Bill & Theresa McLean
Since so many people have asked we will share some of our story. Most of what occurred up to now is on our web page so I won't go into that. Last summer we had to put our adoption on hold until we sold our home in the St. Paul area so we could purchase a home in northern MN. It was the most awful summer of our lives-this without a doubt is the best!
When we got our referral on July 17th-will never forget the day nor the Monday after the weekend that we finally got to see our precious Tia via computer. She was very young in that photo but so very beautiful-we couldn't wait to go get her and be able to kiss those cheeks in person. The time until we traveled flew by, thank goodness Bill is the family plan ahead person so we were prepared with the packing. We had asked our church to contribute certain items of medicine-Tylenol & Motrin in children's form for the orphanage as a gift from our church. This was an idea we got from Kathy Graves who has been to China twice .
There was a time limit we put on contributions of medicine but people mostly ignored that and the last Sunday before we left we had $140 in checks to go buy more medicine. This caused a little problem with packing. We had decided to bring Widman's candy (a ND specialty) as gifts in China and we had to pack those in the carry on luggage. We had medicine packed everywhere but the only place we had any room left was in the carry-ons. We left home on Tuesday after I got off work early and headed straight for Fargo's Walmart to buy the rest of the medicine. Wouldn't you know it-it was a whole lot cheaper there so we ended up with even more than we anticipated. Bill crammed Tylenol and Motrin boxes into every nook and cranny of what precious little space we had left. During the night we spent at a Fargo hotel I could hardly sleep at all and thought that I really should rearrange things so we would have some clothing should we get separated from our checked luggage. Not only did I not do that I unpacked some clothes from the garment bag and rolled them up nice(travel tip from Debbie Bodie) and put them in the suitcases and switched a few things around to make room.
I really wish I had listened to the little voice that kept telling me it would be a good idea to put some clothes in the carry ons. During the night when I barely slept I watched CNN and heard that Typhoon Winnie had hit Shanghai where we would be landing on the way to Beijing.
By being at the Fargo airport at 5am we were able to check our luggage all the way to China. We were changing airlines in LA so we didn't want to have to worry about grabbing our bags and checking them there. Due to air traffic congestion in LA our flight there was delayed 90 minutes so we had to run to get to the intl. terminal to catch China Eastern. We could have saved the energy-due to air traffic congestion we were once again delayed. We were fortunate to have an entire row of seats in the middle of the plane all to ourselves and by lifting the arm rests one of us could lay down and nap-which Bill did quite well:) China Eastern is a wonderful airline in my opinion. They really are there to serve you-those flight attendants are up and down the aisle all night serving you something to drink-never had such good service in my life. There were movies but they were very violent so I mostly stuck to reading as did Bill when we were awake.
In Shanghai we just got off the plane to go through customs and then got on again. In Beijing we waited for our luggage and someone told us it was coming into another area. This area I believe was for in-China travel and the guard at the entrance wouldn't let us in-he kept directing us back to the place it was supposed to be. There were some Chinese businessmen who had been on the plane who helped us out here and told Bill to just walk by the guard and for me to wait with our carry on. So that is what Bill did, he just walked by and got in. One of these Chinese businessmen had been denied entry he told me because he asked whereas his friend just walked right in. While I stood there waiting for Bill I watched others from the LA flight try to gain access to this area and be denied. There was one woman who came up and all I understood of the conversation was "Los Angeles", the guard kept pointing to his right and she kept waving her arms the other way. The tempo of the conversation was pretty loud and finally she just threw up her arms and pushed her cart right by him. His facial expression was something I couldn't begin to describe but it truly spoke a thousand words, I thought it was too funny all these men were denied access and there was no way she was taking no for an answer. After what seemed like forever Bill returned with no luggage and we found our way to the lost and found which wasn't easy as there seemed to be no one official available to answer our questions. Outside the glass barrier we saw a man holding up a sign with our last name-it was Henry-a most important man in our lives. As surely as we will never forget our referral date or the day Tia came into our lives we will never forget Henry.
To be continued
We are at the airport in Beijing and without our checked luggage.
We had heard about Henry for so long we felt like we knew him. We had been receiving some e-mail from him also prior to our leaving for China so I had formed a mental image of him in my mind. He was in my mental image a very proper businessman about 50 and he always had a suit on (it is so HOT in Beijing, do people even wear suits?) The man waving the sign that said McLean on it looked exasperated and when I got on the other side of the glass partition we didn't even really say hello. He told me he had been very worried as he had been waiting over an hour. We really hadn't realized that he was unable to go beyond this glass partition and I had kept my eye out for someone looking for us and was a little concerned myself when no one seemed to be. Instead of the proper business type I had anticipated, Henry was much younger and dressed in shorts and a casual shirt, quite attractive with his hair thinning just a bit. He actually looked more like he was ready for a walk on the beach than the stuffy proper man I had expected.
Henry wasn't allowed beyond the glass partition, even to help Bill fill out the missing luggage form, not that he didn't try several times. It was kind of amusing to see him arguing with the tiny little woman that was standing guard at the door but she wouldn't be budged so Bill brought the form out so Henry could fill it out in Chinese and leave his phone numbers as a contact. Finally all this was finished, it was no quick process and it was getting very late. When we left the airport for the car, the heat immediately hit us, it was definitely a change for us. It felt so good to get into the air conditioned car. The ride to the hotel was long, over 30 minutes and Henry told us a bit about Beijing and what he anticipated for us for the next day. He also was very concerned about the missing luggage and apologized several times as if it was somehow under his control. I must say however that when we checked that luggage in Fargo on Wed. am I KNEW we weren't going to see it in Beijing so this was just the fulfillment of what I already anticipated. I was a little better prepared for this also, I had kept a few things in the carry on, Bill on the other hand had nothing. We did meet a small van almost head on as we arrived nearer our hotel, I was just a little concerned:) The hotel was actually part of a college campus and did not have a lobby but the room was actually quite quaint, and had beautiful woodwork and a huge ornate desk in the corner. There was also a large windowed area with a seat, the carpeting was definitely in need of replacement and the bathroom left something to be desired but it really was a nice big room. Best of all were those big thermoses of water. Oh how I wanted a cup of coffee and whipped out the Folger's singles Bill had packed for me. Do this for yourself if you love that cup of coffee-you will be glad you did. We also had waiting for us a nice letter from two women from Texas- Ivy and Dianna who had just left Beijing and we would be meeting them in Chengdu. Ivy encouraged us to listen to Henry as "he knows best" and we took her advice while we were in Beijing. We had no luggage so we compensated by eating one of the smaller little Widman candy items we had brought with, we had extras and felt in NEED.
We slept only a few hours during the night and woke up before 4 am. There was some activity on the streets below, two men pulling rickshaws went by. There was someone out sweeping the streets and a few people on bicycles. Sometime later there was a large group of women out front doing their morning exercises, they were so fun to watch, I did note one woman in particular who was older than most of the group and was always one step behind everyone else. In the morning I encouraged Bill to put on one of my shirts as I did have an extra shirt that was quite large on me so I knew it would be very comfortable for him. It was most importantly much cooler than the only shirt he now had. After much encouragement to get him put this shirt on and finally convincing him no one could tell if that it was a woman's shirt, I took a good look at him. I then urged him to go look at himself in the mirror, there was scalloped edging all across the top and it DID look feminine and we both knew it so off came the cool blue shirt and on with his own heavier one.
Henry took us to a nearby Chinese Restaurant for breakfast, we had to cross a very busy street to get there and I wished we had opted for the hotel, much safer. Henry picked out all the food for us, it sure was good but I am sure it was the first time Bill and I ever ate green beans for breakfast. It was here in the restaurant watching all the people eating with chopsticks and observing the busy activity out on the street that we realized we really weren't in Kansas anymore. This was just the first of many eating experiences with Henry where he ordered a mountain of food and was always surprised we didn't eat more. We loved the food in China, I was not a big fan of Chinese food before we went but decided that REAL Chinese food is really good. Bill and Ialso decided we should eat with chopsticks all the time, it slows us down and we really do feel we are full sooner:)
After breakfast a driver came and picked us up for the trip to the Great Wall. There was an attractive younger man driving and he expressed concern to Henry about our luggage, as he had been told by the previous driver we were missing it. We thought that was pretty sweet and told Henry to tell him so. Henry told us many times on the way to the Great Wall that this was of course something we had heard about since we were little children and now it was going to be a reality for us. We took the tram to the very top after walking part of the way and having a few rest stops in between, there are merchants lined all up and down the first part of the walk but Henry told us we had to tell them we would come back as you don't buy things to carry up with you. They were very persistent about wanting us to purchase things but we made it by this area.
What an incredible view atop the Great Wall, there is so much green, many trees and it was very peaceful. We sat down on the steps and talked to a few other people, periodically little children would run by and say "hello." There was one cute little boy, about 7 who rushed by said his "hello" and then immediately clasped his hand over his mouth as if he couldn't believe he said that. One woman, camera in hand, had her little boy go sit by Bill and took their picture, it was all smiles and thank you's after this. We also met a woman atop the wall who was from NC, where Bill spent part of his childhood and she knew some folks from Bemidji so we had a nice visit with her too. There were lots of little children visiting that day and we so enjoyed watching them.
What really impressed me about Henry is that he really loves children, it was so evident as he made conversation with many of them. He translated what one little boy around 5 said as he walked up the steps to where we were sitting: "I can't walk any further." Our hearts went out to him as we were tired the short way we walked. Henry was very good at explaining the history of the Wall and answering our questions. Before I became a nurse I had not so wisely obtained a degree in history but since I mostly concentrated on American history I was pretty ignorant about China. Still, loving history this was an incredible experience. We had not been going to tour China at all initially, we had seen our mission as going to China and bringing Tia home. However Henry convinced us we really should come to Beijing. The more we thought about it the more sense it made. We were going all the way to China, we might as well see some sights and in addition we could capture all this on film and in our memories to share it with Tia as this is her homeland.
As we were taking the tram down the wall two young men jumped into the car ahead of us, even though they were behind us in line. Henry ushered us all in and on the way down one of the young men asked Bill if his shirt was made in China. I immediately started to look at the tag and Henry chuckled and said they really didn't care if it was made in China or not, this was just an opener to a conversation us. We had a nice chat with these young men, one of whom it turned out was from Hubei where he was an English teacher. On the way back to Beijing we enjoyed the beautiful countryside and Henry told us a lot about his city of which he was very proud. We stopped at an elegant restaurant on the way back to our hotel and Henry ordered us several items from the menu including fish which were kept in a tank close to where we were sitting. We were done eating everything else for some time but there still was no fish. Finally, after asking the waitress several times about the fish and being told it would be just a few more minutes he charged into the kitchen and demanded to know who was cooking our fish. He finally located the designated fish, soaking in a hot water bath as it was frozen. He became rather irate and went and paid our bill and ushered us out of the restaurant.
We enjoyed the trip back to the hotel, the countryside was beautiful and we enjoyed looking at the farms, people on bicycles who were always on the road. When we got back to our hotel we went to sleep for several hours. We got the best news we could get today, instead of getting Tia on Monday as originally planned we are going to get her on Sunday. We are so excited knowing that in less than 48 hours we will be united with our precious honey. Henry, who had been working on getting our luggage back all day called us shortly before 9 Friday pm to tell us our luggage was in and we could either go get it then or on Saturday. We opted for Sat as we were all tired and as long as it was there we were relieved.
Early Saturday morning Henry took us to a city park close to Tiananmen Square. Before we even entered the park we met a man who was doing calligraphy with a brush attached to a water bottle. He was copying some of Mao's poetry and even showed us the book he was writing from. Henry said he had never seen this before either so was quite interested, all this man's labor would be gone as soon as the sun dried it but he seemed to really enjoy what he was doing. Inside the park, which was beautiful with trees, flowers, and stone walks there were hundreds of people and it was only 7 am. There were many individual groups some doing morning exercises, some dancing, an amateur orchestra. There was one group it looked like doing ballet and the instructor was a very thin man who was counting in English "a one-and two-and three-and four-and one and two and three and four." In my opinion this was one of the very best things we got to do in China, I could have stayed there all day, it was just fascinating to watch all the different groups of people. Henry did tell us that young couples on dates might go to this park but unlike Americans the date wouldn't necessarily involve sex. I was going to correct him and tell him that even in America a date doesn't necessarily involve amorous activity but decided maybe with our movies and tv that is the impression that he had. After breakfast, which Henry called "morning tea" but at which we had no tea and being an avid coffee drinker I would have loved some we went to The Forbidden City and Tiananmen square where we took lots of pictures and had Henry take our picture with Mao's picture in the background-proof indeed that we were actually here in China:) What a beautiful area it was and everywhere you looked there were people lots and lots of people. What we also realized later was that there are many more bikes in Beijing than in the other cities we visited in China. We enjoyed today and Henry has been an excellent guide but all day we are thinking about tomorrow-Sunday when we get our darling Tia.
to be continued....
When we got back to our hotel Saturday afternoon our luggage was waiting there for us. Although the clasps and locks Bill had put on them had disappeared we found nothing missing. Oh it was so good to have clean clothes again. We had no laundry services at the hotel we were at and even if there had been we could hardly relinquish what little we did have. Although I had washed some things out in the sink it didn't always dry and Bill wore wet clothing more than once. I will never forget the sight of him sitting on the Great Wall with the socks he had worn from the travel kit China Eastern handed out. He was a lovely sight with his navy pants, brown shoes and royal blue socks.
Sunday morning after breakfast Henry dropped us off at the airport. It was hard to say goodbye to him. He was and always will be a very special person to us. We had a marvelous time in Beijing but now we were going to leave for what was our real most wonderful purpose in China. At breakfast Henry had explained what we were to do at the airport. Bill always listens to directions, I count on him for that. Besides, I was too interested in the photo album Henry had that included Harrah families that I wanted to see. This was the only time I can recall Bill not remembering exactly what we were to be doing. Somehow (after a few of those married people moments) we got all checked in and waited for our plane. There was one young girl in a white dress and hat waiting for the plane also. She was so pretty I kept looking at her, admiring her beauty and thinking maybe Tia would grow up to be that pretty one day too.
We were almost the last people on the plane and it seemed to take forever to lift off-finally we were off to the wonderful city of Chengdu. Sitting by the window seat looking out at the mountains that seemed as if they were not so very far away my mind and my heart were in Chengdu. As we were passing over them and climbing higher through the clouds I kept thinking "Tia, we are coming, just hold on we are coming." When we got to Chengdu we had to take a shuttle to the airport from the field. It was incredible to me how full a bus could be, obvious that no one else could get on it was so packed and then at least 20 more people jammed themselves in. The shuttle we got on probably only had that many people and one of the flight attendants scolded a man who pulled out his camera and starting snapping pictures before getting on the bus.
We got our luggage almost immediately after getting inside the airport and Shasha was waiting outside for us. Henry had showed us a picture of her so we knew who she was and she didn't have much trouble picking us out either. Shasha is very petite, with short dark hair, glasses and the sweetest voice. She told us the ride to the hotel would be about 30 minutes. We were fast approaching the appointed hour of 3 PM when we would get our precious Tia, and even as I write this the memory of those emotions is so overwhelming I am teary eyed.
The traffic was decidedly less heavy here than in Beijing, it was of course Sunday and there seemed to be very few bicycles. The scenery on the road we were on was mostly just buildings, few people and not very interesting. Bill had the camcorder turned on for a good 15 minutes of the ride, not the best footage he took in China but he was of course trying to capture every minute of this special day.
When we got to the hotel, we were met almost immediately by Ivy and Dianna who was also getting her daughter today . The lobby was lovely and very ornate and Ivy invited us to join them for something cool to drink after we got checked in. Leaving the lobby to go up to our room, I decided that I would just follow the young man taking our luggage. I had very slippery shoes on and followed him right up the ramp he pushed the luggage up. I started to slip and slide and Shasha who weighs probably all of 95 lbs. grabbed me (who decidedly does not weigh 95) and pulled me up the rest of the way. She laughed and said "You are an excited mother." Bill just shook his head impressed once again that he married such a graceful intelligent woman.
We waited with Diana and Ivy in the lobby and did some visiting, all the while keeping watch outside the window for the orphanage people who would be bringing our precious children. Diana and Ivy are both such interesting nice people and it was fun chatting with them but all of our minds were really on the babies. Finally, shortly after 3 Diana yelled "It's them, its them".The van looked like an ambulance, even had a cross on the side, quite fitting for the group of nurses that were waiting for it. Everyone else got up but I just kept looking outside the window at the van holding two little beautiful babies and started to cry. As two women got out, each carrying a child and started towards the hotel I left where I was to join everyone else at the door. Once again, not paying attention to where I was going I took two steps down, not planning to take any and miraculously stayed on my feet.
Bill of course, being the video man, had the camera all ready to record. As the women got closer we could tell who Tia was, she had five ponytails in her hair, was wearing a blue and red shorts outfit and she was absolutely beautiful. As they got closer Tia started to scream and cry and hold on tightly to the woman from the orphanage. As I recall, although my focus was intent on Tia, Dianna's gorgeous little Lianna went to her immediately but Tia was not going to leave the arms that held her for me. I made a few attempts holding out my arms but she just screamed and cried, huge tears streaming down her cheeks. Finally Shasha said we should all go up to the room, so we took the elevator up the 18 floors to our room. The elevator was packed full of people and in the elevator every time Tia would look at us she would let out a loud wail.
Once in our room, I sat down on the bed by the assistant orphanage director who was holding Tia and handed her a Winnie the Pooh musical toy which she hugged tight. She continued to cry and scream and I rubbed her legs and kept saying "it will be okay." Dianna and Ivy were also in the room and unlike Tia, Lianna was enjoying being held and in fact was clinging tightly to both sides of Dianna's shirt. While Tia was crying, we talked to the women from the orphanage. They were the director and assistant director and we asked them several questions. Ivy, thank goodness told me to ask what Tia's signal for the bathroom was after we ascertained that she had been somewhat trained. At some point the asst. director handed me a bottle of milk she had put a straw in, and gestured for me hand it to Tia, well try to hand it to Tia. We later learned this is a real treat for her so for her not to take it showed just how little she wanted to do with me. One of the things we did learn is that Tia had been in foster care. It had been our understanding that she was at the orphanage during the day and went home with one of the aunties at night. When we asked specifically about this we were told we were wrong, she was not at the orphanage during the day but we never did find out exactly how long she had been in foster care.
Someone had sent us a few pictures of children from the orphanage and their parents who had adopted them. One picture was of just two babies one of which said Su Ying on it. The question we had for them was whether this was our Su Ying in the picture . We were assured it was not and although they answered our questions, through the translation we somehow got the impression they really didn't like that we had these pictures. We were told that anytime a family has a question they are more than welcome to contact the orphanage directly and that is what we should feel free do in the future. Their eyes did light up however and they smiled as they talked amongst themselves about the babies in the photos. That really warmed our hearts to see they were so interested and obviously seemed to have fond memories of these children. Ironically the picture with the children and parents includes an MD and his wife from Bemidji (the local "big" city we go to shop). They adopted several months ago and we have previously talked with this man, but what we just learned recently is they also named their daughter Tia.
Tia had finally taken the bottle with the straw from the asst. director who was still holding her and had fallen fast asleep. Soon after the women from the orphanage left explaining through Shasha that since it was Sunday, it was their day off and we thanked them for coming and bringing our babies a day earlier than we had been told originally. Everyone left almost together and we were alone with our sleeping little angel. One of the things we are very grateful for is that she was asleep and didn't see those women from the orphanage walk out the door and leave her.
Together we watched her sleep and after about 15 minutes, she woke up with a loud scream, without even opening her eyes. It was as if she KNEW that she was all alone with us two big funny looking people. She jumped out of bed and ran to the door yelling "mama, mama." It really wrenched my heart. I finally found a little musical toy that made several different noises. It had been one of several toys that belonged to my cousin Brenda's son and I had packed it because it was small and musical, and I liked the noises it made. Tia loved that toy immediately, in fact that is what made her quit crying. We got to see the most beautiful smile light up her face and even better she giggled It was like she decided we weren't so bad after all, especially when we brought the Cherrios out. She played with us and giggled loudly several times in the next hour. We had such a good time and were so proud of ourselves. I kept thinking this was so incredibly wonderful it just couldn't be real.
We had sent a care package to the orphanage for Tia a few weeks before we traveled and the orphanage had clarified earlier that it had been received. One of the things we had sent was a picture of ourselves, on which had been written in Chinese that this was mama and baba so there would be no question for the orphanage. We thought she was way too young to grasp the concept. However, in her first hour alone with us, one of the first things she did after she stopped crying and started playing with us was get off the bed and point at Bill and said in a loud whisper to me "baba" and then she smiled. Whether it was the picture or just that she had been so well prepared, or that she was "very clever" as we were told many times, she really did know we were mama and baba that very first day.
Shasha came by to see how we were doing and was so happy to see Tia was smiling and happy. We played together a long time, and then we thought maybe now that things had calmed we would give her a bath. She didn't much like it at first but she did play with the assorted shampoo, lotion, baby bath bottles and we made it through the bath without a great deal of upset, even though she hated getting her hair washed. One of the things I noticed was she had a scar on her left hip which looked like a burn, she also had a few funny looking marks inside her belly button. Her ears were a little dirty but aside from that I could see nothing that showed she had not been well taken care of. She also has many Mongolian spots from her upper back to her behind but whether it was the poor lighting or the fact that I kept looking at her face I didn't notice them that first bath. When she got out of the tub she again began to cry and cry and kept yelling "mama, mama, mama." She would come running after me when I went to the bathroom and scream mama also. However that first night I know she was yearning for the woman who had recently filled that role for her.
We had been so proud earlier when Shasha had come by and she had been happy but once again the room was filled with screams and tears. Finally I turned on the tv to try help soothe her and while I held her we watched some American cartoons that were dubbed in Chinese. The crying continued so I flipped some more and found some military men marching. This she seemed to like and was intently watching them when she fell to sleep in my arms.
Bill had been allowed to get only several feet away from Tia, without her screaming and crying. He was baba and he was even funny but he was not allowed to get too close much less hold her. We knew of course she had probably had little exposure to men much less one of Bill's size and with all the hair on his face. Although he knew this intellectually, it really did hurt his heart that first day, he too wanted to hold and cuddle her but she would have none of it.
Shasha had called Henry that afternoon and Bill had gone to the phone and talked to him. He was curious as to how things were going and one of his questions had been "are you happy with the baby?" Were we happy? How could we not be happy with the precious little gem that was ours? Even though she wasn't entirely pleased with the situation we were thrilled, exhausted but thrilled.
Since we were so tired that night and we had a frightened child who we didn't want to have any more stimulation in her already very changed life we fed her in the room that night. Shortly before we had gone to China Bill had convinced me he could not live without a food dehydrator. He had to convince me because he didn't have the money for it and it required borrowing adoption savings to purchase with the assurance that he would pay it back. Well it turned out he never was able to pay it back, and this was the Cadillac of food dehydrators-$224 worth. He had gone on a dehydrating kick and dehydrated every fruit and vegetable known to man as well as yogurt. It turned out Tia loved the apple and pear slices he brought with, she couldn't get enough of them. Thus was Bill saved from having to be in further hot water over the purchase.
Tia fell asleep around 7 that night, after also drinking some Coke from a can, which she loved and finishing off the bottle of sweet milk the orphanage had left. She cried herself to sleep while I held her, we had been told to give her a washcloth at night(which is a major comfort) I don't recall doing it but we have pictures of that first day with a washcloth on the bed so maybe we did. Around 10 that night the phone rang and when I answered it the other party hung up. We had been warned Tia would probably have a few rough nights at first but then she would be okay. I am maybe a bit paranoid but I am sure it was someone from the orphanage checking to see if we had a crying baby. She was however fast asleep and stayed asleep not a peep, until the next morning.
We now have our precious Tia.....
One night shortly after we got our referral I got an e-mail from a friend saying that she had been praying for our Tia for over a year but on July 15th she started to pray specifically that we would have Tia in our arms within 6 weeks. The same night I read her message we had another from Henry in which he outlined our tentative travel schedule. I began to cry as I saw the day we were to be united with our daughter was August 25th. The day we actually got Tia was Aug 24th just a few days shy of 6 weeks. While we know that many would call it just coincidence, we believe it was indeed God answering the prayer of a faithful friend.
August 25th: On Monday morning we all met for breakfast in the hotel restaurant. There were no high chairs so we had to hold the little ones on our laps. On the advice of a friend I had purchased one of those bibs that does a complete coverup and has the little pocket at the bottom. I should have had one for myself too as anything Tia didn't like was quickly discarded on either me or the floor. That first day with Tia we were amazed as the foods she seemed to like the best were the hotter ones. Shasha told us that most Chinese babies could not handle hot foods like she was eating but that Sichuan babies are raised eating their spicy cuisine. At breakfast Tia let Bill feed her a little and she even let him hold her for a few brief minutes until she seemed to recall she wasn't going to let him get that close. Lianna looked gorgeous that morning and whereas she had looked rather frightened the day before there was a remarkable change in her appearance, she looked so content and happy. She had a cute little bow in her sparse hair and looked so adorable. Tia on the other hand who has lots of hair didn't really care to have it touched. I still can't figure out how they managed to put all those pony tails in her hair the day we got her. We still do the run and chase routine to get it combed and every time I do get it up she will tolerate it only so long and while looking me directly in the eye she will grab whatever barrette or hair holder is there and pull it out and hand it to me. It was much the same in China and unfortunately none of the barrettes I had would hold her very fine hair for long, then too no one has ever told me I missed my calling and should have been a hair dresser.
The orphanage provided transportation for us as we went to the Notary and Civil Affairs to get the paper work done to complete the adoption. When we got on the van, I sighed deeply when I saw the assistant director from the orphanage-and how I wish I knew her name.
Yesterday both her and the director had been very dressed up but today she was wearing shorts and a t-shirt with little feet prints on it. A few days later we saw the van driver wearing the same type of shirt so I figured it must be the staff t-shirt for the orphanage (and I would have loved to have one) No matter what she was wearing she was a very beautiful woman and since she was the one Tia had clung to so tightly in the hotel when the children were brought to us I wasn't especially happy to see her as I was sure Tia would surely want her but as we walked by her on the van she barely seemed to notice and I breathed a big sigh of relief. While we would normally go to Civil Affairs first, Shasha explained, we were going there last as they were having a meeting at this time so the order of things was rearranged and we would be going to the Notary Public first. The ride was rather lengthy and Tia was intently watching the cars and the people. While Tia was enjoying the sights, I found myself looking at the young women on the street and wondering if anyone out there in my view was Tia's mother, crazy though it may seem to think I would see her, I just couldn't help wondering who she was, what she did, what she looked like (although no doubt her mother must be an amazing beauty) but mostly I wondered about the circumstances behind her giving Tia up. I must say it was nice being in a big vehicle, it felt just a little safer to be so high up in the midst of all the chaotic horn honking, within an inch of your life driving .
When we got to the notary office we had to go up several flights of stairs where there were many offices. The room we were shown to was called, quite appropriately, the meeting room. It had a huge wood table in the middle of the room, along one wall was a glass enclosed book case, along another was a beautiful blue tiled mosaic. Along the wall where we came in was a beautiful brass ship enclosed in glass. We all entered the room and we waited while Dianna went first through all the official questions and proceedings and then it was our turn. There was the nicest man in charge of this proceeding, he was so friendly and smiled at us frequently. He really had to be one of the nicest people we were privileged to meet in China and he seemed to enjoy his job immensely. He asked several questions one of which was would we always take care of Tia. Another was "are you happy with this child?" He smiled and nodded when Shasha translated our responses to him. He explained to us, as we had been told before, the order of things was reversed due to the meeting at Civil Affairs. He had us stand up as he pronounced that Tia was now officially ours. It really was a most emotional moment to be told this wonderful precious gem was really ours. As we left Shasha asked if we would like a picture with this man, as we had it on video and Ivy and Dianna had pictures everyone said "no" my immediate response was" YES!" but it was as if the mute button had been pushed and I am still kicking myself that we didn't get a real picture of this wondrous occasion with this very nice man. It is my one big regret about our trip to China. We did all take a picture out front with our daughters but I would trade it gladly for a picture with that most kind gentleman who pronounced us Tia's parents.
We now went on to Civil Affairs. The offices here were very nice. The halls had marbled tile on the walls and the office we were shown into had beautiful wood floors and leather furniture. We had to get our pictures taken while we were in this building and we followed the asst. director down the hall to the appropriate room. Bill got his taken first and then held out his arms to take Tia so I could get my picture taken but she adamantly refused but willingly went to the asst. director. After I was done Tia held out her arms and said "mama" and practically jumped back in my arms. Now that made me feel REALLY good!! She had clung to this woman for dear life the day before and now less than 24 hours later she wanted me! My heart did a silent victory dance.
Back in the main office they asked us several more questions. We never were asked the one question we feared having the right answer for-why did you want to adopt from China? We were however a bit nervous and some of our responses probably weren't the best, I won't even tell you what Bill said in response to the question about what kind of education would we provide for Tia. While we were being asked all these questions Tia got a bit fussy so I went into another office off to the side and while I was in there the asst. director came in and smiled at me and said "mama, mommy" as if she were pleased that Tia saw me in that role. It felt as if she had given me her stamp of approval, and I did appreciate it. While we were waiting in this office a woman came in with a large bag of candy and let Tia pick one out, it had a cow on the wrapper and Tia really wanted to put it in her mouth. It felt so hard though I wouldn't let her, I could just see myself holding a choking baby just as we were getting things finalized. It turned out it wasn't hard at all but Tia didn't get to put it in her mouth as Bill took on the job of determining the hardness of the candy and got a bit carried away in his role. This of course did not go over well with Tia (or me) and the big bag of candy was still sitting on this desk and I thought about grabbing her another just to get her to quit crying but didn't know if sticking my hand in a bag of candy while no one was looking was really the image I wanted to portray.
We were so exhausted after our morning out and about, we went back to the room and took a 3 hour nap. Tia was really fussy today and we gave her some Tylenol. We also wondered whether she might be constipated so fed her a bunch of raisins which she loved. Tia slept very poorly this second night and woke up fussy several times. Around 4 am we all got up and played for a few hours and went back to sleep.
August 26: At breakfast once again we got very messy. I never knew how true it was the stories about mothers saying they never have a chance to eat until these meals with Tia. In fact it would be a good diet tactic if I always held her. There were some very spicy cucumbers at breakfast which Tia loved but she was holding food in her mouth and we had to slow her down. We were impressed that she seemed to know how to use chopsticks, at least she had the basic hand hold down, far better than her mama and baba.
After breakfast we got Tia's pictures taken at the photo shop. This was certainly her kind of activity. She sat high up in that chair, looked this way then that, she loved being the center of attention. She enjoyed this so much she didn't want to get down. When she did get down she decided to assert her independence and felt she was going to go wherever she wanted. There was a little boy maybe 2 years old in the shop with his family and they motioned for us to come over to where they were. Through gesturing I could tell they wanted Tia to shake hands with this little boy. Finally what Tia did do was reach over and give him a big hug, it was so sweet. This little boy had a very large burn on his lower right leg and before we left the photo shop we saw a woman with a syringe irrigating the wound and putting a dressing on it. It appeared this was a nurse and this must have been their area to meet, in the corner of a photo shop.
We went to the Bank of China with Shasha after we were done in the photo shop to get some more money. We thought we certainly had taken sufficient funds with us but where we had planned on using our credit card for the hotels it didn't work out that way and we knew we would be short. The taxi we took didn't have air conditioning and Tia figured out how to roll the window down, she was really mad when I kept rolling it back up as she wanted to stick her arms out the window. The taxi driver got in trouble for pulling right up by the bank where all the bikes were so we had to exit the taxi rapidly and lost one of Tia's shoes in our haste, and they were sure cute shoes, blue with tiny flowers all over them.
Tia had been somewhat potty trained when we got her but was scared to death and screamed every time I put her on the toilet but today she finally did think it was okay and we were so proud of her for using the bathroom.
Shasha mentioned at breakfast today that she could take us to a factory and asked would we all like that. Bill was probably the most enthusiastic about this. We were in Chengdu, too far we were told to go to the area that was really famous for pandas but Ivy, Dianna and I wanted to see pandas. Personally I watched the Amazing Panda Adventure at least 5 times before going to China(thanks to Tori Case) and considered this serious training for the trip:) We went to the park dedicated to the poet Du Fu which was very picturesque and while we were there we brought up there certainly must be a zoo in Chengdu where we could go see real pandas. Shasha had never been to Chengdu before but she checked it out and sure enough there was a zoo which we would visit in the afternoon instead of the factory.
It was very hot in the afternoon, very very hot. One of the first things we came upon, before we even saw the pandas was a gift shop with panda merchandise. Ivy and I both loaded up and got tons of souvenirs. One thing we got for Tia was a beautiful wall hanging with pandas on it, a panda purse and a walking panda toy which she just loved. I marveled when the shopkeeper put two batteries in the little animal and let it loose to show me it worked. Batteries included-what an awesome thought, they did however work for only a few trips across our hotel floor but they were included. This was Independence Day for Miss Tia. Whatever we wanted she wanted the opposite, she felt she would walk wherever she wanted without so much as a hand holding on. Very determined was she and it was a war of wills. We did see the pandas which we had waited for so long and there was even a baby or two so it was very fun even if they were hiding behind big green bars and concrete barriers. So badly did I want a picture of Tia with the pandas but we really couldn't get very close to the cages, the pictures of her with the pandas didn't come out so well. There was a photo opportunity with stuffed pandas which we did take advantage of but there was a charge. We stayed at the zoo no more than 2 hours, maybe only 90 minutes. It was so hot and humid we all decided we had seen enough before we had seen more than a small portion. We did see a rat at the zoo, it was running around by the bears, it really wasn't what we came to see but having never seen a rat before it was rather interesting.
Leaving the zoo we had crossed a busy street and were waiting for Shasha to get us a taxi, which unfortunately she wasn't having much luck at. Finally after some prompting from Dianna, she crossed the street to get us a small van to ride back in. While we were waiting there it was fun to people watch. There was an bicycle accident between a man and a woman, and she was very angry, and although I couldn't understand any of the words they were obviously not sweet ones as she shook her hand and gestured toward her bike now lying in a heap on the ground. The most interesting part of this exchange was a group of men nearby who were watching the scene and chuckling among themselves. Soon there was a much worse accident down the street involving cars and we had to make a hurried dash for it across the street to where Shasha was so we didn't get caught in the traffic tie up that would soon result. What happened was everyone made it but I hesitated a moment too long and found myself with Tia in the middle of a street with two way traffic whizzing by. So Bill, fueled I am sure by his intense anger with me, as well as loving concern for his precious daughter and air-headed wife held up his hands and threw his body out among the cars and stopped traffic, no small feat, he was our hero, an angry one but nevertheless our hero. It was a mostly silent ride back to the hotel.
to be continued.....
One of the most important things we learned in Chengdu about our daughter is the importance of "mimi." We had been told to give her a washcloth at night as a comfort. Tia loves towels and washcloths and they are all "mimi," we never go anywhere without mimi and it doesn't need to be any special one. However we did take some gray hand towels with to China which often served as mimi over there and she now will introduce these gray mimis to strangers and if she really likes them will even extend her mimi to them or throw it down for them to pick up. In China she often wanted more than one and the first days with us she was picking up wet bath towels and mats and running around with them until I could retrieve them. She also does something interesting with her tongue while she strokes her mimi, she sucks it and she is really comforted.
Wednesday August 27th:
Today we completed the adoption proceedings by meeting with the assistant director of the orphanage in our hotel room. A few days previous Shasha had told us they were asking for a donation to be given to the foster mother also, we never did find out what amount was being asked. Shasha had assured us that if needed she would have Henry intereve as this wasn't allowed. The real concern that came up was we were on a very tight schedule as we needed to get done in Guangzhou so we could leave Friday or we would be there several extra days due to Labor Day weekend. That wouldn't have been so bad but Bill's family was driving in from Arizona for the weekend to meet us in L.A. and any delay in China would have ruined those plans.
There was however no further mention of this other donation and we made the one to the orphanage and received all the necessary documents as Shasha explained what each one was. It kind of broke my heart then as it still does now to read that Tia (Su Ying) was an abandoned baby sent to the orphanage by the Lost Child and Found.
When all was completed and the orphanage women had declined our invitation to lunch we went alone one last time as a group with Shasha. After lunch we hurridly took our luggage downstairs as we were leaving for Guangzhou. Ivy and Diana would be traveling on to another city before going to Guangzhou. We all posed for a picture of our little group and then just as Shasha was going to get us a taxi as it had gotten past the time we were to leave, the orphange van arrived. Shasha is a very sweet young woman in her early 20's and she really loves children even telling us a few times she was jealous of us all. It really was a pleasure to be with her those days.
Some of my favorite memories of Chengdu are the women in the hotel gathering around us when we were in the lobby and watching the children. They had such love in their eyes and frequently smiled and laughed at something Tia and Liana did. Without fail, everytime we spent time in the lobby there was a large gathering of women around us. Another special memory is the time Shasha came to the door and knocked.When I answered it she was laughing and she asked me if I knew what Tia had said when she knocked (which of course I didn't) Shasha she had said "nobody's home." Shasha told us many times while we were with her that Tia is "very clever" and pardon me if that new parent pride just bursting through needs to share that:)
Ivy and Diana are wonderful people and we had a great time visiting with them and getting to know them a little. One of my favorite memories is of Ivy singing to Tia while she rocked her in the lobby one day when she was having a hard time. It was hard to say goodbye to them as we had shared such a wondrous emotional time together and it was all too quickly over.
On the van ride to the airport I wanted to take in all I could of the sights as this was our last look at Chengdu. Shortly after we left the hotel Tia fell asleep and the van driver had the woman accompanying us ask if we thought it was too cool for Tia. I was going to say "NO!" but Bill first said well maybe it was a little too cool for her. Sometimes we are far too prone to suggestion, before we left I had asked for advice on what we should not do in China. The response I got more than any other was keep socks on your baby's feet. Well I know that influenced Bill in thinking we needed to heed what they thought about coolness. However immediately after that air went off the heat in the van became stifling, the woman from the orphanage started opening all the windows but it did little to help. It was HOT and that was one long ride to the airport. We had the van driver pose for a picture as he was such a nice guy and we had seen his picture from another group's travel pictures before we went to China.
We waited forever in line to get checked in only to be told when we got to the front of the line that we had to go to another counter and have our reservation confirmed first. We had managed to reduce our carry on luggage a bit but we now had Tia and there was so much to shuffle about, we were less than pleased. There was a little boy in line who was most enamored with Tia however and watching the two of them made the wait a little less painful.
When we got to the top steps of the plane I turned around with Tia and while holding her hand told her to wave goodbye to her homeland of Chengdu. I felt really sad in a way knowing we were taking Tia from her home but delighted at the same time she was going with us. When we finally got on the plane we found we were sitting in a row with probably the most unhappy man in China. If ever I have felt hostility and intense dislike it was from that man. We had a middle and an aisle seat and I had to sit in the middle as Bill would have been way too uncomfortable in that seat. The only problem with this was I also had to hold Tia as she still wouldn't allow Bill to do that for more than a moment. The man was, I am sure, thinking that of all the places he could have been on that plane he had to sit right next to us and a baby. I just prayed Tia wouldn't cry too much on the flight.
We made it to Guangzhou with only minimal tears and noise from Tia, her legs did brush our seat mates once and I could sense his extreme displeasure. His body language spoke a thousand words as he sat crunched in the corner, never making so much as eye contact with us.
Given all the trouble we had with our initial disembarking in Beijing it was amazing how once again our luggage arrived almost immediately and there were even two men holding signs with our names on them to meet us. We made it out of that airport in record time. It was very interesting to see how different Guangzhou was from the other cities we had been in . It appeared much more modern and it seemed as if the driving was not quite so scary, less horn honking, people more apt to stay in their lanes, more traffic lights.
The ride was at least thirty minutes and Tia was saying "mama'" every few seconds to which I would respond "Tia", and then amid big smiles we repeated this most of the way to the hotel. Our van driver who at one point had told me he knew no English came back by Tia when he let us off and smiled and said "mama" as he patted her head.
We immediately encountered other adoptive families in the White Swan. When we finally got to our room and opened the door it was like "AHH" It was so nice and the beautiful view of the Pearl River was so breathtaking. We didn't stay long as Bill had seen McDonalds on the way to the hotel and decided he needed to go there. Just outside our door we met Janet Pendergast, one of the nicest people ever, whom we knew would be there and we had exchanged a few e-mails. I think Janet is someone who would be voted Ms./Mrs Congeniality wherever she goes. It really is a regret of ours we didn't get to spend more time with her and her nice husband John and their beautiful Maggie.
Bill had gotten directions to McDonalds which looked a whole lot closer than it was on the map we had. It was just plain hot and humid out and I found myself wishing and dreaming of being in our nice air conditioned hotel. We took a wrong turn somewhere, being totally directionally inept I didn't tell Bill I sensed this was the wrong way but it was indeed. We wandered the streets of Guangzhou for close to an hour looking for McDonalds and before we found it I would have liked to throw Bill into the Pearl River myself (and I am quite sure the feeling was mutual). We introduced our precious Tia to her first Happy Meal and she was far from impressed spitting that hamburger out immediately with the most disgusted look on her face. This McDonalds was three stories high and quite empty this night however we did go once during the daytime and it was packed, every seat taken up on every level. When we finally got to the top level that day there was a woman doing seating and shortly after we got there seated us at a table with a couple young girls who were replaced by a couple as soon as they left.
Tia had fallen in love with the crib in the White Swan as soon as she saw it. It was so very small but it had little balls/beads on the side to play with and she was in love. That night I just handed her "mimi" and she laid down and was content to just play with them for awhile before she fell fast asleep.
Thursday, August 28: Shasha had told us to be at the Quarantine center at 8 AM and she cautioned us we must be sure to leave our hotel room plenty early so we would not be late getting there. We felt like we had gone too far but after asking directions found we hadn't gone far enough. We were almost the first ones there and Shasha had written out instructions to the woman doctor there and we quickly passed through all the different areas. Tia needed very few immunizations, just the oral polio and the MMR, of which we got the box as a souvenir.
The American Consulate was swimming with people outside when we got there. We were so delighted to find we could just pass throught the gate and not have to be part of that large group waiting. Things went well at the consulate except the photos we had gotten taken in Chengdu were unacceptable as the background was red and needed to be white. We weren't happy but the woman there assured us it really wasn't a big problem all we had to do was go outside and down a door or two and it would be done. She really helped us keep our perspective-it wasn't that big a deal just an inconvenience.
The McLean family was just plain wiped out while we were in Guangzhou. We know lots of people spend their time sightseeing there, we rested and we did it well. Thursday afternoon I went shopping at several of the shops close to the hotel while Bill and Tia stayed in the room. There were lots of adoptive families about and it was fun to admire all the beautiful little ones. The rest of the day seemed to fly by and I spent much of the evening rearranging our suitcases to fit all the great purchases into. The view out the window of our room was so spectacular, it was so fun to watch all the various watercraft float by. This night while Tia and Bill slept I sat at the window looking out at the river traffic and cried as I thought about Tia's birth mother who gave us this most precious gift. Tia was around 3 months old when she was abandoned and my heart just went out to that woman who had to give up this precious gem for whatever reason.
Friday August 29th:
After doing some last minute shopping and getting checked out of our hotel room we waited in the lobby probably 90 minutes. Tia spent her time interacting with many different people and squealed with delight as she ran away from us a few times. While we were waiting a truly beautiful woman came over and told us she wanted to know about Chinese adoption. Her name was Ruby and she was from Miami, she said her husband had told her that the lobby of the White Swan was an amazing sight filled with children and she was delighted she got to see it herself. She was very interested in Chinese adoption for her and her husband and she conveyed to us several times how touched she was with the beautiful children and their families.
We waited in the lobby with Janet and Maggie as John and Bill went to pick up the visas for the girls. The time passed all to quickly in Guangzhou we were only there from late Wed. to Fri. afternoon but we wished we had been able to spend more time with the Pendergasts. Before we left the hotel we had toured it quite well though, we were more than happy to have indoor touring available to us as the heat really sapped us Northern Minnesotans:)
We rode on the van to the airport with a man who worked at the American Consulate, he was leaving town for the Labor Day weekend. He was most interesting to visit with, he told us there are visa application waiting in their offices currently for about 8000 adoptions. He also told us he had taken two years of Chinese to learn the language well enough to work there and for most assignments he has had it takes a fraction of that.
We had encountered a large group of people from another agency in Guangzhou and found they would be on the flight with us along with the Pendergasts. We got an exit row, we had requested a bulkhead bassinet but were told none were available for us. We were told however it would be okay to lay Tia down on the floor in front of our seats. We had a seat for her but there was no way she was going to be comfortable in it so she could sleep. Neither was I for that matter, never have I been uncomfortable in a seat but these seemed to be smaller than any airline I have ever been on. In fact, I think these seats were the smallest in the whole plane knowing it couldn't be that my hips weren't the smallest We had checked into upgrading our seats to business class but decided it was just too much, but if you can afford it, the money would be well spent. Bill seemed fine but I shifted all night long while he and Tia dozed. I didn't sleep very well either as we had laid Tia on the floor and I kept worrying about someone coming and taking her, where they would take her on the plane we wouldn't find her I don't know but I still thought about it. In the morning I was horrified to see my feet and ankles had swollen. Since I am a nurse I have examined thousands of people with edema but is it ever disgusting when it is your own feet that have reached immense proportions. We were in a section where we were mostly surrounded by Chinese in the plane and Tia made many new friends that evening before the flight arrived in L.A. A whole row of women gave her the packages of peanuts and potato chips that had been handed out at the end of the flight, we tried to give them back but they insisted so Tia had lots of souvenirs from that flight home.
We were united with Bill's family in L.A. who of course immediately fell in love with the newest member of the McLean family. We had used up our very last diaper on the flight home and Bill's sister Beth took me shopping for a package. I remember being so incredibly tired and Beth missed the turn a few times to Kmart and it seemed like the most ludicrous thing in the world to be doing. We had a little shower with the family back at the hotel and Tia delighted her new relatives. John, Janet and Maggie had stayed at the same hotel and we had saw them briefly in the lobby. I woke up early in the morning thinking they were leaving early and we never had gotten to say goodbye which of course we deeply regretted.
In the morning the rest of Bill's family had arrived at the hotel, with the exception of only one sister they all were there so we had a wonderful family reunion. Bill's parents took us all to a place called The Dive for lunch, a real cute place built like a submarine.
Again the time passed all to quickly and it was soon time to leave for our flight to the Mpls. We had to unpack our garment bag to put all the presents in the McLean family had bestowed upon Tia, and her uncle Steve gave her a humongous white bear which we had to check. We were met in Mpls by cousins and friends and had around two hours to visit before the flight to Fargo. While we were waiting Tia played with our friend Jan's little girl Kayla and they raced all over the airport while my cousins chased them. It was while we were waiting that we learned Princess Diana had been in an accident, there was a large group of very quiet people watching the tv. My cousin Caryll and I exchanged anxious looks as we heard this but never did we dream it was so bad.
The flight to Fargo was delayed due to a problem with the plane but finally we got a new plane and we were on our way. My mom and my sister met us at the airport there as did the Hannahers from ND. It really was most gracious of the Hannahers to meet us as with the flight delay we arrived at around 11:30 pm. Tia was sound asleep and slept in my mother's arms for quite some time as we got our luggage rounded up. We sadly learned that an uncle had died just a few days previous and my mom and sister had driven hundreds of miles across the state that day from his funeral to the airport. On the way home I asked Connie about Princess Diana and since she wasn't sure we turned the radio on and found out she had died, I had Bill turn the radio off right away as if that would somehow negate the terrible news.
There were balloons and a big sign on the mailbox as we arrived home saying "Welcome home Tia" and more balloons and streamers as well as a huge cake to welcome us home. More of our family arrived and we had a little welcome home party, Tia was now wide awake. We had bought the cutest little baby swing before we got our referral, we let Tia swing in that with her feet hitting the floor, she loved it but was far too big for it. We also had a rocking horse and as soon as Tia walked in her room that night she got right on it and started to rock like she had done it a hundred times before. It was almost 4:30 am before we got to bed and my mother showed up with Sunday papers around 9 am and asked me if we were going to church. I moaned and said "oh mom" and she informed me that we HAD to go to church as everyone wanted to see Tia. She was right of course, but we never would have made it without the prompting. Our church had most graciously donated the hundreds of dollars of medicine to Tia's orphanage as well as prayed for us. It is a very small rural congregation and we did need to go. We were late and the pastor was doing announcements but stopped when we walked in and we got a big round of applause.
Tia has been ours for 2 months now, every day we thank God for giving us this precious gift far more wonderful than anything we could ever have hoped or dreamed.
Bill & Theresa McLean
Started process 2/96
INS application 3/96
Homestudy by International Adoption Services 8/96
INS approval 9/96
International agency Harrah's Family Services
Dossier to China 10/28/96
Accepted at CCAA 11/13/96
Gotcha Day 8/25/97
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