On Monday, we left the hotel at 6 am. Our tour guide, Tom, came to the hotel to hand us off to Minan. Minan took us to a large van and the driver loaded our many bags and we headed off through the dark city. Dark, but very busy. It was supposed to be three and a half hours to Shijiazhuang, which is where we would meet Mei-Mei.
It wasn’t three and a half hours.
The pollution in Hebei Province was so bad that day that the highway was shut down twice due to poor visibility. We saw a few food peddlers take advantage of all the parked cars. This one was selling candied apples.
We got to our hotel at 1 pm, and Minan took us around the corner to KFC for lunch. KFC is very popular here! My sister ordered a hot corn drink with her meal. It tasted exactly like creamed corn, only liquid. Finally, a little before 2, we piled back in the van and went to the Social Welfare office.
And there on the curb was Mei-Mei! Naturally we couldn’t tumble out of the van fast enough. She was a little stand-offish at first, but warmed up with some snacks (which she distributed to everyone in the room). We took the official family picture for the adoption papers, and Mei-Mei had to stamp her handprint, and ‘Stache and I signed our names about a dozen times.
While we traded off holding Mei-Mei and signing papers, Mei-Mei was exploring ‘Stache’s phone. Specifically, the “selfie” mode.
She took 333 pictures and 10 videos. Really, the only reason those numbers are not much higher is that after a while, she got interested in scribbling on the pictures. She has excellent fine motor control (perhaps it’s from growing up using chopsticks!) and held ‘Stache’s stylus with precision.
Most unusually, we went straight from the Social Welfare office to the notary to finalize our paperwork. Usually there is about 24 hours between these appointments. It was while we were waiting outside the notary’s office that the realization that we were not just kind visitors with snacks began to dawn on Mei-Mei. Tears welled up occasionally, but her nanny was usually able to cajole her back to equilibrium.
At 5:20, we got our paperwork back and it was done! She was ours. Still a Chinese citizen, but our Chinese citizen.
When the orphanage director and her nanny left, the tears started in earnest. She cried the whole evening. She cried for “Gua Ye,” her nanny, over and over. She would only accept comfort from ‘Stache, probably because she views me as usurping her Gua Ye’s place.
It. Was. Awful.
Everything that is twisting and crushing and sad.
She fell asleep around 9 and we all went to bed, holding tightly to these truths.
It is a GOOD thing she is mourning. It means that she loved her nanny very much, and it is much easier to teach a child to love her new parents too than it is to teach a child how to love someone in the first place.
It will not always be like this. Tonight was hard and she really doesn’t want anything to do with Mama at all, but it will not always be hard and she will not feel that way forever.
Tomorrow is a new day. Please God, let it be a new day.