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!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

One Roller Coaster Ends... Another Begins...

Not all the pre-trip happenings were crazed or sad... There were lots & lots of congratulatory emails, calls and letters to enjoy (most of our friends & extended family had been following along on the "anything yet?" train for years), and even a couple of baby showers for A that we all thoroughly enjoyed.

But before that, I want to make another jump backwards in time, all the way back to the first year of The Wait. After the paperchasing had begun & we knew the adoption process was actually underway, A sent out (with a little help from her IT geek older brother) a mass email announcement to our large & geographically scattered family and equally scattered friends.  (What does "scattered" mean?  The emails to family alone went to destinations spread over 33 municipalities in 14 states and the District of Columbia... Add in friends & acquaintances and we told people in more than a dozen countries on 5 continents!) I'm glad to say the response was, as expected, universally positive -- my niece was going to have enough uncles, aunts & cousins, real and honorary, to make her head spin! Of course, one of our cousins had a little extra fun with the announcement, happily surprising a number of other relatives who hadn't gotten the notes yet with, "Did you hear that A is having a baby out of wedlock?" before explaining more fully...

Anyway, we all thought that was pretty funny... :-)  But now let's fast-forward back to the last few weeks before we got to meet the Pipsqueak in person. Good news travels fast when your friends are waiting for years to spread it, so people very quickly began planning baby showers for A. There was a certain element of surprise, but she kinda sorta knew what was going on... just not the details. The way things worked out, A wound up with two showers: one that was primarily the group who'd been waiting along with us, some of whom had already completed their adoptions in the interim; and one that was mainly A's old friends & colleagues. I don't want to name names for fear of accidentally leaving someone out, but (assuming you're reading this!) those of you who worked so hard to make both showers such special occasions -- you know who you are and your efforts will always be a bright spot in our family history. "Thank you" doesn't always sound like enough...

Both parties were a big success, with a few tears now & then and some old faces being seen for the first time in a long time... I'm only including a couple of photos (out of the several hundred we have) to save space, but they show some of the level of detail & incredible effort A's friends put into the events:

Thoughout it all, there was still a slight touch of unreality to everything; after five years of wondering if the process was ever going to end, if this child was ever going to join the family, if we were ever going to actually get to China... I had to stop every now & then to just shake my head, remind myself it was real, and figure out what the next step was. In the space of 5 weeks we had lost a beloved family pet, been to the unveiling for a longtime family friend who all along we'd expected to be introducing to the Pipsqueak when we got home with her, changed or cancelled all plans for the latter half of the year... Keeping track of one's position in the time-space continuum was becoming a challenge.

Photo ©2010 Xinhua News/News.CN
To add to the sense of unreality, all of a sudden we were bombarded (or so it seemed) with news stories of flooding in China. Not just anywhere in China, either -- centered right smack-dab on our destination.   One story after another included place names that had become familiar from the adoption papers, talking about drownings and crop losses and evacuations and... on and on and on it went... I remember not-so-quietly freaking out when I logged into an online news service and found the attached photo of a car about to be capsized by the bow wave from a bus... on the main highway running through the center of downtown Nanning! (One of the adoptive moms from the Rumor Queen community saw my panicked post and replied that the family was at that very moment carrying out their adoption in Nanning, and it was nowhere near as bad as my nerves had led me to believe. Thank you again, dear lady!)

You see, by this time our itinerary had been finalized and flights booked... We would leave on July 9th & arrive in Beijing on the 10th, then fly south to Nanning (provincial capital of the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, or "Guangxi" for short) on the 11th, where we be meeting Miri for the first time. We'd then move north to Guilin on the 14th for a long tour of the region's famous karst mountains along the Li River. (If you saw Avatar, this is the landscape that was supposed to have inspired the floating "Halleleujah Mountains" in the movie.) After the provincial adoption processing was completed, we'd fly to Guangzhou (provincial capital of the Guangdong Province & location of the U.S. Consulate) on the 18th to finish all the necessary U.S. paperwork, then on the 23rd fly back north to Bejing, change planes, and fly home.

This all sounds fairly straightforward, but there was a lot of wiggle room in those 16,744 miles... The first point that struck me (and I continually pestered A about it until threatened with a horrible death -- and I'm still not sure she was kidding) was that the itinerary read, "Guilin River Cruise - Wednesday, July 14, 2010 through Sunday, July 18, 2010" but the cruise had been listed as lasting just one day. Then we both noticed that we had flights booked all over the place except for that mysterious Nanning-to-Guilin leg of the journey; no timetable, no airline info, no nuthin'. There was also a note that the Guilin-to-Guangzhou flights had not yet been booked and would be handled by our guide in-country; after a few minutes' worry, that faded to the background in the shadow of trying to figure out how the heck we'd get to Guilin in the first place. All I'll say about it at this point in time is that it's a trip neither A nor I are likely to ever forget...!

And then, all of a sudden, June had flown past and it was July... The announcements had all gone out and (finally!) gotten to their intended recipties; the crazy planning for the showers was complete and successful; we'd both test-worn everything we were packing for the trip; I was trying to remember how to change a diaper (I semi-secretly hoped I wouldn't need those skills again, but boy, was I gonna be glad I remembered how!); all the big July bills had been paid in advance; we had done one last July 4th as a family of four; and I had confirmed our boarding passes online. Aside from packing & making sure the bills were paid, there was nothing major left on our to-do lists (aside from putting up baby gates in A's house, a story worth a post all its own).

And now the calendar had "JULY" at the top of the page. All you would see was a series of empty numbered squares until your eyes came to rest on a big, red note: UA897 IA to PEK

All the waiting was finally, finally over -- we were going to China!

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