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
10/9/2011 08:15:47 am

I am enjoying your blog about China. It is not a place that I will probably ever visit but feel like I am there from the details you share.

Casey Lozada
10/9/2011 09:37:46 am

Julie! I LOVE the details. I am absorbing every word you write. I cant wait to visit with you either by phone or person once you guys get settled. Thank you for telling soooo much! It's great to hear! In 7 hrs, you will have Meili. I look forward to the pictures and updates. Praying for you guys and thinking about you tons!

10/9/2011 10:58:11 am

I loved the Island when we were there. It felt so safe shopping there. I also went shopping with Ann. She is so cute and so much fun. Please tell her I said hello. Enjoy your time in China. Blessings, Debbie

10/9/2011 03:45:37 pm

Hey guys! Thanks for the updates. I think you're probably just homesick because you are ready for your family to be home. Can't wait to see you guys!!

10/9/2011 08:27:41 pm

You blog brings back ton's of memories! We simply loved GZ - maybe because two of our kids 'come from there' - but mostly because of the people - had some wonderful experiences and met a few really cool Americans (fellow adopting parents) there too!

Great joy for you guys - and if I recon time zones correctly - you've been parents for about 6 hours now - great joy for you guys!

On Baptism - the 6 Banyan Temple isn't far from the island - and the buddist monks will be happy to 'bless' your family! And if you remember your Catholic training - Baptism is something you guys can do until you get home!

hugs - prayers - aus and co.

10/10/2011 01:18:31 am

You two are doing it...Meili has a family. I can't tell you how proud I am of both of you. Just give her lots of love and hugs. See you soon.!!!!~

10/10/2011 01:44:46 am

Happy Gotcha Day !! I love your blog and am so happy for you all. Enjoy your time on Shamin Isle and dont forget to try Lucys Cafe in the park. We were blessed by the monks at 6 banyan tree while we were in China last year and it was a wonderful experience. Hope you can do that ! Have fun and blessed wishes ----- Ally

Barbara Schmid
10/10/2011 05:14:55 am

Happy Sigh **

10/10/2011 08:13:10 am

I can't wait to see your Gotcha photos! I'm really excited for your new family as it's making me super excited about picking up our son in Henan Province in January. :)

Best wishes and congrats,

10/10/2011 01:28:28 pm

Can't even begin to tell you how excited I am to see your gotcha photos and video! Its been great to read your blog and follow your progress. I have taken so many mental notes and bits of wisdom from your journey that I will use when we adopt a special needs child from China in the very near future! I love all the details! Thanks for sharing!

Rachel (from Lousiana)
10/11/2011 03:04:25 am

Can't wait to see Gotcha photos! ;)

10/11/2011 05:31:36 am

Love the blow-up duck tub! Thank you for the description, details and pictures of Shamian Island and in particular Victory hotel. Look forward to viewing pictures when you have that precious little girl in your arms!!

10/11/2011 05:59:01 am

So exciting following your journey. Im still in the paperchase phase, but will be completing our home study next month.

This will be our 2nd adoption (1st one from China), so I can relate to the exciting anticipatory feelings that you had before you met your daughter.

Best of luck in China. Can't wait to see the pictures of you as a family.


10/11/2011 09:16:07 pm

Congratulations! Meili is adorable, and I hope that she is settling in well with you. I just wanted to mention that we were able to go into the lobby area of the white swan a couple of weeks ago. The red couches are over near the windows overlooing the water. That area and the restaurant are all open. Have a great remainder of your trip!

1/25/2012 06:33:36 am

Good info bro

1/27/2012 09:16:15 pm

Nice article bro

3/23/2012 03:34:32 am

Thanks for details

3/29/2012 06:41:52 am

will be restored quickly

5/31/2012 01:01:34 pm

good post


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