On Tuesday, we went to a shopping center near the coast and The White Swan Hotel (just about every adoptive family stays there while in Guangzhou). It is being refurbished, so we were at a local Marriott, but we could visit the shopping centers! The whole complex is on an island that was once occupied by Great Britain and the stores all had plaques explaining the year they were built (early 1900’s) and their original purpose (banks, embassies etc.). It was interesting, but our kids had no intention of letting us hang out and read plaques. Reilly and Sharon were there with one purpose: to prepare for tea time. We left China with four distinct Chinese tea sets (four girls, four tea sets) and seven Chinese dresses, each a different size (to account for the neighbors). Everything was so cheap, it was hard to say, “no.”
On Wednesday, the whole crew from our hotel went to the “Oath-Taking Ceremony” at the American Consulate. About a dozen families from our hotel crammed into a bus and drove to the embassy together. Now that we had both QingBei and ZiXuan, there were eight in our family and we took up the whole back of the bus. Therefore, I couldn’t really hear the interpreter all that well. She had a soft voice and despite the microphone, it was a lost cause. Even the parents in the middle of the bus were making eye contact, trying to see if anyone else knew what she was saying. I finally just stopped listening, figuring that eventually I’d get the information I needed. …This was a mistake.
The American Consulate was on the fourth floor of a huge building in downtown Guangzhou. Our interpreter started collecting everyone’s bags in the first floor lobby, so my kids handed over their backpacks etc. and I thought all was well. What I didn’t hear on the bus was that we couldn’t take ANYTHING into the Consulate besides our passport and one bottle/diaper per child. When I got to the metal detector/scanner on the fourth floor and handed over my fanny pack, the whole operation came to a grinding halt. Bill ended up collecting my phone, fanny pack and another couples things (who, it’s only fair to note, were sitting in the front of the bus) and running back to the first floor to find our interpreter and have her hold it all. Of course, he couldn’t find her and ended up going to a bank and paying them $20 to hold everything behind their counter. Then, since he wasn’t with our group anymore and didn’t have an interpreter, the Chinese who were guarding the elevator wouldn’t let him back onto the fourth floor without a considerably heated conversation.
He finally found us, only to realize that he was better off in the lobby. For reasons which are still unclear, the American officials crammed all of us into a small waiting room for about half an hour. Just as the noise was becoming intolerable, an adolescent American came over to the bullet proof window and had all of us raise our right hand and swear that all the information on our paperwork was true to the best of our knowledge. That was the Oath-Taking Ceremony. I’m afraid I laughed out loud over this. We’ve been handing them money and paperwork for over 15 months now and signing the same oath at the end of every document. If we were going to lie….oh, never mind. We got our kids Visa packets and headed back to the hotel.
On Thursday, we went to a huge park right across the street. The middle of the park was the center of the original city. There was a huge central building/temple and parts of the original city wall. Inside the building there was a museum including a map of the city with different city walls outlined in lights showing the city growth over the centuries. It was really cool. It would have been a great morning if it wasn’t for the Chinese staring at my kids.
At one point, I was planning to climb to the top of yet another tower with Bill. We left the kids at the bottom of some outside stairs and thought we’d just run to the top of the tower and get some pictures. At the landing, just outside the entrance, I turned around to check on them. They were all huddled in a corner of the stair way and there were three Chinese men standing well within their personal space and staring at my kids as though they held some life-changing truth within their eyes. I rushed back down the stairs and got between the men and my kids and got them to back off. They went to the other side of the stair way, but they were still staring at us for the next several minutes and even followed us as we walked to the park exit.
I’m afraid this left us all pretty jaded. They had used up our last bit of patience with staring Chinese. So, a few minutes later, when a different Chinese man started walking much too close, all I wanted to do was dump the full measure of my wrath right on his head. I glanced over at him and gave him a mean look, but he just kept coming closer. Just as I was about to say something really terrible, since he couldn’t understand me anyway, he stepped in front of me to catch my eyes and said to me in English, “You care for Chinese children. You kind person.”
I was so surprised by this, I became totally tongue tied. Looking back, I should have said plenty. I know that what he said was a statement, but he meant it as a question. I could tell by the tone of his voice. And, here’s the thing; I’m a Jesus Freak. There is a very specific reason why I care for Chinese children and it is NOT because I am a kind person. In fact, what seems like an act of kindness to the outside world is really an act of selfishness on my part, but I don’t have much success convincing people of this. I care for Chinese children because the same God who created the universe and sent His only Son to atone for my sins is, occasionally, very clear about how I might bring Him glory. At the moment, my brain was reeling over the fact that bringing God glory does not include mouthing off to innocent Chinese who are so surprised by what they perceive as selfless love, they will follow a family across a city park to try to understand more. I was having a really hard time switching gears. I knew what NOT to say, which is pretty good for me, but I didn’t have any idea what I should say. We talked for a minute about how he learned such good English and how we will fix QingBei’s face, then we parted ways. …I missed my chance. I’m still annoyed with myself over this.
Anyway, we walked well over three miles that morning, all of it uphill, and took the subway back to the hotel. Everyone collapsed that afternoon and we spent the evening packing for the trip home on Friday.