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!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

A Most Special Day - Part 2

To pick up where the last post left off, roughly halfway through Gotcha Day...

Lisa told us we'd be detouring to a supermarket for baby formula and anything else we needed now that we had the little ones with us. Along the way, while Pipsqueak paid rapt attention to the passing scene, I noticed that A was almost automatically moving her hands to keep them between Miri's head and any hard surface; she seemed to be slipping into motherhood with a naturalness and speed that (I later realized) must have been born of years of waiting & wanting. Along the way I also noticed that the past hour had changed our lives but not the rest of the world's... or at least not the way drivers in China navigate the roads. You'll notice, for example, that in the photo below there are only two lanes on our side of the road, but three lanes of traffic...

In any case, our driver (as usual) wove through the crazed traffic with minimal trouble and we reached the supermarket... and another "not in Kansas anymore" moment. The bus turned off the road into the driveway -- and stopped dead in its tracks as the driver negotiated with the guard at the gate. (Yes, there was a guarded gate blocking entry to the parking lot of what back home would've been just another strip mall.) Our driver must have known the password or something like it, because the guard opened the gate and we rolled into the (unsurprisingly) uncrowded parking lot. I wasn't sure what to expect once we got through the door -- I hadn't been to any guarded supermarkets before! -- but it was just a good ol' midsize supermarket.

We began to fan out in the supermarket, looking for baby formula and a few items for ourselves. The experience was interesting; just the variety of items (including apparent flavors & contents one would not normally find on regular U.S. market shelves) brought home the idea that we were far from home... Of course, there was the familiar counterpoint of Mentos, Coca-Cola, and a variety of brand names familiar from the U.S. and Europe. (International trade really is international!)  We all had a good laugh at the "WaHaHa" brand water (a name that would become very familiar by trip's end) and eventually (with Lisa's help) found the baby formula. In between deciphering labels and looking for water & snacks I kept watching A happily carrying Miri through the store, and it was obvious that she had been waiting a long time to go shopping for baby formula & diapers...

Bottles of WaHaHa and boxes of powdered baby formula in hand, we headed back to the hotel, where everyone retreated to their rooms to Skype family & friends back home. (The PandaPhone arrangements had fallen through, but we had become happy fans of the Skype service after just 1 night. It was recently deemed "illegal" by the PRC government because it's not part of the government-controlled communications but will still work if you use a VPN. During our trip, it was the "go to" communications medium we used every night to talk with Mom & Dad.) We got a quick surprise when A first put Miri down on one of the (rock-hard) beds; she stood up on her own! After a few moments she sat down and looked around... then sort of folded herself in half and took a quick nap. (So much for being impressed by her new family!) She woke up & sat in A's lap on one bed to be introduced to her Grandma & Grandpa via Skype video, but didn't seem terribly interested in doing more than just looking around. After a short time, she also started getting fussy... and it took us a few minutes to realize her bottle was overdue. I'm proud to say her new uncle managed to figure out the Chinese language instructions and mix a perfect bottle of formula on his very first try. :-)

A little later, we all met in the hotel's restaurant for our first dinner with our newest family members. Miri seemed a little unsure of how to view her perch up in the high chair (unlike the high chairs we were used to, it had no tray, restraining bar or seat belt) but became visibly more interested when the congee began to flow. Waitaminit... didn't this little thing just finish off a full bottle...? We began to realize what the examiners had meant when, as part the descriptive paperwork included in the referral package, they had written, "She is excited to the food." One spoonful after another, my tiny little niece was putting away a bowl of congee and showing interest in the food on A's plate.

In fact, Miri showed interest in all the plates... and the food... and the glasses, silverware, napkins... pretty much anything she could reach was looked at as a toy. She also demonstrated a surprising level of strength; she could pick up & move around the plates with little apparent effort, and had a grip that made it a real effort to free them from her grasp. For the first time -- but not the last! -- I wondered aloud how someone with arms barely over a foot long could have a radius of destruction of more than three feet. As we worked out a system that we used for the rest of the trip (B eats quickly while A tries to eat & keep tabs on Miri, then B tries to distract Miri so A could gulp down some food... and keep tabs on Miri), Lisa kept the girls occupied so their folks could deal with learning the mealtime habits of their newest daughters... and somehow we all managed to actually eat something among the confusion. One of the neatest moments of the meal (for me, at least) was shortly before we finished, when Miri finally decided she'd had enough congee & tidbits of A's food and began to get a little fussy. A took her out of the high chair and held her in her lap... and after a few moments Miri settled down and snuggled up against A as if she'd known her all her life instead of just a few hours.

After dinner, and all beginning to run out of the energy from the emotional high of finally meeting the little girls we had all been preparing to add to our families for so long, we headed back upstairs to our room. Despite everyone beginning to tire out, there was still some paperwork that had to be completed in preparation for the next day's official meetings -- so Uncle B got to spend some quality time alone with his new niece. Miri wasn't entirely sure she liked the idea of the nice lady who'd held her all day leaving the room without her, but I was able to distract her by picking her up and "visiting" different parts of the room -- we examined the closet, the sink, the hallway mirror, looked at the colorful neon across the river, and after a few minutes Miri seemed to decide I was an OK guy and stopped fussing. When she started looking a little droopy, I started humming lullaby tunes, some of which I retrieved from very old memories. (I don't know if Miri was bonding with me, but I was sure bonding with her!)

That's how A found us, about 45 minutes after leaving... Me walking around the room and humming the lullaby from "Mary Poppins" with a sleepy Miri snuggled in my arms. I think the Pipsqueak liked it; I know I did! <grin>  I let my sister have her daughter back and we began to get ready for the night. We didn't know if Miri would sleep through 'til morning (she did as long as you consider 3:30am "morning") so we started bedding down for the night. Miri finally dozed off completely while laying in A's lap on the bed, and was carefully transferred to the crib. I updated our travel blog while A dozed, and then climbed into bed. I remember (vaguely) waking up momentarily a couple of times during the night when Miri needed attention, but A answered her calls so quickly that I never came fully awake. I just remember at one point thinking that this was the way things were supposed to be with a crib in the corner of the room.

NEXT: We're official!

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