Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Ayla's coming home...

We made it to Hong Kong and are about to head to bed. Please keep us in your prayers as we start the long journey back to sweet home Alabama! Ayla does not like for me to sit down and is typically clingy, so we are a little concerned about 15 hours on a plane. The good news is we only have one layover in Detroit. Once we clear immigration there, Ayla will instantly become a U.S. citizen!!

We are so so excited to see everyone and welcome Ayla home! We would love to have anyone who wants to greet us at the airport to be there. Consider this your personal invitation! We are scheduled to arrive in Birmingham at 4:30 on Delta flight 5086 from Detroit.

There are just a couple requests... please meet us downstairs at the bottom of the escalators by baggage claim. We are going to have just a couple minutes with family up top before we head down so Ayla can meet her Pops & DeBe, aunt, uncles and cousin Kali. All our flights have been a little early so far (knock on wood), so we may very well be downstairs at 4:30.

Second, since we are still going through the bonding/attachment phase, please don't reach out to hold Ayla. You are welcome to talk to her or rub her arm, etc. You can imagine the confusion she will have. Just a week and a half ago she was taken from the only place and people she knew. Then, just as she started coming out of her shell and felt like the hotel room was our home, we move her again. Because of this, once we get home from the airport, we will be spending a lot of time at home as a family to help her become secure with all the new changes. So, the airport is a great place to meet her before we hunker (sidenote: I don't like the word "hunker", but I can't think of another's late) down at home.

Ok, now I have a request for you all. This blog is really for Ayla to be able to look back on to see how God brought our family together. I would love for her to have notes from any of you who have followed our journey and prayed for us. We have had so much encouragement and have truly felt that we have been surrounded in prayer throughout this process. So, while you're waiting for us to get home, please leave notes for Ayla in the comments section of this post (not on facebook).

Ok, we look forward to seeing you all soon and hope some of you can make it to the airport!!

With love from China,
Tiffany, Steven & Ayla

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

out of the ashes...

I started this blog Saturday...the ONLY day Ayla slept in her crib for a nap. She woke up before I was able to finish, so by "yesterday," I mean Friday. :)

Yesterday was a long, exhausting, but amazing day! We, along with 5 other families, met at 6:30am to begin the 4 hour drive to visit the orphanage in Maoming, where our children had lived until just 4 days ago. There was some apprehension about the day, because we didn't know how the little ones would react to being back there and seeing the nannies who had loved and cared for them. It was a long, bumpy ride, but we finally pulled up to a gate, and walked into the place we had only seen in pictures.

As soon as we pulled in, there were nannies there with umbrellas to lead us up to the third floor where the children lived. We walked into their little playroom, and shortly after, a little line of children filed in and started playing. We had been told several times that Ayla loved to ride "the trojan," which is a little blue plastic rocking horse. She pretty much shut down when we walked in, and started looking all over the place. It was very similar to the way she responded on "Gotcha Day." A few of the kids were playing, so we walked over to the rocking horse. I started to put her down to see if she wanted to ride, but she clung to me and didn't let me put her down. I was TOTALLY fine with that!

There were a couple nannies who came up to her and rubbed on her face and talked to her. She looked at them a little and then turned her head away when they put their arms out to hold her. There has been one nanny who we've seen in lots of pictures with her, who she was very attached to. That nanny was not in the room. I wondered how she would respond to her. I knew it might be hard, but I really wanted to meet her and thank her for loving our daughter and preparing her for a family. I kept looking around for her, but didn't see her anywhere.

They had also prepared lunch for the kids so we could see what they were used to eating and how they were fed. I thought we had been feeding her a lot, but it turns out we've been holding out on her! They eat a big bowl of rice, beef & chicken, something green and leafy, and then something soupy in it. The nannies fed them with a regular spoon and big bites! Ayla took a few bites and then shook her head "no."

As I sat on the floor holding Ayla, I just looked the parents holding former orphans in the very room where these kids had spent countless hours, children still waiting for families, some adopted kids crying for their nanny...and was completely overwhelmed. It was so hard to imagine that this was all Ayla had known up until a few days ago. Any tears that didn't fall on Gotcha Day were falling now.

We didn't spend a whole lot of time in the room. There was a quick trip to the next room over, which was the crib room. Actually, we just looked through the window because the beds were full of sleeping babies. One of the nannies pointed out which bed was Ayla' already had a new owner.

It was almost time to say goodbye, and up walks Ayla's nanny...the one I had been hoping to see. She came up and reached for Ayla, but she just turned her head away. I was overcome. The nanny was so sweet with her and just talked to her and smiled at me, although I have no idea what she was saying. Through our guide, we were finally able to thank her for taking care of Ayla and preparing her for our family. After a few minutes, it was time to leave. The orphanage director, the nanny, and one other nanny who worked with Ayla came to tell her goodbye one more time. I was about to have Steven get a picture of us with all 3 ladies, but 2 of them started crying and turned away. More tears. We are so blessed that our daughter was loved enough that there were people sad to see her go. She was loved, and even though she will not remember her time in the orphanage, I know these special women have made a lasting impact on Ayla's ability to attach and love.

On our way back to the bus, we were taken through the back orphanage gate to Ayla's finding spot. It was nothing more than a dirty alley. We were told that babies are left there at night so whoever leaves them doesn't get caught (it is illegal to abandon a baby in China). It was hard to imagine that Ayla had been left there. She was found in a paper box, wearing flower clothing, with a birthnote that said her birthday was May 4, 2010. She was found on May 24...less than 3 weeks old. We also found out that she was a premie, with a low birthweight. A tiny new baby, abandoned and all alone. The fact that she was left at the orphanage where someone would find her does say something about her birthmother. Someone risked getting caught to make sure she was found. We definitely don't plan on telling Ayla some fairytale story about why her mother had to give her up, because the truth is we don't know. However, I am thankful that her birthmother chose to give her life in a culture where abortion is common. I am also thankful that she was most likely cared for by her birthmother for her first 3 weeks, and then left with a note in what was probably the safest place they could find.

We made a few more stops to the finding spots of the other children in our group, had lunch, and then started the long drive back to Guangzhou. That night at the hotel, Ayla began coming out of her shell. She let me put her down and she played and ran around the room. We heard some great laughs as we chased her around!! Later that night though, we also saw a more of the other end of the spectrum. She had a screaming, crying, back arching fit, and was inconsolable for 20-30 minutes before she wore herself out and went to sleep. Bedtime and naptime have been a struggle ever since (hence the lack of blogposts). On one hand, it is good that she feels comfortable enough to finally grieve. On the other hand, it is exhausting, and has been the hardest part of the journey. We are praying this phase gets better and better...preferably quickly! Still, we wouldn't trade this journey for anything!

It's Tuesday night now, and Ayla's suitcase is packed to come home. Honestly, we have really enjoyed being here! The time has gone by really fast. While we are excited to get home, we are not super excited about the long plane rides coming up. We just purchased a lap ticket for Ayla, rather than getting her a seat. That was probably best since she will have a meltdown prefers for me to hold her. She also wants me to stand up when I hold her...yeah, it may be a long 24 hours! Please pray for all 3 of us...and the poor people whose seats are nearby!!

We cannot wait to get our sweet girl home! We would LOVE to see any of you at the airport Thursday who would like to come. I will give the details in a separate post, so stay tuned!

Just tried to upload pics twice and it won't work. :( Lots of pictures on facebook though! Heading to bed for the last time in Guangzhou...

Thursday, March 8, 2012

little things...

Sorry for the lack of blog posts. I just laid our sweet girl in her crib, and she is sound asleep. Until now, I haven't had a free hand to type. I'm gonna try to do this one quick because we are meeting at 6:30am to make the 4 hour drive to Maoming to visit her orphanage. So right off the bat, we'd like to ask for your prayers. All 9 families in our group will be going to whichever orphanage their child is from.

Tomorrow will not be an easy day, but it will be an important one. Of course, we are all wondering how our babies will react to seeing their orphanage and nannies again. Some of you are probably wondering why in the world we would even go there. There are several reasons. First, it is important for us to see where Ayla came from. We will be taken to her finding spot, where she was abandoned when she was 3 weeks old. We will also get to ask her nanny questions and get a lot more insight into the first 22 months of her life. One day, Ayla will ask questions about her adoption, and it is very important to us to be able to give her as much information as we can.

Second, I have a very soft spot in my heart for her nanny. We have heard she was very attached to one in particular. I want to hug her neck and thank her for loving our daughter until we could come get her. The love and care she gave her will have a huge positive impact on how she attaches and bonds with us. You can pray specifically for the moment we see her nanny. For obvious reasons, there are concerns about how Ayla will respond.

Which brings me to the last reason we're going...closure for Ayla. She had no clue why she left the orphanage on Monday morning. Even though visiting will be emotionally exhausting, we are praying that she will gain a sense of security with us when she leaves one last our arms!

Ok, on to a few updates. Ayla is continuing to adjust. She has been VERY clingy the past 2 days (hence no blogs). My arms are sore, but so worth it!! She can be sitting in my lap and will still reach for me to hold her. She prefers that I be standing up too. We are working on her being able to sit and play with me beside her, which she'll do a little...but not for very long. Today was the first time she really cried hard, and she did it about 3 times. We know she is grieving, and we knew it would happen eventually, but it is heartbreaking and exhausting to watch. She finally cried herself to sleep in my arms this afternoon.

She is obsessed with the hotel hand towel. It still goes everywhere with us! She was used to sleeping with a washcloth at the orphanage, so it must be the texture that she likes and makes her feel secure. No interest in the adorable lovies whatsoever! We will have to steal purchase one from the hotel for the long trip home.

Today we learned that she likes to feed herself with a spoon! She does pretty well too! She even gets the pieces that fall in her bib and puts them back in her bowl. She is eating more and more. She LOVES french fries! Really, she just likes to eat! I have been working with her on the baby sign for "more". When she runs out of something, I will sign it to her and say, "more, more." Well, she hasn't gotten the sign down, but she now says, "mo, mo," in the cutest little raspy voice, for ANYTHING she wants!

She is giving us little glimpses of the personality that is hiding somewhere under all the shock from the past few days. We are getting smiles a little more, and have even heard a few good laughs. The first was Wednesday. We were sitting in a chair and she was playing with a couple stacking cups. She was touching them to my face. Then she started doing it harder...and harder. Then she got me pretty good, and I had to tell her no, pretty firmly. I thought it might hurt her feelings, but apparently it was hillarious! We are pretty sure we've got a fiesty little girl, and she's gonna give us a run for our money.

Speaking of stacking cups...those are her favorite! She will play with them for hours! She usually has one in each hand. We may be on and off the bus and walking all over the place, and she will not drop them (or whatever is in her hands). When she plays with anything, she will not move to another part of the room without taking EVERYTHING with her. We call her the "toy hoarder". It is so funny to watch her. If her hands are full, she'll prop stuff under her chin so she can take it with her. Sharing is not going to be a fun lesson for her to learn!

My favorite new thing she did just happened tonight on our way to dinner. It was just the 3 of us walking quite a ways, so I had her in the carrier. She has been getting lots of kisses, but hasn't given any. While we were walking, I looked down at her and kissed her and said, "Give mommy kiss." I've done that a lot, but this time, I thought I heard her smack her lips like she was trying to make a kiss sound. I looked at her and smiled and tried to get her to do it again. Not a chance. Then, as soon as I looked away she did it again. I looked back at her and she started laughing. Then she kept making the little kiss noise. Oh, I could just eat her up!

Overall, things are going great! Daddy still hasn't gotten to hold her, but she will let him feed her and kiss her. Hopefully it won't be much longer. There are a few other dads in our group waiting to hold their daughters too. This is completely normal, but I know Steven is so ready! And mommy's arms could use a break every now and then (still not complaining though).

Alright, time for some ibuprofren and then off to bed! Here's a few pics...

Monday, March 5, 2012

Gotcha Day details...

My heart is so full! As I write this, Ayla is still fast asleep. I can't imagine what a long, scary day it was for her, but she is a little trooper.

The tears were off and on all morning as we waited for 2:00 to come. There were 9 families in our group, and we boarded a bus to head to the Civil Affairs building. On the ride there, we received several instructions on what would happen when we got there. There would be paperwork to look over, as well as a document to show as they handed her to us (to make sure they were giving the right children to the right families). Once everyone's paperwork was checked, they said they would call families one by one...slowly, so the families would have plenty of time to take pictures of each other.

Not. the. case. It was crazy. We were all taking pictures as the first baby came out from behind a curtain that led to a playroom. I lost it! Then, baby 2 came quick, then this time we were all fumbling paperwork and cameras, realizing it was going to happen fast. And then, there she was. It was our moment. I reached to take her from the orphanage representative. She resisted a little, but then came to me without a whimper. Almost immediately, we were asked to move over so another family could meet their child (thanks for preparing me for that Heather!). I could tell she was scared to death, and I must have gone into protection mode. I just held her close and whispered to her. Some of the babies came out kicking and screaming, and I could have burst into tears at any moment. But because she was calm, I (tried) to stay calm so I wouldn't upset her.

We went over to a couch where all the other families were heading to dig into our diaper bags for any kind of treat that might make the kids feel more comfortable. The cheerios didn't get much of a response, so we quickly moved to sweettarts (we had been told the kids liked them). She ate a couple and then let me feed her some puffs. We looked at our toy camera (thanks Pops & DeBe), but couldn't hear the sounds it made over all the commotion in the room.

Steven went to get some questions we had prepared answered by the orphanage representative with our guide. So it was just the two of us (sort of...if you don't count the other 50 familes in the room). She just looked around, looked in the diaper bag, and let me hold her. We played with a little lovie, and she gave a few half-smiles. She would look up at me from time to time. There were several times when I thought she was about to sob, and I would think, "here we go". Her little lip would quiver, but it was like she was trying to hold it back. She never cried at the Civil Affairs building.

After all the families got their questions answered, it was time to go. We walked out of the building as a group...11 more than when we walked in (2 families in our group adopted 2 babies)! Praise the Lord for 11 less orphans in China! We got on the bus and headed to a shopping center to get the right formula, diapers, rice cereal, etc. Ayla was so tired. Her eyelids would drop, but she wouldn't let herself go to sleep. I'm sure she was scared of what might happen next if she dare sleep. She had a quick meltdown on the bus, but someone handed me a dum dum and that did the trick!

We got to the store and I put her in a carrier. After fighting sleep for a while longer, she finally dosed off. We were sweaty and exhausted, and ready to get back to the room. When we finally did, we tried to show her around, but she didn't respond much. Steven had to leave to go do more paperwork, so now it really was just us. It was tough. I set her down so she could walk around. She was scared, and nothing would soothe her. Our first communication was her shaking that precious little head telling me, "no." Again it looked like she was fighting back tears. "No." She didn't want puffs. "No," she didn't want to play with toys. "No, no, no." I just scooped her back up, crying for her. We paced around the room, and finally she saw something she wanted...a bath towel. I gave it to her (of course), and she laid her head on it. We didn't even attempt a bath, but I wiped her off a little as I changed her diaper and put pj's on her.

We were waiting for Lily (the amazing woman who does so much on behalf of adoptive families here in China) to come show me how to make her formula the way she was used to it. She came and made her a bottle. Bless her little heart...that's what she wanted! I held her while she guzzled it down. She didn't want me to hold the bottle (as we gain trust, this is something that will hopefully change), and even wiggled down to the floor to finish it off. When she was done, she handed the bottle to me. I reached for her...and she reached back. I melted. She perked up a little, and Steven came back. We had not had a chance to discuss the answers to all the questions we had asked earlier, but he told me that she is used to sleeping with a small bath towel.

Steven hadn't held her yet (this is very common). She would take puffs from him, but would give him the "evil eye" if he reached to hold her. We had seen that look in pictures before. Lifeline had prepared us very well on how a lot of the children are scared of men at first. He has been very patient and sweet with her. Hopefully, she will let him hold her soon. Some of the husbands went to get food to bring back for dinner, so Steven headed to Pizza Hut with them.

It was about 9:00, which is her normal bedtime. I laid with her on the bed and she started to drift off. I picked her up and laid her on me, and she fell asleep. I placed her in her crib, and covered her with the towel. I. was. starving...and exhausted. I got ready for bed, and Steven came back shortly after that. I had some pizza, and was planning on getting some things ready for today. But, unsure of what the night would hold, I went to bed too.

I have been up since 5:00, and she is still fast asleep. She stirred a couple times, but I just rubbed her back and she fell right back to sleep. Her normal wake-up time is 6:30. It's 6:45 now, so I'm expecting her to wake up any minute. Lots of pics were posted on fb, so rather than taking time to upload them, I am gonna go get ready for our first full day together! On the next post, I will do my best to post lots of pics!

We are so so blessed and thankful to finally have our daughter in our arms. Please continue to lift us up in prayer...that Ayla would begin to trust us and bond with us as her mommy and daddy. She had a long day yesterday, and we know there will be grieving over the next several days, so there will be some tough moments. We are confident that God will give us the strength and grace to make it.

We are in love!

There's someone we'd like you to meet...

We've got her!! It has been a crazy day! She did great when they gave her to us, but is grieving now. Ayla is precious, and I can't wait to tell you more soon. God is good, and we are blessed. Please continue to pray as we make this sweet transition.

Sunday, March 4, 2012


I think I've imagined this night for a long time just never felt like it would actually get here. The last few days have flown by, and I cannot believe this is our last night without Ayla. Words can't describe what I'm feeling right now. It's like lots of emotions all mixed together into one big knot in my stomach. We have been counting down by months, then weeks, then days, and now hours, hoping they pass quickly. We are so excited we can hardly stand it!

On the other hand, I could just burst into tears for how her nanny must feel tonight. I know how it feels to say goodbye to kids you love with all your heart. She has loved our daughter and cared for her for the first 22 months of her life. I'm sure she has been counting down over these past few weeks too. Only, she has wanted time to pass slowly. My heart breaks for her as I know she must be thinking about how this is her last night to tuck her in. We are so grateful for this woman we've never met, but yet has taught Ayla how to bond. She has helped prepare her for us.

And then I think of our precious girl, and how she has no idea what's about to happen. When she wakes up tomorrow, she will be whisked away from everyone and everything she knows and placed in a van for a 4 hour drive...maybe her first time in a van. Maybe even her first time out of the orphanage. How scary for her. Then she'll enter a building she's never seen before and be placed into the arms of complete strangers who look, smell and sound completely different from her nanny. We've been looking forward to this day for the past 18 months, but for her it will be traumatic.

I think this is the reason for a lot of mixed emotions tonight. Ayla won't understand what's going on, and she won't know that she can trust us. It will be hard to watch her grieve, which we know will happen at some point over the next few days. We don't know what that will look like...if she'll cry, kick and scream, shut down, or all of the above. What we do know, is that God has very clearly led us to this moment, and He is faithful. We don't know what tomorrow's story looks like, but we know the Author. And He is good.

We have been so blessed by friends and family who have been walking this journey with us and lifting us up in prayer. Even in the midst of lots of emotions, there has been an overwhelming peace. Please continue to lift us up in prayer. There are 9 Lifeline families in our group, and we will all be meeting our children in the same room tomorrow. A few of the moms are close friends of mine (if I'm not blogging fast enough for you, you can read their stories from my links on the right), and it is so amazing to be going through this life-changing time together.

Earlier today, we all sat in a conference room to hear about the schedule for tomorrow. Normally, families prepare a list of questions for whatever representative from the orphanage is there. Since there are so many of us, they went ahead and requested some of the information up front. We learned her schedule, how she likes her formula, and then a little bit about her personality. She can say a few words in Chinese. I will be asking what those words are tomorrow. Apparently, she likes birthday cake and candy. She also loves music, colorful toys and the rocking horse (her original paperwork said she "likes to ride the trojan"...I'm guessing that's the rocking horse). They also said she's shy.

So, the schedule for tomorrow...Gotcha Day! Our whole group will leave the hotel at 2:00 (midnight Sunday night Alabama/Central time). We should get to the civil affairs office around 2:30 and then one by one, we will meet our children. They will unite families from other agencies between all of us because our guides need to be available with each Lifeline family, so this will probably take a while. Once we're done at the consulate, we all go straight to the store to buy some things we'll need. I say all this because it may be a while before we'll be able to post anything. Some of you had mentioned waiting up... realistically, you may just want to check early Monday morning! If you do wake up during the night, please pray for us!

Ok, I am going to attempt to get some sleep before our big day tomorrow. I cannot wait until our next post...I know it's the one you've really been waiting for. Us too!!

It was only appropriate that we do one more Starbucks run in honor of our Red Thread coffee group. I love these 2 ladies...Kim and Rushton. So so thankful to have been on this journey with them, and thrilled to be here in China together!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Thawing out...

This morning we woke up to another freezing day in Beijing, and we got an early start. The plan was to go to Tiennamen Square, The Forbidden City, do a Hutong Tour, and then go to The Temple of Heaven...all before catching a 5:30 flight to Guangzhou.

Well, Tiennamen Square was closed because of some council meeting going on, so we went straight to The Forbidden City. It is ginormous! Wendy, our sweet guide, told us a lot about it. There were over 1 million workers building it, and it took 40 years to build! Every detail has some kind of meaning, from the colors used, to the number of tiers on the roofs, to the location of walkways. The number 9 is really significant to the Chinese, so 9 and multiples of 9 are used everywhere. There are 9,999 and 1/2 rooms in the city. The temple for the gods has 10,000 rooms, and since the emperor wouldn't dare compare himself to a god, he shorted himself by half a room. Ha! And what is half a room??

The information was interesting, but sad at the same time. There are so many superstitions and gods, and so many lost people. What seemed like far-fetched, silly tales to me were the very things so many Chinese people believe in. Including Wendy.

We were so cold, that we were very glad to finally get through the Forbidden City. Next, we headed to a silk was inside, so we were happy to be there. We watched the tedious process of how silk is handmade...there's a woman, not a machine, who pulls the silk worms out of the cacoons. The factory then led to a door to what looked like a department store. We saw the children's section, and bought a couple silk outfits for Ayla!

Still not ready to brave the cold again, we headed to lunch. The restautant felt more like a hotel, with multiple rooms. There was a banquet going on there, so we were led to a private room to eat. It was strange, but the food was good. WAY too much for just the 2 of us though!

Then came the Hutong tour. Hutongs are narrow streets through old Beijing, where only rickshaws can drive. It is very traditional, and the homes are built in squares around a central courtyard. We were winding through the streets and then Wendy knocked on the door of one. We were invited to come inside. The man who lived there was a prefessional calligrapher. It felt really awkward walking through his home. There were caged crickets on a dresser. It reminded me of the movie Mulan, and I am sure there is a superstitious reason why they had them.

Wendy and I rode together in the rickshaw, and we had a great conversation. She knew we were in China to adopt and was really excited. She kept saying how Ayla was unlucky, but now she's lucky. I was able to open up to her a little bit about my faith. She was very sweet, but not very open. She assumed I believed in just 1 God because I was American. The talk was short, but I am praying that she will respond to the gospel one day.

We ended up opting out of the Temple of Heaven tour. It would have been outdoors as well, and we were already cold. So, we went a little early to the airport. We were finally on the flight that would take us to Ayla.

I cannot believe we are here. I am sitting in a beautiful hotel room on the 15th floor overlooking the city. There is a little crib at the foot of my bed, and it will soon be our daughter. We are halfway across the world, in a huge city, with millions of people, but we are here to meet one little girl that God has so clearly led us to. Not by coincidence, but by His sovereign will. Not because she had a streak of good luck, but because God has a plan for her life.

I am dosing off as I write because I am exhausted from the last few days, but I am reminded of the infinitely greater lengths that God went to to adopt His children, to adopt me. My prayer is that these next few days will be a picture of the gospel, and how adoption is at the heart of it. If you know Christ, I pray you will have a fresh sense of how sweet it is to be a part of God's family. If you don't know Christ, I pray you will be drawn to the One who sacrificed His only "natural" born Son, so that you and I can be part of His family forever. Romans 8:15 says, For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”

Here's a few pics from today. I wanted to do more, but they are taking too long to upload. :(

The Forbidden City

"The Couples Tree" - 2 trees grew together

The emperor had 3000 concubines. They could not leave the Forbidden City unless they gained the emperors favor and had his permission. There were so many that some never even met him. This is where they could go to mourn for the family they missed.

Wendy was helping me find a cute silk outfit for Ayla.

The rickshaw that we rode...

Friday, March 2, 2012

Xtreme Great Walling...

We were not expecting to see snow flurries when we looked out our hotel window this morning. It was really foggy, and it didn't seem like ideal weather for our Great Wall trip, especially since we had been warned it would be significantly colder there. But, today was the day, come rain snow or come shine.

As we drove through Beijing, we saw the site of the 2008 Olympics. We had to look fast because our driver has a heavy foot. There's really no such thing as defensive driving's offensive! As we moved to the outskirts of the city, the temperature dropped and there was more and more snow the further we went.

We took an unexpected stop at a jade factory. We learned that not all jade is green, and saw some pretty amazing things carved out of it. It was interesting, and after a crash course on the process of what they do to the jade, we got to go to the "big showroom." We managed to leave without falling into that tourist trap.

We had to walk a couple blocks to a restaurant where we ate lunch near the entrance to the Great Wall. It. was. freezing. Like, my lungs were burning it was so cold. Our sweet guide, Wendy, asked us how long we wanted to stay at the Wall after lunch. At this point, we were fine with a quick walk on the wall and a few pics to prove we had been there. Wendy said our best option would be to take a cable car that could have us near the top of the wall in 3 minutes. Then we could walk to the top and snap a few pictures. Sounded like a plan! After lunch, Steven invested in a very handsome "Great Wall" beanie and we were on our way.

The cable car ride was really cool! This wall is literally built through miles and miles steep mountains. Wendy told us that 2000 years ago, the first emperor forced prisoners to build it. They had to work 16 or more hours a day and may of them died because of poor working conditions. They buried the bodies in the wall, so it is also known as the world's longest cemetery. Ok, enough with the history lesson.

We got off the cable car and headed onto the wall. Part of it has steps, and then there is a section that is just a really steep incline...covered in snow. We held onto the rail and started up. It was so slippery! Our guide said she has never been to the Wall in the snow. We looked behind us only to see a long line of Asians holding onto the rail for dear life behind us. There was no turning back. (Sidenote, this is not the tourist season, so it was just us and maybe a couple hundred Asians...we stood out like a sore thumb). Everyone was slipping and laughing. This could have been an Olympic sport!

We finally made it to the top of the incline where we tried to get some pictures through the fog. Then came the hard part...getting back down the incline! It was hilarious. Basically, you just held onto the rail and slid until you ran into somebody or could get your footing. One guy decided he didn't want to wait in the long line of people going down via the hand rail. He walked to the middle, squatted down, and slid all the way to the bottom into a group of cheering people. Steven got it on video, but it won't upload...we'll work on it. We had a blast! We may not have been able to see much of the wall, but we had an unforgettable experience!

We went to a tea house to warm up. That was a neat experience too. It was no Milo's, but we enjoyed it! We ended t
he day by going to an acrobatic show. That was fun too, but the jetlag was starting to get to us by that point. Our time here in Beijing is short, so we are trying to cram a lot in. Tomorrow we will go to the Forbidden City, Tiennamen Square, and do a Hutong tour. Then we will fly out to Guangzhou and prepare to meet Ayla!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

we're here!

Thank you all so much for your prayers! There was definitely a peace throughout the days before we left and throughout our 28-hour trip, and we know it's because we are being lifted up by our friends and family. Praise the Lord, we are a HUGE step closer to Ayla!

It is 1:00am on March 2, and we just got checked into our hotel in Beijing. Unfortunately, the hotel was completely full and since we arrived so late, they had no choice but to upgrade us to a suite!! Any bed would have been welcomed at this point, but we are in a really nice hotel room for the next 2 nights. We are tired, but so excited to finally be here! Tomorrow (well, technically today) we are going to sleep in and then go to the Great Wall. 

On a funny note (maybe only because I'm sleep deprived), I wore a sweatshirt today that I got last summer. It has Chinese writing on it, but I had no I idea what it said...until today. We met a man in Tokyo in the security line who was really friendly. He teaches in Florida, but was coming home to China for Spring Break. He told me it said 5 yuan (the Chinese currency) and 10 yuan. Apparently, the whole sweatshirt looks like a Chinese bill. Random. So, as we are boarding the plane to Beijing, the sweet flight attendant smiles at me and says, "10 bucks." Not sure I'll be wearing it much more. Ok, so that isn't that funny.

Ok, here's a few pics...goodnight!!

Birmingham airport, 2/29 at 4:30am.

The plane that took us from Detroit to Tokyo...
we had a row of 4 seats to ourselves.

Lookin' a little rough in Tokyo...

Just landed in Beijing!!