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…

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Leg three begins - Guangzhou

Another full day of travel.  Today we left Hefei behind and headed for Guangzhou.  It started with a departure from our hotel at 12:00 followed by just a little more than an hour bus ride.  We checked in, said goodbye to our guide and driver and got to the gate about 60 minutes before takeoff.  A quick two hour flight and we landed in Guangzhou.  It was Chelsea’s first airplane ride and from her excitement we are fairly sure it was her first airplane sighting.  She was so excited with her nose pressed to the window and bouncing in her seat when she saw something new and exciting which was pretty much constantly. 

We landed and filed into yet another small bus.  It seems the longer the trip gets the shorter the bus.  I expect the next bus to come equipped with helmets, color coded with chinstraps.  Another 40 minute bus ride and 20 minutes to check in and it was 7:00 PM.  I know the hours do not add up but you are going to have to trust me on this.  There is some type of time warp here where ours just slip away.  I know it was at least 7:00 because we took three very tired young children to dinner.  Nolan came to but he was sucking it up and powering through.  We walked to an Italian restaurant for dinner at 8:30 and home to a three bedroom apartment at the Hilton Garden Hotel by 9:30.  It is truly a beautiful hotel and the extra space is definitely nice in comparisons to our confines in Hefei.

Tomorrow we will go to the required medical exam for Chelsea and the rest of the day is ours to sightsee Guangzhou is a very western city and has lots of shopping and great food.  We did not make it to Lucy’s tonight for burgers but maybe tomorrow.  This begins the third leg of a four leg trip and we are all pretty much dog tired…

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Closure in the Huainan Province

Another Day in the books another milestone reached

Today we traveled to the Huainan orphanage where Chelsea spent the first nine years of life.  We were concerned about going and how Chelsea would react.  Early in the week we were fairly certain we would not make the two and a half hour drive. However as the week progressed and Chelsea opened up we decided we would do it. We wanted Chelsea’s last memory of the orphanage to be a positive one.  We had a big breakfast and headed out at 8:45 in the morning. The first thing we discovered is that Chelsea does in fact get motion sickness and two hours is about the limit.  Roughly 30 minutes before we got to the orphanage we had to pull over as she had become ill.  We were prepared for this with extra bags and such.  We got there and Chelsea showed what a trooper she was.    When we got off our short bus Chelsea was so excited she ran to her friends and started talking right away.  Younger kids came out to see her and they immediately wanted to hold her hands, hug her and hold her coattails.  We quickly realized these were “her kids.”  They were the younger children that Chun Tai was helping and watching after in the orphanage. A few of the older girls (who had looked after Chun Tai) were also there to greet us. The entire family was able to see where Chelsea was raised and where she slept.  The orphanage is very poor and the rooms where the children slept would be very cold at night and one would think unbearable in the winter months.  Today the sun was out and it was comfortably warm for us Seattleites.  The girls were all wearing coats for the most part and were eager to show us around their home.  We took several pictures of Chelsea and her friends. 

Some of Chelsea's kids

Chase watches out for his sister, he is never far away

This was Chelsea's bed where she slep with two other kids.
(4 beds to a room, 3 kids to a bed)

Chelsea, one of "her kids" and the Naanny
who looked over her the longest while at the orphanage 

Chelsea and her most recent Nanny

Soon we loaded ourselves back onto the short bus with a few extra riders and headed to Chelsea’s school the “Believe in Me” school is where Chelsea got some of the extra love and attention she needed.  The school was only about a 10 minute ride away.  We parked and Chelsea ran (with one of the older girls that came with us) to the school.  They ran from room to room looking for friends and teachers. Chelsea was doing great, having a wonderfully positive experience.  After about a 30 minute tour of the school and some official business for Myriam, we were back onto the short bus for another trip back to the orphanage. 

Waiting outside Chelsea's Believe in Me School
Chase Sophie Chelsea and one of the older girls who looked after Chelsea

We interupted nap time for the kindergardeners

I few more photos and it was time to say goodbye.  Chelsea got her bag of snacksthat she and her mom had purchased the night before and started handing them out to her friends.  You could tell this was a very important exercise for her.  She was genuinely happy to give a parting gift to her friends.  Finally, it was time to leave.  We told Chelsea we needed to go and like the trooper she is turning out to be, jumped up on the entrance and waved goodbye to everyone and got onto the bus.  The kids waved at us all the way out the gate while Chelsea waved back feverishly.

Handing out candy treats to her friends

We had one more stop to make.  We left the orphanage and traveled about 20 minutes to the Huainan train station where Chun Tai was left nine years ago.  We are not sure of the exact location, only that she was found “outside the gate.” We are not sure if it was the track gate or the gate at the entry to the station.  The area was very busy and we were unable to park. Our driver instead drove by the station very slowly so we could see it and take pictures. 

Huainan Train Station where
Chelsea was left at 1 day old.
There was no place to park so our driver drove
slowly by the station for us

It is hard to believe that just nine short years ago a single event set in motion this amazing story.  A baby, one day old, was left in a public area where she was sure to be found.  She was delivered to an orphanage where she would meet a friend. Her friend would ultimately, through her own astonishing story, be adopted by an amazing family.  She would tell her forever family about her friend she had to leave behind and how much she missed her.  They were bedmates (three to a bed) at the orphanage and soon these two friends will be forever reunited.

We finally made it back to the hotel unfortunately bumping up against the two hour limit for motion sickness, for the newest Avery.  Chelsea has shown how resilient she is.  She is strong physically and emotionally as most of these girls are that come from orphanages like these.  Chaos ensued in the hotel room as Chelsea instigated and all our tickle fest with her new siblings.  She is a total instigator.  After being picked on a few to many times Nolan announced “maybe you should go back into your shell for a little while.  Chelsea has more personality that she know what do to with; and we are a bit concerned that we ain’t seen nothing yet.

Michael decided to take a short walk to Starbucks; it is as if he has a sixth sense to find them. He took Nolan and Sophie with him.  The thought process was to let Chelsea calm down, get a little quiet time, and relax. When he returned about an hour later Chelsea was as wild as ever.  Her and Chase have bonded so well, she really likes to be with him and looks for him constantly. Apparently the two of them had been having a blast.  It turns out that Chase had been practicing sight words with his new sister and she was already starting to speak English.

The family went down the block to have what turned out to be one of the best dinners of the trip so far.  We are amazed by Chelsea’s “ninja skills” with the chopsticks, not to mention that amount of food she can put away.  The things she likes she devours and the family loves helping her.  It is also funny to watch her wait patiently while we try to help.  Soon enough she tells us no and does it herself even putting food on our plates.  I am sure she is thinking “Hey the sooner these white people get outta my way the faster I can eat.”

A little more play time, showers, and PJ’s and we call the day…a day.

Tomorrow we wrap this leg of the journey as we will head for the airport and leave Hefei behind.  This quiet little town of 5 million will not be forgotten.  It is now a part of the Avery family lineage. You cannot get to Huainan without first going to Hefei.  We will fly to Guangzhou in the Guangdong province tomorrow.  This leg of the journey we will get Chelsea’s visa.  We will be in Guangzhou for four days before heading back to Beijing for more sightseeing as a family of six. For now we are all looking forward to dinner at Lucy’s an American style burger joint that just about anyone who has adopted from China knows about.  Cheeseburgers and fries for dinner.  Let’s see how Chelsea handles things when the tables are turned ;)    

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

A New Common Language

The beginnings of the new norm.

We woke up this morning, some earlier than others, which is becoming a problem for the others who have adjusted (at least somewhat) to the time difference.  A few are still waking at 4:00 AM and not going back to sleep.  Instead I-pods and I-pads are the norm from 5:00 to 6:30’ish.  Mornings are spent like most families getting ready fighting for bathroom mirror space and complaining about who drained whatever battery is dead on the device of choice.  Two I-Pads, two I-Pods, three cell phones, two laptops and at least two mobile charger units’ means lots of charger cords, charger converter plugs and I don’t know what else is not in the right spot plugged in properly or whatever! Everything is either dead or charging including the six of us.  The only person getting stronger is Chelsea.  She loves the half charged electronic devices and playing patty-cake, fist bumps and high fives.
We had to go back to the government office to complete the adoption process here in China.  A few more document signatures, a promise to always take care of her and love her and as far as China was concerned Huai Chun Tai (we can use her name now because she is ours.) AKA Chelsea is part of an American Family with the last name of Avery.  We took the bus ride back to the hotel where Jane told Chelsea that the family would return to her orphanage tomorrow to say goodbye to her friends and give them gifts. Jane was careful to reassure her that everything would be OK and that after she said goodbye she would return to her home (hotel) with her new family.  She nodded OK but really has not spoken much at all.

Chelsea has decided her brothers are pretty cool and want to hold both Nolan and Chase’s had everywhere we go.  She is bonding quickly with her siblings and as expected they are figuring out the communication faster than mom and dad.  We walked to the mall area about 10 minutes away from the hotel, dodging bicycles, mopeds, scooters and cars.  We have said several times there is no rhyme or reason to navigating the traffic in China only a rhythm.  One you understand that it gets easier.  I actually think Hefei traffic is worse than Beijing but Chase is having a bit more success here we have only been in the crosshairs of an oncoming bus once and standing our ground (no high value target panic moves please) the bus navigated around the group of funny looking Americans. We made our way to the outdoor mall much like Westlake in Seattle but nothing like Westlake in Seattle.  Here dogs get to run free and the occasional monkey is walking alongside his owner on a leash.  We passed on the “food court” as it was really just an open air market with all kinds of items on a stick (no jalapenos sorry.) We had ventured outside our comfort zone for that last 4 days and decided it was Chelsea’s turn so pizza was the order of choice.  Actually we ordered Chelsea and Sophie Spaghetti which comes with mushrooms and bacon here.  They split it and Chelsea ate every last bit except the mushrooms, a girl has gotta draw the line somewhere and mushrooms are as good a place as any.  We ventured back to the hotel this time walking with traffic to show how brave (or stupid) we Americans are.  On the street corners we slowed and watched through wincing eyes the ear cleaners of Hefei.  Yep come to Hefei and you too can sit on a small stool and have a stranger strap on a headlamps and stick sharp instruments in your ear; for a small fee of course, ear pickers gotta make a living right? Chase made a comment that if you were not a good ear picker you got demoted to an area slightly south of the ear and in the middle of the face.  But I will leave the job title to your imagination.
Back to the hotel room for a little down time and for Chelsea to reacquaint herself with her new found electronic devices.  She is really turning into an American girl in front of our eyes.  We call her name and we consider ourselves lucky if she looks up and acknowledges.  The transformation has been so fast.

But one thing has broken, no shattered the ice. When we decided to break out the soccer ball Chelsea practically leap off the bed to start passing the ball with her new siblings.  This quickly led to belly laughs and goofy dancing. As I had said in a previous post the Avery family rarely goes anywhere without at least one soccer ball.  China is no different.  Nolan found the ball and decided to see if Chelsea could learn to pass the ball.  Nolan and Sophie stood about 4 feet apart and passed the ball back and forth about three times.  They then passed the ball to Chelsea and looking up from the I-pod just long enough she poked the ball back to Sophie. Around and around this went for about 2 minutes.  Nolan told Sophie to step back and make the triangle (it is really the only shape a true soccer player knows) bigger. Sophie moved and that was it.  The shell has been broken and Chelsea was out.  She leapt off the bed and started kicking the ball with surprising force. She even stepped over and stole a pass from Sophie (and Sophie never loses a challenge) and sent it careening back to her big brother.  Chased joined in to form a diamond, which is really only two triangles put together and balancing on a corner; It is not a square, those have no place in soccer.  Chelsea was in heaven.  Soon she was laughing, jumping and throwing herself around the room in minutes she was sweating and asking for water.  She is tough slapping high fives so hard hands hurt.  It is now apparent that once again Myriam has missed the mark.  She always wanted a little girl who was quiet and could just sit and color quietly; sorry looks like we have a high energy active nine year old on our hands who just might like soccer.

Appropriate that the most popular sport in the world speaks volumes in different languages

It may be a small sided field but note the perfect triangles - Makes a coach proud 
Tomorrow we will go to the park and challenge the local team!!
Nolan who has been just amazing this trip commented on the sudden and dramatic change.  He commented that I was never concerned about the adoption.  How we found out about her, how her friend is adopted by our good friends, everything just fit into place.  And what just happened there with the soccer ball that just goes to show you Chelsea was meant to be with us.

Out and about near the mall and open air market

Yes I know it is your device but right now I need some screen time.

Skyping with Friends


Monday, March 23, 2015

And Then There were 8 (Hank and Hudson are eagerly awaiting our return)

Welcome to Hefei  - Chelsea milestone reached

Our daughter is out there somewhere.  Actually Chelsea is from Huainan about two and a half hours outside of Hefei, the capital city of Anhui province.  The city boasts a population of 5 million and is considered a small city by Chinese standards.  We started our morning as usual around 3:00 AM, then 5:00 AM when everyone was awake.  Breakfast was at 8:00 where we dined on a large buffet breakfast on the 29th floor.  The view would be impressive if it were not for the smog and enormous amount of construction.

Next we went back to our room and prepared for the next milestone, meeting Chelsea for the first time. We cleaned up the area grabbed some cameras, I-pads and gifts and headed for the bus. A quick fifteen minute ride brought us to a non-descript building.  The Avery Horde went inside and began filling out paperwork.  We had been there for about 45 minutes when Chelsea walked in.  We immediately recognized her from the pictures.  She may have as well because she turned and told her escort she wanted to go back to the orphanage.  Now!  She was scared, terrified to be more exact.  She knew she was coming to meet us and the gravity of it all was just too much.  The tears began to flow quietly at first then it turned to sobs and eventually bawling.  Chelsea was not about to allow anyone to hold her.  Any touches were rebuked by a hand pushing the attempt away.  Myriam was able to stroke her hair and wipe her tears but nothing more. Eventually the time came to separate from the orphanage official. This required Michael to pick her up and pull her away from the official and turn and literally run into the next room. 

It is always hard for the child, especially an older child, to separate from what they know to what they do not. The orphanage staff is accustom to this and knows the best way to do it based on the child.  Soon Chelsea, not seeing anyone from the orphanage turned toward Jane (our Chinese guide for the area) and Myriam.  Shortly after this Jane withdrew and Chelsea has been by Myriam’s side the entire time.  She has not looked at Michael much, probably plotting her revenge for the initial extraction process.  She has not smiled yet but has come close. Chelsea appears to be warming up to Chase especially

We returned to the hotel where we quickly skyped with friends that knew Chelsea.  Her best friend was first then others who had taken care of her in the orphanage that had also been adopted.  The distance seemed to fall away as she first waved at her friend with a few fingers.  By the time we were done skyping with everyone a full hand and arm movement was needed to say goodbye.

Technology has proven to be a wonderful universal language for us.  She likes the I-pad we showed her and enjoyed playing with our phones.  Google translation works when you type the words in so communication has improved somewhat.  We have also taught her a few sign language hand motions that she picked up immediately.  She has decided that one of the I-pads is hers.  When Chelsea walk into the room she picks up the I-Pad immediately and begins touching and playing with it. Now she will hold anyone’s had (except for Michael) as she feels the need.  Tonight she let Sophie brush her hair before bed. Meals have gone well, she picks out the food that she wants and especially likes fruits and vegetables.  It is 8:00 PM now.  We have had Chelsea for almost 9 hours.  We have gone from her being terrified to our guide telling Chelsea that she would be spending the night with us.  She told Jane she understood and has not shown any sign of tears.  We will see what happens tonight.  Keep your fingers crossed.

We go back to town tomorrow to complete more paperwork that will eventually pave the way for us to get home.  We will go to a part about 10 minutes from here tomorrow to walk and play.  (Yes we brought a soccer ball) Our goal tomorrow is to get her to smile and maybe even capture it on the camera.
Chelsea Chun Tai Avery
waiting for her first meal with her new "forever family."

Off like a Musket Shot

Our three hour tour turned into a four hour journey through the Chinese countryside and many mountain tunnels.  I would not exactly call it a bullet train more of a well-directed musket ball hurtling down the tracks.  It was impressive at how smooth a ride it was and essentially nothing but silence from the tracks themselves.  The Avery horde was once again the center of attraction.  As we left the hotel and loaded the bus we garnered a few more looks.  As we got to the train station we collected a few more.  When the porters saw the amount of bags we were toting three came running with their carts at a full sprint smiling and talkative.  We settled on one porter and watched as he loaded the bags onto his cart.  We removed the bags from the second porter’s cart and started collecting our backpacks as the first porter finished loading his cart we removed the other bags from the second perter cart again…and again.  Our porter was very nice as everyone in China has been.  He went through security (for what it is worth) with us.  Michael was wearing a steel knee brace that went off in the metal detector.  This prompted a wand down and a move along gesture.  Nolan also set off the alarms, the same procedure was repeated and we all moved along as told. The Beijing train security detail as it seems did not want to be bothered by Americans traveling with so many bags. We departed Beijing on track nine leading the train out in first class; the equivalent of about $120 US per person.

The four hour train ride took us through some pretty countryside.  Miles would zip by with very little in the way of civilization to be seen.  Then out of nowhere and for no apparent reason a small town would come into view.  Homes that looked similar to rectangular concrete bunkers left above ground would lead to the larger part of town.  This would be followed by farmland then a larger city.  With only a few exceptions these small cities each had what appeared to be a nuclear power plant. With no exception did it appear that any were functional. It appears that China is preparing to convert from coal to nuclear power in these towns.  Every single town had at least one coal plant if not two and those plants belched smoke high into the sky. It is somewhat ironic that while we were in Beijing a city of 21 million, the weather was nice and the smog was non-existent; you we would have to travel to the countryside to see smog close to the levels shown on our news at home.

China does not embrace individuality.  I was struck by the similarity of each building.  It would seem that once they decide on a design there is no need to change.  Building after building is identical in size and shape.  When you get to the next town the design may have changed from the previous but the outcomes is identical buildings.

A bunch of American traveling approximately 1,000 KM away from Beijing gathered more attention.  A little girl became infatuated with us and her mom was very eager to practice her English.  The little girl who was wearing a shirt that said Ella of all things made frequent trips to see Sophie and the group.  Upon arrival in Hefei we bid goodbye to our new friends.  We will never see them again but they will not be forgotten.  The people in China have so very little that is their own but as Nolan has commented they seem genuinely happy.

We made it to the train station (Hefei) and were the last passengers off the train.  We found our guide and walked through a sea of people, all looking at us in a most peculiar way.  It was the first time everyone felt a little uneasy.  A 7 minute walk through locals, rough roads and chaotic traffic eventually got us to our bus. The ride through Hefei was a bumpy one at dusk and the smog has enveloped this city with no intention of release.  Every city and town in China has large skyscrapers.  In fact over half of the world’s building cranes are in China building these gray rectangular monoliths.  Hefei is no different. We are at a 30 story holiday inn on the 16th floor.  When we look across the city the larger buildings disappear into the smog generated by, I am sure, nearby coal plants and the vehicles below.  Everything that can have a motor attached to it has one which makes the vehicles the locals travel in the more individual thing you see here. 

Tomorrow a year long journey hits another milestone.  We will get to see Chelsea for the first time.  Keep those fingers crossed and stay tuned for updates.
Porter #1 and Porter #2

First class on the bullet train.  I think I was expecting the Concord on rails.  Still it moved us from Beijing to Hefei, 621 miles away in 4 hours.  That is roughly 155 MPH or seattle to Frisco in 4 hours.  Not bad for the price.
Our Forever Friends from the Musket Train

Track #9 at the Beijing Station


Sunday, March 22, 2015

Beijing Day 2 First Leg is a Wrap

The time change is proving to be difficult.  It is very common for Michael or Myriam to be up between midnight and 4:00 AM.  Unable to sleep we toil away attempting to access the internet.  Myriam seems to have better luck accessing her company e-mail.  It would appear blogging and uploading photos is a competitive event in China.  Facebook and most Google functions such as Gmail and Google Translate do not work over here.  The internet appears to be much more restrictive now than when we were here in 2006 getting Sophie.  Speaking of Sophie she is sitting here quietly playing Bingo with herself at 4:30 in the morning wide awake with nothing to do for at least another four hours.

Today we will take the bullet train to Chelsea’s province.  It is one step closer to our goal.  Nolan is going to miss Beijing.  He gives it 10 out of 10.  He has decided that he will live in a big city when he is older.  He loves the hustle and bustle the activity and the organization mixed with chaos.  Sophie also liked Beijing giving it 9 out of 10.  Had we done more shopping I am sure she would have upped her score.  Sophie does not feel the need to live in the big city.  She would be happy just living at the mall.  Some of the bigger ones have bedding stores so she would have a place to sleep and new shopping adventures every day.  Now Chase...  Chase likes Bonney Lake, Specifically our house in Bonney Lake and more specifically his room in our house in Bonne Lake.  The crowds, noise and smell do not exist there; although I am certain I have caught a whiff of the latter of those three emanating from his room in the past. Chase does not like to be bothered...with anything.  He handled the locals taking pics of him pretty well.  Not sure he smiled but they were not fascinated with his teeth it was the fair skin and blonde hair that caught the eye.  His afternoon was a struggle.  One of the first intersections we encountered (sidewalk and alley street) we warned the kids to watch because cars do not stop.  Chase saw his opportunity with the green flashing pedestrian and made a break for it.  As I have said earlier running in Beijing only makes you a higher valued target. A car had to quickly slow and a bike screeched its tires and Chase made it across the street.  That incident rated Beijing a 1.  As we moved closer to the square and the crowds increase Chase’s sore dropped I think to a low of 0.4.  By the time we made it back to the hotel we were upping the score with every successful street crossing.  At the end of the day we had made it all the way to 5; essentially saying eh I can take it or leave it.  That is a monumental move for Chase.
Moving on today via the bullet train will without a doubt bring more challenges.  Our driver can take us to the train station but is not allowed to help us with the bags.  So 15 – 17 bags will be divided up between the 7 of us and off we go for a three hour ride.  I am just assuming the internet will be even spottier in the rural parts of China but time will tell.

I can now call this My Starbucks since I was here in 2006 and 2015


Sophie outside one of the gate to Tenamen Square

Standing just outside the foriden city

A much deserved cookie and drink at Starbucks after playing Dodge Car