Thursday, December 19, 2013

Day 16 - U.S. Consulate Appointment

Today was the day we were waiting for and our whole trip was planned around - our U.S. Consulate appointment. This is where we submit TJ's Chinese passport to receive his immigrant visa. He will receive an IH-3 visa which means he will become a U.S. citizen the moment the plane lands in Chicago.

There are two appointment slots for adoption appointments, 8:30am and 10:00am. Most of the families in our travel group had their appointments today so we met in the lobby at 7:40am with anticipation. Our rep was very specific in what you can and cannot bring into the building: no phones, watches, electronics; bring your passports, small baby food in a clear plastic bag. Our bus arrived at the medical office from a few days ago and we exited. There were many Chinese nationals outside waiting to get in line. Not us! We walked through the crowd right to the front of the line for security. This is where our rep had to stop as he could not go any further with us. He gave us clear directions though and we stepped inside for security.

The security booth was actually a separate building in front of the Consulate. We went through a medical detector and followed the signs to the very first door. Don't go to the second door or you will just wait with those who are not U.S. citizens. We opened the door and took the stairs to the second floor which housed a room with ten appointment windows and a cashier at the end. The area was quite small considering the very large, crowded first floor which was processing other visas. We stepped to window 7 and took a number. The room has a small seating area and a play area for the children. It is a modern building built very recently.

After a short while the rest of our group made it and one of the workers made some general comments from behind the glass. The Consul General then came in and administered the oath. It was just an oath saying the documents we submitted were accurate. We were then called to the window where we submitted our documents we prepared on Sunday. The agent asked us to open the sealed medical report envelope. Our original adoption certificate was returned and we were given a receipt. We then proceeded to window 10 to electronically sign our Form DS-260 via fingerprints. With that, we were done and left the consulate to meet our rep outside. Our rep will come back tomorrow to pick up all of the visas.

When we returned back to the hotel we took some group pictures. We have seen so many families get to this point and it was great to finally have our turn.

We are grateful for the time here in China but we can't wait until we get home! This could be our last post on the blog until we get home. We receive TJ's visa tomorrow afternoon and have an evening flight to Beijing with a long layover before heading home on Saturday.

Follow us on Twitter or Facebook for the latest updates before we see you all again. Thanks so much for your support!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Days 14 and 15 - Free Days

We are trying to pass the time here in Guangzhou by venturing out and trying new things. Our Tuesday started with a visit to the One Link International Toy Market. It was eight floors of wholesale shops with everything. There is easily over a thousand different stores to shop at and we got lost several times. I should have taken more pictures of the craziness but you will just have to believe us.

Our evening included the Pearl River Cruise that many other adoptive families have taken. 

Most of our group attended and it was like no experience elsewhere. There was a large tour group that was also attending full of Chinese nationals from a far away province. So when the buffet line bell went off it was a mad dash to the food. To describe it crazy would be an understatement. It was comical to watch the madness, again I wish I had more pictures. One of the moms here was fending off the other passengers for food for her four children. Once the food experience wore off there was an older lady who did a juggling act. It was fun but not amazing. I probably wouldn't do the cruise again but I think everyone needs to try it once. We did go on the top deck and took some nice pictures of the city.

On Day 15 we shared a taxi with another family and visited Shamian Island. It was originally a colony so it had churches and western architecture. There is a long stretch where we saw Chinese soldiers training, wedding pictures being taken and school children doing exercises. They also have statues placed throughout. There is one statue that is popular among adoptive families. We made sure to take a picture:

As you can see he is not very good at pictures. The weather should continue to be nice and we hope to visit some of the large parks before we leave. Our consulate appointment is tomorrow and we leave Guangzhou late on Friday.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Day 13 - Visa Photo and Medical Exam

We started our day with the enormous breakfast buffet. The staff tends to seat all of the adoptive families on one side of the restaurant, presumably to keep the excitement on one end. We met our group at 9am for the short bus ride to the medical office. The U.S. Consulate only accepts medical reports from this office so it is quite crowded. When you exit the elevator you will see many Chinese nationals getting their physicals done or waiting their turn. We took a quick left into a small room where TJ had his visa photo taken.

Thankfully we did not have to wait in the same area as everyone else - there was a special section for adoptive families. We waited for everyone to have their visa photos taken and developed and we began the medical examinations. There are three stations: vitals, ENT, and General exam. They can be done in any order so we started with the ENT. The ENT doctor made some noises which he responded to. She also checked inside his mouth and nose. It was quick, and he was done. 

We next waited for the general exam. The doctor asked for his previous medical information as provided by the orphanage. She examined him, asked some questions about his development and we were almost done. TJ cried a bit when the nurses placed him in the baby scale to be weighed but otherwise he did fine. We waited with another family as the older children needed to be tested for TB. Children under two years old do not need to have the test done.

Our rep advised us that once the medical report is submitted we would not see it again. So we took pictures before handing it over and were soon on our way back to the hotel. After TJ's nap we wandered around a bit and found the hotel garden. I have seen so many blogs with pictures on the bridge or near the waterfall. Despite the rain we went out and snapped a few photos.

We finished our day with a group dinner at a nearby restaurant. They served Cantonese-Portuguese food and it was excellent. There is more rain in the forecast tomorrow but we still plan to venture out a bit.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Day 12 - Guangzhou City Tour and Prep for U.S. Consulate

We ate at the buffet breakfast this morning that is included with our room. There were so many foods to choose from! We also found that there are many, many adoptive families here as well. It was great to see such a big gathering in the lobby.

We had a group tour of the city and visited an old Buddhist temple, the Chen Clan Academy and a craft center. The best part was the Chen Clan Academy which was built in the 1800s by the Chen family and depicted many aspects of the architecture and culture. It was definitely worth visiting, although the rain today (and forecasted for the next few days) did put a damper on things.

We're getting into the swing of things and TJ is more comfortable with us. After a quick nap the families met to complete our paperwork for our appointments at the U.S. Consulate. Unfortunately, our appointments are later this week so we cannot leave until those are completed and our children receive our visas.

TJ has a small toy that plays popular classical songs. He has discovered that if he places it next to his head he can hear it! He loves to do this now that he has figured it out.

Tomorrow we have his visa picture taken and his medical appointment. We are one day closer to home!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Day 11 - Travel to Guangzhou AKA the Worst Plane Ride Ever

We survived! Our bags were in the hallway at 7:30AM and we were checked out of the hotel by 8:00AM as we loaded the bus to the airport. Although we enjoyed our time with our agency guides and adoptive families we were ready to get moving and one step closer to home. After checking-in and some goodbyes we went through security (we're experts) and waited at our gate.

Our flight was to leave at 10:50AM and I received an alert from Tripit that our flight was delayed. There was no notification at the airport other than we still had not boarded and there was no plane at the gate. The flight started boarding about thirty minutes after it was scheduled to leave and we allowed the locals to board first. Unlike the flight to Zhengzhou, the flight to Guangzhou was packed. Our seats were not next to each other but through some interpretive dance and other hand gestures the woman who was sitting in seat 24C agreed to move. Some of the other families also did musical chairs to sit together as well. It was all going well.

When we took off I noticed how shaky the plane was. Then we went through the worst turbulence I have ever experienced. There were moments of terror as the plane seemed to fall from the sky. Many of the children onboard were clearly upset and the crying added to the experience. After the patch of turbulence the flight attendants started meal service. They did not get far in passing out their duck or fish rice before the turbulence continued. At one point they sat in the aisles because it was unsafe to stand between their carts. It was scary.

Once things settled down with the turbulence the flight attendants were able to complete meal service. There was also an announcement on board requesting medical personnel. We found out later that the unstable flight had caused at least one person to require several "comfort bags" and was uncontrollable. Some families of our travel group witnessed this first hand. Well, the lady was ok, we finally landed and that was the worst plane ride I have ever been on.

Our Guangzhou agency rep met us after baggage claim and we made our way to the hotel. We checked in, settled in, and will sleep well tonight. This time next week we will be sleeping in our own beds!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Day 10 - Free Day

There was nothing scheduled today so we decided to walk/dodge scooters on the way to Walmart. We also walked through a very large mall. It reminded me of the GUM in Moscow in that it had two long halls. This particular mall was so large there was a street that went through it on the first floor! After lunch and his lovely bath we visited a park which is nearby. It was a huge park and had nice paths to walk, a carnival and lots of fish in the various ponds. I bet it is pretty in the summer. We climbed a mountain that they had in the park and saw the city along the treetops. The best part of the day is that we received TJ's passport, so we can leave for Guangzhou tomorrow!!!! Only eight days left before we are home.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Day 9 - Zoo

Today was a free day for us so most of our group headed to the Zhengzhou zoo. It was a lot better than I expected and had many different kinds of animals. Here, they are caged - it doesn't look like they have the same conservation efforts as in the States or elsewhere. We were inches from some of the animals.

TJ continues to do well. He is laughing with us and is more comfortable with us. Tomorrow we will receive his passport so we can leave for Guangzhou and apply for his immigration visa.