December 16, 1997
This day is Jiang Li's 15 month birthday. The phone rang at 6:30 AM, a
recorded voice with a slight accent repeated: "Good Morning, This is a
wake up call. Please wake up. Have a good day." There was a fax under our
door from my coworkers telling us that they were thinking of us and wishing
us luck We double checked the diaper bag, checked the money, made sure
we had every document ready, then we dressed and went to the buffet breakfast.
Like Beijing, they served both Chinese and western foods. They even
had an cook preparing eggs to order. Unfortunately, the cook spoke
no English, and I didn't have a card that said "fried egg sunny side up."
I pondered for a while how to mime this for him, and finally decided that
I probably really wanted an omelet.
At this point our group split up, the one family that had their child
would be traveling by train to Suzhou to complete the adoption. A group
of 4 families left by bus for the airport to pick up a late arriving family,
then they would head on to Changzhou. Our group of 3 took a one and
a half hour bus ride to the Zhenjiang Social Welfare Institute. The bus
was quite, everyone was nervous. It was a cold, grey day. I shot
video out the bus window and wondered what our future daughter's life would
have been. I thought about her birth mother. I thought about how far this
was from Ohio, and wondered how long it might be before we were here again.
As we got close to town, our driver stopped a couple of times to ask
directions. We pulled up to the gates of the Institute, big, shiny
bronze plaques said Zhen Jiang Social Welfare Institute in Chinese and
English on one side of the gate, Zhen Jiang Children's Welfare Institute
on the other side. We pulled through the gate and parked in the center
of the compound, near a large fountain. The ground was still healing
from the recent construction. The buildings were new and in a modern angular
style. One building, that I took to be the orphanage building, had fanciful
tile mosaics of animals.
We were ushered into an administration building. The hallways
were open to the outside and not heated. We were led upstairs to a large
conference room. The room had a large table with a sunken center,
a Howard Miller grandfather clock, and a TV and VCR under a velvet cover.
Tea was already on the table in large green covered cups. The three children,
well bundled, were sitting on their nanny's laps when we entered the room.
We were told to sit and enjoy the tea, Ginger, who immediately noticed
the children when we entered, did not know until we watched our video that
they had even served tea.
Once we were all settled, they called out the babies names and introduced
us to our child. Jiang Li took an instant dislike to both
of us, although she thought the toys we brought were grand. She cried when
placed in Ginger's arms. After a few moments, the nanny took her
back, gave Jiang Li her ID card, and she stopped crying immediately. She
cried when I held her too, this time, the nanny had to rock her and give
her the ID card before she stopped. I surreptitiously tested her hearing.
I took the musical Winnie the Pooh toy and started it playing behind her
head, she turned quickly and took it from me. She clung to her nanny tightly.
It was obvious that she did not display the behaviors that we were told
to look for in attachment disorder. Ginger continued to try and make friends
with Jiang Li by offering toys. The nanny told her we were Mama and Papa
and showed us how she could blow kisses.
They suggested that Jiang Li liked chocolate. I rummaged through the
diaper bag and found a Hershey bar, we tried to give it to Jiang Li, but
she just clung to it and when Ginger tried holding her again, smeared the
chocolate all over Ginger's jacket. I pulled out our camera and took a
couple of pictures, then the unthinkable happened, the battery in the camera
died! We also had brought a Polaroid camera. I took it out and took
2 pictures of each shot, leaving one on the table for the director and
giving one to each of the parents. Had I been thinking more clearly, I
would have brought more film and left the camera as a gift for the orphanage.
Then, we were again asked to take our seats.
They told us about the children, Jiang Li likes to be held all the time,
another child was very active. The director asked if we had any questions
about the children. One of the parents asked if they had any information
about where they were found. The answer was that the children were brought
to the Institute by the police, and the police, not the Institute had those
details. We asked about feeding, sleeping. We each then had a short meeting
with a uniformed notary. She was polite, nice, but official in her dealings
with us. We carefully reviewed the spelling of the names, all the birth
dates, as she gathered the information necessary for the adoption paperwork.
While the others were doing the paperwork I gave the director 3 red
bags filled with gifts. We had brought some Micky Mouse tee shirts,
postcards of Ohio, and a nice pocket knife with Indian art stonework on
the handle for the director. After the paperwork was complete, the nanny
gave Jiang Li back to Ginger, along with a hot (HOT) bottle of formula
and rice cereal mixed together and lead us out of the building. The
mixture was quite thick and the nipple (long standard rubber type) was
cut in an X. The nanny also gave me several bags of snacks for the children
on the bus. Cuttlefish crackers, prawn chips, and something call
"Puppy", but it looked a lot more like a cookie simulation of a hot dog
than a young canine in cracker form. Jiang Li had finished the entire 8
oz bottle before we were out of the building. Although she was about 20
lbs, she drank it as if she hadn't eaten in days! As we gave the empty
bottle back to the nanny we noticed that the other children were eating
at a much more leisurely pace. On the bus, Jiang Li sat on Ginger's lap and I assumed the new role
"Daddy, source of all food" with the hope that she would warm up to me.
Wanting to save the snacks the orphanage gave us until I could figure out
what they were, I introduced her to Cheerios
(toasted oat cereal in the form of an "O"). She liked them and kept saying
"uh UH!' (Translation: "Thank you very much, may I have more?") After a
short while she fell into a deep sleep. As she slept, we carefully examined
how she was bundled. She was wearing a disposable diaper, a cotton jersey,
a heavy sweater, a pair of heavy knit split pants, and a nearly new snow
suit over everything, pink terry cloth shoes and Baby Gap (yes, Baby Gap)
socks. Ginger was delighted at the taste in clothing our child was
On the way back to the hotel, our group asked the guide to stop so that
we might get some local formula. We stopped at a small (12 by 12
foot) grocery store. Our guide talked briefly with the person there
and pointed to some bags on a shelf, we cleaned them out. It was several
days later that I discovered that it was real dairy powdered sweet cream
intended for coffee.
I noted that all the workers at the orphanage wore white smocks. Back
at the hotel, I suggested to Ginger that she should put on one of my white
shirts. I thought that Jiang Li might be more comfortable if she was in
the arms of someone in white. After the children woke up we gathered in
the doctor's room and gave all three a bath. Jiang Li was hesitant at first,
but seemed to like the bath. All of the babies had colds, Jiang Li's
chest was clear, according to the doctor, Dimetapp to clear the congestion.
Ears looked good. Ginger then diapered her. She would get much
faster at this in the days to come. I really wanted to help, but
when I approached, Jiang Li would get upset and cry. I knew that this was
already a very stressful time for her, so I didn't push the issue.
We would have plenty of time to get to know each other.
We went to lunch, and Jiang Li would not sit in the highchair. She sat
on Ginger's lap and I fed her the bottle. She also enjoyed the spaghetti
and rolls. She also loved the prawn crackers that the orphanage had given
us. In fact, she enjoyed every food that she could get into her mouth.
She went down for a nap at about 4:00 PM, we woke her at 8:00 PM for
dinner. We fed her the "formula" we had bought, some rice cereal with formula,
and Cheerios. She fell asleep again at 10 PM and slept until her usual
wake up time, 6:00 AM. She was very restless as she slept, and very quite
when she was awake. Although very quite, she looked at everything