Days Eight through Ten included our transition from Guiyang to Guangzhou. Guiyang is in south central China. Guangzhou is at the far southern edge of the country. Our flight on Friday was mercifully short, only an hour and forty minutes. It was Peyton’s first time on an airplane, so she and Jordan have something else in common and they sat side by side, ’cause he’s her favorite. Unfortunately, it was very frightening for her. The take-off noises and movement made her whimper super quietly. Tears filled her eyes, her face scrunched up, and she grabbed sweet Jordan’s hand and held it in a death grip until she finally fell asleep, but she never cried.
In fact, Peyton has never cried in front of us, which is incredibly unusual for a two-year-old. She whimpers quietly when she’s uncomfortable, but she’s never cried out loud. We’ve heard terrible stories about babies in Eastern European orphanages who never cry because they’ve learned no one comes when they cry, but Peyton was living with a foster family, so it’s unlikely that’s the reason for her. Our only guess is that her extended stays in the hospital to treat her thalassemia left her alone for long periods of time and she may have had to learn to self-sooth. That makes us sad, but it also makes us fiercely determined to be there for her in her pain or fear, so she never feels alone again.
Our entire adoption travel group of six families is now together. On Saturday, four of the six families had medical appointments for our children at a Guangzhou hospital, which is approved to provide final screenings for adopted children who are headed for the United States. Peyton was examined, poked, and prodded vigorously before being cleared for our final step, the US Consulate appearance on Tuesday morning.
Today, Sunday, we visited a temple built in 1888 by a wealthy, powerful Guangzhou family, who wanted a place to worship their ancestors. The compound is now a museum and features a large number of artifacts created in the style of local artisans. It also includes ornate decorations on every wall, wood panel, and roof line. Many of the decorations were hand carved and painted and have been carefully restored. We spotted an enormous ivory sculpture that must have taken decades to carve, (we couldn’t read the plaque and our guide was in another room at the time), as well as some huge ceramic vases and elaborate wood pieces carved out of single tree trunks.
After our museum visit, our outstanding guide, Helen (in stripes below), who was our guide eighteen months ago when we adopted Elijah, took the group shopping. Those who didn’t shop chose instead to sit in a tea area, where a hostess provided samples of a variety of unusual teas. Our favorite was a fruit tea with pineapple, orange, pomegranate, and other dried fruits. Unlike teas which are made primarily of tea leaves, you could eat the fruit mixture after you steeped the tea. It was quite good. Even the “littles” (Elijah and Peyton) enjoyed their tea nibbles.
Sunday night, we took a dinner cruise on the Pearl River, sometimes called the Guangdong or Canton River. The boat was crowded but comfortable, but the crowd’s actions were unexpected. Dinner was a buffet and when the open buffet announcement was made, the crowd leaped up from their various tables and rushed the buffet, some of them running, many pushing and shoving, a few yelling. We watched people take the serving utensils out of serving dishes and keep them as they forced their way from station to station, which left no utensils at some stations. At other stations, people picked up the entire platter and dumped it onto their plates. Being from a culture where standing is line and waiting your turn is expected, we were a little taken aback. But being big Americans, we were still able to hold our own and got plenty to eat.
A few people went out of their way to make us feel like guests. One young man, serving himself at a vegetable station, turned to go back to his table, saw me behind him in the crowd with Elijah in one arm, smiled at me, turned back to the station, picked up a pair of tongs and put a helping of food onto my plate. When Elijah fell asleep in my arms, one of crew came back to the table with an extra chair and motioned that Elijah could use two chairs as a bed. Every day, we’ve been warmed by the generosity and kindness of individuals who go out of their way to make us feel at home in their country.
The Guangzhou riverfront is lit by an incredible collection of ever-changing LED and neon displays covering hundreds of buildings, bridges, and boats. The cruise was a unique and fun way to spend my first Father’s Day as a dad to four awesome kids. I hope all of you dads who might be reading this had an awesome Father’s Day, too.