"Once our eyes are opened, we cannot pretend we don't know what to do. God, who weighs our hearts and keeps our souls, knows that we know, and holds us responsible to act." Proverbs 24:12

“There are no strangers here; Only friends you haven’t yet met.”- William Butler Yeats

Saturday, June 16, 2007

So much to say!!!

It is now 3 a.m. here. I fell asleep with Kai at 7:30 p.m. (that was the lastest I could hold out). My guys are snoring behind me, which is great because it allows me to gather my thoughts from this day.

After my last posting, I was floating on air!! I woke the guys and we met downstairs with our guide. We all hopped on the bus and he said we were going out to the "far" countryside where we would meet with elder farmers and visit a small village in a farming community.

We drove about an hour in the same direction we had started, except this time we headed in a different direction. Don't ask. I just sat there and watched us pass water buffalo, little shops, fields and fields of crops and rice and kept pinching myself. We are in China!!!!! Gosh, as I write those words, my eyes tear up. I am so incredibly filled with emotion. Ok...deep breaths. I am running on battery for the laptop since Scott had packed most of it and I have to get thru this as quickly as possible, and you all know me and details. :)

Going back to the van. We traveled for about an hour. This time, my previous visions were most on target. We bounced in our BUICK bus down the dirt paths, entertwined by bits and of what used to be a road. We were obviously heading up a mountain. The curves and twists made my motion sickness kick in, but I managed to focus on my breathing and pulled out my Seabands. It also helped that the landscape was a majestic splendor of lush, green mountains surrounded by lakes and dotted by small fishing boats with fisherman casting their nets. It looked like something out of a movie.

We continued up the mountain side until we arrived at a small village. There we got out and although we received a few stares, for some reason, it was not as obvious at when we are in the city. Kai was put on the stroller and immediately, Mr. Jia came and took off with him. It REALLY made me nervous because as we were videotaping and just walking thru the same shacks and broken down 1 room homes with dirt floors, he had turned the corner and taken off with him. Fortunately, Scott was closer and saw this and bolted around the corner with him. It is amazing how those two have hit it off. Mr. Jia loves children and is truly a child at heart, with a Nascar driving degree!! Kai senses that "kid" in him and goes with it! The two exhaust me.

I will stop here one second to just mention that Kai is doing great. I think a little too great, sometimes. He is non-stop energy and we are having a difficult time settling him down when "quiet times" approach. I totally understand that the time change, the language, the food (which he being such a good eater is having not much to do with), and the people are all "new" to him again. His attachment to us is definitely secure. Thank you, Jesus!!! He pretty much sticks to us and to Mr. Jia. He will go with Tony on ocassion, but that's it. He wants the security of his Mama and Daddy!!!!

I digress, again. Back in the village, we see women or men sitting in dark rooms which stand for shops. No light, but yet there is electricity. I am imagining because it is daytime they feel there is no need for it. The shops consists of food, both already prepared and small groceries. Behind each shop there are alleys with buildings, small buildings behind them. Not many windows. As we are walking up this alley, to our right is a river with a wall behind it behind fixed and then more fields for as far as we could see. Now, I seem to see dogs everywhere. :) The day was warming up so they lay on the streets or in the shadows of the alleys to keep cool.

We finally get to the top of the hill and we gather around this small doorway. Three older men are on the steps seated outside. I see Mr. Jia give them 20 RMB, which is equivalent to less than $3. I ask where we are, and Tony informs me that we are in a small YiWu museum from the Ming Dynasty. Unfortunately, we could not video or take pictures inside. The "tour" lasted maybe 5 minutes. It consisted of 5 rooms, some bar, some with incredible woodwork engraved on the ceilings and doors. These rooms surrounded a courtyard. For those that have been to China, you can compare it a miniature scaled Forbidden city, without the renovations. The wood was evidently exposed to the seasons and weather beaten. But the beauty of the work done was something that could not be erased by the thousands of years of rain and sun.

We left there and began to head back around the corner to where our car was parked. There really wasn't much to see, except for the interaction with the people. that I just loved. I saw a few children, here sadly, they were mostly boys. I did see a lady pulling a cart behind her bicycle. She saw me and came up to me because I had my camera in hand. I then noticed that seated in the cart was an adorable little girl. Her face dirty, nose runny, but even with that her beauty made you gasp. I pulled out my camera and spoke to her as she stared intently. Her mother or grandmother, since they usually care for the children while the parents work, quickly tried fixing her hair and nudging her to smile for the camera. I spend a few minutes there since there was no guide to interpret, smile and move on.

I walk by a dark little store. In this store there are a man, a woman, and a small little boy, (maybe 2 years old) seated behind the counter. Again, I am so in love with these children, and he was just precious. The family was not smiling so I was not sure if I should approach or not, but my gut tells me to say hello, "Ni Hao". Then all of a sudden huge smiles break out on the parents' faces. My sign to move forward. I kneel before the little boy whose mother is pushing him towards me. He shyly tries to hide behind her, in which he succeeds, but not before I was able to take a couple of pictures. I so wish I knew that I would have been more prepared and brought candy for these children. Again, with no interpreter, I stay for another couple of minutes nodding and smiling as they are speaking to me as if they've known me forever and I wave goodbye and leave.

We all finally reach the van and head back out. I notice that we are going back in the same direction and figure we are heading back to the hotel. But then we turn off on a different road. This one had a lot of brush on either side, which kept scraping against the car. The dirt path seems to not have been traveled by car very much. At the end of the path, there is a clearing and then we head towards the same time of small shacks we had just visited. We park close to them. There were no shops here, only a few small buildings, with rusted tins roofs, strapped down and moldy walls surrounded by dirt alleys.

Again, I ask, '"Where are we going now?" Tony says, "Mr. Jia would like you to meet his mother." My heart broke. This young man who was so filled with life and who for the short 3 days I have spent with him has never not been wearing a smile, lived in these conditions. We were honored that we were worthy enough to meet his family. I asked who was here. Tony explained since Mr. Jia's english is so poor, that his father had passed away. and that his brother worked in a bigger city and it was just Mr. Jia and his mother living here. He was the provider.

We continue to walk downhill and turn off to the right. We enter this vey small tin roofed home. It was obvious that when it rains, water runs down the sides of the wall because it was very humid in the home and the smell of must filled the air. There was a small broken couch to my right. No cushions and a piece of plywood to sit on. The even tinier kitchen had a cooktop and a sink. Behind it was a small room filled with pieces of wood, obviously for fire and dead palm froms. He then asked us to step into the next room. There, he pulled out some rusted little aluminum seats and wiped them clean for us. He insisted we sit. I was so moved by the actions of this young man in making us feel welcome to his home. We sat in the a circle on the little stools. Behind us was a full size mattress covered by a large mosquito net that was held up on all 4 corners with strings from the surrounding walls. Mr. Jia leaves the room. I ask Tony where his Mother is, and he is said, "She works in the field behind the house. Mr. Jia went to get her and to bring you some peaches."

A few minutes later. In walks this older woman. The many years of sun in her face had obviously taken its toll on her skin. She was very wrinkled, with a couple of teeth missing, but a smile on her face that made the dim room glow. She immediately started speaking in very loud Chinese. Tony translated that she said she was so happy to have us in her home. Mr. Jia then walks in with a basket full of green peaches. We at first thought they were apples. She heads to the small kitchen behind him. Then, she comes back in the room with a bucket filled with some sort of (I was told the name but could not capture it) prepared, tamale looking treats. They were wrapped in wet lotus leaves and held together by string. She reaches into the bucket and immediately starts passing them out. I politely refuse, as does my Mom and Scott. My heart feels so bad, that I just couldn't do that. I reached out and took one and thanked her. She smiles then bends down and grabs another from the bucket and start quickly unraveling it, all while speaking at what seemed to be record speeds. She then hands the small package to Kai and tells him to eat it. I take it from him and peel off the lotus leaves.
(By the way, it's 4:10 a.m. and now I have a wide awake Kai playing by my side...heh).

Inside, there is very sticky rice. I ask Tony what is in it and he says, "rice and sugar". I take a bite. Very bland, but I guess it's filling when you have nothing to eat. Scott then agrees to try some and we have Kai try some. She smiles again as we tell her it is very good. She then starts passing out the green peaches and gives us a rusted peeling knife to scrape the peels off. It wasn't the fact that it was food we didn't eat, it wasn't the fact that the place was falling apart, it wasn't the fact that the utensils would be something found abandoned in a field....it was the fact that this woman, this family LITERALLY has NOTHING and between she and her son, couldn't find enough to give us! They were both scurrying around offering all that they had to make us feel welcome. Their actions completely humbled us. It reminded me of the scripture of Mary and Martha. If I could have wiped her feet at that moment I would have.

I kept asking Tony to thank her for us. That we were so honored to be her guests. She smiled that beautiful, toothless smile again. I also told her that she should be very proud of her son. She has done a very good job raising him. She proudly reached over to her youngest son and rubbed his head. These people were amazing. I know I've used that word 100x, but I can't seem to find another word to describe them. They are filled with humility and humbleness. They offer you all they have, when they have nothing. Yet, we...or let me not generalize, I have so very much and can't bring myself to give everything that I have. I have learned so much on this journey, from these people. God has melted my heart and is remolding it. I pray that he continue to humble me and lead me to the work that He wants me to do.

We begin to gather our belongings to leave and in again walks Mr. Jia's mother. This time with a small bag. She quickly begins to fill the bag with the leftover lotus treats and the peaches. Mind you, they brought out about 10 peaches for 4 people! She then leans over to Scott and pushes the bag to him, while Tony explains that she wants us to have them as a gift from her. My heart is just about breaking. I know that she obviously needs this food so much more than we do, and yet it would be an insult not to accept. We humbly thank her again over and over for her generosity. She again smiles widely.
As we walk into the sunlight from the dimly lit room, we ask if we could take a picture with she and her son. She shyly agrees. Another treasured memento for us to have. We then give her a hug and thank her and begin the walk up the dirt path towards the car.

Normally what I am going to mention is not something that I would say but again, I want to journal for my children so that they can someday see how their actions can mean a thousand words, and how humbleness and humility are one of the best qualities that we can be graced with.

As we are walking up the hill, I ask Scott to give me some money for her. He hands me his backpack and I reach out and take the money out. We all get into the car. "Mrs. Jia", as I call her now, is standing beside Tony as we are preparing to leave. I walk over to Tony and I grab Mrs. Jia's hand and place the rolled up bills in her hand. She looks down. I close her palm so that she could not see how much it was, but she has already realized it was money. She hesistates and shakes her head. I turn to Tony, while still holding her palm closed, and tell him to please tell her that we insist. That it is a gift from us and it would be our honor for her to accept. I know the Chinese people are very proud and I expected her immediate reaction of saying no. But once Tony translated, she understood and tears streamed down her eyes. I give her a big hug and ask God to bless her and her son. We get in the car and drive away with my heart feeling like a raisin. This journey has been so much more than just bringing home a daughter.

Our family with Jia and his Mother.

Green peaches and lotus treats

The countryside
Building a wall by the river
A sweet boy playing with rocks on a bridge

The little boy in the shop at the first village

The small kitchen in Jia's house.

We returned to the hotel after our visit to Jia's house. I then napped for an hour while Scott and Kai went to explore our hotel. At 6:00, my Mom, who had also napped, joined us and we went to eat at the hotel restaurant. The food was excellent.

We all then headed back to our rooms where right when I was ready to hit the sack the phone rang. It was our in-country facilitator touching base. We thanked her for coordinating such a special visit to Kai's birth city and reiterated how wonderful our guides were. She then told me that she had spoken to the orphanage and that our sweet girl is definitely being prepared for our arrival. She said to expect her to be introverted and shy. She knows her "new mama" is coming and has agreed to go with us "for a little while". Bless her heart. I thank God for preparing her to give us a "chance". Please continue to pray for her adjustment.

I can't believe we are so close to holding her!!!! I am giddy with excitement!!!! We are all already madly in love with her but I know that it will be ooooohhhhh, so much more when we actually have her in my arms. It was so hard seeing so many little girls in YiWu and not ache for mine. WE ARE READY!!!!!!!

This morning we were to go see the YiWu Commodities market. Thank you to the YiWu group moderator for advising us of the Christian church here. We are going to Tony to change our plans so that we could attend service there. Then we head out for the 2 hour drive to Hangzhou in order to catch the flight to Hefei. It is bittersweet to leave our son's birth city. It has been a completely blessed 3 days here and we are leaving with so much more than we came. There is not one thing I would change.

Ily, thank you for everything. So glad that AJ is wearing you out!! Get used to it, soon that will be you. I love you!

Amanda, AJ, Adam and Tito....

I miss you guys so much!!! Hope everything is going well. I will call you guys in a little while. Keep praying for our journey and for your little sister. I can't wait till you are all together.

Remember that I love you all, as much as the whole wide world....and back again.


Friday, June 15, 2007

Truly a miracle!

It is now 11:20 a.m. here. I finally fell asleep at 1:30 and was wide awake by 6 a.m. We went down to a delicious breakfast and met with our guide, Tony and the amazing Mr. Jia, in the lobby at 8 a.m. to head to some countryside villages.

When we were told that we were going to visit the outskirts of YiWu, I envisioned a very poor part of the province of Zhejiang. I pictured farm workers out in the fields (which we did see) and poor children walking the unpaved roads in their bare feet.

So, we all hopped in the van for the journey. As we were driving, I ask our guide if he knew of a local Catholic or Christian church we could attend tomorrow before departing from YiWu. He said, "Church? Oh...no church here. Only Buddhist temple." So, I was a bit bummed because I can't even remember the last time I didn't go to church on a Sunday. I think it was last year when we were leaving Beijing to head to Kai's province, actually. Anyways, that sort of bothered me, but I let it go and figured God would understand.

We begin the drive and slowly the big office buildings and commerical hustle and bustle starts disappearing. We start being surrounded by the most beautiful, green, mountaineous landscapes. But, instead of seeing the small shacks that my mind's eye had pictured, we are seeing townhouses and beautiful apartment buildings. I'm speaking apartment buildings like you would find on the ocean in Florida. I was a bit surprised, to say the least. The guide explained the Zhejiang province is a very rich city. That yes, there are poor people as in all places, but that even the farm workers make a lot of money. They purchase these beautiful homes as a family (several generations together) and they live there while the grandparents care for the children and the sons go to work in the factories.

Then as we move further into these villages (we are now about 45 minutes from downtown YiWu) we start noticing Mothers with their small children. Yes, I said...children, not child. It blew me away and truly made my heart dance with joy to see families with 2, 3, and even 4 small children running and playing.

Finally, we stop in the vicinity of some small shops. My Mom gets out first and immediately we begin to draw a crowd. The first lady that came up to us was holding a beautiful little boy, maybe a year old. Then I look down by her side and standing next to her are two more little ones. These little guys were possibly 5 and 3 years old. I asked if they were her children. Our guide interpreted and I knew by the proud motherly smile on her face that they were! We chit-chatted a little bit and we started to move on. I figured that we would head to the shops, but our guide went in the other direction, moving towards these beautiful two and three story townhomes. I ask him if these are owned by the government. He said no. They were privately owned by families. Each townhouse belong to 1 family. We were pretty flabbergasted because they were stunningly beautiful, with rose gardens out front and wide marble steps that led to huge doorways surrounded by large columns and marble beams. It was almost hard to believe that this was the countryside.

So, now we start walking up and down the streets. Mr. Jia is pushing Kai on the stroller. My Mom and I each armed with a video camera in the front and we are following by our guide and Scott who was taking pictures. I comment something about not having seen one dog in YiWu, and everyone sort of laughed and we moved on. We turn the corner and my Mom said, "Hey look! A dog! No...2 dogs!" You'd think we'd have found Bengal tigers. We were so excited to see these two dogs behind these beautiful irons gates that led to a courtyard surrounded by red roses. The fragrant smell of the roses were in the air. The weather here could not have been planned better. It is in the low 70's, sunny and absolutely beautiful. All of a sudden, a man walks out of the house where we are standing in front of the gates. He notices us with cameras and says something in Chinese. I sort of move away from the gate figuring he is telling us to move on and stop video taping his house. Then our guide walks up from behind and starts speaking to him. Tony, the guide, turns to us and says, "I told them that your son is from YiWu. He welcomes you to his country and his home. He would be honored if you would come inside and maybe have some tea." We all just stood there pretty much dazed.

The next part of the story is for my dear friend Peg. Peg, you told me several times before coming that you felt God had a miracle in store for us when we arrived in China. YOU WERE RIGHT!!! The next occurence could be nothing more than a miracle.

After Scott, my Mom, and I looked at each other, we all agreed that we would take him up on his hospitality. He opens the huge 10 foot black, iron gates and we all walk through. Up the marble steps that led to the beautiful rich mahogany doors embedded with etched glass. As we enter his home, we notice the marble steps that led to the dining area. Above us hung a spectacular chandelier. We stand and I move forward and thank him for his kindness in inviting us into his home. He says something, and the guide points to a wall and says something about "Buddhist". I didn't understand exactly what he was saying, but I let it go. The homeowner then leads us to the living room off to the right, where we are seated on theses magnficent wood benches, which had a luster that was almost like a mirror.

He is very excited to see us. Sitting on one of the benches, is a beautiful little girl. He introduces her as his niece. Then he goes to the table on the other side of the room and brings my Mom a small black book. She looks at it not too sure of what it was. The guide said, "I believe it is a Buddhist bible". Hmmm...I didn't think Buddhists had bibles, but then again what do I know. I want to add here though, that our guide is a very young man, 21 years old, and the little bit we spoke of religion he did not seem to understand, hence not knowing about Christian churches in the area.

I then glance over to the other side of the huge room and there is a framed picture of the crucified Christ. I was then totally confused. I stood up and went over the the homeowner and asked our guide to interpret. I said, "I'm a bit confused. You are a Buddhist, but you have pictures of Jesus?" He stopped and laughed. Then he said, "No...no. I am not Buddhist. Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior." Then, in English he said in a loud tone that reberverated through the large room, "Hallelujah! AMEN!!" Scott, my Mom and I had to pick up our jaws. He then asked Tony to translate. He continued by saying that we are all God's children and that we, and he and his people and family, are one body in Christ. Then he turned to me and said, "You are my sister because we were both adopted by the same Heavenly Father." It took about everything I had in my power not to start crying. The presence of the Holy Spirit was so very alive in this man. I hugged him and agreed. I again thanked him and said that there was a reason why out of the million people in YiWu, we travel to the outskirts of the city and happen to walk by the one house where we see the only dogs we've seen since we've been here. Again, there are no coincidences.

I then ask him where he goes to church. He said, "We gather here in my home. God is where your heart is when you can't go to listen to his word elsewhere." AMEN TO THAT!!! I had been feeling so blue because I could not go to church, and instead here was a man, of a different culture and country, being used by our Lord to affirm to me, that I didn't have to be in a church for him to know that I worshipped Him. What an affirmation!

We all sit again and he steps out of the room. Comes back with about 6 cream popsicles for everyone. He insisted that we all eat ice cream. His kindness and generosity was blowing our minds. We told him that we were back visiting YiWu, but that our true reason for being in China was because we were there to bring home our daughter now. He said..."Wait!" Then he stood up and went to a drawer where he pulled out a DVD. It was in Chinese, but had English subtitles. I thought, "Yikes. We have to watch a movie now." But of all a sudden, this familiar tune starts to play. The lyrics were in Chinese, but I knew exactly what it was. The video was playing the song How Great Thou Art while it told the story of a young girl who had, of all things, extremity deformities (like our Anna Grace, but much worse) and how she has crusaded the world bringing God's word to those that did not know him. At that point, I just couldn't hold back and the tears streamed. We all sat there watching the video and singing in both Chinese and English the hymn, How Great Thou Art. Now if that isn't a miracle....I just don't know what it is. Again, another affirmation from God that us adopting another special needs child is His doing and our blessing.

In the midst of the tears and the singing, his wife had come out. He explained to her that we were from Florida and about Kai and Anna Grace. She said she was so happy for all of us. Then she left the room, only to come back with a huge bowl of watermelon for everyone! The funny thing is that watermelon happens to be my very favorite fruit. I didn't eat it in China last time because I was told by the health department when I went for my shots that I shouldn't eat it. They said that the watermelon here is purchased by weight and that many times it is injected with regular fawcett water in order to make it heavier. So, on our last trip, and thus far on this one, I pass by the table filled with bowls of watermelon every morning at breakfast and never eat it.

I digress. I immediately thought "Oh my gosh, watermelon. What do I do?" But, there was no doubt in my mind that the Lord had brought us to this house, to this family, he would protect us from getting ill. I then look at Scott and he says to me, "Honey, eat it. We are breaking bread." So, we all ate watermelon to our hearts content. Shortly afterwards, she walked back in with a huge bowl of the largest raspberries I have ever seen. At that point, between breakfast, the ice ceam and the watermelon, I just had to pass.

We had been there about an hour, and if we got to see nothing else, that truly made our trip today. We all get up and start saying our goodbyes. I ask them if it would be ok to a take a picture with them. They happily agree. Then we ask if he has a computer, considering the house he is in, but he says no because it corrupts the children. :) But, he said, can I please give you my address and phone number. If you ever come to China again, you must stay with us. He then scurried over to a desk where he wrote down his name, phone and address. We agreed to send him copies of the pictures. I also gave him our address and phone number and email address. He told me he has two grown sons who live there, but are away with his brother.

Just as we are leaving, I am led to ask him if he would join hands with us and lead us in a prayer. You could tell his heart was honored to do so. We all join hands, Tony and Mr. Jia, included and he leads us in one of the most powerful prayers I have ever heard, and I don't know a word he said. I thought I was the only one that was one huge goosebump, but afterwards Scott and my Mom told me that they felt as if Jesus was standing in our midst. I know He was. What an amazing morning. We are in the room for a nap now and later this afternoon we will meet at 2 pm in the lobby to go visit some farmlands, I believe.

Heavenly Father,

We thank you so very much and give you all of the glory, honor and praise for allowing us to see your face in those whom are total strangers to us. Those who do not speak in our tongues, who do not share in our world, yet they, as we were reminded so clearly today, are our brothers and sisters adopted by your loving son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

We thank you for giving us the experience of coming to this beautiful country to do your work and be so blessed by it. We thank you for your love and for the warmth and hospitality that we have felt from every soul we have met here. We ask you to pour your blessings upon the family that we met today. You have taught us through your word that the lest we do for our brothers and sisters, we do for you. We take these humble teachings that you showed us today and will incorporate them into our daily lives, especially when we arrive back home.

Thank you Lord for being in our lives.

In your name we pray, and in the words of our new friends, "Hallelujah, Amen!"

A very proud Mama of three!

The 3 story townhouses on the outskirts of YiWu City

Kai's new little friend, Mei Lon

Our brothers and sisters in Christ

A farmer working the rice fields

Our First Day in YiWu City

It is now Friday night here. Scott, Kai and my Mom were out like lights by 6:30 p.m. I stayed awake until 8:30. It is now 11 p.m., and I can't sleep.
We arrived in the small (for China standards) city of YiWu at about 11:15 a.m. We were quite surprised, being that this is China's most largest wholesale trade center, how small it was. The population here is presently less than a million people. The weather here is beautiful and not hot at all! We're loving it.

Scott was quite impressed by the expertise of our pilot. We landed (for you pilots out there, excuse the terminology - I have no clue what you call it) and were rolling down the runway when all of a sudden we did a U-turn on the same runway. I was pretty impressed and he didn't even have to do a 3 pt. turn. heh. After we did our turn, we noticed rows and rows of hangars. In each of them were old Russian mig jet planes parked. Probably 20 of them. It really gave me a reminder of where we were. Then, our China Southern flight finally stopped on the tarmac as the big stairs were slowly wheeled up to the exit door.

I have to say that this is the smallest airport I have ever been to, including the Dominican Republic and Cuba. We walked into the building and had no choice but to stand in the one baggage claim carousel that creaked and squeaked with each round it made. Scott pulled our luggage of the belt (and yes...he pulled all FIVE pieces) and we headed about 5 feet out the door, where we were greeted by two joyful gentlemen, our guide, Tony (spelled Toony) and our driver, Mr. Jia. Tony (sorry I just have issues misspelling names so for now he is Tony), introduced himself. What a charismatic and charming young man. It turns out he has only been in YiWu for about 6 months and is a student studying English and International Relations. We all immediately hit it off. Kai took mostly to Mr. Jia who has become his toy.

We arrived at the only 5 star hotel in this small city. The lobby was beautiful and the rooms, although small, are very comfortable. The minute we walked into the lobby we were swarmed (in a very nice way) by staff coddling and playing with Kai, who was hamming it up. I would hear "Kai-Kai" from every corner of the large lobby, as he would run from corner to corner and stopping just short of every person who was holding out their arms for him. Then he'd look to make sure I was still around. A very good sign of attachment. :)

We had about an hour and a half to settle in. Tony had told us to meet in the lobby at 1:30 to tour the city. We came into our room and I stood by the large windows that overlooked the city. Our hotel is right next to a People's Park that seems so inviting and is just beautiful to see. We plan on going there with Kai tomorrow. But, what I wanted to share was the overwhelming sadness that came over me when I stood there peering over miles of hundred of apartment buildings. I couldn't help but think that maybe, just maybe, Kai's birthmother is in one of those at this very moment. To be so very close to the woman who has given me one of the greatest gifts that I have ever received and yet not to know. Then this sadness overflowed to Kai and Anna Grace. I envisioned my sweet son being the one standing there. Filled with thoughts and unanswered questions about his biological family. There is nothing I could do that can bring about any change to either of them. The only thing I could do was ask our Lord to somehow fill their hearts with the knowledge that they were brought into our lives by the almighty creator in His perfect plan. I also prayed for their birth mother's peace. After a few minutes, I had to walk way from the window because it was too much for me and the thoughts of all the "what ifs" just permeated by being.

I then put a reluctant 3 year old Kai down for a nap. He fought me all of 1 minute before the eyes rolled back and he was sound asleep. He napped for about an hour until I had to wake him to go meet Tony in the lobby.

We arrived in the lobby on time and again Kai was met by his entourage of fans as bell boys, doormen and front desks clerk all came to greet the little Emperor. This time he was half asleep and not quite as entertaining. We boarded the minivan and headed to tour the city.

As most of China, the traffic was unbelievable....and the driving was comical. I can't say I was used to it, because there were moments that I was gripping Kai so hard as we squeezed through spaces that I thought were not humanly possible, that his arms were white from blood constriction. And yes, again, I was so impressed by the expertise of our Nascar drive, Mr. Jia.
The city itself is beautiful. Typical China, but to me, the buildings represented a different era of architecture. We did get out and walk through shops and spoke to a few locals. The warmth and the welcoming attitude of everyone we have met, as in our first trip, goes beyond any foreign country I've been to. I truly am so honored to be the mother of not 1, but within a couple of days, 2 beautiful Chinese children. I love the country, the people, the history and the culture. I am enjoying and taking in every second of this journey and I know in my heart that it won't be our last. It may be the last in which we bring home a new daughter or son, but when we leave here, we are leaving a piece of our hearts and I want to make sure that our children always feel proud to be Chinese-Americans.
I learned something new today! When we were driving from the airport to the hotel, my Mom mentioned to me that seated in her row were two men from Iraq reading a paper which appeared to be written in Arabic. I asked if she was sure that they were from Iraq, she said yes. So, whatever. It was just small talk and it was forgotten.

During our tour of the city, we are traveling down a busy street with lots of traffic. Eventually the traffic comes to a halt and we are at a standstill. As I was taking in every opportunity that my senses would allow, I notice how many Muslims there were. I mention it to Tony and he says, that is why we are in traffic. About a block down the road we passed an absolutely magnficent and beautiful mosque. There must've been thousands of Muslims leaving services. Tony then mentioned that YiWu has a very large Iraqi population. They have their own "village" in YiWu. He said that shortly after the war began in Iraq, they began to immigrate to YiWu because of the small commodities and were able to become very successful, therefore attracting more immigrants. I would have never imagined an Iraqi oasis in the midst of a China city. Go figure. And it's God's children all living in one world. :)

And lastly, before I sign off, I want to answer a couple of questions to emails that I have received. One is really not an answer, but someone wrote to me telling me that they feel like they are physically here with us because of the amount of detail that I give in my postings. I thought I might've mentioned this in the beginning of the journey, but who knows with the sleep deprivation and the anxiety we (I) had.

My journal entries with Kai and AJ's birth were very similar. I know for reader that it may feel like a book and I understand if you just scroll down to the pictures, but this is such a huge moment in our lives and something that although engraved in my brain, it may easily allow for small details to slip through the cracks. Therefore, I try to journal as much as possible so that years down the line I can go back, and my children can go back, and relive every moment as vividly as possible. I have so very little to offer them about their lives prior to our being in it, that if I can give them this as a gift from the moment that I first held them, how can I not?

Someone wrote to me and asked about what "good" Scott saw in our losing our suitcases. Yes, my husband the eternal optimist. It was funny that I was asked this because amidst the turmoil of the case of the lost suitcase, I sat on the bed last night and asked him, "Ok! How do we glorify God for this?". He had an answer! Wanna know? He said, "Oh honey! It is so obvious. What do enjoy doing most when you are under stress?" I couldn't think of anything. "He said, "Of couse, SHOP!!! Now you can say that God allowed you to be blessed with an entire new wardrobe on your last trip to China!" Aaahhh.....what a man I have. He knows me well.

Again, thank you to everyone for your emails, well-wishes and prayers. I have been so very moved to read the comments, guestbook entries and private emails from everyone. I have felt every prayer said, and I thank you!!!

Blessings and love to all from YiWu City, Zhejiang Province.

Ohilda, Scott, PoPo and Kai (soon I will get to add Anna Grace's name on here!!!!!)

Amanda, AJ, Tito, & Adam:
Again, blowing you kisses. I'm so wishing you were all here with me, especially as we approach the day your baby sister is forever ours. I know you are with me in spirit. I love you all as much as the whole wide world.....and back again!


The Mig fighters lining the runway.

The very small YiWu City airport.

Kai and his new friend, Mr. Jia.

The view from our 20th floor window.

Is Kai's birthmother out there somewhere within our view?

Kai and Daddy checking out the cool view!

A typical side street in YiWu City.

In front of our hotel.

The only 5 star hotel in YiWu.

Mom (PoPo), risking her life, crossing the street.

Our sweet boy after a day of touring.

Part II - Getting There!

“Be not afraid. I go before you always”. This particular scripture had to be engraved in my brain. Sweet Anna Grace, this has been a journey of curves and turns and I look forward to someday sitting with you and laughing about all of the twists in the road that led us to you, even down to the last few hours before receiving you.

Our flight left Detroit on time. It was pretty much uneventful. A very long 13+ hours, only to arrive in Toyko, and wait for an hour before getting back on the plane for another 4.5 hours to Guangzhou. We initially thought the change in connections would have made it easier, but after getting off the 13 hour flight, we were so ready to get to our hotel. The thought of boarding another flight was pretty drastic, but I guess that’s what happens when finances are taken in to consideration. Regardless. They were good flights. On the plane, Kai’s behavior was beyond anything that we had imagined it would be. He was so great. The entire 25+ hour trip we made it through without 1 meltdown!!! He slept an hour here and there and was in a great state of mind.

About 10:30, we arrived in Guangzhou. We hastily grabbed our luggage off of the carousel and to the exits where our agency had arranged for someone to take us to the airport hotel we would be spending the night at. Sure enough, as soon as we turned the corner, there were two hotel porters holding a sign with Scott’s name on it. We were so happy to finally be able to rest our weary bodies after not sleeping for almost 30 hours. Kai was a bit anxious when the Chinese lady picked him up to put him on the shuttle bus. He immediately turned to me and started yelling, “Mama!” I reassured him that I was right behind him. Once we were on the shuttle and I was by his side he was relaxed again.

We check in….life is good! I figure I would take a quick shower and hit the sack. We gave Kai a bath, and laid him down. I could tell he was a bit confused, and might have even had a bit of a flashback to the days when he was in the hotel room when he first met us. But again, I kissed him, reassured him that I was going to lay in the bed next to him and soon drifted off to sleep.

Then the nightmare began. Scott was going to run down to the lobby for something while I showered. He left. I turn to my Mom to tell her to keep an eye on Kai that I was going to hop in the shower. By then it was about 12:30 a.m. I go to head towards my suitcase, and panic begins to set in. Oh my Lord!!! Our suitcase was not there!!!! Scott and I didn’t have a stitch of clothing. I start thinking…and then I remember that we were in such a rush while waiting at baggage claim. Ok, wait, I take that back. I was dying to get to the hotel and I was in such a rush that when Scott asked, “Is everything here?” I said, “Yes, Yes…4 bags! Let’s go!!!”

Guess what? We had FIVE checked bags. The fifth one missing? Scott & my suitcase!! And because I knew we would be on planes all day, I had worn a sweater to stay warm on the plane, and would have to wear that same sweater in 90 degree weather the next day if we couldn’t get our luggage. I immediately tell my Mom to watch Kai and head down to the lobby to look for Scott and get help.

I can’t find Scott so I head to the front desk. The bellboy and front desk clerk were so sweet trying to figure out what the hec this crazy American was trying to say. I kept saying…”We left a suitcase at the airport.” They kindly smiled and said, “Suitcase?” We began the game of charades and finally, I got my point across. The bellboy asked if I wanted him to go back to the airport with him. We would again have to take the shuttle bus there. I wasn’t about to hop on a shuttle with the bellboy and at this point, Scott had no clue what was going on. I needed to find him. I thought…”Ok, Ohilda, where would Scott be?” Aaahh….25 hours of travel, he wanted his privacy….THE BATHROOM!!! Heh.

I asked the bellboy if there is a bathroom in the lobby. After a few more rounds of charades, he smiled and said….”Yes!” He led me to the woman’s restroom. I turn to the other door and said to him. “No. My husband is in there.”, as I pointed to the men’s room. He again repeated , “Your husband?” I said…”Yes, can you please call him?” He laughed. (As I am typing this, I am laughing thinking that this poor man must’ve thought….these people are sooooooo weird!) And then he agreed. I told him Scott’s name. So, he heads into the men’s room and I hear him saying, “Mr. Scott. Mr. Scott”. I start laughing quietly outside the bathroom door. About 30 seconds later, out comes the bellboy with Scott following close behind wearing the most confused look on his face!” I told him what had happened. He says to me that he’ll go back to the airport with the bellboy for me to head upstairs.

I go back up to the room. By now it’s almost 1 am. About 20 minutes later, in walks Scott….with no suitcase. He said that everything was closed and he kept getting stopped by security guards asking him what he was doing walking around a closed airport. Thank God the bellboy was with him.

What now? It was 1:15 in the morning. No way we could call our incountry facilitator at that time to tell them our dilemma. The airlines had no idea which hotel we were headed to and even if they found the luggage and shipped it to us, we were only going to be in YiWu for 2 days, so we might miss it there also.
Then Scott remembered that it was 1:15 in the United States. We called our agency, who as always was great. The director said…”Call the guide. Don’t worry about the fact that it’s 1:20 in the morning!” Yikes!!!! So, we call the guide, Bob, who by the way was one of our guides in Guangzhou when we were there for Kai.

He was so kind. I profusely apologized for the time that it was, but he kept saying…”No problem!” I explained our dilemma and asked if there was a way that he could meet us in the morning at the airport before we were to get on our flight at 7:30 a.m. He said wouldn’t mind, only problem was….he wasn’t in Guangzhou!! UGH!

So, he suggested for us to let him call the hotel manager and try and arrange something. He would call me back. At 2:00 a.m., we get a phone call from the hotel manager. He and Bob had been trying to figure out what to do. He wanted to come up to the room and pick up the claim ticket for the missing suitcase. Shortly afterwards, he was at our door. He told us the airport opened at 6 am. He would go personally and try and track it down.
At 2:30, Bob called making sure everything was ok and that the hotel manager had contacted us. We said yes. Finally, at almost 3 a.m, we lay down, no showers and try to get some sleep before our 6 am wake up call rings.

I was afraid of missing the wakeup call so I awoke at 5:30, only to find Scott wide awake laying next to me. He, too, was worried about the luggage and missing the wake up call. I then decide I REALLY need a shower and would just have to wear the same clothes. I hop in the shower and we ready for our day. At about 6:15 a.m. we head down to breakfast before checking out and going to the airport. As we walk out of the elevator doors, standing there is “Jay”, the hotel manager, holding our claim ticket. He approaches us and says he’s on the way to the airport. We tell him we are going to the restaurant for breakfast.

About a half hour later, in walks Jay and heads towards our table. He said our luggage was in the lost and found, but they wouldn’t give it to him, even with the claim ticket. We had to go to the airport and present the claim ticket along with passports, a vial of blood, etc. (ok.,..so I exaggerated a bit!). Only problem is that now it’s already 7:05, we have to still get our luggage together, check out, and we were supposed to be checking into our flight to YiWu at 7:30 a.m.!! UGH! If we miss the flight to YiWu, we’re not going because there were no other flights.

We start scrambling. We went up to the room to gather our stuff. Right before calling for the bellboy, we held hands and stood in a circle asking the Lord to please take away the huge anxiety we were feeling and allow us to remember He is in control. We prayed for him to solve our problems.

The hotel was wonderful in getting the bellboy (same one who did great on tips from us, running around as Scott’s sidekick) to get our stuff downstairs while we checked out.

We get to the airport and there are 10,000 people running around like busy little ants. We go to where we were told to go, and they tell us, ”Oh no! Not here! You go to lost and found.” Umm…Ok, where is lost and found? Of course, on another floor on the other side of the airport. Scott remembered that’s where he went last night and I tell him to RUN - literally. We’d wait there. My Mom, Kai and I stood in the middle of the terminal surrounded by luggage watching Scott booking down the long hallway until he is no longer in our sight. I turn to my Mom and said…”Mom, we have to pray!!!” So, the praying begins. We both stood there praying hard. It’s really hard for me to pray without moving my lips even if I am whispering to myself. But, at that point, I didn’t care. I needed God to step in...and fast. We had to find that suitcase and get to our check-in point in order to not miss the flight. So, there I stood, in the middle of this huge airport appearing to speak to myself with my eyes closed. Oh yeah...those crazy Americans!

About 15 minutes later, a half hour after we were supposed to have checked in, we are still praying hard. Then, we see Scott in the distance, still running, but this time, pulling a suitcase behind him! Praise be to God!!!! Now, could we make it to our flight? We ask for directions to the China Southern ticket counter, get those, and bolt towards that direction.

I am right now typing this while we are seated on the plane on our way to YiWu. We made it! Exhausted but happy. I so look forward to spending the time we weren’t able to in Kai’s birth city. I was so sick last time we were there that it was truly a blur, not to mention that we were there for a total of maybe 2 hours. We are spending 2.5 days there this time.

Amanda, AJ, Tito & Adam…..I miss you guys so very much! I am blowing all of you kisses in the wind and wrapping you all in my love.

Ily, I’m so glad you’re feeling better. Thank you for all that you do for us.

By the way everyone, we were not able to see our blog from Guangzhou, so my sister has been posting for us. With last night’s craziness, there was no time for pictures, and I’m sad to say that there really weren’t many except for a few on the plane. Hopefully it will be different once we get to YiWu.

I did get everyone’s comments from the blog, the entries to Anna Grace’s guestbook and the private emails! THANK YOU ALL! You have no idea how wonderful it felt to read your words amongst the chaos last night.

Much love being sent from China…..

Ohilda, Scott, PoPo and Kai

UPDATE: I think I found a backdoor to posting pictures/posts myself, so hopefully they will be happening during real time.

So....where's our plane?

Aaahh...yes. This is the life.

A mid-flight catnap.

Do you think they see me here hiding?

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Part 1

Wow!! What a morning!!

Let me start with last night. I got a call from my sister (remember that she is the one watching AJ and Amanda) that she had 102 degree fever!! My brother in law and nephew are away at a retreat, so it is just her. UGH! I know that Satan is doing everything in his power to take away from the joy of bringing another little Christian into Christ’s light….but I am so filled with the Spirit and I know that God is protecting us.

Getting back to my sister. We had no choice, she was the only person available to watch the kids, not to mention that I trust her with my life. I don’t think I would leave the kids with anyone else.

So…she didn’t come over as planned last night, and neither did my Mom, who stayed behind to make my sister some soup and try to heal her back to health as much as possible. We agreed that she would be at our house around 6:45 a.m. this morning to take us to the airport and to pick up her much treasured package…my kids.

Fast forward to this morning. At about 6:50, I get a call from my sister. She is on I-75 and it is bumper to bumper. Traffic is not moving. I begin to panic and start praying, knowing that there was nothing I could do. We wait.

At about 7:15, I call again. We were to leave to the airport at 7:00. I call my sister again and she says that she had to get off the highway and take a back road. Well, so did the thousand other people that were on the highway. The one back road in our town is packed! She’s not moving. Fortunately, she is just minutes from the highway. So, Scott decided that she drop my Mom off at the airport and we would take our van for her to later pick up. My sister lives about an hour away from me. She wouldn’t have time to pick up our car today because she was so sick she called to get an appt. to see the doctor in her town, and had to turn around after picking up the kids to do go there. Having such a high fever and feeling totally miserable, it was completely understandable that she then didn’t want to drive another 2 hours roundtrip to pick up our car later when my son got off of work. We agreed that she’d pick up the car tomorrow or at a later date.

Scott and I packed the van, gave hugs and kisses to Amanda and AJ and we were off. I was telling Scott on the way to the airport that I thought that Satan was all over this trip. He said, “Ohilda, my thoughts are that it was God that caused all the delays this morning.” I start thinking….”are you crazy? Why would God bring us so much stress?” His response? “Your sister is really sick. It’s obviously contagious because your mom had it last week. God was keeping you away from her so that we wouldn’t end up in China with that horrible virus!!!” I am so thankful for my husband’s wisdom, How true that now appeared. Thank you, Lord!! Another reason we should always thank Him for the good AND the bad. We made it to the airport on time, including enough time to grab a green tea Frappuccino from Starbucks. J

So, where are we now? In Detroit. The first leg of the journey went excellent. Actually, Kai was excellent, I was nauseous. I forgot to take my Dramamine but made it off the plane in time not toss my cookies all over the passengers surrounding me. I know….Gross!!

Kai was wonderful. He watched us lift off and had a smile on his face from ear to ear, all while clutching my hand with a death grip. It was sooooo cute!!! He kept busy with Mama making little animal and people out of Playdough, watched about an hour of Big Bird Goes to China and played with his little cars. I was so proud of him. Daddy and PoPo had to sit in another row because it was a packed plane, but we did good.
Now we are waiting to board the longest leg of our journey….13 hours from Detroit to Guanghzou, via Toyko. We’re ¼ of the way there! I can’t wait!!!!!!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Counting down the hours now!

I have decided to create a separate blog for the our travels throughout China because it will be easier to record for Anna Grace's lifebook.

We are all packed and ready to roll. This will be our last post from home as we are packing up the final item, the laptop. Scott, Kai, my Mom and myself are filled with anticipation and excitement as the hour approaches for us to head to the airport. There won't be much sleeping here tonight! An electrifying feeling has definitely filled every nook and cranny of our humble abode as we set forth on the path that God has prepared for us. Nine months to the day that we sent in our requests for her to be ours, we are leaving to bring her home. Yes! Another beautiful daughter and this time, a baby sister, and we couldn't be happier!

We hope to someday share with her all of the prayers and well wishes of family, friends, and complete strangers who couldn't wait to see us united. Please be sure to sign our guestbook if you have not done so. There is a link on the sidebar.

Anna Grace,

Hang on, baby girl! We are literally days away from that magic moment in which you will be placed in our arms to be a part of our family for a lifetime. Words could never express how much love your Baba and I have for you, but we promise with our entire hearts and soul that as long as we live, we will show you that love. You will know what it means to have a forever family, to love and to be loved. You were delivered from Heaven into our hearts, and we are so very blessed for that gift.

Hugs and kisses as we wait to be united,

Mama & Baba

Our Itinerary

June 13, 2007: Leave US in the morning, via Detroit to Guangzhou, China!
June 14,2007: Arrive in Guangzhou stay at airport hotel.
June 15,2007: Leave hotel in the a.m. to catch flight to YiWu.
June 16,2007: Yiwu city Tour and countryside visit.
June 17,2007: Shopping at Yiwu Small Commodities Center. And leave Yiwu in the afternoon to catch flight to Hefei. Arrive in Hefei in the late afternoon.
June.18,2007: Go to Provincial Civil Affairs to pick up your daughter!!!! Your daughter will be with you forever! (WOOHOO!!!!)
June 19,2007: Do registration , notarization, passport application in the morning. Shopping in the local department store by walking distance. In the afternoon shopping for shoes and clothes for your daughter.
June 20,2007: Book store and Hefei City Zoo (if you have enough time, you could visit a countryside village on that day).
June 21,2007: Visit finding spot and orphanage/foster family visit.
June 22,2007: Pick up notary paper and passport and leave Hefei for Guangzhou.
June 23,2007: Do medical exam and visa photo taken in the morning.
June 24,2007: Walking outside the island to visit Pet Market, Herb/medicine market, Pearl Market in the morning ; Go sightseeing to Six Banyan Temple and Chen Clay Academy in the afternoon.
June 25,2007: Do visa Appointment in the morning. Go sightseeing to Yuntai Park.
June 26,2007: The morning, go for massages! Then afternoon Oath-taking at Consulate.
June 27,2007: The local guide will send you to the airport for USA in the early morning.
June 27, 2007: Arrive in US, stay overnight in connecting city and next morning head for home as a forever and complete family!!!!

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