Saturday, January 17, 2009

A RECAP BY BABA

It was a long journey to my daughter, and a journey I will never forget. There was much frustration in our agency and many nights Dee and I were beside ourselves. However, we persevered in our faith and our miracle was only days away from us. Beaten was the darkness, and yet with one last effort, Deanna and I faced the incompetence of our travel agent. Our plane tickets were purchased on 12/24/2008 and we were not told until 01/01/2009, our first night in Beijing that our flight home would have Dee and I separated. Information that would have been more useful on Christmas Eve. Dee and I would have opted for a later flight when we could guarantee our sitting together. After pleading our case to our travel agent, I decided to email Continental myself. When Dee and I arrived at the Hong Kong airport, we were pleasantly surprised to find out that Continental had accommodated us and we were indeed sitting together on our 14 1/2 journey back to America. Wonder why my travel agent could not help?

Dee and I and Bobby arrived in Beijing to a colder climate then the weather reports had indicated. Not freezing, but still cold. The Novetell hotel we stayed in was nothing fancy but it was a place to hang our hats and we were just grateful to be there. Our Miracle was still a few days away.

Blogging was going to be difficult as there was no complementary Internet in our rooms. And the only free Internet available was down in the lobby on 2 Apple PC's. No Camera card slots either, so picture uploading was not happening. Deanna simply decided to blog to let everyone know we arrived safely.

In any event, we all decided to have a taste of Beijing and began our nightly wonderful explorations. One of the things that caught my eye was all the Christmas decorations littered through the stores. Many windows bore Merry Christmas signs, and there were beautiful giant lit up Christmas trees on the streets. Very pretty. Besides all the lit tree's, the city blocks were also lit by a myriad of store fronts all promising a bargain. The neon in of itself was a pretty sight to behold and casted a sense of safety that might not have been there if the streets were just dark.

Night time also brought forth those who had little money. Many women approached us begging for money uttering the words xie-xie (Shay Shay). I felt compelled to offer something to one women who thanked me and walked away. Well apparently I must have been on some sort of camera because after this, every one looking for money approached me, even going so far as tugging on my shirt. It was difficult to try and ignore them and walk away when I knew many would go hungry that night. I could not help them all, so I offered what I could which was my prayers. Later we would find out that many of these people belong to a ring which solicits folks for money although they are not poor. I am glad I did not know this when I offered a few dollars to one woman. I would rather believe she needed it.

Soon we were all on a plane bound for Nanchang. A place we would quickly fall in love with and a place we would finally be united with our daughter. On this leg of our journey, we all fell in love with our guide SiSi who made us feel so welcome and showed us nothing but kindness. She made sure our stay in her home country was comfortable and enjoyable. She took us to many sights and made sure our bellies were full as we sampled much of the food Nanchang had to offer. Food I still think about today from my home in America. And a dear friend whom I shall miss dearly. Thank you SiSi :)

As great as our first few nights in Nanchang were, we burned with the yearning of finally meeting our Lainy Bug. The Grand Gloria in which we stayed was great and I really enjoyed breakfast here as well. Every morning we would wake at 7, go down to breakfast and prepare for the days journey of sights and sounds. January 4th was quickly approaching and we could think of nothing else.

I can remember hardly being able to sleep on the eve of the forth. Almost as if I was a child again trying to sleep on Christmas Eve. I dreamed of all that Dee and I would do with our Lainy bug, and how our lives were about to completely change. I could not wait :)

January fourth finally arrived and we awoke with the excitement this day would bring. It promised such joy and happiness, and it did not disappoint. That evening, we went to SiSi's room to await Halainah's arrival. We watched as the first family (a family we would grow real close with) received their child. To see Robert and Susan hold their baby for the first time was an event I was honored to have seen. You could see the love emanating from all of them. It truly was wonderful. And then as I turned to look into the lobby, I saw the face I had only seen in pictures. The face I had come to memorize. The face of my daughter! I exclaimed to Dee "Halainah's here!!". And in an instant, all of the frustration we encountered, all the mountains that were placed before us, all the heart ache we suffered was instantly dispelled as our daughter was placed in our arms. Lainy never cried, nor whimpered nor looked scared. She looked at us as though she had known us, as though she recognized us. And it was then that I knew that God not only granted us this miracle, he granted us another. He granted Lainy with the knowledge of who her parents were. There was no separation anxiety felt by Halainah. She knew she was in the arms of her Mommy and Daddy.

And in a blink of an eye, Dee and I were parents. We whisked Lainy to our hotel room where we began to peel the 5 layers of clothing off of her. Her clothes smelled of dried sweat and I wanted my Lainy bug out of them and into some clean clothes. This is not a reflection on the care she received. Lainy was healthy and well taken care of. It is only as window into the conditions many of these orphanages are in. A reason why donations to these orphanages are so important.

Well, Lainy was stripped and immediately given a bath. She cried as we expected. And we consoled her with all our love. Lainy was soon calm and smiling and laughing, melting our hearts with each passing second.

With Lainy firmly entrenched in our hearts and as exciting as Gotcha day was, it was nothing compared to what we did the following day. In a small office in a Civil Affair's building, we completed the paperwork that would make Lainy officially ours. And I believe for me, it all fell into place. She was ours and we were hers. A family now of three, and a tiny child to care for and raise. A future to provide for and so many questions and doubts to how good of a Father I would be. I leave those questions to my faith and to my wonderful wife. We will tackle all together and as ONE.

Dinner with Lainy each night was comedic. She would slurp noodles so quickly, you could not help but laugh. Her smile was infectious and we could not help but fall deeper in love with this little angel. Together we saw wondrous sights and experienced much of what Nanchang offered thanks to SiSi. Parks were filled with exorcising locals, card playing members, and music making individuals. The beauty and traditional China was surrounded by a concrete jungle. The new complementing the old, and the old shining like a star in the night. This culture, and it's people will forever have a special place in my heart. Alas, with all good things, an ending is never far off. Janurary 9th saw us leaving Nanchang and saying a very tearful goodbye to SiSi. And a 2 hour plane ride would now bring us to Guangzhou.

We settled in at the White Swan Hotel. A hotel I admittedly looked very forward to seeing with all the praise that was shared with us by families who had stayed there. Sometimes hype is a very good thing, but in this case, I was very disappointed. Although a 5 star hotel, I really felt as though the service lacked what the lesser star hotels offered. The Grand Gloria may not have been as asctically beautiful as the white Swan, but their service was indeed superior.

Guangzhou was a lot different. It was a tourist spot and therefore did not reflect the wonderful China we had experienced in Nanchang. Stepping out of our hotel we had the distinct feeling that we could have been anywhere in the world other than China. The traditional China we saw in Nanchang was missing from Guangzhou. None the less, we ventured out each day and night stopping to shop in the many quaint little stores. We quickly fell in love with Michael's and it became our shop to frequent. Our first night in Guangzhou, we found ourselves stopping at Lucy's. Another hyped eatery that boasted Chinese food and American. Well, who in the blue heck wants American? We had so many delicious dinners in Nanchang, we wanted to experience more. Well, let me say that I did not love Lucy :) Our food was undercooked and without much flavor. We vowed not to return.

One particular night, we decided to visit another hyped eatery called Cow and Bridge. This is the very same restaurant that would infamously become known between us as the night of the cucharacha. Or secretly, the night Deanna jumped out of her skin :)

I have to admit that up until the cucharacha incident, we were all enjoying the food. That is until I began enjoying the Tai noodles a bit too much. With a wad of noodles in my mouth, I reached down to chopstick myself some more from my plate and noticed what I thought was an almond. AN ALMOND? A closer inspection revealed it's true identity, and I reached for a napkin to discretely and quickly excavate the wad of noodles from my mouth. While Rob and Susan thought I had swallowed a spice that did not agree with me, Deanna had noticed the stow away on my plate and quickly pushed her self away from the table while LOUDLY exclaiming "OH MY GOD!" All the while she was practically in poor Rob's lap who looked very bewildered at Deanna's sudden attention :) Well, after a second, the restaurant went dead silent, and all you could hear was the chinks as chopsticks, forks, spoons, and knives fell upon waiting dishes.

The manager had come over to see what the matter was and the look on her face when we told her what we had noticed in our plate was one of "YEA?" And we were immediately reminded of something SiSi had told us. "In Guangzhou, the locals eat anything that flies except airplanes, and anything with four legs except tables." In any event, the kind manager did remove the meal from our bill and even brought us a plate of fruit. After a quick investigation to make sure there were no other stow aways, the fruit was deemed edible and we all enjoyed.

By the end of the week we were all just ready to go home. And Dee and I looked forward to sharing Lainy with our awaiting family, and all the adventures our daily lives and America would offer. We left Guangzhou on a train to Hong Kong, where Dee and I would bid a tearful farewell to Jiu Jiu Bobby. Bobby was instrumental in our journey providing us not only help, but sanity and comedic relief. We are forever grateful for Lainy's Jiu Jiu :)

As we waited for the train to take us to Hong Kong, Dee stressed to our Guangzhou guide that she wanted her to write our Hong Kong hotel name in Chinese just in case. Our guide insisted that we would have no problem in Hong Kong as most folks spoke English. Well, just as our luck would have it, we got into a cab with the only Hong Kong driver that did not speak English!! Any one who knows us, there should be no surprises there :)

A quick call to the drivers boss, who did speak English, and we were off. 20 minutes later, we arrived at the Novetell hotel. The room was beautiful and my favorite of the trip. It was the only hotel in which I was able to watch Cartoon Network. LOL :)

The early morning called, and Dee Lainy and I were soon on a shuttle bus to the Hong Kong Airport where we finally settled in and braced ourselves for the 14 1/2 hour flight home. Lainy was very restless but otherwise good. Wished we had purchased a seat for her. Good advice to anyone else taking there steps in their own adoption journey. The flight was not without incident. About 10 hours into the flight, we hit massive turbulence. And I mean massive. At one point the plane took such a sharp nose dive, I was sure we were going down. Even with our seat belts on, I felt my rump rising from the seat!! The prayers from my mouth were fast and furious. And it was not long before I felt like ice and my fingers and toes were tingling. A quick trip to the bathroom, and I returned all of my lunch. I needed to visit the bathroom all in all 3 times before I finally was able to calm myself. I was so exhausted after all the returning, and drifted in and out of sleep. Deanna who suffered a panic attack in a flight home from Colorado did not fare well either. However, with some medication, the new Mommy overcame her fear and was able to look after Lainy. Thanks Dee :)

And now we are all home, safe and sound, and I write this blog from the comfort of my home while Lainy sleeps in her new bed and dreams of all that is to come.

As Dee and I look forward to all we will share with our Lainy bug. Even looking forward to the day we can give Lainy a sister (or brother) :)

To all who have followed this blog, thank you for all of your support and kind words. We loved hearing from each and every one of you.

"FOR THIS CHILD I HAVE PRAYED, AND THE LORD HAS GRANTED THE DESIRES OF MY HEART."
-I Samuel 1:27

5 comments:

The Godparents said...

Tony,
It was nice to read your recap. I laughed and cried... I had the opportunity to meet Lainy bug on Thursday evening and her pictures do not give this beautiful child justice. She is truly a dear, and the joy in both your and Deannas face tells all, you are truly a loving family and are making wonderful parents!
We love all three of you very much!
Aunt Bon and Uncle Mario

Natalie said...

Tony, I teared up all over again reading that! What special memories you will have to treasure and share with precious Halainah when she is older. It is a journey that only a select group of people get to share, and that is such a wonderful blessing. I am so happy you are all home safe and sound, finally beginning your new life together. I only wish I could actually meet all of you in real life.

It is difficult not to worry about the kind of parents we will be, but what I know of you, Tony, is that you are a kind and gentle man, full of love for God and your faith. With that, you have all that you need. Probably the only thing I say more than, "Be quiet!" is "Jesus, help me." ;) Following your blog has allowed me to learn some things about Deanna, too, and I know that Halainah could not have been given a more wonderful family. In the pictures from China that you shared, I could see how much the two of you love each other. You have been blessed, that is for sure, but so has Halainah ;)

I have to apologize because Halainah's box is STILL not on its way. I had fully intended to have it sent so that it was there when you got home or right after. I was getting ready to pack some things up the other night and would you believe that right after a move, I could not find a good box to mail it in? LOL! I am putting the finishing touches on everything and will, I repeat WILL have it in the mail on Monday. Really, I will. :)

~ Natalie

Anonymous said...

Tony:

thanks for the up-date....can't wait to see pictures of you guys at home!
Love,
Aunt Ann

Amber said...

Tony,
I have not one doubt that you and Deanna will be/are wonderful parents to Halainah. Thank you for sharing your journey! I cannot wait to meet Lainy. A little birdy told me you might bring her into the office this week? Tell me that's true!
See you soon.
Love,
Amber

Anonymous said...

Tony I love reading your account of everything. there is such a special bond between daddy's and their daughters. lainy is blessed to have you for parents. tony you are a strong man of faith and that is the best kind of father a girl can have and dee defines what a mother should be, fun, loving, and firm in what she thinks. Being a parent is the hardest job you ever do but also the most gratifying! God Bless Love to you all can not wait to see you!
Love
Jenine