Travel Day – Hong Kong to Nanning (By Way of Guangzhou)

We set alarms for 6:30 yesterday morning, but we woke before that anyway. Our agency had booked us on the 9:24 train from Hong Kong to Guangzhou, and we wanted to make sure we had plenty of time to get to the train station and figure out exactly where we were supposed to be. We checked out of our hotel around 7:45, and the concierge called a taxi for us to head to the train station. We’re rather a sight – Madeleine CaiQun and I have 2 suitcases and 2 backpacks between us, and Daniel and Sharon have 3 suitcases, a backpack, and a large purse, so the taxi drivers use cables to secure our luggage inside the trunks, which don’t close once our suitcases are inside.

The train station was just about a mile from our hotel, and we made it there in plenty of time to figure out where to go. Our agency had sent our train tickets to our hotel in Hong Kong, so we didn’t need to purchase anything, just to wait for our train. Daniel walked over to the other part of the train station and got us some drinks and pastries (the pineapple puff was awesome!) to have for a light breakfast, and then we waited for boarding to begin for our train.

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Once we went through security, we were able to use the bathroom once more (up through this point we’d seen squatty potties everywhere, but there had always been an option for western toilets, too!), and then we boarded our train. It was really pretty straightforward. The train from Hong Kong to Guangzhou is not a bullet train, but it’s a very nice way to travel. I love being able to look out the window as we ride and see more of the areas through which we’re traveling.

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Netflix’s announcement just prior to our departure for China that they would allow downloads of some shows, so they could be watched without Internet access, has been such a blessing for us – Madeleine CaiQun has greatly enjoyed being able to watch shows on an iPad while we’ve done our plane and train travel!

We made it to Guangzhou just as planned, and a guide met us at the station and helped us get to the van, where a driver drove us across Guangzhou to another train station, where we would catch a train to Nanning a couple hours later. To say that this train station is huge is an understatement.

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Guangzhou is pretty western for a city in China, but it’s still a major change coming from Hong Kong. We were able to find a restaurant in the train station at which we could order from picture menus, so we got some lunch, then had our first squatty potty experience, and then Daniel got us some snacks and water (or what he thought was water!) at a convenience store. It turns out he actually bought us some lime and mango flavored waters!

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We made it to our bullet train to Nanning and got settled in for the ride. It was awesome to see even just these little glimpses of China through the train window as we traveled. It’s such a beautiful country with an amazingly rich history.

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We arrived in Nanning just a few minutes later than scheduled and stopped in the bathrooms (squatty potties again – resulting in a necessary outfit change for MCQ) before setting out to look for our guide. This was probably the most stressful part of our trip so far. Nanning is a gigantic city (Wikipedia lists its population as 6.9 million), so its train station is rather large. We just knew that our guide was supposed to meet us at the train station but didn’t know where, and he didn’t know where to meet us, and he couldn’t enter the train station, since he didn’t have a ticket, and we wouldn’t have been able to re-enter after we chose an exit from which to leave. Finally I turned on the international calling plan I’d activated for my phone just in case of emergency and called him (twice), once with the assistance of a bilingual woman sent over by a police officer to help us (can you tell we’re conspicuous here?), and we finally connected, about an hour after we were supposed to meet up. We made it to our hotel then, though, and we got some dinner at one of the restaurants here.

Everyone else went to bed pretty soon after that, but we’re running out of some necessary clothes items (I packed pretty light, but I should have brought a few more pairs of pants for Madeleine CaiQun), so I stayed up and did some laundry in the sink and texted with Matt for a little while.

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I’m feeling somewhat lonely and overwhelmed here, being here without Matt and Miranda and Atticus and really experiencing how much there is for me to do here and knowing that we’re about to add our new little one into that mix. We’ll meet her in about 6 hours, and I pray that she is open to receiving love and care from me and from her big sister and that I’m able to do all that I need to do. I’m hoping to get some Walmart shopping and some unpacking and general preparations done before then. Please pray for our precious girl as she prepares to join our family, and please pray for my morning to set us up well for that transition!

Here We Go! Some Specifics and Some Prayer Requests

The wheels are in motion for our trip, both literally and figuratively – my mom is on her way here so that she can spend the next 2.5 weeks with Matt and Miranda and Atticus. Tomorrow afternoon Madeleine CaiQun and I will head to St. Louis to begin our journey to China.

As we look toward our trip, I’m feeling acutely the need for prayer, moreso even than with our last adoption trip. Perhaps it’s that I know more this time – the more I know, the more I realize that I cannot make things happen all in my own power. It’s also that I’m traveling without Matt this time – I am so thankful that my brother and sister-in-law will be there with me, but it will not be the same as having Matt (and my other kiddos) there, too. FangFang’s medical needs are also more significant than Madeleine CaiQun’s were. Adoption trips are always intense, but I am especially feeling the weight of that this time. Would you pray with and for us? Here are some specific requests:

  • Please pray for our safety in traveling (and in remaining home). I know this is morbid, and I know that probabilities are small, but my biggest fear is that the plane will crash or that Atticus will dive head-first off the table, and we won’t all see each other again this side of heaven. Please pray that we all survive the next 2.5 weeks.
  • Please pray for Matt and Miranda and Atticus and my mom. I’ve done a lot to make their time as easy as possible – freezing meals and leaving gifts – but these next couple weeks are going to be a significant departure from normalcy for everyone. Please pray that they have fun together and do alright.
  • Please pray for all the travel logistics. These are not insignificant. CaiQun and I have 2 separate flight itineraries (one domestic; one international), meaning that the airlines don’t really have to work well with us for the international itinerary if our domestic flight gets delayed tomorrow and we miss the international flight. Then on Sunday, we’ll be taking a taxi from our Hong Kong hotel to the train station, where we’ll catch a train to Guangzhou. We then need to meet up with a van our agency is sending to take us from the first Guangzhou train station to the second, and we’ll take a train from that second station to Nanning. Please pray that all goes smoothly in all of this craziness.
  • Please pray for little FangFang’s heart. Her world is about to change dramatically, and we pray that her heart be prepared for and open to us as her family. We pray that we will be able to show her some love and fun early on. Please pray especially for her bond to me – children joining their families often can only handle bonding to one adult at a time, and my brother and sister-in-law are awesome, but it would be ideal for her to form her primary bond with me first. I am anticipating some heavy grieving from her as she leaves the nannies from her foster home and comes to us.
  • Please pray for Madeleine CaiQun. She has some anxiety about returning to China. My prayer is that this trip is a beautiful experience for her, but I’m not certain how it will go. Please pray for her processing her return to her birth culture, as well as her adjustment to becoming a big sister again. Please pray that she’ll allow my brother and sister-in-law to care for her at times, especially when FangFang is needing me.
  • Please pray for my endurance, patience, graciousness, and love. I expect these to be some of the most intense parenting weeks of my life as I mother 2 girls through huge experiences in their own lives.
  • Please pray for everyone’s health. I’ve had a persistent sore throat and just feel generally yucky, which I suspect is nothing significant, but I’m heading in to get it checked out this afternoon, just to be sure before I leave the country and my access to Western medical care. More significantly, please pray that we make it home without any of FangFang’s bones fracturing. I’m traveling with splinting supplies, but we won’t have such great access to medical resources in China to review my splinting or get x-rays easily or provide care in the event that a fracture would be truly serious.
  • Please pray for my brother and sister-in-law. I am so thankful that they are joining us on this journey. Please pray for the 3 of us adults to work well together through what will be, at times, a stressful trip. Please pray for our communication and for us to have great grace with each other.
  • Please pray for wisdom in decision-making. We are going to need to make the call of whether to request permission to visit FangFang’s orphanage. We will have to decide how much sightseeing seems wise and how much we’re going to need to just hunker down in our hotel room. There’s still some question of where we’ll stay in Guangzhou – there’s a serviced apartment building just across the street from the hotel at which our agency has people stay, and staying there would save us a ton of money and give us more space, and that’s where I’ve been planning for weeks to have us stay…but someone staying there last week gave it a pretty unfavorable review, and I’m still not 100% certain how we’re going to handle that situation.
  • Speaking of money, please pray for financial provision. We’ve applied with one more grant organization, and it would be a huge blessing to get some funding from them. We’ve borrowed money to pay the rest of the costs associated with this adoption, and please hear me when I say that this debt is worth it. We go into debt for houses and cars; bringing a child into a family is of so much more importance than those physical things. But needing to pay back thousands of dollars of debt at the same time that we are incurring thousands of dollars of medical expenses for FangFang’s initial medical care is going to be tough.
  • Please pray for these next 24 hours or so at home – I still have some packing to do and miscellaneous tasks to finish (paying bills, etc), but I’d also like to spend some good quality time with the rest of my family, whom I won’t see for so many days.
  • Please pray for all of our hearts as we are separated as a family for the next couple weeks. This is so hard for me.
  • Please pray that we can honor our God as we interact with various people in China. Please pray that we are respectful and loving in all we do.
  • Please pray that we keep our priorities straight and focus on what’s truly important about and throughout this trip.

I’m going to share the basics of our itinerary below so you’ll know a bit more of how to pray each day. Keep in mind that we’ll be 14 hours ahead of Central Time – so, for instance, our meeting FangFang on the morning of Monday, December 12 is still going to be your evening of Sunday, December 11. If you stay up late enough and I have good enough Internet and a calm enough baby, you may get to see some pictures – Sunday nights are a time of rejoicing in the China adoption community 🙂

Here’s our basic schedule –

  • Wednesday, December 7 – Madeleine CaiQun and I fly from St. Louis to Newark, where we’ll meet up with my brother Daniel and sister-in-law Sharon.
  • Thursday, December 8 – We have a 1:00 AM flight from Newark to Hong Kong.
  • Friday, December 9 – Because of the long flight and the time change, we leave at 1:00 AM on Thursday but don’t arrive in Hong Kong until 6:00 AM on Friday. We’ll head to our hotel to drop off our bags and then try to stave off jetlag by going out and sightseeing for the day.
  • Saturday, December 10 – We’ll have another day of sightseeing in Hong Kong and continuing to adjust to the time difference.
  • Sunday, December 11 – We’ll travel from Hong Kong to Nanning via the rather complicated route I detailed above.
  • Monday, December 12 – We’ll meet and take custody of FangFang.
  • Tuesday, December 13 – We’ll finalize FangFang’s adoption.
  • Wednesday, December 14 – Thursday, December 15 – We’ll hang out in Nanning while we wait for FangFang’s passport to be ready. We may take a trip to her city to visit the orphanage from which she’s from. We may do some sightseeing in Nanning. Or we may need to spend a lot of time building bonds and connections in the hotel room.
  • Friday, December 16 – We’ll travel from Nanning to Guangzhou.
  • Saturday, December 17 – We’ll have FangFang’s medical exam.
  • Sunday, December 18 – Monday, December 19 – We’ll hang out in Guangzhou, maybe doing some sightseeing, while we wait for the results of FangFang’s medical exam.
  • Tuesday, December 20 – We’ll have our consulate appointment to finish the process of applying for FangFang’s visa to enter the United States.
  • Wednesday, December 21 – FangFang’s visa should be ready.
  • Thursday, December 22 – We’ll take the train from Guangzhou to Hong Kong and then board a flight from Hong Kong back to Newark. The time change works in reverse this time – we’ll leave Hong Kong around 6:00 PM but arrive in Newark around 9:00 PM. My dad will fly out to Newark to meet us, and he and I and the girls will spend the night in a hotel.
  • Friday, December 23 – My dad and the girls and I will fly back to St. Louis, and we should arrive back in Columbia mid-afternoon.

Solid internet access is never a guarantee in China, and of course, actually caring for FangFang (and Madeleine CaiQun) is going to be my priority, but I do hope to be able to post regularly and keep you all updated, and should you want to send encouragement or prayers, I should be able to get them while there. Thank you for praying, friends!