So we got up early, and we drove and we stood in lines and we waited and we flew for hours and we stood in lines and waited for hours more and then we flew again, for a whole day, but no time passed at all in the real world, and then we were finally home but there were still more lines to wait in and a car to rent, and one more night in a hotel and finally a few hours car drive home.
Well, that’s the trip in a run-on-sentence-nutshell. I don’t have the heart to write out all the details; it was long, I tell you. Much longer than the trip TO China. Qiao Qiao loves planes and cars, her stomach doesn’t always love them so much. Yes there was throwing up – quite a bit of throwing up by the end it all. There was also watching cartoon tv in Mandarin like a fiend for hours, and then discovering there is STILL MORE TV ON MY PERSONAL SEAT-FRONT SCREEN. MOM!!!!!! There was saying “goodbye China” from the airplane windows and the heart-stopping realization (for me) that this little girl is leaving her homeland for the foreseeable future. We have every plan to bring her back to visit her country regularly, but STILL. Wow. There was the man in the seat to the front and diagonal of me who hawked loudly and spit up mucus in his air sickness bag about every fifteen minutes of the twelve hour flight – sweet Jesus, sleep was such a welcome escape. 🙂
Through it all there is one thing that has been a HUGE blessing on every leg of the journey – this girl sleeps like a champ: in taxis and buses, shuttles and planes and trains and cars and at home, during jetlag wee hours of the morning. Through it all, she sleeps so well. Maybe that’s how she mentally escapes the stess, I’ve thought of that. But for now I’m just saying thank you. 🙂
Naomi and Quinn were so excited to be back in America. The last few days of our trip were filled with the statements like “I can’t wait to be back where I understand what everyone is saying and where people don’t stare at me.” The most stunning thing about the return: the smell of the air and it’s cleanness, it’s blue-ness, the breeze smelling like heaven even at the air-tram shuttle line at the airport, with the diesel smell mixed in. Walking through immigration was surreal, our two sealed packets, carefully carried, Qiao’s Chinese passport, staples just-so to some of her documents with instructions DO NOT REMOVE until U S Immigrations!!! The immigration officer was wonderful, opening the sealed packages, stamping her documents and congratulating our family in all of five minutes. Kind, quick nd compassionate – none of the horror stories happened. That’s grace, I tell ya.
Little Qiao’s body in line behidn the New Immigrants sign, captured my heart. This one little child, entering a foreign world that will become home. As we disembarked from the train and walked down the passageway and into the airport, as soon as our feet hit the airport floor Quinn said “Qiao Qiao’s American now!!” And it was true. She’s a full citizen, with all the rights. And that makes me cry, somehow. How love passes by all the obstacles, all the rules and all the waits that hold so many would-be immigrants back. Love brought her home and America is home now, just as we are.
Yet we keep reminding our first two, that just like China was often different and overwhelming to them, America will likely be so, to Qiao. We’re home, but she’s in a new home, a strange home with strange foods and smells and sights and sounds. And only if you’ve lived overseas will you know that even the chicken tastes different in another country. The water is never the same. Every. Single. Thing. that feels comfortable and familiar and reliable changes when you move across oceans. And we see it in her eyes, in her body language, in her nervous smile.
Oh, but what a time to come home to Northern California. Spring is here, our lawn, freshly mowed by the neighbors – thank you!! Daffodils on the counter (oh, my heart!) and fresh fruit and vegetables in the fridge (thank you Lauren and Diane!!). The house freshly cleaned, dinner for five ready to warm up. Our friends “fluffed our nest” so well – I am forever grateful for each of you who has come around us, through meals, cards, phone calls, texts, blog comments, prayers, practical offers of help. It’s all amazing – so needed, such a gift. THANK YOU – and please keep it coming!!!