Amanda Ailei Palmer

Born 

March 16, 2004

Fuling, China

 

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Amanda's First Horse Ride

With Granpa Palmer

 

Thursday, May 12, 2005

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Amanda awakened last night close to midnight, screaming, arching her back, difficult to console.  I ended up walking with her in the hall after she’d quit crying, to keep her occupied enough til she settled down. We wondered if she had pain or had a nightmare.  Maybe going back to Fuling bothered her? When she settled down, she cried a couple more times in her crib. I would touch her and coo to her, and she would settle down.  Sometimes she would open her eyes and look at me. I liked to think she was reassuring herself that we were here with her, that we weren’t a dream.

  This morning she was fussy again. She is fine if we’re carrying her, but screamed when we tried to put her in a highchair.  Her theme song could be “Don’t fence me in.”  She spent so much of her life in walkers and cribs that I think she’s fearful of being strapped down.  The theme song’s words also are very real for her… “Give me land, lots of land, under starry skies above. Don’t fence me in.” 

  We’re seeing that she has a strong will. She’ll be fine and flirting for a while, smiling and laughing, attracting attention from waitresses and people on the street.  Then she can become very irritable if she is held down for a while.  Today at breakfast she was crying if I sat her on my lap, but if I stood her on my lap, she smiled and flirted with other customers, putting her whole body into her yell of “Yah,” smiling and laughing when others repeated it back to her.  Last night at the Hot Pot dinner, it was very hot and noisy in the restaurant.  She ate for a while but then became irritable.  Wayne hadn’t enjoyed the meal much, saying it reminded him of an Indiana Jones movie scene – no chilled monkey brains, but there were many unidentifiable things. His confidence wasn’t helped much when Iris came to us with something, announcing “this is ox bladder…” and other similar descriptions. The noodles seemed safe enough, we think, but they were about 3 feet long – try twirling noodles with chopsticks!  Anyway, I digress… Wayne was more than happy to take Amanda downstairs in the restaurant.  Amanda would settle down when he held her to the window and she could watch the world go by. When he tried to sit with her, she would cry and arch her back. She was very hot and sweaty, too, since the weather is so hot and humid around here.  Once we got back to the hotel room into the cool air, she settled down, perked up, and played on the bed just fine.

  One unique clothing item here is the split crotch pants for children.  They’re like chaps, or like American snap-legged pants, but without the snaps.  We had seen them on a couple internet pictures. When a child wears diapers, it makes sense, since they can be changed without removing any clothes. But the older children also wear them, without diapers.  So sometimes you see bare bottoms on kids. One of the first I saw was on a boy sitting up on his father’s shoulders, with his bottom hanging out.  I wondered how often he has an accident!  We’ve been told that the kids will just squat and urinate or even defecate while wearing those pants. We wonder if they have any signs saying “please curb your child.”  Anyway, last night when Wayne was holding Amanda at the window of the restaurant, people would wave as they went by.  One family was holding their pink-dressed child up to the window, smiling at Amanda.  Wayne was thinking “what a cute little girl” until he realized that the split crotch pants were revealing that the child was a male!

  People are friendly overall.  But the Chinese are very touchy, wanting to hold the babies.  They touch their cheeks, and put their hands out to see if the child will come to them.  One young woman in the restaurant this morning was laughing as Amanda flirted with her.  The woman came over, Amanda happily went into her arms.  The woman smiled, cooed, and teased “Bye bye” as she turned away from me a bit.  I laughed, saying “Oh no, no,” making sure it was just a tease. The woman gave her back to me, continuing to coo at Amanda.  It was ok, since we had read enough of the internet to know that happens. And Amanda is a strong mommy’s girl already, so she doesn’t readily go to anyone (I was surprised she went to the woman this morning).  But others in our group are getting offended with the Chinese forwardness. Some of the children suck their fingers. The Chinese women don’t agree with that, so they come up and pull the fingers out of their mouths, touching their hands. Of course the child’s fingers go right back into her mouth, complete with the added germs.  Some people have said they’ve gotten mobbed on the streets if they’ve been alone as a couple with their babies – 30 or 40 Chinese people might gather around cooing.  We haven’t ventured out on our own yet, but we’d like to walk to the store today.  We’ll have to see how things go.

  We also have heard about the “clothing police” which are women who will come up to your child and say they aren’t dressed warmly enough, or rarely that they are dressed too warmly.  We’ve heard that the Chinese tend to overdress their children, and they think they should wear long sleeves and long pants all the time. I heard one family say that someone had mentioned that the little girl’s skin won’t stay nice if it’s exposed to the sun --- what sun?  It’s so foggy here that these kids might never have seen the sun.  It was so foggy this morning that there was fog between the 12th floor and the ground level. We’ve gotten past worrying about the “clothing police” since it’s so hot and humid that shorts and short sleeve tops almost seem too warm. Amanda really doesn’t like being too warm.

  We enjoyed talking to Iris, our guide, yesterday on the bus.  She said the one-child rule in China started in about 1978.  She has a son who’s a year old (so she can help us figure out what’s ok to feed our babies).  She says she would love to have a daughter also, but that if she had a second child, her husband would lose his government job.  It is possible to have a second child, but we’ve heard it’s quite expensive (taxed). Iris said some people will adopt a child, which is permitted, but they have to prove they can provide for the child financially and emotionally.  We asked Iris what the Chinese think of the Americans adopting their children. She said they’re surprised we would come this far to adopt a child.  We then explained the American system to her, that people can take your child back if they want.  After knowing Amanda for less than three days, we couldn’t imagine having to give her back to anyone!

When we arrived back at our hotel room after breakfast this morning, there was a little panda bear sitting in the crib, apparently a gift from either AWAA or the hotel.  We had been told on line and in our children’s information sheets that they don’t like “hairy toys.”  But Amanda has loved The Duck, and she immediately loved the little panda.

  Amanda has been napping for the last 2-½ hours – hopefully she’ll be happier when she wakes up. She doesn’t use a pacifier, but she sucks on her tongue.  We can tell when she’s getting tired, when that tongue starts going.  She also crosses her first two fingers on her right hand frequently, almost like she’s wishing for something.  Maybe we’re what she was wishing for.

  Our adoption agency, America World, has made this trip quite an adventure. They’ve had something planned at least once a day, and the guides are happy to take us shopping or to restaurants. Today almost everyone went to the zoo.  Since we’d had a late night and it was dreary out, we opted not to go.  At one point I walked around the hotel looking for any of our group who had stayed behind, or to find if they had come back yet.  There was no one I knew in the lobby or on the floor we’re staying. It felt so strange being the only American around, unable to communicate very well even with the front desk employees who know some English. It was a welcome sight when they all returned. 

When Amanda awakened, we decided to venture out alone to the store. We realized we’d better let someone know where we were going. So we called one co-traveler to inform him, and he ended up going with us.  Wayne carried Amanda (I figured we might not get mobbed as easily if the man was carrying her, and of course she’s heavy). As I’m writing this, we’re trying to remember if we’ve ever seen a Chinese man carrying a child in his arms.  The walk to the store was uneventful. As Amanda was riding in Wayne’s arms, she was constantly turning her head from left to right and back again, as if not wanting to miss anything along the way.  Once we arrived at the store, we chose a small shopping cart, which has “four wheel drive” we say, in that the wheels go all directions. So you can drift sideways or glide along at an angle. It’s hard to pull the cart, though, since it scoots sideways behind you.  Wayne had the idea of putting Amanda in the cart, since it was hot and she was getting heavier by the minute.  He stood her in the cart, having her hold on to the sides as he held onto her with one hand. Her expression was somewhere between fear and awe, then acceptance and intrigue.  We figure she was just taking everything in, gliding along through the aisles.   Wayne commented that it’s like she’s a blank tape, “just push play” on the recorder.  Just think, 72 hours ago she was living in an orphanage. All this is brand new stimulation to her.

 

Shopping alone with Wayne was interesting.  Besides formula and diapers, I needed clothespins.  I pulled out my Chinese translation book, approached one of the abundant clerks, and pointed to the word.  It took two tries – I was starting to think that clothespins are something foreign to Chinese. But then we found them.  Next thing I needed was some clothesline of some type, but we couldn’t find it ourselves, and I couldn’t find the word in the translation book.  We found another clerk and pointed to the word “rope.”  When she looked perplexed, we held up the clothespins.  Aah… back we went to the clothespin section, but there was no clothes line. Oh well.  Next we went to checkout.  It was stifling hot, so I had Wayne and Amanda go ahead to a cooler area, as I stood in line. It feels strange knowing you don’t know any of the language, but I had been through this particular store before and figured I could handle it.  When I got to the cashier, she asked me a question in which I thought I heard the word “card.”  I gave her a perplexed look, then realized she was probably talking about a shopper’s card.  I said no, indicating I didn’t have a card.  A woman in the next line held out her card to the cashier, giving me a discount!  How friendly!

  I had bought a couple children’s books in the grocery store. I picked out two, then started walking away, but the clerk was obviously calling me and saying something. She indicated that I needed to pay for the books in that section, rather than walking through the store with them. It wasn’t that I was great at translating what she said, but that I’d seen in before. In many stores, you pick out what you want, take a receipt to the cashier across the room, then come back for your merchandise.  In the grocery store, someone had bought a stroller, but had to go elsewhere to pay for it before picking it up.  Anyway, in the book section, Wayne was intrigued to see Photoshop books written in Chinese.  He didn’t recognize the book covers or names, so they didn’t seem to be translations of English titles.  

  When we got back to the hotel, I tackled the laundry.  I had washed underwear and bras and socks last night, but they weren’t drying fast enough. We’ll be leaving on a plane tomorrow, and I’m hoping not to take too much wet laundry.  Those who have sent their laundry out to a local Chinese establishment through our guides, took two days or more to get their laundry back. If we did laundry through the hotel service, it seems quite expensive. Apparently a laundromat isn’t an option.  I had packed clothespins at home, but in my trying to “pack light”  I had taken them out.  Well, in the bathroom the clothes aren’t drying very well. We really need them in the main part of the hotel room. But I didn’t have any clothesline.  So I tied the sash of my robe across Amanda’s crib and clipped my bras and underwear.  It seems to be working, but it’s a little embarrassing when people come to our room for medical advice. And Amanda needs to go to bed. 

  At 5:30 the entire group of travelers met at the hotel terrace restaurant for a “birthday party” for the children. We attracted a lot of attention, and several other restaurant patrons stopped by our tables to talk about our travels and adoption, even taking photos of us. There was a cake, some little favors that our group had brought, and some general camaraderie.  It was more for the parents than the children.  There was a family eating nearby, who we had met this morning at breakfast. They are adopting their third Chinese child this week, so they shared in our excitement.

  Tonight about 8:00 we called my parents. Amanda was playing on the bed, and we held up the phone to her at one point. She’s probably never heard a voice from a telephone.  She grinned, leaned against the earpiece, then pulled away and stared at the earpiece, then put her ear to it again, grinning.  She cried when I wouldn’t let her continue listening. Oh, the wonders you will see, little one. The experience is just beginning.

  Tonight I read from the Chinese children’s books I’d gotten for her. There are pictures of animals, with the English name and the Chinese pronunciation.  It was interesting to see Amanda’s face when I pronounced “mao” as I pointed to a cat, or “gou” for dog. She hasn’t seemed to respond much to people speaking Chinese to her, but she seemed intrigued when I was able to name animals in her native language.  No, we’re not going to learn Chinese, and we don’t see teaching her Chinese as a second language, but for now it’s neat to have a little extra communication with what she might already know.

  As some of you may realize, we haven’t been able to post things regularly to the internet, despite writing the journal every day and preparing photos.  Wayne has spent hours trying to get internet connections and upload images.  He finally did upload the text diary and a couple images.  He worked on it again tonight, and just got back a short time ago, thrilled that he was able to upload 6 images in an hour (for you non-tech people, that’s very very slow.)  We’re hoping to have more success in Guanzhou, where we will be heading tomorrow.

May 13