My niece joined the family on July 12th, 2010. This special young lady's mother is my younger sister, which in classic Chinese culture makes me her Jiu Jiu (舅舅) -- thus the title of this blog. Here I intend to semi-regularly post reflections, thoughts, stories, and assorted whathaveyous pertaining to our trip to China, adoption in general, and (mostly) watching my niece grow up. Since the web is a very public place, I will attempt to maintain my family's privacy while telling the story... but I invite you to follow the blog and come along for the adventure!

Monday, December 20, 2010

I'm Gonna Be an Uncle!

Whoa... This changes everything. It was 4:45pm on Monday, May 10th, 2010... and the world was a very different place from what it had been at 4:35pm on Monday, May 10th, 2010. Almost five long years of waiting (and all that went with it) was instantly replaced with "headless chicken mode" operations. How much time did we have? What about our visas? Can we both get the vacation time approved? How quickly can we finish getting the Pipsqueak's room ready? What if...? When... where... how... AAAIIIIIEEEEE!  (Oh, and did I mention that at 7:00am the morning A got The Call, the State folks all came trooping thru the door at work for our annual review...?  Yes, it was that kind of a week.)

As ridiculously happy & relieved as I was, I was also quietly amazed at how NOT ready I felt. (Cripes, I'd yet to get past the 2nd lesson of Level 1 in Rosetta Stone's Mandarin program!)  Just 48 hours earlier we'd been at the 3rd birthday party of a cousin (also adopted), and a common conversation had been along the lines of, "So, any news?" "No, but they're getting close." "Maybe next month?" "Yeah, maybe... we hope..." "Aawww..."  (You'd be amazed how many times that conversation, with minor variations, occurred in the preceding years.) Now we were suddenly talking about things like when the Chinese consulate downtown was open, whether my old pre-9/11 suitcase could still be locked, what the international weight limits were, did A have enough baby clothes in the right range of sizes...?

All the static quieted down when the referral photos finally came through. My niece was a cutie! Lookit those cheeks! She's got a "dodo look" like I did at that age! What's that weird thing she's sitting in? Hey, do her feet look red to you...?  We read her name, marveled at the photos, minutely examined her medical reports, chuckled at the descriptions ("She is excited to the food." "She does pooh-pooh once or twice a day, pee-pee 7 or 8 times a day." "Smart, cute, reacting fast.") All of a sudden there was a 5th member of the family "for real." No more jokes during seders about "Next year in Guangzhou," no more wondering what she would look like, no more guessing if she'd even been born yet... This was the 5th member of our family, and now we had to get ready to go get her.

A lot of more detailed information came with the photos, and we learned that Miri had been found abandoned at the entrance of the local medical center in a town in southern China on June 23rd 2009, and within hours had been sent to the Social Welfare Institute (SWI) in the nearby county seat. It was determined that her birthday was likely June 20th, but all the usual investigations failed to turn up anyone who knew about the baby or her parents. She was named the same way many orphans & abandoned babies were: surname adapted from the county name, next name common to almost all the children in that SWI, final name ("first" name in the West) chosen by SWI doctors either at random or to match her personality or physical attributes.

(Of course, we learned about the naming system much later on, after we'd already chosen the "wrong" name to use as her middle name once the adoption went through. Somehow it all still worked out... and the alliteration is better.)

With all that was going on, I found that I needed to know more about this little girl who was suddenly family so I began scouring the web for photos. I found the blog of a family that had recently adopted a little girl from the same SWI, but apparently this was not an orphanage that had been very active in the international adoption arena for very long -- thus there were precious few pictures or descriptions available.  The same goes for the where she was found (we have no way to know if she was born there or in one of the surrounding farming communities); it's apparently a run-of-the-mill town in a run-of-the-mill area that's primarily rural, so there's not much in the way of tourist traffic or even international business. Since returning from China and continuing my online search, I've managed to find a limited number of photos that I'm confident are of the downtown area of the town where Miri was found:

Also since returning to the USA, I've managed to find more photos of the SWI that aren't specific to a particular family's adoption trip:

Truth be told, we didn't care all that much about where she was from, just that she was OK and how quickly we could get to her. The entire family went on repeated safaris for just the right this or that; I finally gave up & just bought a new suitcase with TSA-approved locks; spent hours going through camping supply & travel supply websites for lightweight versions of the things I'd normally pack for a long trip; and we finally (with some "help" from A's kitties) were able to finish getting Miri's room ready for her (compare this to the photo at the beginning of my previous post):

A struggles while her bro plays photog.
Midnight helps supervise unpacking the parts...
...while Dulce just helps supervise, period.
If there's a Pooh character missing, it's not for lack of trying!
It's changed a little since then, but there's the changing table... and more Pooh!
There's now a huge Pooh mural on that wall, courtesy of our uncle.
We dropped our passports off at the Chinese consulate on the 17th and got them back on the 20th. Due to lack of parking, Mom & Dad dropped us off and then cruised a nearby market until we called to come pick us up each time; on the 17th we passed the time waiting for them trying to not jinx things by talking about (if I remember correctly) almost anything but the China trip, but on the 20th we spent the time oohing and aahing over the visas, comparing passports (mine looks nicer!), and trying to plan out what each of us needed to buy for the trip.  Meanwhile, I had already blasted out an email message to everyone in my address book, with a simple subject line:


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