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, March 12, 2011

The World's Loudest Medical Exam (July 19, 2010)

Remember in my last post, where I said we had a "relatively luxurious" start time of 8:30? Well... I neglected to factor in the need to get moving before that time. We actually had a 6:30am wake-up call, and my first discovery of the morning was that the previous night's "comfortable position" on my side had actually left a bruise on my hip! (Dude, these must be extra-extra good Chinese beds...!) My next discovery -- actually, our next discovery -- was that the Pipsqueak hadn't had the greatest night and her bad mood was extending into the day. The result was that even though we got up two hours ahead of time, we had only 25 minutes for breakfast!

Now, a quick word about breakfast at the White Swan. The buffet is ginormous, with a good mix of Asian and Western foods. The wait staff were obviously used to large numbers of rugrats, and didn't seem fazed by the barely-controlled chaos of several families still trying to figure out which end was up. (I also appreciated the availability of watermelon juice and banana juice... tasty alternatives to the usual OJ!) We managed to inhale some food (and discovered the Pipsqueak likes tater tots) and make it to the lobby just a few minutes after everybody else, with plenty of time for our walk to the medical clinic.

There was one quick stop along the way, at one of the small stores across the street, to make copies of the little ones' Chinese passports. It was already muggy and getting hot, but there was enough of a breeze to keep things comfortable as we walked along. When we reached the main street running down the center of the island, we found groups of locals doing their morning exercises. There were a couple of large groups (mainly older women) doing synchronized dancing; bunches of people ranging from old men to teenaged girls batting shuttlecocks back & forth (like playing badminton, just without a net); a few folks doing tai chi; an occasional jogger, and the occasional singleton dog-walker. (There were all the usual jokes along the lines of, "Oh, look, they're exercising their lunch!" but we never saw any indication of pets being anything but pets.)

Along the way, we saw more fashion shoots -- and as we dodged the occasional car or construction site, we ended up walking through a couple of them. I don't think it was terribly well-appreciated, but nobody commented and several of the locals did the same thing we did. (Quick note on the construction: a lot of the folks on adoption trips earlier in the year & going back into 2009 commented on all of Shamian Island being a major mess due to all the construction & renovation work being done for October's Pan-Asian Games -- but by the time we arrived, there were only a few individual buildings on the island that were still being worked on and it was basically a non-issue for us.)

I was impressed with the local elementary school, spread out over a couple of different buildings (one housing a swimming complex). The pictures & murals really showed a lot of imagination and seemed to be giving the kids the message they could do & be anything (there were lots of pictures of little kids flying planes & spaceships, acting as doctors, etc.) One thing that caught both AJ's & my attention were the Winnie-the-Pooh characters in some of the windows -- since we had both grown up with the books & the characters were a large part of the decorations in the Pipsqueak's bedroom back home, we considered those to be a good omen.

Turning one last corner and walking parallel to the river, we discovered the likely source of all the bridal fashion shoots: a very large, very upper-crust couture bridal fashion house that seemed to occupy at least a couple of the old rowhouses. (We all appreciated the cool air flowing out the open doors of the air-conditioned business as we passed.) We soon spotted the sign for the medical clinic and soon got in out of the heat.

The clinic was... well, let's say "chaotic" and leave it at that. As I posted that evening in our travel blog, we had to make our way through a large crowd of locals in various states of disrepair. The lobby was something like a cross between an ER waiting room, a busy doctor's office, and a crowded marketplace... I saw one old lady barely able to stand being held up by a nurse and (I presume) a family member; a couple of kids rolling a ball back & forth between themselves on the floor; an annoyed-looking college-age man talking animatedly to an equally annoyed-looking woman in a lab coat; and people, people, people sitting & standing absolutely everywhere. Several folks were openly (enviously?) staring at us as we passed through the crowd without stopping & headed down a hallway that was lined with chairs & benches between doors with official-looking signs, and I noticed that every available seat held a woman or child (or a woman with a child on her lap). The end of the hallway was a glass door with a welcome sign above it.

On the other side of the door was a quiet waiting area, with seats & small tables along the walls and a series of smaller examination rooms around its perimeter. We were the only living beings in there for a few minutes, and then a few medical staff came in and the kiddos began making the rounds, one specific exam per room. While we waited for the Pipsqueak's turn, I noticed what I hoped was another good omen: one room (ironically the only one we didn't use) had a big Winnie-the-Pooh picture on the wall!

It wasn't long before it was time for the Pipsqueak's exam, and within the first few moments we learned something new: she doesn't like doctors. I don't mean not liking as in, "I don't like doctors, let's get this over with!" -- I mean not liking as in nonstop wailing... loud, nonstop wailing & screaming... loud, nonstop noise they could probably hear outside on the other side of the river not liking. While waiting, AJ and I had talked about how lucky we were that her adoption was still on the I-600 form, because the more recent adoptions on the I-800 form required the kiddos to get any & all missing inoculations during this exam, sometimes to the tune of 8-10 injections in 6-8 minutes but the 600-based adopters only had to sign a promise the children would receive any needed shots once back in the USA. [Note: later that year, the U.S. Congress finally passed an amendment to the Hague rules that allows all subsequent I-800 adopters to do the same -- but hundreds of little kids and their new folks were sadly made to suffer in the interim.]

Working as quickly as possible, the medical staff weighed my niece (kinda-sorta because she kept moving around), measured my niece (kinda-sorta because she kept twisting & bending), checked her vision (kinda-sorta because she kept trying to hide in mommy's lap), checked her hearing (kinda-sorta... well, you get the idea). Eventually, she was pronounced small but very healthy (AJ had to lean her ear right up next to the doctor's mouth and he had to shout so she could hear him over the Pipsqueak). To borrow from that evening's travel blog entry... "length, 27 inches; weight, 7kg (up half a kilo in a week); vision, normal; hearing, very good; lungs... excellent!"

On the way back to the hotel (passing a few die-hard badminton groups), AJ noticed a little girl who had almost made herself part of a statue of a teacher with her class; this photo was an unposed lucky coincidence, but I've since found a lot of photos on the 'net with lots of kiddos posing with the same statue. We also went back to the store where we'd copied the passports and spoke with the a woman who would make paintings based on the kiddos' names, and very quickly learned the value of negotiating -- the offered price dropped by about 1/3 in two minutes, but we decided to wait and got a better price elsewhere the next day. (Another quote from that night's blog entry: "When shopping for touristy goods, always bargain... and know the competition!")

We returned to the hotel and arranged to meet 30 minutes later in the children's play room for Lisa & Lucy to help everyone complete the last (large) set of papers needed for the upcoming appointment at the U.S. Consulate.

NEXT: Clingy Baby, Big Lunch...

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