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Journal of Our Trip to China

November 3, 2002 -- We got the call with our travel dates. We are going to get Sheridan next week! We will return on Thanksgiving Day. Guess we won't need to tell everyone what we are thankful for this year.

November 10, 2002 -- Our flight left Washington at 11:15am. Like last time, we watched our progress on the personal video monitor as we crossed into the arctic circle, over Siberia, and to Japan. After a short layover in Tokyo, we were on our way to Hong Kong.

November 11, 2002 -- We arrived in Hong Kong safely at 10:30pm local time. Total time on an airplane - 18 hours 53 minutes, according to Jim's new watch/toy that he bought for the trip. Total travel time 23 hours. The trip hasn't gotten any shorter! This time Hong Kong seemed familiar, like an old friend. Even so, we were once again astonished by the quietness and efficiency of the Hong Kong airport. We took the train into Kowloon and checked into the Hyatt Regency on Nathan Road - the street that never sleeps in Hong Kong. We however, slept.

November 12, 2002 -- Today we explored Kowloon and Hong Kong Central. There is no lack of shopping in this town, but we resisted for the most part. Tonda did again buy socks, four pair for $100 Hong Kong dollars (or $12.50 US dollars, roughly $3 a piece. Yes, it takes a little getting used to doing the math.) Tonda's new motto, "Travel to exotic places, buy socks!" Then we took in a movie, "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," in English with Chinese subtitles. Strange that we have to come all the way to Hong Kong for a movie date! But seriously, we've only been to the movies once since the last time we were here two years ago to get Elaina.

November 13, 2002 -- Met up with the group today. We toured much of Hong Kong Island by bus. For some great photos (not mine though) of some of the places we visited, go to Photomann's site. We went to a local market, visited Victoria Peak (the highest point in Hong Kong), took a ride out to Fisherman's Village in Aberdeen Harbour just of the South China Sea. [That all should look familiar to all of you who followed along with us on the last trip, because the tour was identical, except for two things. This time around it was actually clear enough to see well from Victoria Peak. And this time many of the rest of the group had gotten in this morning so the tour was a little rougher for them. Glad we had the extra day!]

November 14, 2002 -- We flew from Hong Kong to Nanning, Sheridan's hometown. We had a couple of hours to settle into our hotel, the Majestic Hotel, also known as the Mingyuan Xindu Hotel. Then it was off to get the babies! All seventeen families (actually two groups together) waited nervously in a government ceremonial room, complete with China and US flags and when the babies were brought in one by one it quickly became chaotic with crying babies (and parents!). Meanwhile we spotted little Sheridan in the hall. When it was our turn, Sheridan, like the others, was a little unhappy about leaving the nanny, but she would let Jim hold her. The first few hours with her were a little bumpy, but soon enough she was asleep and we all got a good night's rest.

November 15, 2002 -- She is certainly a daddy's girl! She clings to Jim and cries if he gets out of her sight for a second. Today we returned to the government office to do the adoption registration. We also received gifts from the orphanage - a Zhuang "wedding ball" and a photo album with pictures of Sheridan and her nanny on some fun outings. Now it is clear why she was so unhappy to leave her nanny. Then it was on to the notary office for more paperwork. Back at the hotel, Sheridan proved that she is going to be trouble by taking four or five steps on her own - at 9 months, 1 week old! Yikes!

November 16, 2002 -- We all went shopping today at a local department store, which sometimes reminded us of Tyson's Corner and sometimes it looked more like a super clearance special day at Filene's basement! We bought some staples (baby formula, Pringles, beer, wine and water) at the supermarket on the lower level, then headed upstairs to check out the kids' toys and clothes. Sheridan is amazing us every hour. She loves banging together the stacking cups and can actually put them inside each other. Did we mention -- she also loves her daddy!

November 17, 2002 -- We went to Green Hill Park where we visited a Buddhist Temple, climbed a nine story pagoda tower and saw the grounds for the upcoming folk festival, which was filled with amazing flowers. In the afternoon, Tonda and some of the other ladies indulged themselves with a massage at the local "blind man" massage establishment. After Sheridan was asleep, we enjoyed a great room service Cantonese dinner and toasted Elaina's third birthday with a bottle of "Great Wall" red wine.

November 18, 2002 -- Today we visited the Guangxi Provincial Museum and Minority Ethnic Garden. It was fascinating to learn about the 11 distinct minorities of the province (Sheridan is from the Zhuang people) and the gardens were quite beautiful. We also saw a demonstration of traditional ethnic dances and games and were even invited to join in the fun. In the evening, we had a group dinner at the hotel Cantonese restaurant and afterwards a birthday party and cake for all the babies. Sheridan is still a daddy's girl but she will let Tonda hold her as long as Jim is within sight. She is also a very happy baby with lots of big dimply smiles. It looks like she may actually be willing to keep us afterall!

November 19, 2002 -- The outing today was to Yiling Village, a local Zhuang village, which is in the mountainous region north of Nanning. Our Guide told us that it is a typical countryside village, but we were all quite shocked to see just how poor and primitive it was. There was a community well where everyone came for drinking water and to wash clothes. The animals live on the first floor of the houses and the people on the 2nd and 3rd floors. The rooftop of the farmer's house that we visited had a spectacular view of the village and surrounding jagged limestone mountains, but it was really hard to get past the unbelievable living conditions. And almost 1 billion people in China (80% of the population) live like this every day. It was an eye-opening experience and we found ourselves wondering if Sheridan was from a similar village. That evening we had pizza back at our 5-star hotel (ironic) and strolled through the streets of Nanning.

November 20, 2002 -- We went back to the Department Store today and did more shopping there and in the streets. Sheridan is really starting to settle in nicely and that is a good thing because in the afternoon we received our adoption documents, so there is nothing she can do about her draw for parents now! In the evening a group of us went to a new Australian restaurant, The Kangaroo Cafe, and it was good to have a steak! Sheridan is not yet eating steak but she will try everything you offer her and wants to feed herself.

November 21, 2002 -- Today we packed up, had group photos taken, and took a 4 1/2 hour bus ride from Nanning to Guilin. We saw lots of interesting countryside on the way and reached Guilin just before dark and checked into the Sheraton Guilin. Guilin is one of the top tourist destinations in China and it was strange to see Americans without babies! Sheridan did really well on the bus ride -- we are hopeful that is a good indication for the long trip home.

November 22, 2002 -- Today was amazing! We took a four hour boat ride down the Li River from Guilin to Yangshou. The jagged limestone mountians rose up from the river and valley in a very surreal way -- it looks like the classic chinese paintings that you always thought could not be real places. Tonda shot five rolls of film and Jim got lots of good video. Sheridan mainly loved being outside! In Yangshou it was more street shopping (haggling) and then back to Guilin on a 1 1/2 hour bus ride, where we walked down to Elephant Hill, which looks like an elephant with its trunk in the river.

November 23, 2002 -- In the morning we visited Camel Hill, which, indeed looks like a camel, and was the site of a speech by Bill Clinton in 1998. Then we visited the zoo in the park and saw "mei mei" a 35-year-old panda. We also saw a guy who had brought his pet monkey to the zoo - curious! Afterwards, it was on to the airport for a quick flight (50 mins.) from Guilin to Guangzhou. We were greeted at the airport by Alice, who was our guide two years ago when we got Lainey. It was good to see a familiar face and a familiar town. Checking into the White Swan Hotel felt great. Either all the familiarity or the fact that this started the last leg of the trip made us absolutely giddy with delight. We walked around Shaiman Island and then ordered a celebratory pizza from Danny's Bagels.

November 24, 2002 -- We took Sheridan to her first Mass at the Stone House, the big, old cathedral we visited last time. I would like to say that she did well, but that would be a lie. She actually did much better at the Qingping Market afterwards. She slept while we walked around taking in the strange sights of the city's famous outdoor market. The market seemed to have toned down some since we were last here or else the shock value for us had just worn down a bit. This time it seemed like there were more cats, dogs, and fish for sale as pets then for cooking. Of course, Sheridan was full of energy by the time we got back to the hotel and we were exhausted. In the evening we had a group dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe.

November 25, 2002 -- This was a big day! The babies had their visa photos and physical exam in the morning. Then we made another trip back to Qingping, as guides for another couple in the group. In the afternoon we did all the remaining paperwork for the US Consulate, then headed back out into town. This time to the jade markets, where Tonda finally found the jade chopstick rests that had thus far elluded us for two trips to China! We can come home now (oh yeah, actually, we have to finish getting things done to get Sheridan out of the country, too). We had dinner with some other families in the group at Cow Bridge Thai Restaraunt and then watched the Chinese "Who Wants to Be A Millionaire" on television.

November 26, 2002 -- Sheridan did much better today at the Six Banyan Trees Buddhist Temple, where we took the babies to be blessed by the monks, than she did Sunday at Mass so maybe there is hope! Then we went to the Chang Family Clan Mansion, the provincial arts and crafts museum. Afterwards our guide took us to a fabric store to buy silk. Dinner was at the outdoor BBQ restaurant at the White Swan Hotel, which we enjoyed as much this time as we did last time.

November 27, 2002 -- Today we went to the US Consulate Office to pick up Sheridan's visa and immigration papers to get her into the US. Then we said goodbye to Aiyi Alice once again and caught a plane to Hong Kong. Some of the group went on that evening, but we were happy to spend the night in the Regal Airport Hotel and head out the next day.

November 28, 2002 -- This will probably go down in history as one of the longest Thanksgiving Days ever. It started off with room service breakfast in our Hong Kong hotel, then on to our flight to Tokyo, then on to San Francisco and Washington D.C. Three countries in one day! After essentially racing backwards through time for 23 hours and 28 minutes (total time from when we got on the plane in Hong Kong until we got off in D.C.) we arrived home Thanksgiving evening. We had a lot to be thankful for, but mostly we were thankful to be home with family and friends.

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