We’re off early, just QiaoQiao and I, to head to the consulate clinic by local taxi. Catherine, our guide from Holt, accompanies us. The instructions came in by phone call as we were in the van last night, heading home to the hotel from the airport. They told us no food or water after nine pm for QiaoQiao, for some testing to be done at the consulate clinic. I ask our local guide to explain this to QiaoQiao as it is far past any rudimentary Mandarin I might have. This is one of the things I have hated most about adopting, not being able to communicate things to my child, not being able to help her understand, instead relying on people I barely know with no way to understand what they actually might be saying. But God keeps reminding me every time, that this is one more way I can lean into trust in Him.
We wait a long time for a taxi, in front of the hotel. When we finally get one, the ride is slow and tortuous because of traffic. I watch the meter ring up in Yuan and QiaoQiao and I smile at each other and wait it out. Finally we are in front of the consulate building, a huge concrete building with about ten stories set amidst shopping and business buildings. The driver asks for his money and I hand him a 100 Yuan note through the taxi bars. A heated argument ensues and I gather that my Yuan is a bit too worn for his taste. A few days in the pocket of a pair of jeans is far more wearing to Chinese money than it is to American money. He thinks the money has been washed, and apparently money that has been washed is no longer good. The argument is in Cantonese, the language of Ghuanzhou (also known as Canton) and it escalates into yelling between Catherine and the driver. Finally the driver steers back into the street and to a convenience store where he fails to get change and finally gives me 60 Yuan back. Lesson learned: keep my money fresh.
In the clinic, they tell me no parents are allowed during procedures but I manage to work my way back to where they have QiaoQiao. She is terrified, but calm, fidgeting madly and smiling nervously, her two defensive mechanisms when she is afraid. Try to look sweet and steadfastly pretend you have no idea what is going on. At least thats how it appears to me.
When it seems she will not cooperate, Catherine pulls out our strongest weapon, telling her forcefully in Mandarin that she must hurry up and do the procedures so we can get back to the hotel and to jiejie!! (big sister!) This is QiaoQiao’s first time to leave our hotel without the whole family and I can tell she was not eager to do so. The mention of big sister, QiaoQiao’s favorite, does the trick and finally, we manage to get her to cooperate with the medical procedures, which take time and patience. She will have to come back two more mornings for these procedures, but now that she has learned the routine I think she will do fine.
The medical staff seems patient and kind but speaks no English and wears nursing outfits from the old days complete with winged headdresses. While they are very careful to follow protocol they sometimes seem to miss the point, for example, wearing sanitary gloves to open doors before working with my child. I’m glad I have no worries about her picking something up. She will be fine.
Back again in a less hostile taxi and QiaoQiao is thrilled to be back where, at almost 11 am, we finally feed her a big breakfast. Jumping on the beds ensues.
Time to head out for some play time in the city. We are walking out the big front doors before I realize that QiaoQiao has left her teddy in the room – a monumental change. Up till this time teddy has never left her arms. We walk out into Ghuanzhou and the weather is beautiful – warm and sunny. We take off our jackets and head to a nearby park which is more like a wonderful gardens, like somewhere you would pay to go in America. As usual, we receive lots of stares on the way. Staring is not really considered rude in China, and the site of four foreigners is still unusual on the streets, we rarely see other white people ourselves. Four white people with an Asian child is more stare-worthy. This is an area where many adoptive families come to complete paperwork, but it doesn’t seem to lessen the stares and mutters over our family. I THINK they are friendly ones?
Down through a tunnel to an underpass (thank goodness, crossing the street is definitely hazardous here!) and we yell out ni hao to hear ourselves echo back. Up the stairs which are covered in scattered prostitute calling cards, with pictures of naked women on the front and MASSAGE in big letters with an address listed. Quinn asks about them and together we pray FREEDOM for women enslaved. I am hot-angry.
The park is a wonder . . . sprawling and green, with water and a huge ancient building in the center. We take pictures of the old buildings silhouetted against the skyscrapers behind. QiaoQiao runs and skips and leaps. She is far more of an athlete than I realized and she is very competitive with Quinn. She loves David to roughhouse and tumble with her, swinging her in his arms, holding her on his back. Then she will run back to me, grabbing my hand and rubbing it on her head and shoulders, a gesture I often do when with her. She rubs my forearms in a Chinese expression of affection. It’s like she’s trying to make up for years with no touch, years with no family.
We pass a little amusement park with signs such as “Best Amusement Park”. There is also a placard for “Best Lawn” – behind which we see a gate then a field which is covered in clover. Another sign by the water reads: “Dangerous at the bank, please keep the danger away.” There is a grown up playground in the park, filled with adults, especially older ones. It is a kind of no-weights gym with a variety of apparatuses that are like weight machines using body weight but as colorful as a children’s playground. The entire place is filled with people exercising. Nearby a singing group sings some kind of cross between choral and opera music in quavering voices on scratchy microphones. Adults play pingpong with great skill. The whole place is magical, beautiful. Why don’t we have such places in America? Everywhere people are practicing Tai Chi and we can see that this would be so healthy for moving the lymph throughout the body. We all take turns on the equipment and Quinn absolutely loves it.
Back to the hotel and to more game time. QiaoQiao comes up with the hi/goodbye game where she takes our key card in hand, says “bye!!” very brightly with a big smile and walks out the front door, moments later we hear the key card in the adjoining room door and she reappears shouting “Hi!”. Not only are these a few English words she is now using, she is playing with the idea of the object permanence of her family. Testing how we reappear when she is separate from us. It’s delightful evidence of growth.
At bedtime, she welcomes what has become routine in our short time together. First dinner, then taking some medicine she needs, then brushing teeth with Naomi, then Mama helps her in the shower. Lotion and clean pajamas then climb into bed for some reading. She LOVES this time, the predictability and the care, the Mama attention. I feel her quiet focus, her stillness, the sacredness of being cared for, of being mothered. Though she does not understand my reading, she loves it and the singing I add in to the books. She is a very musical child who repeats any sounds she hears, perfectly on tone. I point to animals in the stories and she tells me the name in Mandarin and I repeat it, then tell her the name in English. She laughs at me.
Lights out, and as usual I kiss Naomi first, then her. Her body, under the blankets, waits, completely focused, for her goodnight kiss, her little face beams at me, the same,every night. It’s like she welcomes everything about this moment. I kiss her and kiss her again and rub her head and whisper prayers over her.
I am so completely over-the-top blessed to be her mother.