Sunday, April 09, 2006


Welcome to the Burgeson China Journal

The Burgeson China Journal chronicles our journey to China to adopt our daughter Ariana Xian. To read it properly, scroll down to the bottom and read your way back up to the top. (Its a blog thing, people). In these pages you'll find comedy, tragedy, split pants, and riffs on the differences between life in these United States and life in the amazing emerging country of China. Hope you enjoy it!


Thursday, September 08, 2005


Escape From Wuhan

The Americans made it out of Wuhan on a short hop jet flight in the nick of time. The lack of food, sleep, and abundance of provinvial smells had taken their toll on the group. Guangzhou was promised to be a "shan-gri-la". The flight arrived on time and the bus arrived at the hotel at about 4:20. The only problem was that the medical clinic closed at 5 p.m. and 16 babies had to get their final medical check. Somehow the task was accomplished and when it was done, the whole group was exhausted and hungry.

The buffet at the White Swan Hotel was not prepared for the Americans. After suffering through the horrible food in Wuhan, the well appointed buffet was no match for the beefy gang from the U.S. Even though the buffet was $30 per head, I know that I personally blew the profit margin for at least myself and one other member of the family. Everyone ate their fill and for the first time we felt human again.

The hotel is beautiful, the food is great, and Guangzhou is clean. All the merchants are friendly and they cater to the crazy Yanks with their new Chinese kids. The local shops let you borrow strollers for free and they sell every type of good imaginable for tourists. Tiana and her friend Lisa spent the entire day shopping and we had to buy a huge suitcase to fit JUST THE STUFF SHE BOUGHT. Somehow we will try to make it home under the 70 lbs. per person luggage limit.

Last night I went to the final paperwork barrage for the U.S. consulate and after spending an hour and a half filling out forms and paying our last chunck of cash, we are finally done with paperwork. Ariana's Chinese passport which we got in the Hubei Province on our last day is now at the Consulate awaiting a Visa stamp.

Tomorrow we get up and take the pictures of all the babies on the famous Red Couch. Then we go to the Consulate for the swearing in ceremony. The rest of the day is free, but we have to be out of the hotel and on the bus by 6am Saturday morning. They are opening the breakfast buffet early just for us and the porters are coming for our baggage at 4:45 a.m. Then its off to Hong Kong via our last Chinese flight and then the long hop to Chigago from there.

Ari is doing great and she is loud and boisterous. She fits into our family perfectly. We can't wait to get home!

Wednesday, September 07, 2005


Last Night in Wuhan

Well, we put the Wu! In Wuhan while we were here but its time to go tomorrow morning. Everyone in the newly expanded family is doing great. Nothing new to report. I am trying a local beer tonight called Blue Ribbon Group. I figure its Chinese Pabst Blue Ribbon. It has a weird taste to it but its still beer. In the absence of new information on the baby, I have more random thoughts on China:

Energy: The hotels make you use your keycard to turn on the power to your room and the air conditioning is set to only go to a certain point. They also turn the whole air conditioning system off during certain times of day to save on power. The cities use electric busses for part of their public transportation which is good. The bad side effects of this energy conservation are that you can’t cool your room off enough during the hot summer days and the showers aren’t very hot.

Personal Liability Lawsuits: There must not ever be any. The sidewalks are uneven and broken here in Wuhan and the construction sites aren’t cordoned off at all. The marble and tile steps everywhere are slippery. As I mentioned before; they drive horribly. We witnessed our cab driver hitting a pedestrian with his side view mirror, a scooter hit by a garbage truck, and an old woman who was narrowly missed by a speeding car.

Bicycles: They love ‘em. It looks like a Schwinn convention in China. They have scooters and motorcycles too. It’s not a stereotype.

Mao: They love him. We went to a Mao shop. There were Mao cigarette lighters. I bought a Mau watch in Tiananmen Square with waving arm action. Tiana bought a video chronicling Mao’s famous swim across the Yangtze River. Somewhere in China there must be Mao lunchboxes and boxer shorts.

Uniforms: I can’t tell the difference between the military, the police, and security officers. They all have similar uniforms. The odd thing is that they aren’t issued uniform footwear. I’ve seen a group of soldiers and some have tennis shoes while others wear dress shoes.

Helmet Laws: They don’t appear to have any. I’ve seen some old looking military helmets used by motorcyclists and an assortment of other odd headwear including construction hard-hats.

Money: The exchange rate is 8 Yuan to one dollar. Prices here are good and the dollar is strong. Mau is on every bill so it doesn’t help to tell them apart. They have 100, 50, 20, 10, 5, and 1 Yuan bills as well as 2 Yuan, ½ Yuan, and 1/10 Yuan bills. The latter are worth 1/8 of a U.S. cent and are hard to get rid of once you get them unless you can put 5 together to make a ½ Yuan.

Language: Some people know a little English and want to use it on you; others don’t know any English and don’t care. They're usually nice about it if you're having trouble communicating. Some respond when I use my Chinese and others ignore me completely. It has helped a lot to know some Chinese and I wish I would have known more. One interesting thing to note is that Chinese people engaged in business transactions seem to yell at each other and scowl a lot. The cashier at KFC was a sweet 5 foot 4 woman with a pleasant smile who helped us to order since she spoke a fair amount of English. When Jesse ordered mashed potatoes without gravy, she turned to the cooking staff, scowled, tripled the volume of her voice, and spit out a venomous stream of orders to the cooks. It was scary enough to make us both jump. She then politely turned back to us and returned to her sweet little elf-like self. She must have been doing something right because I noticed from the sign on the wall that she was the employee of the month.

Split Pants: Yes, some children do wear split pants, and yes, they just squat and let her rip right on the street. We saw kids doing number ones and number twos in Beijing and Wuhan. We also saw children playing happily and walking with their parents while their privates enjoyed the afternoon breeze.

Staring: We have been stared at because we are Americans, because we have a Chinese baby, and because we’re loud Americans with Chinese babies. We are as friendly and respectful as we can be but its starting to get a little annoying to be stared at and talked about wherever we go here in the province. There will be hundreds of us walking around with our new kids in Ghoungzhou so it should be better there. It’s starting to creep us all out here in Wuhan, quite frankly. If I went to the mall back home and stared at all the Asian people there like we’re getting stared at here I’m sure they’d get pretty pissed off and call the ACLU.

Television: Reidar and I watched Robot Wars overdubbed in Chinese one night. They have an interesting game show called Lucky Ball and another one like Nickelodeon where they have teams competing against one antoher and the person who loses has a gorilla pour water on his head. There are tons of cartoons in Chinese that Reidar seems to like. The rest of the shows are movies and soap opera types of shows. They also have other American programs with Chinese overdubs and subtitles. Here in Wuhan at least we have satellite TV so there is a whole block of English language channels including CNN so we have been able to see how the whole country is falling apart while we are gone and also see some HBO movies.

The Internet: They have slow shared DSL connections with limited or spotty wireless at both of our hotels so far. We paid $15 per day at the Beijing Hotel but it was free here in Wuhan although very slow. I can’t VPN work or see certain web pages here so it’s really a challenge.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005


Day 5 in Wuhan Prison

The troops are getting restless. One of the men is sick with some type of head-cold. The food is getting monotonous. Morale is low. We found out we won’t get the baby’s passports today. We have to pack tonight and get up in the morning, take care of our passport stuff, then rush to the airport. When we land in Ghounzhou, we have to get off of the plane and get their final medical inspection done.

Today we went to Walmart here in Wuhan since we don’t have one back home (ha ha). It was a multi-story building in the center of town and of course the women bought more junk. They have a cool escalator that you can take shopping carts on. The wheels are grooved so the shopping cart gets grabbed by the escalator and won't slide down the slope. The cab ride was more entertaining than the shopping. We saw the heart of the city and some interesting neighborhoods that had some old buildings and little mom and pop shops of all varieties. The drivers of the three cabs wove in and out of traffic narrowly missing each other, pedestrians, and other moving and non-moving obstacles. We tipped both of our drivers for the sheer entertainment of the ride.

We came back to the hotel and started packing. Tiana picked up some Budweiser’s from the street vendor and we had a small happy hour. Ariana is doing great with her learning to walk and today was an outstanding day for me. She lets me carry her around now and she will hang out with me while Tiana is out of the room without being upset. She actually asked for me to hold her for the first time during breakfast. Another first—she rode in the snugli while I wore it and slept on me for about an hour. She even let Reidar pick her up today and hold her hands while she walked around. She is clearly happy and comfortable with our family now and all is good. We are looking forward to going to the fancy White Swan Hotel in Ghounzhou tomorrow and to get the rest of her paperwork squared away so we can come on home.

One last thing—Reidar is strangely fascinated with Chinese cartoons despite the fact that he cannot understand a word they are saying. We even bought him a few. Go figure.

Monday, September 05, 2005


Monday Night in Wuhan

Ari in Michigan State Regalia

We visited the Yellow Crane Pagoda today in the pouring rain. Ari still only wants Mama to carry her. I can hold her for short periods of time but only if Tiana is using the bathroom or the shower. We tried having Tiana down the hall for a short while to see if Ari would flip out and she did after about 5 minutes. Its hard not to have her seek comfort from me despite the fact that she will let me feed her and play with her.

She fell asleep near dinnertime so I sent Tiana down to the pool to soak in the Jacuzzi for a while. She wasn’t gone for half an hour when Ari woke up and started fussing and crying. I was able to occupy her some but she wasn’t happy at all until Tiana came home.

The pagoda is on a piece of high ground overlooking the city and was a military emplacement. It’s architecturally very interesting and surrounded by gardens and a pond with geese. Of course there were shops and more souvenirs were purchased. The coolest part of the trip, though, was when we purchased some drinks from a vendor at the base of the pagoda. When Ari saw the bottled water, she said something to the Chinese woman there that she has said over and over to us and the woman actually understood her. She was saying “yeogh hu’” which means want drink. We thought she was just whining or baby talking but our guide confirmed it. Now we know when she does this that she wants a drink so it has really helped us to understand her a bit better and respond to her needs.

When we got back, we ate at KFC again since it is the best food we’ve had in China. We went to the arcade again and Reidar used his own money to buy a small remote controlled car. Tonight we went down to the dinner buffet and for the 5th day in the row the buffet choices were the same so we are extremely frustrated. I guess we’ll try Pizza Hut tomorrow. We had a scare with Reidar as he had a stomach ache at dinner but he took a Tums and he is fine now. Its probably just the weird diet we’ve been on since we got here. I can’t wait to go to Ghounzhou because they are supposed to have better food in their hotel restaurant. If it’s anything like Beijing we should be fine but it will be hard to spend another whole day and a half here until we leave. WE ARE BORED.

One other thing--Ari must be getting better nutrition now because she walked 15 steps today down the hallway without assistance. When we got her four days ago all she could do was barely stand holding onto something. She only averages like 4 or 5 steps free walking but she keeps getting more courageous and her balance continues to improve. She continues to eat and poop non-stop.


Monday in Wuhan

It is raining again for about the third day. We are all tired of being in the hotel or even going to the shops. How many shoes can the women buy anyway? Everyone is ready to go to Ghounzou to get our paperwork finalized. Reidar and I have been swimming and playing video games at the shopping center arcade but these activities are getting old. Plus the swimming pool or “cement pond” as I call it (because of the low chlorine content and greenish tinge) is not the most palatable activity. They do have a hot tub we can soak in and the men’s locker-room is very fancy and well appointed.

Ari’s personality comes out more each day. She is talking a lot, smiling, and laughing at Reidar’s antics. She says “da”, “mei mei” (sister), and is calling Tiana “Mama” (yea!). We thought we heard “bu cheong” a couple of times (don’t want) and “she she” (thank you). We speak English to her mostly because the Chinese was upsetting her either because it reminder her of her foster family or our pronunciation was hurting her ears (that’s my theory). We keep calling Reider “Gei Gei” (big brother) and Ari said it this morning and pointed at Reid. We’ll work on actual names over the next few days.

Today we are going to the Yellow Crane Pagoda which should help to kill a couple of hours. We are taking pictures of the entire family in front of the pagoda in our Michigan State shirts. The Ann Arbor people in our group can eat their hearts out. A couple of families in our group are going to Xiagon City where our girl was fostered but we decided not to go. What if she saw some familiar sights that upset her or G-d forbid we ran into her foster family or someone she knew? We told them to take lots of pictures, though and I hope the experience is positive for them.

All of the girls seem to be warming up their families. We are seeing some of the more shy girls open up more, lots more smiles and laughing, and the babies who wouldn’t go to one parent or the other are starting to split their time more between the two. The girls are all eating like horses and their nutrition level is getting closer to where it should be so I think this is helping with their moods as well. The one bowel movement she had per day as reported in her file is now more like three or four (guess that’s the Chinese exchange rate for American bowel movements).

Sunday, September 04, 2005


Sunday in Wuhan

Today is a good day! Ari had another good night’s sleep and woke up with no crying. She let me pick her up out of the crib and then I was able to feed her bananas, vegetable puffs, rice cereal, and nutri-grain bars. The daddy drought appears to be over. She still wants Tiana when she fusses sometimes and doesn’t want the family to ever separate. If Reidar or I are away, she gets upset. She wants us all to stay in the same general area with her which is good. She let Tiana take a shower this morning while Reidar and I hung out with her which is an improvement over yesterday. We think she is teething and this fussiness is the time when she only wants Mommy.

This morning while I was giving her a drink she heard Reidar’s voice when he woke up and she booked over to him (with me holding her hands). She played on Reidar’s bed where she could look out the window (her favorite thing to do). Breakfast went good and now she happily played on the bed with Mommy and Reidar. I think the worst is behind us but I’m sure there is still a way to go.

She doesn’t like the dress that Tiana put on her this morning because its hard for her to crawl in. A lot of the clothes we brought are too big and she will be wearing the same outfits for a while until we can get her some smaller ones. After three attempts, Tiana was able to get her to keep a bow in her hair.

I found out that I can see my own blog site through AOL so I signed up for a free trial so I could see what I posted and the comments so keep the comments coming—I can see them now! For some reason, China doesn’t like certain sites when viewed through Internet Explorer. The guys in IT will never forgive me for using AOL.

More random thoughts on China front:

Manual Labor: They do a lot of things by hand here. At our first hotel, two guys in regular street clothes were working with hammers and chisels breaking up concrete around a manhole cover outside the hotel. Of course as I mentioned, China is one big construction site and there is a lot of building going on. Here in Wuhan they are tearing out the old sidewalks and putting in new ones—all by hand. When buildings are demolished, they reduce it to rubble where it stands. The scaffolding here is made one piece at a time of actual bamboo held together with strapping tape like you use to tie up shipping boxes. There aren’t planks on the scaffolding either. I guess the workmen straddle the scaffolding while they work. These bamboo scaffold rigs can go up for several stories.

Saturday, September 03, 2005


Saturday in Wuhan

We went shopping today and scored some more deals. Our main goal was really to get out of the hotel as this was our first free day we've had and we wanted to stretch our legs a little. The wierd thing about our situation right now is that we have to spend three more days here in the province according to the local rules even though we finalized our adoption yesterday. The other wierd thing is that she is officially ours but still officially a Chinese Citizen without a visa or naturalization papers so she's ours but we can't take her home until we process the rest of her paperwork in Ghounzhou next week.

She only wants Tiana today. I can hardly hold her unless Tiana is in sight and she mostly wants Tiana to hold her. She was happy as a clam all day as long as she was on Tiana's hip. She took a nap and woke up from it cranky. She is sweaty and we thought maybe she has a fever but our guide told us that they sweat because they are malnourished. We bought the local formula but she won't take it. She only wants this fake milk-like substance (think crab with a "k") that is mostly sugar which our guide told us not to give the babies (it was given to us in a bag with some other snacks when we got her). It apparently has about as much nutritional value as a tootsie roll. We gave her a mix of this sugar crap and American formula which she is drinking so hopefully we can get her calcium up so she will be a little steadier on the walking and the sweats will stop as we wean her off of the junk and onto pure formula.

I'm hoping she will warm up to me again soon. It will take a couple of days, I think. One good note is that I stubbed my foot pretty good in the hotel room and she could tell I was hurt pretty bad and it made her upset. So to summarize, she doesn't like me but she doesn't dislike me enough to want to see me hurt. Right now she is crying for her mama (foster) and very fussy which seems to happen each afternoon. This is when she is having the flashbacks to the foster family. It will subside eventually but for now its hard to go through. We will keep making her as comfortable as possible and give her as many healthy bonding activities as we can over the next few days since we don't have any official meetings to worry about.

Tiana has borrowed a snugli while I am blogging because her arms and back are aching pretty badly (see attached picture). We are going down to dinner now, so I'll give another update later. One other thing I wanted to mention is that she plays a lot with the cell phone and blanket we brought. We sent duplicates of both these to her months ago and we think she finds comfort in them as she must have played with them when she was with her foster family. We also found out that the disposable camera we sent was given back to us so we'll develop these pictures when we get to Ghounzhou.


Random Thoughts on China

McDonalds in Beijing

Personal Space: People in China have a smaller "personal zone" as you would imagine from a country of 1.3 billion people. This is evidenced in the way they push into elevators before you get a chance to get out and get in front of you in line if you are too slow to advance. When you are in line, they are pushed right up against you, waiting to pounce into the next position at the cash register, hotel desk, bank, etc. We have dubbed this phenomenon "the Chinese Shuffle".

Driving: If you take the personal space thing and apply it to driving automobiles, busses, bicycles and motorcycles, you end up with the vehicular version of the Chinese Shuffle which is like a cross between road warrior and grand theft auto that Jesse has named "dodge-bus".

Water: It blows my mind that even the locals cannot drink the water here. They all drink bottled water and boiled water. At first you are paranoid to open your mouth when you shower or touch your mouth after you wash your hands but after a few days you start to be a little less paranoid. We still drink the bottled water of course and don't even try to drink the boiled tap water but I accidentally used tap water one day to brush my teeth in a kind of groggy morning lapse in judgement and I didn't get sick. Reidar and I swam in the pool and we were fine despite the fact that it didn't smell or look very chlorinated.

Food: I love Chinese food (the American kind) and I'm adventurous when it comes to trying new foods but I haven't been really excited about any of the authentic Chinese food here which is surprising. I thought I would be in heaven but the hectic pace, change in time zones, and stress of the trip have left me wanting comfort food like McDonalds and Pizza Hut (which they have here) more than what they serve at the hotels. Tiana and I have lost a few Kilos since we got here.

Drinks: I would pay $50 for a 64 ounce Big Gulp of Diet Coke and ice. We were able to get coca cola light in Beijing and it tasted pretty good but the province of Wuhan does not believe in coca cola light unless it has lemon added which tastes just as nasty as the American version. We can't get ice in our drinks because we don't know where the water for the ice came from which gets really old after a while and the Chinese only refrigerate their drinks to about 5 degrees cooler than room temperature. Even the fridges in our hotel room barely cool off liquids. I tried to get a Sprite from a street vendor and all they had was some funky Asian version called Sprite Icy Mint which is like drinking Sprite while smoking a menthol cigarette. I also tried an ice tea (with "mint action") which also had the menthol cigarette aftertaste. I tried a menthol once, just so you know I'm on the level with my analysis. So we drink a lot of bottled water and warm regular pepsi or coke. I love the Chinese tea and the coffee in the hotels is good. First order of business when we get to Chicago is to get a real diet coke. The good news is that a Tsing Dao beer in Beijing at the hotel gift shop only cost me 5 Yuan which is about 63 cents.

Shopping: Everyone is shopping like crazy because the prices are so good. We have bought shoes, clothes, toys, game boy games, silk items, leather purses and a ton of souvenirs (actually Tiana bought most of this stuff). I will say that I bought a power converter here for less than $2 American and one of the guys in our group paid $80 for his back in the U.S. The McDonalds is about 1/2 price compared to the states. The local food place in the shopping center was super cheap. Two of the little Hubei girls split a huge bowl of congee which cost about 25 cents and they only could finish half of it. The rest of the food in the food court was also only a few Yuan. We could have fed our whole family for a couple of bucks. We went to the arcade at the department store plaza also and a Yuan plays the same as a quarter, so you get a video game for about 12 cents. Reidar had fun schooling a local Wuhan kid in air hockey and Jesse and I drew a crowd playing the basketball shoot-off. Its expensive to get here, but once you do, you can find anything you want to buy and its very affordable.


A Long Overdue Update

Wow. What can I say? Two days ago was gotcha day. We took the two hour plane ride to the Wuhan Airport in the Hubei Province and landed at what must have been a pretty short runway since we bounced about three times when we landed. Jesse thought maybe the pilot was a former bus driver in Beijing.

We never thought we could be hotter or more sweat-soaked than we were in Beijing—but oh were we wrong. Nowhere was this more evidenced than when we were in the room of the adoption offices awaiting delivery of our daughter Ariana. All 16 families were jammed in there waiting and the screaming babies were brought out to us one at a time. Ari was one of the middle kids to come out but I could see her through the door of the room they had them in and recognized her right away.

It was very emotional, hot, and loud in that room. Once we got all of the babies relatively calmed down, we got back on the bus and went back to the hotel. Some babies only wanted mommy, some only wanted daddy. Some didn’t want either. Today is day two and some of the babies have opened up more. Ariana is doing really well. She laughs and smiles and walks all over the room holding on to things. When we get her to open spaces, she has started to do a little free walking so she’s learning fast. She loves looking out the window. She only cried for “mama” a little bit the first day. We can’t call Tiana mama yet because it reminds the babies too much of their foster moms. “Mommy” works okay because it sounds different enough. In Chinese, baba usually means daddy but in this provincial dialect it means poop so we just use daddy.

Ari usually does pretty well with us but has had a couple of flashbacks where she misses her foster family. She was with them up until the day we got her (we found out from questioning the orphanage director) so she wasn’t at the orphanage full time for the month before we came like we thought. When she has the little episodes she cries and it is hard to get her to calm down but this is happening less and less. She does have a pacifier which helps a little bit.

She doesn’t drink formula and doesn’t like all the food we brought. She will eat some baby food, juice mixed with water, and cheerios. One really good thing is that when she does like the food she eats like a horse. She loves Congee, steamed egg, and bean curd (all stuff that we can get really easily in Manistee—NOT!) Last night she wouldn’t eat ANY of the American food I tried and cried until we took her to the buffet to eat Chinese food (by the way, this isn’t like the Chinese Buffet at home, we are all missing the food back home). We’re slowly moving her over to U.S. fare with baby nutria-grain bars, biscuits, and Gerber’s dried corn.

She is a little peanut. She’s wearing 9-12 month clothes and is about how big Reidar was when he was about 6 months old. She is a real cutie and sticks out her tongue when she laughs. Reidar and she are getting along great but she isn’t to the stage when she will let him pick her up yet. Her fingers are incredibly long. I think she will be a pianist when she grows up. Right now she is feeling a little feverish so she is cuddling with mommy. I am working on getting my power converter issues fixed so I don’t have to keep borrowing other people’s to charge up my computer so look for more postings in the next few days. More later…

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