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Archive for "Eleanor"

August 5, 2012

See More Photos Here

For those of you not on Facebook or Instagram (*cough* Tommy *cough*), I’ve just discovered you can view my Instagram photos here: I’ve just been posting some fun, random highlights from our trip there. Sometimes it’s just quicker than blogging, especially with the ever-present risk of losing another post to the ether.

It’s 11:45 am here now, and we’re just killing time until 1:20, when we head out to the adoption agency and, y’know, get a kid. This morning we had a spectacular breakfast in this spectacular hotel’s spectacular restaurant.

Then we went to Walmart.

The most important purchase was this stroller:


Yes, it says “Happy Dino.” Yes, it has a picture of a bunny. Why do you think we got it? This is primarily for local and airport use, just a light, cheap thing that’s easy to carry and won’t be a major loss if we lose it.

We also got some bottled water, since Chinese municipal water has explosive results in the American gastrointestinal arena. (We actually have to brush our teeth with bottled water. They breed their bugs strong over here.)

What we did not get: any of the live turtles, frogs, or eels in the seafood section. (See Instagram for proof.) Nor any chicken feet. Maybe next time.

Safe in Chongqing

Too tired to post much, again, and I just lost what I originally posted. So here’s the Cliff’s Notes version of the Cliff’s Notes version:

Safe in Chongqing. City is awesome. Like New York, San Fran, and Vegas rolled into one. Hotel is brand new and gorgeous. Huge mall behind it the size of Garfield Heights. Locals giggle at us a lot.

Today was lower key than previous days but still busy. Went to a very old part of Beijing, rode rickshaws, dined with a local family, visited the Hard Rock Cafe. Seriously. A wedding was going on there. Guests were leaving with centerpieces while we waited outside. I asked to take a picture of one, thinking Monica might find it interesting. So he gave it to Kim. She later traded it for a silk scarf at a fashion knock-off store. It looked like this:


Then went to the airport to come to Chongqing. And I think we’re up to speed.

Tomorrow at 10:00 (Monday, or 10:00pm Sunday to you Clevelanders), we meet with our guide to fill out some paperwork. At 1:30 we head over to the local adoption center. At 2:00 we walk out with a small, strange human.


No, I kid. Honestly, I think we’re as ready as it’s possible to be. Not saying that’s all that ready, of course.

Provided I have the mental bandwidth, I will try to post some pictures tomorrow so they’ll be waiting for you when you awaken on Monday. Meanwhile, please enjoy these:

The lobby of our hotel:


Our room:


And another shot of our room:


Notice anything unusual?

August 4, 2012

Achievement Unlocked: Survived Beijing

It’s 8:46 am on our last day in Beijing. And though I hesitate to say it for fear of a jinx, I have to say: So far, China has been almost shockingly easy. Now, granted, we’re in the capital city, and Western culture is pretty much everywhere. (Around the corner from our hotel: KFC and McDonald’s.) And if we had to navigate the city solely on our own, I’m not sure we could do it. Many signs are in English, but most aren’t, and even Google Maps and GPS seem a bit unreliable here.

But through trial and error, pantomime, and a resolve not to freak out, we’ve found ourselves able to deal with whatever’s come up so far. We’ve also found that simply saying “Thank you” in Chinese (Xie Xie, pronounced “SHEAY-sheay,” or roughly thereabouts) earns us big points with the locals and helps them not get too frustrated with us. It also tends to make them giggle.

It also helps that we’re very obviously Westerners, and thus something of a novelty. I explained in a previous post that got eaten than when we were at Tiennanmen Square, we had locals coming up to us to get their picture taken with us. Because, white people. I think China is so daunting for so many Americans (most definitely us included, before this) — not to mention literally half a world away — that the locals just don’t see Americans all that often. So that helps, too; we’ve found that anytime we’ve asked for help, locals have been very willing to make a real effort to help. This is something we should keep in mind once we’re back home, and encounter visitors to our strange land.

But we’ll see if that changes tonight. This evening we fly to Chongqing (you may remember that name because OMG THAT’S WHERE ELEANOR IS), and it’s much further inland, and not nearly as much of a tourist destination as Beijing. That will probably mean our White Novelty Magic will be more powerful, but the whole experience could be more foreign. On the other hand, Chongqing is still one of the biggest cities in the world, with a population of 28 million. (For reference, that’s nearly three times the entire state of Ohio.) And big cities are pretty much big cities wherever you are, I suspect. At least, that seems to be the case with Beijing.

Anyway. We leave the hotel around 11:00 today, whereupon we’ll kill some time with our guide before heading to the airport. Of our group of seven families, I believe four of us will be heading to the airport at the same time. But we split up there, each going to a separate province to pick up our children, so we’ll be flying solo for the next few days. (That’s not as scary as it sounds; we’ll have a local guide hand-picked by our current guide.)

We arrive in Chongqing around 8:00 tonight. Kim has just informed me that the Chongqing Beer and Music festival is going on, so I know what I have planned for this evening. Tomorrow, we will venture to a small local establishment to buy formula and a stroller, a place called — and I may be getting the translation wrong here — “Wal-Mart.” And then, tomorrow afternoon? We become parents, for real and for ever.

Since I’m not sure how much energy I’ll have to blog in the next couple days, I’ll just tell you our rough plans for the first few days of our time in Chongqing: 1. Freak out a lot. 2. Stare open-mouthed at our new child. 3. Sleep any chance we get. 4. Order room service. 5. Freak out some more. 6. Maybe venture out into our immediate area, provided it is not preempted by 1, 2, 3, or 5.

We will, at least, make an earnest effort to post some pictures tomorrow evening. (That’s Monday morning to you strange Western people.) Just don’t expect much in the way of coherence.

I’m blogging via a different method today, so I’m going to try to post some more pictures. Hopefully they’ll come through.

Love to you all,
-joe and Kim





Dogs: Barking

I would love to write up a long post about what we did today. But once again my brain just wants to say, “Buh?” every time I try to string more than a few sentences together. And I don’t think I could handle writing a long post and having half of it be eaten again like happened this morning. So I’ll do some quick highlights. The bulk of today’s sightseeing was spent at the Great Wall (of China). Well, getting there, in large part — it was something like an hour and a half from our hotel in the ridiculous Beijing traffic. On the way we stopped at a jade factory, got another friendly-but-insistent sales pitch, and happily exchanged money for some lovely jade pieces.

Then came the Wall. I was surprised by how majestic it genuinely is in person. I was ambivalent about going but I’m glad we did. However: holy hell are the stairs steep. And holy hell is this area hot and humid. And holy hell was the sun bright. As a result, after climbing most of the way to the top, we started feeling a little passy-outy and/or throwy-uppy. So we let the rest of the group who had made it that far go on, and descended shakily back to ground level, where we pounded Gatorade-like beverages and gradually cooled down.

The sounds coming from the rest of the group once they returned made us glad we’d made this decision.

Afterward, it was to yet another craft factory — Cloisonné — and another massive family-style meal. Then a quick detour through ’08’s Olympic Village for some photos, and back to the hotel. It’s not yet 9:00 but we’re already crashing. I think there’s a part of our brains that knows what time it is back home still. Or maybe it’s just all the walking.

The way I’m posting these seems to choke on more than one photo, so I wanted to post just one from the Wall. (Click to enlarge.)  This was taken after the first flight of stairs we climbed. See that tower off in the distance? That’s where we stopped. See those white specks? Those are people. It’s a beautiful site, and I’d come back given the opportunity. But I’d train first.


August 3, 2012

A little More Detail

Wow, we feel great this morning. After crashing hard and sleeping like pumas, we’re up and getting ready for breakfast at the moment. So I wanted to elaborate a bit on yesterday’s post.

Peking Duck House: Really delicious, lots of food, very beautiful establishment. It was clearly a Western-friendly place, because almost all of the many dishes they brought were based on Chinese-American dishes like orange chicken and kung-pao. But all really great. And a great deal of it. Doesn’t look like the pictures came through yesterday, so I’ll repost here:

The First Full Day

I’m tired as hell, so I’m going to be brief: Today was mostly sightseeing. We were originally supposed to go to the Great Wall (of China) today, but our guide and one other family didn’t get in until this morning, so we shuffled the schedule around. Started off with lunch at a Peking Duck House. (Peking is Beijing, so it’s a local creation.) Then we visited the Temple of Heaven, followed by Tienmmen Square, which was imposing.

Aaaaand now I’m literally falling asleep with my iPad in my lap, so I’ll need to update more later. Meanwhile, here are some pics from the day:

August 2, 2012

Made It

We are here. In China. In our hotel. Thirty-odd hours of travel later, I am horizontal for the first time since seven o’clock pm on Tuesday. I have slept something like fifteen hours in the last four days.

I can see through time.

Hotel is lovely. People are friendly. My powers of cognition are fadinzhghdhsnnghjsprojhgd.

More after we sleep for about a day.

August 1, 2012

Holy Crap, We’re on a Plane

And I can’t help but continue to be skeptical.

I Hate Airlines

It’s about 4:30pm in Chicago, 5:30 in Cleveland. We have now been at
O’Hare airport for eight and a half hours. We’re supposed to leave in
an hour.

I am doubtful.

Today’s travel adventure started with a comically brief email from
United, at about 11:45 last night, informing us that our 6:00am flight
to Washington Dulles had been canceled. No reason was given.

I called United and was informed that their systems were down and I
needed to call back in half an hour. Half an hour later, they told me
to call back in an hour. Ten minutes later, I called again out of
curiosity, and they were able to process a reroute through Chicago.

So we arrived in our former home city at about 8:00 am, expecting to
head for Beijing at noon. Only as soon as I turned on my phone I got
another lovely United email saying the flight had been delayed until
3:30. Half an hour later, a new e-mail said 5:30.

Fortunately, since we had originally expected a five-hour layover in
Washington, we took the precaution of buying one-day passes to the
United Lounge. These are normally $50 per person, but I found
certificates on eBay for $15 apiece. This may have been the best $30
we’ve ever spent. Instead of fighting for uncomfortable chairs in the
hot terminal, we luxuriated in reasonably comfy armchairs in luscious
air conditioning, accompanied by free snacks, wifi, espresso, and
booze. No beds, but it was one heck of a lot more comfortable than it
could have been.

We just got notice of another delay (15 minutes this time) and
simultaneous notice of boarding in five minutes. As I said, I’m
doubtful. But at this point nothing but waiting feels real.

July 30, 2012

T-Minus Thirty-Five Hours

At this point, Kim and I have pretty much completed everything major that needs to be done before we leave. We are organized. We are prepared. We are surprisingly calm.

This is, of course, terrifying.

I’ve been telling people that I’m really not worried about the whole becoming-a-parent element of this whole adventure, and it’s true. What I am worried about: 22 hours of travel, to a foreign land we have only the slightest understanding of, on the way to becoming a parent.

But really, what’s probably going on is that I have only so much room for panic in my brain. So ask me again next week.

Meanwhile, we leave for the airport in 32 hours. We leave Cleveland at 6 am Wednesday for Washington Dulles, where we get to sit quietly and stress some more for five hours. And then it’s fourteen hours from Dulles to Beijing, where we will cavalierly engage in casual conversation and board games. By which I mean freak out some more.

I’m sure this comes as no surprise to those of you who are already parents, however you arrived there. Feel free to laugh at me as much as you want. Just not right now, okay?