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Sunday 11/17/2002 – Baby Day!

Last night’s sleep was pretty much normal, being exhausted from climbing the Great Wall helped a lot. Hopefully we’re nearly acclimated to our new time zone - we can’t afford to be dragging once Hope arrives. We have another excellent buffet breakfast and meet more members of our group in the dining room. Before leaving for breakfast we packed our large bags and left them in the hall outside our room for the bell boy. They’ll be delivered to our room once we reach Changsha - all we have to deal with is our carry-on bags. I could get used to traveling this way!

Our flight from Beijing to Changsha is delayed for an hour or so by bad weather on the other end. Cynthia is skeptical about the weather, she tells us that flights to and from Changsha are almost never on time. Surprisingly we’re not abandoned during our delay - the airline unpacks the lunches which would have been served in-flight and passes them out right at the gate. Lunch is steamed rice with veggies and little cubes of pork which are mostly fat. We experience mild culture shock upon discovering that forks are not available, only chopsticks, but we manage lunch pretty well anyway.

The flight from Beijing to Changsha is quite scenic. We fly over jagged hills and mountains, and see a large river winding between the hills far below us. This region is very sparsely populated, with little isolated clusters of dwellings scattered here and there through the valleys. As picturesque as the scenery is, to a large extent it's wasted on us. Our group has only one thought on its collective mind – babies! The excitement builds steadily as we near our destination.

We touch down in Changsha and board a bus for the 45 minute ride to the Dolton hotel. At the airport we met up with Wendy, who works for the China Center for Adoption Affairs in Changsha. She will be assisting Cynthia in guiding our group for the remainder of our stay in China. Changsha seems much less Western than Beijing – there is almost no English and very little Pinyin (writing where English letters are used to represent Chinese words) to be seen on signs or buildings. Changsha also doesn’t seem to be quite as clean and nice as Beijing was. Of course this is only a first impression, and we’ll have plenty of time to become more familiar with Changsha over the next few days.

Ever efficient, Cynthia goes over the afternoon’s schedule while we ride to the hotel. When we reach the hotel we’re to head straight to our rooms - she already has our keys and proceeds to hand them out. One parent will to stay in the room to prepare for the baby’s arrival while the other parent meets with the group to fill out one final form. I get to fill out the paperwork, which is easy and only takes a few minutes complete. Then it's back to the room to wait for our new daughter!

The wait really isn’t very long, but it seems to last forever. I flip on the TV and surf – a blindfolded chef is on stage dressing a chicken (or maybe a duck) with a huge cleaver while a rapt audience looks on, the next channel features a show that looks like a low budget remake of “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon” that was shot in someone’s backyard, then a sports channel with…wait! There’s a noise in the hall and a rap on our door, this is it! (As I’m write this in my journal the next day I get goose bumps just remembering the moment [and as I sit at my computer 2 months later typing this from my journal I get the same goose bumps all over again – amazing!]).

Cynthia is there, along with Wendy and the orphanage director. Behind them are half-a-dozen or so caregivers from the orphanage, each holding a baby. Someone says “Here is Chun Xian” and they hand us a beautiful baby! The orphanage director smiles, shakes my hand, and says “thank you”. I am dumbfounded – how could he feel the need to thank me as part of this transaction? There are no words to express the gratitude that we feel at this moment, so a returned “thank you” has to suffice. I think (hope) he understands what we’re unable to put into words. We hand small, wrapped gifts to the director and the chief caregiver and then they move on down the hall to the next room. The entire procedure is completed in a matter of minutes.

The gifts we give to the director and caregiver are an wonderful Chinese tradition, which was explained to us in advance by our agency so we'd be prepared. The custom is to give small, token gifts as a way of showing appreciation and gratitude. They’re not supposed to be expensive or at all personal. I’d guess that for the most part they’re never even used by the recipient. It's just a novel way of saying thanks, where it truly is the thought that counts.

Hope is a really good baby! She warms to her new Mama immediately, and only takes about an hour to get used to me. She wolfs down a bottle of formula mixed with rice cereal and half of a jar of baby food. The label says that it’s chicken and apples, but is smells a lot like cat food. We play for a while, which she enjoys, but in a detached sort of way as if she's not really used to this level of one-on-one interaction. Or maybe she's just too busy checking out her new environment. She's very serious and alert, watching everything and studying her surroundings. She also startles quite easily - one of the few time she cries is when she sneezes and scares herself. By 8:00 she’s had a bath (she’s not sure about it, but doesn’t complain) and a second bottle of formula and is ready for bed. She sleeps soundly all night, making a few sounds but never waking up. As I write this on Monday morning at 6:45 she’s still asleep.

Cynthia checks in on us later and brings more of the Sanlu formula that Hope is used to from the orphanage. Tomorrow morning will be spent at the Hunan Province Civil Affairs Office filling out paperwork needed to finalize the adoption. She tells us that before they left for Yueyang the caregivers from the orphanage asked her to explain to us that "Chun Xian was a little fearful", but that she's "a good girl." Their concern is touching, as is their apparent fear that somehow we might not be pleased with our new daughter.

Cynthia tells us that most of members of our group are doing really well with their new daughters. However she does have some bad news about Nancy, a single mom who is in China without a traveling companion. She tells us that Nancy’s baby is quite sick, and that they will be taking her to the hospital tonight for treatment. Our group has become quite close in the short time we’ve been together and we feel really bad for Nancy and her baby – hopefully everything will be OK.

Orphanage Director   This shot was taken in the hallway right outside of our room in the Dolton immediately after receiving Hope from Director Chang of the Yueyang Social Welfare Institute. Several of the caregivers from the orphanage are visible in the background.
Hope's First Bottle   Hope enjoys her first bottle with her new Mama. Notice in this picture and the previous one how bundled up she was when she arrived.
Hope's First Bath  Somewhere underneath all those layers of clothing we finally found a baby! She seemed a bit unsure about her bath, but really didn't mind too much. 
Getting Dried Off  Now it's time to dry off and get ready for bed. 
One More Bottle  In her jammies and enjoying a bedtime bottle. She looks a bit less bulky here than she did in the picture of her first bottle.  
Bedtime Book   Reading the "Big Book of Kisses" with Mama.
Fast Asleep   Fast asleep.
Dolton Hotel  The front of the Dolton Hotel. 
Dolton Hotel  Another view of the fountain in front of the Dolton.
Dolton Hotel  The lobby of the Dolton Hotel. 
Dolton Hotel  A view of the lobby from the second level. 
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