Sunday, May 17, 2015

Another First - Culture Clash

Chelsea is doing great in school and really enjoys going every day. She would probably be doing better if it did not start so early. To say Chelsea is not a morning person would be an understatement. She is barely a lunch person. Getting her moving in the morning is a family event. Lucky for Michael he is long gone before the kids get moving in the AM. As a morning person he has little sympathy for those who cannot get up and go. However, he did get to experience the "gift of Chelsea" last Wednesday getting them off to late start while Myriam tended to some time-sensitive work for the agency. Even a late start day does not work for Chelsea. Dropping Chelsea off with Chase and Sophie at 9:45 earned no kiss or wave goodbye only a grunt and slammed truck door. She did wave but it was more of a get lost than goodbye wave.

She loves to watch YouTube and likes to watch videos of babies. She really likes babies and it stems from her time in the orphanage. She was tasked with taking care of toddlers in China and we think she sort of misses it. She takes great care of her dolls and gets her fix of babies on YouTube.

However, there are a few issues. This morning (11:00 AM for Chelsea) we were wondering how she came across a cartoon about a brown bear and a little girl. She was enjoying the heck out of it even though it was in Russian. Later she was watching Barney in Spanish. This evening she was singing little finger little finger where are you. It was followed by daddy finger, mommy finger and brother and sister finger. This video was a combination of Chinese and English.

Now don't get me wrong, her English is getting better every day. She is beginning to string two or three words together and even a few short sentences. Occasionally she will have trouble finding the words and it gets hard to understand what she wants. But after today my new challenge is when I do not understand her I have to concentrate not only on the word and context of the moment but also what language she may be speaking...

You have to trick chelsea to look at you
 as she does not like her picture taken


Talk to the I-Pad (Disney in Spanish)

Friday, May 8, 2015

Chaos is Calming

You know it has been chaotic when you have to think about the blog post and say to yourself there is so much going on I do not know what to blog about.

Our lives are chaotic and as we dive headlong into another outdoor season with an increase of players by 25% it’s only going to be worse. Our kids know the term "Tuck and Roll", we joke that we are constantly on the move and the car never quite comes to a stop so just Tuck and Roll... But that is how we live; chaos most times organized occasionally and usually less so. The kids roll with the flow though, and we are thankful that Chelsea is about as easy going as they come. She continues her firsts but they come with such ease now that we really don't realize they are firsts for her. For example last weekend we decided we needed to get her some training wheels for her bike. Tonight she trained herself. "Training wheels...I don't need no stink’en training wheels.

I know she can ride, but dad cannot operate a smart phone...What are you going to do??

Here are a few other picks of our quickly becoming "American Girl"

Hey Batter, Batter, Swing Batter
I got her to stop just for a minute to take a picture of the American Sluger
Playing Pickle Ball
Serve it right in here sis.  Marin and I got this
Back at ya Sophie - She actually has pretty good hand eye coordination



Tuesday, April 21, 2015

A Flip, a Flop, a Snort, With a Few Words Exchanged and I don't Know What to Think?

Chelsea lived in an orphanage for nine years. It is all she knew. . When she was in China she slept three to a bed. Three kids one single size bed. OK I get that she is having trouble sleeping at night because she is not used to having an entire bed to herself. At first she would fall asleep but get up in the middle of the night and go sleep with Chase. Then she and Sophie would sleep together. She even slept with Nolan one night. Let’s just say that a teenage boy waking up to his sister next to him was not well received. Bedtime starts at our house around 8:00 – 8:30. Beginning tonight it starts at 4:30.

First we have to get her into the bath. These takes about 30 minutes and includes at least one forced game of hide and seek. Then we have to get her out of the bath that takes another 30 minutes plus the 20 in the tub actually scrubbing. Now she needs to get her pajamas on, brush her hair and teeth. OMG, the teeth take 10 minutes by alone. We are now a full 90 minutes into the process, and it is not like the sounders full 90. This is not fun and exciting, it is frustrating and exhausting.

OK now it is bedtime and she cannot sleep alone so of course while we have been playing hide and seek filling and raining tubs and wincing at the approach to “sugar bugs” the rest of the kids are say “why do we have to go to bed? Why does she have to sleep with me? I don’t want to sleep with her!!

OK FINE! Tonight Chelsea can sleep with Michael and Myriam. Chelsea is quite excited at this news and actually shaves about 11 seconds off her nightly routine. OK, time for bed. Everyone to their own and Good night!

OK so here is what I do not get? As I said Chelsea slept three to a bed for basically 9 years. There could not have been much room; I saw the bed where she slept. Three across would be like rolling hotdogs over on a grille, one moves they all move. You would think that after 9 years she would have this down like a military fighter pilot making a routine maneuver, with his wingman (or woman) 6 inches off her wing.

She is more like a fish out of water. She flips this way, she flops that way, she sleeps alongside, she sleeps at a 45 degree angle, and she sleeps at a 90 degree angle she was even sleeping at 180 degrees. This is when she began talking in Chinese while asleep. Seriously I thought a Tom Clancy novel had come to life in my bedroom and China was on the move. She does a spider imitation with limbs going everywhere. What happened to the precision tuck roll she had to have mastered in China? Even the dogs are standing around thinking “Dude we need video of this, this is nuts.” At 3:00 in the morning I bailed out of the bed after taking a slap to the head with her hand, followed by a foot in the ear not two minutes later.

NOW I know why the kids were saying “I don’t want to sleep with her.” They could have added it’s dangerous.

We are going to have to figure this out before the dogs send us into “America’s funniest Masters.”

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Preparing for a Chinese foot rub in
Mom and daugher geting ready for foot massage
Even Uncle Panda got a massage
Nana and Big Sister Sophie getting a foot massage.
Mom, Chelsea, Sophie, Chase (yes Chase) Mady and Ron
All got foot massages.

Lighting insense at the buddist temple;
Prayers left to right
Please provide food and nurishment soon
Please let this be my forever family
Please someone fund the college fund X4
Outside Lucy's American burger restaurant in Guangzhou.
Everyone knows these statues as "the fat Americans"
Gotta work off the extra pounds after Lucy's
China is known for these exercise parks. The
government puts in little community parks for all
types of exercise.  They are well used
 instead of the American style gyms

Quick rest

Over and a perfect dismount. See we all
knew these Chinese Gymnists were youger
than the rest of the world
Hanging out in the Bannyan tree - Guangzhou China

Apartment life in Guangzhou.  It was so nice to spreadout in a
country so densely populated

Uncle Panda listening to Hip Hop and Rap on his new $7 Beats

Checking out the pool for the first time.  A few minues late
Chelsea slipped and got "the full experience"  After a brief
moment of shock she lovved it and and would spends hours
there is she could. She will at Lake Jane Pool here in
Bonney Lake 

Pool Life

Relaxing after the pool.  Diva in training...
Sophie the jock playing "Flyers Up"


Friday, April 17, 2015

A Week of Firsts

Where to start;

It has been a long an emotional week for the Avery household.  It started on Monday, the tragic accident in Bonney Lake that claimed three young lives struck close to home as Myriam knew the young family.  It was an emotional low for the family, making everyone realize how precious and fragile life and family really are.  Luckily it was offset by some of the firsts for Chelsea who makes us laugh on a daily basis.  We definitely needed her this week.

First day of School. 

OK technically it was her third day.  On the Thursday 4/9 Chelsea and Myriam went to school to have lunch with her class.  Everything went well and after lunch Chelsea was ready to stay but it was time to go.  The next day Chelsea came again for lunch and this time stayed for the reminder of the day; about 3 ½ hours.  Sophie and her best friend came and had lunch with Chelsea as much to do something different at lunch as it was to reassure Chelsea that someone was there that she knew.

Monday was different.  It was a full day of school no special treatment.  Well actually that is not entirely true.  Chelsea has a para-educator for half the day, starting in the morning, and staying with her until lunch time.  Darlene is wonderful and is there to help Chelsea in her first weeks of school. She is helping bridge the gap for Chelsea and we are grateful to have her for four weeks.

Chelsea is learning new words every day and we are impressed with how much she absorbs.  In fact we are now pretty sure she understands everything we are saying and is holding out on us.  Her favorite word is “No” as in Chelsea it is time to get a shower “no” time to brush your teeth, “no”, time to get up and get ready for school “no”. Her facial expressions during these conversations are what make them priceless.  She never ceases to make us smile and laugh.

The school has been amazing.  They have been waiting for Chelsea for most of the school year.  They found the para-educator who speaks Chinese and purchased Rosetta Stone software for her computer to help her learn English and when you arrive at Bonne Lake Elementary everything is in English and Chinese.  The office, classrooms, library, everything is dual language.  They have really outdone themselves, we are so grateful for the warm embrace they have given Chelsea.

The Boss arrives:

On Wednesday Michael had to repair one of the toilets.  He turned off the water and disassembled the unit which caught the interest of his youngest child.  She followed him to the garage where Michael assembled the new unit under her supervision.  When Michael returned to the bathroom it was here that Chelsea decided she needed to use the facilities.  Michael told her “you cannot use it here, you have to go upstairs, and this one is not working.”  This received a sharp and clear “NO”, and a firm point to the disassembled toilet. Michael resumed his work under the watchful eye of his new foreman.  Sophie was not at the house she was with her best friend and that did not set well with her.  She wanted to be with her sister and new friends.  When the doorbell rang Chelsea was sure it was her sister and left her post over Michael’s shoulder supervising the work being done.  When Sophie was not at the door (I could have told her that Sophie does not ring the doorbell when she gets home but I was too busy turning wrenches.)

Myriam was surprised to see her coming out of the bathroom headed for the front door and asked what she was up to.  Michael informed anyone who would listen that she needed to use the bathroom upstairs because this one is not working.  With the knowledge that Sophie was not at the door and having no desire to go upstairs Chelsea quickly returned to the bathroom, yelled “NO” then closed and locked herself inside the dismantled bathroom with Michael.  At this point she turned and said “Daddy Hurry!”

The event that distracted the foreman gave the general laborer just enough time to finish the job.  And typical of Sr. Management no thank you was offered, just a firm finger pointing the way to the exit.  The door was closed and locked.

Other notable firsts:

·         She has traded her spider monkey routine when encounter the dogs to one similar to a lion tamer, smacking the dogs on the rear when they fail to move out of her way fast enough. 

·         She has begun eating grapes with the skins.  Seriously try and peel your next grape and discard the skin. You can only use your fingers and teeth.  I guarantee my daughter will put you to shame. So now she eats the entire grape -thank goodness. 

·         She is now addicted to chips and salsa just like Sophie and Myriam.

·         She received her first knee scrape.  It did not require a band aide but she got her first one anyway

·         She is now addicted to band- aides.  She likes to stick them on her knees.

·         She then walks with one leg stiff as if she has an injury.  If you watch she will switch legs from time to time.

·         Her first park soccer game with friends and siblings; she may be a keeper. Actually she is a keeper but she may also be a goalie.  She likes to throw herself on top of the ball even if people are kicking at it.  Now we just need to prevent her from doing it at the 50 yard line.    

While we were in China we noticed Chelsea can sleep 10, 12, 14 hours a day.  We assumed it was because everything was so new to her.  When we got home she continued to sleep long hours.  We discounted it as getting use to the new time zone.  OK we have been back for a couple of weeks now and sleeping 14 hours just will not due.

 We are learning a lot with her like we need to time things better. We need to allow 10 minutes to brush teeth.  If we rush her we get locked out of the bathroom. She is hard to get into the shower; it usually includes some bribery and at least one search of the house after she has “agreed” to take a shower.  She is small and hiding places are plentiful. She is not a morning person. Each “good morning sweetheart it’s time to get up and get ready for school is promptly met with a groan and a “NO!”

So the restroom humor continues this week.  Myriam thinks we need to call them Chelsea Chuckles and I agree. So here goes the first one.



Chelsea does not miss a beat, Michael routinely stated while in China that she never blinks.  She takes everything in; as you read this imagine the scene in your head. 

Chelsea tells her teacher that she needs to use the bathroom.  This is a regular event as Chelsea has the bladder the size of a pea.  Chelsea gets the appropriate hall pass and proceeds to the restroom where she selects a stall. While in the stall she looks down and recognizes a pair of shoes in the adjacent stall. It is the shoes of her friend. Ever so eager, Chelsea quickly crawls under the divider wall pops her head up and says “HI”!!

Not sure what you would have done but if I am in a stall and someone pops their head up from below and shouts HI!  It is probably a good thing I am where I am at the moment; let’s just say it is an appropriate spot for what would happen!  We are going to have to work on personal space, and apparently physical barriers.

Her first Sounder FC cap and t-shirt
complements of the Dynacraft quality Dept. 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Best Made Plans...

Four legs and a tail and now we are home.

 Speaking of four legs and a tail....  Chelsea is afraid of dogs.  Actually she is terrified of dogs.  We tried to warn her up front about our furry companions.  About seven months ago we sent he a little photo book full of pictures including the loveable lugs Hank and Hudson.

While touring the Spring Palace the topic came up.  We asked our guide, Alice, to ask her if she had seen the photo album, she said she had.  Alice asked her what she thought of it.  “She said they have a dog.” Alice asked her if she liked dogs and Chelsea shook her head no. We figured it was a bad time to tell her we do not have a dog we have two 100+ Lbs. dogs that spend half of their life being called a Jack-Wagon by one or more members of the family.

Michael had a plan to gracefully introduce the last two members of the family to the newest.  He would go collect the boyZ from the Kennel and bring them home.  Let them into the backyard where they would run to the back door.  Chelsea could see them (both of them) for the first time clearly separated by our full length glass door.  Next Michael would send each of the other kids out to play with the dogs.  This was intended to show Chelsea that they would not eat her, it would wear the dogs out as they played, and calm them down a bit for phase three.

Michael would then allow Hudson, the calmer of the two into the house.  The probability of a quick sniff then a nap on the couch was very high.  Next Hanksta the Gangsta would be allowed in.  For those ho have not met Hank, we have several nick names for him.  Hanksta, Hanksta the Gangsta, Hanky, Hanky-Panky and… Jack-Wagon. Introduction here would have to be more controlled because Hank, although looks like he could eat your face actually cannot control his lick-er.  All he would want to do is knock Chelsea to the ground and kiss her to death. 

Michael expected this to be the hardest part of the plan.  Holding a 105 Lbs. dog back from a 40 Lbs. frightened girl until he could contain himself from being the Jack-Wagon would be difficult but could be done with a well-executed plan.  Well you know what they say about plans…

The first part of the plan went flawlessly.  Michael picked up the four legged family members and brought them home.  He placed them in the back yard. Here is where things went slightly awry.  It seems that the plan although communicated to some of the family members it was not communicated to all.  Or All of the family members just decided to ignore Michael. I am not sure which one it was and it is not really relevant, the important thing here is a loan will be taken out to pay for therapy.

Both dogs were allowed into the house at the same time.  Both dogs were very excited to see their long lost family and lets face it the dogs believed they had just been paroled. As 200+ Lbs. of dogs came bounding into the kitchen Chelsea turned into a spider monkey.  Quickly ducking around the kitchen Island swing herself up onto the bar stools to the countertop and finally to the highest accessible point in the kitchen the raised breakfast bar.  Standing in the middle of the bar head amongst the pots hanging from the ceiling rack she now morphed from a Spider Monkey to a Howler Monkey screaming at the top of her lungs and I am sure thinking, they adopted me to feed me to these monsters?!!!

Myriam was able to pry her from the ceiling and hold her.  While the dogs jumped around wanting to see the new addition. “Is it another kid? Is it a squeaky toy? It made one heck of a racket let me see, let me see as they jump up and down.

Michael had a perfect plan but alas it is only the execution  that matters I am just glad Chelsea did not have a weapon at the time, mostly because I am not sure who she would have taken out first.

The following days brought more startled screams, then the eventual being in the same room as her tormentors, then on the same level.  Eventually Chelsea snuck a pet or two with Hudson and them Finally Hank.

I would not say that dog is Chelsea’s best friend just yet but they are making progress.  The boyZ have somehow figured out that Chelsea does not like them.  It is possible that the Screaming and spider monkey simulation was recognized at not normal.  For whatever reason, the dogs have been on their best behavior.  Even the gangsta has refrained from being a Jack–Wagon for about a week.  A person best for Hank.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Planes Trains and Automibiles

As I had said before I was going to make a few more posts after we got home, if for no other reason than to post more photos.

Well we have been home for a week now and plenty has occurred.  So let’s recap.

When it comes to travel Chelsea is a trooper.  Prior to joining the family her worldly travel experience consisted of a 1 mile bus ride to the school she was attending.  Her longest bus ride was when she left the orphanage to come to the government office in Hefei to meet us; and you know how that went.  She got sick on that ride and a few rides after but nothing that any parent could not handle.  The next challenge was her first airplane ride from Hefei to Guangzhou.  We were a little concerned about the motion sickness and pulling from our personal experiences Sophie screamed the entire plane trip last time.  OK yes, she was two but that is all we knew about adopted Chinese girls and airplane rides.

Chelsea apparently decided that being adopted by this family was her lot in life and she may as well make the best of it.  To that end she turned out to be a world traveler in disguise.  She wanted to wear her backpack carry on.  She wanted to pull a wheeled carry on behind her.  She seemed (in most cases to know where she was going and often lead the way along with one of her brothers.

Leaving Hefei Myriam warned us (and Michael remembered) that in China although you have an assigned seat boarding a plane is a lot like festival seating at a “Laser-Floyd” show at the planetarium.  Every man woman and child for themselves, and pretty much in that order…We made it onto the pane but the festival continues with people taking pictures having conversation or arguments,( what do I know I don’t speak the language and it always sounds like the Chinese are angry when they raise their voice) three rows apart. Photos were completed and the plane began to move.  Chelsea was excited about everything she saw.  Planes taking off, meal truck moving on the ground even people walking around in safety vests were a sight worth poking Chase in an effort to get him to see the same thing.

By the time we left Guangzhou and flew to Beijing things were less exciting.  By the time we left Beijing to fly to Seattle Chelsea had been there and done that.  She did not even have a desire to sit near a window.  Michael was excited because the plane ride that was designated to be 11.5 hours turned out to be only 10.  He was giddy about not having to spend an extra 90 minutes buckled into those awesome airplane seats.

Do you ever wonder, when they tear a stadium down one of the first things to land on the selling block is the stadium seats?  They are small, metal and ungodly uncomfortable and they do not recline.  Yet these seats go at a premium.  You know why they sell because they are still more comfortable than the airplane seats.   Think about it.  Most of us travel to and from on plane rides of approximately 3 – 4 hours; roughly about the length of a MLB baseball game.  Which seat is more attractive to you?

Chelsea has gotten over her motion sickness, we have tested her on planes trains and automobiles and she is a champ.  Now off to the next “FIRST” adventure.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

My Everest - I can see Seattle from Here

We woke this morning prepared to climb "the wall." Unfortunately it is cold here in Beijing and we Americans were ill prepared to climb in the poor conditions. (52 degrees, overcast and a light breeze) For that reason we opted to go to the Silk Factory first. Here we purchased yet more headphones a nice backpack and North Face and Columbia jackets. We had to pay more than last time. We shelled out $130 MRB per jacket. This equates to $21 American.

From there we went to the Cloisonné Factory. It was fascinating to watch the product being built and painted. The finished product was stunning and it was not uncommon for a 12 inch high vase to cost $1,000 USD. It truly is beautiful. The work was lost on the kids but I assured them as time passed they would grow to appreciate it more. We then went upstairs to have another fabulous meal. Now out of excuses we set out to do what we intended to do. Point me to my Everest.

Now properly equipped we headed for our Mt Everest. Ron and Mady walked to the first area below the first guard tower and called it quits. Michael was the next to drop after his knee said he was done. His quest for the summit ended shortly after the first guard tower. Soon Chase met Michael at the first guard tower headed down. Chase decided the wind had kick up to much to press forward and was headed down to base camp. That left only 4. Myriam, Nolan, Sophie and Chelsea pressed forward braving the high winds and uneven steps. Some steps are 3 inches high then the next step is two feet high followed by another 8 inches high which makes it very hard to get a rhythm. Onward and upward they marched toward their goal. The secret of the Great Wall is as tough as it can be going up coming down is much harder; a fact that Michael passed onto Nolan as they started up. Ultimately the four reached their goal summiting the fourth guard tower. They were all alone at the top. A few photos and a couple of high fives and down they came. Nolan arrived first followed by Sophie a few minutes later and finally Chelsea and Myriam. All were exhausted and everyone was suffering from jelly legs. But we did it. Michael has now climbed the wall twice. No match for Myriam's fourth or fifth trip but for the rest it was a new experience and one to mark off the bucket list. Most Americans will never claim the wall and as the famous quote from Mao says "You are not truly a man until you have come to the wall." Far be it for us to agree with the father of Chinese communism but it is an experience that if presented to you should be taken with a great leap of faith. Health and faith is what you will need to summit.

Now that half the party made the summit and all made it back home to the condo we are ready to make the final trip home. All four legs are now complete. The only thing left is to head home on the tail wind.

We leave tomorrow evening, Thursday for you Friday for us Our plane leaved Beijing and China behind at 4:50 PM on Friday and we arrive at 1:00 Friday. Almost 4 hours before we leave ;)

Things we miss
Family and Friends
Our dogs
The English language
and American food.

Things we are grateful for
Friends and family
Chelsea Chun Tai Avery (She is a hoot you are all going to love her; lack of filters an all)
Our dogs
The English language
And American food.

It has been a wonderful adventure, one our children will never forget. We are glad Mady and Ron (now forever known as "Uncle Panda.") were able to come along but it is time to come home.  We were sure we could see Seattle from that last guard tower...

See you all very soon.

Lat full day in Beijing

Today we went to the Sumner Palace and the Temple of Heaven. Both are located in Beijing. The thing about Beijing is there is over 20 million people in this quaint little hideaway. Walking on the sidewalks you would never guess it. However sitting in traffic makes me yearn for a 10 car pile-up in the rain on a Monday night. The events we go to are maybe only 20 miles away but it is at least a 40 minute drive anywhere.

Myriam, Mady and Michael had been to the Summer Palace before; it is one of Myriam's favorite spots. The summer palace is now a park / historic site and the kids loved running a playing together. The adults were in awe of the painting and workmanship. Michael had told Nolan about the concrete boat built during the Ming dynasty. The boat actually sailed once as a sign of the Ming Dynasty engineering.

Before the Summer Palace we went to the Temple of Heaven. Originally built in the 14th century for the emperor to come and pray for good harvests and good weather it is now a large 280 hectors (acres) park. The local citizens can go there to exercise. they do what they call square dancing (because they dance in a square) Americans would call it line dancing in fact they were dancing to the "Boot Scoot Boogie" while we were there.

later we went to a Gymnastics show that was quite impressive. Everything from traditional gymnastics, to guys doing incredible single hand handstands to 8 motor cycles in a metal ball (death ball)

Finally we were back at the apartment for dinner and bed. Tomorrow we tackle the great wall then pack for home on Friday. we leave a t 4:55 PM on Friday and return home to SeaTac at 1:00 PM on the same Friday. This entire trip has involved fuzzy math. I expect someone to explain the entire math to me when I get home.

I am going crazy trying to upload photos. I may have to continue this blog for a few weeks just to get all the pictures uploaded and believe me they are worth it.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Shopping in the morning - Lost in Beijing at night

Our last day in Guangzhou was a memorable one.  After going to the electronics market a few days earlier we decided we would return.  Today is that day.  We started with another great breakfast at the Hilton Garden Hotel.  They put on a pretty good spread and if you leave breakfast wanting it is to no fault of the hotel staff.  Our driver picked us up and dropped us at the market where we jumped in with both feet like the veterans we are.  Our guide cautioned us saying the prices are very good here but the quality is not the best.  This was evident with the Bose speakers we tested.  It sounded like they had stuck a 1970 transistor radio into a speaker box and slapped the Bose logo on it. Sorry we will pass on those.  Other Bluetooth speakers we had purchased a few days back do sound good and the price, about $6 cannot be beat.  Beats be Dre are also on sale here.  The sound quality is actually pretty amazing so we picked up a few more.  The kids got some last time Myriam went to China and they are still around so good on ya China for building a decent product that currently matches the ones in the US for only $7.

A flurry of electronic purchases followed and by the time we left the market, about 2 hours after we got there we walked out with stuff I had even forgotten we purchased.  The markets here are crowded loud, large and overwhelming.  Once you escape you literally stand across the street and take a deep relaxing breath.  It is just too much.  You think I would rather be a high value target in the intersection than do that again.

We got back to the hotel and showed Mady and Ron our spoils of war.  Mady did not go as she was not feeling well again and Ron stayed behind to take care of her.  Some of the things were so cool that Myriam decided to enter the belly of the beast a second time.  While the rest of the group packed bags and got ready to head to the airport Myriam took a cab ride back to the market and purchased more of the cool things and returned.  She has mastered the intersection and apparently has moved onto the markets to get the rush.

When she returned we were mostly packed so a few of us went to get lunch and bring it back to the others for a quick bite then off to the airport.  When we got to the airport, Richard, our guide, helped us get though check in.  We left Seattle with 11 bags.  Left two bags in Hefei, and had twelve and the Guangzhou airport.  Stupid fuzzy math. All the kids and a few of the adults are traveling with power banks.  Those little battery packs that charge your phone when there is no outlets.  We were a bit surprised when they said you could not check them, they had to be carried onto the plane.  So we went through the bags and located all of them.  It was not that difficult as most were charged and ready to go in our carry-ons. When we got though security they stopped and ran our bags through several times.  Michael’s computer bag was the first to be searched.  Next Mady did not remove her kindle and that drew suspicion and the kindle and bag were checked again.  Michael’s bag was also released less one power bank. It would appear the power bank purchased was too big and had to essentially be declared. So with about 70 minutes to departure Myriam reversed her tracks.  She left security, headed all the way back to the check in to declare the battery and get it “its own ticket.” The Guangzhou airport is huge, as are all the airports in China.  Myriam went back to get our battery a ticket which looked a awful lot like a quart sized zip lock bag, got through security again and made it to the plan with about 20 minutes to spare.

The plane ride was an uneventful one.  We flew on a 747 double decker quite comfortable for the three hour plane ride.  Most of us got a little sleep.  Then it was time to deplane and collect our 12 bags of stuff.  We broke the luggage conveyor when a box of folders purchased for the office got stuck twice.  The box is not a box any more but he contents are not any worse for wear.  We collected our things found our drive who then promptly got lost in Beijing.  We circled the blocks a few times, he made some calls, we made some calls, and Nolan was wondering if we were going to get mugged or carjacked in the neighborhood we were in.

We eventually found our place lugged our stuff to the 7th floor and settled in.  It is a three bedroom condo with enough amenities to get us by until we get home.  Myriam and Michal set out about midnight to go find milk.  They walked about a half mile in each direction and finally found a little shack filled with smokes, beer and about 5 guys’ playing cards who looked quite surprised to see two Americans standing in front of them rocking an imaginary baby in their arms and asking for milk.  The managed orange juice and milk in a pouch and returned to the condo about 1:00 AM where the old day ended and the new day began with sleep.

Monday, March 30, 2015

The US Consolate - Touching base on American Soil

The US Consulate General was the task at hand today.  Richard picked us up at 7:45 this morning and off we went.  When we got there we moved past the sea of Chinese nationals trying to get all sorts of visa’s from working to tourist.  Myriam said a lot are immigration visas because one spouse has gotten there visa and is living in the states and now they are trying to get the spouse or other family member over.  Either way we moved to the US citizens line and were being helped in no time.  We went inside showed them our documents answered a few questions and Chelsea’s visa will be ready tomorrow for pick up.  Chelsea will be an American citizen as soon as the wheels touch down in Seattle.  Only Myriam, Michael and Sophie went the rest were left sleeping.  When we returned they had managed breakfast and were waiting for the marching orders for the day.

Shopping was the directive for those interested.  Michael Nolan and Chase bowed out.  Michael’s cortisone shot has reached its 10 day limit and his knee is getting sore.  He decided to stay home and rest it.  Nolan and Chase opted for some down time (and a Starbucks run a few hours later.)  Ron left with the ladies to go shop.  Brave man, we are going to miss him. 5 hours later the group emerged with all kinds of things that say “made in China.”  People mistake him for the living Buddha.  They make remarks about his beard with thumbs up then rub or pat his belly and move on.  I am sure he had local help to survive a 5 hour haggle session or maybe there is some divinity there that we Americans do not see.  Saint Ron?

We had a little more downtime then off to dinner.  There was a local bar around the corner with an Irish theme. We had heard good and bad reviews but we figured average to poor American style food or very good noodles…again.  If you come to China I highly recommend dice or a magic 8 ball to make meal decisions.  The food was good and the company was better.  We met more American families at the consulate so our group has swelled to 15.  Good conversations, good food and some really good dark beer and the conversation turned to having a final toast with an “Irish Car Bomb”.  Once everyone knew what was in it and what the rules were we decided we were not 23 anymore and we all went home. 

Tomorrow we get the visa for Chelsea and wrap up the final day in Guangzhou and depart tomorrow night to Beijing again.  It was be a little tough leaving here.  We have been staying in a palatial 3 bedroom apartment in the Hilton.  The hotel is a 5 star on any scale.  Very upscale, very nice.  It is an oasis of calmness in a sea of chaos.  We must move forward and finish the last leg in Beijing before the tail trip home.  We will speak again from “the wall.”

Safari - Animals running wild in Guangzhou - They look like Americans

In the states we really do not have Safari’s.  We simply do not have the space and PETA would have a fit anyway.  Here in Guangzhou a city of approximately 18 million they have one of the best safari / zoos I have ever seen.  Myriam and I kept comparing it to the Taranga zoo in Sydney Australia.  It was massive.  We were there for over 4.5 hours and saw about 2/3 of the place. Chelsea loved it.  We knew she like animals thus the excursion, plus we thought it would be fun for the kids. 

Once again we went with our friends so 12 squeezed into two buses.  Guess even the Chinese get tired of seeing the filling of a Twinkie squeezed out through side door. We took about a 30 minute ride to the safari. It really is a nice safari ride tied to a VERY LARGE zoo.  The main attractions of course are the Giant Panda’s.  Additionally one of the Panda’s gave birth to triplets; the first time ever in captivity.  The Chinese embrace capitalism enough to plaster the three cute siblings everywhere.  They were not however on site and on “display.” We walked for miles at the zoo only to find out they were on a video feed loop.  Oh well they were cute in HD as well.

After a day looking at the animals and the Chinese looking at us, we came back for a brief rest. Next objective was another restaurant considered to have the best noodles in all of Guangzhou, and Guangzhou has a lot of noodle shops.  It was very good but very loud and very hot and muggy.  There really is not much in the way of ice here, only a few places carry soda and those are served at just below room temperature. If you ask for water you get freshly boiled water so hot you cannot drink it not that we want boiling water when it is 80 degrees and 90% humidity.  Drinking warm water actually cools you but I am not sure water that can scald cools you even more, and I am not willing to try unless I have ice cold water to compensate.

We then walked several city blocks to have a Chinese foot massage.  Nolan and Michael Opted out but Chase, Myriam, Chelsea, Sophie, Ron and Mady all had a one hour foot rub.

Tomorrow we go to the US consulate General to get the Visa paper work squared away.  Then on Tuesday we head back to Beijing four our fourth leg of the trip.

More Photos to come if I can get online long enough.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Photos Photos Photos

Her first airplane ride She was so excited. 
We had a bit of a bumpy ride but no probems
Currently the most popular brother. Of course she
 has conned him into carrying her everywhere
Hefei has so much construction like
 many areas in China lots are being
cleared for the next apartment complex

Two very cute girls
The train station in Hefei where Chelsea was laft at one day old

She has really bonded with Chase
Sleeping wiht him at night
Look closely; how mny men do you see?
1 drives the veicle and the other takes a nap
atop the wood pile!


Shopping Nirvana - With 3,000 Other People

Shopping at the stationary market in Guangzhou is nothing like Office Depot.

When you come to China (and you really need to come) you owe it to yourself to get off the beaten path and away from the malls to the Chinese markets.  Each market has a purpose.  Yesterday we needed to buy some file folders for Agape Adoptions. I know it sounds funny but apparently these are special kinds of folders and are somewhat expensive in the states, so every so often when Myriam is in town (2-3 times a year) she buys about a years’ worth of these folders and has them boxed up and she brings them back to the states. What we purchased is not important, how you buy It is. 
The street vendors expect you to haggle so they start very high, you start very low and you hope to meet in the middle.  The second part of the dance is you are in the stationary market.  Think Costco size building filled with a cubical farm.  Each cubical is a business selling…wait for it…stationary products. If you cannot get the price you want move 6ft. either direction. I must have seen a billion Pens one for every Chinese person here and more left over for the tourists.  Want a binder I know a place where you can buy a million.  How about a day planner?  Myriam got her folders we loaded ourselves into an even shorter bus, this one had fold down jump seats, and we were off to the electronics market. 
Same scenario, Costco with Cubes.  They had cell phone cases that keep your phone afloat.  If we purchased them we could have walked home without getting a single toe wet.  We picked up five sets of “Beats” with very good sound, four Bluetooth speakers (like the ones we see at home) a couple sets of earbuds and a few other things and left for under $45.  Everyone was fat dumb and happy; maybe that is why they keep putting us on shorter buses. Shopping this way is very efficient to ensure the largest variety and best price.  Not so good if you need stationary, tea, seafood, and vegetables. Still if when you come to China get off the beaten path and experience the markets. Then come home to Fred Meyers, one stop shopping will take on a whle new meaning.

Lunch on the island again and this time Richard (one of Myriam’s employees) was with us. He took us to this little restaurant where the meals were still swimming in the tank out front.  We allowed him to order everything and of course it was great.  We did more shopping in the local shops buying tea sets T-shirts and bracelets.  Sophie has a million friends and I believe EVERYONE is getting something, seriously this girl can shop.  If she spoke the language (everyone assumes she does) and took haggling lessons from her mom, she would either be a boom or a bust to the Chinese economy only time will tell. In China everyone must do their part and she is covering for those on vacation.

We left the island and went back to the hotel.  Chelsea finally said yes to the bathing suit so off the family went to the pool.  I followed about 10 minutes later.  Chelsea’s first experience was a bit troubling as she fell into the kid’s pool.  It was only about 2 feet deep but enough to shock the system.  A few minutes and she was splashing around and having a ball.

Dinner was at the Bridge and Cow restaurant, a great Tai place that use to be on the island but has now moved downtown where all the American families stay.  We have met a few of those American families here, even another family from Washington who knows some of the same people we do.  It is a small world.  Mady joined us for dinner along with the other two families (the second is from Florida that we have so much in common with it is freaky.) and we pretty much took over one half of the restaurant. And the other half was empty.  Each of the families had an American child with them and all of the kids hit it off. I think it was partly because they are kids and can find common ground so quickly (Are your parents as lame as mine?) and because it was just nice to talk to someone your age (or close to it) that gets exactly what you are saying.  It was a nice departure for the children.

Tomorrow we head out on safari.  In this adventure we leave the seafood swimming in the pool behind and we pick out our dinner free range style, it is going to be awesome. There is supposedly a lot on the menu to choose from and you can have up to three things, one for each course.

No I am kidding it is a safari nothing more.  But you were thinking about it right?  We know Chelsea loves animals and we decided to do the safari over the zoo because taking down and animal in a cage is not challenging…No, No, No, wait sorry. We heard the zoo was not so good and we have zoos at home so the safari it is tomorrow.  It’s just a safari folks I promise.
I promise I will load photos of me, sorry, sorry, of Chelsea and the the others as soon as the planets align for a long enough period.

Frustration Mounts Plus Medical Exam and Burgers

I am sure we will make it back home and it will take about 10 days or even opening the first bill from Comcast to get me started about the high cost of internet.  Someone please remind me it could be worse.  Seriously the connection in Beijing was terrible it seemed if we had more than one device on the system everything would get kicked off.  We then went “in country” to Hefei and the connection was great.  Hefei is a coal mining town, not known for internet access but the connection was great.  Now we are down here in South China at Guangzhou, the third largest city in China and be far the most western a beautiful city, lots of modern skyscrapers, and the neon and LED lighting on the buildings give the city a Las Vegas style feel.  Here you get to buy things and like Vegas you get what you pay for.  You can gamble and hope the Beats by Dre are really only $30 or that the knockoffs are good enough to last you a few years.  As I have told people in the past, I have a couple of North Face jackets that I paid $17 for here that I still use on the very cold days.  It is kind of like playing craps, a roll of the dice and you see what happens.  However, if you want to buy something on the internet in Guangzhou forget about it!! The internet here is the worst of all.  Go figure.  I own stock in Alibaba and I cannot even get on long enough to check out my investments.  And don’t get me started on Google.  ANYTHING Google does not work in China!  It is literally shutdown.  Google, Gmail, Google Drive, even Google TRANSLATE is not welcome.  Not sure what google did but is has upset the Chinese, at least to the point that you cannot find the backdoor to anything google related.  The kid’s I-pods and I-pads however work wonderfully, but that does not help me. We all know it’s all about me…and Chelsea, OK it is all about Chelsea, but I miss my Gmail.

So uploading photos is difficult on best days, and nearly impossible on every other days.  So my tactic is to blog and when the planets align post as many photos with captions as I can before the world once again conspires against me.

Yesterday was a good day, they have all been good days but yesterday was nice.  It began with everyone sleeping in their own bed.  No more sleeping on the floors. We actually purchased a blow up mattress in the states and brought it with us but put a hole in it the first night.  We taped it as best we could and the kids would start on a mattress but by the end of the night they were only laying on plastic.  We burned up the motor in Hefei so we abandon all hope for it and head for Guangzhou.  Here we have 4 beds for the 8 of us 1) Ron and Mady, 2) Michael, Myriam and Sophie, 3) Chase and Chelsea and 4)Nolan. So we all managed to get a good sleep. 

Michael woke up with a bad headache but went to breakfast hoping several cups of the strong coffee would kill it.  The planets were not aligned.  Next Chase, Michael, Myriam and Chelsea went with our guide Lucia, to the medical exam for Chelsea.  Everything went better than expected.  We knew that Chelsea had no left ear and were told that everything was intact.  The hole was there, the ear canal was complete etc.  Whe we saw her for the first time we were a bit surprised to find nothing there; only the distorted cartilage of the outer ear. No worries we will see what our options are when we get home.  Everything else went great her BP is good, eyesight is 20/25 height weight and head size is all good. She did get a shot though.  She did  not cry but was not happy about it either.  She is one tough girl who is a spitfire and only just becoming comfortabe around us.

We got back to the hotel and it was time for sightseeing.  The entire group met up with another family Myriam has been working with to adopt a little boy without arms.  We spent the afternoon (a group of 12) walking through the 6 banyan Buddhist temple the temple is 9 stories tall on the outside and 17 stories tall on the inside.  Figure that out.  We then went to the Chen family Academy.  This 18th century home is now a folk life museum.  It once was a place for the Chen family to come together and meet for family discussions and take the emperors test.  If you passed the test you could serve the emperor which increased your social status.  From there it was back to the hotel for a rest and decision on dinner. 

We took the bus to Shaiman Island, a small island in the middle of Guangzhou and walked to Lucy’s where burger, fries and onion rings were the order of the day after dinner and playing at the park for a bit we walked over the small bridge to the highway and flagged down three separate cabs back to the hotel. 

Tomorrow given my luck I expect and eclipse…