Thursday, December 29, 2011

Loren's Observations from China

Just a few of the musings on my visit to China

A little background - Beijing has approx 20 million people; Tiayuan (where we are now) has about 4 million people.  Tiayuan is not largely touristy and not many foreigners pass through here.  This is the first time this hotel has been used by our agency so not a lot of English going on here.

I am 6'3" (the average height I would say is 5'8")
Michelle has reddish blond hair
We are both of pasty white Norwegian descent
Not easy to blend in.....

Some folks look at us and smile (laugh?) and seem interested to see us.  We have had our share of eye daggers as well.  Especially, when we are toting Quinn.

I got chased out of McDonalds last night.  The lady just kept yelling at me in Chinese, hands waving and pointing to the door.  Still more than a little confused about that one.

Bikes/Scooters have to outnumber cars 2 to 1. 

The lanes on the streets are only guidelines; I have seen 6 lanes of traffic in a four lane street.  Direction optional.

Here, you honk before you cut someone off.  They will let you into traffic.  Darnedest thing I have ever seen.  You can enter a busy street, cut across traffic to go the other direction and they just let you.....

Pedestrians / bikes do not have the right of way.  Cross wherever you like but at your own peril - no one even slows down

Following is a picture of us outside the police station (Michelle had a little mishap) in Datong.  Actually, we had to go there to get permission to get a passport for Quinn.  This by the way was a 4 hour drive for a 10 minute appt so they could email the ok back to the city we are staying in.  Just when you thought the bureucracy in the US was bad...

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Adoption Day

Because the internet goes into snail mode around 7 am here, I'm only going to post a few pictures for now before we head out, and then add some details when we get back.  The pictures take about 10 minutes a piece to load during prime time internet hours!

Had your child a whole 5 minutes?  Here, sign some papers!

Quinn when we got back to the hotel

Jammied up!  Playing with the first of 'her' toys

At the government building after this round
of paperwork was completed

Dad and Quinn - Day 2

Going out for dinner - Chinese tonight?
Notice all the bikes and scooters

Quinn with a couple more of her toys

Why is there a picture of me asleep with every child in
our house?  I must have a calming effect or work really hard!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Loren here.  Here is a picture of me with Quinn and of us at the adoption center.  One more set of paperwork out of the way!  Turns out Quinn is scared of elevators and escalators.  Makes it fun in the hotel and in the grocery store!  Off to Datong today (4 hrs away) to apply for police clearance to get Quinn a passport.  We'll report back in later.  Thanks everyone for the support and prayers.  We can feel both over here!

Monday, December 26, 2011

China Post #3

Next morning, off to visit a Jade Factory.  What a beautiful craft!  We watched Jade being cut with diamonds and water, by artisans, into beautiful statues and jewelry.  We purchased a jade necklace with the emblem of the Ox, which is the year in which Quinn was born according to the Chinese Horoscope, and it’s considered good luck to present daughters with Jade when they get married.  I’m guessing that she’ll get to wear this before that happens, but it’s a nice tradition!  Then to the Cloisonne factory, which I wasn’t prepared to like, but once I saw the process and the beautiful vases, I changed my opinion of it.  They use a copper base for the vases, then solder copper wire onto it in a pattern done by the designer, fire it, then paint it by droppers of special paint.  Repeat that step many times until the color stays, then polish it and sometimes like the top with gold.  They are beautiful, and we did get a few Christmas tree ornaments to commemorate our trip here.


 At the Cloissone factory, you also get to eat in their restaurant Family Style, so they bring you bowls of different foods, a large bowl of rice, and some awesome soup that we all liked.  The fish heads still attached were a little unappetizing, but the fish tasted great, so we ignored the heads. Because it’s not wise to drink the water here in China, you are served tea instead, and if you want something like pop, then you have to order and pay for that separately. 
We managed to squeeze in a quick trip to the grounds where the 2008 Olympics were held for the guys- they were thrilled to see the stadium and Birds Nest after having seen these places on TV.
 Then it was off to the Great Wall, the attraction that I was most looking forward to seeing.  It was very different than I imagined.  The builders wanted it to be hard for anyone attacking to get around on the wall, so it angles up and down very steeply, and the steps are not uniform in size.  It makes it quite a workout just walking on it, (who needs a Stairmaster?) and we decided we could make a Great Wall Exercise video, including calesthenics once you get to the guard towers!  The view is impressive, and the rocks on the wall worn smooth from hundreds of years of wear and weather.  The ride up to the wall was in a gondola (old ski lift, I’m thinking…) and made us catch our breath more than once when the wind blew us back and forth!  And just so you know, there was Chinese graffiti all over the wall, so I guess that is a vice present in every culture.


Each morning, we hit the hotel’s breakfast buffet, and this gives us a chance to try out all sorts of different foods that we normally wouldn’t experiment with!  I’ve had some incredible fried rice, dim som, dumplings, sautéed vegys of various kinds, some kind of chicken and egg soup, bamboo, cooked peanuts and lima beans, interesting pastries, and the best watermelon I’ve ever eaten.  I also have a whole new appreciation for celery and can’t wait to use it more in my cooking when I get home.  The diet mainly consists of vegys and rice here, with a sprinkling of meat- very enjoyable for me, but I’m thinking that Loren will want a big old hamburger when we get home. J
The lobby of our hotel

Sunday, December 25, 2011

China Day 2

Ni Hao!  I am sitting on a very hard bed writing this, and when I say “hard”, I mean like sleeping on the floor hard.  This, running around Beijing hitting the hot tourist spots, and the change in time zones, has left us tired.  I have to keep reminding myself that today is Christmas Eve- I have lost track of time since we’ve been here.  We plan on skyping the kids in the morning to wish them Merry Christmas and catch up with them. 
We flew out from Mpls. on Wed- thanks to Marc and Linda for allowing us to stay at their house and for the ride to the airport.  We got in around 10:30 that night and while in the security line at the Beijing airport, we met another Bethany couple who is getting their daughter the same day that we are!  We are staying at the Cha Ang Hotel and learning about the subtle differences between cities in the US and China.  A biggie is that pedestrians DON’T have the right of way here, so you always have to be on the lookout for cars and bikes.
Our first day here included an info meeting with the China Coordinator, Shiyan, and got to know  the other families traveling with us.  There are only 3 families here in Beijing for this trip, and 2 others meeting us in Guanzhou next week.  It’s a small group, but that makes it easier to get to know each other and form attachments with these families.  We got brave and went to a local grocery store for snacks and “provisions”, and got our first experience paying with yuan.  The store was so different than what I expected- Jingle Bells played over and over on the loudspeaker, which surprised us, and the prices kept us guessing.  For example, you could buy a pair of tennis shoes for the same price as a large package of Dove chocolates!  So comical.  I also got my first taste of China’s version of Diet Coke, and let’s just say that I will be looking forward to having the Real Thing once I get back to the states.

Andersons, Shiyan, Scotts, Loren
That evening, we went to the Beijing Acrobatic Show- it was amazing!  Very flexible young girls being bent and tossed, all while holding a stack of bowls on their foot, 5 motorcycles driving fast inside a large metal ball, tumbling and juggling- very entertaining.  Wish I had a picture but they were not allowed- however we took video of it and it was fun to rewatch it when we got to our room.
 This also gave me my first chance at using a Chinese restroom, or what we affectionately call Squatty Potties.  There is a hole in the floor, and you have to squat over it, keeping balanced so that you don’t fall in, and also hold onto the toilet paper that you brought (you DID remember to bring t.p., didn’t you?!)  Quite an experience!!    Afterwards, we ate at KFC, which vaguely resembles the food at KFC, but with items like Lobster hats, Fish fingers, and other different foods.  Their portions are also very small, which was interesting to notice, compared to the American KFC.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Hanging out at the airport

Sitting here at the SeaTac airport in Seattle and managed to locate a free WiFi spot, so thought I would pop on to send messages to the kids and check email. 

Living on the farm hasn't prepared me for the Techno Influence that is surrounding me here in the Fast Lane of international travellers and the Movers and Shakers of the world.  I've never seen so many Ipods and Droids in hand, computers on laps, or MP3 player ear buds in ears before- there are even notices everywhere as to when you can have them on and when you can't.

Didn't know you can "buy" internet service while on the plane for $9.99 per flight either.  I'm still thrilled that they aren't charging for the Diet Coke.

And speaking of food, I had the largest Grilled Chicken salad I could find here, as my last "American Lettuce Meal" before entering China's "don't eat the lettuce" zone.  It was the best tasting salad that I can remember having EVER.  Of course, it's probably just because I know I can't have another one for 2 weeks.

I'm still kinda existing in that disbelief-zone that we are actually In Process, actually on a plane headed for Beijing.  I am loving every moment of it, the excitement of so many new things to see, the alone time spent with Loren without a million interruptions, and the barely contained excitement of soon meeting Quinn. 

(Yes, I'm still trying to learn my few pitiful Mandarin phrases- don't laugh.)  Although I think I impressed my kids when we were at Best Buy just before we took off for Mpls, and I was able to tell them what the words meant on the gong at the front of the store!  (It said "goodbye" in Mandarin) 

I hope they were impressed.  I have so few tricks left that impress them anymore :-)

Zai Jian

Monday, December 19, 2011

How fast can I learn Mandarin...?

The last 10 days seem to have gone by in a blur- living at the folks farm, running between there and our farm to do chores and work on the house, cleaning, unpacking, and trying to get my life in control again. 

 Yes, the ugly Type A personality has been rearing its head and I've been frantically trying to get my universe orderly so that the house is ready to move into, so that I will be ready to travel to get Quinn, and so that all is ready for the kids (grown up kids too) to be here over Christmas break.

Boxes unpacked, gifts wrapped and stockings stuffed, livestock feed stocked, freezers full, and paperwork ready to go.  Got the Sunday School Christmas program and party completed yesterday, and our last school event for Luke is tonight's Christmas concert.  Watched the season finale of Survivor while hanging the family photos.  Checklist is almost done.

After the rush of getting ready, both Loren and I are almost looking forward to the 15 hour plane trip, if only to sleep or do nothing.

Today we received our itinerary and it's looking like it's really going to happen!  And I'm panicking.  I know about 3 phrases in Mandarin and don't have a new book to read for the trip, so technically, I'm just not ready.  

On the other hand, I'm so ready to hold Quinn that I can barely stand it.  :-)

Here is our itinerary:
Loren and Michelle Johnson

December 22, 2011             Arrive in Beijing via DL129 @ 10:20 p.m.  Airport pickup.  Stay at Chang’an Grand Hotel.

December 23, 2011             Orientation meeting at 10:00 a.m.  Acrobatic show in the afternoon.

December 24, 2011             Visit the Great Wall and Cloisonne Factory.  Lunch included.

December 25, 2011             Visit Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City, and Hutong Tour.

December 26, 2011             Flight MU5292 (8:05- 9:20) to Taiyuan.  Airport pickup. Stay at Taiyuan Continental Hotel.  Receive your child in the afternoon.

December 27, 2011             Adoption  registration and  notarization.

December 28, 2011             Go to Datong by bus to apply for passport. Return to Taiyuan same night.

December 29, 2011             Visit Jiaxiu Pavilion, Yinze Park, and Shanxi Provincial Museum.
December 30, 2011             Receive all the documents. Flight CZ3530 (16:00-18:40) to Guangzhou. Airport pickup.

December 31, 2011             Medical exam for your child.

January 1, 2012                   Free

January 2, 2012                   Go back to the clinic to check TB skin test result.  Visit Guangzhou Folk Art Museum.

January 3, 2012                   Visa appointment.

January 4, 2012                   Pick up visa in the afternoon.  Go directly to airport. Flight MU5310 (18:55-21:20) to Shanghai. Stay at Airport Hotel.

January 5, 2012                   Flight DL296 @ 8:40 a.m. to USA.

So......whether I'm technically ready or not, we will be on that plane Wednesday morning- woo hoo!!

Please keep us in your prayers while we are gone, and especially pray for Quinn to accept us and to move gently into this new stage of her life. 

Pray that she will begin to trust us and bond with us, so that she can begin to have the security that only comes with having a loving family that watches over you and protects you.

Pray that Quinn is in good health, and also that Loren and I get through the trip unscathed by the diabolical intestinal issues that plague so many while traveling there.

Pray that our children here at home will do well in the care of their older brother and that things go smoothly while we are gone.

Can't wait to introduce Quinn to her new family, and her new family to her. This trip is an answer to a prayer and a mission that was laid on my heart almost 30 years ago.  I never thought this mission would reach completion, and my heart is so full now from all the blessings (and struggles) that have accompanied this process.   

God is good~

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Frenzy that is the Season

For years, I have sermonized on how we need to simplify Christmas, spend less money on each other and spend more time WITH each other.  You know, "The Reason for the Season" type of mentality.

Comparing the crowds that flock to the stores and the meager attendance at church over the Christmas season, it demonstrates what institution influences our communities the most, and it makes me more than a little scared about the future.

It's a tough cultural nut to crack.  I wish I had the language to present it as well as Jan Hatmaker did in this post.  And because she did it so well, I'll let you read HER take on Christmas.  It is right on the mark and I couldn't have said it better.

I hope this philosophy takes root and becomes the norm, so that the focus of Christmas is on Jesus, Faith, and Family, instead of the idol of Consumerism and Entitlement.

Merry Christmas!!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Let's talk Frugality

So, Loren is driving up to Sioux Falls to a business dinner, and his favorite animal, the Deer With Suicidal Tendencies, finds him and again, makes contact. 

This is what he came home with...

(Yes, the poor man drives a mini-van to work...the less said on that subject, the better!)

The bumper is missing, a portion of the grill, and the front headlight.  Now it matches the other side, which also had a close encounter with 3 deer, and is also crushed in.  We also had to replace that front headlight, as well as a tail light from Luke's attempt to back out the car from the garage, but that's another story.....

I gotta tell ya, I am so proud of the fact that Loren can continue to drive this piece of junk    vintage car to work, when his peers are driving Hummers and Ford 150s that don't have major collision damage.  It takes alot of moxi for him to face that parking lot every morning.

That takes more than great self esteem...that takes big Kahoonas, in my book.  These are the things he does to take care of his family, putting his own needs on the back burner to make sure that ours are met. 

He is Awesome. With a capital A.

But now that we have managed to indent 3 of the 4 sides of the Milk Wagon, as I affectionately call it, I'm thinking that we will need to start looking for another used car.   Otherwise the next time he hits a bump in the road, I'm afraid the whole car is going to fall apart.

Thank you, sweetie, for always going above and beyond for your family; for putting your pride aside and putting your family first.

You are our hero!
Your family   xxxooo

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Guess what we got??

Yes, you heard me right. We got Travel Approval!!  The LAST obstacle to getting on a plane and flying to China to get Quinn. 

It reminds me of most of my pregnancies- weeks overdue, miserable and exhausted from my efforts, and wondering if I would be pregnant forever. 

I truly felt like we were going to be "adopting" forever.

Now that we have the go ahead, it just doesn't feel real, and I struggle with the concept that we will be actually GOING! It takes my breath away.  (Literally- I get light headed whenever I think about going!) 

So I've been giddy ever since I got the email, and I indulged in the luxery of just being happy for the day. 

That was yesterday.  Today, I said Goodbye to bliss, and Hello to worry.

I mean, here we sit at my parents house, no heat or water in OUR house, and I'm beginning to panic about getting the house ready before we go. I want to get the crib set up, meals made and put in the freezer, rooms cleaned and suitcases packed.  I think everyone wants to have some control in their lives, especially during the momentous occasions.

Then I read something in Max Lucado's book that really made me think...and relax.

Max wondered aloud whether Joseph had many of those same concerns when it came time for Jesus to be born.  This wasn't what he had planned...he would've provided a midwife for Mary and she would've had the comfort of their home for the birth, their family and friends would have been there celebrating, cheering as the baby was presented.  It would've been so... much... easier.

Instead, they are miles from their home, turned away from any lodging in town, and surrounded by straw and smelly livestock, giving birth in a barn. Alone.  No one to help Mary, no one to congratulate the new parents, not even a bed to lie on to give birth.  

I'm sure Joseph was wondering why things weren't more "perfect".  I mean, wasn't this the birth of the Messiah?!  Shouldn't the conditions have been Perfect?  But I guess that's where the lesson comes in.  Life is never "perfect".  And it doesn't have to be for wonderful things to happen.  Sometimes, the lessons we learn because life ISN'T perfect are the lessons that make us stronger, more accepting and flexible to whatever life throws at us.

So, whether the house is clean, meals prepped, or the crib assembled, we're heading to China to pick up our little Miracle this month.  And it will be Perfect :-) 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Kinda Kitche

Sorry, but sometimes a gal just wants to indulge in cutesy things like this, know what I mean?!

Joined at the Heart (family) Decal

China Girls Rock Decal
Chinese Character Adoption Decal
All I Got Sticker (Rectangle)
Love Knows No Borders - China Bumper Sticker