Tuesday – Consulate Appointment, Shopping, Touring, and the Pearl River Cruise

Today was a full day – much fuller than I actually anticipated it would be. I got less sleep than anticipated, but it was partly for a good reason. FangFang woke up around 4:00 needing her diaper changed, so I took care of that and put her back in her crib, but about 5 minutes later, she burst into tears and announced that she wanted to be in my bed. I put her in bed with me, fully expecting her to tell me immediately that she wanted to go back to her own bed, but she didn’t, and she actually slept with me for the rest of the night! Unfortunately our night ended at 6:30, much too early for this night owl, as we had to meet our guide in the lobby at 7:30 to head over for our Consulate Appointment.

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At the Consulate Appointment, you present your child’s information and medical exam results to the Consulate, you take an oath that it’s all correct to the best of your knowledge, and they take your child’s passport to work on issuing the visa. That was our last official appointment here in China! Now we wait for FangFang’s visa to be issued so that she can legally enter the United States, at which point she will become a US citizen! It should arrive tomorrow afternoon, though the consulate recommends that adoptive families not leave the area until 2 days after their appointment, just in case of an unexpected delay.

We took advantage of the rest of this day to do some more exploration of Guangzhou. I mentioned to our guide, Elsie, that we’d like to visit the pearl market and the jade market, and she said on the way back from the Consulate Appointment that if Danny and Sharon and Mei Mei could get ready, we could go in about 20 minutes, so we threw things together in our room and got ready to head out!

Elsie took us to a jade store she recommends and at which she can get a significant discount and then to a store for pearls, and we looked around a bit at the surrounding stores, as well.

These ladies are FAST at putting together the pearl necklaces!
These ladies are FAST at putting together the pearl necklaces!
a pedestrian street near the Jade and Pearl Market building
a pedestrian street near the Jade and Pearl Market building

By the time we were done, we weren’t sure there was enough time to head back to the hotel and grab lunch in that area before we’d need to meet up with the rest of our group for the afternoon’s activities, so Elsie recommended a restaurant near our meeting spot, and we enjoyed a good lunch there!

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Then we met up with the rest of our group and went over to the GuangXiao Temple, an active Buddhist temple, which we enjoyed exploring, and Elsie told us some about its history and about Buddhism and its presence in China.

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Next we went to the One-link Market for toys and gifts. It’s sort of like a Chinese version of a combination of Pier One, Michael’s, Hobby Lobby, and a flea market. Here was a store at which we bought a few things.

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Shopping there with 2 small children was actually pretty stressful for me. The aisles are super narrow, so it’s impossible to keep far enough to the center that your kids cannot touch items on either side of the aisle, and it’s not laid out in any sort of logical fashion, so it’s not like you can just go in with an idea of what you want and get it – you have to wander and look around. And there are no western toilets. But…we were only there for about an hour and a half, and Daniel and Sharon had a number of gifts they wanted to buy and were able to get a lot there, and I was thankful we made it out without breaking anything.

We’d wanted to do the Pearl River Cruise, and its dock was near the One-link Market, whereas our hotel was across town, and Elsie wasn’t sure we’d have time to make it there and back before the cruise would depart, so we just went straight to the dock after our time at the market. We’d left for the pearl and jade market earlier thinking we’d just do that and then be back at the hotel to pack up for the rest of the day, so it was a little stressful not getting to return, but we made the best of it.

We actually arrived too early to board the boat itself, so we walked around some, saw some more sights, and found a western toilet for Madeleine CaiQun! And little FangFang, on her third day running of no-afternoon-nap (because her mommy keeps accepting offers for afternoon plans), took a brief snooze in the stroller 🙂

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Then we walked back to the dock for the Pearl River Cruise. We went ahead and did the dinner buffet with it, and the food was fine, though not spectacular. What really makes this a fun activity is getting to see all the lights, including those on the Canton Tower, one of the tallest buildings in the world.

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Then it was back to the hotel for a little bit of play time and getting ready for bed! FangFang couldn’t decide (or enjoyed making me go back and forth) whether she wanted to sleep in her crib or my bed, but she ultimately ended up in her bed, and we’ll see where she finishes the night!

There are some things we’re planning to do tomorrow, but we don’t have any early morning deadlines, so I’m hoping to get some good sleep tonight! It’s hard to believe, but tomorrow is our last full day in Guangzhou! I love being in China, in spite of its challenges, but I am so looking forward to being home and seeing Matt and Miranda and Atticus, plus my mom and my other family members who are arriving for Christmas. I’m also fantasizing about potable tap water and widespread availability of western toilets. There is so much I love about China, and I hope it’s not too many years before I’m back here again, but I also cannot wait to get home!!

It’s Starting to Get Real – Some Travel Plans (and a Huge Prayer Request)

Since our Travel Approval (TA) was issued on Monday, my life has consisted almost entirely of staring at many browser windows, each containing many tabs, each containing a possible flight itinerary for getting us to and from China, plus a chat with a travel aficionado friend who was helping me look at our options, and then multiple phone calls and e-mails with our travel agent, our agency, and my brother and sister-in-law, who are traveling with me. It was all, to put it mildly, rather exhausting.

BUT we received our first choice Consulate Appointment date (12/20), and we now have our international travel tickets! I still need to arrange the domestic side of things, but that will hopefully come together this week, as well. The international piece was really more pressing. Here’s our working draft of our schedule!

  • Wednesday 12/07: Madeleine CaiQun and I will fly from St. Louis or Kansas City to Newark
  • Thursday 12/08: Madeleine CaiQun, my brother, my sister-in-law, and I will fly from Newark to Hong Kong
  • Friday and Saturday 12/09 – 12/10: We’ll spend these days acclimating to the time change and doing a bit of sightseeing in Hong Kong
  • Sunday 12/11: We’ll travel from Hong Kong to Nanning, the capital city of Guangxi, which is the province that our little Fang Fang is from and where her adoption will be finalized
  • Monday 12/12: Family Day! We will take custody of our girl <3
  • Tuesday 12/13: Adoption Day, when her adoption will be finalized
  • Wednesday and Thursday 12/14 – 12/15: We’ll be in Nanning waiting for Fang Fang’s passport to be processed. Depending on how we’re all doing, we may go to her city and request to visit her orphanage.
  • Friday 12/16: We’ll travel to Guangzhou, where the US Consulate is
  • Saturday 12/17: We’ll have Fang Fang’s immigration medical exam
  • Sunday – Monday 12/18 – 12/19: Free days in Guangzhou while we wait for the results of Fang Fang’s medical exam to be ready
  • Tuesday 12/20: Consulate appointment at the US Consulate in Guangzhou
  • Wednesday 12/21: If all goes according to plan, we should receive Fang Fang’s visa
  • Thursday 12/22: Travel from Guangzhou to Hong Kong and take a flight out of Hong Kong that evening back to Newark, arriving around 9:00 PM and spending the night in a hotel in Newark
  •  Friday 12/23: Madeleine CaiQun, Fang Fang, and I will fly back to St. Louis or Kansas City (probably with my dad flying with us to help – I’m not sure it would be wise for me to tackle that flight by myself with 2 exhausted kids in tow!)

I am so thrilled to be DONE looking at international flights. Because we have multiple people coming from multiple locations but wanting to converge before the international flights, and because we’re booking tickets reasonably close to when we’ll travel, and because we had flexibility in some things but definitely some preferences and no flexibility in other areas, it was pretty complex. And then there was some gymnastics involved in getting the actual best fares – in order to save about $1200, we have 4 of us booked on Cathay Pacific and one on American Airlines (but for the same flight) and 4 standard Travel Agent tickets and 1 direct buy ticket. It’s pretty crazy. Adoption Airfare was super helpful in working through all of it with me, though!

And now that we have more definite dates, we can get to work on planning the travel specifics and doing little things like packing 🙂

I’ll have a post soon with a whole list of prayer requests for our journey, but in the meantime, I have a pretty urgent prayer request. Fang Fang is, right now, at an amazing foster home that specializes in caring for children with osteogenesis imperfecta (OI). Apart from a perfect world in which she could still be with her first family, this foster home is absolutely the best place she could be in China. However, her orphanage retains legal custody of her, and it is often the practice in China for kids to return to their orphanages after their families receive TA. Because of the difficulties inherent in caring for children with OI and because of the relationships our daughter’s foster home has generally been able to cultivate with the orphanages from which their children come, kids have usually been able to remain with the foster home right up until their families arrive. For so many reasons, this is so much better for the kids. We had assumed this would be the case for Fang Fang, but I got a message this morning that her orphanage is wanting her to return and does not seem to be receptive to the idea of her remaining at her foster home until we arrive. My heart is hurting at the thought of our sweet girl having to face yet another loss and yet another transition in her short life. The foster home is still in discussions with the orphanage, so there is still hope that she could stay there until we arrive. Please pray that the orphanage allows this. And, in the event that they would say no, please pray that she could stay as long as possible. Would you please pray with us for these things? We’d so appreciate it. I’ll keep you informed.

Travel Approval!

Our Travel Approval (TA) was issued today! This is the very last approval we need in order to travel to China and adopt our sweet little girl!

We need to wait another 24-48 hours to book plane tickets, as we wait for confirmation of our Consulate Appointment. Our Consulate Appointment is when we appear in person to take an oath at the US Consulate in Guangzhou, and they then issue our daughter an immigrant visa to enter the United States. When the US Consulate is able to schedule that appointment, in large part, determines our travel dates.

We’re required to submit our top five choices in order of preference. Please pray with us that we get one of our top two choices (12/20 or 12/21), so that we can travel when we’d like and have a 12/12 Family Day and be home before Christmas! Our agency believes chances are high that we will be able to get one of those dates, as we’re requesting them so far in advance, but there are never any guarantees. If we have to move on to our 3rd or 4th choices, we’d likely be gone over Christmas, which would be manageable but pretty sad – so, if you are a praying person, please pray that we get one of those top two choices!

Also, as I shared in my last adoption update, we are still a bit short of where we’d like to be in terms of our funds for our adoption costs. There’s an organization from which we applied for a grant that is meeting Wednesday evening to make a decision about grant awards, and we would so appreciate your prayers for favor with them and that they would have funds to offer a grant to us!

For those of you friends and family who have offered us your encouragement and support on this journey, we so appreciate it! Thank you! We are almost there!