Our morning began bright and early with sad goodbyes to our now-familiar wait staff at the hotel restaurant and a van ride to the Zhengzhou train station, where we boarded the infamous bullet train to take us to Xi'an. Our two ours aboard provided us with welcome sights of the countryside and-almost- some sunshine. We even rode through mountains and cold see places where people were living in caves carved into the sides! Amazing. Definitely more culture to see than in the big cities.
We arrived at our hotel, the Sofitel, around noon. This place is like the BMW of hotels- I mean, I thought the crown plaza was nice, no. This place is unreal. All of the hygiene amenities- shampoo, lotion, soap- are from L'Occitane, that awesome place that smells up your mall with herb-scented lotions that cost as much as your iPhone. There is both a bathtub (with bath salts and a exfoliating mitt) and a shower, with a head than comes straight down from the ceiling like a waterfall. Everything is marble and glass. The beds are so comfortable, and our outside wall is a huge window with a window seat and pillows overlooking the city. There is HBO, Cinemax, etc. There is Guinness on the room service menu. There are silk robes in the closet for when you are done bath or showering. And to top it all off, a wrapped chocolate, in a GIFT BOX, was left on my pillow this evening, along with a note that said "wishing you sweet and pleasant dreams!". Is this real life?!?
We had dinner at the hotel's Cantonese restaurant, and even managed to order for ourselves without Angela, who was busy making sure our rooms were correct and calling Obama or some other important government thing she does. Soon after lunch, we left Matt and Elijah at the hotel (again, lifesaver husband, love him so much) and set out for the bank, and then to the civil affairs office to meet Jack!
Before I get to the awesome parts that I know you want to read, I have to give a little shout out to our bank experience. Banks in China are massive, so much so that people will sit inside the bank and offer to exchange your money for you for a better rate, black market style, and nobody in the bank will actually notice. So we turn down these shadiest of characters, leave the lurking in the shadows, and proceed to our window where we leave with four very large stacks of Chinese money stuffed in Dad's cargo pants. As we are leaving, Angela also tells us about a string of murders outside banks in southern China. I think I just about pooped my pants walking back outside past those guys!
The civil affairs office turned out to be just two doors down from the bank, so we arrived early, and met Pat, adoptive father of now 9, waiting to meet Jane, another child with spina bifida from Jacks foster care program. He was incredibly nice, and told us how he was here picking up Jane with four of his children, while his wife and other three children were in another province picking up another little girl, who is deaf. So great to meet them!
Several notes to glean from that prior paragraph:
-mom, please consider this arrangement if you adopt two children at once again. Seems smart :)
-everyone else out there in the world- did you catch that '9' kids?? There are people as crazy/awesome as my family out there, I promise!
Anyway, we waited in the civil affairs office for about a half hour before Jack arrived, all smiles! He held out his arms to Dad like he had known him all of his life. At that time, it was the most unbelievable, powerful expression of the Lord I may have ever seen. Jack is absolutely precious, to everyone- it is obvious.
We had the pleasure of meeting Jeannie Butler and one of her friends (I didn't catch her name, sorry!) along with Shang, a Chinese women from the foster care center, and Faith, a young girl who volunteered with Starfish and was very very close with Jack. Faith had bought Jack an adorable backpack, and made him a beautiful scrapbook of pictures of the two of them, of Jacks friends, etc. She also wrote letters, both to Jack, and to Mom and Dad. I read them once we got back to the hotel and positively bawled my brains out. The love that she had for Jack was so wonderful, and he is incredibly blessed to have had Faith by his side these past years. We have her email address, and will definitely be sending her frequent updates and pictures of Jack!
After a quick run around the city to get pictures taken for the red book (this was mostly uneventful, aside from staring and a wheel of jacks wheelchair falling off, but not important, another day....) we rolled back into the hotel. Quick aside about the hotels here- I think they spray men's cologne into the lobbies. It's uncanny- I feel like I'm back in high school every time I walk into the hotel, walking past the locker room after football practice lets out. Nasty.
In the elevator, we had Angela explain to Jack that he was about to meet his two 'gagas'- big brothers! He giggled when he saw himself in the elevator mirrors-so cute. As we brought him inside the room, I think we were all a bit apprehensive to see how Elijah would react to his new brother, and vice versa. No sooner did we tell them that they were 'didi' and 'gaga' did Elijah sit down next to him, put his arm around him, and smile the biggest smile we've seen from him yet. We pulled out a bag of Cheerios that the foster care center had sent with Jack, and he immediately pulled one out and handed it to Elijah. Within the next five minutes, the two were under the covers together, giggling, sharing a pillow and cross-arm feeding each other Cheerios. This- this is the power of the Lord. I don't think there was a dry eye in the house!
Another amazing little testament for today- the orphanage is required to provide the family with a copy of a 'find ad' of the child, ran after their abandonment in a local newspaper. Starfish actually provided us with a real newspaper, not a copy- and the date? Dad's birthday. :)
So here we are, a giggling, Kung-fu circus of a family here in Xi'an. We just skyped briefly with mom, and sang happy birthday to her- so sweet. Hopefully mom will upload the videos we sent her as well, of the boys together!
Chinese word of the day: waterfall- "pupu" :)
Sent with AGAPE LOVE from my iPad!