September 21, 2009

We are home!

It's been over a week now since we have been home and I am finally updating the blog.  I always have such a hard time returning from China.  I'm still waking up at 4:30 am every morning.  It is nice to be home but it is always a tough adjustment to get back to a normal routine. 

This was a life changing experience for all of us, but especially Christian.  He really enjoyed being in China and now wants to learn Chinese, which is great.  This will really help him be able to develop a relationship with his birth family.  We have talked about taking a Chinese class as a family, although I do not have high hopes in ever being fluent in Chinese. 

We have already received emails from Christian's brother and we plan to continue to correspond with all of them.  I think it will have to be by snail mail for his grandmother and uncle since they do not have internet access, but that's okay.    I already miss them! 

It is going to take some time for Christian to process all that he has experienced over the last few months.  Please pray for us as we try to absorb all of this and continue to develop relationships with our new extended family in China!

Also please keep our extended family in your prayers- that they are more at peace now and that his birth mother and grandmother live many more years so that Christian has a chance to develop a relationship with them. 

Thanks for  your support and encouragement.  I do hope to write a book and so does Christian as we both have a story to tell from different perspectives.  If anyone knows of a publisher that might be interested please let me know. 

Thanks again for your interest in our story!  God bless!

For I will restore health unto you, and I will heal you of your wounds, saith the Lord.  -Jeremiah 30:17

Our Last Day in Beijing- Heading Home

I woke up early to pack and get organized.  Our flight doesn't leave until 6 pm but we have another busy day planned.  I had a 9 am meeting with two of the volunteers with "Baby Come Home." Later someone from Hunan TV is supposed to be bringing our videotape back and copy more photos from our computer for the documentary they are making. 

After a busy morning we had lunch with Barbara Demick, writer for the LA Times and another colleague of hers.  They are both US citizens living and working in China.  Barbara wrote an excellent article on the story that was in the Baltimore Sun, LA Times, Chicago Tribune.  We had a great lunch at a sushi restaurant in a very modern part of the city.  I really enjoyed talking to both of them about China and their experiences.  It was also interesting to get their perspective on the Reunion story and hear how well it has been received by local Chinese people.   

After lunch we took a taxi back to our hotel, where we met Emily, our local guide and the driver to take us to the airport.  As we were halfway to the airport at about 3:30 pm, I started looking through the flight information for Jamie's flight number.  Jamie flew separately from the rest of us and we recalled that his flight was three hours from ours.  As I scanned the flight information I realized that the 9:30 departure time I had previously seen was not his departure time from Beijing but from his connecting flight in Newark.  Jamie's flight was leaving three hours before ours, not three hours after ours!  He was supposed to leave Beijing at 3:30!  So...Jamie got an extra night in Beijing!  Kelly and I joked the whole way home about how we were going to tell our mom, because the last thing she said to Kelly was "don't lose my boy."

Back In Beijing

After our quick stop in Chengdu we flew to Beijing for one last night before heading back to the states.  The trip has gone by so fast and we are all wishing we had more time in Beijing.  We land in Beijing by noon and were met at the airport by Emily, our local guide.  She took us back to the hotel, where we had lunch with the former Director of Luoyang Children's Welfare Institute, where Christian was adopted.  Director Pei recently retired as Director, which I learned is more like a "forced retirement" due to age.  It was great to see him.
Christian and I with Director Pei

The whole gang with Director Pei

After our lunch we did some last minute shopping at the Silk Market, which is now inside a 7 story building.  The last time I went to the Silk Market (5 years ago) it was still outdoors near the US embassy.  It was quite an experience this time.  The shopkeepers were much more agressive than the last time.  You really have to be in the right mindset to go shopping here.  As soon as you walk in "lady, lady you need Polo shirts, Coach purse, about some Uggs?"  I got to bartering with this one lady and walked away when she wouldn't meet my price.  She grabbed me by the arm and dug her nails into me saying "Lady, you are being mean....come got to be kidding...these are Chanel (sunglasses)."  I told her to get her hands off me and walked away again.  She immediately yells "okay, lady...fine...come back."  I wasn't going to come back but she came after me.  I paid her as she was saying "lady, how can I make any money when you won't pay me what it's worth."  I reminded her that they are fake and not worth much.  "what? you are kidding...these are not fake, lady.  Come on, lady."  Needless to say, we only could take about an hour of this and then went back to the hotel.

We had plans to meet Wen-Chun, the CNN Producer for dinner.  The guys decided they would rather shop longer so they passed on dinner (no, that's not a typo...the GUYS decided to shop longer and pass on dinner).  Kelly and I met Wen-Chun back at the hotel and he took us to a very nice Taiwanese restuarant.  We met up with the CNN reporter, John Vause and his wife at the restaurant.  They are all really nice and we had a lot of fun hearing about their experience living in China as ex-pats.   

Wen-Chun took us back to the hotel and we met up with Christian and Jamie to look at the video of our trip to the village.

Christian, Wen-Chun and me

Chengdu Panda Research Center

After touring the Terra Cotta Soldiers, we had lunch at a restaurant where we learned to make Jiaozi (traditional Chinese dumplings) before heading for the airport to fly to Chengdu.  Our flight to Chengdu was quite interesting as it was delayed almost two hours and other passengers were getting really angry.  Every time one of the flight crew would come off the plane to the check in counter, they would be verbally attacked by a crowd of angry travellers.  We finally boarded but the plane sat on the runway for about 30 minutes.  One man two rows ahead of us was shouting at the poor flight attendents, who would just nod and smile a lot.  If this had been an American airline I think the man would have been thrown off the plane. 

Chengdu is our last stop before going back to Beijing. We are only here for a day to see the Panda Research Center, which was Christian's request.  He was the only one that had the chance to hold a Panda while we were there. 
So cute!

One year old male panda born during Olympics last year

September 8, 2009

Xian- Home of the Terra Cotta Soldiers

Here are some photos from our day visiting the Terra Cotta Soldiers:

Kelly (my sister), me, Christian and Jamie (my brother)

Response to request about donations

Thanks to everyone for following along on our story. I really enjoyed reading all of your nice comments. I noticed a few people have asked how you can donate towards our trip.  I just added a Paypal button to the top of the blog as one way.  If you are not comfortable doing so through Paypal, we did set up a local Bank Account just for this cause.  The name of the account is Birth Parent Reunion/Julia Norris and the address is:

Talbot Bank
212 Marlboro Rd
Easton, MD  21601

I guess I should have thought to do this earlier but it is really not too late since we still have a few days left and I have a big loan to repay when I return.  :-)  One thing I learned is never travel to a foreign country wtihout a credit card!  Anyway, I am so grateful for any help you would like to offer.

I have more photos and stories to blog later today.  I have more information about my son's history that has not been shared yet, but that will be revealed in a book some day if I can find a publisher interested. 

I am so proud of my son and how he has handled this experience. My brother, sister and I have already noticed a huge change in him. He has matured so much and has expressed a new appreciation for the life he has been given despite the heartaches along the way. He really misses his little sister and is even a little homesick. He has said several times on this trip "I am so blessed."  He also wants to learn Chinese again when we get home and probably return to China for work or study at some point.  I can not wait to see what the Lord has in store for him.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  -Romans 8:28

September 5, 2009

Thanks to all of you!

I just had a chance to read the comments on the blog and wanted to say thanks for all of your kind words, prayers, encouragement and support.  I am not sure I deserve such praise.  I am just a mom who loves her children and a woman with Christ's spirit living inside her heart.  He should get all the glory for leading me to this incredible boy and allowing this miracle to happen.

Please pray for Christian's birthparents and especially his uncle, aunt, cousins and sweet grandmother.  I am especially concerned for the aunt and uncle that raised Christian those first 7 years.  I can still hear in my head his uncle sobbing as we got into the van and pulled away the other day.  I think it was the hardest thing I have ever done.  I felt like I was taking their son away again...even though I know in my heart that this is not only what Christian wants but what is best for him.  I am so thankful that his Chinese family (now a part of our family) wants the best for Christian.  They are wonderful people who love him dearly and my heart breaks for what they are going through.  I pray that knowing he is alive and well now will bring them peace.  I will be sending them updates and photos regularly so they can be a part of his life again.  I believe the Lord has big plans for Christian and his work on earth has just begun.

In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. -Matthew 5:16

We finally arrive in Xian!

The train ride was third time on a sleeper train in China.  It's always an adventure trying to get them to understand our English/broken Chinese.  We couldn't get them to understand "coffee" in the morning.

We are trying to have some down time here in Xian these next two days and then we do some sightseeing.  I will post more later.

Oh, and for the people that commented wondering if Chrsitian would be staying in China, the answer is no, he will be returning with us to the US.  There was never any intention of him staying in China.  His birth family did not expect him to because they know it would be a tough adjustment for him.  They want the best for him and want him to be happy and have a good future.  He has a new love for China and the people of China now, so I will not be surprised if one day he chooses to come back to live here.  If he does I will fully support him.  In the meantime we plan to keep in touch with the family and visit as often as possible.

Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.  -Romans 12:10

September 4, 2009

A Change of Plans

Christian requested to leave early. I couldn't bear seeing him go through any more emotional turmoil. It was incredibly hard for me so I can't imagine how he is feeling. We both thought that the longer we stayed in the village the harder it would be for his family to say goodbye. 

We now have to reschedule our train tickets and pay for two extra nights in Xian, which was not in the budget.  Please pray that we can make these changes and afford to continue our trip as we planned. I want Christian to enjoy the rest of our time here without more stress.

We decided not to go back to the village to say goodbye.  Instead we asked the close family members to come to Longde (the closest town and also the town where his birth parents live) to say good bye. We asked for only his closest relatives to come (I was thinking about 4 people) but it turned out about a dozen people came.  I also asked if the family could try to keep their emotions in check to make it easier on all of us.  It turned out that I think my sister and I were crying hareder than anyone.  It was such a difficult moment.  I had our guide show me how to say that "I promise to take good care of him and keep in touch" and tried to tell each family member that in Chinese.  I was crying too much so I just kept handing that little piece of paper to each family member.  After we hugged everyone and said goodbye the four of us piled into the van with our guides and pulled away.  The next hour in the van was quiet with nothing but sniffles.

Be merciful to me, O LORD, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and my body with grief.  -Psalm 31:9

The 5 hour drive between Longde and Lanzhou had some beautiful landscape shots. We stopped a few times to take in the beautiful scenery.

It is very dry with a lot of terraced fields, which is part of a reforestation project.

Once we arrived in Lanzhou we still had 6 hours before we could catch our midnight train to Xian. We killed some time by having foot massages at a local hotel, which was a treat (only $5). Did some exploring of Lanzhou on our own and got a lot of stares. I didn't see one foreigner the whole time there.

I hope to update the blog more when we arrive in Xian tomorrow. Thanks again for all your prayers and support!


September 3, 2009

The Village Reunion

We flew from Beijing to Lanzhou, which is in the Gansu province. We then drove 6 hours east to Longde, where we stayed the night at Christian's birthparents home.  They have a nice three story apartment located behind the hospital, where Gaoke works.  Here are a few maps showing where we are:

We are in the Ningxia Province, just south of Inner Mongolia. 

We are in the town of Longde, which is in the southern tip of the Ningxia province just below Guyuan.  Longde is a very small town with no major hotels.  The village is located just 15 minutes outside of Longde.  There are about 120 families (1000 people) living in the village.

We woke up and had a nice breakfast at the Jin family's home and then each of us packed a small bag in case we decided to stay the night at the village.  Two taxis were waiting for us in front of the hospital to take us to the village.  As we loaded up the taxis we noticed a crowd of people in white coats beginning to crowd around us.  We assumed they were the colleagues of Gaoke and JuLian wanting to get a look at Christian.  We were sitting in the taxi waiting for the driver, when the white coats started to multiply.  They came up to our car window peering in with big smiles across their faces waving at Christian.  That's when I told Christian, he should get out to greet them because it was obvious they wanted to meet him.  I wondered how many of them remembered him when he was young and living with his birth parents.

It was an easy ride down one main highway and the village entrance was right on the highway.  We drove down a dirt lane until it came to an end.  As we were getting out of our taxis, the villagers began to set off fireworks to celebrate our arrival.  There were crowds of people standing around watching and just one small camera crew (Henan TV).  It was the same camera crew that we saw taping our arrival at Lanzhou Airport the day before. 

Several people ran to Christian sobbing hysterically.  One woman was so upset I thought she was going to collapse.  I watched JuLian, Christian's birth mom comfort her and asked the guide who the lady was.  It was Christian's aunt, the woman that helped raise him the first 7 years.  It was incredibly emotional and took it's toll on all of us, but especially Christian. They were all so happy to see him, yet sad at the same time. He saw his cousins he grew up with, his great grandmother, many uncles and aunts.

Christian with his two aunts, uncle and the two cousins he grew up with thinking they were his siblings

Christian's aunt cried so hard almost the entire time we were there

Inside his Uncle's house many people crammed into this small room to get a chance to meet Christian

Village kids peaking in trying to get a look at Christian inside his uncle's home

Taking a tour of the village hand and hand with his cousins

We visited the school at the village that Christian attended.  This man was Christian's pre-school teacher.

Here we are sitting on a Kang (traditional bed which is a cement slab with quilts on top for cushion. The Kang is heated underneath with straw to keep them warm.  This is also where they eat.  The table is placed on top of the kang.  We had a traditional meal of dumplings, which was delicious.  Pictured with us is his grandmother, who we call "Nai Nai."   What a sweet woman!

There were many tears and finally after several hours the emotions got to Christian and he asked if we could leave. The mother bear that I am summoned the interpreter and said "Let's go!" Our interpreter looked a bit shocked and said "okay, but the family wants to take a photo of both families before you leave." So we did and then we grabbed our bags and piled into a van.  The family and neighbors watched in tears as we pulled away. It was very sudden and I think they were surprised that we were not staying the night. 

My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word.  -Psalm 119:28