A bit about the Himsel Zoo Crew

We have been blessed to have four wonderful children that we affectionately call the "Zoo Crew". Our house if filled with alot of noise, moving parts, love and laughter. But it always felt like we were still missing someone at the table. Deb follows along with a number of advocacy sites for waiting children from China, but it wasn't until the fall of 2015 that we found our son. We were drawn to a photo of an adorable boy soon to "age out" of his orphanage in China. Deb knew almost immediately he was meant to be ours. Even though Chris took a little longer, it wasn't too long before we started down that adoption journey again. This has led us down another whirlwind paper chase to bring home our boy. We are so close to making the trip to China, and can't wait to make Matthew the newest Zoo Crew member.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Guangzhou bound

When we arrived in Beijing we found out that our consulate appointment was a day earlier than all of our plans were made around.  As I said earlier, with this being expedited, we had to do things a bit out of order.  Our agency however went ahead and purchased our plane tickets assuming our appointment would be 6/7 or later.  Well, we got our appointment set for 6/6, which means in order for Matthew to get his medical exam and his TB testing done before the appointment we have to leave for Guangzhou today.  This also meant we had to buy another set of airline tickets for the flight - no change fees, no exchanges, just purchasing another full set of tickets.  I was not happy to say the least, but it is what it is.

Because our stay in Nanning is shortened, we don't have the opportunity to visit Matthew's city, Guilin, and we don't have time to do any sightseeing in Nanning. Given the heat index here, I'm pretty sure we are all thankful that we aren't out touring the parks or hiking through some nature preserve. But we did worry we weren't getting a good feel for Matthew's province.  So we did a little googling to see what our options were and asked Glen if we could visit the Guangxi Museum of Nationalities, since our flight wasn't until late tonight. He thought it was a good idea - a great way to learn about the province, and we would have plenty of time.  So that's what we did. And given the air conditioner in our hotel room was not working, we thought the museum might be cooler than just staying at the hotel.

on the way to the museum we passed by the stadium that Matthew competed in last week.

At the museum we learned that there are a lot of similarities between Matthew's province, Guangxi, and the other kiddos' province, Guizhou. Both have a lot of minorities represented, and the museum showed quite a bit of the cultural differences between the groups. It was fascinating to see the different clothing and traditions.  We saw a unique style of embroidery that is reflective of the province. It helped us to better understand one of the gifts we received from the orphanage - an embroidered satchel. Glen was filled with information and was thoughtful to highlight things that were specific to Guilin., Matthew's city.  We learned...

  • Guilin is a popular tourist location for those living in China, as it is known for its scenery (and being higher in the mountains it is much cooler there)
  • Guilin is known for some of the clearest water in their rivers, and taking a river cruise to experience it is a familiar vacation outing
  • there is a famous painting depicting the reflection of the mountains in the river. It's even on the back of the 20 RMB bill
  • Guangxi province is known for the brass drum. We saw the largest one in the world at the museum.
  • we learned of a unique fishing technique used by some of the minority groups. They quietly float on a bamboo raft, accompanied by trained cormorant, a type of water bird, that they tie a cloth around its neck to restrict it from swallowing the bigger fish. They float out and let the bird catch the fish, then bring back the cormorant and have it spit up the large fish.  Apparently it's a dying art in China, but very intriguing.  I'm going to read up on this one.
  • we saw beautiful Xiuqiu which are embroidered silk balls, which are a symbol of love and happiness, and learned of the tradition of using the ball during a couples courting. The girl decorates the ball with symbols for each of the 12 months, and adds trinkets and decorations that represent her interests.  She will throw a Xiuqiu to a young man she admires to let him know that he is welcome to pursue her. 
entrance to the museum

my boys in front of the largest brass drum

A display of those beautiful silk balls.  I need to see if we have a better photo of them

details on the top of a drum. We learned that the Zhuang minority honors the frog.

We are so glad we took this time to learn about Guangxi. We now have a better appreciation of where Matthew is from, and a desire to come back and visit Guilin in the future.

After our time at the museum, Glen took us to a Chinese restaurant for lunch. All through the day he has taken time to talk with Matthew, answer his questions, help him to ask us questions, and in general being very kind and attentive to him. I think Glen developed a soft spot for our boy.  The lunch was some of the best we've had - like Guizhou, Guangxi is known for its spicy foods.  Glen and our driver joined us, and Glen used the time to answer Matthew's questions. He had questions about flying, his school, how many computers we have, and a bunch more. Glen did share with us that Matthew asked if he could sit next to mama on the plane and maybe I could hold his hand if he is afraid. Didn't take me long to say "you bet".

After going back to the hotel to pack up and wait for our time to leave for the airport, we started our journey to Guangzhou. We had to leave for the airport earlier than usual because we needed to avoid the 5-5:30 traffic mess leaving the city. That means we get to spend a lot more time at the airport. Glen helped us navigate ticketing, and he spent a bit of time talking to Matthew before he was ready to leave. Then we were on our own to wait it out. I'm not sure I've been in any hotter place than the Nanning airport - they have large glass windows letting the sun beat down on you at the gate, the humidity is almost unbearable, and the air so thick it hurts to breath.  Chris of course made us all feel better when he checked Guangzhou's weather and shared that it was even hotter there.  Fingers crossed our hotel room's air is working.

Glen and Matthew

As we boarded and got in our seats, I was reminded of the little things we "just know" because we fly so often, that were unknowns for Matthew.  I watched as he was intrigued with the overhead lighting and fans.  The tray table was next. Having to tell him about how his ears might feel as we took off and landed, reminding him that he can't put down the tray table until we are in the air, watching him as he wanted to look out the window on take off but was a bit worried about being afraid of heights.  Everything was new to him, but he handled it like a champ. Of course, he couldn't wait until he could have have my iPad to play with.  It was a short trip, and before long we were on our decent.  Matthew's ears definitely bothered him this time, but he was more worried about being hungry. He told me a number of times how hungry he was, and not for those crackers and tea the plane tried to feed us - he wanted real food.  And after claiming our baggage and meeting our guide, he told her he was hungry too.  I'm pretty sure he thought i wasn't understanding him so he would try someone who spoke his language. But he got the same answer - we'll get food at the hotel.  

The hotel is great but we really only cared about two things - did the air work and could we still get room service?  The answer to both is a big YES! The cool air never felt so good as it did in that room. 

While waiting for our food to arrive I let Matthew have some QQ time. He was very excited to show me a bunch of photos of him that someone at the orphanage sent him.  Each one he got, he would shout out 'Mama' and run to show me.  We save the, all to the phone, as those are precious memories for him that I want to make sure we don't lose.  This boy's life is changing so fast for him, that having the comfort of his past will hopefully help him with what is to come.  

Tomorrow we tackle the medical exam and TB test. I think I'll wait until breakfast to tell him he's probably going to have to get some shots.  Why spoil an otherwise awesome day with that news.  

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