Tuesday, April 10, 2012

April 9 2012

Wow! What a day we had yesterday

. I can’t even begin to describe all that happened, and the roller coaster of emotions experienced. We began the day at 4am, which is usual for us here in China. We did the normal morning things, and had breakfast at an amazing hotel buffet. At 8:30a, the guide met us in the lobby of the hotel to wait for the arrival of our son, Fu KangChao. A teacher from the orphanage brought him to us, and we tried not to overwhelm him. KangChao was delighted to meet his new daddy, and called out "Baba!" with a big smile. Our first impression was that he is smaller than we expected, smart as a whip, full of personality and had lots of energy. Fifteen minutes after meeting him, we had to walk to a photo kiosk to have an official photo taken of David, Sam and me for the adoption record. That only took a few minutes, but after we arrived back at the hotel, I realized that I left my purse at the photo kiosk (with our passports, credit cards, and money)! O h my Lord, what a panic attack we had then! With my heart thumping through my chest, the guide and I raced back to the photo kiosk, praying all the way. God was watching out for us, because my purse was still just sitting on the table where I left it. With that nightmare narrowly avoided, we took the kids back to the hotel room for a few hours to play and get to know each other. KangChao (Sam) talked nonstop to John, asking him questions about us and his life in America. It was obvious that the orphanage spent time preparing him for his adoption. Sam asked John if mom is a good cook, if we have bathrooms in America, and he asked why we don’t all speak Chinese. At noon, we went outside for a quick walk before we had to head out to the civil affairs office to complete the adoption registration. We did notice that KangChao drags his left foot a teeny, tiny bit, and that is probably why the Chinese doctors diagnosed him with Cerebral Palsy. By then, it was nearly 80 degrees outside, so David bought the three boys ice-cream from a street vendor, and then Sam told John that he wanted one of the bubble blowing machines on display. I told John to say no, because we know better than to immediately start buying KangChao (Sam) everything he asks for; we’ve found that is never a good way to start parenting a child. John kept telling him no, and Sam kept trying to drag John over to the kiosk that sells the bubbles. John said that he didn’t have any money. Sam asked John if Baba has money. John said that yes, Baba has money. Sam then began to beg David for the bubble machine. Too funny. We then headed back to the hotel and met our guide for the civil affairs appointment. On the way, Sam told John that we were going to an office to do paperwork for the adoption. Wow! I gave each of the boys a Gameboy DS to play with at the Civil Affairs office, and that kept them happily occupied for the entire appointment. Sam was happy to place his hand on the red ink pad and make his mark on the adoption papers. The woman at the Civil Affairs office completed the official "red book" and gave it to us immediately. The entire appointment took less than 30 minutes. It took two days to complete the same steps in Beijing in 2010. We then went to the police station to apply for Fu, KangChao’s passport. The guide had arranged for us to bypass all the lines, and we were immediately taken into a room for a passport photo. Again, we were in and out in record time. Onward and forward; we proceeded to the notary office to complete the final adoption step. You guessed it; done in fifteen minutes tops. With drive time, our entire adoption paperwork took 90 minutes. We spent five days in Beijing completing these same steps in 2010! At this juncture, I do want to mention the traffic and driving in China. If any one of our van drivers wanted to move to America and make it rich, he could easily become a professional race-car driver. I’d give odds a Chinese driver would win the Indy 500 while talking on his cell phone. With lightening fast reflexes and an aggressive, take-no-prisoners technique, our drivers earn my utmost admiration and a big kudos. I’ve been driving for 30 years and I would never attempt to navigate the traffic and driving conditions in China.

After the adoption paperwork was complete, we decided that naps would be a good idea

. KangChao happily joined Ben in bed, and we all slept for 90 minutes. At 5pm, the phone in our room rang; our guide told us that the orphanage director invited us to join her family to see a temple and have dinner. We had ten minutes to get dressed and downstairs! Oye. We were picked up by a different driver and taken to the lake/park, where we met the orphanage director and her family. Along with the orphanage entourage, there was a professional photographer photographing the event. Talk about pressure. It turns out that the orphanage director sort of fostered KangChao, taking him home to her house every night after work. When KangChao saw the director’s husband, he was ecstatic. KangChao threw himself at his Baba, and clung to his side during the hour tour of the temple. The temple is normally closed to visitors, according to our guide, but some strings were pulled and our group was given a private tour, with a tour guide and a professional photographer too! After the tour, we all headed to a five-star restaurant, where we were escorted to a private suite. I could write for hours about the elaborate meal, the wine/beer toasts, the fan-fare and the good intentions of the director. We were treated as guests of honor, and I know the whole event was supposed to be special. However, what was central to our family during dinner is that KangChao was obviously adored by the director’s husband, and vice-versa. After an hour of conversation (the guide acted as an interpreter), KangChao began to melt-down. He clung to the director’s husband, crying Baba, Baba, Baba, and he refused to be consoled. By the end of the dinner (which we cut short) KangChao was screaming uncontrollably. The teacher from the orphanage carried him to the van, and we headed back to the hotel with KangChao thrashing and wailing. David peeled him off the teacher upon arrival, and carried KangChao up to the room. Our guide joined us in the room, and we all spent fifteen minutes trying to calm KangChao down. We were all fighting tears ourselves, because we could feel KangChao shudder with grief. At that moment I was reminded that adoption is always about loss. We will be happy as a family, but our gain begins with KangChao’s loss.

When I asked one of the members of the dinner party (a girl, who was maybe 25 years old) why the director didn’t adopt KangChao herself, she told us that they (realized that she was the director’s daughter) only hosted KangChao for the past month

. They wanted him to learn how to be in a family, but they already had one child, and they couldn’t adopt him according to Chinese law. KangChao learned how to be in a family and form attachments, to be sure, but I think the trauma of that evening will forever haunt us all. Fortunately, we were able to calm his sobbing after fifteen minutes, with our guides help, and we all fell asleep rather quickly afterwards. By morning, things were looking brighter. That is, until KangChao began vomiting. Yes, the rich, expensive, elaborate dinner, came back up, time and time again. Even in the car on the way to pick up the notary papers. I’ve never been so proud of John though. Without batting an eye, John cleaned up KangChao, held his head in his lap, and just "took on" KangChao’s pain, grief, and stomachache. By 10:30am, we had our little sweet, playful, bright, little boy back. Again, I am amazed by the resilience of children and the power of God. We’ve been sitting in the Jinan airport for five hours now (our flight to Harbin has been delayed) and KangChao is nothing but delightful. He’s latched onto John, naturally, and he’s having a blast with Ben. He will be a handful, we can tell already. YES!! We have our son, Fu, KangChao---Sam KangChao Peters. Amen.

First day in Jinan

Once again I’m writing this blog at 4:00am. Let me see if I can get some thoughts down on paper before Ben wakes up for the day. Yesterday, Easter Sunday, began when Ben and I went down to the lobby in the wee hours of the morning. As I’ve said, Ben and I are NOT adjusting to the time change. At 6:00am, Ben and I roused David and John for breakfast. By 8:00am, we were in a taxi heading to the Temple of Heaven. The Temple of Heaven is actually an enormous park, with many temple buildings. I had no idea that it was so large; it seems to be as large as Central Park. We walked around for a few hours, admiring the Emperor’s Palace. What struck me as interesting today is that the things that used to offend my Western senses don’t bother me this trip. What I mean is, the Chinese people have customs that I dislike (spitting, smoking, squatty potties, babies’ butts showing with split pants etc.), but I just chalk them up to cultural differences and move forward. The babies’ exposed bottoms are now kind of cute, in their own way. And I really admire the way that elderly Chinese people exercise and play. In the Temple of Heaven park, there were literally thousands of senior citizens dancing, practicing Tai Chi, playing badminton, tennis, hacky sack, singing, flying kites, fan dancing, and just enjoying the outdoors and in their friends’ company. Older people sit in groups on the sidewalks playing chess, poker, and stretching their muscles. What a contrast to most of our senior citizens! My biggest impression at the Temple of Heaven was that Chinese people retire so that they can play all day, not so they can rest.

At 10:30am we were at the railway station to board the bullet train to Jinan. If you ever have to travel from Beijing to Jinan, I highly recommend the bullet train. Once out of Beijing, there are miles and miles and miles of farms. Although we don’t think of China as having lots of farmland, it makes sense given the population that they have to feed. The farms consisted of small fields of crops, interspersed with small orchards. There didn’t seem to be acres of one crop stretching for miles. In the fields, there were often big mounds of dirt with flowers on top. We can only guess that the mounds were actually burial places, since the decorating the graves holiday was this week. Once in awhile there were several mounds of dirt, in the middle of an agricultural field, with what appeared to be a tombstone marking the spot. ‘

Once we arrived in Jinan, at 2:30pm, we were met by our new guide, Missy. This guide is actually the first guide we’ve had that wanted to accompany us for our entire evening. Usually, we just tell the guide thanks for the ride, the smooth check-in at the hotel, and we’ll see you tomorrow for the government appointments. This guide, Missy, walked us to a park, walked us to a restaurant, sat with us while we ate big bowls of noodles, and walked us to the bookstore. We were able to purchase a set of DVDs for Ben of his favorite cartoon, and a few DVDs for John too. We tried to find Pokemon books for our friend’s daughter, but they were sold out. We also went to Walmart. That description I’ll leave for when we visit the next city and go to Walmart in Harbin. Just let it be know, that the Walmart in China is an experience that I won’t soon forget. At 8:00pm, we returned to our room to watch TV and settle in for the night. Originally, we were supposed to have family day with Sam on Easter, but it was rescheduled, for reasons I don’t understand, for April 9 (today) at 8:30am. So, in 3 hours we will finally meet Fu, KangChao!  I will, of course, write more about our meeting later today.