Monday, July 8, 2019

Monday, July 8 - Back at home

We went for a walk to West Lake on Saturday evening and it was really beautiful, but we didn't want to stay out for too long because we needed to get TongJie and Ezekiel to bed to prepare for a long day of traveling home.

Lots of people at West Lake

Sunday morning, we checked out of our hotel and went with Sarah to the Hangzhou airport.  After getting our boarding passes and going through security, we said goodbye to Sarah.  She was flying home to Guangzhou and we were flying to Beijing before flying to Seattle.  I mentioned before that this was our third time having Sarah as our guide - she was with us when we got TongJie in 2012 in Hangzhou and she went with us to Guangzhou on that trip; in 2015 when we adopted Ezekiel in Jinan we were with Cindy, but Sarah met us when we flew to Guangzhou and was with us for the remainder of our time in China.  We feel like she has really gotten to know our family and it's pretty neat that we've gotten to be with her all three times that we've traveled to China.  She's a really good guide and hopefully we'll get to see her again when we go back when the boys are older.  We said goodbye and gave her a gift, and she gave us a gift of two books, one of well-known Chinese poems (in Chinese and English) with beautiful artwork, and one that tells about Spring Festival, or Chinese New Year.

Jeff reading one of the books that Sarah gave us while waiting at the Hangzhou airport

TongJie and Ezekiel playing with their new trains while waiting at the Hangzhou airport

At the Beijing Airport
Waiting in line to get on the plane - TongJie's stuffed panda from the orphanage was peeking out of his backpack!

We flew to Beijing (about 2 hours) and then got ready for our long flight to Seatac.  The flight to Seattle was delayed by almost an hour.  We left Beijing around 5:00 pm on Sunday and arrived in Seattle around noon on Sunday.  My parents picked us up at the airport and drove us home.  We got to our house in the late afternoon and it was so good to be home!  Jeff and I barely made it to 8:00 before putting the boys to bed and immediately going to bed ourselves.  I woke up around 10:00 to the sound of TongJie and Ezekiel laughing and playing in their room, with the light on.  They had both slept for a few hours on the airplane and apparently had gotten their "second wind."  When I went in to talk to them, they said "but it's the middle of the day in China and our bodies are used to being in China so we're not tired!"  Nevertheless, I was mean and made them turn their light off and lay down and try to sleep.  Eventually they fell asleep and slept until around 11:00 this morning.  We were all pretty tired today but worked on unpacking, laundry, etc. and Ezekiel and I went to Walmart and got new glasses frames for him.  Nobody took naps today so hopefully the boys will go to sleep a little earlier and we'll start getting our schedule back on track after a few days.  It seems like kids usually have an easier time adjusting from jet lag, so it will probably be me and Jeff suffering the longest.  I'm still working on putting the pictures from our trip onto the computer - we took a lot of pictures!  This was such a fun trip and I'm so glad we got the opportunity to do it this summer!  I'm also VERY glad that we did the trip at the beginning of the summer so we have more time to recover before going back to school. 

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Saturday, July 6 - grocery store and old city market

We got to sleep in this morning, then had breakfast at the hotel and walked to the grocery store that Sarah showed us yesterday.  The hotel breakfasts are starting to get kind of old, so it's a good thing tomorrow is our last one.  The grocery store was fun.  We got some snacks for the kids, as well as some little snacks and things to take home.  It was a really nice morning for a walk, but later on it got hot.  We went to an old city market in Hangzhou with Sarah.  We had gone to the same market with Sarah when we were here in 2012 when TongJie was a baby.  In fact, when we first walked in the entrance of the market, the same Chinese saxophone store was in the same place.  Jeff had bought a Chinese saxophone there last time.  Today he bought an ocarina, which is a small roundish wind instrument usually made of clay.  The market is sort of a tourist place in Hangzhou, but pretty much all tourists from other parts of China, not many from western countries.  The boys bought a few gifts for friends, but we walked past one shop that had toy trains and they REALLY wanted to buy a train.  They were just cheap plastic toys that are the same as we could buy at Walmart in the US, so we told them to look around some more while we walked through the market and if they really had their hearts set on the trains we could come back.  The rest of our time in the market, all they could talk about was the trains, so we stopped on the way back through the market and bought them.  TongJie chose a diesel engine and Ezekiel chose a yellow bullet train engine.  They are so excited about thier trains and have been playing with them constantly since we've been back in our hotel room so I'd say it was a good purchase.  We had given them each some money to use to buy things for themselves in China as part of their Christmas present and now they've spent their money and have some really cool souveneirs.  We had lunch at a very crowded McDonald's in the market area.  There was no place to sit inside so we sat outside.  Jeff and I just had iced tea but we got Happy Meals for the boys.  Both of them ate their apples and drank their milk and took a few bites of the hamburger and fries and then said they were done.  We're all tired of all the restaurant food.  TongJie carried his fries around the market and munched on them for awhile but French fries have definitely lost their luster for now.  We walked though some areas of the market with some strange smells of cooking food, incense, spices, etc. and Ezekiel especially did not like the smells.  TongJie said, "its smells like . . . un-yummy hot dogs."  We all thought that was funny!  

We were all hot and tired when we got back to our room, and the boys immediately got out their stuffed animals and their new trains.  They only took a break from playing when we decided to go to the swimming pool for awhile, and as soon as we got back to our room they went right back to the trains and stuffed animals.  The water in the pool was not as warm as pools that we're used to in the US, but it was refreshing after being so hot.  

Our plan is to walk around the West Lake area (it's close to our hotel) in a little while but I figured I'd update the blog now since the boys are playing and we're going to be busy tonight with packing up all of our stuff and figuring out how to distribute all of the new stuff we've bought between suitcases (or "soupcases," as Ezekiel calls them) and trying to get to bed early.  Tomorrow we say goodbye to Sarah, fly from Hangzhou to Beijing, and then Beijing to Seattle.  Hopefully there won't be any flight delays and our travel will go smoothly.  We've had an amazing time in China, but we're ready to be home!  Ezekiel still says that he wants to stay for another month or year though.  :)

Jeff didn't take very many photos with his phone today and we didn't bring the tablet.
1.  A photo Jeff took of the Chinese saxophones
2. and 3. Photos of the market

Friday, July 5, 2019

Friday, July 5 - Orphanage visit and bullet train to Hangzhou

Today was an exciting day because we got to visit TongJie's orphanage.  It's in a new building in a different part of the city now, but still the same staff and the same Wenzhou Children's Welfare Institute.  We got there around 10:00 and we were immediately impressed by how big and nice the new building is.  It is bright and has lots of space, both indoors and outdoors.  There is a colorful playground and open courtyards for kids to play, and everything looks bright and cheery and kid friendly.  The orphanage staff who led us on our tour kept reminding us that it's not quite finished yet, and they don't even have a gate yet, which I guess is a big deal to them, but we thought it was a really nice facility.  Right away, we got to see YiWen, TongJie's caregiver who came with him when he was a baby on the train to Hangzhou when we adopted him at the civil affairs office.  The director, who also came with him and YiWen in 2012, has since retired and there is a new director, but YiWen recognized him right away, as did a couple of the other ladies who were leading us on the tour who had been there when he was in the orphanage.  There were a lot of hugs and comments about how tall he is getting and how he still has the same eyes and still has long eyelashes, as well as asking if he is doing well in school.  Everyone was also commenting about his Wenzhou shirt that he was wearing (from Grandma Scheibner), and one of the ladies gave TongJie and Ezekiel each a stuffed animal at the beginning of our tour, which was really nice especially for Ezekiel to have something to carry around with him.  It was a little hard for Ezekiel to have all of the focus on TongJie, but he really did quite well for most of the time.  We went on a tour of the orphanage and they said we could take pictures inside of the orphanage as long as no kids were in the pictures.  We saw and hugged a lot of little kids with special needs (mostly boys) who all were very happy to see visitors and came right up to us wanting to be hugged and picked up.  We couldn't talk to them other than "Ni Hao" but that was okay.  The orphanage is a lot like a school, and the kids are divided into different rooms by age and the older ones by developmental level.  We looked into some rooms where the students were in class just like at school and we didn't go in, but in the rooms with the younger kids we did go in.  They do occupational and physical therapy in small groups so we got to see some of that, and we went into a room with older kids who were doing art at a table.  One teenage boy, who is blind, played a song for us on the piano in the art room.  Sarah said that he has just graduated from middle school and they are getting ready to transfer him to the building next door for high school and some vocational training.  Jeff remembered that boy from when we were at the orphanage in 2012 and they confirmed that it was the same boy.  In the art room there was a whole wall of shelves with kids' artwork and crafts displayed.  All the rooms that we saw were bright and open with lots of windows and potted plants both inside and outside.  It was a very pleasant orphanage and it really seemed like the kids were happy and well taken care of.  There were a whole bunch of photographs displayed in all of the hallways, some of kids in the orphanage on field trips or special events, and some of kids who have been adopted with their families.  The lady leading the tour probably could have told us about all of the kids and families in the photographs if we would have had time, but she pointed out quite a few with special stories (those who had gotten adopted as older children, families who had adopted two children both from that orphanage, children with more severe special needs who are now thriving in families, etc.) and there was even a picture of our family!  It was after we had Ezekiel too, so that was nice that we were all in it.  Sarah took a picture of us next to the picture of our family.  One of the most special things, besides getting to see YiWen, was that we got to meet the caregiver who gave TongJie his name.  All of the kids who came into the orphanage in 2010 were given the surname "Sun," and all of the kids who came between July and September were given the name "Tong," but Mrs. Zhao chose the name "Jie" specially for TongJie.  It means "hero" in Chinese.  We took a picture of TongJie with Mrs. Zhao.  Then we got to look at TongJie's file from the orphanage.  Most of it we'd seen before in all the paperwork involved with his adoption, but there were some new pieces of information that we learned from his file, such as the policeman's name who filed the abandonment report, and the time of day (around 8:10 in the evening) that the police station got the phone call about a baby being discovered abandoned at the orphanage gate.  We also got a photo of him as a baby that we'd never seen before.  It's one of only two photos that we've seen of him before his lip was repaired, and it was when he was first admitted to the orphange so his hair hadn't been cut short yet - he was a baby with a lot of hair!  He was very cute.  TongJie was delighted to hear from his file that as a baby he liked to throw toys and he liked to watch TV!  He still likes to do those things.  :)  We had lunch at the orphanage with some of the orphanage staff.  There was a lot of seafood because Wenzhou is on the coast, and we had a special fish soup that is a specialty of Wenzhou.  The soup was good, it was kind of sour like hot and sour soup from American Chinese restaurants, but the broth was clear and it had large chunks of fish.  TongJie liked the soup, and he liked the shrimp even though they were hard to peel.  There was also a plate of mussels that were good.  TongJie did a really good job of trying things and being adventurous and Ezekiel tried bites of most of the things I gave him too, but he mostly filled up on the rice and pork.  There was a big bowl of cucumber chunks (not slices) with sugar and they were surprisingly good that way.

After lunch, we went to the Wenzhou train station and took a bullet train to Hangzhou.  We checked into our 7th (!) and final hotel of this trip, which is the same hotel we stayed in when we were adopting TongJie in 2012, and then went to Pizza Hut near our hotel at the boys' request with Sarah for dinner.  It was getting late, but we walked around a little bit so Sarah could show us a grocery store that we want to walk to in the morning.  We got back to our room after 8:00 and once again TongJie and Ezekiel crashed into bed as soon as teeth were brushed and pajamas on.  Tomorrow we're planning to go to a market because the boys want to buy a few more things and we've been suggesting that they save some of their money for shopping in Hangzhou.  They also really want to swim in the pool, so hopefully we'll have time for that too before our last night in the hotel.  This has been an amazing trip!  I wanted to add one more thing about this trip, in case I don't get a chance to tomorrow . . . this is a paragraph from our travel handbook from Sun Travel (the agency that plans the adoption heritage trips).  It's a little bit cheesy, but pretty much sums up why we wanted to take TongJie and Ezekiel on this trip and really what I feel like we've gotten out of it:
"If we had to boil it down to one thing, a heritage trip is about making your adopted children feel proud of who they are and where they come from.  This is one of the ways to show them that China, their birth country, is a magnificent place of ageless wonders, diverse peoples, and thousands of years of tradition, and to make sure that they know - through interaction with our exceptional adoption guides, friendly locals, and the kind people who cared for them before they joined your family - that love has no boundaries, and that they are important, not just in the U.S., but even halfway around the world!"         

1.  Our family with some of the orphanage staff at the new orphanage in Wenzhou (YiWen is the one with her hand on TongJie's shoulder)
2.  TongJie and Jeff recreating a picture from when TongJie was a baby and we stayed in this same hotel in Hangzhou
3.  Ezekiel and Sarah deep in a discussion about the history of the Chinese dynasties at Pizza Hut

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Thursday, July 4 - Wenzhou - TongJie's finding place and trampoline park

We didn't have to leave our hotel until 10:00 this morning, so we let the boys sleep in as long as they could. TongJie didn't wake up until after 8:00! We had a leisurely breakfast and then met Sarah in the hotel lobby. We are using a van in Wenzhou with a driver, sort of like Uber, but contracted with Sun Travel to be our ride while we are here. The first thing we did was drive around to try to find a store with super glue because Ezekiel's glasses broke last night in the airport. Luckily it was a cloudy, rainy day so not too bright outside, but still uncomfortable for him without his sunglasses. They are prescription sunglasses, but any sunglasses would help, so if we couldn't find glue we were going to just buy a cheap pair of sunglasses. We had tried taping them last night but this morning at breakfast the tape stopped holding and we realized it wasn't a good solution. I guess it was the area of town we were in, but there were no big stores like supermarkets or grocery stores around, so the driver kept stopping at these little hole in the wall convenience and gift stores and most of them were closed. Sarah ran in to a couple of stores with no luck, but on the third try she had bought some super glue and she fixed Ezekiel's glasses in the van. She needed to cut the tip off of the glue bottle and asked the driver if he had anything to cut it with, and he pulled out this big knife and handed it to her, it was kind of funny. So far, the glasses are holding up.

After the glue, we went to TongJie's finding place, where he was found when he was only a few days old. It was at the orphanage gate, but the orphanage moved to a new building just a few years ago, so we went to the old orphanage building, which is still there and has the same gate. Sarah says that the building is still used, but now as a home for elederly people. We didn't stay long because it was in a narrow alley and vans and cars were honking and trying to squeeze by, so we just took a few photos and then left. We drove around that area of the city and looked at the sights. Sarah said that a lot of the older apartments in the old area of the city have been abandoned because it has become too expensive to live there, but also too expensive to tear the buildings down, so there were a lot of abandoned apartments that we saw.

Next, we went to a mall in Wenzhou. It was a big mall and had a trampoline park. We stayed there pretty much all day. There was a fee for kids, but not for adults, and the boys got bracelets and then we could go in and out. They played for a couple of hours and then we went to a McDonald's in the mall for lunch. The boys were so excited to FINALLY be able to go to a McDonald's in China and they got Happy Meals. Then we went back to the trampoline park and stayed until 4:00. The trampoline park was really fun, and was great for them to be able to play hard and use up all their pent-up energy! I bet they will sleep well tonight. We stopped at a juice place at the mall on the way out and got juice that was really good. TongJie got orange and apple, Ezekiel got pineapple coconut, and me and Jeff both got fruit tea that had real pieces of fruit in it. It had watermelon, mango, passion fruit seeds, lime slices, and cherry tomatoes. Ezekiel's drink had cherry tomatoes in it too. We've seen tomatoes on the fruit plates a lot here, which makes sense becasuse tomatoes are actually a fruit but we treat them more as a vegetable in the US.

We got back to our hotel around 5:30 and took a trip up to the top (23rd) floor of our hotel to look out the window, then came back to our room and the boys are taking baths and playing. Ezekiel's hat was soaked from sweat and humidity from the trampoline park, and both boys' hair was soaking wet. I will wash Ezekiel's hat tonight and he might need to wear his other one tomorrow if this one is still too wet. It is SO humid here - everything feels damp all of the time. Tomorrow we get to visit TongJie's orphanage that is now in the new building. Sarah communicated with them and asked if his caregiver, YiWen, is still there, and they said that she is and that she should be there tomorrow. TongJie doesn't seem like he cares too much one way or the other about visiting his orphanage so it will be interesting to see how it goes tomorrow. He doesn't seem nervous or excited but I'm not sure what he's really feeling like. Ezekiel says he's getting ready to come home because he misses Albert and Caspian, our cat and dog. But then he said he wants to stay in China for another month.

Photos: TongJie at the orphanage gate, and two photos of the trampoline park at the mall. At least I think that's what they are, I can't really see which photos I am actually attaching. :)

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Pictures from Wednesday, July 3

Some pictures from our day:

1. TongJie in the cooking class
2. A market area in the city of Yangshuo
3. On our flight the Wenzhou

Wednesday, July 3 - Cooking class and flight to Wenzhou

We took a Chinese cooking class this morning in Yangshuo. First we went with the teachers of the class to a real Chinese vegetable and meat market to buy the fresh ingredients, then to the restaurant where the class was. Jeff really liked the class and I liked it too but would have been happy doing something else just as much. TongJie and Ezekiel had fun at first because they got to help with chopping, adding ingredients, and mixing, but when it came time for the actual cooking, it wasn't very fun for them. It got so hot with all of the cooking stoves on, and it was too crowded and fast-paced for them to actually help with any of the cooking, so we had them sit at a table right outside the room we were in. We ate what we cooked for lunch and it was really good. Jeff's favorite was the Kung Pao Chicken, my favorite was the eggplant dish, and TongJie liked the dumplings. Ezekiel filled up on rice and watermelon and only ate a little bit of dumpling and mushroom - everything else was too spicy for him, even though we tried to make it not very spicy.

We said goodbye to our guide for Guilin and Yangshuo, David, after lunch, as well as most of the other families. Then we rode in a big van with the From family (Greg, Cathy, Maybel, and Emily), Sarah, and all of our luggage to the Guilin airport. The Froms are from the Seattle area and they are the family we met right at the beginning of our trip who was on the same flight as us to Beijing. TongJie and Ezekiel have loved hanging out with their girls, who are so kind and sweet. We hope we will get to see them again sometime since they live in Washington state. The Froms took a later flight to Shanghai (TongJie would have been a bit jealous if he wasn't so tired of traveling by now - he really wants to go to Shanghai to see the Shanghai tower) and we took a flight to Wenzhou with Sarah. Our itinerary was wrong on the time, and it was about a 2-hour flight and we arrived to our hotel around 9:00. The boys got to bed as soon as we got settled in our room. We were supposed to see TongJie's orphanage tomorrow, but Sarah told us that the orphanage had to change it to Friday, but it will still work to see the orphanage on Friday morning before we leave Wenzhou. Tomorrow we will go see TongJie's finding place, which is at the gates of the old orphanage building. The orphanage has recently moved to a new building, but the old building is still there, so I'm glad we get to see at least the outside of the old building. Sarah said that won't take very long, and we'll have the rest of the day free, but Sarah is going to try to find a park or somewhere for the boys to play. It was raining when we got here, so it might be raining tomorrow and maybe we can find something indoors. Our hotel has a pool but I don't know yet if it's an indoor or outdoor pool.

We're having a really hard time with the internet here and I can't get any pictures to attach so I'm going to post this without pictures and try to add some pictures later.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Tuesday, July 2 - Li River Cruise and Yangshuo

After breakfast we checked out of our hotel in Guilin and took the bus with our group to the wharf on the Li River and took a boat down the river to a small town called Yangshuo.  The boat ride was about 2 hours and the mountains and landforms were amazing!  We also saw water buffalo.  The boat had inside seating on two levels and inside it was air conditioned, but you could also go out onto the deck on the 2nd level and there was a 3rd level that was a deck on the top of the boat.  It was pretty hot and bright outside, but we were able to walk around and go in and out..  During the boat ride, Ezekiel had a very long conversation with Rick, one of the dads in our group, about his stuffed White Mouse (a.k.a. "Surprised") and all of his special powers like walking on his tail, jumping over rivers, curling up into a ball, etc.  It was really funny, and it was really nice of Rick to be a captive audience for so long.  If you know Ezekiel, you know how he loves to talk!  We got to Yangshuo around 1:00 and then had a long, hot walk to a restaurant where we all ate lunch together and then took a bus to our new hotel.  This hotel is different than all the other ones we've been in so far - it's more of a retreat center and sort of reminds us of the Sleeping Lady in Leavenworth.  Our room is rustic and we have a beautiful view out of our window of the Dragon River and the mountains.  

We didn't have anything scheduled for the afternoon so the boys played in our hotel room with their toys for awhile and then we went outside and sat with some of the other families along the river.  It is so hot and humid here that when we walk outside our glasses get fogged up, but it was pretty nice sitting in the shade.  Our hotel has bikes for people to use to ride around the area but we didn't want to get TongJie's hopes up after he was disappointed about the bikes at the Xian city wall so Jeff went to check and found that there were tandem bikes and bikes with kid seats on the back.  We lowered the back seat of the tandem bike and it was low enough that TongJie could reach the pedals, so he and Jeff rode the tandem bike and I rode on one of the bikes with Ezekiel in the kid seat on the back.  We rode around for quite awhile and had a great time.  The views are amazing, and we passed gardens and small farms, including rice farms.  I took lots of pictures with my camera but we don't have a way to put those onto our blog right now so I'll have to add some after we get home.  The boys LOVED the bike ride, and Ezekiel said he wanted to keep riding all the way to Wenatchee :)

This evening we had to say goodbye to one of the families from our group who will be leaving at 5 am to travel to the city of their daughter's orphanage.  It's coming to the time where everybody will be splitting up to go to their different cities, but the rest of us have tomorrow morning together before we go our separate ways.  The family that we said goodbye to this evening (Rod, Pia, Travis and Kendra), has been especially helpful to our family, always offering to carry things (and kids) for us, sitting with our boys on the bus and train rides, and just being really kind to everybody in the group.  TongJie was especially sad to say goodbye to Travis.  Tomorrow we get to take a cooking class in the morning and then eat what we've cooked for lunch, then our group will split up and go in different directions to visit the cities of the orphanages.  We will be traveling with Sarah to Wenzhou in the Zhejiang province, and then end our time in Hangzhou, which is the capital city of the Zhejiang province.   

Pictures:  1. On the boat on the Li River, 2. Lunch with our group, 3. View from our hotel window