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.