Morning comes and we join adoptive families from our agency and others and take a group bus back down to the consulate. This time we pass through the bulletproof glass walls and security gates of the main consulate, past hordes of Chinese, waiting for the chance at an appointment. We are a long line of Americans, with our children and some grandparents, being carefully shepherded past the crowds and into the inner sanctum, American ground within the walls of China. As I wait to pass through security, a mass of Chinese people looking on, I see along the glass walls of the consulate the words of our constitution and my throat grows tight and my eyes, wet. Say what you will about our country; being in another country reminds me quickly of how blessed I am. I felt an overwhelming sensation of the beauty of Qiao Qiao’s community coming around her. That not only are we welcoming her into our family, but because of our choice and our sacrifice to make this happen, an entire country welcomes her. Unlike the other Chinese, still waiting hopefully at a chance to immigrate, Qiao Qiao will soon become a full legal citizen, like us. The spiritual connotations are so deeply profound. I take a deep breath, and hand-in-hand with my new daughter, who will not let go, I pass through security and into a world so like the ones our Navy family is used to. The consulate feels strangely like home. 🙂
We wait again, with other families, as the sounds of children playing echo off the walls. Qiao, as usual, is the oldest adoptive child by five or more years. We have not seen a child her age in any adoptive families. We’re just the lucky ones who got to bring her home. The best of the bunch, sorry, other families. 🙂 We all stop to listen, as, through the little glass window, an American man speaks to us over a microphone. Cameras are forbidden in the consulate so we have no evidence of this oz-behind-the-curtain. He asks all the parents to stand and raise our right hands. We are to swear the immigrants oath on behalf of our newly adopted children, so that they can enter the United States with their Chinese passports. Later, we will readopt Qiao Qiao in America, where she will gain all the accoutrements of an American citizen. We swear her oath, tears filling my eyes. It is both a perfectly mundane act and a completely sacred one and I feel all the accompanying big feelings.
Now, in turn, as our numbers are called, we go to the window where we are handed our paperwork for immigration in a package sealed with super sticky Chinese tape, then told to open it. It is is illegal for anyone but us to do so. As soon as we open the paperwork we hand it back, without even looking at it. We will not see it again. In the end, we leave the consulate with all paperwork in order, ready to create an American visa for our new children, that will be delivered via our agencies tomorrow.
Back in the bus and our family returns to Shamien Island to get laundry done much more cheaply than at the hotel, grab lunch and do a little souvenir shopping. Then, as the kids and David take a quiet time in the hotel room, I join a meeting of other parents for exit procedures. This includes instruction for immigration procedures with our new children once at our port of entry. It also includes the coordination of all our trains, buses, shuttles, taxis and flights out of the country, all of which are carefully managed and double checked by our agency. Their attention to detail is staggering, the informative step by step instructions are a life-line. This is a once in a lifetime experience for each of us, but we are just another family in a constant stream of new parents, for them. Yet we are fully taken care of every step of this journey. All of us are thrilled to be headed home to friends and family, and also very aware that we are about to embark on a whole new phase of acclimation for our adopted children – acclimation to real life. No more buffet breakfasts, tours of the city, and staff making our beds each day. As far as Qiao Qiao knows, that’s just how we live!! No, sweet girl, you’re about to learn that our real life is far more mundane – and far more wonderful. Just wait and see.
As evening falls we head with other families to the banks of the Pearl River where we board a big boat to eat take our Papa Johns pizza (really!) and see the sights of Ghuanzhou. The views are magnificent, and after eating our pizza at our reserved table, we head upstairs where the magically balmy night air blows over us like a gift. Qiao Qiao is enchanted, this is her first time on a boat and she drinks it in, taking pictures of everyone and everything, including random strangers. China does rivers well, it seems. Every bridge is incredible, lit up with rainbow colors. Buildings gleam and sparkle with lights and after forty minutes we reach our destination, the Canton building, the tallest building in China, shimmering with a moving rainbow of colors. We ooh and aah – it is truly magnificent. Now back we turn, past all the beauty again, and back to shore where we head home to much needed sleep.
All day long Qiao Qiao has called for me, ” Mama, Mama” – she sings it like a song, this mandarin speaker. And I answer every time, we are dancing our way into attachment, into intimacy. At bedtime, we read again, as every night, our three favorite books: Bunny My Honey, Kiss Goodnight and Mamma, Papa. I admit to changing some of the words to suit her mandarin ears. She is beginning to memorize the words to Bunny My Honey, a story about a bunny who gets lost and is found by his mommy. Her favorite part is where the Mommy reappears and the baby calls ” Mommy!” And if you aren’t crying now, you should be. In Kiss good night the Mama Bear kisses her child once, then twice, then twice again and so I do with Qiao Qiao, who waits for this moment, the kisses. Our last book, the Mama and the baby, the Baba and the baby. Me with my baby. Kissing, praying, tucking in, smiling good night.
One more day in China before the journey home.