Thursday, June 12, 2008
(I know, I know, it's been waaaaay too long since we posted. I began this post on June 12,2008 and I am finally editing it today January 11, 2009. We have a friend, Lisa W., who reminds me of that fact every time I see her. Well Lisa, we will try to do better. When I started this trip recap the thought of trying to record all we saw and experienced during our 3 weeks in China became overwhelming. I really do want to record it for Paul William to have in the future. Here is attempt 2, maybe I can do it this time.)
Our second day in China again began with breakfast at the hotel and meeting Lifeng in the lobby. Lifeng served not only as our adoption facilitator for Cradle of Hope Adoption Center but also as our personal tour guide. Most of the time CHAC will have more than one family in China at a time, but as it worked out for us we were the only CHAC family there during June of 2007. That meant we had Lifeng all to ourselves. It was wonderful. Lifeng showed us all over Beijing in his personal vehicle and was a very informative tour guide. He knows Chinese history well.
We left the hotel and began driving north and west through Beijing. The road system there is incredible. We quickly came to realize that the lines painted on the roads in China are simply cosmetic, they serve no useful purpose that we could determine. Chinese drivers have a different sense of road rules than Americans. In China the right of way is yours if you can claim it. To do so simply make sure the front of your car is ahead of the car beside you and you can turn in front of the other driver. The other driver will yield. At one point we were only 200 yards from our exit on the right and we were in the far left lane of a 5 lane freeway. No problem, just start crossing lanes to the right making sure your car is ahead of the one to your right and you can make your exit! There were times when we simply could not watch what was going on as we drove. Traffic does not move as fast on Chinese freeways as our do here. The fastest speed is around 60 mph. The thing that is suprising however is that traffic never seems to slow down much or stop. There is some method to the madness that seems to work for them.
We were heading out to the Great Wall of China. Along the way we stopped at a Jade factory. Here we learned about Jade and watched as the artist carved it into beautiful shapes.
The terrain in and around Beijing is generally pretty flat. As we left Beijing you could see the mountains rising in the distance. After passing through some winding valleys there it was, the Great Wall of China. Until you see it yourself you really can't fathom what the Chinese were able to accomplish with it's construction. While standing on top looking down I asked Greg Jr. what he would have said if he came up the same mountain valley we just did on a horse with an army of men and saw the wall. His reply was, "I would turn around and tell my men to turn their horses around that we are going home!" It really would have been intimidating.
The section of the wall that we saw was at Badaling Pass. Here in the mountains I cannot imagine the effort it took to build the wall. I told Greg Jr. that I could imagine the President of the United States standing at a site like this with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and all the presidents of America's biggest construction companies telling them "I want a wall this tall and this wide built following these mountain ridges". I then imagine them all laughing at him and turning and walking away thinking, "the man has lost his mind!"
After our visit to the wall we stopped at a Friendship Store on the way back to Beijing. The Friendship store is a strange mix that could be compared to a cross between a Cracker Barrel and Stuckeys with a very Chinese flavor. The food was Chinese and good. We enjoyed our meal and wandered through the store for awhile before getting back on the road.
Upon returning to Beijing we visited a "Hutong" neighborhood. This area is representative of how the Chinese have lived for generations. We toured the area in bicycle rickshaws. Our tour guide was a young man not much older than Greg Jr. The guide enjoyed talking to Greg Jr. about American basketball and music. As it turns out the young man was a fan of the American artist "50 Cent". During our tour we stopped and visited a local kindergarten. We were able to wander through and see the classrooms and children. This must happen frequently because the teachers and students didn't seem to pay much attention to the fact we were there.
After the kindergarten visit we stopped and visited a local household. We met the lady that lived there and through our guide she told us about life in her home. It was very hot and we sat on stools in a small outdoor courtyard in the middle of her home. She served us tea and talked about Chinese households. She was very proud that her father knew and served with Chairman Mao. There were photos of both men on the wall in her house. Since I enjoy cooking I was very interested in seeing her kitchen. The woman even lit her stove for me to see how she cooks with a wok. I use the term "stove" loosely here. Here in the states we might call it a blast furnace. The amount of heat generated was amazing.
Our last stop on our Hutong tour was a local Free Market. The market was a large open air building where the local population shops for their daily groceries. Here in the states we might call it a Farmers Market. The market sold anything you could imagine. Fruits, vegetable, meat, fish, poultry and more. All of it VERY fresh. One aisle in the market was spices. The smell was incredible from all the spices mixing together. Greg Jr's. eyes immediately began to water and tear. We had to leave quickly before he was overcome.
We really enjoyed touring the Hutong neighborhood. It really gave us a great understanding of how the Chinese people lead their daily lives and how they have done so for hundreds of years.
After our Hutong tour Lifeng took us to a theatre to see the Chinese Acrobats. If you ever have a chance to see them, do so! They will amaze you with what they do. During many parts of their act you will find yourself saying "that's not possible, a human being cannot do that!"
We returned to our hotel to shower and relax until supper. While waiting I walked to the window and looked out.
From the window in our hotel room we could see a beautifully landscaped area below. Protruding from the ground were large greenhouse type windows. My curiosity was running high. I left the room and walked around to the back of the hotel to find out what these things were. I couldn't find any way to get to the area I wanted to see but found a set of entry doors and inside I could see the top of an escalator going down to . . ?
I went through the door and stepped on the escalator. As I went down what I saw was not what I expected. I don't really know what I expected to see at that point but it definitely was NOT a full size ice skating rink! That's right, an ice skating rink in the middle of an underground shopping mall. A VERY nice mall at that. As nice a mall as any I had ever seen. The mall had all the retailers you would expect to see at any nice mall in this country. I also found a Pizza Hut in the mall.
After returning to the room with this information we quickly concluded pizza was what we wanted for supper. The meal was very good. While sitting there eating it was hard to believe we were not back at home.
Our second day in China was wonderful. We had seen and experienced more than we could have imagined in only 2 days. It was hard to believe we had over 2 1/2 weeks left in China.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
A note about some of the pictures above. The May 2008 edition of National Geographic magazine was a special issue devoted entirely to China. There is a photo in the magazine showing the new CCTV building and the China World Trade tower. In the photo you can see the Traders Hotel where we stayed in Beijing.
The breakfast buffet at the Trader's Hotel is pretty amazing. Anything you want from traditional American to Asian. After a quick breakfast we met Lifeng in the lobby to begin our first day of siteseeing.
Lifeng drove us through Beijing to a parking lot near Tiananmen Square. We walked down the street and descended a set of stairs to a pedestrian tunnel that went under the street. When we turned the corner to ascend the stairs to the other side we encountered the first of many beggars we would see in China. A young man not much older then Greg Jr. was sitting in the middle of the floor with his crutches and prosthetic leg lying beside him. He was dressed in rags and begging for money. We had not even been in China barely 12 hours.
We ascended the stairs and found ourselves standing across the street from the huge expanse of Tiananmen Square. Lifeng led us into the square. Lifeng would stop us by saying "you hold here". We were to hear those words many times during the next 3 weeks. Lifeng would then begin to explain what we were seeing and the history behind it. He was very good at it. He knows his country well.
Tiananmen Square is bordered on one side the the Great Hall of the People, another side by the National Museum, another by Chairman Mao's tomb and the last by the Tiananmen Gate to the Forbidden City. We crossed the square quickly. At the time I wondered why Lifeng seemed to be leading us on a forced march through Beijing. I would know why in a few hours.
Upon crossing to the other side of the square we went through another underground tunnel to emerge in front of the Tiananmen Gate to the Forbidden City. We entered throught the Emporers Gate and again Lifeng said "you hold here". While he was purchasing our tickets to the city we were approached by the second beggar of the morning. This man appeared to be 30 or 40 years old. He was dressed in rags and tears were streaming from his face as he begged for money. Mary Louise and I immediately looked at each other and the significance of the moment was amazing. The man was clutching the lower portion of his right arm just at the point where it ended below his elbow. Exactly like Paul William. If we had any doubts about why we had just flown half way around the world they were shattered in that instant.
The Forbidden City is amazing. (I hate that I keep using that word but I have a hard time coming up with another one.) Lifeng told us that if a child were taken to one room in the Forbidden City each day of their life from the day they were born that by the time they had been shown each room they would be over 27 years old. Many of the buildings were covered by scaffolding and being renovated in preparation for the 2008 Summer Olympics. We saw the largest single stone carving in China. The stone was carved 50 miles from the Forbidden City. To move it they built a road and dug wells all along the length of the road. When winter came the took water from the wells and flooded the road. Once frozen they then slid the carving to the Forbidden City on a 50 mile long ice road. By the time we finally reached the other end of the City I understood why Lifeng seemed to be in such a hurry. If he had not kept us moving we might have been there for days. We were so far from where we parked that it took a 15 minute cab right to get back.
Next we visited a silk factory. We were shown how silk is made from cocoon to final product. We even participated a little.
After the silk factory tour we walked a few blocks to one of Lifeng's favorite restaraunts. The restaraunt was called the Beijing Noodle Shop. Mary Louise said that when we walked in and sat down she finally felt she was in China. We were the only people in the restaraunt that were not Chinese. The food was excellent. Everytime someone entered the entire staff would shout something in unison. I finally asked Lifeng what they were shouting and he told us they were simply shouting out 3, 5, 2 or however many people had just walked in the door. Not what we expected!3
After lunch we visited the Temple of Heaven. Here the Emporer came to ask the gods for a good harvest each year. The complex was very large and again required a lot of walking. There were many people visiting the Temple of Heaven complex. The Chinese people really seem to enjoy being outside participating in some activity. There were people playing cards, playing mahjong, dancing and exercising.
After touring the Temple of Heaven Lifeng drove us back to the hotel. We were finished for the day and relaxed in the hotel after dinner.
Monday, June 09, 2008
Our flight to Detroit was delayed an hour by weather but we were told we would make our connection to Tokyo.
Mary Louise does not like to fly. REALLY does not like to fly. In fact she would rather pull her own teeth! Unfortunately for her the plane we were on to Detroit was one of the rather small 50 seat commuters. The weather was bad and the flight was very turbulent. The flight attendant actually unstrapped from her jump seat and made her way down the isle to check on Mary Louise before the wheels on the plane were even up. I'm sure she broke some FAA regulation in doing so. I reassured the flight attendant that she would be ok and we settled in for our ride to Detroit.
We did make our connection in Detroit. We had just minutes to spare and grabbed a quick bite to eat while sitting at the gate waiting to board the Tokyo flight.
Once airborne we settled in and watched several movies and tried to rest and sleep as much as possible. We were lucky in that we were able to reserve seats with a bulkhead in front of us so we had plenty of leg room and could even prop our feet up. The flight was uneventful, just VERY long. Over 12 hours.
By the time we landed in Tokyo Mary Louise was a seasoned air traveler and she even looked out the window while we taxied to the gate. Once again it was get off one plane and go directly to the next. When we arrived at the departure gate the plane was already boarding. After the 12 hour flight to Tokyo we were looking forward to the "short" 5 hour flight to Beijing.
We landed in Beijing at 9:30 pm on June 9, 2007 China time. It was now 8:30 am back at home. We had been traveling for 24 hours.
Once on the ground we quickly and easily made our way through baggage claim and immigration and out into the airport. Our guide/faclilitator Lifeng was waiting to greet us. He showed us out to the parking garage to his car. I will never forget walking out of that airport. The heat, smoke, smog, and exhaust fumes would knock you down. You could see, smell, taste and feel it. It was overpowering.
The ride into downtown Beijing was great. Lifeng drove us the 30 minute ride to the Trader's Hotel. We checked in and made plans to meet Lifeng in the lobby the next morning for our first day of siteseeing.
We then went to our room. Greg Jr. and Dad ordered room service and Mary Louise went directly to bed. After eating and showering Greg Jr. and Dad quickly followed Mom's lead. We were very tired but very excited to finally be in China.
June the 9th will always be burned into our memories. In fact most of the entire month of June will be as well. One year ago today, June 9, 2007 the Ogle family arrived in China. The day marked the beginning of a 3 week period that changed our lives and our family forever.
The past 12 months have been an amazing adventure for our family. The changes from those first few days in China to where we are today are hard to describe or imagine. Friends told us (warned us) that there would be difficult times, and there were. We prepared as well as we could and planned for the worst and as it turns out we think we got the best.
We finally settled into a routine that seems as normal as any routine can be with a lively 3 year old in the house. Many of the issues we had with Paul William are now resolved. Eating and sleeping are much improved. His language is as good as any child his age. (Maybe even better than some.) He is happy and thriving, and so are we!
Last week we had our one year follow up with our social worker. This was our last visit with her. She will send one final report to our agency who will forward it to the China Center for Adoption Affairs (CCAA).
At times we look at Paul William and shake our heads in disbelief. They REALLY let us be his mom and dad! WOW! How did we get so lucky? People still tell us what a lucky little boy he is, but just as any adoptive parent will tell you, NO, we are the lucky ones.
Part of the reason for this blog has not only been to share our journey to Paul William but to also create a journal so that he will have a record of our lives coming together. Over the next few days we will be posting some of the pictures from our time in China and doing a little recap of what we did, where we traveled and what we saw.
We hope you will enjoy it!
The Ogle family
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
We recently received an email from Ben with a photo attached. Below is a copy of the email and below that is the photo.
Dear Greg and Mary Louise,
Michael has sent me a photo of a painting he has made and I am attaching it to this note.
He asked me to tell you that he wanted the painting to say what he could not say with words. His heart was touched by the great love that you showed by taking an Asian boy.
Some aspects of the painting will be clear to you, but some will probably benefit from a little explanation. The animal at the bottom is a Chi Ling. This is a mythical beast with the head of a lion, the legs and feet of an elephant, etc. He is a bringer of good fortune and, in particular, he brings Chinese babies just as we say the stork does.
In the background are two young men operating a "dragon" show for Chinese New Year. The one at the left holds a pole and there is a globe at the end (which cannot be seen here.) This is the magical Dragon Ball that the dragon chases but never catches. At the right you can see part of the second man who has a pole to support the dragon. Both wear a cloth cap with its ends tied in a bow tie.
This background is done in the schematic way a stencil would show the scene.
At the lower right are the Chinese characters Fong Fong.
Michael commented that he extended the mother's arms to emphasize her love as she holds her child.
Here and there are bits of color to add interest and balance to the picture which is, of course, not intended to be realistic. The overlapping lines - a kind of transparency - are a technique sometimes used in a particular modern Chinese art school.
Michael hopes you enjoy the picture.
With best regards from him and from me,
We were very moved and touched by this wonderful gesture.
Friday, April 25, 2008
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Saturday, April 19, 2008
Friday, April 04, 2008
We are reminded of the question, "how do you eat an elephant?". . . . one bite at a time.
Sunday April 6 2008 marks the 2 year anniversary of our decision to take the first bite. It's really hard to believe that 2 years have passed. At times it seemed as though we would never be seeing Paul William and now it seems he has been here forever. We are lucky beyond description.
What prompted this thought? Well, last night we took another bite. Paul William was lying in bed with mom. They had read their book and mom was going to sleep. Baba walked by the bedroom door and Paul William said, "baba, turn off the light".
What's the significance of a 3 1/2 year old asking his father to turn off the bedroom light? It was the first time. He had never allowed us to turn off the light before he went to sleep. When we first came home we couldn't even turn them off after he went to sleep. He would immediately wake up and demand that we turn them back on.
Some days you take big bites, some days you take little bites and some days your stomach growls all day long.
Last night we took a big bite.
Thanks for checking in.
Sunday, March 30, 2008
Wednesday, March 05, 2008
2. You realize DNA has nothing to do with love and family.
3. You can't watch Adoption Stories on TLC without sobbing.
4. The fact that, if 7% of Christians adopted 1 child there would be no orphans in the world, is convicting to you.
5. You spend free time surfing blogs about families who have experienced the blessing of adoption.
6. It drives you crazy when people ask you about adopted child's "real" parents.
7. You have ever been "pregnant" with your adoptive child longer than it takes an elephant to give birth.(2 years!)
8. You had no idea how you would afford to adopt but stepped out in faith anyway, knowing where God calls you He will provide.
9. You have ever taken an airplane ride half-way around the world with a child you just met.
10. You believe God's heart is for adoption.
11. You realize that welcoming a child into your heart and family is one of the most important legacies you could ever leave on this earth.
12. You know what the word "Dossier" means, and you can actually pronounce it!
13. You have welcomed a social worker into the most private parts of your life.
14. You shudder when people say your child is so lucky that you adopted them, knowing full well you are the blessed one to have him or her in your life.
Saturday, February 23, 2008
It's really amazing what a difference 8 months makes.
Paul William goes to school everyday. Now he is even taking a nap on his mat when the other children do. He has apparently retired as the "nap police". Friday mama took him to a tumbling class after school and he participated and had a great time. This will be a regular Friday afternoon activity.
Since we last posted we have celebrated Chinese New Year. This is the year of the Rat. Paul William handed out traditional red envelopes with money and tangerines to all his classmates and his mom's students to celebrate. We ate a Chinese dinner that night then attended the performance of the New Shanghai Circus at the Princess Theatre in Decatur. There were many other families with Chinese children in attendance. The Circus was great. Some of the acts were better than those we saw at the Chinese Acrobat show in Beijing last summer.
We also had our 6 month follow up at the International Adoption Clinic in Birmingham. Paul William has moved from the 3rd percentile in height and weight when we brought him home 6 months ago to the 50th percentile now. He has grown 2 inches in height and his weight increased from 28 to 35 pounds.
We have added a slide show to the blog of some assorted photos since Paul William came home. Enjoy!
Wednesday, January 09, 2008
Monday night Mary Louise was checking email with Paul William sitting on her lap. She then went to the homepage of the Wuhan Adoption group and when the page loaded there was a picture of a little boy on it. Paul William looked at the picture and immediately said "dede" (little brother in Chinese). Mary Louise asked him if he knew the little boy and he said "yes, that's him". We questioned him further but he clammed up the way he does when he knows something but doesn't want to tell us. Something clicked in Mary Louise's mind and she took out the photo album with the pictures taken with the cameras we had sent to Paul William's foster family before we traveled to bring him home. After flipping through a few pages there the little boy was! Standing holding Paul William's hand.
The little boys name is Noah and he will be coming home to his family in Minnesota next month. We have contacted the family. We believe/hope this may be the younger foster brother that we were told Paul William lived with. Noah's mom said they have been told Noah lived in a foster home with an older foster brother. We will keep you posted.