Friday, October 30, 2009

Changsha Day 6 – Friday Oct 30th

Changsha Day 6 – Friday Oct 30th
We’re still getting up about 5:30am each morning. I don’t know what that’s all about but I think we’re both getting enough sleep so it’s okay. Since we move on to Guangzhou this evening we don’t have anything planned for the day other than the packing and preparation for this evening’s flight. It should only last about an hour, but of course you need to be at the airport early etc…

Nora didn’t take a cat nap this morning (since she wasn’t in the carrier) so even though it’s only 11am she’s had her lunch and is now down for a midday nap. Since I have nothing new to share as far as sightseeing I figure I can tell you about some little tidbits and include a few more photos from earlier this week.

One of the things I don’t remember from the last time I was in China what all the car honking (does the others from Group 88 remember that?). It seems to me that the approach that most drivers in Changsha are taking is “I need to be heard and seen by everyone I pass”. The drivers basically have their finger/thumb on the horn the whole time you’re in the car and every car they pass gets a little beep. Some a longer blast if the other driver is looking a bit more dangerous. And they can get their cars in to the tightest spaces; it’s amazing. The observations from the other day’s Museum visit with queuing seem to extend to automobile driving as well. During the drive in from the airport last weekend it was 11pm and not only did the driver honk at each car he passed on the freeway but also flashed his headlights too. From Chongqing (Isabel’s hometown) I remember the sound of the blasting music from the public square near our hotel, this time it will be the constant din of horns (from the 30th floor) 24/7. There also seems to be very few rules for driving.

There are a lot of people in Changsha, although it is not considered a huge city for China, only about 7 million people live here. From what I’ve seen people get around in the following manner: walk, bike, scooters, cars (taxis, hired cars, personal vehicle) and buses. There are major streets (four lanes each way divided by a boulevard) and smaller streets and then alleys that have small shops and business. But there is also what I would call large sidewalk on the major streets and that is where the people walk. but the scooters are also allowed on the sidewalks. The scooter’s dodge in and out of traffic and can either drive on the streets with the cars and buses or sidewalks with the people walking. Also the scooters are all electric; they make no noise at all (but of course all you hear when you’re out there is the honking of the horns). So if you’re crossing the street, you have to watch out for a huge wave of scooters coming right at you.

According to Mamie the guide, Changsha has outlawed any new scooters, there are just too many. So if want a scooter you have to find someone that has a permit you can buy as well as buy the scooter. Similar to Taxi medallions (sp?).
The one other thing that I’ll remember from my week at the Dolton Hotel in Changsha is the incredibly hard bed. I can’t explain to you how hard this bed is and I like a firm bed to begin with, but this is crazy hard. I know that in the summer it is not uncommon for the temperature to be around 107F so maybe they think a harder bed is cooler, but my goodness! Thankfully I sleep on my back.

In the photo with the man carrying bags on a pole across his shoulders, if you look closely just to the left of the garbage can on the sidewalk there's a child that just finished peeing. I've seen it a couple of time in the park too.. just pull down the pants and go.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Changsha Day 5 – Thursday Oct 29th

We were up early again about 5:30am. I caught up on a couple of emails and in fact caught Chris Dettling still in the office from the night before your time. It’s nice to think that at some point I’m still close enough to get a small exchange in real time.

First things first, Nora pooped this morning and just now again as she was getting up from her afternoon nap. Thank you God.

After walking down to the Wacko Market for bottled water, Mamie met us in the hotel’s lobby for today’s sightseeing tour. The first stop was Martyr’s Park that was adjacent to the Provincial Museum that we went to yesterday. The "Martyrs" to which the park refers, are the soldiers that died during the civil war. (Mamie’s term) I think it would be what we’d think of as the last revolution.

Martyr’s Park is the Central Park of Changsha. It was beautiful and it appears that many neighborhood people go there to hangout throughout the day. We saw a lot of grandparents with grandbabies, others that were exercising, dancing, playing music both singularly and in more organized groups, it wasn’t uncommon to see two groups playing music within feet of each other. There was also antiquated amusement park.

Mamie had prepared me for Nora and I being a bit of an oddity, but I have to say that Nora got many more stares than I did. That something that I think we’ll have a lifetime of getting use to.
Next stop was the embroidery factory; really it seemed more like a retail outlet with a few workers there to show off the process. The work was amazing but the prices were just too much to think about buying anything. On top of which, I’d have to get it home (already framed) in one piece. I’m already worried about the luggage factor with Nora in tow now too. I didn’t want to add framed art to that problem.

Tomorrow evening we move on to Guangzhou but we have nothing planned til check out at 4pm. I’ll write more about the car honking and the incredibly hard bed.

Changsha Day 4

Changsha Day 4 – Wednesday Oct 28th

I have to admit to being very lonely on this trip and I really would be lost without my computer and the internet. That said at the end of the week when I move on to Guangzhou; I don’t think my room comes with unlimited free internet that I have here in Changsha. I may upgrade my room just for that…
I’m writing this a day later because of the “problem”.
The day started with a trip to the Hunan Provincial Museum. There were huge lines to get in this place and with the guide’s help, were able to bypass half of the line wait but not all. The Chinese people as a whole are not a population of good line queue-ers (is that a word?). Many will cut in front, push, rush, etc… It’s something to get use to here and then appreciate when we’re back home.

The mad lineup was to view a well preserved 2000 year old corpse (which I enjoyed looking at the relics but passed on looking at the body). It was a very nice Museum but so crowded. People would rush up to a display case and then snap a photo and move on… kind of interesting. Then we walked into other areas of the building and there were one or two other people in the entire area.
We ended the morning with lunch in the hotel. During lunch I noticed a family that had been at the notary office the day before; they were just leaving with their new daughter just as we got there. We had a chance to chat and I got their room number to try to connect later. But do I know what it’s like to be the only white face in a room. It’s a good reminder for all of us white parents of minority children. To walk in their shoes for a while... I hope I can remember that feeling in the future.

Nora and I got quite a bit of attention. She was asleep in the carrier for most of it and I think some people were trying to figure out if she was Chinese or American.
So were done with lunch and nap time. Typically that’s when I write the blog entry. But nap time didn’t last too long. Nora sleep for a maybe 30 mins and woke up crying. When the girl’s got to go she needs to go (we’re talking poop) but that didn’t happen Monday (that I know of) or Tuesday and now it’s Wednesday and it crisis time. She’s working and working and nothing. This goes on for hours (I had HBO on and it was 2 movies long).
At that point I emailed Jodi Swenson, she and her family are in Inner Mongolia (I’ll be hanging with them in Guangzhou). Jodi’s on my time which is very helpful at 6:00pm and 5am back in the states. She’s a Mom of now 3 girls and did she have any recommendations? Right after e-mailing, I’m digging around in all the little bags of medical stuff I brought and find a few Pedi-Lax melt strips. I gave Nora a half dose and hope for the best (takes 6 to 12 hours). Nora takes her bottle after I force it on her (remember she’s not happy with her bottle at all) but she needs liquids. Around 8:30 she settling down, so I get her to sleep but I know we’ll be up again soon. I think I went to sleep around 9:30 after reading a little.
At 12:30 am Nora is up and is in so much pain. It’s a problem that I’ve never had to deal with before. And what can I do to make it better? I just held her and tried to get her in a good position but she was just beyond comfort. Bless Mamie, our guide, I called her and she called the hotel Medical Office but they were closed. Then she called back and said that she would come over with a home remedy from her Mom.
It’s 1am. Of course, as it always happens, by the time she arrived Nora was able to get a little out and had settled back down in her crib. This morning Nora woke up and I got her to take the better part of a bottle, but little or no food.
The home remedy you ask? A little sliver of soap covered with cooking oil. She had brought it along but thankfully Nora had taken care of it herself with the help of Pedi-Lax.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Changsha Day 3 - October 27th
We just got back from making Nora an official Metzdorff!
We stopped at a baby store for supplies and along with the diapers and formula I found a couple more pairs of shoes and a nice little sweater.
The sizes are crazy so I'm having a hard time finding shoes for Isabel. The shoes selection in China is truly amazing compared to the U.S. After we got back, Mamie my guide, had arranged for the hotel staff to bring a birthday cake up to the room and sing Happy Birthday to me. It was a very nice treat and the cake was delicious (White cake with oranges in the whipped cream frosting).
Nora is taking a nap. The first few hours yesterday Nora was pretty sad but she really perked up in the afternoon. We spent the afternoon and evening playing with toys. I actually taught her "How Big" (I forgot to mention that in yesterday's post). She's very chatty and will fit right in with Isabel and Mom. But then bed time was approaching and I was getting nervous.
With Isabel we tried putting her in the crib in China and she cried and cried. It was months after we were home that I could set her in her crib awake without her throwing a complete fit. Her whole adoption trip she slept on blankets on the floor with a pillow on either side so she couldn't roll into anything. Isabel also always fell asleep during her bottle and I just put her in her "floor crib" and we were done until she woke up a few hours later and we walked and walked and walked or at home we rocked. Needless to say Isabel was not a good sleeper. She is now, but it took three years to get there. So this was the point where I was getting nervous...
What would Nora be like for sleeping and the crib? Initially my game plan was the following; give her a bottle and she'll get all baby drunk and put her in the crib and we're done. The only hitch is that she is not wanting her bottle. I don't know if it's because it doesn't look like her bottle at the orphanage or what? I tried the bottle at noon yesterday and she drank a little, but not much. Last night she wanted none of it. I found out today that at the orphanage she was rarely given anything but bottles with a thick mixture of formula and cereal. So since I had given her a steamed egg and baby food carrots she wasn't hungry and she didn't want her bottle.
Evening was approaching… I got her ready for bed, she started getting cranky around 7pm so I thought, let's just try to put her in the crib and see what happens. To say I was shocked was an understatement, she was happy in the crib, she babbled for a few minutes and went right to sleep. This is the stuff of urban legends. She woke up around midnight and I just changed her diaper (per the instruction from the orphanage) and put her back in the crib and she went back to sleep quickly and slept until about 6 this morning. Put a child in the crib and the child goes to sleep... who knew there was such a thing?
Let's just hope it continues....

Monday, October 26, 2009

Meeting Nora

Changsha Day 2

Today I met Miss Binglaing. When we arrived at the Civil Affairs office she had already been crying since leaving the orphanage over an hour before. Her nanny wasn't able to come to meet us so an administrative person who Binglaing didn't know brought her to Changsha. That upset her so that by the time we showed up she was really cried out and just whimpered for hours.

I began holding her at about 10 am and finally saw a first smile at 12:45pm. She wasn't having anything to do with a nap so we walked down to the Friendship department store (don't let the name fool you it's very high end).

The girl needs a pair of shoes so we found two that we liked and that weren't too expensive.

She didn't much care for the shopping and started to really cry so we walked back and she fell asleep in my arms for about 30 minutes. After her little nap and a bottle she's doing much better and is sitting on the bed playing with toys and talking to me as I write this. She is quite chatty and will fit in very well with her big sister. By the way Isabel, Nora loves the photo album and points and stares at your picture.

Tomorrow we go back to Civil Affairs to finalize the adoption and we're going to some sort of baby store that should have formula etc...

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Changsha Day 1

Changsha Day 1 – Sunday October 25, 2009
Pre Arrival
I arrived in Changsha late last night. I missed my connecting flight in Beijing due to a couple of problems. First we were an hour and an half late arriving, then I mistakenly took the wrong checked bag (same model, same color, same color name tag) and it took about 30 minutes to return it and get my bag. Then I had to get me and all my luggage to the other terminal which was about 15 minutes away by bus and then go through the check-in lines again and by the time that all happened it was 10 minutes before the flight was going to take off and they won’t let me board.

They said I needed to go back to the main terminal (15 min bus ride again) with all my luggage (3 bags) and have Continental exchange my ticket since it was a delayed arrival issue. So I went back and Continental was closed and won’t be back till midday Sunday. I have to admit I started to cry at that point. I had been up for 28 hours at that point with couple of hours of napping but I was drained. The language barrier is tough sometime. It was nice that I was able to call Tu, the Chinese women that works with my agency, and have her just reassure me it would all be fine. She talked with an information desk person to figure out a plan and in the end I just paid for another flight to get out of Beijing a little later that night. I’m hoping that my travel agent is able to get me a reimbursement.

Changsha is pronounced Chung Sha. I was met at the airport by Mamie, my guide while I’m in Changsha. I think I’m going to see if Tu can arrange for some help getting Nora and I to our connecting flight in Beijing on the way home. I just cannot image having three bags and Nora and doing what I needed to do last night. I guess the only good thing is that it will be on the front end of the trip and not the back end.

The Dolton Hotel is very nice. I was up early this morning and went for a walk down to the market.

The neighborhood is very interesting and colorful. Here are a few photos I took on my way to find diapers.

The scooter must be all electric because they’re so quiet. It funny in the US the bicycles are on the street; in Changsha the motor scooters cross the streets with the walkers.

Today is a day to recover (I’m still feeling a bit woozy) and to get ready to meet Nora tomorrow morning (10 am my time // Monday 9pm Mpls time).

It’s around noon here and I have nothing to do. I haven’t had so much time on my hands for a very long time so I think I’m going to see about a pedicure and foot massage this afternoon. I’ll bring the camera just in case.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

those gray roots again...

My to-do list says that this morning I should be taking care of that one inch of gray at my hairline but instead I'm drinking coffee and thinking about tonight, it will be the 1st and last time I will be completely alone in my house. No tripping over the dogs, no Isabel asking one question after another without really even stopping to listen to my response to the last question.

Last night I had a moment of thinking, what am I doing? I don't want things to change... I don't want to leave home... I don't want to be half way around the world from Isabel who has been my world for over 3 years (but it feels like forever). Does anyone else get this feeling a day or so before going on vacation or trip? It's like I experience the homesickness before even leaving home.

But I've always gone... it's always a great trip (well maybe they haven't all been great but alway good), and I like change.

So I just need to take a deep breath and jump......

Monday, October 12, 2009

Snow in Oct - A Nice Day for Museum Visit

Yesterday was a nice day for hanging out in a Museum considering we woke up to 30 degree temps and new snow on the ground again -- It was October 11th!!!

It felt like Thanksgiving was two weeks away and not Halloween!

MIA had a family day so we made the most of cold day in October... here are a few shots that our friends from Target took of us. We are lucky to be the home of Target Corp; they are generous sponsors of a lot of fun, free events.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Nora Sighting!

Today I connected, via a Yahoo Group for families with children from the Yiyang SWI, with a women name Doris who was allowed to visit the orphanage yesterday and she saw Nora. The orphanage just moved in August to a new building and so here is the old building and the new building. Doris and her party were not allowed to take photos of the children or the nannys but reported that Nora was wearing a pink t-shirt and was sitting up alone and playing. It sounded like the new building is very nice and clean, unfortunately Nora lived in the old building from November of 2008 until just last month.

How would you feel if you were the only white person in the room?

The last time when I was getting ready to bring Isabel home I spent a lot of time reading about China past and present. How did China and the Chinese people get to a place where they left baby girls (and other - what they may consider - imperfect babies) in public places to be found (hopefully) and care for in institutions?

I knew that at some point in future I would have to tell Isabel that her birth mother left her in a park. I'm not saying this will be easy, I've started bits of that conversation as she has questions even now at 4 1/2. It is what it is and I can't change her story. But I don't want it to be a huge surprise when she 12 year old.

This time getting ready for Nora, I've been checking out blogs and yahoo boards with more and more frequency and an interesting thread that has come up was "do we as parents of interracial adopted kids include other races in lives?" How fair is it for them to feel like they are the only minority in the room for 99% of their lives. Or worst (in my opinion) their identity is white-by- association. So when they go off into the world with out their family beside them (college, jobs, etc) they could lose a big part of their white identity. The world sees them differently from how they see themselves. There is white privilege in this world that we white people don't see; we just expect to be treated in a certain way and we are. It's not something we earn.

I came across this "NPR Explores Trans-racial Adoption"

Very interesting perspective on a really hard subject.

More to think about.......

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

I found this out and about and just love it!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Introducing Eleanor Bingliang

My littlest one is in YiYang Social Welfare Service Center, Hunan, China. Eleanor (Nora for short) is about six months old in this photo. Her birthday is Nov 3rd, so we'll be celebrating it together in Guangzhou China next month.

I received an update in August (that would make her about 10 months old) that said she now has 6 teeth and is standing alone for 8-10 seconds at a time. She can also pull herself up to standing by holding on to things. She's described as a very cuddling, social girl and is very attached to her nanny. Sounds like I need to be prepared for some heavy grieving during our time in China. She also sounds like she will fit into our family just fine with Isabel and the dogs.

I can't believe I leave in 18 days.