So sorry we haven't been more regular with our posts from over here. It's been a busy week! A grueling travel schedule over the first few days, jet lag, managing five kids and of course the emotions of adding the newest member of our family have left us all exhausted! There's so much to write at this point I don't even know where to start, but perhaps a couple of promised answers to some questions:
Question #1: Why would losing a piece of luggage along the way be a good thing? Well...we landed in Xi'an about midnight local time and a full 28 hours after we had left our home. EXHAUSTED!!! We got all of our luggage off the carousel (our most important item, Cali's wheelchair, showed up first, and we all breathed a sigh of relief!) We kept waiting and waiting, but one of our big green suitcases never came through. It was either mine or the one that Cali and Grace are sharing. They peeked into the one that HAD arrived and were VERY relieved that it was Dad who would have to do without for a day or two. The airline assured us that they had found the bag in Beijing and it would be delivered to our hotel by 1:00 p.m. the next day.
In general this would be a rather discouraging beginning to a trip, but our lives have helped us to become "glass-half-full" type of people. As we were walking down to where we could catch a taxi, we looked at what we had. Six people, a not-very-collapsible wheelchair, ten suitcases and six backpacks! Christi insisted that we could fit into two small Chinese taxis for the 45-minute ride to our hotel while I insisted she was off her rocker. Getting there in two taxis was pretty important since that would allow us to have one adult per taxi. A third taxi would require either a couple of kids or some luggage to be on their own. Neither sounded like a great option in the middle of the night in an unfamiliar metropolis on the opposite side of the globe from all with which we were familiar. After a 20-minute ordeal making a phone call to my bank in America, we were able to withdraw enough Chinese currency to get to the hotel. (You should have seen the taxi director’s face when I asked if we could pay with American money!) We got to the taxi station and started loading up. We have drawn our fair share of stupefied looks this trip, and many of them came as we attempted to load these vehicles up like clown cars. Kids in first. Suitcases on top of kids. Wheelchair on top of suitcases. Push. Shove. Cajole. Finally! Everything in, with no room to spare. Christi was right. BUT, had my huge suitcase not been delayed, I’m pretty sure we would not have fit. A little tender mercy in disguise. Instead of sending it by itself in a taxi, it was hand-delivered by the airline J.
Question #2: How can an aching back actually help you have a better experience on a 13-hour plane ride?
This one’s pretty easy. Just think a visit to the doctor and a nice hydrocodone prescription J. Slept better than I ever have on an aircraft!
Question #3: What do you do when you forgot to book a hotel room in the first city you're staying in?
I think it would be interesting to chart the intensity and attention to detail we've given to each progressive trip to China. With the first trip we were like brand new parents. Every detail was accounted for. Every itinerary was read and re-read and printed and placed in a 9x12 envelope. Each step of the way was closely accounted for. After all, we were going somewhere foreign. Somewhere we couldn't possible function if we didn't have everything ready in advance. Over the years we've realized that you can buy anything in China that you can buy in the US. (OK, maybe not Taco Bell!) If you forget your toothbrush, you can get one here, etc.
Our adoption agency is so completely on the ball. They take care of all our travel arrangements for the adoption portion of the trip. But when we choose to stop in Xi’an on the way so we can meet up with Cali’s biological Grandma and Aunt, we’re on our own. I’m not sure which of us committed to booking the hotel there, but somewhere over Russia, I turned to Christi and said, “Do we have a hotel in Xi’an?” “Um, no.” Not great, considering we were scheduled to get into town after midnight. We figured we’d take care of it during our Beijing layover. The sketchy wireless at the airport notwithstanding, we were able to book a great hotel at a reasonable price. We actually utilized Christi’s now-Chinese Telecom phone. At the airport in Beijing we did something we've never done before. We changed out the SIM card and she now has a local Chinese phone. We’re hoping that it returns to normal when she gets back, but in the meantime, she gets cheap data and calling while we’re here. This, by the way, is why she can’t receive your texts if you've been sending any J.
Bonus Question: How can a mother completely mortify her children less than one hour into a 13-hour plane ride?
Christi often suggests that I have a bit of a bi-polar streak. I’m sure she’s correct. But she has one herself. On the one hand, she’s this accommodating woman who can’t stand to make waves. If someone offers to do something for her or give something to her (other than me;) she has a general rule that she has to refuse said gift somewhere between 27 and 33 times before she can accept it. She hates confrontation and can’t stand to make people uncomfortable. On the other hand, she has this determined streak. She gets an idea in her head, and no matter how many people try to persuade her otherwise, she presses forward until her concept is proven to be right or wrong. Case in point:
Because of Cali’s wheelchair and the challenges of getting into and out of her seat during a 13-hour flight, we were given an awesome set of seats. The configuration of the plane was 3-5-3, and we got two consecutive rows of three seats. The front one was the bulkhead, which gave us an unbelievable amount of legroom! We also had two window seats. We were so grateful J. Thanks, Cali!!! To start out with, Cali, Christi and I had the bulkhead seats. Given that Christi and I got exactly one hour and fifteen minutes of sleep the night before we left, we were both exhausted and hoped to get some rest on the plane. Shortly after takeoff, Christi looked down at all that floor space in front of the bulkhead seats. Hmmm, she thought. Why not just lay down there? She asked if I thought it would be ok. I thought it wouldn't, but she figured why not try. So she started to put her pillow down on the floor and lay down. The boys saw what she was doing and got almost frantic. They tried to convince her that this was perhaps the most embarrassing thing a mother could do to her children. Christi confidently assured them that it was not. Shortly after her foray into her world of slumber, I started to doze against the window. I was awakened shortly thereafter by Parker’s insistent tapping on my shoulder. “Dad! They just came over the speaker system and said we’re heading into turbulence. Everyone needs to be in their seat with their seatbelt on.” My eyes promptly rolled back into a hydrocodone-induced trance and I started snoring. A couple of minutes later, the kids’ world ended. A frantic Air China stewardess came rushing up the aisle. “NO, NO, NO, NO, NO!!!!!” she called out to Christi and me. Finger waving back and forth in a disdainful reproof. “NO, NO, NO, NO, NO!!!!!” once again. This dragged me out of my coma and I helped Christi up into her chair. The kids wanted to disappear. I wanted to go back to sleep. Perhaps the funniest part of all? A few hours later, when Christi fully woke up, she asked, “How did I get up off the floor?”