Matthew’s Adoption Diary

Thursday September 23, 2004

Somewhere over Ulan-Ude in northern Siberia.

  • Aelex and her Daddy eat overpriced airport french fries.
  • Soon our numbers will rival yours ladies. Just you wait.
  • Walker? I don’t need no stinking walker…
  • Matthew Peng Lei Congiusta. Large and in charge.
  • Prepare to meet me!
  • Welcome to the 23rd consecutive showing of “Charlotte’s Web”.
  • Aelex eagerly awaits her trip to get her brother.

Well we are presently 2/3rds of the way through the first leg of our journey with only 5 more hours to go until we reach our primary destination: Hong Kong. At this point we can do this standing on our heads. We left the U.S. on Thursday afternoon and we land in Hong Kong on Friday night so we get totally screwed on the temporal exchange rate in this deal. It is even possible that we officially aged a year as soon as we crossed the North Pole. Who’s idea was it to put China all the way on the other side of the world anyway?

How have things gone so far you ask? Let me see if I can remember back to the start of our journey, lo those many hours ago…

[Cue fancy flashback special effects]

A tale of marital discord and homeland security.

Aunt (a.k.a. Granny) Pat picked us up for the airport promptly at 11 this afternoon (or was it yesterday? ah screw it…) and we made spectacular time to hell on earth — I mean New Jersey, arriving at Newark airport in well under an hour. After renting a forklift to cart our luggage over to what turned out to be a rather uneventful check in, we then steeled ourselves to undergo one of the most invasive procedures a human can go through this side of open heart surgery: airport security check in.

Needless to say we were corralled through the process by the well trained officials of the Office of Homeland Security. The highlight of which was the fact that there was but a single checkpoint open for what appeared to be in excess of 4,000 anxious travelers. One of the consummate professionals on hand was overheard to scream at a passenger who had the temerity to question the logic of this setup, “what do you want from me? I have no control over this!” You could actually feel the national pride and sense of well being swell through the crowd.

The following are — in ascending order — my opinion as to the leading causes of divorce in America today: 3)domestic fiscal instability, 2)marital infidelity, and 1)going through airport security with your spouse and children. The next time Dorothy and I have to do this, we are brining a marriage counselor with us (“So Dorothy, how did it make you feel when Mark screamed at you to put the damn duffel bag on the conveyor belt?”) The simultaneous acts of removing every article of clothing you are wearing that may ever have come into contact with a piece of metal, juggling all 600 pounds of your carry on baggage all the while trying to keep your mystified child from walking through the metal detector without the guard’s permission and perhaps triggering some sort of S.W.A.T. action in the process, is enough to place undue stress on even the most sound of marriages. With a little luck, someone will steal all of our luggage before our return trip which would at least give our marriage a fighting chance.

Look at it this way, at least the engines are working.

My initial reaction upon boarding our Continental Airlines 777 airplane was “Great Caesar’s Ghost! Will you look at all of this legroom!” Compared to our last flight to China on a United Airlines plane designed to accommodate Pygmies, the Continental interior was positively cavernous. I actually had to slightly slouch in my seat before my knees hit up against the person in front of me. I actually experienced only intermittent, rather than constant, leg cramping. This coupled with the presence of a personal TV screen embedded into the rear of the seat directly in front of mine (replete with multiple channel selection and arcade gaming system) I felt that finally everything was coming up roses.

And then we took off. As I flipped through the unheard of 10 television selections and played multiple hands of video poker, I thought to myself “15 ½ hours of this won’t be so bad.” Then for absolutely no reason whatsoever, my TV stopped working. A call to the flight attendant brought some concerned looks and murmured comments along the lines of “gee, I never seen nothing like that happen before.” At that point, I knew that my day of “The Practice” reruns and “Space Invaders” had come to an abrupt halt. “Oh well,” I thought, “I guess I will just have to read the book I just brought.” Since we were racing dusk on our flight over the pole, I went to turn on my overhead lamp but was met with nothing more than the continuing, mocking darkness. Another call to the stewardess (by this point her attitude had lost her the right to be referred to as the more professional “flight attendant”) turned out as well as the first. And there I sat. Alone and in the dark.

It was like flying in a sensory deprivation tank.

I spent the rest of the trip furtively watching my neighbor’s screen across the aisle, making up dialog for the people on “Boston Public”. Man, those teachers in Beantown really seem to hate Continental Airlines.

And hey, what’s the deal with airline food anyway?

O.K. O.K. Everyone knows airline food is the culinary equivalent of Dan Rather and the CBS Evening News: tough to look at and even harder to swallow, but I’ve got an axe to grind with these Continental folks so I’m going with it. Did you know that Continental not only has an Executive Chef who proudly puts his name on all of the menu items served on its fleet, but that it in addition has — and I swear to you, I am not making this up — a “Congress of Chefs” who according to the inflight magazine are “elite chefs from around the world” who meet regularly in order to plan meals for the airline. Keeping in mind that it is possible to go into any McDonalds the world over and get a far superior meal to anything served on an airplane — cooked for you by disgruntled teenagers — does Continental really feel it necessary to scour the globe in search of culinary professionals willing to put this garbage on their resume?

As opposed to Continental’s “Congress of Wine Masters” (again, I swear this to be true) who truly must be at the top of their game searching the planet for the world’s finest vintages that come packaged in single serving screw top bottles.

And while I’m at it, $5 for a freakin’ beer? Doesn’t the $1000 cover charge I just paid to get into this saloon entitle me to a little freedom from price gouging? How about a buy back at least? And if I’m paying $5 for a beer, there had better be a live sporting event going on in the immediate vicinity. Oh, that’s right, I couldn’t watch it anyway. My TV is broke.

I showed them though. I only brought 4 beers. And I didn’t even tip.

Who cares about you. How are the girls doing?

They’re fine.

Calm down, I’m just kidding. I know who you people came to see.

Dorothy is totally exhausted. Considering that when it comes to planning, packing and paperwork, I am about as useful as… well, I can’t come up with any family-friendly analogies right now so it will have to suffice to say that I am of absolutely no use in these matters. So Dorothy has been dealing with all of the details that a trip like this entails and that coupled with her unfortunate inability to sleep under unconventional circumstances, such as a 15 ½ hour plane ride, is about to put her on the “unable to perform” list. My guess is that once we get to the hotel, she sleeps the sleep of the dead and gets some well deserved rest.

She is a rock however and not only would Aelex and I be lost without her, but so would Matthew because I certainly could not have pulled the logistics of this off all by myself.

As for Aelex, she’s a freak of nature. She has slept 2 whole hours in the last 20 and there she sits totally content, watching “Charlotte’s Web” for the fourth time since we boarded the plane, and she is in a genuinely good mood while doing it. We had about an hour’s worth of minor whining after she woke from her nap but since she snapped out of her doldrums she has been nothing short of great. How many other 2 ½ year olds can you say that about?

All I hope is that her brother Matthew is ⅒th as good of a traveller as she is. Otherwise the Congiusta Family may return from China minus a Daddy.

We are still not sure if she grasps the whole situation yet, although when you ask her where we are going, she says “to get Matthew” (which actually sounds like “to get Mashew”). She also will tell you that he is her brother and Dorothy and I are his Mommy and Daddy. She even kisses his picture when we show it to her and says “my Matthew”. All this good natured, lovey-dovey stuff may come to a crashing halt once we actually have him and the cold reality of the situation becomes fact to her. But then again it may not.

About 5 hours ago right in the middle of her 2nd viewing of “Charlotte’s Web”, Aelex turned to Dorothy out of the blue and asks “my Matthew talk?” While engrossed in her favorite movie it occurred to her that she wanted to know if her brother that she has never met knew how to talk. Wow.

So what’s the plan Stan?

First we are gonna kick in Hong Kong for a few days to decompress after the long flight and acclimate ourselves to the time change. Once neither of those things happen, we fly to Hefei, the capital of Anhui province, on Sunday to prepare for the big day on Monday; the day when we finally meet our son/brother Matthew.

Needless to say the suspense is building to epic proportions.

So be sure to tune in tomorrow dear readers. Same adoption time. Same adoption station.

Transmitting live from the “Pearl of the Orient”…