Friday, March 30, 2007

Talipes Equinovarus

Elizabeth was born with club foot, scientifically known as Talipes Equinovarus. Hers is bilateral, and more severe on the right foot than the left. Club foot is the most common birth defect, and fortunately, it is treatable with a very high success rate.

We of course knew about this before we adopted her. Part way through our adoption journey, we joined the waiting child program, which matches orphans with special needs to adoptive parents. One of our motivations for adopting was to provide a loving family to a child who might otherwise never have one. Kids with special needs are less likely to be adopted, so we felt like this was the right thing to do. We are fortunate enough to have the means to correct Elizabeth's condition, but if she were to stay in China, there is no saying when or if she would receive treatment, and how good her treatment might be. While finalizing our adoption in Guangzhou, it was inspirational to meet several other couples who were adopting kids with even greater needs than Liz - including conditions such as cleft palette and deformed limbs.

We are opting to treat Elizabeth using the Ponseti method, which is a non-surgical way to manipulate the tissues back to a normal position. Although Ponseti is usually started at a younger age, it also has been very successful on older patients. Liz will go through a few months in casts, and then spend many more months with a brace. With a little luck and God's will, she will be completely normal when the treatment is finished.

Liz's first appointment is this week, and I'll be tracking her progress in the blog as she goes through the process. Here is a photo of her feet now.

Since Mia Hamm, the famous US soccer player, was born with club feet, we know that people can fully recover and live normal - even extraordinarily athletic - lives after treating this condition.

Envysion is live!

Since July, I've been working for BoldTech Systems as a consultant to Envysion, a start-up company in Boulder that provides web-based video management solutions. This is the project that brought me to China to lead a great team of developers in building Envysion's new web-based video application. We officially released the web site to the public this week, although several customers had been using it prior to then in a beta version.

Check out the site here! Note - you will need to use IE on Windows XP. We'll be adding support for other browsers and platforms in the future.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Back home with the kids

After 2 weeks in China, we're back home with the kids. Kids - plural - I'm not used to that yet! Our long flight home from Guangzhou included an unexpected overnight stay in LA, since our flight arrived in LA an hour late and we couldn't catch our connecting flight to Denver. After passing through immigration in LA, Elizabeth is now a US citizen!

Amy devised a great scheme for getting us some extra space on the plane. We knew there were about a dozen empty seats on the 777 - with 3 seats on each side, 2 aisles, and 4 seats in the middle. So we requested seats near the rear of the plane, and got the window seat and 2 aisle seats (A, C, and D), with an empty seat (B) in the middle. We were hoping, of course, that no one would take that one middle seat at the back of the plane, and we got lucky - since both the B and E seats were empty, we actually had 5 seats for the 4 of us, which meant Andrew could lay down flat on 2 seats and Elizabeth had her own seat even though we only paid for a lap ticket.

Back at home, all the grandparents have had a chance to meet their new granddaughter and we're getting over the jet lag. I've been up since 3 am.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Adjusting to a new family

After spending her first 10 and half months at the orphanage and in foster care, Elizabeth is faced with a big adjustment now. All the people and places she is familiar with will be replaced by strange new ones. The first day we had her, she was completely cheerful and smiling. By day two, though, she lost her smile and her appetite. She threw up and had diarrhea. It could be been due to food, or just physical illness, but I suspect the stress of her new reality was a big factor. Days three through five with her new family brought a gradual improvement in her mood and apetitie. On Sunday, day six, we had a bit of a breakthrough. Our room was hot and stuffy, and she seemed listless. Amy and I took Liz and Andrew to the hotel pool, and were overjoyed to discover that she loved being in the water. We set her in an inflatable floatie we brought with us, and that big smile reappeared as she floated around the kiddie pool and watched her big brother splash and play. It was fantastic to see her and Andrew playing together, too.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Elizabeth's birthplace

Today we took a 90 minute journey through the countryside of the Jiangxi province to Elizabeth's birthplace in Fuzhou (in the Linchuan district). The district is home to about 1 million people, which makes it a small city by Chinese standards. She was found as a newborn at the Hua Li restaurant, a non-descript eatery along the town's main road. A dozen or so people, including several small children, were gathered outside as our van pulled up. Foreigners like us are an extremely rare sight in a town like this, so folks were very curious to see us, and especially the little blond-haired boy, who everyone says is piao liang (beautiful). Everywhere we go, people ask about Elizabeth and what she is doing with these strange-looking foreigners. We've learned to tell them ling yang, which means adoption. Our adoption agency has a guide for us, Evelyn, who is usually with us on our outings. Repeatedly, Evelyn has translated the locals' reaction - they say that Elizabeth is lucky and will have a great life with us. It's heartwarming to know that people here understand and appreciate what we're doing.

The Hua Li restaurant in Fuzhou

Galactic Peace and Pocari Sweat

Our hotel in Nanchang is the Galactic Peace International Hotel. No kidding. Crazy name, but a really nice hotel. For about $70 per night, we have an extra large room with a larger-than-king-size bed (call it the Emperor size), huge TV, spacious bathroom, and plenty of space. Besides the nice room, it also has a nice pool, gym, and all the amenities you'd expect. The concierge will even retrieve Pizza Hut for westerners who don't want to venture out into the crowded streets.

One American family is here with their 3 and 5-year-old boys, who provided Andrew with much need playmates. We offered to take the kids to the People's Park, which is one of the nicest city parks we've seen in China. Their mom asked how we would get there, and we said "by taxi, of course." That nixed the deal. Apparently they'd been on 1 other Chinese taxi ride and the experience was too harrowing for them. It is true that the simple act of crossing the street here is a death-defying experience, and a typical cab ride will raise your blood pressure.

The Galactic Peace is near the city center, and is a popular place with adoptive parents. We're sharing the hotel with both American and Spanish groups who are here adopting. It's been good to share our experiences with others.

You might be wondering about the 2nd half of the title of this post. What is Pocari Sweat? Well, Elizabeth was sick for a day or two, and we were looking for something like Pedialite for her - electrolyte replacement. A trip to the local Wal-Mart led us to an "ion supply" drink called - you guessed it - Pocari Sweat. Sounds tasty, eh?

Wondering what Wal-Mart is like in China? Not so different the Wal-Mart experience in Lakewood, Colorado, actually. I'm one of the only people in the whole place speaking English, and everything there is made in China.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Ba Ba

Ba ba is the Chinese (Mandarin) word for "daddy". It's also the word for "poo poo". Ok, technically they are different words because they're spoken with different tones, but to tone-deaf westerners, they sure sound a lot like the same word. I guess that means I should think twice about trying to teach Elizabeth to say "ba ba" because she might think I'm issuing a command for her to do something.

Surprisingly, she's fairly well potty trained already at 11 months old. All you need to do is sit her on the baby potty and whistle, and she knows it's time to pee. If you add a carefully-toned "ba ba", she knows it's time for #2.

Her first night with us went quite well. It did take about 30 minutes of crying before she fell asleep, but we were pleasantly surprised that she slept all the way through the night; we'd been warned that she likes a midnight snack.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Presenting Elizabeth Grace Swanson

At about noon today (March 6 China time), we welcomed Elizabeth Grace into our arms and our family. She is a big girl for an 11-month old, with 4 teeth and a big smile! She will officially be our daughter a few hours from now when we sign some papers. Andrew is enjoying his new role as big brother, smothering her with gentle hugs and kisses and being very concerned when she cries.

Lousy LAX

We arrived on time at LAX, dreading the 4-hour layover until our 11:50 pm departure to Guangzhou on China Southern airlines. Since Frontier and China Southern don’t have a baggage agreement, we had to pick up our checked bags and check in again with China Southern. The long underground hallway to the baggage claim was a throw-back to the 70’s. A myriad of brightly colored tiles decorated one wall and the place is lit up bright enough to be a surgery room. The baggage claim area looked like something you’d expect to see in South America, with decades old carousels, construction, and decor. To top it off, a high-pitched whine pierced the air, apparently the result of security alarms on various doors. The whine begins when someone opens a secure door and continues long past it’s closing. After a long wait for our bags, we learned that the international terminal is a separate building and made our way there, where the official airport signs marked with “China Southern” led us through throngs of people of all nationalities – to the wrong aisle. After wandering a bit, we finally found the China Southern desk on a different aisle, surprised to see about a hundred people in line already, more than 3 hours ahead of flight time. After a long wait here, we were chosen as the lucky winners of a bonus security check of our baggage! We carted our load to yet another long line. After a few millennia in this queue, they finally deemed our lugged safe, so we could go get a bite to eat before the marathon flight across the pacific. It was about 2 and half hours since we landed! Good thing we had that long layover.

Next we passed through security on the way to our “gate”, and I use the term loosely here. The gates at LAX’s international terminal are a crowded cattle call with doors opening straight onto the tarmac, where diesel powered busses, packed almost as full as a city bus in China, haul weary passengers for about 5 minutes to odd, free-standing jetways out in the hinterlands of the airport. Finally we packed ourselves into our 3 seats in row 30 of the fully-booked Boeing 777.

Day 1 to China

It’s been a long ‘pregnancy’ - 18 monthts since we decided to adopt – but our wait is nearing an end. At 6:10 pm on Saturday, we departed DIA to Los Angeles on Frontier Airlines (with a mountain lion and her cub emblazoned on the plane’s tail). We didn’t give Andrew a nap earlier in the day, hoping he’d sleep on the flight, and he did. We’re all anxious to meet Elizabeth for the first time! Just 3 airports stand between us now: L.A., Guangzhou and (formerly known as Canton) and Nanchang, the capitol of Jiangxi province.

Friday, March 02, 2007

One way ticket from China

Tomorrow Amy, Andrew and I will board a plane for Guangzhou China. A few weeks later, our daughter Elizabeth will have a one-way ticket back to the USA. Stay tuned for updates on our journey through China.

Star Wars - the telnet text movie

The tech geeks out there will get a kick out of this one.

Open a command window (or shell, if you happen to be on *nix) and enter this command

(For the non-nerds in the audience, if you don't understand this, don't lose any sleep over it.)

Who the hell has the time to make stuff like this???