Julie’s Home Page
Juliet Marie Tai Thompson is my precious, precious daughter who was placed in my arms on April 22, 1998, in Hefei Anhui, Peoples Republic of China and this is our story.
I began gathering information on adoption from China soon after a hysterectomy in August of 1995. I was 35 years old and had never been able to conceive. My husband was 55 and had 3 grown children from a previous marriage. He was not nearly as anxious as I was to have more children. I wanted to have "all my ducks in a row" so to speak before I sprang the information on him and begged him to consider this option. I knew in my heart that I wanted to adopt a child from China. I knew my Julie was there and I never even considered a domestic adoption or adopting from any other country. My husband passed away in March of 1996 and my hearts dream of adopting was put on hold while I grieved his death. Soon after Bill's death I told a friend of mine who is a social worker of my plans to adopt, she told me there was not an agency in the world that would even consider me for at least a year. That meant it would be at least 2 years before I could hold my daughter, as it took another year to gather paperwork and be processed in China. I knew to adopt at this point was too soon as I had much grieving to do, but 2 years was too long. I waited 6 months before I officially began the process. CCAI accepted me after I submitted my application and a statement from a Psychologist attesting to my stability and ability (this is not their usual practice, but I was not the usual applicant and I really appreciated their concern for the welfare of the children.) I was content to go slower than most and my paperwork was finally completed and sent to China on May 9, 1997. Now the real wait began. I became an APC addict, not really posting much, but reading ALOT! Toward the end of my wait, I would sign on at least every 30 minutes and read. I even went so far as to get a modem put on my computer at work (I told them I needed to surf the net, ha ha) and put my home aol on it, so I could read the APC list at work. It was very rare to have over 5 new pieces of email at a time!
During the wait I got the nursery ready. I chose a jewel toned Noah's Ark theme. I would spend hours in there dreaming and rocking dolls. I collected over 80 beanie babies. I also collected clothes. It is a standing joke at work that I haven't bought Julie's prom dress yet, but I have everything else! Right before leaving we counted 167 outfits on hangers! Now they go all the way to 5T so it isn't as bad as it sounds. Many were hand-me-downs from my sister's daughter and most of the new items were bought on sale (50-75% off)
On Wednesday March 4th 1998, I was in our departments' manager meeting. I'd been following the APC list closely and knew my referral was going to be coming soon. I'd been telling friends and co-workers for a couple of weeks "They're matching Mays', they're matching Mays'." The meeting was held in the largest office in the department which is where the secretary's desk is located. Her telephone quietly rings whenever any of the phones in the department ring and she can tell who is receiving the call. You can also tell if the call is coming from the hospital as it is a single ring and outside calls are double rings. During the meeting if I heard a phone double ring, I'd look over and she'd either shake her head no if it was someone else's call or yes if it was mine. Well, on one double ring I looked over and she shook her head yes, I turned my back to the meeting and used the phone at the desk where I was sitting to pickup my call. "Food Service, this is Karen,” I said into the receiver. "Karen, this is Kat from CCAI," my heart began to pound, "returning your call from yesterday." Now my heart sank, I'd called CCAI the day before with some bogus question and left it on Kat's voice mail. Kat then added "and to let you know you're a mommy!" My heart really began to POUND and I began to quietly cry. Kat told me not to cry, as it would make her cry too. I lied and told her "I'm not crying" but she knew it was a fib so she joined me. Kat told me my daughter's name was Han Tai (Tai means peaceful) and that she was born on June 28, 1997, she weighed 13 pounds and was 24 inches tall at 5 months. She was residing at the Children's Welfare Institution of Hefei in Anhui Province. I was shaking when I wrote down all of the information. I turned back around still crying and grinning ear to ear. My boss asked it that was the call and I told him yes that I was now a mommy. He stopped the meeting and said a prayer for Julie and me, then he tried to restart the meeting........fat chance! I had calls to make! I excused myself and went through the kitchen back to my office, telling every one of my good news. My sister had told me she wanted to be the first to know, so I called her first. She then called our mom and told her "I know something you don't know" and hung up. When I called mom a few seconds later and asked her what she was doing, mom replied, "waiting for you to call." Mom cried with me!
The next day I didn't get to accost the FedEx man as many others do. I had to go out of town early that day. I made arrangements with my next-door neighbors to intercept the envelope as FedEx won't leave the parcels on your porch and it would be after 5 before I returned home. My stepdaughter, her husband and son came home with me to open the "package". My neighbors insisted I open it at their house. Inside was a little school-sized photo of my daughter. She had on some sort of pale purple bunting thing. She had a very pensive look on her face and her cheeks were soooooo fat that her nose appeared to be holding her face together! I called her my little sumo queen, her cheeks were FAT!
After receiving the call, the next six weeks were anything but productive (at work anyway) I spent most of my time preparing for my leave. I took the ENTIRE 12 weeks that were allowed by FMLA (all but two were without pay though). It chapped me off that the hospital wouldn't allow adoptive parents to use "sick time" like they allow birth parents, so I intentionally used up most of my vacation time on vacations before getting Julie. I guess I really did get six weeks of extra pay since my mind wasn't at work!
I decided that this would be the last great opportunity to attend a continuing education workshop, so I signed up to go to a meeting in Nashville in early April. Unfortunately CCAI scheduled "The Pre-travel Conference Call"
while I was there. Do you know how much a 1.5 hour-long call made from a hotel costs (even on a calling card)? While at the meeting I was standing in the hotel lobby and overheard another one of the dietitians talking about adoption, so I moissed over to her and interrupted her conversation. "Did I hear you mention adoption," I asked. She replied yes, that she had gone to China last year and adopted. "Oh my gosh" I told her as I whipped out Julie's referral photo, "I'm leaving the 17th" (it was the 6th). I found out her name was Catherine and at the next meeting break she went to her room and retrieved her photos. It was amazing how much her daughter looked like her. They are both just beautiful. It was really nice to talking to her and every time we met she would remark, "I know where your mind is, not on this conference!" How right she was!
I met up with (via the internet) several of the members of our travel group. Pop Garlock became the unofficial head of the group! He had us (me anyway) calling different people who had traveled to Hefei for their daughters' and post the information to our mailing list. The general consensus among those we called was that
although Hefei definitely was not the cultural center of China it was a nice enough place. First and foremost the children were well cared for and generally healthy.
Finally on Friday, April 17th we had our invitations to travel, visas, plane tickets, hotel reservations and were packed and rearing to go. One of the other group members' Nancy and her friend Kay, decided to go to Shanghai a day early with me and my travel partner (my stepdaughter, Laura). Terry and Julie Garlock had also made plans to travel early. Laura and I decided to leave another day early and mess around San Francisco. We did the touristy things, headed down to the wharf and walked around the shops there. We then
walked over to Girdelli Square and did more window-shopping. Our driver that took us to and from the downtown area was a trip. I listened in amazement to his tales. He told us he was from Peru and that when he came to America it was as a stow away on a ship. He and a friend had stowed away food and water while the crew was ashore. He said it took a week to reach Mexico and another 4 days to reach the US. He assured us he was now a legal alien, but his tale of becoming one was not how we are doing it with our children!
Laura and I rose early the next morning (like 4am)! Messed around and packed then hit the breakfast buffet. We arrived at the airport with plenty of time to spare. Our flight first took us to Tokyo where we had a four-hour layover. It was here that we met up with Nancy and Kay. I was surprised at the unsophistication of the Tokyo airport. We didn't taxi to the gate, but rather parked on the tarmac and took the stairs. I knew from previous travel that this is often the case in other lesser-developed countries but I just assumed Tokyo would be more western or modern. It was soon time to board another flight; this leg would take us to Shanghai! At last we would be in the same country as our daughters!
We arrived in Shanghai and easily cleared customs, in fact their forms are probably the easiest I've ever had to complete. I didn't tell Laura, Nancy or Kay; but I was a little apprehensive about arriving at night, in a foreign country that is non-English speaking, a day early, and without a guide, but I shouldn't have been. It was a piece of cake. We walked out of the customs area and right there was a booth for our hotel. Josh at CCAI had faxed me a statement saying take me to the Shanghai Regal Hotel" in Chinese to give to a cab driver, but we didn't need it as the attendants in the booth spoke English. I was really amazed at all the English signage around the airport. The shuttle to the hotel had just departed so the attendants assisted us with our luggage and hailed us 2 taxi cabs (there was NO way the 4 of us with all of our luggage could fit in those tiny taxi's, in fact we could only put one suitcase in the trunk, Laura had to ride in the back-seat with the other!) I will always be thankful to the hotel booth attendants! The usual drill at the Shanghai airport is to go get in the taxi line and wait for the "taxi police" to hail a cab for you. The taxis' were all lined up in the street. I am not kidding, the people line was at least 2 city blocks long and the taxi line was so long I couldn't see the end of it. We would probably still be waiting, but the attendants just took us to the front, assisted us across the street and hailed the taxis'! The hotel was about 15 to 20 minutes from the airport. It was very nice (although some of our group, Laura included, complained of a peculiar smell in it). We checked in, said good night to Nancy and Kay, and hit the sack. Neither Laura or I had slept on any of the flights and we were pretty tired. Oh one thing I don't believe I ever saw in any of the travel stories I read in preparation for our trip, was how HARD the beds in China were/are! The Shanghai Regal East Hotel has very hard beds, not firm - HARD. The Golden Anhui Hotel has HARD beds and the Victory Hotel in Guangzhou has HARD beds. My biggest gripe about our stay in China was the HARD beds! They are so hard that Laura could be sitting on one side of the bed and I could jump up and down on the other and never disturb her because it's like jumping up and down on the sidewalk.
We got up the next morning it was April 20, which is my birthday. Nancy and Kay had slipped a card for me under the door, they are so thoughtful. We all met downstairs and hit the breakfast buffet. I thought it was pretty good, it had a wide assortment of Chinese and western goodies on it. The Chinese foods were better in my opinion though. The noodles were excellent and although I'm not a big vegetable eater and certainly not at breakfast, the vegetables were great (it was some sort of green plant that looked like bok choy). I'd read on the list to stick with the Chinese items and as usual the advice paid off, although Laura really enjoyed the western pastries. While in the restaurant we spied an American looking couple and so we struck up a conversation with them. As it turned out it was the world famous Terry and Julie Garlock! Terry supplied us with a great supply of translation cards. We lingered for a short time over coffee (the coffee is very stout too) before venturing off.
While still stateside I had made contact with a person who travels quite extensively, in fact she usually goes to Shanghai 2 to 3 times a year on business. She had given me the name of a store that sold oriental rugs. The
front desk of the hotel was able to call the store for me and find out if there would be an English speaking person working that day and also give directions. The hotel staff provided us with the address of the store in Chinese, as well as, the hotel address in Chinese so we could get back. This time we took one taxi (it was extremely cramped with all of us in it) and ventured out into the fabled Chinese traffic. I was again sitting up front and wasn't particularly bothered by it, but my travel mates were less than calm. We arrived safely and didn't kill anyone on the way either. Mrs. Fish (sounded like fish) was there to greet us with an entire entourage of workers. As it turns out, the store wasn't just a retail outlet, but a factory. We were given a tour and saw them weaving wool rugs as well as trimming them. It was very interesting. We were treated like visiting royalty. I really wanted a large silk rug, but even in China they are very expensive (like $15,000) They had some absolutely beautiful wool rugs for around $2,000. Apparently their main business is making custom rugs. I bought a small wall hanging size rug and was quite pleased with my purchase. Across the courtyard area we spied a pearl factory so guess where our next stop was?????
The English speaking Mrs. Fish accompanied us to the shop, where she continued to be our unofficial translator and guide. The shop owner asked us to pick out a muscle and he opened it for us. I didn't realize it, but when they culture pearls, they plant several "seeds" so there were about 12 pearls in the one muscle. He gave us the pearls out of the muscle that Laura had chosen. Of course that clinched the rest of the sales for him. I was able to get little cultured freshwater pearl bracelets for my nieces for about $5.00 each. We broke out the cards that Terry and Julie had given us. One of them stated that we were in China to adopt, of course that brought the entire staff to our sides to give us the thumbs up sign. Being the good mama's we were, we naturally had our referral photos with us, there were several sign language comments made about Julie's fat cheeks and mine which are a little plumper than I would like! The staff was all wonderful, we said our good bye's, and Mrs. Fish hailed a taxi for us.
After leaving the rug shop, we headed for the Friendship Store. The one in Shanghai is supposed to be one of the largest in China. The store was 4
stories tall and reminded my of a mini-mall. There was a "food court" in the center courtyard area (actually it was just one snackbar). Laura and I stopped for a coke (no diet Dr. Pepper in ALL of China!) before exploring the store. There was an area in the store that was kinda like a grocery store that was very interesting. They had many items with English writing, some of them were American brands. I thought it was quite interesting to find "American Walnuts" written on a package of nuts, inside were what I've always called pecans. Something else I found interesting was all of the "American Ginseng." One of the dietitians in my department did an inservice for the hospital staff on vitamins, minerals and herbs. Part of her research included a trip to the "health food store" (and I use that term loosely). The clerk over here rambled on and on how Asian ginseng was the best and American was really lacking! Apparently that's not what the Chinese think. We made a few purchases and headed back to the hotel for a rest.
After unloading (hey, it was a rest for me!) we went back to the restaurant where we spotted two women (obviously western) having coffee and struck up a conversation with them. They had both been in Shanghai for several MONTHS while their husbands oversaw the building of a canning plant. They knew where all the "hot" shopping spots were! They took us right around the corner to a street market where we got our first taste of true Chinese everyday life! It was quite an adventure. 6 caucasian women strolling down the street on a buying mission, probably not something seen everyday. When a little boy draped with snakes stepped out and over to me, I nearly had a cow. This reaction brought a riotous laugh from all that were around (which was half the population of Shanghai). I shook my head no, indicating I really wasn't interested in purchasing any snakes. Our new found friends and tour guides were on a fabric mission. Cathy wanted a pair of shorts made. She took us to a stall that had many bolts of cloth and picked out what she wanted and left another pair of shorts indicating how she wanted them made. She told us she'd had others made there and they always did a fine job. Not at all like running down to the mall and just buying a pair of shorts!
We met the Garlock's for dinner (word of advice-when in China, eat Chinese food) The hamburgers, pizza and other western delicacies we ordered weren't very good, but the one smart one of us (Kay) that ordered a local dish had a great meal. The rest of CCAI group 81 was due to arrive around 10:00 so Kay and I waited in the lobby for them. They were easy to spot, a whole herd of exhausted, weary, red eyed Americans showed up (had we looked just like that only 24 short hours ago?) We got our instructions for the next day from Julia then hit the sack too.
The next day April 21st, only one more day till baby day!!!! You could feel the excitement in the air. We all met in the lobby and out came the referral photos, there was only one other baby that had cheeks as big as Julie's, she referred to her daughter as a little line backer. We all checked out of the hotel and left our luggage for safekeeping (we did this several times and NEVER had a problem, China is safe, safe, safe) and boarded a bus. The bus was very plush by Chinese standards, it was air-conditioned and had cute little curtains over the windows that we tied in knots so we could see out. The seats however, were very narrow. As a rule the Chinese in China are a thin bunch, and this big American posterior had to squeeze into their seats!
Our first stop were the beautiful Yu Yang Gardens. They were absolutely breathtaking! Only about 5 acres in size, you felt you were in another land, they are what I pictured all of China to be like! There was not one square inch of land that didn't have something planted on it, or a koi pond with fountains. There was even an opera theater. We all stopped for a photo. It was quite a spectacle. Julia and Kevin, CCAI's Chinese representatives, with 28 different camera's infront of them, picking up one -click, then the next and so on. We had a few minutes to shop in the area around the gardens,
the prices were much better than the hotel gift shops! Laura and I both picked up a few more items. On our way back to the bus I spotted a man wearing a cowboy hat walking down the street carrying an elk skull complete with a 5 x 5 rack that was still in velvet. I whipped out my camera, turned around and snapped his picture, boy was that ever a mistake, he started cursing at me in Chinese, I just ignored him and walked on with the rest of the group. I guess it's illegal to possess elk antlers in China without proper tags and licenses too.
Our next stop was the Shanghai museum, a beautiful 4 story history house! I'm not a real museum person and neither is Laura so we power walked the entire thing and saw it all. Most of the people in our group took their time and lingered over the exhibits. It truly is a very nice museum. We went to lunch next, Julia ordered our meal, there were no knives and forks, which makes for an interesting dining experience. Throughout China the wait staff would watch me struggle for a while and then bring me a fork (I never had to ask either, I guess they felt sorry for me). The meal was wonderful! Served in true Chinese style with all of us sitting around large round tables and one dish at a time being presented. Soup was the last course. Most everything was delicious!
Our next stop was the Pearl Tower, (I saw Clinton visit there, and thought “I was there first!”) The Pearl Tower is actually a television tower, that is the 3rd highest in the world. At the observation deck you could see forever (at least if it hadn't been so smoggy you could have) They have signs painted on the glass, one of which I took a picture of, it said "Hefei 390 Kilometers" with an arrow pointing to Hefei. At the Pearl Tower we met up with CCAIs Chinese Director, Mr. Gu. We went to another local restaurant for dinner and again it was wonderful. The bus
driver sat at our table and tried to give me chop stick lessons, but he finally gave up and out came the fork from the wait staff! Actually I could live off the fat of the land for quite some time and wasn't too worried about not getting enough to eat. After dinner we said our good byes to Julia and headed to the airport. On the way we hit a MAJOR traffic jam. Nobody was moving and here was a bus full of anxious Americans with a plane to catch and tomorrow was baby day. Needless to say some of us were quite apprehensive! But Mr. Gu to the rescue! He and Kevin jumped off the bus and started directing traffic, you should have seen them it was great. Not one of those cab drivers gave Mr. Gu any crap and he was telling them "what for and how to!" You could tell the cab drivers really wanted to move, but Mr. Gu would have none of it, he directed our bus out of that mess, hopped on and off we went. One of our group made the comment "Well, we now know why he is the director". That man just jumped out and took control! We made our connection without any problems.
We flew China Eastern to Hefei, it was a brand new airbus (and I fit in the seats just fine too ;). We arrived Hefei without incident, it was a short flight only 45 minutes or so. Mr. Gu sat by Laura and I, that man never relaxes. I wanted to give him a Valium, he takes his job quite seriously! I knew there was no way any of us would get into any kind of trouble with him looking out for us!
Our Hefei representative was Isha, she met us at the airport and accompanied us to the Golden Anhui Hotel, home for the next 7 days. The hotel was again quite nice in a funky sort of way. When we opened the door to our room, sitting in the corner was a playpen/babybed and a large stroller. They had put a bar of Johnson and Johnson baby soap in the bathroom and a package of "baby formula" (powdered milk) and Heinz Baby Rice Cereal in each room. It really hit home when we opened the door and saw the baby stuff in the corner, that I was going to be a mommy soon. It was close to 11:00 by the time we all got checked in and luggage delivered to our rooms, so we went straight to bed after unpacking some of our stuff.