After traveling for 24 hours, we arrived in China!
The flight was so very long and, despite the fact that my mom totally freaked me out about my varicose veins tossing a blood clot in the skies due to cabin pressure which made me paranoid, causing me to walk around the tightly packed plane and then alternately elevate my legs as high as possible, umm like straight up in the air like a weirdo (thanks mom!), in some ways it was a mini vaca (only myself to worry about, watching movies, yummy food, napping).
Unfortunately, I watched an intensely sad film which ended only as we were taxiing to the terminal. I had slept only a few hours on the flight, 25 minutes the night before, and 3 hours the night before that. The combination of my grief over the movie and my sleep deprivation was overwhelming = crocodile tears, sniffles, red, splotchy face, the whole bit. Luckily by the time we made it to baggage claim, I had gotten myself in check. Whew!
As we left the baggage claim area, we walked through a tunnel of people holding signs. We scanned for CCAI until we spied a petite man pushed to the back of the crowd, holding a small paper with CCAI written in marker. The man spoke no English but he smiled and nodded at us and told us to wait in a specific spot. I tried a few of my practiced Mandarin words but the only one that he understood was Ni Hao/Hello. He then took out a huge, golden, sparkly, ornamental cell phone, and made a call. It was George, our guide, and he said that he would be there in 10 minutes and to follow this man out. Our smiling leader kindly led us outside to wait.
Once outside, the air was warm, thick, and dry. There was a dense smog hanging over the city, blocking most things from sight. Despite the opaque surroundings, the people were friendly and we happily jumped into his car and we were off on the adventure ahead.
We drove for about 30 minutes and chatted with George about his life, Chinese culture, and mostly language (I practiced more Chinese words and tried to nail the tones which is quite challenging and crucial as each tone changes the meaning of the word entirely). It was nice and informative, and we felt very safe with George . Once we reached the hotel, George checked us in while we played the role of his children, watching and smiling at him to show that we were with him. We had about one hour after check-in until we had to meet the rest of the group for dinner at a local restaurant.
As grimy as we were from over now 26 hours of straight traveling, we threw on some deodorant and went to dinner with a huge group of new people. The tables for our size group are always round, with a large glass lazy susan in the middle. All the food is served family style and so we take turns turning the glass and taking small bits from many different dishes. The food was so good: perfect sticky rice, meat and veggies in rich sauces, crispy dumplings with soft centers. As we cannot drink water (due to risk of infection) the only options are Coke and beer.
The table conversation centered on adoption and everyone was very friendly. Our group is adopting a diverse set of children both in age and needs. It just so happened that our particular table was similar in that we were all adopting toddlers (ages 18 months -3 years old). There were families from all over: Maine, Tennessee, Colorado, Washington, New York and Ohio. It was neat to share stories about our children and the share in the excitement with each other.
Three of the couples at our table are adopting their first child together, while the rest of us have biological children at home. The ages of the adoptive parents range from young 30s to probably upper 50s. At the table, Mike and I discovered that we had been married the longest – one month shy of 14 years. It’s quite funny to suddenly realize that you’re the old married ones in a group; it’s an odd and yet sweet, comforting feeling.
After dinner, we walked back to our hotel. The streets are paved with cement sidewalks touching tall, mostly gray buildings. There is constant noise and activity: cars beeping as they try to cut through throngs of people, people on bike swooshing past, people smoking and relaxing on small folding chairs, on sidewalks, and leaning against buildings, and always people on foot hurrying by.
Surprisingly (for me) there are trees everywhere. Tucked into gardens behind crumbling concrete walls, vegetation trickles into the busyness of the scene as you walk down the side streets. Along the roads, manicured trees line the way (often many weeping willows in perfect, uniformed shape). The abundance of green does much to soften the somewhat austere landscape.
Right down from our hotel, we made a quick stop into the 7 Eleven to buy bottled water. We discovered squeezies just like at home, only these were Herbal Jelly flavor – yummy! 🙂 Just like the rolling hot dogs you might find at your local 7 Eleven, this one served hot food as well.
And so this was our first night China. My first solid sleep in 3 days. I slept like a rock, or as our guide George says, “like you Americans say, you sleep like a pig.” (ha, I’ve never heard that one before.)
There is a palpable sense of anticipation now. Only 2 days until we meet Leo for the very first time!