Saturday, September 22, 2012

Funny Things

I have a lot of stories to tell, but I thought I would be creative with it this time.

Little known facts from the other side of the world:
  • Calvin’s a little new to escalators and was a little nervous to use them--much like buddy the elf was.
  • In China, Pizza Hut is more like Cheesecake factory, complete with a 20 page menu and long waits. It reminds me of when Taco Bell won the fast food wars on Demolition Man.
  • If you’re an important doctor in China, you do NOT wear a shirt under your lab coat as it gets pretty warm in the clinic. 
  • When checking luggage in China, you may get asked to walk on the conveyer belt and climb behind their desk to help go through your bag. This is normal.
  • Never order the hamburger. The color, texture, and taste are terrible.
  • The hamburger is the best thing on the menu

Top Ten things overheard in Chinese when we’re around (I’m guessing):

10)  “I’m going to need a picture menu over here!”             

9)  “Should I keep taking pictures of him from behind or ask for a picture?”

8)  “Is it me or has he not touched any of the food with eyeballs on his plate?”

7)  “You don’t suppose we’re staring at them too much do you?”

6)  “I think he was trying to say he wants ice in his water.”
     “Don’t be an idiot, give him the warm water.”

5)  “That guy is old enough to be her father--Americans--pfff”

4)  “Lets talk to the Americans!”
     “All I know is ‘Hello”
     “That’s good enough, just say it when they walk by and then we’ll giggle”

3)  “I’ll bet those weirdos use toilets, soap, and paper towels in their bathrooms-- hahahaha”

2)  “I didn’t know Brad Pitt was adopting a chinese boy. (I was short one)

1)  “Wow, is that what a Navy SEAL looks like?” (OK, I was short two)

Monday, September 17, 2012

So much to report. I don't think anybody wants a 3 page blog post, so I'll try to summarize.
Calvin is such a happy boy and so energetic. Honestly, too energetic for a hotel room, small van rides, and appointments for filling out bundles of paperwork. As a favorite at the orphanage (especially by visiting Americans), he was definitely spoiled and that brings some issues as well, but he has a great personality. With these huge changes in his life, we wondered when he would break down and cry and it finally happened. After a small scolding yesterday he cried for a long time yesterday afternoon; he was inconsolable. And then as soon as it began he was perfectly fine again.
On a side note, this trip is a real ego boost for Miranda (and Carson if he cared about girls and women fawning over  him). Everybody tells Miranda how beautiful she is here. Our current guide (female), who has been wonderful, told Miranda right away that she wanted to take many pictures of her everyday. I think the culture must prohibit the women from commenting on the handsomeness of the men :)
After our appointment at civil affairs, we went to the Wanda Plaza--a super upscale mall with stores like  Gucci. Looking around the city, I'm not sure who would actually shop there, but Miranda had fun trying on some things with the employees who had just as much fun dressing her up. My shopping list rarely includes things from Gucci, but I did find a dairy queen, so that made my day. Oreo was the only decent thing they mix their blizzards that I recognized that wasn't a fruit or vegetable. And the bathrooms here (except for at our hotel)... I will not speak of them.
Our guide suggested an Italian restaurant at Wanda Plaza, which sounded great: pizza, spaghetti, garlic bread--we were ready! We split up with the guide for lunch and so the language was a real barrier. I tried so hard to order. The waitress tried so hard to understand me. I don't know what else to say, except that I have new insight into that whole Tower of Babel ordeal. Brilliant. We finally ate a few things, though not necessarily what I was trying to order.
Today we go back to civil affairs to finalize some things, then we will visit his orphanage, and who knows what else--the adventure continues.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

We got him!!

Greetings from Tianjin, China!
I don't have very long, but I wanted to get something down now that I finally have access to my illegal western sites.
We got in late to Shepherd's Field Children's Village after a long flight, but any of you who have ever been on a flight that long know that "long" is not a big enough word. After a really long time, we still had 7 hours left, and the last hour takes 4 hours by itself, so all told I think it was close to a week of flight time.
The next morning we waited as Sara crossed the courtyard to Calvin's building to get him. It's kind of a crazy, surreal moment when you're about to be introduced to your son. Within a few minutes, she was leading him back. We could see him through the window, smiling and bouncing his way to us. I snapped a few pictures and looked back: Robyn was crying already and Miranda looked like she contained more energy than the Tasmanian devil in a straight jacket. Carson was pretty calm until Calvin came through the door, and then he rushed him, apparently trying to win a bet to be the first to touch him--a bet that nobody had taken him up on, but it didn't matter in his mind. I was on picture duty and Miranda on video, and we took turns holding him and talking to him.
I don't think he really knew how to handle it all or what to think, but he was clearly excited and sat with us long enough to get the whole thing documented. He's very sweet and very smart. We went back to our room with him for a while and gave him the Transformers we brought for him and then went to the playground and we all played together. He understands quite a bit of English and speaks some also. He's obviously fluent in Mandarin, but goes back and forth between the two pretty easily. Once in a while he will speak Chinese to us, and Sara laughs because he is speaking Chinese with an American accent as if that would help us. He says "Oh my gosh!" constantly and it is hilarious.
Running low on sleep, but everything is going great! Flying to Hefei today. Sad to leave Shepherds Field, the only place he knows, but he sure doesn't seem to care at this point.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

It's Travel Eve!!

It’s Travel Eve--now or never for the remaining items on our “To Do” list. Nearly every outlet in our house is charging an iPod, iPhone, iPad, Nintendo DS, Laptop, Camera or some other device. Suitcases are being packed, weighed, and repacked. I personally am maxing out my allowable weight (44 lbs for domestic China flights) with some non-perishable food items, as I will be on the China Diet for 2 1/2 weeks. Only slightly lesser known that the South Beach Diet, the China Diet boasts guaranteed results with a strict regimen of granola bars and bottled water. Another important component of the China Diet is to immediately switch your days and nights, so you feel crappy all the time, suppressing your natural desire to consume food.

Here’s our flight schedule for tomorrow:
Cedar Rapids to Ohare at 3:20 (1 hour flight)
Ohare to Beijing at 7:05 (13 1/2 hour flight) -- Grateful for a direct flight!!
With the time change we actually arrive in Beijing at 9:30 Friday night--I believe they are 13 hours ahead of Central Time, so our days and nights will be u.

We’ll be going to Shepherd’s Field (Calvin’s Orphanage) right away, flying to Hefei (Calvin’s province of origin) Sunday. From there, Robyn and Carson will fly to Shanghai on Wednesday, and then through Tokyo to Dallas to Cedar Rapids on Thursday. Miranda, Calvin, and I will fly to Guangzhou (where the American consulate is to complete the adoption) on Friday. The following Friday we take a train to Hong Kong and finally fly home on Sunday. Think that sounds like a lot? Yeah, me too.

Please pray for Calvin’s adjustment, our health, and that all the paperwork is done, and done correctly.

I’m planning on updating the blog daily, and posting some pictures to Facebook. The Great Firewall of China blocks both of those sites from within China, but I believe I have found a way around that by using a VPN. I won’t know for sure until I get there.

We’re so excited to complete this journey! --The journey to get Calvin, and the spiritual parallel journey with our Father who adopted us. Praise God for being a Father to the fatherless and for bringing Calvin to us in His perfect timing!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

We received our T.A.!! That all-important, long-awaited acronym for TRAVEL APPROVAL from the Chinese government.
That is the last proverbial hurdle and we are now on the home stretch, one week from the plane ride to the other side of the world--YES!!  Immediately followed by UGGHH, the plane ride to the other side of the world. The 18 hour detention with a bunch of strangers that no amount of Ipad apps or peanuts can effectively shorten, but it's all part of the adventure.
Robyn woke me up at 1:00 am this morning to let me know that our agency had secured the date that we had hoped for for our consolate appointment: Sept 27. That made our gotcha date Sept 17, and things suddenly got very real. It was an answer to our prayers earlier in the day as our agency had told us that it might not be until November, and Sept 27 was our only hope (apparently the whole Chinese government shuts down for certain holidays for months at a time). As I was trying to get back to sleep a loud summer storm passed through dumping rain and hail--a sound we haven't heard all summer with the drought here in Iowa. It sounds corny now, but I couldn't help but think of God's faithfulness with our travel approval and the generous rainfall, two things long awaited and finally delivered the same night.
Planes, trains, and automobiles. I've been working with a travel agent that specializes in international adoption most of the day. I have a white board full of options. Endless combinations of airports, flights, trains, vans, dates, and even passengers (yes we are still figuring out exactly who is going). The tentative plan is for me to go with Miranda for the whole trip (9/13 - 9/30) and possibly for Robyn and Carson to be there for a week or so at the beginning. We'd also like to stop by Shepherd's field, the orphanage where Calvin is now. We'll have it nailed down sometime tomorrow morning.
Tonight (morning in China), Calvin will finally be told at the age of 6 that he has his very own family now, and they are coming to get him soon to take him to his new home. I put some family pictures in a slideshow and uploaded it to youtube and they will show it to him after they tell him. That's a blessing and only possible because we are have contact with some people at his orphanage. This is the very simple video I uploaded:

Friday, August 24, 2012

Pictures--then and now

A few details...

Chinese name: Huai Chunrui
Birthdate:  06/12/06
He was born with club feet which he has already had multiple surgeries for.
He is fortunate to be living at a Christian, American-run orphanage for special needs children called the Phillip Hayden Foundation (a very worthy charity). The nannies that take care of him are Chinese and speak Chinese, but he surely has spent time with some English-speaking people there too. We're told that the Chinese nannies call him Rui, but his nickname with the Americans there is Jacob Jai or JJ. We will name him Calvin Jacob Jai Rowenhorst.
We sponsored Calvin and began pursuing his adoption in early 2009. The story of that and Charlie's subsequent adoption is for another post. It's been a long time coming, but God is faithful.

This one of the first pictures we saw of Calvin:

And this is a fairly recent picture:

Here it is--Us Plus Six--you had to know it was coming!
A blog seems to be the best way to share an experience like adoption with all of our friends and family, so here goes.
International adoption is volumes of paperwork, waiting, dealing with government agencies, waiting, and did I mention waiting? But... it is also having a picture of an awkward child in a funny sweater from the other side of the world and loving that child more than you even thought possible, longing for the day when you will bring him home. It is meeting him for the first time and hugging him long enough to know that you're not dreaming. It is a new family and an orphan restored to a son.
For the purpose of this blog, we have skipped the boring paperwork and long waiting. As I write this, we anticipate our travel assignment any day now and will likely be on a plane within a few weeks of that (so we're very close!!). I will write additional posts as events unfold and will probably post everyday while in China if possible. Thanks for caring about our family and following along.

Life as we know it is beginning to fade to the background as we anticipate our son coming home, and even though there are surely tough times ahead--in our world, we will celebrate this blessing and answer to prayer.