I was hoping to do daily posts while here in China, but the days are slipping away, and this is the first afternoon that I’ve really felt up to writing. I’ll have to add pictures later, for the sake of bandwidth.
The flight to Hong Kong was mostly uneventful, and we spent an all-too-brief night being feted by beloved friends there. The next day, we returned to the airport for our flight to Wuhan. We arrived here in a smoke-smog haze that has remained since. I’ve not seen the sun since I left home.
Before I left, I met several researchers at my day job who are from Wuhan who sang its praises, showing me flowers–the beautiful East Lake and the cherry blossoms there. Today was the first day I’ve seen actual flowers. The rest of the time, I’ve felt as if I’m in a simulacrum of Dark City–only drenched in rain and smog. Colors seem few and far between, unless they’re the glare of neon. The noise is overpowering–traffic, merchants attempting to overpower one another with loudspeakers, people yelling…
Yet there is one noise I’d not heard here until today–birds.
Smells are overwhelming, too–sewage, cigarette smoke, diesel exhaust…but occasionally all that is suddenly broken by a delicious smell from a shop–noodles or roasting duck or egg custard buns baking.
In this, on a rainy Monday, we were taken to the Wuhan Civil Affairs Office to wait for our son. The process here is a bit different than what it was in Hangzhou, and the office seems much more accustomed to adoptive families–there are couches and a play area and the office is kept warm to accommodate the Western need for temperature control. We watched three other families matched with their sons before our arrived last–he had traveled the farthest, from 3.5 hours away in the “rice and fish basket” of Hubei Province.
I filmed him entering, surrounded by the orphanage staff who had cared for him. He was bold and loud and strode right in as if he owned the place. Our daughter waited with the stuffed donkey she’d chosen for him two years ago as a gift. As she thrust it toward him, he yelled “bu yao” (do not want) and pushed it away. Not to be daunted, she brought him some Hot Wheels and that was the answer. Immediately, they were on the floor playing together like long-lost pals.
The first days of adoption are usually times of sadness; our son grieved when he realized the orphanage staff had left him, and he often looks around for “yeye” (grandfather, what he called the orphanage director). (And when he cried, our daughter wept, too, saying her heart was broken for him). But immediately, he accepted us as his family and he began looking around for whomever was not in the vicinity. The first day there were many far-away looks and much thumbsucking. In only 48 hours, we’ve seen that less. He seems like any happy baby boy–energetic, loud, into everything.
If our daughter is Tiny Doom, he is a Bouncing Boy Terror to be sure. (With all due credit to Ysabeau Wilce!) He has clearly been taught to be combative; one of his nannies mentioned that he was “always #1” in the orphanage and the director feared he would bully our daughter. He has a bit, but we’ll get through it. For the most part, he is quick to any weather of temper, but mostly seems sunny and happy. (Though do not deny the boy his sweeties!)
Today, we went to Yellow Crane Tower, which was a true island of green in a vast maze of concrete. It was raining, so we couldn’t walk around the park in a leisurely fashion, but it was funny how excited our son became when he saw the ornamental ponds. On a clear day, I imagine the view is stunning–the Hanjiang and the Yangtze meet not far from Snake Hill, and there are many bridges spanning the tripartite city that comprises Wuhan.
The stares we get are unsurprising; in the elevator at the Tower, other visitors wanted to know who we were and why our two children were Chinese and when the guide explained one man smiled and gave me a big thumbs-up. Another man in our hotel elevator tried to help our daughter with her Chinese numbers. For the most part, people are very kind, even if they think what we’re doing exceptionally odd. Many people seem grateful, and I try very hard to tell them the gratitude is truly all ours. We know we are lucky and privileged to be able to do this, and we are also exceptionally grateful to everyone who helped this adoption come to pass.
My only regret is that I don’t speak fluent Chinese; I feel I have done my children a great disservice in that regard, but at least I can passably get by about many things–feeding, potty, sleeping, manners, etc. But I’d really love to know more about what my son is saying and I know he will continue to be frustrated by our ignorance at many things. (He’s already amazingly trying English, though–I’ve caught him saying ‘tomato’ and ‘gorilla’ quite clearly). However, he is definitely speaking a particular dialect that sometimes is unfamiliar even to our guide, so I take comfort that I might not be able to understand him fully anyway, even if I was fluent.
We have two more days here, and then we move on to Guangzhou for the final steps in this amazing journey before we head back home.