Let's see...who was the first unhappy child. Oh yes, it was the Fussy Bit. She did NOT want to get out of bed and had a cow.
We actually MISSED our 6am shuttle to the airport. The next one was not until 6:20am (the time we needed to be at the airport). To our surprise, the staff at the hotel arranged a private van to take us to the airport for free. During our short time in Hong Kong, everyone we encountered have been so nice and friendly. In China the friendliness of staff/natives was hit or miss. In Japan and Hong Kong, it seems to be the norm.
Our dilemma was that we had no small dollars left to tip the bell boy (and the guy who got us the van) at the Marriott. This whole tipping system has been driving me nuts since we started our travel. In Japan, there's no tipping system at all. In China, most of the places we didn't have to tip, but to bell boys, drivers, and guides we did (except our guides & drivers already arranged by our agency). We then had to calculate how much to tip in RMB. Our guide in Guangzhou (Miko) told us we should tip the van driver (to Hong Kong) $10 in US dollars. Another family who was taking a separate van did not have anything smaller than $20, so we let them have all the remaining smaller bills we had in exchange for a $20. When we got to Hong Kong, they had their own currency (HK dollars), which we didn't have any of. It seemed like most people were OK with getting paid in US dollars - so I tried to get some smaller bills at the front desk. They said they didn't have any, they only were able to exchange HK dollars. After 3 weeks of traveling, I was so done with this whole tipping thing. It has been too stressful! I don't understand how in movies everyone is ready to tip, whenever and wherever they seem to be at! Allan ended up asking the bell boy and the guy who arranged the van if they had change for $20. The bell boy had $14 in one dollar bills, so Allan gave him the $20 in exchange and told him to split the $6 difference with the other guy. I'm sure it was the most UNclassy way to tip, but that was all we were able to muster up.
The checkin at HK airport went much more smoothly than the other check-in processes we experienced in China. But this airport was also huge and was like a maze. We were hoping to get breakfast, but the line was ridiculously long at McDonald's. There was a cafe by our departing gate, so I ended up buying some fruit and donuts there. It's amazing how you never have enough time at the airport anymore, when you're traveling with three little ones. By the time we get through checkin, customs, and security, there's hardly any time left to grab food.
The flight to Japan was around 4 hours. Mini-Lu has become more of a fussy traveler. She doesn't cry for very long, but she cries more often and more loudly in public. She also keeps taking cat naps...I don't think she can sleep well unless she's in a crib.
As I type this, we're about an hour into our LONG 12-hr flight to Atlanta. Peanut continues to be not as agreeable as she has been these past 3 weeks. Our Drama Queen (aka LittleBit) is doing a little better. Nice thing about her is that she can be satisfied with headphones and movies for hours.
So we are on the last leg of this adventure.
I think back on the long flight we took from Atlanta to Tokyo exactly three weeks ago. I remember how the girls did SO WELL. We were so thankful.
I remember Peanut and LittleBit finally meeting their great-grandma...and how much they had fun with their cousins at Disney.
I remember the jet lag in Japan...how Peanut kept waking up at 3am for the first few days.
I remember our trip to Beijing. We were so spoiled at our first hotel in China...it was bigger than my first apartment for sure. We really got the royal treatment.
I remember the AMAZING Great Wall and Hutong tour. I think that's still one of my favorite days from this trip. We again was spoiled with the best at the beginning. Our guide for that day gets our top award, although the other two were very nice and helpful as well.
Taking the subway to the crowded, HOT Summer Palace. We could have skipped that if we had known it was going to be a zoo. The acrobat show was definitely worth seeing.
I remember our week in Hohhot...that was probably our toughest week, especially to find meals that we were able to enjoy (thank God for room service).
I remember our trip to the Grassland in Inner Mongolia. What a cultural experience that was. I remember the goat being slaughtered and the outhouse we used.
We met our girl finally on Tuesday. I can't believe that was only a week and a half ago. As I've heard other families say, it feels like she's been part of our family for much longer.
I remember visiting her orphanage, and seeing first-hand how much she was loved. The staff were all so happy to see her again. They were happy to see her with her friends again too. I remember the tears shed by the dean of her department and the hug we exchanged. I will treasure that moment in my heart forever. "Thank you" just didn't seem enough, but that was all that I was able to say in her language.
I remember the crazy flight we took to Guangzhou. All the people yelling at each other. What a night that was - but Mini-Lu did so great on her first flight!
I remember how relieved I felt in Guangzhou, with more familiar foods, stores, and restaurants. And more people speaking English. My favorite part was meeting and getting to know the other adoptive families from our agency. The week in Guangzhou flew by; we stayed at the Garden Hotel for a total of 7 nights. It was really a nice, pleasant week for us...with occasional challenges during mealtimes.
I am so thankful for:
-All the prayers, support, and love that were sent our way. Thank you to so many of you who followed my blog. Most of you know that I love to write and I love pictures...knowing that there was a good amount of audience on the other end made it so much more enjoyable. It really made us feel like we're not alone on this journey. So from the bottom of my heart (with tears in my eyes), THANK YOU. Your love and support, you sharing in our joy and excitement, and your prayers (especially for our health) - all have meant more to us than you'll ever know.
-I can't thank God enough for how all the girls have slept so well during this trip (with the exception of the first few days in Japan). We have yet to see Mini-Lu NOT sleep well for nap time and at night. Because of the good amount of sleep I had, I was able to stay up a little later every night to blog.
-I am so thankful that none of us got seriously ill. Each of us had our minor issues, but hugely thanks to all the prayers, they were very manageable and short-lived.
-I am so thankful for our Mini-Lu. She is pure joy. We can't get enough of her squeals and giggles. I'm thankful for my Peanut who was such a trooper throughout the whole trip. (tears again). Words can't express how proud I am of her. She was the only child who had to walk and carry her stuff most of the time, and there were many other things we had to rely on her to do by herself. She rocked it. She's also the one who can make her new sister laugh the most. Mini-Lu lights up when she sees Peanut. My strong-willed firstborn may have been my biggest challenge, but she's also my biggest reward. I am thankful for my LittleBit, who is slowly but surely learning to be a big sister. This trip was a lot for a 3-yr-old to go through, but I'm so glad she was able to experience it with us (with her fits and all). I'm glad she didn't miss the moment we welcomed Siana into our family.
-And to my amazing husband. There are no words. Only tears as I think about how dependable and capable and loving and amazing he has been these last 3 weeks, even more than usual (if that was even possible). He is surrounded now by 4 females, each with her own set of drama (I had my share too during the trip). Yet he handles them all so well, with such patience, wisdom, grace, and love. There is nobody in the world I would rather do "life" with, and this trip has only confirmed it a thousand times more. I love you...so dearly. I love our growing family that we have together.
To Jesus, my Savior. Thank You for trusting us with this mission. Thank You for the gift and the privilege of being parents to another precious life. Thank You for always walking right beside us on this journey, every step of the way. To YOU be all the glory and praise. I believe that one day, she will fulfill her calling of bringing to light, for all to see, that our God is GRACIOUS.
Good night...from our HOME in Jacksonville, FL!
P.S. Update on the remainder of our trip...the girls did great! Mini-Lu was a little fussy at the beginning, but she was mostly playful for the first half of the flight. She and LB slept for the second half. Peanut didn't sleep much (since she didn't have room to lie down horizontally like the other two) but she entertained herself the whole time. Now we're in Atanta and Allan, Mini-Lu, and LB are all sleeping. I am very much looking forward to sleeping in my bed tonight! Please pray that all the girls will sleep through the night...and will not be too affected by jet lag.
Another P.S. It was like a zoo when we came home - kids were hungry, crib was not put together all the way yet, luggages were opened everywhere, kids were tired and cranky, I couldn't find anything that I needed, Mini-Lu was exploring everything in the house, and LB was freaking out every time she touched something that was hers. I told Allan, "I think this first hour home was harder than our travels!" I know that it was the worst of circumstance...things can only get better from here, right!?
Photos at the end of our long journey (the sign was actually made by the Florida State Director for our agency; we met for the first time at the airport tonight. She and her daughter were so kind to make a trip to the airport to welcome us home). For families considering adoption, we would HIGHLY recommend Lifeline Children's Services (www.lifelinechild.org). They held our hand and prayed for us throughout the whole process, and we were VERY well taken care of during our travels. We can't thank them enough!