Huffman Coding

… with a bunch of Family Stuff too

Kaitlin’s Adoption

I kept a journal on my palm-sized PC while on my trip to China in 1998 to adopt Katie. I faxed the journal every day or so back to a friend who converted it to an e-mail message and sent it to family and friends. I’ve pieced the sections back to together and removed most of the typos and put it here. Enjoy.

Let It Snow!

Minneapolis, 12/20 10:30am

Chris and I are taxiing to the runway for our flight to L.A. It is snowing and the airport is down to one open runway. We were de-iced and we’re number 3 to go, but since the flight is 80 minutes delayed already, things look interesting for our next stop. We had a 42-minute layover in L.A., but that has evaporated. And now the pilot has indicated that we have to be de-iced again.

Every time we have attempted to get advanced seat assignments for the L.A. to Shanghai leg, the ticket agents have said the computer won’t give them to us. Obviously the computer knew there was no chance we’d make the flight.

I hope we can join the rest of the group in Shanghai tomorrow just before the flight to Guangzhou. If not we’ll try another, probably more roundabout, route to Guangzhou if we can stop our luggage from going to Shanghai without us.

The flight is now in the air—120 minutes late. We have no idea whether any of the other 4 couples adopting are stranded on this flight as well. I’m sure we’ll find out in L.A.

Wild Things

Los Angeles, 12/20 5:38pm

We missed our Shanghai flight and the airline stopped our luggage from going there without us. I did see a Hollywood actress I recognized (Denise Richards) waiting for someone else on the last flight. After much ticket agent tango, we tentatively ended up with a red-eye flight directly from L.A. to Guangzhou on China Southern Airlines, skipping the overnight in Shanghai altogether. If this all works out, we should arrive at our destination 4 hours earlier than originally scheduled (albeit without showers or a good night’s sleep). Unfortunately the China Southern airline has such a small presence in L.A. that there is no one around to confirm our seats until their ticket counter opens at 8:30pm. If Northwest booked us on an already full flight, then we will be in L.A. 24 hours and arrive in Guangzhou a day late.

Until we can confirm our red-eye, we are killing time in L.A. at a Quality Inn with the Kuzma’s. Ken and Jane recognized us from an EAC (our agency) seminar. We unfortunately didn’t recognize them. They are from the Hocking Hills area and they are the only other couple that departed from Columbus. Our conversation seems to center around our pets. I’m sure the conversation topics will change once we have our children. Their future daughter’s name is Kori.

I tried several times to send these first few paragraphs from the hotel, but I could never get a connection. This does not bode well for future e-mails from China. Oh well.

Slippers, sir?

L.A., 12/20 11:00pm

We got to the China South ticket gate at 8:30 and discovered that all the coach seats were booked. After running back to the Northwest ticket counter, three terminals away, to get the appropriate NEW vouchers, we were assigned to some available business class seats. We will be able to stretch our legs (and sleep) on the longest leg of the flight, get in early, and save a hotel night. We called EAC to let them know the change in plans. I still have no idea where we will meet our guide, Zhou.

While I was running between the terminals, I shared a shuttle bus with Roger Mudd and Andre Agassi. Two people representing the pinnacle and nadir of authority. The bus driver asked me, in a whispered voice, whether I had ever seen “60 Minutes.” I nodded in approval because I didn’t have the heart to tell him that he was confused. In case you are keeping score at home, that’s 3 famous citings for Ken, zippo for everyone else.

How’d we get behind?

Guangzhou, 12/22 8:40am

Just landed in Guangzhou and called EAC again. EAC is telling us that Zhou is in Guangzhou as well, but at the domestic terminal that we didn’t know existed. After MUCH too much running around it seems the travel agent booked the group on the same flight, but on two successive days. We were going to wait for them to catch up with us in a few hours, but now we have been told by EAC to swap our tickets for the next leg, to Zhanjiang, from tomorrow to today. Of course the flight is full, so we are trying to get 4 seats on standby with no success. Although EAC says Zhou is in the same airport as us, we can’t find him. We’re guessing that he’s in the waiting area where we cannot go because we do not have tickets. Argh.

Never mind

Guangzhou, 12/22 12:30pm

We, to no one’s surprise, didn’t get on the flight. We call EAC to tell them that we’ll try to catch a train to meet them in Maoming, our final destination. After being quite vehement in telling us that we were in the wrong place at the wrong time, EAC is now quite calm. It has occurred to them that we were right all along and that we should just sit tight. Zhou is now in the air to Guangzhou oblivious to the perfectly fine situation. EAC has panicked him too instead of relaying my late night L.A. phone call of a day ago. Thank goodness the wrong flight was full or we would have been totally lost!!!

Together again for the first time

Guangzhou, 12/22 7:30pm

We found Zhou shortly after his group got off the plane. With him were Ken and Linda from Cleveland, Kim and Murphy from Opaloosas, and Mike from Buffalo. Mike’s wife is not here because she became pregnant during their adoption process, which is incompatible with China’s “one baby” rule. For those keeping score at home, that’s three “Ken”s.

We are staying one night at the Victory hotel (phone: 86-20-8862622). Initial impressions are okay, but room service sucks.

We have had our interviews already and signed the Guangdong provincial paperwork. Tomorrow we head to Zhanjiang where we’ll spend two nights. Three of the couples will adopt from there, while the two Columbus couples will take a two-hour ride to Maoming the day after to adopt.

It turns out that the Maoming children, to our disappointment, have been in orphanages instead of foster homes. China, understandably, is not exactly proud of their orphanages and discourages foreigners from visiting them. The babies will be given to us at a neutral location, probably a hotel room. We shall see.

Just the fax ma’am

Guangzhou, 12/23 3:00am

As evidenced by the time Chris and I just woke up, we must still be on Ohio time. I just faxed my first e-mail message to Rich Ball, my indispensable e-mail router. If you got the message, thank him for his involvement. This was plan “B” as I was planning on e-mailing everyone directly, but my modem is very picky on the type of dial tones it responds to. The upshot is that 1) I will be keeping Rich busy, 2) I won’t be able to read my e-mail until I get home, and 3) there is likely to be a “blackout” period when Rich is away visiting his family for Christmas. I also blew up my PalmPC’s AC adapter when I plugged it into a 110volt, but mega-amp outlet. There was smoke and everything. Kaitlin’s birth name is Mao Xiao Qiao, with “Mao” being her last name. Evidently orphan’s last names come from the name of the orphanage. In our case the “Maoming” orphanage. Her middle and first names are pronounced “shaw” and “chaw” respectively. As there isn’t a direct mapping of Chinese vowels to English so these pronunciations are a little off. There is sort of a hidden short “i” sound before the “a”s. In any case, they’d make good Scrabble™ words if they weren’t proper.

Pieces of Eight

Guangzhou, 12/23 10:30am

The Chinese currency is the Yuan. I simply have to divide by 8 to convert to dollars. It beats dividing by 13000 to convert Vietnamese dong to dollars. Chris has already started her souvenir buying, while I purchased more batteries. The local store has diapers and strollers, as they seem to know their target audience pretty well.

We strolled by the local park and saw morning exercises by school children and the elderly. A group of young kids were running in a large circle and lots of them waived and said a friendly “hello!” as we video taped. It was great and it reminded us why we are here.

On the plane from L.A. we met two other women adopting with different agencies. One, Shelley from Pittsburgh, was adopting a three-year-old Deaf child, with her husband staying back in the states with their two other biological children. She was expecting it would be a major effort communicating with the child because the girl was not taught any formal sign language, Chinese or otherwise. Earlier this morning, Jane ran into Shelley and her daughter. It is usually quite an adjustment for toddlers when they leave the orphanage walls for the first time leaving all they know, but I am happy to report they are getting along famously! She is already learning American Sign Language, including her new American name, Anna.

3 is not quite enough

Zhanjiang, 12/23 4:00pm

About an hour ago, we landed in Zhanjiang and headed to the hotel. The 3 children from the local orphanage were there awaiting their new parents in the lobby. The Kuzma’s and we will have to wait for another day. While I kept myself busy by videotaping Ken and Linda and their baby Emma, Chris stood in the background and, well, cried. Things are better now as we’ve headed to our rooms and Chris is distributing rice cereal from our stock to the new parents. She is also playing surrogate mother to Marie, the daughter of temporarily single dad Mike. Right now Marie is sleeping in Chris’s arms. Both quite content. No one has had the heart to disturb little Marie by putting her diaper on forward. The orphanage could not afford diapers so they didn’t know which end was up when they put it on.

We’re staying at the Hai Bin Hotel (86-0759-2286888) through Christmas Eve although we’ll spend most of tomorrow, “Gotcha Day,” on our day trip to Maoming.


Maoming, 12/24 12:00pm

The two remaining couples left for Maoming around 8:30 after a great breakfast. Zhou had 3 collapsible walkers with him that the parents chipped in for. They were the kind you’d see in nursing homes except that they were 1/3 size. These were for some special needs children at the orphanage, who in all likelihood will never have parents. Chris tried not to think about it.

The route passed patchwork garden farms and chicken farms as well as the small shops and homes that we were now used to seeing along China roads. Most of the buildings were run down one-story shacks, but occasionally you’d see an immaculate multistory home covered with shiny ceramic tile right next to them. Very striking. There was a great deal of construction along the route too. Scaffolding is made of bamboo. Surprisingly, it looked like a large portion of the buildings under construction had been abandoned with their unfinished concrete shells deteriorating.

Maoming itself is a petroleum-refining city. The ’80s oil boom seems to have built the city as everything is new and, compared the rest of China, quite clean. We didn’t realize we hadn’t seen streetlights along the route until we saw brand new ornate ones in Maoming.

We headed to the notary office directly. The two babies were brought there shortly afterward. We double-checked the spelling on the documents while videoing our first experiences with the kids. We received two packets of documentation, but there were surprisingly few documents to sign.

The one document that held our interest the most read, in its entirety,

Mao Xiaoqiao, female, was born on April 6, 1998. She was found forsaked [sic] in front of gate of Hedong Xinhua Bookshop of Maoming City on April 8, 1998. She was sent to the Welfare Court of Maoming City on April 8, 1998 by Hedong Police Substation, Maoming City Public Security Bureau. Her parents and other relatives are unable to be found up to now.

Unlike the children adopted the day before, Kaitlin and Kori were wearing brand new, clean clothes and had clean ears and fingernails. And huggies put on correctly. Chris reported the presence of the “new baby” smell. Their hair was neatly trimmed. Okay, it was actually shaved on the sides. She is healthy except for a little cough and very dry skin. Kaitlin looks like her referral picture but she actually can smile when played with.

After the notary, we went to the lobby of the local hotel to meet with the orphanage director. She handed us a city map of Maoming and a little booklet on the care and feeding routine of the orphanage. Both were a welcome surprise.

First moments at ‘home’

Zhanjiang, 12/24 2:30pm

For those who did not already know, Marissa is a “sitter.” She can sit without ever falling over and can stand with minimal assistance, but Kaitlin, on the other hand, is a “crawler.” Her specialty is crawling and rolling. Perhaps they can learn from each other.

They do have one thing in common, they are both “grabbers.” We put a bed spread on the hotel room floor and dumped out Kaitlin’s toys and she went nuts chasing them all. Belated Christmas in Hilliard will be interesting.

She seems to take the soy formula we brought once we found the right nipple although she had no interest in the eggs we tried to sneak past her thumb.

Tomorrow it’s back to the Victory Hotel in Guangzhou and the INS side of things, but right now mother and daughter are both blissfully sleeping.

A very good Christmas Eve.

Rudolph the Rabbit

Zhanjiang, 12/25 9:00am

I’m guessing, but it feels around 70 degrees out. I’ve heard that it is now in the single digits at home. Although it does not feel Christmas-y here because of the temperature and our minds are elsewhere, the locals remind us by wishing we Americans a “Merry Christmas” in English. Our hotel has a Christmas tree in the lobby and paper cutouts taped to the windows. I found a cutout of Santa in a sled being pulled by rabbits.

Food, Glorious Food

Guangzhou, 12/25 3:00pm

Our little girl is finicky. In the past day she’s only had 7 ounces of formula (at most 1 or 2 ounces at a time). We’ve tried different nipples, formulas, temperatures, and even added a little sugar to it, with no success. Right now Zhou is trying his best to help but having no luck either. We have to have a medical exam to enter the U.S., and this will happen this afternoon. Perhaps they may be able to find something concrete.

Say Ahh

Guangzhou, 12/25 5:30pm

As soon as I mention that she is not eating much, she starts eating.

We went for baby Visa pictures and a medical exam a couple of hours ago. Because this island section of town seems to cater to foreign adoptions, both were within walking distance. While we were waiting for the Polaroid’s to develop, the families with their kids stepped outside the little photo shop. Along came Japanese tourists who wanted to take several pictures of themselves with the Americans. Chris and I mugged for the cameras and giggled uncontrollably.

Another short walk in the other direction from the hotel took us to the medical center. The five babies went through medical exams assembly line style with each area having their own doctor. The first area had scales. The second had an exam table for height, weight and body exam. The third station was for ear, nose, and throat. The exams were pretty thorough, but the five babies were in and out in about thirty minutes.

Panic Now!

Guangzhou, 12/25 6:30pm

Back at the hotel lobby, I ran into Shelley and Anna. We swapped “Gotcha” stories. Having surrounded myself with babies under a year old, I was genuinely taken aback with a three year old with a face full of teeth. She mentioned that she had been to the American consulate although her appointment wasn’t until Monday. She reported that in addition to having three years of 1040s, the INS official stated she needed all the supporting schedules. If she didn’t have them, she wouldn’t be able to bring Anna back to the states. Since her husband was still at home, he was able to fax them to her. Crisis averted.

Right about this time in the conversation I got a queasy feeling in my stomach. From my April experience with the INS in Bangkok, I know that they can add seemingly arbitrary additional requirements for your supporting documentation even after they have issued you an I-171 form indicating that you are fit to adopt. The INS in Bangkok didn’t need the schedules so I assumed INS in Guangzhou wouldn’t need them either, but I panicked just to be safe as each INS office, at home and abroad, has their own separate policies. No standards for requirements or service. Think IRS with a sadist streak. Within the hour I placed a frantic phone call to my mom in Westerville. She doesn’t have a key to my house so she’ll have to borrow it from the cat-sitting neighbors, if they haven’t left for the weekend. Then Mom has to rifle through my papers to find three separate years of returns. Then its time to find a Kinkos to long-distance fax them. Oh yeah, its 4am Ohio time Christmas morning.

My PalmPC batteries went very low while I was faxing the last note and errors were reported while on the second page, so I am starting off this one by repeating the last half of the previous letter in case some of page two didn’t make it out. Gee, I guess I shouldn’t have blown my AC adapter by plugging it into what only looked like a 110v outlet.

Couch Picture

Guangzhou, 12/26 5:00am

Our entire entourage went to the hotel’s restaurant for a group Christmas dinner. Zhou ordered a plethora of Chinese food for us. l had “duck head” which is quite a delicacy I was told. It was all bone, as you would expect.

We were in a private room and after dinner we took a group picture of the babies in their Christmas regalia on the couch in the room. The hotel manager brought Christmas gifts for the girls: silver arm bracelets. The night before, at 10pm after we all had gone to bed, the hotel in Zhanjiang gave us little clown dolls.

Local atmosphere

Guangzhou, 12/26 11:30am

The Kuzma’s, Chris and I had breakfast together in the lobby restaurant then ventured out shopping. Although we went directly to bed after dinner last night, the Kuzma’s stayed out until 11:30pm. They reported it was quite a party atmosphere on the streets last night. They shared stories of people in Santa hats, some hats glowing with tacky electronic LEDs. Others in Halloween garb. Of course being the only Caucasians within site, they drew their share of attention even in normal street attire.

Small animals were being sold on the streets: pigeons, fox, rabbits, etc, for whatever reason. Even in the light of day after breakfast, animals were still being sold. The four of us were stumped because we couldn’t figure out the exact species of an almost anteater-like animal.

We ventured further and stopped at a store the Kuzma’s had found the day before. The little hole in the wall shop was literally on a narrow flight of stairs. They sold native dressy satin clothes and counterfeit beanie babies among other things. Chris bought several little tops and the Kuzma’s bought dozens of retired beanie babies on the cheap. Pidgin English “Ty” tags and all. Lest you think we have left civilization, this “flighty” store has its own web page: [broken link now].

We ordered a chop for Kaitlin. A chop is a hand carved ink stamp with her birth name on it. We should be able to pick it up this afternoon.

Modern Technology

Guangzhou, 12/26 12:30pm

Thank you, Mom! We received the fax tax packet a few hours ago. She found everything including a place that would send a fax on Christmas day! To complicate her task, she discovered the Guangzhou area code I had given everyone was out of date. For those needing to call us in the next few days, we are really at 86-20-81862622, room 3633.

I have also heard that the human fax to e-mail server is on line. Thanx, Rich. I hope you aren’t having to retype everything. If I can, I’ll try to pick up a baby sister for Reilly while I’m over here. I owe you.

On the less wired front, I just lowered Kaitlin’s crib eight inches. She has the wherewithal to stand herself up and reach over the railing. They grow up so fast! :-)

Over the River

Guangzhou, 12/26 5:00pm

The Victory hotel is on an island inside the city. This afternoon, Zhou took the group across the moat (“moat” sounds better than ”sewer”, Chris says the water was unbelievably aromatic). What a different world. We went down several very dirty, very crowded streets with vendors hawking all sorts of goods. First were the dozens of spice vendors. Then the jade and trinket vendors. Then the food vendors: vegetables, fish, fowl, snakes, rabbits and (ahem) cats. A few streets down we did see turtles, cats and dogs being sold as pets. What a difference a few hundred feet makes. We also visited an exquisite jade carving shop. Very ornate pieces of jade art were going for upwards of $10,000. We also hit a department store for baby necessities. Back on the island, Chris emptied my wallet of Yuan and I headed for the hotel while she picked up the chop, more dressy Chinese toddler outfits, and about a dozen beanie babies. These seem more authentic, but I’m wary now. She can cease shopping any time now. Unfortunately tomorrow is the day we visit the jade marketplace. So I suspect it won’t be then.

Smile on your face

Guangzhou, 12/26 6:00pm

We broke out the Snugli® for our shopping excursion today, so my shoulders are quite sore. I have irrefutable evidence that Kaitlin weighs more than Marissa did in April. The one advantage of the Snugli is that Kaitlin was in my face all afternoon.

For the first few days after the adoption, our new daughter did not smile at us very much. I found this disheartening. The social worker who taught us one of our mandatory parenting classes mentioned that orphanage infants may not have much social interaction with adults. Kaitlin could easily amuse herself with things, but we got blank stares when we smiled at her. At some level I, like I suppose most parents, need to know I’m liked by my child and I certainly wasn’t getting positive feedback I yearned for. This afternoon, while the two of us navigated the crowded streets of Guangzhou, every time she looked up she saw a bearded goofball staring back at her. As the afternoon progressed she fell asleep; I assume somewhat content with her new situation in life.

While Chris shopped for stuff, I fed Kaitlin a bottle. This time the girl with the crew cut smiled back. A very happy smile—almost a giggle. I had gotten my 16-pound validation I had sought. Perhaps she realized that her life, which changed drastically a few days ago, just might have been a change for the better. Either that or gas.

Fine Dining

Guangzhou, 12/26 8:30pm

With 4 days to go, Chris and I were craving Western food. Chris was also adamant about staying in the room and having me bring the food to her. McDonald’s to the rescue. The restaurant is on the bustling, interesting side of the moat. When inside, the place looked like a typical busy McDonald’s except for a teenaged employee in platform shoes on my side of the counter. She was there presumably to point patrons to the shortest line. In my case she was thrilled to translate my order for a “Big Mac & Fillet-o-Fish” into her native tongue. Amazingly my order in Chinese was still “Big Mac & Fillet-o-Fish.” She giggled. She inquired whether her bearded patron was from America and I said “yes.” She giggled. She taught me how to say “hello” in Chinese. She giggled. When I got my order, I tried to say “thank you” in Chinese. She giggled. As I left she spouted “bye bye” and “see ya.”
… While giggling.


Guangzhou, 12/27 2:00pm

This morning, the troop visited the Chen Ancestor Temple. The temple was built in 1894 as an academy for Chen family members. This learning promptly stopped eleven years later with the Cultural Revolution, but the building still stands as a relic. It has the most exquisite woodcarvings on the doors, walls, and rooftops. Descriptions of what I saw would not do it justice. Gorgeous. Local vendors occupied corners of the place selling jewelry, carvings, and bonsai. Chris shopped. I should also mention we were one of 18 American couples with adopted Chinese children visiting the temple at the time.

We then headed to a Buddhist temple. Outside there was a courtyard with several stations for waiving and burning incense for prayers. And a sink for washing in case you got any prayers on you. Inside the temple, along several crisscrossing corridors, were 500 life-size gold Buddha statues each slightly different than the next. Drums were lightly tapping to answer prayers for those who donated to the temple.

The temple walls separated it from the cacophony of a jade market that surrounded it. A couple hundred jade vendors occupied a dozen narrow streets surrounding the temple. In her element, but under severe time constraints, Chris proved her mettle by quickly buying even more stuff.

Anna and her mom

Guangzhou, 12/27 8:30pm

The Kuzma’s and we ate at the White Swan hotel for dinner. That hotel is on the island as well and is quite swank. We bumped into Shelley and Anna again, so we sat next to them. After dessert, Anna was licking every knife within arms reach clean for the next diners at that table. At an adjacent table, with my own silverware, I had salmon while koi were swimming in a pond a few feet away. Lucky koi.

After dinner Shelley and Anna showed the six of us the hotel’s holiday lights against the night sky. She shared a story of how she eloped with her husband, a high school sweetheart, six years ago even though she wasn’t currently dating him at the time. As an interpreter for the Deaf with her ebullient personality, short dark hair and glasses, she reminds me of another wonderful person I know back in Columbus. The similarities are striking. She says she wants a family of seven. More power to her. Anna, a special needs child, has a special mother.

It was a great evening, but it ended on a maudlin note as we walked back to our hotel after dark. After seeing Ken, Jane, Chris and I with our two babies in our arms, a Chinese man, with his own toddler in tow, offered to sell his daughter to us.

In an odd showing of human entropy, that man and Shelley shared the same city for the week.

No. 2 pencils, please

Guangzhou, 12/27 10:30pm

With our INS appointment early tomorrow morning, Zhou grabbed half of each couple for paperwork in his hotel room. We filled out a half dozen INS forms each from two to eight pages and attached tax forms to them. I was struck by how similar the babies’ situations were. Same province, same hair color, same unknowns. I’m sure I’m jinxing things, but it didn’t seem like the harried paper chase that Vietnam ended up being last spring.

Vital Stats

Guangzhou, 12/28 5:00am

Kaitlin was abandoned at the front gate of a bookstore. I can’t help but think that the birthmother wanted her child to have literate parents. The orphanage director shared earlier that the Maoming babies still had their umbilical knots attached when they were found, so they were able to guess Kaitlin’s real birth date within a few days.

Emma, Ken and Linda’s baby, has what is probably an inaccurate birth date. At twelve pounds, the orphanage estimated she was born seven months ago. Linda is finding it hard to accept that the girl assigned to her is that malnourished.

Emma, at the smallest, has the largest appetite by far. Kaitlin’s appetite continues to grow, although she’s not talking as much formula as she should. To counteract her small appetite, we feed her in the middle of the night. Otherwise she would sleep through the night, and we can’t have that! She weighs 7.4 kgs (16 lbs, 4 oz.) and is 65 cm tall (26 inches). With her chubby cheeks and thighs, I’m sure we have nothing to worry about. Chris can now get her to giggle and laugh when tickled—we just can’t do it when we are trying to feed her.


Guangzhou, 12/28 11:00am

Our meeting with INS was at 9:30am. We left a little after 9 because it, too, was within walking distance of the hotel.

My past experiences with INS have not been pleasant ones, either in the states or in Bangkok. I was expecting the worst. Last April in Bangkok, we had to visit three different INS offices, each in a different building. The first office was a stark waiting room with a bank teller-like security window. You deposited your paperwork without actually seeing anyone and you waited nervously for days in your hotel for an acceptance or rejection letter. Half the time you were rejected and you had to hunt down more supporting documentation in a different country. After you were accepted, you had to schedule an interview at a second office behind another impersonal bank teller window for final review and fee payment. Then you waited another day before receiving the baby Visa at a third office. The process often took a week or more.

I was expecting a similar experience today. But when we entered the U.S. Consulate grounds and went past a “stroller parking” corridor, I knew things were going to be different.

The room for processing adoption paperwork was on the second floor. Our group sat on comfy sofas waiting our turns. Yes, sofas. The room had colorful, kid-friendly pictures on the walls and there was even a quilt with babies names embroidered on it. There were two cribs available. In one corner of the room were baby toys. In another, a little table and chairs. It was like a pediatrician’s waiting room! One by one, we were called. We sat in front of a desk for the interview and saw the INS person face to face. No bars, no bank teller microphone. Just a nice guy named Keith. He quickly reviewed the paperwork while we were there at his desk and everything was fine. End of the INS story for the Huffmans. We pick up our baby immigration Visas tomorrow.

Ken and Linda were missing their 1040 Schedule B’s. One of their relatives is running around like my mother did three days ago. The INS was understanding though. As long as the paperwork was faxed within the next day, they’d be able to get their Visas along with everyone else. In Bangkok, they would have gotten a “Nasty-gram” faxed to the hotel two days later and had to reschedule their flight home.

The group dispersed on the way back to the hotel and Chris, the ever-vigilant shopper, stopped for postcards and another gift for Marissa.

Local Lunch

Guangzhou, 12/28 12:30pm

Right about now Chris and I were ravenous for western food other than McDonald’s. With nothing in short walking distance, we had a Chinese lunch at the hotel. I ordered “noodles with various meats,” but when the noodles came, there were no mammalian meats that I could discern, just all kinds of slimy things resting upon my bed of starch. I was adventurous and ate most of what I saw. I could have, but chose not to order “deer penis” off the menu. I’m not that adventurous.

Five Goats

Guangzhou, 12/28 4:30pm

Most of the group was pooped by this time and hibernated in their room, but Zhou took the Kuzma’s and us sight seeing this afternoon. We can’t seem to shake them. :-)

The first sight was the Six Banyan Pagoda. The octagonal pagoda is 1500 years old and has 17 stories. Inside were 1000 Buddha images. The Grand Hall next to the pagoda had three huge brass Buddhas, each 20 feet tall and weighing 10 tons. They are the largest existing ancient brass images in this south China province. Once again incense burned everywhere.

We visited the Guangzhou Historical Museum next. The city was a shipbuilding center hundreds of years ago, so there were iron anchors and model ships on the various floors. The museum is on a hill and the top floor had a balcony open to the city below. I’d like to say the view was breathtaking, but since this city is quite dirty, haze obscured all but a small portion of this large city.

Our final sightseeing spot for the afternoon was a city park with the Five Goats statue. Goats are the symbol/mascot of Guangzhou. Legend has it that five goats with ears of corn in their mouths bestowed prosperity to the city. Or something like that. Well the statue was cool anyway.

Everything’s gonna be alright

Guangzhou, 12/28 10:30pm

On our last night in Guangzhou, the group visited another ancient cultural relic: the Hard Rock Café. A Philippine band played American soft rock (“Desperado,” “My Heart will go on,” “My Girl,” etc.) Prior to dinner, we all listened to a chamber orchestra perform Mozart in another hotel’s lobby. I liked the orchestra better, but they weren’t selling any logo’ed T-shirts.

Playing the odds

Guangzhou, 12/29 10:00am

At dinner last night, Linda talked to an American woman whose husband works for Proctor and Gamble. They’ve been here for four years and she volunteers at a local orphanage. The orphanage does not register infants when they arrive; they wait until they are three months old. This is their policy because there are so many infants and 9 out of 10 die before they reach that age. I read somewhere, although I could kick myself for not remembering where, that China does not make children under 6 months available for foreign adoption. I now suppose it is because the Chinese government does not want a portion of the adoptions to fall through.


Shanghai, 12/29 10:00pm

Earlier in the morning, Linda’s sister came through and the fax and it was carried to the consulate. We picked up all five baby immigration Visas mid-afternoon and checked them for typos. There were none. Can you tell I keep waiting for a complication?

We caught the next flight to Shanghai. The cabin was only slightly pressurized so the baby’s ears were hurting. Kaitlin was especially vocal about her predicament. The general consensus among the group is that the flight dinner main course was some kind of pork, or perhaps duck, but I won’t hazard a guess. The silly puttyish “joy cake” was interesting too.

We just checked into the Regal International East Asia Hotel. It is quite nice. Since Chris wasn’t as adventurous as I in partaking in the flight’s dinner selection, she is now enjoying room service cheesecake. For the first time on this trip, our hotel room does not have twin beds. I guess if you are adopting, you don’t really need to share a bed. The entire room is operated by a big wood and brass remote. It controls all the lights, TV, radio, alarm clock, and air. Chris had to get the bellhop’s assistance in operating this heavy machinery because all she could do is get the lights to flash on and off temporarily.

No open sewers

Shanghai, 12:00pm

Right before we left the hotel, Chris changed Kaitlin’s poopy diaper in the front marble window ledge of the hotel. The bellboy watched from the hotel’s roundabout—stunned.

We did our final shopping this morning. We finally found a souvenir for me: a mahjongg tile set. We also visited a boardwalk along one of Shanghai’s rivers. Zhou grew up here and is pointing out the sites. Shanghai is a much nicer city than Guangzhou. Much cleaner, modern and more accessible to English speaking visitors. If you look closely you can almost see some of this city’s occupants smile once and awhile.

Mind-altering substances

Over Fukuoka Japan, 4:00pm

We have left China airspace bound for LAX. From prior experience with Kaitlin and altitude changes, we drugged up Kaitlin with a little Benadryl. She slept through take off but now she is squirming in the seat between us. The flight attendants are fawning over Kaitlin and one of them just took her away to the serving area. We’ll adjust to the
temporary peace and quiet.

When U.S. couples adopt Chinese children, they have to go through the consulate in Guangzhou no matter where in China the child is from. No other consulate or embassy does the paperwork. Consequently, people are much more used to seeing Chinese children lugged around by U.S. adults in Guangzhou than in Shanghai. I suspect that had we been on a flight directly from Guangzhou to L.A. with forty other babies aboard, I doubt they’d pay much individual attention to any baby.

On our last leg(s)

Minneapolis, 12/30 7:00pm

We’re about to fly out on the last leg home to Columbus. I called mom before we boarded the plane to let her know we were still on schedule. She reported the e-mails over the past week or so have been “zoo”y. I can’t wait to catch up on what others have thought of our trip and my typos.

My mom and Jane’s mom have reported that there may be quite a contingent waiting for us at the airport. Can’t wait to see you all. We’ve got lots of heavy luggage.


Hilliard, 12/31 10:00am

It turns out we have less luggage than expected. While dawdling at the gate with family and friends and the channel 4 TV cameras, our 2 of our 3 bags when round and round on the baggage claim carousel. Our third suitcase was last seen in L.A., but seems to have gotten lost since. Perhaps it too was enjoying the trip and was sorry to see it end.