Sorry for the long pause between messages - I'll catch you up in a moment. First the big news: About ten minutes ago, about twoblocks from where I'm now sitting with a cup of mint tea listening to Chinese soft rock, John and MeiMei and JieJie and I became a forever family. It's so quick but acutely emotional. You wait a few minutes in a very unceremonious looking U.S. Consulate waiting room here on Shamian Island, then a casually dressed official comes out and asks if you swear that all the information you have given is true and accurate, we raise our right hands and say "I do", and they say congratulations, you're done!
The wave of relief that spreads throughout the room is palpable. Many hugs and congratulations followed, and then we left with Alexa, Richard's wife. She stopped briefly outside to give us our schedule for tomorrow (Safari Zoo inthe morning, get baby's visa in the afternoon) and thanked us several times for coming to China to adopt these babies. Hey, it's our pleasure.
So let me catch you up on what's happened the last couple of days. Uneventful flight from Chongqing to Guangzhou (after that earlier flight from Tokyo, that's not just a chatty statement!). We settled into our room at the lovely White Swan hotel, this time with a crib in our room. That first night we went to a Thai restaurant and had some really great food, including deep fried pumpkin with a sweet dipping sauce. MeiMei charmed the hostess out of a little jingle bell toy. She has learned that her smiling and waving and "bababa" works magic. She also loves to feel the wind (a new sensation) and holds her hands up to wave them in the Guangzhou breezes. She woke up a little scared the first night but we assured her we weren't going anywhere, and she settled back down to sleep. Last night she slept through the night. She continues to be a very even-tempered, sweet baby.
Tuesday morning we went to the pearl shop we discovered the last time and picked up a few items (I'd tell you but, Christmas, you know). Tuesday afternoon was the medical exam that's required in order to get a visa for MeiMei. It's not much of a medical exam -my shorthand for it is "ding-ding! honk-honk! Ok, baby can hear, goodbye!" The nurses who weighed and measured MeiMei (21 pounds, so she's already put on a little weight!) remarked to Richard how beautiful MeiMei is, and she certainly behaved herself too. JieJie was the same way, pretty calm and matter of fact about everything. Last night we ate traditional Chinese food at the Victory Hotel dining room here on Shamian Island. Guangzhou is famous for its restaurants, and there are a number of good ones on this little bit of land. We had lotus root stir fried with other vegetables, garlic broccoli, sesame-cashew beef, lemon chicken and some Singapore style spicy noodles with little shrimp. It was delicious.
Richard told us a joke today that reinforced the Guangzhou-as-restaurant-town idea (I might add that the Chinese equivalent of American "priest-rabbi-minister" joke seems to have three cities and their stereotypes). It goes like this: a new object is discovered and nobody knows exactly what it is, whether it's an animal, vegetable, mineral, or what. The man from Beijing says "we will study it thoroughly and classify all of its characteristics!" The man from Shanghai says "we will put it in an exhibition hall and sell tickets to see it and make lots of money!" and the man from Guangzhou says "I will figure out how to cook it!"
Just the same, I had a little indigestion this morning, maybe all the different foods that have made their way through my body in the past two weeks...John went out to get me some Pepto Bismol (we never used it last time so didn't even pack it) and came back with Chinese indigestion medicine that has a trumpet on the package. Think about that one for a moment. Anyway, I looked at the active ingredient: CREOSOTE. I'm not kidding, like the stuff they use to keep railroad ties from rotting. I still took it, and it worked pretty quickly so who am I to question medical uses of chemical wood preservatives??
Today we went to the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall which is a beautiful 4,000 seat opera house-style facility. It used to house meetings of the Kuomintang party congress and later some communist party meetings, but today is mostly home to ballet, opera and musical performances. The architecture was a beautiful mix of traditional and modern, with elements that reminded me of some famous buildings we saw in Beijing (Temple of Heaven, Forbidden City). MeiMei slept in a front-pack the whole time. We continue to be amazed that this child can fall asleep on a bus instead of screaming for 2 hours solid (we love you JieJie but sheesh!). The White Swan hotel is such a beautiful and yet totally weird place to be. Everywhere, and I mean everywhere, there are couples (mostly white, some Asian) with their new babies, all talking about how last night went, how their baby is eating, what cute outfits they found down the street, how their last trip compared to this one...and at breakfast, babies at half the tables in the huge dining room. When we were in Chongqing with our little group of 9 families, it was easy to think of ourselves as the only ones doing this. Hardly! To give you a sense of the numbers, the White Swan apparently has about 150 cribs, and often runs short, in which case they strap two armchairs together and set it up as a bed.
Oh - and we got our "Going Home Barbie" yesterday, with a Chinese baby where the purse or random fashion accessory usually is...nice thought, but pretty crass, Mattel! To the people who expend energy being offended that a toy company would try to claim a market niche in this way, I say Sell Your Barbie On Ebay. Anwyay, it's here on Shamian Island that you really get a sense of the scope of this international adoption phenomenon. The year we adopted JieJie was the first year that more than 5,000 Chinese babies were adopted byAmericans (don't forget that there are also Dutch, French, Canadian, British, Swedish, and Italian families and of course also Chinese families who adopt children here) and this year it may be close to 7,000. What will these girls have to say about all of this when they get older? Guess we'll find out!
And growing out of this trip, another adoption is already in the works. The H3s, who are in our travel group, brought a friend along, and this friend and her husband have been talking by phone about adoption--especially after we visited the orphanage and she saw how many babies are still waiting. Of course, what motivates families to adopt is hardly to complete some humanitarian mission. All of us wanted to start or add to our families. Some of us had difficulty doing it the old fashioned way. Some of us already had "homemade" children but only had boys and wanted a girl, or have philosophical reasons why they wanted to enlarge their family through adoption (why add to the world's population when there are already children here who need a family, people say).
Whatever our motivation, we always share a knowing smile when someone says "oh bless your hearts, you are so kind to do that for a child" or some other kind of nonsense. We know that it is the children who truly bless our hearts. We are so lucky to have them in our lives. Well, this is probably my last post from China because tomorrow is our last day here and we have lots of shopping to do (bargaining is the order of the day and some consider it a sport, or perhaps even an art form). I cannot wait to hold JieJie again - we have missed her so much, but have not doubted our decision for a moment. Mom says JieJie is worried that MeiMei might not like her, and that MeiMei might take her toys. Mom told her not to worry about that first part but that she will have to share her toys...at least a few of them...
Thanks for following the unfolding story of little MeiMei. I'll write again when we get home and get settled. For those of you in Minnesota, we'd love to see you at the airport 11/19 between 11 am and 1pm (we'll be coming out of customs). For those of you inVirginia, feel free to give us a call anytime the 20th or after about stopping by for a moment, but forgive us if we are completely incoherent! Wish us luck on the long flights - tsai jien (bye-bye),
MeiMei and JieJie's mom
P.S. CORRECTION: My friend Heather tells me that "ke ren" doesn't mean sick person, just guest. She pointed out that the airline probably wouldn't have said "thanks for being patient while that guy nearly died back there and that other guy spewed all over the seat."