Monday, December 1, 2008

Links to Picture Libraries

Buddhist Blessings for the Girls

Dan-Dan was a bit tuckered out from the events of the last few days and got a few last winks of sleep prior to us leaving for the Buddhist Temple.

The Temple we visited has been around for over 1,500 years but is much smaller in land size due to encroachment of surrounding buildings. Regardless, there is a certain serenity on the temple grounds.

We toured the grounds prior to the ceremony, entered the temple, removed our shoes and proceeded to kneel at the temple while a buddhist monk led a chant and blessed us all for a good healthy life.

It was a wonderful ceremony and acknowledged Dan-Dan's connection to her birth religion. While Dan-Dan won't be raised as a Buddhist, Sue and I welcome the blessing of our little girl. You can't get enough "health wishes", I say.

After the ceremony, we gathered as a group and took the following picture:

After the blessing, we returned to the White Swan Hotel and proceeded to take a group photo of the children from Guangdong Province.

It was a bit of a chore getting them all to sit still, but we somehow accomplished it. (Perhaps Buddha was looking down on us after all.)

We also took one last group shot of everyone in the tour (Matt and Tim were playing GameBoy in our room), as Miriam was leaving at 5:30am to return to Seattle.

The White Swan has a couple gorgeous Jade sculptures that I've included here. The photo's don't do them justice as you just can't imagine the amount of work required to complete these out of a single block of Jade.

Lastly, I included a picture of the waterfall and atrium area of the Hotel. We've really enjoyed our stay here and encourage anyone who comes to Guangzhou to stay here, too.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

A Wonderful Trip to the Zoo

We started the day with a bath for Dan-Dan. As the picture illustrates, she's not a bath person. Perhaps she'll grow into it. :)

We left at 8:30am on about a 45 minute bus ride to the south side of Guangzhou to visit the Guangzhou Safari Park.

The Guangzhou Zoo is, by far, the best zoo I can remember visiting. It is well manicured, has high shade areas, dense foliage and an abundance of all types of animals. And not just one or two like many zoos in the States. There were at least 5 Rhino, 10-15 tigers and lions, 10 bears, 10 pandas and a huge number of giraffe, wilde beasts, reebok, zebra, etc... In addition, most of the animals weren't in small enclosed areas. They were in areas reworked to mimic their home terrains. We highly advise anyone going to Guangzhou to visit this fine zoo. Here are just a few pics from the day. I've included many more in the image library that you can link to above.

After our return from the Zoo, we went to the electronics market and I purchased the following items, all for less than $10/each: 4GB SD cards, 1GB MP3 Players, laptop speakers.

Tomorrow we head to a Buddhist Temple for a blessing of our children.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Saturday: Medical Examination Day

Today was pretty uneventful. We took Dan-Dan to get her medical exam which she passed. Her weight is 7 kilo's (about 15.7 lbs.)

Went to lunch at Lucy's and they boys had fun with games and walking Dan-Dan.

Matt, Tim and I then went to the toy mall and it was a sight to behold. 6 stories of vendors in 10x10 cubicles. Puts Mexican markets to shame, they do.

That evening, we walked along the river and I took some night photo's of the party boats and the other bank. Let's just say the surroundings look a lot better at night than they do by day.

Tomorrow, we visit the Guangzhou Safari Park.

Friday, November 28, 2008

We Travel Back to Guangzhou

We left the hotel early to get a good start on the 6+ hour bus ride back to Guangzhou. But first we had to head south about a half hour to visit the beach at on the Sea of China.

It was a very nice beach boats that seemed more like ornaments than the working boats they were.

There were a variety of vendors on the beach, including a guy who gave pony rides. Of course Matt & Tim wanted one and had a nice stroll up the beach.

While at the beach, Cordelia (our guide) told us a story about a little girl that was beach combing and really scrutinizing which shell she would pick up. Some she would take, other she would leave. A man asked her why she was so selective. She said that the tide will come in a take many of the shells back and that she couldn't save them all, but realized that she could save many of them one at a time. (I'll let you, the reader, figure out why I included this story here.)

We left the beach and began out trek back to the White Swan. Everywhere in China, you see small family agri-farms where the locals work their crops. I caught this one picture that juxtaposes Old China with New. Note the farmer carrying water to his crops with the old water carrying device and he's no more than 50 yards from a huge power line station.

We stopped for lunch at a nice restaurant with an outlet store famous (in China) for it's knives. The prices were ridiculous. We bought Matt a torture tool and Tim some nunchuks. Each cost about $1.00. We also bought about 13 Swiss Army-like knives for Matt & Tim to give to their Scout Den members. They cost about $1.00, too.

The bus ride back was long, but uneventful. The adults took it worse than the babies. Dan-Dan kept her composure throughout.

We arrived a bit late and had to get our laundry out, so we ordered Papa John's pizza in. Dan-Dan immediately wanted in on it.

It's nice to be back in the White Swan and beginning the last leg of this trip.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

We Visit the Orphanage

Many of us were skeptical of making a 2 day trip to Maoming that would take us over 6 hours in a bus both ways. But after visiting the Orphanage, I know that no one believes that now.

Maonan Social Welfare Institute (SWI) houses about 80 orphaned children. Most of the healthy babies are readily adopted. But as with all orphaned children, there is that group of babies with special needs (cleft palates, heart conditions, mentally disabled, etc..) that become society's cast offs. It's truly heartbreaking to see these children grouped together. And this is just one small orphanage. There are many, many more throughout the world. And the tragedy is that many of these handicaps are treatable through surgery.

Matt and Tim walked through the older children and gave them candy. Many of them were a little hesitant (as was Matt & Tim) but eventually they came around and accepted the candy. While we were there, they also gave a present of 6 dozen childrens toothbrushes to the Orphanage.

After we gave our gifts to the orphanage, the orphanage gave us a gift: a small package with the clothes that Dan-Dan was found in. Clothes is a generous term. What she was left in was a diaper and a small green sweatshirt-like jacket.

Matt and Tim received a jade pendant for good luck, as did Dan-Dan.

The caretakers are people that are truly selfless. Going to work each day and seeing new babies come and go, but also giving attention to children that will never leave the system.

This happens not only here, but everywhere. My God bless all these special people. They truly are doing His work.

Next, we visited Dan-Dan's finding place. The Wedding Photography Studio moved about a month ago, but we visited the place where an abandonment of a little baby set in to motion a series of events that brought us together.

In situations like this, there truly is a silver lining to a storm cloud.

We have no doubt that this Thanksgiving will be the most memorable in our lives. Not just because of us getting Dan-Dan, but because we had the opportunity to visit her orphanage and see the environment that so many children like Dan-Dan grow up in. In addition, the general environment here in rural China is so much lower than anywhere in the U.S. (Slums, ghettos included) that you can't visit here on any day and not feel truly thankful for the wonderful opportunities we have.

We hope you all had a blessed Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Let's See Where Dan-Dan Was Found and Raised!

Today we checked out of the White Swan to travel for 5 1/2 hours by bus to the city of Maoming. Elizabeth was raised in the Maonan Social Welfare Institute from the time she was found on 1/23 until we got her. Prior to leaving, we stopped by the Security Documents Office and got her Chinese Passport. And then it was off to Maoming.

To say it was bumpy was an understatement. We were soon reminded as to all the things we forgot about parenting an infant. Bottles, rags, diapers, wipes, toys, etc.. Add to the dynamic that you can only use bottled water, makes it all that much more cumbersome. But worth all the effort. She is a joy!

Just out of Guangzhou, we saw families tending their small agricultural plots, hoeing, weeding, watering and caring for their lifeblood. After about an hour we stopped for dinner at Cantonese restaurant and had our first glimpse of how the Chinese use everything.

We saw sandworms, water beetles, squids, insects, and even a freshly killed cayman.

Our guide said the only thing with legs that the Cantonese don't eat is a table and the only thing with wings they don't eat is an airplane.

We got back on the bus and proceeded to drive for another 4 hours. We checked into the hotel and were in bed by 11:45pm. Tomorrow, we'll visit the Orphanage, give our gifts to the caretakers and director (including Matt & Tim giving infant toothbrushes to the orphanage as a Scout service project), visit the finding places and lastly go to a beach. Then it's back to the hotel, where we'll prepare to drive back the next day to Guangzhou.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and while we won't have a big turkey dinner, nor will be with our immediate family, we can't think of a more appropriate way of spending the day: Help the orphanage who cared for our little girl in such a selfless manner. We truly are thankful to these gracious people who toil in anonymity out not only in China but throughout the world.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

We Officially Adopt Elizabeth

It's Official. Elizabeth Yundan (Dan-Dan) Franz is legally our child. Here is a video of Dan-Dan walking at the office while we were waiting to process the paperwork and a heartfelt Chinese Mother/Daughter song.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Another Girl in the Franz Family Line!

We got Elizabeth today! The day started out with a nice breakfast and a little swimming. Just like any other day. Only this day was over 3 1/2 years in the making.

We arrived at the CAB building at 2:30 and proceeded to go to the 8th floor, where we waited about 15-20 minutes while another group in front of us received their children. Here's a picture of our babies being brought into the waiting room and you can see Dan-Dan (Chinese name is Nan Yun Dan, hence the nickname) with her shoes on.

They called out Dan-Dan's name and Sue went and received her. It was a powerful moment. Here are pics of all of us and our first pictures with Dan-Dan.

Here's a group shot of all the adopting families in our group. Surprisingly, all the children were very calm and comfortable with their new families.

We got back to the hotel about 5:30pm and then spent 2 more hours filling out paperwork prior to getting a quick bite. Dan-Dan fell asleep at around 8:30 after about 15 minutes of crying (which she has a habit of doing according to the Orphanage). She woke up once at 1:30am for about 30 seconds of comforting and slept through to 6am.

Here is a video montage of the day, the families and the finding ads

Tomorrow, we go through the legal process of adopting her in China.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Beijing to Guangzhou

"Nothing to see here!" - Frank Drebbin

Sums it up perfectly. 3 hour flight to Guangzhou in Southern China. The temperature is much warmer and may hit 80 during the day. Matt, Tim and I went in the pool at 7:30pm and it was chilly to say the least. It will probably be warmer with the sun out tomorrow.

The White Swan hotel is very nice. Lots and Lots of adopted children and their families here. LOTS. We've got two connected rooms which gives us a lot of extra space.

We went to a Thai restaurant for dinner last night and saw the parade of children. Up to now, this has been a vacation. Tomorrow, our lives change forever. And we can't wait! A little nervous, but certainly the excitement far outweighs any nervousness.

Tomorrow is almost here!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

We Climb the Great Wall

We did it. The family climbed the Great Wall to the 5th Watchtower at the top of the mountain.

The magnitude of the Wall (that's what us insiders call it) is truly astounding. Climbing it is difficult enough (Stairmaster ought to come out with a Great Wall brand) but I couldn't imagine building the darned thing. And there's another 3,600 miles of the stuff. Wow.

Here's all the "adoptionists" in our group, prior to the climb:

Prior to the climb, we went to a Jade factory and saw the how the toils of the many realize vast foreign currency for the State:

After the climb we had lunch, accompanied by some Chinese liquor that tasted like jet fuel (those crazy Chinese and their additives!) We returned to Beijing, visited a Tea Room for some high learnin'.

Tim will show you all how you can tell if the temperature of the water is hot enough to seep tea. Trust me, you'll want to see how!

We ended the day by seeing a Chinese Acrobatic Show. Very interesting, but the boys were trashed by that point and Tim fell asleep in the show. Tomorrow, we leave for Guangzhou and will receive our newest baby on Monday.

Click here for more pictures from the day.

Here is video of an artisan making Happiness Ball out of a single block of Jade and also us climbing the Great Wall.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Day 2 - Beijing Sightseeing

A wonderful day in Beijing. Low Pollution. High in low 50's. Today, we take the city tour, beginning with the Olympic Green. We did a walk through of the Water Cube and posed for a photo that I'm sure has never been taken (much less thought of) before:

Next it was off to the Forbidden City. Huge Place. Huge. It was finished in 1420 and remains in remarkably good shape. Hint if you visit: Go to the bathroom BEFORE you visit. Apparently, the Emperors never had BM's. And they never had to use Squatty Potties.

We then had lunch family style at a Chinese restaurant (no steak houses to be had) and the food was very good. At least compared to this restaurant, the American version of Chinese food is remarkably similar.

After lunch, we visited Tiananmen Square and learned that it's the largest public square in the world. While we were there, there was a small protest with propoganda leaflets being passed out. Needless to say, it was squelched real fast by the authorities. It was no tank standoff, but in our minds it was a piece of history, nonetheless.

Matt and Tim have been the object of many stares by the locals. They've actually been approached by locals to have their pictures taken with them. It's either the blond hair or their incredibly good looks.

Last visit of the day was to a silk factory. Pretty cool stuff. Silkworm lives for 60 days. Feeds exclusively on mulberry leaves. The cocoon is a single strand of silk that is about 1,500 meters long. They harvest the cocoons with the worm inside it and cook it slightly to kill the worm. They then soak in water, get the single thread and start unwinding it. Pretty impressive stuff.

Here is a video of our first day of sightseeing in Beijing.

Last night, while Sue got a massage, the boys and I went to KFC for some chinese chicken. Tomorrow, we head for the Great Wall.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

We're Here in Beijing

13 hours on a plane, 2 hours of sleep, an hour long bus ride to the Jianguo Hotel, a quick meal and it's off to bed. Here's a pic from the Airport:

We're traveling with about 6 other families and some more will be arriving over the next couple of days. Our plans for sightseeing in Beijing are to see the Great Wall, Forbidden City, Tianamen Square and the Olympic Venues. Some shopping, a Chinese Acrobatic show and a few other things. Should be fun.

We're all beat and can't wait to wake up on local time. Good Night. See more pics from the day here.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

How did we get here?

April 2005. A casual dinner at The Green Basil. A glass of wine. Some casual conversation. That's how this whole tale unfolds. Sue mentions to me that Tim asked if he was going to get a baby sister. And since Sue had already burned up her child rearing years with 2 wonderful boys, I ask her if she could have another child would she want a girl? Well, you know the answer. I then ask Sue if she'd ever thought about adopting? You know the answer to that, too.

The decision was pretty easy. We both figured if we had to talk ourselves into adopting, we probably shouldn't do it. So we began investigating what the adoption process entailed. At that time, Chinese adoptions were usually completed from initial application in less than 15 months, so we figured we'd have a child by the end of the next summer. And then everything slowed down.

More adoption requests than ever compounded with fewer available children necessarily prolonged the process. Sue and I were becoming so concerned that we were discussing what date would we withdraw ourselves from the process. We'd decided that if we didn't have a referral by the end of 2008, that would be it.

Luckily, that didn't happen and on October 1st we received notification that Nan Yun Dan had been matched with our application. While I can't imagine the feelings of a mother giving up her child, we are truly excited to have this opportunity to change the life of this little girl.

So here we are, 4 days away from leaving for Beijing with Matt and Tim. Our lives will change forever in a few short days. And we can't wait. Join us on the last leg of a 3 1/2 year journey of paperwork, frustration, hope, and finally jubilation.