Day 9: consulate appointment and more exploring

We had to get up pretty early today, it was still dark outside. It was nice to have the breakfast buffet to ourselves, no crying toddlers today!

XiXi and I got all prettied up. XiXi loved her red, white and blue sundress that gramma picked. This was the dress Finnley wore to her consulate appointment, too. Since we knew it would be chilly gramma also got her the little jacket and we paired it up with white tights.

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The driver picked us up and took us to the consulate. Our guide walked us through the process in advance since he is not allowed into the consulate with us. He said sometimes they ask the older children questions during the immigrant interview but told her not to worry. We went inside and entered with another family from PA, on their 10th adoption. They were super nice. We joked that they were Haines and we were Gaines.

Inside we had to take a number and wait to be called up to a window. We got called to window number 8 and I joked with the girl behind the window about 8 being a very lucky number and she laughed. Her job is to check that all of our paperwork is in order and then send us back to our seats to wait for the interview.

XiXi saw the man behind the interview window and looked very nervous. He called us up and he was very nice. He tried to ask XiXi some questions but she would not answer. We proceeded with other items and then he wanted to try speaking with her again and I smiled and rubbed her back and told her it was okay. She then answered his questions with nods or soft utterances. I was very proud of her. I know that the intention of the interview is to ensure everything matches her paperwork and helps to prevent child trafficking. It was just sad to see her obviously nervous. After the interview, we were able to leave immediately. The other family kindly waited for us and we walked out together to meet our guides. XiXi remained quiet the entire ride home.

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When we walked into the hotel room it was like a weight was lifted off her shoulders and she was back to her cheerful self.

We had a quiet few hours at the hotel and then decided to spend some more time outside. There is an even bigger park on the other side of the hotel but the intersection is so large that there is no crossing. Instead, we had to use the subway tunnels to get from one side to the other. We got it right the first time and made it into Yuexui Park.

Entering the park we were greeted by a large installation that had been put up for the coming Chinese New Year. It was so colorful!

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I thought it was really cool that they decorated the entrance so elaborately. But a little ways into the park revealed that it was much more than the entrance. There were similar installations every 100 meters or so. Some were still in the process of being put up (Chinese New Year is still 10 days away). We could see they are made to light up at night — that would be cool to see!

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Landscaping crews were bringing in truckloads of potted plants to line the streets — crysanthemums, marigolds, begonias and even poinsettias were being set out.

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Giant orange trees in pots were being placed around the park, as well. We had seen a few on Shamian Island yesterday and our guide says that by Chinese New Year these will be everywhere.

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Clearly, everyone gets into the holiday as the walkways were lined with handmade lanterns. Each lantern had its own unique theme and look like they have been made by schoolchildren.

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Even though the park was busy, it felt peaceful with all the beautiful sights and the calm Chinese folk music played on speakers throughout the park.

I could tell XiXi was getting tired so we headed back and made a stop at our usual 7-11. Once we had our bag of goodies, with ice cream, she seemed to pick up her step to get back to the room quickly.

This is our last sleep in Guangzhou. Barring any delays, we will have XiXi’s visa tomorrow afternoon and will take a car into Hong Kong and stay one night there to take the Wednesday flight out of Hong Kong back to the states.

Day 5: pandas, pandas and more pandas!

I’m amazed at how easily XiXi has eased into things. When we have breaks at the hotel, she happily joins us wherever we are. Last night, after we packed, we sat and watched a little TV. XiXi was happy to put on her pajamas and snuggle in between us with the fleece throw I brought from home. She is such as sweet girl.

We started off the day with a Skype call home for a quick video call to introduce everyone. There were some video issues so we didn’t get to see the kiddos back home but they could see us and we could hear them saying “Hi” to XiXi. She was giggling and smiling the whole time. We got her to say “Hi Aidan, hi Liam, hi Finnley and hi Bill” pretty clearly!

Today was Panda Day! We’ve been waiting for this all week. The Panda base was about a 40 minute drive on the northwest side of the city past the 3rd ring. Chengdu is set up similarly to San Antonio with a “spoke and wheel” roadway system. San Antonio has two highway “rings” but Chengdu has three.

It was nice outside the city, still cold but the air quality was much better. The Panda base is very beautiful and lush with vegetation. It’s much more than just a “zoo” for pandas; it’s a breeding and research facility committed to preserving and increasing the number of pandas which currently totals about 2,000 worldwide.

The pandas were not in typical enclosures but in very expansive natural habitats. They are grouped by age so we saw older (5+ years) pandas, adolescent 2 year old pandas and the super cute baby pandas that had just been born in the fall.

We got to the baby pandas and saw UFC quality fighting between two of the babies:

Apparently, when fully grown the lose all energy. Look at this guy eating on his back:

XiXi was very excited to see one of the newest babies was named XiXi, too!

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While the park is lush with bamboo, our guide explained that the bamboo that grows here is not edible as it is too tough. Literally truckloads are brought in from other areas daily to keep the pandas fed.

After we saw all the groups of giant pandas we saw an area set aside for red pandas. I thought they looked more like large red raccoons than pandas but they were cute, too.

XiXi loved every minute of it. She seems to really enjoy nature and would frequently stop to point out birds and flowers along the way. She would pick flowers and smell them and share them with me. She put a few in her hair, too. Never once did she get whiney about how much walking we had to do.

After several hours of exploring the park, we had to head back to the city to pick up XiXi’s passport and adoption documents. We will need them to travel to Guangzhou and finalize her immigration at the consulate.

The part of the trip I have been dreading has come– it’s time for XiXi and I to travel alone to Guangzhou and Steve to return home. It’s not that I am scared to go alone but for the first time in the trip I am homesick. Steve is my home.

We have been so fortunate to have a TEAM of family and friends who made it possible for Steve to travel, too. The weekend we left for China, each of or kids had “weekend sleepovers” at their favorite places to help keep their minds off of our long trip. I think it was very helpful to have them “leave us” to go on their adventures rather than say sad goodbyes watching us leave. Big thanks to Aidan’s friend D’s mom, Steve’s sister and my mother for making it fun and taking the stress off us.

Steve’s best friend from high school, Bill, very generously took time off of work to come to San Antonio to take care of or children during the week while we are here. It is no small task to get our crew of three up, off to school, back home, fed and in bed on a daily basis–especially with all the drama they like to start.

We are so grateful to have such wonderful family and friends!!!

Day 1(ish): travel to Chengdu

We left Saturday morning at the crack of dawn and arrived in Chengdu late in the evening Sunday. We had 19 hours of flight time and 3 hours on the ground in between. Our long haul leg from San Francisco to Chengdu was on the new Boeing Dreamliner. It was a nice plane and a great crew which made a 14 hour flight way more pleasant.
 


Our guide, Laura, met us at the airport and took us to our hotel. It was already night time here so we didn’t get to see a lot but what we did see looks modern and lovely. Laura told us that XiaoXi has been very excited about our meeting all week. Everyday at lunch she asks her nannies about her mama and baba. We’re excited, too!
 
 Even though it was late when we finally got checked in, we decided to walk around the area. Everything is well lit, clean and feels very safe. Our hotel is right on the banks of the Jinjiang river. Laura told us that if we cross the river and walk for about 15 minutes, we can easily get to the city center. We are looking forward to exploring on Monday (our free day before we meet XiaoXi on Tuesday morning).
 


There is a 7-11 down the block and we were able to get a couple of liters of water and about four sodas for $3.00. We got to bed around midnight local time and hope we can get some good rest and get adjusted to the 14 hour time difference!
 
 
 – Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Location:Renmin South Road 2nd Section,Chengdu,China

Right back soon

We finally got our travel approval document to go meet and adopt Xiao Xi. And, we will get to complete the adoption before Chinese New Year! We are very excited at the Gaines residence.

Like last time, we will try to blog every day of our trip so stay tuned we will be right back!

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Bumps in the road

We look at her photos every day hoping to get the call to travel. These last few weeks we have experienced bumps in the road with our paperwork and the last steps have taken longer than they should. A computer system glitch has held up the hard copy of our travel approval. As of today, it still hasn’t happened. So while we know we are approved, we cannot schedule our consulate appointment until our agency receives the hard copy.

Chinese New Year is approaching we have fewer and fewer chances to schedule an appointment before the holiday. Basically, adoption processes cease after 2/12 and do not start up again until 3/2. What should have been a January adoption trip may well turn into a March trip. We are simply running out of time.

It’s disappointing for us and we think it must be distressing for Rowynn XiaoXi, too. She was told she had a family back in November. These photos and video were taken at the end of December. I am sad to think she is wondering where we are and why we are taking so long. I am sad that she is the last of the girls her age in the orphanage. I am sad that this may be causing her anxiety as she tries to prepare herself for a change that she probably can’t fully conceive of.

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We will just keep hoping and praying that things will be resolved and we get the call to travel.

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Puzzle update:
A generous donor stepped in and sponsored the remaining 25 pieces to finish the puzzle! Thank you so much for helping us raise $3,590 towards our goal of $5,500 for the orphanage donation. It helps tremendously and we are so blessed to have amazing friends and family who walk alongside us in this journey.

I wish I could show the complete puzzle but we found that we were short two pieces. We’re waiting for the seller to send out a replacement and we will finally be able to get this glued, labeled and framed!

You can still sponsor a piece! Some generous donors made donations above the pieces they sponsored to help the puzzle fundraiser to grow even further. These donations make a difference for us, for Rowynn and for the children left behind.

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A message from Rowynn

This morning we were greeted with this sweet video of Rowynn – and she had a special message for us!

I just can’t wait to get this precious girl home!

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One more step but so many little tasks to go!

This morning we received our Article 5 email which means that all of Rowynn Xiao Xi’s paperwork for US immigration has been approved and forwarded to the CCCWA in Beijing. The only thing we are waiting for is official Travel Approval and we can book our flights to China. Even with the various bumps in the paperwork process, we will likely to complete the adoption before Chinese New Year — a deadline we have been trying hard to beat.

Those close to us know it’s been a very trying holiday season for our family. We’ve tried to maintain a little fun and excitement here and there by including Rowynn in our holiday photo and Christmas card mailing. I think she’ll fit right in, don’t you?

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We are hoping to get some updated photos of Rowynn AND we are going to share photos of us and maybe even a short video to help involve her in the process and feel comfortable.

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Do you think this will help?

Thanks to wonderful donors who made large donations over the amount of pieces sponsored, we can still offer 54 remaining pieces for sponsorship!

If you have $8 to spare, or are looking to make a special year end gift, please help us hit our goal of $5,500 — the mandatory orphanage donation. These funds will go directly to Rowynn Xiao Xi’s orphanage to help provide education, care and special programs for her friends left behind. This will also help them to get more children ready for adoption. It’s like paying it forward.

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