Tuesday, May 16, 2006


There was a nice surprise in my e-mail yesterday.....new pictures! The grandparents of one of the adoptive moms on my Yahoo group, who live in Wenzhou, visited the orphanage again and took these pictures. We're not sure what the marks are on her face and hands but they look like bug bites or something that must itch. Alycia looked at the pictures last night and wanted them to stop cutting off all of Sydney's hair! She still took one of the pictures to school today but I'm certain that she will veto any haircuts for her sister for the foreseeable future! Sydney looks smaller than she did in her other photos, since she isn't bundled in multiple layers. I think I might have to bring a couple of 2T outfits along just in case. The other outfits that Alycia and I bought her are all 3T.

Still no news on travel but I sent our visa applications and passports to a courier in Chicago today to deliver to the Chinese Consulate Office. They cannot be mailed anymore and need to be hand delivered. With any luck, they will return to us by the end of next week. I'm sure I'll hold my breath until they come back! It would be devastating to have to wait for new passports and visas if anything happens to them.

We (meaning Tina) have started to organize documents and things to pack for China. We (meaning Donny too this time) have completed some errands and we (meaning Donny) will hopefully finish some projects at home this weekend, while Alycia and I travel to Devils Lake for a belated Mother's Day.

Still waiting to kiss up those cheeks!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

History Lesson on Wenzhou

This is part of an article that appeared in the Smithsonian. Portions of the text were removed. It provides some information and history about Wenzhou.

"A Tale of Two Chinas - As the red-hot Chinese economy feeds the world’s appetite for consumer goods, the one-time workers’ republic is more than ever a nation of haves and have-nots".
By Stephen Glain

Chen Chuang and Dai Wei located their factory in Wenzhou (pop. seven million), China’s unofficial shoemaking capital, because of the city’s ready supply of laborers. The factory produces some 100,000 pairs of shoes a year—deck shoes to cross-trainers—making a profit of about three yuan, or 37 cents, a pair. Chen, who wears a T-shirt with “Welcome to the Love Hood” on it, says he would have been miserable in the state-run rubber factory that employed his father. “Our future is much more interesting,” he says. “We work for ourselves, and we are more successful because we can survive with such small margins.”

In less than a generation, Wenzhou, a port city on the East China Sea about 200 miles south of Shanghai, has transformed itself from a charming backwater to a showcase of China’s new commercial vitality. Wenzhou churns out not only shoes but also pharmaceuticals, garments, sporting goods, optics, kitchen appliances, valves, paint and metal works. Construction cranes rake across work sites manned by crews on double and triple shifts. The city’s annual per capita income of $2,500 is almost double the national average of $1,300. Gated communities of opulent villas have mushroomed in the suburbs, while entire neighborhoods of dilapidated hutongs—wooden homes and courtyards that have stood for centuries—await the wrecking ball. Traffic along the city’s main thoroughfares is a frenzied ballet in which bicycles, wagon-pulling tractors and carts pedaled by coolies (derived in part from the Chinese ku li, or “bitter labor”) vie with Cadillacs, BMWs and even Hummers.

In Wenzhou, I found China’s bold future, where newly made fortunes and go-go consumerism have transformed lifestyles but at a cost to the environment. “The mountains are high and the emperor is far away.” The old Chinese proverb alludes to how much can be achieved beyond the meddling reach of the state, and it is nowhere more appropriate than in Wenzhou.

Wenzhounese are known for their resourcefulness in turning what could be a geographic liability—isolation due to the forbidding Yandang Mountains—into an asset. Neglected for centuries by the central government, Wenzhou’s citizens began pioneering a more nimble, private-enterprise economy long before Beijing launched its “market- socialist” reforms in the early 1980s under Premier Deng Xiaoping, who ended more than a quarter-century of totalitarian restrictions under Mao Zedong. “People are defined by their geography, and Wenzhou was once an island, always remote from the cities,” says Chen Youxin, a 73-year- old semiretired government historian who edits Wenzhou’s official statistical yearbook. The city was a tiny kingdom with its own language and culture until, he says, it participated in a failed rebellion against a Han dynasty emperor in the second century b.c. In retaliation, the emperor exiled Wenzhou’s entire population to the present-day eastern province of Anhui, and replaced it with people from the northeast who were among China’s most cultured and educated. By the tenth century a.d., Wenzhou had emerged as an enclave of art, literature, handicraft and scholarship. Wenzhounese became shrewd and self-reliant, Chen says. Centuries before the state began experimenting with private enterprise, the Wenzhou economy revolved around a nucleus of small, family-owned businesses financed by gao li dai, or high-interest loans from one family member or friend to another. Often capital is pooled among members of a meng, a fraternity of sorts of half a dozen or more male friends. The meng might help a member finance a home, find medical attention for a loved one or ensure that the seats at his wedding are filled—a real bonus in a country where guests are honor-bound to give newlyweds money. Last year, according to the Chongqing Morning Post, a provincial newspaper, Wenzhou residents spent nearly 11 percent of their income on wedding gifts, the highest in China.

The Wenzhou shoe market and factory complex takes up several city blocks. Inside a honeycomb of small shops and factories, pedestrians compete for sidewalk space with scooters, construction crews and boxes stacked outside crowded showrooms. The streets are slick with oil and garbage. Rows of squat warehouses roofed in corrugated steel or terra-cotta tile front sewage-choked waterways.

Pan Wenheng and his wife started the Wenzhou Rui Xing Shoe Factory 13 years ago with an initial investment of $6,230. The factory now turns out a thousand pairs of shoes a day. In its warehouse, canvas moccasins for Chinese buyers and leather loafers and lace-ups bound for Italy and Germany are stacked in black boxes on wooden pallets. The company generated sales of $4.6 million last year, according to Pan, whose laborers earn between $125 and $374 annually. “We work from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.,” he says. “We Wenzhounese work harder than anyone else in China.”

A few blocks from Pan’s factory, Wong Tsinhuei is cutting linoleum for a storefront. Wong says he makes ten times the amount he could earn back home in Shaanxi Province. He says he came to the city five years ago with his wife and three sisters, who work as chambermaids. They’re among the 300 million people who left rural villages to find work in cities since Beijing lifted restrictions on personal movement in the mid-1980s—one of the largest migrations in human history. “I work every day if I can,” says the 38-year-old Wong, an expert furniture-maker who began an apprenticeship at the age of 18. Wong says he makes about $200 a month, and he and his wife, who earns about $100 herself, send more than 15 percent of their income to family members back home.

The abundance of cheap labor in China has kept the prices of most consumer products low. Chinese people can now afford such commodities as televisions, refrigerators and personal computers, which were once considered luxury items. But services such as healthcare, which was jettisoned by the government to the free market decades ago, are costly and of uneven quality, and rent can absorb half of an average worker’s wages. Still, many of China’s itinerant workers have the same ambitions as their counterparts in other market economies. “There is no way we could make this kind of money in the village,” Wong says. “But we won’t stay here forever. Our dream is to make enough to build a big new house and lead a quiet life back in Shaanxi.”

Getting rich may be an article of faith in Wenzhou, but it is not the only one. Religion, both Western and Asian, is enjoying a revival in a city known, because of its many Christian churches and Buddhist temples, as the Jerusalem of China. Organized faith has rebounded since the 1980s, when the Communist Party relaxed Mao-era prohibitions on religion. “Communism has become bankrupt as a worldview,” says Daniel Wright, author of The Promise of the Revolution, a book about his experiences living in rural Guizhou Province, one of China’s poorest regions. “Since the early 1980s, you’ve had a vacuum that religion has partially filled.”

One of Wenzhou’s oldest Christian establishments is the Cheng Xi Tang Methodist Church. It was built by British missionaries about 120 years ago, and its cherry-wood pews and lofty pulpit would make any Anglican congregation in Surrey proud. Yu Jianrong is the parish priest. He was attending a seminary in Nanjing when it was shut down in 1958 in the backlash that followed Mao’s “Let A Hundred Flowers Bloom” campaign inviting public criticism of the Communist Party. (The movement turned out to be a ruse to expose and punish dissidents, clerics and intellectuals.) The genial Yu was forced to work in an electronics factory, and the Cheng Xi Tang Church was turned into a cinema. The church reopened in 1979. “There were 200 people then,” he told me. “Now thousands come every Sunday.” The parish bookstore offers Chinese- and English-language Gospels, prayer books, self-help books and Holy Land tour guides. There are even Chinese-language copies of They Call Me Coach, the autobiography of legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden, a pious Christian. Business is brisk.

Friday, May 05, 2006

What to do while you wait and wait and wait....

We still have not heard anything about travel yet. It's getting very difficult to wait, even though we have a lot of things to do before we leave. We are continuing to take Chinese Language classes from Cheng (she's from Nanning China) in Lake Park on Saturday mornings. The language is very difficult for Donny and I to learn but Alycia seems to be picking up on it much faster. She will likely be our interpreter when our official guide is not around! Smart cookie, that girl!! We attended her academic excellence ceremony at the high school this week where she (and several other high school students) received a certificate for maintaining a GPA of 3.5 or higher.....and she was nervous about not doing well in high school??!

If you would like to pass some time with us, you can learn some of the same Chinese phrases that we are trying to learn in class. Here's the website http://www.wku.edu/~yuanh/AudioChinese/parent.html and don't forget those four blessed tones!

Thanks for waiting with us!

The Wenzhou Children's Welfare Institute

Ni Hao!
Some of you have asked what it's like at the Wenzhou CWI. The only information that we have is from other families who have adopted children and have visited the orphanage. We know that the CWI is located in the Zhejiang Province in China (dust off that globe!). Other adoptive families have mentioned that their children have been well cared for and that the staff seem to really enjoy receiving updates on the children who have left them for their forever families. One family also commented on how the children seemed to enjoy seeing the director of the CWI when she was around the children. The director has been open to allowing the grandparents (who live in Wenzhou) of one of their adopted children several visits to meet with her and take photographs of the other waiting children. Their daughter (adoptive mom) is a member of one of my Yahoo groups. Her parents are going to ask to visit the orphanage in a week or so and if the director approves (keep your fingers crossed), they will take some new pictures of Sydney.

We have also heard from other families that there can be around 200-300 children of various ages in the CWI. Wenzhou apparently houses many children with special needs but also has non-special needs children. The top three pictures are from inside the CWI. The bottom two pictures were taken outside at the entrance to the building.

We're glad that Sydney seems to be in a place that cares about her health and is doing the best that they can to take care of her needs. We are still preparing ourselves for the worst and are praying for the best.

Thanks for continuing to support us :)

What's going on now?

"Patience, n. A minor form of despair, disguised as a virtue." -Ambrose Bierce

Now, we frantically wait patiently. Frantic because of all of the paperwork that needs to be organized, packing lists to make, arrangements to have in place, pre-travel medical appointments, rooms to paint, toys to purchase, etc., etc., etc. but we're doing all of these things patiently. O.K., some of us are working harder on this than others.
While we wait I have joined a few Yahoo groups and have connected with other families who have also adopted from Wenzhou. One of the parents was kind enough to take pictures of Sydney while she was there adopting her child. These are the pictures of her at the table with her playmates.

I have also connected with a parent in the Netherlands who is adopting the little boy in the white coat next to Sydney at the table. Our adoption agency has a Yahoo group and that has helped link us with other families, who are also practicing on improving their level of patience while they paperchase for their children.

We were also able to send her a little package last week which contained a disposable camera, a little blanket, a small beanie kitten, a photo album of us and some immediate relatives, a book, and a list of questions for the staff to answer about Sydney. We hope to get the camera and the answers to the questions back on "gotcha day" (the day we get Sydney). Alycia has the same kitten that we sent to Sydney and she is planning to bring it with her on gotcha day. Hopefully, Sydney will receive the package by next week and will be meeting us, as well as her grandparents, great-grandmother, Auntie Cheri, Auntie Deb, and her cousins!

We are hoping to hear something about our travel dates in May but nothing is in our control at this point....if it ever really was in the first place. I think (knock on wood) that the only paperwork we have left to complete in the U.S. is our visa applications. Here's what we know for now. We will receive our travel approval and our agency will schedule an appointment for us at the consulate office in China. Then we book our airline tickets scheduling around that appointment. Our agency provides a representative for us in China, who will assist us with the process while we are in the country and is also available for assisting us with some sightseeing excursions. We will be there for approximately 14-18 days. We will have time to do some sightseeing in Beijing, Guangzhou, Hangzhou, and we are hoping to visit Sydney's orphanage in Wenzhou (but that's not guaranteed). And the best part of the trip.....we get Sydney on the third or fourth day that we are there and we get to spend the rest of the time with her!

Thanks for being part of this journey with us and for everyone's encouragement, shared wisdom, enthusiasm, and most of all prayers. As we get more information on our travel plans, we will post them here. Feel free to share this site with other family members and friends.

Xie Xie (thank you)!

All About Sydney

These are the pictures that we received when we requested more information on Er Wei (Sydney) from our adoption agency before we officially proceeded with the adoption. Here is some of her story. Her surname is Chen (the same last name as the orphanage director - this is typically how children are named and several of her playmates share that name). Er Wei are her given names and they mean you and small, slight. However, this also depends on the source that does the translation. We are doing some more checking to clarify the meaning. She was born on 6-14-03 and is staying at the Wenzhou Children's Welfare Institute (CWI), Zhejiang Province while she waits for us.....her "forever family". She is well cared for there by her aunties (please see the information on the CWI post for more information on her current home). Sydney has been diagnosed with congenital heart disease, Tetrology of Fallot. She had surgery to repair a hole in her heart (VSD for you medical buffs) on 10-25-04. She appears to be a healthy and active little girl!
We requested an update in December of 2005 and the CWI was gracious enough to honor our request and even sent us some updated photos!

The CWI also took Sydney to the hospital and provided an updated ultrasound of her heart, as well as some additional developmental information. Get out your metric conversion charts....and you thought you'd never use the metric system! Here are her stats from 12-31-05: Height=93 cm; Weight=15 kg; Chest Circumference=53 cm; feet length=15 cm; Number of teeth=20. Here's what else they had to say: her heart problem does not affect her daily activity, she can run, she likes reading and can turn pages, she can speak in short sentences, she responds to praise and encouragement, she can mimic adults, she will be interested to sing some children's songs and lullabies (get your singing voices in shape grandmas!), she needs help using the bathroom, she plays games with other children voluntarily, and my favorite.......she lays on the ground when upset or mad and acts like a spoiled child when she is happy (I can hear Grandpa Bud laughing at her now!). We are praying that she is healthy and happy and that He will continue to watch over her while we wait to hold her in our arms.....see her smile....and hear her laughter.

An invisible red thread connects those who are destined to meet...

.....regardless of time, place, or circumstance. The thread may stretch or tangle, but will never break.--an ancient Chinese Proverb

We started this process with a vision of the child who would be added to our family. We decided to adopt a child a few years younger than Alycia. She requested a sister, so the child would be a girl, and we would adopt in the U.S. We submitted our application to our adoption agency (Children's Home Society and Family Services in St. Paul) on 7-18-05. As we learned more about adoption from our agency, we decided on a toddler....and international adoption. Now we had to take a few more classes and learn about the process in each country and the children who are available, so we could pick a country and decide on an age range by the time our social worker was ready to complete our homestudy (the process that approves us as an adoptive family). Did I mention the large stack of paperwork?? There was also a LARGE stack of paperwork to complete!!

During one of our pre-adoption classes, we watched videotapes of orphanages around the world. Now we're looking at each other and freaking out about developmental delays, attachment, abuse, etc. and all of the other things that can impact children in orphanages (thanks Lisa for helping us through this!). At our final home study visit with our social worker in November 2005, we decided that were going to adopt a healthy, non-special needs, infant girl from China. WHEW!! Sure glad that all of those decisions are done!

My family knows the "eerie" process that now begins to unfold. Here it is in abbreviated form (O.K. as abbreviated as I can make it!). While we wait for our adoption agency to type up our homestudy and we start our paper work for China, I decide to keep looking at pictures on our agency's website of the "Waiting International Children". I had a "close encounter" at our agency with one waiting child already, but Donny and I decided to stick with the infant program at that time. As I am surfing through the pictures and descriptions of the children, there is a face that stops my mouse from scrolling any further down the page. I quickly call Donny and run it past him. I sleep on it for a night but dream about her....so I call our agency for more information, only to find out that two other families are already looking into adopting her. Funny how I continue to think about her and look for her picture on other adoption message boards to this day. I've never found her.

A few pictures down from where her picture used to be posted, there is another little girl waiting in China (see photo above). How many times have I scrolled past her face...paused...read the description....and moved on? She has a heart condition....that's too much for us to take on. Several weeks pass and I keep seeing her on the website....keep scrolling past....pausing....it's tough "playing God" but really, we need a healthy child, isn't that what all parents want? But I can't stop thinking about her, so I call the voice of reason (a.k.a. Donny) and ask if he minds if I call the agency to get more information. I wait for him to remind me that she has a heart condition and it's just too much for us to take on but he tells me to go ahead....after all, there's no harm in looking, right?

I called our agency on 12-9-05 for more information on Chen Er Wei and had documents in my e-mail account within the hour. Now begins the fight to remain objective and unattached from these photos. After having a pediatric cardiologist review her current and updated medical information (for no fee....thank you MeritCare and Dr. Rios!), everything looks good, so we sent our pre-approval forms to China to adopt Er Wei. China gave us their pre-approval on 2-24-06. It is really an almost indescribable feeling to be responsible for selecting a child for your family. It is not a comfortable position to reject children and it's difficult to remain objective when making life altering decisions like this one.

I'd like to thank my mom, grandmother, and Tracy (a.k.a. friend and free therapist :) for helping us process this decision and praying for us on this part of our journey. Tracy, our conversation about the "myth of health" truly helped us through a difficult fork in our road. Hey, that might make a good book title...I'll expect 50% of the profit but you can write it! Grandma, I know what you mean when you say "be careful what you pray for!" I think that maybe we weren't "playing God" as much as we thought but were perhaps struggling and stumbling along the path that was created for us.

"I have seen that in any great undertaking it is not enough for a man to depend simply upon himself." - Lone Man (Teton Sioux)

In the beginning.....

I know that there are those of you out there who think that we are crazy for "going backwards" when we have achieved this level of independence with an older child. We simply love being parents and are really looking forward to many more years of parenting. Alycia expressing her desire for a sibling over the past few years was one of our deciding factors. There are so few things that we like to do that don't involve Alycia and would not include our new child, so really, it was a simple decision. The complicated decisions, however, were about to begin.


We found it difficult to figure out what information to post and how far back to start our story, since some of you have been with us on this journey from the beginning and others have joined us along the way. We agreed to provide a little history.

"Making the decision to have a child - it's momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart walking outside your body" - Elizabeth Stone