• Hit by a bike and other fun things that happened in China.

    Date: 2012.05.02 | Category: Adoption, Family Life | Tags:

    We headed out from Des Moines on March 7th, 2012.  Dan and I were excited to finally be heading to China.  We had waited a year to get to hold our little ones and it seemed so much harder to wait the closer we got.  We would be arriving in Beijing on the 8th.  I couldn’t believe we were actually going to do it.  We were traveling internationally for the first time.  I was so happy to be on this journey with my best friend.  I love that our hearts were in exactly the same place with all of this. Our lives were about to change in a really big way.

    When we got to China we had a couple of days to acclimate and do some sightseeing.  Acclimating really wasn’t as hard as I thought it was going to be.  Being out in the daylight and having plans made it a little easier or maybe it was I was just too excited to sleep.

    Beijing was just SO big. They have 20 million people and 10 million more people come in to town to work. I think Iowa has 3 million people all together and our 5 big skyscrapers in our downtown are really quite tame compared to the miles and miles of skyscrapers in Beijing and every other town we visited.  I’m a small town girl that’s for sure.  It was just overwhelming – the noise, the pollution, the traffic, the massive amounts of people.

    One of my favorite things that we did on our tour was a ride in the rickshaw. There was a street lined with rickshaws and people waiting to peddle you around.  Hundreds of rickshaws.  We went down streets that were barely wide enough to have a car go down them. We got to see how people used to live in the villages. The government is building many more modern buildings and the young are moving to those buildings, but there are still blocks of small one story buildings where people live with no indoor plumbing. They use public bathrooms and cook in a community kitchen.  The elderly like it because it is all they have ever known and it’s like one big family.

    We got to visit one of those homes where a 77 year old woman lived. We sat in her room, which was 20×20 maybe, and she told us her life story – as translated by our guide. She had raised 3 children in this home with no indoor plumbing. She had chosen to marry for love and married beneath her status. She turned down 7 suitors and gave up a much more well-off life for a life of happiness and love. While looking around her room, I noticed many crosses and other Christian items. It turns out she was Catholic. In a country where 30 years ago it was illegal to own a Bible, I was in a room with a woman of faith.  It was amazing.  We later learned that China is behind only the United States for the number of Christians the country has.  They estimate as high as 100 million people in China are Christian.  That is amazing!

    Our next great adventure was the Great Wall and the Forbidden City.  The Great Wall was amazing and so hard to climb.  It is one thing to climb a gazillion stairs.  It is another thing completely to climb uneven stairs at different heights while others are running around you.  There were tons of people going up to the first tower, then less and less people the higher you climbed. I climbed to tower number 4.  I was fine until I turned around to go back down.  My fear of heights kicked in.  I looked at the stairs a lot.  It was probably a good thing because it was so uneven.  I was so fearful of tripping and taking out about 50 people on the way back down.  Not good!  Dan bought a lock so we could put our lock on the railing of the Great Wall and throw away the key.  It is supposed to symbolize a marriage that can’t be broken.  I do love that man!

    The Forbidden City was unbelievably BIG!  Our guide told us how one family lived here.  I can’t imagine being a peasant during that time and seeing the opulence or having your daughter chosen as a concubine and spending her life there for only the emperor.  Have I mentioned that I thoroughly enjoy being born in this country and at this time in history?  Though seeing the Forbidden City was an amazing site and one that was truly hard to comprehend.  It is just mind-blowing to think of the manpower needed to lay those bricks and build the walls – 600 years ago. Putting your hands on history is amazing.

    We visited a silk factory. We watched them stretch out a cocoon (the size of a salt pellet) over a metal frame.  Then they take it and stretch it out across a bed to be put into a bedspread.  I actually got to help pull the corner out on one.  We also visited a Jade factory where Dan and I bought a “Jade Family Ball”.  I loved what it stood for (it means family that can not be torn apart) and we decided to buy one of the smaller ones to remember our wonderful trip.    There is a you-tube video if you are interested in seeing them make one.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GnpEfGVdJs0  We went to an acrobatic show.  We also saw the “bird’s nest” at the Olympic Park.

    Have I mentioned that many, many people bike?  There are regular bikes and motorized bikes and bikes that carry everything on big carts behind them and bikes with big baskets.  I stepped out from around a bus only to be hit by one of those basket carrying bikes.  Dan jokes that I almost ended up in that basket.  The Chinese gentlemen was not amused by the clumsy American woman who appeared out of no where.

    Everywhere you go there are signs for public toilets.  It’s an interesting site.  Almost as interesting as the “split” pants the babies wear.  Everywhere you go you see little ones in big bulky snow suits with the crotch open and little bare butts.  The children walk over and just pee in the gutter or on a tree or on someone’s tire.  The snowsuits are crazy.  When we got Maisey I couldn’t tell how big she was because she had on two pairs of snowpants, a snowsuit and 2 coats.  It was 50 degrees outside.  We went to get some papers signed one day and I put her in a coat, long pants and her boots.  It was 70 degrees outside and I got lectured by the elderly ladies about not bundling her up enough.  They believe it’s good for babies to sweat and apparently it is good to have a cold, little tushy too.

    Shopping was crazy.  When we got to Zhengzhou, we were informed that there was a Wal-Mart. Everyone was so excited.  Ha! It wasn’t like any other Wal-Mart I have ever seen.  We went up an escalator and were greeted by hanging gutted pigs, chickens hanging by their necks, and eels.  It was crazy.  It was much like a fresh food market.  While we were shopping we ended up in the formula aisle, where every other parent in our group was trying to figure out what kind of formula to buy.  Nothing was in English and we were all clueless.  I bet whoever was manning the video surveillance that night was getting a good laugh.  We looked ridiculous.  Dan and I tried to buy bananas and they took them from us all while shaking their heads sadly.  We finally figured out it was because we were the not-so-very-smart Americans and we didn’t put our bananas in a bag.  It happened to another family and the clerk brought them a plastic bag.  We, however, just got our bananas taken away. The Chinese buy very little at a time.  You couldn’t tell which line was express because no one bought more than they could carry home or take with them on their bikes. Dan and I commented many times about how many people live there but no one is really over weight.  Many people walk or bike.  The old buildings don’t have elevators.  They eat salad even at breakfast.  There is juice, fruit, and vegetables every where.  One of the families, that were very adventurous, walked around and ate from street vendors.  There was scorpions on a stick, tarantulas on a stick, eel on a stick.  I asked his daughter what she tried and she said strawberries on a stick.  I think I might have been able to handle that one.

    The best part about making it to Zhengzhou?  We got to finally get our little ones.  Gotcha Day was a big day for everyone!  We all waited at the Registration Office for them to show up.  They were coming from many different orphanages, some as far as 4 hours away, so we all just stood there in the room and cried as we watched families be united for the first time. Maisey came first and I just picked her up and held her.  Then we waited and waited for Ben.  Dan went to the door and grabbed his little boy.  Our family was whole.

    The worst part about China for me?  There were cars everywhere.  People pull in and out.  They drive 5 across on a 3 lane road.  They play chicken with each other.  You can be driving down the interstate with 3 lanes and all of a sudden 2 are just closed or better yet you come up over a hill and there is one of those motorized bikes carrying a hug bale of hay going right down the middle of the highway at about 15 mph.  People swerve in and out – no one wears seatbelts – no one has a infant/child safety seats.  You just hold on for dear life and PRAY…a lot!  People don’t pay attention to stop signs.  Our bus driver did a U-turn in the middle of downtown.  It was impressive.  When we headed to Hong Kong I texted Zach because our driver was doing over 145 kmh & I couldn’t get Google to do the conversion for me.  I like being safe.  I’m happy not going over 75 here.  China was a little hard on my nerves.  Amazingly though we saw very few accidents.  I don’t believe anyone is doing distracted driving in China.

    The best part about China other than getting our little ones?  We met 12 other wonderful families.  People that are now dear to my heart for many reasons.  I didn’t get to hang out with them as often as I hoped.  Dan got food poisoning and was leary of eating anywhere.  I enjoyed Papa John’s on numerous occasions.  How funny is that?  I’m in China and eating Papa Johns.  Many people brought their children and it was sweet to see them interact with their new siblings.  I was surprised at how attached the babies were to their new parents and how quickly it happened.  The day we got Maisey and Benjamin they just held on for dear life.  I have to believe that Dan’s prayers about letting them dream about us worked. They wouldn’t let us put them down.  Benjamin was so happy in the hotel room.  He would play and run and laugh like crazy.  They ate and ate and ate.  They fell asleep holding food.  Ben’s security blanket for the first couple of weeks was a spoon and a bowl.  They were deathly afraid of water.   All in all I was just amazed at how smoothly everything went.  I was prepared for the worst.  I truly expected fighting and screaming and fear.  The only fear Ben ever showed was whenever we left the hotel.  He looked so afraid that we were going to take him back.  When we got on the plane and headed home.  We kept telling him family and pointed to the picture that he wore every day while we were there.  I think he finally got it then or at least he had a glimpse of what his life was going to be like.

    There were many firsts while we were in China.  First time I’ve ever had a gas mask in the closet of my hotel room.  First time to see split pants.  First time I was told to “Be Prudent”.   I was surprised about the things I truly missed.  I missed just getting a drink out of the faucett.  Being able to text whenever I wanted to.  Facebook.  Knowing what the food was in the buffet.  Mainly, I missed holding my kids and being able to tuck them in at night. It was worth it to go get our two newest ones and I really enjoyed having a few days alone with them to bond, BUT I missed my babies at home horribly.

    Before we left China, we visited Ben’s orphanage.  The didn’t recommend we go to Maisey’s. It’s probably a good thing.  I’m not sure why exactly, but we weren’t even sure we wanted to go see Ben’s.  I was so upset at how skinny they both were. Many of the children came and they had the usual baby rolls.  Our kids just looked so little.  Ben(3 1/2)  was 22 pounds and Maisey (2) was 16.5 pounds.  I couldn’t see how they could have been properly taken care of.  For that reason, I was glad I went to Ben’s orphanage.  It was a clean, state-of-the-art building.  There were many handicapped children and they were understaffed, but the place was clean and they were trying as hard as they could.  I’ve read that in some orphanages the ratio is 25 or 30 to 1 nanny.   There are just too many children and not enough help.  Ben wanted nothing to do with any of the people in the orphanage.  He just held on to Dan and buried his little face in Dan’s neck. I’m glad we went.  I know they cared.  It just isn’t the place for a child to grow up.

    Now we’ve been home for over a month.  So much has changed.  Ben isn’t fearful. He loves his bath.  He shares his food.  He will actually turn down food now.  Ben says well over 100 English words.  He is so soft spoken and so sweet.  He holds his hand to his ear (like a phone)and asks to talk to Mema or Nana.  He loves to read and build things, especially with Zachary.  He runs and plays and is all boy.  Maisey has her BAHA and is hearing and talking and signing like crazy.  She turned two and had a great birthday.  Maisey is sweetness and love and giggles.  They have become part of our family so seamlessly.   I am so lucky to get to mother these two.  All the fears I had have not come to be.   People warn you of all sorts of things.  I haven’t seen any of them.   Life is good.  I would do it again in a heart beat.  What an amazing journey this has been.