Wednesday Update

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LAST HURDLE CLEARED!!!!!!!!!! We have Ruth'svisa and a free ride to the airport - thanks to the adoption agency!

We're coming home!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

See you all very, very soon!

From Avisia VI

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Hi,

Well - not knowing when Molly may come with the visa, and needing a break, we've spent today at the hotel. We went swimming this morning and for the firswt time in China I have a sun burn. Ruth is getting more comfortable in the water but still not ok with going under. It is a bit of a bummer for her because it is all about 1-2 meters deep so she can't do anything unless we are holding her. The Highland pool is really going to be good for her.

We're still waiting for that visa. Hopefully it is coming soon.

I think David put new pictures up today. We have taken some movies too but we can't post those because they are too big.

I joined the 21st century last night (China time) and we skyped with Wendy and the boys. It was a total blast (and free!). Eric said to Ruth "Hi Ruth - you don't know me right now but I'm your big brother Eric and you're going to know me real soon." Both boys were emphatic that we bring her home soon! If anyone wants to skype tonight, tomorrow morning or tomorrow day, email both David and I to set up a time and one of us will get back to you. In Minnesota time - that means we're available Wednesday morning, Wednesday evening or Wednesday overnight to Thursday morning. We'll be checking out the hotel probably 5 AM Thursday morning Minnesota time.

Our brains are becoming spaghetti trying to figure out the difference in the time zones between now and Friday. We do leave Guanzhou at 9:00ish PM on Thursday night and arrive at 7 PM in LAX, also Thursday night. Then wait for the red eye to MSP.

The clothes are dried and we're polishing off the food. Getting ready for the flight home. It has been quite a trip and we appreciate everyone's support so much!

Love to all,

Avisia

Morning Silly Pictures

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Getting silly with the pastel Legos. Enjoy! She did!

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From Avisia V

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Hi!

We just returned from the US Consulate. Our facilitator will be bringing us (we hope) Ruth's visa tomorrow by 5:00 PM. I'm really hoping their printer is fixed as there were 12 families at 8, 24 famileis scheduled for 10 and on throughout the day. It was strange to hear English on the overhead speaker but it was refreshing. We basically promised that everything we had said to date was true. We found out that Ruth will become a US citizen when we land (not when we enter US airspace). She will leave Guangzhou a Chinese national and arrive in LAX as a US citiizen. That was one expensive Chinese passport.

They did say it is technically an option for us to keep and use her Chinese passport but IF we want to be able to avail to her all the benefits of a US embassy abroad, she needs a US passport. Guess what we're going to do?

We have finished our end of paperwork now and have three days to "hang out" on Shamian Island where our hotel is located. Many restaurants and parks. No shopping mall which is a bummer for me (Avisia) - not so much to David. David the last several mornings has taken to doing a run around the island before the rest of us wake up. He is wearing his barefoot running shoes which has gotten a few stares. He has also "run into" the military doing their exercises early in the morning.

We ran into a family from Kentucky that only had one more day to legally adopt their little girl. They are in quick conversation with their senators and representatives offices. So glad that we are not in that situation!

We received the translation from the adoption staff of the questions we sent earlier (as in months ago). We received it when we got Ruth but forgot in all the hubub to get it translated until now. It turns out that her nickname is "JingJing" - and she loves it.

Not really sure where the quiet, shy girl is because at the Consulate she was yelling and whooping it up and dancing - so much so the guards were starting to get annoyed so we had her dial it back.

Yesterday we went swimming on the top floor of our hotel. Kind of surreal to be in a major metro area 10-12 flights up in the air in a pool with a little girl. Traffic was buzzing all around (car - not air traffic). I took many pictures there. We had Ruth kicking and blowing bubbles in the water. She wasn't so fond of going underwater so only did that once. She definitely likes the water and we were teaching her how to splash so she will stand a chance against her brothers at the pool.

That's all for now,

Avisia

From Avisia IV

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Hi,

Today was such a welcome relief!

We briefly visited the clinic to confirm Ruth's negative TB test. Then Molly, our local facilitator, took us to her temple for a blessing by a monk. No 400 steps this time! Barely 3 steps from the car to the entrance - my kind of temple! It was the Six Banyu (sp?) Tree temple and there were many flowers, trees and offerings. I think I have this right but David will correct if not - offering peanuts = happiness, apples = long life. In the ancestor's building, there were many apples, then there was one plate with an apple, a peach and a granola bar. I could just see a little child picking out the granola bar to offer to their grand parents.

The monk who gave the blessing was very peaceful and kind. We learned that Buddhists often do things in threes - once for the past, once for the present and once for the future. There was some exquisite embroidery there too. We were there for all of about 30 minutes. Then Molly took us shopping in a huge complex equivalent to 2-3 times the size of Mall of America. She whipped us through that joint like a pro. She knew all the good shops and where the good bathrooms were (gotta love that!) Then took us back to the hotel through a farmer's market where we saw live scorpions. Once prepared, scorpions are thought to clense the body. I couldn't even take a picture of them I was so freaked out - but I did take a number of other pictures.

The rest of the farmer's market was pretty cool though. Many teas, herbs, vegetables, rice, etc.

Tonight we are going to try a Thai restaurant close to the hotel. We've been told they can make it spicy or not spicy. Wonder if they can make it Scandinavian not spicy???

Tomorrow we are set to go see the US Consulate office to get Ruth's visa started so we can hopefully pick it up on Wednesday. At first, we were going to try to see if we could move our flight up by one day as that is the last step. Molly cautioned against it as there were three US couples last week who were told they could "anticipate" their visas on Friday but then the printer broke and they couldn't get them until Monday. They lost all of their reservations in Hong Kong and had to rebook their flight - yep, they lost the money on the flight too. How many relatives of those families do you think contacted the state department to complain about a freakin' printer breaking in one of the largest commercial cities in China? And trust me, there should be enough staff here who could have fixed it. Kind of makes a person wonder whazzup........

We DON'T want to be in that situation obviously so we will stay with the existing schedule - anticipating being back in MSP by Friday morning and crashing until noonish.

Peace & Love to all,

Avisia

From Avisia and Me

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Friday started off very slow, intentionally. We knew it was going to be tight at the end of the day so we stayed close to the hotel. We checked out around 2:00 and hung out in the hotel lobby/coffee bar. Syriana was on the TV (NOT LITTLE KID APPROPRIATE!!!) David had been talking to Aaron throughout the day and things were looking fairly good. At 3:00 we got the call the passport would be ready. At 4:05 we got a call that we would need to take a taxi to essentially the county sheriff's office to finalize the passport process. The challenge is that it closes at 4:30 but Aaron wouldn't have time to get the "almost" passport from the local police, get to us and then turn around to get to the sheriff's office by 4:30.

Here is where the hell began:

  • 4:10 Bell boy called a taxi - we got in and it seemed to take forever to get teh luggage in the cab. Aaron said we were close to the office - that it would only be about $2-3 in fare - so I didn't push (or scream - which come to think of it I haven't seen anyone do here).
  • 4:15 - We are smack dab in the middle of rush hour traffic. The taxi driver seems to be listening to the equivalent of the KQ morning talk show. A lot of attitude. He seems unphased by it all - my stress starts building.
  • 4:20 - Still not there and many signs are in English and Mandarin. I'm not seeing anything close to Government services on any of them. Even in China you can tell the difference between a business building and a gov't building - like you can in the US. Nothing is looking even vaguely close.
  • 4:22 - I call Aaron to let him know what is happening praying that our taxi clock is running fast. It wasn't. Aaron asks to speak to the driver - the driver waves his hand in one direction trying to tell me something but I don't understand. I hand David all of Ruth's paperwork, the money and he has Ruth in his lap. We agree he'll take off like a shot once the taxi stops and I'll take care of paying. The driver hands back the phone to me and it looks like Aaron is still on but I can't hear him. I fear this means we're too late. That would have meant we needed to add on 3-5 days to our trip. NOT GOOD.
  • 4:28 The driver pulls in front of hotel. This is where I swear. David looks behind us and that is where the sheriff's office is - he takes off with Ruth and the paperwork. I quickly pay the driver and grab our other bags including two roller bags and RUN. I charge through the door at 4:29.
  • We made it in the door but the attendant is adament that she is closing her door at 4:30. We quickly sign the papework, show our passports. Aaron graciously thanks her as he grabs Ruth's passport. I nearly pass out.

Then we are flying down the highway to make the flight. Poor Ruth who has only had one of her three hour nap, knows us enough to know we are very stressed, on top of rush hour traffic - finally loses it. She just starts crying non-stop and I can't blame her. David and Aaron are talking back and forth very quickly to ensure the airline has her passport number because without it it may appear that we are traffiking her. Aaron is frustrated as China offices are closing and US offices haven't opened. David is frustrated because this is increcibly stressful. Ruth and I just rock back and forth. Eventually the airline situation is resolved, Ruth settles - and I want a beer.

After all of this - we are waiting in the airport for 3 hours for our flight with a preschooler who hasn't really napped and no decent dinner. All of the stores in the airport just sell ramen noodles and beer - not a sandwich or bowl of soup to be found. Then, a thunderstorm hits and the ones that have gone through Beijing are very present in my mind. There is another mother there who is Chinese also with a daughter. I decide she will be my gauge about whether or not to flip out about the weather as the airport is mostly glass (walls and ceiling). She cautiously looks at the weather but stays seated and doesn't say anything to her husband. I figure we're ok at least for the time being.

In the end, the flight does leave just a bit late but all 3 of us are seated together. Ruth does EXCELLENTLY for what must be a very trying time. She looks at us as the cabin pressure changes but doesn't say anything and then goes to sleep. We land at midnight, grab our bags and then our driver takes us the 30 minutes to our hotel. I'm so worn out by this point that when we get out I forget two bags, including teh one with all of our money in it. The driver graciously grabs it and we check in and go to sleep.

The next morning, we visit teh doctor's office and that all goes well. We also make the final large-ish payment. Then it is back to the hotel and all of take a VERY LONG nap.

Today (Sunday) we had a lazy day. David and Ruth went for several walks and swam in the rooftop pool. I am recovering from a cold so stayed in the room most of the day. We went for a walk tonight and had dinner at an American diner. The walk there had many British/Chinese sculptures/statues and we took a number of pictures. Ruth also, for the first time, chose to play at a playground nearby.

Ruth is also practicing what David calls "Chin-glish" and I'll let him write about that as my time is nearly up.

Overall we are enjoying ourselves but are also looking forward to coming home.

Peace & Love to all,

Avisia


Hi, everyone, David here. I would like to let the record indicate that Avisia has never needed a gauge as to when to flip out. Whatever trips her trigger, that's what did it. Whatever.

I would also like the record to indicate that I have no complaints about this trip. None. Not one. I had a day when I had my own version of a cold. I went to bed early. I had a day when I was "fed up" with being a foreigner. I read my book.

Family unity is important to me, and I don't like airing laundry. Not mine, not Avisia's not anyone's. But I will register a note of dissent with my lovely wife. Aaron had the situation well in hand, and he did what needed to be done. Our job was to stay calm. I'm not so sure we held up our end of the bargain.

Ruth is experimenting with English, and she's doing what I've heard called "Chinglish": a mixture of Chinese and English in the same expression (sentence, phrase, what have you). She's also trying out English words ("Hello", "Bye bye", counting to 5) with her Chinese pronunciation. As a linguist, it's fascinating. I have a recording of her I'm going to send to some of my old professors at the U.

Time for bed.

D

Leaving Jinan

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Well, the trip is officially half-over. We are scheduled to get Ruth's China passport in about an hour, then its off to the airport. Tonight will be tough, as we leave Jinan at 9:05p.m. and arrive in Guangzhou just before midnight.

I expect Ruth to protest at some point, but she's been excellent so far. We were careful to have an early lunch so she could catch some shuteye before we checked out at 2:00.

See you soon,

David

From Avisia III

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We visited briefly Shandong University today. Across all of the campuses it totals 100,000 students. Students pay $4/night to sleep there, or as little as $1/night if they are willing to share a room with three others. I asked Aaron if they had to work then during the day to earn their keep - he looked at me with a blank face (unusual for him) - and said "why, no! They are students - their job is to study!" Could have knocked David and I over at that moment knowing what Laura is facing for tuition.

Many families were out enjoying the campus, many grandparents with grandchildren. Akin to what we would see at a neighborhood park.

We then went to the Lutheran Cathedral. Aaron, David (and Ruth in the baby carrier) talked with the person in charge of renovations as the entire cathedral is being redone inside. I ran around snapping pictures. This won't surprise anyone - but the parts of it that I just love were the fusion between East & West. There were Buddhist prayer flags flying behind the cross on the front of the building. Inside, there were German flora & fauna in the paintings, surrounded by Mandarin symbols. There were paintings of angels anchored by typically eastern designs.

Back to the person in charge of renovations - they were in a deep discussion about how only elders are in the pews now. Too many of the younger generation want to "chase the money" so only older people are studying to become priests. David and Aaron agreed that it is a problem in their religions too. A little mini-summit between Buddhist, Lutherans and Catholics there. The person in charged summed it up by saying "that is the question for our age." I would have loved to sit down and have tea with her to talk to her some more but it was time for us to go.

We have one day left in Jinan and then we are off to Guangzhou. There is much that we haven't seen here, including the temple to Confuscious where all Chinese scholars must study for a while. However, it is time for us to hone in and get ready for the flight tomorrow night. We are hopeful Ruth's passport will be ready in time.

Ruth is continuing to open up more which is good to see. We have nick-named her "our little gopher" because she has the chubbiest cheeks and the biggest grin. Her smile now reaches her eyes which is good and she is starting to joke with us. She continues to be very fastidious and put all of her toys away on her own. And when I say away, I mean away -they were in their bags off to the side and the table was completely clear. She also wants to clean her hands after she eats a single piece of fruit. However, making her bed this morning was not at the top of her list, even after David's encouragement. We'll coddle her for a while on that one!

She and David went for a walk this morning and saw some gorgeous kites. Aaron mentioned that seniors will sail kites for exercise. They also walked along the city wall from ancient times for a while. Now they are at the grocery store getting some - wait for it - Ramen noodles - for us to have in the hotel room. We're getting done with hotel/take out food. (A really good Ceasar's salad right now with baked chicken sounds soooo good but is sooooo far away).

The weather that hit Beijing - where 100 people died in their cars, did not reach us. From what we could tell, unless it came in the middle of the night, we have not had any rain. It would be a welcome relief. Everyone is still healthy too which is very lucky.

Well - I'm off to the hotel room now to either watch CNN or HBO - the only two English channels. We did get another free newspaper in the room - in English - which kind of rocks as I neglected to bring any books and finished the magazines by the second day here.

Peace and love to all,

Avisia

From Avisia II

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It is a little disconcerting how often we want to turn to use our phones to connect to the Internet to figure something out, email someone or call someone.

I'd love to say that I will be better about that (less tech dependent) when I return to the states - but I have to say that isn't likely. I would have been a horrible pioneer wife - would have had to move back east to stay sane. That's just me.

Time Flies So Fast

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Hi, everyone,

We've really been enjoying ourselves here in Jinan, thanks largely to the assistance we've received from Children's Home Society and Family Services. We've been working with Aaron, the CHSFS representative here, and the process is going very well. We hope to have Ruth's China passport by the end of the week, and then it's off to Guangzhou for the USA part of the process.

Jet lag, as you might expect, has been the only inconvenience. Last night, I went to bed at 9:00 p.m. and was up by 3:00 a.m. Six hours, but odd timing. I went back to bed at 4:30 and woke up again at 7:00, for a total of 8.5 hours, but fragmented sleep has always been hard for me.

I shouldn't complain. The time we have spent here has passed so quickly. We need to remember every minute we are here. I will so gladly send Ruth and Henry, and even Eric to China in the future for foreign exchange and especially for study. The countryside is beautiful, the people are warm and accepting, and the long history of China, both modern and ancient, is fascinating.

See you soon,

David

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