Gotcha moment February 2007I've been an emotional mess for days now. I cry every time I think about this time last year.
It started on Groundhog Day, February 2. It was the day we stepped onto the plane that would take us to Maimie and her amazing country. What an exciting time (for about 5 hours). Then it was just miserable waiting the remaining 13 hours until we landed. No sleep, not so tasty food, bad movies, no laptop hookups, and being close enough to see into the business class section and know what we were missing.
February 3 marked the day we landed in Hong Kong. We were so exhausted. The walk in through the terminal was quite a hike. Our legs felt rubbery and our suitcases and backpacks felt like they were filled with cement. By the time we made it through customs and into the hotel room, I broke down. Anxiety, lack of sleep, a tremendous headache and fear of the unknown got the best of me. I cried, lacking the faith to trust that God would equip me to handle what lay ahead. A long hot shower later, Steve and the boys had returned with McDonalds burgers and fries from the airport.
We went to bed soon after for a restless night of very little sleep.
February 4 was rather exciting as we woke up and wandered through the airport looking for food.
We later met Echo, our guide from ISS Hong Kong, who accompanied us on our plane ride to Nanning. She was a tiny little dynamo that smiled so easily and knew just what needed to be done. Thanks to her superior organizational skills, our paperwork was made ready in no time. It was neat to compare/contrast the small flight from Hong Kong to Nanning with the American flights we had been on before. Even for such a short flight of only about an hour, there were snacks and drinks offered. As we flew over the Guangxi province before landing, we were riveted to the windows. The terrain was so beautiful with rice fields, terraced hills, water buffaloes. Once on the ground, there were several soldiers/guards, weapons in hand, waiting to check us through the airport. At one point a young Chinese boy who was full of energy was running around a bit and messing with the ropes where we were standing in line. One of the guards said something to the boy to make him stop, then said something to his mother so she would keep better track of him.
While the luggage was going through, I was asked if it contained any books. I remembered the coloring books I had packed for the children in the orphanage. They opened my suitcase and looked through each of the coloring books before waving us through.
Next came our van ride to the hotel. The airport was located outside of the city and we had about a 45 minute ride ahead of us. Joseph was asleep within minutes, and Jacob's head nodded a few times before we reached our destination. The scenery was so fascinating. For awhile there wasn't much to see, but occasionally we would pass a small structure off in the distance. Most looked abandoned, no window glass-just a hole or two in the side of the small square of wall. Many of the roofs were in disrepair.
As we neared the center of the city, the medians sported beautiful landscaping and bright flowers. We began to see buildings, bikers, more cars, many people. We were visiting only 2 weeks before Chinese New Year and the decorating had already begun.
Our hotel was so impressive.
My favorite part was the small pale pink iron crib between the beds. If we had forgotten why we had come, this sure brought it back into focus.
One of my biggest concerns for the trip was one of the kids getting sick from drinking the water. I even made sure we brushed our teeth with bottled water. In Hong Kong, I was the one who slipped. I brushed my teeth with the bottled water, but I forgot and rinsed my brush with tap water. Even though I caught myself and re-rinsed I paid the price. So, Mommy wasn't feeling too well once in the hotel in Nanning. Jet lag was also setting in by this time, and we had the foresight to have the kids start getting their showers. When Echo brought the "Pizza Hut" pizza (and I use that term rather loosely), Jacob and Joseph were asleep and wouldn't rouse. We sat them upright at a desk area to eat and couldn't keep them awake. I'm certain this phenomenon has never occurred before in Jacob's life and will never happen again. We made it an early night in preparation for the big day ahead.
February 5 was such an incredible day. It seemed to last forever, so much happened. The morning breakfast buffet was so delicious. Many of us tried several new things. There were western breakfast foods as well as many Chinese foods. We were not to meet Maimie until late afternoon, so we went for a walk up the street behind the hotel to check things out.
We walked past a wedding boutique, saw a wedding party drive by, noticed many neat shops, spotted the sign with Maimie's Chinese name, then found the People's Park. We paid to get in not knowing what to expect. What a surprise!
Many people in the surrounding area live in high rise apartment buildings and don't have an outside yard area to relax in. Instead they come to the park early in the morning. They exercise, dance, play musical instruments, feed the koi, play boardlike games, or watch their children/grandchildren play.
The whole place is beautiful with its lush green tropical foliage.
We walked around watching but not interfering in the activities for a short while before a group of ladies asked us to come right into their midst. We talked a bit and took some photos before moving on to an area where several small groups of musical instruments were being played. The instruments were authentic Chinese instruments. We were even invited to try. There were groups of people doing tai chi at several areas around the park.
The fan dancers were beautiful to watch, as was the Chinese play that was being performed a little farther around the bend. We met and talked with many lovely, kind people while there.
Kiky and Mikaela still email each other often. We were so touched by the friendliness and generosity of everyone we met.
Several people even gave our kids food to give the koi while we walked across the zigzag bridge. It was a fantastic experience and helped to pass the time easily until we were to meet with Echo.
As the time approached to meet Maimie, we had our gift bags ready on the bed, baby things in the diaper bag/backpack, and could hardly believe that we were actually in China preparing to meet our baby. I wondered if Guo Zhen had arrived from Beiliu City and how the 3 hour trip had been for her. I wondered how upset she would be, and if it would be difficult to feed her with her cleft lip.
We rode in the van to the Civil Affairs building and entered the large elevator. The floor mat said "MONDAY". Seemed like it was just for us. We didn't find out until the next day that the mat was changed each day to highlight a new day of the week. Not knowing what to expect, I was surprised to walk down a dim hallway while Echo checked each open door to find out where we needed to go. The room she chose had probably 5 women and maybe 1 or 2 men inside. I remember to the left were 3 nannies each with a baby on their lap and against another wall were maybe 1 or 2 other babies and nannies. Echo and the ladies looked at us and at the babies and talked trying to figure out which baby was ours. Echo had a somewhat confused look on her face, and I kept thinking that maybe Guo Zhen was in another room. I couldn't find a baby with a cleft lip and none of these babies looked much like the 6 month referral photo I had. It really only took a minute or two, but it seemed longer. The baby in the center was Guo Zhen. As she was brought to me, Echo explained that she just found out that Guo Zhen's lip had been repaired in December and that our agency hadn't even been notified yet. What a shock. I just kept thinking of how God was orchestrating so many circumstances together for good (not being able to go to China before Christmas, having my surgery the same month Maimie was having her surgery, being cleared to leave one day before stepping on the plane). My fears were all for nothing. God's plan was so much better than what we could have ever imagined.
As I held her for the first time, she looked at me and looked around a bit. I couldn't believe how different she looked than her photo, but could still see some hints of resemblance. The moment was nothing like I had thought it would be. She didn't cry or even act restless. She let me hold her and remained calm. She fingered the round gold buttons on the pants she wore. Her heavy orange winter coat and boots made her sweaty in the 75 degree room. She looked at us with mild curiosity not understanding that we would become her family, not realizing how her life was about to change.
We were moved to another room across the hall. It also was painted white and adorned with large brightly painted cartoon characters. As we talked to her nanny with Echo's help, Guo Zhen remained on my lap.
At one point the nanny took her and played with her on the floor with Mikaela, Jacob, and Joseph. Eventually we left the Civil Affairs building and returned to our hotel room.
We spent some time playing with her, giving her a bottle and cereal, and eventually bathing her. She looked like an angel after her bath with some little sheep jammies on.