Dec 2, 2005

Grand Finale

Ahh. Final post before heading for home. The title is fitting as last night was apparently the conclusion to a week-long tourism expo here in Guangzhou which wrapped up with fireworks shot off of three barges anchored in the Pearl River directly behind the White Swan hotel. We sat at the window of one of the other families' rooms from our Nanning group (see below) to have a 13th floor, first row view of a fireworks show that would put D.C., New York, or Philadelphia to shame. Everything was quantity and quality on this display including the showering "willow tree" type fireworks that filled the entire sky and didn't extinguish until they hit the waters of the river. There were new fireworks I have not seen in the states that were like strung-together lights which remained lit as they floated slowly downward connected to invisible parachutes. It was a "de-sight-ful" way to end our trip here in China.

We didn't want to forget to add a picture of the families we met while in China. Many are here for the second time and their children were an inspiration that comforted us when anxiety built up prior to meeting Jeremy. I look forward to sharing website addresses to see what others wrote about our trip so that we can see through their eyes all the wonders we have experienced these past two weeks but forgot to mention here.

Shamian Island has been a little slice of Europe while here in China. The island is where the hotel is located and was originally a French/British settlement in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The architecture is considerably different and natural areas are more plentiful than when you cross the bridge into the main city. We smiled each and every time we came across the young children moving between classes and the playground (above). All were eager to say "Hi!" and show us how well they knew English. One man told us that Americans were lazy for not learning Chinese, a language of a growing, world powerhouse. He dreams of a day that we will learn Mandarin just as he learned English -- by watching TV and listening to radio. (And he was one of the better English speaking Chinese as I recall!) Perhaps when Mandarin becomes available on cable TV or required for browsing the internet, I will make a concerted effort to become bilingual.

Friday morning we attended daily Mass at Our Lady of Lourdes on Shamian Island. When we arrived shortly before 6:45 AM, the locals were just wrapping up praying the rosary. Mass was in Cantonese, but we were able to follow along with a copy of the Magnificat -- one of the many beautiful features of the universal Church! When Mass ended, they began praying the Stations of the Cross. It was incredible to see these people praying so reverently in a building with open windows where passerby could certainly here the loud, clear voices singing to a God opposed by their government. Scott and I are just about ready to put together a group of men to make a mission trip here to renovate this beautiful, old church.

We took a stroll on to the mainland Friday after breakfast to see the "real" city; away from all the tourist traps and western fare available near the hotel. Some shops had items that made it nearly impossible to distinguish whether it was a pet shop or a grocery store (they definitely had both) as all contained turtles of various kinds and sizes. Many people had a towel laid out on the street and were hawking horns, paws, or skeletal remains of various exotic animals such as tigers, antelope, and monkeys. One place had several bins like the one above containing huge quantities of scorpions. (Where do you find this many scor -err- never mind; I don't want to know!) We are fairly certain they were meant for human consumption based on the other items available in the shop. It appeared as though the would-be buyer picked up these fresh specimens with chopsticks. You'd better be an EXPERT at chopstick handling before trying to grab a live scorpion! And just how do you eat him before he poisons you? Thanks, but I'll stick with hamburger.

That should do it for our stay overseas. I'm sure we will look back at our trip as a special opportunity; not only to adopt our second son, but also to experience this culture personally. While much of what we read in America is true, China is not as bad as what I had pictured in my mind. There are signs that the government tries to keep its people from knowing too much about the rest of the world, but I tend to believe that between Hong Kong's capitalism and technologies like the internet and satellite television, China will have a hard time maintaining Communism for more than another decade. Regardless, I'm ready for the USA again.

Clicking on any of the pictures posted will give you a larger view, but perhaps the best one of all is Jeremy who smiles with us at the thought of finally coming home to meet his big brother, the family, the two dogs, and all his new friends. I have no doubt he is going to love everyone and everything that make us long for home!

Nov 30, 2005

St Mark in the house!

At last we are reunited with the Brunos. We arrived in Guangzhou on Monday evening after a very troubling plane ride. Seems Jeremy was beyond his tolerance for lack of sleep but couldn't drift off due to the excitement of the terminal and the turbulence on the plane. The only quiet time we had was when he stopped to inhale before unleashing the terrors of hell a bit longer. People stared which didn't help my cause as we had nothing to offer him for consolation except to pass him back and forth in an eternal struggle to find just the right position that would allow him to rest comfortably. We managed that as we were touching down at our destination around 10 PM. Fortunately he pulled off an Eli-like stupor where nothing could wake him -- we successfully picked up our bags, met our rep, took the 45-minute ride to the hotel and got him into bed without too much more trouble. Originally I thought he was experinecing trauma of leaving "home" which meant we'd be in for a long trip to America, but I think Angela was right in that it was sleep related instead. Hopeully he'll do OK on the trip home -- we leave Saturday morning (Fri, 5:30 PM EST) for a short trip to Hong Kong and then the long trip home.

Tuesday we joined two new couples from Denver (both had older adopted children, 2 and 4, and one was a boy) to head for the doctor's exam and fill out paperwork for our upcoming appointment with the US Consulate. The doctor poked and prodded to examine Jeremy's scrotum cyst which brought on hysteria on his part. I kept telling him to kick the doctor or pee in his face as I would have done likewise if poked and prodded there, but apparently Jeremy does not understand all English yet. He does respond to his new name and seems to understand some phrases that are repeated often -- like "No, Jeremy" and "Put that down, Jeremy." We think he also understands "Come here, Jeremy" although we're not entirely sure as it typically leads to chasing a giggling boy down the hall.

That afternoon the Brunos rolled into town. We reunited for an eat-in delivery at the hotel from Danny's Bagels. I don't know who "Danny" is or what his nationality is, but he has made the most American-like food we have had since arriving in China. Angela and I split a "cheesesteak pizza" while the Brunos had steak sandwiches and noodle soup. After lots of comparing of trips to our respective cities for our adoptions, we called it a night. Bedtime was about 8 PM and we typically sleep through to 6 AM on top of a 2 hour nap each afternoon. I think Angela and I enjoy the extra hours even more than Jeremy as we are usually wiped as each day comes to an end.

Today (Wednesday) we met the Brunos for breakfast. The White Swan hotel excels on this free breakfast buffet and typically I lead the table (or at least I'm in a close tie with Angela -- yes, Angela -- ask Scott if you don't believe me) at comsumption. Today I awoke to a fever though and left breakfast to a bowl of Cheerios and some tea. I'm just getting up at 2 PM from a long rest in bed to make this entry. Jeremy and I were near some caged parakeets, but I think this fever is not related to those avian critters.

On our wanderings around the small island where the hotel is located, we came across a Catholic Church, Our Lady of Lourdes. It comes complete with a Marian grotto and a beautiful, although small, sanctuary that is in dire need of repair. Plaster is falling off in virtually every part of the building and it has a run down look with wood benches, although it did have lovely kneelers. We stopped in long enough to pray for a few minutes and show Jeremy the stations and the tabernacle. He was just a bit fidgety so we will have our work cut out for us next Sunday! An old lady smiled at us as we genuflected on our way out -- it was comforting to see that the faith exists in some unlikely places. We noticed that they offer daily Mass at 6:45 AM. We're not sure if Jeremy would be up for that kind of outing or if the Mass would be valid -- I've heard a lot about state-run churches, although I tend to think that if we went in good faith, it wouldn't be held against us for participating is a Mass that wasn't sanctioned by the Vatican. We've got two mornings left to decide what to do.

This evening we plan on dinner out with the Brunos again (Scott posted from my laptop this morning and made sure to unlock his blog if anyone wants to catch up on posting there). Tomorrow is our appointment with the Consulate where we take an oath and receive the final adoption papers along with citizenship papers for Jeremy that go into effect as soon as we touch down in Newark. We have enjoyed our stay in China, but cannot stress enough how much we long to get home and back to a normal routine. Even a long flight with an infant cannot deter us from our desire to get back.

Nov 27, 2005

Jeremy 3, Away Team 0

(Editor's Note: Clicking on picture below will open larger version in new window.)

Freedom at last! Of course, I don't have a car, I don't have ESPN, I don't have a reliable internet connection, and I don't speak Chinese so I really don't have anything, but I DO have peace and quiet, at least for a little while.

Angela had a stroke of genius at beakfast this morning. Amidst the screaming of Jeremy because we wouldn't allow him to sit in our lap, but instead made him sit in the high chair while munching on watermelon (boy, are we mean parents or what?), she decided she would take Jeremy for a day alone to try to break him of his fixation with daddy.

Of course, this comes on the heels of my failed attempt to shake his "Binky" habit by hiding his pacifier while Jeremy was concentrating on eating Cheerios yesterday. We did okay for a couple of hours while active, but when nap time came along, the game was on. I valiantly withstood the terrors of hell as Jeremy unleashed decibel upon decibel of mind-numbing screeching from his darling, little mouth for close to an hour. When he finally fell asleep, likely due to extreme fatigue and hoarseness, I patted myself on the back for successfully wiping out the addiction to that foul pacifier. Little did I realize that nap time without Binky was hardly nap time at all! About 45 minutes later, well shy of his normal 2-3 hour nap, Jeremy awoke refreshed with a renewed spirit and determination to wake the masses nestled in their beds back in Charlotte with his discontent.

Did Daddy the Brave give in to his voracious demands for his little, pink, plastic friend? Of course not. To Angela's displeasure, I continued to hold out and instead suggested we all go for a walk around the southern half of the nearby lake. Jeremy loved riding in the stroller the day before as we encircled the north half of the lake. Alas, not this time.

It was becoming quickly aparent that Jeremy was every bit as bull-headed as his new father. If he couldn't have Binky, then I was apparently not getting a calm walk around the lake. Oh no! This time the stroller was like holy water on the skin of a vampire, even when Cheerios and juice were tossed in to the mix to try and sweeten the deal. Screaming and kicking and sudden rigidity of the legs, making sitting in a stroller impossible, ensued, and soon Jeremy's shenanigans outweighed my false guise of not minding being the center of attention which is silly, really, because we are the center of attention with or without Jeremy whenever we are on the streets of Nanning. I wound up carrying him as Angela pushed an empty stroller. Is Binky really worth this kind of hassle?

While walking, we managed to pick up a stray, 21-year old student studying Industrial Design at a nearby university. He spoke rough, broken English, but did good enough to share with us some of the local history as we walked. He asked questions about why we were adopting from China and what we do in America. We talked to him about how China was not what we expected, especially since the girl/guy ratio was not nearly as disproportionate as we had been led to believe, and that you would never know China was a communist country on the surface. (Heck, capitalism is at its finest as we watch infomercials in our room for ab rollers, breast enhancement formulas, and miracle weight loss pills. Weight loss pills? -- hello?!? Have you seen the average asian? Who's buying these things?)

About halfway around the southern part of the lake (the lake's entire circumfrence is probably about 6 miles) Jeremy decided he wanted our new student-friend to hold him. The guy was a bit shy at first, but Jeremy made his case and won out, especially after we mentioned the chick-magnet effect of toddlers. We took a picture of the two of them at one point (which we posted with an earlier blog entry) as we thought about how we were letting a complete stranger (and not the first one) hold our new son; something we wouldn't have dreamed of doing in the states!

As we crossed the bridge and headed back towards the hotel, I stopped to get a drink from one of the park vendors. Jeremy was reaching for a lollipop and I was feeling charitable so I added one to my purchase. Now I'm sure all the mommies reading this are shouting "Mistake!" but hindsight, not foresight (and especially not the foresight of a foolish man), is what's 20/20. In a matter of minutes (okay, seconds) the boy's hands were covered in a wet, sticky mess, and where the hands went, so went total destruction as well. His face, hair, and clothes, as well as my shirt were a horror to behold faster than I could say "uncle," and I promptly removed the armored warhead from the cunning soldier and hurriedly surrendered Binky to a most worthy opponent.

And so now Jeremy is taking on mommy as they leave me behind to tour the city zoo. The mere fact that Angela is giving in to a trip to the local zoo where she is convinced that elephants will be stuffed in to cages better suited for parakeets leads me to believe that she is no match for this crafty boy. I fully expect them to return with souvenirs and cotton candy; the latter stuck to Jeremy's hands and entwined in his hair. I'm also certain that my temporary peace and quiet will be replaced with a mommy asleep in moments and a child ready to make up for lost time. Oh well, as long as my dear friend Binky joins us, I'm sure it won't be too bad!

Some of you have questioned whether we are going with the name Jeremy or Junjun. Originally we were thinking of going with his Chinese name to avoid too much change this early on. Now we are beginning to think that moving away from the things that remind him of his foster family may be best for getting on with our lives. In fact, we are writing a note to deliver to the foster parents rather than meeting them in person for the same reason. We are moving toward using "Jeremy" without the clothes, phrases, or common sights he is used to. Of course Binky lives on so who knows who will win this battle? Yeah, you're probably right -- Junjun!

Aside from the challenges with Jeremy, we are all fine here. I read on the internet about chemical spills and earthquakes recently here in China. That's where the communist party begins to show as none of these events have made the local news. None of these things are affecting us. I also stumbled across a news article online that spoke about the Chinese government restricting access to several popular blog sites to keep the Chinese people from reading anti-communist material. That explains the trouble we've been having getting to the blog to post and read your comments. Hopefully Guangzhou will be more blog-friendly as they cater to so many American adoptive families. We head there tomorrow night.

We miss family and friends alike, but none so much as Eli; hopefully he'll still remember us when we get back, and like us even if we don't treat him like a "grandchild" or a "guest" in our house! Seven days and counting...

Nov 26, 2005

Nanning, Part IV

Saturday's outing was to a Buddhist Temple and Pagoda all within Green-hill Park. The Pagoda was nine stories high. Eric did it carrying Jeremy all the way. It was a beautiful view. The picture above shows the Buddhist monks praying in front of the statue of Guayin, one of four Buddhist gods. He is the god of mercy.

At the Buddhist Temple we were offered a blessing for the babies. They required a donation so that pretty much sealed the deal for Eric. No blessing. The blessing consisted of some prayers, oil on the babies head, ringing a bell over the babies head and ended with the baby receiving a red dot on her forehead. We were glad not to have done it.

Now we're back in the room. Jeremy is resting. We have some pictures from today. We may wait to post them until we get to Guanghzhou. The high speed connection that's promised here isn't all that it's supposed to be. We have some great pictures of Jeremy without his pacifier and he's even smiling in a couple. He's starting to get comfortable and is warming up. He still doesn't like me (Angela) that much and prefers to be held by daddy. What a shock it will be for him when daddy goes back to work. We're enjoying hearing form everyone back home. It makes us feel not so far away.

Nanning, Part III

Friday we went to a big mall. We left without buying anything. Eric reminded me that with all the necessities we've acquired, formula, extra diapers etc. we'll have to buy an extra suitcase to haul it out of here. Lunch was at KFC. It tasted a little different but good.

Nanning, Part II

On Thursday we met with the orphanage director and finalized the adoption with the government officials. With the orphanage director we exchanged several gifts. We were called first, I handed over the nanny gift, the foster family gift and then the bag that was holding the orphanage director's gift ripped open at the bottom and two pounds of Hershey's chocolate spilled all over the floor. I felt like such a goober. The orphanage director gave us some pictures from the orphanage and baby pictures of Jeremy. Very cool. Then we went to the notary office to finalize the paperwork. That makes it all final. Jeremy is a Smith.

Nanning, Part I

Wednesday morning we had a meeting to complete the adoption paperwork. We learned what the order would be when the babies were handed over. The four babies from the Yulin orphanage came first, then us, then the six babies from Beihai.

After the business meeting we took a shopping trip to the city's Super Walmart. It covers two floors of a building but doesn't have nearly the amount of products we have. Some of the items were easy to recognize like Pampers diapers, and we could figure out apple juice from grape juice from the picture on the container, but for some things the only thing on the container was Chinese characters. Thank goodness for our guide, Michael.

We took a stroll through the meat/seafood section of the store. The first thing that you notice is the smell. We can't even begin to describe it other than it was overwhelming. We posted pictures of the fish tank with big fish, crabs, and turtles. You would use a net to scoop out the fish you wanted. We also saw a whole skinned rabbit that we first thought was a big rat because of the teeth but then we saw the big ears. After shopping we ate lunch at Pizza Hut. It tasted the same although they did have eel as a pizza topping.

At 2:45 we met in the lobby to go to the Lottery Hotel where we would meet our babies. We went to the fourth floor meeting room. The babies were across the hall. A rep from the CCAA gave made an introduction statement. Then it was our time. We were at the front of the room so I had a great camera shot as the first few parents came up. I was so busy taking pictures of them that I didn't realize it was our turn until our names were called. I have to be honest at first I really didn't recognize Jeremy. I just took the baby that was being handed to me. He screamed when he came to me but as soon as he saw Eric he went immediately to him. And he hasn't left his arms yet. You may notice that in all of the pictures Eric is holding him. Today (Saturday) We just got a picture of me holding him...he's asleep. He goes to men only...other dads in our group, our CCAI reps, a stranger in the lobby of our hotel. Anyway back to Wednesday, that night we went to the hotel restaurant specifically to get the kids congee (rice porridge). Every family ordered a bowl. When they came I thought it was such a waste because the bowls were so big they couldn't possibly eat it all. I was wrong. Jeremy almost finished his entire bowl. I've since tried to feed him more but he's found other things he likes even watermelon. His breakfast is basically massive amounts of watermelon. We feed him cheerios for snacks so were hoping to balance out all the liquid.

HINT: Mom, have watermelon in the house when we get home next weekend!

Nov 24, 2005

Introducing Jeremy

Thanksgiving Day is coming to an end here in Nanning (we had leftover pizza from Pizza Hut), but I wanted to get the pictures up from yesterday when we received Junjun. Clicking on the image should bring up larger version in a new window. Additional images from "Gotcha Day" can be viewed on our Club Photo album. Angela claims she will post with all the details later. Currently her and Junjun are asleep after a busy day of signing all the paperwork that makes his adoption official.

Our internet connection is slow and buggy in Nanning so I am keeping this short. We appreciate all the replies, most especially those about Eli who is very much missed by both of us. He will enjoy his new little brother who has an equal energy level. Currently Junjun ("j" as in John; Jun rhymes with run) prefers Daddy, but between Mommy's child rearing abilities and Daddy's lack of patience for wailing (Junjun) and gnashing of teeth (Daddy), Junjun is sure to take to Mommy any day now. Your prayers for patience and understanding are appreciated. We look forward to formal introductions in just over a week. Enjoy the turkey!

Nov 22, 2005

On to Nanning

No post yesterday -- still trying to adapt to Hong Kong timezone. The day started at 7 AM by sharing breakfast with the Brunos. Hong Kong is quite the cosmopolitan city and it shows in the breakfast menu. Along side all the "American" norms of ceral, eggs, pancakes, and orange juice, there was also sushi, bean curd, tofu, and prosciutto (looked like raw bacon to me). Angela, with her iron stomach, sampled practically everything on the menu including some ething in the fruit section that looked like a slimy, white mushroom cap. (Any ideas out there?) I on the other hand went with fruit, yogurt, and some ceral as my stomach was a bit anxious about the thought of anything out of the ordinary.

After breakfast, we parted ways with the Brunos to head out on a tour of Hong Kong. We started by ascending Victoria Peak, the highest point in Hong Kong, to see a view of Victoria Harbor and the main island's plethora of buildings. Next, we headed for the tourist tr -- err, shopping bazaar, where we were given time to haggle with a merchant over the fair price to have our names written in Chinese symbols.

The third stop was apparently required by the Hong Kong Bureau of Tourism. The bus pulled into a back alley beside a fish-gutting plant where we proceeded to climb some steps of a ratty, old building into a small room with 6-1/2 foot ceilings. A happy young lady explained that Aberdeen Jewelers was a world class supplier of jewelry around the world and how we had the opportunity to purchase their jewelry at discount prices. We took a short tour through their workshops which looked like they were designed for elves -- in fact, one was working diligently at his 2 x 3 foot wooden desk that looked like something Scooge would have made Bob Cratchit work at. From there we were lead into the showcase room where there was (at least) one salesperson for every couple in our group. We had one gentleman follow us around as we tried not to look interested in anything. It was quite a relief to finally get back on the us to head for our fourth destination of the day, the fisherman's village.

Jumbo's claim to fame is that is the world's largest floating seafood restaurant. (Angela was curious as to just how many floating restaurant's there are in the world, but we assume there is more than one.) The only way to get to this floating restaurant is by boat which will run you about US$15. It seats over 1,000 guests and screams of Chinese architecture. Our only regret was that we could not see it at night as it had more lights along its edges than the Rockefeller Christmas tree. Our ride was enjoyable until the very end when the captain pulled up short of the dock to demand we pay our fares. We floated around for 10 minutes while she counted and recounted to make sure she had every last dime. On the bright side, we did get a longer boat trip than everyone else who went out with friendlier sailors!

We wrapped up our tour with a traditional Chinese lunch. I took advantage of the "Americans-who-can't-use-chopsticks" diet, but still managed to fill my belly to overflowing with all sorts of unidentified foods that tasted great. There was even something remarkably similar to sesame chicken that left us wondering if maybe the chinese cuisine back home really was as authentic as the menus claimed.

That night we took a walk along the river to watch the light show. Two minutes in I wished we had made room for our friend's video camera. Techno music played from speakers along the sidewalk while lights on the buildings across the river blinked in rhythm to the notes. Green laser beams lit up the sky along with multi-colored lights on the buldings to create a visual-audio masterpiece. Charlotteans can think of the odd, square laser art on the side of the Duke Energy bulding downtown, but on a 3-mile long scale.

That was all for yesterday. Today we left at 8 AM for Nanning. Unlike Hong Kong, natives here were apparently unaccustomed to seeing Americans. Angela and I took a walk along the lake beside the hotel (the one pictured in an earlier post with a blue ball on top). Practically every person that passed us stared or whispered. I figured they were looking at Angela's pale skin and auburn hair while she's convinced it was my facial hair and clothing. It was 74 degrees outside so naturally I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt. Of course, all the Nannites (my term) were clothed in slacks, shirt, and often a windbreaker as well. I can't help it if there winter temperatures are mild for this Charlottean!

Thanks for all the nice comments left on our last post. The Brunos agreed with us that all the prayers are paying off as, despite all the anxieties of travelling in a foreign country and wondering about the unknowns in adopting an Asian child, our stay has been problem free. While we will not see the Brunos again until next Monday, we do now that they received their daughter today.

As for us, the real excitement begins tomorrow when we meet Jeremy around 3:30 PM. Angela pointed out tonight at dinner that we will be getting Jeremy at 3:30 PM on 11/23, similar to getting Eli at 3:30 PM on 12/23 four years ago. Anyone want to chime in on whether we should take CCAI up on their offer to have our family receive a blessing from a Buddhist monk next Sunday?

We'll try to get some pictures up tomorrow of our trip so far. It all depends on this low-speed connection in the hotel room and how much time Jeremy allows us to not give him all our attention. Talk to you soon!

Nov 20, 2005

Hong Kong at last!

We arrived in Hong Kong Sunday night at 7:30 PM (that's 6:30 AM EST). The flight was LONG and as usual I was unable to sleep on the plane, even after taking an Ambien pill donated by friends. I thought I'd be OK since they had the video screens built in to the back of the seat in front of you, but alas, one of the movie screens (showing The Island) was blanked out. "Oh well," I thought, "No problem. There's always the video games." No go on that either. My touchpad was apparently broken so no matter how hard I tried to get into the game menu, the keypad always thought I was trying to change my default language. Needless to say I did a lot of reading -- the O'Reilly RADIUS book worked better than the drugs at putting me to sleep, but only long enough for my neck to cramp.

Getting to Hong Kong consisted of flying NNE from Newark, up over the North Pole, and down across Siberia and Mongolia, and finally through China to Hong Kong. Cruising altitude was 35,500 feet and we dropped from about 25,000 to the landing strip in Hong Kong in about 5 minutes -- better than any roller coaster I've been on to date. After hanging out at the terminal waiting for other adoptive families to arrive, we finally headed for the hotel at 10 PM.

Scott and Mary Bruno (friends from church who are also adopting through CCAI) flew out yesterday and leave Hong Kong tomorrow to meet their new daughter. Nevertheless, they managed to stay up until we arrived at the hotel around 11 PM, and showed us around the Shangri-La, a hotel that is nicer than anything we've stayed at to date, and probably nicer than anything we'll stay at again (assuming we don't adopt another child from southern China).

After a much needed shower and snack, we are now ready to turn in for the night. We'll be up at 6 AM for breakfast, just about the time that I would normally be wrapping up the LifeTeen meeting prior to Mass if we were on the east coast.

An internet connection at the Shangri-La runs about US$5 per hour so I have just enough time to upload the earlier entry and write this one from scratch with a little time left over for checking email. We'll be taking a half day tour of Hong Kong tomorrow so we'll try to give you an update afterwards.

For a rough idea of what Hong Kong is like, try to imagine the look and technology of Times Square, the size of all of New York City (including borroughs), the mountains of Asheville, the coastal charm of Charleston, and the cleanliness of downtown Charlotte (on a good day). Wrap them all up and you have a rough idea of what this city is like. Truly exquisite.

Good night everyone!

Christmas Day

(Editor's Note: I'm nervous as I write this because Angela has reminded me of the stickler that Fr. Reid is for grammar. Please accept my public confession should I misspell anything, or stick a semicolon where it doesn't belong!)

I remember as a child, waking up at 5 AM on Christmas Day because I was too excited to sleep. I HAD to be the first one downstairs to see if Santa was good to us. (Yes Dad, he was always good -- even the year that he decided to come down the wood-stove chimney and leave the presents in the basement instead of under the tree!)

Today is like Christmas Day for me. We're going to a foreign country that I never would have dreamed of visiting in my wildest dreams. We're going to adopt a child who we've only seen in pictures. We're going somewhere where English will be a rare pleasure, people leave pet songbirds hanging in cages from local park trees when they go to work, and anything on four legs is considered dinner ("'Rover' -- it's what's for dinner!") We're going to China.

Don't get me wrong, Angela is just as giddy. I heard her waking up about the same time, 15 minutes ahead of the 6 AM alarm which I would noramlly sleep through on a work day. We got ready and packed up the rest of our things. Mom came up last night so we could make sure she knew all the peculiarities about the house including how to operate the computer and television, as well as how to lock the front door. Please God, let our house be in one piece when we get home. We were right on schedule as we pulled out of the driveway at 7:15 AM.

Now everyone says to be at the airport at least an hour ahead of schedule because of all the security screening. Having recently flown to Texas for our godson Mirko's baptism, I can safely say that Charlotte is one of the EASIEST airports to get through in terms of security. (Of course, I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing.) We were at our gate by 8 AM, twiddling our fingers. Our flight was not until 9:30 AM.

What do you do in an airport terminal for 1-1/2 hours when you already have food & entertainment arranged for the trip? Small talk, of course. We talked about "Lost" and how it was odd that they (...spoiler ahead...) knocked off Shannon who was the only survivor in communication with Walt. (...end spoiler...) We talked about other air travelers such as the 300-pound guy wheeling an itty, bitty five pound briefcase behind him. Or the couple who looked like a Mafia hitman with his trophy wife. We talked about why the plane to Dallas/Ft. Worth boarded at 8:15 AM, but was still sitting on the tarmac at 9 AM while the pilot and mechanic conversed. We talked about which passenger was most likely to be the air marshall; do they still have those on domestic flights? And of course, we talked about Eli whenever we saw families with small children walk by.

Finally it was time to board our flight to Newark. After a couple of moments debating the advantages and disadvantages of preboarding with small children (who wants to sit any longer than necessary in a cramped airplane with little ones??), we found our way to our seats, 18 B and C.

Considering we are heading for the Far East, it should have come as no surprise that karma was at work. We sat down in front of two women speaking in a foreign language (ok, so it was Spanish, but it was still not the comforting sound of English!), and holding an infant on their lap who occasionally let out a shrill, disgruntled cry -- a taste of what we would unleash on other unsuspecting passengers two weeks from now I suppose.

On the bright side, we were offered muffins for breakfast to go along with our complimentary sodas, I was given the full can without having to ask, and the flight arrived ahead of schedule. Not to mention that check-in earlier had no line and a smooth, automated check-in process. Much better than the US Air/Continental trip to Texas last month where they had no record of our reservations, our baggage was lost in both directions, and snacks were nowhere to be found.

I wrote this entry while enroute to Newark in a Classic Graphics notepad. Angela was content after scarfing down somoe dried apples and two muffins, and she is now working through some logic and word puzzles. I was hoping to find a wireless public access point in the Newark airport, but instead find myself typing in Notepad with hopes of uploading upon arrival in Hong Kong. I suppose that will give me the opportunity to add to this entry while on the overseas flight. It's Saturday morning in Newark as I type this (just turned 12 PM), but after 16 hours in the air, it will be 8 PM Sunday locally in Hong Kong. Oh well, on the 16-hour return trip only 9 hours will pass relative to local time zones.

Can you tell we don't have Jeremy yet? I'm guessing posts won't be this long after we have him with us. Feel free to leave comments here or email us. I told mom this morning that we would communicate via this journal rather than sending personalized emails to all of you. Of course we will be checking our email when we get the chance. Hopefully Eli knows how much we miss him (and we're still on the east coast!). To use one of Angela's phrases, "It touched my heart" when I left for work Friday morning and Eli said, "I miss you too Daddy." (sniff) We're coming Jeremy...

P.S. Angela got to see downtown New York city...from the "C" terminal of the Newark airport!

Nov 8, 2005

ClubPhoto for Dummies

The plan is to take our camera and laptop to China (the picture is of the hotel we will be staying in when we first meet Jeremy) so that we can upload pictures to share our trip with everyone. We will be uploading our bulk pictures to the ClubPhoto website which is where we have been going to print professional-quality pictures for the past few years. At 19 cents per picture with no minimum, we have found it to be the best alternative for us.

We realize that some of our family members are less technically inclined than most canine species so I will attempt to explain the basics for viewing these images as well as ordering prints if you are interested.

1. Surf on over to
2. At bottom of webpage, enter my email address ( and click "Go."
3. Click on the relevant album to view thumbnails of all the images.
4. Clicking on any thumbnail will bring up a second window with image at full size.
5. Clicking on "Next" or "Prev"(ious) will take you through all the images.

1. Follow VIEWING instructions to step 3.
2. Check the boxes above each photo you would like to purchase.
3. Click "Add checked items to cart" at top, right of web page.
4. In new window, choose Matte or Glossy.
5. Below each image, choose how many copies you want of each picture at the preferred size (our camera is optimized for 4 x 6 shots).
6. Click "Next" at bottom of page.
7. Subtotal for entire order will be displayed. Check box affirming you have our permission to print these photos and click "Checkout."
8. Click "Next" on following page.
9. Enter your billing and shipping info as requested. and click "Next."
10. Choose shipping method and click "Next."
11. Confirm your order details and click "Next."
12. You will probably have to answer "Yes" to a warning about secure information in a popup window. Don't worry -- you're information is secure.
13. Enter your credit card information on the next page and click "Place Order."
14. An email will be sent to your address and images will be shipped per the shipping information you supplied.

You may email me if you have problems, although I do not know how much time I will have to answer individual emails while overseas. If you are unable to access images, rest assured that we will print copies for family members when we return home.

Enjoy the pictures!

Nov 5, 2005

Ready, Set, Go!

As we prepare for our trip to China to pick up our son, we are getting everything in place on the internet to document our trip and keep in touch with family and friends. Most likely you are visiting this site as a result of following a link from an email from Eric or Angela. We will be trying to update this page while overseas to share our trip with everyone. We also plan to upload the pictures we take on ClubPhoto so that you may see a little of China (and yes, Jeremy). For the techologically challenged (ahem -- mom!) I will try to explain how to get around at ClubPhoto's website in another post. We'd like to thank the Ziegler's for taking care of Eli while we are away and to mom & dad for house/dog sitting during that time. Enjoy the extra turkey and mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving due to my absence -- we should be sharing our unnamed meat and bottled water with Jeremy by then! Posted by Picasa

Nov 4, 2005


  I just discovered Picasa, a photo organizer piece of software offered free from the best search site ever. It interacts with Blogger to auto-upoload images from your collection at the same time that you make a blog entry. And everything is amazingly user-friendly. I'm trying this software as a trial to see if it will work on my laptop when we head to China to adopt our second son, Jeremy JunJun SmithPosted by Picasa