Monday, December 29, 2008

Christmas













Although Li Na and I didn't get up until 1:30pm (jet lag), we did celebrate Christmas, and of course capture pictures of Li Na in action opening up some of her presents, along with her proud daddy. We are very grateful to have loving family and friends who have been so generous in their giving.


Thursday, December 25, 2008
















Just a few more pictures of our last day in Guangzhou, departure from Hong Kong and arrival in San Franciso. I am note sure if Gale will post some sort of wrap up commentary. He is currently wiped out from chasing Li Na around the house to keep her from destroying everything.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Taking No Chances

Walking home from dinner last night we moved aside to make way for a small column of soldiers, marching two by two with their Sargent barking out orders. Although they were unarmed, the sight of soldiers marching across Shamian Island was almost comical. I suppose the Chinese are taking no chances.

From the air, parts of Guangzhou look like the Ginza district of Tokyo. Called "Canton" by the Europeans, Guangzhou has always been a major center for trade and commerce and it remains so today. From our room on the 27th floor of the White Swan Hotel we can see a 15 story high video billboard on the side of an office tower that displays full length commercials well into the wee hours of the morning. (see photo from Mei Ling's last post)

And yet, our hotel, located on Shamian Island, is surrounded by lush gardens, gorgeous European colonial architecture and pedestrian walkways. We took Li Na out for an early morning stroll and in the parks surrounding our hotel we saw young people playing badminton (without a net) older men doing tai chi and groups of middle age women dancing. One group was doing very traditional looking dance moves to traditional Chinese music. A block away we came upon a second group of 50 to 60 year old women, dancing to techno pop.

Later in the day, as we made our way to the medical clinic for Li Na's mandatory physical, we passed no less then 8 brides, all decked out in white and posing in front of grand European style mansions for formal wedding photos. Brides from all across Guangzhou flock to Shamian Island to be photographed in traditional European settings. The scene was quite reminiscent of the Palace of Fine Arts or the Legion of Honor on a sunny Saturday afternoon.

It is not only the brides of Guangzhou that flock to this island. Chinese families on holiday bring their children here for sun and relaxation. This is also a popular destination for Christmas, and the hotel has erected a massive Christmas tree in one of its soaring atrium's (See picture from Mei Ling's last post). Judging by their clothes, it looks like many of the hotel's guests are well to do families from Hong Kong.

And then there are the Americans. For Americans adopting in China, anywhere in China from Mongolia to Sichuan, all roads lead to Shamian Island, and more often then not, the White Swan Hotel.

Up until a few years ago, the American consulate office which handles overseas adoptions was located adjacent to the White Swan. Although the consulate has since moved to a more central location in the city, parents still flock to this island.

As a result, every restaurant and nick knack shop is baby friendly. All of the proprietors speak English and all are exceptionally skilled at separating tourists from their money. The sale is always closed with a smile and charming small talk so that even if you spend twice as much on a chotski than it would cost just one block off the island, you never feel ripped off.

Which brings us back to dinner last night. We had limitless options. Chinese, Italian, American, Mexican and Thai, to name but a few. We figured that nothing would appeal more to a two year old than meat on a stick, so we opted for Thai.

On our walk back, after passing the marching soldiers, we wondered about how this colonial looking enclave came to exist. A quick google search gave us our answer.

At the end of the first Opium war in 1841, China was forced to cede territories to the Europeans. This sand bar in the Pearl River (which bisects Guangzhou) was ceded to Britain and France. Those two colonial powers laid out a system of streets and parks and built grand stone mansions. The island became home to international trading companies and diplomatic consulates. The island emerged as a prosperous foreign enclave, complete with tennis courts and a yacht club. All of this wealth was clearly visible from the the rest of Guangzhou, which at the time was largely impoverished.

Needless to say, the Chinese were not happy about this humiliation. I suppose that troops from the People's Liberation Army, marching across this beautiful island, provide some assurance that such humiliation will never again be foisted upon China.

Pictures of Shamian Island, Guangzhou
















Here are some pictures from our last day in Nanning and the area around our hotel in Guangzhou. Gale will post one of his Alistair Cooke style letters from China latter today.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Bringing Order To Chaos

We arrived at the White Swan Hotel in Guangzhou at 9:00 last night. According to an article in yesterday's China Daily, constructed in 1982, this was the first luxury hotel built in China since the establishment of the People's Republic. While lacking some of the refinements of the Peninsula Palace (our hotel in Beijing) the White Swan is a beautiful property. Best of all, at least at 9:00 last night, out junior suite was spotless.

We left behind a chaotic mess at the Majestic Hotel in Nanning. While the piles of wet towels and dirty laundry were confined to the bedroom and master bathroom, the living room floor was covered with cold rice and noodles, relics the previous night's dinner and Li Na's new found insistence on feeding herself.

Our new, clean room gave us a sense of security. It gave us hope that the three of us could bring order to the chaos that had defined our lives for the last several days. And we do have reason to hope.

Li Na is what the Victorians would have called a "very willful child." Every day she demonstrates a new level of determination to do things herself, and her own way. However, this independent streak was not entirely apparent from the outset.

When we received her, Li Ze was wearing three layers of clothes. Her attire was more appropriate for Admiral Byrd's expedition than the 70+ degree weather in Nanning. We have since noticed that even in the most tropical climates, all children in China are bundled up as if in anticipation of an Antarctic blast of cold air. We get lots of disapproving looks and comments from older Chinese women about what they perceive to be the scanty clothing in which Li Na is now clad.

But back on day one with us, she was overdressed, perspiring and dehydrated. We gave her a pink sippy cup filled with water, and for the next several days, that sippy cup never left her grasp. She carried it everywhere we went, and even slept with it at night. This led to some confusion in the mornings as to whether that wet spot in her crib was from sippy cup or defective Huggies.

She had a similar attachment to a pair of dirty red socks that she wore on the trip from her foster home in Guilin.

We have since learned that she has been in two foster homes. While the story is vague, she was apparently placed with a foster family shortly after birth. In that family she had siblings with whom she purportedly enjoyed playing. For reasons that were never fully explained, there came a time when her first foster mother could no longer care for her. She was then placed with an older couple who had retired to Guilin after careers as teachers in Shanghai.

Perhaps this history explains her attachment to the red socks and sippy cup. She clung to them as physical manifestations of continuity. Her life had little in the way of stability or security, but these things that she could hold onto were hers and hers alone, and no one was going to take them away.

She also clung to us for the first two days. By day three, she was walking just a bit, but holding our hand wherever she went. By day 5 she was running ahead, not at all interested in being led around by us.

There are other manifestations of this growing independent streak.

She refuses to sit in a high chair, demanding instead to have an adult seat at the table. On the plane last night, she would not let us buckle her in. Through multiple efforts of trial and error, she eventually figured it out. She was probably the only passenger on the plane for whom that seat belt demonstration before take off was actually helpful.

All of this independence suggest that she is slowly coming to realize that even if she leaves our side, we will still be there for her. She is sensing an emerging order to her life and with structure comes security.

But with this new found security, sippy cup has all but fallen by the wayside. We still take it with us when we go out as a type of insurance against total melt downs (much like tangerines and Cheerios) but she no longer insists upon clinging to it. Now, if the crib is wet in the morning, we know the Huggies are to blame.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Leaving Nanning







Hi guys, thank you everyone for your sweet comments. Nina, and Maryanne, I keep thinking of you both and wondering if we took some of the same paths. Anyway, we leave in an hour for Guangzhou. I can't wait to see the "White Swan".






We didn't do much this morning, but here are a few pics from today. As you can Li Na more stumbles than actually walks, but she is determined. She seemed to get the concept of blowing bubbles, but with all her excitement in making one, she splashed the soap all over herself, soaking her self, and her dad. At meal time, she no longer allows us to feed her, she's so proud of her spoon skills, that she feeds both herself and daddy. So, not only is daddy wet, he's also well fed. Will post when we arrive in Guangzhou!!!

More Pictures
















Making My Peace With Wal-Mart

When most of us venture overseas, we seek out experiences with foreign cultures that seem most "authentic." More often then not, we associate quaintness with authenticity. A supermarket in Paris just doesn't seem as "authentic" as a vegetable stall in the Latin Quarter, never mind the fact that precious few Parisians do their grocery shopping in a tourist district.

Having spent our fist few days in the third most cosmopolitan city in China (behind only Shanghai and Hong Kong) Nanning somehow seems more Chinese. Yes, it has a population 4x that of San Francisco, but gone are the Gucci stores and the luxury car dealerships that we saw so much of in Beijing. So is this the real China, or is this as false a dichotomy as proclaiming Dallas to be more authentically American than New York?

To help the parents bond with their newly adopted children, and to keep mom and dad from getting cabin fever, Holt planned a number of small trips. Yesterday, we went to a lovely park just outside of town and we spent this morning at a rural village about 50 minutes away. (see attached pictures) For parents who want to pick up local souvenirs, a shopping trip was planned for this afternoon. For those of us wanting to stay closer to the hotel, we were given directions to a children's amusement park that is within walking distance. (see attached picture of Li Na freaking out on her first amusement park ride) And yes, among these outings was a trip to Wal Mart.

As first time parents, we really did not know what to expect from a two year old. We quickly learned that snacks (dry breakfast cereal, raisins, bananas, etc) are the key to calming a cranky child on a long bus ride. We also learned that a 2 year old can go through far more Huggies in a day then we ever dreamed possible. Li Na has a voracious appetite and what she eats and drinks seems to flow through her as effortlessly as one of those dolls whose diapers little girls changed in the 1970's.

I am certain that we could have found Huggies, raisins, bananas, children's DVDs and toddler clothing in lots of different stores throughout Nanning. But there is little chance that all could be found at any single store, save and except for Wal Mart.

Now, as some of you know, I have had my difference with Wal Mart in the past For those who don't know, just Google "Gale Connor" and "Wal Mart" But the three story Wal Mart "Super Store" in central Nanning was a godsend. There, under one roof, we could find pretty much anything we needed for our new infants and toddlers.

This brings me back to the issue of "authenticity." How, one may ask, could a trip to Wal Mart be in any way considered an "authentic" Chinese experience and how authentic a city could Nanning be if it is home to such a store?

In an increasingly urbanized country with a burgeoning middle class, international chains such as Ikea, KFC and Pizza Hut are popping up everywhere. The convenience of one stop shopping, which is what Wal Mart offers since many of the items that it sells can be found for far less money elsewhere, is just as appealing to the Chines middle class as it is to the American middle class. And, just like in America, pretty much everything in Wal Mart is made in China.

In the Nanning Wal Mart, the adoptive parents from the Holt group were the only Occidental faces in a crowd of hundreds of Chinese shoppers. We stood out as aliens, cultural outsiders in this very Chinese shopping experience.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Progress is made in baby steps












Hi all, this will be a short post. Gale and I are making progress, but as they say in baby steps. Today, we went on a bus ride to this area in Nanning called the Green Mountain. It was beautiful, and it was just nice to get out of the hotel and explore some sites outside the area. When we returned to the hotel, we took a stroll to the Peoples Park and visited this amusement park. It was fun, until Li Na had a memory spell or something, and just sorta started crying. So, I whipped out her Cheerios, and voila - she was smiling and happy again. So, just when we think we have made progress, we take one forward, and then two steps backwards. But, it's all good, and each day her personality shows. She is a very particular individual, loves to mimic, strong willed, loves to be clean, but hates baths, sweet, and very, very smart. She's learned a couple of words already, i.e., "what's that", pink, bathroom, daddy, mama etc.... She, also knows how to use chopsticks, and boy, does this girl like to eat. And, did, I tell you, she loves to dress up. She loves, stockings, shoes, anything - she just enjoys dressing. The 24 mos. clothes we have are kinda big - so they swim on her,. She's tall but lean. But, maybe after being with us in a month she'll fit them perfectly.... Anyway, Gale will be returning tomorrow to post. I believe little Li Na wore her daddy out today. Who knew a 2 1/2 foot little person could have so much energy....Tomorrow we are headed to a Nanning Village in the country side...





Monday, December 15, 2008

The Wake Up Call

The voice on the other end of the phone was far too chipper for 4:00 a.m "This is your wake up call."

Within a little over an hour we were outside in 30 degree weather being followed by two porters hauling our luggage to a tour bus idling in the street, too big to make it into our hotel's narrow driveway.

We were leaving behind not only a world class luxury hotel but a lifestyle that revolved around two things: work and entertainment. Just a couple of nights before, our biggest concern was whether we were going to hit a culinary home run with our restaurant selection (which we did with a place called "Made in China") or strike out as we had done with Maison Boulud.

We were not entirely sure what we were in for. We had attended an orientation session the day before. The Holt representative was very candid in describing the initial bumps in the road that some parents would face.

Most of the children in our group of 7 families were coming from foster homes. These children were likely to have developed close bonds with their foster families, which, she explained, would make it easier for them to form new bonds with their adoptive parents. The down side would be the trauma that these children would initially experience when separated from their foster families.

We were warned that some of these children would at first reject their new parents, kick and scream, refuse to eat and seem entirely inconsolable. This would happen to at least one adoptive family, and to one extent or another, we were warned that everyone could expect some degree of emotional trauma. These were very sobering words.

We arrived in Nanning after an uneventful 3 hour flight. It was 35 degrees warmer than Beijing and a world apart. Although a huge city by any standard and the provincial capital, Nanning does not have the wealthy, cosmopolitan feel of Beijing.

As were being transported to the Majestic hotel by bus, Li Na was making her way by bus to Nanning from Guilin, a city located a good five hour dive to the north. She had been separated from her foster family, placed on a bus with the orphanage director, and sent off to an uncertain future.

She arrived at a nondescript office building in Nanning that houses the ministry of civil affairs to meet up with 6 other girls ranging in age from 11 to 22months in age. At 26 months, she was the oldest.

When all of the girls had arrived, their chaperons brought them up an elevator and into a ceremonial hall, complete with flags of the world in a cemicircle around a lectern. There they were met by a gaggle of American families. Their future parents.

When Li Na's Chinese name ( Qin Li Ze) was called we both kind of froze. The Holt representative gave us a helpful look and smile. Gale stepped forward to take Li Ze from the arms of her chaperon.

For the first 15 minutes or so, in that hall, surrounded by six other families and their new daughters, Li Ze was a happy camper. She found us to be endlessly amusing. The pictures that we posted last night are from these first few euphoric moments. She must have assumed that this was all a part of an amusing day out and that she would soon be returning to her familiar world and family.

When it became clear that she was not returning, her mood changed dramatically. She cried, she screamed and she called out the name of someone, but she was speaking a toddler's Mandarin to adults who understood not a word of what she was saying.

From time to time over the course of the evening, the happy Li Na would reemerge. The gushing tears would suddenly cease and we were once again big funny people. She even took a walk around the lobby and delighted in splashing water on Gale from the lobby fountain. Then, just as suddenly, her mood would darken and the tears would come streaming down her face.

Her favorite foods were reported to be congee (a rice porridge) and rice. We therefore asked room service to bring up a bowl of each for dinner. She not only refused to eat, but she made very clear hand gestures rejecting our efforts to slip even a little food between her lips. She did drink copious amounts of water from her sippy cup. It is likely that she was dehydrated from her long trip, wrapped in three layers of clothes.

Bath time was reminiscent of bathing the cat back when she was in fighting form. Let's just say that Li Na did not take to the water. She was equally unenthusiastic about western style toilets, although she gets the concept.

But there was an unexpected phenomena. We put her to bed at about 9:00. That she went right to sleep was not unexpected, especially after all of the trauma of the day, not to mention a 5 hour bus ride. But here is the kicker. Not only did she sleep through the night, but we had to wake her up at 7:30. Even then, she was as reluctant to get out of bed as we had been the morning before when we received our 4:00 a.m. wake up call.

I think that this is all going to work out just fine!

We got her!!











Hi everyone, it was a very, very long day. We got up at 4:00am and then went to the airport, and arrived at our hotel around 12:00. We then met Li Na at the Civil Affairs Office. She is an amazing little girl. She had just spent 5 hours or more on a bus ride, and when we saw her, she had the most beautiful, adorable, cute smile. However, I wish I could say it lasted, but, later on in the evening after adjusting to the hotel and change, she was grieving very much, but, then we put her down. She's now happy again - I swear her personality is like a Jekyll and Hyde, but of course cuter, Anyway, we hope she will become more comfortable and happy as the days go by. Gale will write more later. We are both exhausted. But, in the meantime, here are a few pics.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Pho

It was cold and we were hungry. Nothing quite hit the spot like a hot bowl of Vietnamese beef noodle soup, Pho.

Our plan was to walk the Back Lakes, a chain of man-made lakes connected by canals that allowed barges to supply food and other items to the Forbidden City. We would take the subway to the northernmost lake. We would then follow the lakes to the Forbidden City and from there hop the subway at Tian Anmen square back to our hotel. It was a modestly ambitious undertaking.

We soon got off course and found ourselves at the the Drum Tower, made famous during the Olympics as the place where an American was killed by a deranged man. Having been to the top of the tower during our last visit, we were not inclined to make the climb again. However, the immediate neighborhood did hold some fascination.

There, tourism interfaces with abject poverty. We wandered into a series of hutongs, old and crumbling neighborhoods that are the last connection to Beijings past.

Some of these neighborhoods have been renovated and are now tourist friendly commercial Meccas. We did wander through one such area later in the day. We were struck by the number of young, well dressed Asian tourists with cameras, photographing the type of street scene that are are described in coffee table travel guides as "authentic" tableau of old China. An on man fixing an equally old and rusted bicycle. An old women cooking something on a charcoal grill. It was as if they were attempting to capture a fleeting bit of history. Not unlike tourists in San Francisco seeking out the old Italian men on park benches in Washington Square Park arguing about European football. A street scene that was prevalent 20 years ago, but one that has now all but vanished.

We took pictures of each other in this very picturesque hutong, some of which are included in this blog. We did not take any pictures in the other hutong that we stumbled upon earlier in the afternoon. It was a dirty crumbling neighborhood, with impossibly narrow passageways connecting houses that afforded their occupant little in the way of privacy. As well dressed foreigners, we stood out like space aliens.

We were tempted to snap lots of photographs, reasoning that these are just images of an old historic neighborhood. After all, tourists in San Francisco are constantly snapping pictures of Victorian homes occupied by real San Franciscans. But we knew this was not the same.

Call it liberal guilt, but we felt like voyeurs. When we were in South Africa a few years ago, we heard about tour guides who would take wealthy foreigners into the most impoverished black shantytowns for photo opportunities. While the poverty in Beijing does approach that of South Africa, our impulse to photograph it seemed, well, unseemly.

We emerged from that neighborhood to find a street filled with shops , cafes and restaurants catering to the tourists drawn to the Drum tower. That is where we found a restaurant called "Little Saigon."

The first thing we noticed when we walked in was the sound of one of our favorite songs from the 80's "My Own Personal Jesus" (Depeche Mode). However this was a cover by Nouvelle Vague, a French group that covers new wave songs from the 80's touring them into French cafe torch songs.

The owner of the restaurant was himself a gregarious French man, straight out of central casting. He had married a Vietnamese woman, moved to Beijing and opened the restaurant. He was a little surprised but very pleased that we, as Americans, recognized a band that is popular in France, but not quite as well known elsewhere. He immediately wanted to introduce Mei Ling to his Vietnamese wife so that they could chat in their native language and was only a little disappointed to hear that English is Mei Ling's native language.

In halting English he told us an abridged version of his life's story, served us a wonderful bowl of Pho and set us on our way. Somehow this intersection of popular culture, food and ethnicity was the high point of our day.

Finally the Photos



















we couldn't figure how to post from the past couple of days.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Learn From Lei Feng

The cab driver seemed baffled by our destination.

"I can take you to the Great Wall, Summer Palace or Drum Tower" he offered helpfully. No, we have been there and done that. We were insistent upon being driven to a decommissioned military base in an industrial area on the outskirts of Beijing to spend the day touring art galleries.

In all the years that we have lived in San Francisco, we have never once set foot in the 111 Mina, Intersection Arts, or most of the other art galleries in the City. However, our brains seem to be hardwired to associate travel with art. A trip to New York is not complete without an afternoon in Chelsea. Why should a trip to Beijing be any different.

We were fortunate to find a driver who could navigate his way to the 789 Art Area in the Chaoyang district. Last night we went through three drivers and three cab rides to get to the restaurant. Granted, it is located in the former US Embassy in a very official looking compound adjacent to the Forbidden City. Not exactly restaurant row.

Mei Ling's most amusing memory of the night is Gale surrounded by a group of 7 very helpful guys, none of whom spoke English, but all of whom had opinions about the location of our restaurant. They were all wrong.

Given the exorbitant prices and abysmal quality of the food, we would have been better off staying lost. Maison Boulud a Pekin was a monumental disappointment.

Not so the 789 Art Area. There must be close to 100 galleries, cafes and art related shops in this sprawling complex. The vast majority of the artists are Chines, with a few galleries showing European or American artists. The set up is a bit like Fort Mason, only on a much, much larger scale.

We were struck by the complete lack in pretension, both in terms of the art and the gallery staff. Those who spoke a bit of English couldn't have been more helpful in explaining the various pieces and giving a brief biographical sketch of the artist. Of course they viewed us as wealthy Americans who could afford to buy. However, not once were we the subject of anything approaching a hard sell. The attitudes did not change even after it became clear that we were there to look and not buy.

One of the most interesting exhibits was a collection of 12 photographs entitled "The New Lei Feng Stories."

Some may remember one of Chairman Mao's more cryptic admonitions during the Cultural Revolution: "Learn from Lei Feng." Although he was a real person, Lei Feng has been endowed with an almost mythical status. He was the poor orphan child (his father was killed by the Japaneses during the war) who devoted his life to preforming simple acts of civic heroism. He would rescue the neighbor's cat from the tree. He was the comrade who always worked overtime to ensure that his collective exceeded its five year plan targets.

Lei Feng was sized upon by the party as a symbol of the heroic everyman, kind of like Joe the plumber, only Lei Feng was a civic do gooder.

The New Lei Feng Stories photo exhibit plays on this mythical status. It places a 12" doll dressed as Lei Feng in various contemporary settings, often performing almost superhuman acts of civic heroism. The final picture casts him a Superman, shilling for Cannon cameras. Here is a link to the website:
http://www.mrgallery.cn/showpic.asp?id=748

The young woman who walked us through the exhibit had an earnestness about her that seemed fitting for Lei Feng. Don't get me wrong, she was very well educated and not at all naive. She understood the irony of the exhibit. But she did not see it through the same jaded post modernist lens that we tend to view such things.

She, along with the artist, can laugh at how today's consumer society would use the myth of Lei Feng to sell cameras, much as the State had used it 40 years ago to instill civic virtues. But on some level, both our guide and the artist, seem to ultimately revere the virtues that Lei Feng stands for.

So I guess this is our take away from the day. Learn from Lei Feng.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Beijing: Emerging From The Smog

What a study in contradictions.


We took the subway out to the Olympic stadium this morning. The subway cars, and each of the stations that we passed through, were spotless. Uniformed women swept the floors and scrubbed the station walls. Everything is state of the art and the system is so well organized that even a cave man couldn't get lost. This is clearly the product of a modern, efficient and above all prosperous society.


Upon emerging from the station, not more that 3 blocks from the bird's nest, we could barely make out the the stadium. It was completely shrouded in smog. Between the coal fired plants that supply this sprawling city's insatiable power demands, and the cars that clog the freeways, clean air doesn't stand a chance.


Parts of Beijing resemble Los Angles: bulky high rises, setback from each other by massive cold concrete plazas and surrounded by freeways. Older neighborhoods are vanishing, seemingly overnight. In parts of the city, a structure is "historical" if it went up in the 1980s. Very LA.


In the shadows of the new high rises, a few islands of old Beijing endure. Vendors sell mystery meats cooked over charcoal fires in ground floor storefronts of low slung buildings accessible only by incredibly narrow lanes (hutongs). These neighborhoods, while picturesque for us tourists, are a reminder of the huge income disparates that have emerged over the last 15 years.


But this city is filled with the young and prosperous. Every conceivable luxury good can be found here. In the central shopping district, Louis Vuitton stores are as prevalent as Benetton once was in cities like New York and D.C.


Celebrity chefs have also landed in Beijing. Tonight we are off to Daniel Boulud's newest outpost: Maison Boulud. Cutting edge French restaurants will not be playing much part in our lives in a few days so we are going to enjoy this now while we can.


Sunday, November 30, 2008

One Week To Go

Hi everyone, I just wanted to let you know we have our travel itinerary. We depart on December the 9th, and arrive in Beijing on December the 10th. We will be staying at the same hotel we stayed in last time we were in Beijing ("the Peninsula Palace"). On Sunday December 14th, we have orientation with Holt, and meet the other families. Then on December 15th (Monday), we fly to Li Na's Province of Nanning. We arrive in Nanning around 11:00AM, and check into the Majestic hotel, and meet Li Na at 3:30PM (aka, Gotcha Day, or Forever Family Day). Which will be Li Na's Day... We will be in Nanning for 4 days to finish up her paperwork, which completes the Chinese part of the adoption process. Then, on December 19th (Friday), we leave for Guangzhou, to finalize her adoption at the U.S. Consulate. It will be a very, very long return home. After completing our visas, December 23rd (Tuesday) and saying our oath that we will take care of her, we take an 8:30 pm train, arriving in Hong Kong at 10:30. We will spend the night at an airport hotel. We leave early the next morning for our 12 hour flight to San Francisco, and arrive on December 24th (Christmas Eve Morning) at 8:30AM. We hope you follow our incredible adventure in picking up little "Li Na"