I seem to be stretching the definition of "today" but so far I haven't heard anything actually snap, so I'll just keep going... :-)
One year ago today... We woke up with the knowledge that it was Our Last Day In China. (The next day would be all travel, a lot of it in aircraft, so it didn't count.) It was a leisurely morning, so we spent some time figuring out how to pack, then let the Pipsqueak loose on the floor for a while and discovered the kid could move. (Thoughts of baby gates, the subject of an upcoming post, came to mind.) Most of our little group was too tired or too busy preparing for the long trip home to do any more sightseeing, but AJ, the Pipsqueak and I, along with Papa and Baby S, followed along with Lucy to the Temple of the Six Banyan Trees. It turned out to be a hidden oasis in the middle of downtown, and we enjoyed the visit. While there, I amazed myself by tossing a coin just so into something akin to a wishing well, and hoped it was a good omen for the trip home. From the temple we braved the traffic and went to Yuexiu Park to see the statue that serves as the city's mascot. While there, we got caught in the rain for the first time, and Papa S and I played something like "hacky sack meets badminton" with a local who sold us his homemade feather things we'd been playing with. We made it all the way uphill to the statue (where Papa S bought us all water, the "Grand Canyon" brand complete with stars & stripes on the label!), then on the way back out of the park really got caught in the rain but were rescued by our bus driver.
We had our last big Chinese-style lunch in a restaurant with a nice view of the new downtown, then got caught in traffic (as usual) on the way back to the White Swan just long enough for me to have a quiet "it's a nice place but you don't actually belong here" experience along the way. Back at the hotel, we had the longest, slowest currency exchange experience of the entire trip, then got in a last big round of shopping & picked up the calligraphy we'd ordered at Jordon's (along with the Pipsqueak's new suitcase, which was big enough to hold at least 3 or 4 of her). I had a really interesting talk with Jordon about family structure & privilege in Chinese culture, discovering for the first time that I'd probably spent the past 3-4 years being wrong about what my Chinese title was. (Shu Shu is the mother's younger brother, a distinction I hadn't noticed.)
We had to cut short my talk with Jordon and say our farewells -- it was finally really sinking in that we were leaving the country! -- and zoomed back to the White Swan for the famous Red Couch Photos. It was also the "event" at which Lucy handed each adoptive mommy The Brown Envelope (capitalized because it IS that important) and the kiddos' brand-new, fated-to-be-used-only-once, Chinese passports. AJ and I took a few quiet minutes to just wander through the White Swan's shops one last time, and then we all then trooped down the street to treat Lucy (our guide) & her husband to an American-style goodbye/thank-you dinner at Lucy's (the unrelated restaurant). There was a last stop for shopping, and then back upstairs to our room to pack in earnest. I closed out our travel blog and went to bed (last one awake as usual) with a bittersweet feeling... One of the most amazing adventures of my life was coming to a close, and once we were back home I knew I'd almost never again have the chance to spend so much time together with my niece.
Meanwhile, back in the present (2011)... AJ took the day off to take care of a few things while the Pipsqueak was in day care, among which was checking out a nearby Montessori school. It's definitely not going to work out for us; the program for 2 year olds just isn't what we hoped for, and the cost is a lot higher than we expected.
They also had one of those "oh, wow!" moments that Miri's so good at producing. When they got to the day care center to pick her up, she came zooming out of the play area to say hello... Then walked over to the water cooler, pulled a cup from the dispenser, used the spigot & button to put a little water in and took a drink. She then put more water into the cup, took a few sips, and then poured the rest into the cooler's catch basin and tossed the used paper cup into a nearby trash can. All very matter-of-fact and nonchalant, no "look at me!" drama -- she was just doing what one is supposed to do to get a drink! A nearby mom asked how old Miri is, and when told she just turned 2 in June gasped that her 4-year-old son still hasn't figured out how to use the water cooler, much less do it all himself!
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!