Things here in the Surridge house are good. Hannah has slept through the night two nights in a row - this is totally a cause for a small celebration. Small, mind you, because with a full-night's sleep has come a total refusal to nap. But a full night's sleep has made us much happier adults, so that's a start. I am settling into my life as a SAHM (stay-at-home mom) nicely. Still trying to get the hang of things (ok, seriously - I have no idea how moms get anything at all done during the day - am I missing some sort of way to bend the space-time continuum? Did I miss the spot where they were handing out the flux capacitors?), but it gets better each and every day, which is all we can really hope for. The truth is that the most trying day at home with Hannah is better than any day I ever had at work, so I am still pretty darn happy. :) Yes, even after I took that picture...whoever taught her to stick out her bottom lip and go "ppbbbttt" better steer clear of me for awhile.

Being home (and having some sleep), I am starting to be able to reflect more on our trip and our experiences in China. One of the things that really struck me was diversity, or, the total lack of diversity. We're lucky to live in a place where diversity is just how it is - our neighborhood is full of people from a wide variety of countries and cultures, and schools proudly display the flags of all the countries that their students are from. We can drive less than 10 minutes and have Italian, Japanese, Mexican, Chinese, Egyptian, Korean, Lebanese, Greek, Thai, or even American food. Hannah isn't the only adopted kid on the block or at our temple - she won't even be the only adopted kid in her class. Our world is one where families don't all look the same - not only is it ok, but we love it. China wasn't like that at all.

I noticed it right away. Everyone looked the same. Outside from the tour groups (which weren't even all that different - some groups of American & Europeans, but mostly groups from other places in China), everyone is Chinese. Even in Beijing, when it was just me and Chris, everyone started at us; many pointed and laughed. It was harder for our travel partners; their 8 year old son was mobbed everywhere he went - people wanting to touch him and take his picture at all times. It's unsettling. One afternoon on our way back to the hotel, Chris was talking to our tour guide about cars (one of the few safe topics we found with him!). They were discussing how so many of the cars on the road were the exact same cars we have in the US, but they have different names. We passed one with a particularly unique name, and Chris told him that at home, that's a Fiesta. When he asked what Fiesta meant, Chris answered, and was immediately asked if he spoke Spanish. We tried to explain to him that we know lots of words and phrases in other languages, and he was stunned with our knowledge of other cultures.

In Kunming, we were even more of a sight - now we were toting a baby in a city with very few non-Chinese people. People continued to stare and point everywhere we went. All of us were stopped for pictures, even with our guide there to shoo them away. It makes me laugh a little to think that there are people in China with pictures of us in their scrapbooks, but it was still strange. Chris noticed that if he looked people in the eye and gave them a look, they would stop, but that didn't work for me. It was unsettling enough that we didn't explore Kunming as much as I would have liked. Don't get me wrong - we met some really wonderful people while we were there. I loved the man in the tea shop, who put down his bowl of lunch to serve us cup after cup of tea so we could try each one before choosing what to buy. And the waitresses across the street at Mama Fu's (yes, we ate several times at a cute little restaurant called Mama Fu's) could not have been nicer. I wish I spoke Chinese to tell them how much their kindness meant to me. But I don't think I ever need to go back.

People have asked me why I loved Guangzhou so much. After all, it was the end of our trip (so we were tired, home-sick, and ready to come home), there was construction everywhere, and we didn't see sunshine the entire week we were there. It wasn't that I loved Guangzhou - it was that on Shamian Island we weren't the only adoptive families, so no one pointed, no one stared, no one even seemed to notice. The shop owners cater to adoptive families - each shop is named for the person who owns it (Sherry's Place, Susan's Place, etc.), and they all love to coo over the babies. They want to know where they are from, and many gave us little gifts for Hannah to thank us for coming into their shop (the plastic rattle from the art shop is still one of her favorites). The restaurants all had high chairs and many had "baby food" sections on their menus (our favorite was a little place called Lucy's - so much so that we ate lunch or dinner there every day!). We could stop being so overprotective and just start being a family.

Now that we are home I appreciate the diversity so much more. Walking through the mall on Wednesday (yes, Hannah had her first trip to the mall with Auntie Shana & Emily - the girls had such a good time!) and through the grocery store on Thursday I loved that no one seemed to really even notice us. Yes, a few people stopped to comment on how beautiful she was (like I don't know that!) and Hannah flirted with the woman at the deli counter and the man waiting in line (so much that I know his name was Kevin). But no one has pointed at us and laughed since we have been home. So much of it is cultural - we teach our kids that everyone is different and that we celebrate that, while it seemed ok in China for people to stare and point. (and, for the most part, it was adults doing the staring and pointing...the kids just looked at Hannah like she was one of them, and the babies all gave her a look of jealously that she was being allowed outside without 4 sweaters) I admit, it turned me off a bit to China. But it made me even more thankful to live here in our corner of the melting pot.

One Week

It's hard to believe that we've been home a week. It's even harder to believe that a month ago, we were running all of our last minute errands, buying an extra suitcase, and packing to leave for China. Our lives have totally changed, but totally for the better.

Hannah is such a happy kid. She still loves to eat, though thankfully she has slowed down a little and is starting to understand that there will always be food here if she wants it. We have only found one thing that she didn't like (Gerber Yogurt Melts - our neighbor offered her one, and it's the only thing she has eaten in the past three weeks that she didn't like!) - you can make all the jokes you want about her fitting right in with Mara's family! :) We haven't got much of a routine down yet, though she has done a great job running errands (turns out she loved to ride in the cart at Wegmans) and looks forward to our daily walk down to the lake. (though she was more of a fan when it was warmer during the week - it was pretty cold today!) And we're sort of figuring out the sleeping thing. She slept for a straight 7 hours last night...only 2 short naps today, but still - we'll take progress wherever we can get it. :)

Jet Lag

I'm not going to lie - jet lag is kicking our butts. Big time. They say that it takes one day for every time zone you travel through to get back to normal, and it appears that we will need each and every one of those 12 days to get ourselves back on track. It's worst for Hannah - she has to transition to an entirely new life on top of the time change. Other than not sleeping (we're lucky to get 2 3-hour stretches of sleep at night, and maybe an hour or two nap a day...that's it...it stinks...), she's adjusting to being home quite nicely. She is such a happy kid, and loves playing with her new toys, making Mommy & Daddy laugh, trying new foods, playing with Bubbe & Zaide, giggling uncontrollably while in the jumperoo (THANK YOU Emmy for letting us borrow it!) and generally making life wonderful. She is unconvinced of just how much more fun it will be if she got some sleep, but hopefully she will figure it out soon. Otherwise, watching tv with Mommy at 3:30 am will continue for the foreseeable future!

For those who are close by and have asked when they can come by...we'll be ready for visitors in the next couple of days. Just call/email first so you don't catch us asleep. Also, if you were the wonderful person who sent Hannah a Red Sox Mrs. Potato Head...THANK YOU, but please email Mara - it arrived with no packing slip/note/return address!

Here's hoping for some sleep tonight...:)

Home at LAST!!

Nearly three weeks after we set off for China, we are finally HOME! I don't think I could be any happier about it! :) Our trip was fine...long, but fine. Hannah was a great traveler again - way better than her parents. On the flight from Guangzhou to Beijing she was a little fussy, but slept most of the way home on the long flight from Beijing to DC. Not so much for me and Chris - he picked up some sort of a nasty cold (he's sleeping right now, anxiously waiting for the Walk-In Care by us to be open) and I had an unfortunate combination of eating something iffy and airsickness (a bumpy flight for someone who already gets motion-sickness...well...it wasn't good...). But we are home and that is all that matters.

Hannah seems to be settling in already. She was so happy to be able to sit on the floor and play with Bubbie and Zaide last night (it was fun having a welcoming committee at the airport, even if I forgot to take pictures!). And she is in awe of our house...she keeps looking around like she can't believe she is here. The stairs are taking some getting used to - she holds on so tightly when I carry her up and down - but she is happily rolling around in her crib right now as I sit on the floor next to her with my laptop. Hopefully we will all take a nap soon...I have had 3 hours of sleep in the last 49 hours, so a nap would be very very good. :)

Pictures at home soon...

Homeward Bound

Finally. After nearly three weeks in China, tomorrow is finally the day
that we get to come home. As much as this has truly been the trip of a
lifetime, I could not be more ready to get on that plane in the morning
(and that's really saying something, considering I am both a bad
traveler and not a morning person). We leave the hotel at 7 am
(hopefully haven eaten breakfast first, since eating at the airport is
not as much of an option as it is at home), take a 3 hour flight to
Beijing, enjoy a lovely 5 1/2 hour layover in Beijing (though we do have
to get our luggage, check back in for our flight home, and go through
customs with Hannah), and take a 13 1/2 hour flight back over the polar
ice-caps to Dulles. When all is said and done we will have flown 18,150
miles - far more than anyone needs to go in less than three weeks. We'll
arrive home Saturday night DC-time...about 26 hours after we leave the
hotel here in Guangzhou. It won't really matter - it will be just so
good to be home.

This has really been an interesting trip, and I will write more about
the culture shock, visiting the orphanage, and how I don't know if I can
ever come back later. It was worth every second of it though - I am
watching Hannah nap right now while Chris is off with Lee getting her
visa so we can actually get home - and I would go through it all again
just to get to her. We are truly blessed. I will never take for granted
clean air and clean water again - I hear that there are record pollen
counts at home, but it's safe to breathe and I don't have to boil the
water before I can brush my teeth. And, as I said to Chris this morning,
two hours of sleep in my own bed will be way better than the six or
seven I have been getting on my bright orange air mattress here. :)

Watch out Virginia...here we come...

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Celebratory Cheerios

At 2:15 today, we met our guide in the hotel, and boarded tour buses
with all of the other adoptive families that are staying at the White
Swan to go to the US Consulate. Three full tour buses full - 45 families
in all - made the trek across Guangzhou together. It was quite an
experience. We all waited in line to have our passports checked, go
through airport-style security (complete with taking off our shoes and
checking our electronics), and sit in a waiting area for them to call
our name. "Would the parents of Xi Xue Li please come to counter 21" was
rather exciting. We all had our passports checked again to make sure we
were all who we said we were, and waited some more. (side note - Mara
took a trip to the bathroom, which has signs reminding visitors to "put
your feet on the floor, not on the seat" - clearly, most Chinese are not
used to Western-style toilets - "squatty pottys" are far more the norm
here!) Around 4 pm, an consulate officer came out and talked to us a bit
about the US Consulate in Guangzhou, the rest of the process, and wished
happy birthday to the two children in our group with April birthdays.
Then Chris and I stood, raised our right hand, and took the oath of
citizenship on behalf of Hannah. It was a very special moment, marked
with celebratory Cheerios all around. :)

Hannah looked great in her special dress, though she was very happy to
be back in her play clothes when we got home. She is clearly her
mother's daughter. We also took the traditional pictures on the red
couch (a long-standing tradition of adoptive families). Hannah and Henry
looked so wonderful together in their outfits!

One more day in Guangzhou then we are homeward bound!!

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Hello from the tropical rainforest that is Guangzhou! We had a
relatively quiet day today. Our Consulate Appointment was this morning,
and Lee (our fantastic guide in this city) took our paperwork over this
morning and took care of everything for us. We waited by the phone until
she called around noon to let us know that everything went smoothly and
there were no questions. We all go to the Consulate tomorrow afternoon
at 2:15 for Hannah's swearing-in ceremony! We bought a special silk
dress today just for the occasion!

This afternoon Lee took us shopping at the Pearl Market. I don't know
quite how to describe it - like a giant shopping mall (many many levels)
and on each level are row after row of wholesale jewelery stores. Lots
of stores with pearls, along with many other strands of various
beads/stones/jewels. Anything round, really. Chris says "imagine an
endless maze of the same store over and over and over...imagine if the
Williamsburg Pottery only carried one thing and you stacked twelve of
them on top of each other." He clearly had fun. :) The prices were good,
though if you wanted the strands that were clearly higher quality, you
had to be willing to pay (we were not) - more than I wanted to spend,
but much less than if you bought at a store in the U.S. I did bargain
for a few strands of low-quality pearls and a funky strand of
probably-not-real-jade beads, which was fun. Quite the experience!

Hannah's favorite part of the day was clearly dinner. We went to the
highly recommended Cow and Bridge Restaurant (Thai food) where she got
her very own order of rice noodles. (I love that this is the second
restaurant on the island with a "baby" section on the menu!). Enjoy the
adorableness! :)

Exploring the Island

We had quite a day here in Guangzhou. We started the morning with Hannah's medical exam - the final hurdle before we can apply for her visa to come home. It was a very cursory exam - really just making sure that she is healthy enough to leave China and come into the US.

We also spent some more time exploring Shamian Island and our hotel. The White Swan is on Shamian Island, and it's a cute little area, even totally under construction. We have been window shopping - real shopping tomorrow, since we want to get some squeeky shoes and a Chinese dress for Hannah, as well as some gifts to put away for special occasions. This afternoon we had a playdate with two new friends - the girl in the middle Mara met online four years ago when we started the wait, and we have been emailing the whole time. They live in Florida, but she is Australian and her husband is from the Boston area. It was great to finally meet (though pretty funny that we came all the way to China to do it!) and have our girls play together! All three of us are in the same online adoption group. :) (you can also see more of the playroom here - it's a big hit with Hannah!) Oh yes - the picture of us in front of the waterfall is INSIDE the hotel. I wasn't joking about it being fancy! And, of course, I have to share a post-bath picture. She likes her baths, but will like them even more when we get home and we can play more in the water. You can't drink the water in China without boiling it first so bathtime is a bit tricky!

We miss you all so much - just a few more days and we come home! :)

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Hello from Guangzhou!

Well, we are here in Guangzhou - our last city on our nearly three week
trip! We are SO happy to be here! Getting through the airport in Kunming
was tough, but Hannah's first plane ride was a total success. She had a
bottle as we were waiting to take off, fell asleep as we were taxiing to
the runway, and didn't wake up until after we had landed in Guangzhou.
She's already a much better traveler than her Mommy (who was not too
happy about all the turbulence, but pretty pleased that on our 1 3/4
hour trip they served us a full lunch). Guangzhou is beautiful - very
hot and extremely humid. It's also completely under construction for the
Asian Games in the fall, but we really don't care - we're just so happy
to be here.

We are staying on Shamain Island in Guangzhou at the famous White Swan
Hotel. It's clearly a five star hotel - definitely the fanciest place I
have ever stayed at! There is a full waterfall in the lobby...pictures
to come - Hannah was far too interested in looking at the waterfall and
the giant fish that live in it to look up for a picture! :) This is the
hotel where most American families stay who are adopting from China, and
we are suddenly not such an oddity. There are families that look like
ours everywhere, and we have already met people from across the US. The
island clearly caters to adoptive parents, and we even located a
Starbucks about a block from the hotel (Mara hasn't had coffee since
Beijing, so this was a HUGE discovery!). There is a huge playroom here
that is sponsored by Mattel - Hannah had a great time with all the new
toys and meeting other kids. (the second picture is of her playing
there...assuming they are posting in the order I think they are!)

While we were in the playroom, some of the other moms recommended a
place for dinner that was phenomenal. Only a block away, high chairs for
the kids (the first we have seen anywhere in China) and an actual baby
food section on the menu. Her congee with chicken was a HUGE hit (though
we probably should have ordered TWO bowls of the stuff the way she
eats!). It was also the best dinner that Mara has eaten in China - a
noodle dish that tasted exactly like the noodles I used to eat when we
went with my grandparents for Chinese lunch growing up. SO delicious - I
think I could eat there every night while we are here!

We go for Hannah's medical exam in the morning - one more hurdle to jump
through before our consulate appointment on the 7th!

Goodbye Kunming

It's our last day in Kunming, and while it's a beautiful city, we are
ready to go. One more city to go before we are finally home. We spent
our last day pondering why Hannah has decided that naps are no longer
necessary. She just wants nothing to do with sleeping at all - she would
much rather be up and playing with us. We're taking it as a compliment.
:) Not even a walk through Green Lake Park today put her out - there was
far too much to see, and lots of other babies to look at. (Because
everyone here bundles their kids up in many layers, we keep joking that
the other babies are looking at Hannah with insane jealousy that she
gets to only be covered in one!)

We also continue to ponder how such a little girl can eat oh so very
much. It's truly impressive. Xiulan said today that her insatiable
appetite will probably last for about three months - until she learns
that food will always be available. It's so heartbreaking to realize
that for the first nine months of her life it wasn't. Good thing that
Mommy was already buying Cheerios in bulk at Costco. Chris keeps joking
that she is going to eat us out of house and home, but that's ok. I just
can't wait to get home and feed her in her high chair. We haven't seen a
high chair anywhere in Kunming. Seriously. And since she's a messy eater
to begin with (and wants food shoveled into her mouth at a breakneck
pace), it's been tricky. The picture of her all messy is after a
container of yogurt. And that was a relatively clean snack. (oh yes, she
at an entire container of yogurt, along with a handful of Gerber puffs
and a handful of Cheerios as a SNACK) It's also fun that she likes to
wipe her mouth with her bib as she eats. :) She's also not figured out
yet how to feed herself. The picture of her looking at her hands is of
her trying her first cookie - Xiulan keeps handing us packages of the
things, and at the tea shop this morning, she finally convinced me to
hand Hannah one. None of it ended up in her mouth, but it was a great
toy while we sampled teas.

See you in Guangzhou...

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Yunnan Nationalities Village

Today we spent went to the Yunnan Nationalities Village, just outside of
Kunming. How do I describe it? There are 26 minority nations in Yunnan,
and it's essentially a theme park with an area to showcase each one.
Yes, you read that right. It's very beautiful, but you can't escape that
you are at a theme park. No rides, but each village (each nationality
has a village) has things to look at, little shops, and shows. There are
people walking around to take your pictures, and places to stop and eat.
It's very Busch Gardens (though, a bit more racist...). The whole thing
was very surreal. We enjoyed looking around, and many of the villages
were so beautiful, with spots to stop and sit by the water (manmade
lakes) and amazing views of the stone cliffs (real). Hannah liked
walking around, and only slept through the last two villages we visited
(we didn't go to all of them - way too many to see with a sleepy 9 month
old, though I could see where you could easily spend an entire day
walking around and enjoying the shows). We were impressed both with how
many of my noodles she ate at lunch today (we got huge bowls of rice
noodles in broth for 6 RMB each...just under a dollar...and she ate more
than half of mine!) and how she managed to sleep through the dance show
that was unbelievably loud. I have video that I will upload when we get
home - the internet speed isn't good enough to do it from here!

Thank you, too, for all the birthday wishes and kind words. We are both
on the mend, and very thankful that we packed enough antibiotics to get
us through the rest of the trip. We'll celebrate my birthday for real
when we get home - I already have the best present anyone could ever ask

All Giggles

Well, the good news is that Hannah is all smiles. She loves playing with
her toys, and she laughs all the time at whatever silliness we give her
(in the picture in the stroller she is laughing because I am blowing on
her forehead!). The even better news is what a trooper she is. Chris and
I are both sick...sick enough that we are on our second day of just
relaxing/sleeping in the room, and so thankful that we packed a full
course of antibiotics for each of us. It hasn't fazed Hannah at all that
only one of us has been playing with her/taking care of her at any time
so that the other can nap. In fact, she took two two-hour naps for us
yesterday which we both slept soundly during as well. Right now she is
very focused on playing with Mortimer Moose - they seem to be having a
wonderful time. :) Hopefully we're on the upswing so that we can see a
little more of Kunming over the weekend.

For those that have asked - we are in Kunming until Monday. We should
get Hannah's Chinese passport this afternoon, and we are here through
the weekend because of a Chinese holiday (Tomb Sweeping Day). On Monday
we fly to Guangzhou, where the US Consulate is located. There she will
have a medical exam, our appointment at the US Consulate, and complete
all of the paperwork needed to bring her home and make her a US Citizen.
We fly out of Guangzhou to Beijing on the morning of April 10, and fly
from Beijing to DC that evening. Our flight to Dulles is direct, and
with the time changes and trip back over the International Date Line it
will still be April 10 when we land that evening. Hopefully we will all
sleep on the plane!

Much love to everyone - we are very very ready to be home!