Since the only hard-coded item in the day's schedule was getting the papers to the U.S. Consulate for review and (we hoped) acceptance, we slept in late... As I posted in our travel blog, it was the first time in my life I considered getting up at 7:30am "late" but compared to the rest of the trip it was the equivalent of sleeping in on a Saturday back home. Unlike the previous day, the Pipsqueak was in a good mood. Strike that; she was in a great mood. Once we got past the "I just woke up so leave me ALONE!" phase (something she shares with her uncle, unfortunately) she was all giggles and smiles and playtime. After a bottle and a quick diaper change -- replete with squirming and smiling and trying to roll over & get away -- we headed downstairs for breakfast and the good times continued to roll.
The Pipsqueak was busy demolishing some hapless tater tots (yep, they had 'em on the breakfast buffet and yep, we "peeled" the crispy outsides off for her) when I remembered a game I used to play with her mom at the same age. During a quiet moment, I momentarily flipped the big cloth napkin up over her head, crooned, "Where's Miri?" and pulled it back down with a big, "There you are!" I got a quiet, funny look for a moment, and then a smile slowly spread across my niece's face. I did it a second time and she chuckled for me... then grabbed the napkin, flipped it over her face, and pulled it back down with a big smile! AJ and I looked at each other -- the Pipsqueak had learned how to play "peekaboo" in just 2 tries -- and happily spent most of breakfast alternating between peeling more tater tots (Dude, your niece is filling a hollow leg!) and hiding under a napkin.
As we were getting ready to leave the dining room, something that had been tickling the back of my mind popped out into the foreground. I took a good look around at all the little Chinese kids (99% girls) and primarily Caucasian, English-speaking adults, and came to two simultaneous decisions: one, we were definitely in the right place, and two, any aliens dropping in on the White Swan at breakfast would leave the planet believing humans are born looking Asian and slowly morph into Caucasians as they age. (Well, it really did look that way in the mornings!)
The Pipsqueak was showing definite signs of having her batteries running down, and it was getting close to 11:00am, so we headed upstairs. We found our room being cleaned so we just hung out in the hall for a few minutes as the uniformed staffer rushed to get done & get out of our way. I noticed what looked like a glassed-in balcony at the end of the hallway and headed thataway to take in the view. It turned out to be the fire escape, and after one quick glance AJ announced she'd probably burn to death or have to be carried down in an emergency: the "ladder" was just U-shaped metal bars set in the wall, out in the open air, with small, unlabeled & unsecured holes in the floor of each balcony allowing passage (for very thin people only) from one floor to the next. It looked like the holes alternated sides every couple of floors (so you didn't have to worry about a one-way ticket straight down 30 stories if you slipped)... but I really didn't get close enough to be sure. (Go figure!)
Somewhere in the middle of the morning -- I think it was this day of the trip -- we tried using one of those aspirator bulb things to clear the Pipsqueak's nose a bit; her cold just would not go away, and we wanted to get some of the
Just after 11:30am the phone rang, and AJ dove to answer the call. It was Lucy: all was well, the paperwork was handed over the the Consulate staff & reviewed successfully, and -- the news we'd been waiting for -- the U.S. government now officially recognized my sister & niece as mother and daughter. We had already been feeling like a family; now both Chinese & American law said we were family. It was almost anticlimatic; a lot of worry, a lot of concerns, a lot of preparation... and that one phone call put it all in the past once and for all.
NEXT: A happy lunch and some unique markets.