Saturday, February 11, 2006

Do Laundry and Borrow Stroller

I am writing from the famed White Swan Hotel in Guangzhou, where our room has an amazing view of the Pearl River, all lit up at night. We arrived around lunch time, so we've actually been exploring already. The weather is slightly humid and balmy even in the evening. It feels very tropical here. And that's not the only way it couldn't be more different from Chongqing so far. For one thing, Shamian Island (which is in fact a tiny island in the middle of the city, first settled in the 1860s and shaded by enormous old banyan trees) feels relaxed and cozy, with small streets and a promenade, little shops, people on bicycles, lots of green. It's not crowded, but the real reason it feels so roomy is that, unlike Chongqing, white people with Chinese babies are a dime a dozen here, so no one stares at you or crowds around you on the street. Just to give you an idea, 200 families with their new babies checked in this weekend. Because of the peculiar density of adoptive families (Shamian Island was, until recently, the site of the U.S. Consulate, but now we will actually travel 30 minutes for our consulate appointment) the whole place seems to have evolved to a state where its daily business is catering to us; we counted at least half a dozen places where you can do your laundry and "borrow" a stroller while you're at it, and every other clothing shop advertises baby clothes (they are incredibly cute), toys and a Chinese children's fashion called "squeaky shoes," which, as their name suggests, make a squeaking sound with every step. I can tell from the horizon that Guangzhou has its gray high rises just as Chongqing does, but we are staying in a little adoption oasis here. AdoptionLand, I've started to call it. If you think too hard about this, the whole concept becomes pretty freaky.

Luckily I'm too tired to think hard. We had no idea how long it would take to pack last night and were at it until the wee hours. Ironically, Jarrah chose last night to be her first peaceful night, and she went down with a bottle and some Benadryl about nine and slept until 6:30 when we got our wake up call. It would have been dreamy if we had been able to use that time for sleeping ourselves, but it was not to be. Paul and Mary are just as fried today. Of course, our travel couldn't have been more convenient, thanks to CCAI. We were whisked to the airport on a comfy coach and ensconced in a brand new quiet terminal within 30 minutes. The flight left right on time and Jarrah drank her Pedialyte bottle as we took off and was out like a light within two minutes. She stayed that way until after we got our luggage, and was perfectly reasonable on the bus ride, during check in, and a special "come as you are in a white onesie" lunch we had with Mary, Paul and Joy in their room.

Which reminds me, we have a new CCAI rep in this city, and we love him already, too. His name is Jason and he passed around his cell phone on the bus ride with menus for Danny's Bagel, a New York pizza and sub shop that delivers to the White Swan. He instructed us to deliver to his room and it would be ready after we checked in. It was so much fun feeding mac and cheese to the girls for the first time; they practically swooned over it; they've probably never had cheese before.

Jarrah is like a new kid today. She barely cried all day, but instead of the serious faces and intense concentration from the day we met her, she was a giggly wiggler. She stood on David's legs and laughed her head off for most of the bus ride, and in the room she climbed on him like Queen of the Mountain, flinging herself upside down off the bed and shrieking. It was so cute and I got to partake in smiles and hand slaps even though I couldn't join in the rolling around. A couple of times I looked over at her (this happened again at dinner when I was feeding her her first ice cream) and felt that my heart hurt. It's as if I am falling for her but at the same time recognize this will only bring me pain. I don't mean because I am currently second fiddle, but more because with each day that I grow more attached to her, I acknowledge that my life will never be my own again, and my commitment to someone else (which will never fully make sense) requires me to give up imagining that I am in charge of my feelings, my time, my desires, my needs. It's a sensation of letting go at the same time I'm trying to hold back, to assert my independence, but no longer being in control. A friend of mine with a new baby recently told me that she realized how "final" it is to have a baby. And while I'm not suggesting that I would want to go back (I wouldn't) it's very powerful to recognize that I don't even have that option.

It looks like our time in Guangzhou will be pretty evenly divided between fun trips and adoption paperwork appointments, but tomorrow is a mostly free day since it's Sunday. We returned to the room this evening after a dinner out in which the main focus was keeping the girls from screaming and cramming something resembling a balanced meal into their open beaks, which gives me a whole new appreciation for the plight of couples whose babies used to annoy me with their squalling in restaurants before this.

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6 comments:

Amy said...

Boy on boy is that girl CUTE!!!
:)
Amy

Kim said...

I thought she was cute before, but with a smile on her face, she is downright edible!
-Kim
and ps. You're heart will never be your own again. Scary, isn't it? but wonderful, too.

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful place, but not half as lovely as the smiling girl in the watermelon hat. :)

I hope that things just keep getting easier and happier with Jarrah.

~Caroline

Martha said...

Andrew and I are chuckling over the darling photos of your little Miss. She is a doll indeed.

Sam, the surrender is sweet. Let go and I promise, you will not fall. It is a lovely, lovely ride. Promise.

Anonymous said...

A couple of years ago I asked my then 81 year old mother when you stop worrying about your kids. She said she'd let me know when it happened....

You'll never be just only you again, Sam.

Best, Gail

Anonymous said...

We cannot stop looking at that adorable and hilarious series of her laughing on the bus - yay, she looks happy!
Laura