Friday, May 22, 2009

The Land of Oz...

All of my girls are now safely tucked away in bed after our first full day with precious Kate. I think we can say it was a pretty successful day, with Kate continuing to come to grips with the fact that her not-already-uneventful life has changed big time once again. She woke up this morning, took a quick look around, and promptly started crying, probably thinking that she was going to wake up like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz and find that it had all been some sort of a dream. However, after seeing us in living color instead of black and white (and realizing that her new Daddy, although unshaven today, doesn't bear even the slightest resemblance to Bert Lahr... a fact that both I and, I'm sure, Burt Lahr, greatly appreciate) she quickly calmed down and the game of "Coax Kate Out of the Crib" began. She was very comfortable in her little 3' X 5' bubble and it took some serious negotiating to get her out.

On the plus side, I can now tell everyone that I traveled to China and successfully negotiated a high-stakes deal with one of the locals... and don't think I won't embellish that story to include some sort of nuclear warhead-angle if I ever run for public office. Hillary Clinton, eat your heart out.

Speaking of skillful negotiating, Leah heard Kate start to cry and promptly walked over to the phone, dialed Aunt Jennie's room (she knows the number by heart), and said, "Um... I want to come to your room." She then grabbed her deck of "Go Fish" cards and headed for the door. I guess her Momma didn't raise no dummy...why listen to crying when there's good spoiling to be had next door?

But I digress. The main order of the day was a walking trip to the local Kodak photo shop to take Kate's passport photo, followed by a trip to the Notary Office. Our merry little band of Americans left the hotel grounds this morning and strolled up and down several side streets, really getting a feel for the area. My only experience with international travel prior to this trip was a quick stop in Mexico during a cruise (thus putting my foreign policy experience on par with George W., although I hear he claims the time he once ate breakfast at an International House of Pancakes as "training for the big show"). No, no... love ya, W, if you're reading this, but I'm digressing again.

Anyway, if you've never been to a foreign country it can be a real shock to the senses. I was expecting the sights and sounds to be different, and was even expecting the polite stares (we tend to stand out a little bit), but the unique smells of the area are difficult to prepare for and even harder to explain. It's certainly nothing unpleasant, just a little different to my Western olfactory senses. Actually, there was one notable exception to the "not unpleasant" rule, and that was when we walked past a sewer. It's actually comforting, in an odd sort of way, to know that some things--- like the delightful scent of raw sewage--- are the same the world over.

Although my breathing is actually a tremendous level better here than at home (that had been one of my biggest concerns about this trip), I already know what street to visit if I need my sinuses opened quickly.

Well, back to the main story. At the Kodak shop, Kate had her picture taken alone, then she was joined by the two of us for our first "official" family photo at a portrait studio. Actually, it's not an official family photo yet, as Leah decided not to join in the picture and instead chose to hang out with Aunt Jennie in the lobby. Next, with Leah perched high on my shoulders and Kate attached like glue to Melissa (that little girl has quite a grip!), we walked a few blocks back toward the hotel to the Notary Office, where we climbed six flights of stairs to reach a conference room to sign more paperwork and have another picture taken with the Notary in front of the Chinese flag. As someone who is interested---some might say obsessed--- with government and its many facets, I was very intrigued to see the inner-workings of a Communist government agency up close and in person. Pretty cool stuff for someone like me, especially considering we were likely the first few Americans to ever visit this particular office. Quite an honor.

Later in the day we visited the local equivalent of Wal-Mart, a three-story building covering a block or more of ground and featuring a Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet on the first floor. Man, talk about sensory overload! Half grocery, half department store, and half yard sale/flea market (my apologies to Yogi Berra for the math in that last comment--- although I've always believed there are three types of people in this world: those who are good at math, and those who aren't). Go ahead and let that one sink in... I'll wait.

Mattel and Disney will be glad to know that they are doing a thriving business over here in Barbie dolls and Mickey Mouse items, as the toy section was covered with them. You'd think that since the darn things were built here they would be a little cheaper, but that wasn't the case. I paid the equivalent of $18 bucks for a Barbie doll today, which I guess explains how Barbie can afford a Malibu beach house and Corvette with no visible source of income. And before you ask: no, the doll was for Leah and not for me, but I'll go ahead and clarify that since I know that's probably what many of you were thinking. However, I was tempted to buy the counterfeit copy of the new Star Trek movie on DVD that was prominently featured in the video section downstairs, but since I have no desire to see the inside of a Chinese prison I let that one slide.

I think I better close this little missive for now, because if you're still reading this lengthy post you can tell that I'm apparently still not quite over the jet lag. Kate and I seem to be making headway in getting to know each other--- she let me give her a bottle and hold her hand walking down the hall today, which are big steps for these little children. Most haven't seen men before now (the nannies at the orphanages are mostly women), so she doesn't know just exactly what I'm here for other than to make her laugh playing "peek-a-boo."
If she thinks that's funny, she should just wait to hear one of my knock-knock jokes. :-)


  1. Wonderful post Shawn...I'm so happy you can breath!! I know you are taking very good care of all your girls....surrounded, but I know you like that!

    I love all of you so much and send all my love and prayers!!

  2. Shawn...can't wait to hear about the high level negotations you have going on over there ;-)

    Kate takes my breath away. Not to take anything away from Leah. They are both absolute beauties!
    Love the pics of the two of them together -- Leah is a great big sissy you can tell(she even knows when to exit stage left)

    If you can't breath when you get back...just take a little trip down to MSD. Hugs and kisses to Melissa and your girls.

    Be safe and Godspeed home!

  3. Kate is so sweet. It looks like she is loving having Leah as a big sis! It is wonderful to see your updates. Enjoy your time in China!

  4. She is such a doll (I was talking about your daughter, not the overprized Barbie)!!!! Glad to hear that things are going well.

  5. were made for blogging!!!!
    You are doing such a wonderful job keeping us all informed. Your girls are so beautiful.
    I hope once you get home and all settled in, we can all get together to meet Kate, and hear all your stories from China.
    God Bless.

  6. Great post! Love the photos and Kate's little smile. Looks like there great sisters already!

  7. Love the pictures!! She is so beautiful and it appears Leah is doing great as a big sister!

  8. I can't wait to hear more about the bargain you got! I'll admit (shamefully) that the math about took me under. As I am the 3rd of those 2 kinds of people.

    I love to see the smiles on your daughters' faces! It is only going to get better! We can already see her unfolding!

    God Speed!

  9. So glad to hear that all is going well! Take care. Your girls are simply beautiful!


  10. I am so happy for you guys. I have been praying it all goes well. Your girls are beautiful! I will continue my prayers.