Sunday, July 30, 2006

The adoption

Many of you know that Amy and I are adopting a girl from China, which is one of the reasons we're so excited about our opportunity to live in China for 3 months and learn a bit about the culture of our future daughter's homeland. We're now expecting the adoption to be finalized sometime around March 2007. Amy, Andrew and I will all fly to China and spend a few weeks there before we bring Andrew's little sister home.

We're adopting through an agency called Chinese Children Adoption International, which fortunately for us is just a short drive from home. They're the largest, and one of the first agencies to arrange adoptions from China, and they now arrange over 1000 adoptions per year. It's a great organization, and if you're considering adoption, I highly recommend them. We decided to adopt because we want 2 children, and we hope to provide a permanent home to a child who otherwise would grow up in an orphanage. Foster homes, and especially adoption, are very rare within China itself, so thousands of abandoned children end up in orphanages across China.

What's the adoption process like? In a nutshell, we start by finishing tons of paperwork, which the agency translates and sends to China. We also jump through a bunch of hoops for the US and Colorado state governments to prove we're acceptable parents. A social worker had to visit our house on 3 occasions and interview us, and we're also required by the state to complete 24 hours of training on parenting. Our "log in date", the date when our paperwork was accepted in China, is January 27, 2006. At some point, the Chinese government will match us with a child, and then it will be 6-8 weeks until we go to China to meet our new daughter. As long as Amy and I both go to China, she will be a US citizen when we return home.

At this point, it's a just a waiting game.

Getting ready for China

The whole family is getting ready for our upcoming 3-month stay in China. (Click here to read more.) We expected to fly out around August 30. We'll be living (and I'll be working) in Hangzhou (here is a map), which is a few hours from Shanghai by train. Hangzhou is a city of about 6 million people and it's a popular tourist destination for the Chinese. By all accounts, it's a beautiful city. Our apartment will be within easy walking distance to the BoldTech office where I'll be working.

China has a week-long holiday, National Day, on October 1-7. It sounds like an extended version of Thanksgiving; most businesses are closed, people typically travel home to see their families, and hotels and transport are hard to come by. Unlike the Chinese new year celebration, however, there doesn't seem to be any interesting cultural events happening during National Day. Maybe this will be a good time to leave the country? We're thinking about Thailand, Bhutan, or Mongolia. Since our multiple-entry visas stipulate that we can stay in the country for a maximum of 30 days (possibly 60, there's still some confusion over this), we're going to need to leave China and come back sometime during our trip, anyway.

For now, I'm working with the client in Boulder, on the Pearl Street mall. Pretty cool place to work.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Employed again - in China

A month ago, I got laid off, when StorePerform moved all their software development to India. On Friday, I accepted a job at BoldTech Systems, where I worked for over 4 years prior to StorePerform. I'll be a tech lead for a team of software developers at BoldTech's office in Hangzhou, China. Amy, Andrew and I will all spend about 3 months in China! We're excited for the chance to experience the sights and the culture.

We'll be leaving some time around the first of September. Stay tuned for updates.

Pacific Peak revisited

Last week, Amy and I took Andrew hiking near Pacific Peak (13,950 feet), but didn't summit (see this post for the whole story). On Thursday, we sent Andrew to Grandma's house so we could have a chance at making the summit - sans Andrew. This time we approached from McCullough gulch, the next valley to the south. It doesn't have as many lakes, but it has a spectacular waterfall and is a beautiful hike.

Pacific peak has a decent-sized lake just below it's summit. The lake lies at an incredible 13,500 feet, and it has a large snow field which sinks into the lake's edge even in late July.

On the hike up, we spotted a family of ptarmigan - mom and about 5 chicks - browsing on the alpine vegetation. On our return hike, we passed by an interesting scene: a melting snow field, with a trickle of a stream running underneath it, had formed a tunnel, and flowers were growing underneath the snow tunnel.

Here is a photo from the summit, showing the lake, and 14,000+ foot Quandry peak in the background. It's great to live in Colorado!

Sunday, July 16, 2006

High altitude power nap

Yesterday the whole family escaped the 101 degree heat in Denver to hike near Breckenridge. We hiked up Spruce Creek toward Pacific peak, past five alpine lakes (Mayflower lake and Mohawk are the 2 named lakes), and the impressive Mohawk falls. After some recent rains, the wildflowers were in in bloom, and the clear weather made it a perfect day. This is a great hike - I highly recommend it.

A few years ago, Amy and I would have summited the pyramid-shaped Pacific peak, which requires a steep scramble up a thousand feet of scree and snow, past another unbelievably high lake which lies just below the summit at about 13,500 feet. But now, we've got baggage: 30-plus pounds of kid (Andrew) and another 13 or so for the backpack he rides in. At 3 years old now, he's a good hiker, and on this trip, he walked about 2.5 miles on his own 2 feet. The rest of the time he hitched a ride on daddy's back.

We encountered a few dozen people on the lower sections of the trail, but we had lake #5 (12,440 feet) all to ourselves. A great place for a power nap!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Whale Ship Essex

I recently read In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex, by Nathaniel Philbrick. This is the true story of the disastrous 1819-1821 whaling voyage (can you imagine being stuck on a stinking ship for more than a year?) from Nantucket which inspired Melville's story of the Pequod in Moby Dick. The 230-ton ship was rammed and sunk by a bull sperm whale estimated to be 80 tons.

The crew escaped in 3 small boats, and 8 days later, in the middle of the night, the captain's boat was attacked by an orca (killer whale), which batted the boat around with it's head and tail, took a bite out of it, and then split the boat's stern. They were able to save the boat, but had one hell of a scary night. So if you think you're having a bad day, think again...

It's a great read and I highly recommend it. I don't want to spoil the suspense, but suffice it to say it's not a happy ending for most of the crew.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Andrew's first amusement park

Amy and I took 3-year old Andrew to his first amusement park yesterday - Lakeside amusement park in Denver. Going to Lakeside is like stepping back in time to 1968, which is about the last time they installed any new rides at this place. It's so out of date now, it's almost hip almost hip again. Almost, but not quite.

We paid $4 entrance for the three of us, and then bought ride tickets at 50 cents a piece. Andrew loved the ferris wheel, which he rode with mom and dad, and also liked the various kiddie rides whick are all some minor variation of plastic or fiberglass vehicles going in a circle: planes, bugs, spaceships, etc. He rode the kiddie roller coaster by himself also. He was a bit scared for the first few trips around, then started smiling, but then looked a little overwhelmed as it kept going for another 4 or 5 cycles.

Swimming lessons

We first took Andrew to swimming lessons when he was 6 months old. At that time, the main objective was to get him comfortable with being in the water. We held him, got him to kick his feet a little, and even quickly dunked his head under the water. He hated being dunked, and the water was a bit chilly so he didn't last very long.

Yesterday, we took him to his first "real" swimming lessons. This time, mom and dad were not in the water with him - just the instructors and about ten kids ages 3-5. He practiced floating on his back (with some help), blowing bubbles, and kicking his feet while laying on a floating pad.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

East Elk Creek: great hike, nasty bike ride

We brought the mountain bikes to New Castle and Amy and I wanted some nice singletrack to ride while grandma watched Andrew, so we picked up a copy of “your guide Western Garfield County outdoor activities”. We found a trail that sounded perfect, was listed as a biking trail, and just a few miles from the condo: East Elk creek. We rode about 50 yards before we hit an impassible section, and walked the bikes another 50 yards. This scenario repeated itself for almost a mile, as we lugged the bikes past fallen trees, seriously steep sections covered with loose rock, and ridiculously steep, exposed talus fields that plunged into the roaring creek below. The trail was completely eroded away in sections and just plain nasty in others. We finally ditched the bikes behind a tree and hiked from that point on – in our biking shoes. Our suffering was well rewarded, though, with one of the most beautiful canyons I’ve ever seen. East Elk creek cascades down the canyon in a series of waterfalls, and the canyon walls rise up steeply about a thousand feet. It’s the same geology, and almost as impressive as nearby Glenwood canyon, but it has a strong advantage – it doesn’t have 4 lanes of interstate highway ripping it in half. In some sections, the creek carves out narrow gorges with sheer cliffs over a hundred feet tall on either side. A fire scorched the valley 4 or 5 years ago, but the skeletal trees bestow a stark beauty on the landscape. Besides all the scenery, the trail is lined with raspberry bushes with plenty of ripe berries easy to pick.

We’ll have to go back to do a longer hike here. Andrew is back in town with Grandma, and we promised to be back for lunch.

This afternoon after a big buffet lunch, we loaded Andrew into the bike trailer and rode up the paved trail in Glenwood canyon for a 28-mile round trip next to the highway. It was good exercise, but an entirely different, and somewhat disappointing experience after the secluded scenery of East Elk this morning.

Rain on the crystal river yesterday sent tons of dirt into the Roaring Fork, and ultimately the Colorado river. My dad had a half-day guide trip scheduled for the morning, but the cloudy water cancelled it. The river is clearing up quickly, so as long as we don’t get any more downpours, we’re on track for some fly fishing tomorrow.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Tourist Traps

You know you’re on vacation when you eat bacon 3 meals a day. I had bacon & eggs this morning, a bacon guacamole burger for lunch, and more elk steak (wrapped in bacon) for dinner.

The whole fam-damily spent a good chunk of the day at the Glenwood Caverns & Adventure park. We did the cave tour and sped down the hill on the alpine slide, which was a blast. Three-year-old Andrew loved the slide; when he and Amy got to the bottom, he shouted out “again!”. I guess you gotta do these cheesy tourist traps once you have kids; it’s unavoidable.

On the drive up here, we stopped and rode the Georgetown Loop railroad, which is a reconstruction of a 19th century rail line that has to loop over itself in order to make it up the steep canyon from the mining towns of Georgetown to Silver Plume. Another tourist trap, but a fun time.