22 posts categorized "China 2005"

September 08, 2005

Driving in China

Time for a brief educational aside while Gwen naps. Driving in China is a totally different kettle of fish than back home. Here's a picture of rush hour in Guangzhou. It's tough to make out from the picture, but "lane" is a fluid concept defined less by namby-pamby road markings and more by harsh reality. It's not uncommon to see cars in stop and go traffic moving perpendicular to the traffic flow, so driving feels a lot like playing gridlock. Weaving through and between lanes at speed shows engagement with the driving process and hence respect for one's fellow drivers, and is strongly encouraged. Creation of lanes from the asphalt aether is worth double points. Turn signals and gentle preliminary motions imply that one's fellow drivers are unable to discern intent, and are considered crass and insulting. Merging is an opportunity to collaborate closely with others. The only rule is: don't hit anything. So like skilled judo practitioners, drivers try to establish situations in which an opponent's momentum works against him or her, forcing rapid braking to avoid contravening the one rule. Nudging a nose in front of somebody is tantamount to victory, and inches on either side are considered a vast welcoming canyon.

Into this mix, we next introduce pedestrians. We drove back through Guangzhou yesterday along an eight-lane expressway with pedestrians standing between the lanes. Expert pedestrians carry themselves with icy sang-froid, seemingly unaware of cars, trucks, and buses careening by inches away from them. Like frogger players of yore, they plan paths through complex evolving traffic flows, and drivers gently modify trajectories to leave appropriate body-sized spaces between vehicles at appropriate times. It's like watching ballet.

On the other hand, many aspects of driving are much less crazy than back home. Most notably: no anger. We saw our van driver enter a three-minute duel with a truck full of livestock about merging rights, each valiantly fending off attacks then pressing forward like Robin Hood on a log bridge, honking and jerking into tiny spaces. But nobody showed any anger, and when one party won, both just went about their business without any emotional display at all. No road rage. Also, while merging is vigorous, acceleration is always gentle, as if there's no reason culturally to jackrabbit start from each stoplight. All told, I can understand why a person from either culture would quickly get a bad rep in the other culture.

Visit to Gwen's Orphanage

Here's Donna and Gwen standing outside her orphanage, the Shenzhen Social Welfare Institute (or SWI). Shenzhen is a beautiful and modern city which more or less came into being only a couple of decades ago, and is now a major commercial hub due to its proximity to Hong Kong. The architecture is much more modern than anywhere else we've seen in China, and it's immaculately maintained with flowers along the highways, bright colors on the buildings, and lots of glass and chrome everywhere.

We came to the orphanage via a two-hour van ride set up by the China team, and Philip and Mary accompanied us. We traveled with Toni and Wayne, who also adopted a daughter from the same orphanage.

Once inside, we met the director (second from left) and a person we're taking to be the chief caretaker (left), shown here with all of us. They took us around the orphanage and showed us all manner of interesting stuff. Government regulations do not permit pictures inside the orphanage, maybe due to some traumatic video footage that was released some time ago that created a huge uproar. But we were able to take pictures of some of the play areas. Also, we were able to photograph one little girl who will be adopted in November by somebody who has been in email contact with Donna. We were in a room full of little children, some special needs, some others, some boys, some girls. They were all well-dressed in Western-style playclothes, t-shirts and shorts. When Donna recognized the other little girl, we asked whether we could take a photograph for the adoptive mother. They said yes, and took her off into a corner to put her in a dress, then took us outside to take her picture in the corridor.

They also let us take some pictures of the room where Gwen played when she was in the orphanage. As you can see, it's prety nice -- if we went to a US daycare center and saw a room like this, we'd be pretty happy with it. We saw quite a few rooms through the SWI that were like this, including two with pianos that were used for lessons for the older students. And we say a few classrooms with blackboards, and books. Most of the rooms had windows, due to a big central courtyard, and most of the walls had bright colorful things stuck all over them. And the caretakers all seemed friendly.

Speaking of the courtyard, here's a picture of some of the playtoys, and one of Gwen playing on a little rocking horse that was set up out there.

The primary caretaker sat with us and gave us a really detailed picture of her diet, with translations provided by the China team. We asked a million questions, and they were pretty patient, giving us a sense of what she ate for each meal of the day, how she ate it, how much, and so forth. Very helpful.

All told, we had an incredibly positive experience visiting the orphanage. We have a much stronger sense of where she comes from, and a pretty positive view of it.

Here is some interesting information about adoptions from the Shenzhen SWI. Source: http://www.sznews.com/szdaily/20040531/ca961375.htm

Wu Yan

A TOTAL of 1,210 orphans have been adopted by Chinese and overseas families since the Shenzhen orphanage opened in 1992.

Fu Tianyue, head of Shenzhen Social Welfare Center which supervises the orphanage, said Monday that of the 1,210 adopted children, 870 had gone to Chinese families and 340 had gone to overseas families.
"The Chinese families are mainly from Shenzhen and Pearl River Delta area cities such as Zhuhai, Dongguan and Huiyang. The overseas families are from the 14 countries and regions that have signed adoption agreements with China," Fu said.

Fu said the latest adoption was a 7-year-old girl, who was adopted by an American couple May 24.
"This year, 17 orphans have been adopted by foreign families from the United States, Canada, Spain, Australia and Britain," Fu said.

"So far, we have 120 families applying to adopt our children," he said.

The Shenzhen orphanage now has 430 children. Of these, 114 are already living with adopting families but their adoption paperwork has yet to be finished.

September 06, 2005

Adoption Day

Today, Xiao Hai became Gwendolyn Claire -- our daughter!

We returned to the Civil Affairs Office where we met her just one day earlier. The first time around, the room was full of screaming babies and overwrought parents-to-be who were incapable of signing their own names. Maybe for this reason, the process has evolved so that the babies are handed to the potential adoptive parents for a 24-hour trial called the "harmonious period." Today, we returned to see how the harmony went and, if all parties agreed, to sign papers.

We waited our turn then snapped a few pictures and sat before two different officials who made us promise not to abandon or abuse our new daughter. A signature or two later and she was ours!

It should have felt more ceremonious but it wasn't. In fact, we were on the bus before a member of the China Team made it real by congratulating all of us!

Here's the new addition with her Mommy and Daddy! It will be wonderful to get home and take a picture with her big brother, Michael, included. Our family is almost complete but not until all of us are together under one roof!

We headed back to the hotel and took a little nap then got ready for dinner. Gwen was dressed up in her very best dress so we set out a few minutes early to get some pictures (before dinner 'decorated' the dress).

Here's Mommy and Gwen on the bridge in the private garden area of the Garden Hotel. It looked so beautiful and inviting from inside the air-conditioned lobby of the hotel so it seemed the perfect spot to snap of a few pictures of our little Empress Gwendolyn wearing the dress Grandma and Grandpa bought her.

Don't let the pictures fool you: In spite of the great picture and the smile on Mommy's face, this was a miserable Kodak Moment. It must have been 95 degrees out there and the nearby waterfall boosted the humidity just enough to make you feel like you were actually inside a spa. Mommy was constantly worried that Gwen would take a head first dive into the pond or a knee first dive onto the ground! In the end, she did neither and the cute pictures made the 2 minute photo shoot worth all of the angst.
Gwen walks very well on her own. But, like Mommy, she's not so good about directions. She's happy to run in any direction for as long as anyone will let her. The best way to get her to walk the direction we choose is to have her hold our fingers and guide her. She's also really good at fetching us and grabbing our hand and pulling us to let us know that she wants to go into the hall and play. Many of our traveling families are on the 7th floor of the China Hotel and you can just about always hear at least one baby crying. So we don't feel too bad about making some happy noise out there at play time.

September 05, 2005

A few more pictures

No time to write much, but here are a few more pictures from gotcha day. Off to breakfast on day 2 of our new life.

Monday: Gotcha Day!

Click below to view our Gotcha Day Video!

First_sight Today was GOTCHA day. We're exhausted so we'll post some pictures now and then try to get some sleep (baby is sleeping now) and flesh out the details for you tomorrow. Enjoy the pictures!

The first picture is the very moment we saw Gwen. She's being carried to us -- about 10 feet away. I tried not to cry but it was no use. She was pretty scared and cried immediately after being handed to us.

Gotcha The Director of the Shenzhen Social Welfare Institute is standing with us.
Sleepyhead After a bottle, Gwen fell into a deep sleep and slept all the way through the bus trip back to the hotel. When she woke up, she was very cheerful and didn't cry again until bedtime. She's so incredibly precious. Our heart sang when she finally smiled at us. She's smiled a million times since then. We are so happy to have our baby girl!
Daddy_and_gwen Gwen loves her Daddy! Her first smile was for him. Aren't they beautiful! I'm so happy --- and sooooo tired!

Until tomorrow....

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