Aelex’s Adoption Diary
Thursday March 6, 2003
There’s no place like home? Indeed.
I am not sure how long it took us to get home. Two days. A week. We may still be flying home. I really have no idea. It was a freakin’ long trip though. That I know. It took a looooooooooooooooooooooooooooooong time.
I, of course, cried and whined the whole way home. Aelex was a champ however. She ate her own weight in Cheerios and neither Dorothy nor myself were aware that there were that many permutations of the stacking cups game but she rarely cried, slept on and off for the whole trip and basically made her daddy look like a great, big baby. I do not think that I am ever getting on a plane again. Did I mention that the trip was really, really, really long? I would like to thank everyone who sent us suggestions on how to medicate our child before the flight to achieve maximum grogginess potential. After weighing all our options (the most attractive being a warm milk and vodka Jell-O shot cocktail) we decided to take the hippie route and let nature take it’s course. Our daughter rewarded our faith with superlative behavior and a generally pleasant disposition throughout the trip.
By the way, I am pretty sure that our whole family now has thyroid cancer going by the number of metal detectors, x-ray machines, magnetic resonance imaging machines and CAT scan checkpoints that we passed through on the trip home. Getting out of China was about 50,000 times more difficult than getting in! Our bags were searched every 20 feet which, when you are lugging a 14 month old child with you, is not the easiest of tasks to comply with. Aelex just sat in her stroller though, chugging Cheerios, remaining generally aloof to the whole process. And then we reached America. I have seen more orderly and controlled herding processes in slaughterhouses. We are the country that put men on the moon yet our immigration and customs procedures seem to have been developed by three year old children. And when I say that I do not mean to belittle three year old children by the comparison. Let’s just say that our nation’s troubles with illegal immigration is no longer such a mystery to me.
By the way, my wife’s latest crusade is against the INS. Why do you ask? Because our daughter was not handed an American flag as she entered the country a la old movie reel footage of Ellis Island circa 1900. The humorless INS guys were none too amused when my wife decided to take them to task for the no frills welcome process afforded our daughter as well as the 20 or so other children becoming citizens at the time. In her own well-meaning yet totally confrontational way, my wife did manage to wrangle a mumbled a “welcome to America” from one of the INS officials before she would leave the processing area. I am pretty sure that our phones are now tapped and they are holding a cell for us in Guantanamo Bay should anyone in our family further harass any government officers.
We eventually landed in New York at the hellhole that is LaGuardia airport and were met by Grandma and Grandpa and Uncle Paul and Aunt Ginger. There was much joy to be had by all as Aelex was passed from person to person looking about as confused as the customs official who let us import a live calf with foot and mouth disease from China in our carry on baggage. There were moist eyes, and broad smiles on everyone’s face (except for Aelex who still had the “what exactly did I sign up for again?” look in her eyes). We were finally home.
And the judges say…
As my final act of idiocy, I am going to rate the highlights and lowlights of several aspects of our trip to China in the following categories: transportation, accommodations, dining/cuisine, culture/tourism and adoption process. So without further ado, the envelopes please…
Highlight: Walking. If you would like to get around China and live to see your destination, walking is your best bet. While crossing the street is it’s own death gamble, traveling on foot affords you the opportunity to see what you want to see while giving you an up close and personal feel for the real China. You are of course subject to a constant staring contest with most everyone you walk past, but eventually, you come to accept that this is just curiosity and there is no offense meant.
Lowlight: TIE. Driving and LaGuardia Airport. You bet your life every time you get on any type of motorized transport in China. You must understand that all of the commentary we gave regarding the driving in China is the unvarnished truth. You cannot exaggerate something this far out. As for LaGuardia Airport, when the airport in Nanjing China makes a major New York City airport look like a backwater stop over, you know there are major problems. Can’t they just take this place out behind the woodshed and shoot it to put us all out of our misery?
Highlight: TianLun Dynasty, Beijing. I can honestly say that this was one of the most enjoyable hotel stays I have ever had in my life. The staff was unbelievably courteous and could not do enough for you. The food was outstanding and the rooms very well kept. The White Swan in Guangzhou is recognized as one the premiere hotels in the world, and was a very nice place, but I take the Dynasty Hotel and don’t look back.
Lowlight: Coach class, any airplane. For 2 hours it’s no big deal. For 4 hours it’s uncomfortable but doable. For 6 hours it is painful. For 14 hours you seriously consider killing someone in first class for their seat. Where do they keep the Nazi bastards who designed these things anyway? The most humorous part of the flight is when they show the video for the leg exercises you should perform to keep from stiffening up. The animated character has approximately 14 feet of legroom compared with your 4 ½ inches. It is impossible to slip a piece of paper between your knee and the seat in from of you and they are telling you to do leg extensions. That’s just cruel.
Highlight: Traditional Chinese Meal, Nanjing. I don’t remember the name of the restaurant we ate at. I can’t tell you the names of any of the dishes we sampled. I have no idea what type of wine we drank. But I do know this: it was damn good. And if I ever find myself back in Nanjing, it will be my mission in life to find this place again. Outstanding.
Lowlight: Fast food ubiquity, everywhere. I refused to enter any, but the pervasiveness of Kentucky Fried Chicken, McDonalds and Domino’s Pizza seems very, very wrong to me. When did America stop exporting freedom and democracy and start sending fatty, tasteless biomass abroad as our cultural calling card? I, as a proud American, was embarrassed.
Highlight: Forbidden City, Beijing. May have been one of the most stunningly beautiful man made places I have ever been. Unparalleled. I could have spent a whole week there. Dorothy might go with the Great Wall (which was also quite astounding) but I have to go with the Forbidden City for my China visit must see.
Lowlight: Buying stuff. Good gravy! If I never have to haggle over a price ever again it will be too soon. Due to the fact that I am totally useless as a price negotiator and the fact that you cannot enter a store in China without being stalked by a salesperson shopping can be an unnerving experience. It’s a pity too, because there are some beautiful things to buy there. If only you were given the opportunity to look around without having every piece of useless crap for sale shoved down your throat.
Highlight: Seeing our daughter for the first time. I cannot even begin to describe this experience. When our daughter was carried into our hotel room in Nanjing and handed over to us for the first time, I am pretty sure that I speak for my wife when I say, it was the single greatest moment of our lives. Just slightly ahead of the Ranger’s Stanley Cup victory in 94. So you know it must have been a great feeling.
Lowlight: Can’t think of anything right now. While the paperwork did seem almost endless and the wait at times was interminable, once you hold your child in your arms everything else just melts away. We were also lucky to have great help from everyone at Brightside for Families and Children (our adoption agency), especially: Pam Thomas, Nancy Reffsin, David Tam (our travel agent), the incomparable Dr. Hong and the indefatigable Linda. We would have been lost without all your help.
And finally, we shut the hell up.
Dorothy and I were (and still are) exhausted as we try with varying levels of success to get our daughter used to the 13 hour time change. We are spending a lot of time awake from 2 to 6 A.M. Work on Monday should be quite a treat. Besides our weariness however, we are both relieved that we are finally at home with our beautiful daughter. We consider ourselves top be the two luckiest people on the face of the earth right now and couldn’t be happier if our daughter was sleeping normal hours instead of turning us all into vampires.
Dorothy, Aelex and I would all like to extend our sincerest thanks to all of you who have been following us on our travels these past few weeks. And to everyone who took the time to send us an e-mail or sign our guestbook, we say thanks for leaving a little piece of yourself with us on our journey. Your warm words and kind wishes cheered us on some of our lonely days in China. We hope that you enjoyed yourselves reading our scribblings and looking at our snapshots and maybe learned a little bit about what we have gone through in our experience of adopting our beautiful daughter. Dorothy and I have already started talking about adopting our next child. We are not sure when or where this might occur, but we hope that when it does, you will all be back to cheer us on again.
Thanks from the Congiusta Family.