As much as this trip has been nothing like we had expected, Kunming is a
really nice little city. The weather is nice, the air is so much cleaner
than Beijing, and we feel able to walk along the streets. Sure, everyone
points and stares at us, but most are very nice. I have been yelled at
by both our guide Xiulan and several of the women in the market today
that I am not dressing Hannah warmly enough. It's beautiful here - warm
enough that I am wearing short sleeves (and I am always cold) - yet the
babies are dressed in many many layers. We noticed, actually, that
everyone here dresses really warmly - the only people we saw in short
sleeves today were the other family we are traveling with and two groups
of American college students. Chris is never going to get to wear the
shorts he packed, as much as he wants to. Yesterday Hannah had her first
ever playdate with Henry, and while they entertained themselves silly by
banging stacking cups together, the adults joked how scandalized Xiulan
would be if she realized they were playing in short sleeves and no socks!

Today we walked from our hotel to the Bird & Flower Market. The walk
over was really nice, though Hannah fell asleep about halfway there and
slept through the entire shopping expedition. The market was a neat
place - full of tiny alleys stuffed with little shops. We didn't go into
many - Xiulan likes to move at a pace far faster than we normally go -
but we did manage to buy a few little pieces of jade for Hannah as gifts
for when she is older and get a chop (a Chinese name stamp) made for
her. We're hoping to have time to walk back on our own in the next few
days and explore a bit more.

One bit of culture that makes us laugh every time - there are street
sweepers that patrol the streets of Kunming. They sweep and wash the
street (which is strange, since this province is having one of the worst
droughts in history, though considering people spit and pee on the
streets, it's probably necessary), and the truck plays a song to warn
people on bikes and electric motorcycles (which are everywhere) to get
out of the way. The song? "Happy Birthday." Up and down our street all
day - Happy Birthday to You. We still haven't stopped laughing at it. Oh
yeah - the police cars have a siren that sounds exactly like the chimes
on an ice cream truck at home. We get excited every time, only to
realize the ice cream man is no where to be found. :)

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Visit to Walmart and the Orphanage

It's been just about 30 hours since Hannah was placed in our arms, and
we are starting to settle in to life as a family. She is getting
comfortable with us, and likes to be able to see us both at all times.
She is maybe the most active child I have ever seen - constantly in
motion and always squriming. So much that she managed to stick her
entire leg out of the crib last night and kick me awake. :) They told us
she is very smart and we tend to agree - yesterday she managed to figure
out how to unhook the plastic links on her stroller!

Yesterday we walked to Walmart - quite an experience, as everyone stares
at us everywhere we go. Walking through Walmart with two families, two
carts, and two strollers - people were coming out of the aisles to take
a look. Walmart here is huge, and it's interesting what American
products they do and do not sell. We found Pampers & Huggies and every
product Johnson & Johnson makes, but not one bottle of Tylenol or cough
syrup. And, of course, the tanks of live fish and butchers cutting up
some sort of meat in front of you was a change as well!

Today we got to go to the orphanage. Hannah was in foster care since
October, but was there when she was first found and back there the last
few days waiting for us. They were very nice to us - they gave us lunch
to feed the babies (congee mixed with eggs, some sort of green vegetable
that we think was kale, and ground pork), gave us a book about the
orphanage, and thanked both families for adopting our children. We
walked around a bit and saw the facilities. It was not what I expected
it to be - very clean but very sad. It was hard to tell if Hannah
recognized it, but she didn't seem very comfortable. There was one nanny
that she smiled at and seemed to be happy to see, so maybe that is one
who helped care for her. I am posting a picture of us there (since I
can't see the blog, I don't know where the pictures are in this post!!)
- it's the picture of Hannah with Henry, the little boy that the family
we are traveling with adopted. They like playing with each other, and in
the background you can see a bit of one of the rooms with babies in
bouncy seats.

We're attempting to take a nap now...she is such a squirmer that it is
taking us awhile to get the hang of getting her to sleep. Thank you so
much for all the wonderful comments and emails. Please know that even
though I can't respond, we are reading them and they mean so much to us!
We can't wait to get home and introduce her to everyone in person!

Introducing Hannah

It's been a long day, so I won't write much - we know that all you
really want is pictures of Hannah! She is all ours and she is perfect.
More later...

Last Day in Beijing

One last day of sightseeing in Beijing, and we crammed a whole lot into
it. We started at the Summer Palace, which was really beautiful. It was
also nice to be on the lake for a little while - the air seemed a little
bit better there. From there, we went to see the Olympic venues - the
Birds Nest, the Water Cube, and the Olympic Green. Mara is a huge fan of
the Olympics - the entire time the Beijing games were going on, we kept
watching and talking about how someday we would get to go there - today
was the day! It was really spectacular.

After the Olympic sites, we got back in the car with our guide (who
we've nicknamed "Chatty Cathy") and our driver (who we've nicknamed
"Wrong Way Roger")...of course, we got lost again. Every time. It's
almost impressive. Almost. We had lunch at an actual restaurant today -
not a tour guide stop - but lunch was still ordered for us. We also
toured the Lama Temple (very interesting) and rode a rickshaw through
Hutong Lane (one of the oddest things we have ever done).

I'm glad that we decided to visit Beijing, but we're ready to leave. We
fly to Kunming tomorrow (it's about a 3 1/2 hour flight) - Hannah, here
we come!

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Great Wall!

More adventures in Beijing today...all around our trip to the Great
Wall. Other than the fact that I didn't realize how afraid of heights I
really am until I was on the chair lift to the top, the Wall was
amazing. The pictures don't really do it justice. We went to the
Mutianyu section - supposedly less toursity, but still very cool. It was
a LONG drive out there - we are fairly certain that our driver drove us
in a giant circle, as it took 3 1/2 hours to get there (seriously), but
only 2 hours to get back after I asked if there was a more direct route.
We hiked along one section (it's a tough hike - lots of steep stairs as
the Wall winds around the mountain), and then took the toboggan down.
Yes, you can actually sled down the Great Wall - very very cool. :)
While we are having a good time in Beijing, we are very ready to move on
to Kunming. Beijing is so crowded and polluted. I don't know how anyone
lives here.

Lots of Love from China, Mara & Chris

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Hello from Beijing!

As you can see (hopefully...) we're off to a great start in Beijing. Our
guide is really nice (odd little guy, but really nice), and we're
managing the jet lag reasonably well. We went to Tiannamen Square and
the Forbidden City this morning - quite impressive, and way bigger than
I expected. After lunch at a restaurant that we're fairly certain is
just for tour groups, we went to the Temple of Heaven, and now back at
our hotel. Only four days till Hannah...

We're in Beijing!

Hi! Just a quick note to let everyone know that we are safe and sound in
Beijing. The flight was fine...LONG, but fine. I don't think I really
understood how long a 14 hour flight was until I experienced it! But, a
mere 26 hours after we left our house, we checked into our hotel in
Beijing. The hotel is nice, and our friends and travel partners (they
are adopting a son from the same orphanage that Hannah is at) are here
too (it was great all being on the same flights yesterday - navigating
the Beijing airport is something best accomplished in a group!). We just
had breakfast (so great for me, since I don't eat breakfast foods...yes,
I had stir-fry mushrooms & bok choy and noodles for breakfast!) and are
off in about an hour to go tour Tiannamen Square & the Forbidden City.
Much more to follow...miss everyone at home already!!

(FYI - I cannot access facebook or blogger right now...so...if you send
me an email through either, I can read it but not reply!)

We're Off!

Well, ready or not, we're off. Bags are packed, airplane tickets printed, taxi reservation made (thank you to everyone who offered us a ride to the airport, but a 5:45 am pickup is too much to ask of even the best of friends!). China, here we come! :)

The Countdown is On!

That's right...we're a mere FOUR days from being on a plane to China! It has been a ridiculously busy week, and we know that the weekend will be even busier, but it will be SO worth it! We leave for China on Tuesday morning! We will be in Beijing for a few days to do some sight-seeing and adjust to the 12-hour time difference. We have booked a private tour for the three days we are there (ooh...so fancy!), and we will get to see all of the major sites. Then we are off on flight #2 (well, really flight #3 as we have to fly though Chicago to get to Beijing on Tuesday) to Kunming, the city where Hannah is! We'll arrive the evening of March 28, and we are scheduled to get Hannah around noon on March 29 - exactly four years to the day after we sent our paperwork to China! We will be spending a week in Kunming, finalizing the adoption, getting Hannah's passport, and soaking in the sights and sounds of her city. We're excited to have a few extra days here before flying to Guangzhou, the city where the US Consulate is. In Guangzhou we'll be getting Hannah's visa and taking care of all of the paperwork to ensure that the moment we set foot on US soil, she will become a US citizen! We'll be taking the oath at the US Consulate and flying home on April 10. It's a long trip - longer than we had anticipated, due to a few weekends and a minor holiday thrown into the mix (Tomb Sweeping Day anyone?), but I'm sure it will be wonderful. Anyone who knows us knows that Chris is a super traveler and Mara isn't at all (prescription-strength Dramamine = packed!), but it will all be well worth it. And my mantra is that 15 hours in coach is better than 15 hours in labor! :)

This all also means that we will be celebrating Passover in China. Mara has been saying all along that we would be in China for Passover...sure, we thought Passover 2007, but still...Passover. :) "My First Passover" bibs from Auntie Shana, Passover picture books, and a box of matzah are packed. Not really how I anticipated celebrating her first Passover, but Passover in China with Hannah is way better than Passover at home without her.

We're mostly ready to go here. Her room is ready for her, and we are starting to get packed. Sure, the house isn't as clean as I would like (my plan of getting all of the carpets steam cleaned will just have to wait until we get home!), but it doesn't matter. All that matters is that in just over a week, Hannah will be in our arms.


Six weeks after seeing Hannah's face for the first time, we got great news - our TA arrived! That means that we have our approval to travel to
China, and our agency can go ahead and make all of our appointments for
us! They are targeting April 5 for our appointment at the US Consulate,
which means that we would be in Kunming to get Hannah on March 28 (give
or take a day, depending on the appointments/orphanage/etc.). We're
planning on going a few days early to Beijing to see the Great Wall and
get adjusted to the time difference, so it looks like we will be leaving
for China NEXT WEEK!! Oh my goodness! Thankfully, we spent the entire
weekend running errands and buying everything we need, so we can get
stuff together and start packing this weekend! And yes, I know that I
still need to take some pictures of Hannah's room to share...I will do
that this week, I promise!

Also, for those that asked - we will have email access while we are in
China, and should have access to Skype as well. Blogger and facebook
often are blocked, but I have it set up to post via email (we'll see if
this works...I am emailing this post to the blog from my couch to test
it out!), and it set to post my blog posts to facebook as well! (so, if
you're reading this on my facebook page, it's all set up correctly!) :)

Visas in hand...one step closer to Hannah!

It has been a CRAZY month! It is hard to believe that one month ago we had just seen our baby's face for the first time. As you might imagine, I haven't slept much since we received our referral! Sure, I'm exhausted, but it's good practice (and good to know that I can function on much less sleep than I usually get!). So, what have we been up to? Well, other than being in full-blown panic mode (which Mara has been in for most of the past month), we are trying very hard to get everything ready for Hannah! We had NOTHING ready at all. We have used Hannah's room for storage for nearly 10 years. This was not a great idea. :) So we have cleaned everything out, made many many trips to the thrift store and the dump, and are down to the last few boxes (which have now been moved to our basement!). We ordered her furniture (thanks Bubbie & Zaide!) two weeks ago, and this past weekend painted the walls a beautiful princess pink! Mara will be steam cleaning the carpet tomorrow (that DOES sound like fun, right?), and the furniture arrives on Thursday! Just need to go and buy a mattress, some bedding (we picked out this set), and a bookcase and the room will be ready (well, ready enough) for Hannah! Sure, we don't have a lot of clothes (or anything else yet!), but it doesn't really matter, does it?

We've also been working on lots of paperwork. Mara went to the Chinese Embassy today with DeeDee & George, our new friends and travel partners (they received a referral for an ADORABLE little boy the same day as us from the same orphanage - we will be traveling to Kunming together) and got our Chinese Visas! The visa office for the Embassy is quite an experience, but the people who work there might be some of the nicest people we have dealt with through the entire process. If everyone in China is as nice as the women we dealt with today, we may never come home! :) Now we just wait for our TAs...our Approval to Travel to China. Once we receive our TA, our agency can make our appointments at the US Consulate, we can book our airplane tickets, and we can go get Hannah! I have no idea when this will happen. Our agency thinks it may be another few weeks, but I am keeping my fingers crossed that they are wrong and we will receive them this week (other families with other agencies who received their referrals on the same day as us have been told that their TAs are on their way...hopefully ours are too!). We will travel 1-3 weeks after we receive our TA, so keep your fingers crossed that they are in the mail!! :)

A big thank you again to everyone for all the kind wishes. I haven't been able to email or call everyone back, but please know how much it means to us. This has been a VERY long journey (ugh...whenever a contestant on a reality show says that, Chris rolls his eyes and says "Don't Stop BELIEVING!!"), but it is amazing to know how much Hannah is loved. I cannot wait to tell her how many people were waiting for her!