Today we got up at 4am. Our luggage had to be ready to be picked up by the bellmen at 6am, but they actually arrived 10 minutes early. I learned that I am even slower in the morning than usual when we don’t get much sleep. I got everything ready and luggage repacked in time. After we left our room, we headed to breakfast at the hotel one last time in Beijing. We could not get connected to zoom call our boys, but somehow were able to video call them through Facebook messenger. I am learning there is no rhyme or reason to having WiFi or VPN connections or not. It’s a total crapshoot. So we talked to the kiddos over our breakfast and showed them dragon fruit and other Chinese breakfast items. When we told them that tomorrow we will meet Mia, they screamed with excitement! I bet everyone heard them around us, and I didn’t care one bit! It was so emotional seeing their joy and excitement. They are so much a part of this journey, even though they are not physically here in China. God has really bound us together as one family through all of this and that makes me eternally grateful.
Our tour guide, Alice, helped us to get boarded on our bus to the train station. One our drive, we were one minute late to cross the roads before they began closing for the Beijing marathon. Wow. I missed the Beijing marathon by a few hours! I told John that if we had flown to Zhengzhou instead of taking the early train, I would have had time to run it! 🙂 Yes, I was the only crazy person on that bus wishing to run a race! As we traveled to the train station, or what they call the “railway” station, Alice went on and on about how wonderful it is that we are adopting. Her words were truly touching and it just meant the world to us. She talked about how Chinese people highly respect us for traveling all this way to give Chinese children love and family. Most Chinese nationals cannot afford to adopt, so they respect the people who can give a better life to the orphans.
Alice was a true Godsend during these days in Beijing. We were told that if we chose the train, we would be on our own. Not true. Alice not only arranged the bus for us, but took us through the checkpoints at the entrance, and all the way to the platform and onto the train itself, making sure everyone got on and was in the correct cars. Our group consisted of 4 families in 3 different carriages, and they were very far apart. We were just blown away by the care and attention Alice gave us and we made sure to demonstrate our appreciation through our red envelope gifts.
Once on the train, we had to make sure our luggage was cared for and safe. We had large suitcases and small spaces to put them. Once we got settled, the seats were quite roomy and comfortable. MUCH bigger than if we were on a plane. The air was better and the scenery was just beautiful. I couldn’t get over how FLAT the landscape was, though huge mountains were off in the distance. We saw several cities and a lot of farm land. John took a lot of video of the train ride that went up to over 300km/hr! The total time was 2.5 hours and we arrived in Zhengzhou by 11:30am. It was nice to get into the city early enough to get other things done.
Once we got off, the four of us in the same car sped through the platform to try to find our guide. Since we were in different cars, we got separated from the other families in our group and started trying to figure out where we would meet our guide. Eventually, we split up and I found the rest of our group back closer to where we departed the train. So, after a little miscommunication, we all went to the bus together to our hotel.
The Hilton in Zhengzhou is a five-star hotel, like the SunWorld Dynasty Hotel in Beijing, but maybe even grander. I really don’t know that I have been in a hotel this nice ever. The lobby was amazing in and of itself! We are all on the same floor in this hotel and we need to use our keys in the elevator simply to access it. It is just for CCAI families, which gives us extra security with our new children. We are also given extra bottled water allowance. When we got into our room, we were just amazed at the size and quality of where we will be staying for the next week. Everything is beautiful and much more spacious than Beijing. And the little crib was already set up in our room, just waiting for Miss Mia! It’s hard to believe the time is almost here!
After getting a little bit settled in our room, we were told we had an hour to go eat before going with our guide to the China Bank to exchange the money we need for the week. We chose to go to a recommended Chinese restaurant across the street from the hotel with the Norris family. No one there spoke English, so it was a challenge to say the least. After a while, we finally got seated in the crowded place, and we had to split up. There was a Chinese family between our two families. They tried hard to talk to us and figure out why we were there. Then, they wanted to take pictures with us. We tried to order food the best we could from the menu, but we really had no idea what we were getting. Thankfully, the things John and I ordered were good: 4 little mexican pizza chips (like an appetizer size), some kind of vegetable dumplings (I don’t even remember ordering this, but they brought it out), and a shared pot of noodles and beef (I think it was beef). I tried to order ice water in Chinese, but they looked at me like I was not saying it right and had no idea, so I ordered mango juice from the picture menu instead. It was delicious. Food is difficult here without a translator. You don’t really know if things will be spicy, your drink options are generally Coke, Sprite, beer, or water (usually hot water), and picture menus only tell you so much…it all kind of looks the same. Thankfully, things have tasted pretty good so far. It’s just a lot of noodles, rice, pork, and any vegetable is cooked to death. The water in China is not good to drink, so everything is boiled and hot.
So after lunch, we hurried to make it back to the hotel and meet our guide for the money exchange. Up to this point, we have been able to change money at the hotel concierge, but for this part of the trip, we need much more changed, and that requires a trip to the China Bank. Vivian is one of the guides here, and she took four of our families to do this part. It took about 45 minutes to get the money exchanged, and several papers had to be signed. Our family was the only one who was unable to wire the orphanage “donation” or “child-rearing fee,” which is the largest payment. It has been nerve-wracking to carry that money in a concealed pouch this whole time, but God has protected us and kept us safe. The exchange rate is 6.4 RMB/1 US dollar, so 6x the amount of bills came back to us today in Chinese currency. Let’s say that we will be so so grateful to have this amount given and out of our possession tomorrow.
We headed back to the hotel with a little bit of down time to unpack and get our room ready for Mia. Then, we met the group to go to the local Walmart with our guide, Tina. She helped us to choose formula for our daughter (yes, she will be 3 in August and still drinks formula in a bottle twice a day, according to the new paperwork we received today, and yes, this is very common). We also bought a couple board books with pictures and both Chinese and English translations. Tina helped us to find Chinese snacks which would be eaten in the orphanages as well. It was good to know where things are and how everything works at their Walmart, so that we can do it again on our own as we need. No bags are provided, so we carried everything out in our backpack.
After Walmart, we were pretty tired, so we decided on dinner at our hotel restaurant. We also heard they had burgers there and by this point, American anything sounded like a welcomed change. We still had some ordering issues, but it turned out ok. I’m pretty sure I ordered a chicken club sandwich, but it came back a BLT club with egg. The service was very slow, despite the restaurant being empty, so I ate it anyway. I had no idea how to explain what I wanted or how to know if it I was mistaken by my expectations or not. I was happy to not use chopsticks or eat noodles! 🙂
April 17th is our 17th anniversary of dating. John asked me out when we were 16 years old, and though we had some rough patches, we have essentially been together ever since. It is such an amazing thing that we get to celebrate this year in China! Wow! And not only that, but now April 18th will be a super special day in our home as well: Gotcha Day!!!! I think that we started getting nervous, overwhelmed, any emotion you can think of during and after dinner tonight. We talked with our friends about everything we are anticipating tomorrow (while really knowing nothing), and talking out the nerves made it a little better. We feel so alone in all this, especially since no one can tell you exactly what to expect, but we know we are not really alone.
Tomorrow is a day that has been covered in prayer for a long time now. We have begged for your prayers for bonding, health, and rest. God has carried us every single step of the way, and we pray He has prepared Mia’s heart as well. Tonight, I type this staring at an empty crib. Tomorrow, I will be a mom again. Tomorrow the dreams of a 12-year-old girl come true. Tomorrow, our family will grow to 5. And tomorrow there will be ONE LESS orphan (7 less orphans from our group, total, PRAISE GOD!). Dear friends, I know this is a post that does not contain much fluff, but I ask you that as you go about your day, and as we sleep, that you pray for our Gotcha Day tomorrow. We will be meeting Mia around 10am on Monday morning our time in China, 10pm Sunday night EST in the USA. I have so many questions and I pray for some answers. I pray for peace in her heart. I pray for bonding and an unexplainable LOVE from the start.