Saturday, December 25, 2010

Jeff's last blogging

Day 6 Part 2

OMG Massage
I forgot to tell you that our day 6 also ended with Jen, Savvy and I all getting ½ hour massages; which can only be described as wonderful. All three of us raved about how good they were and how great we felt afterward. I laughed through most of mine as this little woman, maybe 5’2, was able to put me in such a world of hurt. There was nothing to her but man she was strong. We may have to do that again before our 17 hour journey home.

Day 7

The Great Wall is Great
Well that title kind of gave what this addition to the blog is about! Yes today was our adventure to the Great Wall of China and it truly is a wonder to behold.  This thing is massive and long … and massive and can only truly be appreciated in person. More on that in a minute.

Jade Factory…or should I say “Jeff, where’s your wallet?”

Our day started out like most here in China, rushing to get breakfast and meet the group for the day’s activities. Today was another early start as everyone was on the bus and ready to go at 9. Our first stop, in case you hadn’t guessed, was the Jade Factory which was an amazing and costly part of our tour, don’t worry no one broke anything.  The tour is a bit hard to recap as the Chinese tend not to speak very loudly and combined with the accent and Kennah’s need to wander (in a China type shop no less) left me unable to hear much.  The guide went over the cultural significance of Jade, its different forms, qualities and of course cost.  A real surprise that the higher quality stuff is more expensive. This factory was as much an art gallery as much as it was a jewelry store.  The ability of the artisans to work with the stone and turn it into some truly incredible pieces of art is mind blowing. The detail, the creativity and the beauty of the work were difficult to imagine but easy to appreciate.

When the info session ended we were free to wander around the some 5,000 square foot shop, no surprise that Savvy, K and I headed to look at the carvings and discount section while Jen stayed in the “High Quality” section, yes that was the actual name of the section. Did I forget to mention that that was where the info session on Jade took place? I’m sure that was nothing more than coincidence. Jen, of course, was trapped in this area as she just said me “the lady would not let me leave, she just kept slipping bracelets on my arm”. Funny how that works really, the power of a sales person the “trap” a woman like my wife in the “High Quality, need to take a second mortgage on my house”, area of a jewelry store. Kind of like a man in the electronic section of store…I guess.

When all was said and done, damage was done, not just by Jen however, oh no, for whatever reason my soon to be sixteen year daughter suddenly began to take on some personality traits of her mother, although she does not yet have the look down yet, she was none the less convincing.  Kennah is a natural shopper, she really didn’t even ask to buy things, she just went about buying as if me carrying her on my shoulders was some sign of my subservience to her, I’m going to half to watch that but I’m thinking it is already too late. The only one who didn’t directly get in on the buying was Tya, however given her rapidly emerging personality; I’m in for a world of financial hurt, time to start selling the blood!!

Now the Great Wall

How much can one really say about one of the greatest man made creations on the planet.  It is truly awe-inspiring and a marvel to behold.  It is impossible to comprehend how an ancient civilization can build such a miraculous monument without any or our modern day tools. We had 2 choices in tackling our hour and a half time at the Wall, the left (the hard way) and the right (the easy). Given that I was carrying 35 or so extra pounds, and no I have not gained that much weight in China, I don’t think, I am referring to my 3 yr old princess who demands to ride everywhere perched on my shoulders, we decided to tackle the “easy” way. Now the word “easy” is subjective really, baking a cake is easy for some and difficult to others, its easy to spend money but much more difficult to make it; thus, I would say that in this the right looked easy but was far from it.

Almost immediately you go up the often-uneven walk way (Aaron help me out here) of the Wall as you start your trek. Centuries old construction built on the backs and lives of ordinary Chinese, as solid as the time it was built, supports the throngs of people going up and down its sold backbone. The atmosphere is one of wonder, laughter and simple silence as people walk and absorb the magnitude of this tribute to ingenuity commitment and realistically slavery. The wind is harsh as we climb toward the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th towers. As about half of our group has chosen the aforementioned easy route, we stick together and support one another on the climb. On the way to the 4th tower I have to push ahead as the climb becomes much steeper (and that’s saying something) and the added weight of Kennah on my shoulders is starting to take its toll. Once we reach tower 4, we look back, the wind almost knocking K on her butt and back down the Wall it is so strong.  Savvy is helping everyone whom needs it make it to the next destination. The wind is so strong it takes your breath away but it does not faze how surreal the moment is as you look down and see both where you started and how incredibly far you could yet go.

The stop at tower 4 proves to be the turn back or forge ahead decision point for everyone. Making it this far is no easy feat, especially when 2 of our party (Jen and Marina) were carrying their new babies. Savvy and I peer up, and I mean up, to the next tower and decide we have to go for it and of course Kennah is along for the ride if for no other reason than it would be to difficult for Jen to make the decent with her. The journey to tower 5 was both amazing and exceptionally grueling. Now I ain’t one for angles but this section of the Wall was anywhere between 60 and 85 degrees for at least ¾ of a kilometer. At times Savvy was behind me just in case I needed a push in order to take the next step. From top to bottom and what seemed to be a 100 people wanting to either take pictures with us or of us we finally made it to the 5th tower and while we were eager to attack the next level, we knew the added weight of K and time did not make if feasible.  With that said we did take a picture of the 3 of us at the highest point of our trip to the Great Wall.  We decided to make our decent along a path at the base of the Wall to get a better perspective of what an invading force would have to endure and it is no wonder that the Chinese were able to hold off hostile forces for centuries.

Outside of Jen haggling with vendors at the base of the wall the rest of the day was peaceful and filled with a much slower pace. A late lunch-early supper at another factory, metal maybe, some more shopping (a theme that would begin to dominate in the days to come, and back to the hotel. The ride back saw both our youngest ladies fall asleep and the route take us by the 2008 Olympic Aquatic Centre and the Birds Nest, further testament of the ongoing Chinese desire to push the bounds of architecture and engineering. Like the Great Wall and temples before them, the Chinese desire out do themselves with every building is one of the most striking things that I have found about our journey to this country.  The blend, clash and juxtaposition of everything here, weather it be the people, the economy, the architecture is fascinating to experience and move within. One can only wonder what the People and this country are capable of or will become in the next 50 years.

XO by 5    

Day 8

The Summer Palace

Day 8 and time seems to both fly and crawl as we experience the culture and history of the amazing country. The time we spent at attractions passes in the blink of an eye always trying to absorb as much as we can while here. On the flip side the longing for home and all the comforts it brings has us wishing we were already bound for the Great White North.  Today the main attraction is the Summer Palace, you know a place you can go in the summer kick up your heels and have servants wait on your every whim. Palaces different from your winter ones, in a place of you’re choosing and built solely because you want it. This place was massive, the summer home of “The Dragon Lady”, the brains and control behind the last emperor, or last several emperors of China…a wee bit of a B.I.T…well you get my drift. As much of a Dragon, which of course was not an affectionate term given to her by the people, as she was, she knew what she wanted and of course had the people she ruled over build it for her. You know, moving into the digs of another emperor is just not the thing to do; you want your own man made lake and private jail for you emperor nephew. To make a long story short, this place was massive with typically beautiful ancient Chinese architecture, paintings and an abundance of history.

The remainder of the day, which wasn’t much, was spent unwinding with a trip to the pool for K and I before another meal at a local restaurant. The end of the day and bed were welcome as we inch closer to going home, something everyone is looking forward to.
XO by 5

Day 9

The Silk Factory & Pearl Market…yep this is going to hurt the wallet and Happy Sweet 16 Savvy… are you okay?

Perhaps the day that most the women in the group have been looking forward to (outside getting our girls of course), and of course the men dreading. Our day was to consist of a visit to the aforementioned Silk Factory and Pearl Market, which are aptly named but consisted of so much more. The Silk Factory is a government owned institution that produces the finest silk products in the country, yah for communism. Like most other tours this one started off with an explanation of how silk is made and its connection to the culture of the People. Then, of course we were free to buy…which we did, a little something for everyone. Bedding, clothes and some of this and that making the wallet lighter as would be expected. This place had silk everything right down to the rugs. And boxers, not sure if Dave bought any but then again I have way to much info from him on the whole underwear topic…eh Dave LOL. We do have some dead silk bugs to show…if we can find them in our bags after we reach home.

The next stop was the Pearl Market where they of course sell pearls. Not much I can say on this as for the most part I stood outside with the girls while Jen was inside I can only assume trying on necklaces, bracelets, and earrings. As for her purchases well I’ll let her do show and tell, no since ruining the surprise, I understand you women folk like that sort of thing. As for the men and what I’m sure your wondering.. the damage wasn’t as bad as I had expected, then again we had only done one level of this 4 level shopping complex.

The Hagel

After a visit to the pearl store we were free…which is not even close to an appropriate adjective as nothing was free in this place, we began to tour the rest of the market. 4 levels of stores, the pearls being real the rest, ah, maybe not so much, all depends on what your definition of real is. Now this is a bargain hunters’ paradise, this place had everything you could possibly imagine at bargain basement prices…ya just had to work to get it. Haggling has never been my strong suit, truth be known I hate it, I’m more of a “just tell me the lowest price, save the dance and time and lets just move on”. As Jen can attest…and perhaps detest, I’m not much of a shopper either but I must say that the Pearl Market made shopping fun and we should adopt the practice for our stores in North America.  Perhaps if we adopt haggling then you would see more men shopping instead of sitting on the benches outside the store. Haggling is a sport, and the Chinese; especially the women make you earn the win. For being so tiny, man these women are strong, I mean they trap you in their little store and they are hard to move out of the way.  My technique simply involved pointing to another item and when they went to get it for me, I bolted out the door. My particular favorite exchange was with a short little women who said “frienda” (everyone is her friend), come now come now, you killing me, I need feed my family” to which I replied, “ ah you killing me, I need feed my family too” and for whatever reason yes I did speak in broken English for this exchange, I have no idea why but, when in Rome! By the end of the day Jen and I were working as a pretty good team as we would blame each other to get a lower price “my husband say no”…my wife say too much” and yes in broken English. Given the language barrier, I often resorted to caveman language to communicate, for example uuhh, ugh, and nnaa, came in very handy.

As you can see by the title, on this day Dec 21st, our oldest turned 16, which is both hard to believe and scary all at the same time. True to her form Savvy was a big help to everyone all day; holding this, picking up that and at the end of the day we celebrated with a birthday party and magic show…unfortunately she only made it 15 min into supper and never seen any magic or her cake as she was sick (we did want to say thanks again though to everyone and Yulin for all the special moments… the O’Reagan’s beautiful present and card, the inclusion of Savannah as a birthday girl and Randy for involving Kennah in the magic show…best part of the night for Kennah). Now I remember turning 16 and I was sick too, but her and I were sick for different reasons, as hers was not self-inflicted. Savvy and I spent a majority of her party outside with her getting sick. Now we had thought this was because of her sinuses and the dry hot rooms, however shortly getting on the bus to return to the hotel Kennah followed the same path as her big sister and threw up. Yes this was a sign of things to come as both girls got sick 3 more times through out the rest of the night, both in separate rooms and within 15 minutes of one another. It would appear that the same bug that had hit every other family since our arrival had hit Brant Family, save the Eele’s of course, they are obviously the heartiest stalks of the group. Tya was also sick, although hers was (is) a head cold, no less painful as the poor little thing could not sleep as her head was filled. So Ma and Pa Brant juggled 3 sick kids while running between all 3 and 2 rooms. Everyone settled around 3 and we managed to grab a few hours sleep.

Day 9


As a result of our previous day we decided that today would be our down day, a time to slow down, relax and get some rest.  Instead of going to visit Tieneime Square and the Forbidden City we stayed at the hotel. Jen, Tya and I did venture out for a couple of hours to do more shopping and get some fresh air that was actually fresh, except for the sewer smell. The coolness of the day kept the smog down so outside for the most part lacked that car exhaust fragrance.

All in all, a pretty slow day, Kennah and Jen did go to the acrobat show in the evening while Savvy, Tya and I stayed back to pack (Tya was not a big help, go figure). In the midst of one of her vomiting exercises, K commented that she really wanted to go see the acrobat show. As all three girls (which still sounds weird to say, although somehow natural) were feeling better and K had been good all day, we decided that she and Jen should go to the show. A little Kennah and mommy time was just the thing to end off our journey; something both enjoyed and will remember. K was spell bound by the show and one of the parents commented, “I don’t think she blinked during the whole thing”.

With a majority of the packing done, our sleep was pretty good as all were tired and looking forward to our return to the land we love so much, perhaps a little more given our time away and the differences between Canada and China.

Hope all is well, be home soon.

XO by 5

Day 10

Travel Day

Not much to say here, every airport looks the same and nothing will matter as long as we make it home and we pray for nothing eventful to happen. It is a long journey, but much like our journey to Tya, the reward will be worth everything.

XO by 5


I thought I’d end my blog experience with some reflections on our journey.

First off, we had always wondered why this process had taken so long given the need for good homes for these children. We know why as Tya is a perfect fit within our family and attachment to her has been no different, or any more lengthy, than that of our two other daughters. Perhaps it had taken so long because she was meant to be ours, as if The Fates in all their weaving of the infinite possibilities of time knew that this little creature would need us, a mother so full of love, sisters of heart and song, a family that needed her to add to their uniqueness, bringing her own flare to our tribe. She is indeed one of us.

The matching is incredible as each baby in our group was destined to be with the family they became a part of some 9 short days ago. Its funny how within 2 weeks people from different parts of the country can come together to form such a unique connection, a bond forged in a journey that has only just begun. From borrowing medicine  (thanks to all as I think we did most, if not all of the borrowing, free lobster dinners on us when you come to PEI), sharing tips, stories, birthdays and laughs it was truly a pleasure to meet such nice people. These 6 little girls and my main man Alex are so lucky to have the families they do and one can tell that the families feel the same way.   

China is truly a fascinating place for those who like history, culture and of course Chinese food and shopping. As with any country it is the People who make it great and while the sites were amazing and breathtaking, it was our guides who made China such a great experience. Mary, Vivian, and Faye were all great and Yulin (and Bob) of course orchestrating the entire journey made it all memorable. For all of its wonder, I am left to ponder the country’s sustainability. As someone who has worked in the field of socio-economics it is easy to see there will be a tipping point where the country, it’s People and it’s government will need to make some critical decisions. Their consumption of goods, the size of the population and its need for energy and its impact on the environment are all critical factors in the future of this massive expansive of a place. Things for greater minds than mine to contemplate for sure.

In the end Tya Li Hui Brant will never know the different life she will experience because of our coming into each other’s lives. Dave and I have had a few conversations over the past 10 days, which I have enjoyed deeply, about this topic. She will have choice, from the simplest of things to the most fundamental to a democracy.  Something that seems so simple to North Americans, often taken for granted, yet when you hear some of the experiences of our hosts, not so simple. Knowing what we know and the reality our girls come from will make us more vigilent to make sure all of our children fully understand just how lucky they are to be Canadian, to have due process, to have rights that are enshrined in laws and the ability to travel freely, become educated and ultimately decide what is best for themselves.

While the process, the waiting and the cost to get to where we now are is over; we are free to start the next stage of our lives as a family. We would all like to return some day, to explore further the wonders China holds, but that's for some time in the distant future. We leave with great memories, some great bargains, and new friends…no, they are more than friends; they are our relatives now; a family of sorts bonded in a shared meaningful and emotional experience… and a special little girl as a part of our family.

Take care, travel safe and be well.

XO by 5   

1 comment:

Sheri Lee said...

Yay... great posts and detailed accounts, Jeff! Now that you are home safe and sound, I can really enjoy the stories. This blog will be a great journal for you all! Love you and so happy you're ALL home. xo