I woke up Tuesday morning bright and early, with a little toddler loudly snoring and sucking his thumb by my side. We had to leave early that day for several government appointments so I had to wake him up. As I gently rubbed his back and spoke softly to him, his eyes began to open, ever so slightly. You can imagine his mind spinning, trying to take in his environment, these new sounds, faces, smells; trying to figure out what in the world happened yesterday.
The phone rang and it was our children calling for our morning FaceTime/skype. I began the call with him laying next to me, his eyes still slowly adjusting to his surroundings, and then ultimately gathering him up on my lap. He then saw his whole immediate family for the first time – they were so sweet. Each child talked to him and cooed over how cute he was. They were very excited to finally see him.
After our call, we went down to breakfast in the hotel. The dining room is huge with two story ceilings; American top 40 music playing in the background. They have a buffet spanning multiple cultures: American food such as waffles, omelettes, yogurt, cereal, bacon, toast; typical Chinese food such as boiled eggs in tea, several types of congee, fruit, dumplings; and lots and lots of pastries.
Leo ate a lot: fruit, congee, hard boiled eggs, and dumplings. He is such a slow eater which is in quite a contrast to the other adopted children in our group. Most of the other children in our group eagerly gobble up their food, likely relishing the novelty of the endless supply of food and no time constraints on meals. Leo eats throughout meal time, but just slowly, always looking around, taking in the word around him.
After breakfast we loaded up on another bus and went to the registration office to receive Leo’s official adoption certificate. The registration office was quite distinct, very fancy and formal, with an expansive stone entry. Once inside the lobby, the strong scent of inscense filled the air. We walked around the corner and to the back of the building which emptied into a very large, mostly empty room. The adoption officer sat behind a formal desk on one side and the walls were adorned with official logos, but otherwise the room’s only contents were a perimeter of metal chairs.
Our mission here was to accept the adoption certificate. The officer gave a brief talk, we received our certificate, and just like that, Leo was officially, legally, ours. This little one, born to another mama and baba in a country far, far away, raised by nannies since he was 3 days old, was now our son.
After this momentous event, our guide quickly shepherded us back to the bus so we could go to the next appointment. Next stop: the notary office.
This office was like most we have seen so far: in a row of busy shops, on a crowded, narrow street bustling with motorbikes and pedestrians milling about both in the street and on the sidewalks.
After climbing six flights of stairs, we sat in a large room until our guide told us to come take a quick picture with an office official, and then it was back to the bus to go back to the hotel for a quick lunch break before our next afternoon meeting.
Throughout the day, Leo clung to me. He did not want to be put down, nor to walk. He was not happy to just be held on my hip, but rather to be draped over my chest, his head on my shoulder. His face always serious, studying his surroundings, taking it all in. He made no sounds in public, but just quietly observed, a hot wheels car securely tucked in one hand.
Once in our hotel room, we ordered room service and had a carpet picnic. He happily ate beef noodles and bananas, always tidy and careful to pick up any crumbs.
Once we are safely in the security of our hotel room, Leo’s whole body seems to be more at ease. He often releases an audible exhale (a pleasant little sound of stress release) as he walks in the room.
After lunch, he took a very quick nap on me and we were off for the afternoon passport appointment.
Our first stop brought us to a little office with a huge line; all people waiting to take passport pictures. After taking the little one’s pictures, we walked to the official passport office to wait and wait. When it was our turn to go up, an official asked if she could take our picture to showcase another official working and so for a few minutes she just snapped away, paparazzi style.
After everyone was done, we boarded our bus and headed back to the hotel. Again, Leo relaxed once in the room. Mike read to him and they went through all of the family pictures I had brought to show him. He really liked looking at the pictures and we saw his first ever (with us) little smile. We were so happy to see that!
After a bit, we joined a group of fellow adoptive families to go to a Korean BBQ restaurant. One of the dads with us is Korean and is was really nice to taste the food that he chose for us – it was my first time trying Kimchi (a fermented seasoned cabbage which is apparently in everything).
After dinner, we strolled past families hanging in the concrete spaces, women doing organized dances, little ones in split pants running about, music blaring from small shops, the perpetual hum of motors and honks from passing motorbikes passing inches from your side, the smell of cooked meat flavoring the air. The atmosphere in Zhengzhou is never lacking for stimulation.
Once back in the hotel room, we dressed Leo in his pjs, gave him his medicine, and he settled onto my chest to fall asleep for the night. I gently slipped him off of me, onto the bed right next to me and he sweetly slept the whole night through.
Our first full 24 hours with our new little guy is in the books.