China Day 2 and half of 3: The Great Wall, Jade Factory, and the Bullet Train

So far I’ve typed a blog from a plane, now it’s time for a blog from a train. We are currently on the bullet train from Beijing to Zhengzhou, cruising along at something like 180 mph. The China country side is flying by my window and it’s so nice to see green after being in the city.


Josh and our friends climbed all the way up to the first tower.  Two of our friends climbed even beyond that.  It was about 98 degrees and 99% humidity and they were sweaty messes.

Josh and our friends climbed all the way up to the first tower. Two of our friends climbed even beyond that. It was about 98 degrees and 99% humidity and they were sweaty messes.

This is a beacon tower.  If you've ever watched Mulan, you know that these were used to send messages and the people who manned these towers would light them to let the next tower know that someone was coming so they could be prepared.  To spread a message along the whole Wall took 3-4 hours.

This is a beacon tower. If you’ve ever watched Mulan, you know that these were used to send messages and the people who manned these towers would light them to let the next tower know that someone was coming so they could be prepared. To spread a message along the whole Wall took 3-4 hours.



Yesterday we went to the Great Wall and the jade factory. The Great Wall is AMAZING. To think it was built by hand is incredible. We went to a section of the wall called the Juyongguan Pass, which they said was less crowded then some of the other sections. I simply can’t imagine it having been more crowded then it was, so I am glad we went there. You pull into the parking lot and just see this massive crush of humanity headed up to the tower at the top of the hill. I was thinking that I wanted to climb up, so I headed that way with the other people from my group who were going, and we headed up. There are a series of steps and landings before you get to the actual climbing part of the Wall, and just getting up there was tough, so we took a short break at the beginning and then headed up. I got about a 16th of the way, turned around and looked at how steep it was going to be coming down and I couldn’t do it. Going up would be fine, but coming down would be petrifying. Not to mention that there were thousands of people climbing at the same time and if you get bumped once, you become a human bowling ball with thousands of pins. Nope, nope, nope. So Josh, and 5 other people from our travel group pressed on and I waited at the bottom with my friend Teresa. I got to see pictures and that was enough for me. Josh got to the top and went to the top of the tower, accessed by a ladder like stairway, and was only up there with 7 other people, so was able to have the whole place sort of to himself, which was cool. He also said that as he was coming down, he didn’t look out too much, just stayed focused on the steps in front of him, but that there were people who came down at the same time who were running down the middle like it was no big deal, some of them with babies or toddlers on their backs. I can’t imagine. When we were waiting we saw one girl boost herself into one of the lookout spaces for a picture, like it wasn’t thousands and thousands of feet down if she fell. People are CRAZY, here and everywhere.


After that, we went to the jade factory, which has an attached restaurant, and our guide ordered for us, so we got a ton of different dishes, which were all wonderful. It was nice to not have to think so much about what to eat and to let someone else do it for us. Then we went to the jade factory and did some shopping, but I can’t talk too much about it since it’s all gifts. It was a great experience and I’m glad we got to go.


Then we headed back to the hotel and rested for a while, and eventually ventured out for dinner. Some friends from our group had found a place the night before that they loved, so we went there, and it was so, so good. We were the only white people there, always a good sign in my book.


When we got back to the hotel, we were told that the President of CCAI, Joshua Zhong, was in Beijing and was coming to the hotel to meet with us just to see how our trip was going. So we got to meet Josh and thank him in person for the amazing things CCAI does, which was awesome. I cannot say enough good things about CCAI. They are the best, and I can’t imagine having done this without them and their help.


Then we went back and went to sleep. Sleep still isn’t coming super easy right now, so we are TIRED. We’ve been in bed by 8 most nights, and up by around 4, if not earlier. This morning, we got up on purpose at 4 to meet in the lobby by 5:30 to take the train to Zhengzhou.


So, about the train. We’d been told that the actual train was awesome, but getting to and through the station was stressful. Thankfully, we had a bus to take us to the station, and our guide took us through as far as she was able. I absolutely cannot imagine doing something like that for the first time ever with no one to help us. It would have been a nightmare. But she prepped us well and we knew exactly where to go and what to do, so it was chaotic, but manageable for sure. And now that we’re on the train, it’s AMAZING. Leg room, scenery, good company. We’re good. We’ll see what I say once we have to get off and find our way out.

These are all the people waiting to get on the train.  We were in the midst of the chaos waiting our turn to go through.  It was pretty intense, but more orderly then you'd expect.

These are all the people waiting to get on the train. We were in the midst of the chaos waiting our turn to go through. It was pretty intense, but more orderly then you’d expect.


Here is what the train looks like. It’s no Hogwarts Express, but it’ll do. 🙂


Tomorrow is the BIG DAY, JIA DAY!!! We will leave to meet her at 9:30 Monday morning in China, so 9:30 Sunday night in the US.  We would really appreciate your prayers for us (your) tonight.  She will likely be confused and scared and sad that we’re not her foster family, and that’s all okay.  We just want this to be as easy a transition as possible for her and for her to feel safe with us.  You can also be praying for all of the other families in our group, three of whom are first time parents.  We are ecstatic, nervous, excited, and a million other emotions. But mostly we’re just ready. Let’s get this beautiful girl with us and then HOME. It’s almost go time! My next update will likely be our Family Day post and I can’t wait to share it with you!

China Day 2: Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City, Old Beijing, Snack Street and a few minor culture meltdowns.


Hi there! It is currently Saturday morning, July 11th here, so I think Friday night you time? I don’t know, I’ve lost it all. :).


Yesterday, we went to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. And when I say we, I mean my travel group and most of the rest of China. It was CROWDED. We started in the Square and noticed there was a huge line of Chinese (no foreigners) queuing up through barricades for miles. Our guide told us that was people who were waiting to see Chairman Mao’s preserved body and that people essentially come and pilgrimage here. July is the one month that Chinese kids are out of schools, so many families come from all over China to Beijing to see the sites and see his body. There aren’t any building you can go into or anything, so it’s pretty much just looking at the buildings and walking through the square. That in itself is pretty neat though.


Tiananmen Square

Tiananmen Square


Then we went through to the Forbidden City. I hate to point you to Wikipedia, but it does a far better job of explaining about the different rooms and what they were used for then I can ever do. So check this out: I didn’t realize how big it was, and how many little buildings there were. So many of them were used very infrequently, maybe only once, and the amount of time and the number of resources used to make each building is a mind blower.


Forbidden City

Forbidden City


I would liken visiting the Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City to visiting the monuments in Washington DC, especially if you’re a foreigner and haven’t had the benefit of learning all the history of what they mean. It was an amazing experience, and I’m glad we did it, but it was a lot to take in all at once.


After that, we went to find rickshaws, and took a rickshaw tour of Old Beijing. The streets are NARROW and shared by rickshaws, cars, motor bikes and regular bikes, and it’s a miracle anyone survives the traffic, but they do! It was amazing to see and so interesting. I’ll try to upload a video of it so you can get an idea. We also had lunch at the house of a local family and it was delicious! Meatballs, rice, spicy peppers, zucchini, peanuts, and a lot more… so yummy. That was the highlight of the day for me.

Most of our travel group.

Most of our travel group.


So once we left Old Beijing, we went back to the hotel and rested for a little while, and then we has planned to meet up with our group to walk to dinner, but first, Snack Street. Our guide has told us that we should go, but warned us over and over, do not eat anything. You will get sick, sick, sick. So Snack Street is a row, maybe a quarter mile long, of food stalls, and they sell some bizarre stuff. I mean, bugs, spiders, snakes, testicles, you name it. I was walking past one stall and the guys inside said “I have some delicious lambs balls…” and then holds up another stick “…. Or perhaps you want lambs penis instead?”. I’m sure you’re shocked to learn that I turned him down. Our group made it through with no snack eaten on Snack Street, in large part because of the smell. I don’t know if it was a specific type of food or a mix of the food and sewer system, but there were parts of the street that smelled atrocious. So while Snack Street was fascinating and I am so glad we went, it took a long time before my appetite came back.

Scorpions, anyone?

Scorpions, anyone?


I think these are crabs, but other people thought they looked like brains. Yummy!

I don't know what the heck these are?

I don’t know what the heck these are?

Tarantulas.... it's what's for dinner.

Tarantulas…. it’s what’s for dinner.

One other thing I want to talk about is culture shock. There are a few things specifically that have been interesting for me. First, especially because there are so many visitors to Beijing right now, we get stared at A LOT because non-Asians are very rare here. The kids are especially funny because they just don’t know what to make of us, and you can see their little brains just putting it all together and figuring out what’s what.


Secondly, there are TONS of people and very different understandings of personal space. People think absolutely nothing of bumping into you, pushing you out of the way, there are very few orderly lines, and paying for things is basically just whoever shoves money to the front first. This has been really challenging for me, because I am a person who deeply loves order and rules and there just aren’t the ones I’m used to here. And I have a lot of anxiety in large crowds, which is basically all China is. In the US, I can do crowds because I know the rules, and usually can then go home, to my comfy house and familiar food and there just isn’t that option here. So I’ve been having a hard time with figuring out of to decompress from the intensity.


One other thing I didn’t account for is how much not speaking or understanding the language would bother me. I am a word person and I love communicating with people, and not being able to is really throwing me off. I can’t do the polite midwestern “hi how are you beautiful weather” small talk and I never realized how much I liked it until I couldn’t do it.


So, those are a few of the hard things interspersed with a lot of really amazing things. One amazing thing is our travel group and how awesome they all are. We have 5 families, adopting 5 kids, 2 boys, 3 girls, ranging in age from 2-4. One family on their third adoption to make 5 kids at home, us, first adoption, second kid, and the other three, first adoption, first kid. We’ve all meshed really well and they are just lovely people. I’m incredibly thankful for that.


And on that note, I need to go shower to get ready to tackle the Great Wall of China. Then we’re going to do lunch and the jade factory, so let the buying begin. Miss you guys lots already!

Leaving on a jet plane…. arriving in China!

Hi pals. I’m typing this from our airplane… isn’t technology a marvel? But I am tying on a teeny tiny tablet keyboard, so I’m having to retype every word, basically, since I’m also in a cramped airplane seat, so have tiny t-rex arm syndrome. :).


I am trying to keep a good record of this trip because I’m sure, like most big events, this will eventually fade. So here’s how things have gone.

We have been packing for DAYS. DAYS. And by Monday night, we had 99% of our stuff packed and ready to go, and then the rest of Tuesday was just chucking more stuff in that we “might” need. I’m sure we brought far more then we needed, but we ended up with two 46 lb suitcases, so I’m quite pleased with that. Roughing it isn’t really my “thing” so I’m pretty proud of our “light” packing.

Emotionally, the days leading up to leaving were rough. I’m sure I looked frazzled, and I certainly felt that way. I was worried about Eden, I was worried about the trip, etc, etc, etc. I mean, just, all the worries. And I told myself that I would worry right up until we walked into that airport, and then I was done. I had done as much as I could, and that would have to be enough. As much packing, as much prepping Eden, as much aimless worrying, and at some point I just needed to relinquish it. I was especially worried about an emotional airport scene with Eden, on both our ends. I could just see her having to be dragged away, and me sobbing through security. Ugh. But a few days ago, I read a blog post from a fellow adoptive mom who said that she has encouraged her kids to yell and scream and jump as they were pulling out of the driveway, and on the way up, I told Eden that I wanted her to make as much noise as possible while we were walking away and make everyone stare. It worked really well and we got good hugs and goodbyes and then she screamed us into the airport. I am so glad that I read about that tactic, I think it saved us a lot of the sads.

Once we got to the airport, we got boarding passes, checked our baggage and got through security in record time, and had plenty of time to go eat, so we walked down to Chik–fil-a, and had a nice American meal of fried chicken and fries. Our flight was delayed 40 minutes, so we got to chill for a little while, chat with friends, etc. It was a huge help for my fragile emotions to read all the notes and texts from the people we love. You guys helped so much.

So we boarded, got our seats, and off we went. We found out that for some reason, our flight would be shorter then usual by about an hour, which is why we delayed our take off. Apparently Beijing only lets you land within 30 minutes of your planned time, so we had to adjust for that. We don’t really care why, just WAHOO shorter flight.

So far we’ve had dinner (thai beef!) and drinks and have watched two episodes of The Newsroom. We’re still too wired to sleep much, but I’m sure we’ll get there. Tylenol PM is our friend. There is a guy sitting across from me who is having some PHELM ISSUES, so ear plugs are also my friend.  Update:  Josh slept two hours, me, about 20 minutes.  We are not good airplane sleepers.

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One super cool thing that’s happened is we are sitting in a row of four seats, and the other couple in our row is also adopting a 2 year old little girl. So it’s been fun talking with them and comparing notes.

Anyway. That’s the beginning of our trip. Sorry for the stream of consciousness blogging. Not my best effort, but all I can manage for now. Thanks again for following along and for loving us well. Couldn’t do it without you!


Okay, now we’re on our room and we’ve actually slept, so maybe I can be coherent. We landed yesterday and were met by our guide, and waiting on another family who were also arriving around the same time. One thing that has been nice is this process is being able to connect with other families who we’ll be traveling with via Facebook, so we knew who we were meeting and there were hugs and much rejoicing!

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We took a mini bus to our hotel from the airport and got settled in our room. By then the lack of sleep and long day were catching up with us, but I was hungry, so we walked to a noodle shop that was right next door. We ordered a chicken dish and a beef and noodles dish. I’m not sure that either of them was a huge hit, but they were pretty good filled our bellies and that was enough. Then we came back and Josh was out like a light. I don’t know what it was, but I was WIRED and not quite ready to sleep, so I video called my parents and Eden and talked to them and then finally, finally, the crash happened. We both slept okay, but woke up at about 3:45 wide awake and ready to start the day. I’m sure we’ll pay for that later.

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Today we’re going to see Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, then we’re going to see the old streets of Beijing via rickshaw, and have dinner with a local family in their home. It should be QUITE A DAY!

Tomorrow is the Great Wall and then the day after we take the train to Zhengzhou and the wait to meet Jia is hours, not days. I am loving being here, and so glad we got to come a few days early and see Beijing, but I think I am just anxious to get to Jia and get started. But I am not wanting to squander our last few kid free days for a loooooooong time, so I’m soaking it in. What a ride!

Are You Ready For This?

Does it seem to anyone else that every blog post I write goes something like “sometime REALLY SOON we’ll be going to China, but not yet, actually… “? Because that’s pretty much how it feels around here these days. Like, we are SO CLOSE and yet, still in the United States, waiting and waiting and waiting.

So, here’s what’s new: in the last couple weeks, we’ve submitted our I800 form, and had it approved, and sent to the Consulate for approval. We’ve applied for our Visas. We’ve applied for Jia’s Visa (for a while the computer system was down and it has the potential to delay our travel and I finally came completely unhinged. They fixed it today though!).

At this point, we’re waiting on them to issue our Article 5, which we should get on June 18th. This let’s the CCCWA know our Immigration file is COMPLETE and then we will be issued Travel Approval. Travel Approval usually comes 5-7 days after Article 5 is issued, but there are a few people who have waited 20+ days recently due to a computer glitch. If you want to pray/send good thoughts for something, a super short Travel Approval wait is high on my list. Honestly, I will be devastated if we get to that point and then we just have to wait.

Once we have TA, we’ll apply for a date to meet with the Consulate in Guangzhou, which is where we’ll complete our adoption. The rest of our trip hinges on our Consulate Appointment (CA) so once we have that, we’ll be able to buy plane tickets and GO! Most people travel 10-21 days after TA, but I know some people who have only waited a few days before they were on a plane. We will be asking for the first available CA and the soonest possible flights.

Listen, there was a time when I was feeling kind of conflicted about this trip because there was still so much to do and so many things to check off my list. I’m over it now. I don’t care. My house could be crumbling around me and I would get on a plane because I need my kid home now (do not take that as an invitation to test me, Universe… it is a figure of speech.) I’ve reached the point where I will figure it out, I will make it work, I will accept anything as long as she’s with us. I am working hard to stay fully present in this current life and to notice and appreciate how awesome life is right now (because it is!), but a huge part of my heart and mind are in China now more than ever and It’s just time for Jia to be home. I’m ready to start tackling this new normal, I’m ready to have some illusion of control, I’m just READY.

So, that’s the latest, that’s our way forward… we’d so appreciate your prayers and good thoughts for speedy TA and cheap flights (because it turns out that booking international flights days before you leave is pretty much the opposite of cheap!), and most especially for Jia. We’ll keep you posted as things are happening!

The Wait Is (Getting Closer To) Over.

There has been a lot of “stuff” going on around here lately, and I’m just now getting a minute to take a breath and get it all straight in my head.  Adoption is a lot of hurry up and wait, and we’ve finally hit the HURRY part.

First up, we had a exciting step forward when we received our LOA, which stands for Letter of Acceptance.  This is a government document that states that we agree to accept Jia as our daughter.  This is the final step you go through before your files are officially matched together and the deal is sealed, so to speak.  In our hearts, Jia has been our daughter for months now, but now it’s one step closer to being official in the eyes of the government, so hooray!  We received our “soft” LOA on May 7th, which means that our agency was notified that we were approved and the CCCWA (government agency over adoption) was shipping our LOA.  Our agency received it on May 11th, and sent it to us, and we received it on a few days later.  Then we signed it and sent it back.

Once that process is initiated, we get to apply to US Customs and Immigration using form I800, Petition to Classify Convention Adoptee as an Immediate Relative.  So that means that once that’s approved, Jia will be considered our daughter and a part of our family, just like Eden is.

Once our I800 is approved, it is sent to the National Visa Center, then it will be sent electronically to US Consulate in China, and they will produce an Article 5 letter, which will be delivered to the CCCWA by our agency reps in China.  That letter lets the CCCWA know that our immigration file is ready so they’ll issue our Invitation to Travel (TA or Travel Approval).  After that, we set a Consulate Date, which is when we meet with the US Consulate and complete our in China paperwork.  Once that’s set, we can make travel arrangements.   Most families travel within 10-21 days after TA.

So, it seems like all the stuff should take a while, right?  Not really!  Most families travel 9-12 weeks after LOA, which puts us travelling in July.  Now, there is still a LOT that could happen between now and then that could change that time line but assuming everything goes as planned, we’re headed to China in about a month and a half.  WOW-ZA.

To say that we’re feeling the crunch… would be a massive understatement.  Jia’s room isn’t ready, all of our funds aren’t in place, we have about a zillion things on our “want to do before Jia comes” list, Eden’s wrapping up the school year so I want to do all the end of school things, my job is in flux and it’s been a recipe for wanting to hide under the covers and come out in July when we’re ready to get on a plane.  There has been some stress eating and some crying and some desperate emails to friends (thank you Anna!).  It is nice to paint a rosy picture of the adoption process, but honestly friends, sometimes it feels overwhelming in a way I have never been overwhelmed before.  You would not waste your prayers on us as we move into this final chapter, and we could certainly use them.

But, on a happier note, as part of LOA, we also received an update on our littlest girl!  We learned that her favorite color is purple, she loves sea weed snacks (we’ve tried them ourselves and I think we’ll save them for her!), she is putting together two-three word sentences, and we also got some updated pictures, a few I’ve included here.  We are so excited to see all these things in person!


We also finally decided on her official name, which will be Jiaqi Madilyn Pollard.  You pronounce Jiaqi, GE-AH-CHEE, which is kind of like hibachi if that helps.  We will still call her Jia though.

A few things you could be specifically praying for or sending us good vibes on:

  1. Jia’s transition from her foster family to us will be really hard. There is no way through but through and we are already grieving that for her. Please pray for her attachment to us and for her grief as she misses the only family she knows right now.
  2. Eden is really excited to be a big sister, but it is really sinking in that having a sibling means sharing your parents, and we’re starting to see some hard stuff from that. This will be a transition for everyone and that’s totally normal and good, even, but please just pray for her tender heart and for our girls to develop a sister bond that will last.
  3. And finally, as we walk through transitioning two girls through some HUGE changes and adjustments, Josh and I would so appreciate your prayers for patience, our positive attitudes and that we would know how to handle things the right way. We really make an effort to be a united Team Pollard and stress sometimes makes that a little more challenging, so we’d certainly appreciate any extra support.

So, that’s the latest!  As always, thank you for your support and love for us.  I wish I could do a better job of telling you just how much your support means to us, but please know that we are humbled constantly by your kindness.


Adoption Alphabet Soup


So, today we got the best paperwork news we’ve gotten so far… we are DOCUMENTS TO CHINA!!!!  That means all of our documents have been through 3 layers of critical review, our photos mounted, everything bound in a pretty red folder, and everything sent via International Express Mail to the Chinese Center of Children’s Welfare and Adoption (CCCWA).  Once it gets to the CCCWA, since we’re already matched, our dossier goes to the “match room” where they process all of our paperwork.  Then we get a Log in Date (LID), and then we start our wait for our Letter of Acceptance (LOI), which is our Official with a capital O acceptance of Jia as our daughter.  The wait from LID to LOA is currently averaging about 45 days.

After that, we fill out more forms and government information and other stuff that I’m not thinking too much about right now.  I would estimate that we are still at least 3, but probably more like 5 months from travel.  Those months are going to fly by though!

If you’re friends with me on Facebook I alluded to the end part of our paper chase being a little chaotic, and now that it’s over, it’s actually kind of funny, so here’s a story.  We were really hoping to be DTC last Friday and were not.  I got a call on Monday from Kim at CCAI, saying that to complete our dossier, she needed a doctors letter related to Josh’s heart condition, basically saying “yes, he’s healthy, no current concerns, carry on.”  She said that to be DTC by Friday (today), she needed to have the letter by Thursday at noon.

So Josh called his cardiologist and asked them to write the letter, which we were thinking we’d have on Tuesday.  But then Tuesday at 5pm, we got a call from the cardio office saying that they couldn’t write it after all because they could only attest to his cardiac health, not his overall health.  Wednesday morning, I called our family doctor to ask them to do it.  They said they would, and again, I expected to have this letter by Wednesday afternoon.  I called Wednesday afternoon and was told that there wasn’t even a doctor in the office that day… so no letter.  By now we’re realizing that we’re not going to have this letter to Kim by the time she was hoping, so we emailed her and she said if we could get it in by Friday at noon, we had a CHANCE of being DTC on Friday.

Thursday morning I call the office and ask again.  Still no letter, but “we’ll work on it.”  Thursday afternoon I call and she says that she’s almost done typing it and finally I laid the smack down… “I know you’re very busy but please know that if I don’t have this document to our agency tomorrow, we will have to wait a significant length of time (okay, only a week, but it’s significant to me!) before we can submit our documents and we are just trying to get our daughter home as soon as possible. So any help you can give me gets her one day closer to us.” I had that document in 30 minutes, no joke. Apparently I’d finally reached my limit of waiting and was now resorting to guilt trips. I figure this is one of the only steps where I even have the opportunity to guilt trip someone so might as well take advantage.

Then with document in hand, I ran for the Post Office, overnighted the letter to Colorado, and they delivered my “we’ll have it there by noon” package at 11:41.  Nothing like cutting it close!  And then at 3:30, we got *the* email… the one that said “you’ve made it!”

We have jumped a huge hurdle at this point, probably the biggest one at least in terms of paperwork, and you know what?  It feels amazing.  At the beginning of this process I really doubted my ability to be organized and diligent enough to get this all done, but I guess that just goes to show what a mother will do to get to her child.  So, it’s done, we’ve crossed it off the list and we’re one step closer to China and our little girl.  It’s a fantastic day today.