Matthew’s Adoption Diary

Thursday September 30, 2004

Hefei is zoo-tastic!

  • How close can we get our kids to the camel before he takes a bite out of one?
  • The Hefei zoo, teeming with roaming wildlife.
  • It’s all happening at the zoo.
  • Making friends with the locals.
  • There is nothing worse than a miffed wild animal.

Sorry folks but this is going to be a short one. A typical tourist day coupled with my crushing desire to sleep will preclude me from rambling on at length about the day’s events. Anyway…

Today we had a free day to with as we pleased. So all of the adoption families decided to pack up and head out to the Hefei zoo. A little leg work from the perseverant Linda (going above and beyond the call of duty on her day off mind you) procured us a bus and a guide for the day. And off we went.

China is a personal injury lawyer’s wet dream. The animals at the zoo are just roaming around, mingling with the visitors. I would love to see the statistics on the number of wild animal attacks in Chinese zoos every year. My guess is that it is in the high 5 figures.

The zoo itself was really nice if not a bit expansive for the actual number of animals on hand which gave us the opportunity for a nice hike in the scorching midday sun. Fortunately the most popular exhibit was very accessible and always nearby. That exhibit? That’s right, us! Every where we went we drew a crowd. The people were all nice with lots of smiles and kind words (I hopefully assume anyway).

Here in Hefei, we are in China baby. This is not Beijing or Shanghai where foreigners are somewhat common. We are in the Chinese heartland, the American equivalent of the Great Plains. Think how the natives would act in Kansas if all of a sudden a bunch of Chinese families with American babies showed up one day and started marching through the center of town. My guess is that the American populace would be no less mystified. So while here we enjoy a pseudo-celebrity status on par with what Charo, Kato Kaelin and John Kerry enjoy in the states.

After searching in vain for the elusive panda (whose picture is featured prominently on the entrance to the zoo) we were chagrined to discover that the Hefei zoo was a panda free zone — unless you count the suspiciously raccoon looking rodent that they claimed to be a sub-species of the panda family. I’m not buying the ruse but then again, I ain’t no zoologist, something I am sure that the Hefei zookeepers are banking on from most of their visitors.

Before heading back to the hotel we stopped in the zoo’s wild game restaurant for lunch. Now I am not even going to hazard a guess where the menu items come from, but we dined on wild chicken and wild rabbit, neither of which — surprisingly — tasted like chicken nor rabbit. Once a rather tasty lunch was over, we were back on the bus and heading for the hotel.

The rest of the day was uneventful, consisting of me vainly trying to squeeze in a nap before dinner, and Dorothy commandeering a hotel bell hop to take her to the local apothecary for some salve to treat the numerous bug bites she received while walking the zoo. It is nice to see that the mosquitos over here do not discriminate against the Irish. We capped everything off with a fabulous dinner in the hotel’s Chinese restaurant where I had a spectacular venison dish (I was big on the game meat today) then off to the room where a much needed good nights rest is sure to be had by all, if indeed there is a benevolent higher power.

Oh, so you’re Matthew Peng Lei.

Our son is really starting to come into his own. from the moment he woke up today, he has really opened up to us. We can just see it in his demeanor and facial expressions that he is becoming more comfortable with us. He gave us loads of smiles today and a few belly laughs plus he has started to babble up a storm. He is also getting very active. Very, very active. Extremely active. He was all over the place today. Climbing, wanting to get picked up, wanting to get put down, walking, crawling — usually all at the same time.

While we are pleased to see that Matthew is showing us his true personality and becoming more comfortable with us, we hope that his level of activity does not keep increasing exponentially as the days go by, or else we may have to invest in some sort of body harness or straightjacket for our own sanity.

Also, he and Aelex are getting along great. She loves being a big sister and can not get enough of Matthew, especially because she gets to tell him “no, no” whenever he touches her stuff. Dorothy and I are glad we decided to bring her on the trip because we think that it is doing them both good to get acquainted with each other this way.

Well, that’s it for me, I gotta get some shut eye. Tomorrow the sprightly Linda takes us on a day of sightseeing. Not sure what that entails but I am looking forward to it anyway. Until tomorrow.

Eating the exhibits…