Thursday, October 28, 2010

Our Visas; Another Family Leaving Tomorrow

Well, originally we were going to take off work tomorrow to go to Chicago to get our visas at the Chinese Consulate. You are not allowed to mail in your visa applications, so I assumed you had to go in person. Nope! You can use a courier. I found one in Channahon, Illinois called "There's Always Hope!" Denise Hope is the owner.

I nervously filled a FedEx envelope with visa applications for all 3 of us, ALL 3 of our passports, and a check for $490 ($140 per visa for the consulate, plus a courier fee of $70). The nervous part is that right now I don't have our passports in hand and that is a very insecure feeling for a control freak like me!

Anyway, I noticed while tracking it on line that the package seemed to just stop. After a few days of it not moving, I began emailing FedEx and Denise to figure out what was up. FedEx informed Denise that I had the wrong city; instead of Channahon, I had entered Wilmington. I found that somewhat easy to believe, because at the exact same time I sent that package, I sent a separate one to our adoption agency, which happens to be located in Wilmington, Delaware. China had changed the rules on something and I had to get off yet another signed letter from me & Brock.

Anyway, I was really kicking myself over such a careless mistake, because this was the ONE package I was nervous about sending. Well, once Denise finally got the package, she emailed me to let me know that *I* had written the correct city, Channahon. Whoever processed the package at FedEx, however, had entered Wilmington on the sticker that they place on the package. Obviously, they glanced at my other package, which was dropped in the box at the same time. I was quite relieved to be "off the hook", plus now I get a $24.28 credit from FedEx!

Denise took our applications to the consulate this past Monday and if I understand correctly, will pick them up tomorrow, so I should receive them some time next week (please pray that they don't get lost). We are also still awaiting the NVC Cable notification (let's us know our case has been sent to the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou).

By the way, another family adopting from LongGang (Shaling's orphanage/welfare center) is heading to China tomorrow to get their new little "ladybug". They are blogging about their journey here: I plan to follow their journey for at least the next two weeks. It won't be long before it is us heading off to China!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Final Update on Typhoon Megi (Typhoon Juan)

According to the Associated Press, the typhoon weakened and was downgraded as it hit the China coast. No deaths have been reported, but there was up to 13 inches of rain dropped on coastal villages, with extensive damage done to fishing boats & shellfish boats. Plus, more heavy rain still on the way. Over 300,000 people were evacuated and as of yesterday, authorities were still decided when it would be safe to allow people to return home.

Per wikipedia, it was the 7th costliest typhoon ever in the Philippines. When it hit the Philippines, it had become a super typhoon, but after just brushing Taiwan, it thankfully downgraded to a "Tropical Storm" by the time it hit the coastline of China.

The good news is that this means the orphanage shouldn't have been affected (at least not in a major way), though they are probably quite soggy. I am quite thankful for that!

I'm also still on a high that we received our I-800 approval on Friday. Again, that is (provisional) permission for us to classify Shaling as an immediate relative (allow her to immigrate). I had at least one question about what steps were left.

Within the next week, we should receive confirmation from the National Visa Center that our case has been cabled to the U.S. Consulate in China. Roughly two weeks after that, an Article 5 should be issued by the U.S. Consulate. An Article 5 Letter states that we are suitable adoptive parents and that our child will be allowed to enter and reside permanently in the United States.

Two or three weeks after that, the Article 5 should be delivered to the CCAA (China Center for Adoption Affairs), who sends out our Travel Approval (TA). Our Consulate Appointment (CA) will be set for about two or three weeks after our TA is issued. We will travel roughly 10 days BEFORE this appointment.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Just a Quick Note (I-800 Approval)!

We're going to be celebrating all weekend! Brock & I are marching with the alumni band at Illini Homecoming tomorrow, but most importantly, we received our I-800 approval today! This is permission from USCIS to classify Shaling as an immediate relative (which allows her to immigrate).

Two Pictures taken by NASA of the Typhoon

These are images taken by NASA. I've circled the Hong Kong/Shenzhen area in red again:

At least 150,000 people have been evacuated.

Friday Typhoon Update

The typhoon has now swept through Taiwan, killing at least 7 people. Dozens more are missing. The flooding is devastating.

Here is a link to a video on CNN of the damage:

typhoon video

Here are some quotes from an article on the damage:

* Rescuers found seven bodies at a Buddhist temple buried by a massive mudslide in the northeastern township of Suao, police said.

"We have found seven dead bodies so far, and there might be two other people trapped," said a police spokesman by phone.

Megi, rated as the strongest typhoon to hit the northwest Pacific in two decades, dumped at least 1,200 millimetres of rain in northeastern Taiwan, causing landslides in Ilan County.

* But 21 people, including 19 Chinese tourists from the southern province of Guangdong, were missing along with a tour bus they boarded on the highway, the agency said.

* He said another coach, which also carried 21 people, including 19 Chinese tourists from Beijing, was hit by a large boulder at another section of the highway, but the tourists escaped by smashing the windows and crawling out.

The Taiwan's coach driver and a female Chinese tour guide, however, were unaccounted for after the crash, Jiang noted.

Here is a satellite photo from The Weather Channel website, taken just after 10 a.m. I've circled roughly where Shenzhen City is located so you can see how close it is to Shaling.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Typhoon Update

It looks like the typhoon will actually hit shore in southern China tomorrow (Friday). It is moving at a rate of 8 m.p.h. north & northeast, but is carrying sustained winds of up to 135 m.p.h.

At least 10 people were killed in the Philippines and some are still missing. Plenty are now homeless. Based on the path of the typhoon, I don't think Shaling will see the worst of it, but flooding is a threat.

The satellite image below is from I altered it by drawing a purple circle around where Shenzhen City/Hong Kong is located. The image was accurate as of around 2:00 Central time this afternoon.

From that same website, here is a list of precautions given to people in the area. I found it interesting.

Precautionary measures urged

The Observatory also urged residents to take the following precautionary measures against Typhoon Megi:

1. People should avoid walking or working in areas exposed to gales and squalls. Drivers using highways and flyovers should be alert to violent gusts.

2. Fishing vessels not yet in typhoon shelters should seek shelter without delay. Check again that all deck fittings are firmly fastened. If available, heavy anchors should be prepared and used in addition to regular anchors.

3. Since seas are rough and there are swells , you are advised to stay away from the shoreline and not to engage in water sports.

4. Listen to radio, watch TV or browse the Hong Kong Observatory's web site for information on the tropical cyclone.

We got another letter from Shaling!

The big Chinese characters across the top of the picture say “Happy National Day, Long Sha Ling”.

The little girl holding fireworks says “so beautiful”.

The heart has two parts. The left half is a note to us and the right half is a story that she wrote. Angela (the translator) says that some parts don’t make a sentence, so the translation is a bit rough.

The note on the left half:

Daddy & Mommy,

I was so happy to see your smile in the pictures. I smile too and I am as happy as you are. I have also received two letters from you. Hope my letter makes you happy also, ok? Daddy & Mommy, I want a little bicycle. I also want to give you a gift. My gift is the letter I wrote to you. I will feel so happy as soon as I go there.

The story on the right half:

Long time ago, I grew a little tree. I thought it growing too slowly. So I just pulled them up and it grew taller. I saw a little hare running very fast. He didn’t look out his way and bumped on a tree. A man saw it and took the hare with him. He run away. I just thought a good idea. Every day I pass here when I go home. He doesn’t show his face.

A close-up of the heart:

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Typhoon Juan Headed For Shaling

I just found out this morning that there is a strong typhoon headed towards southern China. Shaling is in Shenzhen City, which is basically a suburb of Hong Kong. Typhoon Juan (international name: Typhoon Megi) started as a Tropical Depression, then became a Tropical Storm, then progressed through every category of a Typhoon, reaching the maximum Category 5 (Super Typhoon) rating just as it hit the Philippines earlier this week.

After hitting the Philippines, it downgraded all of the way to a Category 2, but is now back up to a Category 4 and headed to the east of Hong Kong. Category 4 means it is has sustained winds of 135 m.p.h. Also, the storm is supposedly much larger in size than when it hit the Philippines, so a wide area of southern China is expected to be affected. Here are some pictures of the projection of the storm’s path:

Please pray with me for not only Shaling’s safety, but the safety of all of those she knows and cares for. I pray also the welfare center in which she resides is not damaged.

Here are some links to some news stories about this typhoon:

abs-cbn news

Washington Post

Saturday, October 16, 2010

A Special Visit

Today we welcomed the soon-to-be family of one of Shaling's orphanage mates, Heng Xin (also known as Star). In these videos, Star is the one in the purple shirt (and Shaling is in the white shirt). I think you'll see that the girls seem pretty close with each other.

Shaling 2 from Amy Reynolds on Vimeo.

Shaling 1 from Amy Reynolds on Vimeo.

Shaling 7 from Amy Reynolds on Vimeo.

Star will be going to live with the Stowells in Tennessee (Chattanooga). Over the last 5 or so months, I've become friends with Tim via some social groups on Yahoo that focus on adoptive families. He and his wife Ellen adopted Tian from China about 2 1/2 years ago. She'll be 11 on December 2nd. Coincidentally, Star will be 10, also on December 2nd. Tim and Ellen adopted a son, Yu-Hsuan, from Taiwan in late February/early March of this year. He is 8-years-old (will be 9 in January).

It turns out that Tim's parents live here in Springfield (and he has a brother in the Springfield/New Berlin area as well). He came up with the kids for a few days, giving Ellen a few days "off", as she home schools the children. He and the kids came over and spent the whole afternoon with us. We went to lunch at New Buffet City (where we also met up with our Chinese teacher, James Wang), went rock climbing at The Silo in Rochester, then just hung out at the house for awhile. We truly enjoyed this visit and hope to get together again after we've both added our girls. Here are some pictures of Tian, Yu-Hsuan & Preston on our couch:

Friday, October 15, 2010

Poem for Shaling

I've tried my hand at a poem in honor of Shaling. This is a bit out of my comfort zone, but I've been itching to blog, and have no news to share. I'm expecting a receipt from U.S.C.I.S. today or tomorrow, but most importantly, their approval by the end of next week.

Here's my stab at putting some of my feelings to words:

Dear Shaling, my treasure, my precious girl
You've set my heart a flutter and awhirl

We're plowing through our paperwork with passion
Been making travel plans in grand fashion

Though this process is taking quite awhile
I'm reminded it's worth it when I see your smile

Your bedroom is painted two shades of rose
Each time I walk by it, my love for you grows

Tonight as I gaze up at the faraway moon
I'll be content to know you'll be with us soon

For the time being, we're many worlds apart
But sweet daughter, you're already in my heart

Amy Reynolds, 10-15-2010

Thursday, October 14, 2010

On November 12, In His Hands Orphan Outreach is hosting a banquet at the Firefighters Club on Lake Springfield. In His Hands helps make life better for orphans across the world by donating supplies to orphanages, providing surgery for cleft palate orphans, mentoring families who adopt orphans, and by building an orphanage.

Please prayerfully consider making a $30 donation and attending this banquet (or even sponsoring an entire table for $200). The banquet will include a meal, testimonials from adoptive families, and a musical performance. Please consider the table sponsorship even if you won't fill the table (8 tickets), as your extra tickets could be used for In His Hands to invite some local pastors to try and generate more interest in participation with the outreach program. For more information, see In His Hands Orphan Outreach.

The Starfish Poem

Once upon a time there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work.

One day he was walking along the shore. As he looked down the beach, he saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself to think of someone who would dance to the day. So he began to walk faster to catch up.

As he got closer, he saw that it was a young man and the young man wasn't dancing, but instead he was reaching down to the shore, picking up something and very gently throwing it into the ocean.

As he got closer he called out, "Good morning! What are you doing?"

The young man paused, looked up and replied, "Throwing starfish in the ocean."

"I guess I should have asked, why are you throwing starfish in the ocean?"

"The sun is up and the tide is going out. And if I don't throw them in they'll die."

"But, young man, don't you realize that there are miles and miles of beach and starfish all along it. You can't possibly make a difference!"

The young man listened politely.

Then bent down, picked up another starfish and threw it into the sea, past the breaking waves and said - "It made a difference for that one."


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Last Few Steps: I-800, NVC, Article 5, TA, CA & Gotcha!

Yesterday we received the package containing our “Letter of Seeking Confirmation” from our adoption agency. Brock and I had to both sign that “yes, we still want this specific little girl.” Then, I overnighted the original letter plus Shaling’s visa application back to our adoption agency. Plus, I overnighted our I-800 (request to classify an immigrant as an immediate relative) plus seven other documents (a financial page, a copy of the letter, our USCIS approval to adopt internationally notice, Shaling’s referral documents in both Chinese and English, a convention letter from our adoption agency, and an I-864W – affidavit of support exemption) to United States Citizenship & Immigration Services.

Today, I tracked both packages. They’ve both been successfully delivered (to Texas and Delaware).Within about two weeks, we should first receive a receipt from USCIS that they have our documents and then receive a Provisional Approval. About a week after that, the National Visa Center will confirm they have cabled our case to the U.S. Consulate in China. Roughly two weeks after that, an Article 5 should be issued by the U.S. Consulate. An Article 5 Letter states that we are suitable adoptive parents and that our child will be allowed to enter and reside permanently in the United States.

The next step is for the Article 5 to be delivered to the CCAA (China Center for Adoption Affairs), who sends out our Travel Approval (TA). This takes about two or three weeks. Next, we will have a Consulate Appointment (CA) about two or three weeks after our TA is issued.

We will travel roughly 10 days BEFORE this appointment. We will spend two weeks there, probably flying there on a Saturday and home on a Friday. “Gotcha Day” – the day we meet her – will probably take place on the Monday after we arrive. We meet her at the Civil Affairs office and sign our adoption agreement. We have to return to the Civil Affairs office the next day to register the adoption and apply for her passport, which we should be able to pick up that Friday.

On Saturday, she’ll get a TB test and medical exam and get her visa photo. We get her test result on Monday. Tuesday is her visa appointment at the U.S. Consulate and Wednesday is the big oath-taking ceremony at the U.S. Consulate (lots & lots of families do this all at once). We get her visa on Thursday and leave for home on Friday. Those are all rough estimates…some of the appointments may be a bit different.

Somewhere around the time of our Travel Approval, we also have to go to the Chinese Consulate in Chicago (in person) to get our travel visas. I also have to arrange ALL of our travel details, as my adoption agency simply connects us with a woman in Beijing that assists me with this. She only helps us with everything *in* China; in other words, I have to book our flights separately.


I just realized that the entry I posted yesterday about Shaling's birthday showed up as if it was posted on September 30. That bums me out, because even though I composed it as a draft that day, I actually posted it yesterday, ON HER BIRTHDAY. I've deleted the entry, because I didn't like it being out of order like that.

Just for posterity's sake, here are the photos that were in that entry:

Monday, October 4, 2010

What an LOA looks like

Our actual Letter of Acceptance had to be signed and notarized at our adoption agency's office, so we won't receive it until tomorrow. However, they were kind enough to scan in an image of it and email it to me. It's rather interesting to see an official document from a foreign country, so I thought I'd share it. I believe you can click on each image to enlarge it.

Friday, October 1, 2010

We got our LOA -- doin' the happy dance!

Our adoption agency emailed me after hours today to let me know that they received our LOA today. That is China's official approval that we can be Shaling's family. Our agency will forward the letter on to us. We will have to sign it and send it back to confirm that yes, we still want this specific child.

The next few steps as I understand them are:

We have to file an I-800 with U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Service. This is in order to get permission to classify Shaling as an immediate relative. Approval should come within two to three weeks.

Our I-800 will be sent to the NVC (National Visa Center), who will then send information to the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou. This will take about two weeks.

Our Article 5 will be processed. This is the U.S. informing China that they agree that we can adopt this particular child and that all Hague (international adoption) requirements are met.

After the China Center for Adoption Affairs (CCAA) receives our Article 5, we can get Travel Approval. I believe we have to go to the Chinese Consulate in Chicago to get our visas.

Our Consulate appointment will be arranged. Our travel dates will be dependent on that appointment. It will be approximately 10 days after we arrive in China (and 2 or 3 days before we leave to come home).

I think our estimate of December or January, with early January being more probable, is now pretty firm.