Mark and Renee Maines
OUR JOURNEY TO FIND CASSIE
We're finally leaving!! We've been packed for days and Dad's been counting the minutes since we found out that we were actually going! Vicki was about an hour early picking us up so we got to the airport about 3 hours before our flight instead of 2 (like we'd planned.) Oh well, it probably just saved us from going crazy waiting at home. We checked in ok and the airline agent and everyone around us was very excited for us when we told them why we were going to China. We ate at TGI Friday's and still had over an hour and a half till our plane started boarding.
We've made it to Hong Kong and are now flying to Shanghai. Neither of us ever realized what sitting on a plane for almost 24 hours is like. We both really want a shower! We slept ok the flight from Vancouver to Hong Kong, but it was warm in the cabin. There were several babies and toddlers on the flight from the US to China. All were boys. We didn't see a single female child. Our next big hurdle is getting our luggage and then getting through customs. We're excited about being here. We can't wait to meet Cassie. (only about 48 hours to go!) Even though we've only begun this adventure, Dad can't wait to get home and start living a normal life with his new daughter. The plane food has been pretty good. Hopefully we'll find similar quality on the rest of the trip.
Our luggage made it to Shanghai! (We were never happier to see two suitcases in our lives.) After staying the night in Shanghai, we took the train from Shanghai to Nanjing (3 hour trip.) It was great getting to see the countryside where our daughter was born. The train stopped in Wuxi for a few minutes. All we could think about was that we'll be here tomorrow to get our little girl! There was a little problem once we got to Nanjing. Our coordinator was not there to meet us. We weren't sure whether to go to the hotel or not, because our planned hotel in Shanghai had changed. After waiting 2 hours, we finally decided to take a taxi to the hotel. Luckily our guide, Jonathan was at the hotel waiting for us. He was very apologetic and the rest of the day went well. He took us out for a great dinner at a small restaurant in Nanjing. He bought a half liter of some rice liquor that was 55% alcohol and we toasted everything we could think of. Fortunately he drank more than Dad did, and we had a driver. Mom took one sip, but that was all. Too strong for her.
This is gotcha day!! We first went to Civil Affairs in Nanjing, and completed the adoption paperwork that will be notarized Wednesday morning. While we were in the interview 2 couples came into the office with 2 boys. I was amazed to see 2 boys adopted together, especially since they are such a rarity. I don't know what nationality the parents were, but they spoke a Germanic language. After some other business was completed by the orphanage director, Mr. Chin, we headed for Jiangyin. On the way to the orphanage we had to stop for lunch in Jiangyin. (We were so nervous that eating was the last thing we wanted to do, but we just followed Dad's favorite phrase and our plan for this entire trip "Semper Gumby, always flexible!") We were the first westerners they had ever had in the small restaurant. We ate in a little room all by ourselves, Jonathan ordered us tons of food, and we tried to eat as much as we could so we didn't insult our hosts. Jonathan, Mr. Chin and our driver ate outside, because they said we westerners eat too politely and they would not be comfortable. After lunch (which lasted 2 hours), we posed for pictures outside of the restaurant with the owners. Next we went to the orphanage. We entered the building and standing on the stairs was an auntie holding Cassie. She was even more beautiful than her referral picture! She was dressed in a white outfit with teddy bears, cats & dogs on it. She had split pants on, but was wearing a diaper. She was calm until they put her into my arms, she decided she didn't want anything to do with these strange people. She started crying and kept it up while we were asking questions about Cassie's schedule and what she had been eating. We went outside the orphanage to leave and posed for a picture with the Auntie. Cassie calmed down in the Auntie's arms, then started wailing again once she was handed back to Mom. Once in the car, Mom sang to her and she calmed down, and eventually fell asleep. We thought this was a good sign. Once we got back to the hotel, Cassie was clinging to Mom and would not have anything to do with Dad. We gave her a bottle and some rice cereal. We were worried whether or not she would eat, but we shouldn't have worried. She downed that first bottle in about 30 seconds. She drained 8 ounces of formula faster than most college kids chug a beer! Cassie was exhausted by about 7:30 and she fell asleep quickly after eating, and slept through the night. Mom and Dad did not sleep much though, every time she moved, coughed or anything, we jumped up just to look at her! We found out that Cassie was found in the countryside around Jiangyin by locals who took her to the orphanage. She was left in an area where it was certain that she would be found quickly. She was 2 ½ months old when she was found. The director said there are about 40 other children at the "Welfare House" in addition to some senior citizens and homeless people.
OUR JOURNEY TO FIND CASSIE Part II
Cassie slept until 5:45 am. Cassie is really beginning to attach to Mom. She cries whenever Mom's out of sight unless distracted. Mom took the fastest shower in her life this morning! This morning after a bottle and some rice cereal, we went to breakfast where Cassie ate almost a whole croissant. She can sit up by herself but doesn't stand by herself. She also seems to not have a lot of fine motor control. At breakfast Mom helped her pick up little pieces of bread and put them into her mouth and by the end of breakfast she could do it alone. She has some teeth but we haven't counted them yet. We're taking everything slowly. She loves her formula and rice cereal very warm. She's a real eating machine! The only thing left for the actual adoption is the notary in Wuxi which will happen tomorrow morning. We're actually a little ahead of schedule. Wednesday afternoon we'll go back to Nanjing for one night then to Guangzhou on Thursday. Wednesday morning we'll get her passport and everything will be finished as far as China is concerned. We visited an ancient provincial prime minister's garden near Lake Taihu. Several older women gathered around us and marveled at Cassie's light skin. They also said she had "lucky ears" which we guess is because of their shape. We showed them our card explaining who we were and who Cassie was (the guide couldn't understand the women's dialect) and they all gave Cassie a big "thumbs up" and said she was a lucky girl. After the garden we went to a shop that farmed and sold fresh water pearls. The ladies were very friendly and fawned all over Cassie. They opened an oyster for us and gave us about 13 small pearls for Cassie. We plan to take them to a jeweler and get something made out of them for a gotcha day present. We also got necklaces for Mom and Cassie. Dad got the bill. Tonight she had her first bath with us. Mom ended up having to get in the tub with her to hold her up since the tub was very slippery. At this point all video taping ceased at Mom's insistence! Cassie wasn't too sure of the bath at first but soon began splashing and playing and having a good time.
Cassie slept about 9 and a half hours which was great for Mom and Dad since we were still pretty tired. She seems to be coming out of her shell a little. She's playing with her stacking cups and is amazed at the noise they make when she bangs them together or against another toy. Mom's still the primary comforter but she's starting to tolerate Dad's presence as long as he doesn't get too close or, heaven forbid, touch her. Today we finished all the last pieces of paperwork and Cassie is officially ours!!!! :):) All that's left is to get her American visa and go home! We drove back to Nanjing and tomorrow we fly to Guangzhou to get the American side of the house in order. Mom and Dad were pretty tired but also very excited that everything was finally coming together. We stayed in the room and ordered room service.
We did a little sight seeing this morning before going to the airport. We visited Dr. Sun Yat-Sen's tomb and a branch clinic of the traditional Chinese Medicine. While we were at the clinic, a physician gave us a free diagnosis and was pretty accurate just from feeling our pulse and checking our tongues. They sold us some traditional Chinese herbal teas that are supposed to get our ying and yang in harmony. Everyone we met was very nice and they all gave us little "good luck" trinkets for Cassie. They'll make great "gotcha Day" gifts. We got to the Nanjing airport about 90 minutes before our flight. Cassie‘s not very happy with the loud noises from the planes and the PA system. Mom is still the only one who can hold Cassie which is unfortunate because Dad can't help change her or give Mom a break and carry her for a while. The flight to Guangzhou was uneventful. Cassie ate the bread portion of our in-flight snack and played with the safety features instruction card for most of the trip. Jack Mao met us at the airport and took us to the White Swan to check in. Then we went to the Consulate to verify our appointment was moved to Friday (Ann Dotson said they were working them on Friday because of the National Day holiday next week.). After everything was verified, we got Cassie's visa picture taken. She wasn't really thrilled about sitting on the chair by herself, but with a little effort, we finally got a good picture. We ate in our room and Mom finally got a diet coke and some good french fries! :)
Cassie had her medical checkup today. She weighed 8.1 kg (17.8 lbs) and was 76 cm (29.9 inches) long. She only needed one shot, MMR, which didn't go over well at all! :( After a little Tylenol and a nap, she was as good as new. Jack brought a stroller for us to use and Mom is elated!! Jack says he has several strollers that people have bought and left with him. Cassie doesn‘t mind riding in it and it has made getting around a lot easier. We met with the INS people at the Consulate at 10. All our paperwork was in order (thanks mostly to Jack checking it over before we left) and we'll get her visa package Monday afternoon. While we were in the Consulate, we ran into Liz Rathbun (from Arlington FCC). She's here with her mom and new daughter and is staying at the White Swan. She leaves on Tuesday and is very happy. We also met up with our friend Jeannette Chu, the officer in charge of the INS in the Consulate. Her husband Keith, and daughter Joi were there also. They seem to be doing very well and are very happy with their duty. Cassie is starting to warm up to Dad. Keith thinks her reluctance might be Dad's mustache. She must not have seen many men with facial hair. She has been reaching for it a lot and touching it like she's never seen one before.
We mostly shopped today. Most of the clothes we brought for Cassie were too small so we had to get her a couple more outfits to last until we get home. Mom got a couple shirts too. Dad got the bill again! We spent the afternoon and early evening with Jeannette, Keith and Joi. We went to a local "Western" restaurant called "Kathleen's." It had pretty decent food and reasonable prices. Cassie really warmed up to Dad after our evening with Jeannette, Keith and Joi. She let him give her a bottle. We think she might have gotten a little jealous when Dad was playing and rough-housing with Joi. She kept watching us play and probably figured out that Dad could be a fun guy. :) We met up with a fellow AOLer, Kathleen and Casey from Chicago, and their baby, Grace. Kathleen seemed upset that she had to go home so soon. She wanted to stay a few days to sight see and shop, but her group was scheduled to leave on Monday and she couldn't stay any longer. She described the things they had already seen and it seemed that they had seen a lot more than we had. Our unbiased opinion is that Cassie is the most beautiful baby at the White Swan. :)) The other babies are cute but Cassie is the cutest!!! While Kathleen, Casey and Grace were in our room, Cassie really started to take to Dad. She was climbing all over him and after they left, she let him pick her up and put her to bed. :))) Maybe she was afraid Dad was going to start playing with the other little girl like he did with Joi.
Cold, rainy, and windy today. We were going to visit the open air market but it's too cold to go anywhere. We stayed in the room and played most of the day. Cassie is still sleeping through the night and eating everything in sight.
OUR JOURNEY TO FIND CASSIE Part III
Took a morning walk and met several Chinese ladies who cooed all over Cassie and told her how lucky she was. They also said she had lucky ears (two independent sources). We went to the Pan Xi restaurant for a dim sum lunch. We stuffed ourselves and still had a lot left over. We love dim sum but Jack ordered way too much food. After lunch we visited the Six Banyans Temple. It was very beautiful and had a very reverent aura about it. It's amazing that this temple has withstood the ravages of time, weather, and war to still stand in the middle of the city 1000 years after it was built. Finally got Cassie's visa this afternoon. Jack took care of everything. Jack seemed to want to do everything for us with respect to the details of the paperwork and we were happy to let him while we enjoyed getting to know Cassie. (We recommend letting the guides do this as long as they seem to know what they are doing. Enjoy the time in China and playing with your baby instead of worrying about (really) minor details.) Everything is done and we can leave any time! However, over the weekend, we'd discussed leaving early but decided to just hang around for a couple more days to rest and make sure Cassie was ok before the flight home. Changing plans at this point would be difficult and besides, how many times do you get to go to China?? We decided to just have a good time in Guangzhou for as long as we could and enjoy this great five star hotel. We went to the Guangzhou Hard Rock Cafe for dinner. We got there early and just ate quickly and got T-shirts. The band was about to start playing and we didn't think Cassie was up to loud music. On the way home, Cassie let us know that we were late in feeding her. She started screaming and could not be comforted until we got to the White Swan and she saw that food was on the way. She scared us, but she terrified the driver. Traffic was really slow even by Guangzhou standards and Dad was worried he was going to have a wreck with her screaming in the back of the van! After a quick bottle, Cassie was a little angel again.
Spent most of the day walking around the White Swan area and finishing up last minute shopping. Mom went to Jeannette's apartment in the Consulate and washed enough clothes for us to get home (saved a lot of money by not paying the White Swan for laundry service). We trial packed everything and found out we've got lots of room and the bags are a lot lighter. Looking forward to going home and introducing Cassie to her new family and all our friends at church.
On our way home at last! Our flight to Hong Kong left at 6: p.m. and we thought we could check out late so Cassie could get a nap, but we were told that because of the holiday, we had to leave the room at 1:00 p.m.. We waited in the White Swan lounge for almost three hours before we could leave for the airport. The wait at the airport was uneventful and the flight to Hong Kong was quick. She still loves to play with the flight safety cards. We had a three hour layover in Hong Kong. Cassie was really tired but there was too many people and too much activity in the waiting area for her to go to sleep. We met two other couples who were bringing little girls back to America. They were in a larger group, but some of their group left on different flights. Cassie didn't really fuss when she got tired, she just "talked" more and "flirted" with almost anyone who looked at her. The flight to LA went pretty smooth. Cassie was asleep before the seat belt light went out! She slept for 8 and a half hours of the 11 and a half hour flight. Fortunately the flight wasn't full and she could stretch her out over two seats with either Mom or Dad watching over her to make sure she didn't roll off the seats. Mom and Dad took 90 minutes shifts while the other one slept in an open seat a couple rows behind her. Mom and Dad got about 3 hours sleep each, but overall the flight to LA was much easier than the flight to Hong Kong. Cassie woke up right on schedule (0700 Guangzhou time) and ate a good breakfast of formula and bread and Cheerios. She fell asleep again just before we landed, but woke up when everyone started moving around. Immigration and customs went really well. There was a special line for citizens bringing babies to America and we got through very quickly. We waited outside the terminal for about 45 minutes for the shuttle bus to the hotel, but they must only come to the international terminal if someone calls which is what Dad finally did. After another 15- minute wait and 10-15 minute ride to the hotel, we were finally able to check-in around 10:00 p.m. We got to bed about an hour later.
Cassie woke up about 90 minutes after we went to bed since she was still on Guangzhou time and she had just had her afternoon nap!! We tried to get her to go back to sleep in our bed, since she cried loud enough to wake up the whole hotel when we put her in her crib. After about 30 minutes of quiet time, she fell asleep again, but by 0300 she was up for good. Mom and Dad gave up trying to get her back to sleep and tried to stay awake and play with her for three hours until the restaurant opened so we could get breakfast. It was so nice to be back in America where we could read all the signs and talk to people to figure out where we needed to go. The best thing was being able to brush our teeth with water from the tap! ( Sometimes little things mean a lot!) Also it was nice to see some sanity and no traffic jams on the streets and highways. Our flight to DC had a stop in Atlanta. It was about five hours from LA to Atlanta and we tried hard to keep Cassie awake so she could get on Eastern Daylight Savings Time but we failed and she went down hard. We had a hard time waking her in Atlanta (it was the middle of the night in Guangzhou). We didn't want her to sleep too long or she'd be up all night. We had to wait about 90 minutes in Atlanta and all three of us were really tired of flying. Mom and Dad were very very very tired!!!! The flight from Atlanta to DC took about 90 minutes and that plane couldn't fly fast enough for any of us. Mom and Dad played a lot with Cassie to keep her awake so she'd sleep through the night. It worked pretty good until just before we landed when she conked out. She was fast asleep when Grandma Derek and Vicki Barnhill met us at the airport.
Cassie slept until about 4:00 a.m. when she once again woke up ready for the day. It took until Saturday until she got fully adjusted and slept through the night again. It was a long and exhausting trip for all of us but we'd do it all again for Cassie. She's the greatest and a real blessing from God.
You can find us now on the PAC list (Mom doesn't have enough time to read the APC list anymore!) Mom also has a new screen name, CassieMom2@aol.com.
UPDATE ON CASSIE: Since we've come home Cassie has made amazing progress! A week after getting home she crawled for the first time, and two weeks later she took her first steps behind her walker. She pulls herself up to standing all the time, and just loves to walk everywhere with Mom or Dad holding her hands. We took our first walk outside yesterday and she loved picking up all the leaves. We've been blessed to see so many "firsts" with Cassie. Her first crawling, her first steps, her first taste of ice cream and chocolate, her first clapping, her first time feeding herself, her first time crawling up stairs, her first wave bye bye, and her first look at fall leaves, to mention a few. Even if you are referred a child older than you expected (which we were), you will still get to see so many important "firsts." Our prayers are with all of you who are still waiting. May you see your angel's face soon. :-)
Mark and Renee Maines
Mom and Dad to Catharine Zhi (Cassie), 15 months old
Gotcha day 9/22/97
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