China 2012 Adoption Trip
The first day of the two weeks was spent traveling from Chicago O’Hare over the North Pole to Beijing. Although our plane was delayed for two hours and we had packed too much luggage, we were upgraded to Economy Plus with plenty of leg room. We arrived in Beijing relatively fresh after spending more than twelve hours in a plane.
We told several of you that we would be keeping up a blog while we are here in China. However, that has proven to be very difficult, if not impossible. Peter can’t access his blog. And the site I was going to use won’t let me download pictures. That’s not acceptable! So we are resorting to good, old fashioned e-mail updates. We hope to send a brief account of how things go each day and attach a few pictures.
So here is what’s been happening so far…
Peter and I slept fairly well last night (thanks to melatonin!) and woke up early enough to Skype Daryl before he went to bed. We are 13 hours ahead of Chicago time, which works out quite well actually. When we’re going to bed, he’s getting up and vice versa. We are very thankful that Daryl seems to be doing really well with everything so far. Grandma kept him busy yesterday. He had school and then he said he had a good time playing at the park with Andrew and looking for snakes in the grass.
Here in Beijing, after our breakfast buffet, we had an informational meeting with our agency representative. There we got to meet the other families in our travel group. There are seven families here so far. I believe a few more are joining us later. It has been fun to get to know these families and hear each adoption story. Every family’s journey is so unique. Two of the famlies are here for the third time, and they’ve brought their other daughters on the trip. It’s fun to see the girls experience a bit of Chinese culture.
This afternoon we all went to a Chinese acrobatic show. Incredible! The pictures can’t do it justice. The balance, coordination, flexibility, strength, and trust…I’m sure there’s a sermon illustration or two in there.
Tomorrow morning we’re off to see the Great Wall and other sights. It’s a privilege to be able to get a taste of China these three days. But we are all eagerly anticipating Monday morning when we will meet our daughters for the first time. It still seems surreal.
Today was wet and misty to add to the smog. Visibility was poor and Kelli is sick with a flu type bug. Despite that, we had a good day. We went to a cloisonné (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cloisonn%C3%A9) factory first. We saw them taking copper and beating it by hand to make pots and other various shapes. Then they were laying copper strips and adding enamel. It is all very labour intensive but the results are beautiful.
We took winding roads up into the mist to the Great Wall. It was 4,000 miles long, so we didn’t see much. The section that we climbed had steep stairs and they just kept going up. It left Kelli and myself with legs like jelly and in need of dinner. One of the girls in our party asked me where I had been. I said I had been to Mongolia and then she suddenly started mocking me with a pretty good British accent. After inching back down clogged roads we went to a jade factory and I bought Kelli her Mothers’ Day present. It is a jade necklace with the symbol for ‘love’ written on it.
Finally we went to the Olympic Village and walked around the outside of the ‘bird’s nest’ stadium which hosted the track and field for the 2008 Olympics. We were all cold and wet and tired by this time. It was back to the hotel for a hot bath, nyquil, and sleep.
I am writing this after a workout on Gotcha Day. I’ll let you know how Gotcha Day goes and send you pictures later. This is just an update with pictures from yesterday.
In the morning we got up early and checked out of Chang An Hotel in Beijing. All our bags were packed and rady to go by 7:00 and we left for Tiennamen Square at 8.
Tiennamen Square is outside the Gate of Heavenly Peace. The Gate of Heavenly Peace is the Tiennamen, so the square gets its name from that. It is the red gate that has a large picture of Chairman Mao beneolently looking down on his people. On one side of the square is the Chinese government building. We stopped for a group picture and then entered through the Gate of Heavenly Peace to The Forbidden City. We walked through the Forbidden Palace and saw the throne rooms and business rooms of the last emperor. I was running the movie The Last Emperor through my (Peter’s) head trying to remember the locations. It was impressive.
After the palace we went through an old section of town where houses are built around a courtyard. Because land is at a premium the governemnt has to pay the owners $5 million if they want to take the land for development. The streets are so narrow that one can only get around easily by rickshaw. There were scenic spots where people drink at night and there was an open house which we were able to go inside.
Finally we went for lunch at a place that didn’t look much from outside, but laid out a great spread. I tried a bit of everything, but I particularly like scrambled eggs in boiled tomatoes. Kelli also tried a little of most things. I think we will be looking for a good Chinese cook book when we get home.
We graded for a few hours in the airport. Then we flew to Nanchang. Unlike USA domestic airlines, China gave us a full meal. The plain was old and the engine sounded funny, but we won’t complain because (as you can see) we made it one piece.
The hotel here is very nice. Even nicer than the one in Beijing, and that was nice. It is called The Galactic, if you want to check it out on-line.
Kelli and I awoke excited this morning. We burned off a little steam in the exercise lounge (I (Peter)used an eliptical for the first time). Breakfast was a lavish affair, and I am glad we ate well because we wouldn’t eat again until after 5:00 p.m.
There were heavy rains in and around Nanchang, so the delivery of the babies was delayed by almost an hour. While we waited, we filled out some forms and transferred some money. Then, without warning, a procession of identically bundled babies was brought in by the orphanage workers. All the parents were very excited, and our guide at once started to match the babies with their new parents. We weren’t sure which baby was Lixin at first because she has so much more hair than in her referral pictures. But our guide called our names and the nanny gave her to us. We also received some formula and rice-cereal which she is used to. The orphanage also included more pictures from her time there. We took Lixin to our room briefly to give her a bottle and Skype Mum in the US. Daryl had been waiting up to see his sister, but because of the delay he had fallen asleep. Mum was eager to see her granddaughter though, and was full of excited remarks and disbelief. It was a modern marvel to be bale to share the moment with her just minutes after it had started.
After a quick conversation with Mum, we had to head back to the conference room where we prepared a series of forms and got documents and money ready for the day’s events. Then we went back to our room again to bathe Lixin (now Amelia) and get her into some clean clothes.
At 12:45 our entire group headed out across a busy street to the adoption offices opposite our hotel. There we promised to treat Amelia well and to raise her up with a good education. We gave the officials a gift of Illinois Candy and they gave us a beautiful girl and a porcelain cup. All of the adoptive parents were buzzing and the children/babies on the whole were very content. Each one is already showing how unique she is. One has stunning eyes, another laughs a lot, Amelia seems quite thoughtful but every now and then she rocks back and forth like she is at a rock concert. Perhaps she is going to share her big brother’s love of music.
Amelia does seem to have a slight cold or cough. We will wait and see what happens there. She seems to be afraid of toys. We wonder how much stimulation she got at the orphanage. She only sits on her own for a second or two before she tips over. So we have some work to do there. She was quite snuggly, though, with Kelli and myself, and had a nap on both of us at various times.
Our second stop was the police station, and things got bogged down there. Their internet went down for well over an hour, so we had to wait and wait. Our group is very patient though. Finally, at almost 5:00, we went to our final stop–the notary’s office. The notary reconfirmed that we would take good care of Amelia, and we were finally done with our long day of meetings. Kelli took Amelia back to our room and put her down for the night while I did some shopping. I returned from shopping to find Amelia Lixin asleep and her mummy proudly looking over her.
Now to see if we get a good night’s sleep.
Today we woke up with our baby daughter still sleeping in the room. She slept peacefully for 12 hours. In fact she slept a lot today and each time she woke up she was a little more perky and her personality came through slightly more. We cuddled her and fought a little over who got to hold her, but she had a lot of mummy and daddy time throughout the day. We had her practicing a few of her skills to compensate some delays. She isn’t good at sitting up on her own, and she isn’t pushing up during tummy time. She is reaching for things a lot and she is pushing with her legs. In fact we noticed how long and sharp her nails were because she left scratches on Kelli, me, and herself. We decided we needed a trip to Walmart – yes, the great Chinese institution of Walmart – in order to get nail clippers, baby clothes and other essentials.
We set out for Walmart via RT-Mart, which is a local version. They had dried squid and other dried seafood that I used to eat when I lived in Asia. Kelli was almost overcome by the fishy smell, but I love it. I think we need to bring plenty home so that Amelia will be reminded of home. We saw a Chinese police car for Daryl at RT-Mart, but we left it there because we thought that things might be cheaper at Walmart. I was sadly disappointed that although the quality of goods was defintely lower than average at Walmart, which you might expect, unlike the USA the prices at Walmart weren’t significantly cheaper. Whilst at Walmart one of the checkout ladies called an impromptu meeting with her friends to express her amazement that Amelia was obviously underdressed for the harsh 50F weather. As we left we wrapped a blanket around her legs and we hoped they approved. So we got our essentials and moved on to August 1st Square where we could watch people flying kites.
Amelia napped at the hotel after reading books with her mummy and having some tummy time. When she woke, my two girls 🙂 came and got me from the fitness room and we went exploring. There is a tower in Nanchang that we are not scheduled to visit called the Shenjin Tower. It is the oldest building in the city, being origionally a temple built on Buddhist relics. It is said that if the Shenjin tower falls Nanchang will fall. Kelli, Amelia and I wound our way through rush hour traffic and found it although it was closed. There were old streets next to it with red lanterns, so it might be worth returning if we get the chance. On the way back we visited a department store. It is recommended that we get things from China for Amelia that we can give for various birthdays. The department store was lavish and looked like it had just opened. We found a dress that was quite unusual and when we asked the price a lot of attendants wanted to help us. Also a lot of their friends wanted to help us, too. Finally someone who spoke some English arrived who actually could help us and kindly explained that the item was 60% off. When we offered to pay, she gave us a receipt that we took to a cashier who gave us a receipt that we took to the salesperson who gave us the dress. She also gave us two free toys and a book. They couldn’t have been nicer.
Kelli went back to put Lixin down and I went to KFC (It seems KFC is bigger than McDonald’s here). They have an English menu which usually makes it easier to order. However, this time it all got rather confusing and I came back with about half of what I thought I had ordered. Kelli was forgiving and there was much mutual praise of what it is like to be on this kind of adventure with each other.
As the local authorities process our paperwork we are ‘stuck’ in Nanchang. Nanchang is an industrial city of about 4 million people. By China’s standards this is not large. Our guide tells us that Nanchang does not have the infrastructure of other cities and so it is considered a ‘lesser’ city when compared to Guangzhou (Canton), Xi’an, or Beijing. We have had plenty of free time to get to know the city, but we also have scheduled sightseeing with our guide, ‘Mary’. People who interact with foreigners here have two names, one for the Chinese and one for foreigners. Our guide goes by ‘Mary’. She took us to the Tengwang Pavilion today. It is a huge structure, rebuilt recently, on the site of a structure where a prince from Xi’an during the Tang Dynasty built to entertain himself. The wars of China kept destroying the wooden structures until the latest version was built with concrete. Our guide took us in and we saw a traditional Chinese artistic display with classical dancing, singing, and music. It only lasted about 15 minutes but it was colourful and quite unique. Amelia was transfixed.
After the Pavilion the group went out for lunch together and ate at a fancy Chinese location. We had chicken, green beans, dumplings, egg-rolls and various other dishes roating on a lazy Susan. I think everyone got enough and then we went back to the hotel for the children to nap. Amelia didn’t nap long so Kelli and I went on an adventure again. This time we wove through the traffic to Nanshang’s main shopping street. There are a few large department stores with four expansive floors but they are not busy like the streets. The streets are lined with various shops which seem very small by American or British standards. The smells going down the street change as often as the shops. One minute you are thinking of wonderful baked goods and the next you are overwhelmed with a smell like sewage. On the streets there are some beggars with various levels of disability. You tend to think that begging is what the disabled do here. There was one woman who seemed little more than a torso laying flat on the sidewalk. The fact that scooters drive as freely on the sidewalk as they do on the street left us with the fear that she would be in danger. I guess that is not the case, but it looked that way.
My heart goes out to these people. There are a lot of ideas about ‘luck’ and ‘fortune’ that people here run their lives by, but there is no substance to appeal to except maybe the force of ‘Fate’. Some people look at a group of people the size of China and think it reinforces an atheist worldview: How could a loving God allow a nation to perish in such numbers? However, our Father reached out to the Assyrians through Jonah. Maybe, we should care a little more about the fate of so many. We know we will make a difference in the life of one Chinese girl.
Just one week to go now and I will hopefully have my grading done. As teachers we sometimes give the impression that we don’t have a lot of work except the odd lecture. Actually, it is the grading that weighs on us more than the classroom time. Kelli and I have huge stacks of grading that are due, so whilst enjoying Amelia Lixin we have to find time to whip out a red pen and run into a corner. We have found a lot of support, though, for what we do. You probably know that I teach teachers how to teach elementary school. The teachers that I teach are quite unique. They see the curriculum that they teach as a means of spiritual formation. In an age where a Barna study says that in their minds children have rejected the beliefs of their parents by 5th/6th grade, we want a different kind of teacher. Those on the trip see the need. Of course, strong teachers are just one way to deal with the issue. Our small group is looking to involve Moody students in teaching our children on a Sunday night which hopefully will help our children resist the influence of peers, media, and schooling that encourages them to walk away. Of course, in a communist country like China it is easy to see how one worldview in education has shaped the lives of countless children.
Yesterday, after morning cuddles and breakfast we headed to the People’s Park. It was quite beautiful with waterways and rock gardens. Near the entrance a group of women were dancing as their morning exercise and a couple of women from our group joined in. They did well enough that our guide was asked to bring them back on Saturday. Next we saw a group of small children chasing bubbles. They were wrapped up for winter, but their bums were exposed by split pants. In other words they wore pants that allowed them to pee or poop without removing them. The weather was 65F but the children were wrapped up like it was -65F. We wondered if we should go up to them like they do to us (when they tell us that our babies are too cold) and say, “Too hot!” and feel the children to see how sweaty they are. We walked through an amusement park where children were fishing for goldfish. We thought that our son, Daryl, would have loved it. Also there was a spot where hundreds of goldfish of all sizes were coming up to be fed by the locals. Next there were a series of pavilions where people were dancing, playing music, and engaged in chess and debate. We tried to imagine what a political debate might look like in Nanchang People’s Park in Communist China:
Man 1: I believe in the communist party.
Man 2: I also believe in the communist party.
Man 1: I believe that the communist party is efficient and serves the people!
Man 2: I ALSO believe that the communist party is efficient and serves the people!!!!
Man1: I will vote for the communist party.
Man 2: I also will vote for the communist party.
So much more efficient and harmonious than the Republican primaries when we left the USA.
We played some soccer with each other and played on a playground before going to Papa John’s Pizza for lunch. People were fancying something less Chinese than usual and Papa John’s fit the bill. For those who didn’t have Papa John’s there was the KFC option.
While Kelli was going up to lay Amelia Lixin down for her nap, I had a meeting with our guide to review our paperwork. Most people’s needed revision because one of the Chinese signatories was listed as a man in one place and as a woman in another. However, our paperwork needs to be totally redone because they listed me (Peter) as an American. Some of you may be surprised to hear that I am not American, especially since I have been living in the USA for 12 years or so. I may become a dual citizen at some future date, but as of the moment I am solely British. I am hoping that the paperwork will just be rewritten without any major drama.
In the afternoon and evening Kelli and I went on a long walk through the shopping streets in a storm. It was nice to use and umbrella to protect my new daughter from the elements. I was looking for a pair of Chevignon jeans. I bought a pair in Hong Kong once and they were the best jeans I have ever owned. After having Hagen Daas to revive ourselves we were able to keep searching for quite a while, but the search was fruitless. We will have to continue the search in Guangzhou.
We left Nanchang without Amelia’s passport but that should be following us soon. We are now in The China Hotel (Marriott) in Guangzhou. The flight to get here was smooth. Amelia Lixin settled right down for a nap and slep for the whole flight. We touched down in Guangzhou in the mid-afternoon and popped out for a McDonald’s before settling down. We tried to settle but Amelia didn’t like her new bed. Although the hotel is plush, the rooms are smaller than the other hotels and so it is harder to get Amelia out of the light. Also, she had a crib in Nanchang but she has a pack-and-play here. We think she notices the difference. On the positive side she is eating like a trooper. She had a whole bowl of rice-cereal mixed with sweet-potato (see below).
Last night at about 10 our doorbell rang. Kelli and I were sleeping and I jumped out and started rooting around for clothes. I answered the door suspiciously and saw two pleasant Chinese ladies with a pack-and-play all made up. They announced, “Baby bed!” I then launched into a long explanation of how we already had a baby bed, but that our friends in other rooms had been complaining because they didn’t have one. Perhaps they should try another room affiliated with our party, I suggested helpfully. They paused and looked at each other. Finally, they looked at me crestfallen, “No need?” They said. “No need,” I replied.
Kelli woke with a bad stomach so she missed out on what is the best breakfast buffet to date. The Marriott really knows how to put on a great spread. All the families met up after breakfast and headed down to the International Travel Health Center where Chinese babies are authorized to travel. The place was buzzing with foreigners and Chinese waiting to get their children vaccinated, credentialed and sanctioned for international travel. We had to wait in four lines. One line was for photos; another line was for ENT; another line was for height and weight; the final line was ‘general’. We had nine families shuffling from line to line and we were just one agency among a few. Everyone seemed to have the ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ attitude, so no tempers got frayed.
It was mid-afternoon by the time we got to the hotel so Amelia Lixin and I took a quick nap. After that Kelli and I went to the biggest clothing market I have ever seen. It is called Liuhua Garment Wholesale Fairs Area and is located near the Ghuangzhou Railway Station. We bought Daryl a Chinese police car and we bought Amelia a few cheap outfits. On the way back we found some traditional Chinese retailers and bought her a couple of traditional Chinese outfits.
Amelia had a nap not long before bed time and she seems to be teething. Suffice to say we are having difficulty getting her to sleep.
Today was an R&R day in theory but Kelli and I walked for 5 hours. Amelia Lixin was restless in the night possibly due to teething. We let her sleep between Kelli and myself on the big bed after we had settled her down. So Kelli and Amelia Lixin were still asleep at 7 when I went down for a quick 5k run. We managed to get everyone up, ready and breakfasted for the 10 a.m. start and all the families went to the Chen Clan Academy. Chen (Also Chan) is a very popular clan name in Guangzhou. It is made up of 72 factions. These factions came together to form a school to prepare their students for examinations that allowed them to advance in government. Once the school became defunct under the communists it served a number of other functions, finally becoming the Guandong Folk Art Museum. I must admit I did not have high expectations when we were first told we were going to a museum. I expected some new, cubist structure of glass, concrete and stone. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The building was full of carving and craftsmanship. The shops had artisans cutting paper, making thumb paintings, practicing calligraphy and embroidering. There was even a pretty garden in the rear. One of the girls from North Caroline, Abigail, joined our family for most of the visit and we had a pleasant conversation as we looked over the exhibits. One thing that stood out to me was the detail on the carved bone and ivory. Carved camel bone didn’t bother me – however, I assumed the ivory came from dead elephants. I might be wrong, but if that is so, the beauty of the art was in tension with the elephants’ death. However, the embroidery and artwork didn’t involve anything getting hurt as far as we could tell.
Our guide didn’t seem too let down when we said that we wanted to go walkabout. We walked down to the old colonial outpost that belonged to the French and British called Shamian Island. After the Opium Wars a sandbar was given to the British and French to trade from. It is still maintained well with old European style houses. It was a beautiful day and so the area was crawling with brides having their pictures taken. The facade was quite shallow as the brides hiked up their dresses revealing sneakers and jeans to run to the next location. Near the old colonial church we took a picture with several brides being photographed at once. From there we went through Qing Ping market which sells all kinds of foods. The most exotic I saw were bags of dried seahorses and dried snakes. The smell of the spices was very strong and I liked that a lot because it reminded me of the spice bazaars in Pakistan. We walked the length of two of the main shopping streets in Guangzhou. They are pedestrianized and teeming with people. We bought nothing there, but we just experienced the huge numbers of people. Finally we walked around Dr. Sun Yat sen’s memorial and back to the hotel. It was a beautiful day for a beautiful walk.
For dinner, the adoptive families all went out together for Chinese. The meal was great, but the conversation was even better. I talked to Michael who is an AA counselor in Minneapolis. He and his wife now have 9 children. the men also talked about all the propositions we are receiving from local women who want to give us a massage. We have suspicions that the massages would be particularly thorough. One man actually had a ‘masseur’ come to his room and start to enter saying ‘you ask for massagey’. His wife was there and so was his child. When we all came back as a group from the meal, though they all seemed to leave us alone.
Amelia Lixin was a trooper. She fell asleep in the carrier as we walked around and she was sweet natured. She was talking happily to herself and she smiled at us quite easily. She smiles more and more. She does have a rash on her chin that is proving quite stubborn and she is drooling quite a lot because of the teething. However, there is nothing major to worry about.
We Skype Mum and Daryl twice a day. Daryl has little toys to open each day. Yesterday he received Kung Foo Panda 2. The story is set in China and revolves round adoption, so Kelli and I are looking forward to watching it when we get home.
We had to go to the consulate at 7:50 but we slept a little later than usual. It was a mad rush to get to breakfast, and we had a Skype with home which pushed things back. I rushed to get Amelia Lixin and myself on the bus in time and then realised that I didn’t have the passports. Everyone was very gracious, but it started the day flustered. At the American Consulate everything calmed down until we got to the window. The official asked for our documents and then saw that I was from England. When he saw that he asked, “Do you like football?” I could see where this was going and fearing the worst I said, “Yes, but I don’t like Manchester United.” I know everyone here supports Man U. With that he gave a mock scowel and said, “No visa for you, then.” In reality, I don’t think there should be a problem. All our paperwork was in order and the stress of the morning was relieved.
Upon our return we got to walk inside the Yuexiu Park and to see the Statue of the Five Goats. Legend says that in a time of famine five immortals came to save the city of Guangzhou riding upon five goats. In the mouths of the goats was food to save the city. Therefore this statue has become a great symbol of the city of Guangzhou. We also were able to see Zhenhai Tower which was built by a local ruler to show his power over the city. We came out of the park and walked within the grounds of Sun Yat Sen’s Memorial to get back to Beijing Street where we found a Chevignon store. I once bought Chevignon jeans in 1994 in Hong Kong, but I haven’t found them since. They were very comfortable, and I wanted to get another pair. On our long walkabout the other day we had checked the right store, but we had not checked the right floor. This time I was able to get to the right floor and find a pair of the elusive jeans.
After Amelia had taken a nap and Kelli and I had done some Moody work, we went and rested by the pool. It was great weather for it and the pool was just right. I was beaten soundly in the pool by two girls who take swimming lessons. I think this is a mark of things to come as Daryl is doing well with his swimming back in the States.
In the evening Amelia was very well behaved as we went through Liuhuahu Park to have a ‘western’ meal outside by the lake. It was a nice, scenic location to have our last supper by the water. I got into a discussion with another member of the group, who I think had problems with my thoughts about social responsibility. I was saying that I thought the government has a responsibility to take care of the sick and the poor and he was saying that it is the responsibility of the church. I tried to point out that the church does have a responsibility to administrate funds which will feed the hungry and cure the sick, but that the government has responsibility too. This sounded socialist to my friend. I asked if he thought that giving money to a person who would help the poor efficiently and effectively was wrong. He conceded that it was not wrong. I asked if he would only give money to that person if they were saved. He said that would not be essential. I pointed out that it was not then the government, but the size, efficiency and effectiveness which he was concerned about. If the government was one person who he trusted, he would hand over his money. I also pointed out that church government has historically been equally corrupt. He claimed the Bible supported his view exclusively, I said that the Old Testament supported the view that it is good for government (the monarchy) to administrate funds to take care of the less fortunate. This is a common discussion that I have in the States and I do not wish for Socialism or Communism (or Capitalism), I wish for Jesus Christ to rule directly and be the head of the government that I mentioned above. On that point my friend and I had agreement, so we left it there.
We had a lively conversation with Daryl on Skype and he got to see Amelia in her traditional Chinese outfit – complete with spit-up accessories – before we went to bed.
First of all, because I was writing from China and sending pictures I think it raised a red flag for hotmail. They put us through a security check. I think that everything is okay, but if you find that I am advertising liaisons with Russian women or selling timeshares in Bolivia, then please let me know. In all likelihood it is not me.
Today we took our time with breakfast and then had a service for those who are leaving early. Kelli slept in the room and Amelia Lixin napped for three hours. I got some more papers graded.
In the afternoon we walked into the hear of the old city and found Luirong Temple. There were a lot of Buddhist icons for sale near the temple and the streets were quaint. we managed to take a picture before heading back to the Liuhua Garment Wholesale Fairs to get a couple of outfits for the kids.
As I write Amelia seems to have a lot of wind and isn’t getting to sleep. Tomorrow is our huge travel day – so we hope to see her calm down and drop off soon.
We took a packed breakfast and left the hotel by 6:00 a.m. We ‘hopped’ to Shanghai with a number of other families and then changed to United. They had to change planes and they messed up everyone’s seating. Our friends Beth and Gregg were actually seated in a separate section from their 8-month-old before United finally sorted out their problem. We were seated separately and bargained with those around us. Firstly the man next to me agreed to let me have the aisle seat so that I could go down to help Kelli with Amelia Lixin who was on her lap. Kelli had better luck and got the man beside her to trade his central seat with me. As I sat down the man next to me grumpily buried his head into the latest book in the Bourne series and I could tell that he wasn’t happy. Amelia cried shortly after takeoff and Mr. Sourpuss kept shooting us evil glances. I sat as still as possible for 6 hours as he slept, but when he moved I took a second to rush to the toilet. Upon my return Kelli handed me Amelia and she lay asleep on my lap all the way to Chicago.
Customs was a 2hr nightmare. We were so ready to see Daryl, Mum and our friend James. However, because Amelia Lixin became a USA citizen upon admission to the USA we had to go into a special immigration line. Finally, we saw Daryl and he exploded with joy and had to be restrained to prevent him from running through the doors to meet us. Mum, James and Daryl held a Welcome Amelia sign and we were home at last. Lots of hugs. Lots of smiles.
When Daryl went to sleep that night he said, “I like my sister, Amelia. But I like my new Chinese police car better.” Precious.