Thursday, August 27, 2015

February 1 part 2: Nesting

When we arrived at the hotel, our adoption agency rep was waiting for us in the lobby.  The other families who’d taken the train were just ahead of us, and the families who were flying had not yet arrived.  We learned a bit about our upcoming schedule, were given our name badges and an updated information sheet on our child, and got checked in.

Our first view of our hotel room: 

I think the bottom dropped out of my stomach when I saw the crib!  I couldn’t believe it was REALLY our turn.  We were here to get our little guy!  We left our stuff in the room and went down to the Italian restaurant for lunch with some of our group.  The food tasted ok but took forever to get.

When we returned to our room, I suddenly felt like I had a million things to do.  At this point, Kevin’s journal says I went hormonal.  I like to call it nesting.  I wanted everything unpacked and set up for our big week ahead.  Fortunately for Kevin, he had an excuse to leave the room.  Our rep asked for 1 person in each family to go with the group to the bank to exchange money.  So, he left and I went into full nesting mode.  All that nesting energy I’d held back up to this point unleashed in a flurry!

The significance of those name badges on the desk simply cannot be overstated.  I can’t tell you how many videos and pictures of other adoptive families I’d viewed--my eyes always drawn to the official name badges.  I know it may seem silly.  For a year I’d been dreaming of those badges...

After I had the room all set up and pictures taken, I sat down to study our soon-to-be-son’s  information sheet.  It gave a rough outline of his daily schedule, foods he was eating and brand of formula he was given.  A little while later, the guys returned from the bank with instructions on meeting back up for a trip to Walmart.  I think Kevin was relieved when he entered the room and discovered I’d gotten all that nesting energy out of me.

We met up in the lobby to proceed as a group to Walmart.  It was a bit of a walk but not bad empty-handed.  We quickly learn how to cross streets and weave our way through the unfathomable crowds and traffic (look out for the scooters on the sidewalks!).  At one point, a police officer stuck his arm out in front of Kevin and I and stopped about half our group from crossing a street.  We watched, wide-eyed, as the rest of our group continued on without us.  Luckily, the reps soon discovered what had happened and all was well.

Once we made it to the area in front of Walmart, the lead rep had us gather around her and she began giving us instructions... lots of instructions.  We would enter the building through a small door and proceed up to the next floor,  where Walmart was located.  Any fresh fruits and veggies needed to be taken to the weighing station to be tagged.  Diapers were up on the 3rd floor.  Come back down to the second floor to pay.  How would we remember everything?!  In the meantime, a crowd of locals had gathered to watch us.  This was really our first experience with the very obvious staring and pointing. I wanted to take pictures but felt too weird about it.

Into Walmart...

These conveyor belts took us up to the 3rd floor.  The shopping cart wheels stuck in place.  Pretty cool!  Kevin thought I was weird for taking pics of it.  I did better than that--I took video!

We had to provide our own bags and, fortunately, I had read that somewhere.  (Was it our agency info or one of the adoption FB groups I’m in?)  We had 2 bags but that wasn’t enough.  Luckily, there was a free bag attached to a bag of chips we were buying, so we unwrapped it and used the bag.  It was a long walk back to the hotel with arms full of toddler snacks (lots and lots of ‘em), formula, bottled water, diapers, wipes, etc.

The trip to Walmart was quite overwhelming and fun!  I hadn’t expected it to be so overwhelming.  I think part of the reason it was so overwhelming was due to the large size of our travel group.  Our 4 reps were doing all they could to help us each find what we needed for our kiddos.  They were just stretched thin!  We had no clue what snacks to buy or where to find the formula (or what the packaging looked like for the brand we needed).  In the end, we got everything we needed and felt as prepared as we could be at that point.

We had dinner in the hotel restaurant (not the Italian one), looked over our schedule for the next day, and went to bed.  We would surely need our strength for Gotcha Day!

Friday, July 24, 2015

February 1 part 1: Bullet train to Zhengzhou

An early start to the day was in order with wake up time at 4am.  We were downstairs with our luggage and checked out by 5am.  Our rep, George, did his best to prepare the four families who’d chosen the adventurous train ride over the agency’s recommended flight- where to look for our platform number once we were inside the train station, to pay attention to the red vs. blue on the ticket, that there may be some shoving, only having 3 minutes to get off the train at our stop, etc.  He showed great concern for us and repeated his instructions several times.  We were prepared with notes written in Mandarin to hand to our taxi drivers once we arrived in Zhengzhou as we were responsible for getting ourselves to the hotel. George also handed each of us a bagged breakfast.  We said our goodbyes to him and piled into the taxis he’d arranged.

Kevin, George, & I

Loaded in the taxi with luggage in our laps

Our taxis took us right to the Beijing train station and we had to go through a security check to get in.  Kevin had a slight issue with his ticket/passport but they waved him through.  Once we were inside, we checked the giant screen for our train’s platform number.  That was simple enough.

We then followed the signs to our platform.  One of the considerations for taking the train was having to handle our own luggage.  We had this in mind when we chose our luggage.  Kevin and I each had 1 large suitcase on wheels and 1 backpack.  We found this very manageable!  Really, we only had to walk a little ways, go down an escalator, and walk a little more.  When we got to our platform, we could see we were going to be standing until boarding the train.  It was getting close to Chinese New Year, so the trains were packed.

FULL waiting area with some people even sleeping

Here you can see the blue & red/pink signs with arrows

We waited about 15-20 minutes and then heard something in Mandarin over the speaker and saw everyone moving.  We got right in line and boarded the train with our luggage, no shoving involved!  We had all bought business class seats and it was SO nice!

Our seats were at the very end of the train, facing backward.  I was concerned this might cause some motion sickness issues for me, so I put on my Sea Bands, but it turned out to be no problem at all.

PLENTY of room for our luggage right in front of us.  No need to put our luggage with everyone else’s and then worry it would be taken.

This seat was behind mine.  A man slept in it the whole way, alternating between coughing, snorting, and snoring.  It was slightly comical.  Kevin had a single occupied seat behind him.  The rest of our group was in the very next car.

Seat reclined slightly.  I could have reclined it more.

I didn’t take these out to see what they were, but one of the families said their son played games on one of them.  There was a different one on each side of my seat.

Slippers, anyone?

The contents of my goodie bag.  I ate the Oreo.  I can’t remember if I tried anything else or not.

Kevin and I both enjoyed seeing the countryside through the pollution haze.  The ride was so smooth and quiet (other than Mr. Snore behind me).  I would so travel this way again, if given the option!  This train went up to 300 kilometers per hour.  Each time a stop was coming, a pre-recorded message played over the speaker in a few languages, including English, to let you know which stop was coming.  We watched our list of stops and knew right when to get off the train.  We took a ton of pics of anything that looked interesting, so I will just share some of them here.

The train tracks

Stopped at a station, looking at the train next to ours

I took some short video.  I turned my phone during the video, so the picture goes sideways.  Sorry!  My nice brother is going to fix it for me soon.

Our first views of Zhengzhou

Pulling in to the Zhengzhou train station.  We hopped out of our seats and stood at the door with our luggage.  No way were we going to miss getting off at our stop!

Here’s where we got off the train.  We just followed the signs to the taxi line.

We watched the other families ahead of us get right into taxis without a hitch.  When it was our turn, we handed the driver our note.  He looked at it and shook his head no.  Yikes!  We were a little unsure what to do but figured out to just move on to the next driver in line.  He read the note and motioned for us to put our luggage in the trunk.  Well, the trunk was rather full of junk, so our suitcases barely fit in and we could not close it!  Oh my goodness!  We watched the hatch flop up and down the whole way to the hotel, half expecting to see a piece of luggage go flying!  Luckily, it all stayed in and eventually we made it to the hotel.  It takes longer to go anywhere in China with the huge population.

Do I look scared?!