Yes, after a day that starts at 4 am in China and included 16 hours on a plane, a lay over and lots of long lines we arrived home about 4:30 in the USA to our excited family! We then ventured to dinner on the way home before we all moved onto the next adventure but...
We are HOME!
What a sweet word!
With just a few hours under our belt...we woke again at 3:30 to get this guy on his way. He flew out this morning to arrive in Texas. He is headed for an adventure of his own...
He is spending the next 9 weeks at the International Alert Academy. He will be challenged on many levels. He is excited and we all believe he is ready.
Yesterday....we slept in way further than I dreamed possible. We woke up to the maid banging on our door and ringing the doorbell at 9:30. She left, we showered and didn't get moving out the door until 10:45. We skipped the breakfast thing and went for lunch.
We met with our group at 2 for a day of sight seeing.
We went to the 6 Banyon tree Temple. It was at a Buddhist temple that was 1400 years. The history part was pretty amazing. This temple now leans so much no one is allowed to climb it. We learned about how the people are always looking for a new Buddha. They make statues of the men they think are the newest Buddha and worship that person.
We saw pictures of deceased relatives which each family member pays about 8000 yen a year for them to be prayed for through the year. The walls were lined with photos.
One family saw someone rolling rocks looking for answers to their life problems.
This religion encompasses about 80% of the Chinese population.
We then traveled to a museum for those with the last name of Chang. After asking many questions and hearing the guide, we understand that anyone with that last name comes here every so many years to participate in worshiping their ancestors. This is another common practice here.
But inside the building were amazing displays of the craftsmanship of people on China...we saw ivory carving, porcelain, and wood carving.
We also saw furniture that was about 100 years old that was set up in rooms as it would appear in a house at that time. It actually looked very similar to the room we saw in Beijing when we met the Cricket Man.
We met a young woman whose family have been artists for generations. They paint the inside of beads, glass jars, and any novelty along those lines. She spoke very good English and shared her family history. I loved learning about her family!
We then headed to a local park. It was on a lake. There were lots of people playing games, socializing and there were three bands playing music. It was quite festive.
We enjoyed listening to the music and watching several groups of people playing this game. They had a weighted flat piece with a feather on it. They kicked it off their shoes, bounced it off their heads and enjoyed every minute of it. The only rule we saw was...no hands. It was amazing to watch them play.
Today is our last full day here. We pick up our Visas around 11:45 today. We will get things packed up. We have to be checked out and ready to fly by 5:30 am tomorrow morning.
In the last few days...everyone has been turning their hearts towards home. Sara and Jacob have been asking to go home for awhile. Jacob has been asking since we got him. They are so ready for family.
Our prayers have been for God to knit our hearts together. We have seen that happening in small steps...these two newest Lowman's are pretty amazing. We can't wait for all of us to be together again!
On Friday morning we had medical appointments. The kids saw doctors, received a few shots and were given a clean bill of health to enter the US.
We had some down time over the weekend...it was much needed.
We also had a lot of rain over the weekend...after all it is spring. I have loved seeing all the flowers in bloom, the new growth on the plants in the parks and some species I have no clue as to what they are....it has made for some challenging situations.
On Saturday morning, we tried the pool out during a short break of no rain. The water was 68 and the air was around 70. It sounds warm but it wasn't. We went in but didn't last long. Sara has 'southern blood' and froze the whole time. Jacob had a blast and was way more confident in the water than I expected.
We went on a river cruise on Saturday evening. Despite the rain, the lights along the river were still spectacular. The employees handed out rain ponchos that lasted for most of the trip. It let us go on the 3rd floor to take beautiful pictures in the rain.
When we returned to our room...we used the hair dryer to dry our shoes out, hung up our sopping wet jackets and headed to bed.
Sunday was a shopping day. We were taken to the island. About 200 years ago, Europeans settled the island and it looks a bit like Savannah to me. Beautiful buildings, shops and rod iron. What makes it uniquely beautiful and lots of fun are statues of people and children randomly all over the area.
We left the island for a bit to visit a market. Our guide took us because he said you will only find things like this in China. Most things were dried for sale...flowers for tea, giant mushrooms, sea horses, fish stomach or gills or whatever part you wanted in tall bags for sale in bulk. Some were a bit on the crazy side. The locals make teas or soups out of these because they believe they are healing.
Some things like these scorpions were still very much alive!
Yesterday, we were up early and headed to the US Consulate for our paperwork review, interviews for us and our children... all in order to obtain our visa. It was a lot of waiting around but we passed this part and are now waiting on our visas. This is the last big hurdle in this long process. They should arrive on Wednesday. We leave bright and early Thursday morning for the long flights home.
In the afternoon, we headed to the Safari Park. It is the largest in all of China. We saw pandas, huge snakes, koalas, bears, diving tigers and were able to feed the giraffes. I saw animals I had never seen close up before.
My personal favorite were the pandas. China has the only triplets born in captivity and proudly shows them in the Safari. We were able to watch them for a bit and take photos.
I also loved watching the kids feed the giraffes. It was something you don't get to do everyday!
We had a long day. The kids even fells asleep on the bus...a first! We all stumbled into the hotel and ventured out after a bit to find some dinner. We ended up at a Burger King I just found around the corner. We all agreed we were too tired to sit through a longer meal. We all are heading to bed soon after this day.
Today, we packed our things up and headed out on the Bullet Train...not an easy move with luggage and 5 of us!
Making the move towards the city of Guangzhou in the southeast at speeds up to 206 kilometers per hour on the train. This is where the US Consulate is that will give the children final approval to travel to the US.
We watched as small villages buzzed by....farms, rice patties, locals working in the fields, water buffaloes, mountains giving way to open valleys. The landscape is quite different than the big bustling cities that we have spent our time in so far.
This is the last leg of our journey. Tomorrow the children will have their medical appointments. We will have the weekend to explore the area before our Consulate appointment on Monday. Then it will be another paper chase until we obtain Sara and Jacob's visa's. Once that is done, we are free to travel home.
Jacob has asked about going home since we left Beijing. He longs for it. He has drilled each guide how much longer before we leave. He seems to have settled in for the wait.
Sara is more on the quiet side. She dotes on Jacob and has rescued us a few times on food orders and stepped in when I struggled with communication. She has very few English words but is very attentive and has helped because she knew the situation. She is a sweet heart.
Brandon and Michaela have been great blessings on this trip. I am grateful for their presence.
Thankful for the story that has unfolded so far....excitedly waiting for the next chapter.
Yesterday was a huge relief after all we have been through in the past week plus....and it is officially Sara's Birthday!
But...we have laughed a lot...probably more than we should because when mom is tired...She laughs more! And with jet lag...well, all of us have laughed a lot.
Let me show you....
We got these awesome pictures on the wall because....
Michaela did this!
This boy had never been on an escalator or a subway and he is now a pro and likes to show off but his look coming through the turn style is priceless!
We have been stopped by many people....I mentioned this before. But yesterday, we walked along the river and had stopped for a rest. A group of tourists were walking by with a guide and his little microphone hanging off his belt waving a flag so they would all stay together...a common scene here. I bent over to Michaela and told her...watch, they will all ditch him and we will become the spectacle. Now, mind you, we were just sitting on the bench.
So, the group started chattering among themselves and looking at us and out came the phones taking pictures of us. Next this woman plopped her little self between Michaela and I and had her friends taking pictures. This scene happened over and over until they were done. One man even pulled Brandon in. We were good sports and are probably all over social media somewhere for the retired but we sure made them happy. A few of them questioned our new kiddos what we were all doing...more odd looks. One gentleman questioned Sara so long, I pulled out one of our prayer cards that has a picture of all of with Sara and Jacob on it too...he kept counting the kids over and over. I have no idea what else was exchanged but he smiled, gave me a thumbs up and went in his merry way!
Some fun at the park...
This happens behind my seat when I am trying to be serious listening to the history of the People in this region.