Margie and I both pictured that we would walk across the Great Wall. We never anticipated a climb up a demonic Stairmaster of variable height steps in zero-degree wind-chill. Just thirty-six hours earlier we had arrived in
Following a frigid day exploring the Forbidden City and the hutong (old city courtyard residences) of
We traversed a gentle slope of newly paved walkways amidst souvenir shops, food stands and forebodingly, a medical clinic. Within minutes we were on steep, irregular steps worn smooth by years of foot traffic. We passed red-faced school children, parents and grandparents, many of whom were pausing for breath. A few gentle souls scooted down the steps sliding on their bottoms, too worn out or unbalanced to rely on the 1930’s style handrail to clamber down. Within minutes our two outer layers were gone as we trudged upward.
Forty minutes later we had passed three guard towers and peered down the winding trail of steps with a feeling of accomplishment and anticipation – much as we felt about our growing family at that moment. When we adopted Nora in 1995 in Wuhan, it was not yet common for adoption groups to spend a few extra days sightseeing – and as first time parents we had no patience for such trivialities. But now we savored a couple of days by ourselves, our first vacation alone since February 2002 when we saw a young Chinese family with two girls playing on Silver Strand beach in
We traveled easily from
We had received our referral to Amy the previous November, along with more medical detail than we had learned about Nora, and three color pictures. We had gotten only one black and white picture of Nora, no larger than 1 inch square. Amy beamed a delicious smile in one of her pictures and we wondered whether this was an indication of her personality or just a lucky snapshot.
The first group of adoptive parents of girls from the Chongqing Fuling First Social Welfare Institute started a networking group and web site (www.fulingkids.org). We posted Amy’s picture on their website along with other recent referrals and immediately noticed the same bouncy seat and stuffed animal as in Amy’s pictures. Few of the girls were smiling, so we continued to hold out hope that Amy had an exceptional level of sparkle in her personality.
Upon arriving in Fuling, we wound our way down a narrow street to the SWI, as locals stopped their business to watch us. Yang Peishu, the orphanage director, invited us on a tour of the facility. We expected a bit of touring until we met our daughters, but actually went straight to a section dedicated to pre-toddlers. In it were about 20 girls, each in rolling walkers and matching pastel outfits. It appeared to be an invasion of babies on wheels. As they touched us with their wordless pleas, we also saw the loving care and attention they received from four young caregivers overseeing the scene.
Suddenly, from an adjacent doorway, Director Yang called out a baby’s name in Chinese. While we thought there was more “touring” to do, it was actually time to meet our girls. Fu Xin He, soon to be known as Amy Rebecca XinHe, was the second baby brought forward. Amy’s first look at Margie prompted the same huge grin we’d seen in her picture, so we believed (accurately) that she had a naturally happy disposition, which has been proven true ever since.
Since we were somewhat comfortable as third-time parents, we patiently learned Amy’s capabilities and preferences. She was pleasant and agreeable beyond our expectations and after just a few days we established our routines and became a micro-family on a great adventure. We joined our travel group on excursions to a silk factory, the
Our most consistently enjoyable times were during meals at local restaurants, with
For several reasons we encourage adoptive travelers to stay away from the western style cooking while in
When we got to Guongzhou we felt at home – or at least we were in a comfortable and familiar place. The old-world charm of
Knowing that thousands of families pass through the same place, seemingly all staying at the White Swan Hotel, makes for a kinship among singles and couples from all walks of American life. As we simultaneously considered Amy’s toddler-hood and Nora approaching middle school, the importance of providing a connection to their homeland was never more evident. We bought the obvious trinkets and mementos, like nearly all the other families, but we knew that the doors we needed to open for our girls were far more complex.
Despite our two adoption trips, knowledge of Chinese history, and extensive reading of classical and modern Chinese literature, the fact is we’re not Chinese, yet ethnically our daughters are. To pass as much to them as possible, we savored every minute we were in