Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Words Galore

On this VERY difficult day with Johanna, complete with not one but TWO colossal meltdowns, accompanied by a refusal to participate in gymnastics, I'm going to try to focus on the positive and create a list of the words/phrases she says so far in English on her own (not just repeating us):

  1. Mama
  2. Dada
  3. Jonas
  4. Johanna
  5. Molly
  6. doggy
  7. woof
  8. duck
  9. quack
  10. kitty
  11. meow
  12. monkey
  13. giraffe
  14. all done
  15. there you go
  16. the end
  17. eat
  18. drink
  19. food
  20. apple
  21. banana
  22. brush teeth
  23. sleep
  24. what about
  25. ear
  26. eye
  27. owie
  28. uh oh
  29. no thank you
  30. thank you
  31. school
  32. home
  33. up
  34. potty
  35. poo poo
  36. stinky
  37. book
  38. car
  39. pretty
  40. beautiful
  41. yummy
  42. let it go (she's a Frozen fan)
  43. yucky
  44. yes
  45. no
  46. watch
  47. ball
  48. bubble
  49. one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten
  50. help
  51. come on
  52. get back (we say this to Molly)
  53. no touch
  54. hot
  55. cold
  56. hug
  57. cheers
  58. shoes
  59. goodnight
Not bad for less than three weeks at home! I'm sure there are some I'm forgetting, as well as some she says that we don't understand. She also understands many many more words than the ones she can say. Here's hoping she can communicate her problems rather than having a meltdown about them in the very near future!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Life Around Here

Making up for four years of
no hair accessories in one day!
Life has been pretty good around here lately. Johanna is becoming more comfortable day by day...more words, less whining, fewer meltdowns, etc. She picks up on things very quickly and can already sing along and do the motions to several songs, including the alphabet, "Itsy Bitsy Spider," "Wheels on the Bus," "Little Bunny Fufu," and more. She understands a ton and talks up a storm at home with us (often a mix of Mandarin and English), but she's still basically silent out in public or around others. We're happy that she's learned the word "yes" in addition to "no," though her words that end in "s" often have a "ch" sound to them, so "yes" is more like "yetch."

Dressed up for our mother-daughter date!
We've been able to take Johanna on a few more outings, and they've gone well. Last weekend, we had a mother-daughter outing to a Chinese New Year show put on by performers from her province in China (totally coincidental that they were in Denver)! She loved the music and dancing, and we had a nice girly night out.

Some day Johanna will be doing this, right?!

On Valentine's Day, Johanna came with me to Jonas's party at school, and she enjoyed sitting next to him for some snacks. We had a pretty relaxing evening at home with a heart-shaped pizza and a living room dance party, but we did get out for some ice cream that afternoon.

Despite her expression here,
she was actually having fun!
On Wednesday, after a bit of coaxing, Johanna actually participated in gymnastics class with Jonas, and she had a great time! It was cute to see her so proud of herself for doing it. Can't wait for her to do it again this week!

Johanna had an ophthalmology appointment last week, and her eyes look great, so she won't be twinsies with Jonas in the glasses department at this point. She also caught up on immunizations with eight shots at once (ugh!). Zack took her to the appointment, and apparently she actually cried out appropriately when they stuck her. It's weird to be kind of happy about that! We're still battling the molluscum on her face with various remedies.
Johanna has been to church twice now, just sitting with us and taking it all in. She likes watching the musicians and trying to figure out what's going on up front, so she wants to be held a lot so she can see. Playing on the playground outside afterward is also a nice perk!

Jonas and Johanna are still two peas in a pod. They play hide and seek on their own, build forts together, and fight like siblings who've been together forever! Yesterday they went to a birthday party with Mickey and Minnie Mouse, and it was pretty adorable. Johanna did remarkably well, mostly because Jonas was there and she feels comfortable around him.

Johanna's mattress is still downstairs next to our bed, and it will be for the foreseeable future. I stay with her until she falls asleep, but then I often go back upstairs to watch a show with Zack or do something else before bed. The other night, she woke up when I was already gone, and she freaked out. So obviously that fear of abandonment is still there, understandably. But the major meltdowns are far and few between now and of a much shorter duration.

So overall, things are getting easier day by day. I'm not sure how many more of these update posts I'll be doing, as we're kind of settling into "normal life," and my Instagram account has basically become my much-easier-to-update daily picture log with captions that tell what we're up to. I will have a couple more general adoption posts about our experience. But check out my Instagram account HERE if you're interested in keeping up with the Keys!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

On the Inside

Johanna's emotions have been the most difficult thing to deal with so far in our adoption journey. Medically, we kind of knew what we were getting into with her (not much, thankfully), but we had a hunch that the emotional aspect of things could be quite different with adopting a four-year-old versus a two-year-old, especially one who was quite attached to her foster mother and has a quieter and more hesitant personality. That has definitely been the case.

Thankfully, the nighttime grieving sessions have seemingly disappeared. Johanna whimpers sometimes as we get ready for bed or naptime, but as long as I stay with her until she falls asleep, she does okay. She no longer calls out for Nainai or has extended crying times in the evenings. Those times were hard to watch, as she was obviously so sad, so I'm glad we've moved beyond those.

She was super excited about her new outfit
and shoes. She shouted "Johanna!"
happily when she saw them!
Johanna can be quite whiny, which is frustrating. We're trying to break of her that habit while still meeting her needs by showing her other ways she can get what she wants. Having more words has helped her a bit. She also absolutely despises being told no. We try to fill her "yes bucket" as much as possible, but sometimes we have to tell her some form of no (like if she takes a toy from Jonas or something), and she does not handle it well at all. She gives us a death stare, goes to the opposite side of the room and flops down, cries, and sometimes has an all-out tantrum. Not fun.

And then there are the meltdowns. They seem to happen if we push her too far too fast, like the one that happened after a hike last weekend. We thought getting outside in the beautiful weather would be good for her, and that it wouldn't involve dealing with other people or an overstimulating environment. The start of it was great, but we probably expected her to walk too far for too long. Even though we carried her for a lot of the hike, by the end of it, she had definitely had enough. She passed out on the ride home, and when we got out of the car and brought her inside, she lost her mind...writhing on the floor, screaming, crying, kicking the ground, hitting herself, stuffing her socks in her mouth, etc. Zack and I basically sat on the floor next to her and tried to stop her from hurting herself until she finally let us hold her about thirty minutes into the meltdown.

These types of meltdowns are not uncommon for adopted children, especially ones who were adopted at an older age like Johanna. It's part of the grieving process, combined with her body becoming dysregulated from overstimulation. She probably also has some sensory issues from lack of exposure. Throw in fear and frustration from communication difficulties, and you have a recipe for disaster that could strike at any moment! She can look like she's doing just fine in the moment, but we end up "paying for it" later, sometimes not until she gets home from an activity.

This is her silly side!
We've witnessed other meltdowns after bringing her to Jonas's gymnastics class and taking her to the recreation center in case she wanted to go swimming (she was loving baths and wanted to put her swimsuit on when Jonas did). In each of these situations, things started out well. She watched curiously and seemed to be doing okay, but by the end, she was in complete meltdown mode...inconsolably crying and screaming. Another one happened the other day when she thought Jonas had taken her jean jacket and then I asked her to put her coat on. She threw a tantrum which lasted the entire way to gymnastics class. You just never know what will set her off, but staying at home as much as possible and keeping her close if we do have to be out and about seems to help.

The term for this time period in the adoption world is "cocooning," which is exactly what it sounds like. It's the idea that it's best for your newly adopted child to stay home and limit interactions with others as much as possible for a few weeks or months. It's all about keeping things simple and not overstimulating her, while she gets more comfortable and learns who her family members are and that they are her "inner circle." Like a caterpillar in its cocoon, the hope is that when she is ready, she can go out into the world like a beautiful butterfly, confident and secure in her attachments and ready to embrace new experiences and meet new people.

She is starting to get comfortable with a few of our outings. Johanna knows that bringing Jonas to school and picking him up afterward is part of our daily routine. He likes to play with his friends out front afterward, and Johanna just stands next to me or wants to be held. But the minute all the other kids leave, she's perfectly willing to run around with Jonas! Johanna handled this week's gymnastics class okay, though she still wanted nothing to do with participating. We also went to an art class that I had signed her up for months ago, and I told the teacher and other adults in the class to basically ignore her (like avoid interacting with her). Thankfully, they were understanding and obliged. Ah, the weird requests we adoptive parents have to make! She wanted to sit in my lap (which was fine) and didn't say a word, but she seemed to have fun making the clay owl project with me. She also did okay sitting next to me watching a movie on the iPad with her headphones on at my MOPS meeting this week. We've had a few others errands that needed done this week, and since Zack was back at work, she had to come with me. She did okay, as long as I kept her close and kept others away!

This was taken within an hour of that dreadful blood draw.
It'll definitely be awhile before we go on playdates or invite others into our home or visit somewhere like the Children's Museum. It would just be way too much for her. I might attempt the zoo or Botanic Gardens with her while Jonas is in school, just because we could keep it pretty low-key and just stay for a short while. But while I know she would love things like dance class or swimming, I think we'll hold off on those things for now. It's hard to be so anti-social and homebound in the short run, but I know in the long run it's better for her attachment-wise and for making her feel comfortable and secure.

Another interesting emotional aspect to Johanna is her reaction to pain. The other day, Johanna got nine vials of blood drawn at the pediatrician's office. It was for various things like a lead test, seeing which immunizations she still needs or needs again, etc. Her veins are super small, so it took a few pokes to find one that worked. Johanna had a few tears in her eyes, but that was it. No screaming, no crying, nothing. The nurses were amazed. They kept remarking that she was the best behaved four-year-old they had ever seen, and they couldn't believe that she didn't cry. Little did they know that this was not a good thing.

Loving her headband and the
Valentine's Day painting craft!
It's often said that if you visit a room full of babies in an orphanage, it will be eerily silent, with no crying to be heard. The reason why is heartbreaking. Those babies have learned that no one will react to their cries; nobody will come soothe them or feed them or change them or whatever they are crying about. Those things are done on a schedule, not when one certain child needs it. So the babies learn not to cry, because that form of "communication" yields no results. Nobody comes for them. When that happens over and over, a child learns not to cry when she feels discomfort. So even though nurses were digging in her arms with needles and then drawing blood for several minutes, Johanna didn't even flinch, much less wail out in pain like any other child would in this circumstance. So sad.

We've actually had to "teach" Johanna that it's okay to react to pain and call out for help. She's learned the word "owie," and we shower her with hugs and kisses after she gets hurt. While she still doesn't necessarily cry real tears in these instances, she at least comes to us now and tells us where her owie is and likes the attention we give as a result. She also comes and tells us if Jonas gets an owie!

This lack of emotion in response to pain might seem in direct opposition to her extreme meltdowns I described earlier. However, they are two totally separate things. One is a learned response from years of neglect and institutionalization, even if her caretakers were doing the best they could. The other is a primal reaction to being taken away from everything she knows and loves and placed in a new world where things are overstimulating and frightening. Her body doesn't know how to react, so it just goes into meltdown mode. She almost becomes a different person at that point, unrecognizable from the usually sweet and silly girl we've come to know. It's very hard to witness, and there's nothing we can do except be there for her when she's ready to come out of it.

The good news is that things can get better. Just tonight before bed, Johanna started deteriorating into meltdown mode after I put some apple cider vinegar on the molluscum spots on her face, which kind of stings a little. I held her for just a minute, and she was able to pull herself back together and join Zack and Jonas for storytime and go to bed like normal. And I'm sure we'll go back to the doctor for shots in the future, and she'll scream out in pain like any other kid! In the meanwhile, please know that there's a lot going on inside that little body of hers, and though she may be smiling, she's also carrying a lot of baggage that you may not witness in public (or on my Instagram feed!). We're just going to keep loving on this girl and trying to make up for four years of her not getting what she needed and deserved!


Well, it's been just over a week since my last update on how things are going. I'd say things are better but still a bit difficult at times. We all seem to be mostly over the jet lag, so that has definitely helped. But Johanna has a major meltdown at least every other day, and those are hard.

We moved Johanna's mattress downstairs to the floor next to our bed, and now she usually sleeps the whole night through, sometimes just getting up to go to the bathroom or needing a quick reassurance that we are there. I stay with her until she falls asleep each night, and she likes holding my hand if I hang my arm off the side of my bed.

Johanna seems to get more comfortable each day with us at home. She's still super shy and nervous out in public, staying close to me and not really talking. But at home she's very talkative, using a mix of English, what we assume to be Mandarin, and jibberish! It's interesting to see how her language is developing versus how Jonas's did. Because he was just two, he picked up single words, much like an infant does, whereas Johanna seems to be learning English in phrases: brush teeth, Molly poo poo, Jonas school, no touch, good morning, Johanna owie, oh my, etc. Lots of people have asked how we communicate with her. Honestly, we just speak simple English (short phrases and repetition) and use gestures or demonstrate things. She already seems to be understanding quite a lot.

Molly doesn't really seem to scare Johanna anymore, so that's been nice. Now she just gets annoyed with Molly when she's in the way or trying to eat her food (as we all do!). Johanna feeds her, pets her, says hi and bye to her, and tries to play with her. She even orders her around, telling her to get back and such.

It's been fun to see Johanna's reaction to things she's obviously never experienced before. Simple things bring her great joy, and it's really cool to witness that. She laughs her head off when you push her on the swings. She thought it was hilarious when Molly caught a tennis ball and started chewing it yesterday. And once she figured out how to sit in the grocery cart, she thought the feeling of riding on the bumpy pavement outside (versus the smooth aisles inside) was the coolest thing ever.

She and Jonas get along great about 75% of the time. I don't think Jonas understands why she doesn't want to play sword fighting with him all day long, but they've had fun inventing some games in the backyard, dressing up in play clothes, and playing hide and seek. Johanna has been exploring some toys that Jonas hasn't touched in months, which all of the sudden makes them very interesting to him as well (of course!), so old toys have taken on a new life with her here. Squabbles tend to happen when one has a toy the other wants, one takes a toy the other was using, or they are competing over something.

It's definitely more difficult being a parent of two children, especially ones of the same age and who both need lots of reassurance about being loved. If Johanna bumps her head and needs hugs and kisses, Jonas will claim he bumped his head as well and come over for his own hugs and kisses. If Jonas is being held, Johanna will want to be held. And boy do they notice if one gets something that the other doesn't, whether it's an apple or help getting dressed or extra attention! I haven't gone many places with both kids yet, but remembering what it was like in China, it's very difficult to keep track of two kids when they run in different directions!

Dealing with Johanna's emotional state has definitely been the most difficult part of our journey so far. I started writing about it here, but I think I'll make it its own blog entry, as it's a lot to cover. Overall, we're having a lot of fun with our little girl, and she's learning a lot and getting more comfortable day by day. We can't wait to see how she blossoms after another week here!

Monday, February 6, 2017

Back to Beijing

So there was one full day in Beijing that I never got around to blogging about, so here it is!

On Saturday, January 14, we hired a guide name Angela to take us around for the day. We started by driving to the MuTianYu section of the Great Wall. This section is known for not being crowded, and because it was pretty cold outside, I think it was especially empty. We basically had the place to ourselves, which was awesome. The only bummer was that the lift to the section with the toboggan ride down was being repaired, so we couldn't do that.

We walked around for awhile, climbing the towers, taking pictures, and enjoying the views. It was a beautiful place, surrounded by mountains. I think it would be even more gorgeous in the summer, when everything would be green. We could have spent all day there, but we had lots more to do, so after a couple of hours, we headed out.

This is about 1/3 of the dishes that eventually came out!
Next was lunch. Angela took us to a place that had Peking duck, along with tons of other dishes. She ordered more food than we could ever have finished, but we tried! It was a traditional round table with a big Lazy Susan in the middle, so we could rotate the dishes around and try a little bit of everything. So many yummy things...sweet and sour pork, noodles, rice, spicy beef, etc.! Jonas ate about twenty dumplings (no joke), and the rest of us stuffed ourselves silly.

After lunch, we had a rickshaw tour of a hutong (neighborhood). It was fun flying through the little alleyways and past a popular area with restaurants and a lake with ice skating. We got to stop and see a typical courtyard. It's basically four houses that belong to one family and share a central area. It was interesting to hear the thought and symbolism that goes into how things are arranged, from the feng shui setup of everything to which family member is designated to live in which house (parents in the North one for example) to the meaning of the symbols on the stones out front that show what kind of trade the people do (banking, farming, etc.). Anyway, the ride was really relaxing, and I wish it had lasted a lot longer.

Before dinner, we headed to Wangfujing Snack Street to um, build up our appetites?! There were many delicacies to admire! I'll let the pictures speak for themselves on this one...

Scorpions make great snacks!
Um, these are baby pigeons.
Afterward, we had dinner at another restaurant where Angela ordered a million delicious dishes and we pigged out. I really think the best food we had in China was on this day, probably because we got to try so many different things, but there was nothing too wacky or weird for our tastes! It was time to head back to our hotel after dinner, but it was surely a full day of fun to end our touristy time in Beijing!

Friday, February 3, 2017

Lots of Docs

Before we left for China, I scheduled all sorts of appointments for Johanna for when we got back, knowing that it's better to just knock those out early and be done with it. Here's a report on the ones we had this week!


Johanna weighs 30 pounds and 8 ounces, putting her at the 12% mark for weight. She's 40.5 inches tall, so at the 63% mark for height. Tall and skinny, as we suspected! The doctor said she looks great and had no concerns at all. She's going to be in touch with the International Adoption Clinic to figure out what bloodwork needs done and a good plan for immunizations. But no pokes for her yet!


As we already suspected, the bumps on Johanna's face are molluscum. It's a common viral skin condition in kids. Jonas had these on his chin area when he came home. They aren't dangerous or anything, and they would eventually go away on their own, but that can take up to a year or two. We're going to try to get that down to a few months by putting a prescription cream on them each night. She's got a big one on her forehead and a few on her nose and near her eyebrows. They aren't the prettiest things, so we're hoping they go away soon.

Child Find Assessment

This appointment was a bust. Their intake coordinator shouldn't have even let me schedule, as they basically wouldn't assess Johanna at this point. They said it's way too early to tell if she has any sort of learning disability or simply needs to catch up in learning a second language. We have to come back in a few months if we have concerns, although they might still be hesitant to say she needs a special education plan.

That makes sense, but I was kind of hoping this assessment would be similar to the Early Intervention assessment we had with Jonas. They were very willing to mark him as behind in language (duh!) and give us weekly visits from a speech therapist for free before he started preschool, which he now attends for free (and gets speech therapy there even though he's basically caught up!). I guess the services offered to kids under age three have a different source of funding, and kids ages three to five are being evaluated for a true learning disability (versus just being developmentally behind). Oh well, I guess we'll look into private speech therapy in the near future.

The one positive thing about this appointment was that they had a translator there who spoke Mandarin. She ended up playing with Johanna as I talked to the psychologist. It was interesting to see Johanna come out of her shell a bit and really start interacting with the lady. You could almost see the comfort on her face as she heard a language she understood. She slowly moved away from me a bit and listened to the lady's instructions about how to work the toy. Though Johanna never said anything, she did whatever the lady said in Mandarin (hold up the red key, put this animal inside that door, etc.). And whenever the psychologist or I would start paying attention to what Johanna was doing, she would basically shut down and not play anymore. Anyway, I think it was a good "brain break" for Johanna to hear some Mandarin!


This appointment was a big one. As I've mentioned before, every child adopted from China now has some sort of special need or needs. It can be something minor or more severe. Johanna's special need was her heart condition, a VSD. If you missed my blog entry about what that is, you can check it out here. On December 1, 2015 (when she was almost three), Johanna had her VSD repaired with a surgery in Beijing. Today's appointment was to see if her heart is looking good.

Children's Hospital did a full EKG and echocardiogram to check it out. And the great news is, her heart looks perfect! The cardiologist said the surgery was successful, everything looked good, and she basically has a normal heart. She should never need another surgery, she has absolutely no restrictions on activity, and we'll only have to do follow-ups every year or so to keep an eye on things. It was the best news possible-her "special need" is basically a non-need and we have a totally healthy little girl!

The other interesting thing is that the doctor said they normally don't do the type of repair she had done in the United States; it's more common in Asia. When I asked what they would have done here to repair it, she said it would have been open heart surgery! She said the type of repair Johanna had (through a catheter) can sometimes lead to heart block, though in her case it didn't. So I'm kind of happy she had the surgery done in China, as she has no scar at all!

Over the next few weeks, we've got plenty of other, speech assessment, ENT, hearing test, ophthalmologist, etc. But we have no concerns about our little girl's health at this point, and we feel very lucky that she's doing so well. Of course, that's her physical health. We're still working on the poor sweetie's emotional health at nighttime, but that's a whole different story!

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Because China

Angry Bird lanterns at YueXiu Park
On some of my Chinese adoption Facebook groups, people ask questions about timelines or why things are done a certain way or about something that seems confusing. The answer is often #BecauseChina. Sometimes there's just no other reason! This post includes random things about China that I want to remember and/or thought other people might find interesting. I've also included some random pictures that didn't fit with any other blog post so far. Enjoy!

Bring your own toilet paper,
and throw it in that trash can!
Squatty Potties

It's just how it's done around here. While our hotels have Western toilets and some public areas have the choice of either type, by and large, if you go to the bathroom in China, you're going to use a squatty potty. Johanna was definitely used to using one; she squats like a pro. They're not my favorite, but I try to squat above public toilets anyway, so it's not that different.

Feeding the birds by the Star of Nanchang
Noise Level=Loud

There always seems to be some sort of noise in China. You've seen devices with governors on how loud the volume can get? Well, the televisions in our hotel room have governors on how quiet they can get...not very quiet at all! We've been shocked at how loud the volume is on everything from the prerecorded message in the cable car at Baiyun Mountain to the announcer's microphone on the Safari Park tram ride to the music playing in elevators or at stores. It's kind of maddening at times!

Johanna's clothes when she came to us.
The striped and teal pants are split pants!

I've mentioned this one before, but Chinese people seem to wear several layers. I honestly don't think I've seen anyone wearing short sleeves, and it's about 70 degrees in Guangzhou! The kids are especially bundled up. Under Johanna’s big puffy coat, she had a thermal layer, a sweater vest, and a sweater. On her legs she had two pairs of split pants with sweatpants over them. Once we did change her clothes, we got a few comments (from older Chinese ladies) about the lack of layers on her legs. Apparently leggings are just not enough in 65 degree weather!

Because a giant transformer makes total
sense at the top of Baiyun Mountain!
Split Pants

Chinese kids wear split pants. These are pants that aren’t sewn up the butt crack. Seriously. It’s a big long split, so the little ones can easily go to the bathroom without removing any clothing. We saw one mother holding her baby over a dirt patch near a tree on the sidewalk in broad daylight, and the little guy was just peeing away through his pants. When Johanna first came to us, she’d pull down her sweatpants and go to the bathroom through her split pants. It works, but I’m not sure of the reasoning behind it, other than convenience for the very little ones.

Jonas gave the walking path a try!

Reflexology Walking Paths

In several parks, there are paths with raised pebbles. You're supposed to walk on them barefoot, and the stones massage certain parts of your feet, hitting reflexology points. It hurts! 


All the guys here seem to do it. Everywhere. It's pretty smelly. They light up immediately when they exit the subway or train. I definitely miss the nonsmoking mentality of the United States.


Everything in China is either "famous" or the "best" or bigger and better than anywhere else, or so they say! It's kind of amusing, but you can never exactly believe what you read or hear about things here.

Hanging meat in a porcelain shop is totally normal!
Lack of White Foreigners

I guess I expected China to be more like other Asian countries we've visited, where we saw lots of other Caucasian people. Here we barely see any! There were of course the other adoptive families in Guangzhou, but even in Beijing at the major tourist sites, we stood out as foreigners. In Nanchang that makes sense, but I wasn't expecting it in the larger cities. It wasn’t until we got to Hong Kong that we saw other white people on a regular basis.

Machines like this were everywhere.
They move and play loud music.

Everywhere we go, people stare at us. It's usually not even a secretive quick glance; it's an all-out very obvious stare that lasts until they pass by, and then they usually turn around and keep looking! Chinese children love to point at us, giggle, run up to us and say "hello," and run away laughing. Comments have been made about our height, our eye color, our connection with the children, etc. It’s usually more amusing than anything else, but sometimes I just want to stare back and say, “Take a picture; it’ll last longer!”

Dancing ladies at People's Park
Elderly Exercise

The older people in China are fit! Every park has an exercise area with contraptions for people to stretch, bend, and workout. If they're not using those, people are dancing or doing tai chi, or active in some way!

Personal Space

It doesn’t exist here. If you need to get on the subway, you shove. It doesn’t matter if you are taking out little old ladies in the process. After all, you need to get on. Everyone stands extremely close to one another. Shoving happens on elevators, trams, airport lines, basically everywhere. You just ram up against each other and do what you’ve got to do.

Finger Licking Braised Pork Flavor-yum!

English translations of Chinese signs, menus, etc. are often amusingly inaccurate. It can also sometimes cause problems. When we rented the boat at Yuexiu Park, the sign said the price was for one hour in English. However, in Chinese it apparently said thirty minutes. So we were going around and around with the boat rental guy, who in our minds was trying to charge us double. Finally, a Chinese guy from Australia who spoke both Chinese and English walked by and asked if we needed help. He was able to explain what the sign said in Chinese and that the sign was translated inaccurately to the rental guy. Once we all understood, we paid the correct fee and had a good laugh, but for awhile there, we were getting kind of mad, thinking he was trying to overcharge us!

A beautiful view from the plane
when we landed in China!

You can't access websites like Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, blogs, etc. in China. They're blocked. You have to use what is called a VPN, which helps you get around the block. It's something you have to download onto your devices before you go there. China is always trying to crack down on VPNs, so various ones work better than others at various times. I've also heard that movies are edited to take out any scenes where China comes off looking bad.

Selfie Sticks

Everyone seems to have one! They are not seen as embarrassing, weird, awkward, etc. There are often signs posted at attractions, indicating that you aren't allowed to use them. And they are banned on in-country flights.

Lots of fish to feed at People's Park

You can't drink water straight from the faucet, or at least we visitors can't without getting sick. Bottled water was our friend. And hot water is a thing. It’s served at restaurants instead of cold or tap water, and it was surprisingly enjoyable. It’s also available in dispensers at the airport and on trains. People use it to make themselves ramen noodles as a snack; it's kind of genius! 

Oh China, so many interesting things about this country. I guess that's what makes traveling so great! I'm already missing the noodles there!