This post was started on Thursday night, somewhere over the Pacific Ocean.
Currently we are airborne, somewhere over the northern most parts of the globe. Our plane is not equipped with the gadgets we had on the Delta flight two weeks ago, so we aren't able to access GPS capability at the touch of a finger. Salem is being greatly entertained by a sweet little 5 year old girl, giving mommy and daddy's arms a rest from our little froggy. Johnny-Jump-Up, you just wait! We were able to secure a bassinet seat for the long flight tonight, which has been amazing. Not only do we get to lie Salem down to sleep right in front of us, but I also get a break from the hot water bottle sleeping in the sling on a plane with no air control from the seats. She is not the same clingy child we met nine days ago. I am just ready to be home, get her on a routine and give her room to play. Carpet may be a new texture for her. All she's felt here is a fluffy bed, mommy and daddy holding her and her crib. She did play in the play room one day, but it was that hard, flat carpet facade over concrete. The shaggy stuff at home should be a delight!
It's been a few days since we've posted mostly because I played catch up the day before we left, packing was quite time consuming and last night we crashed after a late flight to Shanghai. So let me back up to Tuesday, the day of our U.S. Consulate appointment.
Wenxi wanted us downstairs at 7:40. After waking alone without the sound of the alarm, we both scurried to get ready then wake Salem and put together a warm, yet appropriate outfit for her. We have been encouraged to dress nicely for this day. I felt excited to finally put on the one outfit that I packed for this day for two reasons, one, to show honor towards those at the Consulate, and two, to justify the amount of space it consumed on my suitcase.
|This looks nothing like the government office I expected|
|Waiting to enter the consulate|
|Photo of questionable legality in the lobby|
We met the other families downstairs and to our surprise, instead of the sardine bus we had been squeezing into over the past few days, an enormous charter bus was waiting to pick us up. I thought there would be more families with us, but it turned out that only four families went. The others had appointments later that day or the following day. Arriving at the Consulate building, we were taken immediately to a waiting line that had apparently been forming since 7:30 that morning. With kids in tow and a long line ahead, we expected it to take a few hours. Soon we followed Wenxi past the line to a second line. Thankfully, our appointment times had secured us early spots. Adoptive families were hurried through, sent through security, and emptied into a waiting area much like the DMV; chairs, booths with workers behind glass, and delightfully, a place for children to play while waiting. Some of the older ones took the liberty of exerting their pent up energy. We sat there with Salem on our lap, paperwork in hand, not knowing what to expect. We had heard good stories about the process, but there is always this part of you that is double checking and making sure that we have done everything on our parts for an uneventful process. Once everyone had found a chair, a woman stepped up to one of the windows. Through a small microphone over the loud speaker she welcomed us and gave us instructions for the appointments. At her prompt we stood up, raised our right hands, and took an oath that once recited ensured our child's immigration status. Up until this point, at the times I most expected to feel emotional with tears welling in my eyes, I did not. But, in this moment, surprisingly, they came. It was a flood of emotion that caught me off guard. Tears streamed down my face as I began to grasp the magnitude of what was happening. We were making her our daughter forever. In the few moments it took to recite the words the woman fed to us, Salem became an American citizen on paper, and as soon as she would land in New York, her citizenship would be complete. She was coming home! As I glanced over at Drew, I knew he was feeling the same as I watched him wipe his eyes and stand tall as a proud father of a little girl. He said it was the first time that sterile bureaucracy had ever made him cry.
|Face it - clowns are scary everywhere|
|Salem feasts on the trappings of American citizenship|
In our attempt to assure Salem of her worth and beauty in a brand new world of diverse faces and voices, we wanted to spend some time in Guangzhou looking for an Asian doll, one with features much like hers. With princesses and Barbie dolls at every turn of the toy stores in America, we wanted to find one unique doll that she could call her own and relate to in whatever ways a little girl does. All week we have looked forward to finding one and we heard from another adoptive family that there was a toy market nearby. Wenxi, along with three other familes, braved the subway on a holiday week to explore one of the top toy manufacturer's playground. Once again, we should have not allowed our expectations to proceed us. What we found was a massive, overcrowded, plethera of booths selling anything from roller blades to rubber training chopsticks. We did however manage to stumble upon a few doll stores, but to our disappointment, Asian dolls were not on the market. The shelves were lined with blonde caucasian girls looking stone-faced and cloned with the occasional brunette or African toned doll. It amazed us how difficult it was to find a doll resembling the features of a nation with one of the highest population rates worldwide. Either someone has missed the seemingly obvious marketing opportunity or America and it's adea of beauty has infiltrated and haunted the Asian world. I guess it can't be ignored that most of those dolls, if not purchased in country for Asian children to play with, will eventually make their way to America where "beauty" and dolls are over-priced. We left that day tired with only a panda puppet to bring home, but if you know Drew, this was a win. Interestingly enough, at dinner the night before, over beef and pork noodle soup we ran into Betty Hui, our friend adopting Ruth and Bethany. After lamenting over our multiple unsuccessful trips doll shopping, she then told us that while growing up in China, she herself never had an Asian doll. Hers were always blonde caucasian and she never thought twice about it. If my daughter never has an Asian doll and turns out to be a woman of such character and beauty of Betty, we will be blessed beyond measure! So, we left China without a doll in our suitcase less concerned about this petty need to show Salem her worth in a stuffed plastic toy. What secures her worth cannot be bought or sold...it is a priceless treasure, and those who find it will never be disappointed.
That night we had a last hurrah dinner with the Johnsons at Food Street then hit the suitcases packing. We woke early and met the Johnsons and Andersons over breakfast. It would be our last meal together. A little later, we met them for a brief photo shoot with all the girls in the China Hotel courtyard. Of course, it turned out to be the coldest day in Guangzhou. But it was great to grab a few final pictures of the girls and their precious families. What blessings they have been to us these past few weeks! God has been so kind to plant these couples in our path for this special occasion. The bond we share cannot be manufactured and will leave lasting memories. We will miss them, and already do as I write this post. They have been pioneers and companions on this journey and we love them, their children, and their heart for adoption. We look forward to a day when we and our children will meet again and share their stories. When that will be, I don't know, but with the Lord's kindness going before us, I feel sure we will see each other again this side of heaven. I know we will through pictures and skype. Whether we get to hug their necks and see our children play together is yet to be determined. But for now, we are grateful they were there to share with us the homecoming of our daughters.
At 2:00 we met Wenxi and the other familes in the lobby to checkout. We said good bye to the Andersons and hopped in the van with luggage in tow to the U.S. Consolate for Wenxi to pick up our children's immigration visas. We sat there for an hour and a half, but enjoyed every minute of our last conversations with Loren and Michelle. Salem did flips and summersaults wearing herself out for a nap as Quinn less enthusiastically displayed her sweetness in mommy's lap. From there we hit the road for the airport where the travel adventure began. We flew to Shanghai with the Johnsons and stayed in the airport hotel which could have easily been mistaken for the set of Doctor Who. We settled down, said our goodbyes, made a makeshift crib for Salem with the beds pushed against the wall and crashed before an early morning. We would say goodbye to Salem's homeland. It was bittersweet. Now that we were packed and in tow towards home, we wanted the trip to go quickly, but so much was left unseen. We hope to return one day with our family to visit where Salem is from and to celebrate her culture up close again. What an adventure this has been.
|Amy enters the time portal leading to our room|
|Shanghai Airport at night - doubles as International Space Station|
|The shower doubles as a transporter bay|