The end of the trip was really a whirlwind and then the jet-lag kicked in, so we’re sorry not to get a blog up sooner!
Our last day in Guangzhou was really low key until we got to the airport. Noah did have another really sad period that morning which we were kind of expecting at that point, and we just held him and let him cry it out and then played games together as a family. It’s going to be a long road with the grief, and we’re just going to do the best we can to love him through it and let him know that what he’s feeling is fine with us.
Our adoption guide had gotten us a very late checkout because our flight to Hong Kong was so late that night. The boys just hung out in the room – we were all so tired after the Safari Park (my Fitbit told me I went 10 miles yesterday, and Nathan carried Noah for a lot of it and in the rain, what a man!). The girls and I looked around right in the vicinity of our hotel and found the coolest local shopping streets where they got a few gifts for their friends and I bought such a pretty little teapot (for those who know me, I am addicted to tea) which I promptly dropped on the sidewalk and smashed to smithereens. Fortunately, it was only about $5 and they had one more, so I went back and tried not to feel too stupid telling the store owner that I hadn’t even made it three blocks home before destroying it. The second one made it safely to the States. I know you were worried. 🙂
It was still raining, so we gave up and went home. Spent the afternoon repacking everything (no laundry for 3 weeks for 6 people means we’re all doling out our last clean t-shirts very carefully) and headed to the airport. This flight was my only sadness with our travel plans. It was scheduled to leave at 10:15 pm and get to Hong Kong at 11:20 which is so late for the boys who are usually in bed by 9. But booking it that way saved us a ton of money on our return flights (complicated story, but true) so we decided to bite the bullet and do it anyway. Can’t say I want to go back through Guangzhou airport any time soon. We waited over an hour just to check our bags. Then another hour at security. Then customs and immigration and long walk to our gate. And then the flight was delayed for an hour. Then we got on the flight and they delayed it another 45 minutes. Oh my, the boys were dying. Then they told us there were storms and the weather was terrible – at one point we had turbulence so bad a woman screamed full voice in the row in front of us.
Well, we finally got into Hong Kong, had to do immigration, claim the bags, do customs, and then were on the opposite side of the airport from our hotel. Knowing we were getting in late, I had booked our hotel right at the airport and I was never so glad of anything in my life. Noah couldn’t walk anymore, so we put him on top of the baggage on the carts and pushed him which he thought was interesting enough that he didn’t object. By the time we got checked in and to our rooms it was 2am. So sad. Put everyone to bed and collapsed. At 7:30 Noah woke up and poked me and said in English, “Good morning! Um, I, um, okay. I, no good morning.” And he laid back down and slept another hour. 🙂
It rained the entire time we were in Hong Kong too. Everything I had planned to do there is outside, so that was a serious bummer. Nathan and I really didn’t know what to do – we had been told this time of year is usually sunny and low 80’s and we got rainy and low 60’s. We were cold and didn’t have many clothes left and had already been wet every day for a week.
The plan had been to see several sites on Lantau Island and Hong Kong Island on Wednesday and then go to Hong Kong Disneyland on Thursday before flying home on Friday. The weather looked slightly better and warmer on Wednesday, so even though we went to bed at 2 am, we decided to switch the days since we knew Disney would be outside the entire time. Nathan finally talked Noah into trying the stroller by giving Toby a ride with wheelies down the hallway of the hotel, and that proved to be an absolute life-saver.
We took a bus to a mall to a subway to the Disney line (so cute, Mickey ears on the trains and the prettiest train station I’ve ever seen) and headed in about 11 am. The cardinal rule of Disney is be early, but we were more concerned about sleep and bet that the park would be empty because of the weather. It wasn’t, but it wasn’t crowded either and we only waited in one line the entire day – everything else was less than 10 minutes or a walk on.
Noah had no idea what we were doing. He’s never seen any of this and that was the best part of the whole day for all of us. I sing a lot in Florida, and the kids have been to Disney many times over the years, and they were just thrilled to show it to Noah! He loved all the boy things – Mystic Manor (so cool! Why don’t we have this ride in the States?!) we did four times. He adored Buzz Lightyear. Best moment of the day for me was talking about Autopia – a little ride where the kids can drive cars around a track. I said, “Do you want to drive a car?” And he looked confused and said, “I drive? No, Father.” I said, “No, you can drive. Do you want to drive the car?” and he said, “I drive? No, Father drive.” We finally showed him a spot he could see a car and he lit up, and said, “I drive?! Okay!! Let’s go!!” He probably asked us 30 times in line (this was our one line) if he was really going to drive. Nathan was with him in the car and said he’d never seen a happier kid!
Headed home early and went to bed. This is the smallest Disney park in the world, so it was easy to get on everything we wanted to and still make it an early night. We had a great time, but we were all pretty sick of our ponchos and being wet.
The next day we let everyone sleep as long as they wanted. Honestly, I wished we were leaving today, but I have friends from Hong Kong, and I thought, “I cannot leave here and never set foot on Hong Kong Island!” The airport, our hotel, and Disneyland are all on Lantau Island, so technically we hadn’t even been to Hong Kong yet.
We went back on the bus to the mall with the subway and on the way we passed the cable cars for Ngong Ping 360. This is a cable car ride over the water and up the mountains to Po Lin Monastery and the largest seated Buddha in the world. Nathan estimated that we were at least 500 feet over the water for much of the 25 minute ride. This was something we had planned to do, but with the weather being so bad and so much colder than we expected, we thought we’d skip it. Once we saw it, though, Nathan, Toby, Rachel, and Noah all wanted to go. We decided to try it after all, even though Rinnah and I are afraid of heights. We just decided to be brave and take one for the team.
It was pretty terrifying, but a lot smoother than I expected which helped. They told us at the bottom that because of the weather “visibility may be somewhat limited.” That was a hilarious understatement, because about halfway up, we went into the cloud cover and saw nothing again which actually really helped me to pretend we weren’t doing what we were doing and not be afraid. Right at the beginning of the trip, Rinnah got scared enough that she had two tears, and Noah looked at her and said, “Rinnah? You okay?” and Nathan said she was scared and he said, “oh no” and sat next to her and held her hand. So sweet.
We got to the top and were still in a cloud – we literally couldn’t see the village leading to the monastery. We started laughing it was so ridiculous! And it was raining still, so we decided to grab lunch and see if any of it blew over. It did just enough that we could at least see the walkway. We walked toward it because we were thinking we didn’t come all this way to not see it! And it was raining and our ponchos were blowing sideways and it was so miserable it got funny! And we finally got to the monastery (which we couldn’t see) and found the steps to the Buddha (which we knew we were not going to be able to climb – it’s like 500 steps) so we just looked up and up and up the stairs and realized – the Buddha was in the cloud. LOL! What a disaster! Oh well. We headed back and at one point the mist blew by and I got one picture, but I have to say, it takes much of the sting out of it when you know that’s just a big statue anyway.
Headed back down which is much more terrifying – at one point our cable was at about a 30 degree angle heading straight for the water now in heavy wind and swaying. Rinnah and I knew our lives were ending. 🙂 But then we made it down and took the subway to Hong Kong.
We had planned to go to Victoria Peak where you can see the whole island. Well, you can if Victoria Peak is not in a cloud. Which of course it was. So we scrapped that, and also scrapped riding the trams because they were a long-ish walk and it was raining hard. But there was a covered walkway to the pier, so we walked over and took the Star Ferry to Kowloon Peninsula for about $2 total. This was really fun. When we got to the other side, we thought we’d see the Bruce Lee statue for a friend who’s really into Bruce Lee (shout out, Micah!) and found out that they had moved it about a 30 minute walk away because of construction. And still raining, so um, no thank you, and we took the ferry back.
At this point, you know what, we’ve now stepped on Kong Kong Island, seen Victoria Harbor, walked on Kowloon, and clearly Hong Kong does not want to be seen by Shaws. We know when to say when. So we headed back, got dinner and went to bed.
The next day was our trip home. Lots of people have asked if Noah was sad to leave China, but I think in his mind, he left home a couple of weeks ago, and this is just another flight. He’s very curious about our house and wanted to see pictures of his new home and school several times. I don’t think he has any idea the culture will be so different because he’s been in China with us this whole time and has never seen anything else.
Noah was a total trooper on the 15 hour flight. That is a seriously taxing thing and all the kids were awesome. In a miracle that morning, Noah’s oxygen levels were at 86%, by far and away the highest they’d been on the entire trip! Our cardiologist told us he needed to be over 85% to be totally comfortable on a plane, and I just think God was showing off. It was very cute watching my two boys watching Star Wars at the same time next to each other, one in English and one in Mandarin. We got to Dallas and immigration processed Noah’s famous brown envelope, and he became a citizen!! We should get the paperwork for that in a couple of months. Then his first American pizza and a second flight home. Everyone did great. And at home, such a sweet group of people came out to welcome us! Noah met his Lao Lao (my mom) and we went home.
In retrospect, it was the best possible decision we could have made to bring our other kids. It would be different if Noah was younger or in a different place health-wise, but this really gave our family nearly 3 weeks to bond away from everything else. Noah loves having siblings, and they were a huge part of why he is excited to come to our house. He didn’t have to have any anxiety about how his siblings would respond to him when he got home because he already knew. And our kids have a much greater sense of the culture he’s coming from and the wider world, and also the issues surrounding orphans.
Noah couldn’t go to sleep before he’d run through the house twice, but then we tucked him into the bed that’s been waiting for him since last summer. When I put Toby in the top bunk, he looked down at Noah, grinned at me, and said, “There’s nothing weird about this at all, is there mom?” Can’t believe we’re here, and that he’s here.
It’s a funny thing. I know this is permanent and this is my son, but now that the trip is over which has been my focus for so long, I’m finding that I need to get my brain around the fact that he’s here in our home. It’s almost like that was a little interlude, but now we need to figure out how this is working in the day to day.
I will blog more about how he’s adjusting when we’ve been home a couple of days. I also wanted to write a blog about the food on the trip because that’s interesting to me, and about the money aspects of adoption if that’s interesting – let me know.
For now, it’s just good to be in my house. It’s good to see that Noah and Toby can share a room and to hear, even the first night, them giggling together after the lights were out. It’s good to know that we will see doctors this week, and hopefully we will have a plan, something I’ve wanted for a long time. And it’s good to hug my new son and know that he likes it now.