often shared Vincent’s seat. That flight was the worst trip we had because Leo spent a few hours in the middle crying. Fortunately, he wasn’t very loud and the noise of the plane drowned out most of the sound. Vincent and Leo slept several hours of the long flight, and Gregory took a half-hour nap. None of the adults did more than doze off for 5 minutes here and there. We finally arrived at Seattle, and while we were processed through customs Leo’s magic brown envelope was opened and he became the newest US citizen. He looks pretty happy at the thought but really, he was just happy to be off that plane!


I was dreading the flight from Seattle to Cincinnati, but we were all so exhausted that everyone but Linda slept pretty much the entire four hour flight. Gregory was asleep before take-off and I woke him up as we were landing. Even Mary Evelyn fell asleep for the first time on the trip. Matt’s dad met us at the airport along with his sister and her family. It was great to see some familiar faces, and to be back home in America. Sometimes it’s the simplest things that make the biggest impression. Mary Evelyn remarked “You know, I was never homesick for America when we were in China, but it is *really* nice to use a restroom with lots of toilet paper and soap and not a single squatty potty!”


One thing that I had wondered about was how the Chinese people would react to seeing Leo be a part of our family. While the Chinese adoption program is common knowledge here in America, most people in China don’t seem to be aware of it. It is common for someone to approach a family’s guide and ask why the American couple has a Chinese baby. Of course, it is similar here in America. Most people are unaware that some American children are adopted out of the country each year (most are private infant adoptions, but a few foster kids will find a permanent family in Canada). I know Americans feel both angry and ashamed that we do not have homes for all of our children, and I expected the Chinese to feel the same way.

It really didn’t seem that way, though. The most negative reaction I came across was when we were flying from Nanjing to Guangzhou. As we exited the plane there were two Chinese women waiting to clean the plane and I heard one say to the other “orphanage baby” in English. For the most part, people have made very positive remarks. At the end of our long flight home, a Chinese stewardess came by to coo over Leo and said “You have changed his future. He had no future in China without a family, and now his future is bright. He is fortunate to have these brothers and sister, and now he will have many opportunities in American.”

That’s it for today. We need to get back home to our real house where I am actually looking forward washing laundry using my labor saving washing and drying machines! I do anticipate writing a few more posts over the next week or two letting you know how Leo is adjusting, how his doctor’s appointments went, and things along those lines. Thanks again to all of you who followed along on our journey!

Last day in China

I thought 16 days in China would be a really long trip, but I’m sad that it’s time to leave. We have truly enjoyed our days here, and I wish that China were closer so visiting regularly would be an option.

This morning we visited the tomb of the Nanyue king. This was an ancient king who ruled over a small kingdom here in the south of China before an Emperor began to rule most of the country. The tomb museum is on the same block as our hotel, and I have heard from many people that the tomb was found when they were building the hotel, so they had to move the hotel site.


The museum was large, modern, and air-conditioned which is something that we really appreciate in this sweltering city. They had a large collection of ceramic pillows. They looked quite beautiful, but not especially comfortable. We saw many artifacts which were uncovered in the tomb, as well as the king’s jade burial suit. The suit was made of many small tiles of jade, sewn together with red silk thread. There were also many jade discs buried on and under the body.


The best part of the museum was that they had preserved the burial site. There are no artifacts remaining, but we could walk down into the tomb and through the rooms. You could even see traces of painting on some of the walls. Mary Evelyn said the museum was well worth the $2 admission charge.


We spent nap time packing up our suitcases, then we went for one last walk in Yuexiu Park. After supper, Linda and I walked down my favorite traditional street one last time while she looked for a few more souvenirs to buy. It’s an early bedtime for everyone tonight since we have to be in the van on the way to the airport at 5 am. We should land at our home airport around 7:30 pm the same day, despite traveling for over 20 hours.

Shopping day

I want to thank everyone who has left messages either on the blog, via Facebook, or sent e-mails. I have appreciated them all. I really look forward to checking my e-mail when I wake up to see the messages that you have left. Thanks for following along and resisting the temptation to point out all the errors in my exhausted-right-before-bed blog posts. I also wanted to mention that if you like seeing the pictures of China life, I have been updating Flickr daily as well. There are usually at least 10 additional pictures that you can see by clicking through on the right to the Flickr page.

This morning Matt was left at the hotel with the four boys to wait for paperwork to arrive while Linda, Mary Evelyn, and I had a girls’ morning out shopping. I hired a local women who offers a guided shopping service. She used to work at a touristy store, and now she takes adoptive families to the wholesale shops where the touristy shops buy their wares to sell. We were completely amazed to walk into a huge multi-level mall which had nothing but jewelry stores. Linda and I really had a lot of fun looking at everything and making our purchases, but I think Mary Evelyn was regretting agreeing to come along.


Our guide asked us what sort of items we wanted to buy, and then took us to a variety of stores. She took us to all of these little back alley places. We didn’t see anyone who wasn’t Chinese, so I know we were hitting the local spots. We stopped at a store that sold traditional Chinese clothing. I was trying on a dress when the guide said that I would need to get a XXL. I said to Linda that shopping in Chinese sizes sure kept you humble. The guide asked what size I wore in America, and I said that I was usually considered a small in American sizes. She said something to the store owner and they both chuckled. But I liked my dress just fine, despite the XXL on the tag. The boys liked their outfits, too.


While I was gone shopping, Matt was finishing up some odds and ends with our agency. We got Leo’s visa in, and the “magical” brown envelope which will turn him into a citizen once the immigration officer opens it, so long as we can complete the quest of traveling home without losing it or damaging the envelope. While Matt was down in our agency’s office, I had him take a red couch photo of Leo. Back when China adoption was in full swing, pretty much everyone stayed at the same hotel on Shamian Island. The hotel had red couches in the lobby, and it became a tradition to take a picture of your child on the couch. Now the consulate and medical exam building are no longer on Shamian Island and the White Swan Hotel is closed for renovation, but our agency bought one of the red couches so that parents can keep up the tradition. It was close to Leo’s naptime, so the pictures of him by himself weren’t that great. I’ll show one with his brothers instead.


It was almost supper time by the time we were able to get Leo’s passport with visa, so we didn’t have time to go out and do anything this afternoon. We decided to get takeout from one of the many restaurants in the hotel, finish off the last half of the cake (delicious, by the way!), and go swimming one last time. Tomorrow is our last full day in China, so we need to make sure our suits are dry in time for tomorrow’s major packing party.

Consulate Appointment day

Today was our appointment at the US Consulate. The medical exam results from Saturday were in, and it was time to go apply for a visa for Leo. I don’t have any pictures for this portion of the post because the consulate doesn’t allow: cameras, cell phones, backpacks, wristwatches, ink pens, or strollers. The consulate just moved to this new location recently, and it was a complex with a few buildings. The back part had a high privacy fence and as we came around the front, there was a blue plastic barricade. There were a lot of Chinese people waiting around the barricade area, I assume because they came with people who were inside. We went through the barricade, and then to a separate security building. We had to show our passports and when our name was matched to the appointment list, we were let into the inner courtyard.

Once we entered the main building, we were sent to a separate area upstairs. We could see the main area down below where Chinese citizens waited in a long line that snaked around like the wait for a popular amusement park ride. Our room was specifically for adoptions and there was a playhouse and several toys for children. We sat with our paperwork and waited with the other families who had this appointment time. After a few minutes an American man began to give us instructions by using a microphone on the other side of bulletproof glass. Apparently, they don’t take any chances even though we all went through security. Unfortunately, because of the tile floor, lots of of shiny wall surfaces, and a large amount of loud children, it was difficult for all of us to understand him. Eventually we rose to take “the oath.” I’ve read several accounts of people who said they teared up taking the oath so I assumed it was like the promises we made to China to care for Leo, to not abuse him, to love him, and provide him with an education. What really happened was that we swore we hadn’t falsified any documents. A little anti-climactic, but okay. Then we were called to the window one by one while a consulate employee went over our paperwork. We left Leo’s passport and it will be returned tomorrow with a US entry visa sticker in it.

After we got home, we decided to go back to the street where we found three bakeries and buy a cake to celebrate. While the consulate employee stressed that Leo is not a citizen and won’t be until his paperwork is processed when we return to the US, we don’t anticipate having a lot of time to celebrate before we have to run and catch our connecting flight. We choose one cake, but the employee talked us out of it, making faces to indicate that she didn’t think we would like it. We chose the one she recommended, and then headed back. Mary Evelyn wanted to stop in a tea shop to buy a tea pot, so we made another stop.


The owner went through a little ritual to give us samples of tea. There was a machine that cleaned and sterilized the little cups, so she removed some cups from that. There was one of the great instant tea pots they have here that boil water in 30 seconds. She put loose tea leaves in a small pot and poured the water over it after covering it with a lid. She then poured out a sample of tea over an area that had a decorative drain to catch any tea that spilled out. She also filtered out the tea leaves for us. The Chinese usually drink their tea with the leaves still in it. On the street you see many people with water bottles that have tea leaves floating around on the bottom slung over the handlebars of their bikes. After we bought some tea, we made a quick stop at the McDonald’s that is right next to our hotel. Leo decided he also likes fries.


After naptime (and more laundry), we were ready to get out of the hotel room again. We decided to go back to Yuexiu Park since it seemed like we had just scratched the surface there. We rented a stroller from the hotel to see if Leo liked that any more than the ergo carrier. He really gets unhappy in the heat, and being strapped to someone’s back can heat you up fast. We had another really great walk in the park. We found the old Guangzhou city walls that were built during the Ming dynasty.


We found Zhenhai Tower, and watched a team practicing on the soccer field. We walked to the Sun Yat-sen memorial, and found a wonderful view of the city close to sunset.


Then we walked back to the hotel. Matt picked up some carry-out and decided what to order by asking the guy at the stand what was most popular. We all ate noodles and mystery meat and then had the cake for dessert. The bakery lady had given us a birthday party in a box, including little paper plates that said happy birthday, a cake server, forks, and a pack of candles. I saved the candles for Leo’s real birthday next week. It was the perfect end to a great day.


Yuexiu Park

Monday was another free day for us, but we will be busy tomorrow. We basically did the same thing today as we did yesterday. We had made plans to go to the Guangzhou Safari Park with another family, but decided to stay close to the hotel after all. Leo does not like the heat, and the Safari Park is more of an all day event. After breakfast we decided to visit the other park near the hotel, Yuexiu Park. Yuexiu Park is so huge that I printed off an extra page from google maps to be able to get most of it on a page. I think it’s Guangzhou’s version of Central Park. Yuexiu Park is home to Guangzhou’s famous five goat statue.


Legend has it that five deities came to Guangzhou riding on five goats, and they blessed Guangdong Province with a wonderful climate that insured plentiful harvests for the people who live here. You see the five goats statue everywhere as a symbol of the city. This park was different from yesterday’s park but we enjoyed it as well. Yuexiu is very much like walking through the zoo’s rainforest climate biosphere, only you never get to leave the biosphere.


We came back to the hotel for a light lunch and nap for Leo. We headed out to walk in the neighborhood we had eaten at on Sunday to look for an early supper. We found a large restaurant this time, and they had a menu that was written in English for us, but no pictures. I decided that the picture menu is better, because I’d rather not know what all my options are. There were regular exotic fare such as snails or eel, along with pretty much all of the pig–feet, ears, offal. I was just thinking that pig offal was a mistranslation of intestines until I turned the page and saw cow intestines offered as well. We picked some items that were safe to eat and had a good supper.


I don’t think I’ve mentioned before, but the tap water in China is not drinkable. Apparently their pipes are old, and sometimes sewage seeps in. So when we eat out, we can’t order water because you don’t know if they will be serving tap water or not. You can request bottled water, but restaurants offer name brand Evian instead of Chinese bottled water, so it is about three times the cost of soda. We order soda and usually it is served European style, that is warm with no free refills. It’s nice when they keep the cans or bottles in a refrigerator and we can drink it cold. Occasionally it is served with ice, which we really shouldn’t have because we don’t know if they’ve made it from tap water or not. So far the time or two we’ve had ice, we just try to drink the Coke quickly enough that the ice doesn’t melt. Restaurants do not keep western style utensils around, so it’s chopsticks or large soup spoons. I try to pack a long a couple of plastic forks for the younger two, who haven’t quite mastered chopsticks yet. Finally, while it isn’t as annoying as the national habit of hand-washing without soap, one thing that I dislike about Chinese restaurants is that half the time they don’t provide any napkins. If they do, the Chinese style napkins are basically a box of tissues. If someone happens to spill a drink then you have to use up half a box!


After we finished eating we stopped into a large Chinese bakery. They had lots of western desserts and many interesting cakes. We bought some bread and a few samples of desserts to try back at the hotel. Then we went swimming in the evening. Leo loved the water again. It turned to be a sort of boy adoption pool party as we were joined by three other couples adopting boys. Two Spanish speaking couples were adopting boys who were under 18 months, and then there was another American couple with a son about Leo’s age.


We have just three days left in China, and we are starting to be ready to get back home. We have really loved our time here, but we are getting very tired of living in a hotel! Earlier today Matt wanted something to eat but he was tired of the granola bars and other easy to pack food that we had in the room. He remembered that the hotel convenience store had some cans of Campbell’s soup so he decided to go buy one of those. He got down to the store and saw that his choices were oxtail soup and borscht. He bought the oxtail soup, but saw that it wasn’t a pull-top lid. He stopped by the front desk to ask if the hotel had a can-opener that he could use. They told him to call the help line from his room and housekeeping could bring one up. He went upstairs and called the help line. The nice lady didn’t understand the world “can-opener.” Matt googled the Chinese word for can-opener. She said she would send someone right up. A few minutes later a uniformed staff person knocked on the door. He requested the can, and then said he would be back in a few minutes, and left with the can. Five minutes later, Matt finally had an open can of oxtail soup. It was tasty, but I’m not sure anything would be worth all that trouble!

Liuhua Lake Park

We had today free, and we enjoyed being able to sleep in and have a leisurely breakfast. After breakfast we decided to go to one of the two large parks that are nearby the hotel. It isn’t oppressively hot out but it is very humid. It feels like a steamy bathroom after a shower out there. As we walked the short distance to the park, we saw several people who had set out wares on blankets to try and interest the tourists from the two large hotels.


Liuhua park was beautiful. On the map it looked like a park with a series of lakes. On the ground, it looked like one huge lake with many walkways across and around it. There was a huge marble building right in the center, but somehow we never made it to that building. I think you can tell from this picture that we’re all starting to get tired of smiling for pictures in front of interesting landmarks.


We saw all kinds of interesting things. There were many people fishing from the banks, and one guy who set up an elaborate net and pulled fish into a boat. There was an exercise area that was packed with people young to old using the equipment. People were playing instruments, and badminton. There was a ladies fan-dancing class and rental paddle boats. We found one building that we could enter and it was had a display of local artists’ work.


We enjoyed the walk but we were hot and tired when we got back to the hotel. We had a light lunch and put Leo down for his nap. After he woke up, we decided to go swimming at the hotel pool. It is outdoors on the fourth floor, and it was perfect weather for a swim. I didn’t take the camera because I assumed that Leo would just cry and cling to Matt, but I was completely wrong, so I’ll take the camera next time. He was a little hesitant at first, but then the he had a lot of fun. He was splashing and laughing. He even let me hold him a little at the end. We swam for close to two hours, and then decided to just order Papa Johns for supper. The Chinese don’t eat much dairy and they usually think American melted cheese food is gross, so I was also surprised when Leo loved the pizza and ate a slice and a half.


Other than still being suspicious of me, he’s still doing very well. He hasn’t had any more grieving times since we visited his orphanage. He sleeps well at night and takes a long nap. He spends time playing with the other children every day. He still thinks Mary Evelyn is special. He laughs and runs over to Matt when he sees him put on the ergo carrier. He’s a happy little guy, just like Director Chen said. We think we’re pretty lucky to have him!

Medical exam day

Matt went out bright and early today for the medical exam. He didn’t take any pictures since he was on his own, but he said everything went well for the exam. After he got back we had a few hours before I needed to go downstairs to fill out paperwork so we decided to go out to lunch. Matt was finally started to crave some American food, so he wanted to go across the street to eat at the Coffee Cafe, which the guide had suggested. I guess everyone else thought it sounded like a good idea because there were two other families with our group there. Our table had a combination of pancakes, sandwiches, and hamburgers and it was good, but we had some Western food sticker shock at the bill. One of the perks of liking Asian food is that it really saves you a lot of money when you’re traveling.


After we ate, we went back to the hotel so Leo could take a nap. He is still doing well, and turning into a very happy boy, just as the orphanage director said. He still prefers Matt to anyone else, but unless he’s very tired or something he will let me hold him in small amounts. He is a surprisingly picky eater for someone who loves to eat. Matt says he’s the equivalent to an American kid who only eats fries and chicken nuggets. He will eat congee, steamed buns, and watermelon for breakfast, but no other fruit. Oatmeal is the only American food we have tried him on that he will eat. He also loves rice. Matt was asking our guide for the correct way to order rice while we were in the van once and Leo perked right up at all the talk about “mi fan.” Although the orphanage personnel were quite adamant that he doesn’t take a bottle anymore, he has no idea how to drink from a cup, and he found drinking from a sippy cup (the kind without a valve because he can’t form a suction) frustrating. He is very comfortable drinking from a bottle though, so that is what we’re sticking with until we get back home.


I spent about an hour downstairs filling out paperwork for our consulate appointment. Once I got back then we decided to go walk around and find a place to eat. It is very warm and humid in Guangzhou. You see a lot of Spanish moss on trees, and palm trees as well. Again, we felt very safe walking around and had no problem finding lots of little shops and places to eat. We found one where they spoke no English but had a picture menu so we pointed at a few things and waited for the food. They first brought out three pots of what seemed to be duck broth. It was so delicious! Leo just ate and ate it, refusing even to take a bite of his beloved rice until Matt had the idea to pour some of the broth over the rice. Then the main dishes came out and we all shared them. They were all very tasty. We are teaching the children the cardinal rule of being a good traveler–if you like what you eat, then don’t ask what it is! And the total for tonight’s meal was $12 for the eight of us. I think we’ll stick with Asian food!


On the way back to the hotel, Matt stopped in a local bakery to buy some moon cakes for us to sample. The mid-autumn festival is approaching and moon cakes are a special food associated with the festival. In the airport we saw many people with gift bags of moon cakes with them. Our hotel has a large area near the door where people walk in off the street and buy moon cakes. I’ve walked by there four times, and each time it has been packed with people. They have a giant moon cake for sale in a shop off the lobby. We only bought three to sample because Chinese desserts aren’t usually what American’s consider good in a dessert. We really like sweet desserts. The moon cakes weren’t bad (unlike the green gelatinous bean curd covered with raw garlic sauce that we had at the orphanage) but we decided the next time we go by the bakery we’ll get a cake instead of the 12 pack of moon cakes.


Travel to Guangzhou

Yesterday (Friday) was our day to check out of our hotel in Nanjing and fly to Guangzhou where we will stay for our last week in China. While in Nanjing we were staying in a suite at the Holiday Inn. The attached mall was nice, because we could go out and walk around easily if we wanted. The suite had one room with a king size bed where Matt and I slept with Vincent and Leo slept in a crib. The other room had two beds that were about the size of a double bed. Linda and Mary Evelyn slept in one and Max and Gregory in the other. The Holiday Inn wasn’t quite as fancy as the Novatel Peace in Beijing, but it was quite comfortable for us.


As we were taking the elevator down with our luggage, we shared the elevator with a Chinese gentleman who spoke excellent English. He looked around the elevator and asked “These all your family?” When I said yes, he smiled and nodded and then gestured toward Leo. “This is your youngest?” I said yes again, and he said politely but in a slightly confused way “He look . . . Chinese?” So I explained that we had just adopted him, and then he nodded in understanding.

We went back to the Nanjing airport with Denise and the same driver we have had all week. Denise mused on the food in Guangzhou, remarking that the Cantonese “are very adventurous eaters. They eat cat, snake, monkey brains . . .” Many people warned us to avoid domestic flights in China, but really we haven’t had any trouble with the flights. The airport bathrooms have a good supply of soap and Western toilets. We haven’t had any trouble communicating with the security personnel and the signs are in dual Chinese and English. One thing that I have noticed is that the female security guards and all the stewardesses are gorgeous. There is not an old or homely one to be found. Another interesting custom is having the person you should address questions to being indicated by the person wearing a beauty pageant style sash. It looks perfectly natural on the lovely baggage claim girl, but the male security guard in his black police uniform looks a little silly in the red sash with a bow at the waist.

Many domestic flights are delayed, but so far we have been lucky enough to avoid that. As we waited in the terminal for it to be time to climb onto the bus to take us to our plane we heard two other flights to Guangzhou announced as delayed. We chuckled as the English announcement apologized for the delay and suggested delayed passengers should relax and rest in the waiting area. It was swelteringly hot and the waiting area was standing room only. Not relaxing at all! We have been fed on both our domestic flights even though they were short, and the food is much better than on US domestic flights. We arrived in Guangzhou at about 6:30 and then had another long drive to the China Hotel.


Guangzhou will be our home for the next week. The adoption has been completed as far as China is concerned, but now we have some things to do for the American side. This morning (Saturday) Matt took Leo for a medical exam. This afternoon we will complete paperwork for Leo’s visa. He will travel home on his Chinese passport, so he needs a visa to enter the US. We don’t have any plans on Sunday or Monday, but Tuesday is our appointment at the US Consulate. We will receive the paperwork that we need to make Leo a citizen once he is processed through customs on entering the US. His visa should be ready on Tuesday afternoon, and then we are free to leave. As I mentioned before, we will not be flying home until Friday morning for various travel related reasons. But our suite here at the China Hotel will be a luxurious home for us for the next week. It is larger than the apartment Matt and I had for four years during his time in graduate school! It is a similar set up to the last suite, only we have an extra half bath which is always a nice perk when you have 7 people living here (plus one in diapers).


I don’t expect us to do a lot of touring here, but there is a lot that is walking distance from the China Hotel. There are two different large parks adjacent to the hotel. We won’t even have to make a crazy Chinese street crossing because there are underpasses leading to the parks. There is also the tomb of an ancient Chinese king next door to the hotel, so there is plenty to keep us busy on our free days.


Since I don’t have a lot more to say today, I thought I’d tell you about laundry. The hotels here don’t have washers and dryers for our use, and the hotel laundry service has dry-cleaning prices. There are local options for us to send our laundry out, but even at a more reasonable dollar an item price, it really adds up for a family our size. I wanted to pack light, so I did not pack 16 outfits per person. We were lucky as to our travel time, because those who travel during cool weather need to pack for two different seasons because when it’s snowing in Beijing, it is warm and sunny in Guangzhou. We packed a reasonable amount of mix and match clothing, and I wash the laundry in the bathtub.


Washing is actually the easy part, it’s the drying that’s a challenge. It is difficult to get the water wrung out so the clothing can dry sooner. I mostly hang the clothing in the closet to dry, but there is a surprising amount of places in the suite to hang laundry to dry. The Holiday Inn suite had a retractable clothesline over the bathtub. After seeing all the Chinese laundry hanging out on balconies and in the street, I don’t even think that the maids think we’re weird. It does take some planning because we have to have enough time for the clothing to dry before we can pack it. The iron provided by the hotel helps with the last bit of dampness. I packed the clothing in large packing ziploc bags, and I try to keep putting the outfits for one day back in a bag as the clean laundry dries to try and keep things organized better. That’s it for today, hopefully I will have more Guangzhou pictures for you tomorrow.

Orphanage visit

We got up at 5 am this morning so we could be on the road by 7 am. Our plan was always that I would go with Leo, and one or two of the older children. But then Gregory really wanted to go, and Mary Evelyn sounded interested and Linda was dropping hints that she would kind of like to go too. The deciding factor was when Denise reported that she had confirmed with the orphanage director “and she say you bring your whole big family with you, okay?” While we were having lunch today the Director Chen told us that when she told the nannies that we would be visiting, they all begged for her to tell us to bring the whole family because they really wanted to see all of his siblings.


So we got in the big van and headed out of town. Leo slept the first two hours, but he was increasingly apprehensive and scared after that. I’m sure he was thinking of the long van ride that brought him to us and wondering where this ride would end. The older two both played on their DS and the younger two listened to audiobooks and we all watched the Chinese countryside roll by. It looks a lot like any American countryside. There are a lot of rivers in the area. Denise told us that this town is a lobster town and that town cultures pearls in the river. We passed over one waterway that Denise said brought water from the Yangtze to Beijing. Matt was surprised that such a huge city could be in an area without a natural water source and asked Denise how that came to be. She said that Beijing was attractive to the emperor who moved the capital because of the Great Wall, so it had natural defenses, and also because of the people in the area. She said there is a minority group there who are not Han Chinese who are known for being industrious and energetic, and so it was though that they would be good administrators.


Four hours later, we arrived in Lianyungang. Lianyungang is a coastal city, right across the bay from South Korea. Denise said that it is a vacation city, because people travel to see the famous Monkey King Mountain and visit the beach. It is also common to travel from there to vacation in South Korea, but that requires an $8000 deposit at the police station to make sure you return!


We arrived at the orphanage and were given a very warm welcome. The nannies were just leaving for lunch and they all swarmed Leo, smiling, laughing, and take pictures of him and us. It was wonderful to see how excited they were to see him, and how happy he was to see them. It shows that he had a good bond with them. I met the woman who was his primary nanny until he was moved to foster care, the “grandmother” he was assigned through the Half the Sky program, and a woman who was introduced as his “recovery” nanny. I’m not sure what that was, but I got the impression she worked with him on activities to help him meet his developmental milestones.


After the nannies left, we took a small tour of the orphanage. We were only shown the areas where Leo had been. We visited the baby room where the older babies were all getting ready for naps. Many of them sleep two to a crib because space is short. This set of buildings is about 20 years old, but they are going to be moving to a new facility before the end of the year. We were able to see the plans, but it was frankly very sad to see that they needed so much space. The director asked if we were planning to adopt again and tried to entice us with a very adorable little girl, saying she could tell we were short of girls. I made sure to move Matt along before he could get too attached. We saw the room where the toddlers play, as well as a sort of preschool that they had downstairs. I noticed they had bookcases in the hallway where children placed their shoes and they had put the child’s picture in each place so they know where their shoes go. Although the building is older, it was bright and cheerful. Just like a school, they had children’s artwork hanging everywhere in the classroom areas. In the stairwells they had pictures of children who had been adopted out of the orphanage.


After the tour we went to the staff lunchroom to eat. The other blogs I had read where people visited the orphanage usually had the family eating out at a restaurant with the director. I wondered if that was too expensive because of our group size, but I didn’t have any regrets. We were served a mountain of food, and the director told us that some of the dishes were the same as the children were served for lunch that day. I loved that I was eating fish stew made from locally caught fish, and it was the same that the children ate. How wonderful that they get fresh cooked food every day. I guess I had thought they were getting the sort of factory made frozen foods that they serve in schools here in America!


The director told me at lunch that about 100 babies are abandoned in the area each year and come into their care, but only about 30 are adopted out, most internationally. I have heard many adoptive parents say that when children in China “age out” meaning they can no longer be adopted at age 14, they are then turned out into the street. I read on the Love Without Boundaries website that they actually remain in care until age 18. Director Chen told me that the kids receive some education at the orphanage and those who are able to work, they try and train for some job. She said they try to help them get a job in town, or maybe they can work cleaning at the orphanage. For those who are disabled to the extent that they can’t work, the state will continue to care for them, and they will be moved to the home for the aged which is located in the same facility.


After we finished lunch we said goodbye to the director. She said we must come back to visit when Leo was older, maybe ten years from now. She said that would give us enough time to save up enough money to bring the rest of the family to visit with him! Then she said that she would be retired by that time, but not to worry because her apartment is very close to the orphanage so she can still come by when we visit to see us all again. She was such a great person, you can tell she really has a heart for the children.

For such a long drive, we really weren’t there very long. We were able to stop by Leo’s finding place on the way out and take a picture for him. Leo napped the first two hours home again. When he woke up he actually seemed much happier than before. I guess he decided he wanted to stay with us, because he wasn’t at all upset that we didn’t leave him at the orphanage. However, he has decided that Matt is his favorite parent and now he doesn’t want to have anything to do with me. If Matt sets him down for an instant he will immediately start to cry. I’m not insulted because I know this is a normal behavior and it doesn’t last forever.

We are exhausted from the long day, so we just had a quick supper at the hotel with food that we had packed. Now we’re getting ready for bed. I’m having a lot of trouble keeping an internet connection so I will upload the pictures tomorrow.

Confucius Temple

Today was one of our days off because we didn’t have anything adoption related to do. We were still pretty footsore from our walk around the city yesterday, but we still met Denise at 9 am. Fortunately this time the Confucius Temple area really was a short walk and there weren’t even any major streets to cross to get there. We didn’t actually enter the Confucius Temple, but we saw it, along with the river and all of the nice shops. It was interesting to see signs that Denise said were from the Ming dynasty era. One was mentioning Nanjing as a center of education because it used to be where scholars would take their exams to enter the imperial service, and the other said “Black coats only” which Denise said referred to the imperial guard.


We were able to do a little shopping. Matt pointed out that the mall prices seem like normal prices to us, but when you get out and see what regular prices are in the rest of China, it’s easy to see why Denise says the mall is so overpriced. I’m doing most of my shopping in Guangzhou so I don’t have to carry things around through our in China flights. But I want to make sure I buy some items from Leo’s home province. One of Nanjing’s local things are “rain flower stones” which are pretty agate stones from the river. They are usually shown in water because they make pretty patterns when the sun shines in. We bought a few of those, along with some local tea which is also named rain flower. Many adoptive parents buy a “chop” for their child, which is a decorative stamp that has their child’s name carved on it. We bought one for Leo made from rain flower stone, and had his Chinese name carved on it.


While the chop was being carved, Denise pointed to some glass beads and remarked that they came from Leo’s home city. I decided to buy one and have it made into a necklace. It was a large glass bead which had been hand painted with a design on the inside of the bead. When I chose one, the seller asked if I’d like to have it personalized, so I had Leo’s name painted on the inside as well. The man took out the tiniest paintbrush I’ve ever seen and sat down in front of a magnifying glass and painted the characters for YuQiang on the inside of the bead. I then chose a red thread for the necklace, because Leo’s foster mother gave him a bracelet made of red thread, which also has significance in the adoption community. It’s a very beautiful necklace, but I forgot to take a picture so you’ll just have to squint at the other pictures to try and see it.


We asked Denise to take our picture here because you can see what she calls “the city’s animal.” I’m not sure there is an English name for this mythical creature (how would you translate something like manticore to another language, right?) He is one of the nine sons of the dragon. Anyway, this creature is known for eating a lot but never going to the bathroom. She says “Always in, never out.” So he guards the city gate to keep the luck going in, but never out and many shops have him guard the door to keep the money coming in, but never going out.

After we did our shopping, we made sure to ask Denise to take us by a place to buy Nanjing salted duck to take back to the hotel. She said she wasn’t sure we would like it, so we bought half a salted duck and half a roasted duck. Later, Matt made a trip to the mall and bought some rice and side dishes and we ate it all for supper in the hotel. Contrary to Denise’s predictions, we all loved the salted duck and found the roasted duck to be bland.


We’ve been in China for a full week now, and I would say we’re still in the honeymoon period. So far every morning we all choose Chinese foods for breakfast along with our normal American ones. Usually we have steamed buns and dumplings with our bacon and eggs. Other than getting ice cream cones at the McDonald’s at the mall, we have eaten Chinese food for every meal. Chinese Chinese food is much better than American style Chinese food. I hear things get more rough the second week, and I’m sure we’ll be craving a hamburger and fries soon.

Tomorrow we will travel to visit Leo’s orphanage. We will be gone basically all day, about 12 hours. I may or may not update tomorrow night before bed, so don’t be concerned if you don’t hear from me until Friday morning. Which would be Thursday night in America. Leo had his sad moments again today, but he spend a lot more time playing with the other children. He walked around more, exploring the 2nd room in our suite. He gave me a spontaneous hug and kiss, and called me Mama once! He also had hugs for Matt and the other children and called Linda Nai-Nai, which is Chinese for your grandmother on your father’s side.