US CONSULATE, PEARL MARKET & SHAMIAN ISLAND

It’s been a busy day, but a good one. We started the day at the US Consulate office. We had a bit of a scare there because when we went through the first security check point, the security officer didn’t have us on the list of guests for the day. We’ve had this appointment for weeks. Our entire trip was planned around this one appointment. Kathy, our guide, was saying, “Don’t panic. Don’t worry,” over and over. So I just panicked silently! When in the world would they have an opening? Could we be here weeks longer? Thankfully, when the security officer finally got someone from the US Consulate Adoption Office to answer on the radio, and he said, “Timothy Joe Sharp”, the response I heard was “He An Ning” (Kate’s Chinese name). They knew us!!! Woo Hoo! Once we finally got in, all went smoothly.I know I’ve mentioned that Kate gets car sick. We had another episode on the way back from the consulate office. She’s thrown up in the car twice in the past three days. I sure hope it gets better in the US!

Due to our delay at the consulate and having to clean her up, we barely made the next bus at 11:30, but I was determined to go to the Pearl Market. I purchased a set of pearls for Kate’s 18th birthday and a jade pendant for her 16th. Tim and I bought Sophia a jade pendant as well to thank her for everything she’s done on the trip. She is in love with it. 

We then took a taxi to Shamian Island to meet the Nichols one last time. Memories of our time on the island when we adopted Sophia came flooding back. We had so much fun walking the streets, taking in the sights, and shopping. I can honestly say that I didn’t realize how good we had it on Shamian Island back in 2005. To just be able to run out and do some shopping or take a walk while Sophia was napping was so much fun. The hotel we’re in this time is not nearly as convenient to all of the little shops. We also found today that prices are still much better on the island. I hope that once the White Swan is renovated, I can stay there again. For our 2005 travel group: We saw The White Swan up close today, and it looks awful. This is a MAJOR renovation.

We hung out at the hotel tonight and had Papa John’s delivered. Yes…Papa John’s!!! It tasted the most like the American version of anything we’ve had since we have been here. I’m pretty sure it was Kate’s first piece as she didn’t seem to know how to hold a slice of pizza.

Overall, Kate had a great day today. While we had our moments of car sick and another grieving episode when we left the Nichols, for the most part she’s been pretty funny today. Bella June’s family brought her a DS, and she’s turned into the official photographer of the trip. Today, she showed Kate how to pose, and I haven’t been able to get a picture of her since that she’s not in this strange pose. We have laughed our heads off, and she knows how funny we think it is. Can’t wait till I can post pictures to show you!

Some Shamian Island Pictures…

The pose that Bella June taught Kate

Before a couple marries, they have photos taken for their wedding album. In Guangzhou, Shamian Island is the place to do this. Just walking the streets, you see lots of couples having pictures made, commercials are being made, photos for advertisements, etc. I couldn’t resist taking a picture of this couple as they were having photos made for their wedding album.

Still posing

Sophia found a red fan to purchase!

We were out and about during nap time, so she fell asleep in the stroller.

I so wanted Kate in the line of kids. She was sleeping though. Sophia offered to fill in as “the assistant teacher at the back of the line” if I would include the red fan in the picture. Sure…why not?! I needed another picture of her with the red fan. 🙂 Oh well, I’m sure Kate wouldn’t have gotten in line anyway. She would have posed.

Love this statue. It shows the changing style of Chinese women over the years. Sophia wanted to be in the front to show that she’s the next generation.

I dressed Kate in red/white/blue today for the Consulate appointment, but cameras are not permitted on the property. Tonight, it hit me that I needed a consulate outfit picture. What would make me think I could get one without “the pose”?!?!

She cracks herself up!

Today was our last full day in Guangzhou. We leave on a van around 4:00 p.m. tomorrow for Hong Kong. We will stay overnight there and then board our flight just before noon on Friday to head home. (That’s midnight Thursday at home.) The countdown to coming home is on. We miss you Ella and can’t wait to see you!!!

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Tuesday in Guangzhou

Good day today!  We started at the Guangzhou Zoo.  While we’ve heard awesome things about the Safari Park, Grace talked us out of it.  She explained that it’s a full day adventure at the Safari Park, and with the heat/humidity, she didn’t think our little ones would deal as well with it.  Good call on her part because I was done by midday.  The zoo was a lot of fun.  The animals were very active, so that always makes the zoo more fun.  The best part of the day was feeding the giraffes.  Sophie even got licked.  Yuck!

My joeys! Sure wish I had the third with me to stick in there! Miss you, Ella!

The girls with Ms. Kathy — She was so good to us!

This afternoon, we had family and group pictures here at the hotel.  It was fun to see all of the kids in their traditional Chinese outfits.  Kate was so proud to be wearing the same outfit as Sophia.  It was sweet.

Eleven CCAI families

Tonight, we headed over to The Garden Hotel to meet up with the Nichols family for dinner.  It was so nice to see them!  We’ve really missed them this week.  Bella June and Kate loved on each other big time.  It was so sweet to see.  The hard part was telling them good night.  Kate lost it. She did not want to leave Bella June.  At bedtime, she cried for Bella June and her foster mom hard.  It was the worst it has been in several days.  Even after she stopped crying, she laid in bed for a long time with her eyes open.  I could tell her wheels were turning.  I hate it for her.  Wish I could take the hurt and fear away.

Silly kids!

Loving on Bella June

Medical Clinic & Pearl River Cruise

Monday started off rough.  Kate threw up in the doorway of our hotel room as we were leaving to go to the medical clinic.  I so would not have gone if her TB skin test didn’t have to be read today.  So, ten other families waited while I got her changed into the third dress of the day – all before 9:30.  As soon as we walked into the clinic, she recognized it from Saturday and started screaming/crying/begging us not to make her be there.  I know she speaks Chinese, but believe me, it’s sometimes really easy to figure out what is being said.  I pulled Grace away from the families who were having visa photos taken and asked her to talk to Kate and explain that there would be no shots today.  As soon as she did, Kate calmed down. There are moments like this that I question why I didn’t take those Chinese language lessons more seriously.  I can’t explain simple stuff like this to my own child.  Frustrating, but I know we will get there.

When we had the TB skin test read, there were concerns with Kate’s, so we were told that we would have to have a chest x-ray. The doctor turned away from Kate and began to check Sophia’s arm.  You should have seen her face!  Priceless!  Grace explained that they had the wrong kid.  The next to be checked was a little boy in our group…not Sophia.

The x-ray went well. As soon as Kate was finished, we asked Grace when we could have results.  She said, “Oh.  They already told me she’s fine.”  I said, “O.k…well there’s 200 yuan down the drain.”  To which Grace replied, “No, 198.  Here is your change.”  We decided that rather than dwelling on the loss of the money, we’d just be glad that it costs so little (about 30 US dollars) to get an x-ray and that Kate got the all clear.

I had Kate rest this afternoon since she had had a rough morning while Sophie and Tim swam.  This evening, we went for a dinner cruise on the Pearl River.  The food wasn’t very good, but we did enjoy the cruise.  We saw The White Swan Hotel where we stayed in 2005.  It’s currently closed for renovations.  It kind of made me sad to see it so dark.  It didn’t look the same at all.  We also got to see the second highest tower in the world.  It’s new to Guangzhou and displays a really neat light show.

Kate got bored during the magic show and went to hang out with Grace.

I do have to tell you about the buffet dinner.  Grace warned us before getting off the bus that the Chinese fight their way through a buffet.  She said that even the old people push/shove.  She told us not to be intimidated and just push our way in there and get food too.  Oh my goodness!  Was she ever right!  They were nuts!  There was no line at all. When they said the buffet was open, people were climbing over each other and pushing.  They didn’t stay in line at all. They’d just go to a food that they wanted and push their way in. Sophie got into it with a little old man.  It reminded me of the Sophie I see on the soccer field.  She was NOT going to let him cut, and he was determined to do so.  I finally just said, “Soph, he’s going to wear you out until he gets his way.  Just let him in there.”  It killed her to give in.  When we were getting off the bus back at the hotel, the line was moving slowly because it was raining. She looked at me and said, “You better get out of my way.  I’m Chinese, and I’ll push you down!”  She’s a mess!

Guangzhou City Tour

We had a busy Sunday.  Grace scheduled a city tour for us that included a Buddhist temple, a folk art museum, and an arts/crafts market.

I nearly had a meltdown at the temple.  It’s really mostly an outdoor sort of place with a few inner rooms.  It was so sad to me to see people burning incense and leaving fruit, money, and flowers at the feet of statues.  I had this lump in my throat the whole time we were there.  I was sad that these people don’t know Jesus and it pained me to be in a place like this.  I also couldn’t help but think of my children who will have the opportunity to hear the gospel in America.  It was Sunday, and I just wanted to be in my church worshiping God.  Tim turned to me to say something to the effect of, “What is going on here?!” and I just couldn’t hold back the tears.  While this was overall not a good experience, two good things came of it. Tim and I were able to relate this experience to Sophia regarding the need for world missionaries, and on a less serious note, we enjoyed the nine foot pagoda on the property.  It was really neat to see.

Our next stop was the Chan Family Home which has been converted to a folk art museum.  The four folk arts of China are embroidery, jade carvings, bone carvings, and porcelain.  We were able to see all four.  We visited this same museum when we adopted Sophia, so it was fun to go back again and to be able to say to her, “You did this when you were a baby!”  When we were there in 2005, I took a picture of Tim holding Sophia in front of a golden rooster statue.  I love that picture and joked with Sophia that she and Tim could recreate it today.  Well, the rooster is gone, but she wouldn’t let go of the idea of recreating the picture, so they posed in front of another statue.  I really think she was just looking for a reason for Tim to hold her! J  Once I can add pictures, I’ll put it on here.

This artwork is amazing. He creates pieces of art with scissors.

Peace out from Kate! She’s so funny!

Recreating the rooster picture (minus the rooster). Wow — She’s grown a lot in 7 1/2 years!

Our last stop was an arts/crafts market.   We enjoyed looking at all of the pretty things and watch a few artisans.

I never tire of watching this artwork created in China. This man uses only his own hands and ink/paint (no brush, pen, etc.) to create these paintings. You can see some finished products behind him.

Tonight we had dinner with six of the eleven families at a Chinese restaurant.  It was really good.  We wrapped up the day with a swim.  Even Kate got in the pool!  One more sign that we are making progress!

These two have amazing chopstick skills. I had to ask for a fork!

They just kept bringing food!

Right now we are sitting in bed.  She’s playing Legos while talking to herself in Chinese.  I can’t even tell you how sweet that little voice is speaking Chinese.  I am cherishing every moment of it because I know without daily practice, she won’t hold on to it. Makes me sad to think about.  It’s soooo sweet!

Ni Hao from Guangzhou

David with both families

Friday morning was quiet.  We had our last breakfast with the Nichols family and enjoyed the sweet staff at the Marriott Nanning.  They have been wonderful to us.  Sophie took a swim before we packed our things up.  David was at the hotel to get us at 3:00.  We went to pick up Kate’s passport and then headed to the airport.

Kate LOVES dragon fruit! The Nichols had one in their room and gave it to her. She was so happy!

Yum!

Nichols and Sharp kids

The airport adventure last night was our most uncomfortable moment of the trip so far (well…it ranks up there with the squatty potty incident at the park).  To make a long story short, our flight was delayed 2 ½ hours, the air conditioning in the airport was not working, we had had no dinner and had to make a meal of strawberry Oreos, and we were considered a freak show.  Really…you’d think nobody had ever seen an adoptive family.  The fact that Sophia spoke English freaked them out too.  Oh well, we survived and were so happy to see Grace waiting for us as we exited the airport.  One funny thing about the flight delay – We assumed we were probably going to be delayed as it was time to board and our airplane wasn’t there.  Apparently we were the only ones who had come to that conclusion because when the announcement was made on the board above our gate, everyone stood up and moaned and groaned and acted shocked.  A group of 10-15 men gathered around the boarding desk and went off on the poor girl working the desk.  They yelled.  They screamed.  They banged their fists on the counter.  Bless her heart!  It went on for about 20 minutes and was insane.  I videotaped the end of it just because it was so shocking.  If that had happened in the US, security would have been called and they would have been removed from the airport.  I don’t know what they thought she could do about it.

We made a friend at the airport.  It was a seven year old boy.  He stayed with our two families the entire time – not sure where his family was.  He hung all over us, watched everything Sophie and JD did on their DS, practiced his English on us, etc.  At one point I said, “Where’s your baba?”  He said, “Father?”  I said, “Yes, where’s your father?”  He said, “Daddy?”  Oh my…it was just round and round with him.  It was evident that the people sitting around us thought he belonged to us.  Funny!

Kate wouldn’t let me do anything for her today. At the airport, she was 100% into Robin. Thankfully, Robin didn’t mind and is so sweet to Kate!

So we’re not with the Nichols family anymore. They are with their agency group in a different hotel.  We are so sad about that.  Before the girls separated yesterday, Robin had a bracelet that says “Special Sister” for Bella June to give Kate.  We ran into them at the medical clinic this morning.  Kate was so happy to see Bella June and showed off her bracelet.  Hopefully we can work it out to do some things with them this week.  They are about a 15 minute taxi ride from us.
The medical clinic was extremely crowded, but Grace was incredible at getting us through in record time.  Kate lost her mind there.  She was apparently scared of getting a shot.  It was a pretty easy exam except that she did have to have a TB skin test.  She was a mess over that.  We got back Monday to have it read.

So happy to run into our friends at the medical clinic!

Overall, Kate is doing much better.  She still has moments of grieving or seems stressed out (picks at her fingernails); but all in all, she’s doing well.  She is doing much more smiling and laughing, and she makes us laugh.  She is especially funny with Sophia as she talks nonstop to Soph in Chinese as if Sophia understands her.  It’s so sweet.  I told Tim today that that is going to stop eventually, and I’m going to miss it.

The rest of our day today consisted of napping, shopping, a trip to McDonald’s, and a visit to a park.  Another hot, humid day in the south of China.  Loving the man who invented air conditioning right now.

Hot day at the park

The Gift of Adoption

I can remember before we adopted Sophia wondering if I could love a child I didn’t give birth to. This was something I debated for months. My turning point was when Matt and Kelli came home with Maia. I can remember telling Tim while they were in China that I knew the depth of their love for Lili, and I just needed to see if was the same for Maia. I needed to know if I could do this too. We met Matt and Kelli for lunch a couple of days after they got home. I distinctly remember Kelli, with tears streaming down her face, telling me how great her love was for this precious baby placed in her arms. It wasn’t a question I asked her, but something she felt compelled to share.

I can’t explain how it works, but there is no question that I love my girls with all I have. While they were not born of me, they are mine. And whether it is an infant or a three year old, it doesn’t matter. The second Kate was given to us, that instinct that she is mine kicked in. And I saw it happen to Tim too.

We are traveling a different, but familiar road this week. Things have quickly improved over the past four days. We have now seen joy on our daughter’s face and heard her laugh. While there are far more quiet, reserved moments, we do see the light there and know that we will be there sooner than later. We have a peace that was not there Monday and Tuesday, and I am so thankful.

“Father to the fatherless, defender of widows — this is God, whose dwelling is holy. God places the lonely in families.”
Psalms 68:5-6

Thursday in Nanning

We spent Thursday at a shopping mall and a park. We didn’t buy anything at the shopping mall. Styles are very different here, and clothing is as expensive or more expensive as in the US. We have really done no souvenir/gift shopping yet. That should come in Guangzhou.

After the mall, we met David to go over paperwork and check for errors. He then took us to a park within walking distance of the hotel. It was set around a large lake, and was really nice. The only problem was the H-E-A-T. I really can’t convey how stinkin’ hot it is here. Within minutes of being outside, we are all drenched in sweat. It’s disgusting. The kids (and David) played on the playground equipment for a bit, but it didn’t take us long to find a shade and buy some popsicles. They hit the spot! Our last adventure at the park was to purchase fish food. Now, this was a deal! Thirty US cents for a bag of fish food which turned out to be a huge hit. All four kids got a bag. They began throwing a few pellets at a time into the lake. Fish were swarming and fighting over the food. Then, all of a sudden, Kate got crazy and dumped her whole bag in. The fish went NUTS! They were leaping out of the water and fighting each other so badly for the food, we all got wet. She thought it was hilarious that she had caused such a ruckus. We were all cracking up!

Right before she got crazy and dumped her whole bag…

…and the fish literally out of the water fighting for the food!

We had lunch together at Pizza Hut. It was the smallest medium pizza I’ve ever seen in my life. It’s no wonder that the Chinese are so much smaller than we are. Sophia and I swam away the afternoon while Tim and Kate napped.

It was a very uneventful afternoon and evening. Friday should be pretty quiet too. We basically hang out at the hotel and swim until David gets us at 2:30. At that time, we go to pick up Kate’s passport and then fly to Guangzhou for our last piece of the puzzle.

We are missing Ella terribly, but she is doing fantastic. She had a great week at school and Matt/Kelli’s. She has helped on the farm, kept tabs on Lucy, and she ran her first race – a 1K. So proud of her!  Matt, Kelli, Lili, and Maia – We love you all and are so blessed to call you our friends! Thank you for loving on our girl and taking such good care of her!