Tracking Wolves

Until Alaska, this is how I saw the wolf. Sweet and Dog-like. You really can’t blame me. I live in Kentucky so the likelihood of seeing a wolf in the wild is about the same as getting struck by lightning three times while riding a unicycle.

So when my brother-in-law asked me if I would like to track wolves with him, I flipped out. I have been passionate about wolves since grade school but never believed I would see them in the wild.

Dave is a biologist for Alaska’s Department of Fish and Game. His JOB is to track, tag and study wolves, bears and lynx…to name a few. He cautioned me by saying there was no guarantee we would see anything, but he may as well have been speaking Tsimshian. I was going to track wolves! Holy s@&#! That’s something you see in movies not in real, everyday, middle-age guy life. Needless to say I was jacked. Not pumped up or missing teeth, just real happy. I always liked Dave but now I worship the man. The dude knows his stuff and opened a door for me that few are allowed to pass through.

What follows is our wolf tracking experiences during my trip to Alaska.


Mom, Nate and I are home. You can tell by the lack of adjectives that I’m spent. I forgot how much this final leg of the trip takes out of you. To give you an idea of what we went through, here’s an airline list that I kept handy on my phone:


(8am departure from Guangzhou)

DL 7834 arrives 11:15 am in Beijing (5 hr 20 min layover)

PEK to DTW DL 188 

(4:35 pm departure from Beijing)

DL 188 arrives 6:02 pm in Detroit (US time) (4 hr layover)

DTW to SDF DL 3460 

(10:02 pm departure from Detroit )

DL 3460 arrives in Louisville 11:20 pm

This time around went much smoother once we were in the states. I forgot the process but basically we needed to go through immigration, customs and security…not necessarily in that order. It took a few hours, but wasn’t as nerve racking as New York with Olivia. The crew in Detroit was very accommodating and took us right away. I had some reservations giving up his immigration packet. This folder ensures that Nate is a US citizen and was given to us in Guangzhou by the US Embassy. We were all told NOT to open the packet or else the forms would not be valid. I guarded it with my life all the way from China to America. One unfortunate family opened the pack and was sent back to Guangzhou to redo the paperwork. 

That would suck beyond measure. 

Anyways. ..we made it back. It was a gruelling day of travel, but Nate did wonderfully. 

Afterwords, mom and I were talking about how rough the trip home was. I told her that after our last trip, Reece and I couldn’t fathom doing it all over. Without missing a beat, mom said,

I’d do it again

I couldn’t believe my ears! Mom went through so much this trip, yet was ready to do it all again, if need be. It just shows how lucky I am. To be blessed with a mom like this and a beautiful family is more than anyone could ask for.

Thank you for following along. 


I lost it. It wasn’t that big a deal, but after 2 weeks in China, I’m through. We met some wonderful people  (Grace for instance) and I respect the culture, but after being pushed in front of, questioned and not understood for 14 days, I finally have had enough. 

I think being the person in charge also has weighed on me. I’m good at being in charge, but I don’t like it. 

I’m sitting in a plane, ready to leave Guangzhou for Beijing and the whole situation has gone fine. One bump was that we may need to recheck our luggage in when we reach Beijing. No problem….we have  a 5 hour layover so plenty of time to figure things out. But I can’t help but be on edge until we’ve reached the states. The whole language barrier is huge…even in an international place like Guangzhou and Beijing. I’m holding it together though. I have no choice. 

Gearing Up

It’s our last day in Guangzhou so please excuse me for not having many pics to share. It was the only time where we could sleep in with the rest of the day meant to relax and prepare for our travel home. 

Guangzhou is a pretty cool place to visit unless you’re trying to cross a street with a stroller and your mom. It was rainy, but we still ventured out to the Aeon building in search of their play room. We found it…and it was the perfect place for Nate. It’s meant for younger kiddos with padded floors and slides, but for Nathan, it was a perfect place to test out his skills. 

After waching him climb up a set of steps without help, I am convinced that this little guy will walk someday. That’s a far cry from where I started last week…and maybe I’m losing perspective, but to see him bounding around the play area today was pure joy. 

After meeting Grace for our paperwork and packing, the three of us had a nice dinner at the Paddy Field. For Americans (at least the ones I’ve met here) this place is the closest to Western food that you’ll find in Guangzhou.  

It turned out that we were the only ones in the place. Great meal and awesome way to end our trip. See you in Cincy!


Today we traveled to the American Embassy to begin the process of Nathan becoming a US citizen. 

There’s no electronics allowed in the Embassy so no pics. Everything was pretty much the same as with Olivia except she ran around the room while Nate spent most of the time in a play house. There was ALOT of kids and their parents flying around with one crummy play house and some wooden bead toys. I presented our documents and was interviewed by two ladies who worked for the Embassy. Finally, I swore an oath to uphold my duties as an adopting parent. 
Afterwards, mom and I went searching for the Aeon building. Apparently there’s an indoor play area there so we decided to find it. After asking a few families, Bill (our bud) suggested that I use Google maps to track it down. It worked! We were walking down the streets of Guangzhou in no time. 
On a normal day, we would have eaten then spent the rest of our time playing with Nate. But this trip has been anything but normal. During lunch, mom cut herself on a glass, giving her a nice gash on her right forearm. I had been dealing with Nate when this all went down and still don’t know how it happened. Two waiters helped us with a makeshift bandage to stop the bleeding. 

Mom didn’t want to go…I didn’t want to go…but we all were headed to the emergency room. 

At first our waitress lead us to a health care facility, maybe an urgent care? The lady in the window informed us that they wouldn’t be open for another 45 minutes. She looked half nuts if you want to know the truth, so I decide to call our guide Grace. She related some info to our waitress (who was sweet enough to stay with us at this Chinese doc in box) and within minutes we were headed to Guangzhou Medical Center via cab. 

Most things aren’t what you picture them. Reality is either better or worse than what you can imagine in your head. I’ve always held a picture of a Chinese ER. It’s chaotic and dingy and…I don’t know….Socialistic looking.

So what do you think? Was I near the mark?

When we first arrived at the ER, nobody even looked at us. We stood at the front desk for 10 minutes and you would have though we were invisible. After Grace arrived, everything changed. She was such a blessing on this unusual day. If it were not for her, mom and I may still be at that depressing place. Instead, Grace took charge and got mom seen right away. 

It took one stitch (without anesthesia) to close the wound, but then after a few tests, mom had to get some sort of blood test and a shot. We still don’t know what they gave the old girl but it all worked out because of Grace. God’s Grace and our guide Grace. 

2 more days. 

Crazy Park

Ahhhh…Safari Park. The only place where you could conceivably be mauled by a tiger or trampled by a hippo for the price of admission. 

This time around was different. We didn’t go on a tram tour through herds of zebras or caribou and the tigers were all behind stone enclosures. 

Today’s trip to the world’s craziest zoo was more chill. Nate had just finished emptying his stomach all over me and the van when we arrived so a tram sounded too much for him. Poor guy has severe motion sickness and the 50 minute bus trip from our hotel to the park was just too much. I knew about his condition, but he’s done so well this whole trip that I skipped his daily dose of Dramamine…and I’ll never do that again. 

As you can see below, Nate recovered well but we still decided to take things slow.

In fact our only mission was to see the panda exhibit….a quest that took us nearly the whole time we were there (4 hours ). On our way to the pandas, we ran into some birds….

…and  Noah’s ark…just kidding. I had to take a picture of this which sums up Safari Park perfectly. WTF? I know I use that acronym? phrase? what do the kids call those short cuts used in texts these days anyways?  

We made it to the pandas. Most of them were like this fella…sleeping with their butts to us. Coincidence?  I think not. I would guess they were protesting being locked up but what do I know? Either way, Nate didn’t seem to care.

Here’s Nate and Grandma. My mom hates getting her picture taken. I never knew that until this trip. So the next time she complains about us (the family) never having a picture of her, I have some ammo.

We are lucky to have paired with this family. That’s Bill, Laura and Ki Po. Bill is Laura’s dad so we all have a lot in common. He took me on a trip to the supermarket the other night. He’s big on exploring so it was cool to follow his lead. I’ve mooched a blanket, Dramamine, some wipes,  water and a tip for our bus driver from them. Who knows what they think of all that, but I’m liking the relationship.

Another day down, three to go.

Shamain Island 

It’s been rainy here all week, but that didn’t stop our group from going to Shamain Island. I recall Shamain from our last trip, but like everything else thus far, this time around was different. Mom and I decided to eat lunch with another family before looking around which left very little time to shop. Somehow I was able to fit it all in and can proudly say that I am done shopping for the trip. 

I had a few spare moments to explore the Island, so here are pics of areas I had never seen before. 

Another tradition of sorts is going to the Pearl Market. We traveled with four other families bur somehow our guide, Grace managed to get everyone taken care of.

Pretty laid back day as far as Guangzhou goes. Met some great families and actually went shopping three times which is a record for me. Chen Chen continues to bond well. I can tell this because he’sdoing some typical kiddo things like 1) testing his boundaries  (i.e. not giving me the remote control back until I pry it from his skinny hands) 2) interrupting me when I’m talking to other adults, 3) whining and sulking when he doesn’t get his way, 4) getting mad when I correct him (he refused to kiss me after I stopped him from spitting). But I don’t want to make it seem all bad….far from it. I see this all (as annoying as whining can be) as progress. Nate is able to form bonds, which is a blessing…and I am a blessed man.


Leaving Nanjing was not bitter at all…it was all sweet. Mom and I had walked around that block surrounding the hotel and dodged mopads for 5 days and it was time to go. Here’s a pic of Denise our guide and Sophia, one of the few English speakers at the Mandarin Hotel.

Sophia helped us one night with ordering room service. Mom and I wandered into the hotel restaurant and kindly walked back out once we saw the entrees. Anything that scares me away is pretty bad so you can imagine what was on that menu. Anyways, after that night, she was always there to lend a hand. 

I can’t explain it really, but in most ways, this trip has been easy. Nate is a sweet, easygoing dude and the entire process has been relatively smooth. However, there have been numerous challenges. 

Take Nanjing airport for example: when we arrived it looked like a decent airport…nothing too bad. (See top photo). Then we went down the escalator from hell and ended up here—

At least I discovered this sign which brought humor to the situation. These crappy translations crack me up.

Getting on the plane was rough. We boarded directly from the tarmac so had to stand in line, squeeze into a bus, drive for 5 minutes before walking up a steep set of steps. Somehow I managed to carry two carry ons and Nate up the steps and into the plane…thanks be to God!
Once in Guangzhou, the humidity nearly drowned us. Perhaps the fact that the airline crew failed to provide our stroller added to the steam. As a result, I had to carry Nate a quarter mile to baggage claim. The kicker is, 100 feet from the claim area I put him on my shoulders and he was able to balance while holding my hands. I never thought the kid could manage that but now know better. Here he is in the garden hotel lobby. The set up behind him is changed every two weeks and is made completely of flowers. 

So today was Nate’s physical. I was stressing a bit because last time with Olivia was a crazy mess. But as you can see, things were much calmer this time around. 

Nate was given a more thorough physical which included this weird eye exam. It was a good concept, but not appropriate for a kiddo with cerebral palsy. I’ll explain it to anyone interested in listening when you see me, but suffice to say we (Americans) have the best health care in the world. 

Nate did well. He didn’t like the blood draw (of course ) but held it together. Afterwards we headed to the hotel play room where he mixed it up with some kiddos from an adopting family. I can’t wait for him to meet Ellie,  Mitch, and Olivia. 

It was a good first day in Guangzhou. The only bad thing came when we tried to find a supermarket to purchase a few pints of bottled water. The hotel workers here are usually great at speaking English so when one of the ladies wrote an address down in Chinese characters, I thought we were in good shape. Just show the address to a few Chinese patrons and we’re set right?


What followed was a 45 minute walk through accessible areas like this. Hey, at least they had a ramp. 

In the end after weaving our way through crowds, dodging speeding traffic and pestering 4 locals mom, Nate and I ended up at a local Chinese restaurant. WTF? 

I guess that’s why the hotel lady asked me “Is Chinese okay?” I didn’t get the comment and just figured she meant Chinese bottled water. She meant food. 

Crap. Lesson learned. 

But any day is a great one when you have this to go home with.


I am such a lucky man. I have been blessed with so much that it’s overwhelming at times. I was laying in bed last night, watching Terminator Genisys when it hit me…. My mom took a chance coming with me on this trip. (I know…weird…why Terminator brought this out I’ll never know).

She has two artificial knees, constant sciatic pain, arthritis…yet when I asked her to come with me, she didn’t even blink. 

My mom’s a tough gal. She will never tell you that she’s hurting, but I know this trip has tested her. Every morning (about 3 am) she’s up putting on her E-stim unit to help with her back pain. It doesn’t help that beds here are one step above a brick mattress. 

We’ve walked every bit of 20 miles so far. Each day seems like one long walk over uneven terrain. China isn’t set up for people with mobility issues…but mom has done beautifully. 

I love her with all my heart…but I love her even more now. I couldn’t do this without her. If she weren’t here (which is what I considered in the beginning) Chen Chen would need to be with me ALL THE TIME. At least I get 30 minutes here, 15 there to decompress, vent, gather myself, dump for Christ sakes! 

Mom isn’t one to take compliments,  so that’s why I wrote this. I just want her to know how much she means to me. Her love can never truly be repaid…but I’m willing to try. 

I love you mom!

Home Sick

We’re a week in and I’m ready to be back home. Everything has turned out well, with Nate and I securing a strong bond, but I can’t wait to get him back to the states. 

Nate wasn’t much into sitting today. I found out how stubborn he could get when he kept arching and trying to escape the stroller no matter what anyone said to him. The above picture pretty much summed up his morning but I was able to get him through the activities with some peanut butter crackers,  fruit snacks and a toy fan. Not too bad considering I was about to suggest we call the tours off. We toured a garden home of a Nanjing warlord. It reminded me of the gardens in the Forbidden City only on a much smaller scale. 

It was a rough going with our chintzy stroller. There were obstacles everywhere and a paved path was about as common as sunburn around here. (Everyone wants to be fair skinned in China…totally opposite of the states).

Here’s the typical path…actually this is mild compared to the majority of our travels. It’s a stone rendering of a bat, but you know that right?

Like I said last time in Beijing, I could take pictures of this stuff all day long. 

We ended the morning shopping. I thought it was supposed to be a Confucius temple, and it was but not the way I pictured it.

Mom wanted noodles so here are Nate and I putting some down. Can you believe that I taught him how to use chop sticks? 

Tomorrow it’s onto Guangzhou. One week down…one to go!

(On a side note…pictures have been hard to download. I’ll will try to upload them as I go.)