Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Monday 11-19-12

We began this morning with a visit to the CCCWA - Chinese Children's Center for Welfare and Adoption - located near the center of Beijing. This is a very important government office for all adopting families as this is the place where all children who are up for adoption are matched with a family. BLAS - Bridges Love Adoption Service - the organization responsible for planning our tour- is also housed in this building. We were shown the office, famously known to all adopting families as "The Matching Room" and it was surprisingly small and seriously understaffed. Four employees including the director, whom we asked if we could have a word with. He was gracious and stood in front of our group and took our questions which were translated by Vivian. Everyone wanted to know how they matched the children - was it random? was it looks or height or weight or temperament? What was the secret formula? The director was straight forward with his response no matter how many ways the same question was phrased: They read our files, noted what we were looking for, noted our income and family arrangement, physical appearance (yes, it's true!) and then matched up with a baby who seemed to have a personality that would fit. I remember the director of Jemma's orphanage kept stressing to us that they thought Jemma was very introspective and artistic - that she might be a poet one day. We noted we were artistic and creative on our application - could that be why? Jemma's birthday is the same as my sister's and maybe that had a hand, particularly since my sister is named on the official documents as a guardian should anything happen to us. And many people comment how Jemma and I look alike. So there you have it - a match made in heaven and it really is! When we adopted in 2005 they were churning out adoptions - literally hundreds per month - and we only waited nine months from the time our paperwork was logged in China. Now folks are waiting six and seven years at a minimum and the paperwork in the CCCWA office is nothing compared to what it used to be.
Next, we were led into a big conference room and the children had a cultural lesson conducted by a member of BLAS. They learned about brush strokes and making Chinese characters which was very engaging for all of us. They were also given beautiful presents - a book with removable stencils and a puzzle of the map of China. Next we went to watch a traditional tea ceremony and had the opportunity to taste five different teas. And then of course to buy those teas at about thirty bucks a box! You couldn't get us to pay that for all the tea in China. Next was lunch and it was a relief to see some Chinese people eating at the restaurant. The food was delicious and we even had some traditional roast duck which was a real treat. I should mention that Adam helped to arrange for the roast duck - it was not originally on our menu.
Tian an Men square was next and much to my surprise, or rather ignorance, there was no mention of the atrocities that happened there in 1989. Only legends of the soldiers or known heroes who fought for China, and statues resurrected to honor them. And of course chairman Mao's tomb on display but we did not have time to view the body. No matter as we had a very large freshly painted giant portrait right outside the Forbidden City. The recent appointment of the new leader of the Nation Party was the reason for the fresh coat of paint on Mao, and we also think the reason our blog was inaccessible!
The Forbidden City was next - an overwhelming place - one could get lost there. And in fact one did! We lost John when the group went to the john. By the way this particular toilet was a four-star toilet and we were all grateful we weren't subjected to the two-star one. Squat toilets are still everywhere but tank toilets are offered as well, but regardless there is always a NYC-subway-in-the-summer smell. Did I mention that we have been taking photos of Jemma cartwheeling everywhere?
The gardens in the Forbidden City were beautiful - though we basically ran through them looking for John! But here are some photos he took while he was waiting for us to come out.
At night Adam and I took the subway and went to the Silk market. Having lived in NY for ten years I was well-prepared for the sardine style transportation. Nonetheless, it was a insanely packed and Adam is pretty sure the old Chinese ladies go home and sharpen their elbows at night so they can poke you more easily! The silk market is known for selling high-end knock-offs or knock-offs of high-end stuff depending on your perspective. All I know is that it is overstimulating and a feast for the eyes. It was a rush to bargain with the enticing, hungry sellers. Even though we didn't buy much I felt like my savings had made me somewhat richer that evening. Dinner at the hotel afterward was anticlimactic, and for the second night in a row I had wished our hotel was located in downtown Beijing and not on the outskirts. I had a short list of must-eat restaurants which would have to be experienced on another trip to Beijing. Although I've heard that restaurants come and go very quickly in this city.

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