My apologies for no post yesterday. It was an extremely long day, and by the time we were in our hotel room and I could have blogged, I went straight to bed.
Gotcha Day started out at 4 am when Gabbey and I were no longer able to sleep. We got up, but breakfast wasn't open until 6:30, which seemed like an eternity from 4 am! (I later figured out that we only had 3 small meals in 2 days, due to traveling, which explained why we were SO hungry for breakfast!)
6:30 finally rolled around, and we headed down to a DELICIOUS breakfast buffet. (remember, we were starving so it might have been dog food and it still would have been GREAT, lol)
After breakfast, I packed up our things and we took a taxi about 30 minutes to the train station. Bought a ticket for the 10:42 train to Guangzhou, which promptly became delayed until 11:40. So we waited and waited. And then we waited some more.
Gabbey fell asleep as soon as the train started moving, and slept almost the entire trip, which was such a blessing since she was getting grumpy at this point :)....I met a very nice older man from Spain who graciously helped me with my luggage. Passangers have to lift their own luggage on and off the train (and my suitcases are not exactly light, lol). He even had my luggage AND the stroller waiting for me when I got off of the train, which I know doesn't seem like a big deal, but it was part of the trip that I was most nervous about, and this man really made a difference by making it so easy for me! (How's that for a run-on sentence?? :))
Of course, the 2 hour train ride somehow turned into a 3 hour train ride. There were rumors of a cow on the line, but those rumors were NOT confirmed :) So, I was supposed to be in Guangzhou at 12:37, but didn't actually get off of the train until 2:30. My appointment to meet Johanna was at 2:30, and I was getting anxious that I was so late. One of the guides, Wendy, who met me at the train station, let me know that she called ahead to the Civil Affairs Office, and they knew I was running late. Whew. :)
I was very relieved to get into the van in GUANGZHOU. I made it! And by myself :)
I would have liked to check into the hotel first, unpack a little, etc, but there was no time for that. We headed straight to the Civil Affairs Office where Johanna and two workers from Zhongshan Orphanage were waiting!
My first glimpse of her was sitting on the red couch. She stood up immediately, and my first thought was how very small she is! I think Ellie is a little bigger than Johanna. (and Ellie is only 9). I ran up to her and hugged her, and she just kept smiling :) She's very curious about everything (so much of this is completely new for her) but she's not shown any signs of sadness yet.
Often, adopted children do not come with anything but the clothes on their back. Ms. Zhong bought Johanna a new backpack, and it is filled with things from her previous life. A photo album, a CD of ALL of the pictures the orphanage has of her---from birth--, a book signed by all of her friends and teachers at school, an extra outfit and underthings, a copy of her birth note, etc......These things are PRICELESS ties to Johanna's childhood, and I am SO thankful for Ms. Zhong and her love for the children at Zhongshan!
We sat together and looked through the things she brought in her backpack. Then I gave her a few little things that I had brought along. She had purchased a gift for me with her OWN money----some little Chinese cookies and candies.
Wendy asked her if she was scared or if she had any reservations and she shook her head "no". She said, "I'm so happy. I'm ready." I can only imagine how ready she must be, considering this is the WEEK of her 14th birthday.
Johanna's voice is soft and wispy, if you could describe a voice that way. She's not very assertive or confident, just curious and eager to please.
We headed back to check into the Victory Hotel. I couldn't be happier with our room! I'll try to post pictures of it. As I unpacked, Johanna checked out the suitcase of things I brought for her. She LOVED the butterfly shirt with the matching skirt, and wanted to change right away. Then a few minutes later, I noticed her checking out the bras I brought for her, and I showed her she could put one on if she wanted to. She did, and I noticed how happy she looked. She wanted to wear my hairclip and put her hair back just like mine :) So we did our hair together, then I showed her how to use the toothbrush and toothpaste. She's very particular with her things, and when she was sure something was HERS, she went and put it in her backpack. I'm sure there's alot of meaning behind this behaviour as well.
We finally headed to dinner around 6 pm. Again, Gabbey and I hadn't eaten since 6:30 am. That made 5 meals in 3 days. Can you say STARVING?? I did have some snack foods along for Gabbey, but we were still really, really hungry! :) We ate dinner at the Cow and Bridge and then walked the Island for a few minutes.
While we were walking, Johanna all-of-a-sudden stopped, touched my arm, and pointed to her skirt. She needed to use the restroom :).....The whole way to the bathroom, we practiced the phrase, "Mommy, I need to use the bathroom". She's very willing to try English, and we've worked on quite a few phrases and words already. Her voice is very gentle and sweet, and I love to hear her say "Mommy". She can pronounce Johanna perfectly and she seems to really like to say her name. When we skyped with the rest of the family, she said, "My name is Johanna." Ellie and Nathaniel LOVED hearing her and seeing her for the first time!
I dropped into bed at 8:30. Gabbey and Johanna were asleep quickly, and we all slept pretty well. It's almost 7 am now, and Gabbey and I have been up since 6, which isn't bad, considering the jet lag.
I feel amazed, excited, a bit overwhelmed (mostly because of the language barrier), and just plain old happy. She's ours, she's safe, she's perfect, and I love her so much already. I know this will be a journey of ups and downs, but I'm trusting the God who orchestrated this adoption to give us the grace to parent this precious child. I truly do not see WHY ON EARTH she was left in an orphanage for FOURTEEN ridiculously long years (and once you meet her, you will agree with me!) but I can only go forward with the assurance that God wanted her in our family. She is a very brave little girl and we are the lucky ones.
Please continue to pray for wisdom, safety, and our bonding. Today we will finalize the adoption, and Friday we are scheduled to go visit her orphanage. She is VERY excited to "show me off" they told me, so I wanted to take her on her birthday. I hope it will be a day of closure and new beginnings for our beautiful new daughter.