On the morning of the arranged visit we got up early, got all the kids ready, hurried down to breakfast, and just as we were about to leave our agency called to tell us we couldn't go with the group. Because Joshua had turned 14 years old we had to go to the US Consulate to have him fingerprinted. We were all so angry!
Aside from the fact we had looked forward to going to the safari park for many months and our children were greatly excited about it and eager to leave, the fact Joshua had to be fingerprinted really annoyed us. He was an 80 pound child, our legal son who would become a US citizen instantly upon arrival in the US. However, because he had turned 14 (according to a completely made up and possibly very inaccurate birthdate) he had to be fingerprinted. Why did our completely innocent CHILD, a US citizen, have to be fingerprinted like a common criminal? Just one more way out of many our adopted children are treated unfairly by the US government.
In the end our agency arranged for us to go to the safari park on another day. It ended up being a great trip. Although we had to pay extra for transportation since the cost wasn't split among a bunch of families, it was really nice to be there on our own. We were able to spend as much time as we wanted in the places that most interested us, relax when we wanted to, and enjoy the day with our kids. Although socialization with other adoptive families can be enjoyable, going on our own allowed us to have a great time bonding with our kids.
The park itself is an AMAZING place - no wonder they say it is the biggest and best animal park in all of Asia! The sheer number and variety of animals was unbelievable. There were many rare and endangered species. There was a "safari-on-wheels" ride throughout part of the park that brought us up close to all kinds of animals - some came up close enough to touch them. There were even animals like white tigers, bears, lions, white rhinos, and elephants along the way, as well as countless other animals. We traveled through an African savannah, Asian fields, and a predator area. It was unbelievable to see hundreds of species in such an enormous and well-maintained setting. After the safari-on-wheels we spent many hours exploring the rest of the park. The kids were able to feed several different kinds of animals including monkeys, elephants, and giraffes. There was an animal nursery with many different species of animal babies. The white tiger babies were beautiful, and the monkey babies were adorable. Some were so tiny they were even in an incubator. There were animal shows, and many chances to interact with animals up close. Obviously the pandas were really neat to see, and the koala bears were really cute, but Caleb's favorite were the elephants!
Ever since Caleb was a baby his favorite lovey has been a blue stuffed elephant, his "Reagan" (named after Ronald Reagan!). I used to hold it along with him when he was an infant and I would nurse him so he would have something comforting to hold when I was busy. He became so attached to his elephant it went everywhere with him. Reagan has been all the way to Siberia twice, to India, and now to China. Thankfully I bought many spares in case the original got lost, but at some point along the way Caleb found the spare ones so that now he has 5 Reagans. They are all important to him, but by far the "dirty Reagan" is his favorite one. It's called the "dirty Reagan" because even after being washed it has a stain on the back of his head, and because it is so worn out from so much loving it rarely gets washed anymore (even though I wash it very delicately I'm not sure how many more washings it can tolerate). Because of his special Reagan, Caleb has always loved elephants. Needless to say, he had a great time at the safari park! Not only did he get to see elephants up close and watch an elephant show, he got to pet them, feed them, and even ride one! For Caleb that was definitely one of the most memorable moments of our whole trip to China!
|There were a lot of white tigers in the park. These were some we saw on the safari-on-wheels.|
|This picture was taken with the cheap camera I bought for the kids, not with a zoom lens. The safari-on-wheels really gets you CLOSE to the animals, sometimes even close enough to touch!|
|I got just a little nervous when these animals started running towards us!|
|Getting sleepy, thus the sad look.|
|Such a precious little angel!|
|Caleb's first glimpse of elephants was along the safari ride.|
|Next time we saw elephants he got to feed them bananas.|
|Caleb loved seeing the baby elephants with their mommies!|
|Caleb and his beloved Reagan pose with the elephants.|
|The kids really enjoyed the elephant show.|
|Watching the elephant show.|
|The ride of a lifetime!!!|
|Caleb GREATLY enjoyed the ride. Malachi liked the "driver" because he hadn't seen any other dark people the whole time we were in China except for a couple of other Indian people we saw at our hotel in Beijing.|
|Petting a baby elephant!|
|A very happy Caleb with his special little Reagan and a real baby elephant!|
|The end of a VERY HAPPY day!!!|