Sunday, February 28, 2010

The QingPing Market

OK, I was wrong . . . . . .

When we first got here, and our only impression of Guangzhou was Shamian Island, I viewed the city as a sort of Chinese- lite, at least after our time in Kunming.

However, today we ventured across the foot bridge into the city proper.

We explored the Qingping Market. I did not film the bear claws, or what surely must have been an animal penis. Most everything was dried in some fashion, for use in cooking or for medicinal use. Mushrooms, roots, star fish, etc. We went down a couple of side alleys. I am not sure what constitutes a ghetto by Chinese or Guangzhou standards, but if it is beyond what we experienced, I don't want to see it. At least not pushing a stroller.

But once again, people were polite. As you can see, we continue to attract youngsters. We were the only caucasians throughout our late morning adventure, and Ella Man Li continues to attract compliments and new friends.

QuingPing Market Video

Pearl River Cruise

It is Sunday morning for us, but here is a video from Saturday night's cruise along the Pearl River here in Guangzhou. You'll see some new faces. The girl with longer hair was Kunming baby, too. The girl with short hair is her new sister, Ava, newly adopted from here in Guangzhou. This video simply can't capture the sheer spectacle of this nightly event.

Pearl River Cruise 2/27/2010

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Medical Exam and Adventures in Diapering!

I know you folks back in Northwest Ohio don’t want to hear this, but it is hot and incredibly humid here, like “why did I take a shower this morning?” humid. Our bodies are trying to adjust.

We’ve been in Guangzhou for about 24 hours now. We’re not sure what to make of it. What we do know is that it is NOT Kunming . (No spitting, or at least not nearly as much!) Our hotel is located on Shamian Island . Banyan trees galore…flowering trees and bushes…lush shrubs. Think San Juan meeting Savannah , Georgia perhaps? It is relaxing and beautiful.

During our evening and early morning strolls, we encounter adoptive parents and their new little ones at every turn. In fact, one adoption agency has 16 families here in a travel group. It makes us thankful for our group of two families, for certain. Dare I say this, but it feels like a puppy mill. I don’t know how else to describe it other than Larry and I are equally aware of this reality. It makes being surrounded by 50 smiling people in the Kunming park easier or at least more real?

I spent considerable time with our guide, Peter, yesterday afternoon. Larry and Ella Man Li napped together in the room (her nestled in the crook of his arm). I was instructed to have us ready to walk to the medical exam by 8:45 today. We set off and picked up two other families along the way. Peter acts as a facilitator for more than one agency. He is good, kind and all business. Twenty minutes later, after a quick stop at a hole-in-the-wall business to have Ella’s Visa photo taken, we arrived. Mosquitoes, yes mosquitoes, flying about this sterile, bright facility. Squeaky toys sounding off trying to keep little ones quiet. Doctors and nurses darting to and fro. Little ones crying. Chaos, I tell you but organized chaos. Here are a few pictures… Ella hung tough but was NOT happy. N-O-T. And you’ll see a photo of the two of us, Ella passed out in my arms from exhaustion!

We made our way back out to the streets (with newly purchased stroller) for lunch and shopping.
Ella tested her mother’s moxie by forcing her to change two stinky diapers during lunch at a Thai restaurant.
I can handle a bad diaper but when the baby changing table is a slab of wood in an alley off the restaurant, all the while a woman is mopping the alley floor around my feet, well…I think you get the idea. Hey, Ella is much happier.
On our way back I caught a glimpse of the familiar logo. We hit pay dirt, people. Starbucks. I haven’t had a cup of coffee in nine days. (No huge complaints. Tea has been fantastic.) Here are a few shots of Ella hanging at Starbucks with her dad.

Tonight, we set sail for a riverboat cruise – dinner, light show, more bedlam. We’ll be going with other adoptive families. The cameras are charging now. Look for more later.

Miss you. H, L & E

Friday, February 26, 2010

If It's Friday, Then It Must Be Guangzhou

Xiulan led us through the Kunming Airport this morning. We met some nice young people along the way. One gift shop clerk near our gate, anxious to practice his English, asked me to explain the difference between, "Hello, pleased to meet you," and "What's up?". I spent 20 yuan on 20 minutes in a massage chair, making it the best $3 I've ever spent. Heather and I both felt a slight twinge as we lifted off, taking Man Li from her native home.

For the flight, God smiled on us and granted an empty seat in our row, allowing us to stretch out for our first flight with a child. Once again, Ella was great. Sure, she fussed a bit, but she ate some rice and carrots from our in-flight mystery meal, and then fell asleep. Our new guide, Peter, met us just outside of baggage pickup. About 30 minutes into the 40 minute drive from the airport, we realized that we left without claiming our stroller. So, it appears that we're still getting the hang of some things.

Tomorrow morning is Ella's medical physical at the U.S. Consulate. Here is one photo of our newest international traveler, and one of our current view at the White Swan.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Leaving Kunming

This is our last night in Kunming. We fly out tomorrow morning (Friday, the 26th) to Guangzhou. As of now, we have officially adopted Guan Man Li, and we received her Chinese passport today. The rest of the process is dealing with the United States and obtaining her visa, allowing entry into the country. The repacking process is a pain. Today was not the best day, for either parents or child, so this entry will be short. Attached is a photo out of our hotel window here at the Kunming Hotel. On to Guangzhou!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Video of the Park

At the Park

Screw the stroller, pick up the baby and RUN!

We have just officially experienced sensory over-load.

We walked down to the nearby park, approximately 4 long city blocks.

If we haven't mentioned it yet, or if you haven't experienced it, traffic here is NUTS. Lanes are apparently optional. Scooters everywhere with up to four family members. And, when I say "everywhere," I mean it literally. In the road, in the separate feeder lane for two-wheeled vehicles, on the sidewalk, and as of tonight, in the cross-walk with us, as well.

The scooters are electric, so they are like stealth submarines, or something. You never hear them coming. No lights. No helmets.

Here, the best that I can tell, cars have the right of way at all times. The green crossing light seems like a mere invitation to come out and play in the middle of the street. Like a tackle that pulls and runs parallel to the line of scrimmage, blocking ahead of the tailback as they turn up-field, as we cross the first half of the street, Heather is on our left protecting the stroller. In the middle, she switches to the right hand side and runs interference until we can hit the curb. And yet, no accidents. How do they do it? Our friends D&G shared a video with us from their adoption trip to Hanoi. It may not be that crazy, but it's something else.

So, why do three Americans cross the street, anyway?

Tonight it was to go to the park to see the dancing. People gather with a leader, who has a disc or mp3 player and a basic PA blaring some blend of Chinese or Asian music with a heavy dance groove. People pay to participate, and it is essentially like an aerobics class for the dancers.

Now, this is a large plaza, and tonight there were at least three groups in different parts. As you walk between them the music from one co-mingles with the other, like dueling boom boxes at the beach. Throngs of people gather around to watch.

Now here is where it got weird. Ella Man Li can attract, and work, a crowd. This we know. But tonight, it started with one man, then a family stopped, then another. Before we knew it, we were surrounded on three sides by a group of AT LEAST 50 people, with our backs against a fountain.

People were smiling, saying undecipherable things to us in Chinese, pushing their children forward to take a look, etc. The loud music is playing, neon lights are pulsing, and I am getting seriously nervous. Not scared, but trying to assess if we should be scared. We finally said, "thank you, thank you," and eased our way to another part of the park.

AND IT HAPPENED AGAIN! This time it was smaller, and having survived the first experience, I took the time to pull out my video camera. Heather and I locked eyes and just smiled. As for Ella, she was all giggles and moving feet, keeping approximate time with the music. We got out of that one too, and moved up to the first group, closer to the exit, where our guide Xiulan was among the dancers.

I am a little behind on world events, but in the back of my mind was story about the mob accosting the people at the Haitian airport that were escorting a group of children out of the country. Please understand that we encountered nothing but smiles, but the whole thing was overwhelming. On the way back to the hotel, I wondered, "Is this what it's like to be Brad Pitt?" We laughed pretty hard about our 15 minutes of fame - once all three of us were back at the hotel (which of course, required crossing the street again!)


Wenhua Xiang Road

Today was a free day.

Xiulan appeared here at 10:30am, in her usual whirlwind fashion.

Both families opted to hang on their own. I wanted to find an art gallery, and had done some research. Let's just say that the concept of walking in search of art, funky coffee shops, etc. was foreign to our 71 year old guide (pun intended.)

With a shrug of her shoulders, Xiulan finally relented and deposited us curbside outside of the Yunnart Gallery (although we had offered from the beginning to fend for ourselves via taxicab.) We had a leisurely stroll around another section of Green Lake Park, stopped for tea, and headed back up to the Wenhua Xiang Road area and it's combination of backpackers, ex-pats, hipsters.

We scored souvenir T-shirts from Salvador's, where we have now eaten twice, and enjoyed beer from Laos.

Again, Ella hung tough. She is a constant attention magnet. We are seeing more Caucasians that when we first arrived, but we are still adistinct minority, and a few people, especially school age children, will shout out "Hello" and attempt to engage us in conversation, as if to practice their budding English. It's really quite sweet. The blond hair and blue-eyed Heather can also generate her own set of stares and smiles.

The weather continues to be great. The taxis continue to scare us out of our whits, about once every 10 blocks, but deliver us safely.

We have discovered Ella's lung power, and we're beginning to see a pattern of finicky eating. Ella was still holding on to her last orphanage meal, if you know what I mean, but after three days we finally had our first stinky diaper. Tomorrow we get her passport, and even up for the hotel bill, etc. before flying out on Friday morning.


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Cutest Video Ever!

Ella Giggle Face


Our Trip To Green Lake Park

The Trek To Green Lake Park

At 10:30 this morning, Xiulan led us through the busy streets of Kunming to an area about an hour (by foot) west of our hotel. These photos are what we encountered along the way. It was fantastic. Even better is the fact that Ella Man Li can roll with the punches like no other!!

And, I understand there has been some clamoring for more pictures?? I've included a few here of Ella in her Daddy's new hat (purchased from street vendor today). I'm also including a video showing her delicious little giggles as well as some footage from our day on the town.

In case any of you are thinking we got back to the hotel today and stayed in for the rest of the day/evening - nope. We napped, filled up on green tea (for us), formula and hailed a taxi. We read about a funky little section of Kunming with shops, cafes and coffee shops. Our (non-English speaking) taxi driver got the Meyer fam there without incident. (I can't even begin to explain the driving and traffic in this country. There aren't enough adjectives in this girl's vocabulary tonight...)

We are thriving. We really are. Each hour brings something new. She is starting to find her voice and is babbling more. She is a contemplative soul who does a lot of watching. Her orphan-mate Lexie (a gorgeous little girl, 4 days older than Ella) is quick to give smiles and giggles. Not Ella. However, in the last 8 hours, she's flirting with her Daddy a bit more. Likewise, Larry is in the trenches changing diapers, feeding her and trying to get her tiny arms and legs into cute little outfits. I'm over the moon at how well Ella and I are bonding. She's figured out that her Mama is slightly crazy and it seems to work for us. She laughs A LOT at my antics.

I bet we've said it 100 times since landing in Kunming: This is where we're supposed to be. For us. For Ella.

Thanks to all of you for your blog comments and your emails. We feel your presence. We really, really do. And to G, our Blog Mistress (tee hee), I thank you for posting everything in such a timely manner for us and for everyone back there. You hold the key in keeping us all connected.

Larry and Ella are snoring in unison...I'm about to join in.

Love from Kunming, H, L & E

Note from Gretchen: We are having a little technical difficulty with the video. I will try to get it linked here later today!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Orphanage Day

Praise the Lord, we are out of there.

Today we went to the orphanage, the Kunming CWI. Don't' get me wrong, it was a nice (enough) place.

We were afraid of the babies' reactions, just as we're starting to bond. We took special steps to never be out of Ella's sight.

We were shuffled into a room were a perfunctory medical exam occurred.

Most of the attention was on Lexi, our traveling companion, who was having a melt down.

Ella, bless her, slept until being woken by a tongue depressor stuck down her throat.

They provided lunch for the babies.

Heather and I locked eyes, and we instantly sized it up as a test. The overall vibe was one of proprietary interest in the children - us considering them ours' since yesterday morning, versus the staff letting us know (gently) that we are still on their watch.

We fed Ella under watchful eyes.

A sweet special needs child, I say about 10 years old, wandered in and around us. The staff was not pleased untilthey saw us, especially Heather, reach out to her with smiles and small talk.

Otherwise, the place (at least what we were shown) seemed eerily empty.

We got to see the infant room, full of cribs. It was hospital-like, with a sweet staff that talked to us through a sliding window. They recognized Man Li right away, as did others. I locked eyes on one little baby and started to cry. There was nothing you could do but whisper, "It will be alright."

We next were allowed to go into a large room with about 5 severely handicapped children, just sitting there, as if on display for us. Just the same they were sweet. Not everyone went in, but Heather and I did. One little boy could high-five, so we did that and smiled. There was actually some comfort in knowing that these particular children were being cared for.

Next was lunch for the group, which was pretty good. It's amazing how good you can get with chop sticks after about four days of steadyuse, three meals a day. The Director and staff joined us.

Lexi was still in melt-down mode, prompting a lot of hands-on care by the staff, essentially ignoring her new adoptive mother, which brought us back to, and reinforced, the feeling of being tested.

Ella, well, that girl can hang. She was perfect. She made us look good. There is a video of (Ella) Man Li being stopped on the way out by (what I assume was) staff. You'll get a good sense of the Kunming fashion sense if you consider they were (apparently) returning to work, after lunch, at an orphanage.

Again, don't get me wrong, we will always be appreciative of the care that Man Li received. We were happy to see that the place is as nice as it is. We agree, there should be a test, and they should sniff us out. It was important to see that they take it seriously. It was just a weird experience. Just like modern China itself is a series of contradictions, I am glad that we had the opportunity.

We will never go back.


Link to Video

Sunday, February 21, 2010

From the Moment I First Saw You...

Ella's been physically with us for eight hours. Larry and Ella are napping. I'm watching her now, her little tongue and mouth moving until she find her own hand. None of this feels real.

Not the horns blowing outside our hotel window...
Not the breeze drifting in from the 70 degree day...
Not the electric motor scooters whizzing around in haphazard death-defying directions...
Not the sound of Larry and Ella breathing slowly in unison...

I look at this little angel, with rosy chubby cheeks, and I still cannot believe she is our daughter. But she feels natural with us - she fits - even with just eight hours under our belts.

She's eating pretty well for us. She is smiling and crying which is an important step for her. The last few days have brought huge changes in her life. She's going to be sad. Our job is to give her a safe place to let it all out.

We'll see what the next 24 hours brings. I am operating on about three hours of sleep. We have to attempt a bath tonight and be ready by 10:30 tomorrow morning. Xiulan has arranged for us to visit the girls' orphanage. What a gift she is giving all of us as we piece together what little we have of Ella's life before us.

Video of Meeting Ella

Hope you're enjoying the photos and videos. The camera is getting a serious workout!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Day Before The Day

We are just now getting back to our hotel room at 9:15 pm Saturday night. Xiulan has run us ragged again! We did an awful lot but not nearly what we have in store tomorrow. The day. Four years. All your support and love. This. Is. It.

I have no idea when we'll get photos updated to the blog tomorrow (Sunday), but we will try. Just be patient.

Tomorrow morning, we are meeting Xiulan and the other family (from Georgia) to head to the Civil Affairs Office to meet our daughters, only four days apart in age. We know that you'll be there with us every step of the way.

I will leave you with this photo, one that I took at a nearby park this morning.


Friday, February 19, 2010


Heather emailed me a link to a short video they took today in Kunming.

The link is here.

It certainly looks like their first day in Kunming was eventful!


Credit Where Credit is Due

We have been in Kunming for nearly 24 hours. Since our airplane landed, we've been under the wing of a pretty incredible woman. Xiulan (pronounced Shoe-Lawn) lives in Kunming.

She is our local guide who works for our adoption agency. In addition to ushering us out of the airport and back to our hotel late last night, Xiulan and her husband spent the entire day with us today.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that our transition (thus far) into this cultural explosion has been easy and exciting. I have fallen for her, and Larry as well. I suspect she will be in my thoughts for a great many months and years to come.

Here are some pictures from the Stone Forest. Xiulan is the little power house in the light tan jacket. We caught her dancing with some of the performers. The natural stone formations are amazing. We walked and climbed for hours.

Xiulan's husband drove us the 140 mile round-trip excursion. We stopped off in a nearby village for lunch of roasted duck, tofu, pork, beans and broccoli. Xiulan brought me to the counter with her to help select from the cases what we wanted them to prepare. Each dish was prepared very well.

We are exhausted tonight, like the time change and mere five hours of sleep last night are colliding. 36 hours and counting until we're a family of three!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Stay tuned.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

News From Kunming!

I have just received this email update:

We're in Kunming!!!! I am writing this at 12:28 am Friday. Our hotel is quite nice. The flights were (dare I say this) not as bad as I thought they would be.

The last 90 minutes of our final flight was the hardest. Our bodies are exhausted. We've been awake since 4:15 am Wednesday morning.

Xuilan (our agency guide) and her husband picked us up at the airport and brought us back to the hotel. She's a corker. I think we're going to do just fine together. She will be here at 10:00 tomorrow morning to show us around, so am going to sign off.

Still on course for meeting Ella on Sunday! This doesn't feel real, by the way. Just in case you think I'm sounding all calm, cool and collected.


Hainan Airlines Says...

...the eagle has landed.

Hainan Airlines website informs me that the flight that was bringing H&L into Kunming landed approximately 15 minutes ago.

Barring travel difficulties in Beijing, H&L should have arrived in Ella's city!

They left their house about 30 hours ago, so I am sure they have never felt more exhausted.

More updates as I get them!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Leaving on Jet Plane

Hey, it's Gretchen, mistress of the blog while Heather and Larry are on their big adventure!

Heather sent me this photo, just before they boarded their plane in Chicago for Beijing.

The airline reports the flight left on time, and Heather and Larry should be landing in Beijing at 4:25 Thursday afternoon (Beijing time).

I will update again as soon as I hear from the new parents!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

We Are Leaving Tomorrow!

We've got less than 24 hours to go folks. To say that there is a mixture of emotions at the Meyer Household would be an understatement.

Our friend Drew sent me a message on Facebook this morning: "You ready?" Two simple words. No simple answer.

Our cat and house are being turned over to a marvelous individual for the next 16 days. Our bags are packed (and 6 lbs over the weight requirement at present). My 'To Do' list has nearly everything crossed off.

Ella's room is in perfect order.

There isn't a stitch of dirty laundry in the house. I realize those words will never leave my fingertips again.

But ARE WE READY? If we can follow the words of adoptive mothers who have traversed before us and live in the moment, then yes, we are ready. If we stay centered, yes with an exclamation point!

We have our faith, we have you and we have this child, half-way around the world. It is entirely possible that we could slide into home base arms and legs everywhere, in horrific form. I doubt you'll hold that against us.

Next post from Kunming. Enjoy the ride.

Love, H&L

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A Chance Encounter

We have received some wonderful news, however small and however uncertain.

Heather joined a Yahoo group, specifically one for people in the adoption community that have, or are about to, travel to Yunnan Province. She included a link to our blog in an email to the group. Out of the blue, we received an email from a woman stating that she thinks she met Ella! She recognized the picture on our blog. After an exchange of emails, we learned that she was in Kunming adopting an 11 year old girl, and was permitted into the orphanage with her guide. She was allowed to spend time with some of the infants. One stood out. She spent some time playing, touching, and just generally enjoying some one-on-one with this baby girl. Her words:

“There were many rooms I saw, but the one with the babies stood out because my heart went out to them. The person touring me saw I wanted to stay a bit so she talked with other workers while I looked at the little ones in the cribs. A few were crying, some were being rocked, and others were content looking around. The cribs were side by side in rows with isles in between. They were wearing the baby clothes that don't have closures on the diaper area, and were very bundled with puffy clothes. I would say she is a little small, but not alarmingly so. She just seemed dainty. She was also smiley, and cooed with me when I talked to her. She is wonderful! ...”

“The details I remember are shiny eyes, perfect little mouth, and very small hands. She appeared healthy and well to me. She was wearing puffy baby clothes, and I told her everything would be OK as I wondered who would come for her and the others. I will say, her features are especially pretty.”

Our email exchange occurred over the course of a few days. After revisiting the photo, our new email pal feels pretty certain that she's correct. She certainly “feels it”, if you know what we mean. The dates line up with the approximate dates of Ella’s referral photos, when she would have been at Kunming CWI, as opposed to foster care. These little shreds of history are so important to us, and someday to Ella. Of course, the fact that this little girl stood out comes as no surprise to us!

This post is really incapable of describing the joy that this chance encounter has given us. Even if it wasn't Ella, it's still a great story. This woman was able to brighten the day of an orphaned child, and it was such a moving encounter for her that she still carries it in her heart. If not this woman, then it at least gives us hope that someone else may have stopped, spent time, and showed Ella Man Li a little bit of extra love.


Thursday, February 4, 2010

13 and 17.

PLANE TICKETS PURCHASED!! In 13 days at 10:09 am, we'll be getting ready to depart from Detroit Metro for THE biggest journey of our lives.

In 17 days, we will have Ella in our arms.

None of this feels real. We have been reminded time and time again by those who have journeyed to China before us - Live In The Moment. And we are trying to do just that.

The little people in our lives are gearing up for Ella, even though the concept of China and traveling through air and time zones is tough for them to conceptualize. (It's hard enough for us big people!) This morning, our Godson told his Daddy: "We have to buy an airplane today, with edges so that we don't fall off. And no engine. And then we have to get keys. Then we can go get Ella."

You gotta love his 2 1/2 year old spirit. We sure do.


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Xie Xie.

Mandarin for Thank You. Say it with me - "sheh sheh".

I posted our travel confirmation on my Facebook status yesterday. Within an hour, 31 friends had commented to that post. Love. Cheers. Relief. More love. I giggled as I watched one comment right after another. It was unbelievable!

I sent an email to our wonderful FCC Toledo group. The email responses poured in from so many that have adopted before us. What a steady presence this group has been for us.

Then there are the numerous posts to this blog, all showing the energy and love that got us to this point.

The family is about to bust at the seams for a new grandchild, niece, great-niece and cousin.

So we want to say it a thousand times over before we forget or get side-tracked or overwhelmed.

Xie xie. Stay tuned, H&L

Monday, February 1, 2010

Start Packing.

At 5:39 am this morning, our adoption agency sent us the email we've been waiting for - the Consulate's confirmation of our appointment. It is set for March 1, 2010 at 9:30 am.
We are to be in Kunming no later than the morning of February 21. By the end of the day February 21, Ella will be in our arms!
We will spend about a week in Kunming, then fly to Guangzhou where we'll spend the rest of our time. (More on what and why later...)
The last order of business will be the March 1 appointment, followed by an oath-taking ceremony on March 2, and obtaining travel visas on March 3.
We will get on the plane heading back home on March 4.
It is time to book those flights. Let the countdown begin!