Thursday, November 02, 2006

Last night in Chongqing

Today was a day to rest after our big trip to Liangping yesterday. We woke up at 8am, the latest we've slept here. Wandered down to breakfast and decided to try John's breakfast, since I've tried American, European, Chinese and Japanese breakfast. John has bacon, fried noodles and lots of stir-fried green beans. It was delicious! I also like to get a plate of "dragon fruit" (like a mild kiwi, white with seeds throughout) with some homemade yogurt and crushed walnuts on top. I swear, you could eat breakfast here for a couple of months before you repeated yourself exactly. After breakfast we went with the H2's, a family who lives in HongKong doing mission-related work, to the Metropolitan Plaza mall (our third trip there). We returned some booties that are too small for MeiMei and then we went to a big store called Children's World. It's several floors of clothes, books and toys for infants-kids and it's so much fun to shop there. We got JieJie some special treats and got some simple "books" for MeiMei to look at on plane flights. We wandered back through Liberation Square, a huge pedestrian mall that would be like if you closed New York's Times Square to traffic. Lots of people stopped to look at these two families with their three Chinese children, and we continued to hear people say "hao guai zi" as they chucked MeiMei on the cheeks (very beautiful!). We had some time to kill before the Holiday Inn shuttle bus arrived, so we went to a food court and got ice cream and egg rolls, also I got a coffee drink that had some cocunut ice cream floating in it. Yum. Within sight of the food court: an ice skating rink! I promised MeiMei I'd teach her and JieJie how to skate when they get older.

The shuttle bus arrived and we hopped on. Dad asked tonight on the phone whether we have child seats when we get driven places. No. We hold MeiMei on our laps and hope the driver knows what he's doing. It doesn't bother me. I do remember though how hard it was to get JieJie into her car seat when we came home in 2002 - she was so used to being held in our laps and didn't like the restraints.

This afternoon we had a paperwork meeting in our facilitator's room. There are a number of documents required to apply for MeiMei's visa from the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou, and now that we have MeiMei's Chinese passport, we had all the ingredients we needed to fill out all that paper. We were so out of it by the end, the liquid paper was flowing. You fill out that many forms, you forget your name after a while. At one point, we had a break and several of us discussed the conditions at the orphanage yesterday. We agreed that it was, for all its spartan-ness, homey and cozy in the important ways. We were all glad we went, and for some people pieces of their personal puzzles were provided, just things about their babies that they got some context for.

We finished paperworkand made final plans for tomorrow, when we check out of the hotel and fly to Guangzhou, the first plane flight for our new daughters. Tomorrow night we'll be back at the White Swan - it seems like forever since we left--weird, because when you think about it, MeiMei was spending her last night in Liangping a week ago tonight. Well, MeiMei continued her mission today: working on walking. For days she has been driven to push herself to standing and try to get around on two feet holding onto people, walls, tables, or whatever else will stand still and hold her up. We walked around the mall,we walked in the hotel lobby, we walked around the restaurant at dinner tonight. When we got back from dinner, she was playing with a few "toys" - a spoon, an empty water bottle, some plastic keys...and she decided she wanted to bring me the spoon. SHE WALKED IT OVER TO ME!!! It was about four tentative feet, but these were her first real steps. John came out to the sitting room to watch this amazing development and then she did some real showing off -she walked about 10 feet, from our bathroom door to the couch. She was so thrilled with herself she just beamed, and then she clapped for herself. We thought she'd be walking soon, just didn't realize it would be today. I'm so so excited that we didn't miss that milestone.

She's also starting to "talk" quite a bit - besides "ba ba ba" she clucks her tongue (a common noise adults use to play with babies here) and does funny little tongue-wiggling sounds that sound like "ligaligaligaliga" or "zigazigaziga". She also understands a few of the things we say to her already, and when we say "where's Mommy" or "where's Daddy" she points to the right person, or more accurately she waves. Her wave is so cute - she opens her whole hand, holds her fingers still and pivots her wrist. She has charmed many a stranger with that little move.

Mom and Dad called tonight and it's clear they are all aware they're in the home stretch. JieJie had a couple of rough days, really missing us, and we really really miss her too - can't wait to get our whole family together and go onward and upward. We'll be with her Friday, and after the shopping spree we're planning for Guangzhou we'll have plenty of treats to dole out between now and Lunar New Year. For the record, we're still Carry On Only travelers, though we plan to buy a cheap suitcase in Guangzhou for the treasures we find there.

Uncle Jim - you asked last time if I would write more about China, not just about babies - you must plan a trip's just so indescribable. I have really grown to love China in so many ways. We're looking forward to coming back with our girls when they're older, and will probably come here periodically for the rest of our lives. You know, the thing is, you can see China from the glass half-empty or half-full perspective. Even within our group of families on this trip we have seen stark differences in perspective. You can probably tell which way I look at it because I haven't been dwelling on the very real "half-empty" part that is not hard to find...yes, there is poverty and pollution. Environmentally, things are aboutwhere the U.S. was in the 1950's when the U.S. was just beginning to wake up to the need to regulate pollution from factories and farms and increasing consumption, though there has recently been an emphasis on improving air quality and we have seen a dramatic decrease in air pollution since our last trip.

Economically, many people still scrape by but ingenuity is definitely rewarded. When we were out walking the other day in a newly affluent shopping district, there was a man with one arm and one leg who seemed to be paralyzed, and he was earning money by writing Chinese calligraphy with several brushes strapped to a hat that was strapped to his head. I wondered what had happened to him, perhaps some factory accident or construction site mishap. For him, and for unknown numbers of people who have little or no safety net if something bad happens, there's not much to be excited about.

What impresses me most about China in the two visits we've made here though is just the sense offorward momentum, drive, striving, endless possibility you see everywhere here. It is really exciting to dive into. That's all for tonight - will write again in a couple of days fromShamian Island.

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