This was a chaotic day, nothing like my expectations, which I tried not to have in the first place.
We had to be down in the hotel lobby in Beijing at 5 am to go to the airport. We were given a bagged breakfast since we had to leave before breakfast opened. I ate a little. Some of it I couldn’t eat (fruit with skin I couldn’t peel) and some I didn’t like (hard boiled egg). I just ate a couple of small muffins; my stomach was in knots about the day ahead.
Our check–in at the airport went smoothly. We knew our bags were overweight for a China domestic flight (44 lbs per person), but we didn’t think it was by much. Sherry, our guide, talked the staff into letting us go through with no charge. We also got through security without hassle. We got to our gate about 45 minutes early. We even saw travel friends get through with a miracle…they had 4 people traveling with about 10 bags and had thought the rule was 44 lbs per bag. Ugh. The Lord parted the waters and caused the belt at check in to be broken, lots of chaos, and ultimately they got through what they thought would be $300 of fines with no fines at all!
Our flight was easy…we think we might have been seated in business class. Lots of leg room. About an hour flight. When we got off the plane, we got our bags and met our guide. She asked if we needed to use the bathroom before we left. I said no. BIG MISTAKE. (I had to but wanted to get to the hotel first.)
When we got in the van, we discovered from Teresa, our local guide, that we were not going to the hotel but straight to meet our son. (Exactly what happened to us in Ethiopia; this only happens about 1% of the time. It happened to us both adoptions.) Our guide in Beijing, Sherry, told us we were most likely going to the hotel to unpack first. So we had no toys for him in our carry on. No snacks. No gifts ready for the orphanage staff. And she said we’d only be there about an hour.
We also discovered pretty quickly in the van that Teresa did not speak English as well as we were used to with Sherry. We had to explain our questions a number of times. This proved to get worse with time.
We got to the Civil Affairs building, and we were ushered into this lobby area. (I tried to go to the bathroom, but the Western toilet was disgustingly dirty—imagine the worst you’ve seen and triple it—and the squatty potties had to toilet paper. We had been carrying around tp but did not bring it with us in our carry ons.) There were only a couple of people there at the moment, but we were told 17 families were coming that morning to get their kids. Little did we know…
Brendan was not there yet, so our guide went into a room to start figuring out paperwork. A few minutes later, some nannies walked in with Brendan and another little boy, both who looked TERRIFIED. We approached him and started to talk, and the nannies were trying to introduce us, but he would have none of it. He just closed off emotionally. We could not get anyone to take many photos or videos. And then Brendan wet his pants all over the floor. Poor kid. While the staff cleaned him up and got him new pants (no underwear, as we discovered later), other staff pulled me aside and sat me down to do some paperwork. By this time we could see other families getting their kids, lots of crying (parents and kids), and other people taking nice video and photos for those families. It was very loud in the room, and Teresa was trying to translate the form for me to fill out and having difficulty. She would ask questions and get yelled at. We would sign forms, and she would get yelled at about how we did it wrong. (I should say the yelling was directed at her, but we have no idea what they were saying.) Screaming babies. Lots of people speaking different languages. And I felt robbed of my gotcha day because I couldn’t even find Pete and Brendan at points. Every time I would get up to try to sit with them and see our son, I was pulled into more paperwork. And then I was told we needed to make our orphanage donation then. So I had to sit and count large stacks of RMB in the middle of the crowd. And then they recounted it. About $5000 worth.
By this point we were a bit upset. We had tried numerous times to ask questions of the nannies that we had about Brendan. We kept getting brushed aside. Thankfully, Pete had gone out to the van earlier and dug a couple of toys out of the suitcase. He literally just came to us with the clothes on his back. Not even anything from the care package we sent him.
The other little boy that Brendan came with turned out to be going home with a family from Kansas. We got to sit down with his mom and exchange information, since we were told Hudson (the boy’s new name) and Brendan were friends. (Sure enough, later as I looked through Brendan’s photos I saw Hudson in many of them.) His mom was really nice. This was not her first China adoption, and she had used our agency in the past. I’m looking forward to staying in touch with her. I hope we see her at the embassy meetings.
At some point in all of this we were able to take photos with the nannies and Brendan and us outside the building. Pete tried to explain that we wanted to have on video the nannies giving Brendan some well-wishes and then have Teresa translate. Never happened. They just didn’t understand us. We did get to ask our questions and felt we got satisfactory answers.
Teresa told us it was time to go, so we all piled in the van. Then we all had to get out, because she said we had to take the family photo for the documentation. (I actually had mentioned this to her earlier because we knew this was taken on that day, and she told me we didn’t do that until the next day.)
By the time we were really ready to go, it was lunchtime. We had been at the CA building for 2 hours. The driver and guide offered to take us to a local restaurant instead of the hotel, so we agreed. Once we were seated, we asked the guide for help with ordering, since in Beijing all the ordering was done for us ahead of time. It took about 30 minutes to discuss back and forth with the guide what we would be willing to order. I asked for a bottle of water, and it took forever to explain what that was. They brought me mineral water, which I did not want. We finally got them to bring a bottle of Sprite. By this point I was in tears. The staff ended up bringing me a bowl of special soup used for people with coughs, because they thought I was sick. It tasted like medicine. Nasty. It turns out we ordered too much, and most of it I didn’t like. Too spicy. Pete ate some, but when Teresa started laughing at him at how he was using chopsticks, he got mad at her. At least Brendan ate a meal he was used to. One thing Sherry told us in Beijing was not to let him eat too much at meals so he wouldn’t get a stomachache. Teresa and the wait staff kept bringing him more and more food. We finally put a stop to it, and they didn’t really understand why we were denying him more food. I ended up just eating rice. We paid the bill (and I noticed we ended up paying for the driver’s and Teresa’s meals too).
At this point we knew we needed to call in the big guns. We knew we couldn’t survive for the rest of the week like this with no one who could understand us. We decided to call the national guide when we got back to the hotel. Teresa gave us our room keys, and we asked for help with locating a supermarket for us to buy water. She vaguely gave us directions and would not offer more help than that. “It’s just down the block,” she said.
We got up to our hotel room and we noticed there was only one large bed. We asked about a bed for Brendan, and they finally brought us up a large crib. We called Linekar, the national guide, immediately. He got us switched to a different room with two beds. Pete told him about the difficult time we were having with our guide, and he said our province is a very hard one because not many people speak English well. He said there was a 5 star hotel in town, but it was twice as much money. (We are in a 4 star hotel.) The nicer hotel had more staff who spoke better English. We decided to stay put, since Brendan was already moved around so much today, and we didn’t know if we could afford the new hotel. He offered to get us a new guide, but it would take a couple of days. He told us to call him with any more issues we were having. It was so nice to finally have someone understand our needs.
In the midst of all of this, we laid Brendan down for a nap, which we found out he takes every afternoon. He was still so, so scared. He laid down and tears began to roll down him face. He made no noises, just cried silently. We sat with him and snuggled and prayed with him for a while. Finally, he fell asleep and took a decent nap. We tried to sleep, but we could not. We were actually a bit worried about Brendan…we wondered if there was some hearing loss or mental delays due to how painfully shy he is. (We knew from the referral paperwork that he was shy, but this was Just. Painfully. Shy.) And it didn’t help that he wouldn’t make eye contact or speak.
I went out in search of the grocery store. I got some directions from the bellboy, but I walked around for a while without finding what I was looking for. I came back to the hotel and asked for more help. The bellboy walked me partway there, and then pointed out exactly where I needed to go. What made it harder was there was construction in between me and the store, and I had to walk around it (on the street, mostly, with China traffic). I finally found the store and went in. I found the water, but it was all expensive mineral water, not the cheap spring water we had been drinking the last few days. I walked back to the hotel, and we called Linekar again. He called Teresa and had her call the hotel to bring us up a bunch of water to our room. They brought us two more individual sized bottles.
By this time Brendan was awake, so we took him down to dinner at the hotel restaurant. We looked at the regular menu, and then they brought us the room service menu. We ordered club sandwiches for us, and they came with French fries. After we ordered, I realized we couldn’t eat the lettuce or tomatoes in the sandwich. We nibbled at the bread, but the meat tasted funny, and there was a layer of egg instead of cheese. The fries were pretty good, though.
After we were all done eating we went back to the room and gave Brendan a bath. He smelled pretty horrible all day, but we wanted to give him some time in his orphanage clothes since the smell was more familiar to him. The bath went well. Then Pete started playing with him, and he really seemed to open up. They were laughing a lot, playing with toys, and being silly together.
By bedtime we were feeling a bit better about the day.