April 22. THE DAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
We met up with several of our group members at the "butfett" (one of the signs in the hotel actually said this). The hotel staff tried to always seat us together. The restaurant was on the top floor and revolved, although they usually kept it stationary at breakfast. The breakfast buffet was quite extensive and neither Laura not I had any trouble finding something to eat. The coffee was again quite stout. Isha and Mr. Gu came around and gave us instructions to be in our rooms at 9:00 and wait for the phone call telling us to come to the disco on the 3rd floor. We gobbled down breakfast and went to our rooms. Everyone on the 11th floor with me had their door open, kinda going from room to room waiting for the phone. I was in Nancy's room when her phone rang, it was the call. Laura and I tore down to our room and a few seconds later our phone rang. It was Isha telling us to bring our gifts, money and come to the 3rd floor meeting room. Laura snapped a few pictures of a very excited me gathering my gift bags, clothes to be donated to the orphanage and passport photos. Much of the group had already arrived when we got there. Mr. Gu was taking our passport photos and pasting them next to the referral photos of our respective daughters. We were then led to the disco and told to take a table, "1 table per family please" Laura and I had the table closest to the entrance. We could hear some of the babies crying...see flashbulbs going off in another room down the hall and hear the comings and goings of several people. It was all we could do to keep our seats. My pulse was racing and I was doing my best not to tear up. At last the nannies came to the doorway with the babies. They were lined up down the hall and you really couldn't see more than the one in the door way. Mr. Gu instructed us that he would call the babies name and the family was to come to the dance floor and be presented with their daughter, Isha would take their photo for CCAI and Mr. Gu and we could also take their picture at that time, then he would present the next baby. I watched as several mom's and dad's joyfully received their daughter. Several of the babies had the cutest little pigtail on the top of their heads, I remember wondering if Julie would. Finally I heard Mr. Gu call "Han Tai is next", I looked over and there she was waiting in her nanny's arms, we were next. The nanny tried to give her to me but she cried so I put my arms down and just stepped closer. The nanny was saying to her "mama, mama" and she gave her to me. Julie cried and so did I, but only for a few seconds, it was like she thought "ok here she is my new mama". In my arms was the most precious baby girl, my daughter Juliet Marie Tai Thompson. I remember feeling numb, I was so overcome with emotion. We sat down at the table while everyone else got their daughters. The nannies' soon joined us at the tables and Julie's handed me a bottle to give her. I remember the bottle was very warm (to this day Julie insists her bottles are warm). My new little daughter broke out in a sweat drinking it. Julie was dressed in a long sleeved heavy T-shirt, homemade double-knit pants and a pair of socks. The clothes were kind of gray (not their original color) they didn't smell dirty, they just looked stained. Julie had those darling little pigtails too! She was (and still is) beautiful, her cheeks were not nearly as large as they appeared in her referral photo. She had 7 teeth, 4 on top and 3 on bottom.
The orphanage director gave us the babies' schedule. They had 6 bottles a day, one of which was at 11:30 to 12:00 at night, we were to wake them up, give them a bottle and put them back down. He said they really weren't eating much solid food, just some at breakfast, bits of egg and congee. He gave us their napping schedule and we were released to go to our rooms with instructions to return at 1:00 for the "registration".
We stayed in the disco with our new daughters for about an hour. Julie's nanny also gave her some sort of cracker things. I thought it was quite interesting, she placed one in each of her hands but then when Julie would lift it to her mouth to eat, the nanny would push her hands away and place a small bit of the cracker in her mouth. Julie was quite pensive, just sitting on my lap, taking everything in. The nanny also began playing with her, kinda doing the buzzy bee thing. This got the first laugh out of her that I saw, when I tried she also smiled and quietly laughed.
All of the families began meandering around, saying hello to everyone and checking out each others children. Terry Garlock was taking videos and asked me if I'd like to borrow his camcorder, then gave me an extra tape he had. This act of generosity is costing me big time, as I now have to go and buy a camcorder like Terry and Julie's and of course it was a top of the line model (Terry if you're reading this, I really did/do appreciate your letting me borrow the camcorder!)
After being dismissed Laura, Julie and I went up to our room. Laura kinda took over and said "ok mommy you run the bath water, this baby stinks" I probably would have waited but figured it wouldn't hurt her and I did want to count fingers and toes so I started the bath. While I was letting the water warm up before putting in the stopper I heard Laura exclaim "oh my god, KK (my nickname) come here." She had Julie's clothes and diaper off and was looking at her butt and back. I calmly said "oh so that's what a Mongolian spot looks like". The apc list had prepared me for this possibility, and sure enough my daughter has them too. I explained that they are a common birth mark on Asian (as well as black and Hispanic my pediatrician told me) babies and that they will fade with time. We then plopped Julie into the tub for her first bath, she was less than enthused about it, but when I dropped the toy keys into the water with her and began playing with her she decided to tolerate it. I washed her hair which she to this day still hates, and got her out quickly. I dressed her in a little pink one piece outfit, complete with a matching headband. It was close to nap time so I put her in the "crib" and she was out like a light. I then took her first sleeping picture, she didn't even stir. I spent her entire nap sitting in a chair beside the playpen watching her sleep. Laura had left while I was dressing Julie allowing us time alone together to bond. It was kinda scary staring at this wonderful little creature that had just been placed in my arms. I was now a real live, honest to goodness, mommy. Something that I never read in anyone else's travel stories is this: I was not prepared for the way my child smelled. Even after the bath she smelled, now it wasn't a urine or poop smell, it was a funky smell. I can't describe it, but I remember thinking, oh my gosh, this is just great - I can't stand the way my child smells. Everytime I would give her a bottle she would break out in a sweat and smell. We bathed her every day and she still smelled to me. Finally about the 4th or 5th day the smell began to dissipate. I think it was probably her diet and the way it effected her body chemistry was different than I was used to because when we began feeding her with more table foods and less formula the smell went away. Anyway moving along, Julie slept for about 2 hours. I fed her her first meal of baby cereal and bananas, she loved it.
At 1:00 we were to return to the disco to pay the fee to have our adoptions registered. I thought the orphanage director would be there, but it was only Mr. Gu. I gave him the fee and was free the rest of the afternoon.
Later that night Laura phoned home to wish her 12 year old son (my step-grandson) a happy birthday. We thought it was kinda cool that we became mothers on the same day. We hit the butfett for dinner that evening and discovered that Miss Julie will eat anything. I had to decide when she had enough as I couldn't read her cues. I think I could have kept shoveling food in her mouth till she burst. This too has changed since returning home. When she's full, she will let you know. After dinner one emotionally drained new momma and baby hit the sack. It was probably 9:00 so I gave Julie her evening bottle, I had decided that we were going to quickly drop the middle of the night feeding. She was almost 10 months old and should be sleeping thru the night. Well, we were all soundly sleeping at midnight when Julie woke us up. I thought to myself, "oh dear this is going to be a sleepless night, probably the first of many." No matter what anyone might say, it's tough being awakened like that. Well, I had a bottle prepared "just in case" and it was now just in case time. I gave Julie her bottle, burped her and she went right back to sleep. Then I thought "well now this isn't so bad" and I too went back to sleep (Laura told me the next morning she practically slept thru the entire feeding.) The rest of our trip in China, I gave Julie a bottle right before retiring and she slept thru the night. She never woke up in the middle of the night again.
Thursday, April 23.
We didn't have any official business to take care of on this day but CCAI and Mr. Gu had arranged for a couple of vans to take us to a department store so we could purchase more formula and have a shopping excursion. Laura elected to stay at the hotel for the trip so Julie and I took off with the group. I had brought a stroller from the states with me (as well as one of those sling things which I detested as neither Julie nor I were very comfortable in it) but it was difficult to get me, the stroller and the baby in the van without assistance so I left the stroller at the hotel. Well, upon arriving at the store, Mr. Gu was helping all of us out of the van, holding babies as you got out, etc. I was the last to get out, he took Julie from me and then took off with me following behind. I tried to tell him "here I'll take her now" but he replied, "no we're fine - you shop." He took Julie all over that store (all 4 floors), you could just tell he really loved the children and he knew I needed the assistance and was happy to lend a hand. It seems like whenever something was happening that had the potential for being less than perfect, Mr. Gu would show up. I swear that man never slept or rested! He took Julie several times throughout the trip (I kinda think she was one of his favorites, but I'm prejudiced). We made a few purchases including apple juice and formula and returned to the hotel.
While in Hefei, Julie settled into a nice routine. She would wake around 6:30 to 7:00, we'd have a shower (Laura would hand her to me or vice versa after the other had had a chance to finish - worked better than a bath for Julie) then hit the breakfast buffet, mess around for a while, have a morning nap, lunch bottle and a bit of baby cereal with a banana, hit the streets for shopping etc., afternoon bottle, nap, supper, play time, bottle then bed for a good night's sleep. Laura and I "tag teamed" Julie. Usually either she or I would remain in the hotel with Julie while the other went shopping, walking, etc. This worked out quite well as Kay (Nancy's travel bud) was always ready to go with Laura, then Nancy and I could go out later. Sometimes the famous Terry Garlock would join "the girls" for an afternoon of exploring! Laura packed one thing that initially puzzled me, however it turned out to be a drawing card, a half gallon of bourbon. Usually several couples would end up in our room in the evening for happy hour. Now nobody ever got drunk or even tipsy, but it was a nice social time to unwind and compare the days "war" stories for those who wanted to join us. Laura became known as the groups' party queen while I was the shopping queen (I had to buy another suitcase in Hefei to take all my "treasures" home.)
On Friday we received our adoption registration certificates, then we were free to explore for the rest of the day. On Saturday we were beginning to get a little restless, we'd had our daughters for 4 days, were in a country who's language we didn't speak, without television (except for Asian C-SPAN channel), without our normal "comfort" foods, sleeping on HARD beds (have I mentioned how hard the bed are in China!), and basically just getting a little antsy to get on with the show. Again it was Mr. Gu and Isha to the rescue. They organized an outing for us to the local museum. I still wasn't a real "museum" person but the gift shop at the museum was GREAT. I made several more purchases including one of the tapestry looking paintings found throughout China and cloisonne (SP?) chop sticks. Isha also arranged for a local artisan to come to the hotel with a wide variety of chops for sale. Isha translated all of the information for our chops. I ended up purchasing one for each of my nieces' and nephews', one that said "Juliet Marie Tai", one that said "Karen Kelly" and one that said "Thompson" (all in Chinese). The prices were quite good and the quality was wonderful. The ones for my nieces and nephews were about 12.50 each. They were a green marble looking stone with the appropriate zodiac symbol carved in the top. (My sister-in-law just loved the ink that came with them ;-)
Some other neat things I purchased in Hefei were absolutely stunning pieces of silk. They were only around $10.00 (probably 60" X 72" in size) and were kind of like tapestries with absolutely gorgeous designs woven in them. I am a seamstress and have several friends who are as well, and these were probably the best and most well liked souvenirs I picked up. During "happy hour" I showed them off and several more people purchased them the next day! I also picked up some cute wooden fans for about $.50 and some cute little doll necklaces for the same price. I went ahead and got 30 of each, thinking that someday they would make great birthday party favors for one of Julie's birthday parties.
There wasn't a whole lot else in Hefei to do besides shop (which suited me just fine) Laura however, was getting a little bored. The Golden Anhui Hotel is located close to a river that has parks along it's banks. Many of us took lots of walks along the trails. We had the weekend free for, you guessed it, more shopping! On Monday, April 27th the notaries came to the hotel (I guess they thought it would be easier as we had 14 families in our travel group). There were 2 notaries and when my name was called I sat down at her table with my money. She (the notary) was a very small and pretty Chinese woman. I had to fill out the paperwork stating why I wanted to adopt, that I'd never abandon my baby, or harm her in any way (it was basically like the adoption petition that is part of your dossier). She reviewed this and asked me if I had any children and I told her "no just my daughter" as I motioned to Julie. Julie was at a nearby table sitting in Laura's arms (my stepdaughter/travel buddy). I was starting to sprout tears at this point (I'm one of those emotional silly ninnies) and I remember telling the notary, who was also looking at Julie, "Isn't she beautiful", at this the notary started sprouting tears too! Now not everyone can say that their Judge was crying with them! It was a wonderful experience. We finished the paperwork and all I could say was Thank you, thank you, and Xie Xie. We both wiped away our tears, I grabbed Julie and told her "you're really mine now!"
We went upstairs and finished packing. Check out of the hotel was pretty simple although you might note as soon as we left the room, the maids were in there counting towels, glasses, goodies from the refrigerator and the linen I would imagine. Everything was accounted for in our room except a sprite that we had drank the day before, Laura had replaced it, but I guess they had already counted it. Rather than make an issue of it, I just paid the bill. When one of our social hour buddies (Terry do you recognize this?) went to check out, the staff tried to charge them for a glass. He told them to check our room as that was where he'd left it, he was not going to pay for a glass! (and he didn't either).
An interesting side story happened on the weekend to Laura. She and Kay (Nancy's traveling companion) were out shopping when they were approached by one of the locals. This often happened to us as many were anxious to practice their "English" on us. However, this particular gentleman had something entirely different in mind. He went up to Laura (who by the way is blond and quite attractive) and tried to get her room number. He wanted to come by and give her a massage (and he kept telling her) "I bring you much happiness" He followed Laura and Kay for a bit with the same line, but finally left. We all had a great time teasing Laura about her new boyfriend who would bring her much happiness!
Our flight didn't leave Hefei till around 8:00. It was a short hop to Guangzhou. Mr. Gu left us at the airport as he wasn't allowed in the terminal and he had another travel group to meet and assist. We arrived Guangzhou and were met by Alice. After we all retrieved our luggage we boarded a bus (all our luggage went on 2 other trucks to the hotel) and made our way to the Victory. The ride to the Victory was quite interesting, it was kind of like partially stepping back into the west. When we passed a Hard Rock Cafe and McDonalds a rousing cheer was heard from the passengers! I think we were all ready for a taste of home. It was close to 11:00 before we all got checked in and to our rooms. (this is one of my few complaints about the trip, It would have been much easier on our babies to travel during the day so we could have gotten them to bed at a decent hour). Laura and Kay were soooooo hungry for western mystery meat, they ventured off at 11:00 over the canal and down the street to the McDonalds. I felt really sorry for them when they returned to the hotel empty handed.....it was closed!
We had to be downstairs at 8:30 ready to go and have our passport/visa photos made for our children. We had some very cranky babies. The photo store was right around the corner from the hotel and we all walked. It was then off to the clinic for the physicals. First Julie was weighed (18#) and measured (27 inches) then a doctor laid her down, which made her scream, and felt around on her stomach and listened to her heart. Another nurse (complete with one of those old fashioned round light reflectors on her forehead - remember Dr. Kildare?) looked in Julie's ears, mouth and eyes. By this time she was really screaming! Oh did I mention she had truly bonded with me and HATED for anyone to try and take her from her mama? Julie was pronounced healthy and we were free to roam the rest of the day. Miss Julie was promptly taken back to the hotel and put down for a nap. Her bed at the Victory was quite unique. When I first saw it late the night before, I thought, "hummmm that's different" it was all covered by a homemade throw cover kind of thing. I got to really looking at it and discovered it was actually two barrel chairs tied together and a homemade mattress covered the chair pads. It worked! Julie had no complaints. After her nap Julie had her first Happy Meal, mama and Sissy (her 36 year old stepsister, Laura) had Big Macs. Under normal circumstances I rarely eat at Mc D's, but it was wonderful! By this time we were all ready to board that plane heading home. Many of us felt like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz......"there's no place like home, there's no place like home..."
Visa appointments were the next day, ours was around 10:30. Alice took our money for the registration, BUT she couldn't take our travelers checks. This turned out to be a hassle as we had to have part of our paperwork before the cashier would cash our checks and it was upstairs in the interview room. So one of the group went back to the rest of the group to get it. We were trying to not lose our place in the line that was practically out the door and make it back upstairs before our names were called. Alice disappeared to get another groupies homestudy as one of us was having some sort of difficulty. But everything turned out OK. It was just a case of nerves for some of us. We got our travels checks cashed and made our appointment. It just so happened that the gentleman who interviewed me was the same one I had spoken with on the phone a few weeks earlier and he had lived in San Angelo for a short time while in the military. He was very nice and soon we were done.
After leaving the consulate we headed to the Deli Shop at the White Swan,where we had lunch, it was quite good and inexpensive. We met an English pediatrician there who works at a hospital in Guangzhou. He was quite interesting and had many tales to tell. I wish we could have spent more time with him, but he had to return to work. That evening we dined at the famous "Lucy's", they have an outdoor patio and a very relaxed atmosphere. We also hit all the close shops, including the Shop on the Stairs and Jennifer's.
The next day a bus was chartered and we went to a local temple and the Jade Market. Oh boy did I ever have a good time there. I think one of the husbands of the group has forbid his wife from ever hanging around me, I bought a really nice strand of freshwater pearls (and so did she) as well as a jade ring and bracelet. The prices were excellent! and the quality of the jade is outstanding. I saw one piece of purple jade that was exquisite, however it was definitely out of my price range (over $1000), but it was beautiful. The temple was quite beautiful, it was right out of a postcard. A few of the more industrious of our group climbed the pagoda, but most of us remained on the ground waving up at the climbers.
The trip back to the hotel gave us a glance into the local traffic (it was horrible). It was interesting to note, there is no horn honking in Guangzhou which was quite nice. Shanghai was the horn honking capitol of the world! It seemed like it took forever to get back to the Victory but in actuality it was probably only an hour or so. That evening several of us took taxi's over to the Hard Rock Cafe. I'd never been to one, but everyone said it's just like they have at home. The food was wonderful. I highly recommend the chocolate shake! Later when I got home I told my aunt about eating here and she was most disappointed I didn't get a t-shirt from here for my cousin, but I didn't know he collected them.........oh well.....next time I will!
The only other tense moment of our trip occurred around 4:00 that day, when one of our groups phone rang. It was the embassy wanting to know who was going to pick up all of our visa packets as they were closing in 15 minutes. Apparently Alice had gotten caught up in traffic. Jim, whom they called is quite fit and took off running! It's only a couple of blocks to the embassy so he got there in plenty of time. We were just thankful that the embassy called and everything turned out all right. Jim passed a frantic friend of Alices' on his way back from the embassy, he brought all the packets to our room (yes we were still the happy hour room) and we passed them all out.
That evening Nancy, Kay, Laura and I went to the White Swan for dinner, I didn't realize it, but they have 9 restaurants in the hotel. We ate at one of the casual ones on the second floor. It was wonderful, I would have loved to have spent more time at the White Swan, it is really something! We had to have our luggage outside our doors at 11:30 pm for pick up. We all slept in the nudie rudie and only kept out the minimal of toiletries. We had to be up at 5:00 am, downstairs at 6:00 and on our way to the airport. Leaving Guangzhou was kind of bittersweet, you are sooooooooo ready to be home and yet you have a funny kinda melancholy feeling about leaving your daughters Homeland. Upon arriving at the Guangzhou airport, we put our luggage on the scales. Laura had decided to check her carryon along with her BIG suitcase, but her BIG suitcase was overweight. The airline people told us that she would need to pay for the extra weight. Laura went over to the other counter and came back VERY upset, it cost almost $600.00 for the one overweight suitcase. Now my two combine suitcases weighed more than her one (remember I had to buy an additional suitcase in Hefei) but they went on how much each piece weighed as well as the total, so don't overload on one suitcase cuz it will cost you big bucks! Laura tried to fight it both in Hong Kong and here in the states but to no avail.
Our flights first took us to Hong Kong, where we had one of those "barely" layovers, again in Hong Kong the jet landed on the runway (duh), and you get off onto the tarmac. We all crowded into busses and made our way to the terminal. We only had a few minutes to spare before boarding for San Francisco. This flight was 12.5 hours long and I was really dreading it, but Julie was an angel. She probably slept for about 6 hours of the flight and was content to sit on my or Laura's lap. One thing I didn't estimate correctly was the number of hours between wet diaper changes and she leaked through her one outfit so I had to put her back in her pajamas (I didn't want to chance an accident with her "get off the plane in San Angelo" outfit). I never slept on the flight, everytime Julie would stir I would be at attention. It was such a relief on the flight, they brought us tray with baby food (her first) and we didn't have to mess with chopping up "adult" food, talk about heaven! One of the flight attendants told me that this was one of the best groups of babies they'd had on board, she also told me they (United) probably averaged about 10 babies per flight! We arrived San Francisco without mishap, easily cleared customs and immigration. Of course Laura and I were the last to clear it, but we made our connection. San Francisco to Dallas was a wonderful flight, my mother had upgraded us to 1st class with her frequent flyer miles. I'm sure when two weary, red eyed, frumpled haired women with a baby got on the plane and sat down the passengers thought "oh great a baby to scream the whole way" WRONG, right after we took off I laid Julie in the floor on a blanket and she went right to sleep and slept the entire flight, again the flight attendants were most impressed with my new daughter.
The last leg of our journey was on what I fondly refer to as a crop duster (American Eagle, prop plane). Soon we were pulling into San Angelo! We'd only been up for 29 hours straight! We got off the plane and the entire town had shown up. All my family had come in from Oklahoma, Florida, Arkansas, Tenn., and New Mexico. There were probably 75 people at the tiny little airport. My nieces and nephews were all dressed in red and white and most of the adults were in red, white, and blue. They were all carrying American Flags and when we entered the terminal (oh did I mention in San Angelo you land and take the stairs off the plane ;-) there was a rousing cheer. Many were crying tears of joy and I lifted Julie into what my niece calls "The Simba" pose high above my head. Julie went right to my mom and sister and
seemed to take it all in stride (of course mama was never far from her). Out side was a white stretch limo waiting to take us home. Our luggage didn't make the tight connection in San Francisco, so we all headed home for the 1st "Welcome Home Julie" party. My sister, aunt and sister-in law had decorated the outside of my house in every red, white and blue decoration known to mankind. There were stars hanging from the trees and banners everywhere. A friend had obtained one of those yard signs and had it placed at the house. One of the neatest things though, were the roses that God sent. My roses were blooming like I'd never seen them bloom, they were beautiful and just fit in with all the red, white and blue! Many pictures were taken in front of them.
My sister and her family stayed with me helping for a week, mom and the rest of the gang only stayed the weekend. I know that some suggest peace and quite for the first few weeks, but for us having everyone here was just wonderful. It was cleared with me first though, and my thoughts were you're going to be
dog tired anyway what's another couple of hours. Everyone was very considerate of my state of exhaustion, I took a Tylenol PM and drifted off. Linde (sister) put Julie to bed. Julie slept through the night as did I. On
the second night however, Julie woke up around midnight and Linde taught me about Disney sing-a-long videos...They're great. Linde and Julie joined me in bed and we watched the same video about 3 times before Julie wound down enough to go back to her bed. And that was that, she was on central standard time from that point on.
I have been extremely blessed, Julie is an exceptionally easy child. She smiles and giggles often and rarely fusses. I've taken her to Tupperware parties (I detest those things but the hostess begged and insisted I bring
Julie) and inevitably the other women will comment on how lucky I have it. She will eat anything that is placed in front of her. So far her growth curve has been a straight line, she's now up to 23 # and 31" tall. Our first visit
to the pediatrician was great and he was very pleased with her health. We tested her for several things and came back clean on all (one baby in our group did however have giardia-a parasite that you can get here too). I can't tell you how much joy and happiness this precious gift has given me. I get kind of miffed when people tell me how lucky she is, because I am truly the lucky one!