Sunday, April 23, 2017

SALT LAKE CITY TO GUANGZHOU

To prepare for this kind of momentous trip it takes days and days. It takes lists upon lists. It takes anxious thought after anxious thought. It was seriously the most daunting thing, preparing for our voyage to pick up Vivi. The fact that I got us all packed and out the door of our house was a huge accomplishment in itself. I didn't think the day would ever come, and then all of the sudden it was the day to leave for China via Hong Kong. I just prayed that everything would go well, that we would have safe and timely flights and that we would know the right people to ask if we were to get a little lost along the way. It is silly, but I kept thinking: "I've watched enough episodes of the Amazing Race to know, no one gets lost forever." Because seriously I hate being lost, but I just felt comfort in knowing, eventually we were going to find our way to Vivien.

Sunday morning April 2 we got all of our bags together, Tyler came to get us and we left our house. As I was taking one last look to make sure we hadn't forgotten anything (ha, I did sorry Brent), I looked around and got a bit teary realizing that the next time we were in our house we would have Vivi with us.

We got to the airport with plenty of time, and our first flight to Seattle was short and easy. We had a three hour layover in Seattle. I was surprised how fast it went by. Stella got some pizza, Brent and I had a snack at a Mexican place and suddenly it was time to board our plane and get ready to leave the US. I was ready to turn back and change my mind at that point, but I just kept taking it one step at a time and pretty soon we were off!



For as many flights as Stella has been on, it was exciting for her to be able to get fed a meal on the plane, and it was actually something she liked so she was very excited. Honestly, I was really surprised how nice Delta made the long 14 hour flight. It wasn't terribly full, so it didn't feel too horrible. I watched movie after movie until we were too tired. I made Stella a little bed on the floor with airplane pillows and she was able to take two good long naps like that and get some rest. Brent was on an aisle seat behind us and I'm not sure entirely what he was up to during the flight. I do know that I felt really bad that I had made fun of him for bringing his special pillow, but then I was the one who stole it and used it on the plane. About half way through the flight it did start to feel like it would never end, but end it did. And holy cow we were in Hong Kong!

It didn't take me long though to realize that we had landed a bit later than scheduled. Our hotel check-in closed at midnight and suddenly I was worried we wouldn't make it. I had no idea how long it was going to take to go through customs and immigration. Plus we had to walk and walk and walk after we got off of the plane. But thankfully it all didn't take very long. We got our bags and I knew we were going to be fine. I had a information girl write our hotel name in Cantonese, since I had read that it is hard to find for taxi drivers and suddenly we were in a taxi driving on the wrong side of the road and going to our hotel.

It didn't take long for Stella to feel car sick. I felt terrible for her, but I figured it was going to happen to her a few times during our trip. Just when she announced she couldn't take it anymore we were at our tiny hotel. We checked in, got up to our tiny room and turned up the air conditioning. We got online really easily and video chatted with Courtney, Heidi, and Valerie. It was about midnight to us and midday to them. We finally settled down and tried to get some rest.





Our beds were hard, but it didn't matter I didn't sleep at all. I was way to worked up and nervous and I could not shut down my brain. Stella woke up really early too as soon as we could hear the birds chirping.  And Stella and I were soon in a fit of giggles thinking that those birds spoke Chinese.

Finally it was morning and we got up, had a quick shower and packed up to head to the train station. The only directions we got from the front desk were basically: walk down that way. Yeah, it was NOT that easy. The walk was great though. The random street that we were on was freaking awesome. And the people were very curious about what we were up to, and they kept checking out Miss Stella. I wish we hadn't had all our stuff to drag along with a time constraint because I really could have just explored the area for awhile. We started following signs to the train station, and I was just hoping we were going the right way. We had to drag our bags up and down ramps and then bam, I had no idea where we should go to next. Thankfully this angel of a lady saw our helpless faces and guided us to an elevator and told us to go up for the train. She was heading on the subway, and was so nice to walk with us a little slower and help us through that little maze of an area. Once we got off of the elevator it was obvious where we were to go next and we picked up our tickets. We got lost once again as we walked right by the area where we were to line up for the train, but we found it in the end and after showing our passports and having our luggage checked I was very happy to be in the waiting room for our train.





I saw some Americans asking about where they should be and so I helped them and we starting talking. It turns out they were also meeting our same guide because their son and his family were adopting and picking up their daughter the same time as us! It was so nice to see them and feel like we were on the right track. I was really feeling like we had angels watching over us at that point. I don't think I was prepared for the language barrier, even though so many people in Hong Kong speak English, it is still a challenge and I felt like I was guessing where we were going the whole time.

I had said more than once before we left Utah that I just wanted to be sitting on the train to Guangzhou. If I got us all on that train and we knew we were going to be arriving on time, and we would have our guide meeting us then I could breath a sigh of relief. It would mean our flights were all on time, that we found our hotel, that we made it to the train station and that we were on our way. The train was clean and quite and easy. And I did have that moment, we were on that train and we did it! I was so happy.

The train ride went by really fast and Stella got to spy her first squatty potty! Honestly, I think she thought I was making them up until she saw one in real life. Unfortunately for her that potty auto flushed as she was peeking in and it made the whole introduction scarier for her! Thankfully though, we both thought it was hilarious.



Before we knew it we were in Guangzhou! Our guide Judy met up with us after we went through showing our passports and bags AGAIN. As soon as we got into the van with her she starting telling me about Vivien. I was completely mesmerized by her stories. I couldn't believe I was sitting in a car with a real live person that had met my daughter. We learned later that she was more than just someone that met her, but the person responsible for getting Vivi's file to our agency. She just told me how much she is loved, how her eyes are bright and her smile is happy. How she doesn't look like a child in an orphanage. She looked at my very seriously and she said: "You need to understand, your daughter, she is a very special baby." I told her that I knew she was special. That she was so special that she got us half way around the world to get her. We found out how to properly pronounce her Chinese name (Soong Jaaah) and that she goes by Jia-Jia, like jaaah-jaaah.

It was a short ride to the hotel and we were soon in our absolutely beautiful hotel suite. I was thankful many times during our stay that I had stumbled across another Utah Chinese adoptive family and that is how I had found out about this hotel. It was perfect and I am so glad we stayed there.

We were all so tired (personally I was running on about 10 hours of sleep since we had left Utah),  but I couldn't rest so we headed out to find food and water. We had a hard time finding something to eat since we didn't have any cash, and China is all about Cash.. We were lucky that the fancy grocery store that sells imported items took credit cards, and we were able to buy a few things, but I didn't buy water because it was so expensive. However all of the places that sell water wouldn't take my credit cards and at that point Stella, who has been an absolute trooper lost it and announced that she hates China. I dropped her off at the room with daddy and thankfully I were able to change money at the nearby Marriott because it was a holiday and all of the banks were closed. As I walked back from the Marriott, feeling so great that I finally had some cash I just kept looking at all of the beautiful Chinese babies and I was getting all emotional. I was meeting our little girl in less than 24 hours! I couldn't believe we were there and it was happening.

When I got back to the room, Stella was done and she went right to bed at 6 PM. I wasn't far behind. Finally the exhaustion of my body made up for the chaos in my mind and I got some sleep. The area of our hotel is very busy and modern and we could hear the loud cars, but it didn't matter, dead sleep came fast.








LAGOON BEFORE CHINA

I can't even tell you how excited I was the winter day I discovered that Lagoon had finally posted their schedule for 2017. I knew then that opening day was going to be Saturday March 25, and I knew if we weren't going to be in China we were going to be there. The weather that week had been absolutely gorgeous and then the day of our planned Lagoon fun it was cold and very wet. As we drove to the park I kept thinking one thing over and over: We are nuts!

But I could not contain my grin as we walked into the mostly empty park. I was so excited to be back, like SO excited. It was a ghost town with practically no one there. We walked onto all the rides. Unfortunately when we would sit down on those rides our bums were instantly soaked. It was so cold and even though we had the best time we only lasted so long and we had to call it a day after about two hours. Still, we got more done in those two hours then we ever could have done on a busy day. Overall, it was a total good time.


























The next weekend on April 1st the weather was insanely perfect. Stella and I had a mother daughter trip to Lagoon. It was kind of our last special adventure before we left for China the next day. I know Stella had fun with me, but I could tell she missed having a friend to ride some of the rides with. It was fun because we ran into my old friend Bliss and got to hang out with her and visit for a bit. Stella couldn't believe we were meeting the famous Bliss that was known for taking off the light bulbs on the huge Ferris wheel at Lagoon. We popped into the Lagoon store and found Stella and adorable Lagoon sweatshirt for her before we left. After our fun at the park we had a late lunch at Iggy's. It was a great way to spend our last day in Utah before heading to China. It gave us a little break from thinking about the crazy adventure we were about to have.