Friday, May 2, 2014

We'll Get There Eventually...

(written in the very very early morning hours of Saturday morning in China)

I was supposed to be composing this on a plane somewhere over the Russian seaboard.  No such luck.  Here I am at the Golden Phoenix Hotel, just a hop, skip and a jump (or a short shuttle ride) from the Beijing airport.  Real quick, in light of my propensity to miss flights from time to time, or at least to cut them VERY close, I would like to clarify that THIS IS NOT MY FAULT!  We booked this itinerary before we came to China.  We had a full two-hour layover scheduled in Beijing.  Our bags would be checked all the way to the USA, so two hours should have been PLENTY of time. Unfortunately, when we got to the airport in Hangzhou to check in for our 5pm flight, they informed us that it had been cancelled.  Cancelled?!? Can they even do that?!?  Apparently so.  As luck would have it, we were quite early and they said, “Hey, we might be able to put you on the 4pm flight.  But after getting our hopes up, they quickly dashed them with, “Nope.  There are too many of you.  You’ll have to take the 6pm flight. Scheduled to arrive at 8pm.  Exactly one hour prior to the departure of your international flight.”  And then our 6pm flight was delayed.  We deplaned at 8:30pm.  Not a chance.  So here we are in a mid-level hotel with a mostly edible buffet for Air China passengers with missed connections.  Sadly, they forgot to turn on the AC.  On the bright side, Taylor found an awesome little market in the Hangzhou airport with some genuine American snacks.  So I’m sitting here munching on Sour Cream and Onion Pringles after having eaten 1.5 Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and wondering why I can’t ever seem to lose weight.  (I’ll let you decide if that’s 1.5 actual cups or 1.5 bars….)  But really, I’m once again in China as a single parent.  With FIVE kids this time.  I’ve kept my cool quite well through some very stressful situations.  Who’s going to begrudge me a calorie or two?

It does seem that we can’t do this trip without some sort of mishap.  Missed connections in LA.  Obstinate customs agents (and subsequent missed connections) in Canada.  More missed connections in LA.  Christi having to go to the ER while I’m still in China.  Missed connections in Beijing.   Jessica falling off a luggage cart and flat on her face.  All kinds of fun stuff.  I’ve actually been very impressed with all of the kids. They’ve taken things in stride and are making the best of it.  We’ll get home about one day later than anticipated.  It’s not costing us any extra money.  We’re all bone tired, but we have beds to sleep in tonight.  (Or as Taylor refers to them, box springs.)

Hangzhou was terrific.  Everybody in Graci’s foster family were their usual, wonderful selves.  They fed us, housed us and entertained us every moment we were there.  We went to an old part of town for a self-guided tour.  We were able to cross the grand canal.  This canal is over 1000 years old and over 1000 kilometers long, flowing from Beijing to Hangzhou.  (Maybe we should have taken a boat to Beijing?)  Part of the walking tour was a trip over a 1000-year old bridge.  1000 years old.  How do you even wrap your head around that?  It’s neat to be able to experience such ancient history.  On the other hand, they didn’t have accessibility regulations when this bridge was built, so three of us just lifted Cali’s whole chair all the way over the bridge.  Probably 60-80 feet uphill.  Did I mention that Graci’s family hardly let me do anything for Cali while we were there?  They are so sweet and always want to take care of everything.  We also rented boats, picked strawberries and had a virtual all-you-can-eat buffet for two straight days.  (Poor Taylor doesn’t do so well with Chinese food.  He didn’t feel so great for much of the timeL.)

The boys’ favorite part was Friday morning.  Prior to our trip Graci’s family had asked what we would like to do.  On a previous visit we had a chance to play ping-pong with a cousin of Graci’s, so we mentioned ping-pong as something that would be fun.  They arranged for a ping-pong coach to come out and give the boys a lesson.  That’s the kind of people they are.  So thoughtful.  I’ve never met anyone more attuned to what their guests want.  If there is anything we ever mention that we enjoy doing or eating, we are guaranteed to do or eat more of it the next time. They are amazing people.  (For those of you who don’t know, Graci lived for four years with a wonderful foster family.  We keep in close touch with them.  So if I refer to her China Dad or her cousin, etc. this is referring to her foster family.   Christi and I have also been deemed “America Grandma and Grandpa” to Graci’s foster niece, Ling Long.  We are both completely smittenJ.)

Outside of adopting Conner, my favorite part of this trip has been seeing our kids bond with each other and with me.  I feel like they have grown much closer by traveling together for so long.  I’m so grateful for each of them and feel so blessed to have them for the next few years.

I got all the kids to the airport and on the plane!

Cali has this awesome "mean face" that is hard to capture on camera, but I got it!

Our granddaughter!

At least they give you the choice!

Graci and China Mama!

Graci, Ling Long and Ting Ting

The princess comes down the bridge!

The whole group

The cute girl next to Taylor developed a just a bit of a crush despite his being 6 years younger:)

Graci with China Mama and Baba

Taylor and Parker on a ropes course type of thing that definitely didn't have to pass any safety inspections.  Good thing mom wasn't around to use some common sense?

Strawberry greenhouses.  The catch was, you could only eat them as you picked them.  No taking them home.  No washing them off.  Intriguing.  Not sure whether this or the ropes course was more dangerous...

Boat rides!

Taylor fell asleep and Parker woke him up with typical brotherly love:)

Basketball stars

Graci in the clothes China Mama gave her

Graci's two dads!

Basketball stars

ping pong lessons

Graci and Grandma

The group!

Grandpa Green

 Exhausted at the airport.  Waiting to figure out what flight we'll get after ours was cancelled

 Cali's wheelchair is still at the airport with our checked baggage.  The loaner they gave her is huge.  She got completely wedged in while trying to get to her toothbrush.  Poor kid!

 Finally checked into the hotel, we're all exhausted and starting to get a bit loopy.  Parker puts two shopsticks in his mouth and becomes a walrus.  Good-night!!!!!!!

Home Again…Well, Sort Of

I’m writing this on 4/30/14.  I’m not sure what day it will get posted.) 
Some of the magic left with Christi.  All of us have been kind of dragging the last couple of days.  We can’t really take taxis anywhere because some of the kids would be without a parent.  The weather has been mostly rainy in Guangzhou, so we didn’t even get out of the hotel much.  All of the adoption paperwork was finished early on Tuesday morning, so all were doing was waiting for Conner’s passport with the US visa in it.  In other words, we were all bored to tears.  This morning Parker said to me, “You know, I’m ready to go home at this point.”  And honestly, I felt the same way.  We’re all pretty tired.  It sounds nice to get back to our own house and our own beds and a bit of a routine.  And yet we still had Hangzhou ahead of us.

Graci was the exception to the rule.  She was looking forward to the Hangzhou portion of our trip more than anything else.  Her beloved foster family and hometown were waiting for us.  I knew it was important to her, so I didn’t let on that I was anything but ecstatic, but inside I was really lamenting that we couldn’t just leave Guangzhou and head straight back to the good old USA.  I felt that way through the packing.  (I think Parker was worried I was going to lose my cool, but I did not!  I have been a pretty patient papa the entire tripJ.)  I felt that way through airport ticketing and security.  I felt that way on the plane.  I felt that way as we retrieved our baggage.

And then I saw China Mama.  And I was at home.  It really was a beautiful experience.  I felt like I would feel if my parents picked me up at the Portland airport or if I pulled into Christi’s childhood home in Ferron.  I was home.  I can’t say enough good things about this beautiful extended family we have half way around the world.  I love them dearly. 

In the hereafter, I look forward to many things, including:  receiving a huge bear hug from my sweet Sophi’s arms, gazing into Lexi’s eyes and asking her if I look like she imagined, having a heartfelt conversation with China Mama and China Baba in a language we can all understand.

Of course it will be wonderful to return home on Friday night.  But a piece of my heart will always live in Hangzhou.