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Trip to China
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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Today was a great day to sleep in but Stefanie arose at 5:30 a.m. She simply couldn't sleep anymore and it allowed her some quiet time to return some emails, do her Bible study, and generally have some quality peaceful time alone. I believe I rolled over, said something, and then it was back to sleep. The dude awoke, after sleeping throughout the entire night (no wakeups, no crying, no nothing), at about 6 a.m. and after pulling him from his crib, I got him back to sleep on while he lay upon my chest. Stefanie was able to get her workout with the FIRM in and shower and then it was time for me and Shepherd to wake up.

While Stefanie took over the duty of watching Shepherd, I proceeded outside to work out with my "peeps", as Stefanie jokingly calls the Chinese that are continually watching me while I am working out in the park. Today was no different as I found a sandbag (they are everywhere because of the potential for flooding here) and proceeded to carry it over to the park where the pullup bar is located. At first, there was no commotion but after I jumped rope and did pullups, I then lifted the sandbag for overhead presses. You would have thought I was an alien or a celebrity, about 15-20 people gathered around and just stared. Then, after I finished the first set with the sandbag and began jumping rope again, some of the people watching tried to copy my sandbag lift. It was hilarious -- none of them could lift it and then they would laugh at anyone who tried. There was one person who wasn't happy to see the sandbag, the lady who sweeps the area wanted me to remove it immediately and when I told her that she could move it, she wasn't amused. Anyway, after finishing the workout, the kids who were watching wanted me to spin on their playground equipment so I obliged and then I had to return the sandbag back to its home (didn't want someone to miss it or think that I had stolen it).

Not realizing the time, I walked in at 9:10 a.m. and Stefanie asked me about how long I had been gone. She had been in the room for quite some time and was ready for breakfast plus I had to meet David, our guide, and Tim, another adoptive dad, to complete the monumental amount of paperwork required to complete the adoption at 10:00 a.m. -- Oops! We ran down to the breakfast buffet with the idea that I would eat quickly and then come back for a shower while Stefanie and Shepherd would take their time. We also knew that we would be going to a traditional Chineses noodle shop for lunch so it wasn't as critical as normal for me to eat 3,000 calories at breakfast. Everything worked out and I was off to the White Swan to complete the paperwork. After about 30-45 minutes of writing the same information seemingly over-and-over on one form and then another, we were finally finished. OK, partially finished as I still needed Stefanie's signature and the "RED BOOK." The RED BOOK is well known in the Chinese adoption community because it is the document that recognizes your child's adoption by Chinese authorities. As Tim and I were walking out we discussed the tremendous amount of paperwork and we agreed that while it is a lot, it is just the right amount to not stop anyone from adopting but does weed out those who aren't truly committed to adopting. So we finished and decided to meet at 12:30 p.m. to go to the noodle shop.

With an hour to kill, Stefanie and I piddled around the room and then went to the White Swan early and did some browsing in a shop that has antiques. Stefanie found some wonderful stuff but we didn't have any cash right then plus it was the meeting time for go to the noodle shop. We all jumped into the air conditioned van (thank goodness as the heat and humidity were climbing at the time) and went zipping out into the traffic that is more of a constant here than in Atlanta. At least in Atlanta, the traffic maintains its own lane usually; here there are six lanes of traffic in two marked lanes. So we made it to the noodle shop and it was the middle of the lunch rush hour so we waited a couple of minutes and then were seated... the extra minutes gave the Chinese patrons there time to stare at us and point. I have gotten used to it but it still bothers Stefanie a bit. If they were just staring and pointing because we are Americans, Stefanie would probably not be so sensitive but they stare and point at Shepherd because of his club feet. What mom wouldn't feel the need to protect her child from that? We sat down and laughed with David about how hard it was for him to order for us because we wanted beef, chicken, or pork. He said it would have been much easier if we ate steamed fish, squid, or some more interesting Cantonese dishes. Anyway, he managed to order us some dishes. The meal started with fish and peanut congee which we all tried, except Stefanie who despises any sort of fish. I even asked David if congee was just a kids' meal but he said that all Cantonese eat it their entire lives. He proved it to us by finishing off the congee once the kids no longer wanted any. We had fried breaded dumplings and then fried dumplings with no breading. We also had beef and noodles and pork and noodles. They were so good that David ordered one more full serving of the beef and noodles. Before the additional noodles arrived, the waiter dropped off another dish that had broccoli and some sort of white meat. I tried it, Tim tried it, Nora tried it, David ate some but Stefanie waited. Finally, her curiousity got the best of her and she asked David what it was. He said it was a type of fish but that it was definitely not squid. I ate some more and then Stefanie continued her line of questioning. David finally withered under the intense scrutiny and told us that it was a traditional Cantonese dish (pause for effect) -- shark stomach.

Our little peanut

David, our guide, having anxiety over trying to order for us picky Americans

Rice noodles, very traditional Cantonese dish

Dumplings! Yum!

Our little bird, trying some noodles

Having fun in the tub
I continued eating it and then offered Stefanie some of the broccoli because it tasted so good. Yeah right! She politely refused and that was the end of that. David and I polished off the shark stomach and then it was time to go. But, not before I spilled water in Stefanie's lap (accidentally I guarantee you) when I hit the water bottle in front of her with my chopsticks. She handed me Shepherd and got the mess cleaned up. David called the driver and then I decided to switch the dude over to my other leg... to my horror, he had decided that while sitting on my other leg that it would be the perfect opportunity to completely download his bowels and have it explode all over him and me. Of course I didn't discover this little "accident" until the mess had dripped all over my shorts -- both legs. Well, let me say my reaction was -- FREAK OUT! I started foaming at the mouth, holding Shepherd as though he held the potential to cause a biological nightmare and screamed for 10-20 wet wipes. Thankfully my lovely bride was able to calm me down and, because of her foresight, we had wipes, diapers, and a changing pad -- disaster averted.

After the noodle shop, we came back to the hotel, Shepherd and I took a bath and then we all ventured out for some shopping. First stop was the antique shop in the White Swan were Stefanie got just the right Chinese decoration that met her tastes -- old and lovely (and inexpensive). We then proceeded to another shop for t-shirts and to get my new watch fixed. It was off to another shop for hats and chopsticks and then across to another so we could order a charcoal drawing for a friend. Finally it was back to the room where we took in "The Horse Whisperer" and Shepherd's nap. Stefanie caught a few winks as well and then we went to Lucy's for congee (Shepherd) and two baskets of fries (Stefanie and I).

We are now back in the room and will be getting some shut-eye for tomorrow. See you at the next update -- just two full days now before we depart.

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