Saturday – A Hotel Switch, A Medical Exam, and Settling In

I was up early Saturday morning, getting dressed and ready to go for the medical exam and getting our suitcases fully re-packed. We’d decided that Danny would take a taxi over to the China Hotel, along with a couple suitcases, to see if we’d be able to get adjoining rooms. If we couldn’t get nearby rooms, I wasn’t sure that would really be a better situation for us, and we’d rather know that earlier in the day. Plus, assuming it worked, then we’d be down a couple suitcases for our large group cross-town transfer. There is a significant downside to not having a real texting or calling plan for our time in China – that we can’t communicate with each other when we don’t have access to wifi. We decided that the best option would be for Danny to make that trip and then come back and for him and Sharon and Madeleine CaiQun to get us checked out of the Pengman Apartments and get our stuff over to the lobby of the Garden across the alley. I’d do the medical exam with FangFang, and if I got back before 11:00, I’d head back to our apartment, but if it was after 11:00, I should just stay at the Garden until they arrived. Danny and I walked over to the Garden at 9:00, and FangFang and I headed to the medical exam required in order to obtain FangFang’s visa for entry into the United States.

This medical exam is mostly a formality. FangFang’s height and weight and head circumference are measured, and her vision and hearing are tested in a very nominal way (does she turn her head when a toy is squeaked off to the side?).

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A doctor does a physical exam and looks over her file and makes some notes. The most important test is really the TB test, as a child cannot gain entrance to the United States without treatment if they have a positive TB test. And this is the one about which I was most concerned – generally parents are not allowed into the room with their children for this blood test, and the doctors there are not very experienced in working with children who have osteogenesis imperfecta. Standard medical protocol is not always appropriate for children with OI. For instance, the force of a blood pressure cuff can sometimes cause a humerus fracture. I certainly won’t be able to prevent every fracture, but in the past, parents adopting kids with OI have been allowed into the room for that TB test, so they can hold their kids instead of the medical workers holding them, and I was hoping they’d allow that in our case, too, and thankfully they did.

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My goal was to get through the exam without a fracture, and we were successful!

FangFang also tucked into me as I was holding her for the first time! In addition to seeing many, many other adoptive families (a number of whom I had already connected with online), we saw the one other family who had been in Nanning with us last week. FangFang kept pointing at them, so we walked over to say hi, but then she seemed a bit intimidated by them, and she tucked her head into my shoulder as we were standing there talking with them! We’re making progress 🙂 Those few moments did this mama’s heart good.

After FangFang had completed all the stations of the medical exam, Elsie helped me to organize my paperwork for our consulate appointment, and soon after, we headed back to the Garden, where I planned to meet Danny and Sharon and Mei Mei and find out what they’d determined the best option would be for our lodgings for the rest of the week. We actually saw them right as we were getting out of the little bus, and they said the China Hotel was able to give us adjoining rooms, and the Pengman Apartments had let us check out with no penalty! Elsie actually flagged down the bus driver for us, and he gave us (and the rest of our stuff) all a ride over to our new hotel – so helpful!

When we were on the bus, Daniel and Sharon told me about his adventures of the morning. Apparently right after his taxi had pulled out onto the road, leaving the Garden, that morning, they’d gotten into a car accident with another car! Car accidents in China have always been a bit of a fear of mine, as there aren’t usually seatbelts in the cars here. No one was injured, and the drivers pulled off to the side of the road to argue about their relative responsibilities. Danny got out and took our suitcases and hailed a new taxi and proceeded on his way!

Thankfully our group trip over to the new hotel was a bit less eventful 🙂 We got checked in, and as we were finishing up, we actually ran into a friend of mine and her family, here adopting two more kiddos. One of the added benefits of being at the China Hotel is that there are adoptive families everywhere, so it’s easy to connect with others and encourage each other and be encouraged.

It was afternoon by the time we got checked in and settled, so we played for just a bit and then ate a late lunch at one of the restaurants in our hotel.

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Then we found some of the yogurt-milk FangFang loves at the 7-11 near the hotel, and I put her down for a nap.

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Madeleine CaiQun took a long bath, and the rest of us relaxed and unpacked some. By the time FangFang woke up, it was late enough we weren’t sure about venturing out to a place we’d never been around the hotel, so we just ate at the Chinese restaurant in the hotel again and then played for a while before bed.

Even though we technically have less space here, the atmosphere is so much more relaxed and so much easier. We’re so glad we made the switch. We feel a lot more comfortable here! And that little bit of extra comfort definitely lowers my stress level and makes everything else feel more manageable.

Friday – a Travel Day

Friday was a travel day for us, going from Nanning to Guangzhou. We worked on packing up all of our stuff, a somewhat stressful process, as we had acquired some extra things and an extra person and would need to negotiate both train stations and the train with my 2 suitcases for the kiddos and me, Danny and Sharon’s 3 suitcases, our new stroller for FangFang, and 3 backpacks and a large purse. Packing up took us most of the morning, and we just had time for a quick bite for lunch, so we walked over to the mall attached to the hotel and had lunch at the same restaurant we’d eaten at for dinner the night before. Not a lot of restaurants in that mall had English or picture menus, so we figured we’d just go to the place we knew would work. Our lunch experience that day was less ideal, though – the servers seemed to find us an interesting attraction, and several of them stood around watching us eat and competing for FangFang’s attention. I was quite ready to go by the time we were done eating.

Unfortunately, the hotel hadn’t made a record of our request for a late checkout (which they’d approved the day before), so our keys had been deactivated while we were out. It took us quite a while to get someone to help us get into our rooms and get our luggage, so by the time we checked out, we were running about 15 minutes late, and I was worried we might miss our train. Thankfully we arrived in time, but we were at the back of the line to board, which was somewhat problematic given the amount of luggage we had. We managed to get on board, but it was hard to get spots for all of our stuff, and we ended up with suitcases and stroller distributed all throughout the train car. Travel days are always stressful, but it felt like we’d run a marathon by the time we even got on the train.

We started out with Madeleine CaiQun, FangFang, and me sitting together with Danny and Sharon in the row in front of us.

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That didn’t last long, though. FangFang made her preference for Sharon very clear, so I passed her forward, and she sat with Sharon and Danny for a while. I was a little sad but figured I’d also been so emotionally and physically taxed all week, it wouldn’t hurt me to sit and read a book for a bit, so I tried to enjoy the break.

At some point, Sharon handed FangFang back to me, and she was quite disgruntled, making her dissatisfaction clear to everyone in the train car. I offered suckers, iPad, and toys, and I tried walking up and down the aisles with her, all to no avail. She was having none of it, not interested at all in being with me. After what felt like an eternity of trying to calm her (all the while being the object of the attention of a good number of people on the train), I asked Sharon to take her back, and she calmed immediately.

I may or may not have spent a good amount of time crying after that. I’d worked so hard to get to China to adopt this child, I’d spent hours researching osteogenesis imperfecta to know how best to care for her, I’d worked hour after hour of extra work time to earn money to bring her home, and she wanted nothing to do with me. Intellectually, I knew that I could expect nothing from her. I do the right thing because it’s what I’m called to do, not in order to obtain any sort of positive emotional response from her. However, that doesn’t change the fact that it still hurts when it happens. I knew she could reject me. Kids coming from orphanages or foster homes often have trouble attaching to more than one person at a time, and they’ll often choose one adult to whom to attach and completely reject all others. I don’t think I had sufficiently considered the possibility that even though Danny and Sharon and I were clear on what the ideal scenario would be, and they were going to leave the attempts to build a relationship with FangFang to me, she might choose to attach to them anyway. All things considered, this is far from the worst case scenario. She wasn’t rejecting me outright – she just preferred Sharon. She’d still play with me and interact with me, and she understood that I was her source of food and diaper changes and getting all basic needs met. She was beginning to bond with me to some degree – she just preferred Sharon. And experiencing her refusal to spend any time at all with me that afternoon was so hard. I felt like I’d hit a new low.

I kept reminding myself of the advice my friend Becky had given me about pursuing and caring for FangFang but letting her receive comfort from Sharon if that’s what she wanted, plus the counsel of so many adoptive mamas (counsel that I myself have given to others), that China is all about survival. It still stung. I also felt like I was experiencing the reality of how different God’s love is from mine – Romans 5:7-8 says, “For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” God makes the first move. He moves toward us even while we are rejecting Him, and He does so joyfully. When my daughter rejects me, I want to cry and have a pity party. I get over it, and I do move toward her, but it’s hard. 

We finally arrived in Guangzhou, and thankfully it was easy enough to find our guide at the train station. The elevator wasn’t working, so we had to do multiple trips down the escalator to get all of our suitcases down, but it worked, and we connected with Elsie, and we were relieved to be there. She took us over to the Pengman Apartments, where we’d reserved a 2-bedroom apartment for our week in Guangzhou. Our agency usually has families stay at the Garden, which is a beautiful hotel, but it doesn’t have great room configurations for a party of our composition. We’d need to meet our guide there, though, so we wanted to be nearby, and the Pengman Apartments were right across the alley. They’d offer us more space for a much lower price.

There had been an unfavorable report about them recently in one of the Facebook groups to which I belong, but we were hoping our experience would be alright. I think the place is fine – but it’s really just adequate. At first we agreed it would be okay. And I was excited that the other family from our agency who is in Guangzhou this week was also staying there. They actually came down to see us and give us some restaurant recommendations right away, and it was great to see them. But over dinner that night (at Pizza Hut, given that it was 9:00 PM by the time we were heading out for dinner), I told Danny and Sharon that I didn’t think I wanted to go through the hassle of switching, but if I had it to do over again, I would have reserved us a place somewhere else, probably the China Hotel. Sharon seemed relieved, and Danny said he really didn’t think it would be that big of a deal to switch, and in fact, they could probably do it the next morning while I was at the medical exam with FangFang.

We discussed it more after we’d gotten the kids in bed (at 11:00 PM), and I texted with Matt a bit, and we decided to make the switch. It wasn’t that the Pengman Apartments were horrible. In terms of general quality, they’re maybe one step below a Motel 6 – peeling wallpaper, mold, random little holes in the wall, etc. That’s all probably to be expected.

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The biggest issues for us were related to the lack of real usability. There aren’t any dressers in which to unpack at all; the bathroom has just a shower instead of a bathtub (and Madeleine CaiQun had been playing in the bath for about an hour each day while FangFang napped and was loving that); there’s no bathroom counter on which to unpack your bathroom supplies; they didn’t have a pack ‘n’ play available for us when we checked in (and FangFang is NOT on board with co-sleeping). The elevators took forever. One bedroom was window-less, which gave it sort of a claustrophobic feel.

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To us, it seemed kind of like a cheap 2-bedroom apartment you get when you’re a college student. I don’t think it’s a bad place to stay. Under different circumstances, we would probably have stayed. But for this week, for this trip, we decided it was better for us to switch. We looked at the China Hotel and saw that if we went with the cheapest rate (no breakfast included) we could get 2 rooms for not much more than we would have paid for the Pengman for the rest of the week. We felt like we could have made the Pengman work, but it would be something we’d have to make work, not something that was really set up to work for us. If our trip was going as well as possible, we might well have stayed. But it’s not all perfect, and there are a number of other stressors, and I felt like I needed the hotel situation to be something I wasn’t just pushing through. We made a reservation online for rooms at the China Hotel that night and hoped that when we went to check in, we’d be able to get adjoining rooms.

We left everything packed up, only taking out what we really needed, and we headed to bed, knowing we’d have to get up early for us to make sure everything was completely packed up and for me to get out the door to go to the medical exam with FangFang and for Danny to head over to the China Hotel to request adjoining rooms and take the first load of luggage.