We finally made it. What a return trip.
As we wandered around Guangzhou for the last few times we realized that our China journey was coming to a close. I can truly say that last time around we were more melancholy at this point in our journey. This journey has been quite different as it has had more of an "accomplish this mission" feel to it. We have enjoyed each step; though, most steps have been repeats of our journey to bring Jenna into our family. In short, we were very eager to get home and move onto the next phase of our lives. Such a statement is a bit odd to truly consider. We are moving into the next stage of life as we will no longer be adding children to our family, but concentrating on raising on those we have.
As a practical matter - we were sick of eggs & bacon for breakfast every morning, sick of noodles, sick of hearing people slurp their noodles, sick of being "accosted" by sales staff every time we approached a store or restuarant, sick of being stared at, sick of receiving child raising advice from every "grandmotherly" Chinese woman within 15 feet of us, and sick of really hard beds.
The trip home was an experience. There is nothing like international travel at the holidays to squash the good spirits right out of you. We awoke at 5:00 am (China time) on the 24th in Guanzhou to meet our 9:00 am flight. All went well and we said goodbye to our guide - Elvin - who was terrific during the entire process. We landed in Beijing and after transfering to the international terminal via a crowded shuttle bus (with 2 kids and all of our baggage - to be checked and carry-on) we waited in line to check our baggage and receive tickets. And waited, and waited, and waited, and ..... received news that due to the storms in the mid-west that we would not make our connecting flight and staying in a hotel in Chicago would be our fate. As long as we got to an American city we would work it out from there.
We then waited for our plane to arrive, and waited, and waited, and waited ..... as it arrived 3 hours late. We began to get hungry so searched for a place to grab a little something - but all that was available was ...... noodles - we passed. The boarding process was something out of a movie. Chinese nationals everywhere screaming, yelling, shoving, pushing at each other and us trying to get on the plane and stow their carry-on bags - mad house comes close to describing the scene. We all (kids especiallY) actually slept most of the flight - skipping the mid-night snack of noodles and the arrival meal of noodles (please don't offer me noodles for about 3 months - else your life may be in danger).
Arrival into O'hare, through customs - Jack is now a US citizen - and waited to see if we could make the last flight out to Atlanta. And waited, and waited, and waited ..... no go - hotel bound for the night. United put us up in a nice hotel on Christmas eve, we ate room service (hamburgers), slid into soft beds and everyone crashed to sleep until our wake up call. The next morning we made it to the airport, checked-in, with me taking on an unusual role of "complete jerk" with the United staff as I had begun to grow very impatient with inconsistent information and people who clearly did not know what they were talking about. We made it to our plane, had an uneventful ride and met our family at the Atlanta airport about 2:00 pm on Christmas day.
The reunion between Jenna and Jack was very nice to see (caught on video). He clearly recognized her, jumping up and down saying "Wan-Jin, Wan-Jin, Wan-Jin". He craddled her face in his hands and kissed her on the cheek several times. Jenna took it all in stride, but clearly did not recognize him from her time in China. While we were in Guangzhou, one of the sales girls in one of the numerous shops gave Jack a simple bracelet to wear. He wore it everyday and could not be without it. At this reunion meeting, he took off the bracelet and gave it to Jenna (unfortunately, I did not capture that on video).
As we move to adjust our bodies to the time change, celebrate Christmas, open our gifts and eat a great meal, we wish to thank a whole lot of people for helping us through this journey - many of which I will likely unintentionally leave off here. Our guides in China (Cecilia, Steed and Elvin) - all of whom were wonderful and made the trip as comfortable and enjoyable as could be. Al for checking on our house while we were gone. Our neighbors the Wrights for the same. Jim for a ride to the airport early in the morning on the 10th. Nancy who kept me sane at work during much of this process. AGG for allowing me to be away from work for such an extended period. Betty and Patricia who helped us organize a trip around the world in a very short period of time. Mor-mor, Susan and Jim, and Mimi who kept the girls safe and sound while we were away from them. Our many friends at church, at work, around home, through the internet, and all points in between who have listened to us, shared with us, helped us and most importantly, prayed for us and Jack through this journey.
We have finished this mission. I think we prayerfully followed the direction of God to begin and finish this journey, though, we may not have always executed and performed the individual tasks in a manner that glorified Him. My prayer is that if you are reading through this blog and have doubts that the living God walks with us, encourages us, guides us, comforts us - will begin to consider that such doubts are holding you back from a wonderful and unique relationship that He yearns for you to undertake. Please know that without this relationship in my life, I would not have even begun to consider taking on 2 additional children - and I would have missed 2 wonderful gifts and countless blessings in my life. Consider the events articulated in this blog and really ask yourself if these events could merely be coincidence. Please feel free to contact me should you ever want to discuss the reason for the hope that I have and I promise to do so in a respectful manner.
Our family is now complete. We move on from here with prayerful hope that we live our lives for Him. Ups and downs will come and through it all we will love Jack with all our might as he is a part of our family as if he arrived by the stork. We are the fortunate ones.
Jack is now home.
7 years ago