Wednesday, November 23, 2016

NAM2016: Guangzhou Days 9-14

Before we left, someone told us that once we got to Guangzhou everything was smooth sailing--and they were right! Not only personally, since Jordan was doing so well and I was feeling better, but also the trip itself seemed to get easier.

Of course, we had to actually get to Guangzhou (gwahn-joe) for that to actually happen. Perhaps the most important takeaway here was that while in the Zhengzhou airport I used a squatty potty. Derek tells me that is not the most important aspect of the trip, but I was pretty darn proud of myself. (PS, this is why the majority of the time I was wearing skirts or dresses. One never knows if there will be western toilets available...and a skirt makes things just a bit easier for women!)

Once again, Derek and I (and now Jordan) made it through security with no issues, but the other two families in our group for some reason were given a hard time. We felt bad and nervous for them, since they were traveling with two kids each--a lot to keep track of! But, we did all make it through with time to spare...only to arrive at our gate to find out there were bad storms in Guangzhou. I have to say, the airline was smart not to post anyone at the boarding gate because otherwise they would have had a million and one questions of when this delay would end. Oh, and remember how there isn't air conditioning or much of it inside the airports (or buildings in general)? This terminal was even hotter. had a McDonald's. And if we've learned anything, it is that McDonald's is pretty much always safe to eat. Yet, without anyone at the gate to update us we were all nervous to leave to get something to eat. So...when our boarding time passed, our take off time passed, and even the time we were supposed to land in GZ passed...we figured it was safe and I took orders and ran up the steps with my BFF for the trip (one of the two family's daughters that came with) to the second floor to get to the McDonald's. Only to have Derek come flying up the steps to tell us our flight was boarding.


Toddler Sleeping. Turbulence off the charts. 
So we all sprinted back down the steps--very hungry at this point--(Derek carrying Jordan) to get to be the last in line to board. Fun fact though, when you're Americans carrying a Chinese toddler--or maybe just a toddler in general--we got to cut everyone and board first. Score! And somehow Derek and I managed to get in preferred seating which had a little extra legroom at the front of the plane. Double points! I want to say the plane provided a meal, but if I remember correctly it was some sort of fish with rice combo. None of the three of us were in love with the option, so we ate the rolls and hoped for the best. Remember, there had been storms...and just because it was now "safe" to fly and/or land did not a pleasant flight make. It was quite bumpy--plus the cabin couldn't regulate the pressure so there was a lot of ear popping. Poor Jordan...everytime he would fall asleep the cabin would lose pressure and his little ears would bother him and he'd cry and wake up. Finally, during the most turbulent part, he fell sound asleep. Out like a light. Us...not so much. (Always strikes a little nerve when you can see the lightning bolts out the windows).

Finally, we landed and after disembarking the plane in pouring rain and dashing to a shuttle that took us to our baggage claim, we made it to the bus to take us to the hotel around midnight Friday night. The kids were wired; the adults were zonked. Also, hungry. Derek and I were able to check into our room very quickly and Derek ran across the street to get McDonald's (like I said, we were starving). Unfortunately, the bellhop had not delivered our luggage to our room and since we had spent approximately eight hours in an airport with two toddlers that were having intestinal issues...there was a diaper shortage. At least I managed to snap a quick picture before a blowout all over our nice white duvet. (It's okay, we got it cleaned up).

BFF that we were actually in GZ, everyone who said it was the easiest part of the trip was one hundred percent correct. We had to go to the international clinic for the kids to get screened for international travel on Saturday, which other than waiting with other families was very streamlined and fast for us! Sunday we did a little exploring of the hotel (there was a Starbucks, and it was amazing) and did some local touring of the Temple of the Six Banyan Trees, the Ancestral Temple of the Chen Family, and then some shopping where we bought some authentic souvenirs to hopefully pass on to Jordan. Our guide, Kathy, told us that when a baby boy is born you're gifted a piece of jade and you gift it to the wife of your son--if you like her. I have absolutely no idea if that is true, but I like her style.

This Stroller. Lifesaver 

Mom's shopping wears us out!

The sauce was way better!
On Monday, Derek and I were able to take Jordan to the US Consulate and get Jordan's paperwork in order plus take "the oath" since Jordan is too young to say it. Once that was done, as soon as we landed on US soil, he was considered a citizen and his Chinese passport no longer valid. No cameras allowed, but afterward we celebrated guessed it...McDonald's! (There weren't a lot of options our guide recommended outside of our hotel other than McDonald's and Starbucks.) That evening we dined extravagantly on Papa John's pizza and then went on a cruise on the Pearl River to see the lights at night, which was pretty cool. Buildings here definitely don't look like that at night, unless it's the World Series or something.

We tried really hard to get pictures with all three of us smiling, but there were much more interesting things to look at than whoever was behind the camera. Still, they turned out pretty well!

All pearls. Whoa. 

It's tradition. 
On Tuesday, we did what I had been looking forward to the entire trip...other than Jordan of course. Obviously. We went to the Pearl Market. Picture a huge mall...six or seven stories high...with each store selling precious gems or pearls. Obviously, you have to be careful who you buy from as unless you're an expert gemologist you have no way of knowing what is real or not, but we trusted our guide to lead us to a store that had the real thing. And there were bags upon bags of strings of pearls to choose from, plus preset earrings, rings, necklaces, you name it. It was really fun to watch them string the necklaces and bracelets! But it was a long process, and we were all done and headed back to the hotel. The next day would be an early morning for us, as our family would be departing a whole day earlier than the other families since Jordan did not need to be TB tested because he was too little. We met to go over some final paperwork and documentation and then took the traditional pictures with the rest of the families as well as our own family. Then it was time for early dinner and one last bath in the tub that was like a small swimming pool (And yes, this hotel had the glass window to the bathroom too!) and then bedtime for our 4am wake up to leave for Hong Kong!

NAM2016: And Now Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Programming...Zhengzhou Days 5-9

Just an FYI...this is the post of the video and photo dump. This is where we turned into your stereotypical first time parents. You have been warned.

The rest of the week from Gotcha wasn't exactly a blur, but the days did blend together. We soon found out we could not fool our smart son into drinking from anything other than the bottle he arrived with, so we spent a lot of time with one of us washing and boiling it while distracting him with the iPad. The other families were able to take trips to the orphanages where their children were living, but ultimately the majority of the week the three of us were left alone. We made a lot of trips to Walmart, which as previously mentioned involved climbing lots of flights of stairs, crossing a bridge over a busy street, and then back down the a few more blocks. It wasn't that we forgot things, it was mostly just to pass the time. Jordan was waking up around 6am and since we were still jet lagged it didn't bother us at all...but at 8am you run out of things to do fairly quickly in your hotel room.

We had (have) a good eater!
After a very messy breakfast (I don't know why no one bothered to mention to us that the yoghurt is generally eaten with a straw instead of a spoon because it's so thin...but he insisted on feeding himself and we didn't know what else to do!), we headed back to the government building where we received Jordan. We were a little nervous going back there so soon, but this was actually the start of him really opening up and letting us start to see a little of his personality. He never strayed too far from us, which was awesome knowing that the initial trust bond was starting to form, but he also started to interact with the other kids and started walking around. We knew he was capable, but he was just too scared or unsure with us at the point to do so. In fact, he wouldn't even stand on his own the day before on Gotcha day. But here he was, playing and interacting with us and the other kids! We were so thankful.

Playing with the other kids

We woke up like this. No, really. 
Our sleep schedule went a little like this: Jordan would start out being held or snuggling next to me, then very carefully transferred to his crib which we had lowered the side to become a co-sleeper. Probably not the safest, but since he woke up every two or so hours it wasn't a huge issue. We could tell when he woke up...and when he realized he wasn't "home." After a few times of holding him until he fell back asleep and then putting him back in his bed, only to repeat, we finally just started putting him in between us. He still started out in his crib, but it helped us more easily take turns and still try to catch up on sleep and he didn't wake up as much overnight.

To be honest, that week in Zhengzhou was and is still a blur for me--enough so that I asked if Derek would consider writing about this week but he turned me down. Boo. If anyone recalls, I had been diagnosed with an ear infection the week before we left...and had gotten antibiotics for it but was still taking them until about Beijing. Add in a room on the 20th floor, which--in case you're wondering--is just high enough to make your ears pop every time you go up and down, plus jet lag...and I spent the majority of Tuesday afternoon through Wednesday either lying down or, as our travel group can testify to, with my head between my knees to prevent passing out when we went to apply for Jordan's passport at the police station. I needed sleep, rest (which are two different things), and water. (Apparently, I learned later, this happens to quite a few people who don't hydrate enough when jet lagged.)

It was a blessing in disguise actually, because on our first day together (Monday) Jordan wanted nothing to do with Derek for any sort of extended period of time. However, since Tuesday I was pretty much out of commission all day except for the trip to the local police station for his Chinese passport. This meant Jordan got to spend a lot of time with Derek, whether he wanted to or not! We were also thankful because often times in those situations the baby or child will attach and stay attached to that one parent, but Jordan honestly was good with both of us! By the end of the week, he was catching up on his sleep (waking up less) and staying awake more (fighting that fight or flight instinct). We were seeing his sassy little personality come through. (If he didn't agree or wanted something different, he would very dramatically make his opinion known.) He would play with us, and loved bath time. We had our routine in place of both of us helping with bath time, then I would get his pajamas on while Derek escaped to Walmart for a bit. About the time that Derek got back, Jordan would be asleep and we would transfer him to his crib, where he wouldn't wake up and move to our bed until around 1 or 2 a.m. Pretty good, right? We did a lot of high-fiving. I distinctly remember one of our videos that we posted where Jordan was interacting with us, and I know a lot of people commented about how much he loved us already. I really don't want to be a Debbie Downer, but that probably wasn't true. Were we fun and cool people to hang out with? Duh. Did we have fun toys and a sweet iPad? Yes. Were we his only choice for immediate and necessary survival? A resounding yes. And that is what you're seeing in that video.

Walking around the block
The only other thing we did that week was head to the local notary office, which did not have an elevator--or air conditioning. I was extremely nervous about that since I was just barely starting to feel human again! Derek and I, being the spring chickens we are, practically sprinted up those six flights of steps while holding a toddler and my giant diaper bag/purse filled with every essential thing plus gifts for the government officials...only to be told it was actually the fifth floor. Clearly, although I discovered I was not as in shape as I thought I was, I was feeling better because earlier that week walking across the hotel lobby had me pretty much collapsing against a pillar with my vision blacking out. (Sorry, to everyone who is reading this going "how come you never told us this?" And that answer would be because we didn't want to worry you unnecessarily. Our guide, Tina, checked on me almost hourly to make sure I felt okay, and I had come prepared with every single medicine--prescription or otherwise--known to man so I knew it would just take some time.) By the end of the week, I was feeling well enough to go on walks with both of them around the hotel grounds and block. (Plus here's a few videos to give you a feel for the area...)

Mr. Curious

Mr. Independent

Mr. Tired and Overwhelmed (AKA time to go back to hotel).

Zhengzhou is very urban, as I think I mentioned before. We didn't do any sightseeing, mostly because I was sick but also because there really wasn't an opportunity to do so. We had discussed that if an opportunity came up Derek would take Jordan but that wasn't the case. However, our hotel windows (being on the 20th floor) provided lots of entertainment. It was rainy off and on all week, and so if and when we did venture to Walmart we avoided any and all puddles (you really just never know). These next three videos were part of our daily trip to Walmart...including the funky escalator ramp thing to enter the actual store. (We start the videos at the top of the bridge...we didn't have ten minutes of video space on our phones to record the whole trip!)

My all time favorite--all time favorite ever--video in Zhengzhou we aren't featured in at all. Occasionally, we would randomly hear this music that we didn't have any idea where it was coming from...until we finally figured out it was the street cleaners! You'll have to make sure your sound is on to hear it...and also remember that it was the first week of June. And that we were in China. Which as a rule doesn't really celebrate this holiday.

Merry Christmas!

With our guide Tina in the Zhengzhou airport!

See you in Guangzhou!