With so many friends heading to China soon, it has made me go back and remember our trip of a lifetime. I kept a written journal while in China so I thought I would share it here..No need to read the whole thing as it could be long but the trip was indeed everything I wanted it to be...I get chills thinking about the whole thing.
Wed March 11, Kim P arrived at 330 in the morning to take us to the airport..I didn't sleep at all but knowing how much help we had at organizing and packing we knew we had it together. But, knowing it was the last time in LM's room without her was a sweet moment. So we headed out to the ATL airport and got there in plenty of time. Our first flight was from Atlanta to Newark and it was a very small plane and we ended up waiting on the flight for some repairs.. No worries though..We got to Newark and had a 3 hour layover, had a hot dog lunch and did some reading, talking and people watching..We were going to get our sweet girl. Next flight from NJ to Beijing was flippin awesome. Had an empty seat between us and was able to watch 2 Nicholas Sparks movies and some Friends episodes..It was cool. Halfway through the flight, we switched to China time and China food. It really was a great, long flight..
Getting close to landing we saw China up close. It was crazy..We were in a different world. We were in our daughter's country. So very surreal. Note to everyone, never had to use a squatty potty but did see my first one at the Beijing Airport. After we got our luggage, we found another family from our travel group. Ended up being the other family with a child from Swallows Nest. We worked our way to the front and looked for our guide but could not find her/him so we made a call and there they were. We found our van and headed to the hotel. Couldn't help but just stare at everything around us. It was hard to soak it all in,, knowing our little girl was going to be placed in our arms..She had just a few more sleeps before she met her forever family.
The hotel was gorgeous but we were ready to get to our room. The plan was to try to stay up until 8pm China time and I think we did it. Found some more travel group members and found our room..AWESOME!!!! This truly was a trip of a lifetime. The hotel had 2 restaurants (we did not know that) and that night ended up in the traditional Chinese one..Yummy. We walked around outside a bit before calling it a night.
The next morning we got up and had breakfast and met our group on the bus. Our group rocked..I'm not kidding. Loved everyone.. So many special conversations before we got our kids. So many encouraging words from families who had been there before and those who had been mothers before. So we got on the bus and headed to Tianemen Square and the Forbidden City. Holy Cow it was COLD! Loved it. Some of the men quickly bought little hats that said Beijing 2008 from a vendor. Lots of walking, lots of culture, lots of picture taking. This was the first time we had disabled adults begging for money. That was one of the hardest things of the trip, walking away. After that we headed to the silk factory. Michael got a beautiful shirt while we were there. We headed to lunch at a restaurant that had various foods at a table that we shared.First of a few meals like this. Once again, great conversation with our group. Our travel guides for Beijing were Oscar and Barbara..Oscar loved American culture and serenaded us with Run DMC's "Tricky" and a few others..We learned he is also a big fan of Forrest Gump.
Headed back to the hotel and had dinner at the Western restaurant. Michael had a bacon burger and I had spaghetti. We met downstairs and headed to the Acrobatic Show. Not everyone went, but it was so worth it.
The next day we got up and had an awesome breakfast that included Mango juice. Really neat things at the restaurants including a lot of American traditional foods. Had another busy day as we headed to the Great Wall. WOW!!!!! Beyond beautiful. Actually on the way to the great wall, we headed to the Jade Factory where LynnMarie got a very special piece of jewelry..This was a really neat place to visit. At the Great Wall, we saw Buddhist Monks which is something you don't see everyday. This was neat. A different land, a different culture. There is life outside of America. I can not tell you how eye opening this trip was. After another great lunch we went to the ceramic factory and watched them make some amazing things. Dinner and rest time followed.
The next morning (its now Sunday) we packed up and headed to the airport to head to the Henan province. Its getting more and more real every day. We had our luggage weight and took lots of pics. We had so many cool people with us..A very special 8yo name Anna kept us and LM entertained. her mom had lived in China and spoke Chinese very well. Anyway, this was a quick flight, just over an hour. Very uneventful. We landed and got emotional again. We were just an hour away from our babies. I wondered what she was doing. Did she have any idea that her life was about to change? You see she had to leave her wonderful foster home and go to the orphanage for a week. What was it like? Things I worried about and prayed over. In less than 24 hours, the Christophers would forever be a family of 3. Seeing the crib being brought to the hotel room was crazy. Make sure you get a picture. It was too much to handle and tears came throughout the day and my dream was becoming reality. Evelyn and Aisha met us at the airport and gave us a rundown on the next day. WE learned they put us in 3 time frames to get the babies and we were first. This time we stayed at the Crowne Plaza and once again it was beautiful, lots of rooms. What a long day..Many of us had dinner at the Italian place at the hotel and it was yummy..The only way to get diet coke in this city is at restaurants. We did some walking around and Michael found a few cans so we savored them. HAHA!!!!
We got back to the hotel and I packed my first diaper bag for our big day tomorrow..I waited a long time for that. Its those moments that make me appreciate the wait for my daughter. I take joy in so many little things. We unpacked and visited each others rooms... We all got a ong FABULOUSLY .If you remember, our original travel group got divided since it was so big, we got in the right group..Thanks again friends!!! Going to bed that night was hard but we did get a few hours.
March 16, 2009, the day my hopes and dreams became a reality. A surreal but colorful memory. For all of us. Woke up and had the best breakfast ever..Yeah for mango juice... Many of us could not eat much as we were moments away from this moment that would change our lives forever. You just cant describe it. My LynnMarie ChunAi was just around the corner from us. Back up to the room and got to our meeting place 15 minutes early than we needed to. We found another dad to come video and take pics since he was not getting his daughter for a few hours. LM day was here. We had our paperwork. Then we walked and my brain went crazy. What do we do? It was the longest walk EVER.. We walked a few blocks and then into the building and up 5 floors. Then we were seconds from our daughter..there are no words for the feelings we had. I hope I never ever ever forget these feelings. We walked down the hallway and all of us parents were so quiet. We could hear noise. We assumed we would go in a room and they would bring them in. I thought I saw LM in the window and I started getting so excited but I calmed myself down. Then we walked in the door and I told some lady Lu Chun Ai. She repeated Lu Chun Ai and then and THEN, the most wonderful child was handed to me. I felt our smiles cover the room. She stared at us, "Like, WHO ARE YOU CRAZY PEOPLE?" She was so bundled up. I kept saying, I love you ChunAi, We love you ChunAi. Michael and I teared up as we just stared and watched her. We found a place to sit and we just talked to her and touched her hands and it took us about 10 minutes before we realized she came with her braces on her feet. She also gave us our first toothy smile. Amazing Amazing moment. God walked us through this journey. He had this thing orchestrated so long ago and it all came to be at this moment. This little girl has a story like no other. She has been through a lot and yet she smiled..WOW
We spent about 30 minutes in the room and all the families walked over to get passport pics taken. Daddy held her a lot here and man it was beautiful.
Eventually we walked back to the hotel, got her into some cooler clothes and stared at her sweet little body..Totally forgot I didn't have a bottle but a great travel member gave us one and she got some watered down juice until her formula arrived later that night. Poor baby was used to 6 bottles a day and was thirsty..Sorry baby!!!! She went to sleep so easy that night and just woke up once. It was neat to see Michael and I take turns getting up with our daughter...
We got up and had our first breakfast together . She loves bananas and rolls we learned..We did more paperwork and headed to the Lotus Center which is like a Walmart. What a cool place..Actually I thought I was stared at most of the time but apparently I was just paranoid..After a 2 hour shopping spree of getting journals, diapers, formula and other baby items, soda and snacks. Had a lovely couple come and look at her and speak sweetly to her until they saw her fingers and they just gave us a look and walked away..Yeah, didn't like that much. LM had a nice nap and that night we had room service and had dinner as a family.
We quickly learned the word "boom" makes her smile.. Well this night, she woke up at 3am and just went back to bed. It was so fun to dress her and the way Kim had me pack her outfits made it very easy.. I had not brought any bows or barrettes but another friend let me borrow one.
Michael was such a hands on dad. I was so proud of him.
The next day was paperwork and more paperwork and then lunch at the hotel with friends. We visited each others rooms and talked to each others kids and was beautiful to see all of these families. Some families had a rough adjustment but handled it well . We did go to the aquarium and the zoo in the city while we were here!
We were blessed with the opportunity to visit the place where Lynnmarie had lived the past year. Miss P picked us and another mom up and we taxied to the Swallows Nest. We visited both homes, visited with the nannies and took lots of pics. I walked into the babies room and the nannies grabbed LynnMarie. It was obvious that they loved ChunAi. What an incredible experience. So many kids are waiting for homes but they are taken care of until they find their forever homes.. Thank you C&P for all you do and making our trip that more special.
For dinner that night we had Italian again. Michael walked down and ordered and we ate in the room and got to know our daughter some more..What fun times. We started packing as the next day we were flying to Guangzhou .
The next day at the airport, someone working in the gift shop offered her some baby candy and she loved it. The travel group was very happy to find western toilets again.ha! We got on the plane and sat in the last row. This was a rough flight. Didn't like it but once again it was short. Lots of turbulence. LM slept most of the time in daddy's arms. Found our final guide and got everyone on the bus..We were all tired and thirsty but ready to see the White Swan!
It was so nice to get there..The rooms were nice but smaller than the ones we had been in. The plan was to order Papa Johns (they gave us menus on the bus) but we followed the crowd to Lucy's. LynnMarie learned that she loves mashed potato and although I wanted American food, we both ordered sweet and sour chicken..What a very nice relaxing meal. After dinner we found a place to do laundry and stocked up at 7 Eleven for tons of water and coke zero. Someone in our group did a Walmart run for formula as well!
The next morning we had a fabulous breakfast and then explored the island a bit and walked around. We didn't wander the different places before we did our laundry but almost every store offers it. We still got a good deal and we were tired. But, walk around before you do it and you will find some really good deals. We also borrowed a stroller for LM and glad we did. Made our walks much more bearable! Oh yeah once we were in the hotel I learned our formula spilled all over our clothes but I was able to find more on the island later on. For breakfast, baby girl enjoyed bananas, steamed rolls and scrambled eggs. We enjoyed visiting our group more and we were happy to see the playroom at the hotel . We took a group tour and and visited a museum and a market where we bought her first Chinese dress. Should have waited but whatever. the museum was gorgeous and we found a beautiful piece and were considering it. We got the price but it was way too much. Then she saw LM and gave us the "adoption" special. Not sure it was a special, but it sure was a good deal. At the museum we saw a class of young kids taking art class and drawing pictures of the museum. On the way back, our bus got pulled over by the "police". happens a lot with "nice" buses but our guide was so nervous. We were quickly on our way. There was a store across from the market and that's where we got our formula.
We got back to the hotel, had nap time and VISA pics done. They always have you back in your room for nap time. Then we headed out for a Thai dinner. It was good. We were not too adventurous but we had a good time with our group. We had been doing baths with some of the pre-soaped bath cloths but got our first bath in the sink at the White Swan..She loved it. We went to bed pretty early. LM got up at midnight and 3 but woke smiling..
The next day we had breakfast and some shopping . We had our medical appts that morning which was not difficult. We did learn sweet LM had an ear infection so we got an antibiotic there and started on it that night. You would never had known she had one except for the pulling of the ear. Everyone knows when you pull on your ear, you probably have an ear infection. Silly mom who is a nurse just thought that's just her..Oh well. I learned. We played in the playroom and met some new friends and some of our travel group. We enjoyed our time there and found the kind of toys we may want for LM as she grows.. Good times. After lunch we had the Red Couch photos and dinner.Loved all of this.. You know what the red couch means and when its your turn, you just cant believe you are really here with your child..AMAZING!!! Dinner was at Lucy's and we had cheeseburgers. And everyone is right, try the broccoli at Lucy's, it rocked!!! LM even loved it! She made a BIG mess that night..But everyone else did as well..So I don't forget, there was a nice Starbucks. I'm not a coffee drinker so we never went but others went several times that week. We gave her her bed time bottle and she went to sleep immediately.
Next morning was a quick breakfast as Michael had to do some consulate paperwork..Note to others, when you make copies of things, don't make colored copies. Its hard to determine whats a copy and what is a original. That was our problem!
We met Red thread Anne at 1pm for some shopping..Michael had to leave shopping early as he was getting sick but LM and I stayed the whole 3-4 hours..Oh that was fun!!!! Got lots of special things including matching pearls for all the girls in the family plus some for LM when she gets married and some other treasures..Also, got to see a whole other side of China..That was way cool!!!
Got home, ordered Papa Johns and just relaxed. I'm sure we did laundry again and hit the 7-11 again as well!
The next morning we had breakfast, and 3 families went to the zoo. It was perfect. Got to know these families even better.I'm not missing a zoo opportunity and the Guangzhou zoo was awesome. It even had bears!!!! Loved it. Weather was cool, sprinkled a bit but we got some good pics and smiles out of it. After Subway lunch and a nap we all headed to the Consulate for the Oath which was quick and simple but to me very emotional. We were there as a family and a lot of other families..they recognized those who had been there before and those who were having their bday that week. that's right, they said LynnMarie's name! We came back to the hotel to change and freshen up and then had our last meal at an Italian restaurant with some of the group.It really was a great group!
Some us walked around for final shopping because everyone else was leaving in the morning. We had almost 2 more days due to our flight.. It was awesome!
We enjoyed some of the shops. There are 2 that sell handmade items to raise money for orphans. My favorite store was Jenny's, shes not the closest to the store but also does laundry, is a Christian and is so personable. Those of you going soon will not remember this but try to get your stroller and laundry from her. Shes awesome!!!
A lot of time, I spent thinking of LM. She spent her first year at Swallows Nest, had to spend a week in an orphanage and then got placed with us..That's a lot of change for my little pineapple head.. I prayed that she would trust us and know we loved her so much.
The next day everyone else left at different times but we were not leaving until the following day at 5pm. So we just spent time walking around, did laundry again and did some shopping. Spent time getting pics, playing the playroom and just enjoying the relaxed nature of the day.
Our final night we went to Lucy's where we both had steak dinners..We made a huge mess so if you ever go there, don't mention our names..HAHA! They did give us a Lucy's tote which was sweet of them.It was so nice to be alone but at the same time, I really missed my new friends.
and our guides..Not to worry, Jason took us to the airport the next day and stayed with us until we had to leave...Great guides!!
Last day we slept in, had breakfast and did laundry again. We did buy a stroller. It was raining. We bought the stroller at the store closest to the hotel. We priced a lot of them but they were the cheapest. We were able to pack while LynnMarie napped and then got ready to leave. Jason took us to the airport and we waited. Really glad we bought the stroller. We got on the flight which had a bassinet seat. Awesome since LM slept most of the way bad for us since they were the tiniest seats ever. But we were close the bathroom. Bad flight as I could not rest and LM had thrown up on me (managed not to get it on herself)..We were sooo happy to land in LA. Once again, I got emotional. The LA aiport was CRAZY. Not bad, just crazy..We managed to get through customs and eventually find a bus to the La Quinta (saying that made LM giggle but you have to say it with an accent). Oh my gosh, the beds there are beyond the best ever and I am not just saying that. Wow I got out of bed just to get back in. Michael took a walk and brought over McDonalds (LynnMaries first American food). Fabulous!!!!! No problems with jet lag..I kept LM up a few hours and we all slept through the night.
The next morning, we went to breakfast downstairs and packed. Michael's cousin who is an actress in the area, came by (with carseat and extra diapers) and took us on a quick tour of LA and Hollywood. Seriously, we may never be in LA again, why not? Saw the Pretty Woman hotel, the Hollywood sign and a whole bunch of other stuff. LM did fabulous in the car. It was great to see cousin Hope too and we hope you guys see her soon as well (hint hint).
She dropped us off at the airport and this time it was much quicker.. Got on the plane and LM took a nap. This was the going home flight. Lots of thoughts flew through my head. We were going home to Atlanta. LynnMarie was home. She didn't understand that but we did. All of these years waiting for a child, God brought her home. I really didnt think I would make it back (fear of course) but God had his hand on our journey. We had about 5 minutes of turbulence 5 minutes from Atlanta and scenes from LOST entered my mind but we landed and we were home. We took our little shuttle and put LM in her stroller (she was awake and it was close to midnight) and lo and behold we saw friends and family. Mom, Dad, Mihael's Aunt and Uncle and Mike and Kim were there with big smiles. We were home!!!
I have learned that home is not necessarily where your house is though, its totally a heart thing if you can understand that.
So that was our physical journey to LynnMarie. Our journey to her began years ago and our story with her is just beginning..
Our God is an awesome God