Thursday, March 20, 2008

Visa, Farewell party and Homecoming

This is the final post from the Guangzhou branch. Yesterday we hit the leather market in the morning (four buildings full of purses, wallets, belts, etc.) and had fun bargaining on a few gifts. The quality of some of the knock-offs is amazing. Getting back proved to be the most challenging part of this adventure since we had to stand in the middle of a crazy street and fight for a cab. It seems to help to be big and have a baby strapped to you.

In the afternoon we made a short but important trip to the US Consulate. All of the babies received their official visas to travel to the US. The babies with both parents here get an IR-3 visa and they will become US citizens upon arrival in the US. Naomi gets an IR-4 Visa and won't officially be a citizen until we complete formal adoption paperwork in the US. We can do that about 6 months after getting back to California.

Last night we had our farewell party with the entire group. The China team led the way with rice wine and karaoke. They also had cute gifts for the girls (pearl necklace and jade piece for luck). It was a nice way to wrap up the trip. Today we just get packed and then head to the airport around 4pm. Our flight doesn't leave until 9pm but we need to get our seat assignments and make our way through customs. We are very happy to be headed home. Can't wait to see you all! Grant, Shelby and Naomi...

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Already making progress

Naomi is doing really well. She is already walking steadier and with more confidence. She is also getting a tiny belly b/c we are stuffing her with food every day. She is exploring more, talking more and generally having a good time. We are making progress with real food as well. Its been hit and miss but she is starting to enjoy trying new things and seems to be tolerating them well...

Red Tape

Today I spent 4.5 hours filling in the final paperwork for Naomi's US visa. Since I'm here without Steph I had at least 4 extra forms and a buch of supporting documents that had to be carefully filled out and organized. The USAA China team was very helpful and I'm proud to say I was one of the few parents that didn't require whiteout to complete everything.

We also got Naomi's Chinese Passport which is very cute. We are getting so close!

Dr. Rosen Rosen?

Monday we visited a tiny island in the middle of the Pearl River that is home to the US Consulate and a few top hotels. We were there to visit US Consulate approved doctors that screen all immigrants applying for visas. They don't really give the girls a check up so much as they make sure they don't have the bird flu or something else terrible and contagious.

Luckily we were the only group there so we didn't have to wait too long. Our Naomi was a strapping 18.5 lbs on her 17 month birthday. So yes, she is three months older than Jake and he is almost DOUBLE her weight. She has some catching up to do! She was good however and only really fussed when the nurse pryed her little mouth open to look at her throat.

After the check up it was time for more shopping and then a very tasty Thai dinner, complete with Singha beer.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Reunion Party

Sunday night was a lot of fun. The five families returned from the various provinces they had visited to get their babies and we all got reacquainted. The room for the party was decorated with hundreds of photos of past groups and with holiday cards sent to Norman by families he has helped. It was fun to see all the babies and to see the cute kids they had grown up to be.

I didn't know this before but Norman has had a number of celebrity clients, including Meg Ryan, Kathy Bates and Dan Marino. From his past work with the US Consulate he has cool pictures of him on the USS Kitty Hawk, with Congresswoman Barbara Jordan.

My favorite part of the night was watching the stoic and serious Norman play bartender with a random short order cook hat on. He and our guide Martin led the way when it came to shots of Chinese rice wine. Martin claims his record is 26 shots and I believe him. I don't think anyone in our group will challenge that...

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Temple of the Six Banyan Trees

On Sunday morning we visited the beautiful Temple of the Six Banyan Trees so the babies could be blessed by a monk for long life and happiness. It was a lovely ceremony and Naomi and I had fun climbing to the top of the 9 story main Temple.

Here is some background info I pulled of a random travel site:

The Temple of the Six Banyan Trees is over 1,400 years old and is one of the four best knownBuddhist temples in Guangzhou. It is located on Liurong Road (meaning the Six Banyan Trees Road) and has a rich collection of antiques.

Originally built in 537, the temple has been rebuilt several times, and the name has changed several times. The great Chinese poet Su Dongpo who lived during the Song Dynasty (960 - 1279) gave the temple its current name. It is said he visited the temple while returning to the north. During the visit, he found the six banyan trees there particularly striking. The vitality of the trees put him in a good mood and cheered him up. When the abbot of the temple invited him to suggest a name, Su Dongpo wrote down its present name.

There are multiple Buddas in the various buildings of the temple. Tianwang Hall has a laughing Budda and Weituo Hall has the statue of legendary General Weituo who recaptured Buddhist relics that had been stolen.

The most impressive architecture is the Six Banyan Pagoda. This pagoda is home to the most intricate and valuable Buddhist relics. Its roofs curve upwards and look like dark red flower petals. The tip of the pagoda is like stamens leading people like to call it the Flowery Pagoda.

To the west of the Six Banyan Pagoda is Daxiong Baodian Hall - the main hall of the temple. Three large copper Buddhist statues there are among the biggest and most ancient Buddhist statues in Guangdong province. They stand for present, past and future.

Burning joss (incense) sticks is a big event when visiting the temple. Every year during the Spring Festival and Lantern Festival, the temple becomes a busy area. People line up in droves in order to be blessed by gods in the coming year.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Notes from the field

Naomi has a new nickname. It's "Babyzilla". I gave it to her yesterday when, single handed, she turned our room into a combat zone. I'm thinking it would be a good name for a baby clothing line...

One of my favorite quirks about China are the many strange translations of Chinese you see. For example, at breakfast yesterday there was something labeled "chocolate cake". Only it wasn't chocolate...or cake. Or the previously mentioned "peas with ketchup" that are actually baked beans.

The English descriptions of parks and monuments tend to be particularly funny since the Chinese tend to use very flowery prose when writing about them. The translation is often like this, "The halls of Huo Zhong Jie combine the culture of an upright official, gardening arts and ancient building styles to form a special humane attraction of ingenious conception".

Another classic example is the literature from the orphanage. Their motto is "We stick to the culture belief human-oriented, homely center, sincerely love". Of course if one of us tried to write in Chinese I'm sure the result would be even funnier.