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China: Day 9 & 10 – Maiden Voyage in the Friendly Skies for Some Poking and Prodding and Picking Oh My

When the little lotus boarded her first-ever flight Friday afternoon, she might have been daydreaming that we were headed for some R&R on the beaches of Hong Kong. Even though our flight path sent us in the right direction, as (crummy) luck would have it, we stopped just short of that popular coastal city in favor of a much larger, and much busier southern metropolis, Guangzhou. And rather than relaxation, we had some serious business in store, including a gut-wrenching medical examination the very next morning.

We’re running out of ways to call her a “champ”, but we can just say Julia handled her first flight with impressive ease. Ahead of the flight, she happily allowed a standing diaper change while climbing on a magazine rack. We’re kind of sorry, Nanjing airport travelers, but then again… who can resist such a squeezable bare butt and some public toddler nudity? Once we took off, short of a five minute full-on cry, the worst of the two hour flight was merely some restlessness. And that restlessness isn’t just due to being constricted in midair; the last two days she’s really beginning to come out of her shell and fidget around like you’d expect from a near-two-year-old. Her motions are quicker, her grasp stronger, and her banging is louder. This is a good (er, great!) thing, as we think it shows that her fear is dropping while confidence continues to build in our care. And even though this little wiggle worm kept us busy on her first flight (and made us dread the BIG flight Thursday even more), we'll welcome her developmental progression any day of the week. Especially when she flashes the full-on teeth smile at 100 total strangers behind her in the plane. That always helps.

By the time we landed at 6:45pm Friday (welcomed by 85 degrees and 87% humidity), got our bags, and took a 30 minute bus ride to the hotel, The Bee had fallen asleep in Sarah’s arms. With no time for a bath and only a chance to wake her for a quick bottle dinner, adjusting to a new room (her second home with us) made the nighttime routine a bit more difficult. But we rocked her to sleep as usual, she slept through the night as usual, and the streak continues. After unpacking and getting settled well after 10pm, Mom and Dad’s streak continues too… missing at least one meal per day due to this whole chaotic schedule and new-parent adjustment thing.

So with no dinner, a new home, an early wake-up call Saturday morning, and a big medical appointment ahead with 16 other adoptive families… we saw the makings of a tough day. But truth be told, it wasn’t nearly as bad as we envisioned (and of the horror stories we’ve heard). The entire drill was a necessary step ahead of our U.S. visa appointment Tuesday. Essentially, the United States needs to verify that these children don’t have serious disease before “letting them in” to the country, and that their special needs match all the previous paperwork.

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The appointment circuit in a downtown international clinic consisted of standard general examination, medical file review, head measurement, weight/height/temp check, ear/nose/throat evaluation (say ahhhh!), and then the dreaded final step. Due to her previous condition, they had to draw blood on the poor buddy to “prove” she had been healed. Policy says that parents can’t be in the room, as it only adds to the child’s angst; plus, they want the parents to be the relief on the other side of the door when it’s over… not part of the pain. So just days after being handed this precious soul forever, we had to temporarily relinquish our hold while two strangers wrestled to stick her arm and draw blood – not just a prick like testing for TB. She screamed until she was breathless, but we were able to calm her back down very quickly given how worked up she was. I think we were the only parents in sight who were crying on the other side of our child's door, and it warmed our hearts that we were such peace for her once back in our arms. This, like many other small victories, shows evidence of real bonding that reassures us that we’re on the right track in such a short amount of time.

And speaking of milestones, we had a huge breakthrough Saturday afternoon. We knew this little peanut was holding out on us when it came to her standing and even showing us some glimpses of future dance moves. Throughout the week, when we tried to get her to stand, her tiny legs would just go limp a majority of the time unless we were holding onto her nearby (like in the window sill). We had seen previous pictures and videos of her standing and bouncing alone, plus her nannies at the orphanage confirmed her true abilities. So we didn’t force it, but were itching for her to be comfortable enough with us to stand tall and move those feet a bit. Then out of the blue (just five days after being with us), she gave us a sneak peak of things to come. No spoilers, but watch the progress in the video below. We hope you love her little effort as much as we did.

We have two free days up next (Sunday and Monday), while we await results of the medical check ahead of Tuesday’s oath taking and paperwork at the U.S. Consulate. This city of 20 million – historically known as Canton, i.e. Cantonese – is far from the charming town we had just gotten used to in Nanjing. Plus, we’re right smack in the middle of the China Import and Export Fair (Canton Fair), a biannual commerce gathering featuring 25k exhibitors, 60k booths, and 190k overseas buyers in attendance (yes, this statistics geek looked it up). So our hotel feels more like Grand Central Station meets United Nations, with even a line to get into the free buffet breakfast this morning. We’re not thrilled with the surroundings, but we ARE thrilled with just about everything else in life (especially how adorable Jujube looks and feels in the little old man sweater below). Considering that hotel room floors and room service remain our staples, we’d be happy anywhere in the world.

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"I am a lotus flower – delicate, fragile, yet strong... floating, unfolding, and blossoming into the life where I belong.”