Whew, finally some time to sit down and process our last few days! We started out Gotcha Day with a run through one of two parks that surround the hotel. Ashley and Aimee watched the kids so we could go and it was awesome! Guangzhou is a tropical area, so there is a lot of green.....banyan trees, plumeria trees, palm trees....its a really beautiful place. The parks are huge and hilly. There were paths up, down, around, everywhere you turn. The one we visited is "famous" they tell us & it deserves to be.....it has an amusement park, an olympic-sized swimming pool, a playground, vintage military equipment, lakes with boats you can rent. Lots of people out walking around the park and doing their exercises.....its interesting, they use the playground equipment, they do dances, they do tai chi and their version of hackysack (which is about 4-5 flat, round pieces of metal bound together with feathers sticking out of the top....we'll have to bring one home!) They also clap their hands and slap their backs as they walk around.....we haven't asked yet, but we think its to get their blood flowing??? It was an adventure navigating through the metro tunnel to get to the park, but at least we didn't have to cross the street. I can't remember if I mentioned it in a previous post, but crossing the street here is crazy! Pedestrians don't have the right of way, and drivers don't always obey the traffic signs/signals, so it is every man for himself. Poor Aimee has had several close calls already and she just about ended up on the handlebars of a bicyclist as we walked out of the civil affairs office!
After our park run, we had a quick meeting with Holt where they told us what to expect for the afternoon. Ralph and I had to bring our passports and some gifts for the orphanage staff, then some things for Leah.....it was so fun packing a bag for her! We brought some toys and some snacks that we thought she might like. Time dragged by until it was time to leave for the civil affairs office. The kids were bouncing off the walls, so we had them take a little rest before we went. We were all excited/anxious/happy when it was time to go. The bus ride there was about 10 minutes & we realized how stressful a day it must have been for these babies, who have likely never been in a car or bus before, to take a two, three, four hour drive to come to this place and be handed to someone they didn't know. We waited about 20 minutes before Leah arrived, but while we waited, we got to watch as about 20 other families were united with their children. You're almost speechless as you watch, it is such a beautiful thing. There was a back playroom the kids were playing in while they waited, and they would bring the kids out as each families' paperwork was ready. The kids ranged in ages from infant to about 10.....and the families ranged from those with four kids to this being their first, from the US, Spain, Germany and more. Some of the kids came out pulling a suitcase or carrying a backpack, with big smiles on their faces, others were crying, some screaming in fear. Older children are allowed to make the decision if they want to go with their family, and we have heard that, while it is seldom, there are those who do choose to stay. There was a family who had a child around 12 and were adopting a little boy who looked about 3 or 4.....he was having a really hard time, and bless them, they just kept at it, working with him to get him settled down, trying to comfort him. We have been so blessed that our children have had an easy transition, but we can imagine the difficulty you would have in seeing your child go through such anguish and emotional pain, but knowing that, if you can just get to the other side of it, you are fulfilling what they need and long for.
As they arrived, the caregivers had to walk through the room we were waiting in to get to the playroom, so I was keeping my eye on the door. With all of the other things to see, I almost missed her, but happened to look just as someone was walking past with a sweet little girl in a headband.....I pointed her out to Ralph and we both said, "that's her!" I lost it at the point.....just seeing her in person after all these years of waiting was, well, emotional. Our escort told us they would give us about 5 minutes heads-up before they brought her out so that we could get cameras and snacks/toys ready.....after waiting about 5 minutes after we initially saw her, Joyce, our escort, said, "she's ready" and there she was! We scrambled to pull things out of our bags....luckily, Aimee & Ashley were ready with cameras and video. It was love at first touch....she was beautiful, and tiny! She is 3 1/2 and is wearing 18 month shorts. She's long, but very petite, about 22 lbs. We spent some time asking the caregiver questions.....her name, Shun Mu Yi, means - Shun (is like her last name and is the name of the province/area she is from), Mu (flower) Yi (elegant, graceful). She had a little cold, so they gave us some herbal medicine as well as a small plastic bag with a few diapers, some cookies, a pair of lace pants and a cute little Pooh bear washcloth. For an orphanage to bring even that is a big deal....they don't have much money to spend on extras, so we were very grateful.
Since then, we have been doing a little paperwork and spending some downtime together as a family. Yesterday (Tuesday), we had to go back to the civil affairs office to make it official (they give a 24 period for the parents to make sure that they want to proceed with the adoption). It was a long morning, about 2 hours and the kids were such troopers. We had two interviews where they asked if we were sure we wanted to adopt her and if we were sure we would never abandon or abuse her. We can't imagine answering anything other than "yes, yes, yes!!" Back at the hotel, Leah & I took a nap while Ralph, A & A took the kids to the pool. Papa Johns pizza delivered to the hotel for dinner last night (we haven't been too adventurous with food yet), then out for a walk & some ice cream. Leah has been pretty subdued since we met her & she has attached to me more than Ralph or the kids at this point, but she's warming up very little by very little. Its going to take her time to realize that we are her final stop, that she won't be left again or given to someone else. Continue to pray for her, if you would, that she will begin to feel safe and secure in our family. She still has her cold with an icky cough, so we're guessing she also doesn't feel 100%.
The most we've seen her open up is when we are out and about, especially shopping. A & A were thrilled to see how much she enjoyed the mall and were promising lots of shopping trips when we get home :) We found a little place with several shops and bought her some new tennis shoes. She was so excited to put them on! She started pointing to all of the different things they had...the little cats with the swinging paw, bracelets, sunglasses, chopsticks, anything and everything she wanted to hold, touch, feel.....and the ladies in the shop were happily handing them to her in hopes that we would realize how much she loved it all and would buy it for her! Ralph was excited to do his bargaining....its only just begun....and we bought swim goggles for him, Makena & Josh and Leah's shoes for 180Yuan, which is about $30 US, not too bad, but he says he just getting warmed up :). The exchange rate is something like 6.24Y per $1 US.
Not great sleep last night, Leah was awake again at 3am, not crying, just looking around. At some point during the night, her and Josh had switched spots so she was next to Ralph. We could tell she was nervous, so we moved her back to next to me and she fell asleep again. Then it was off and on again for all of us.
Finally, to today....we slept in since we didn't have anywhere to be and had breakfast later than normal. We found an indoor/outdoor kiddyland (as they call it in the hotel) that the kids had fun with. Just finished up a nap (we were all being lazy, Ashley was the only one to hit the gym) and in a little while, we head to a local place to get Leah's visa picture taken. Tomorrow is a free day, so we're headed to Shamian Island, a place we LOVE, for laundry and more shopping and wandering around. Shamian Island is a cool area where the White Swan hotel is located. The White Swan is typically where adoptive families stay, but it is under complete renovation. Everything is in walking distance from the White Swan, so it was always so nice. We like the hotel we're in, but there is something special about the White Swan. At least Holt borrowed one of the red couches for the red couch photo......The WS had these couches that all adoptive families would sit their kids on to take photos. We thought we'd have to miss out on it this time, but our Holt staff showed us the couch in their office...Yay!! Nothing like tradition!!
I'm sending lots of pics to post this time, as everyone requested!! We can read our emails, so if you have anything specific you want to see, or have any questions you've been wondering about, let me know! Thank you so much for your words of encouragement and support! We miss everyone and can't wait for Leah to meet you!
Oh, and one fact that I forgot to post from when we were in Beijing....Beijing is a big city, 140km by 160km, but the amazing part to me was that its population is about that of all of Canada. What!?!
Oh, and we forgot to wish a happy birthday to Uncle Dennis last week......sorry Dennis! And thanks again for taking us to the airport!!