Matthew’s Adoption Diary

Monday October 4, 2004

Just call us Bodhidharma An and Family.

  • Mmmmmm…banana…
  • Ohhhmmmmmm.
  • Our little emperor.
  • You mean to tell me that you want me to carry my daughter to the top of that?
  • One Cheerio for you, and one bag of Cheerios for me.

Apparently my family and I are now Buddhists. Let me explain and someone please throw a little cold water on my mother to revive her.

Today was a group day of sightseeing, led of course, by the dexterous Linda. We all met up at 9:30 A.M. in the hotel lobby to get our bus that would chauffeur us around for the day from scenic spot to scenic spot. We were five minutes late getting to the place where we the bus was supposed to pick us up so he naturally left without us. C.P.T. is impossible to figure out.

Once the industrious Linda managed to convince the driver that we were in fact ready to board the bus this time, the driver returned and picked us up. Who can really blame the guy. What the hell could possibly prevent 5 families — all with 1 year old children — from being exactly on time? My guess? The guy was either a bachelor or the world’s worst father. He seemed like a nice fellow one you got to know him so I am going to go with the former out of charity.

Our first stop was the Liurong Buddhist Monastery. Totally excellent place, made even better by the fact that Richard Gere wasn’t there sitting around bitching about Tibet. Once in, we got the grand tour and saw all of the huge Buddha statues in the numerous temples and even proceeded to light some incense as an offering for the Buddhas to bestow good fortune and grant our wishes. In the midst of the courtyard, was a 10 story pagoda tower at the top of which was supposedly a special Buddha statue to pray at. So Dorothy volunteers me to take Aelex up to the top. Needless to say, the monks don’t really believe in elevators, although I don’t recall the Tipitaka saying anything disparaging about escalators, yet the ascetic monks leave the only way to the top via stairs.

A couple of things first, after my little paddle boat adventure with my daughter a scant few days ago revealed me to be about as physically fit as Jabba the Hut, the trip to the top was not going to be easy. Add to that the fact that I would be taking Aelex with me on my climb, and we had all the makings of a massive coronary embolism.

The first few floors weren’t too bad. The stairs were very narrow — almost impossible to accommodate ascenders and descenders simultaneously (although I had more than few people defy this rule on my climb) — as well as very low with headroom for a man of, oh, about 3′ 2″. I am sure that I have a concussion from the repeated head bashings I suffered on the ridiculously low door jambs. The real trick however, came when trying to find the next staircase from the the floor you were presently on to the one above. The pagoda has an octagonal floor plan, and each staircase entrance/exit was on different face from the one preceding it. This meant that you had to circle the outer wall of each floor until you found the staircase you needed. This might not have been so bad had the walkway around the exterior of the building not been the width of a human hair. This whole experience became much less enjoyable once we reached the fourth floor and my acrophobia started to kick in.

So here I was, climbing these narrow stairways in a hunched position, squeezing the life out of my daughter for fear that she might make a sudden move out of my arms and head over the side (early on in the climb, I decided that if that did happen, I was going out right after her because there was no way I was going to tell Dorothy that I just dropped our daughter off a building seven stories up), with my body pressed up against the outer walls trying in vain to find the next doorway that would lead us to an even more terrifying height. I’ve had more fun.

Eventually we reached the top to find that the Buddha statue at the top had been temporarily removed for repairs. That Buddha. What a card.

So Aelex and I turned right around and started back down and by now I was sweating pretty hard, I am not sure if it was more from the exertion or the sheer horror I was experiencing. All the while my daughter is pointing over the side saying “ohhhh, Daddy, look at that.” If my vocal chords weren’t frozen in terror, I would have told her to shut the hell up.

After what seemed like three months, we reached the bottom where my wife and son were waiting for us. “How was it?” she asked. “No problem. Very interesting,” I replied and I then excused myself to go to the bathroom and changed my unmentionables.

After the ascent of the Buddhist Tower of Terror, we were escorted by the head-Monk-in-charge of the monastery to the Temple of Grace where a tremendous statue of a female Buddha filled the space. Apparently the monk wanted to say a blessing over us and our children to bring us good fortune and keep us safe. Grateful for my safe return to terra firma, I decided to stay in Buddha’s good graces and readily agreed. We all removed our shoes and knelt with our children on our lap (Dorothy held Matthew while I held Aelex, still unable to pry my rigor mortis like arms from around her torso). The monk gently beat a drum and chanted while we sat under the pleasant gaze of the Buddharette. When he finished, we bent over three times and touched our heads to the ground and he said “you are now all officially Buddhists and have officially renounced all other religions in favor of the one true deity: Buddha. Now go in peace and spread the word of Buddha.” Or something like that anyway. It was in Chinese so I can’t really be sure what he said but I’m going to start raising my kids in the Buddhist fashion just to be safe.

After shaving our heads and trading in our clothes for robes, we left the temple to go shopping! The credit card companies actually just sent us a Thank You note.

Once the bank notified us that we were officially bankrupt, we left for our next destination, the Guangzhou Art Museum where we saw some awesome Chinese objects d’ art. I have to say, I really dig the Chinese aesthetic the more I see it. Their balanced approach coupled with their superior craftsmanship makes for some first rate stuff. Nothing earthshaking, just my opinion.

Eventually we returned to the hotel where they had to put an extra shift of bellhops on duty to help my wife carry her booty into a nearby aircraft hangar where everything will be stored until we can find a freighter large enough to ship it all home.

At 6 P.M., we all met up again for dinner at a local Thai joint. The food was delectable and I had the “Ostrich in Green Curry Sauce and Coconut Milk” which was not only out of this world, but also hotter ‘n Hades. The type of meal that burns as much on the way in as on the way out if you catch my drift.

After dinner, we returned to our room, put the kids to bed and both passed out before we finished our first glass of wine. You could have almost felt the romance, if it wasn’t for the horrific snores of my wife. I am beginning to see that your bed time is inversely proportional to the number of kids you have. My guess is that Dorothy and I are going to be falling asleep watching the 6 o’clock news from now on. Children, what a zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…

I want to get up. No sit down. No stand. No crawl. Forget it I’ll walk. Rather I’ll get on your lap. No, I believe I’ll just have you hold me. [Repeat ad infinitum]

Our son is a real go getter. He does not believe in any form of stagnation or inactivity. He puts the “less” in “restless”. Does anyone know if it’s legal to sedate young children with animal tranquilizers?

Eating is about the most difficult task we have encountered yet. I have begun to master the ambidextrous utensil usage. Had I not, I would have already died from starvation because my son has the patience of a… well there is actually nothing on earth with less patience than my son so I cannot even draw an effective analogy for you. He is already whining about the slow delivery of the next spoonful as the previous spoon’s cargo is deposited on his tongue.

I also believe he is up to 85 bottles a day.

Yessir! Our little boy is certainly coming out of his shell. Or he ate it at some point anyway. Dorothy keeps looking at me with murderous intent and hisses “you were the one who wanted a boy!” I am kidding of course, she doesn’t hiss so much as she growls.

Actually, while he is exhausting sometimes, it is wonderful to see him becoming his own little person from the scared introvert we first met just a week ago. He laughs all the time now and adores his big sister who can crack him up at will. He still comes to either Dorothy or I readily (for the time being until Dorothy’s attempts to turn him against my finally start to take root) and becomes agitated if we are out of his line of vision for an extended period of time.

Tomorrow, we take him for his official physical examination mandated by the U.S. consulate that will medically clear him for entry into the U.S. and his American citizenship. This is one of the last hurdles we will have to clear before we return to the States on Friday. Well, that and the small matter of a 15 ½ hour plane ride. I am still waiting to hear form you people on the legality of pediatric horse sedatives for my son. I need a ruling on this A.S.A.P.

Chanting and pondering koans for the greater glory of Buddha…