1) We brought our entire family (including our 3 biological children ages 6, 8, and 11). I know many have strong feelings both ways, but for us our kids are great travelers (lots of experience). We wanted them to experience China, orphanages, and begin bonding right away - our kiddos were not adopted by two parents, they were adopted by our entire family. We predicted (correctly) that they would be tremendous help playing with and normalizing life for our new little ones. Plus, not only did we not have anywhere to leave them (aging and work-a-holic grandparents) but our heart would have been torn with our family separated for 3 weeks. SO GLAD we brought them along!!
2) We wanted to see China. Not because we wanted to get a vacation out of this, but because we wanted to have a deep understanding and appreciation of the rich culture and heritage of our new kiddos. We wanted to be able to understand them more and tell them about China as they grew.
We're off to China!
Day 1 - Traveling to China in just 26 hours!
Our day started at 2am so we could catch our first flight (when you have to book last minute travel for adoption you don't have a lot of choices so you end up with connecting flights). At noon we boarded our 14 hour flight from Newark to Beijing. It was a nice, uneventful, albeit LONG. Traffic was bad so we got to hotel at 6pm and pretty much went right to sleep (from the US to China their is a killer 12 hour time change)
We are grateful our luggage all made it, our guide Rita is great, the girls only threw up once -and the 5 day "hazardous" pollution alert that grounded planes, closed roads/schools dissipated while we were in the plane - praise God!
Day 2 - Sightseeing in Beijing
Today we took a 2 hour drive to see the Great Wall of China. It was AMAZING!! It was a little chilly, but uncrowded since we were visiting end of December. We took the ski lift up and the toboggan down (this was my kids absolute favorite thing ever). Then we visited Snack Street and saw an acrobat show before dinner and calling it a night.
The pollution was horrendous - at 216 this morning which is considered "very unhealthy" compared to 14 where we live at home . We wear masks that filter the air; without them we got headaches and felt light headed.
Day 3 - More Sightseeing in Beijing
Today we saw Tienanmen Square, Forbidden City, ate a yummy lunch of Peking Duck, saw the Temple of Heaven, went to a traditional tea ceremony, and took a 6 hour bullet train to Xi'an (arriving at 9:30pm)
As you can tell, the pollution was bad so we wore our masks. Even before checking the pollution app (yes, there's an app for that) I knew it was bad because I felt light headed and dizzy - the mask made all the difference. Hard to imagine living like this where some days you can't see much in front of you. apparently 1.6 million Chinese die from air pollution every year! Grateful for American regulations to keep our country with clean air and hoping we can work even harder to get rid of nasty chemicals.
Day 4: Terra Cotta Warriors in Xi'an
Today we were in awe at the sheer scope of the Terra Cotta Warriors. It was amazing how each face, palm print, and more were different on each of them - WOW! (I could write a whole post just on what we learned!) Above is pit 1 - the largest, Pit 2 is Commanders, Pit 3 horses and chariots - mostly excavated until technology catches up. It takes about a year to put together each figure - WOW!
We took another late night, 6 hour bullet train ride to arrive in Changsha to be ready to meet our son tomorrow!! YAHOO!
Day 5: Meeting Our Son
At 8:40 am we went to the bank to transfer money (for the mandatory donation; happy to do it to feed the other kids that are till at the orphanage!) You have to carry a stack of cash - kinda felt like a bank robbers putting the stacks of Chinese money in our back pack! An hour later we were at the Civil Affairs building waiting for our son to arrive. His orphanage is 600km away so he had to get up early to take his first train ride and then a subway before getting to us at 9:30am.
It was love at first sight seeing this little cutie walk in all bundled up as they typically do (pants plus snow pants and shirt plus 2 coats). I went over and he was about to walk away when I gave him a lollipop and he decided we were okay. He hung out with me for 25 min enjoying our company, lollipops, puff cereal and especially his red car.
Then he wasn't so thrilled with us or the change and thus began a 3 hour long stretch of crying and thrashing. Poor guy, such a HUGE change for him. So we finalized the adoption as he mourned BIG time. Even his nannies couldn't console him. We were planning to have lunch with the orphanage director, but decided it best to take our sad, crying boy back to the hotel.
He fell asleep in the car and we carried him up and let him sleep. He woke up, got very sad again, but silent tears. I snuggled him and rocked him to sleep in my arms where he stayed another couple hours. He woke up and was okay with Mama only and didn't really want to engage, but liked to eat. Slowly throughout the evening he began engaging between grabbing my finger to take me to get his shoes and going to the door. He cried a little at night time and showed us the door again, but I rocked him to sleep and he slept peacefully in the crib for 8 hours; woke up at 3am and I pulled him in bed with us - no crying.
We are so blessed with this sweet little boy and are grateful that he is slowly bonding .We know it will take time for him to mourn the loss of all he has known. God is good - one less orphan.
Day 6 -Bonding with our Beautiful Son
Today was wonderful!! No crying - his initial mourning was super tough, but good for him. I know it will come back in waves for a while (and realistically the rest of his life) but today is a good day. He slept well at night and for nap time, we played all day and he seems to be starting to trust us. He'll grab our finger and take us in walks around the hotel floor, but when he sees a stranger he will open arms to be picked up - so attachment is going very well!!! (Note: He is still very willing to go to a stranger if we don't immediately have a snack that he wants - so we work on always having a snack handy)
Our son is almost 2 years old. Other than his visual scars from surgery, he looks healthy - albeit a little small for his age (his head makes him look deceptively big). He can walk, move large objects, stack blocks, and is very curious. We have yet to see a smile, but apparently didn't smile in the orphanage either. I keep reminding myself to give it time. Apparently his first vocalization at all was just 2 months ago. He can say "ma" (which to him means any caregiver) and "ba" (the way he says no, not Chinese)
Chinese orphanages do the best they can with what they have; we are grateful for the care he got. His orphanage was very poor, the children ate "congee" (runny porridge) 3 meals a day with some low nutrition carby snacks throughout the day. They shared a communal cup that was hot water to get rid of the parasites in their water. They didn't have the staff or facilities to be able to take the kids outside - our son's first trip out of the orphanage was to come meet us at Civil Affairs.
He's such a sweet kid, BIG eater, cuddly, likes to pick up toys and just melts our heart with his precious little face!! We are so blessed to be his parents and it looks like he is feeling the same way about us.
This is getting long, so I'll share Our Adoption Story Part 3 (picking up our daughter) Saturday.
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