Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Safari Park Foiled!

Fooey!  We went to breakfast before meeting the driver for today's trip out to the Safari Park and it began to rain!  and rain, and rain....

We ran up to the room to check the radar and realized that it was going to likely keep raining all day-- no, all week!  Yuck.  So, with no collection of umbrellas to use for cover, we quickly decided that today was not going to be worth the money for the zoo animals who would likely want cover of their own.

So, I was elected to go downstairs and tell the guide that we would not be going to see the zoo.  She suggested an alternative.  This evening, there is a showing of the Chang Long International Circus (in the same vicinity of the zoo).  Another adoptive mom had emailed us about this and the online reviews were glowing.  (Thanks Kym!)

So, I think we are going to go with Plan B (the indoor alternative) and this evening, venture out for the trip to the Circus instead.  I hear it is on par with the best Las Vegas shows and that it is worth every penny.  I will offer my own critique for you later so that those of you are headed to China later this year can possibly add this to your own itineraries while in Guangzhou.


Click Here for Reviews

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Quiet Day & Consulate Appointment

Sorry that I did not post last night, but there was not much to share from yesterday.  We had a quiet day alone on Tuesday, only seeing our guide for about 30 minutes as she took us around the block to our hotel and helped us order dinner.  It was a very nice and affordable noodle restaurant.  After that, we walked up the block to McDonalds and treated the kids to some icecream.  The evening ended with movies in the room and some much needed sleep.

This morning, we met Elsie at 8:15 and walked one block over to the US Consulate for our Visa appointment.  It was nice to see some of the families that we had met while at the Medical Center earlier in the week that were there also.  We all stood together and recited an oath (in English, of course) so Colin was very confused.  We couldn't even explain to him what we were doing because we had to leave our translator and camera/cell phones with Security before coming in.

Once this was over, we waited for our names to be called and we quickly completed the paperwork.  All the other families left earlier than we did because their children were younger.  Colin, due to his age, required fingerprinting, so we had that one last step to complete.  All in all, an easy visit and now we are back in our rooms for a quiet day. 

Tomorrow's plan?  The Safari Park!  We meet the driver at 9AM and go enjoy the day with the animals.  It should be a nice time.  Friday will be packing and early bedtime as we leave around 5am on Saturday morning to head to the airport. 

Getting one step closer to home...

The Rylands

Monday, August 29, 2011

Happy Birthday Colin!

Well, birthdays are a big deal at the Rylands' house, so they start first thing in the morning!

Here we are singing Happy Birthday to Colin.  As you can tell, I am conveniently hidden behind the camera!
Colin reading his birthday card (in Chinese) and his birthday morning message on Google translate.

For his birthday, we gave him a new wallet with a small bit of spending cash, the set of Narnia books in Chinese, and the framed artwork of the Ox (his birth year symbol).

Tommy got into the fun too!

After getting the gang up and going for the day, we met our guide downstairs and headed over to McDonalds. We made arrangements for the birthday celebration and went up to the third floor of the Citic Shopping Plaza and ordered Colin's birthday cake.  Once this housekeeping was over, we enjoyed breakfast together and then caught our ride.  We started the day with Shopping. Mr. Adam (Lucy's Dad) asked if Elsie could take us to Mao Sheng Jewelry in the local Pearl Market.  We enjoyed seeing all the pearls (of all colors)!  Tommy wanted a "keepsake" from his trip to China. So, he took his spending money and purchased a large purple heart shaped cubic zirconia.  Mr. Adam and his wife had purchased pearls here for their two other daughters and wanted to get sweet Lucy her set here too.  We had fun watching the ladies string the pearls and attach the clasps for each order.  This is definitely the country for pearls.  Great deals here!

After leaving the pearl store, we hit the proverbial jackpot at a DVD store.  We picked up a few DVDs for the 14 hour ride home that come with Chinese subtitles.  We even got a couple that aren't even available in the US yet.  What we would normally pay about $20-$25 for in the states cost us about $3 EACH!  (And I didn't even need a COUPON!) LOL

After the short shopping excursion, we headed back to Shamain Island to get the TB tests checked for both kids.  All was well and we were quickly on our way over to the White Swan Hotel for some pictures.  For those who may not know, the White Swan is very famous in the adoption community since so many adoptive families stay there.  There is a "RED SOFA" that has bene in many a photograph, including ours!

Little Lucy and Colin at the White Swan

Here is the indoor waterfall in the main lobby of the hotel

and here is the large carving of a ship

So after we left the White Swan, we had a few minutes of free time before we had to leave for the birthday party.  We ran over to Jordans (a gift shop) and had a wonderful time with the owner.  He is a Christian and had some really neat things.  Tom got a mug with Matt. 16:3 on it in Chinese.  We also got Colin a Bible Story book in Chinese with a DVD also in Chinese & English.  These were items that he was selling for cost directly from his local church.  We were able to find a couple of nice simple gifts for the loved ones.  Of course, as it happens, the gift shop was right next to the ..... CHAMBER OF COMMERCE!  I couldn't resist taking a photo!  Perhaps we can write this trip up as research?  Bryan?  Just sayin'!

Now, it is on to McDonalds and the birthday party.  Don't laugh!  Both boys had fun and there were limited options for such short notice! LOL

Even though we weren't expecting it, we got the full treatment! 

 Our guide presented us with a special candle for Colin's cake.  It is something else!  Take a gander at this video.

We had such a fun time!  This afternoon we relaxed in the room and this evening, we had dinner at IKEA.  Great prices, decent food, but NO TABLES!  It was so crowded that we had to stalk people to get a seat.  Not much fun. Now we are sharing the leftovers of Birthday cake and getting into bedtime mode.  Colin is happy as a lark with his headphones on listening to his new CD.  Funny to hear him singing along with the headphones on. LOL 

Tomorrow is a free day and we will be totally on our own, so I'm thinking that it might be a movie marathon in the room sort of day.  Needless to say, we are all a bit sick of fast food. Almost everything we eat here comes with a remark from Tommy that, "This is ok Dad, but it's not as good as YOURS!" Of course, he is right. Tom is a wonderful cook and I suspect that we will not be eating out for some time once home.

Now that we are almost done with the official business of the adoption (Wed. is our last appt.) we are wishing we had tickets to leave before Saturday.  Looking into the options to leave earlier, but not sure we can.  Waiting to hear back from the travel agent now.

Hope you all enjoy a productive day! 

Keep those comments comin'!  We love getting up each day and hearing from "home".


Sunday, August 28, 2011

Touring Day in Guangzhou

This morning there was no driver, so we had to catch a cab to the other hotel and meet up with the two other families and our guide.  We started the day at Sun Yat-sun Memorial Hall.  He is considered the "father of the country" compared to George Washington in the USA.  It was a very warm day filled with much walking, but we did see some interesting things. 

While we were in the amphitheater, a man approached our guide and asked if he could take pictures of Tommy. (Here we go again!)  She asked us and we said yes, so he posed for a picture with Tommy and Elsie took the pics.  So, thinking that this was the end of it and moving ahead with our group, I notice that this man is following us all over and snapping pictures of Tommy.  He wasn't creepy, just completely enthralled with his fair skin and blond hair.  Then, he asked for Elsie's email address and said that he would email her the pictures.  The funniest thing was that as Elsie was taking a large group photo of all the families together, there he was again, snapping away.  Finally, he asked her if he could get IN the photo with the whole group.  So, once again she grabbed his camera and took a picture of him with us.  It really was quite comical! 

This rock has chinese writings carved into it that spell out some of the positive attributes of Guangzhou.  My Chamber of Commerce Colleagues would have been proud. It was a memorial to the city of sorts.  As you can imagine, as Tommy posed for this photo, there was more than one camera at work.  After the memorial, we headed over to one of the most famous Buddist temples in China.  The "Six Banyan Temple". 

It was such a surreal experience for me to walk through this temple and see all the local people who were there burning incense and worshiping these statues.  It was an opportunity to talk to Tommy about idolatry and why we have no need of idols because we have Christ.  I kept listening to the guide share about the history of Buddism and Taoism (its predecessor in China) and felt so deeply sad for these people.  Of course, I wondered what religious background, if any, Colin experienced so far in his life.

These "Kings" are in a place of signifigance as protectors of the Budda.  People were swarming to bow before them also.

Two of the three buddas in the temple.  Each represents the past, present and future lives that Buddists believe they have.

Buddist Monk.  One of the families that we were with asked him to preform a blessing on their new child.

While it was an architechturally beautiful place, it was a sad place of lost souls.  There was, however, a bright spot---no-- a wonderful part of this visit.  While we were learning about one more in a long line of "buddas", one of the husbands from our group asked Elsie if she had a religious belief system.  She did not bat an eye and responded, "yes, I am a Christian."  I was suddenly very relieved.  I asked her if she experienced any problems in China as a Christian.  She said, no.  She explained that there was freedom of religion in China (not sure if that is true all over, or even if it is true by our definition) but that was her response.  I mentioned to her that I was concerned about how Colin might respond to our faith.  It was then that she told me about a conversation that she had just had with our son.  Apparently, she had mentioned to him (in Chinese) that she did not believe in Budda.  His reply was, "I don't either!"  Praise the Lord. That is a good start. I relaize that not believing in Budda is a long way from a relationship with Christ, but it sure did make my day!  It hurt my heart to think that he would participate in such a futile system of worship.  For all you prayer warriors out there, please join me now in praying that Colin's heart would be open to the gospel and that he would find a lasting relationship with the Lord while he is still young.

Once our tours were over, we all drove over to a nearby Mall and ate at a nice Malaysian restaurant for lunch.  The food was quite good.  After lunch, Elsie hailed a cab for us and we came back to the hotel.  While at lunch, I mentioned to her that we wanted to find a bookstore so that we could look for the Chinese print of the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S.Lewis  I wanted to get Colin some good reading materials that I thought he would enjoy, but that I could be sure were age appropriate.  I received this set of books when I was a little younger than Colin and I loved them. In fact, I still have them.  I figured that once Colin has read them in his own language and knows the stories, it will help him navigate the English vocabulary when he reads them in English.  We will present these to him tomorrow when we celebrate his birthday.

Now this beauty, was also purchased today by special request.  We were asked by a fmaily member to get them a "lucky cat".  Of course, I had no idea what a "lucky cat" was, but apparently it was not that tough to figure out.  The hand of this cat waves forward and back to indicate prosperity or "money grabbing".  So, if we can get it home without incident, it's all yours friend!

Hey Kim--- this bookstore was unbelievable.  HUGE= five stories. But, it was like manuevering in an ant colony.  I have never seen so many people.  We were fortunate not to lose Tommy in the crowd.  The store is a few blocks away from the Westin.  Don't have an exact address for you, but well worth the trip over there.

Love to you all,

Happy Sunday to you all!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Day One in Guanghou- Medical Day

What a delightful rest we got last night. Despite the fact that we went to bed much later than normal after our 4 hour flight, we slept in very nice beds and awoke much more rested.  Thanks to my Brother-in-Law, we were able to get a very good rate for the Westin Hotel in Guangzhou, so we are being pampered.  It does mean that we are about 15 minutes away from The Garden Hotel where the other WACAP families are staying, but SO WORTH IT!  McDonald's is right across the street and IKEA is down a block or two. 
Most importantly, THIS HOTEL HAS A POOL!  I have two very happy boys!  We will take them down before dinner for their first swim. 
Below is the incredible view from our 33rd floor window.  The stadium is really nice and I bet there have been many a person who booked these rooms to watch concerts down there!  The second picture is out the window to the left. There are gardens on top of the buildings and this morning at 6:15, we saw someone doing their morning stretching exercises out on the rooftop patio. 

Today's agenda?  Visa Photos and Medical Exams.  We were picked up by the guide's driver at 9AM and taken over the The Garden Hotel to get the other family (Dad and his new daughter-- #6 for them (fourth adoption).  Then, we all went over to Shamian Island together and got visa photos taken.  Then, we went to the...

Upon entering, we were taken back to a waiting room, but weren't there long before Colin was taken to his first station.  The Doctor listened to his heart and then I stepped out while he completed his exam.  No majot areas of concern.  After that, he was checked out by the ENT doctor.  Because of his age, he also recieved a vision screening and had his blood pressure checked.  Then, weight, height, and temperature. Everything looked good.  He was given a TB test and we will go back on Monday to have that read.  This is the one thing that could keep him from being able to leave the country, so we need to pray for a negative result.

ENT check

Vision screening

Height & Weight
TB test- his eyes got really big when he saw his skin bubble up. LOL

Vaccinations 1&2 in left arm....


Vaccinations 3&4 in right arm. Ouch.  No one told him he would be a pin cushion today!

Colin with our Guide, Elsie finishing up some paperwork.

You think Tommy is over all this? :-)
After we left the Medical Center, we walked over to the park area via the boulevard and had lunch at Lucy's.  It ahs a very American menu and was a welcome break from the exotic.  We even got a canned Coke Zero!  We've had so much bottled water that I thought we would float away!
Shamian Island is a pretty place to walk around.  Lots of pretty landscaping and sculptures.  They even had workout machines built into the boulevard area like palyground equipment.  It was pretty interesting.

Tommy playing hopscotch with the only friends that don't talk back! LOL

After lunch, the guide took us back to our respective hotels and we were on our own for the rest of the day.  Tomorrow, we go sight seeing with two other families.  Our itinerary indicates that we will see Yat-sun Memorial Hall and Six Banyan Temple. (Whatever they are!) :-)

This afternoon we took a short walk (2 blocks) to IKEA.  We laughed that we left America, flew to China, so we could shop at a Swedish store! LOL  We had an IKEA when we lived in Minnesota, but the closest one to Charleston now is Atlanta.  Plus, we were able to treat the while family to ice-cream cones and a drink for about $1 USD. TOTAL! NICE!  I see more afternoon snacks in our future there.

By this time, we knew we had to hit the pool or face mutiny, so... down we went.  Colin surprised me in that he was perfectly comfortable with holding his breath under water and he took right to the goggles, but he looked like a frog!  He had no idea how to move in the water.  He will be a great candidate for some Thoma Schooling "Pool School".  Polish up your Chinese, Thoma!

Thanks for your continued prayers friends.


Friday, August 26, 2011

Made it to Guangzhou

Colin loved his first plane ride and we are now safely tucked away at the Westin Hotel.  Headed to bed now, but we go to get Colin's Medical exam tomorrow morning and will post more then.

Good night all!


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Touring Day

Today was a day with no itinerary and no scheduled meetings. The only adoption related event yet to be completed is to pick up Colin's passport which the guide will do for us tomorrow morning.  So, the day started later than normal so that George (our guide) could go pick up our notarized and translated documents from the Civil Affairs work.

We met him around 10am and went in search of Colin's "finding place".  We talked with him on the way to make sure that he was ok with us going there.  He gave his consent and we all went together.  Through the interpreter, Tom told him that we were very glad to be there to find him "a second time".   This is the address that was in his file where he was found as a baby after being abandoned.  Since it had been 14 years, many addresses had changed and the #36 no longer existed on that street. 
 There were many older buildings

surrounded by lots of newer ones

George stopped and interviewed several locals about the neighborhood and they all concluded that the numbers of each building had been changed several years back.  But, the street was only about 2-3 blocks long, so we knew that he was left somewhere in that vacinity.  One older woman who was sitting in a small hotel office asked Colin if I was his Mother. He said yes.  Then, she asked him if he could understand me and he shook his head no, with a smile and a shrug.  George said that she was thanking us for giving him a family. 

As we took a short walk around the  neighborhood and headed back to the van, Tom spotted a nice fruit stand and we walked over and bought some pears for Tommy (his favorite!).  We will enjoy those after dinner.

It was important to me that I see with my own eyes this piece of his history.  I knew I might never get that chance again.  It is hard to put into words, but I had to walk down that street.  I imagine what it must have been like for his Mother to leave him on that street in order to give him a chance at a better life.  Unlike a lot of abandoned babies in the US, in China, most are given up because of poverty and fear that the birth parents can not provide as well for their children as the state can.  Since Colin is healthy, I imagine that poverty was the main driving factor in that decision, although I will not ever know for sure.  I am grateful to that woman, no matter the reason.  I am grateful to his foster family who obviously raised a sweet, loving and respectful boy.

After we left that area of town, we headed over to the Imperial Palace.  This is a significant piece of Shenyang (and China, for that matter) history.

We had the boys dress up in traditional mongolian costume from about 200 years ago.
Here is Emporer Colin and Prince Tommy.

 (Yes, it was hot, and yes, Colin was slightly embarrassed-
 Isn't that one of the privleges of parenthood?)

Tommy with our guide, George.
We learned today that Tommy was born in the year of the monkey!  Is ANYONE surprised by this cosmic revelation?  Really?  You don't say....

George asked our driver what type of souvenir would be appropriate from Shenyang that was culturally or geographically significant.  He told us that Shenyang was most famous for their feather art.  They create magificant pictures from various colors of bird feathers.  He took us to a gift shop near the Palace and we saw some really cool (and expensive) pieces.  However, they had small square frames with the birth symbols in feathers. So, we got Colin one with an ox and Tommy one guessed it- the MONKEY!

Angie & the boys in front of the 8 different imperial military uniforms denoting the eight various ranks of the royal guard.

After we left the palace, we stopped at one of Shenyang's most famous restaurants:
The Lao Bian dumpling restaurant in Shenyang is very famous, as it is the original location of the now nationwide chain.  Lao Bian is one of the oldest restaurants in Shenyang, and it did not disappoint.

Here are the boys enjoying these delicious sumplings.  Doesn't Tommy look like a pro?

Now, as we left our lunch, we decided to stop for those gift items I mentioned earlier.  What happened next was quite unbelievable.  (Except to Kim who said this would happen!)  We walked into the gift shop and George led us up the stairs to the second floor.  As soon as we walked up there, we began looking at the feather portraits.  Within seconds, literally seconds-- we were mobbed- wait!  Did I say WE?  No, no. Correction. Tommy was mobbed by a large group of young girls!  Each one was speaking to him in English and asking him questions. Then, out came the cameras!  It was like the LA Papparazzi!  Each one bending down to take a picture with the "beautiful boy".  Tommy was a little overwhelmed and unsure how to handle it.  I stayed close by to help.  It was the funniest thing I've ever seen.  You would have thought that it was Justin Bieber!  Tom got a few pics on his phone, but I won't be able to post them until we get back. 

The last stop of the day was the park near the hotel with the statue of Chairman Mao. 

Finally, we were done with the tourist "to-do" list and headed back to the hotel for a couple hours of rest.  At 6 PM, we met George again and we walked to a small noodle shop.  It was your typical fast food style place, but the menu was, anyone? anyone? Yep, NOODLES. Lots and lots of noodles.  Colin was the only one who ordered spicy noodles and he quickly regretted it!  Poor boy had watery eyes and a red face just a couple of bites in.  He was either too embarrased or too stubborn to stop eating it.  Finally, about 1/3 of the way through this HUGE bowl of noodles, he ran off to the bathroom to recover.  While he was gone, Tom took his bowl away and gave him the rest of Tommy's noodles that he hadn't finished.   It was quite a window into his personality for sure!

Once we walked back to the hotel, George agreed to visit with us in the lobby lounge for awhile so that he could translate for us. We ahd a very nice chat about anything and everything including the fact that Colin plays the SAX!  Can you believe it? 

** Pictures compliments of the Shenyang SWI Director-- They gave me a DVD with about 175 photos of Colin from the last 3 years.  It is a treasure I can't describe. Having even a small glimpse into his past is a blessing that most adoptive families never get. 

Well, I suspect he is very much a beginner, and he admits he cannot read music, but how cool is that?  (For those bloggers who don't know us well, Tom plays saxophone too and has for decades, so he couldn't have stumbled into a better situation!  Anyone else see God's hand in this situation? {Smile!}

Well, that will be good night for now.  (Or in your case, most likely, Good Morning!)