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Sunday

Dragon Boat Festival continues today. It’s a three-day festival that began on Saturday, and almost everyone is on holiday, which means we said goodbye to our personal space (not the last time we will do this in China)
when we visited the Forbidden City today . The palace was built in 1406 and was the home to several Chinese emperors over the course of several dynasties – the Ming to the Qing. It is beautiful, enormous and has a fascinating history – like China.

In the afternoon we took a risk-shaw tour through the old section of Beijing and visited a local family’s traditional home – with a center courtyard and living spaces and kitchen on the outer edges.The day was filled with activity, but one image stands out: Alison, Jasmine, and Sariah walking arm in arm down the streets of Beijing. For the first time that she can remember, Alison is surrounded by people and new friends who look like her. It’s beautiful to see her in the culture where she was born and I am so happy that she has returned to experience it. But when I look at her I only see Alison, despite the Chinese features. When I took a photo of her with our guide, Vivian, I had a momentary realization that there is a Chinese woman out there somewhere who has no idea that her daughter will be returning to her hometown in the next few days. Perhaps we will even pass this woman on the streets of Guiping. Alison has a family here in China. It is a sobering realization, but I wonder if she will feel it as deeply as I do. For now, she is simply happy to have new friends and be the center of attention for three weeks.

We check out of our hotel tomorrow morning and board the night train at around 9 p.m. I won’t be able to post until we are in Xi’an in two days. Until then, goodnight from Beijing.

Climbing the Wall: We Are Heroes Now

Today, we became heroes – at least according to Chairman Mao. “You are not a hero until you climb The Great Wall.” So we did. We took the left side of the wall at Badaling this time. In 2001 we took the right side. Guess what? The left side is shorter, but steeper, so we are considering ourselves superheroes.

Alison has been anticipating her Great Wall climb for years and she discovered today that, yes, you actually CLIMB up – and then back down. The incline in certain areas on the way up was so steep that we could almost touch the ground with our arms. We made it up, along with Bob, our new friend who is 65 years old and is the real superhero. He didn’t have to make the climb. The rest of his family didn’t do it. But he was determined. After congratulating ourselves, we snapped a few photos and headed back down. About halfway to the bottom, one set of stairs reminded me of a recurring nightmare where I am forced to navigate down straight down an impossibly steep staircase that has emerged from nowhere. In my dream, I always chicken out and mercifully wake up. At The Great Wall, I climbed down that impossibly steep staircase and felt victorious.

Badaling was the first section of The Great Wall opened to the public, and so it has remained one of the most popular tourist attractions. It was crowded with all ages, dressed in every form of footwear – high heels to high-top Nikes. It was hot, but not humid – a perfect day for climbing. Alison made it to the top after so many years of hearing about it. I think she felt she had missed out on the best parts of China in 2001. We are changing that on this trip.

I’m still trying to find the Facebook workaround. Hopefully I can circumvent whatever Chinese block there is. If I’m successful, I’ll really be a superhero.

Until tomorrow, goodnight from Beijing.

Everything is for the Children

Technology frustrations abound! An aside from the wonderful day we have had: China has blocked facebook and twitter, and the free WiFi in the lobby is a bit sketchy. If my writing seems choppy and full of typos, grammatical errors, or nonsensical sentences, blame it on the stress of trying to compose before the ten-minute mark is up (it kicks me off or slows waaaay down about every ten minutes). I need to learn more patience, so I’ll consider this another life lesson in…waiting.

I’ve always wanted to spend a wedding anniversary in an exotic location. So here we are, celebrating 22 years tonight in Beijing, China. It was a perfect day to remember our wedding. How could we have imagined when we were standing before family and friends what kinds of interesting roads we would walk down in two decades of marriage? It’s been quite a journey so far, and one of those roads has brought us to China with our three children.

We started our day at the CCCWA (China Center for Children’s Welfare and Adoption). This is the centralized adoption placing authority for the People’s Republic of China, and more importantly for our purposes, the people who matched Alison with our family. Someone sat in an office and looked at her photo and information, and decided that she would be paired with our dossier. She became our daughter through that mysterious red thread that binds together child and family in one moment, yet exists as a connection that has always been there. Alison was always destined to be our daughter, yet the CCCWA was the instrument that was used to complete this bond. Finally, we were able to see the offices were matches are made, and as the photo above shows, that matching process involves LOTS of paperwork. The files above are dossiers. Dillon files are always blue, so you can see a few Dillon family dossiers in the pile.

Bridges of Love Adoption Service hosts the families that come over to adopt children, and their offices are located in the CCCWA building. They were gracious hosts to us today, and arranged for the girls to do calligraphy lessons while they were visiting CCCWA/Bridges of Love. Parents were invited to participate and I quickly determined that I am pathetically challenged in the brush stroke/Chinese calligraphy department. Alison, as it turns out, is pretty good at it. The girls also received panda bears and t-shirts from Bridges of Love.

We went from there to a tea ceremony, then to paint Opera Masks at the Beijing Art Heritage Museum, then to a hot pot dinner and our anniversary celebration. Kyle surprised me with a cake, and the restaurant gave us a few small gifts and made a party out of it. I’m running out of WiFi minutes so I need to close. I’ve left out a thousand amazing details about this day, but the memories of it will stay with me (I filled up my camera card with photos and videos to make sure of it).

Please pass the word along about the blog. You can subscribe to receive the RSS feed above. I’m locked out of facebook here in China, so I can’t post links to the blog, but assuming that the WiFi holds out, I’ll keep posting on the blog.

Goodnight from Beijing!

We’re Back in Beijing!


We made it to Beijing a mere 27 hours after we left home in Tulsa. I was doing fine until I looked out the plane window and saw the smog and the city beneath it. All I could think about was how much our lives have changed since the day we flew Alison out of Beijing and home to Tulsa. I had to rustle through my backpack to find tissues and I sniffed and wiped away tears as the city came into view. I’m sure the Chinese man sitting next to me wondered why I was so sad to be landing in Beijing. Not sad; just incredibly happy and blessed to be able to return with our daughter. She is excited to be here and seems unfazed by the fact that the Chinese speak to her in Mandarin, even though she is traveling with four very Caucasian people.

We’re exhausted, but have been trekking around the city all afternoon trying to stay awake. Alison will be measured by a tailor at 6 p.m. tonight for a traditional Chinese dress. She will get to choose the fabric, and it will be fitted to her perfectly. It’s a gift from Dillon (our adoption agency), and Alison couldn’t be more excited. She’s all about dressing up, so having a dress made just for her is a perfect beginning to the trip. It will take about three days to make, and will be ready for us when we leave on Monday evening to take the overnight train to Xi’an.

I always wanted to spend my wedding anniversary somewhere exotic. Tomorrow Kyle and I will celebrate 22 years of marriage here in Beijing with our three children. I can’t imagine anything better.

Alison’s Birth Country: We’re Almost There

Colin, Erin, and Lisa – November, 2001

I am writing this on the plane, over the ocean headed to Seoul Korea, and then on to Beijing. I have slept for the past six hours in various positions: head resting on the tray table, curled in a fetal position, stretched out with a neck pillow and head bobbing forward. Colin hasn’t moved for the past few hours. Erin is up now, watching Modern Family on her laptop. Kyle is sitting straight up sleeping, and Alison is rolled in a ball beside me looking completely uncomfortable but she is also completely asleep. Her legs will probably be numb when she wakes up.

I remember a flight very different from this almost ten years ago. Instead of college-aged kids, we had elementary school-aged children. Colin and Erin were nine and ten years old. They were traveling with us because we wanted to meet Alison and receive her into our family together. Kyle and I traveling to China to adopt her without her siblings just didn’t seem right. We flew China Air on a “double-decker” plane with very few passengers. The kids were able to stretch out on the floor after we gave them a dose of Benadryl. That seems odd now. I suppose we were concerned that they wouldn’t sleep. Of course they would have slept. Kids sleep when they are tired. At age 45, I know this now. At age 35, I guess I wasn’t so sure. On that China Air flight, we experienced the aroma of cigarette smoke on landing and take-off. The pilots never smoked during flight – perhaps the more challenging aspects of piloting a plane necessitated a calming cigarette. I remember little about the flight. In fact, I remember only highlighted moments of that trip – and even some of the photos leave me wondering where they were taken and what we were doing. I didn’t journal because I was too preoccupied with receiving our baby and getting to know her. It would have been a wonderful time, however, to record those thoughts, experiences, places, and people that we encountered on the trip.

I am realizing that life passes quickly, and moments are easily forgotten. I always vow to do better and take more photos and write down what will later become memories. But I’m lazy. So here I begin a journal on our first moments of the trip. Unlike 10 years ago, I have more technical methods of writing. In addition to a pen and journal, I have an IPad. At night, this is my preferred way of reflecting on the day. My dear friend Jan gave me a beautiful journal. In fact, she gave one to everyone in the family and  I will use mine when we’re out and about during the day, something I did not do ten years ago. I was carrying a baby and completely overwhelmed by the complicated, beautiful, and fascinating place where our daughter was born.

We took Alison out of her birth country at dusk on a Wednesday evening in November, 2001. We will return to China with her on a Wednesday morning in June, 2011 – in about five hours. The significance of this is not small. She is now ten years old, becoming a young lady, and fully and completely westernized. Most importantly, she is a part of our family. She is a Tresch.

So the five of us return together for Alison, but also for us. We need to come back to remember those fourteen days when we our family became complete. We need the realization of how time has passed, how we have grown – together and separately. We need to reminder that when life gets confusing and begins to swirl around us, we have a family that has been put together by God. He has given us a treasured blessing in one another. It’s easy to forget, but this time, we return to China to remember.

The Red Couch

In the banner above, the babies on the red couch are eight of the nine who were adopted by the families we traveled with in 2001. Jamie isn’t on the couch, and I’m not sure why. Alison is on the far right, perhaps looking for someone to come comfort her sweet friend Chloe. Photographing adopted Chinese babies on the red couch at the White Swan Hotel in Guangzhou is tradition. Everyone who adopts must pass through the port city to finalize the adoption through the U.S. Consulate and most families stay at the White Swan Hotel. The Red Couch photo is a must, but getting those babies to sit happily while we took their picture was a long process for both parents and babies. We did the best we could, but several of the girls were NOT in favor of this beloved tradition. Hence the sad faces. We tried several times on different days, but they didn’t like the red couch. In the post photo, Alison is in the denim jumper, fourth from the left. Once again, she looks as if she would like to help.

I hope to get a photo of ten year-old Alison on the Red Couch since, once again, we will stay at the White Swan on our way out of China. We’ll miss these eight little girls, who are now young ladies. They will sit with Alison in spirit as she takes her photo once again on the Red Couch in Guangzhou.