Matthew’s Adoption Diary

Tuesday September 28, 2004

The Chinese government recognizes the Congiusta Family’s right to exist

  • Aelex and her new friend Ella.
  • Now officially forbidden to wed.
  • Lovely lasses celebrate their new son/brother.
  • Sorry son, we have no say in the matter.
  • The Congiusta’s become official in the eyes of China.

Today was basically a paper chase.

Dorothy and Aelex were up again at an ungodly 4 A.M. before Aelex finally fell back asleep at 6. The rest of us rolled out of bed at around 7:30 and went to get some breakfast before we met up with the other families and the indefatigable Linda to navigate the bureaucratic labyrinth that is the Chinese government’s adoption process.

Yes we were delivered Matthew yesterday, but basically we were just baby sitters until today when we processed all of the necessary documents in the presence of the requisite Chinese authorities. This took up the whole morning into the mid-afternoon until such time as our collective writers cramps no longer allowed us to lift our arms from the table. I believe that we were actually on an episode of the Chinese version of “Fear Factor” but I cannot be sure.

Eventually the paperwork mercifully stopped and the head-man-in-charge officially proclaimed us families as far as the Chinese government is concerned. There was much rejoicing across the land.

The only thing left here for us here in Hefei is to wait for the authorities to issue our children their Chinese passports so we can go to Guangzhou and deal with the American version of today’s paper avalanche. Of course I am probably wrong about this so expect a retraction in the next day or so.

At one point during the proceedings I gallantly volunteered to take the restless Aelex and the still-semi-confused Matthew out for a walk while Dorothy continued signing papers. We went outside and sat in front of the hotel for a while and I let the kids run around in the hotel parking lot. Let me clarify 2 things here: 1)Matthew’s version of running around involves holding onto your hand and walking backwards in circles around your legs until he eventually collapses in a heap. I am hoping that this is some sort of little-known Chinese training regimen for superior athletes otherwise, Houston, we may have a problem, and 2)the whole entire land mass of China is a vehicle thoroughfare. Do not feel as though I was being neglectful by letting my children play in traffic, it is impossible not to. Motorcycles, cars, trucks, buses, anything and everything that is powered by some form of mechanized action, has right-of-way precedence over all living things in China. When you think about it, it makes sense, cars tend to be larger than people and less maneuverable so why should they be forced to do things like yield, stop or even move slightly in any direction other than straight ahead when people are much better at getting out of the way especially when the alternative is certain death. This is actually very Darwinian.

So there we were, the three of us running back and forth along the sidewalk/carpool lane when all of a sudden I started to notice that we were drawing a crowd. Now, I am used to being an object of curiosity from my previous visit to China but this was a little different. The two kids and I eventually found ourselves in the center of a shrinking circle of a dozen or so pedestrians, and as people noticed what was happening they started running over to join the crowd. People then started asking me questions. Unfortunately my Chinese vocabulary is as advanced as my Klingon so I repeatedly responded “I am sorry. I have no idea what you are saying to me right now.” This was of no deterrence to the interested onlookers since their English was as good as my Chinese and they continued asking me questions. So I continued to smile and draw my children closer, not because I felt threatened mind you, but simply because we were running out of room.

The throng all seemed to want to touch Matthew. Again not threateningly, in fact they were very gentile, but he was getting visibly upset. I started to reach down and pick him up, but before I could, Aelex jumped in front of him and yelled at all of the people “No! My Matthew!” The people actually backed off. It was amazing. The crowd then started to disperse. I shuddered partly in amazement, but also partly because I realized that there was little hope for Matthew and I. Even though we are not technically outmanned by the females in our house, after this display, it became painfully obvious that we are severely outgunned.

Eventually we returned to find the Chinese portion of the adoption process just about finished. Dorothy managed to scrape her weary arms from up the floor and we decided to celebrate by going out and spending money! Huzzah! We took an uneventful cab ride (and by uneventful I of course mean there were no fatalities) to Hefei’s largest shopping mall to buy Matthew a stroller. While we were there Aelex was coaxed onto a large child’s riding toy shaped like a roller skate by a clever saleswoman. I shrugged it off knowing that there was no way we were going to get this thing for her due to the massive amount of room this thing would take up in our baggage. That is until Dorothy came up and informed me that we were in fact getting this for our daughter because we just brought Matthew a stroller and she deserved something too. I tried to explain to Dorothy that there was no way we could ever fit this insanely large thing in with all of the luggage we already had. Dorothy then countered my argument by pointing out that the fact that I even had any clothes in our suitcases was a priveledge, not a right, and that there were places in China where it was not uncommon for men to walk around in nothing but their underwear anyway. I decided to not call her bluff but instead tried to talk Aelex into a smaller scooter toy that would at least allow me to keep a pair of shorts in our carry-on. She fell for it too! Sucker!

So after our shopping spree mercifully ended, we decided to celebrate our new-found family togetherness with a lovely meal at the most expensive restaurant we could find in Hefei. We eventually returned back to the hotel where everyone pretty much fell asleep wherever they collapsed.

Tomorrow we make the trip to Matthew’s orphanage in what is sure to be an emotional day. I am going to try very hard to get you guys an unbiased and wisenheimer-free account from my lovely bride as solemn occasions such as this do not necessarily merit my particular brand of reporting. So until tomorrow loyal fandom…

Spending Yuan like it was shwee.