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Friday 11/22/2002

We board the bus at 9:30 for another day of shopping and sightseeing. Everyone (parents and babies) is tired, but there’s so much to see and do in such a short time that we push on. Several parents have been sick with respiratory infections and GI problems (strange, spicy foods and unsanitary tap water are a bad combination). This morning we’re visiting the Yuelu Academy, which was founded as a school over 1000 years ago during the Song dynasty. Today it’s part of Hunan University. Along with it's age and extraordinary beauty, the Yuelu Academy boasts of a very well known alumnus - Mao Tse Tung.

The Yuelu Academy is beautiful beyond description. It’s buildings are as lovely and ornate as those of the more famous Forbidden City, but they are much more varied in style and color. Also, due to great fear of fire, the only trees in the Forbidden City were in the imperial gardens which are located safely outside the main city walls. Here at the Yuelu Academy lush gardens and exotic trees are everywhere. The Academy is not at all crowded, but what visitors there are seem to be almost as interested in our group as they are in the sumptuous surroundings. Lots of Chinese tourists walk up to see the babies, talk to the babies, and take our pictures - we feel like celebrities. As always, they seem to be delighted to see that these babies have found good homes.

We finish our tour of the Yuelu Academy with a concert put on by students, featuring ancient Chinese musical instruments. A young man in blue robes and a tall blue hat sits cross-legged at the front of the stage. He alternates between a flute and a strange woodwind instrument which features a cluster of vertical pipes. He is accompanied by 3 young women in pink robes and hats. One plucks a flat stringed instrument, kind of like an autoharp, but with many more strings. The second uses a pair of mallets to strike a series of suspended metal bars producing a sound much like a marimba. The third plays a huge array of iron bells. There must be 40 or 50 bells in all, ranging in size from 4 or 5 inches to nearly 2 feet across. She uses a hammer on most of them, but has a large wooden pole with a cloth pad on one end to strike the largest row of bells like a battering ram. The music is strange but quite beautiful and we all applaud when the brief concert is over.

After our tour of the Yuelu Academy we return to the bus and head for another department store. This store is even larger than the Apollo, and seems to be a bit more upscale as well. However it’s getting close to lunch time so we really don’t have any time to explore. We head to a large central atrium and ride an escalator to the third floor, baby supplies. While the others shop for stuff for their babies, I manage to get Cynthia to accompany me to the fourth floor electronics department to pick up a fresh memory card for my camera. I started the trip with four cards (over 500 images worth of storage) thinking it would be more than I’d ever need, but half way through our trip I’ve already filled three of them. They have exactly what I need although, unlike a lot of other things we’ve purchased here, the price is pretty much the same as I would have paid back home.

This department store also has a grocery in the basement, and we finish our visit there. We need to stock up on Sanlu formula – Cynthia tells us that we won’t be able to find any once we get leave Changsha for Guangzhou. We’re feeding Hope bottles of half Sanlu and half Similac with a little rice cereal thrown in for good measure. She’s had no GI problems yet and we have no intention of experimenting with her formula until we get home. They have a large assortment of beer, including Guang’s Pineapple. I pick up a few cans, which I figure will be my last - I suspect that once we leave the Hunan province I won’t be able to find it anymore. While searching the store for the beer section I stumble across an aisle of dried foods. I notice a rack of small cellophane bags filled with what appear to be sun-dried tomatoes. Upon closer inspection I see that they're really tiny dried frogs. I move on.

Before boarding the bus, we stop at McDonald’s for some lunch to take back to the hotel. It looks just like any McDonald’s back home but, with two huge floors, this is far bigger than any McDonald’s I’ve ever been in before. Of course everything on the menu board is in Chinese and none of the employees speak English. The cashier does have a card with pictures of the various menu items and everyone is quite eager to be helpful. By pointing at the menu card and improvising a little sign language we manage to order a couple of Big Mac combo meals. The most difficult part is getting her to understand our request for no ice in the drinks (we've learned to be quite careful about coming in contact with water). The food is good – as far as I can tell it's exactly the same as the what’s served in the United States.

On the way from McDonald’s to our bus we run into a group of school kids on their way home for lunch. As always, they’re dressed in brightly colored uniforms. They delight in trying their English on us, “Hello” and “Fine thank you, and how are you?” They speak English very well, but in a very formal and deliberate manner, making them like text books.

As usual, Cynthia uses the bus trip back to the hotel to hold a group meeting. She stands in her usual spot in the aisle at the front of the bus and uses a microphone to brief us. She starts with some good news – Nancy’s baby will be released from the hospital this afternoon so they will be able to travel to Guangzhou with us! Next she hands out passports for the babies. They have reddish brown covers and are issued by the People’s Republic of China. With these passports the babies are now free to travel within China. She also gives us a photocopy of the note which was left with Hope by her birth mother. It includes an English translation which reads:

“To all with loving hearts:
My daughter was born on February 25, 2002.”

Just a small scrap of paper with a few Chinese characters written on it – insignificant and yet profoundly moving. Reading it I feel very sad for the birth mother. I can’t imagine how painful it must have been for her to abandon her child. I wish there was a way that we could let her know that her daughter is OK and has a good home and a loving family. I suddenly feel a great sense of responsibility to the birth mother to do the very best we can for this child. She’s a wonderful gift, but a gift that someone paid dearly for.

Upon returning home I have taken part in some discussions with other adoptive parents about whether or not these birth notes are real. Similarites in the paper on which they were written and in the wording of the notes themselves lends a lot of weight to the theory that they are fabrications. If the notes aren't real I certainly don't believe that there was any intent to be deceptive. I believe that birth notes would be forged only with the intent of providing the adoptive parents (and later the children) with at least the perception of a tangible link with the birth mother. This is an issue which is sure to cause intense debate among adoptive parents, but I personally don't really care whether or not the notes are genuine. Either way, the note we received made us think long and hard about the birth mother and that, as far as I'm concerned, is what's really important.

At 5:00 we gather in the hotel playroom to await Nancy’s return from the hospital with her baby. The playroom, which is on our floor, is a large room with a soft mat covering the floor and lots of toys for the babies (and big brothers and sisters) to play with. Apparently the Dolton does a fair amount of business with adopting families. Most times I’ve passed by there are at least a few babies from our group playing here, but this afternoon the room is full, everyone is here. The mood is festive and everyone cheers when Nancy arrives with her baby. We have cake and the babies play. I’m again amazed at how quickly we’ve become a tight knit group.

{short description of image}   Here we are, posing at the Yuelu Academy. While may look like I'm headed out to drop off some laundry, there's actually a baby buried somewhere deep inside that pile of blankets.
Yuelu   Wendy (our Changsha guide) and Cynthia (our FTIA coordinator) pose at Yuelu.
Yuelu  These Chinese tourists are much more interested in us (especially the babies) than they are in the Yuelu Academy. 
Yuelu   Another group of Chinese tourists stops to take pictures of us.
Yuelu   We pause for a group photo at Yuelu. While Cynthia and Wendy took this shot dozens of Chinese tourists were taking their own pictures of us. It kind of makes you feel like a celebrity.
Yuelu   Fair is fair. Here's a picture of a group of Chinese tourists at Yuelu.
Yuelu   Yuelu Academy
Yuelu    Yuelu Academy
Yuelu    Yuelu Academy
Yuelu    Yuelu Academy
Yuelu    Yuelu Academy
Yuelu Concert   Concert at Yuelu featuring ancient Chinese instruments.
Yuelu Concert   Concert at Yuelu featuring ancient Chinese instruments.
Yuelu Concert     Concert at Yuelu featuring ancient Chinese instruments.
McDonalds   A visit to McDonalds in Changsha.
McDonalds   Waiting in line at the Changsha McDonalds.
Dolton Playroom   A group gathers in the Dolton's playroom, waiting for Nancy and her baby to get back from the hospital.
Dolton Playroom   Hope discovers the chicken pictures on the bottoms of her new Chinese shoes.
Dolton Playroom   Hope - "The pink fish is mine, mine, all mine!"
Dolton Playroom   Lillian - "It's OK about the fish Hope, I love you anyway. Besides I still have the blue ring to play with." 
Dolton Playroom   Hope - "Thanks for reminding me about the blue ring, I need it too!"
Dolton Playroom   Lillian - "It's sure not easy being Hope's friend."
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