Friday May 9th – Gotcha Day!
The flight to Chonqing was 2.5 hours. As we were approaching the city, it was interesting to see the tiers of wet ground, which we realized were rice patties. Almost every inch of ground seemed to be used for farming. If there wasn’t a building, it was farmed.
It was hard to sleep, partly from excitement and partly from fear of missing our wake-up time. At one point I woke up, checked my watch on the bedside table. Oh no, it was 6:10!! We’d missed our call, we wouldn’t make the plane! Oh wait, I had the watch turned over – it was only 2:30. I was up at 4:30, half an hour before our wake-up call. When we made it to the lobby, the excitement level of the group was high. This is what we were in China for.
All week we had been sharing our thoughts about Gotcha Day and having the new babies. We were looking forward to it, but were trying to be prepared for the trauma the babies might feel. After all, they were being separated from their known world of the orphanage, and being brought into a room full of strangers who looked different than their orphanage family. For months we had all been cruising the internet, mainly being members of Yahoo groups, asking many many questions of those who had already been through this process. What should I bring? What should I expect? We heard stories, good and bad. Some babies bond right away. Others might bond to one parent, and others remain distant for a long time. Often the babies didn’t bond very well with the father, since they hadn’t seen many men. Some babies, we heard, hated being bathed. Others took to it right away. The adoption agencies recommend leaving your baby in her orphanage clothes for several hours to a couple days, since that is the only familiar smell and feel they have. But we’d also read about scabies outbreaks. We had heard that many babies would have other illnesses, such as ear infections, pneumonia, rashes. I had brought medications for many possible problems, and the others felt comforted that I could help with diagnosing and treating illnesses. With all we had heard, we were trying to be prepared for anything that would come our way.
Our first impression of Chonqing as our bus headed away from the airport was “Yuck!” That impression continued throughout the day. First, it’s completely overcast, which reportedly is fog. They seldom see the sun. The city looked like half of a war zone. Old buildings were crumbling down while new ones were being built. Everywhere you look, there are buildings being constructed. There seems to be a feverish pace. There were high-rise cranes everywhere. There would be 10 to 15 cranes within one angle of view. Streets were torn up, debris of buildings lay near skeletons of new buildings. It seemed that everything old was being torn down to put up new. Along with all the buildings new roads and ramps were also under construction along with a huge bridge crossing the Yangtze River. The city seems to be a maze of high-rise buildings along both sides of the river. We saw a sign that mentioned the Olympics are coming which appears to be the reason for all the work. China will be on display to the world and wants to look good. Interestingly in additional to all the work being done with power tools we saw a fair amount of work being down with just plain hand tools and man power. We saw a multi-story building being torn down by a group of men just using sledgehammers. I guess when your city has 30 million inhabitants, labor is plentiful.
Our hotel was plain on the outside, but nice on the inside. It’s a Holiday Inn, four stars. We had a half hour to unpack a little, then we headed for a paperwork session. One family arrived with huge hamburgers. Wow! American food!!! As we received our paperwork that we would complete for our babies’ passport, an exclamation started — we had new photos of our babies! Some had more hair, one had been shaved (luckily later we found out that her hair had regrown).
After the paperwork we had only about half an hour to get some late lunch before we left to get the babies. We headed for the hotel bar, ordered a great looking burger and fries, which we shared. As we looked at the nearly empty plate, I said “Oh no, we ate lettuce!” We’d been so careful of not eating anything we hadn’t washed or peeled ourselves. Hmm… we’ll see what the next days bring.
At 3 pm the bus left for the Civil Affairs office. It was an old building in the middle of the city. We walked down a narrow dark corridor, which also served as a convenience store to a small elevator. On the 4th floor, the atmosphere took on a little more official look with what seems like a waiting room, a small photo studio, and a bunch of desks behind a counter separating the employees from waiting room. In the waiting area, there was a room with a few people with babies. At first we thought they were our waiting children, but then we realized the people with the babies were other Caucasians, new parents.
One of the women in our group was very emotional about the situation, but luckily she and her husband received their baby first. There was a side room where the babies were. Maggie, our guide, would call a name (it was so noisy that usually she just found the next family and said they were next). Then a nanny would come out of the side room with the baby. We were the fourth family to get our child. Amanda was dressed in green, and had a stunned look on her face. I resisted the urge to take her right away, both because I didn’t want to scare her, and because I was being asked for our passports before we could have our child. When I did hold her, she remained stunned looking, but she didn’t cry. We had The Duck with us. I think she grasped it and stared at the cameras and smiling people who were all looking her way. After a minute, we took her off to a quieter spot where both Wayne and I could sit down with her. Wow, she hadn’t cried. Now, how would she respond to us? Within about 10 minutes we had our answer. She started smiling at both of us, then started making some gutteral noises, then started babbling a little. The first word I understood was Bu Yah – the main Chinese word we’d all learned to ward off the street vendors – it means “no thank you.” When I heard that, I laughed, repeating it back to her. She laughed and smiled and babbled a few more things. Oh, what a joy! She was content being held by either of us, and even went up to several people later. We set her down at one point and she held our hands and took off walking, then running!! We’re in trouble – our house isn’t yet childproofed! She walked and walked with my assistance, visiting several people. At one point we took off her top layer shirt (she had two layers on, in the very hot room – the Chinese people dress their babies warmly). She started playing peek-a-boo with the shirt, smiling and laughing. It was a great joy to have her adjust to things so well.
She had a tag around her neck when she came to us, with the words “Exibition Card” on it. She played with that for a while, until the photographer had us take it off when we had our official family photograph taken – the photo is on the official adoption certificate (I would mention the title of the certificate, but it’s in Chinese).
Then came the somewhat painful part – paying for her. We had been instructed to bring “Crisp clean one hundred dollar bills.” Wayne and I had gotten new $100’s from the bank, which had consecutive numbers, so we knew they hadn’t been circulated. The cashier was extremely picky about the bills. She refused several, leaving some adopting parents with a sinking feeling. I heard her say to one person, “In the United States this may be ok, but in China it is not.” I thought the bills looked fine, myself. We helped someone out by trading their “defect” bills for some of our extra crisp new bills. Other people were able to help out in the same way.
Nearly two hour after we arrived at the Civil Affairs office, we walked out, carrying our babies. Wayne and I have wondered what the Chinese people think – do they think we’re sort of taking their babies, or are they happy that we’re giving their children a new home? We didn’t get too much notice from people as we proudly headed for the bus with our new child, and we realized that this is nearly a daily happening in that part of the city. And we only had 15 babies in a city of 30 million people.
The bus ride back to the hotel took 30 minutes. Amanda was alert and happy, sometimes watching the activity of the city, but mostly sitting eating cheerios and smiling at her parents.
Half an hour after our arrival back at the hotel, a group of us gathered to make a store run. Wayne said I should go, since I would know what I wanted. I took my backpack with me and made a haul of several kinds of snacks, water, diet coke (Coca-Cola Light around here), and baby snacks and diapers. I could barely stuff all of it into the backpack. It cost me 101 yuan, which is just over 12 US dollars!!
I came back to the hotel nearly 1 ½ hours after leaving (we’d walked to the store and back) to find Wayne sitting in a chair with Amanda fast asleep under a blanket. I went back downstairs and ordered a pizza for dinner (American food!). Amanda woke up as we were eating the pizza. Since she was in a good mood and so accepting, we gave her a bath. What fun! She may never have had a true bath, but she loved the splashing in the baby tub that the hotel provided. We wrapped her up in a towel then pajamas I’d bought (supposed to be 24 month age, but fit her fine), and helped her settle down about 11:30 pm. I tried to put her in the crib while she was still awake, thinking they probably did that at the orphanage. But she wimpered a little as she stood in the crib hoping I would pick her up. She was facing away from Wayne, and would turn around and look at him, almost needing a little reassurance. I picked her up again and rocked her to sleep. Aah, what a life-changing, successful day. She’s happy, she’s healthy, she likes us. We’re blessed.