November 19 - December 5, 2005

October 4, 2005 - We got an email with this picture of our daughter-to-be, Fu Chuan Kuai.
(This is a picture of her at 16 months. She was 20 months by the time we got her.)

Tim hyperventilated. I started packing. (Tim's the emotional one. I'm the suppressor.)

November 19 - We left Austin at 8:30 am. My parents and one of my sisters, Bonny, joined us in LA to make the trip to China with us. We arrived Hong Kong at about 9 pm the next day. We stayed at the Kowloon Shangri-La, a stunning 5-star hotel, with what we thought were extraordinarily hard beds. (We discovered later that firm mattresses are the thing in China. Next time we go, we'll bring our camping thermarests.)

November 21 - We toured Hong Kong, with our guide, Patrick. Yes, Patrick is Chinese. Here are some pictures of us in Hong Kong...

(Notice the bamboo scaffolding.)

November 22 - Gotcha Day. The longest day of my life.
1:30 pm - We arrived in Nanchang, Jiangxi. There were 11 families in our group, getting babies who ranged from 10 months to 20 months old.

3:30 - We had a 2 hour meeting with our guide, James , where we got our itinerary, asked questions, and were told more about our babies.

5:30 - Break for dinner.

6:00 - We go back upstairs and wait while the babies were delivered to us. Here is a Bonny, Me, Tim, and Daddy while we waited - a wee bit stressed. As the group of us were standing there in the hallway, we watched a group of nannies come off the elevator carrying our babies. River looked straight at me and stared me down as she was carried into the conference room. (We've since discovered she can stare down anyone. The child doesn't blink.) My first thought was OH Crap! We were warned by our adoption agency, CCAI, that our baby might go to one parent and reject the other. I now had a pretty good idea which category I would fall under.

* The gentleman holding River, handed her to Tim. Poor little thing was completely quiet and didn't move at all except her eyes. She kept looking around at all of us without moving her head. The only time she made a peep (okay, blood-curdling scream) was when I finally got my chance to hold her. We immediately took her back to our room. She was drenched in sweat, wearing about 3-4 layers of clothes. But don't even think about taking any of those clothes off! She wanted absolutely no change at all. The only position she would tolerate was plastered against Tim's shoulder while he sat perfectly still. In fact that was the preferred position for the next five days...

We spent the next 2 hours trying to calm her down, feed her and remove a few of the layers before we had to go back upstairs for paperwork, finger prints, baby passport picture, family picture for the notary and CCAA interviews.

8:00 - The man taking the passport pictures certainly wasn't a professional photographer. He would snap his fingers in a screaming baby's face and shout "Ho Ho". I thought Tim was going to slug him. As a result, this is River's Chinese passport photo...

Our interview consisted of a woman asking us if this was the baby whose picture and info was sent to us and did we like her. Seemed a little soon for that question, given that my first 2 hours as a mother were spent cowering in the corner of a hotel room hoping the child wouldn't look at me and start screaming again. Fortunately it did get better...

November 23 - Okay, it doesn't look too good, but at least she was letting me hold her. Actually, I think she was still too exhausted to care that I was holding her. She did let me feed her breakfast.

First thing after breakfast, Mother gave her a haircut . She also gave Suann and Charlie's little girl, Francesca a haircut .

My family! I don't know what we would have done without them. They were so supportive and helpful and great shoulders to cry on. Anytime we needed anything they were there to help. Anytime we needed something, we'd open the door and Mother would be standing there with it. A regular Radar O'Riley. Since River apparently has an affinity for bearded men, Daddy was able to give Tim a break from his role as preferred care giver. And of course, Bonny, or Auntie Cheerio (her favorite nickname) helped make the whole trip an adventure. Bonny didn't get to hold and play with River nearly as much as she wanted. But whenever she could, she would carry River off. Tim and I would look at each other and wonder where she was taking our child. We wouldn't have most of these great pictures without her.

Thanks a lot, Bonny!

 Nanchang - We enjoyed Nanchang. As you drive into the city and cross the Ganjiang River, there are 2 large cat statues on either side of the road. One is black, the other is white. A friend told me that the meaning of the black and white cats is "black cat and white cat - whoever catches the mouse is a good cat" - a quote from former president Deng, Xiaoping promoting economic reform. This was an attempt to pull the different political groups together to back economic reform.

We stayed at the Jiangxi Hotel. While not as grand as our HK hotel, this one was very attractive, clean, comfortable and had the most amazing food at the main restaurant downstairs. I wish I'd taken a picture of the woman whose job it was to dust mop the spotless floor in the main lobby. She looked so serene walking back and forth. Here are some pictures we took in Nanchang...

Next door to the Jiangxi Hotel is a grocery store/department store/discount store. Even though there was a Walmart in town, we found most everything we needed at the "G-Store". We also saw some interesting stuff including a chocolate drink called "Can Suck of Chocolate". Unfortunately, we didn't get a picture of that, but we did of these...

More funny stuff...

November 25 - Back to the main topic of our trip - River! By this point she would let me hold her without us having to resort to too much trickery.
In fact she was being nice enough to me that we started letting Bonny play with her again. But we still hadn't had a smile. One little smirk over breakfast. That was it.
All the other babies in our group were at least smiling at their parents if not down right giggling. That evening Tim, Bonny, River and I took a hair raising taxi ride, for reasons I can't remember. Taxi drivers in China make NYC cabbies look tame. I was giggling (which is what I do when in fear for my life), Bonny was in the front seat gripping the dash board and River was sitting quietly in Tim's lap. I completely contribute this to the cab ride - but, when we got out of the taxi, River threw her head back in what seemed like an almost playful manner. Sort of like someone who kind of remembers how to have fun, but not sure how to make it happen. Tim, of course, does know how to have fun and he proceeded to spin her, dip her, toss her until she was grinning and making a noise that sounded a lot like a precursor to crying, but we think it was a rusty laugh.

Of course she wouldn't let anyone but Tim engage in such behavior, so we spent the evening watching Tim run up and down the hall with her.

November 26 - Fuzhou. Fuzhou is the town where all but one of the babies were abandoned. We took a 2 hour bus ride to get there to see the orphanage and visit each of the abandonment sites. I actually liked Fuzhou even better than Nanchang. Quieter, less smoggy. The first picture is where River was found. Then there are some other pictures of Fuzhou...


We drove up to the orphanage, which was a rather pretty building from the outside. Our guide, James, recommended leaving the older babies on the bus. He didn't think they would recognize it, but just in case, they would have been upset. Later, at another abandonment site, Tim got out with River while I took pictures of those bizarre Greek statues above. We had stopped at the nannies' dormitory. A nanny walked up who recognized River and started talking with her and patting her. River has a pretty good poker face, so if it upset her, she didn't let on. Later on the trip home, she got progressively more fussy. When we got back to the hotel, she had a major meltdown. We were bummed to see that sad, blank look back on her face that night after she calmed down.

I would be remiss to not talk about more about our CCAI reps in Nanchang, James Jin and Jacqueline Lee. They are the sweetest people. They were there for anything we or the babies needed. James shared with us fascinating information on Chinese history and explained the events leading to the one-child policy which has, ironically, given us our wonderful little girl.
He took us on great tours including this city park and the Tengweng tower .
He took us to excellent restaurants, so unfortunately, I didn't loose any weight on this trip like everyone assured me I would.

Jackie took groups of us shopping and to a tailor where we had custom blouses, blazers, dresses, you name it, made. Jackie couldn't see us off from the airport. When I saw her crying as she told us goodbye from the hotel lobby, I realized how sad I felt to leave Nanchang. I bawled all the way to the airport. We only knew James and Jackie for one week, but we think about them often, as we do the other families in our group...

November 29 - Bye-bye Nanchang! Our last day, was bitter-sweet for me. As I said, I was sad to go. But River wasn't. Today was the first day that she really snuggled with me. Then when we were waiting at the airport gate to leave, she started laughing and playing with me. It was the first time I had been able to toss her around and have fun with her. As we were boarding the plane, I told to say bye-bye to Nanchang. She grinned and said, Bye-bye. One of the first words we got out of her.

November 30 - December 3 - Guangzhou - Guangzhou is where the American side of the paperwork takes place. Most of the stressful, expensive paperwork was done in Nanchang. We stayed at the White Swan Hotel with what seemed like thousands of other American couples with Chinese children.

It's a tradition to take a picture of all the babies in a travel group on "The Red Couch" at the White Swan. Fortunately there are several red couches, or we would have waited forever since everyone in the hotel was doing the same thing. Here is our red couch picture...
and a calmer group picture.

We liked Guangzhou too...

These little girls are amazing. This picture is our 11th day with River and she was already acting like a little girl without a care in the world. She was a different child every day of the trip. Incredible to watch!

But now we're having some serious fun...

March 8, 2006 Jennifer Scoggins

*Thank you Jeannie & Bane Harrison for the Gotcha Day photos.