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Welcome to The Virtual Drive
Saturday, July 20 2019 @ 09:25 PM EDT

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Day 10: Visa application paperwork and Peking Duck

General NewsInternational Hotel in Beijing, China (40.044438,116.367188)
Click the LAT/LON coordinates (WGS84) for our current location
Sunny, 15C, Winds NW 10 km/h

Summary: Another non-touring day to fill our Lauren's visa application and a Peking duck dinner.

Details: A day of rest after yesterdays travel. We got us and had breakfast and was grateful to be back in Beijing. After we ate we have a photographer come from the Canadian embassy to take pictures for the babies visas. Her battery died in her Canon 10D and I had to lend her my spare so that she could finish the shoot. Next we had to fill out Lauren's visa application. A total of 10 documents had to be submitted with the application and we still need to complete the medical on Monday morning. Later in the afternoon I did some grocery shopping and took a few pictures outside our hotel. Dinner was at a local restaurant that basically cooked our duck on the street outside the restaurant. I doesn't look very appetizing, but it was actually very good. Tomorrow is the Great Wall tour in the morning.

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Day 9: Police Station and Travel back to Beijing

General NewsGloria Plaza Hotel, Nanchang, Jiangxi, China (28.687560,115.877704)
Click the LAT/LON coordinates (WGS84) for our current location
Rain, 10C, Winds N 5 km/h

Summary: Picked up Lauren's Chinese passport at police station and travel back to Beijing.

Details: A little longer day that usual for us today. We needed to be out of the hotel at 10:00 AM to travel to the police station to pick up Lauren's passport. It was a busy place but we only needed to supply our passports and the Adoption Registration notice to get her passport. This was a nessesary step as she will be getting a Canadian visa in her passport for her trip back to Canada. I took a few pictures in the station, which was full of families and not just our group, getting passports.



The flight back to Beijing was at 6:15 PM and we had to check out of our hotel at 4:00 PM. It was only a 2 hour flight but Lauren was really fussy. I don't think we should have let her sleep on the bus. She didn't seem to have a problem with her ears but we really cannot tell as she was squirming and very hard to keep settled. We tried our best with cookies, crackers, toys and a variety of sitting and standing position. We got to the International Hotel (the one we stayed in last week) around 10:00 PM. We got a few snacks and then off to bed. Tomorrow is the Canadian visa application paperwork in preparation for the trip back home. Enjoy some of the pictures.

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Day 8: Loafing around the hotel

General NewsGloria Plaza Hotel, Nanchang, Jiangxi, China (28.687560,115.877704)
Click the LAT/LON coordinates (WGS84) for our current location
Haze, 12C, Winds NW 5 km/h

Summary: Took a day off from site seeing and spent some time around the hotel.

Details: Sandra and I decided to pass on the trip into the country that was scheduled this morning and just take our time getting to know Lauren. We went on a little excursion to find the post office that was a short distance from the hotel. We took a few pictures in our room that you might want to see. Later in evening we went for dinner in an authentic Chinese restaurant. It was okay. We had duck, chicken, pork, beef, and vegetable dishes and of course some rice and congee for the babies. It cost us $5 CDN per person, including beer.

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Day 7: People's Park and the Porcelain Shop

General NewsGloria Plaza Hotel, Nanchang, Jiangxi, China (28.687560,115.877704)
Click the LAT/LON coordinates (WGS84) for our current location
Haze, 20C, Winds NW 5 km/h

Summary: Trip to the People's Park and a porcelain shop.

Details: Today we toured a little and visited a public park in Nanchang called the People's Park. We were driven by bus about 15 minutes from the hotel. Sandra carried Lauren with the carrier which has worked very well for us. The hotel has lent us a stroller but we think that Lauren will not be happy sitting in it. She has been a little fussy with sitting with us for dinner. It's winter in China and things are looking a little drab in the park and us Canadians were in short sleeve shits and pants while most Chinese were wearing jackets. A couple of shots of Sandra and Lauren in the park to give you an idea of some of the space. Below find a photo of Ross and our two tour guides, Mary and Monica (their English names) who for the record have been excellent in keeping us organized and on time. Wherever we have been we have generated some attention from all the local people. Everywhere people stop to talk to people in our group, even though we cannot understand them. Most mean us well but other stop to tell us that we should dress the babies warmer.



A short video (60s) we shot in our hotel room today can be found here. Lauren was chattering quite a bit until the camera came out. The talking that you do hear is mostly me, sorry. The link will take to to another page to play the video and it will autostart and repeat. Hit the browser 'back' button to return to this story

Another short video (60s) we shot in the People's Park can be found here. This was a little more than the typical commotion that our group would cause as we would walk about. The ladies were concerned that our children were not dressed enough. The link will take to to another page to play the video and it will autostart and repeat. Hit the browser 'back' button to return to this story
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Day 6: Shopping Day in Nanchang

General NewsGloria Plaza Hotel, Nanchang, Jiangxi, China (28.687560,115.877704)
Click the LAT/LON coordinates (WGS84) for our current location
Haze, 18C, Winds W 5 km/h

Summary: Trip to local markets in Nanchang.

Details: Unbelievable, we didn't take any pictures today. We spend some time shopping at the local markets and walking through the large pedestrian mall that is in Nanchang. I guess we were enjoying our time being with Lauren so picture were not a priority. I also spend all a lot of time trying to get the website back online. I am very disappointed that I have had to waste so much time trying to remember and retyping all the missing information. I've caught up now and our daily events should be available the next morning for everyone following back home.
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Day 5: It's Official, were a family

General NewsGloria Plaza Hotel, Nanchang, Jiangxi, China (28.687560,115.877704)
Click the LAT/LON coordinates (WGS84) for our current location
Haze, 18C, Winds W 5 km/h

Summary: Trip to Adoption office and Notary official.

Details: Today was a day of paperwork and interviews. We started at the Adoption office in Nanchang with our entire group of parents and babies for the official paperwork to be finalized. We were taken into a room for a family photo and a photo of Lauren. The family photo would be used later for her adoption certificate shown below. Next we had a 5 minute interview with an official that asked questions like "Were do you work?" "What do you do?", "How long have you been married?" and "What are your plans for the baby?". Next we needed to pay all of our fees including the orphanage donation to the cashier. While we were waiting for our group to all finish a group of American came into the office and a few minutes later a group of babies in the all too familiar yellow snow suits. They were another group of babies from Fencheng orphanage. In the course of the next 5 minutes of waiting, 3 nannies came upto Feng Ke wen (Lauren), called her by name and spoke to her. We didn't see this happen with any other family in our group that we could see. We were grateful for that opportunity to see them and have their pictures below.



After that office, we traveled a short distance to the Notary's office to finalize the paperwork. Another short interview and more fees (actually paid earlier) and it was official. We were a family. Below is what can be considered our very first family photo.

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Day 4: Gotcha Day!!

General NewsGloria Plaza Hotel, Nanchang, Jiangxi, China (28.687560,115.877704)
Click the LAT/LON coordinates (WGS84) for our current location
Haze, 14C, Winds W 7 km/h

Summary: Travel Day to Nanchang and meet Lauren.

Details: We packed up our room in Beijing and left our bags outside our room to be picked up by the hotel porters while we had breakfast. I think everyone was nervous this day. The trip to the airport was about 45 minutes by bus and we received our boarding passes as soon as we got to the airport. Security wasn't a problem except for a few bottles of ice wine that someone in our group forgot to check in their luggage. The 2 hours China Eastern flight was uneventful and was never anything to worry about. Another bus was waiting for us at the airport for another 45 minute ride to our hotel. We arrived about 2:30 PM and has a little time before the babies arrived. Some headed to the hotel bar and other waited impatiently for the arrival. Those that waited in the bar got to see the children as they arrived and we could tell which of the 4 orphanages they were from by the number of children that showed up. We actually have video of Lauren's group as they arrived but were unable to pick her out at the time.



Just before 5:00 PM local time we were herded into a small conference room that had 19 babies in yellow snowsuits and 19 caregivers. It was a little chaotic to say the least (we have video of this). We could not pick out Lauren from the group and had eventually narrowed it down to 2 babies. After about 5 minutes we asked someone where is Feng Ke Wen 3 of them pointed to a man sitting near the corner holding a baby. We a few minutes later our names were called and we handed over our Notice of Coming and received Lauren. She cried and so did we. The director of the orphanage gave us a gift of porcelain and the powered milk and rice formula that Lauren has been eating. We took the following shots back in our room moments about 10 minutes later.



All the families retired to their room to get acquainted with their babies. There were no activities planned for this evening. Lauren settled with us as soon as we gave her something to eat. In addition to being hot she was hungry it seems.
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Day 3: Hutong Tour and Chinese Acrobats

General NewsInternational Hotel in Beijing, China (40.044438,116.367188)
Click the LAT/LON coordinates (WGS84) for our current location
Haze, 6C, Winds W 7 km/h

Summary: Tour Day to Hutong area of Beijing and Chinese Acrobats.

Details: Another organized bus trip to the Hutong area of Beijing that is north of the Forbidden City. It was one of the oldest parts of the city remaining. For about 200 yuan (28 CDN$), we received bus transportation and a 2.5 hour rickshaw ride through the area. This was a poorer area of the city with narrow laneways and much activity. Remarkably it was very clean. We made a few stops along the way to a large gate to an old home (entrances to homes displays status of occupants) so this is important to understand this. Another stop on the way was to a womans house who lives in this area. We all crammed into her living room and asked question about her family and the areas. Below you can find a picture of her and of her kitchen.



In the late afternoon we paid another 200 yuan ($28 CDN) to see the Chinese Acrobats of Beijing. The show was an hour, a little short, but the action was fast paced and very exciting. After we were done we ate quickly in the hotel restaurant and packed the suitcase we are leaving behind in Beijing. We bought another smaller one for 200 yuan ($35 CDN) the other day as the weight restriction are only 20 kg/bag and 1 checked bag per person. Anyway, we fly out tomorrow morning for Nanchang and finally meet Lauren at 5:00 PM our time. Lots of picture and maybe a video tomorrow.
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Day 2: Summer Palace

General NewsInternational Hotel in Beijing, China (40.044438,116.367188)
Click the LAT/LON coordinates (WGS84) for our current location
Haze, -3C, Winds NNW 11 km/h

Summary: Tour Day to the Summer Palace and the Silk Market.

Details: Mary, our translator and tour guide organized a trip to the Summer Palace for us this morning. For about 160 yuan ($23 CDN), we received bus transportation to the site and admission. It was about an hour bus ride through some very chaotic Beijing traffic. A very large palace grounds with wooden building and covered walkways whose focal point is a Buddhist temple a top a nearby hillside. The amount of detail and the expansiveness of the grounds was incredible. The palace is currently being painstakingly restored for the Beijing 2008 Olympics and would be a incredible place to visit in the summer. The shots below are a very small sample of the restored areas of the entire palace grounds. The entire structure is hand painted wood that does suffer through the affects of weather and sun.



The Silk Market is a multi-story indoor flea market with every conceivable consumer knockoff and counterfeit good imaginable. Each stall is a an 8x8 cube with some being 16x8 and there are hundreds of them in the market. Each filled with designer goods and staffed by usually Chinese girls. You actually get grabbed by the girls as you wander up and down the corridors and everyone of them will say something to you like, "Hey you needa jeans, besta price for you today". Come look at my stuff." This happens about 15 times in a span of about the 2 minutes that it takes you to walk a corridor. We actually paused and took a break every time we started down a corridor. I will take some video of this next time we are down there....incredible. 2 People in our group were brave enough to buy anything. As an example starting price for a Polo cashmere v-neck sweater was a very high 75 US$ and the final selling price after much haggling and walking away and was 15 US$. Today we are off to the old section of town to the north of the Forbidden City and then the Beijing Acrobats in the afternoon. Tomorrow we fly out to Nanchang for our "Gotcha Day"!!
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Day 1: Travel Day to China

General NewsInternational Hotel in Beijing, China (40.044438,116.367188)
Click the LAT/LON coordinates (WGS84) for our current location
Sunny, 4C, Winds W 5 km/h

Summary: Information on our first day of travel.

Details: We stayed at my parents place in Toronto (7 minutes from the airport) and got a airline limo to pick us up at 5:45am. The check-in went fairly well with our suitcases both being over weigh. Sandra's at 51.5 lbs and mine at 55 lbs. The lady at the check-in waived all extra fees when Sandra told her where we were traveling and what we were doing. Security check was ok and they paid close attention to the shoes I was wearing as they kept setting the detector off. They put them through the x-ray and at one point I almost thought they were not going to let me on the plane with them. We grabbed a coffee and a muffin each and took a few pictures while we waited. We met the 1 couple and a single traveling with us that would be starting the journey from Toronto with us.



The flights were long! The Vancouver flight was alright and it got us to the airport around 10:30 EST. We met the 4 other couples (the rest of our traveling group) and spend the extra few hours getting to know one another. Our connection to Beijing was late and we hit the runway at 1:45 PM EST. We got to Beijing at 4:20 AM EST. Sandra and I were able to cat-nap but were very tired on arrival. Getting through customs was no problem but we had some decisions about how to answer our customs declaration forms in relation to carrying foreign cash. We got a consensus from the group and made the appropriate changes to our forms.

We met our guide/translator Mary at the terminal in Beijing (she was the one with the CB flag). She gave us a good overview of some of the in country process and told us that we will meet the babies on Sunday at 5PM. She also organized some trips for those that came early so I should have a good set of photos for tomorrow. As for the weather, it is quite mild and there is no show in the forecast so we may have overdressed a little.

Technical details, my OpenVPN is working excellent and I can get to everything on the internet as my connection is made back to Canada first and then out from there, thus bypassing any restrictive firewalls. The latency is low so we should be good for phone calls over the internet too. The first call we got was made using a u711 codec that is a bandwidth pig (but sounds good). With the exception of a little delay the sound quality was excellent. The hotel connection is very fast but also expensive at about $15 US/day. Hotel also transparent proxies all web communication and blocks my ability to use a my own proxy server. So, I used PuTTY to create a local port of my proxy at home and redirected it to 127.0.0.1. Pointed FireFox/IE to that proxy and everything works without any eavesdropping. The biggest issue that we have is that we have to fit everything we are taking into 1 piece of checked baggage each which has external dimensions not exceeding 158 cm = length + width + height AND is no more than 44 lbs. We are working to be within the more stringent limits of China Airlines. Our 2 suitcases are at the max dimensions already and weight 51 and 53 lbs as of the last weigh-in. In addition we are entitled to 1 piece of carry-on which has dimensions not exceeding 115cm (56cm L + 23 cm W + 36 cm H) AND weighs no more than 7 kg (15.4 lbs).

My camera bag (my carry-on) weighs 18.5 lbs not including my laptop, so we not starting off that well. I am carrying a lot of gear. Canon 30D w/17-40mm f4L, Canon ELPH SD800 IS, Canon 430EZ, Garmin Map60csx, Gen 4 40G iPod, Sony PSP, Sony HDR-HC1, UTStarCom F1000G, Blackberry 8700r, IBM R51 Laptop and assorted chargers and cables. Pictures and a few more detail to follow tomorrow.