July 20, 2005

Official Consulate Ceremony

I got up early this morning and went out walking around Shamian Island. It's our last full day here and somehow, even after being here for 11 days, I feel like there's so much we didn't have the chance to see or do. I walked along the river and watched everyone doing Tai Chi and then I walked through the park where there were more people exercising.

At 11:00 a.m. this morning our group walked to the US Consulate for the final step in our adoption process. The Consulate is moving off of Shamian Island on August 9th so we were one of the final groups to go to this office. We weren't allowed to bring anything with us other than our passports and the babies. After we passed through the initial gate and security screening, we entered the actual building. In the lobby there are small photographs of George Bush and Dick Cheney and the walls and floors are covered with marble tile. After going through another security screening we went upstairs to the Adoption Unit. It was initially just our travel group and one at a time we went up to a window and showed an official our passport and our babies. After about 15 minutes a man came into the room, where we were all sitting or standing, and gave a very nice little speech about how this was the final step in what he knew was a very long process. He also reminded us that as soon as our daughters step foot on American soil, they will be American citizens. Finally, he had us each raise our right hands and swear that all the information we had provided was true.

I had heard this little ceremony was very impersonal but It actually left me a little choked up.

This afternoon we took a walk with the Paynes over a bridge to the Qingping Market. If you have not heard of it, it has the dubious distinction of being the place where SARS likely originated in a sivet cat -- a wild cat-like animal that is eaten by some Chinese people. It is also known to be a haven for illicit animal trafficking. The most infamous section of Qingping is the meat market where live chickens, rabbits, anteaters, turtles and all sorts of animals are sold, and often slaughtered on the spot to provide fresh meat. (We didn't go to that section.)

The section of the market we went to is essentially a "drug store" with lots of very interesting items intended to be made into tea and use for medicinal purposes. In addition to the dried things there were buckets of live scorpions! Chris suggested we buy a bag of starfish to hand out to our travel mates as souvenirs -- and we all agreed it was a good idea if not for the pesky customs agents at the airport.

Tonight we had a Happy Hour with our travel group and then I went and spent the rest of our Chinese money while Eric finished packing.

We leave for the airport at 5:45 a.m. and have a three-hour layover in Hong Kong before continuing on to Chicago. We'll be home, as a family of four, Thursday afternoon at about 2:30 p.m.

I know I've said it before, but this has been such an amazing experience that has exceeded our expectations in every way! It still seems so unbelievable that what started out as a sea of paperwork and then became a small book of photos is now sleeping in the next room as I type this!

I will continue to update this site for a little while so you all can see how the girls are doing.

Thanks again for all the great messages! The first thing we do in the morning is sit down at the computer and read them.

The next time I write will be from home . . .good night from China.

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