Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Fwd: Home at Last! - from dennis

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Dennis Drake <drakedad3@gmail.com>
Date: Sun, Sep 27, 2009 at 1:12 AM
Subject: Home at Last! - from dennis
To: drakefam51.chloe@blogger.com

We are home!  It has taken me a bit of time to write; but we made it just fine.  I'd like to forget the last 3 days and never do them over again, but we did make it just fine back to Dallas.  Dawn's sister and her husband along with their daughter met us at the airport; and they brought along Samuel and Anna with them.  Chloe slept a lot on the flights, so she smiled at everyone and was in a decent mood.  And it was GREAT to see Samuel and Anna again.  Since that time, things have gone from "great, we're home" to "Oh, God, help us get through this jet lag."

I've heard of jet lag before but that term does not do it justice.  The words "jet lag" always brought up images of a slow airplane to me; but now I know what it's like first hand.  After connecting flights from Guangzhou to Shanghai to Chicago to Dallas - all on Wednesday the 23rd, we still have not recovered.  I'm sure those of you who travel frequently know what i mean.  Going to China was "uncomfortable" in the sense of the flying hours and the layover.  But coming back was wretched in terms of getting over it.  In general the flights went fine, aside from some minor glitches; but somehow our bodies did not agree.

On Thursday, Dawn woke up to take Anna to school, then went to the grocery store for a few things we were out of.  She came home and started sorting through clothes for Chloe, and then got hit suddenly with an awful stomach bug.  She laid in bed miserable and was not able to eat again until mid-day Friday.  Same day, I woke up with a terrible sore throat and just a general feeling of heaviness.  It kind of felt like I'd been on several planes for 1-2 days and had to clear 3 airport securities, U.S. customs and immigration, and had a run-in with a non-compassionate security supervisor who did not appreciate the fact that I forgot to remove my shoes for the security check (Chicago).  And the way i felt Thursday has not completely gone away yet.  My throat aches, i feel like i have a cold now, and all the while during our adjustment period, Chloe is having the same feelings and possibly worse.

Think of being uprooted from everything you are familiar with - after you have been left on a street and passed through a police station and orphanage and foster care.  Taken from your country ... from its familiar sounds, sights, smells ... only to be newly planted on the other side of the world in a house with large amounts of grass everywhere, strange sights & smells, new caregivers, new siblings, new friends .... you get the idea.  Let's just say that Chloe has in general felt lousy and has let us know about it.  She will come to us seeking comfort; but will NOT be left alone to play.  This is all very normal and expected; but MAN has this hit us hard.  REALITY.  As Dawn has said several times to keep our perspectives in place - "Dorothy, you ain't in Kansas right now."  If there was ever a time when I know that I need to "suck it up and drive on" - I know it's now; but I hope no one ever goes thru "jet lag" like this ever again.  Instead of "jet lag" - I would suggest a better term would be "jet ban."  No more jets.  I might market a T-shirt with a jet on the front and one of those red circles with the line through it.

Okay, so while Dawn was throwing up everything in her stomach and I was generally feeling horrible, our oldest son Nathan skipped classes & came home from college for a couple of days to see Chloe.  If it hadn't been for him, I may not have made it through Thursday.  He hung around while I was taking care of Chloe, watched and waited until she warmed up to him and then took it from there.  By the time he left on Friday he had fed her 1 meal, several snacks and played with her while I was walking around the house trying to find out why everything was still moving.  I think someone referred to this as "vertigo."  THANK YOU NATHAN!!

Dawn has not instructed me on how to post from the actual blog and she & Chloe are crashed out right now; so I'm gonna hope that the pictures of Nathan and Chloe show up okay on this post.  I'm sending it via email to the blog site just like we did in China.

I do have pictures of Samuel and Anna with Chloe as they have invested time with her and she is warming up nicely to them.  I'll get them off the camera and post them later.  Samuel is a hoot with his new little sis!

Special thanks to our family for the help while we were gone and for all of you who continue to pray for us.  We could not have done this by ourselves.

I haven't put much in this blog yet of Scripture, but am going to recommend that you take the time to read Psalm 139 in the Bible during the next few days as you get time.  It is an amazing description of how detailed our Creator is and a much needed reminder that He loves us JUST like we are.  Thank God that Chloe was formed with a cleft lip and palate ... or we would not have her right now. I'll leave you to think on that for awhile.


Fwd: Dennis thoughts on Tuesday

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Dennis Drake <drakedad3@gmail.com>
Date: Tue, Sep 22, 2009 at 12:46 AM
Subject: Dennis thoughts on Tuesday
To: drakefam51.chloe@blogger.com

Well, today is Tuesday and we leave China tomorrow for home!  I wish i could say i am as enthusiastic about leaving now, like i felt yesterday.  But i got out on my own yesterday - away from guides and other tourists and just walked the streets near part of the canal that surrounds our district near the hotel.  The canal is fed by the Pearl River which is very much alive with fishing and commercial industry supporting Guangzhou.  But around our hotel they made it more visually appealing.  I was trying to get away from all of the Western influence if possible and see the real city.

I walked across a bridge that went over the canal into some streets that were alive with family businesses.  I'm attaching some photos to give you an idea of the atmosphere.

The most amazing thing i stumbled into was a medicine market near the canal.  There was shop after shop of families setup in what we would call a flea market atmosphere.  No doors on most businesses, just a space with 3 walls and medicinal herbs and other "commodities" spilling out all over the streets from their storefronts.  Everything was alive and out in the open.  I went again this morning and plan to take Chloe with me in the stroller this evening.  I want to see if there will be musicians setup and other artists out marketing their skills, etc.  I cannot say how much I enjoy this type of culture.  It is so authentic, genuine, real and alive.  There are no English speakers that I've found in this medicine market.  Buying here is a challenge, but the store owners have found an easy way to communicate and most of them just hand me a calculator.  I would put in the amount of Yuan i wanted to spend and point to the item i wanted - or they would put in the Yuan value and show it to me on the calculator.  But i don't even know what I'm buying.  So far I've bought some Saffron, which is supposed to relieve stress I think, but I'll have to read about it on my own to see how to use it.  Then this morning I bought some Ginseng roots - about 1/4 of a pound I am guessing (roughly 100 grams) for 35 Yuan (~ 5 dollars).  I don't know what to use them for yet, but they are so popular here I wanted to try them once we get back to the states.  This medicine market is apparently quite a business, and some items get very expensive for an average Chinese laborer whose family needs medicine.  But this is a busy place so somehow people are buying the herbs, etc.  Much of the Chinese thought is preventive also from what we have learned. 

There are other things to buy near the medicine market, such as food.  I saw some small places where families were selling chickens that they roasted on spits, as well as other meats.  There were a couple of bakeries I saw where I was tempted to buy some bread or muffin.  I wasn't hungry so i passed on the idea.

I passed by many unique family businesses where they were sorting seahorses on the pavement, or scorpions (large and small).  My ignorance is pretty great so i couldn't tell you what the seahorses or scorpions are used for; but there was great care in the sorting.  I watched for a minute (did not want to be rude and stay long time), but could not figure out the criteria for sorting.  There were live snakes, not like snakes I've seen in the U.S.  Not sure if poisonous or not.  There were fish, crabs, turtles, all kinds of things.  I know that turtle soup is popular in some cultures; so maybe that is what the turtle was for - but other than that, I'll have to learn more about the purpose for all the items.  All I know is that I love the culture.

No, these people do not think like we do; but we do not think like they do.  This has been my foremost thought while out among the people.  I have grown to love and appreciate their spirit, their ethic of hard work and patient endurance of poor living conditions.  Conditions we would not tolerate because we think we need so much to make us comfortable.  These people are resilient and adaptable.  For enjoyment after much work we see them playing a form of hackeysack, or many sit down around a barrel or table outside on the street to play cards or mahjongg or some other game.  They live in polluting and adapt to crowded cities.  It is a lesson for me that I will always remember.  It is also an encouragement to me so that Dawn and I will not allow our daughter to forget who she is.  She is and always will be a Chinese girl.  We will teach her the truth that we know, and will encourage her to seek her own way when she is older ... to pursue her heart and to find the gifts God has blessed her with.

We go now to the U.S. consulate in a few minutes and this will probably be my last post here in China.

Dennis thoughts on Saturday

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Dennis Drake <drakedad3@gmail.com>
Date: Sun, Sep 20, 2009 at 1:51 AM
Subject: Dennis thoughts on Saturday
To: drakefam51.chloe@blogger.com
Cc: "Dawn (gmail)" <drakefam5@gmail.com>

During our last night in Hangzhou (Chloe's home city), we went with the Fannin's (Deacon's folks) to eat at the Family Garden restaurant in Hangzhou, and Todd went down to speak with the waiter and point at a picture menu so we could order what we wanted.  He pointed to sweet potatoes since Chloe loves those, and then finished ordering sweet n sour pork, green beans, fried rice, and other dishes.  The first thing the waiter brought to our table was a plate full of sweet tomatoes (instead of sweet potatoes).  They had sliced up tomatoes for us and topped it with heaps of sugar.  It was a great moment for a laugh, and we just let it go and ate them.

Speaking of food, Chloe's diet has grown and we try to add an item to her food experience as we can.  So far, she consumes cheerios by the heaping bowlful ALL DAY LONG!  She will play in the mornings without needing food, but once breakfast is served there seems to be no stopping unless she is playing or napping.  This girl has quite an appetite and from all we have read this is a very good thing - so we are doing all we can to encourage it.  She also likes egg custard, scrambled eggs, eggs sunny side up, congi, sweet potatoes (haven't found a regular baked potato to offer yet), fried rice ... and who knows what else to come.  Once her palate is repaired she may be on her way to being like me where just about anything that is consumable will be eaten no matter what the food item.

We arrived late last night (18th) in Guangzhou which is where the U.S. consulate is located.  Dawn is keeping me straight as there are lots of details and procedures we have to follow.  Our guide is posting the events of each day to the families so we know what to expect and what money to pay where as we are taking steps and getting closer and closer to coming home with our adopted daughter.  Dawn has 2 children to keep up with while I'm just watching one ...  yep, the first would be me.  I've seen lots of neat trees, butterflies, lizards, and all sorts of things to stop and look at with Chloe while she constantly reminds me that we still have work to do before we can play.  I found this neat looking life size metal pig that one of the many tradesmen molded here.  I was looking it over and considering buying it for Chloe's room but Dawn encouraged me to think of something else.  I think someone mentioned that Chloe was born in the year of the rat anyway so I'll keep looking.  We actually had someone in one of the shops here offer to make Chloe a "year of the rat" name portrait with the Mandarin letters for Chloe's name.  I think I'd rather have the pig.

We sure are living an easy life here and are getting spoiled with eating and sightseeing.  This is the plan we are following with our guide but life will be much less vacation oriented when we bring Chloe home.  For now, this is definitely the trip of a lifetime.

Even more pictures from Tuesda

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Dawn Drake <drakefam5@gmail.com>
Date: Tue, Sep 22, 2009 at 7:53 AM
Subject: Even more pictures from Tuesda
To: drakefam51.chloe@blogger.com

More pictures from Tuesday

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Dawn Drake <drakefam5@gmail.com>
Date: Tue, Sep 22, 2009 at 7:25 AM
Subject: More pictures from Tuesday
To: drakefam51.chloe@blogger.com

Goodbye to China

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Dawn Drake <drakefam5@gmail.com>
Date: Tue, Sep 22, 2009 at 7:24 AM
Subject: Goodbye to China
To: drakefam51.chloe@blogger.com
Cc: drakedad3@gmail.com

Today was our last day here in Guangzhou.  We spent the morning finishing up our taking pictures, shopping, packing, and Chloe and I played in the Swan Room.  The Swan room is a play room here at the hotel provided by Mattel.  It is an open space with toys and kids.  Chloe loves to play there and especially watch the older kids play.

This afternoon, we headed to the US Consulate, had a quick ceremony and received Chloe's visa to enter the US.  When we are in Chicago for our layover she will officially become a US citizen. 

We spent the evening at a wonderful Italian restaurant and are now holed up in our hotel packing everything.  Luckily we bought an extra suitcase here, and i just have to balance the weight amongst them.  Of course, Chloe is helping out by getting into EVERYTHING I set out.  And Dennis is helping out by generally getting in the way :)

We wake up tomorrow at 5 am, and will be checking out of the hotel around 6:45. 

We know this trip from the planning stages to each day has been covered in your prayers.  Please continue to pray for us.  Tomorrow will be an incredibly long day for each of us.  Pray for health, safety, flights that are on time, short lines in security, immigration and customs, that Chloe will sleep, and anything else you can think of.

We leave at 9:30 am from Guangzhou, land in DFW at 10:10 pm, and have a total of 18 hours of flying time and 7 1/2 hours of layovers. 


---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Dawn Drake <drakefam5@gmail.com>
Date: Mon, Sep 21, 2009 at 9:22 AM
Subject: Monday
To: drakefam51.chloe@blogger.com
Cc: drakedad3@gmail.com

We are winding down here in Guangzhou.  Today was just a day of waiting, see Dennis' post.  Once we got the all clear we headed out to finish our shopping.  We got to talk to Anna and Nathan. And we also went swimming. 

Chloe is getting much more comfortable with us and that means she is also testing us to see what she can get away with.  She has figured out how to twist around in her stroller and stand, she has discovered the cords to the computer. you get the idea.  We are also learning she is a people person, she loves to wave at people at breakfast, in the elevator, at the stores.  She really gets excited when she sees one of the families we are traveling with.

The pictures are from this evening at an impromptu party in the hallway.  I was sitting at the door feeding Chloe, Deacon and Rachel, these little "bun" type crackers Dennis found at the store. 

Tomorrow will be filled with pictures taken at the red couch, a tradition here at the White Swan.  We will dress our new children in traditional Chinese outfits and take their pictures on a red couch in front of the beautiful water falls here in the hotel.  Every group that comes through takes that same picture.

Then we will pick up the things we've ordered, work on getting everything to fit in our suitcases, and then late afternoon take care of the last order of business. 

We wake up very early Wednesday morning.  All three families leave Guangzhou between 9 and 10 all heading in different directions.  We fly to Shanghai first, then Chicago and finally HOME! 

You can start praying for us now that all three of us do well on the flights home, especially the long one.  That we are able to make all our connecting flights with NO STRESS.  I am working on lightning our carry ons.  We've had 4 flights now, and we each had 2 carry ons/personal items.  The last flight we added Chloe and a stroller and it was hard. 

I don't think I mentioned our adventure flying from Hangzhou to Guangzhou.  So....it was us and the Fannins, so 4 adults and 2 kids in strollers.  We arrived at the airport around 6:30 for a 7:55 flight, when we checked in they tried to talk us into checking our strollers but we were adamant that we wanted them until the last minute.  We had not eaten dinner, but  decided to go ahead and go to security and get something closer to the gate.  Once there we discovered that food places were not plentiful. So the moms and babies planted ourselves at the gate and sent the dads to find food.  I took Chloe to the bathroom thinking I would change her and take care of my business.  BUT there was no changing table and no stalls that would fit me and the stroller, so we changed the babies in the chairs and took turns watching them.  At about 7:20 they announce that the bus is there for our flight.  Yes you read that right we needed to take a bus to our plane.  The dads were not back, and we were not sure if there would be a second bus.  So we get up and try to figure out how to accomplish getting all of us in line.  Thankfully the dads are coming down the escalator, but they are frustrated because they had had a really hard time finding food.  We get in line, and find that we will be the last ones on the bus, we cram in to a standing only bus.  And HANG ON!!!!!  I was at the door with Chloe and just knew as soon as the doors open I would be trampled, but I was able to quickly get out of the way. 

Hopefully we won't have that experience again, but my packing goal is for Dennis to have a backpack and me a purse/diaper bag combined.  Hopefully that will hold everything we need and help us not have so much to carry.