By Debbie Bodie Rincon, GA
The Long Road | The
Word Came | The Journey | A
We Have A Daughter | Was It A Mistake? | Paperwork | Royal Treatment
Final Days in China | Home At Last | The First Kiss | Photo Album
(note: This is an edited copy of the original site. Photographs are included in the original, the text has been faithfully reproduced, but the photos have been edited out of this version to ease download time. To see the original WITH pictures, click here.)
It was a long road that led to the adoption of Quinn. For me it entailed 22 years of trying to have a baby, starting when I was 18 and newly married. For Al, it was the culmination of our attempts over the last five years toward the same end, with the whole thrilling infertility treatment circus thrown in as an extra added attraction. After the failure of our in vitro attempt in 1994 we pretty much concluded that we just weren't meant to be parents. Al was fairly philosophical about it (he already had 3 grown daughters), but I was bitter, and angry at God.
I spent nearly a year in hard grief. I couldn't bear to discuss the in vitro. I had to leave the church sanctuary during baby dedications. I strenuously avoided pregnant women. But it was my anger at God that caused me the most grief, because I needed so badly to turn to Him for comfort. I knew I needed to mend the rift in my soul and ask His forgiveness, but oh, the bitterness ate at me. What finally made the difference was as I was crying to God again one night, and I heard myself telling Him, "I had already promised to give my child to you..." and that brought me to a dead stop. I had, indeed, promised to give my child to God. And I truly believed (and still do) that the living embryo that lived so brief a time in my womb WAS a child, not a "fetus." So what exactly was I complaining about? I promised that child to God, and He took him. If I wasn't willing to give my child to the Lord, I should never have made such a promise. I examined my heart closely, and found that I didn't regret that promise a bit, would make it again without hesitation, and knew that I couldn't continue blaming my heavenly Father for taking what I had already given Him. I was able, finally, to ask the Lord's forgiveness for the bitter recriminations I had been pouring out on Him for the past year, and immediately I began to experience an internal peace that slowly began to heal the old wounds. I was able to rejoice with pregnant friends, I sat all the way through baby dedications, first with tears pouring down my cheeks, then one day I found myself rejoicing at a dedication with nary a tear in my eye. I'd found my peace with God. This was in January of 1996.
Strangely, it was during that same month that Al and I watched a "60 Minutes" piece based on "The Dying Rooms" documentary. Coincidence?
Not in God's lexicon. Although we had discussed adoption briefly (before trying the in vitro procedure) we had never picked the subject back up after it failed. Now, at the end of the "60 Minutes" segment, Al turned to me and said, "You know, we could help one of those girls." I was stunned, but jumped on the bandwagon immediately. Once I ascertained that he was really serious, not just making a noble-sounding comment, my spirit soared. It was suddenly clear to me that THIS was precisely what the Lord wanted for us, and for our daughter-to-be. The very next day I raced home during lunch (we live fairly close to work) and exercised my fledgling Internet experience to find an adoption bulletin board, under which I found a folder for international adoption, and under that, China. I jumped in and printed off every letter possible before I had to leave to go back to work, and found several references for international adoption agencies.
Within a couple of days I had contacted several agencies and asked for their informational packets, and called the INS to order the I-600A form. You all know what transpired the following few months; the paperchase, the physicals, the HOMESTUDY (which in our case was a nightmare, featuring the social worker from Hell...how I envy all of you who post how nice your SW's are, and what a big help they were!), the growing concern over the reorganization in China, the every expanding time-line for a possible referral, etc., etc. When we finally mailed our dossier off to Harrah Family Services in August of 1996, I actually kissed it goodbye in the FedEx office, flinched as they THREW it onto a pile of outgoing packages (I wanted it coddled! My future baby was in there!), and backed out of the door crying, waving goodbye at it. Nope...no emotional intensity on my part!!
The timing was perfect. John and Jackie Harrah were leaving in just a few days to go to China to pick up their second daughter, and they were able to rush the dossier through the Chinese Consulate in Houston and hand-carry it to China with them, where John handed it over personally to the CAC. That was on August 27, 1996, and John told us that he expected the adoption to be complete within three months. Home by Thanksgiving! my heart sang, and if John was overly optimistic, then CERTAINLY by Christmas! I danced around the house, eagerly anticipating my first Christmas with a child of my own.
Within a couple of months, it became apparent that China was not on the same timeline. We adjusted our expectations to a January referral, and I consoled myself with the thought that at least this would be my LAST Christmas without a child. In January we got the word that our dossier had at last made it to the matching room (4-1/2 months after arriving at the CAC!) and I began jumping every time the phone rang. However, as February approached, we realized that Chinese New Year was going to cause another delay, and we sighed and once again readjusted our thinking. Once the holiday was over my spirits lifted again, and I once again began jumping over furniture and hurdling dogs every time the phone rang, then came Deng's death, and a period of mourning in China. Sigh. As February is a short month, this pretty much killed it. March then. Gonna be March. GOTTA be March. By mid-March I was becoming a real pest to poor John and Jackie Harrah. We'd been in the matching room for two months! What was the holdup? John was always reassuring that Henry (our facilitator in China) was at the CAC frequently, knew precisely where our dossier was (at least it hadn't fallen behind that proverbial filing cabinet!), and would let us know immediately if anything happened.
March passed, and it was during April that I hit the point that I've seen several people mention recently, where I began to lose hope that it was ever really gonna happen, that whenever I felt we were getting close it was always going to be "another couple of months." This was a new kind of torture, designed to slowly destroy idiots such as myself who dared to believe that they could actually become mothers. I descended into a kind of emotional numbness.
The Word Came
One evening (April 17, 1997 to be exact), as Al and I were watching T.V., the phone rang. We had both just gotten settled after running around doing our evening chores, and neither of us were really inclined to jump up and answer it. We both glanced at each other to see if the other one was going to go, and I finally pointed to the Poodle asleep on the footrest of my recliner and said, "I hate to disturb Cricket (he's 12 years old), would you get it please?" With a resigned sigh Al headed for the phone, and I returned my attention to whatever show we were watching. I heard Al say, "Oh, hi John..." and quit listening, while a tiny part of my mind pondered over who on earth we knew named John. None came to mind immediately, and I was on the point of dropping it and concentrating on the show again when suddenly John Harrah came to mind. John Harrah?!?!?!? I twisted around in the recliner (mindful not to wake the sleeping poodle) and hissed toward Al, "John WHO???" Al was listening intently and didn't answer, so I grabbed the remote control and whacked him on the stomach and repeated my hissed question. I was just on the point of thinking that it couldn't possibly be John Harrah or Al would be jumping around and telling me to get to the other phone right away, when I heard Al say, "Here she is." and he put the receiver in my hand. Mystified, semi-excited, semi-terrified, I said hello and heard John's voice telling me that Henry had called. He had very little info, but Harrah Family Services had gotten four referrals. He wouldn't know until the next day WHOSE referrals they were, but he was fairly certain that they were for us, Amy & John Crane, Kim & Doug Watson, and another family in north Ga. who aren't members of the APC list. I let out such a blood-curdling scream that John must have been rubbing his ears for the next several minutes, nearly knocked down my husband as I rushed to kiss him all over his adorable little face, then whipped out my little phone index and began calling people. It didn't matter that we didn't know for sure...my HEART knew, and I just had to share that rejoicing with everyone. The next day John called again, confirming that we were one of the couples, and telling us that Le Dan, born 2/13/96, was in the Jingdezhen Orphanage in Jiangxi Province. He had a picture and a health report (in Chinese of course), and he was going to rush the health reports of all four children to a friend for translation and try to call back later that night with the information. I expected the time to drag, but it actually flew by, as I once again dragged out my phone index and called all the same people again to confirm the good news! I had hardly finished the last call when John called to say he'd enlarged Le Dan's picture and was ready to fax it to us!
However, the medical info was unclear, and all he could really tell us was that she was healthy. That was enough!
Many people have told how the time from referral to travel was the worst waiting period for them (of course, most of these had to wait much longer than we did), but for me it flew. I was in the midst of a series of Epidural spinal injections to help alleviate a recurrence of my back problems, was going to physical therapy twice a week, had two toddler showers thrown for us, and was busy planning our packing list. I had already been off work for nearly 8 weeks because of my back problems, so I had plenty of time to make arrangements. We FINALLY dragged out the suitcases we had bought the summer before (expecting a fall referral and fall or winter travel), and began organizing all the dozens of things that we'd been buying bit by bit for months. The Texas medical kit that had graced our dresser top for months had disappeared, causing a major search and severe consternation. I was ready to call our cleaning lady and accuse her of absconding with it, when I had a vague memory of seeing it on the kitchen table at some fairly recent point in time. It was no longer there, but as we'd been showing our house, sometimes with very little notice, I knew that I'd sometimes thrown things into the first available closet or cabinet just to get it out of sight before the Realtor showed up, so I began thinking, "Now, if I were in frantic cleaning mode, and saw the kit on the table, where would I "hide" it?" The biggest space near the kitchen table was the pantry. Voila!! There it was, nestled cozily up next to the tea bags.
Within a couple of weeks John was fairly certain that we would be traveling by the end of May, so I sent off for our visas and started researching travel arrangements. I was in fairly constant touch with Kim Watson and Amy Crane by then, and had contacted Alta Shaerer, wife of Greg, the fourth party in our little group (Harrah's first group to travel together!). Kim and Alta were far ahead of me in the arrangement phase, and both shared their info to date. Alta had contacted Adoption Travel Services, who worked with EVA Airlines, reputed to have "business class seats at tourist-class prices" and she faxed me the info on them, and I faxed it on to Kim Watson. As soon as John contacted us and confirmed that we were to meet our babies on May 25th (3 days before my 40th birthday!), I called ATS and made the flight arrangements. Kim & I (just assume that I'm including our hubbies in this...it's too much typing to keep typing out all spouse's names) had both opted to fly directly to Nanchang on the 23rd and have a couple of days to rest up and recover from jet lag, while Amy and Alta had opted to go to Beijing first and tour the Great Wall and Forbidden City, joining us in Nanchang on the 25th. Initially we planned to leave on the 22nd, arriving in Nanchang on the 24th, but we were unable to confirm one connecting flight so we backed up a day, leaving on the 21st, and this worked out perfectly. The only hitch was that we would be changing planes at EVERY SINGLE STOP (there were 5). However, at this point I would have gladly SWUM across the Pacific, so we weren't going to let a little inconvenience like that stand in our way! We booked the flights.
We left Savannah at 3:05 p.m. on Wed., May 21st, on a USAir twin-prop jet. My mother and sister-in-law saw us off, and I surprised myself as we taxied out for takeoff by sobbing uncontrollably, feeling like I was going on my first girl scout camp out and leaving my mother behind. However, I recovered shortly after we took off, and we got friendly with the stewardess, whose jump seat was directly opposite us. The flight to Charlotte NC. was only about an hour, and shortly we were wending our way through a huge (to us) terminal, looking for out next flight. It was during that first bout of lugging our carryon luggage that we realized just HOW heavy it was! Al's carryon contained our camcorder and his breathing machine (he has sleep apnea, which causes him to quit breathing while he's asleep) along with a few things for both him, me and Quinn (our daughter-to-be), and I carried the Texas medical kit, a tape recorder and journal for documenting the trip, along with more things for Al, myself and Quinn (in case our luggage AND one carryon got lost, we could still cope).
We arrived at the gate for our next flight (to Pittsburgh), which was naturally at the very end of a different concourse, with only 15 minutes to spare until departure. This time we boarded a 747 for the 1-1/4 hr. flight. We flew over increasingly mountainous terrain, striated with numerous twisty rivers. Lovely! Pittsburgh looked sprawling and hilly from the air, and I regretted that we didn't have time to explore it some, but we only had 1-1/2 hours to spare before our next flight. After another interminable walk (thank heaven for those moving walkways!) we found our next departure gate and Glory be! Directly across from it was a miniature T.G.I.Friday's restaurant. Al and I shared an order of cheese & bacon-stuffed potato skins and I tried a (non-alcoholic) frozen drink called a "tropical smoothie." Pineapple juice, papaya and orange sherbet blended with shaved ice. Delicious! We finished up with just enough time to hit the restrooms and then board the flight for San Francisco, via a 757. The flight to S.F. took 5-1/2 hours, which passed fairly quickly thanks to being served dinner and then watching the in-flight movie, "Jerry McGuire." We chased the sunset across the nation, and it was a looooong time coming. I'm really glad that we reached S.F. after dark, though, for it was a sparkling wonderland of lights as far as the eye could see. When we reached San Francisco it was 10:30 Pacific time (which was 1:30 a.m. by our internal clocks), and we disembarked with added excitement, as we were being met by Evelyne McNamara, Karen Hewitt and Paul Hancock.
Evelyne heard me coming before I saw her (I was talking to Al, and she recognized my voice from our previous phone conversations) and she darted forward waving a lovely sign that read "Greetings to Quinn's Mom and Dad!" We hugged hard, like the old friends that we already felt we were, then we performed introductions all around. There was no time for chit-chat though, as Evelyne hustled us forward at top speed, telling us only that she had another surprise for us. We sped to another departure gate, arriving just as the flight began boarding, and Evelyne pointed us toward a small group of parents carrying their newly adopted Chinese children! Never one to be shy, I ran forward and introduced myself, and had only a moment to admire the babies as their tired parents headed for the plane home. It was a wonderful surprise, and drove home yet again that soon I would be the one carrying my own baby onto a flight for home!
Al and I shortly became doubly grateful that we had locals to guide us through that airport, for it put the "huge" one in Charlotte to shame. Without Evelyne to help us find the EVA concourse, I think we'd still be wandering the halls! We found the luggage claim, and gratefully found that all of our luggage had made it with us thus far, then we all found a small restaurant near the EVA concourse and sat down to chat. It was absolutely marvelous to have the chance to get to know these three wonderful people better (thanks again, y'all!), but shortly after midnight they regretfully had to leave, as they had a long drive home, and had to get up in the morning.
As Al and I entered the EVA concourse the whole atmosphere changed. EVERYONE was Asian. The lighting was different, the waiting area had low, 2-seater couches instead of plastic seats, and the intercom paged people named "Liu" and "Chang." The flight (a 747) was delayed a half hour due to something about air traffic control, which worried us as we only had a 1-1/2 hour stopover in Taipei in which to find our next flight. We finally took off at 2:00 a.m. (5:00 on our internal clocks), thoroughly exhausted but too overexcited to sleep yet. We had chosen the EVA Evergreen Deluxe Class because it was billed as business-class equivalent at coach prices. Caveat Emptor! Let the Buyer Beware! You DO get what you pay for. True, the seats were slightly wider, and there *was* a footrest, but the legroom was abysmal, and the vaunted footrest only came up a few inches above the floor (I had envisioned something like my La-Z-Boy recliner). The only amenity I really enjoyed was the individual TV sets at each seat. One channel featured the updated flight path with constantly changing information on miles left to fly, miles flown from point of departure, time at current position, point of departure, and point of destination, ground speed, and time remaining to fly. It also showed current altitude and outside temperature. We flew most of the journey (13 LONG hours) at 35,000 feet, and it was 65 deg. below zero outside! The flight was approximately 6,000 miles, nonstop. After serving dinner, they lowered the inside lights, and Al and I took the sleeping pills that my doctor had prescribed for us. He had said that they were short-acting, so that we wouldn't feel "hung over" in the morning. I'll say they were short acting! When I awoke, confident that we must be near Taipei, I walked to the galley and asked a stewardess how much longer we had to fly. "Eight hours" she replied! I was appalled. Despite the fact that I'd only gotten four hours sleep after 20 hours awake, I was wide awake. Thank God for the little TV set. I watched "The Mirror Has Two Faces", watched the flight path awhile, watched "Jerry McGuire" for the second time in 14 hours, watched the flight path some more, caught the Debbie Reynolds movie "Mother" followed by more flight path, and finally they served breakfast during the final hour of flight time.
It was raining in Taipei when we landed, and the interior of the airport was as dreary and dismal as the weather outside. We found the area for transfers to another plane (dragging those HEAVY carryon cases again), went through our zillionth metal detector, and were directed to our departure gate. Here is where we were to meet up with Kim and Doug Watson, whose baby was from the same orphanage as ours. We reached the departure gate, which was really a large room, and saw a sea of black hair, but no blondes (Kim had given us descriptions of herself and Doug). In fact, we were the only non-Asian people in the room. By 15 minutes before departure Kim & Doug had still not shown up and we were beginning to fear that their incoming flight had been delayed and they were going to miss this connection. In fact, a few minutes later it was announced that our flight was being delayed a half hour due to a late incoming flight, but only minutes later I saw a tall, thin blonde descending the stairs and screamed "You made it!" as I ran across the room to give her a hug. We only had a few minutes to talk before we boarded the 1-1/2 hour flight to Hong Kong. Once again we prepared for takeoff, but this time there was a disturbing distraction as everyone was settling in.
Two rows ahead of us an Asian couple signaled for a flight attendant and pointed out a leak dripping steadily on their seats The stewardess hurried away and returned with a cloth which she pressed against the leak and secured with wide masking tape! The Asian couple settled nervously back in place while Al and I speculated on whether the water was from the rain pounding steadily outside and entering through a crack in the fuselage. Within minutes the cloth was drenched and the unlucky couple were again calling for the flight attendant, while Al and I watched with growing unease. This time the couple was moved to different seats, then the leak was again plugged, this time with a HUGE wad of cloths and even more masking tape!
At this point Al and I had grave doubts about the safety of the craft we were about to take off in, so we called the flight attendant over and asked her if she knew where the water was coming from. She looked confused and said in broken English (all the attendants were Chinese) "I not sure can explain" so I made it a little clearer for her. I got her attention and asked pointedly, "Is that RAIN????" Is the plane leaking??" "No, no, not rain. Water from system inside plane...I don't have words to explain." she replied and hurried away. Al and I guessed at water condensation from the air conditioning, but we couldn't be sure and had to be satisfied that the stewardess knew what she was talking about. The moment she left Al grabbed my hand and we sent up a fervent prayer that the plane was really sound. A few moments later we thundered up into the sky, but Al and I spent the great majority of this leg of the trip with our eyes glued to that piece of cloth taped to the ceiling!! It was an experience I'll not soon forget.
The landing in Hong Kong was another "interesting" experience. Just as we descended toward the city we broke out of the cloud cover to see that we were over the harbor, which was alive with boats and ships of every description; from what looked like flat pieces of wood being poled along, to luxury cruise ships, from motor boats to yachts. I had just begun to take this in when the city came into view. It was incredible! Skyscrapers rubbed shoulders over every available inch of land. I would have sworn we were looking at a New York skyline. And we were VERY close to the tops of those buildings. Suddenly we made a steep, diving right bank, seeming close enough to slice the rooftops with our wingtip, and straightened out of the bank about 3 seconds before touchdown. The instant the wheels made contact with the runway the pilot applied full reverse thrust and every ounce of brake the craft possessed. I was still taking in the fact that this narrow strip was surrounded by water on BOTH sides, and was BARELY wide enough for a giant 747 to land on at all, when we finally slowed to taxiing speed and turned off onto the taxiway, giving me a clear view of the fact that we were at the VERY END of the runway and about 50 yards farther on the concrete terminated into MORE water!! Al told me later that he had heard that Hong Kong was considered one of the most difficult landing strips in the world, and I was extremely grateful that he hadn't told me beforehand!
This time the plane was parked out on the tarmac, and a shuttle bus raced up to transport us to the terminal. There were no seats in the shuttle, just straps hanging from the ceiling to brace against. Thankfully the trip was no more than a quarter mile or so, and we disembarked amongst a milling crowd of hurrying Chinese. Kim, Doug, Al and I looked about in vain for a sign pointing us to baggage claim, so I approached a young woman in a military-looking uniform and asked "Baggage?" Fortunately the Lord was with us again, for I had found one who spoke fairly fluent English. She explained to me that in order to claim our luggage we would have to officially "enter" Hong Kong, meaning going past the single hall designated for people in transit to other flights, which would entail us going through customs and immigration. As we only had a little over an hour to get to our final flight, I asked her what should we do? She said we should try going to the China Eastern ticket counter and see if they could get our luggage transferred from the EVA flight to theirs.
We walked for what seemed miles down that corridor without finding the China Eastern counter, so I finally approached a man in a VERY military-looking outfit (complete with sidearm!) and asked where it was. I was met with a blank stare, so I showed him our China Eastern tickets which were printed in both English and Chinese, and after a thorough (and nerve-wracking) inspection of them he finally pointed down that endless hall. We trudged on.
After another small eternity, with precious minutes slipping away, we finally spotted the China Eastern counter and got "in line." Here I got my first taste of how the Chinese do NOT form queues. Although I had read about this on the list, I was still a bit outraged in my Southern manners to have people barge ahead of us the moment a window became free. None of us, with our American standards ingrained from childhood, felt comfortable shoving ahead in like manner, and we might still be standing there had not a window opened up just then right next to us. I explained our dilemma, and after lecturing me for several minutes on how we should have checked our luggage straight through from Taipei to Nanchang (but how were we to know?) he asked for our passports and disappeared with them.
A nervous time later she returned with another young man who commanded Al and Kim to come with him to identify our luggage. Maybe 15 minutes later they returned and verified that our bags had made the airline switch, and we hurried to board our final flight, from Hong Kong to Nanchang.
About an hour later we touched down for the final time in Nanchang, and again parked on the tarmac. This time, however, there was no hurrying bus to take us to the terminal. You picked up your bags and WALKED!! The Nanchang "terminal" was our first clear indication that we weren't in Kansas anymore. It was a low block-type building, and upon entering the front door we were confronted with a dark, damp and hot hall, quite unpeopled.
Thankfully other passengers knew where to go, so we followed them down the unlit hall, made a left into another hall, and finally entered a dimly lit room with PRC military types behind cages checkout out passports and visas. This was customs & immigration. We made it to the head of one "line" only to be pointed into the other (we had no idea why, but weren't about to argue) where we flowed through easily. In fact, I practised my first "Ni hao" (hello) and "xia-xia" (thank you) on the immigration soldiers, who rewarded me with a smile.
Our next confrontation with the realities of China came as we boarded the bus to the Lakeview hotel (4-star) and headed for Nanchang. The airport is a 40-minute drive outside of Nanchang, and the countryside is a sea of rice paddies. I was admiring the emerald fields on the side of the road, then glanced back at the road in time to see a boy walking his WATER BUFFALO down the middle of the road by a piece of string, with traffic whizzing by on both sides! And speaking of traffic....the only accurate way to describe it is "indescribable." More on that later.
A Different Culture
The Lakeview Hotel was a surprise. Inside the front door was a gorgeously carved jade statue, the appointments of the lobby were luxurious, check-in took only moments, and we headed for the 18th floor to unpack. We had another surprise when we entered the room. There is a little compartment just inside the door in which to place your room key. This is how you engage the lights! Naturally there are switches to turn them on and off, but nothing works until your key is in the slot. It also works to keep the key handy when you exit the room! A word of warning to anyone staying at the Lakeview. There is a little button just inside the door that you can push to engage the "Do Not Disturb" light in the hall by your door, which we did immediately. However, I now suspect that it also *disengaged* the phone, as the Watsons and Henry (our facilitator) both tried to call that evening, but our phone never rang. If you wish to still receive phone calls (just not maids), use the "Do Not Disturb" sign that you hang from your doorknob. And while we're on unusual features, both the room at the Lakeview and the White Swan had doorbells! Perhaps this is common in 4-and-5-star hotels (I don't stay in many!) but it was a revelation to us!
Anyway, upon reaching the room after approximately 32 hours of travel, only four of which had been spent sleeping, we wearily began to unpack our bags. After dragging out a few vital items, I stretched out on the bed for a minute and told Al, "If we can stay awake until 8:00 tonight, only another 5 hours, then we can get our internal clocks adjusted to Chinese time." 13 hours later I opened my eyes (so much for staying awake another 5 hours!), still fully dressed, on top of the covers, and rolled over to observe my sleeping husband in the other bed (there were two twin beds in this hotel). It was 5:00 a.m. local time, but already becoming light, so I plugged in the little hot pot provided for the room (man, that honey boils water right NOW!!) and dragged out my new coffee bags, Equal and creamer. Before long Al woke up too, and we recommenced unpacking the bags.
By 8:00 a.m. we were ready to head down to the breakfast buffet. I was surprised to find that the huge table had "American" dishes on one side, and Chinese on the other. I was delighted to find such traditional breakfast fare as omelets, French toast, bacon and sausage on the American side, so I loaded up and all but skipped back to my chair and dug in. That was when reality set in. Yes, it was "bacon," but not any kind of bacon *I'd* ever tasted before! I personally suspect that it was water buffalo bacon! The sausage was so strange-tasting that I couldn't get past the first bite; the "syrup" for the French toast was honey. The only thing that tasted "right" to my Western tongue was the omelet. Either those eggs came from a hen, or all eggs taste pretty much alike. During our 5-day stay Al and I ate all of our meals at that buffet (we're not really adventurous types with continental palates), and almost everything we ate from the American dishes had that same kind of "twist." It was *almost* right, but just a leeeetle different. The big exception was a totally delicious dinner one night featuring baked pork chops. They were so wonderful that Al and I both had seconds, and I pondered the propriety of taking a "doggie bag" from a buffet! I did adjust to the just-slightly-different bacon (but couldn't take the sausage), and even grew to like honey on my French toast instead of maple syrup, and every now and then I tried a dish or two from the "Chinese" side of the buffet. I was quite suspicious of these, always wondering just what kind of meat or seafood they contained (all dishes were labeled, but I didn't trust them!), and some of the more exotic fare, like ox-tongue and squid, was beyond my scope, but several of the others were delicious. They also had a huge dessert table. Before I quit with the food, allow me to mention there was a hilarious "western" choice on the room service menu, which we ordered the night we got Quinn. More about that when we get there!
This was Saturday, a free day as our daughters weren't to arrive until Sunday afternoon. I was eager to explore Nanchang, while Al, the more cautious of the two, preferred to stay close to the hotel. We compromised. We took a walk close to the hotel, then later Al visited the Friendship store in downtown Nanchang with me. The walk was punctuated with people whizzing by on bicycles staring at us, then throwing a "hello" or "hi" into the wind as they passed, which I responded to with "Ni hao!" The lake that the hotel is situated by is seriously polluted, but there are concrete benches dotting the shore all around it for people who can brave the stench. We managed to find one in an upwind area and were approached almost immediately by a couple of college boys, eager to practice their English. They wrote down their names and addresses and asked for ours, wondered why we were in China, wanted to know about Al's job, and posed for a photo with Al.
Later that afternoon we asked the assistant manager at the hotel to write "Friendship store" in Chinese on the back of the hotel's address card, and jumped into our first Chinese taxi. What an experience! I've heard many tales about New York taxi drivers, but they surely can't hold a candle to Chinese taxi drivers. Though there are a *few* traffic lights in Nanchang (I recall two) and there *are* lanes in the road, Chinese drivers seem to pay attention to neither. They ostensibly drive on the same side of the road as us, but in actuality they use the ENTIRE road at their discretion. There are frequent traffic circles, with several streets starring out from this circular middle, and the driver entered these circles by driving directly INTO the traffic, horn blaring busily, while I covered my eyes and prayed fervently that someone would slow down and let us in. Usually they did, and just as frequently WE would be the target as a car, bus or truck bore directly down on us expecting that we would let them in. I'm not sure which was more disconcerting. The melee was made worse by the bicyclists who pedaled in the midst of the traffic, darting and weaving between the motorized vehicles. Everyone honked their horns almost continuously, and Al and I speculated that the number of honks was, in fact, a code. Two honks for "let me in", three for "okay, come on over" and several for "not on your life buster!"
Nevertheless, we made it to the Friendship store safely, and alighted before a 5-story building on a street jam-packed with pedestrians and acres of parked bicycles. We planned to look for soy formula and asked several people where the baby food section was. Naturally no one understood us. Al solved this problem by rocking his linked arms in the universally understood symbol of babies, then pretending to suck a bottle. He was rewarded with great amusement, and we were directed to the proper floor. Alas, that store had apparently never heard of soy formula, but I wasn't about to leave without a thorough inspection of every inch of the store, so I began wandering the floors with my resigned (and dripping - there was no air conditioning) husband dragging behind.
My second objective was to find the little silk pajamas in baby sizes, another item the store didn't stock. What we *did* find was giant cockroaches meandering on the floor, sales clerks sleeping off the heat of the day behind their counters, dusty shelves holding merchandise that lacked a certain youth, and curious natives who gawked at the giant and the redhead in their midst. Finally, in a dark corner of an upper floor, I came upon a glass case with folded pieces of cloth inside, and asked a lady clerk to unfold a couple for me. Gasp! The right sides of the material, protected from the dust by being turned to the inside when folded, were exquisitely colored pieces of embroidered silk. We bought several yards with a stunning background of royal purple for about $6 U.S.
While we're on the subject of money, let me say that I was incredibly relieved to find that their money is numbered like ours. I'd worried about how I would ever learn to count the money, but it was just like ours. The denominations on the folding money were in one, five, ten, fifty and hundreds, so that you paid the price on the item with the appropriate bill just as you would here. The only time you needed to "convert" in your mind was if you wished to figure out just how much something was in U.S. dollars. And there was a lady at the money exchange counter 24-hours a day in both hotels we stayed in. Don't sweat it.
Anyway, as we departed the store I begged Al to walk down the street with me and go into some of the other stores, but he'd had enough of the "real" China for the day and just wanted to get back to our room. We returned to the hotel using the card the assistant manager had given us, hit the buffet for supper, and made an early evening of it, still feeling the effects of our long trip the day before. The next day we would meet our daughter!
We Have A Daughter !
We woke early on Sunday morning and headed to the breakfast buffet, where we were joined by the Watsons and Greg & Alta Shaerer, who had arrived the night before. With the adrenaline flowing high at the prospect of receiving our daughters that afternoon, Kim & Doug suggested that we all join them for a walk around the lake to help the morning pass more quickly. After a quick trip back to our rooms to change into walking shoes we set out. There is a wide, tree-shaded walkway built next to the lake, and we were treated to the sight of families taking a Sunday walk with their children, bicyclists pedaling casually along, and an archway built on the sidewalk that no doubt is more than sufficiently high for Chinese folk, but that Al just barely passed under! I had just finished commenting on the fact that at least we weren't in danger of being run over here when we saw a car racing toward us down the sidewalk! It wasn't an aberration either. By the time we were halfway around the lake we had been passed by various cars, motorcycles and mopeds. Nowhere was safe!
About halfway 'round I was hit with severe stomach cramps which demanded that I return to the hotel NOW (we were taking Pepto Bismal tablets every day, but we both suffered attacks during the whole trip), so Al and I headed back while the rest of the group continued on around the lake. To make matters worse, as we rounded a corner of the sidewalk the breeze hit us carrying the stench of dead fish and raw sewage and I began to retch. This is definitely NOT recommended for one trying to hold off an incipient attack of diarrhea!! I was a hair's breadth away from casting off ballast enthusiastically at both ends when fortunately we passed the area of the worst fumes and I was able to catch my breath.
Now, while we're on the subject of poop, let me tell you something I have yet to see mentioned on the APC list. About your second day in China, a strange phenomenon will occur. Your poop will change its smell. Yes, it's true folks! Whether we admit it or not, we all know the smell of our own poop (it's never as bad as someone else's), but in China your nose will suddenly wrinkle up and go "Do WHAT????" And as long as we're on this fascinating subject, I should mention that it can undergo a distinct change in color, also. Like, don't be surprised to find poisonous green on your Charmin! I can only speculate that the change in food and particularly in spices caused this, but I sure wish someone had warned me in advance! So now YOU know! When you notice this happening, be sure to think of me!
Anyway, as we approached the hotel my stomach decided to ease off for awhile, so we made a short stop in a little arts & crafts store just across from the hotel entrance. The store was small, and run by a tiny, exuberant woman who chattered at us the entire time, despite our obvious lack of understanding. At one point she must have decided that we were deaf, so she whipped out pencil and paper and scribbled out a long string of characters that meant as little to us as the language. Not discouraged in the least, she picked up everything I looked at, holding it closer so that I could admire its beauty from a distance of two inches from my nose, and when I shook my head and smiled at her with my "thank you but I'm not interested" smile, she would whip out another sheet of paper and scribble out what was undoubtedly a lower, more attractive price. At no time was I allowed to browse at ease... this lady was determined to make a sale! I hated to disappoint such an enterprising trouper, but I managed to escape after only 20 or so minutes without parting with a single yuan.
It was lunch time by the time Al and I returned to the Lakeview, but the state of my stomach combined with our mutual excitement precluded the thought of food. We went to our room and watched TV until Shasha, the young woman who was our interpreter, called us to say that the babies were on their way and we should come down to the lobby. We probably broke some kind of record making it to the lobby, in spite of an elevator that took several eternities to arrive. In fact, we'd been sitting there for almost 15 minutes before the other couples began to arrive. Only our baby and the Watson's were coming from this orphanage (the other two children were to arrive later that evening), but all four couples paced the lobby as we awaited the long-anticipated arrival of our children, John and Amy Crane having just arrived at the hotel that afternoon.
I was a babbling, pacing, nervous wreck. I blithered anxiously to those foolish enough to try to engage me in rational conversation, and wore a groove in the floor making a circuit from the couch to the front door every time a car approached. In what was probably 15 minutes, but seemed more like a lifetime, I saw a car pull up with two women in the back holding our precious bundles, and shrieked out in the crowded lobby, "We have babies!" Al came dashing forward with the camcorder, Kim and I stood and trembled, and Shasha came forward to greet the women.
I couldn't wait. Unconcerned with protocol, I dashed toward the nearest woman holding a baby and inquired, "Le Dan?" The lady pointed toward the other baby, and I rushed over, eager to hold her immediately. Alas, despite my lack of control, protocol was not to be circumvented. The stern-faced woman holding my child paid me no attention at all as I motioned toward myself and said "Mine!" Kim Watson was being presented with "Le Mei" and they were not going to do it out of order. I was all but dancing with need, and urgently repressing the desire to snatch my daughter out of this woman's arms, when finally it was our turn and Quinn was handed over.
The reality of her warmth was a physical shock. No longer a dream, my daughter wailed in my arms as I cried with joy. I cuddled her against my neck and crooned a tear-soaked lullaby as I became accustomed to the feel of her in my arms, tested the silkiness of her hair with a new-found mother's touch, reveled in the smoothness of her skin as I stroked her. It was a moment of revelation. This child was not the flat, two-dimensional four-month old I had been adoring since receiving the referral photo. She was an unhappy, scared, tired, hungry fifteen-month old, with prickly heat on both cheeks and very definite opinions about the current goings-on.
Although I was eager to dash upstairs with this astonishingly alive child, to have time to absorb the incredible change my life had just taken, I saw that the women from the orphanage had gone to sit on one of the hotel couches and the Watsons had joined them, and it suddenly occurred to me that this could be the only opportunity I had to question them. Hastening over, I listened as Kim asked about her daughter, then discovered that I had forgotten everything I ever intended to ask. Only two questions presented themselves. I asked if she had ever been ill, thinking I would be informed of childhood bouts of measles or chicken pox, but apparently they were either afraid that I would reject the child if she had been sick, or else I had a child with the world's best immune system, for the orphanage director replied, "No, no, healthy baby." Figuring that this line of questioning was fruitless, I asked the only other thing I could think of, "What does she like to eat?" This was met with another practically useless reply. "She likes milk" the lady answered, and I waited a few moments before realizing that she was through...that was her whole reply. Great. I retired in total confusion, and a few minutes later the orphanage workers left.
Al and I took Quinn up to our room, changed her diaper, dressed her in a lightweight pink top, and made her first bottle of soy formula. Only the introduction of the nipple to her mouth silenced her non-stop wails as she demonstrated a voracious appetite. Fortunately she took right to the Nuk nipple and had no complaint with the temperature of the formula. That bottle was drained in minutes, and I quickly prepared another. After polishing off about a third of the second bottle, Quinn returned to her original agenda, nonstop crying. I walked the floor crooning to her, but she was unimpressed. Finally I decided that she was probably worn out from the long trip, so I put her down for a nap. She was out cold in a couple of minutes flat, and I had survived my first hour of motherhood.
Was It All A Mistake ?
So, here we were. I sat on the side of the bed, looking at my sleeping child in a confusing mixture of amazement and fear. Amazement, yes, because part of me (the part that had suffered 22 childless years and heartbreaking disappointments) had never really believed that this day would actually come. Awe that the tiny stranger in this crib would legally become mine in a day or two. Fascination at the rise and fall of her chest, the curling of her little fingers, the dark lashes sweeping her chubby cheeks. And paralyzing fear that I would never learn to love her. That she would continue to scream at the sight of us, reject us totally, never be ours in the deeper sense that would make her our daughter. That same part of me that didn't believe we'd ever actually receive a child was now screaming that I could never completely accept her. I was elated, terrified, overjoyed and miserable all at once. Emotional chaos! I wasn't about to admit this failing to my husband, so I shouldered that emotional excess alone, pretending to be ecstatic. I felt that admitting to anything less would be a failure of some kind. An admittance that I just wasn't built to be a mother.
The next occurrence did little to make me feel more motherly. Quinn awoke (still in quite a foul mood) with a dirty diaper. Now, I have a weak stomach. I mentioned earlier that the smell off the lake outside the Lakeview caused me to retch. However, I had taken care of my Grandmother for years when she had Alzheimer's disease, including the dirty work, and I was sure that nothing a baby could throw my way could bother me. WRONG!!! When Al asked me if I wanted him to change that first dirty diaper (he knows about my stomach, and has changed 3 previous children) I waved him confidently away and made quite a professional business of getting out the changing pad, the fresh diaper, the little scented bag for disposal, the sweet-smelling baby powder. I would show him! Oh, I showed him alright! When I finally opened the diaper I was greeted by a lake of green slime, 10 times more foul smelling than the polluted water had been earlier in the day. I bolted for the bathroom, eyes watering, hand over mouth, retching violently. Thank God I wasn't traveling alone! Either Quinn would have lain there unchanged forever, or I would have had to throw up on her! The second dirty diaper was pretty much a repeat scenario.
I was a failure as a mother. My daughter hated me, screamed at the sight of me, and I wasn't even capable of changing a diaper! The only (questionable) comfort I had was that Quinn seemed to shriek just as loud at the sight of Al, so it wasn't just me that she detested. She hated us both. We should never have come. This was a big mistake! Worse, I could never admit it, and would have to adopt a child who would revile me forever. Oh, how I tortured myself with such thoughts! Trust me, even though I knew that this kind of reaction was to be expected, had often seen on the list stories of just such receptions and thought I had braced myself for it, it only took a tiny bit of rejection to so totally shake my first-time-parent shuddery self-confidence that I was convinced I was embarked on the worst mistake of my life.
Come supper time, we dressed Quinn in one of the darling new outfits we'd brought with us, to steady cries of rage. By the time we were ready to go she was almost purple with outrage. Discretion being the better part of valor, we decided to try room service. It was a memorable decision. We stripped the darling outfit back off the screaming child and switched it for a onsie, popped another bottle in her mouth (corking the source of the screams), and laid her back in the crib. By then she was more than ready to rest, having exerted all her strength in objecting strenuously to everything about us and her surroundings. Basking in the first silence in several hours, Al and I perused the room service menu.
Although there were many choices, not many were familiar to our totally uncontinental palates, but we did see two choices that looked safe. One was a club sandwich, and one (that gave us a case of helpless snickers for a few minutes, fueled, I think, by mild hysteria) was the "Uncle Samuel Burger." Thankfully my instincts whispered that the "U.S.B." was possibly not on the same order as, say, a Whopper, so I ordered TWO of the club sandwiches, and one U.S.B. This proved to be one of the wiser decisions I made while in China. When our order came, quite promptly and beautifully served, we were both ravenous. Al and I dove immediately into our club sandwiches, which weren't bad overall, though they boasted some kind of Chinese cucumber in place of lettuce, the slice of tomato was rather small and wilted, and the bacon was that curious not-quite-pork kind that I was becoming used to at breakfast. It was edible, it was hot, and best of all, it included "french fried potatoes." There was even ketchup for the fries! Bliss. Having wolfed down part one of the dinner, we then split the Uncle Samuel Burger. It was then that I began having major doubts. Not only was the poor thing cooked within an inch of its life, but the aroma wafting from the "meat" bore no relation to any beef I'd ever smelled in my life. My left eyebrow reached previously undreamed-of heights as I eyed and sniffed this supposed burger. Peeking under the bun also assured me that it was dressed, like the club sandwich, with Chinese cucumbers and that half-dead slice of tomato. Still, I was aching to believe that with the first bite all doubt would be dispelled and I'd discover that I'd never REALLY eaten a burger before this night. I trained all of my longing for a Wendy Burger into believing that the U.S.B. was going to be, against all odds, beef. I took one last, questioning sniff, squared my shoulders, and gamely bit into the thing.
I won't say it was the worst thing I ever tasted. Liver is still tops in that category. But, if you receive your child in Nanchang, and stay at the Lakeview Hotel, and order from room service, heed this advice. AVOID the Uncle Samuel Burger at all costs!!! The consistency was the first insult. It was basically like biting into a very thick clump of shredded cardboard that had been soaked in soy sauce until spongy. The taste was indescribable. I shan't even attempt it. Just do yourself a favor....don't try it! After that one awful bite, hastily spit into my napkin, I offered my half of the burger to my husband, the human garbage disposal. He devoured it, making comments the whole while about how awful it was! But, as I've oft mentioned before, at 6'5", Al is a growing boy. He'll bite almost anything that doesn't bite him back. And that dinner did have one saving grace....it was so awful that we cracked up over it, relieving the stress of our evening with the Incredible Shrieking Child. Never again will I hear "Uncle Sam" without mentally revising it to "Uncle Samuel." This final contretemps of the day over, we retired to bed.
Monday morning we were awakened at 5:00 a.m. by a sound swiftly becoming excessively familiar: Quinn's crying. Dragging ourselves from bed, we boiled the water, made the bottle, changed the diaper, dressed the baby, settled her on a pallet with several toys and a stash of Cheerios (only food or sleep kept this child quiet) and stole a few moments to dress ourselves. It was only a little after 6:00 a.m., but with no chance of catching extra sleep we decided to head for the breakfast buffet.
We were joined around 7:00 by the others, and we all showed off our children (I kept Quinn's mouth busy so she didn't cry) and started learning that one doesn't place their coffee/plate/fork etc. anywhere within a child's reach. Not unless they truly wish to wear their breakfast, that is. We made polite conversation as we hurried through the meal, aware of the 8:00 a.m. appointment to be in the lobby, ready to travel into Nanchang to meet with the civil affairs officials. By 7:30 we had all decamped, hurrying to our various rooms to gather diaper bags and official papers, money and passports, baby carriers and fanny packs. By 8:00 we were all assembled in the lobby with Sha Sha, our interpreter/facilitator. She quickly stuffed us into several taxis and we were plunged headlong into morning rush-hour traffic. I wished I hadn't had so much coffee.
The trip downtown wasn't long, about 10 minutes, and we were soon disembarking in the midst of hurrying commuters headed for work. Many of them smiled and said "hello" to the curious group in their midst, as Shasha questioned passersby to ascertain exactly what building we were supposed to go into. Eventually she found someone who talked excitedly and pointed back in the direction the taxis had come from, and we began to walk. Fortunately it was only a couple of blocks, and more bystanders confirmed that we had found the correct building for Civil Affairs.
Inside we met up with the orphanage personnel, who showed us to the elevators and took us up to the sixth floor. There we were led to room with a table in front where the officials sat, another table for us, and chairs against the wall next to the open windows. Al and I settled there, as a refreshing breeze came through the window. One by one we were called to the front of the room to speak with the officials, where we were asked all the usual questions. Why did we wish to adopt a child? Why did we choose to adopt from China? Did we have any other children? How much money did we make annually? Would we always take care of Quinn and never abandon her? Finally they finished translating our answers onto the papers before them, we paid our fees, they had us sign the documents and imprint them with our thumbprint in red ink, and finally added Quinn's footprint, also in red ink. They then congratulated us and presented Quinn with a lovely decorative plate. She was ours!
After the ceremony was finished for all four families, it was time to meet with the Notary Public who would arrange for the babies' Chinese passports. We headed out into the street, once again asking directions as we walked, and started a mini-safari in the blazing heat. None of us were aware of just how long a walk this would turn out to be, and we were quite grateful for the various forms of baby carriers we'd all brought. Al and I were using a sling, which was quite secure for baby, but also quite warm for the parent wearing it. By the time we found the correct building we were all washed down in sweat, only to find that this building had no elevator and we must climb several stories. This is when one begins to realize just how cushy we Americans are used to having it!
We were placed in a room dominated by a huge oval table, and thankfully furnished with a standing air conditioning unit. We all got settled and set about fanning the babies and getting drinks out for them as Shasha went in search of the Notary, which is a VERY honorable position in China, and hard won. This time the couples were each escorted into the Notary's office in turn, where we were asked exactly the same questions as at Civil Affairs. Again the answers were translated onto paper, and we were congratulated. As we all headed back to the Lakeview Hotel, Shasha said that she would return later that afternoon and pay the Notary fees, as we had brought American dollars and he wanted Chinese yuan. Back at the hotel we exchanged the dollars and gave them to Shasha, then we all had the afternoon free.
Al and I returned to our room and put Quinn down for a nap, then collapsed gratefully in the air conditioning. After a period of relaxation, we got back to the business of getting to know our daughter. Quinn was slightly more relaxed with me today, but would cringe and cry whenever Al so much as moved. This was no good. I figured she'd probably never seen a man before, and certainly not one as large as Al, and she needed a chance to get used to him. Despite the fact that he had carried her much of the morning, the sight of something that large scared her. I realized that as long as she had me to turn to she was going to delay accepting Al, and I wanted to alleviate that as soon as possible, so I told Al he was on his own and I went down to the lobby, leaving them alone together. It worked. When I returned Al had Quinn on the bed propped against his knee, eating Cheerios. I grabbed the camera and snapped a few pictures, then headed back out and walked the halls for awhile, giving Quinn more time alone with her father. From that day forward she was fine with Al, and on Tuesday he won her first smile from her by blowing in her bellybutton.
On Tuesday the orphanage officials returned to the hotel for the final time. They came to our room with Quinn's passport, and we paid the orphanage donation and presented our gifts. We gave the director (a woman) a Cross pen and a lovely brooch, and sent back soaps (hand-made from mountain wildflowers) that we had found in the Smokies the winter before for the Nannies. We'd also brought two packs of Marlboro cigarettes and a handsome gold Zippo lighter, thinking that the director would be male, which we ended up leaving at the White Swan for whomever found them, along with other last minute castoffs.
Once the officials left we again had the afternoon free, and again we chose to stay in and spend the time alone with Quinn. There was some visiting among the four couples (we were all on the same floor, within a few rooms of each other), but mostly we were all busy learning to be families. By Tuesday night Quinn was beginning to smile at us, and we dared to venture down to the dining room for dinner with her. It was wonderful. Most of the families that had been there when we first arrived had left for Guangzhou, and a new wave of parents still waiting for their children had begun to arrive. We were the only couple in the dining room at that moment with their baby, and we were swiftly surrounded by couples eager to coo over Quinn and ask us about the last few days. Having been in their position only 3 days earlier, looking with longing on families who already had their children, I was delighted to tell them everything I could about the process thus far, and thrilled that Quinn was putting on a regular show, laughing at and charming her admirers. As we were preparing to leave the dining room, Shasha joined us momentarily and informed us that one of us would need to accompany her back to the Notary's office in the morning to collect the official adoption papers, and it was decided that I would go while Al watched Quinn and packed for our flight to Guangzhou, which would leave around 2:30 that afternoon.
Wednesday morning dawned cloudy and threatening. We all met downstairs for what would be our last breakfast together, then at 7:30 John Crane, Greg Shaefer, Doug Watson and I headed for the Notary's office with Shasha while everyone else packed for our 11:30 departure for the airport. There was a small snafu at the Notary's office, as we had brought the exact amount due in Chinese yuan which had been calculated at the rate from the day before, while the Notary was calculating it using that day's exchange rate. He and Shasha were having intensive discussions about this difference, when I asked how much it amounted to (we were all sweating bullets by then) and it turned out that the difference was only one dollar U.S., or 8 yuan. Thankfully we all had some extra on us, and with a little shuffling of change we were able to come up with the extra 8 yuan each, at which point the Notary decided to accept the original rate!
We were presented with several sets of papers: the children's original birth certificates, adoption papers and abandonment decrees. We read through them and certified that everything was correct, paid our fees, and headed back for the hotel to engage in a frenzy of last-minute packing.
At 11:30 we headed out for the airport. During the ride I was filming scenes of the city and countryside with our camcorder, when the group requested that I turn around (I was at the front of the bus to best capture the scenery through the windshield) and surprised me by singing "Happy Birthday." I was so touched! At the airport Shasha helped us to purchase the tickets for Guangzhou and pay the departure fees, then we made our group present to her and she left to return to Beijing. From here on we were on our own. We made our way to the departure gate with about an hour to wait, fed the babies, and finally boarded the plane for the hour-long flight. In Guangzhou Amy and John Crane were met by friends, but the rest of us found the whitecap from the White Swan (they have their own booth at the airport) who helped us collect our baggage and led us to the shuttle for the hotel. It's not far from the airport to the White Swan, but the traffic was even heavier than in Nanchang and it took about 40 minutes.
Entering the White Swan lobby was a heart-quickening experience. After all the words I'd read about it, after all the anticipation, here we were! The registration desk was staffed with courteous, efficient personnel who whisked us quickly through the formalities, presented us with keys, and sent us up to our rooms. Unlike the Lakeview, we weren't all on the same floor here, and we quickly lost sight of the other couples.
As the elevator door opened on the twenty-third floor, a smiling young girl held the door for us, looked at the room number on our key, and escorted us to the room door. Only moments after we were installed in a beautiful room with a king-size bed (which I had requested because of Al's height) there was a knock on the door and we were brought Chinese tea and several small chocolates. It was our first taste of the standard of service at the White Swan, where the beds were turned down, slippers placed beside it, and robes taken from the closet and hung on the back of the bathroom door every evening, and one had only to ask for boiling water or a plug adapter to have it appear at the door almost instantaneously.
As it was now late afternoon, and Shasha had recommended that we get the pictures taken for the baby's visa as soon as we arrived, we quickly unpacked only the necessities and called the other rooms to gather the group for the trip. Amy and John were nowhere to be found, and Kim and Doug didn't answer their phone, so we met with Alta and Greg and headed into the street with our hand-drawn maps that Shasha had provided showing where the camera shop, the medical center and the American Embassy were located. The camera shop was just down the street from the rear door, and it was a matter of five minutes or less to have the pictures taken and return to the street. Alta and Greg headed off in search of dinner, but we split in another direction to look for the famed Deli Shop that had Diet Coke.
After a false start at another outside sandwich shop we saw the Deli, where I astounded the lady inside by ordering 10 cans of diet coke. Ecstasy! As a confirmed diet coke fanatic, I had wrestled mightily with the desire to carry some into the interior city with me, knowing I'd never find them there, but also realizing the weight penalty of carting that much heavy liquid around. I finally settled for carrying packets of sugar free koolaide to Nanchang which worked just great, but by the time we hit Guangzhou I was consumed by desire for a real diet coke. I think I drank four cans of the ten that very night!
That evening Al treated me to dinner at a French restaurant inside the White Swan (I can't remember the name anymore), where we dined on scrumptious steaks to live violin music. As we waited for dessert to be served, the violinists came to our table and asked if we had any requests, so after a quick consultation we asked for "Moon River." They made a nice job of it, and we applauded politely, but the men continued to stand there asking "Requests?" After ascertaining that they weren't familiar with "Someone to Watch Over Me" we told them that we really didn't have any more requests, but they continued to stand there, staring at us. Did they expect a tip? We weren't sure, so we called over the head waiter and asked. The head waiter hurried off to discuss this with someone else, while the men stood there gazing fixedly at us, violins clasped before them. It's difficult to eat ice cream with two strangers staring at you, seeming to silently beseech you to avail yourself of their services. Finally the head waiter returned and told us that the hotel paid their salaries, and tipping was not expected. The men didn't move. Al and I tried to make small talk, praying silently that they would move on, when finally another couple came in (business was slow that night) and the musicians headed over to their table. They stayed there for quite awhile too! We breathed a sigh of relief and finished our dessert.
Back in our room, Al and I unpacked and then I left him and Quinn to rest while I headed downstairs to explore the White Swan's many gift shops. I still had in mind finding the silk pajamas in baby sizes, but I was also curious about what else I might find, and I wandered through clothing stores, souvenir shops, book stores, art galleries, and finally stumbled upon the store that specializes in chops. I ordered one for each of us, then returned to our room for the evening. The next day we were to visit the clinic for Quinn's checkup, then the Embassy, so we hit the sack.
Final Days in China
The next morning, Thursday, May 29th, we rose early to be at the clinic as soon as it opened. Again following the hand-drawn map that Shasha had given us, we headed out around 7:30 a.m. It was a bit farther than it seemed from the map, and my poor hubby, who pours sweat in WINTER, was washed down by the time we got there, but we were indeed among the first to arrive. Ahead of us in line was a facilitator who was filling out paperwork in advance for about three babies (at least that's how many photos she had), and she was kind enough to direct us to the correct window.
Once we got the necessary paperwork prepared and paid the fee, it was a matter of ten minutes or so for the actual physical. First we were directed into a cubbyhole where a doctor listened to Quinn's chest (I felt intense pity for the man, as Quinn shrieked at top decibels the entire the stethoscope was on her chest), had us take off her diaper (I've never been quite sure why), then told us to dress her and take her to the next room. The gentleman in there checked her ears then started to pull out a tongue depressor, but I beat him to the punch and produced my own from the trusty Texas Medical Kit, and he immediately reached for mine instead. I'm sure he'd seen LOTS of parents showing up with their own tongue depressors! He sent us along to a lady who laid Quinn on a scale (she was exactly 8 kgms), then we were directed back to the counter in the front of the building. We waited approximately 10 minutes there while all the information was gathered for the darling little sealed envelope that must never be opened, and we were free to head back to the White Swan.
Being the more adventurous member of our couple, I suggested to Al that we go back a different way and see whatever sights there might be to see. It was a good decision, as our "detour" took us past a park just brimming with people doing their morning Tai Chi, then past a kindergarten or nursery school where we could hear the high, sweet laughter of many children. As we weren't due at the American Embassy until noon, we took the opportunity to hunt around for the "shop on the stairs."
For those of you who are not familiar with it, this is a "store" set up on a stairwell between two buildings about a block away from the White Swan. The proprietor, a young woman of about 30, speaks excellent English, is extremely accommodating, and carries the most wonderful stock of Chinese silk baby pajamas, jackets, etc., you could ever hope to imagine. I spent more money in her little shop than anywhere else in China (except the hotels, of course). She has marvelous glass balls decorated with beautiful painted scenes that are, somehow, miraculously, painted from the *inside*, she does chops there (check her prices before you buy at the White Swan; I wish I had!), she has t-shirts and kimonos in adult sizes, jewelry, beautifully embroidered pillow covers, and I just don't know what all else. I returned 3-4 times over the next 2 days, and one time she gave me a lovely card for Quinn with a personal message written in it for her. She also took our address and said she'd send her a Chinese New Year card!
Anyway, after ensuring that this very nice lady could pay her rent for the next century or so, I returned to the Swan, exhausted, exultant and broke!
At 11:45 we headed for the Embassy, which is a much easier walk than the medical clinic. We filled out several forms, handed over our tax forms (one couple in our group of four wasn't on the APC list and didn't know about the tax forms, but they were never asked for them!), and were told to return on Friday for the baby's visa. That left us with the rest of the day to roam, and we explored the shops inside the Swan more thoroughly, enjoyed another wonderful meal, and delighted in seeing a new side of Quinn as she began to smile and giggle for us! Friday was another orgy of sightseeing and shopping for us, broken only by the wonderful moment when Al went by the Embassy and got Quinn's visa!
Saturday morning we visited the dim-sum restaurant, as I was determined to try it before we left China! A word of warning to fellow coffee-holics; you can NOT get coffee in the dim-sum restaurant! If you need a kick-start, get it before you go! Anyway, Al and I were seated and served with green tea, and here came the little steaming baskets. We didn't have a clue what anything was, so we just pointed and dove in. Since this was my big Chinese meal adventure, I disdained to use silverware, and gamely struggled to lift things to my lips using the chopsticks, without squirting it across the room or dropping it on the floor! I fancied that I was getting pretty good at it, with much giggling at myself as food flew willy-nilly everywhere except into my waiting lips, when a grandmotherly-looking Chinese lady a couple of tables over just couldn't stand it any more. She appeared at my side like an apparition, grabbed my hands, and positioned them correctly on the chopsticks. This worked marvelously, as long as she didn't let go! Sweet lady that she was, she stayed with me for long minutes, repositioning my fingers over and over as I fumbled like the total amateur I was. Finally she was either satisfied that I was doing okay, or that I would never get it (I'm not quite sure which!) because she smiled and returned to her own meal with my grateful "xia-xia's" ringing in her ears. Minutes later I even managed to put a few grains of rice in Quinn's mouth on the tip of the chopsticks, and I raised a triumphant smile to the lady and her husband, who gave me a big "thumbs-up" as we all laughed. It was a blast!
Home At Last
A couple of hours later we left the White Swan for the final time, heading for the airport and the long flight home. Although I hated to leave so soon, I was also eager to be home with my baby, and I prayed that she would be as good on the overseas flight as she had been on the flight from Nanchang to Guangzhou. Alas, it was not to be. I didn't find out until we saw the pediatrician upon returning that Quinn had an ear infection, and she wailed miserably most of the way home. We had left the White Swan around 8:00 a.m. Saturday to catch the first flight, it was STILL Saturday (those time zones kept me confused!) when we arrived in Newark the next night, we chose to stay at the airport until our 7:00 a.m. flight for fear that we'd oversleep if we adjourned to a hotel, so we stayed awake for a second night in a row (Al and I had each gotten about 4 hours sleep total on the planes from China to America), then started our journey down the east coast to Georgia on Sunday. By the time we got home on June 1st at 3:00 p.m. we were all exhausted, and we reeled from the final plane into the waiting arms of my parents who drove us home.
Back on the ground, Quinn was a much happier baby, and she proceeded to charm her new grandparents in nothing flat. They stayed at our house for a couple of hours listening to details of the trip and swapping the baby back and forth, then left us to our exhaustion. Al was asleep by 5:00 p.m. and I followed about 7:00. We had Quinn's crib in our room, so for that first night if she cried a zombie appeared and tended to her diaper or bottle, then fell back into immediate sleep until the next whimper. I think we slept 20 hours straight except for those surreal stumblings-about as we tended to the baby in mutual stupors.
Fast-forward to present, July 31st, 1997. Quinn is a whirlwind of activity as she is creeping and crawling and took her first tottering, uncertain steps unaided day before yesterday. She is saying "ma-ma" and "da-da," and I was amused to hear her third word was "ickit" which is her interpretation of our poodle's name...Cricket. She adores Cricket, following him with her eyes whenever he moves, and trying her best to get her hands on him when he shoots past (the attraction is not mutual...Cricket is convinced that Quinn is an instrument of torture dreamed up by cats to torment poodles) at top speed. She went from full-fledged terror of the German shepherds the first couple of days, to wary regard, to total acceptance. They now trot past her on the way in or out of the house, give her a good nosing about to make sure she's still the same kid, wash her face with those giant tongues, and pass her on to the next one, while she wiggles and giggles. My female shepherd, Libby, was in the bedroom one day when Quinn was still unable to sit up by herself, and saw her fall forward on her face on the bed when I got up from it. Before I could even turn around to straighten her up, Libby leaped on the bed, grabbed the back of Quinn's nightgown, and pulled her back upright. I was astounded! I'd heard of things like that, but you never expect to see them in your own dog! Libby is so protective of Quinn that I think she believes that Quinn is her puppy!
Quinn is totally healthy, is a merry, giggly baby most of the time, loves to be tickled and tossed about, and is exactly the daughter that was meant for us. We thank God daily for her as we grown ever more bonded and fall a little more in love all the time.
The First Kiss
Fast forward to the middle of September, 1997.
Today my daughter kissed me for the first time. She has been home for three months and two weeks, and we have kissed her over and over, but she just didn't get the idea. I truly don't think anyone kissed her for the first fifteen months of her life.
For the first months that Quinn was home when we kissed her she would turn her head in disgust with a look on her face that said clearer than words, WHAT do you think you're doing? By the second month she quit turning her head, but she still didn't get the idea. She'd open her mouth and you'd find yourself kissing her teeth. Sometimes she'd stick her tongue out and lick our lips. Funny, but frustrating. She had learned to pucker, and would "kiss" the air, but she still wouldn't kiss US.
This past month Quinn started kissing on her own. She would kiss the table by my recliner, she would kiss my chair, she would kiss her daddy's foot and my arm. Still she refused to kiss lip to lip. When my lips approached hers she'd giggle, but she wouldn't pucker.
A few days ago I thought I detected a breakthrough. I kissed Quinn for the umpteenth time that day, and for once her lips stayed together. As I drew back and smiled at her, she kissed the air an inch from my mouth. Excited, I pounced on her and kissed her again. This time she giggled and stuck her tongue out. Nevertheless, I was sure she was learning, slowly but surely, and the day would come eventually when she'd kiss me back. For some reason I attached great significance to that future event. It seemed to me to be a final giving of total trust.
When my German shepherd, Wolfie, was a puppy, he was very guarded of his head. We could scratch his back and rub his belly to kingdom come, but when we tried to pet his head he'd flatten his ears and draw back. I had read about dogs having protective reactions to being handled on certain parts of their bodies, and I knew it was a matter of trust. So very gently I set about winning that trust. I would snuggle his puppy face next to mine and hold him there long enough to see that nothing bad happened, but not so long that he would struggle to get away. As he became used to snuggling, I began to scratch his ears and rub his cheeks, still avoiding the top of his head. As Wolfie became accustomed to my touch, learned my smell, and enjoyed the pleasurable scratching, he began to want more. Before long he started bumping the top of his head, that previously jealously guarded spot, under my chin. He was telling ME, scratch me here. I trust you completely. Now, as a grown dog, Wolfie delights in me rubbing his whole face, grabbing his snout and shaking it back and forth, and sighs in utter surrender when I scratch his ears and the top of his head. Love and trust came together as a whole.
Quinn was slow to give her trust. The first time she laid her head on my shoulder and put her arms around my neck, I cried. She had finally turned to me for comfort. I knew joy the first time she held out her arms to me to be picked up. Kissing seemed to be her last bastion of defense, and I knew it was close to crumbling.
Today started like every other day. I fed Quinn her breakfast, dressed her, and let her down to play. Around 11:00 a.m. Quinn came over to me and held out her arms to be picked up. I sat her on my lap and tickled her, then hugged her and kissed her cheek. Squatting on her knees in my lap, she braced her hands on my shoulders and balanced there, gazing at me. Slowly she began to lower her face toward mine, and I expected her to rest her forehead on mine, something she had started doing lately. But strangely, she wasn't tilting her forehead toward mine. Slowly, slowly, she brought her face forward, her eyes locked on mine, until her nose touched mine, her eyes closed, and her lips formed that first sweet kiss and touched mine. That final bastion tumbled. Love and trust passed between her lips and mine, and I knew total happiness. Oh, this is mother-bliss!!
For those of you still waiting, THIS is what you're waiting for, what makes all the struggle and agony worthwhile. Swift referrals, wonderful travel, and long-awaited cookie-kisses to you all.
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