We’re definitely not in Kansas anymore

The taxi ride to the train station was a riot. Unloading our massive amount of stuff and family members from the cab at the station was like clowns coming out of a circus car. We were all able to fit into one small cab, though China style:

 

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This may look bad to you, but trust us, it’s Hong Kong good.

 

 

Our agency was correct when they said the best way to ride as a passenger is to hold your breath and close your eyes. It was a bit hair-raising, but we made it here alive!

I have decided my preferred method of transportation here is the train. If it weren’t for the baby crying for most of the 2 hour ride, it really would have been relaxing. Looking out the window and seeing people working in the countryside picking rice in paddy fields was so neat- it’s something we’ve only seen pictures of in the kids school books, so to see it in real life was surreal.

 

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not rice paddies.

.

 

 

Perhaps that was why we totally left our checked luggage behind in the immigration/customs area. Whoops! That was ok, because our guide, Rebecca, knew right away who to talk to and where to go. We were helped by the friendly staff of our hotel to our van where they greeted us with warm washcloths to wipe our brows and they escorted us here:

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Reception desk

 

Walking into our hotel here in Guangzhou was absolutely stunning. Our agency has everyone stay at the Garden Hotel- a five star hotel with which they have negotiated a good rate for all their families. The lobby is fit for royalty and our suite is bigger than any apartment I’ve ever lived in- over 1,000 square feet! And I was impressed with the Hong Kong hotel- this is not even on the same scale. Griffin has resumed his place as “king of the closet”, just like at home as we’ve set up his crib in the walk-in dressing area. It’s really weird to see an additional crib set up at the foot of our bed empty and waiting for Charlotte tomorrow.

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Griffin’s room

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Griffin suspiciously eyeing Charlotte’s crib.

 

I’m so glad we started out this trip in Hong Kong, and particularly going to Disneyland. If we had come straight into Guangzhou without some downtime first and doing something that we are familiar with (Mickey Mouse), I think the culture shock would have put me over the edge. I have never felt so awkward and out of place in my entire life, and tonight was difficult because all I wanted to do was go home, despite the beauty of this hotel and the experience of it all. We had no time to unpack after we got into our room as the first thirty minutes were spent oohing and aahing over everything from the huge bathtub with TV on the wall, remote controlled curtains, heated toilet and bidet to clean and dry both “front” and “back” on the toilet. Now that’s something new. No further comments.

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Gaige gets the living room to himself. Sort of.

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An exercise bike – just what we were hoping for!

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Carrie didn’t realize you can reduce the setting from “sandblaster”

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Not only can we look at the person in the shower while we brush our teeth, but…

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…we can watch others too!

 

We didn’t realize that as soon as we got here, we had to go to a meeting with two other adopting families from our agency and our guide/translator that will assist us on the entire rest of the trip and help with all aspects of the adoption. That was a serious wake-up call that made this all start feeling real and it is happening so fast! After the meeting we really just wanted to grab a bite to eat (since our last meal was breakfast) and go to bed- totally overwhelmed tonight. So, we went “across the street” (it’s a huge divided intersection and getting across the street is a complicated process with a stroller in a non-stroller friendly place) to a place called the Banana Leaf (Chinese-Thai food). I was expecting to walk up to a counter service place and order our food, or even just get it to go and get back to our ‘apartment’ to start unpacking. Ha! We were ushered in by a horde of dancers and singers to “Staying Alive” by the Bee-Gee’s, but with an odd, foreign twist. It was the weirdest dining experience ever. The food was delicious, but it was not a good warm welcome into China for our exhausted state and already mental overload. The singers seemed to have multiple ‘jobs’- they came to our table to welcome us, danced for the baby, went around to other tables holding some of the children, helped clear the tables and brought a craziness to the place that we weren’t ready for. We were the only white, English speaking people in the whole place (besides the singers), so it was funny to hear their choice of English songs. They had to call for someone to come take our order that spoke English, and even then it was hard to order or ask for anything because he didn’t really speak it, either. I just pointed to the pictures on the menu. It’s not like America where you have just one server. Random people who work there kept coming to check our ticket that was left on the table to see what we ordered, and then other random workers each brought a new dish out at about 5 minute intervals. It was so odd. I was expecting the area surrounding the hotel to be filled with other American adopting families, but Joey reminded me that there are only about 2,400 International adoptions out of China each year, so there aren’t a flood of people like us at any one time.

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“Well, you can tell by the way I use my walk I’m a woman’s man, no time for talk!”

 

We saw a lady walk by with her baby in a snowsuit- they are not kidding when they bundle up their babies! This is a sub-tropical climate with no real winter and this baby could literally not “move her arms down” (Christmas Story) and we were indoors!

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Not the actual baby. When I pointed the camera at the actual lady with baby, I got the evil eye, so I quickly put it away.

 

We had to figure out who of the dozen or so waiters/waitresses to pay, how to pay, what the cultural norm is for all this- and no tipping is weird. When we were done eating, several people came to our table and wrote something on our ticket (probably “crazy Americans!”) but never asked us to pay- going from Hong Kong to China has been a jump just so far out of my comfort zone that I left in a total daze, but at least the food was good!! Being a total foreigner in a strange land is quite unsettling. Joey is used to world travel- for me, most days at home I don’t get past the end of my driveway to get the mail.

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When we got back, the hotel was still amazing.

 

We came back to the room and put the exhausted baby (who slept through all the craziness at the restaurant) to bed, Gaige passed out (but he did push through until 8PM tonight, so maybe he’ll be on a normal schedule by tomorrow!) and Joey and I realized we really needed to get on our knees together and pray. For the emotionally draining yet exciting day we have tomorrow, for Charlotte as she wakes up in the morning, never to return to sleeping in the metal barred crib or to the only people she’s ever known, to go on the long 6 hour car ride to the Civil Affairs office to meet us. For Griffin as he’s going to have a scary day tomorrow, too, seeing all the craziness of Gotcha Days for dozens of families like ours and all the resulting screams from terrified little ones as they meet their new families.

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Tomorrow will be just like this, but way different.

 

This is really starting to get serious and I know apart from the Lord, I am not going to be able to do this. If anything will drive you to your knees in prayer, it’s this!