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Teaching English in Harbin and adopting from Hefei. Relocating back to America and trying to make my way...Feel free to leave a message!
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Harbin, China

permalink written by  carseat tourist on June 12, 2009 from Harbin, China
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Hefei, China

permalink written by  carseat tourist on June 12, 2009 from Hefei, China
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care package/ fundraiser

Harbin, China

We have sent little guy a care package. When we volunteered in Shenyang at the orphanage we saw that the kids were able to see photo albums of their new families and the staff and the kids would be so proud to show the pictures. The kids would say Mama and Baba(Daddy) and point to the pictures. The orphange staff even would prop the album up so that when they were in the cribs they could see the pictures. We know one family sent a stuffed animal, but when we volunteered we never saw the stuffed animal. So when we found out our son where our son was, we immediately sent off a photo album. We followed a couple of blogs of people adopting from the same orphanage and noticed that it seemed that the kids were getting stuffed animals that were sent, but not being shown the pictures until just before the adoption. That broke our heart. We really wanted our son to know that he had somebody out in the world who loved him and was waiting to make him a part of a family. And we wanted him to be familiar with our faces, so maybe he would be less scared when we met. Soooo....we found the solution. A stuffed animal with a photo face. Actually it's a keychain. The Chinese seem to love keychains. They are always giving them to our daughter and have one attached to zippers, phones, etc. So we think that the staff will think it is very cute and novel. It's personal enough that it should be distributed! We went to a kiosk and had our pictures taken and then they made our face into 3-d plastic model. It is very funny! Then they put it into the keychain stuffed animal. Behind our face they had sewn shut the little critter so that the stuffing was really in there and not going to leak. It is small but seems safe for kids. I think it could be hung on the side of a bed. We sent him a set of our family, mom,dad, sisters, and him. We kept another set for our daughter to see how they hold up. They have held up well. It's great for roleplays. Our daughter kisses her brother toy one minute, then gets mad at her sister and puts sister toy in time out. We got little tigers for dad and little guy and bunny's for the females in our family.
For the second set we got tigers and chicks. We got a panda too, its a little bigger and more like a small beanie baby size.
I like the small ones best. Anyway, we'd be happy to send a set of any other adoptive families to their orphanage. I talked to the maker and they started in Japan and are only in a few places in China so far. The pictures have to be high resolution so the referal photos might not work, I was lucky and had a picture that someone else had taken on their digital camera so it worked. We thought having his little face on a toy was a bonus, our main goal was sending our love with an image of us he could hold. Little ones are $5 and the panda is $8 plus actual cost of shipping and we are in China so shipping is quick and not too much. Email cbilik01@gmail.com if we can help you out.

permalink written by  carseat tourist on June 18, 2009 from Harbin, China
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One step closer

Harbin, China

We bought the tickets to Anhui today!!!! As always it was not as easy as going to Expedia and few clicks you're done. The chinese airlines don't take foriegn credit cards online. So, our previous ticket purchases had worked out that we found the rate we wanted and then went to a travel agent and bought it. In Dalian, we had the best boss ever, and they would get the travel agent to come to us and deliver tickets, it was so great. That was last year, in another city. So we printed the list of tickets prices from Elong (Expedia's Chinese cousin) and jumped on the bikes and went to where we bought the tickets for trips last year. Except, they were gone. The subway is being constructed infront of our univeristy and the roads are torn up and detours everywhere. So since the detour led everyone on the road away from their shop, I guess they moved or something. I knew there was another one a few blocks down. Since the road is torn up the sidewalk has a big baracade edging the road. Blocks and blocks of these baracades. We were on bikes so we thought it wouldn't be a problem. Some stores or restraunts had done away with the sidewalk, and have grand staircases. So we ended up carrying our bikes up and down these stairs. It was just crazy. The new travel agency was empty, and had 4 ladies working. For some reason the woman who chose to help us didn't speak English. 2 of the others had a conversation in chinese that I understood as, "oh, I can't remember anything in English, just a dialogue about the weather" Her coworker, then said, "I studied Russian." Luckily, we had reviewed our dialogue on tickets and could conduct almost the whole thing in Chinese. I was just so pleased with myself. We didn't get the price we had found on the net, but were able to get cheaper than the next price range of tickets, so we were happy. I even got the child discount for princess. They tried to tell me that she didn't get a discount, but I knew better. So we have the tickets to Anhui!!!! As it stands it is just for the teaching job, but we can hope the fates let us get our son while we are down there!

permalink written by  carseat tourist on June 24, 2009 from Harbin, China
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Chinese kindergarten

Harbin, China

Princess has been going to Chinese kindergarten since September. It is very different from US. When she enrolled, the head of foriegn affairs handled everything for us. So we just paid and dropped her off the next day. The first week she came home speaking all these Russian sounding words. We were confused, but thought great-another language!
So, I asked some of my students whose children also go there if they have Russian lessons. They said no. Then when I went to pick her up, the staff was talking to me in Russian. I think they thought we were Russian since most white folks in Harbin are Russian. It took a few days, but we did finally come to the understanding that we are American. In the beginning everyday, we took her and they redid her hair. At home she won't let us do anything with her hair, but at school she wound up with all sorts of fancy hairstyles. It was the same in Shenyang when she went to preschool. Except they took it a little too far and gave renamed her Barbie. I was mad, but quickly got over it because they couldn't say the "r" in Barbie, so what the called her sounded like "Bobby" at that is my uncle and Grandpa's name so I figured that's ok.
Princess only goes in the mornings. They feed them breakfast at 8:15 and then lunch around 11:30. They don't have a cafeteria so they eat in their classrooms. They have whole rooms of bunk beds for them to take naps. Princess doesn't do naps. The room full of beds really scared her. I think that because we had volunteered at the orphanage, when she saw those beds she thought we were leaving her there. When they feed the kids, they bring the food in big stainless steel buckets. At the orphanage they used plastic buckets. When I first saw the "slop buckets", I was quite taken back. But I think now, I understand that there isn't any malice in the food delivery, it is just practical. The kitchen is down stairs. The classrooms are all over. Instead of big bowls, it is easy to carry buckets. Even in our home the ayi thinks we are crazy when we use a big bowl to cook with sometimes. They use big bowls to wash dishes, clean stuff.
Her class is pretty big, over 25 kids. They have 2 main teachers, then a chinese English teacher comes in a few times a week. The lunch ladies also help out when they are not cooking. Since this is a university, students do community service or student teaching as well. So although the class is very big, they are always lots of adults.
Halfway through this semester, they began teaching pin yin. Before that, maybe they just taught characters. We couldn't decide if Princess should learn pin yin or not. How confusing to learn different sounds for the letters, what if when we take her back to Lummi Island & she can't read English? They handed out little books for homework and Princess was very upset. We thought about giving up on kindergarten, but decided that we would just leave the books at school and what happens there, happens there.
Princess's best friend is a fellow princess who is part Russian. She just loves her little friend. When we went to America this winter, princess suffered from culture shock and would wail that she wanted to go back to school to see her friend. We think that if she missed school that much in America, she must really like it.
On Children's Day they had a big show. It was 2 hours long and the teachers did dances too. It was very cultural. Princess and her fellow princess apparently didn't like the spot light as much as the teachers wanted. Her teacher said about a week before the show, "we wish she would dance like the other children. " It was about that time, that princess became distraught at bedtime when we put in Enya. She'd heard Enya forever and we couldn't understand why all of a sudden it was "the scary music" . At the big performance, her class did a dance to an Enya song that begins with thunder and the Aiy Ayi Aiiiiii chant. The princesses were given the job of running across the stage during the thunder and pretended to yell "Ai Ayi Aiiii" and there was big thunder and the stage was dark with flashes of light. I think she maybe afraid of Enya for life. The rest of the class did a very well rehearsed dance to the rest of the song, while the princesses played off stage somewhere.
Princess has 1 week left of kindergarten.

permalink written by  carseat tourist on June 26, 2009 from Harbin, China
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Beijing, just as hot and smoggy as we remembered

Beijing, China

Rainbow in Harbin right before the last piece of paperwork for the adoption fell into place. It must be a sign of good things to come.
The hope was short lived once we arrived at the train station. I think train stations in China are in a special level of Dante's hell. We have learned that we need to take a native with us, not for the language but for the general know-how of how to negotiate the maze of people and customs. Even our buddy said to us, he hated the place and thought there must be no where like it in America. I tried to explain my theory of where the train station fit in Dante's level of hells, but he had never read Dante. That made me appreciate my liberal arts degree, and I wondered how I might look at things differently if I had just always memorized facts and formulas my whole life.
Getting on the train was off to a good start, our buddy was able to get down to the train with us and was all ready to help us on the train with the luggage when we looked at the ticket again and realized that Chris was not a few compartments different than us, but 12 cars away. So they made a run for the other end of the train. I loaded with the girls. Our car was not full of students. Nor were any other foriegners on our car. Our compartment was not happy to see our white shining faces. In fact one lady on the top bunk started whining and moaning that she could not sleep her with us. Then this dude tried to get us to trade our middle bunk tickets for the highest bunk. Like he was doing us a favor...no thanks! So we squeeze onto our bunks and Princess has grown a lot since our last train voyage. It was not comfy sharing with her. The bottom bunk where you are suppose to get to sit until night time was occupied by two people already pretending to be asleep. Everything was clean enough, but with in minutes the smells of China were everywhere. The conductor came around and collected the tickets. He gives you a credit card one that you carry on the train and then when you get off, they give you back your paper one which you must have to escape the train station. So whining lady sets in on him, but he says in English, "I like America, Obama has a warm heart. I feel kindly towards Americans. I'm learning English" Yahoo, whining lady was truly shoved aside and he told me, " move", so he could talk to teenager. This is always interesting to watch your teenager get hit on, this is the first time someone has told me to move so they could talk to her. I didn't know how to take it, but I was thinking this guy could make my next 10 hours much worse and I was pretty sure teenager was going to shut him down. Teenager is pretty clever, so as he practiced his English, she just answered in Chinese. It was quite funny, and I admire teenagers tact in dealing with him. He took it in stride and said to me, "I'm practicing my English and she's practicing Chinese!"
So with our tickets turned in, we were free to move about. So we walked the 12 cars to see Chris. It took 10 minutes. And what do you know, his car is considerably better. He had the second bunk but there was much more headroom. Nobody was eating in his car, the ac was cranking. So lucky! We only visited for a few minutes because they cut off the lights at 10, and it really is dark.
So we are hurrying back and this guy sticks out his foot and trips Princess. She went flying and cut her shoulder on a ladder. It was so sad. She's a tough little thing, so when she started crying big tears, I knew it was pretty painful. The guy didn't even say he was sorry. We found some female conductors and showed them her arm. You would think they would have a 1st aid kit, but no. The lights went off and we were waiting for a bandaid when this older woman told me she was a teacher of medicine. She wanted to put something that looked like a raison on her shoulder. Our Obama fan conductor came to our rescue. He talked with the medicine teacher and whipped out his nail clippers and popped the thing and put it on Princess. It must of helped, they gave her the thing to use later. Almost all of the conversation took place in Chinese and Princess like her sister is much more fluent than I, but she was really facinated by the medicine thing. She stopped by every emergency lighting fixture to try to examine "the nut".
Back at the bunk...teenager had stayed behind to guard or stuff. Whining lady convinced some guy to switch tickets with her. Well just before the lights went off, both guys on the top bunk striped to their briefs before climbing up to the top bunk. Of course Teenager was not pleased and quite creeped out.
So we try to sleep. About 2 in the morning our Obama fan conductor and a cop came and woke up the guy above us. The very one who wanted to switch tickets with us. Well apparently he tried to use a child's ticket and he need to correct this situation immediately. So in his briefs he climbed down and paid at least 100RMB. And just in case I didn't know what had gone on, the conductors explained to me in English. What was really amazing to me was that he didn't even have a flashlight. The whole thing was done with the shining of the cell phone screen.
We made it to Beijing. There is nothing to remind you of how many people are on the planet like the Beijing train station.
We used the subway to get to the airport, where we caught the free shuttle to our hotel.
We met the social worker and successfully exchanged paperwork. She showed us the gourmet import food store and the best Mexican food in Beijing. And we went to the English book store, before becoming too exhausted

permalink written by  carseat tourist on July 10, 2009 from Beijing, China
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Waking up to birds

Hefei, China

Today we woke up to birds!!! It was so pleasant. After weeks of the coal trucks, then the night on the train, then the hotel on the Beijing runway, we had good nights sleep. We have been in the urban jungle for so long, that we were so happy to hear the birds at 6am.
It wasn't the full chorus that we get on Lummi Island, but it was sweet.
So todays menu has not been our favorite. We are dining in the cafeteria with the friendliest servers and chefs, but the food...
It was registration day for the summer camp. It is actually a residential camp so the folk pay and go. Our job was to talk to the kids while the paperwork and money was being processed. Again, I HATE for profit education. I'd never seen the passing of the RMB before so it was uncomfortable for me. Really, if you look at camps in USA, this one is a steal if you translate the cost to USD. Course in the USA, families make US dollars so it is quite diffeent. Anyway I looked in all of these faces and I saw lots of similiar features to my former Anhui student and just a few that shared features with little guy. I can't wait to meet him.
In the afternoon we explored the shore of the lake. It was really interesting, little plots af gardens everywhere. One guy showed us his big cucumbers and tomatoes. There were huge lotus pads. There were lots of flowers and butterflies and dragonflies.
Princess threw rocks in the lake and said "Now, I like this place!" I hadn't known she didn''t like it before! Teenager has island fever.
At night we had an opening ceremony for the school. Then we took another walk and found the island market. Everything was closing so we will check it out more tomorrow.

permalink written by  carseat tourist on July 12, 2009 from Hefei, China
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Island sightseeing

Hefei, China

Lets just say we saw something mind-blowingly cool. After my months of coal trucks and living by the stack in Harbin, I'm all for this.
Even Teenager thought is was cool.
We didn't have to teach in the afternoon so we could see the sight. We are officially halfway thru the teaching here.Yahoo!
The food has continued to be...well, not what I like.
So Teenager and I took the bus to town for KFC. I have never eaten so much KFC as I have since I moved to China. On the way, this woman tried to sell us this bird. Looks kinda skinny, so I wasn't sure if it was intended to be a pet or a meal. Needless to say, we didn't buy.

permalink written by  carseat tourist on July 16, 2009 from Hefei, China
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Travel Approval

Hefei, China

Yesterday we got our travel approval, yeah! I can't wait to get Little Guy!
It was a really great day because the camp took a field trip.
We went to an amusement park in the morning. Then drove all the way back for lunch and nap time, then went back into town for a visit the the science museum.
Amusement Parks in China are old school. It doesn't mean that they are neccessarily old, but that they are from the pre-over-regulation time period. If you want a thrill, its a real thrill. Safety issues-that's your responisbility, not the operators. I've been to a few Chinese amusement parks, and this so far is the best.
Even Teenager wants to go back.
It had your usual rides, but interwoven was a high ropes course. Of course, there was no team building course. Just the ropes and adventure. Harnesses, nah. We rode the ferris wheel and then did mostly rope and net bridges.
It was very fun. I was totally impressed by the school because we all had to wear our shirts and I thought we'd march around as a group, ride to ride. Yuck, more supervision duty than fun.
Nope, they got everybody in the gate and it was a free for all. Be back at the bus at a certain time, see ya! Great, thats my kind of field trip. At the end there was a small paddock with 3 horses. It was blazing hot, so I thought maybe we shouldn't ride the horses. But then we thought, if nobody rides the horses than they'll have no money to feed them. So then we decided that Teenager could ride since she doesn't weigh much. I hate that facebook is down. We have the best video of the ride. So she is plodding around the circle. So Mr. Chinese Cowboy decides she should go a little faster. He tells her to post, she does.Her horse is still plodding along. So he decides he is going to get on the other horse and race. The other horse wasn't even saddled. He saddled that horse and jumped on it so fast and charged after Indigo and her horse. It was just amazing. Her horse got going!
The afternoon museum trip was ok. The science musuem was pretty good for China. The lighting was pretty dim, but the kids were so excited. I could tell that some had never been to a museum before and that was pretty cool.
Today I asked the kids what was the funest thing they did yesterday. One little boy was so sweet, he said he helped one of the other teachers buy water. Everybody else is saying the rides, sitting by their friends, etc., and he said he helped someone. I hope my little guy is going to be a sweetheart like that!

permalink written by  carseat tourist on July 18, 2009 from Hefei, China
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Faster than Meg Ryan

Hefei, China

We were able to adopt him legally and are finished with the paperwork in the province. Apparently our guide did the services for the adoption of Meg Ryan's daughter. Her adoption took 3 days. Ours took 2 days. Apparently he was just amazed that we could beat her. I really have no idea why we were so expediated suddenly. We just acted like of course, things always should be like this, we're not anything special. Although secretly we were freaking out because Nothing in the Adoption process has gone smoothly or quickly and we have no idea why there is this sudden change of events. The guide told us about his experience as Meg Ryan's guide.
We got to meet his teachers and Foster family. I was pretty impressed with the orphanage. It was better than Shenyang and Harbin. Still an orphanage, not the happiest place in the world. We had passed it almost everyday we rode the bus last week and we didn't even know it. I know what bus lines go by there so in my mind I have any idea of where his 1st family might have come from. Lots of buses go by there and so I think for someone to drop off someone and get on the next bus, it wouldn't have been too complicated. The Shenyang and Harbin orphanages aren't as centrally located. They are building a new complex of orphanages and old folks homes on the outskirts of town.
His Foster mom was good. It was very interesting because at first they were just saying what they thought we wanted to hear. Is he a good eater, oh yes, of course. Does he dislake anything, no he likes everything. The we started asking some real specific questions, he doesn't seem to like hard boiled eggs. Well, the Foster mom laughed and said she forced him to eat one every morning and it came out that he is quite a picky eater. The sweetest thing was that he just loved his Foster Sisters.
We went to the Temple near our hotel and discovered that Little Guy is quite spiritual. He must have been there before. He only bowed at certain statues and lit incence. He was very serious. All the kids banged the big bell, but we couldn't tell if if heard it our not. He was so happy in the temple. He signed american "more" for money to put in the offering boxes. It seems that he is catching on to American sign pretty quick.
After the temple, we tried PizzaHut. We've lived in China for 2 1/2 years and never ate there because we heard it was over priced (for China) and not that great. So curiousity killed the cat and we tried eating there. The other expats were right, it was overpriced and not american enough. But the tragic thing was the service was slow. People were staring at us and the experience was just too overwhelming for little guy. He just broke down and I don't think it was anything other than realizing his life had changed and thats so scary for a little guy.

permalink written by  carseat tourist on July 24, 2009 from Hefei, China
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