Thursday, November 02, 2006

Eling Park, Chongqing

Wow, what a wonderful day we've had. We woke up refreshed this morning, having slept til about 7am. MeiMei never wakes up in the middle of the night needing to be fed or changed so we are all getting plenty of rest. Some other families with younger babies are a bit more fatigued in the morning but everyone (knock on wood) is still healthy and doing well.

We met Richard in the lobby this morning at 10am for the day's outing. Seven of the nine families went on this trip to Eling Park. From our hotel window we can see the tall pagoda of Eling Park, which is lit up beautifully at night. The park is mostly impressive formations of potted chrysanthemums in many different colors, plus permanent plantings of bamboo and trees. Some plants have been shaped to look like dragons or fountains - so beautiful and festive. There is also a pond and some interconnected pavilions - it would be a peaceful place to read or just sit and think. MeiMei thought it was a perfect place to take a nap in my arms - not that I minded!

From the park's edges, which skirt a cliff overlooking the Jialing River, we were able to see everything from traditional-style courtyard houses (many of which are falling down and won't be repaired, certainly a high-rise apartment building will soon take their place) to riverboats and across the river construction, construction, construction. The manager of our hotel thinks that the next population count may list Chongqing as the largest city in China. I'd believe it. At Eling Park, I heard a little boy say to his grandmother "Ni kan! Waiguoren!" (look, foreigners!) and then in a proud voice, with his grandmother watching, he said "Hello!" and we said hello back. Heand his two little friends got very interested in MeiMei and were asking whether she was a boy or a girl (her short hair has caused many people to ask this question - I've learned to listen for it) along with some other things. We asked them to sit with us for a photo. Then we came to a courtyard where people were drinking tea, children from a kindergarten were having a picnic lunch outside on some stone tables, old folks were playing mah jongg, and a tour group of older Chinese people was strolling along. When the tourists saw MeiMei and the other babies in our group, they were so excited and all started playing with the babies, chucking them under the chin and talking to them, clapping their hands. I let one woman hold MeiMei for a little while. In China, people frequently ask to hold or play with your baby and while last time around it took some getting used to, now I look forward to the opportunity to share goodwill this way.

We came back to the hotel and sacked out. Before we knew it, our friend Can's parents, Mr. and Mrs. Deng, arrived from Chengdu. They had driven four hours to have dinner with us - we were so glad to see them and so happy they were able to make the trip. Their driver actually hired a taxi to lead their car to the hotel because the city has changed so much, they didn't want to get lost. We exchanged gifts in our hotel room before going across the street to the Yangtze Island Club for the most delicious dinner we've had since coming here. Our facilitator, Richard, had agreed to translate--totally above and beyond the call of duty. Mr. Deng asked the restaurant to seat us in a private room, so we had our own beautifully appointed dining room and our own waitresses for the evening. We had so much food - two different beef dishes, lobster,shrimp, a cold chicken plate, fried chicken knuckles (like crunchy buffalo wings), pig ears and vegetables (tastes like bacon), bokchoi, greens, broccoli, peanuts, spicy tofu, chicken and rice soup, pickles, cucumbers, and a big platter of fruit for dessert, with the rind of the watermelon shaped to look like a swan.

Then Can's dad broke out the bai jiu (white liquor) which is strong tasting stuff served in little shotglass size cups. We toasted to China, we toasted to friendship, we toasted to Can, we toasted to their return to visit us in Virginia, we toasted to our someday visiting Chengdu...we were toasted! We had a great time with them and they were enthralled with MeiMei. She warmed up to them too and let them hold her.We said goodnight and promised to keep in touch. Can, your parents say hello. Just think, MeiMei met your parents before she met you! When we got back to our room, my folks called and JieJie got to talkto MeiMei, who pretty much still just says "ba" but it's the thought that counts. JieJie's doing ok but definitely misses us and I'm glad we'll be home a week from today.

Tomorrow we will go to Liangping and see the orphanage as well as the town/city and some of the surrounding area. We should have alot to say about that - it's one of the most important days of the trip. Some people wonder whether it's a good idea to take the babies along when visiting the orphanage - they're fine. They knowwho their parents are by this time, they don't get confused ordistressed. With JieJie her response was "yeah, I know this place, so what?" As Richard said, yes, you could go back later in the child's life, but the facility may have moved, the director and staff could be is the time to take pictures, meet administrators and caregivers, take pictures of finding locations (we will try to visit as many as possible) and get a feel for the place. There were a couple of families who earlier in the week were a bit leery of making the trip but I think everyone is going to go, and I know they'll be glad they did. This whole issue of how these girls came to be our daughters is a complicated one, and tomorrow we will have that much more of an understanding of some of the circumstances.

Richard says the Chinese talk about "yuan" which is kind of like fate or destiny but he says there's really no English equivalent. He said it's like when you meet your spouse, out of all the people in the world you somehow find that one person, maybe you didn't even know that's who you were looking for, and then you fall in love and are married and it's yuan. He said "out of all the things that have happened to you and to your daughter in her life so far, you are together now and she is your daughter, not any other baby but this baby. And that's yuan."

More tomorrow after Liangping,

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