Our last leg of the trip was in Guangzhou, China- which is where every American adoptive family in China ends up before they can leave the country with their new child. Why? Because that is where the U.S. Consulate is, and you have to obtain a visa for your child before you can leave.
So, Lucy boarded her very first flight and did great. It was only about a 3 hour flight.
Guangzhou is further south than Lucy's city and we'd been told it was a more tropical environment, which honestly made it feel a little bit more like vacation in a way. The vegetation was beautiful and the city itself was very clean. We learned that they are a no-motorbike city, so that cleared up a lot of crazy traffic, pollution, and noise. Instead there were bicycles everywhere, which I enjoyed photographing. They have a popular rent-a-bike system there so you'd see rows and rows of them ready for riders.
There were far more Westernized things, too- probably a result of the many international visitors over the years. McDonald's was right next to our hotel and most people spoke English. There was Pizza Hut, Starbucks (in our hotel!), and 7 Eleven.
When we arrived in the evening after our flight from Lucy's city, we were a little travel-worn and hungry. The China Hotel by Marriott has a beautiful, large lobby and as we were checking in we were greeted by an American man (also in line) with a smile that said, "Checking in? We've been here a week and it's great. You must stop by the Muslim noodle shop down the street. It's delicious!" Hearing his American English and reassuring understanding of where we were at (emotionally and physically) was so wonderful. And he was right- the Muslim noodle place (a simple noodle shop owned by Muslim Chinese) was my favorite restaurant of the trip! I think we ate there 3 or 4 times that week, haha.
All week, we continued to meet adoptive family after adoptive family- and literally everyone was so incredibly nice. It was neat to hear their stories and relate. I was so encouraged by them and because of that this was my favorite week in the journey.
One of the first things we noticed when we walked into the hotel was THE staircase. The one we'd collectively seen in our agency's posts of families who had completed their adoptions. They were seated on a red staircase, smiling. I'd never known where that staircase existed, haha- but there it was, in all it's glory, and WE WERE GOING TO SIT ON IT AND TAKE A PICTURE, because we had DONE THIS THING!
I also have to mention the breakfast. Ya'll- it was included in our stay every morning- and it was the nicest breakfast buffet I've ever seen! They were used to accommodating families with kids, so they had plenty of high chairs and delicious food and espresso.
One of the first appointments we had in Guangzhou was Lucy's medical appointment. All children being adopted are required to have a medical exam before leaving, and so my parents kept the big kids while we took Lucy. She did great, except when they had to draw blood for a TB test. She cried for a bit but was ok pretty quickly- that was one of the first times I realized that we had one tough little girl.
One evening we got to take a River Cruise down the Pearl River. It was beautiful to see the city lit up at night. Our guide had ordered pizza for us to take and eat on the boat, and there must have been a little bit lost in translation- because our chicken pizza was MOVING! Haha- check out the video below. We found out later that those are actually dried fish flakes reacting to the heat. My mom ate some and liked it, but everyone else was too chicken. Or fish....get it?!?
The next day was possibly the most fun of the trip- we visited the Chimelong Safari Park and it was amazing! They had so many animals to see and even though it rained on us we all really enjoyed it.
We also got to visit the Chen Family Temple, which is beautiful and ornate. I purchased some keepsakes for Lucy here- a Chinese knot we will use as an ornament that has a monkey painted on it (her birth year was the year of the monkey), and a stone carved stamp with her English and Chinese name. Our guide also took us to the pearl market, which was a neat experience. I got to pick out pearls and have them made into bracelets and earrings for the girls- they made them right in front of us! Knox said he'd prefer something else :).
We also spent a lot of time just hanging out around the hotel and exploring the neighborhood nearby. We walked through this alley at dusk one night and I knew I just had to go back to photograph it- because it perfectly encapsulated China- all the hustle and bustle, colors and smells. I want Lucy to remember these things, so I photographed them as best I could.
We also got to go to Shamian Island- a part of Guangzhou that was once under British rule and has some beautiful buildings and landscaping. And also Starbucks, which we were excited about.
After our appointment at the U.S. Consulate, we decided to go swimming at the hotel pool. I'm pretty sure it was Lucy's first time in the water, and she was pretty nervous at first, but then calmed down and started enjoying it when she saw Knox and Liv doing so.
We also ventured out to a local park which was just down the street from the hotel. It was beautiful and I couldn't get over the unique flowers we were seeing.
Finally, we had Lucy's passport, visa, and clearance to go home! The night before our flight, we took a train to Hong Kong. It was a little crazy carrying 7 people and alllllll our baggage, but we did it!
The next day we arrived at the ticket counter several hours before our flight, ready to check in. It was at that moment we realized that somehow we had lost Shawn's passport. And I mean LOST. It was not in any of our baggage. It wasn't in the hotel room we'd checked out of. Shawn was running through the airport retracing steps and calling the hotel concierge. Ya'll- this is when I ALMOST had a full out panic attack. I'm so glad my mom was there to calm me and help with the kids. Shawn's name was on every adoption document and Lucy wasn't officially a U.S. citizen until we went through customs in the U.S. I was PANICKING. My dad remembered that we'd changed money the night before and went to that counter to see if they'd found a passport- and THANK YOU JESUS- they had it! Major crisis averted. The grace of God on our family. This photo is Shawn's face getting back in the check-in line- whew!
The flight home was long but uneventful. We were able to fly straight into Dallas which was wonderful. One more short flight to Lubbock and we were HOME! Our friends at home had done such a wonderful job taking care of us when we weren't even there. Our dogs and home were fed and clean, fresh groceries and freezer meals were in the fridge- they even fixed my car battery when it wouldn't start up after a few weeks off! We were greeted by some of them at the airport, and it was so sweet.
I still can't believe we actually went and came home with a new daughter. Our time in China was hard, wonderful, and precious. If you've tuned in this whole time, thank you for reading- and please feel free to comment with your questions- I love sharing our experiences and have been so encouraged by others who have gone before us, so I want to do the same.
I plan on continuing to post on other aspects of our adoption- like our packing list- very soon!