I was tempted to title this post “Adventures in police stations in Red China” but didn’t want my mother to worry. 🙂 (We’re fine Mom!)
Now that the excitement and adrenaline rush of Gotcha Day is over, the focus for the remainder of the week here in the Henan province has shifted towards finalizing all the remaining paperwork from the Chinese end of things. When we left the Registration Office on Monday with Marianna and Joseph, we were “guardians” but not “legal parents”. The Chinese offer adoptive families a 24-hour grace period before the adoption is finalized and declared irrevocable. So the group traipsed back to the same Registration Office on Tuesday morning where in a small ceremony with the Ministry of Adoption Affairs, the adoption of all 12 children were finalized.
From there, we all boarded the bus to head to yet another government office building where we climbed 6 flights of stairs in a suffocating, smoky and not air-conditioned stairwell to sit around a conference table to have all these new adoption decrees notarized. Or something. I’m not exactly clear on what we signed and why…we just did as we were told by our agency reps. Our very lives and the lives of our children are in the hands of our reps–we are so grateful to them.
By 12noon were were back at the hotel to make photocopies of said decrees, grab a quick lunch (granola bar and bottled water) and then jump back into a van that was waiting outside for us that would take us to the birth city of Joseph 2 hours away. The reason for this trip to Jiyuan City was to apply for a (Chinese) passport for him so we can exit the country and travel home to the US next week. Every child being adopted needs a passport to exit China and get home so this was a very necessary, if not grueling trip. We decided to give Linda-Anne an afternoon off and would take the kids with us. We wanted them to be able to see the town where their brother had his beginnings.
The drive took us through a mountainous region of China, filled with canyons carved from ancient riverbeds and cliffs that had very obvious caves carved from them. Our guide told us that people have been living in these caves for thousands of years because of the simple geo-thermal effect: they remain cool in the summer and warm in the winter. And many of these caves were still inhabited as laundry could be seen drying out front.
Talk about a dose of perspective.
We arrived in Jiyuan City, a much smaller town than we’ve previously seen, and the van pulled up to the local police station which is where Chinese citizens apply for their passports. We walked in and were greeted by a room full of women dressed in blue police uniforms sitting behind a counter. Our rep once again took charge and translated the purpose for our visit and got the application underway.
At this point, Sarah began dancing and asking to go to the potty. We gestured to a police officer and through universal body language got the message across. I left Mike with the boys while she took us around back behind the building to a little “room” (read: an open air, cement block cubby) that was decidedly not private but was nonetheless where employees of the police station did their business.
Now public restrooms in China are not at all like public restrooms in the US…which I know is not saying much. But let me paint you a picture:
In China, they prefer the use of “squat pots” rather than western “sit down” toilets. Basically this involves a hole in the floor, with porcelain foot treads on either side. And…you guessed it…you squat over the hole. There is rarely any toilet paper provided so you must remember to bring Kleenex with you. Most have some sort of flush mechanism, but in my limited experience so far, most of the water splashes up over the floor and onto your ankles so you pretty much need a full bath + sanitizing mist when you are done using one.
Now imagine taking a 3yo on one of these marvels of human engineering. All while holding another child in a sling on your front. Thankfully Sarah was wearing a dress but I still needed to hold her in such a way that she could relieve herself with minimal contamination from spraying debris. The porcelain foot treads were wet however and my foot slipped a bit. Caught myself but not before stepping in and splashing more of the surrounding nastiness up my legs and my clothes.
After the squat pot ordeal, we made our way back into the police station. Mike and Joseph were no where to be seen. Isaac and Sam were sitting in some chairs watching some kind of animal/nature program on the TV and informed me that their dad was off to get Joseph’s passport picture taken. I looked around, assuming they were in an adjoining room but couldn’t see them. A police officer must have noticed the look of concern on my face and pointed down the street. I stepped outside and saw Mike and Joseph several blocks down the road. No way was I going to leave the boys behind to go follow them so I settled myself down next to the boys and just prayed that Mike
was not being taken hostage would be back soon.
Twenty long minutes later, they came back to the police station and Mike told me that getting Joseph’s passport photo taken was a success but it involved the most bizarre and out-of-the-way venues several streets down. The orphanage director had now arrived at the police station to say her goodbyes to Joseph and snap a quick photo.
The next day, on Wednesday, we needed to repeat the process for Marianna’s passport. Only her birth city of Nanyang was 4 hours away. Each direction. This time we left the kids behind at the hotel in the safe keeping of Linda-Anne — who has been equal parts guardian angel and rock star on this trip — and once again got loaded into a van and settled in for a long day of travel.
There is just so much that we have to surrender while in China. So many different things to embrace that would otherwise send us over the edge in the US. One of those things is the lack of seat belts and car seats. Traveling down the highways here at 110km/hr while unrestrained and with babies in our arms for hours at a stretch makes me twitch. But like so much else here, there is absolutely nothing I can do about it except accept it and pray that we would arrive safely. Even if driving in China appears to be an aggressive sport in which lanes are optional, horns are used as form of communication when passing or greeting other drivers and there is no such thing as “right of way”.
We arrived at last in Nanyang and finished all the necessary paperwork for Marianna’s passport and wasted no time in getting back in the van to head back to our hotel and our older children who by this time we were beginning to miss a whole lot.
The six hardest days of the trip are now squarely behind us. The rest of the trip now involves waiting for the passports to be issued to us (hopefully Friday) and then travel next week to Guangzhou where the US Consulate is located and where we will begin to process all the paperwork for the US side of things that will allow Marianna and Joseph entry into the US and granting them US citizenship when our plane touches down.