Guangzhou, Back Again
A fun finish to Kunming.

A fun finish to Kunming.

Friday we spent the day packing the suitcases back up and traveling to Guangzhou, about a 2 hour flight from Kunming. It was Chaela’s first flight and I was concerned how she would do with it. Both Claire and Caitlin cry if they don’t get to sit next to her, so she sat in the middle of a three-row seat with her sisters, and Joey and I sat across the aisle. At take-off, she looked a bit concerned, but I told Caitlin and Claire to be sure to laugh and make a big deal of how much fun it was to take off and land (and bump in turbulence), and it worked! She gripped the hand rests pretty tightly, but it was with smiles and giggles when she saw the “fun” the rest of us were having. It’s probably good she wasn’t sitting next to me because she would have been having to comfort me while I clutched her hand with white knuckles and sweaty palms (I don’t like flying). Chaela is especially happy when we are with the other families in our travel group, and she points and makes happy sounds when she sees them. She even asked the guide today if they were all flying home with us to the USA. She’s just happy to see people she recognizes in her new world that is so unfamiliar to her. I will never cease to be amazed at the oddities we can laugh at here- for example, on the short flight we were served a complete dinner, which was totally unexpected. After the stewardess had collected the trash and was coming back down the aisle for a final sweep after the meal ended, another stewardess appeared behind her with a bread basket full of 2 inch chunks of corn on the cob for, what I guess was supposed to be, dessert. Of course, in usual China-style, no napkins, but a nice end-of-meal “treat”. No one else but our travel group was laughing. This is just normal here.

This isn't so bad!

This isn’t so bad!

Saturday morning was the medical appointment that every adoptive family has to endure before their child can immigrate to their new home country. It includes an ENT exam, full physical, and for children over age 2, a TB test. Chaela took it all like a champ. She’s clearly used to dealing with doctors, shots and exams. Her heart surgery took place less than two years ago, so it is all still fresh in her mind, and she is a tough girl, not afraid of much. It was difficult to watch some of the other adoptive families there dealing with far more than we were. One little girl screamed her head off the entire appointment and had been terrified for days waiting for this exam to come. She was 7 years old, but about the size of a 4 year old. She had corrective surgery for club feet a couple of years ago, and in order to do the surgery they had to break all her bones in her feet with little anesthesia or pain medication, and her trauma was so awful that she is now terrified of doctors. It was heartbreaking to hear how scared she was. We were shocked to meet a clone of Joey’s mom here, too, adopting a 7 year old little girl with significant needs and with her and her husband they brought along their adopted daughter from China, who is now 17 or 18 (she was adopted at 14 months). It was fascinating to talk to this well-grounded young girl and hear her perspective on being back in China after all these years. She said she felt lost here, in between both worlds. People would talk to her here as if she were Chinese speaking, then realize she didn’t understand them, and it was just weird, she said. She couldn’t even remember the name of her province and had to ask her mother. I felt sorry for her in some ways, torn between both worlds and probably not really feeling like she completely “fits in” in either place. It was a wake-up to me that we need to do our best with the resources we have to keep the language and culture of our three adopted children’s past as best as we can. There is a Chinese Cultural School that meets every Saturday morning only 25 minutes from our home in NY, and we plan to get there as fast as we possibly can once we’re home! We have met the Chinese instructors who are fluent in both Mandarin and English and they teach Chinese to children ages 4-high school- we will be taking advantage of this opportunity for all of our children (and it’s very inexpensive)! We also saw an older couple at the medical in their late 50’s there adopting two little children with Down’s Syndrome. It was convicting and inspiring to know that they are sacrificially giving up their golden years to care for these little ones who will need so much. They certainly won’t be retiring in this life, and what a testimony!

Horseplay makes the dull medical appointment go faster.

Horseplay makes the dull medical appointment go faster.

I came almost completely unprepared for the weather here. I have pretty much exclusively packed for spring, and it has been cold and raining since we’ve arrived in Guangzhou. The jeans and few long sleeved items I packed for the girls have been recycled one too many times and most of what I packed is just taking up room in the suitcases at this point (and most hotels in China don’t have dressers, so unpacking is virtually impossible and living out of suitcases is what we’ve had to do). I did put capri leggings on Claire yesterday since the high was around 60, but the culture so over-exaggerates the “cold” that it gets old quickly to be stared at, talked about and looked down on for being bad parents in allowing our child to “catch cold”- strangers kept pointing at the bare part of her legs showing, trying to pull her pants down, and at one point when Claire started shivering while we waited to cross the street (a.k.a. Risk our lives), I figured wearing dirty clothes is better than ending up in a Chinese police station for child neglect and endangerment.

Why aren't these all over America??

Why aren’t these all over every government building and doctor’s office in America??

Where are those entry level jobs?  Prices high enough that automation is a better deal.  China is a labor-heavy country, so this is a big surprise here.

Where are those entry level jobs? Priced high enough that automation is a better deal. China is a labor-heavy country, so this is a big surprise here.

Part of me can’t wait to go home, and the other part doesn’t want to leave. I feel like a piece of our heart remains in this country when we leave, and I can’t bear the thought of it ever being our last time among the people and culture we’ve grown to love. Knowing what an incredible need is here for so many children to be in loving families, I don’t think we can ever say we’re “done” or we’ll never do it again as long as we’re able, even on the most difficult days. We’ve spoken with two of the guides on their perspective of the new “two child policy” in China, but they have both told us that nothing will change. One-child has been the norm for so long that very few will opt to have another child because of the same reasons most in America don’t have more than two. Too busy, too expensive, too used to what has become culturally acceptable. Placing a child up for adoption is not an option in this country. It’s not a choice a pregnant mother can make. It’s either care for the child yourself, get an abortion, or abandonment most always in a deliberate attempt to give the child life- in the hopes they will be found and adopted, usually Internationally. ┬áThere is a domestic adoption program, mostly utilized by infertile couples to adopt healthy infants who are abandoned, but that’s it. The special needs children will wait with their only hope to go to a foreign family. The guides have told us that they used to not understand why the foreigners would come here and want to pay so much to adopt a child who was not healthy and “normal”, but since doing their jobs, they understand. They see these children are valuable and worthy through interacting with them and the families, and it’s changed their hearts about it. The best book I have ever read that helped me to understand the perspective of a Chinese mother faced with the unthinkable decision to abandon her child is Xinran’s “Message From an Unknown Chinese Mother”. If you have any interest at all in Chinese adoption, I highly recommend this book!

Some girly time at the salon.

Some girly time at the salon.

Claire being herself, anytime, anywhere.

Claire being herself, anytime, anywhere.

The girls showing off their nail art!

The girls showing off their nail art!

While the paparazzi are low in density this trip, they still show up.

While the paparazzi are low in density this trip, they still show up.

We’ve been able to have better Internet connections here in Guangzhou, so we have been able to FaceTime with the family back home. The first time Chaela scooted away and didn’t really want to interact, but this last time we tried she sat front and center and waved to the children and Grammy, and seemed happy about it. Afterward she wanted to look at pictures on my iPad of our home, the children and Grammy. We also were able to FaceTime with the lady who wrote the letter that came with Chalea on her adoption day- the American family who regularly visited her orphanage. Chaela seemed happy to see someone familiar who could speak to her in her language, but she shied away quickly. Again, I don’t know if it’s due to shyness or sadness. The lady told me that it doesn’t surprise her because Xiao Mei was one of the last to open up to the group of foreign visitors when they would come, and she is guarded and reserved and it just took a long time for her to trust and open up to them visiting. She hasn’t been surprised by the week we’ve had.

We spent the rest of the afternoon and evening at the hotel in the small baby playroom upsetting another adoptive family who was in there with a baby trying to play in peace and quiet. If only she knew the week we’ve been having she probably would have offered a smile rather than a scowl.

Not a small baby playroom.

Not a small baby playroom- a fun, yet crowded, choice for a rainy Sunday afternoon.

Conquering the kiddie climbing wall together.

Conquering the kiddie climbing wall together.

It was a reminder to me to stop before I judge or look down on someone because I really don’t know what might be going on in their life. I met with our wonderful guide, Miko (she was also one of our guides when we adopted both Charlotte and Carrigan, and she was happy to see pictures of them and assist us again in this adoption) and discussed our concerns about how Chaela is doing emotionally. She suggested a mini counseling session where she could talk with her to find out what her thoughts and feelings are about everything going on. We left the room and she brought Chaela in and talked with her for about 10 minutes, then sent her back to play with the girls and came to talk with us. She said Chaela likes her new family a lot, but she is sad when she thinks about her friends and her Ayi’s (nannies/director) she left behind. She was shocked to realize when Miko told her that all the other children in our group who are Chinese are being adopted. She thought she was the only one, poor girl! We’ve had trouble figuring out what kind of foods she likes to eat (she basically has only eaten fruit and a few bread type things up to this day) so we asked Miko to find out what we can get her to eat that she will like. She told Miko she doesn’t know what foods she likes. She has never had a choice- she just eats what has been given to her. My heart! That night at the lounge area she was looking at the menu and pointed to the Sprite drink in Chinese. It was $6 for a can of Sprite. My frugal mind wanted to say no way. But for this little girl- yes! Yes, you can have the $6 can of Sprite. In fact, you can have two. For a short while, she will get what she likes and whatever she wants after all she has been through and will go through when we get home. Up to this point, I have been patting her on the back, giving side hugs and just little affectionate touches so she knows I am here for her, but not overstepping my bounds with over-stimulating or intrusive touch. Last night, after we said prayers together to go to bed, I put myself out there just a bit more and hugged her head-on, and she squeezed me tightly and patted my back- I can’t describe what a great feeling it was after the rejection of the past few days. She hugged me back!