Monday, August 25, 2014

A little town we like to call ZZ

After a bit of a CRAZY time at the Beijing airport,
(that's a whole other post)
somehow we made our flight to ZZ.
As we landed in Henan, I really had a heavy heart.
 Tessa Joy's birth family is HERE.
Faces passed me by in the airport.
along the roads.
was that them?
Her birth momma was here.
And if you think this is a quaint little town ( totally thought it was going to be!)
well think again.  THIS CITY IS HUGE!
NYC population:8.3million
this quaint little town of Zhengzhou is busting huge at 8.8million!!!!
So when we got on the bus at the airport we quickly got to know our 3 agency guides.
my gosh I love those ladies! They are amazing!
They handed each couple a bit of paperwork that took my heart by surprise.
It was all info about OUR CHILD!
The bus got very quiet.
We poured over each word.
What food they were eating.
What they liked.
How they slept.
We were getting our children the next day!
A little drive to our beautiful hotel
The Crown Plaza.
Again feeling very spoiled!
Geez! Look at him! You can't take us anywhere!
So cute of the hotel to recognize that we will be getting our little ones here!
Each family got a little gift

Again, the bath was glorious.
The hotel was very recently completely renovated. Everything was beautiful!
We got settled in and then headed out on a group trip to the local Walmart!

The Dragon Boat Festival was the following week, there were holiday specials everywhere.

These items seemed to not need any refrigeration.  Hmmm.
pass on that.

heading up to the next floor. No worries about your shopping cart rolling back on you!
Look Mom! NO HANDS!
Magnetic cart wheels and ramp.
China is cool.
Grab a couple snacks along the way up.
You can't help yourself. Dare ya!
We grabbed chicken and seafood flavored crackers for Tessa. ahem.

LOVED all the veggies and fruit on the first floor.
Near the produce was some baked goods.
We grabbed a bag of rolls; along with the honey and peanut butter...we had lunch all set and saved big $.  That's a little tip for ya :)
We checked out.
I'm not sure I slept that night.
Thinking of Tessa and how she must of had no idea what was about to happen.
He did. And yet the next morning..
For the love!!!

We gathered in the lobby and we were all a mess!!!
Mommas trying to keep it together.
Babas trying to stay strong.
We are about to get on the bus and go get Tessa Joy!!

SO...... there's so much to say about "Gotcha Day"
I think you might want to take a few moments and read about it HERE if you haven't yet.
She wanted nothing to do with any more pictures. This one was an official pic.
She didn't seem to care.
She's inches away from the play area.
pure torture.
After a sad bus ride for her.
some quiet time to play and get to know us.
We knew she loved baths, so she got freshened up and had some more quiet play time.
She is real.
And my heart will never be the same.

That afternoon one parent had to go to a meeting with our agency guides to start paperwork.
Nate and Tessa stayed in the room while I went down to the meeting.
Then is was the babies' turn.
They weren't very excited about their craft project.

Yisha gently spoke to Tessa to explain to her what she needed to do; she fussed a bit but got over it quickly.  Notice she's holding her pinwheel.  Brilliant, inexpensive and lightweight toy. It came in very handy for quick distractions. 

Lets talk again about food.
                                        The hotel breakfast buffet is glorious. 

Here's the dessert section! Which I think I only ate from once!  All the other food was so good, there's no room for dessert!
So the next day (Tuesday)
We headed back to the same official building that we received our children.
Most of the kids outwardly did ok going back to this room, but I have a feeling inside they were confused yet again :(
Official stuff happened.
Official pictures taken.
And a beautiful speech given to all the families about how beautiful it was for all these children to have a forever family, a home, hope, a beautiful future.

Lets take a moment at FEEL with me what the weather was like the week we were there!!!
Then add smog.
Notice at 6am it was 66!
And Wed it was going to be 100!!
Back on the bus to head to the police station.
Up several flights of stairs.
No A/C.
No elevator.
Just be prepared.

We had some more paper to complete.
Some waiting/entertaining toddlers
and pictures with officials
ok..back to food...
Across the street from the hotel is the recommended Chinese restaurant.
We just called it the Turtle. I don't think they serve turtle there.
But they do serve this...
This is bamboo!  Its served cold.  It's SUPER YUMMY!!!
I'm so glad our friends introduced us to it.
I'll take some right now please.

ok...Wednesday is the day you travel to your child's birth town to apply for the passport. Thankfully we only has to travel blocks away, some families had day trips to take by bus or train.
We traveled with one other family with their two handsome little guys.
We had to get the kids pics taken. Us mommas got to hold them on our laps, loved that.
And that was our first experience of cutting in line.  We must of known someone.
Then we walked across the street to apply for the passport.
This was a very big and open space FILLED with rows of chairs, all locals waiting for their number to show up on the screen for their turn.
We again must have known someone.
We walked right behind Yisha, and walked right up to the officer.
Once we applied, we had to wait for a few minutes.
The kids had fun singing songs together
Ring-A-Round-A Rosey
Ok...back to food again...
The hotel has an Italian Restaurant upstairs.
It was VERY good! This was the caprese salad I ordered.
The kids were given a book and toy to play with while we waited for our food, that was very thoughtful of them.
Take note that this wasn't like getting a Chick-Fil-A kids meal.
You will be asked in mandarin to give the book and toy back when you try to leave with them.

We had a free day since we took care of the official business on Wednesday.
We took a optional trip to the ZZ aquarium
We went with a couple other families and split the cost of a van.
The driver graciously helped us purchase our tickets and we found out at this time that the power was currently out and we had to wait outside until they could open back up.
Take a look again at the temps.
Now dripping in sweat.  Makes for lovely aquarium pictures.
It was pretty dark in there, even with the power on. So the pics aren't that great.
Notice what this lady is doing.  She is BOTTLE FEEDING FISH!
This was a first. I've never seen this before.
For a couple $ you can purchase fish food in a baby bottle and lean down to feed them!
They suck on the bottle!!

Tessa LOVED it!  I'm so glad we took her here, fun little adventure.

The traffic was pretty awful driving home. Back of the van was HOT.
Tessa crashed.
The hotel has an indoor pool area.  This included a couple table tennis tables as well as a sauna pool.
Opps.  We thought it was a kiddy pool.
It was quite warm, but she was happy.
I've seen people shy away from swimming during their trips in fear of "catching something".
We had some of our best family times with Tessa while swimming.
No health issues came of it in any of the hotels.
Signs say to wear swim caps.  We brought our own and purchased Tessa a cap at the Walmart for less than $2. The whole time we were in the "kiddy pool", no one said anything about her not wearing her cap.  In the big lap pool, it seemed to be required.

Another thing we really enjoyed for entertainment in ZZ is the city park just a 5 min walk away.
These ladies were getting their exercise right inside the front entrance.
They played a song that I recognized right away.  It's the song our agency uses when they have you on hold or during a transfer. Of all the songs!!  It was beautiful. There is music being performed live all around the park as well.  Retirees clearly enjoy spending their time together here.  It was beautiful! And Tessa loved it too! 

In the far back, right side of the park, you will find a mini-carnival area.
Tessa spotted it first! She was making it clear that she wanted to go there!

There's no gate entrance, it's just part of the park.
You can pay a couple $ per ride right at the ride.
This one was pretty simple. Hold out a net and try to catch the balls that are being blown up in the air as you ride around a small track. 

Then Nate wanted to take her on a ride.
It went well.


She kept pointing back to it all as we left.
Hopefully in spite of her fun ride with dad, she had a good time.

The wildlife in the middle of the city was beautiful

We often tried to eat lunch in our room as much as we could.
A few reasons:
It was QUIET.
It was much less $$.

I've read that it's good to have your little ones FEED YOU.  It helps build the bond.
SO even if the french fry has been dipped and ketchup licked off's ok...let her feed you.
We often ordered from room service as well (got a % off deal)
The Hawaiian pizza was SOOO GOOD!
The club sandwich with fries was a hit as well as a cup of fresh fruit.
By day four we felt like we could call room service "Hey it's us again...yes, we'll take the usual" 

This might be my favorite picture of her.
  I see the JOY in her eyes.
  Pure joy. All is well.

She loved to sit at the table by the window and "have tea".
Juice Fruits work well as tea.
She played and played
Outfit put together by Tessa Joy herself.
I found these haram style polka dot pants (I know...shocker...polks dots) at the Walmart.
It's the team colors of the team up north.  SO they are not a fav of Nate's.
But they are so cute!!  SO yes, they have 'some' cute clothing and pj's at the Walmart.
The top she's sporting is actually a skirt from an outfit I purchased for her at the mall behind the Walmart.  DONT MISS THIS PLACE (for those who like to shop)
There is a GIANT mall in the buildings behind Walmart. as well as the Burger King.
The whole 2nd floor are children's stores!!!
I love the style of clothing I found there. Trendy.  NOT traditional.  So don't go looking for silks there.  There are also little kids mall rides that dads can take advantage of while momma shops a bit
At the very end of the mall there is a 2 story ropes indoor ropes course. 
Our big kids would of loved this!!!
We walked over to the Walmart area a few times while we were in ZZ. It's quite the busy place over there.  We did enjoy the Burger King once, Tessa wasn't a fan though. Good girl!
You have the option when you leave ZZ to leave behind any items you would like to donate to the local orphanages.  Medicines, good condition toys or children's clothing. We lightened our luggage.
We hated saying goodbye to Tessa's birth city.  We hated saying goodbye to our agency guides.
But we were ready to experience Southern China...
Tessa loved to try to carry her lion backpack...

It was quite the experience...AGAIN... flying in country.  We didn't get seats together. That's right...all 3 of us got seats all over the plane.
It happened to all our families. and we all found the humor in it.
On the tram out to the plane there was trading of seats going on like I've never seen.
"anyone in row 28? anyone want 35C?? Anyone? Who wants to sit with my kids?
Who wants to sit near my husband??" We all were laughing and rolled with it.
I sat with Tessa near the back of the plane. Nate sat along near the front.
The local gentleman that sat on either side of us were SO KIND.
It 'could' have been an awful experience.
It was about as nice as it could have been considering...
Last stop...Guangzhou!!!


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Come to Beijing With Us

Ok, Ok so it's been a couple months since we've been home.
But I have some super awesome adopting friends that will be heading to Beijing SOON!
I'd love to give you a little glimpse of what we love so much about this amazing city!

We were spoiled right away as we checked into the beautiful Sun World Dynasty
We checked in at a separate time from most of our agency group, so
we had a look around on our own.
This is a look down onto the interior court.
At the far end of the tables is where the breakfast buffet is located.
There is an indoor pool, but it was under repair while we were there.
We had a beautiful room!
It looked out on to this church square. 
We opened the window at night and sat on the sill to listen to the choir sing.
As the night went on they moved on to a flash mob dance.
Loved sitting there watching them.  I was very tempted to join in.
These ladies also had beautiful movement.  You will continue to see these groups in city parks as you travel to the other cities.  I wish I would have stopped and watched them longer, it was beautiful!

So lets talk about food options near our hotel.
Nate and I are fairly adventurous eaters.
Those of you that know Nate may laugh a bit at that statement, as any amount of spice sends him into a tailspin.  But I was quite impressed with his adventurous spirit in China.
Here's some drink options at one of the kiosks at the mall nearby.
Hmmm... a SERIES of Salted Cheese drinks. 
We passed.
yep. we are soooo adventurous. Ha!  

The mall is located just passed the church square. The local Apple store is the entrance.
We were so thankful that one of the other experienced adoptive parents in our group told us there is a
Pizza Hut in the mall!
It's set up like a rather nice restaurant.
We walked around the mall with Jonathan and Julie.
I purchased a cute little bunny for Tessa at a stuffed animal kiosk.
We located the Starbucks as well.
Purchased our first gifts there for family.
So the pizza menu...
There are many interesting combinations, but we stuck with the Hawaiian pizza.
This lovely salad was brought to our table while we waited for our pizza.
We still don't know if we had to pay extra for it.
And we still don't know what these clear Jell-O-like cubes were IN OUR SALAD.
And guess who had no problem taking a bite?
Yep...we are super adventurous eaters!
Nate, Julie and I just trusted his opinion that we should pass.  

Also...note: it may not be a good idea to eat fresh veggies that you have not washed yourself.
Just a little tip.
At this point, we had been in country for a few days (we came in early to visit "friends")
We were still getting used to the time change, 12 hrs difference. sigh.
We didn't have trouble during the day, but kept waking up at 4am or so, ready for the day.
So here we are, the next morning, meeting up with our team and heading out to tour

We kinda took over an entire tour bus!
First stop was just a few minutes from our hotel
Tiananmen Square and The Forbidden City

Prepare yourselves for ALOT OF PEOPLE!
I love people, love to people watch.  This is a great place for that!
I'm pretty sure I've never been in a place with so many people!
and it was HOT!
We learned our first mandarin phrase before we got off the bus.
Our guides taught us how to say "I don't need, thank you."
And you will use that phrase all day.
Unless you DO want to purchase an rainbow umbrella hat.

Did I mention I love to people watch?
I snapped this quick pic of these ladies taking a break from the tour and the heat.
Grandma was letting her grandbaby use the restroom as well.
Don't step in puddles in China. Split pants are everywhere! 

You will also see THIS everywhere.
Men need to air out their mid-sections.
And pat their bellies.
Maybe it aids in digestion? 
Nate wanted me to make this clear...he is STICKING his belly out.
He's naturally more svelte than this.

Let me take a sec to say... there is ALOT of walking here, it's WAYYYY bigger than I thought.
Still adjusting to the time, trying to stay hydrated etc, well it's a big day!
After you see one "most important building" after another,
you do come to what you think is the end.
It's not.
Then you walk through a beautiful garden area.
And more people to navigate through.
Really amazed by the square and Forbidden City!
And the day is far from being done!
Our kids would have melted by now!
I was so impressed with the families in our group that brought their children along.
They were such troopers!
Never once complained!
Really amazing kids!

After we hopped back on our bus, we traveled just a few minutes to a older part of Beijing.
Really beautiful!
Each couple had a rickshaw waiting for them.
We had a short tour of a quaint neighborhood.
we stopped at a local home where we enjoyed a authentic Chinese meal.

Those that were vegetarians ate in a separate home.
Us meat-eaters squeezed into this generous family's living room.
  We filled up every available space!

We had options to drink Sprite, Coke, or a local beer.
The food was served family style, and there was PLENTY to eat!
Simple, fresh and flavorful with out being spicy.
Nate ate until he couldn't eat another bite!
Would it be rude to ask for a take-home box?
Sooooo good!

Around their room were interesting framed pics of their prized pigeons.
A close-up pic of each pigeons' eyes identified who was who.
There was a trophy case full; clearly these little friends were quite important.
Thankful for this unique experience!

Back on the rickshaw.
Had a moment of feeling like we were on the Amazing Race!
Loved looking at all the little shops along the way.
This was Nate's fav.

So back to our hotel.
And our guides offered to arrange massages!
I jumped on this really good deal! And it was GLORIOUS!!!
I highly recommend it!
As I was getting my in-room massage, Nate was having a hard time finding something to watch on TV.  This was an option.  Just so you know.

Nate opted to have his massage the following day, after our Great Wall tour.
Smart man. (he climbed to the top of the Wall)
So that evening during our free time we walked over to the street food market.
It's located across the street from the Apple store.

This was about as normal as it gets there.
Glazed fruit on a stick.
The white things behind them are coconuts that you can drink out of.

Here's some protein options.
I love him.

Oh I wish I knew what she was saying.
And who knows what that is she is trying to get her to eat.

Spiral Potatoes should be safe.
And yet...
We just couldn't bring ourselves to trying ANYTHING.
So adventurous! geesh!!!
Day 2 ~ The Great Wall!
And let me stop for a sec and talk about our AMAZING agency guides.
Seriously these two sweethearts are THE BEST!
They offered to take our group pic with all of our cameras or phones.
Here's the pic they took...guess they've done this before.
I look at our agency group now and see WHOS MISSING...
All of our precious babies!!!!

Uh...I walked  hiked up there!!! 

If you want to partake in the lock of love tradition...

You can purchase a lock there up on this section of the Wall,
or bring a cute little heart lock...

Or a Master lock from your backyard gate back home.
That's true love right there.

Wished I would have taken more pics of the signs through out the country.
Love the translations!

Mentally prepare yourself for the climb up.
It's nuts!
People of all shapes, sizes and ages were climbing, so I had to get my act together.
I made it to the first tower. And done.

This HAD to happen.
We are Buckeyes!

Nate and a few others went wayyyyy up to the very top.
No thanks.
There were some cute little shops and a coffee shop calling my name at the bottom.
The walk down was JUST AS CHALLENGING!
How is that possible??
From the Great Wall we headed to a cloisonné factory. 

 What a beautiful art form.
So many details and steps.
It was an option to purchase a piece in their very large gift shop.
Even a 4in high piece was around $40 us!

Upstairs was a very busy restaurant.
It was nice to have a room to ourselves.
Again, a HUGE family style meal.

In the evening there was the option to go to a local acrobat show.
It's an extra cost, but worth it!

Looking back over all these pics, I'm overwhelmed with emotion.
We both fell in love with this beautiful country!
Soak it all in! Take a million pics!
You will want to go back!!
Leaving Beijing and flying to Zhengzhou in Henan...GOTCHA DAY!