Friday, April 22, 2011

Leaving China


After a two hour van ride that included passing through customs, Katie throwing multiple tantrums, and Brenda's bladder nearly exploding, we are on a plane headed for San Francisco! I feel bad for our driver today. He earned his money. One crazy adventure is ending only to be replaced by the beginning of a new adventure for our family. I look forward to watching Bryan and Katie grow. Bryan received the Olympian Award at school, even though he wasn't there to accept it. God has truly blessed me with an incredible family. It still seems bizarre that we were allowed to travel around the world to impact the life of a beautiful little girl. Bryan is closer to me than ever. Brenda and I have been drawn together in a spiritual and relational way that I couldn't have anticipated. Now I look forward to building the Daddy/Daughter bond with Katie Joy. Our lives are changed, not by what we've done, but by God's action in and through our family. We are blessed to share life with our adopted brothers and sisters in Christ. As we prepare to leave Hong Kong, I pray for our new Chinese friends: Sharon, Sissia, Jack, and Becky. I pray for the Kennedy family as they head back to North Carolina, and I pray for the beautiful people of China. May God continue to draw the Chinese people to himself!

Last Day in Guangzhou


We're on our own today. After breakfast, we took a taxi to Shamian Island for some souvenir shopping. Today was a great one. Not sure if it was the European influence, the English speaking shop owners, or just knowing we are heading home tomorrow, but it was a good day. We ate lunch at Lucy's, a restaurant in Shamian Park that caters to adoptive families staying at the White Swan Hotel just up the street. Bryan and Brenda raved about their burgers and fries. We had chops (signature stamps) carved, bought some t-shirts, and a few small gifts for our families. Bryan and I played Chinese hacky sack with a lady in the park until she tried to sell the hacky sack to us for four times the cost in stores. We found a silk blanket for Katie and bought a traditional Chinese outfit for each of us. When we got back to the Garden Hotel, I told Brenda that I never needed to ride in the front seat of a taxi in China again. For dinner we ate at the hotel's Japanese restaurant. It wasn't great, but Bryan managed to use his chopsticks pretty well until a waitress brought him a fork. After dinner I went out to get Katie another can of formula. I stopped at a tea shop to pick up some tea and was treated to a traditional tea tasting. The shop owner sat me down and brewed a variety of teas for me to try. I bought more than I probably should have, but it was a very cool way to wrap up my last night in Guangzhou. We have Katie's visa and are heading to Hong Kong, then to the US tomorrow!

U.S. Consulate


We finally went to the US Consulate today. Becky had to leave us alone when we got to the floor just below the consulate offices. I lost my wallet in line while trying to calm Katie down, only to have a man behind me find it immediatley and give it back to me. Katie was having tummy pain, so she was crying a lot. We couldn't take the strollwer into the consulate office, so we were tried and a little on edge. We had left a paper we needed back in the States, so I had to fill out an affidavit promising to get Katie her shots, take it to a different room and window to get a receipt (even though it was a free service), return the receipt to the original window, give all the papers to the clerk, then wait for a notary. The notary called my name when the adoption coordinator was giving instructions. Once I jumped through all the paperwork hoops, Brenda and I took the oath for Katie, then signed the final form to get her visa. We should have the passport and visa delivered by Becky tomorrow afternoon. We are getting down to our last day in Guangzhou. I won't really miss having to find food for my family, but I will miss being able to spend so much time together. It's been a long and emotional trip, but I'd go through it all again to hear Katie laugh and say "Ba-Ba." God has blessed me with a wonderful family!

Guangzhou Zoo


No paperwork today, so we went to the Guangzhou Zoo this morning. Bryan and I fed giraffes by hand. We had to hold the branches of leaves together because the giraffes would wrap their long purplish black tongues around them and try to yank them out of our hands. It was too cool. Of course we couldn't come to China and not see a giant panda! Very, very cool experience. Becky talked about the pressure she feels being single in this society. Her job doesn't allow much time for dating or personal time. Becky is only 26, but feels intense pressure to marry. Two generations ago an arranged marriage would have been the norm. Brenda and I don't have a lot in common with Becky, but Bryan seems to be drawn to her like a big sister or an aunt. Becky is a bit of a chatterbox, so they've been having a blast together. They have been growling at the lions together and exploring the zoo like they are both 9-years-old.

Today was kind of rough for me personally. I've explored the streets of Guangzhou several times now, but I'm missing the familiar. Every meal feels stressful as I try to find food for my family. I am frustrated by language issues and uncertainty of my surroundings. We're typically dropped off at noon and left to fend for ourselves. We feel like Brenda needs to stay in the room with Katie and Bryan wants to stay with her too, so I'm stumbling around the city alone looking for take-out food I think everyone will like without making my blood sugar spike too much. The guess-and-point method of ordering food is getting a little old, let alone trying to explain that I want the food to go. Apparently the proper terminology is "take-away." I'm writing this late at night, and I guess I'm just tired and whiny. I'm going to sleep and hope my attitude is WAY better tomorrow.

Another Day, Another Facilitator


We started the day learning that we were being handed over to our fourth facilitator. We expected to have one in each city, but God has doubled our opportunity to build close relationships. Flexibility is the word of the trip. We were happy to get a negative result from Katie's TB test. Praise God! We went with our new guide (Becky) to the Chen Clan Temple. It used to serve as a school for that family's children, but now serves as a museum. The artistic carvings in stone, brick and wood was impressive, but the bone and ivory carvings were amazing! The skill and technique involved show incredible patience, artistic delicacy and mastery. Embroidery on display could easily be confused for paintings or even photographs. It was so awe-inspiring to view these works of art. Bryan and I met an artist and watched him create landscapes and panda portraits with ink and his bare hands... no brushes involved. We bought artwork for Bryan and Katie's rooms. Best of all, Katie seems to be adjusting well to being part of our family. It was a great day in Guangzhou. I still like the food better in Shaanxi than in Canton though.

Temple and Fellowship in Guangzhou


Today we went to the Six Banyan Tree Temple. Banyan trees are huge, beautiful trees. The pagoda at the temple leans to the right, so we weren't allowed to enter it. Jack told us about the many different buddhas, including a famous female buddha whose statue is said to watch over women and children. Single women pray in front of it for a good husband. Offerings of fruit, oil, water, and incense were everywhere on altars in front of the different buddhas. Most of the statues were gold, but one was a very dark wood. That statue was of the monk that started the temple. Since he was not considered a buddha, his statue couldn't be gold. Still, people worship in front of it. Three buddha statues were in the main building of the temple. They were ginormous! They represent past, present and future lives. A symbol that looks like a backward schwastika is on the chest of each buddha and represents the cycle of life. The dot located on the forehead is called a "third eye" that sees everything. We watched a ceremony that allowed people to bring in statues and other household items to be blessed by a monk. The monk sang over the items, banged on a wooden drum, and painted each item. This was supposed to give the item power from the buddha. The culture seems to be full of fear that evil spirits will enter home and business. Statues and other "good luck" pieces adorn the entries to almost every building to ward off the evil spirits. Emphasis is placed on fairies and power of ordinary objects to repel evil. I am reminded that all the power any of us needs is given to us by God. We don't have to rely on relics. We just need to trust God.

After the temple, we visited a local park, one of many in the city. I saw fellowship in action. People sang together, danced, exercised, rode amusement park rides, played badminton, and sat together sharing their beautiful surroundings. Groups of adults gathered for Tai-chi, children performed Kung Fu, and families walked and talked together. A large area with exercise equipment was packed with people stretching and strengthening their bodies. In a city full of tiny high rise apartments, this is the place people go to build relationships and experience life together. I LOVE Chinese parks!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Day at Shamian Island

We took Katie to Shamian Island to get her visa phot and medical exam this morning. Jack got us through the process very quickly. Katie cried more getting her picture taken than she did getting poked for her TB test. We went to the White Swan Hotel to use the Happy House. The medical center, photographer and hotel are on an island that was used by the British and French during the Opium War. The island's architecture is very European. The U.S. Consulate headquarters is also located on the island, though the adoption office is now located in another part of the city. We were just one of dozens of families adopting children waiting for physical exams. So many smiles in the midst of chaotic stress!

Jack talked about his Buddhist beliefs - that he hopes to be reincarnated to a better existence due to his good work in helping families adopt. My prayer is that he will find a relationship with Jesus so he won't have to worry about coming back as a cockroach. Instead, he can experience the unearned forgiveness and peace that only comes through a relationship with God's one and only son!

Jack also shared more about the history of China. The silk road led not only to Xi'an by land, but also to Guangzhou (aka Canton) by sea. We also passed a beautiful building with a blue roof build as a monument to Sun Ya-Sen, the Founding Father of Republican China. He led the overthrow of the Qing Dynasty, the last of the dynasties of China. Sun Yat-Sen was a doctor trained in the West. He served as the first provisional president of China in 1912. It is so interesting that God brought us to two cities that tie together in such an integral way in the fabric of China's history.