Matthew’s Adoption Diary

Saturday October 2, 2004

Last tango in Hefei.

  • I cannot begin to imagine what they are selling here.
  • Translation: Bill Clinton, My Capitalist Whoremongering Life
  • Aelex on the move.
  • A loving brother and sister embrace.
  • Colorful Hefei.
  • Matthew with some official looking ladies.

Today was our last full day in Hefei before we head out to our last stop in China: Guangzhou where we will finalize the American portion of Matthew’s adoption. We were up at the crack of dawn again (I can’t wait until we get home so I can start sleeping in — until like 7) ate breakfast and saddled the kids up for a personal walking tour of Hefei.

We had no commitments until 3 P.M. so we figured that we would try and get lost and see some stuff off the beaten path. Little did I know about Dorothy’s surreptitious plan to make this a prime opportunity to spend all of our money as well. As we aimlessly wandered the streets, Dorothy would go into every store we passed as I would stand outside with the kids and a tin cup, trying vainly to finance the next leg of our journey.

We managed to find our way back to the hotel for a brief mid-morning refueling stop after which we headed back out as we apparently had yet to break the record for most money spent in one day by an American couple in Hefei. I would also like to take this opportunity to retract an earlier comment about Hefei being the Chinese equivalent of Kansas, this town is much more cosmopolitan than I first gave it credit for. Rather, Hefei is the doppelgänger for a city such as Cincinnati; they could probably support an NFL franchise but they would be a small market cellar dweller, unable to compete with the spending power of the big boys.

“Hallo! How are you? I am most fine too!”

For some reason today (I suspect that it is because we ventured into parts unknown that tend to see waiguoren once every few decades) we were everyone’s final exam in their English language class. We had countless people stop us to practice their language skills on us. We were happy to oblige as it was probably among the friendliest days we have experienced in China on either of our trips here. People were loving us. From young to old, everyone wanted to use us as a literal sounding board. It really was loads of fun.

One time, we were in a children’s shoes store (we actually found one on our first try this time!) a kid about 18 or so follows us into the store. He’s not threatening looking or anything so it’s not like our radar goes up, but it’s obvious, he’s in the store looking at us. After a while he leaves, then he comes back, then he leaves again. Eventually as we are leaving the store, he gets up his nerve and comes up to me:

“Hello sir.”


“Excuse me.”


“Do you know where the post office is?”

“No I don’t. I am not from around here.”

“O.K. Thank you very much.”

And then he shook my hand and walked away. I was dually impressed, not only with the kid’s cojones for just walking up to me and trying out his English but also by how well he spoke for someone who was obviously just learning. As a matter of fact, it almost becomes something that you take for granted, that you assume wherever you go you will find at least one person with enough rudimentary knowledge of the English language that you can communicate well enough to get your basic idea across. Yet another reason to fear the economic goliath that China is sure to become: their willingness to master the ways of their competition, while Americans myopically see this as the ascendancy of the English language as the official global tongue.

“Sign here. Check this. Initial this. O.K. you’re done.”

We had to be back at the hotel for a 3 P.M. paperwork session with the imperturbable Linda. We had to finish all of the final paperwork that we will need for the American consulate in Guangzhou. Of course Dorothy sends me to these sessions just to give me some form of responsibility in our children’s adoption process. Considering my abilities when it comes to processing paperwork, this either shows a lack of concern for the final successful outcome of the adoption process or her unshakable faith in the more-than-capable Linda’s ability to walk even a dolt such as myself through this stuff. My guess is that it is the latter.

Anyway we sit down and the proficient Linda proceeds to give us the “Adoption Paperwork for Dummies” crash course and we dive right in. She must be good because it only took me one trip to the Business Center for photocopies and two trips up to the room to ask Dorothy clarifying questions (the one that got me in the most trouble was “Darling bride o’ mine? Since it seems to me like only yesterday that we were betrothed, can you please tell me what year were we married?”) before I was able to finish. Of course the adroit Linda basically treated us like three year olds telling us where to write what, which absolutely no one complained about since, in cases such as this, intellectual pride takes a back seat to procedural expedience.

After about 4 hours we were done and the stoic Linda went back to her room to slam her head repeatedly against the wall.

So here we sit with our child’s passport in hand waiting for tomorrow when we will take Matthew on his first plane ride. The 2 hour practice run will undoubtedly be the harbinger of what we should expect on next Friday’s 15 ½ hour trip home. If the next diary entry is just a series of sobs and wails, you will know that things did not go well. Hopefully tomorrow’s Sunday special entry will foretell clear skies ahead.

Conversing with the bilingual natives…