A month later I am finally finding the time to sit down and post an update. As of Christmas day we have been home 3 weeks with Finley and I think we are all finding our new groove. By groove I mean there are 2 kids upstairs sleeping and I am still awake enough to sit at my computer and not fall over! When I last posted we were in Guangzhou and still had a few days left before we were to fly home. I didn't get a chance to post many pictures from our time in Hohhot so I will pick up again there. Because of our travel delays (see previous post) we ended up spending one less day in Hohhot than scheduled. We hurriedly met Finley on the evening of Monday the 23rd of November and on Tuesday morning we finalized her adoption. With Chen Chen we traveled to the Civil affairs office to finalize everything, for Finley we did everything in a conference room at our hotel which was nice since it was cold, cold, cold and it was nice to not have to bundle everyone up. Our guide Aggie was even able to arrange for someone to come to the hotel to convert our money for us for the orphanage donation that was due when we finalized. Loved our guide Aggie, she has even messaged us since being home to see how we are doing and to wish us Merry Christmas!
The next couple of days we took it easy and worked on bonding with Finley. On Tuesday and Wednesday we took a quick trip to a local grocery store to load up on noodles, water, snacks, and diapers. We picked up her passport at the local police station and went out for hotpot for lunch one day. As mentioned it was cold in Hohhot so we didn't feel bad about hanging out in the hotel. For the first couple of days we were there it was so overcast we didn't even notice the huge mountains that surrounded the city.
We really enjoyed the traditional hotpot restaurant.
Heading out to pick up groceries at a store close to our hotel. I really wish Finley would have liked that carrier more but she lasted approximately 10 minutes in it until she wanted out. She is fiercely independent and gets around great despite her VI so we only used it in Hohhot for our walk in the snow as I didn't want her slipping and sliding around. Thankfully Aggie talked her into getting into it if even for just a few minutes.
Watching Boonie Bears (a Chinese cartoon) in the hotel room.
The police station where we picked up Finley's passport.
Finley traveled home on her Chinese passport, those are our passports on the desk. Once we get her certificate of citizenship in a couple of months we will apply for her US passport.
On Thursday (Thanksgiving day in America) we started out early in the morning to make what was supposed to be a 2 hour drive to Wulanchabu to visit the orphanage where Finley lived for 2.5 years. Despite the climate in Inner Mongolia, they do not seem to have any type of snow removal system except for teams of workers with brooms made out of twigs who sweep sidewalks and parking lots. That means the roads were iced packed. It also means some of the roads (including the main highway) were closed due to the ice. When our driver picked us up he pointed out that he had chains on his tires and assured us we would be safe which of course makes you feel not so safe when traveling in a country where seat belt usage and car seats for children are not the norm. We started out and after a while he pulled over and took off the chains, we assumed it was because the road conditions weren't as bad as anticipated and that we would be to our destination shortly...we assumed incorrectly. After 6.5 bumpy hours and a couple of stops to put the chains back on we finally made it to the orphanage.
My view from the backseat of the van...
Kids wandering around lose in a moving vehicle on icy roads...no big deal.
In the months leading up to travel I had searched out pictures of Finley's CWI (Children's Welfare Institute aka orphanage) via Baidu (a Chinese search engine) so it was surreal to pull up and recognize the buildings from what I had found on-line. When you first approach the grounds of the CWI you see a small building called a baby hatch which is a small building that is a safe place that birth families (or other individuals, because we will probably never know who actually left our girls) can take their children where they will be safe and warm if abandonment of the child is their ultimate decision. Not all children in the CWI were left at the baby hatch, Finley was not.
Because our trip took so long they had lunch waiting for us when we arrived. We sat down at a large round table with members of the orphanage staff and had a delicious lunch which was served family style...there is a large lazy susan in the middle of the table and everyone chooses with their chopsticks what they want from the dishes. The man in blue is Rocky our driver, he was super nice and is my hero for his driving skills that day!
After lunch we took a tour of the orphanage. I knew it was going to be an emotional visit, and there really isn't any way to adequately put it into words. The CWI is clean and has recently been updated so the facilities are probably better than others. The first room we went into was hard and I had to hold back my tears. There were several children on the mat on the floor who had CP or Down syndrome as well as a few in cribs or walking around. Chen Chen summed it up best when she said "mama this is very sad". As sad as it was thank God they were somewhere warm where they were being taken care of and they were alive. I tried to go around and make eye contact with each of them, I rubbed their little hands and feet and felt helpless that we would be walking out that day and they would be staying. Praying hard that families come forward for as many of them as possible. We toured some of other rooms and saw a couple of children that we know have families coming for them and were able to tell the orphanage staff that their families were working hard to bring them home and that they were already loved. Finley was so sweet, each room we went into she could instantly tell who was upset or unhappy and would go give that child a kiss or a hug to make them feel better. She had been at the CWI from when she was 6 months old to approximately 3 years old so I don't know that she remembers much. Being there was a trigger for Chen Chen though, she left her CWI at age 3.5 and I have no doubt that it brought up memories she had surpressed.
She was very concerned that this little one's socks had come off!
Before traveling to the CWI we were told that there was a nanny that we should ask about who had taken special care of Finley. When Finley entered the CWI she had reflux so bad that she could not keep any food down and was very sick. In stepped a very special woman who took it upon herself to find a solution to this problem. What she ultimately did was put Finley in a bucket so that she sat upright when she fed her and that helped keep her food down! As we were touring the last building a nanny came out who was very excited to see Finley and called her name, I asked if this was the nanny who had taken care of her and sure enough it was. As we left she was crying, I had tears in my eyes and I tried to convey to her how much we appreciated what she had done for our daughter.
After an emotional day we headed back to the van to make our way back to our hotel in Hohhot. Thankfully the trip back didn't take quite as long and we all collapsed when we got back to the room. We ordered some room service spaghetti as were too tired to head out to look for food and started to pack as we would be leaving the next morning for Guangzhou. We finished packing in the morning and after a quick breakfast (all of our breakfasts had to be quick as Miss Finley was not a fan of sitting still or quiet at the table!) checked out to make our way to the airport.
We were a bit concerned as snow was in the forecast for that morning and part of our travel delays on Sunday was the fact that the Hohhot airport was closed due to weather. Thankfully everything was on time so we got checked in for our flight and hung out at the airport for a while waiting for our flight. There was a small play area that the girls played in for a little while, but then we started to become quite the attraction. While they were playing people started to take pictures. As we returned to the gate to wait I saw people snapping pictures of Finley and then more and more people pulled out their phones to take pictures of her. Other families who had traveled before us who have adopted children with albinism warned this could happen and sure enough we were the center of attention. I turned my phone on a few people to take their picture and then gave my phone to Finley and let her take people's pictures. I would like to report that this stopped them but it did not. Pretty sure we were a trending topic on Chinese social media that day lol!
3 of the gazillion people taking Finley's picture...smile, you're on my blog :)
We were unsure how Finley was going to react as this was her first flight. Chen Chen's first flight was none too pleasant so we braced ourselves for the worst and she pretty much delivered. While in China an iPad we brought for her became her security item. It was a way for her to focus on something other than what was going on and allowed her to escape. On the flight we were fine as long as she had her iPad, of course when getting ready to land we had to turn it off. To say she was unhappy about that was an understatement, she lost it. Not just a little but full on tantrum, poor thing was scared and she was having to face reality of what was going on. Bob was sitting next to a younger gentleman who spoke a little English who had asked him a few questions about our family during the flight. When he saw how upset Finley was he offered to switch seats with me to sit next to her to console her and let her know what was happening in mandarin. I happily took him up on his offer and she was immediately much better. There are so many times during this trip we wished we had taken the time to learn more Mandarin over the past year. We learned some comforting phrases and questions but even if we hadn't learned all the tones and how to properly speak it, it would have been so nice to at least be able to understand more of what she was saying so we could more efficiently meet her needs without her getting frustrated. Note to prospective adoptive parents: learn more Mandarin!
Our in-flight angel. You can see by the look on Finley's face how upset she was, she had pretty much shut down at this point.
Catch Up Post Volume 2 coming soon :)