Meeting Meili for the first time
Ben pushing Meili around Shamian Island on our nightly walks
Finalizing the adoption at the Guangdong Adoption Center. Meili didn't like being there.
It's official, the Yielding family gained another member! We finished the paperwork today. We are taking this one day at a time here. The next step in the process will be to get Meili a medical exam and eventually a visa, so we can bring her home! We have a few more official visits left, with some sight seeing tours. I know many have questions about the process, but it's way to hard to put into words what took place these last two days, so much emotion and stress on all parties, that is not mentioning the other 26 families that are here adopting as well. I was totally overwhelmed when we got to the adoption center. Again, can not put it into words, you just have to experience it for yourself. The cool thing is, the journey is just beginning, so buckle up people and we will ride this one out together. What I can say is today I became a father, ready or not. I pray that I do a better job than mine. Good night my peoples! 8)
We didn't do anything today. I woke up @ 5:30 am and Ben soon followed. We hung out in the room until breakfast time. Breakfast was a mix between European, American, and Chinese. Not what I typically like but we managed. I even tried the rice congee. It tasted like watery oatmeal - perfect for Meili! By the time we got back to our room, the bank across the street had opened for business (on a Sunday). Ben went over to exchange some money.
Ben trying to figure out the whole money exchange thing. He doesn't know that I took his photo from our hotel room.
 I assumed that it would take 15-20 minutes. Apparently, everyone else wanted to do business today too. By the time I got there, Ben was #27 in line and we were at like #15. We must have waited for 1 hour. After what seemed like an eternity, our number was called and we went up to the teller. She didn't speak English and we don't speak Mandarin. But with some hand gestures, we were able to exchange our U.S. dollars for Chinese RMB. We just did a few hundred bucks as tomorrow our guide will be with us when we exchange the large amount - orphanage fee, notary fee, and other in-country fees. Somewhere in the ballpark of $7500. I just don't feel comfortable doing this kind of exchange on our own. We need our guide's help.

After this, we walked around Shamian Island to familiarize ourselves with the place that we're staying for the next 10 days. We found Starbucks, the Orient Express (a French restaurant), several shops, the East Victory Hotel, the Pearl River, the Catholic Church, and the Shamian Christ Church. As we passed the Shamian Christ Church, the Mandarin/English service was in progress so we went on in. It was quite an experience to be with Meili's people worshiping the Lord. Once we get her, I'm going to see about getting her baptized in her country. Since I'm Catholic (even though I'm non-practicing), I hope that they'll agree to it. 
Shamian Christ Church - 11:00 am Mandarin/English service
On the edge of Shamian Island
After church, we walked some more. We found the White Swan hotel. This is where most adoptive families stay but it's undergoing a 15 month renovation. Maybe, a huge maybe, if we ever adopt again from China we'll be able to stay there. I'm sad that we won't get a red couch photo with Meili. This is a tradition among American adoptive families since the early 90s - around 20 years. We went into one shop and I decided to buy a painting of cherry blossoms for Meili's room. They are painting her Chinese name on it so it will be ready for pick-up tomorrow. We're holding off on any other shopping as we plan to have Ann, from redthreadchina.com, take us around later in the week. I've heard nothing but great things about her. We used her twice to send a care package to Meili, once in April and July, so I feel confident in her as a personal shopping guide! On the way back to the hotel, we stopped by the 7-11 and picked up a bottle of wine and a few things of water.

We came back to the room around 1:00 pm. I decided to take a nap. Ben got on the computer. He tried to wake me at 5:30. Apparently I told him that I was still tired. He let me sleep and I woke up at 9:30 pm. My 'nap' turned into a 8.5 hour slumber. I finally got up and he asked if I wanted to order room service for dinner. I looked at the menu but really wasn't feeling any of the selections offered. Neither was he. If you know Ben, this is a rare thing. He's always up for eating. But fried rice with mackeral and noodles with eel didn't seem too appealing to either one of us. His dinner turned out to be pop-tarts. I ate a little piece of one and drank wine. I'm toasting to my last night of being child-free/child-less; however you want to look at it.

As he was drifting to sleep, I was just getting up. I decided to blow-up Meili's bath tub. Her bath tub? Yes, you heard me. Her bath tub. I met a fellow adoptive mom online who suggested that we take a blow-up bath tub with us to China. I'm so glad that I listened to her advice. Because as it turns out, our room doesn't have a bath tub. It has a wonderfully large walk-in shower, which is perfect for adults. Not for a 1 year old. It took me a while to blow-up the tub. It's been many years since I blew up anything. Probably since I was a young teen trying to blow up an intertube to use at Lake Wedington. It took about 20 minutes but the duck came alive!
Quack quack goes the duck - or at least Meili's bath tub
After the duck tub was done, I took a few pictures of our room. We're staying in the renovated west building of the Victory hotel. It's a few blocks 'west' of the main hotel.
the super king size bed - it's larger than an American king which is what we have at home. It would easily sleep 3 adults.
the sitting area and desk - where we update you via computer every day
the entrance to our room. on the right is the collection of American products that I brought with us. They, along with our gifts to Chinese officials (don't even get me started on that), took up an entire suitcase.
the bathroom. at least it's a western toilet instead of a squatty potty!
So that's our room for the next 10 days. I'm very happy with our accomodations, except for the smell of cigarette smoke. I'm highly sensitive to it and it makes me have a headache and want to gag when I encounter it. But it's allowed everywhere in China. I knew that coming here but wow - it's like stepping back into 1970 in America. It's allowed in restaurants, hotels, shops, banks, etc. My clothes, that I just pulled out of the suitcase and hung in the closet yesterday, smell like cigarettes and mildew combined. Ben just pretends like he doesn't smell anything. He tries to be nonchalant about it.

I'll be honest. I'm having a really hard time being here. I've traveled to Europe/Asia minor three times and never encountered the level of homesickness that I've felt these past few days. Maybe it's because I've always wanted to travel to Europe. In fact, I'm still not done with Europe. Ben wants to take a cruise around Ireland, England, and Iceland and I want to see Scandinavia. We both want to go back to Italy. It was never on my bucket list to travel to China. To adopt from China - YES! But never travel. Ben suggested that when we come back for Meili's homeland tour that we tour via a western cruise ship. I couldn't have agreed more! When we were in HK, we saw a cruise ship pull into Victoria Harbour. Ben was like - "I bet they're having a lot of fun right now". I couldn't agree more! We may have many disagreements when it comes to certain things but we're always 100% in our mode of travel - cruise ships! In 10 years, we can come back and cruise the Orient with Meili. I've already decided that if she wants more then we'll pay for her to do a study abroad when she's in college. At that point, it's up to her if she wants to know more about her homeland.

I guess that's it. I'll leave you with the below photo - of Meili's crib. One more night and she's no longer an orphan!
Meili's crib
Ben and I woke around 7:30 am - or at least we think it's 7:30. It could be 6:30 or 8:30. I feel 50% better today. We got dressed, packed up our things, and decided to see a bit more of HK before check-out at noon. Our hotel is right next door to the biggest mall in HK so we decided to head over there to check out their options for breakfast. Everything was closed because, obviously, it's early in the morning. But there was one saving grace - STARBUCKS!!! As soon as I saw it, I literally yelled out a little joy and relief. Something that I could eat that didn't contain uncooked food. I got a vanilla latte and chocolate chip muffin. Ben got a carmel frappuccino and cinammon roll. They were sooooo good. We ate like it was our last meal. Afterwards, we walked around the mall and then headed out to Canton Road. Canton Road was already buzzing with traffic, pedestrians, and salesmen (the Indian men passing out their cards). We saw a few stores that you may recognize:
Dior on Canton Road in Hong Kong
After walking around, we decided to check-out and head over to Hung Hom train station. The taxi ride was quite interesting. There was a strange smell. I had never smelled anything like it in my entire life. I can't really even describe it. It was just very unpleasant. The cab driver was funny. He was silent until a phone call came in. Instead of speaking in a regular voice, he started talking very loudly to the caller. I recorded some of the conversation. It's really funny b/c he was so loud. Unfortunately, I can't upload the video due to the slow internet.
We arrived at Hung Hom and had a few hours to kill before boarding the 14:47 train to Guangzhou. We stored our luggage and ate lunch at Maxim Express. It was our first real Chinese meal. Not really. It tasted exactly like Chinese food back home except the meat still had the bone. We walked around and walked around and walked around. The station was fairly small and we had to wait a few hours. Eventually we got our luggage out of storage and headed over to the queue for our train. We were the second family in line. We boarded the train. When I started looking around at the other passengers on our car, I realized that we were the only Caucasian folks on board. An Indian couple sat across from us but everyone else was Chinese. Ben put our luggage in an unsecured rack above our head and we sat down. As soon as we did, the same thought came to our head - this is a communist train. It was old, worn down, and nothing like we've experienced in Europe or North America. Ben said it reminded him of the cold war and East Germany (he lived there for 2 years right before the Berlin Wall fell down). The colors were gray and blue-gray. Ben kept whispering "this is exactly like what East Germany did to their people - no colors".

The train started and we were on our way out of the free zone and into the mainland. I figured with a 2 hour train ride that we'd see some empty land, maybe some farms, or countryside. Nope. There was never a break in buildings, people, or human civilization for 2 hours. Sure, there were sections blocked off for little gardens maybe 1-2 acres. And there were areas where the beautiful trees and vegetation had not been clear cut but there was just mostly buildings. Many brand new buildings, many communist style buildings, and many metal shacks. No individual homes. All towers with many apartments except for the shacks. What's funny is that the shacks had, in my opinion, the best living conditions. I mean sure you're in a shack but you had very few neighbors, space to yourself, and you didn't have to worry about noise level from your neighbors b/c no one wanted to live near you!

We arrived at the Guangzhou train station and had to pass through immigration into mainland China. Wait, let me back up to immigration leaving Hong Kong. I think I must look like a criminal. Both Ben and I went up to the immigration officer at the same time. The guy took one look at me and said where's your exit form. I say that I don't know what he's talking about. He points me back to a wall full of forms that I must fill out. I sigh and head back to fill out the form expecting my husband to soon join me. Nope. The guy let Ben pass right on through - barely looking at his passport. Ben didn't have an exit form either but I guess he just looks friendly and non-criminal. I quickly filled out the form, handed it to the same guy, and he scrutinized every single thing. After what seemed like forever, he finally waved me through so that I could board the train. When we went to go through mainland China's immigration, I again was scrutinized. The Chinese immigration officer kept looking at me, my passport, and my visa - flipping through the photos. It was then that I realized why there was such scrutiny. My hair was long in the photos and I didn't have on braces. Now, my hair is chin length and my mouth is filled with braces (something that is very uncommon in China). They must think that I'm an imposter. After the intense scrutiny, he let me pass on through. Ben whizzed by like normal. We collected our bags and headed out to the lobby. We passed by a money exchange place and Ben asked if we should stop and exchange money. I told him no let's just find our guide (this later on becomes a mistake!). We found our guide, Wensi, and her driver picked us up in a very nice minivan. She seems very nice and professional. They drove us to Shamian Island and dropped us off at our hotel - Guangdong Victory Hotel (west building). She checked us in and we agreed on a meeting time for the money exchange on Monday before we had to be at the adoption center.

The bellboy took us to our room. It's about 4 times the size of our HK room and renovated in 2010. I am so freaking thankful! The room in HK was a step above a motel 6 and the same price as this wonderful spacious room in GZ (short for Guangzhou). The bellboy unloaded our luggage and was waiting around for a tip. Literally. He waited for Ben to get out of the bathroom. We had no Chinese money so Ben gave him some HK money. I was starving so we headed out to see if any restaurant would accept a credit card instead of cash. Eventually we found one that did - the famous Cow and Bridge thai restaurant that every adoptive parent staying on Shamian Island raves about. They accept Mastercard and luckily that's all we have. I ordered chicken and rice and a Heineken. Ben ordered a Coke and chicken, rice, and vegetables. The food was brought out quickly and was heavenly! Mine was bland but I was thankful b/c I didn't want an upset stomach. Ben's had some kind of spice to it - very good. We ate all our food, paid our bill, and walked the 100 ft back to our hotel. By this point, it was about 7:30 pm. I was exhausted and fell asleep on our super king size bed. The bed was comfortable compared to the HK bed but not as comfortable as the bed at home. Still as soon as my head hit the pillow I was out.

Ben stayed up til after 11 pm trying to figure out the internet. Mainland China blocks most western websites, like Facebook, Blogspot, Youtube, Google, etc. He figured out how to access our websites and now here you are reading on our blog! It's too slow to upload videos. I may not be able to do that while here in GZ. We have one night in HK before flying home and I have a feeling that we'll upload a few videos then - like the one meeting Meili for the first time and of her orphanage.

We're glad to be here on Shamian Island and will be meeting Meili at 2:30 pm on Monday. That's about 1:30 am on Monday for folks back in Arkansas! But, by the time you wake up you'll get to see Meili!