Saturday, May 17, 2008

Watching the Euro

We continue to watch news from China and encourage readers to donate to Half the Sky Foundation's Earthquake Relief Fund.--LG

We're in that end-of-the-public-school-year busy time right now, with dance recitals, farewell picnics, and pool openings right around the corner. Much to do before we head to the airport in mid-June. Still, the planning phase is over. We know where we'll be on which days and we have even reserved our rental car for our little excursion to the Rhine Valley. We'll be picking up our little VW Golf (or similar model) at Europcar on Plantin en Morituslei in Antwerp, which is just a bit further past the girls' school.

What we are doing in the next month or so is watching the dollar-to-euro exchange rate. The worst it's been so far is $1.60/EUR 1.00. Right now it's 1.55/1. When we were in Antwerp in 2007, it was about 1.33/1 for most of that time. One of the choices we had when booking hostels and rental cars and looking at train tickets was whether to pre-pay or hold off. My friend P, who is a financial analyst in Manhattan, said hold off, since the Fed isn't going to lower interest rates any further so things should stabilize. Today's International Herald Tribune reported a slight spike in the euro because of oil prices.

Dare I hope that we could be looking at 1.50/1 a month from now? Please???


Friday, May 16, 2008

Word from Liangping SWI

The Liangping parents' list just got an email directly from the orphanage. It sounds as though some kind of retaining wall or exterior wall in a courtyard collapsed, but the buildings themselves have only minor cracks in the walls. They are all thankful that the people are ok. A bit of good news in the midst of so much bad.


Thursday, May 15, 2008

More Liangping Photos

In case other Liangping parents or extended family are interested, there are more photos here
of the school in Liangping, and also of some of the children from Liangping. LG

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Earthquakes Hit Close to Home

We are glued to the news about the earthquakes in China. JieJie is from Fuling, Chongqing, and MeiMei is from Liangping, Chongqing. Via e-lists of parents who have adopted from these two cities' orphanages, I was able to find out that both places suffered damage, Liangping worse than Fuling.

The Fuling Social Welfare Institute (Fuling SWI) is currently raising funds to finish building its new facility, and hasn't moved into the new building yet. Director Yang said that she is distressed by cracks in the walls of the new building, and that construction may now be delayed, who knows by how much. Still, the current facility is undamaged as far as anyone can tell, which is lucky, and there were no reports of injuries to the staff or residents there.

In Liangping, things aren't so sunny. We have learned that the Liangping SWI itself is intact, and there were no reports of injuries to the staff or residents (which include children and elderly people as well). Still, there have been fatalities, including children, in Liangping County, which is a very rural county of about 800,000 people. The picture above is of the primary school in Liangping, where four children lost their lives.

If you would like to donate funds to be used specifically for earthquake relief at other orphanages more seriously affected by this disaster, I recommend Half the Sky Foundation, run by an amazing fellow adoptive mom named Jenny Bowen and many dedicated volunteers. Those of us in the China adoption community are used to the word "orphan" being somewhat of a euphemism, a legalism for a child who was abandoned and whose parents cannot be or do not wish to be located (but are presumed alive). The sad fact is that there will be more orphans as a result of this earthquake, and the orphanages in the hardest-hit areas will need resources in the coming days and weeks in order to save lives.

JieJie and MeiMei know that there has been an earthquake and that buildings have fallen down, but we have tried to shield them from too much information while they are so little. We hope and pray that their birth families, wherever they are, came through this ok.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


Just a little over a month til we depart for Antwerp, our favorite home away from home!

We have confirmed reservations at hostels in Cologne (Koln), Koblenz, and Trier. And we have learned not to wait til May to book a hostel for June. Let this be a lesson to you. This was a little more nip-and-tuck than I would have liked.

BTW, two sites were muy helpful in this quest: showed rooms available at our Koblenz choice even when orbitz, hotwire, and expedia all said "no rooms available." And how did I search all of those different sites simultaneously? was a fantastic resource.

Where are we staying, you ask? You'll be able to read reviews and see photos after we've been & gone. This is the Internet, after all.

We have also decided, after researching both rail and car rental options, that a car rental makes the most sense logistically and financially. I love train travel because we can really be with the girls and experience things with them in a way that cars don't allow (and because they have bathrooms on board!). JieJie says "I love trains because they come around with the snack cart!" but the difference in price was pretty staggering. We're going to rent through, which was the same outfit we used last year to rent a car at the Costa del Sol.

Gosh...I think we're all set to go! Now we just need to pin down when/how we can see our friends in The Netherlands and that'll be it.

You can search FTJ for past posts, e.g. China info...