Monday, May 19, 2008

Back in the USA!

So, yes, after many many hours of traveling on Thursday, we made it home. Since my arrival in Memphis, I have spent much of my time trying to get over jetlag and spending time with my friends here. Now, it's getting to be the time to get back to normal life, especially work. I am not looking forward to weeding through hundreds of work emails! :(

I thought I'd share a quick story about our travel back to the U.S., just to fill everyone in on the actual last day of our journey. We left the hotel in Guangzhou around 6 a.m. Thursday (this was 5 p.m. Wednesday for those in Central time, 6 p.m. for Eastern time...weird, huh???) It was the first of many encounters with airport security at the Guangzhou airport. The flight to Hong Kong was very short, only about 30 minutes. I wish I could've seen more of Hong Kong, but it was awfully hazy. I got to see some of the beautiful mountains though.
We had about a 4 hour layover in Hong Kong, so we spent it getting some breakfast and burning off some energy before getting on that loooonnnnnggg flight. We took off from Hong Kong about 12:30 p.m. local time and were headed for a 14 hour journey! The turbulence for most of the first part of the flight was horrible! During much of it was when the flight attendants were trying to serve us our first made it very hard to eat. It also made it hard to fall into a good sleep. I don't sleep very well in cars or planes anyway, so guess what? I probably caught anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour of sleep the entire trip! Thankfully, the kids were knocked out after taking some Benadryl, so it made the flight a bit more peaceful. During our flight, we got to see the horizon, with the time was beautiful. We also experienced traveling over the International Date Line. Pretty cool stuff! Towards the end of the flight, I had to get up and stretch my legs, much like I did on the way there. Standing at the back of the plane, I ended up meeting a nice girl from Detroit that was a student at Arizona State University and had been studying abroad in Hong Kong since January. It was neat to hear about her experience and opinions on China.
As we landed in Chicago, we only had 2 hours to get thru customs, claim our baggage so that we could re-check it as a domestic flight, make it thru security and get to our gate. Not easy!! When we were waiting on our baggage, we realized that we had left a $300 painting on the plane that Deanna & Michael had bought on the trip. It was in a long narrow box, so that is why it probably got lost in the shuffle of other carry-ons. We were able to track someone down that could get it for us, as the plane was still at the same gate, in preparation for leaving for Atlanta. While we waited and waited for someone, we were getting ancy that we were going to miss our flight. There was another one at 8:15 p.m., but we really wanted to do everything in our power to get home! Not to mention, Cackie was just starting to show signs of a fever and complaining of a sore throat. So, Michael told us to go on and he would meet us at the gate, as he knew that it would take us longer with the kids and the stroller to get thru security.

We had to take many walkways, elevators, and a tram car to get to our terminal and then we saw the dreaded long line to get thru security. We were like "there's no way we're going to make it", so we called my mom to give her the heads up. We still rushed thru security, which is not an easy thing to do at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago...especially with two 3-year-olds, having to take your shoes off, etc. Surprisingly, the kids were extremely cooperative, we got thru it pretty quickly and we ran thru the terminal to our gate, just in time for the last boarding call. Michael wasn't there yet and we were hesitant about getting on the plane without him. We tried to talk to the lady at the gate to see if we could hold the plane a few minutes or at least leave him a note, but she was not helpful at all, and was actually quite rude. So, with Cackie not feeling well and knowing that our luggage was on that flight, we knew we needed to get home. I would have stayed to wait on Michael, but Deanna needed my help with 2 kids. Another time it was good I was there, huh? So, after much debating and frustration from dealing with the lady at the gate, we decided to proceed. We were able to call my mom to try to have Michael paged at the airport. It was even more frustrating because he didn't have a cell phone on him with being out of the country, so paging him was the only way to get a hold of him and let him know what was going on. That finally all got taken care of, and he made it home later that night. Actually, we found out that he ran up to the gate, as they were backing our plane away! If we only had just a few more minutes to spare! At least we're all home, safe & sound now.
The bad part about the flight from Chicago to Memphis was that it lasted about an hour longer than it should have. Just what we needed at that point, more traveling! There was a bad storm in Memphis, so we circled above the city for extra hour before landing. We were supposed to land at 5:35 p.m., but didn't until about 6:15 or so. When we got off the plane and approached the non-secured area, we saw my parents and some of Deanna's & Cackie's friends to greet us with a banner and some balloons! It was so nice to be home and see familiar faces! Especially after the day we had!
We got home, unpacked what we needed to, ate big salads with sweet tea (yumm!) and headed to bed. Of course, because of adjusting to the time change, Cackie & I woke up at 4:30 a.m. I've been resting for the past few days though, so I think I'm pretty much caught back up with my sleep. Now, like I said, I've gotta catch back up with real life. I'll be headed to Nashville for work tomorrow evening and have meetings Wednesday & Thursday. Then, I'll be back at my real home, Knoxville, late Thursday night.
Big thanks go out again to Erica for getting my mail and keeping watch on my really helped a ton and I don't know what I'd do without you!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Almost "Walking in Memphis".....

Well, it's about that time! Our time in China has ended and we get to bring my beautiful nephew back home! We spent our last day lounging by the pool and completing an oath at the U.S. Consulate. We have finished most of our packing, except for the very last minute items, and will be leaving the hotel at 6 a.m. It will be a long day...3 flights: Guangzhou to Hong Kong, Hong Kong to Chicago, Chicago to Memphis! We are all craving salads...pretty sick of Chinese food by now! We haven't been able to eat uncooked vegetables out here, so have decided we need some ruffage. We have given a grocery list to my mom to prepare for us when we return to Memphis. She & my dad, among many others, will be greeting us at the airport. Hopefully, we will all be in good spirits! I know we will be glad to be home. We will arrive Memphis at 5:30 central time, which will feel like 6:30 a.m. to us.
Well, until we get settled in Memphis, this is it for a while. Thanks for reading my blog and keeping updated on my journey. I will see some of you in Memphis (I can't wait to chill by the Mississippi River for BBQ-fest) and I will see most of the rest of you when I return to Knoxville.
Much love to everyone!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


Most of you already know that we are okay and have not been affected by the earthquake that hit China on Monday, as I sent several emails out. The earthquake hit Sichuan province, which is northwest of where we are in Guangzhou/Shamian Island. It happened about 2:30 p.m. local time. We were napping with the kids at that time, so did not know about it until much later. It was not all over the news here (except for CNN) like it probably was in the U.S. It seems that our government and media makes that kind of information more available to Americans than they do here. The news that we have seen has been very sad though. Although they say that there have been reports of tremors all through the country, we did not feel any here.

Aside from the frequent discussions about the earthquake, Deanna & I have also spent most of the day shopping, shopping, shopping! One of our journeys off of the island was to the Pearl Market, where we bought some turqouise beads and pearls that my mom asked for. Get ready to make more jewelry mom! I also got a great deal for some real pearl earrings and a necklace for myself.

In between shopping trips, the kids had their infamous White Swan "Red Couch" photos. Cackie appears much happier this time than last, as she was throwing a fit in her last red couch photo when she was 10 months old. We haven't downloaded these yet, so I will have to share later.

After shopping, we got the kids, met up with our friends we met in Beijing, the Slack's, and went to dinner at an awesome Thai restaurant. Deanna raved about the broccoli from her last visit, and now I see why! We also tried deep fried pumpkin, and I must say that it was quite delicious! I was stuffed when we left!

After we set the kids up to watch a video and got them ready for bed, Deanna & I went back out to finish up some last minute shopping. Shopaholics, right? Really, things are more reasonably priced here than at home, so we made out quite well!

Sorry, I don't have any fun pictures to share right now. I just wanted to make sure to get a post out to keep everyone updated. Just 1 more day left before hours, hours, hours & hours of travel!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Beautiful Guangzhou!

We did some shopping today, and more swimming. It was much warmer today and sunny, so the pool was enjoyable.

After we dried off and ate a light dinner at the deli beside the hotel, we went on the evening river cruise, on the Pearl River. The Pearl River is the 4th longest river in China. The bright lights on the buildings and bridges were really cool and lit everything up. It was absolutely beautiful. Much prettier than Tianjin. We thoroughly enjoyed was a nice evening for it too, with a nice breeze! Here are some pictures I took.

This bridge changed colors....really cool!

I'll also include some pictures of the hotel lobby and our pool that I didn't get to include, some cute ones of Owen & Cackie.

The lobby.

The pool.

Until next time.....

Sunday, May 11, 2008

We made it to Guangzhou!

For our last day in Tianjin, Helen took us for some "Hot Pot" for lunch. This is a copper pot, kind of like fondue, in which the meat & vegetables are cooked in a boiling water. I have to admit that this was not my favorite meal, but it was okay.

After the kiddos took their nap, we went to the "Culture Street". This was an area that consisted of many different shops containing Chinese cultural merchandise. I never knew how much you could bargain with sales people before until Helen helped us!

We found this light pole, made to look like a Chinese Knot!
After Cackie & Owen burned off some energy there, we headed to a restaurant for some dumplings. Helen says that it is good to have dumplings before heading off on a journey. They were delicious.
When we got back to the hotel, we had to work on finishing packing, as we were headed out to Guangzhou the next day.
When we got to the Tianjin airport, we learned that we could check up to 100 kg. in luggage, but could only have 1 carry-on a piece. This was different than what we were prepared for, as the U.S. rules are that we could only have 1 large bag, not over 44 lbs., a piece, and 2 carry-ons (1 actual carry-on and a personal item, such as a purse). So, we ended up having to check several small bags, like the kids' backpacks! We were also told that we had to check the double stroller beforehand. Before, we had been using it until we got to the gate, and have checked it as we got on the plane. Then, another slight fiasco at the airport, Cackie's last name on her boarding pass was spelled wrong, so we had to wait and have that fixed. Then, onto the security check. This wasn't much different than usual. From all the time we spent with changing Cackie's boarding pass and checking the luggage, we got to the gate just in time and had to board the plane. No time to use the bathroom!
It was so nice to finally make it Guangzhou, Shamian Island. Such a change of scenery! It is much warmer and much prettier! It almost feels like we're in Florida! Our guide is Jocelyn and our hotel, The White Swan, rocks! The hotel lobby is beautiful with a waterfall and fish pond. There are 2 outdoor pools, one with a waterfall. And lots of palm trees! There are also many shops and restaurants on the streets around the hotel as well. The streets are extremely clean and have a very colonial look. There is also a nice park with a jungle gym for the kids to exert their energy. They especially love the slides!
When we got here, we also ran into our friends, Kris, Jim, Austin from Beijing, with their Owen. He is very cute, about the same size as Cackie. He is very rambunctious like Cackie, so they get along great!
After we got here & unpacked, we were looking forward to ordering pizza from Papa John's! Of course, Michael had a little miscommunication with the man when ordering. He had tried to order the cheesesticks, 8 pieces. When our order was brought to the hotel by bike messenger, Michael discovered that he had actually ordered 8 boxes of cheesesticks! We were laughing about this for a long time and still have 2 boxes left over! I don't think we'll need pizza again for a long time. Cackie & Owen sure enjoyed it though!
As we took a walk yesterday, we took Owen for his first trip to Starbucks! We also got to enjoy some Lattes! Afterwards, we ran into a man named Jordon, a salesman at one of the shops here. He stopped to ask about the adoption (this area is FILLED with other families that have adopted. Most of them stay at the White Swan also. Guangzhou is where all families have to complete the American side of the paperwork before leaving.) Jordon asked us what state we were from. When we said Tennessee, he said, "Oh, they have a football team!" Of course, we all said "Yes!" and laughed hysterically. He said that he liked football and that's how he remembered Tennessee! How funny! Even some of the Chinese know about Tennessee football!
The kiddos then took a nap, then we went to try out the pool. There was a small wading pool for little ones. We eased Owen into it and this trip to pool was a bit more successful. He was splashing and walking around on his own. He then enjoyed blowing bubbles, offering it to other children around the pool area.
When we dried off, we went for another walk around the island and settled down for dinner at Lucy's, a western style restaurant. I decided to try the Chicken Quesadillas. Not quite like I was used to at home, but I guess it was better than nothing.
Today, Deanna & Michael took Owen for his medical exam and to fill out paperwork with Jocelyn . I stayed with Cackie...we went to the playroom in the hotel, went for a walk thru town, went to the park, and then came back to the room to cool off and for some water. It is quite hot and humid outside.
Tonight we are going to take a night river cruise with Jocelyn and our friends from our travel group in Beijing. That should be quite relaxing. I'm also looking to finish up some shopping. There is a lot of interesting shops around here.
Until next time...only 3 days left!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Exploring new things

So, swimming wasn't quite the success we had hoped for, but it went better than expected. We did manage to get Owen close to the water, where he just dipped his feet in the water from sitting on the edge. We also got him to splash a little bit. I think he is just getting over some fears and also learning how much he can trust us. Such a big transition at such a young age can take a long time to adjust to.
In any public pool here, it is a rule to wear a swimmers cap. Yes, I know I look silly, but rules are rules...
After everyone dried off, we went for another walk thru Tianjin. We've been more in the mood for Western food...there's only so much Chinese you can eat over a 3 week period. Don't get me wrong, we have enjoyed the variety of seasonings and spices, but sometimes, you just want a good burger! Well, Helen did not know of any restaurant like that, besides McDonald's. So, we walked until we found something that struck our fancy. We ended up finding a restaurant in big neon lights that said "Western Style Restaurant". Although it didn't taste quite like home, it was okay. We sampled 4 different dishes that they had: Chicken Curry, Beef & peppers, Spaghetti with meat sauce, and fried cod. It sounds kind of disgusting when you think about how different these 4 dishes are, but I guess we've been used to sampling different tastes over the past week. Since Cackie ate most of her dinner, we headed to McDonald's and all enjoyed hot fudge sundaes.
After breakfast this morning, we packed the kids in the double stroller and went for a walk thru the park beside the hotel. It was much busier than when we were there the other day. It was also much warmer and the sun was out, so we got to enjoy the beauty of the trees & flowers more.
A man playing some sort of instrument. It really sounded beautiful.
In front of the beautiful multi-colored roses.
Already loving on his Aunt Caryn.
We also went down to the river, close to where the big ferriswheel is. There were a lot of men fishing, and of course, riding bikes! We even observed what seemed to be a ritual of some sort, where there as a group of people gathered with bowed heads and 2 bowls with what seemed to be filled with small snakes or eels. Michael & I stopped to watch, wishing we could understand what they were saying. As we kept walking, we came to a stone wall, where there was carved artwork. We guessed it was a story of how that part of the river was created. It was very cool!
Look at all the traffic.

The rest of the day, there wasn't much to do and Helen was busy with other things at the orphanage, so we pretty much stayed in the hotel, playing & watching TV. Owen is starting to learn his name and some small words, as we keep repeating them to him. Because we ate breakfast late and ate so much, we skipped lunch & didn't eat again until dinner. We ordered room service and got to finally enjoy burgers! We thought about going out for Pizza Hut (yes, they have them here), but we didn't know where one was. And, so much for trying to read the phone book! It's kinda hard when it's all in Chinese!
Tomorrow should also be a low key day. We will have to do some packing up to prepare for our departure to Guangzhou (we leave Saturday) and we have plans to visit Tianjin's "Culture Street" in the afternoon. Hopefully we will have some interesting experiences there.
Until then....I'll leave you with a picture of Happy Owen!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008


Nothing too exciting has really happened since my last post. Just trying to get both Owen and Cackie adjusted to all of the recent changes. Yesterday, after Cackie's nap, and Deanna, Michael & Owen returned from the police station, we went for a walk around Tianjin with Helen. We went on some side streets, where we saw a bit more "culture". I have included some pictures from the walk.

I think he was hauling garbage.

Some locals, just hanging out by the street.

The flag of China.

Where to buy produce & other dry goods.

We even saw what we thought was an illegal massage parlor, if ya know what I mean. Helen confirmed this for us, but didn't feel right to get a picture of that. Ha ha!

We stopped at a park beside our hotel. Cackie & Owen got to run around and we got to see some beautiful flowers. Cackie pointed out the beautiful yellow roses. I told her that Lao Lao - my mom - used to grow yellow roses when mommy & Aunt Caryn were little. In the park, we also saw a group of men playing a card game. Of course, we couldn't understand what they were saying or what game was being played, but they slammed a plastic bottle against the concrete table every so often. Some pictures of the park...

We then went over a bridge into another part of the city. This gave us a beautiful view of a HUGE ferriswheel beside our hotel...15 stories high! On the bridge, I was also able to capture a picture of the amount of bikes in this city! So many people ride bikes and travel on the same roads as cars. With the amount of traffic, it is really a wonder that they don't get run over! We have somewhat gotten the knack of crossing the streets. It's all about timing...trying to dart in & out of traffic, because they WILL NOT stop for you! They simply honk! I hope I remember not to dart into traffic when I return home.

After we made our way across the bridge and crossing streets, we went to a restaurant for dinner. Cackie has really been practicing her chopsticks skills and finally got a shrimp! Look how surprised she was! She spent too much time trying to show everybody what she did that she dropped it before she got it in her mouth. Surprisingly, I have also mastered my chopstick skills. The only time I have used a real fork since we've been here has been with breakfast.

After we walked back to the hotel, Michael went to go get our clean laundry and Deanna & I attempted to give Owen & Cackie a bath. Cackie got in with no problem. However, Owen still seems to have a fear of this and became very upset. He laughed when he saw Cackie do it, but still resisted to come near the water. We're going to try the pool this afternoon, so we'll see how that goes!

Because Owen was a little upset last night, Cackie ended up falling asleep with me. I think she has adjusted to the time well, especially since she's been getting her naps in. She slept until about 7 am today! She told me she beat me, because I guess it was a race to see who could sleep the longest!

Today has been a low key day. It is very overcast and cool outside. We met Robert, the American orphanage volunteer, for lunch. It was very interesting to talk to him and to hear things about the adoption process that we didn't already know. He has been here for 8 years and is fluent in Chinese. I wish I could be! We also learned some things from him about the care Owen received when he was in his kindergarten class that he would come to at the orphanage (he actually stayed with a foster family). Robert is also an English teacher at a private school here, so it was interesting to hear him talk about that too. Overall, it is very special what he does and we admire him greatly. After lunch, the kiddos settled down for a nap and like I said, we are planning a trip to the pool this afternoon.

Here are some other random, but fun, pictures I wanted to include.

Waiting at one of the offices where we had to do some paperwork.

Too cute!

Cackie loves her little brother (most of the time).

Helen, communicating with Owen.

Until next time....