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.

Monday, April 11, 2011

A New City

Katie's passport is in hand! We traveled by plane to Guangzhou where we met Jack Mao. He has been facilitating adoptions for 13 years, helping over 1,000 families. Guangzhou is a very modern / Westernized city. We are staying at the Garden Hotel. It is by far the nicest hotel I've ever seen. The room is a junior suite with an office, a living room, a large bedroom, and an incredible bathroom with walk-in / full room shower, remote control wall shade between the bedroom and bath, TV speakers, etc. When we arrived, there was fresh fruit and a gift basket for Katie filled with Johnson & Johnson bath supplies and an adorable stuffed panda dressind in a traditional Chinese silk shirt. So cool! We were exhausted, but the trip just became more of a time to be pampered. Before we left Xi'an, Bryan and I took a walk. We passed lots of children leaving school to get their lunch. Watching the kids interact and socialize reminded me that kids are kids, no matter where they are. Some greeted us with a little English. Others were startled to see pale-skinned, round-eyed, blonde-haired people. It was good to leave the protective bubble of the hotel and mingle with the people of Xi'an. They will always have a special place in my heart and in our family's history.


Today we met Sissia. She is a believer! We spoke openly about her church. She became a believer after missionaries came to her university. Sissia told us that Sharon is her best friend, but not yet a believer. Sissia said that Sharon was "deeply impacted" by our time together. We had to promise the government we wouldn't participate in missionary activities during our visit. I prayed that we could show people Jesus even if we weren't allowed to use his name. God already answered that prayer!!! Now I pray that God will use Sissia and us to draw Sharon and her family into a relationship with Him!

Sissia took us to the Chinese History Museum in Xi'an. She gave us a crash course in Chinese history. The Chinese people have been amazingly creative and ingenious throughout their history. They gave the world gun powder, paper, moveable type, and the compass. We walked thorugh the relics of past dynasties and received interesting insights into the belief system of the ancient Chinese societies. We left the museum and went to the Large Wild Goose Pagoda, a still-active Buddhist Temple. We watched as people bowed down to statues and burned incense. It was a sobering experience.

On the Katie front, today was encouraging. She loved the ball we brought and even army-crawled to get it. She laughs and plays. She still struggles with eating food, but we got her to eat a little baby food between sips of her bottle tonight. When she opens her mouth to scream she gets a spoonful. Baby steps...

P.S. After seeing one of the relics, I'm not sure I ever want to eat pork again. Ancient Chinese outhouses were two stories high and emptied directly into the pig pen. Yuck-o!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Terra Cotta Warriors / Goodbye Sharon

Today we became a family of tourists. We are waiting for papers from the notary and Katie's passport, so we were finally able to see more of Xi'an than the inside of the adoption office. We visited the Terra Cotta Warriors and went to a government authorized craft shop where replicas of the warriors are made using the same clay used over 2,000 years ago. Bryan was especially fascinated.

There are more than 6,000 warriors in Pit 1 alone. The warriors were part of the burial mausolium for Emperor Qin (pronounced Chin). He was the first to unite the kingdoms that are now China. The country gets its name from Emperor Qin.

The warriors were discovered in the 1970's during a drought when the govenment paid farmers to dig wells. One of the farmers happened to dig his well at the very corner of what is now Pit 1. He found a head of one of the warriors and thought it was a god. He blamed it for his poor crops. The government later took his land to excavate the site, later giving him more land. He is now a celebrity. He signed books at the site the day we visited.

The warriors themselves were created by hand, with no two sharing the same face. Only seven generals were found among the thousands of statues. Many were broken and/or had their weapons stolen during a peasant revolt. The statues were designed using ropes of clay, then sculpted in pieces, the heads being separate from the bodies. The bodies are completely hollow.

The warriors have designations that can be identified by their hairstyles and clothing. The vanguard wore no armor. They were the bravest of soldiers as they were the first to meet the enemy and first to die. Generals had a butterfly hairstyle. Their uniforms included ribbons, each representing 1,000 men killed. The highest ranking general had six ribbons. Other soldiers found included officers/advisors, infantry, cavalry, standing archers, and kneeling archers. Smallish horses were also sculpted. Bryan loved the horses since he was born in the year of the horse. Three pits have been excavated thus far, including "headquarters" where sacrifices were made to gods. We were impressed by the size and detail of what the Chinese claim as the "Eighth Manmade Wonder of the World." The actual burial site of Emperor Qin is a flat-topped mountain near the warrior site. It cannot be excavated due to mercury poisoning and traps built into the site, much like Egyptian pyramids.

The sad news of the day was having to say goodbye to Sharon. Sissia has returned and will take over as our facilitator tomorrow. I pray for God's blessings on Sharon and her family. I hope that God will put people in her path that will help draw her into a relationship with him through Christ.

We also had to say goodbye to our driver, Mr. Fong. How can I describe travel in Xi'an? Imagine millions of cars trying to go to the same place on 4 lanes. Did I mention that they have to get there at the same time? The result is a giant game of chicken with bicycles, tricycle transports, and motorcycles weaving in and out wherever they see a crack in traffic. Pedestrians are on their own and NEVER have the right of way. Cross one lane at a time if you dare. Pedestrians are the modern equivalent to the Qin army vanguard!

P.S. Helpful information of the day: A Chinese bathroom is called the "happy house."

Deatils of Gotcha Day

What an amazing couple of days. As I write this, Katie and I are the only ones awake. The past two days have been exhausting for all of us. When we received Katie, her condition was more severe than we were led to believe by her orphanage. She was not sitting nor standing. Solid food had not been introduced. She had severe congestion and did not want to be held. She had apparently been left on her back at all times. Her eyes could not focus, though her hearing seems fine. She has multiple sores on her very underweight body. My heart breaks thinking of the neglect she experienced. It was so bad that Mr. Yung, the adoption office director, recommended that we stop the adoption until Katie could be seen by a doctor. We could decide to walk away if her condition was too severe. If we went forward with the adoption, we were bound to Katie. Without hesitation Brenda and I said that Katie is our daughter. Her condition didn't change that fact. Our facilitator didn't understand at first, then broke into tears and hugged Brenda, then kissed Katie. The room stopped. The people there were stunned by our display of unconditional love. We were only displaying the love God first gave to us. After Katie officially became a Longley and we passed on the bulk of our Chinese money (Yuan), Brenda and Sharon took Katie to a hospital. The doctor gave Katie a breathing treatment, cleared her lungs with a tube and prescribed several very pungent medicines. She also said that Katie's condition was largely due to the care she received at the orphanage. With our patience and help, she can improve. Back at the hotel, Katie sat on my lap for the first time. She ate three Cheerios (sort of) and seemed to be a different little girl than the one who screamed when held only a day before. God is merciful and loving.

P.S. Brenda's basketball skills came in handy with the Cheerios!!

Gotcha Day

3-21-11 (Morning)
Today is the day! Gotcha Day is finally here!! I can barely contain my excitement and anxiety. I forgot to mention that we met our Xi'an facilitator yesterday. Her name is Sharon. She took us to a restaurant themed on the Qing dynasty. Tables were made of thick wood and were higher than regular tables. The chairs were made of huge tree stumps. We could barely move them. We ate a variety of dumplings, some with chicken, others with pork and cabbage. They were fried or boiled. There was also a spicy dumpling soup. A sauce of vinegar, curry and ginger was used as a dipping sauce. So good! Breakfast at the Gate West restaurant was also very yummy. Glad we get to eat there again. The Sheraton Xi'an is a beautiful hotel, though the view out our window reminds us that living conditions are very different here. We leave to get Katie in ten minutes! Our lives are about to change forever!! I pray for God's blessing and peace on our daughter.

(Late Evening)
We received Katie at 10:00 am. Read tomorrow's post for details. I experienced the Bank of China, where our US dollars were examined VERY closely by three different bank employees. Guess I look like a counterfeiter. I also went to a Chinese grocery store where I bought Katie's stroller, diapers, and Sprite / Fanta Orange Soda for Brenda and Bryan. The store was next to a Home Depot. Free enterprise in action in the People's Republic!

Thoughts from China

I wasn't able to access the blog while on our adoption trip, so I went old school and kept a handwritten journal. The following entries will take you through our experiences. God is good!

Woke up in Hong Kong. The fog makes it impossible to see the city. We're staying at the Marriott Hong Kong Skycity Hotel. Had our first oops moment of the trip. We had been told by our agency that breakfast would be provided by our hotels, so we went to the Sky City Bistro for breakfast. It was delicious, but definitely not included in the cost of our room. We paid HKD 542.70 (about $75 US) for breakfast. Yikes! Guess it was a birthday breakfast for Katie. We found out later that there was a less expensive option elsewhere in the hotel. We'll check that first tomorrow at the next hotel. We're hoping our flight to Xi'an won't be delayed by the fog. Come on sunshine! P.S. I'm a fan of dragonfruit!

3-20-22 Part B
The Hong Kong airport gave us our first real culture shock. Armed security personnel walked around with automatic weapons in hand. Eating at the food court was a challenge due to our uncertainty about the exchange rate and whether to take food descriptions literally or not. Brenda and I ate a noodle soup, Bryan ate McDonald's and we rushed to make our flight. Brenda seemed a little overwhelmed, but we made it to Xi'an and checked into the Sheraton Xi'an. The beds were small, but they already had Katie's crib in the room. That made us realize that we're going to have her living with us tomorrow! It's really going to happen!