Beijing.

An adoption is like a pregnancy in an least two ways: you eat crazy things (this is the wicked weapon of stress and it yields literal gains) and you dream about the birth part through the whole thing, but somehow can’t accept that it’s really happening when it really happens.  In every other way, adoption is wildly different than pregnancy.
Nine months led up to us boarding a plane for Chicago and then Beijing on May 14th.  Nearly exactly nine months.  Of paperwork and tears and Fed Ex envelopes and prayer pleas sent out via Facebook and email.  But that all fell away that morning as we waited by the front door for the Fed Ex truck bearing our Travel Approval, a document we could not get Maggie without having in hand.  We left before the truck arrived, leaving my dad and then my sister to wait.  In true God fashion, it arrived after we’d cleared security and were sitting at our gate watching the kids eat all the junk I’d secretly stashed in their carry-ons.  My dad drove it to us, passing it through security to a kind officer who, of course, had gone through his own adoption and understood well the precious nature of this transaction and the tears streaming down my face as I called out to my dad that I loved him.
Flying with four Smalls for thirteen hours was a breeze.  Movies on demand allowed me to shut my brain down for the first time in ages and just snuggle in with my people while catching up on new releases.  We left Grand Rapids at 9:50 on Wednesday morning.  We arrived in Beijing at 3:20 on Thursday afternoon.  Two of the Smalls vomited upon touch down, which was totally awesome.  It only got better as we were herded into endless lines for customs, hot, dirty and nauseous.  We grabbed our luggage and headed toward a woman holding at Holt sign with our name on it.  And that’s when things got real.

 It was a long, hot bus ride to our hotel, but so interesting to listen to our guide tell us a few things to do that night to stay awake until a reasonable time.  We chose the Night Market and headed there after checking in.  The night market is indescribable in looks and smell.  Vendors lined up selling squid, fruit, bugs, snakes, all on sticks, all roasted.  We ate at a nearby MacDonalds, needing to gift our kids with familiar food to ease into this whole China thing.  Here’s what makes China different from any other place I’ve visited, except maybe Russia: China is so foreign.  When you go to the caribbean or Europe, you can find people who speak English, food that looks like fare from home.  But in China, nothing is familiar.  Every scent, taste, sight, sound…it’s all new.  I lay in bed our first night in China and fear crept in.  Fear that we’d done the wrong thing.  That we’d dragged our children all the way to this scary, foreign place only to destroy the lovely family we’d been creating these last years with a new sibling.  Dear friends, gathered over email, prayed me through that long night.  Prayed me into a peace that passes understanding.

 They will literally walk up to your children, pose their arms and snap pics.  Luckily, this did not freak our girls out.  They are so game.

The next morning, after our first Chinese buffet, we headed to the Great Wall with a driver we’d hired.  I kept staring at it, snaking off into the distance, incredulous to the fact that we were actually in China.  Could not take it in.  It was a highlight for us all.  A feat of engineering and stamina, that wall.  And taking a luge down wasn’t half bad either.  Even the part where Lucy was on my lap and kept making it go way too fast as she giggled and called Ni Hao to the supervisors, head thrown back, curls dancing.

That evening we took in the Chinese Acrobats, courtesy of my parent’s dear friends (you know who you are).  It was incredible and something the kids really enjoyed.  Until it came time to find a taxi.  we tried for 45 minutes to hail a cab before pleading with the theatre staff as they were locking up to help us.  Taxis in Beijing, traffic in Beijing, was a real problem.  Dan says he never wants to go back, but I do.  So much more to see.
The next day we walked around a bit before having a little lazy time at the pool and then walked to the Forbidden City in the afternoon, only to find it was closing.  We saw few of the sights in Beijing, but we were there to acclimate and that we did.  Our kids proved the age old rule: that no matter where you take them, they only want the pool.  By the time we flew out on Saturday, we were on China time and getting used to strange items on the buffet tables.  Our next stop was Nanning, the city of our girl’s birth.

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