Sunday, September 17, 2006

GOTCHA! Introducing Zoe Ann Yufei Varon

Zoe meets Mommy and Daddy for the first time. She was none too happy. This moment was followed by lots of crying - not only by Zoe, but nearly all the babies in the room. The GOTCHA moment happened so suddenly that we didn't have time to be emotional. That'll hit later, I guess.

The kids were SO excited, and tried valiantly to cheer Zoe up. Not a chance! I think she was burning up in the clothes she was wearing, but when we tried to take her jacket off, she started to scream. Doug and Katie were GREAT. I'm so proud of big brother and sister.

Back in the hotel room, we discovered that Zoe loves oatmeal. She also sucks her left thumb. Very cute. Note the cookie in her right hand. She held that for hours.

We'll post more about the morning later, but here are some special messages from Doug and Katie tho their classes

A special message from Doug to everyone in Ms. Townsend and Ms. Wood's second grade class - We finally got Zoe. It is very exciting. She is one years old and if you look at the top of the picture you'll see Zoe!
A special note from Katie to everyone in Ms. Houston's Kindertarten class - We just got Zoe, and I'm really glad that we got her. And my cousins got a baby too. Her name is Molli. And my family was the second one to get our baby. And my cousins were first.

On a side note, Linda and Don started a blog, too. Go to to see their story, and pictures of Molli.

More Photos from Beijing and Hefei

These photos below are a snapshot into our final day in Beijing. As is typical, these photos cannot describe the sights we saw; the vastness of Tian An Men square, the masses of people waiting in line for several hours to walk past Chairman Mao's tomb, the never-ending courtyards in the Forbidden City, the beauty and majesty of the Great Wall, and the pride and jubilation on our kids faces when they'd returned from the top of the mountain. Here is a snapshot, though:

Below, Doug is flying a kite in Tian An Men Square. It's hard to imagine the enormity of this square. This was one of the few spots in the square that had enough open land to fly a kite. Katie, Doug and Sean all bought kites. Lisa bought some gifts from people in the square. Lisa made the mistake at one point of asking a woman how much the thing she was selling was worth. She said 200 RMB. Lisa said "xie xie bu" (thank you, no). The woman then proceeded to walk next to Lisa for about 4 minutes trying to sell the item. Lisa finally broke down and bought the item for about 40 RMB ($5). I won't say what the item was because it will be a gift for someone back home.

Kathy in front of one of the hundreds of beautiful buildings in the Forbidden City. Right after this photo, we noticed that Kathy had been walking around with a bandaid on the seat of her pants. Katie had put it there as a joke earlier in the day. This was a little bit of humor in the middle of our LONG tour of the city.

Linda carrying Katie through the crowds with Jason close behind. All day long, we all kept a close eye on Katie. One reason - she's small and could easily get lost. Another reason is because people wanted their picture taken with her all day long, so we had to keep her clode. One time, when we were sitting, taking a rest, a man walked up to her and yanked her up into his arms so he could get a picture. I didn't see the whole thing, but heard that Kathy (Lisa's mom) sprang into action and got Katie back right quick! It all happened quick and we were all on guard after that.

The best sign we had seen all day! This was the exit sign for the Forbidden City, a tour dad described as torturous. I'm not sure I'd go that far, but . . . did we mention there were about a billion people there and it took about 3 hours to make it through it? After walking through about six massive courtyards (like 3-4 football fields each) surrounded by palace buildings, Ryan asked our guide how many courtyards there were in the City. She said about a hundred. He said, "Do we have to see them all?" We didn't, but it seemed like we did. Did I mention that there were 5 trillion people there?

The Xi'An clay soldiers. Doug said this reminded him of that scene in ET where ET is hiding in the closet amongst all the stuffed animals. This was taken in a cloissonne (sp?) factory on the way to the Great Wall. In the factory, they make and sell beautiful vases, along with other Chinese souvenirs. This is also where we ate lunch.

The Great Wall of China. In a word - Amazing! Here is the Gator bunch before making the big climb up. Notice the wall snaking up the mountain behind us?

this woman stopped and got her picture taken with every member of the family . . . except me.

On the way up the mountain are a series of watch towers where the ground is flat and you can rest. Linda, Lisa and Jerry made it just past the third tower. Don went to the sixth or seventh tower. I think the kids made to the eighth one at the top.

Here are the sweaty and thirsty kids after they got down from the top. Doug and Katie assured me that they yelled Go Gators from the top (by the way, the Gators won 21-20 in Knoxville). It must have been good Kharma.

Climbing down the STEEP wall. See the village below? That's our destination.

Waiting for lunch and swimming in the pool at the hotel in Hefei. Notice the lunch table, where you could just point to the noodle dish you wanted.

Welcome to Hefei

We landed in Hefei this morning at about 10:00 am. The airport was tiny (a lot like the one in Burlington, VT). All the kids wrote in their journals for pretty much the whole duration of the 1.5 hour flight. Doug couldn't wait to start writing about climbing to the top of the Great Wall with Jason, Sean and Katie. We (the parents) were very proud of them for all the kids. Ryan even made it almost all the way to the top - MUCH farther than Linda, Lisa and me.

The Great Wall, by the way, was amazing - definitely the highlight of the day. I would have to say that half of China was located at Tian An Men Square and the Forbidden City yesterday. I was scared to death that we would lose someone. I must have counted Varon/Derfuss/Paquette heads 3,000 times in three hours.

On the way to the bus after the Forbidden City (which is enormous and seems never-ending), we were accosted by beggars. Many were deformed in one way or another, and some women were walking up to us with dirty babies in their arms. This really affected almost everyone on the tour and the mood was very somber when we got on the bus. Rui tried to make us "feel better" by telling us that the women probably had stolen the babies and were using them to get money. This didn't make me feel any better. It was reality of life in China slapping us in the face. This place is very poor in spots. We are SO lucky to be healthy - SO lucky to live the life we do.

I should fill you in now on the pants mishap mentioned in Lisa's post below. I got my shorts back, thanks to Lisa and Rui. Lisa was typing the post about my missing shorts AS I was freaking out in the room. I had just realized that my pants were gone, packed, taken away! We were LEAVING the hotel at 6:30 am. No stores were open. Noone had any I could borrow. I was in full paanic mode. I was thinking that I would have to cut some holes in my pillowcase and wear it like a diaper on the plane. This would be the greatest embarassment of my 36 years on the planet. I finally came to my senses and called Rui to explain that I had accidentally packed something VERY important. She said "important?" I said "yes, my pants" She laughed, then asked if I could meet her in the lobby. I said that "I" couldn't, but Lisa would be happy to. Anyway, I'm happy to report that at around 10:45 pm, everything was OK again. Imagine, though if I hadn't had this epiphany until 5:00 am. I would have had a VERY bad day!

Our Hotel in Hefei is great! We have an adjoining room with Kathy (Lisa's mom) and it's like a suite with a fold out couch. The crib and a stroller were waiting for us in our room when we arrived. As I write this, we are around 12 hours from meeting Zoe for the first time.

We ate lunch at a neat place called noodles and chopsticks here in the hotel. We got four different kinds of noodles, which came in large soup bowls. We also had two 36 oz beers and two bottled water which fed six of us. The total bill - about $15. The food was fantastic in flavor and fun to eat with the big chopsticks. Even the kids had fun. After that, Lisa, Linda and the kids went to the swimming pool, where the all swimmers had to wear bathing caps. SIDE NOTE: The four kids swimming caps were purchased for $50 US at the hotel in Beijing - Damn right we're going to use them! END SIDE NOTE. Katie hurt her toe at the swimming pool. After losing some blood, Lisa wrapped it in bandaids and medicated her up. She and Jason are laughing right now.

More pictures will come later tonight.