Wednesday, January 23, 2008

End of an era?

Are we witnessing the end of China adoption? Or just the most massive slowdown I've seen since 2001, when we began paperchasing for JieJie? Consider:

JieJie's adoption process:
Jan '01, begin paperchasing
July '01, submit paperwork
wait: 15 months
Sept '02, receive referral in the mail
Nov '02, travel to China and complete adoption

MeiMei's adoption process:
Jan '03, notified our agency we wanted to paperchase for #2, are told there is a waiting period of a year between completing one adoption and applying for the next. Spent 2003 settling in and getting our papers together for submission as soon as allowed.
Feb '04, submit paperwork
wait: 7 months
Sept. '04, receive referral in the mail
Nov. '04, travel to China to complete adoption

In both cases, it was about two full years. Since adopting MeiMei, we've seen friends who waited longer to submit their paperwork settle into a third year of waiting, with no immediate hope for a referral. Obviously the Beijing Olympics is delaying things, as did the SARS epidemic (remember that?), but still, I've seen posts on adoption message boards that some adoption agencies are telling families to consider whether they can handle a wait of five years or more.

There is much speculation as to why this slowdown is happening. I don't have an answer, but I have heard that this cycle happens often in international adoption, that adoptions from a particular country can accelerate, crest, and then subside, for many different reasons. For now, I am just so, so grateful for my daughters, for good timing, and for this family of ours. I hope that our friends B & C, and BK & MC, and S & J, and F & K who are still, still waiting will hear good news soon.

You might read this and think I've forgotten about the babies, who are, after all half of this equation! There is good news on that front. I'm seeing more donations and volunteerism that improve the conditions at many orphanages in China, even those whose babies are not even eligible to be adopted by their benefactors (orphanages have to have enough staff on hand to do the adoption related paperwork, which only happens AFTER they have enough staff to care for the immediate needs of the babies). The increased wait times for hopeful parents do not mean increased waits for the babies, who are still likely to be around a year old at time of adoption.

But man, the wait...our agency (Americans Adopting Orphans) now has a one-dossier-two-countries program, in which you can adopt from a country other than China, and have time to settle in with baby #1, while waiting for baby #2 from China. This was unheard of when we were in process.

Times have changed.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Our First Trip...16 Years Ago Today!

Today is the 16th anniversary of John's and my first date, and guess what? We went on a day-trip that day...previews of coming attractions, to be sure. I was living in the DC area at the time, and he was teaching at JMU. My best friend M ran into him on campus and mentioned I was coming down that weekend. He said "have her call me." She conveyed the message on Friday afternoon, and since I'd had a crush on John for months, I wasted no time calling him. I heard myself suggesting we get together (not at all like me back then!). I said how about Saturday? He said, vaguely, that he had plans, and my heart sank. In the next breath, he suggested Sunday, and all was well in the world.

The place we went is one of those places in this part of the world that you just have to know, or you have to know someone who knows how to get there, cause it's pretty far off the beaten track. I first went there in college with friends to watch a spectacular sunset. The last time we went there was with our friends from The Netherlands...and the hill almost killed our poor old Plymouth van! We haven't taken the girls there yet, but we will.

The place is known as Reddish Knob, and it's one of the highest points in the highlands between the Shenandoah Valley and West Virginia. If you turn right instead of left just before the final ascent to Reddish Knob, you get to this place known as "Flagpole." That was our destination on January 21, 1992. It was cold and clear that day, with crunchy snow in patches on the ground. I remember being able to see my breath, and how rosy John's cheeks were, how blue his eyes.

We talked and talked on the drive there, but once we were out walking in the woods along the edge of Flagpole's clearing, I don't remember saying much, though I definitely remember what I was thinking: ohmygodohmygodohmygodohmygod...nothing was said of romantic significance because neither of us was exactly sure what it was we were doing. Was this a date, a get-together, a...what?

We drove back that day, stopped at Luigi's on 42 (that storied location is now closed, all you ex-Hburgers, and Luigi's is now downtown in the old Gus's Taverna building) to get a pizza to go, and ate it at M's and my old house (yeah 309 Old South High!!!). Soon it was time for me to drive back to DC, and we said our goodbyes, promising to call.

I figured I'd play it cool and wait to call til Thursday. He called Tuesday. Soon there was a tentative exchange of Valentines' Day cards, and things developed that spring and summer until, by the time the leaves changed and the view from Reddish Knob was at its most spectacular, we were fairly sure this was a forever thing.

We've always loved to travel together. A few days before our wedding, in fact, to decompress from the matrimonial frenzy, we escaped to Seneca Rocks, West Virginia (an easy drive from Harrisonburg, just take 33 W and look for the signs) to walk, climb, see a view, get some fresh air, to talk, to listen, to be silent.

If you're interested in some winter hiking at Flagpole or Reddish Knob, just click on the title of this entry and, thanks to our friends at Shenandoah Bicycle, you'll find yourself linked to a page of driving directions to the Knob and to some other great places in this part of the country. Have a great time!

You can search FTJ for past posts, e.g. China info...