Travel Journal · May 3 - 17, 2007
A New Place for Updates May 29, 2007
Please see "On the Homefront" for ongoing updates.  Thanks!
Getting settled in Guangzhou May 13, 2007

Hello again everybody!  We arrived safe and sound in Guangzhou after about a 3-hour flight from Hohhot.  The flight itself was relatively uneventful (except for a 15 minute meltdown from a very tired Sophie), but Jonathan absolutely loved his first time on a plane.  Hopefully he will still be as excited for the long, long flight home on Thursday.

It has been a great reunion with all the AWAA families on this trip.  I was telling Beth tonight on the phone that each of the kids seems to fit perfectly with the family that God placed them in.  It is amazing how He does that!  How God matches up children who, for whatever reason, end up in an orphanage half a world away with families who just want to be obedient and add a precious child to the clan boggles the mind!

Saturday we got settled in to our wonderful 2 bed, 2 bath apartment at the China Hotel.  Today (Sunday) started out with the amazing breakfast buffet and was followed up with a trip to a museum that was established at a beautiful residence of a family here.  Then it was a quick trip to the Guangzhou Friendship Store, back to the hotel for lunch and naps.  While the kids slept, I went to our guides' room with one of the spouses from all the other families and spent the next couple of hours filling out paperwork for the US Consulate here in Guangzhou.  Our consulate appointment is on Tuesday, followed by our "swearing in" ceremony on Wednesday at which time the Consulate will officially approve the immigrant applications of all the children adopted on this trip.  Yeah!  We ended up tonight eating at a wonderful Japanese restaurant here at the hotel.

Monday is Jonathan's medical exam, followed by shopping on Shamian Island.  The shopping is one of the best features here as there are many shops that cater specifically to adoptive families.  This is usually the task that Beth shines at performing, so I'll let you know how we make out without her expertise and heart for finding the perfect gifts!

We are all so ready to be home, and I know these last few days will go by quickly, but they can't go by quickly enough until I can be reunited with my beautiful wife and introduce her to our new son!


Final day in Hohhot May 11, 2007

Another incredible day in Inner Mongolia!  We had the morning free, then at 2:00 this afternoon, it was off on an excursion to the grasslands.  This is one of the geographical features that Inner Mongolia is famous for, and it definitely lived up to its reputation.  It was a 50 mile drive from Hohhot, but well worth it. 

We passed through mountains, a small city, and then cruised along a highway that cut through the plateau that the grasslands sit upon.  It was amazing to see this part of China - so different than the big cities that we are normally confined to.  The farms and prairies reminded me a lot of the Western American states, with beautiful mountains in the backdrop.  My pictures hardly do justice to the beauty of this part of China.

One of the big differences, however, is the wind-swept sandstorms that frequent the area.  It was extremely windy today, and at one point on the drive we skirted around what looked like a pretty bad sandstorm.  Our guide, Sandra, told us that these are a relatively recent occurence in China, created by the Government's desire for the farmers to increase their production from the land, both livestock and crops.  The sand and dust is even felt in the big cities, like Hohhot.

Sandra and our driver took us to a sheep farm on the grasslands.  We didn't even know we were doing this until we got there!  We were quickly invited inside out of the extremely windy conditions and treated to a traditional Mongolian snack.  The really interesting part of this for me was that the snack was served on top of a brick platform in one of the rooms of the house.  This looked just like the same kind of platform that Mia slept on when she was a baby in her foster home.  Sandra told us that they sleep on these platforms because the bricks retain heat from the stove to keep them warm at night in the bitter winters this region experiences.  It was fascinating!

Then, it was back to the hotel for a quick dinner and showers before putting the kids in bed.  Now I'm packing for a 6:00 am departure from our hotel to the Hohhot airport for our early morning flight to Guangzhou. 

Jonathan continues to astound us with his rapid transformation.  He is such a sweet boy and Sophie is really warming up to her new brother.  As the three of us were walking over to lunch at the local McDonald's (Grandad was taking a break), we were reciting all the names of our family members.  I started with our three names and before I could get to the names of Mommy and Mia, Sophie beat me to it!  Jonathan repeated each name perfectly!  It was a touching family moment and made me feel not so far away from my beautiful, amazing wife, and my precious older daughter.  I miss you so much!

We'll check back in from Guangzhou!

Beginning to get comfortable May 10, 2007

It's Thursday evening in Hohhot and we have had a couple of amazing days here.  Jonathan has really turned a corner and is getting used to the new people in his life.  He is a very sweet boy in every way and we are so blessed that God has given us the gift of Jonathan.  I can't wait for his Mom to meet him!

Wednesday was filled with shopping and singing/dancing.  We started out the day at an Inner Mongolian craft shop where we saw artisans making cashmere products, leather goods and artwork, and knives.  At the end of that tour, we were led into 5 or 6 shops filled with all sorts of Inner Mongolian souvenirs.  Needless to say, the credit card got a good workout!  The most unique shop was the beef jerky/milk products shop.  I never knew there were so many kinds of jerky, nor the many varieties of milk products.  (Very tasty, too!)  Just exactly what is a milk product?  Ask me to explain in more detail!

After lunch and afternoon naps, it was off to an Inner Mongolian Traditional Dinner Show.  Try to picture a theater that holds about 100 people with only about 15 in attendance, blaringly loud music and singing (in Mongolian!) and traditional Mongolian food, and you can begin to get a sense of what it was like.  Actually, the food was pretty good, and the costumes were beautiful.  The group favorite was the Mongolian Milk Tea.

Today was another growth day in our new relationship with Jonathan.  He is such a very sweet boy, and very much a 6-year old at the same time.  Here are a few examples of his personality:

  • He has a desire to share the things that he likes the most - like a favorite food.  This is unusual for someone just coming out of an orphanage.
  • He now always wants to be holding a hand whenever we are walking somewhere - either his new buddy Grandad's, or mine.
  • He is very protective of younger girls - both his sister, Sophie, and the other just-adopted girl on our trip, Joanna.  We think he may even have a little crush on Joanna!
  • He likes to mix things together at the table - even things that wouldn't normally mix very well, like breadsticks and 7-Up!

The only planned activity of the day was a trip to an Inner Mongolian History Museum.  It was interesting, and Jonathan's favorite by far was the HUGE dinosaur skeleton in one of the rooms.  (See picture page for the photos.)

We only have one full day left in Hohhot, then it's off to Guangzhou early Saturday morning.  Although I'm really looking forward to getting to our next city (as this means we're one step closer to coming home!), I'll have mixed emotions to leave Jonathan's homeland. 

Thank you all for the kind posts you have left in our guestbook.  It is so nice to be able to read notes left by our friends and family.  Your words are like a bandage to hearts that are so yearning to be home.

Beth - I miss you more and more every day!  It is so not the same doing this without you and I pray that God will allow us to travel together on however many more adoptions he keeps telling Mia about!  Thank you for being the willing servant to stay at home and take care of our precious MMP, and know that I love you more than words can say!

Tuesday - More paperwork and some final goodbyes May 08, 2007

What an amazing day this has been!  Here is a summary:

  • Wake up at 5:30!  Sophie just decided it was time to get up.
  • Jonathan starts out the day still mourning the loss of the only life he has known since he was 3.
  • Meeting at 9:00 am with the Notary office representatives, the Registration Lady (Civil Affairs?), and Mrs. Xue.
  • Final tearful goodbyes for Jonathan as he sees the only people that have cared for him for the past 3 1/2 years disappear down an elevator.
  • Much more sadness and mourning back in our hotel room until about 11:30.
  • Then - everything begins to change!  As if Jonathan has decided to accept this new family God has placed him in, there are no more wimpering sessions.  Amazing things start happening like:
    • Jonathan reaches for my hand on the way out to lunch
    • Jonathan starts to smile and even laugh occasionally
    • Jonathan starts calling Sophie by her name
    • Jonathan loves to share everything he has with his new family
  • We have lunch at a buffet restaurant adjacent to the hotel and Sophie gets so tired after eating a plate of noodles, she starts nodding off in her high chair and then conks out across a couple of chairs that the waitresses brought over for her.
  • Back at the hotel, with Sophie still napping, Jonathan and I head over to the police station to get his picture taken for his Chinese passport.
  • On the way back, Sandra drops us off at a convenience store right next to our hotel.  Jonathan has a blast picking out some of the things that he likes/wants.  (Warning to Mommy: your new son LOVES Coke!)
  • As soon as we get back to the room, Jonathan decides he wants to eat everything his Dad just purchased for him, including a HUGE Chinese version of Raman Noodles. Jonathan is a very happy boy as a result.  (Just like his Dad, the way to his heart appears to be through his stomach.)
  • All of us then make a quick jaunt to the local McDonald's just down the street.  They serve a cup of hot corn with the Happy Meals! Jonathan eats his corn - Sophie does not!
  • We get back to the room, watch a little Muzzy (which Jonathan has just about memorized already), Sophie and Jonathan take showers, and then off to bed.

Quite a day!  Thanks to everyone for all the prayers and kind words left on our guestbook.  The prayers are being answered - both here in China and at home in Sterling.  We can't wait to get home and have our first real family reunion.

Beth - I love you so much and miss you terribly.  I know I don't tell you enough, but I am constantly amazed at what a wonderful mother you are and, more importantly to me, what an awesome wife you are!  I thank God every day for His provision of you! 143!