Monday, September 25, 2006

Chinese adoption is not for sissies

Julie Thomas, one of the moms in our group, had it right when she said: "Chinese adoption is not for sissies." Traveling with a one year old is never easy, add to that traveling in a completely foreign place, where you cannot speak or understand the language, with a baby you do not know very well, who has been removed from her home and routine, then add a series of government "requirements" which seem to have no order, and it makes for some stressful times!

Jerry mentioned the official medical exam in an earlier post. This exam is one of the requirements before Zoe gets her Chinese Visa. There were 3 separate parts to the exam. The first was with a doctor who checked her out all over, felt her spine, moved her legs, etc. He also looked at her rash and said "Scabies." Next was the ENT, where they checked her hearing by squeaking loud toys on either side of her head, and looked in her ears, nose and mouth. Last was weight, length and temperature. Zoe was 20.4 lbs., 77 cm, and her temp was normal. Judging by how much she eats, I don't think she's lost weight since we got her, so I think my original attempt to get her on the scale was not quite right.

We have not experienced such chaos since the day we got her. It was a walk-in clinic, and I guess the different adoption groups do not coordinate, because there were tons of adoptive parents and babies there. The doctors and nurses were extremely nice--I cannot imagine doing their job!! Despite that, every single baby screamed during each phase of the check up.

Zoe's rash does seem better, so maybe the doctors were right about the scabies, and the Elemite did the trick.

When I was preparing for our trip here, I found others' blogs very helpful. So for anyone out there who is getting ready to travel, here are some tips:

Things we did not need and/or did not bring:
  • Shampoo, soap, body wash-- had in every hotel
  • Exercise clothes -- no time, plus we did a lot of walking
  • blow dryers -- had in every hotel
  • thermos--Zoe likes her bottle room temp
  • umbrella -- hasn't rained yet, and they sell them everywhere if it had
  • robes & slippers -- had in every hotel
  • stroller -- had in every hotel
  • hot pots for boiling water -- had in every hotel
  • batteries -- they are cheap here
  • a purse -- I used my money pouch and a backpack the whole time
  • DVD players for the kids -- I liked 2.5 weeks without TV & they found plenty to do!
Things we're glad we brought:
  • Rice cereal
  • 10-15 diapers and small pack of wipes (the babies who are 23 mos old in our group are potty trained, and the moms wish they had pull ups)
  • 1 bottle
  • 1 sippy cup
  • teething biscuits (all of the above can be purchased here, but we did not get to the store until 2 days after we got Zoe, so I was glad to have a few supplies)
  • long sleeves and long pants for Zoe - even though it's hot, they are used to being dressed warmly and the AC is cool
  • ziplock bags in all sizes
  • snacks for us
  • bibsters
  • cheerios for Zoe
  • baby cold medicine
  • bandaids
  • Charmin To Go - toilet paper in convenient carrying case
  • Elemite
  • computer
  • camera and video camera
  • converter and adaptor
  • Enfamil sleeves of milk based formula -- very handy!
  • little scissors
  • baby links -- good for chewing on and attaching toys to stroller
  • money pouches -- we got the kind that hung around our necks for money & passports
  • baby carrier/snugli
  • good walking shoes
  • pepto bismol
  • casual clothes
  • 10 envelopes for money -- needed for Chinese officials
  • books & a book light -- for those nights (before baby) when I couldn't sleep
  • 3 ring binder (complements of Pam Eidson!) which held all our docs
  • Clothes for me: 2 shorts and 2 capris and about 7 shirts. (We've done laundry twice)
  • a little cylindrical plastic bag holder/dispenser thing (thanks Janet!) very compact & very handy for disposing of dirty diapers!
  • 1 little blanket for Zoe
  • 1 hooded towel for Zoe
  • Doug & Katie -- I would have missed them too much if they'd stayed behind!
  • The grandparents -- they have been a great help with the older kids!
Things we wished we'd brought:
  • Brand new crisp clean money -- ordered from the bank (we were told this, got newish money from our bank, and thought we were OK, but wish it had been newer and cleaner, because some was rejected).
Tip for Traveling:

Travel as light as possible! I am greatly reducing our carry on baggage for the trip home. It is too difficult to have a lot of bags and a baby!

A very funny story

My brother-in-law, Don, posted a very funny story on the Derfuss family blog. It is about the night in Beijing when he dined alone in the hotel's Tea Room. Click here to read it and prepare to laugh out loud. He told us about this the next morning at breakfast and we cracked up.

The Red Couch

It is a tradition at the White Swan Hotel for all the babies in each adoption group to take a photo on a red couch. Most parents dress their girls in Chinese clothing for the photo. At 3:00 today, all the families who adopted girls from Anhui province gathered by the red couch. The babies were placed on the couch, and it seemed like half instantly started crying. Some rolled around, some threw temper tantrums, some looked around like "what the heck is going on", and one laughed and sucked her thumb . . . Zoe. It was funny to watch.

But even funnier were the parents, grandparents and siblings of the girls, all jumping around waving their arms in the air and yelling their baby's name in a fruitless effort to make them look at the camera and smile. It was hysterical! I think my dad got a few pictures of the parents. I know I got some of it on video. Of course, I'm allowed to joke about this because I was one of those parents.

It's like reality TV for these Chinese girls. Cameras follow them everywhere, capturing almost every giggle, cry and fart. Some of them, I think, are fed up and have begun striking back by saying (in Chinese baby talk, of course) "I'm NOT going to smile for you. I'm NOT! I'm NOT! I'm NOT!"

Here is a photo. Zoe is on the left side of the couch. Molli is sitting next to her. They are the two youngest in the group.

Zoe and Molli on the red couch. Zoe looks like she's crying, but she's really laughing. Molli has really come out of her shell and is more playful and smiley. She and Zoe have also started interacting. For example, last night, Zoe knocked Molli down, then crawled away. Oh well, it's a start!

The lobby of the hotel. Just beautiful. You can walk behind the waterfall and look out over the pond. The pool has a waterfall, too. Since tomorrow is a free day, we'll probably spend some time there, lounging around and splashing in the water.

Zoe laughing while she crawls. I don't have a picture of it yet, but she started walking today. We got her some squeaky shoes, so every step she makes squeaks. I think Zoe was the last in our group to start walking. It's amazing how these girls have developed so quickly now that they are given an opportunity to really eat and exercise as much as they want.

Our family of (gulp) five, all dressed in Chinese clothing. The West Riverside Elementary shirt Doug is wearing is a very popular style here in China. All the local kids are wearing them!

Our adoption group in the lobby of the White Swan. We've traveled with these folks for a couple of weeks now and really feel like we've gotten to know most of them.

Photos from Guangzhou

What a nice place, this Shamian Island in Guangzhou. It's really a tropical paradise, with English-speaking shop-keepers and tasty food. All the shop's have English names, like "Jennifer's Place" or "Helen's Treasures" or "Ben's Gallery."

I can't go further without mentioning the laundry service. It's awesome! Same-day service, neatly folded and wrapped in plastic bags, all for about $15 for the 5 of us. We're thinking about washing everything on the last day, so we don't have laundry or ironing to do when we get home.

Zoe had a fussy day yesterday, but is happy as a clam (whatever that means) today. Here she is getting bathed in the sink. We wanted to just give her a quick sponge bath, but she plopped herself down and started splashing.

The hotel lobby here is gorgeous, with a big waterfall and pond filled with hundreds of huge goldfish. I will get a better picture and post it, but here are the kids looking into the pond from a bridge

Lisa, Kathy and Zoe went on the excursion to the temple. They say it was nice. Here are some photos they took.

While walking through the park, we saw this school class come out to exercise. THey were very orderly and walked in military formation.

Linda and I pushing the strollers on the way to the babies' official medical exam.

OK, here is a story. Our group arrived at the medical facility on Shamian Island. It was very crowded with locals getting checkups for whatever ailments they had. Rui led us to the back of the facility, into a 10x20 room that was PACKED with about 30 babies, 50 parents and 25 strollers. Lisa and Linda decided it would be wise for Don and I to head back to the hotel. Did we go? Absolutely! The women can fill you in on the details of the medical exam, but as for Don and me, we were happy to leave.

Here is a link to a video of Zoe crawling around with Doug and Sean. It's really cute, but kind of big, so give it a while to download.