We left the hotel at 9 am to get an 11:30 flight to Nanchang, the capital city of Ming’s province. The check-in at the airport was super organized and efficient. We got through security and to our gate at Air China quickly and even had time to sit and get a coffee. Our flight did take off late due to bad weather in between Beijing and Nanchang so we got in about 1 hour late. Our guide, Mary and her son Brillian, met us at the airport. On our way to the Peace International Hotel, we crossed the August 1st bridge which commemorates the Chinese people’s liberation army. The bridge was finished in September of 1997 and is the first cable-stayed bridge in Jiangxi province.
We arrived at the hotel at the same time as Ming and the two representatives from the Shanggao Social Welfare Institute (Ming’s orphanage). We quickly got all of our stuff up to our room and hurried back downstairs to officially greet Ming. She was playing hide-and-seek with one of the orphanage representatives but became shy once she saw all three of us. Doug and Mia got down on the floor and crawled around with her to make her feel more comfortable.
It was a real honor to meet both women from the Institute. You could tell that they had strong feelings for Ming and had made sure that she had the best of care through her foster homes. They were very protective of her at first and wanted to get to know us a little bit more before they felt comfortable leaving her with us. It was a great opportunity to get more information about Ming’s foster mothers!
There were tears all around when it was time for the women to leave for the evening but we knew that we would get to see them again in the morning for the official paperwork. The crew, now plus one, was exhausted so we just camped out in the hotel room for the night. Ming was a real trooper; she enjoyed her bath and only woke up a few times during the might and was able to get right back to sleep.
Paperwork day! It was an interesting morning getting everyone ready…a bottle to make, diaper changing and getting Ming dressed. It all came back to me, but slowly. We barely had time for a quick breakfast before heading over to the adoption office for pictures and document signing. (There was another family that went with us. They adopted a 2-year old girl, their first child. They were so cute…the grandfathers made the trip with them. They were actually on our flight from Chicago and are from Indiana.) Next we went to the notary office to ‘official-ize’ all the documents that we had just signed. Then it was lunch and naps back at the hotel. In the afternoon we all went to the police station for more photos and paperwork. The police station was very busy but it was fun to see all the new families coming in to finalize their paperwork.
Later that afternoon our guide took us on a tour of August 1st Park. The weather was cool, but not really cold this time of the year, so we didn’t need to bundle up. Big mistake for Ming! Once we got to the park I was gently scolded by some older women for not having Ming bundled more. The other babies I noticed were dressed with so many clothes that they could barely move and looked like puffy marshmallows. This was a theme for the rest of the trip. I also noticed that most of the babies and toddlers wore a type of split pant that was open in the middle for potty training. Our guide Mary mentioned that potty training starts very young and it was cute to see all the puffy little ones with bare bottoms. I guess that you have to really bundle the kids up to compensate for the cold air hitting a very sensitive area.
The park had beautiful walking paths around a small lake and many open areas where people gather to socialize, exercise and even perform dances. It was nice to see so many people having such a great time. Also in the park is an area where you can feed the koi. They swim right up and suck fish food out of baby bottles that are attached to short poles. The bigger fish were fairly aggressive and would almost jump out of the water to reach the bottles.
We wanted to treat ourselves to the fancy Chinese restaurant at the hotel for dinner but were a little confused by the process. You picked out your food from refrigerated cases that lined the hallway and then had to get a waiter from the restaurant to come back with you to actually order it. (Sort of like picking out a lobster in a tank and then telling the chef how you want it prepared.) We decided that we needed some menu assistance from our guide before tackling the process and ended up at the main restaurant where the menu was already translated. It turned out to be easier with Ming since they had high chairs all ready for the babies. The Indiana family ate right next to us and it was fun to see the granddads dote over their new granddaughter.
We had the morning to ourselves. So, after breakfast, we set out to find some restaurants that were recommended by the hotel – one Indian, one Thai and one Chinese. There were a couple of crazy/busy street crossings along the way but we where able to find all three restaurants. I’m glad we went during the day b/c I think that two of the places would have been really hard to find at night. On our walk back to the hotel, Doug navigated the ordering of Nanchang Noodles from a small, open air stand for lunch.
That afternoon we took a tour of the Tengwang Pavilion. The Pavilion was first constructed in 653 AD and over the centuries has been destroyed and reconstructed almost 30 times. The existing Pavilion was finished in October 1989. We made it around all six of the open floors and saw a performance on the top floor that included dancing, singing and bell ringing. The artwork on each floor was amazing and included beautiful landscapes of the Jiangxi Province.
We were still up for more activity after returning to the hotel so we walked to the August 1st Memorial to see if anyone was flying kites. There wasn’t much wind, so no kites. We walked a bit farther to where the notary office is located because we saw some porcelain shops on our drive the previous morning. (Jiangxi is known for their porcelain so we wanted to look at small tea sets for Ming.) There were a handful of stores that had nice things but we thought we should check with our guide Mary to see if this was the best place to purchase one.
Mia wanted to try the Indian restaurant for dinner and it was delicious! The food was a little too spicy for the crew but right up my alley. The experience really reminded me of my Corporate Service Corps team and the range a spicy-ness that people wanted when we went out to dinner. Always a good opportunity to order lots of different dishes and try everything!
We did a walking tour of People’s Park, another beautiful park with walking paths around many small ponds. We saw an interesting game where a whip-like instrument is used to keep a large top spinning. It looked like fun but we were hesitant to get too close because the whip looked a little dangerous. Then Mary took us on a shopping expedition to an open market. We purchased some horse-themed souvenirs to commemorate the Chinese New Year including a red horse covered with sequins and tassels. Dinner that night was supposed to be at a Chinese restaurant that was recommended by the hotel but we accidentally ended up at a Japanese steak house instead. It was really good but not what we were expecting.
We walked to the Rope and Gold Pagoda from the hotel and went through a few back alleys on the way. It was mid-morning and things were pretty quiet although we were a funny looking group with Ming waving to everyone from her baby backpack. We got lots of attention and waves back. The grounds around the Pagoda were really spread out and had some really neat features. When you first walked in, there is an enormous metal bell and we made Mia ring it a few times. It was pretty loud but had a nice deep tone. Off in the corner where what appeared to be some Terracotta Warriors. (The Terracotta Warriors and Horses are considered to be one of the most significant archeological excavations of the 20th century.) I have no idea what the soldiers were doing on the grounds of the Pagoda so far away from their original site and there was no one to ask. However, they were really spectacular and it would be a treat to see these life size terracotta figures of warriors and horses arranged in battle formations at the museum. Maybe on our trip back! There was an interesting rock/boulder collection that was on display in the back gardens. The highlight was two pieces that were shaped like dragons and were placed in front of the double dragon sculpture that anchors the garden.
Mia continued to be ‘famous’ and was asked by a few different people if she would pose for a picture with them. Ming made friends with some local grandparents who had come to the pagoda with their grand kids. They gave her candy and cookies which she loved. A Tia Chi master also came out to see what we were all about. He was fascinated with Mia and started bending her arms and legs into all sorts of different poses. It was a little awkward for Mia at first but then she got into the spirit of things and enjoyed herself.
On the walk back to the hotel, we bought what we thought were handmade potato chips from a food stall. It was my first real sampling of ‘street food’ and it was delicious! Doug, on the other hand, sampled and enjoyed everything. He has an iron stomach and was great about eating something new everyday.
Mary brought our notary documents to the hotel that afternoon for us to proofread. It was a little difficult because there were mostly in Chinese but I did my best to verify passport numbers, addresses and birthdays and then just hoped for the best. Then she took us to People’s Park for the rest of the afternoon. The landscaping was really nice and since it doesn’t freeze in Nanchang there was lots of color with the annuals that had been planted in preparation for the New Year celebration.
Later we got in touch with another adopting family in the hotel. They had just adopted their second little girl from China and the Mom and 13-year old daughter had traveled to pick her up. Their new daughter/sister is around the same age as Ming and it was really cute to see them interact. Doug led us all on a mini-tour to purchase porcelain tea sets and then to a Thai restaurant for dinner. We were thrilled to have the extra company and had a great time getting to know them better.
See more photos at http://www.flickr.com/jilldaffodil