Our last day in China, and I did it. I finally found a Starbucks. I don't know if our tour guides heard us all talking about it or not, but just after our Consulate appointments (where some little thing like taking an oath and getting Hannah's visa or something like that) the bus took a short pit stop outside this Starbucks. It was like a mad rush to pile off of the bus and get some coffee. And as if to make the day complete, they were brewing Guatemala Antigua - my absolute favorite.
I'm like Ashley, there's just so much going on inside that it is difficult to put into words. I am almost afraid that if I start, if I tap into the deep reservoir of emotion and thought, that I won't be able to stop, and that the resulting flood would wash you all away. I've actually been driven to writing poetry, if that tells you anything.
China is such a land of paradox. It is incredibly beautiful, yet strangely ugly; peacefully traditional yet chaotically modern. It is a land of dramatic progress, but tragic poverty. It is ancient and new, mysterious and easily understood. It is a country that is greatly to be feared, and yet even more greatly to be embraced. And now, after two weeks, I'd love to stay, but I can't wait to leave.
We have been treated so well here, and we have truly enjoyed our time. We have done a good bit of sightseeing, and even more shopping, and all along the way trying to absorb so much of the culture so we can transmit that to Hannah as she grows. We want to understand the wonderful heritage from which she comes, even though it is that same heritage that has made her an orphan. We want to know the answers to the questions that one day will come, to know why, what, where and how. We hate that she will feel that pain, yet we are thankful that this has brought her into our lives.
So here I will list some of the things, in no particular order, that I have learned while in China.
1. The Chinese culture is very moral. Couples are not permitted to live together unless they are married, and being an unwed mother is a source of shame. Even the music videos on Chinese MTV are very tame. The clothing is very appropriate (although I can't vouch for the content).
2. Education about sexual things, however, is lacking. It is this, in conjunction with their cultural norms about single parents, that leads to the high number of adoptive children.
3. When you go to the bathroom, take your own toilet paper.
4. We complain/make fun of the fact that many of the products we purchase in the U.S. are "Made in China." However, it is the factories that make these products that provide jobs for the Chinese people and help their economy.
5. When you order something called "Mixed Food in Chile Paste," it will (a)be hot and (b)have something that looks a lot like squid.
6. Squid in Chile Paste doesn't taste too bad.
7. The Chinese people are typically thin. I don't think I have seen anyone who is overweight and Chinese. I have a couple of theories about this. One involves bicycling, and the other involves eating rice with chopsticks.
8. The Chinese people are very polite...unless you are carrying a baby and don't have her legs covered up. They are very protective of their children.
9. The Chinese people are typically thankful and appreciative of couples who are adopting babies from their country. I was concerned about how they would view this, but they seem very aware of the problem.
10. When you go to get a Chinese massage, and they ask if you want to change clothes, wait for them to bring you new clothes before getting undressed.
11. When the Chinese masseuse brings her friends in to see the half-dressed Americans, just try to act natural. Pretend the spontaneous fits of laughter are from a joke their friend just told.
12. When the Chinese masseuse stands on the back of your legs and grabs your arms, watch out. It's going to hurt.
13. Chinese women, particularly those who work as masseurs, are enamored by chest hair.
14. We tend to look at China and make assumptions about it's people based on the limited information we receive. We forget that they are people who have grown up a certain way, and they are a lot like us.
15. The thing in your soup that is called "One Hundred Year Old Mushroom" is just for flavoring, not for eating.
16. The waiter standing next to your table will typically wait until you have tried to eat "One Hundred Year Old Mushroom" before filling you in about #15.
17. China is an incredible place, and I have loved it here. However, it wouldn't be the same without the many wonderful people we have met along the way. We have made some friends for life on this trip, and we will forever be connected through China.
18. I have an awesome family. Ashley has endured so much, not only on this trip but in the two years leading up to this, and she is a fantastic mom. Jaycie has been great, and her life will forever be changed because of her experience here. And of course, Hannah is a joy. She is becoming more and more comfortable with us each day, and vice versa. I enjoy her so much, and I can't wait for you all to meet her.
That's all. I hope you can learn from my experiences - I know I have. Next time we write we'll be in the U.S. Yippee!