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!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

It's Official! (July 20, 2010)

Whoops... looks like time got away from me there... sorry for the gap in posts!  I'll pick the story back up on the morning of July 20th, the day for our CA (Consulate Appointment) -- the one schedule item that had held everything up at the last minute before we traveled to China.

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!)

Our original plan for the morning was for a bus ride to the U.S. Consulate, but Lucy had arranged to have our papers delivered & reviewed without our having to appear in person; we just needed to be in our rooms between 11:00 and Noon in case there were issues and she needed to reach us. We decided it would be easier to just stay in the hotel (it was already about 10:00am) and took a little tour of the shops in the White Swan's basement. Correction; we took a little tour of the miniature Rodeo Drive in the White Swan's basement. Granted, some of the items being sold were amazing -- witness the closeup of the clouds & flying birds on an almost 2' high "ivory" carving -- but I quickly decided I'd better stop "translating" the price tags into U.S. Dollars or my wallet would run screaming from the building without me!  We also both got a kick out of an obvious "oops" in one storefront: check the photo below and see if you can figure out what the "oops" was! (The answer's at the end of this post.)

Heading upstairs, we took a few more minutes for a leisurely stroll around the pond & waterfall in the lobby, where a young woman was feeding the carp. Don't let the photo fool you; I like fish, but used the zoom lens because those carp looked like they were more interested in a meal of "long pig" than bread crumbs!  (Kind of like a parrot looking you in the eye and squawking, "Polly wanna finger!") We continued our walk to a safer, man-eating-fish-free part of the lobby, and decided it was time for a nice "mother and daughter" photo... one that I inadvertently duplicated almost every day of our stay at the White Swan, but this version's actually one of my favorites.

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!)

I did test my luck with the balcony railing, and found a great view of the Pearl River and part of the city. There was a lot of commercial traffic on the water -- mainly barges carrying what looked like either fill dirt or ore, sometimes obviously on the "out" or "back" legs of their trips -- and I even caught a glimpse of yet another of the ubiquitous fashion photoshoots, this one on the grounds of the hotel itself. There was also a ferry going back & forth just a couple of buildings away, and we watched the crowds disembarking & boarding (complete with bikes, motorbikes, and bundles that were sometimes larger than the person carrying them).

By this time, the Pipsqueak was completely peekaboo'd out and might have actually been snoring quietly; just as we were beginning to think we'd have head down the hall to one of our friends' rooms to borrow a bathroom, we were smilingly motioned into our room and settled down to wait for news from the Consulate. We all made good use of the time: AJ took care of some odds & ends of packing & paperwork, the Pipsqueak had a nice longevity nap... and yours truly gave up on air-drying all his socks and stood in the bathroom slowly drying them one by one with the hair dryer. (Note to self: do not wait until you have only one clean pair of socks left before doing the laundry!)

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 goo gunk yukky stuff out of her nose. I'll say this for my niece: what she lacks in stature she has in feistiness! With both of us trying to hold her down  pin her to the bed   keep her still, AJ had no success at all and I managed to get just one schlurp of goop out of her nose before she practically knocked the aspirator bulb from my hand!  We looked at each other and decided a sniffly nose didn't seem to bother the Pipsqueak so we wouldn't let it bother us.... and that was the last time we even thought of using the bulb. (I vaguely remember only marginally better results with a similar implement when AJ was the Pipsqueak's age -- what goes around, comes around!)

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.

(The "oops" was a high-end jewelry store with a florist sign on the window.)

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