Having (barely) avoided being thrown out of the restaurant due to my teeny-tiny niece's mega-massive stinky diaper change, we headed back to our hotel for a few hours of downtime. Even though this was our last day in Guilin (and the Pipsqueak's last day in her home province, probably for many years) we weren't sure how much more sightseeing we'd be able to fit in -- the next morning's wake-up call would be at 5:00am, followed by Miri's first plane flight. The idea of getting some rest seemed pretty darn good...
During the drive back, I took a few shots of the passing scene; I found it interesting that in a booming city filled with increasingly modern buildings, almost any open plot of land not dedicated to a park had been turned into a vegatable garden; even now I'm wondering if maybe I should be pushing myself in a slightly more self-sufficient direction that way. (Of course, in the more heavily built-up neighborhoods, garden plots were few and far between.)
One thing I saw from the bus was a small pond with large lotus flowers growing in it. We had passed it several times but none of my photos turned out well (too much blur, or another vehicle got in the way). I was just really excited because it was the first time I'd seen lotus flowers in person, and they really did look just like the old Egyptian or Greek paintings! (Yes, I sometimes do get excited by unusual things... why do you ask? <grin>)
Back in our room, we decided to spend the afternoon just taking care of things & packing so that we could just go in the morning without (we hoped) any last-second scrambling or drama. The Pipsqueak seemed happy sitting on her mommy's bed with a couple of toys, so AJ asked me to keep an eye on her while she retreated to the bathroom to do some laundry. I puttered around the room, making sure I always had one eye on my niece as she sat in the middle of the bed. At some point I decided I wanted a drink... but my squeeze bottle was in the little fridge on the other end of the room.
The next few seconds went like this: I take a quick look at the Pipsqueak, and she's in the middle of the bed. I walk halfway across the room, then stop & turn around; the Pipsqueak's in the middle of the bed. I took a few more steps, reach the refrigerator, and turn around; the Pipsqueak's in the middle of the bed. I bend over to open the little fridge, then look up; the Pipsqueak's in the middle of the bed. I find my squeeze bottle in the fridge and look up; the Pipsqueak's in the middle of the bed. I close the fridge, uncap the bottle, and look up; the Pipsqueak's in the middle of the bed. I quickly raise the bottle to where it blocks my vision, give one fast, short squirt into my mouth and pull the bottle down...
...and the Pipsqueak's in midair, halfway to the floor off the foot of the bed.
I think she hit the floor the same time as the squeeze bottle, but no matter how fast I moved there was no way I was getting there before the loud "THUNK!" of her landing headfirst in front of the TV. (Idiot! You just killed your niece!) She looked kind of surprised, but the expected wailing never came; it seemed like she was so used to not getting quick responses when she was lonely or hurt that she'd learned to not cry when most babies would've been screaming bloody murder. On the other hand, I'm not sure what kind of sound I made, but AJ came truckin' out of the bathroom pretty darned quick. She carefully checked her daughter while I gasped out what had happened, and finding the little one undamaged laughingly told me that I was actually in worse shape than my niece. After I stopped hyperventilating and got my heart rate back down into the low 100s, I checked out the teeny-tiny red mark on Miri's head and decided that my sister was definitely better cut-out for parenthood than I was.
[NOTE: After returning Stateside and seeing many repeats of similar feats of headfirst teleportation, I've been known to say that my niece is going through life head-first, accompanied by the occasional loud "thunk!" Somehow, she remains dent-free and thinks "ow!" is a funny word.]
Things soon returned to normal, and I kept my movements restricted to within 3-4 feet of the Pipsqueak any time AJ moved away. I think that conk on the head must have knocked a few inhibitions loose, because at one point when AJ went to stop Miri from digging through one of her bags (a sport she continues to enjoy), the little one stood up and delivered a short soliloquy -- possibly lecturing her uncle on baby safety? -- before plopping back down for further review of her mommy's packing skills.
A few minutes later, while looking out the window I noticed some low clouds coming through the nearby hills. It wasn't long before we could clearly see the rain falling from those clouds... and they were heading directly toward us. Now, I've seen some real gully-washers in my time, and have gotten caught in tropical rains that felt like someone was dropping balloons filled with hot water on me, but I'd never seen rain like this before in my life. I now have a much greater respect for the term "monsoon" -- the photos below were taken only about 3 minutes apart:
That's not fog hiding the nearby hills, nor is it a low-lying cloud; the view was blocked by the sheer volume of water pouring from the sky. We quickly concluded that staying in the hotel had been a really good idea, and as we slowly re-packed we amused ourselves watching the people outside trying to find shelter from the ongoing aerial flood. We both especially enjoyed seeing the motorbikes zipping along, invariably with a driver wearing a big poncho and a person-shaped lump behind the driver (most folks rode tandem to save time & money). As the storm approached, there had been a single patron eating at the mini-restaurant directly across the alley. but her view of the oncoming storm was blocked by the building. I was trying to think of how to warn her & the cook to seek shelter when they quickly closed up & went inside; the rain was so heavy, the heard it coming!
Any idea of going out to buy proper-sized diapers for the Pipsqueak washed away in the rain, so we occupied ourselves with packing and planned to go shopping after dinner. Eventually the weather cleared, and after a super-short longevity nap we headed down to dinner. Once in our private dining room, we got another surprise: Lisa had gone out in that monsoon rain to make sure we'd have a pack of the proper size diapers for Miri! The other "big thing" at dinner was the arrival of everybody's provincial paperwork -- now, days after Gotcha Day, days after bonding with the kiddos, all three families finally had official proof that the Powers That Be in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region considered them to truly, legally be members of our families... along with their brand-new Chinese passports, absolutely essential for getting the U.S. government to agree.
The Pipsqueak took the news with typical aplomb; a quick glance at the papers, a quick curious look at her mommy (now officially considered as such)... and then she wanted food. (This kid definitely belongs to this family!) Everyone else was poring over the papers, anxiously double-checking all the information while occasionally wiping a happy tear away. Eventually we all settled down enough for dinner to be served (the wait staff was used to us by this point, so they just hung back 'til the first round of ruckus subsided)... and got another surprise. Mama B mentioned that she'd checked her email before dinner and learned that the last batch of adoption paperwork processed by the CCAA covered a period of 14 days; the largest batch in recent memory. I think we were all honestly confused over what should come first: happiness for all the waiting families, or anger over how much earlier we would've been in China if they'd only done that many days at a time more frequently. (Later that night, it occurred to me that if that had been the case, then we would be traveling with a different little girl -- and suddenly I was very glad that things had worked out as they had.)
We all returned to our rooms a little earlier that night, knowing our luggage had to be outside our doors no later than 5:00am the next morning. We had pretty much completed our packing, so AJ decided to take a shower. (Again leaving her daughter's safety in my hands; is she trusting or crazy?) Wanting to be sure there were no further loud thunks, I picked up my niece as soon as AJ went into the bathroom and resolved to not put her down again 'til her mommy was back.
So much for the best-laid plans.
I was walking around the room barefoot, singing softly to Miri and trying to keep her occupied. All of a sudden, my right foot felt... well, warm and damp. I looked down and noticed something was dripping on it... and my eyes followed a damp, dark stripe up my pant leg... up past the pocket... up to the waistband... and I suddenly realized what I was looking at. Sure enough, when I held the Pipsqueak out at arm's length she was just finishing a nice dribble, and my right side was thoroughly wet from just below my armpit aaaallll the way down my leg (to where my pants were dripping on my bare foot). ("THAT's what you get for letting me fall on my head, Uncle Brian!")
So there I am, dripping wet with my niece's pee, holding her in midair... with no mommy in sight. Well, it seems that all those episodes of "An Adoption Story" and "A Baby Story" I'd been watching on Lifetime (yes, I really did) came in handy: while still holding the Pipsqueak, I grabbed one of the new diapers & a pack of baby wipes from the red diaper bag, spread our changing pad on one of the beds (AJ's, of course!), and somehow managed to get a thoroughly annoyed & squirmy little girl re-diapered so well that once my sister finished her shower -- and finished laughing at me! -- she only had to make one teeny-tiny adjustment to one of the diaper's sticky tabs.
After showering off the day's crud (and my niece's now-dry pee) and making sure we'd be ready to roll at the appointed time, I posted a quick update on our blog and climbed into bed. I have to admit, I still had a self-satisfied smile on my face as I dozed off. (Diapers? Ha! Bring 'em on!)
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!