At the end of the last catch up post we had just landed in Guangzhou on Friday, November 27th. After the cold and wet and snow and ice of Beijing and Hohhot we were definitely looking forward to warmer temps and Guangzhou didn't let us down. GZ is in the southern most part of China so it is usually very warm and humid and sometimes rainy, luckily we missed the humidity traveling the time of year that we did and were greeted with temp in the 70s and only 1 day of rain on our last day.
Waiting for our luggage...so glad bargain prices forced me into purchasing that toxic green luggage as it was easy to find every time we were looking for it (especially during the cancelled flight fiasco in Beijing!) Note too that Finley is wearing some of the clothes that she came to us in, when she came to us she willingly took off her clothes and changed into pajamas with Chen Chen. The clothes kids come in can sometimes be a security item for them so we didn't push her to change. Because she seemed comfortable with them, I dressed her in a combo of new items I brought with and some of her China clothes. As soon as I did I could tell something was off. She was a little cranky and would not go to the restroom all day, in hindsight it was because she was afraid I would take off her clothes, she ended up sleeping in them that night. She also started to refuse to take baths or showers from this point forward. She had willingly taken bubble baths with CC in Hohhot but after this she would get what I could only describe as a panic attack if we mentioned a bath or took her near the tub so we didn't push it and used lots and lots of baby wipes for the remainder of the trip. Broke our hearts, she would get so upset but it was really one of the few things she had control over at that point so who can blame her.
There are a couple of hotels in GZ that many adoptive families stay at, The Garden and the China Hotel. Last trip we stayed at The Garden, this time our agency had us at the China Hotel. In Hohhot our room was teeny tiny so we were thrilled to have space to spread out and get organized since we were going to be in GZ for a week. We were also thrilled to see that there was a McDonalds right next door to the hotel. I know, sounds sad to be thrilled about McDonalds, but at this point we were all craving something comforting and Big Macs, Chicken McNuggets and Cokes (with ice!!!!) fit the bill. Truth be told we enjoyed getting to stay somewhere different, but kind of wished we were at the Garden again. There were more restaurants and shopping around the Garden which would have made things easier. We often felt at the China Hotel we were on an expedition looking for food, snacks, etc. which isn't always easy with 2 little ones. Our room at the Garden had a separate bedroom as well which would have been nice as Finley grieved pretty hard when going to sleep and it would have been easier on Chen Chen if she would have had another space to go to as this was happening. Rooms with separate bedrooms are available at the CH but would have been more.
Watching tv (probably Boonie Bears) with daddy and getting ready to go to sleep in her clothes. We obviously had no shortage of pillows in our room lol!
The next day we got up early as we had Finley's medical exam appointment that day. The breakfast at our hotel was excellent but it took a few days before I would have enough time to actually eat and enjoy anything between kids needing to go to the bathroom and Finley not really wanting to sit for any extended period of time. We probably looked like the lamest parents ever as she would push her food aside in favor of watching her iPad, but in all honesty she would have been tantruming and ruining everyone else's breakfast if we didn't. It was her escape from everything that was happening to her. After breakfast we met our guide Connie and made our way to the medical exam. The exam for Chen Chen took place on Shamian Island last trip, but this time we went to a building much closer to the US consulate. We went in and filled out some paperwork and then waited our turn with lots and lots of other adoptive parents...many of whom looked as frazzled as we felt so that was comforting! It was so awesome to see so many kids with their new families. They did a quick look over of her medical file, took her height and weight and then took her into a room by herself for a TB exam. I was a little fearful of this as the doctor's for CC's exam didn't have the best bedside manner but she did great, she came bounding out, no tears, and asked for her iPad back.
Going down for our first breakfast in GZ. Finley had obviously decided to change at this point, as she was sleeping I set out the matching outfits I had for the girls I we knew she really liked cute clothes. When she got up she first motioned that she wasn't going to change but when she saw the clothes she quickly stripped down! We weren't going to push the issue but she was in so many layers from Hohhot we were afraid she would be uncomfortable and sweaty all day. How beautiful are our 2(!) girls?!
Waiting for her exam with her precious iPad.
Waiting nervously for her sister while she was getting her TB blood draw.
After the medical exam we decided to take it easy the rest of the afternoon. We arranged with our guide to have our laundry picked up so we would have clean clothes and then we ventured out later to find a noodle restaurant that everyone in the adoption community talks about. It was so, so good and cheap! We fed the entire family for $10-$12 including drinks. I still dream about those dumplings that CC is eating, so good. We may have eaten there several times during our stay. The man who ran the restaurant was so nice to us and the girls and had a menu in English...huzzah!
Our consulate appointment for Finley's visa wasn't going to be until Wednesday so we had several days in GZ to fill before that. We had a couple of free days and a couple of days where our guide arranged to take us shopping and to a local park. On our first free day we decided to find a park that was "across the street from the hotel". After much walking, and sweating (because Finley wanted to be carried but did not want to use the carrier we brought) we gave up and headed back to the room. I decided to venture back out with just CC one more time to see if we could find it and sure enough we did, and a 7-11 so we loaded up on snacks and drinks. We went back and got Finely and Bob and headed to the park along with everyone else in GZ because it was Sunday and it was crowded. We thought it would be somewhere great for the girls to run off some energy but no, Finley wasn't hip to that plan and wanted to be carried, unless there were stairs and there were stairs, lots of uneven stairs that she terrified us by running up and down and then would go boneless and fall to the ground which was her signal for pick me up and carry me now. It was not relaxing at all and of course we were once again the subject of everyone's attention and stares so we called it a day and headed back to the hotel.
The one picture I got of Chen Chen at the park...she was such a trooper once again.
The next day our guide had arranged for us to go to Shamian Island and the pearl market to go shopping. We were looking forward to going to the Island again, but knew that pearl shopping was not in the budget so we asked if she would take us to the toy market instead as we had promised to pick some things up for Chen Chen since she was being such a trooper through everything. We started out morning in Finely's favorite place which was the play area at the hotel, she LOVED those swings. You could see them from our hotel room and she would stand at the window and look at them.
When we got to Shamian Island, one of the first places we went was Starbucks. We wanted to pick up some mugs for gifts and bob needed something caffeinated. I got a little homesick standing in a familiar environment listening to American Christmas music. We usually don't splurge on Starbucks at home but it was worth it for a few minutes of familiarity.
Our guide talked Finley into getting into the carrier but it only lasted a few minutes. As soon as she saw some squeaky shoes in a store she was out of it in a flash and of course the squeaky shoes came home with us.
I wished I had gotten pictures of CC with some of the statues on the Island last trip but didn't have a chance so I thought that this time I would...ha! I got one picture and that's it before went chasing after her little sister!
Our gift from China <3 (in her new squeaky shoes)
After the Island, our guide took us to the toy market. It is one floor of toys and multiple other floors of just about everything else in the world. If it is plastic, you can find it there. It was funny, Finley told our guide that she wanted a watch and our guide was adamant that the first thing we get was a watch for her and she seemed very concerned that we would be unable to shop unless this happened so she quickly found a stall where we bought an inexpensive bright pink plastic watch...which she refused to wear lol. CC got some knock off magna-tiles and a couple of other toys so she would have something to play with in the hotel. I picked up about a gazillion super cute hair ties for the girls with plastic bows and bears on them. I was quite proud of my haggling skills and feel like we got some good deals!
On Tuesday our guide had planned for us to go to a local park, after our experience on Sunday at the other park I have to say we were all a bit hesitant but decided to give it a go. We started the morning off at the wonderful breakfast buffet where CC declared that the cucumber juice was better than bacon...this may have been an exaggeration on her part!
We visited the play area again for some swing time.
I wish I could remember the name of the park we went to because it ended up being pretty cool and lots of great opportunities for photos...that is if you don't forget to put the memory card in your camera...grrr! I brought my DSLR with us but because our trip was so hectic I used my iPhone 99.9% of the time. I wanted to get some pictures of the girls at the park with my "real camera" but I failed so once again I used my phone.
Finally a picture of the 4 of us.
I asked CC to please take the cracker out of her mouth so I could get a good picture and she said "no mom, i'm making memories here!"
That woman who is behind CC with the camera was taking her picture as she sun and danced, once again we were the focus of everyone's picture taking. Our guide told us that people thought that Finely as a blonde haired American girl and that's why everyone wanted a picture.
they were fascinated by this little toy that a vendor was selling.
My favorite picture of the girls. You can tell how nice the weather was was in GZ, they stripped off their sweaters and were still warm.
On Wednesday we finally had our consulate appointment and the guy sitting behind the girls afterwards at McDonald's pretty much sums up how we were feeling at this point. No cameras or phones allowed in the consulate so no pictures which was just as well. When we arrived we went to the waiting area to wait our turn. There was a vending machine with what looked like bottles of water and since we were trying to keep the girls occupied we thought "what's the harm". I will tell you what the harm was, it was some form of sugar water. We let Finley have some and noticed immediately that her behavior changed, I tasted the water and upon discovering what it actually was explained that we were all done. Well she wasn't having it, The removal of the sugar water earned me an open palm slap across the face followed by meltdown after meltdown. It was finally our turn, we answered some questions, left more fingerprints and thankfully it was over pretty quickly. We weren't the only family with a child in meltdown mode there so as crazy as it sounds, that was kind of comforting...to see that you aren't alone. After our appointment we met our guide and headed back to the hotel. we met another mama who was traveling solo for lunch at McDonalds (fried pineapple pies y'all...that's right, fried) and then we went to a small indoor mall to see if we could pick up another piece of luggage since we would get to check an additional bag traveling home. Finley came with so many items from her foster family and school it was a struggle to get everything from Hohhot to GZ but we are so thankful to have all of those items for her for the future.
On Thursday it rained. It rained all day which was just as well since we had packing to do. It would have been nice to get out to the playground one more time but we found ways to stay occupied in the room. We were also waiting for our guide to deliver Finley's passport with visa that afternoon. This was the final document needed so that we could travel home the next day. there is always a remote chance it won't be ready on time so we were all holding our breath all day until it was delivered. We watched lots of Boonie Bears, packed, and made one more run for take out from the yummy noodle restaurant. I think Finley did most of the packing!
Eating up the last of our snacks before leaving.
On Friday we had to meet our guide at 5:30 am to take a van to Hong Kong for our flight home at 11:10 am. Last trip we took a train from GZ to HK the night before flying out and stayed at a hotel near the airport. This time we arranged for the van to take us the day of our flight to make things easier and it was worth every single penny. No dealing with another night in another hotel, no dealing with luggage, no dealing with over stimulated kids. They picked us up, we stopped briefly at the border to have our temps taken and documents checked and then were dropped off at the airport. Door to door service without delays or stress was just what we needed at that moment.
Checking out of our hotel at 5 a.m. I asked Chen Chen if she enjoyed the trip expecting her to answer that it was stressful, hard etc., but instead she said it was the best trip ever. Seriously this kid deserved a medal for her attitude during the previous 16 days.
Waiting for our plane in HK which had clean western style toilets and easily accessible stations to charge our electronic devices...bravo HK airport, bravo! The only stare we got was from an American woman in the security line ahead of us who gave her travel companion the elbow and whispered "albino" as she glanced back at Finley. She got a very cold stare from me in return. Seriously people, internal monologue...use it.
14 rough (rough, rough) hours later we landed in Chicago. The flight was smooth but poor Finley was understandably scared and hyper vigilant the whole flight, plus she decided to boycott the airplane bathroom so that made for an interesting and unavoidable Pull-Up change in row 22 (I will spare you the details). She slept for the first 15 minutes of the flight, and that was it. She was exhausted but did not sleep the whole flight home. Once again so glad we sucked it up and paid for the extra space in economy plus, I cannot imagine having to go through that flight and her restlessness in economy seats. That extra 6" of space was worth every over-priced cent. Poor Chen Chen was so done at this point and Finley fell asleep in the van about 2 seconds after our friend picked us up.
Her first picture at home (home!!) A fellow adoptive mama sent that doll for Finley and she immediately took it off her bed and carried it around.
I think Finley could sense that we were at our final destination as she immediately started to let her guard down and started to settle in. Please don't get me wrong, she is an awesome kid and we are head over heals in love with her, but she was very scared and uneasy at times in China and some of her behaviors did not mirror the little girl we knew was behind them and it made for some rough times. Especially when traveling with another child who is feeling displaced and insecure about their new position as big sister. So thankful for the adoption community and everything we had learned leading up to our trip that let us look beyond the behaviors as here we are 5 weeks home and I feel like we are in a good, dare I say great, place. We are sleeping though the night, routines have been established, we are navigating the language barrier, and she is happy, fun, and smart little girl who no longer feels scared and hyper vigilant. And she is taking bubble baths...lots and lots of bubble baths :)