Thursday, May 27, 2010

Xie Xie Xi'an

As we said goodbye to Xi'an we decided to dash out once more to the wonderful marketplace not far from our hotel. After walking around for several hours we were exhausted and decided to attempt to hail a taxi. In the process of trying to obtain one, we were inundated with offers from "city cabs". After many failures to secure a taxi we decided to go for the experience of the city cab. Keep in mind these are scooters with a cart. In our case, we piled 4 people into a cart that was meant to hold 2 small Chinese folks.

Off we went into the maze of traffic through the center of Xi'an. The 'wagon' part had sheets hanging from the sides to block our view - perhaps to keep us from screaming as the driver darted in and out of traffic using the small size of the scooter as the weapon to accomplish the task! OH MY!! What a trip! John thought it was hysterical, but the adults were thinking 'what have we done'!?! About 10 minutes (and $2.00 American dollars) later we pull up to the hotel and the bellman watches 4 of us pile out with all our treasures and packages from the marketplace. - Be sure to take a look at our "chariot" :)

The next day our guide fussed a bit.. she said, "I no recommend" .. "it not safe".. "many tip over".. "I not do again".... umm ok. Apparently they are operated by individuals not endorsed by the city powers that be or the Chinese DMV :)

Xi'an is a beautiful, but busy city in central China. Besides being known for the Terra cotta warrior discovery, it has many other attractions. One of the interesting features about the city central is that it is enclosed within a massive thick stone wall that was built centuries ago to protect the city from the enemies. It stretches for 9 miles surrounding the city and you can enter only from the tunnel.

We were packed and off the next morning to our final leg..

Look closely who is pictured on the t-shirts (dressed like Mao) behind John. These were seen all over China and merchants said they were selling "very good".. Click the above photo to enlarge.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The families..

There were three families in the travel group with Living Hope Adoption that were traveling to China to get their babies.

The first would be our friend Angie. Ange has been in the process of international adoption for over 5 years. She is single and was able to get into the China program before China changed it's policy of not allowing single parents to adopt. As the time frame extended far more than the 5 years she had already waited, Angie decided to switch gears and apply for China's Special Needs track. It was on this path that she received her referral of Emma! Emma was born with a mild heart condition that we are hoping will be either self correcting or needing only minimal intervention once she is evaluated by heart specialists in the United States.

The 2nd family is from Georgia and was adopting a beautiful little girl who is almost 4 years old. The J. family has a son (Jared) that is a year older than John so they quickly became great friends. It was an incredible experience for John to witness the process of how Jared's new sister and baby Emma came into their families as this is similar to how Elizabeth entered our lives. Jared's new sister is Shae and spent the first years of her life at the Starfish home in Xi'an. Both Shae and Emma were immaculate and it looked like they had been dressed in their finest for the 'gotcha' occasion.

We asked John to think about how he would feel if something were to happen to his parents and he no longer had us, then to be taken away and placed in the arms of strangers that didn't speak his language, eat the kind of food he was used to, and took him to another country to live. John thought for a long time before he answered "I would be very very sad". That's exactly what we think the children are going through. Shae obviously being older understands this change more than Emma so she is having more of an adjustment period. Both children are doing incredibly well considering everything they have been through.

The third family is from PA. 2 sisters. Their story will make you cry. The sisters were orphans themselves growing up in an orphanage together. Neither married so they live together and are very close. They decided they wanted to open their home to a child that needed a family so they also were able to get a single's spot (like Angie) before China shut the door for single parent applicants. Their new daughter was from a different province, so we met initially in Beijing, then split when we traveled to Xi'an with Angie and the J. family. We will meet up again with the sisters in Guangzhou for the final 3rd of the journey as this is where everyone will complete the US part of the adoption process. The US consulate is located in Guangzhou and families obtain all the documents necessary here to enter the US with their new children.

As our time in Xi'an drew to a close, all were excited to move on to the final stop before coming home!


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

See, Smell, and watch where you step! (and a visit to the Great "Wall"- mart of China)

Quickly you learn never to walk outside your door without your camera in China. You simply never know what you will see. Here are some interesting things we have seen
here in Xi'an including a visit to a Chinese "Wal-mart". Walking down the street we stumbled on a woman that looked like she was dead. A younger man was kneeling down beside
her crying and bowing. We asked our guide what was going on here and her summary of the situation was that this was a way of 'begging'.

Obviously the food is as different as the habits of this culture. What would be considered 'normal' here in China it would be considered "odd" in America ..and certainly vice versa. It is critical to watch things
like brushing your teeth with tap water, avoiding ice in drinks, be ware of lettuce and other things that might be washed w/ tap water (or unwashed) and so on, but it's been fun and interesting to observe
this vast cultural difference.

While visiting a Chinese Wal-mart we saw a large fish flop out of the tank onto the counter below. Dave was video taping the "selections" and heard the thumping and flapping actually getting the 'escape' on video.

It is common to walk down the street or be in a public place and see a baby or toddler wearing something called "split pants". These are pants that literally have a split in the back (exposing their bums) and diapers would then be unnecessary. You certainly watch where you step along the sidewalks! The public bathrooms are a nightmare in most cases and parents simply let their children use the bathroom right on the street or floor. We have seen this over and over during our journey.

The sights, the smells, the experience. The good, the bad, the ugly.. we are so grateful to have had this opportunity.

The orphanage in Xi'an and the clothing police.

Our final orphanage visit was to the place Emma spent the first 2 years of her life. We found this facility in Xi'an to be very large but the nannies seemed to genuinely love and care for the babies. It also seemed very clean and neat even though institutional.

When we arrived we were escorted to the 4th floor and Angie was given a book of information about Emma. Every diaper change, feeding, illness etc.. concerning Emma was recorded in this book. We were so impressed at all the bits of information so diligently recorded.

The babies were basically housed in 2 large rooms on the 4th floor. The largest room was for playing and the smaller one housed the cribs and was for sleeping. We estimated there were somewhere between 30 and 50 babies counting the "new arrivals" we weren't able to see. The director permitted us to take pictures of the large baby room with the babies ranging in age from several months to about 2 years old, but requested we not post the pictures of all the children on the internet. The babies seemed happy but we also felt they rarely left the 4th floor. The older children were kept on the lower floors and had access to a large and beautiful play area outside.

A few of the nannies that cared for Emma over the past 2 years seemed very happy to see her one more time. One of them however was a charter member of the clothing police academy. It's a bit of a joke among the China adoption community that independent of the outside temp., the Chinese must not see any skin exposed on a baby except for their face. True to form, we thought one of the nannies was going to haul us off to a Chinese Clothing violation prison holding cell if we failed to cover Miss Emma's legs. The director came back with a pair of warm pants to put on Emma, and Angie obliged until we got back to the bus :) She graciously gave the pants back to the orphanage and thanked them for letting her "borrow" them. It's interesting that even though a child is dripping with perspiration the culture here in China is that a baby must be kept warm (HOT IMHO) They also believe babies should never be given anything cold to drink as it is "not good for baby"... but then again, this is a country that deep fries scorpions as snacks :) :)

xo from Xi'an.

Can you imagine digging in your yard one day, and discovering pieces of pottery that were from a life - sized terracotta soldier (one of thousands in a pit), made completely out of clay over 2,000 years ago berried in your back yard? That's exactly what happened in China in 1974! A farmer digging a well outside Xi'an City located in central China hit something hard, and found one of the most amazing discoveries of all time. There were actually several farmers that were present, and all but one dismissed the discovery. One of the farmers called the authorities and reported the find. Because Xi'an was the capitol city of China for 13 dynasties, the Government decided to expand the exploration for buried treasures.

By the time Archaeologists had finished digging, they had uncovered over 7,000 life - sized terracotta soldiers! Some of the statues they found are kneeling with terra cotta bows, ready to shoot. Some have moustaches. Some have armor. Archaeologists also found terracotta horses, spears, and chariots - all life sized, all made out of clay. Each is unique and no two look alike.

As a "reward to the farmer that stumbled on this incredible discovery, the Chinese government gave him a job at the entrance of the Terracotta Warrior exhibit. John was actually able to meet the farmer, and he signed one of the books about the Terra cotta warriors for him. In the photo's below, look along the side of the pit where the Terracotta warriors are exhibited and note how massive this really is compared to the size of the people walking around the perimeter.

So who did all of this and why over 200 years before the birth of Christ?

Oin (Ch'in) ShiHuang, as the first Emperor of China, claimed a mandate from heaven and took with him a terracotta army of nearly 8.000 soldiers when he died. This archaeological treasure is one of the most magnificent sites of antiquity. The army lies in three separate pits, in battle formation, nearly one kilometer east of Qin ShiHuang's mausoleum- tomb known as Mount Li. He believed they would guard him in death as they did in real life.

The Emperor Qin ShiHuang was only 13 years old when he ordered the construction process. All construction workers involved in building the terracotta warriors were either buried alive with Qin (Chin) ShiHuang or killed to maintain strict secrecy.

Saturday, May 15, 2010


Our guide sent us off for the evening to have dinner on our own. In China this can be quite a risky adventure in many aspects... She pointed us in the direction of a small local favorite authentic Chinese
restaurant down an alley type street and said it was "very good" and "you like".

We arrived and were seated right next to the window where the Chef's prepare the food. After the dishes are ready, they place them on the counter as you see above, and then the waitress brings them to your table.

We ordered for our group and were waiting on the food to be cooked. One of our dishes was finished and placed on the counter along with several other patrons orders.

All of a sudden, we felt wet water drops splashing us and a waitress running by quickly. She was trying to hold on to a very large fish that was desperately trying to escape! The fish was flapping wildly and she was running to
get it to the Chef's before it slipped out of her grip. The problem was she had to hand it to the chefs through the window with it flapping and spraying water all over our freshly prepared food!!! YU K!!!!!

It didn't seem to phase the chef's who took the fish and then gave the waitress the 'fishy' dishes to bring to the table. Yum Yum!


Meeting Emma and Shae. From John.

We walked over to a big building and went inside. We went to the elevator and went to the floor the babies we waiting on. When we walked in Emma was already there waiting. We had to wait a few more minutes for Shea to get there. It was exciting. The babies cried when we got back to the elevator and went in. Then we went back to the hotel so the babies could get to know their new Mommies. Miss Angie adopted Emma and my new freind Jared's Mom and Dad adopted Shae. Shae is almost 4 years old and we celebrated Emma's 2 year birthday in the hotel room with a Chinese cake. The cake tasted good. Love, John.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Angie and Emma "Gotcha" Day!!!

The last morning in Beijing went quickly as preparations for the flight to Xi'an China were underway in addition to the families needing to be ready to go straight to the
Government building after arriving in Xi'an to receive the babies. Angie was very calm (at least on the outside) and we were all extremely excited. We said goodbye to our Beijing guide (Lisa) and were off to the airport.
The flight to Xi'an went smoothly and we arrived in Xi'an greeted by our newest guide (Jo Jo) holding a sign with our names. The driver speed away for our little over an hour ride to drop off our luggage
at the hotel and then take a brief walk to where the babies were waiting.

Anyone care to guess if the hotel had working air conditioning? English speaking folks around these parts are few and far between so it was suggested by the hotel staff that we :

A. open the window if we were hot (temps outside were in the 80's and the sun on our side of the building)

B. When we attempted to convey (using hand motions) that we were hot and wanted the air conditioning to work, they misunderstood and switched it to the "heat" button thinking we were shivering. (heat is turned off also btw)

C. Argue with Communism.

We chose C. and finally they actually switched it on for a very short while when they were told the group was considering switching hotels if they "couldn't" turn it on.

Eventually however it was a no win battle but thankfully the forecast was calling for cooler weather as the week progressed.

After checking in and dropping off luggage, the march to the civil affairs office began!! WE WERE ON OUR WAY TO GET THE BABIES!! For Angie, an over 5 year wait was almost over!!

We took the elevator up to where the babies were waiting and could hear cries. We turned the corner, and there she was!!! It was surreal. Angie gently reached for Emma (Lan Lan) and she came to her without tears. Softly Angie whispered to her and Emma was amazing. Calm, sweet, taking it all in and seeming to understand Angie was hers!! From moment one it seemed as if they had always been together.

The other family's little girl (Shea) was not there when we arrived, but about 15 minutes later she was brought in with her caregiver. Both children seemed to be cared for very well and were spotlessly dressed and clean. It was obvious that they were loved very much by the "nannies".

After about 30-45 minutes we were walking the same path in reverse back to the hotel... and 2 little girls lives had been changed forever.