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Journey to Ashley

This is the story of how we came to be the parents of Ashley Yi Robinson, the former Fu Yi of the Peoples Republic of China.

The Decision to Adopt
The road to Ashley took 11 years, a lot of praying, two moves, and a lot of God's nudging.  Rhett and I were married for about 2 years when we found out that we would not be able to have biological children.  While we had discussed the desire for three girls,  we were not devestated at the news.  We always knew that adoption would be a welcome option for our family.
At that time, China had just openned it's doors to adoption and the world was becoming aware of the plight of the young female babies in that country.  It was as if God said, here are as many girls as you can love - "Go get one!" 
If only it was that easy.  At that time we did not meet the requirements for prospective adoptive parents - age 35 and additionally, we did not have the money that it would take without going into significant debt.  We made a decision to hold off and wait 10 years and revisit the issue at that time.  Never did we discuss looking into another country or placement option.  God had said CHINA! and CHINA it would be.
Through the next eight years we acted as all double income families without children did... I bought real wood furniture, our everyday stemware was around $15.00 per, and we went on nice vacations.  We traveled on holidays to our families with children and we stopped decorating for Christmas - even going so far as selling our decorations at a garage sale!
Rhett and I were very happy and loved being able to be with each other and spend time doing the things that we enjoyed like hunting and fishing, looking at new housing developments and working in our yard.  We enjoyed visiting with Rhett's brother and his three boys and then going home where it was quiet!
Then, the October I turned 37 there was an article in the local paper about a minister from Snellville, GA that was completing the adoption process from China.  They had just received their referral picture and were getting ready to go and pick up thier newest family member.  Their excitement showed through in every word.  The article listed several informational sites which I immediately checked out.   That night, when Rhett came home from football practice, there I was, sitting in front of our computer just bawling away.  He turned white when I informed him that the Chinese Government had lowered the age requirement to 30 (Rhett is 3 year's younger than me) and would he please pray about going ahead and begining the adoption process.
After gathering all the information that he requested and meeting with our financial advisor (DINK's have those) and making sure that we would still be able to retire AND pay for college, he agreed to go to an informational meeting sponsored by Great Wall China Adoption.
That next week, God sent a message that neither one of us could ignore.  While Rhett was eating his weekly meal at Sonny's Bar B Que with his offensive linemen, that very family that I had read about from Snellville got off a plane and went straight to that restaurant and sat behind my husband!!  They had not even been home yet!!  Rhett talked to them the entire time and was so excited when he came home, he was bouncing off the walls.  At that point I knew that we would be proceeding with the adoption, especially when he let me tell my parents!!
We filed our first paperwork on December 28, 2000 and completed our dossier around March 28, 2001.  We were registered with the CCAA around April 2, 2001 and we prepared to wait patiently!!
But God had different plans for us!!  The day after I mailed our dossier off to GWCA, Rhett called me at work and asked me to pray about a move away from Atlanta to the small town of Metter, GA. His brother Robby had gotten the head job (football) and wanted Rhett to be his offensive coordinator and for me to coach cheerleading.  The time line went like this...
March 28 - send off dossier
March 29 - get call from Rhett
April 1 - travel to Metter to interview for jobs
April 2 - teach last day before spring break
April 4 - fly to Purto Rico and board a cruise ship for 7 days
April 11 - arrive back home
April 12 - return to school am; put our house on the market pm
June 29 - close on house in Metter
July 4 - move into the house in Metter
July 9 - football and cheerleading practice starts
August 15 - school starts
Sept. 11, 2001
Dec. 17, or so - Football season ends at the semi finals in the GA. Dome
January 2002 - sell house in Atlanta!!!!
February 14 or so - Cheerleading ends with 5th place finish at State
April 29, 2002 -  REFERRAL
June 8, 2002 - begin painting and remodeling the kitchen
June 16, 2002 - have kitchen and dining room done
June 18, 2002 - leave for CHINA!!
June 23, 2002 - GOTCHA!!!
July 4, 2002 - HOME to the USA!!
I guess God knew we couldn't be patient, so he made sure that we didn't have time to think about it.  He was with us every step of the way and then some and we couldn't have done it with out Him.



We received the call at 9:52 am on Monday, April 29th that we were the soon to be parents of Fu Yi.  Lynn Lau emailed our first picture at 10:05 am Eastern Standard Time.  What a cutie!!

The Trip
My mother, Rhett and I flew United out of Atlanta to Chicago to Hong Kong on June 19, 2002.  Leaving at 10:00 a.m.  We landed in Chicago around 12 then immediately boarded our international flight to Hong Kong.  When we landed there, we took a domestic flight to Bejing.  We selected this route so that we would have a quicker flight back home - 17 hours vs. 24.  I will tell you, the difference in the service in China and the US is discussed almost in every site that you visit.  They aren't fudging, fibbing, or exagerating, the service in China is amazing.
We arrived in Beijing around 10:00 p.m. Wednesday June 20th (you lose 12 hours) and our adoption agency had a guide waiting for us to take us to the hotel.  I have never stayed in such nice hotels in my life!!  The room was wonderful and despite our excitement, immediately went to bed.  We got up the next morning (Thursday) and explored our hotel while waiting for the guide who was taking us out the next day to contact us.  She also told us how to go about gettting a taxi to venture out on our own. My mom wanted to get two pearl necklaces - one for Ashley and one for my sister.
That afternoon, following Emily's advice, we ventured across town to a Chinese market - COOL!!  And they talk about the Asian tourists and their cameras in the US!  We got the pearls and found the bus stop that would take us back to the hotel without any problems thanks to my husbands amazing sense of direction and his memory!  Dinner that night was AWESOME! and we called home to let everyone know we were okay.
Friday, we met up with the other couples in our group that had arrived and toured the Summer Palaces, and several temples.  Everything was so beautiful and Rhett and I bought original art work from some Chinese students to take home to remind us of our journey. We said good bye to Emily and prepared to meet the rest of our group the next morning - putting faces to email addresses and names that we had only seen on paper and computer screens for about 8 weeks.
Saturday arrived and everyone was waiting in the lobby as we met Cindy - the fabulous guide that would take us through the adoption process and see us safely on our way home.  If you do this, and can request a guide - PLEASE do yourself a favor and see if you can request CINDY!!
We went to Tineman Square, The Forbidden City, and The Great Wall before heading back to the hotel to pack and get ready to go to our next destination - Kunming - to get our daughters.  Cindy had told us how to pack everything so that we would be able to get our essentials (baby stuff) if we needed to upon landing.
Our flight Sunday left at 12 noon for Kunming, the Flower City, and we arrived around 3:00 p.m.  Landing was a watershed moment in our marraige as I think it was the first time in 11 years that Rhett didn't laugh at me when I started crying.  I was so excited, scared and nervous.  I was too old, I didn't know how to do things, I guess all the thoughts that travel through a new mothers mind.  I mean, I knew how to remodel a kitchen, coach a team to state, build a runthrough sign that was 27 feet tall, but change a diaper?  Thank GOD my mother was there!
The city is BEAUTIFUL and you walk out of the airport right into down town.  Unfortunately, it is also the main drug entry point into China so the security is TIGHT!  As we lugged our luggage to the busses, Cindy informed us that our prayers had been answered and we would be putting all our unecessary luggage on a truck and to take only the gifts and baby essentials on the bus because we were going to get the babies NOW! 
The adoption affairs office was about 10 minutes away - seemed like 30 - a small building with an even smaller conference room (about 15 x 15) with a huge table and no air conditioning.  There were 16 families in our group which translated into 16 new moms, 15 new dads, 4 grandmothers, 2 grandfathers, 3 siblings, and 2 guests asked to come in and professionally photograph the moment for one of the families; 2 guides, 6 Chinese officials, 16 new babies, 16 foster parents, and 1 director. 
The babies arrived and waited in the hallway while we were still doing paperwork in the conference room.  As Rhett was filling in all the forms, I remained glued to the back of the chair - partly so I could make sure he did it right and they wouldn't come back later and take her away, and mostly, so he wouldn't choke me in front of all those witnesses for seeing her before he did - I sent my Mom out instead! 
That was probably a  mistake, because Ashley had the chicken pox when we got her - a full blown case - and boy did she look sick!!  It was right in the middle of her nap time, she was burning up and she had spots EVERYWHERE!  My mom thought she was going to die before we ever got her home!  Needless to say, Momma saw this sick baby and just kept praying that that wasn't our Ashley - 
Of course we were the 2nd to the last family called to meet our daughter.  It was so hard waiting for those 14 other families to meet thier daughters and MOVE OUT OF THE WAY!!!  God had his hand on everyone and no one lost their cool.  We had come to know each of these families and their stories and were so happy for them - you know, if they would just be happy and move a little quicker!! 
They call the babies by their Chinese names (duh!!) and it is so strange hearing them pronounced correctly!  We had butchered Ashley's for 8 weeks and we didn't know what it was when it was said right!  No one did.  But they finally called her -  or us - and  "GOTCHA"  was official.  Boy was she was sick - tired and HOT! 
Some babies scream and some shut down - Ashley shuts down and gets quiet in situations that are new and confusing - still does, so she was very amiable to all our kisses and us wanting to hold her.  The foster parents and the director assured us that she was fine, it was just the chicken pox and she should be okay in a couple of days.  My mom wasn't so sure, but she was so happy to have her granddaughter that nothing bad was going to enter that day. 
After meeting with everyone, officials, foster parents, directors, and getting our goody bags - extra diaper, bottle, formula, cereal, pajamas, extra socks, etc.  We all boarded the bus thinking we were going back to the hotel.  It was around 5 when we got the babies and around 6:00 p.m. when we left.  But before we could go to the hotel, we had to get our pictures made with our children for the documents to be processed that next morning.  So off to a 1 hour photo store we went.  There are about 3 of these on each block, but because it was after hours, and on Sunday, our guides had made special arrangement with a shop owner to take our pictures. 
Ashley was dead asleep and the babies have to be awake - eyes open.  It took us about 10 minutes to wake her up enough to get her picture taken and then she was back asleep before we were out the door.  It was then that we could really relax and say okay, who is this person that has joined our family.  Things had finally slowed down enough and the babies had stopped screaming enough, that we could all catch our breath. 
We arrived back at the hotel around 7 and got checked in and luggage sorted by around 8 - tired, excited, and HUNGRY!  We were so happy for those peanut butter crackers we packed!  We changed Ashley's diaper, fed her - her food - thanks to the thoughtfulness of her director for providing full supplies - and went to bed.
We stayed in the Holiday Inn - Kunming.  Again, a beautiful hotel with excellent service, food, and room appointments.  As we discovered over the next few days, there were 4 restaurants, full salon and spa services, full business center, and anything and everything you could want with in walking distance - including a children's hospital. 
There was a flower market behind the hotel; department stores on either side - one was an upscale Penny's type which had a KFC attatched and a grocery store, and the other more of a Dillards.  The downtown shopping area was fabulous and we even went to the Wal-Mart - a five story building with EVERYTHING! including grocery store.  Emily's tips on how to go about on your own, worked GREAT! for those 1/2 days that we had with no travel plans.  We can't WAIT to take Ashley back to see where it all happenned - For us - so we can go back - and for her. 
We did eventually take Ashley to the doctor - she broke out in an alergy rash in addition to the chicken pox, and got to go to the Children's Hospital.  It was great - because of Cindy! - Those of you who are hygene oriented would have been horrified, but the doctor was kind, knowlegeable, and put us at ease - which when you don't speak the language - was true talent!  Our experience was fabulous and there was not a smidgen of time that I would have changed. 
We went on to the White Swan and came back home on July 4th.  The trip was one that was an experience I would wish on anyone and everyone.  Just like you can tell someone about the Grand Canyon, but until you see it, you just don't understand.  Going to a foreign country is the same way.  We have been to the Bahammas and Mexico, but experiencing another culture, so different from our own, while I can tell you about it, until you experience it, you just don't understand.  Now I know why it was so important for families in the 19th and early 20th centuries to send their children on the "Grand Tour."  You can bet that we will be sending Ashley on a 'Grand Tour' for her high school graduation.