Half a World Away

Not quite a year after my husband and I were married, we decided it was time to begin our family. Grant thought three children would be perfect. I had always thought a huge family would be nice…seven or eight children maybe! But before we had married, I agreed on three, secretly sure that once we had three he, too, would want at least a fourth child! So, I said ‘three it will be’ with my mouth, but, with in my heart, I thought ‘four’! We both agreed that we needed time alone as a married couple before we became parents and both of us had originally thought that five years would be about the right length of time. Six months into the marriage I was eager to have our first child, and so was Grant (though never in as much hurry as I, for anything!). So, it was that eleven months after we were married, we began trying to conceive. Within a few weeks we thought I was pregnant. My period was overdue and a home pregnancy test showed faintly positive. We were ecstatic and of course announced it immediately. Within just a few short days, though, we had lost that pregnancy. I was devastated. The day we lost that pregnancy, I passed a very large clot. I had never passed clots of any kind before. I was sure that within that clot was the small life that was not to see this world after-all. Though I was ashamed to admit this to my husband or anyone else, I just could not bring myself to dispose of that small life like so much monthly trash into the garbage can. So the remains of that small life that was not to be, lay gently wrapped in a paper towel and hidden beneath our bathroom sink as I anguished over what to do. As the days passed, the secret held in our bathroom cabinet haunted me and the darkness of my depression deepened. I knew I had to do something, but had no idea what to do.

Then one morning, between the tears a whisper of a thought gently entered my heart. I would lay our child’s remains to rest beneath the soil of a potted plant. Instantly, I knew just which flower pot it had to be in. Two Christmas earlier my green-thumbed little sister had painted a beautiful clay pot, for me, I had admired it, but never thought I would actually use it. I have never had any ‘luck’ with plants. Hating the guilt of one brown plant after another, I had long before begun avoiding being encumbered with any. Now, that clay pot came to my mind, and I knew where our child had to be buried. Even the lines from the poem that my little sister had painted in flowing gold script on that flowerpot years earlier seemed fitting for just the purpose the flowerpot was to serve:

“A little too abstract, a little too wise,
It is time for us to kiss the earth again,
It is time to let the leaves rain from the skies,
Let the rich life run to the roots again.”

I searched and searched for that flower pot, unearthing boxes that hadn’t been peeked in since I had moved into my husband’s house nearly a year earlier. The flowerpot was no where to be found. Finally, in desperation, I broke down and called Grant at work to ask if he had any idea where the flowerpot might be. In spite of my efforts at nonchalance, not far into our conversation, I had broken down into tears over the clay pot that I couldn’t find. He couldn’t understand why his wife would be so distraught over a lost clay pot, but assured me that he would find it for me as soon as he got home. Before the call had ended though, he had gently pried out of me why I wanted that specific flower pot and why the urgency. Rather than thinking me hysterical or foolish, he quietly asked that even if I did find the pot myself before he got home, that I wait until he was there before I placed the remains beneath the plant. When he arrived home that night, I had a small peace lily waiting. The small plant was covered with beautiful, simple, white blooms. Grant located the missing flowerpot within a few minutes.

Together we talked about the child we would never hold. We cried together. We prayed together. Then we laid the remains of that child beneath a small lily. And, for the first time in days, I felt peace mingled in with my sadness.

Within a few weeks, all of the blooms had turned brown and dropped from the plant. Year after year, the plant grew and grew until it filled the clay pot, but never in all those years did another single bloom bud. Even as year after year I waited for the second pregnancy which would never come. Somehow, it always seemed fitting to me over the years to come that that peace lily should never again be covered in brilliant white blooms. It remained the only tended plant inside or outside of our house. Thinking back on it now, I suppose the miracle is that it survived my brown thumb at all…not that it went year after year without ever blooming again!

Years later, my husband and I began the long process of going through testing. The problems were identified and they seemed ‘fixable’. The very week, we began our in-vitro attempts, a single, elegant, snow-white bud appeared on the lily. I was never one to trust in ‘signs’ and especially not one to look for them…but, that beautiful white flower was such an encouragement to me through all the hormonal ups and downs of our treatments. For me it became a continual reminder of God’s assurance that He did have a child for us. Still we lost the first three embryos almost immediately…and within months we would lose the remaining four. That one, lone bloom on the plant had lasted so very long. But, it was finally beginning to fade as we began our adoption paperwork.

We had originally planned to adopt from Russia. It was simply the first country that my husband I both agreed on. Seemed logical, to go to a country from where our child would appear to be an ethnic match with ourselves. Grant would have been willing to adopt domestically. I would have too, before we had grieved so many losses. But, after losing those last little souls, I needed to find purpose and meaning in our loss. In my heart, if we gave a child a home that might never have enough to eat or shelter without us, then the terrible losses we had suffered together would have purpose. We prayed about it, as we prayed about everything, together. We felt strongly that we should adopt through one particular Christian led organization. So, I called Holt International to get more information about adopting a baby from Russia. The woman on the phone told me that Holt had just pulled out of Russia. She hurried to assure me, though, that there were many other fine organizations still active in that country. I explained that we were more set on which organization we wanted to work through, than which country we wanted to adopt from and asked her to please list for me what countries they were still active in. She began reeling off country after country as I furiously scribbled them all down, trying to keep up with her.  
Then about eight or so countries into the list, she said ‘China’. That word just leaped out and stopped me cold. I knew in that moment with more certainty than I had known anything since we had begun trying to start a family, that our child, our daughter, was waiting for us in China.

I stopped the woman (by then already another several countries down the list!) and asked her that she send us all the paperwork needed to get started on an adoption from China. As I hung up the phone, I marveled that China had never so much as crossed my mind as a possibility (I didn’t even realize before that moment that adoptions from China were possible.)…yet, I knew that is where our child was. I had already begun praying for her safety in my heart as I called my husband at work. I knew where our child was, but I wanted to see if Grant would know it in the same way. I wanted that affirmation! So, when I called him I didn’t tell him what I was feeling in my heart. I just nonchalantly informed him that Holt was no longer working in Russia. His response to that surprise was the same as mine had been. He just instantly dropped the idea of a Russian baby and asked me what countries they were placing children out of. I picked up my list and began reading through the names of all the countries I had written down. My husband listened quietly until the word China rolled off my lips, no differently than the eight or so countries I had listed ahead of it. The moment I said ‘China’, though, it hit him just as powerfully as it had me. My husband had never had any interest in China, himself. Once I had tried to get him to learn a little Chinese with me and he had made it quite clear that he never had any intention of traveling anywhere where English wasn’t the primary language and he had no ability for picking up words from another language…especially a tonal language like Chinese. Now, here was this same man, not even thinking about considering other countries, Asian or not, many of whom didn’t require the parents to travel to adopt. He dreaded leaving the United States, yet he, too was sure that his daughter was over in China…a country that requires parents to travel to the country to adopt their child.

We began our paperwork immediately. It was to be a mountain of paperwork by the time we were finished months later. Then began our wait for the Chinese government to review our paperwork and photos and choose what child they wanted to match to our family. China has a very strict ‘one child’ policy for their own citizens and for this reason, at that time, they were also fairly stringent with their policies for international adoption. They did not allow for foreign couples to adopt healthy infants unless the couple was completely childless (not even any step-children) and both parents-to-be were 35 years old or older. Grant and I neither one were quite old enough yet, to qualify for a healthy baby, so we had applied for a ‘special needs’ child. We trusted that God would not send us a child whose challenges were more than we would be able to handle. We both already knew in our hearts that though technically we could turn down the ‘match’ the Chinese government made for us and request another infant, instead, that we would not do so. Whatever child was first assigned to us would be our child.

From the first moment we had both known in our hearts that we would adopt from China, we had begun praying for our daughter. We knew enough about the orphans in China to be certain we would be assigned a girl. We learned a lot more about those children than we had ever known in the months as we raced to complete our paperwork. (From the moment we had decided to adopt from China, I had been filled with such an urgency. We completed everything in record time, even making several trips to our state capital, Jefferson City, to avoid the delay of the postal system.) The more we learned, the harder we prayed for Darcy by name (long before we had seen her photo or been told her Chinese name). Just after they had sent us Fu Wei Qian’s photo (Darcy), the news media was rocked with graphic film footage that had been smuggled out of China by a British group.

Human Rights Watch—Asia began bombarding the news with information about the ‘dying rooms’ in so many of China’s overcrowded orphanages where the sick babies and even those who were simply deemed as too demanding were shut away and left to starve to death, unattended. We saw news clips of the skeletal babies lying alone in those dark, windowless rooms starving to death, unwanted, their weak, kitten-like cries unheeded. We knew that Wei Qian would not be placed in a dying room, since she had already been assigned to us. Yet, we also knew that she was in a country where there wasn’t enough food to eat in the orphanages and there wasn’t enough staff to care for all the abandoned children. Our social worker had told us that we should expect to find raw rings around our baby’s wrists and ankles since it was common for the older infants to be tied spread eagle onto ‘potty chairs’ from morning until night. Then, they would be tied into their cribs to keep them from tumbling over the low sides (more like ‘baby trays’ than Western ‘cribs’).

Suddenly, China was in the news everywhere. We saw documentary after heart-wrenching documentary about the conditions in Chinese orphanages. We saw more film footage shot in another of the orphanages…rows and rows of toddlers with their arms and legs tied to the arms and legs of their potty chairs as an older child (about four years old) went down the line, brutally head-butting baby after tied-down baby. No adults around. Some of the babies cried out in pain, but one child just stared blankly forward in quiet resignation as the older child brutally banged heads with her over and over again. The images broke my heart. And, I had heard of other parents (one even with our same organization) who had gotten over to China just to be told, “I’m sorry. Your child died yesterday, but we have assigned another one for you to take her place.” I didn’t want just any child from China. I wanted my child. I wanted Fu Wei Qian, our Darcy Lin Wei Qian.

As all the political turmoil swirled around China’s inhumane orphanage conditions, the adoptions ground to an excruciatingly slow pace. Month after month, China failed to come through with granting us permission to enter the country to adopt the child they had assigned us. There was a very real threat that the country would close its doors completely to international adoptions in response to having been made to lose face throughout the world over the recently exposed conditions in its orphanages. During that time, a well-meaning friend had told Grant and I that if China did close down their international adoptions before we could get Darcy out, that we could adopt a child here in town from the Light House, instead. I knew the friend was only trying to help…but it showed how little she understood. 
That baby in China wasn’t just any baby. She was my baby. I already knew in my heart that if she died before we could reach her…or if China changed their minds and wouldn’t let us come for her after-all, that Grant and I would be childless. There would be no more adoptions. Wei Qian was my child and if I lost her I would not choose to be a mother ever again.

I agonized over what was happening to my daughter, half a world away. More than anything else, those nine months we spent filing paperwork, awaiting child assignment, and then awaiting permission to come for our child, I prayed that our baby would feel loved. That, even if she had to go hungry, at least God would send someone to hold her when she cried. I couldn’t bear the thought of her crying hour after hour with and no one ever responding or caring. I knew that in the orphanages, the workers were too few to be able to care for so many children. The normal ratio was a single worker to completely care for twenty infants. Feeding, by necessity, consisted only of a hurriedly propped bottle as the worker would move down the line to the next baby. If the child wiggled and lost her hold on the nipple, she simply missed that meal. There was no time in the orphanages for the luxury of comforting or cuddling any of the babies, they were lucky to get fed. Yet, as I prayed, I knew in my heart, those many months of waiting (long before I had ever seen her photo or known what name she was called by in the orphanage) that God was protecting my baby. I didn’t know if it was through an orphanage worker that just had an inexplicable soft spot for my daughter, or if it was through an older child in the orphanage who would take the time to hold and love my daughter. I simply knew deep in my heart that, against all odds, someone was holding my daughter and comforting her when she cried…loving her for me, even as we desperately waited for permission to come and bring her home.

Then, China began lobbing missiles at Taiwan…all the while escalating its rhetoric against the United States whom it blamed for encouraging Taiwan’s refusal to abandon the elections they were planning on holding. When China began lobbing missiles into Taiwanese waters and threatening to lob them right on to Taiwan, itself, we had just received travel approval to come and adopt our daughter. But, the date that China had given us to enter their country was the day after the elections were to be held in Taiwan…the elections that China was bound and determined to prevent at any cost…the elections that China was blaming on the United State’s support of Taiwan. Though we would be in Hong Kong, a few days before the Taiwanese election, we were not scheduled to receive our VISAS to enter China until the day after the election. My heart was breaking. I was so afraid that we would be in Hong Kong (still British controlled back then) only to be turned away from entering China, itself, at the last moment, in retaliation for Taiwan refusing to abandon its elections. It was at that low point in my life that I cried out to God. I had long since come to associate that single white bloom that had appeared on my peace lily so long ago with little Fu Wei Qian, half a world away. I had always been grateful that God had sent that little bloom…for whether it was a sign or not, it had been such an encouragement to me through such a hard time when we had been losing those little embryos. Yet, a few nights before we were to leave for Hong Kong, as I felt on the brink of yet one more loss, I wondered in my heart why God hadn’t saved that little white bloom of encouragement for now. Why had He sent it before we had even begun considering adoption? Why hadn’t He waited until now when my heart was breaking for Wei Qian? These were the thoughts tumbling about in my heart, when something struck me that took my breath away. Early Fall of ’94, when that one small flower of hope had appeared didn’t just co-inside with when we began our fertility treatments… For the first time ever, I realized that that would have been the very time that Wei Qian (born July Fourth, 1995), would have been conceived. Always before, I had envisioned God browsing through the abandoned infants and choosing one for us. It knocked the breath out of me to realize in that moment that He never browsed through the children in the orphanage. He had chosen Wei Qian for us even before her own birth mother could have been aware of her presence in her own body. He had chosen Wei Qian to be our child from the moment of her conception. And, in that moment, I knew in my heart that nothing was going to prevent us from reaching our daughter…not all the missiles in China could stand in the way of God’s purpose!

Less than a week later, we left Hong Kong with a small band of four other families and traveled by train to GuangZhou. From there, we were to take a plane to Nanchang. To our collective horror, we soon realized that none of us had any idea which plane we were suppose to board in GuangZhou and for the first and only time we were completely without a guide or translator. It was with genuine joy that we spotted a huge group of American couples following a translator down the hallway. We very quickly discovered that they were bound for the same city as we were and the very same hotel. They too were adopting. We gratefully fell into their wake and followed them onto the correct plane. They were not to get their babies until the following day. They had gone through a different organization than we had and their babies were coming from a different city than ours. We all wound up on the same floor of the same hotel though! The management wisely reserved the fourth floor for no one but new adoptive parents, in that capital city of JiangXi where we had come to receive our new daughters.

On the bus from the airport to our hotel, our interpreter (having just joined us!) informed us that we would have our babies within the hour (not the following day, as our agency had told us)…but what he said next made my heart leap! He said that the babies had come up from Lin Chuan to our hotel in Nan Chang by bus with their foster mothers! I can still remember the first moment those words sunk in! We had been told that our babies were in the orphanage all those months of waiting. Not even our adoption agency had realized that the babies had all gotten foster mothers…had indeed been the very first babies ever from that orphanage to have foster mothers! Darcy Lin Wei Qian had been found on the steps of Lin Chuan’s community center six days after her birth. She had only spent about six weeks in the orphanage before being assigned a foster mother! (Her foster mother was a worker there at the orphanage and would take Darcy back home with her each evening. There her two grown, single daughters doted on the only baby in the family!) I met Wei Qian’s foster mother, Hai Ro, less than an hour after we arrived at the hotel.

I first saw that small, grandmotherly woman as she walked down the long hallway towards our room, carrying in her arms our tiny, wide-eyed baby, mummified in so many layers of clothes, that her little arms stuck out scarecrow fashion, her hands hidden by sleeves long enough for a child years older than she. I will forever remember Qian Qian (Darcy) being carried down the hotel hallway, towards our room…such a serious face for a baby…such piercingly intent eyes. She looked confident, though wary of us, from her perch in Hai Ro’s arms. As Hai Ro handed Wei Qian to my husband and said in Chinese in soft soothing tones, “Here is your father, Qian Qian,” the baby began to cry. Hai Ro told her “Bu tso. Bu tso.” (“Don’t cry. Don’t cry.”) and the baby quieted. Though Hai Ro did not show any emotion in her face I knew this woman loved my daughter.
We had been told in advance that we would only have two or three minutes with the translator, orphanage director and foster mother as our child was given to us. As our translator turned to leave, and Hai Ro turned to follow, I asked our translator to ask Hai Ro if she would like to hold Qian Qian one last time. As Hai Ro reached out for my daughter for the last time, I saw in her eyes, for just a fleeting moment, how her heart breaking as she prepared to leave the child she had held and loved for the past seven months.

At our invitation, Hai Ro lingered in our room after the others had left, to help change Darcy into her new clothes. I wanted to keep the clothes that Darcy came to us in…the only piece of her past that we could carry out of China. So, I had asked Fenhua (a student from China attending my old Bible college who had become a dear friend), to write a letter for me asking permission to exchange clothes I had brought, for the clothes my child was wearing. (Since we knew ahead of time that clothes are so desperately in need for other children, that the babies are usually stripped of everything they are wearing and their clothes taken by the orphanage officials as they leave.) The orphanage director had read the letter and nodded his head. Now, Hai Ro looked with interest at the clothes I took out of the baby’s suitcase. She found of particular interest the disposable diaper I had laid out for Darcy. Diapers are not used in China very often, and potty training begins when a child is still a new born. I had heard this, but questioned it. I thought it more likely that ‘mommies’ are trained to anticipate when the baby will need to potty. Eight and a half month old Darcy, soon proved me wrong on this point! While Hai Ro found Darcy’s new clothes engrossing, I found her old clothes engrossing. I was beginning to wonder if I would ever find the rest of my tiny baby down there amongst all those layers! Each layer just led to the next. Layer after layer of carefully mended, thoroughly worn out old clothing that smelled strongly of woodsmoke. Many of the layers looked as if they had originally been made for a three or four year old. Finally, I peeled off the last layer.

Though we had been told even by the Chinese man that served as our translators, that the children would be filthy and in need of immediate baths, Wei Qian was very clean. Though she small for her age, she looked like she had been well cared for. Wei Qian hadn’t been too thrilled with these strange people (my husband and I!) from the start, but, the moment I began putting a diaper on her, she thought me the cruelest person imaginable. Though she was used to so many layers of clothing that she could not even move her own arms, she was not used to having the bulk of a diaper between her legs! Each of the layers of her clothes were split all the way through the crotch, traditional fashion for children…allowing them to relieve themselves without first undressing. Darcy already had her doubts, but Hai Ro, didn’t begin to wonder about my fitness as a mother until after I finished dressing Darcy. I had chosen a snuggly red, plaid flannel sleeper for her. Hai Ro first looked confused when I put the sleeper on Darcy, as though waiting for the other shoe to drop. Then she became alarmed. I was baffled by her increasing agitation as she told me over and over, “Bu hao kan! Bu hao kan!” I knew enough Chinese to understand the phrase but was perplexed by it. I couldn’t understand why she would suddenly turn with such ferocity and proclaim the clothes I had place my daughter in as ‘ugly’. Then she fingered the short sleeve of my bright yellow T-shirt and proclaimed it “Bu hao kan!” (“Not good-looking”) as well! Only as she left our room, determined to find someone to explain to us, did the meaning of her phrase began to dawn on me. Here she had been in our heated hotel room, still wearing a heavy jacket and who knows how many layers of clothes, herself. She was horrified when she realized we intended to dress our daughter in nothing more than a single thin layer of flannel! I am sure she genuinely feared the baby she had come to love, wouldn’t survive to make it back to America! Here these crazy, T-shirt wearing Americans were going to freeze that poor child before she even could leave China!

That was the last I ever saw of Hai Ro…her disappearing from our room filled with anxiety over Wei Qian’s safety. The translator dropped in a few minutes later and tactfully explained that Chinese babies were used to being well-bundled and might catch a chill otherwise. I had seen my daughter’s flushed cheeks before all the layers came off and didn’t think she was likely to chill in our very warm hotel room, but, I found a fluffy, padded outdoors playsuit to zip her up in. Something that wound up being a life-saver for me…since China is full of well-intentioned grandmothers to whom language is no barrier if a child is seen “ill-clothed”! But, in the privacy of our own hotel room, I would dress Darcy like any other American baby, much to her delight. She was a hot-natured baby! To this day, I think the child would go barefoot in the snow if I would allow it!

Darcy was a tiny child with a mammoth appetite! She was eight and a half months old when we got her, but she only weighed twelve pounds. Developmentally, she hadn’t progressed physically beyond the stage of a newborn. Once she was extracted from the many layers of clothing that had enveloped her, we discovered that her muscle tone was so poor that she couldn’t even support the weight of her own head. Her head flopped like a newborn’s. She was unable to sit. The muscles in her arms were so underdeveloped that without the support of her thick layers of clothing, both of her arms hung slackly behind her, almost as if both of her shoulders were dislocated. She moved her arms just using the larger muscles in her upper arm, in an odd flapping way. She had very poor fine motor skills. She could not bring her hands together in front of her, so atrophied were her muscles, nor could she raise her hands above shoulder level. Her little back swayed alarmingly and she could not initially tolerate being layed flat on her back. For the first week or so, we had to support the curve in her spine with a small pillow before she could lay comfortably on her back. Also, I suppose, a result of having spent her whole life entombed in an unyielding bulk of so many layers of clothing. She was not a special needs child, though. She was perfectly healthy by Chinese standards. She was typical of any Chinese baby in that area of the country—orphaned or not. In cold homes, with no source of heat other than a small fire, bundling the babies well was of more importance than seeing to it that they were able to move about and strengthen their muscles as babies do in the natural progression of growth. I was beginning to understand why my Chinese friend back home (Fenhua) had worried that I wouldn’t know how to care for a Chinese baby. I had laughed at her remark and assured her that a Chinese baby was no different than a Caucasian baby. Now I was beginning to understand what she had been trying to explain to me. Darcy was different from an American baby of the same age…because of her environment. Freed from the restrictive layers of clothes, in our warm hotel room, Darcy progressed with amazing speed. Within a few days, she was able to support her own head and we got to witness her discovering her own hands and feet for the first time! Soon she and I began a game where, holding her upright, facing me, I would bend down and, to her delight, kiss her hands. Each time, I would bend over just a little bit less, as she strained to raise her hands high enough to reach my face. Bit, by bit, the mobility in her arms was improving.

I have never seen any baby that could pack away as much food as our child did. The first hurdle was getting her to drink from a bottle, though. None of our babies would drink from a bottle. Finally we discovered that if we cut the hole so large in the nipple that the milk poured out freely, emptying the bottles within a matter of minutes, that our daughters would drink from bottles rather than insisting on only being fed the formula with a spoon or from a cup. That first day we discovered that our daughter was severely lactose-intolerant…finally realizing that when her foster mother had told us the baby ‘didn’t like milk’ what she had been trying to tell us wasn’t that she didn’t like the flavor of it, but rather that her system could not tolerate it. Soy formula is hard to find in China. Fortunately, one of the other families had brought soy formula with them, which their child detested and were only too happy to swap their soy formula for our regular formula. Darcy wasn’t too pleased with the taste of the soy formula, either, but she drank it none-the-less. She would drink an entire bottle of formula, greedily wolf down a huge bowl of baby rice cereal (screaming frantically between bites), only to react as though she had never been fed anything at all, moments later when we would sit down in the restaurant on the first floor of the hotel, to eat ourselves. She ate anything and everything off our plates that didn’t require teeth! She would pack away most of our dinner, too…screaming ever frantically between each bite that she gulped down. Eventually her appetite resumed more normal proportions, but her appetite those first few weeks was truly amazing. By the time we returned to America, she had gained two pounds and I had lost five (unable myself to grab more than one mouthful for every three or four that I hurriedly filled her mouth with to quiet those frantic screams of hers that welled up each and every time at the very sight of food).

God truly answered our prayers. He protected Darcy so well from the moment she was born until the moment we could take her in our arms. He gave her a foster mother who did genuinely love her deeply…when foster mothers were still almost unheard of anywhere China and had never before been used in the orphanage Fu Wei Qian had been taken to.

That first night, none of our babies slept. Freshly bereaved of their foster mothers, thrown into the care of odd appearing people, whose words made no sense to them, our babies grieved their little hearts out. 
They cried and cried and we cried and cried as we carried our inconsolable little ones up and down that long, brown, carpeted hallway. Darcy would only cease her crying if I remained standing while I held her—preferably walking. Whenever I looked down at the small child I was carrying, she would clamp her eyes tightly closed in feigned sleep. But, as soon as she felt my head straighten up as my gaze left her, those eyes would pop back open and I would feel those piercing black eyes of hers staring holes into me as we paced the hallway. She refused to make any eye contact at all with me, that first night…always squeezing her eyes tightly closed whenever I would look down at her. If I continued looking too long, she would cry in protest with eyes still squeezed shut. She did not sleep a single moment for those first twenty-four hours. The other babies all slept a little, but none of them slept much. The next morning, we were all bleary-eyed and we warned those families we had met in the airport at GuangZhou that their sleepless night was coming.

We were wrong. That afternoon, their end of the hall was eerily silent as their babies were brought to them. Their babies had come directly from the orphanage (a different orphanage than ours had come from). They had never had foster mothers. Even though their babies were listed as the same age as ours, our tiny babies dwarfed theirs in size. My child was so observant. Nothing escaped the scrutiny of her somber gaze. Their babies showed no interest in their surroundings. When I looked into their eyes, I didn’t see the unnerving, piercing gaze of my own child…just vacant eyes looking no where at all. My child raged at what had been taken from her…her foster mother, her language, her home, her routine. Their babies were silent. Their babies had long since learned that crying served no purpose. Their cries had gone unheeded until they had finally given up crying at all. It broke my heart to hear the silence that filled the far end of the hall our entire stay in Nanchang. And God showed me just how merciful and gracious He had been to my baby. My baby grieved long and hard. She had been well-loved and she had lost something that those other babies had never had. She had gained a family that loved her with all their hearts, but she didn’t know that yet…all she knew in that moment is that she had lost the people who had loved her and whom she had loved. I was so glad her little heart was breaking. I was glad she raged against her losses. I was so glad she wasn’t numb inside like the silent babies at the other end of the hall. 
By the second day with us, she was willing to allow us to look her in the eye. On her third day with us, Darcy graced us with her very first smile and I knew that the healing of her own heart had begun. God had protected Qian Qian all those months when she was still half a world away from us. He had given her a family to love her those first eight months of her life while she was still beyond our own reach, half a world away. He had answered our prayers far better than we had even dared to hope He would.

Darcy's first smile for us...age 8 1/2 months.

Darcy today..
still smiling!
(age 11)


Memories of Darcy's Adoption
by Darcy's Dad

My heart lept when we first saw Darcy being carried down the hallway toward our room. We had waited for this day a long time. It had all started one evening, sitting in the basement, when Monica and I had decided on a “go ahead” with adoption. We had recently come to the end of a lengthy, expensive and fruitless medical process in our desire to have a child. Why hadn’t God allowed us to have a biological child? The doctors had told us it wasn’t an impossibility. So why hadn’t He allowed it? Because He had someone special waiting for us that we probably wouldn’t have made plans for if we had had a biological child. We had prayed fervently for direction — so, why had God led us into those heartbreaking medical processes in the first place? I’ve since come to the realization that we went through it so that we could know, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that Darcy was truly the child that He wanted to bless us with.

We had begun to see that God wanted us to try the adoption route. I wanted to hold off until we had all the money we needed, but Monica felt led to start right away. Monica convinced me that because of the time involved, we needed to start the ball rolling. I asked her how were we going to get all the money that was needed? She said, “trust me!” and began the paperwork procedures. My parents had told us of some people in their church who had adopted through the Holt International agency in Eugene, Oregon and had been extremely pleased with their service. We called Holt for information and were quite pleased with the fact that they had been in business since the 1950’s — they weren’t just some fly-by-night operation. In fact, they were the group that pioneered international adoption in the U.S.

There was never any doubt that China was where we wanted to adopt our daughter from. The current legal procedures in the U.S. made domestic adoption a risky, drawn-out process, to say the least. Monica had always had a deep abiding interest in China and had had many Chinese friends over the years. Adoption from China had just opened up to the U.S. and was moving quite swiftly in order to give these little girls homes and families. We read over the materials about all the options of various countries, but we came right back to China as the route we felt the Lord was leading us to go. Because we were under the age of 35, we were, according to Chinese policy, required to apply for adoption of a “special needs” child — that is, a child with any of a number of deformities or illnesses. That was fine with us — we knew that God had a special little girl to give us and would take care of that situation. We decided to try to live off my salary and save Monica’s salary for adoption expenses. She worked hard and long hours to save the amount needed. God also blessed us with some special monetary gifts from some special people.

Monica worked hard and furiously to get all the paperwork in motion. We went through a lot of paperwork. A lot. We went through detailed applications, numerous home-studies and even a trip down to the police station to be finger-printed. Monica made sure that all the paperwork went where it needed to be and without any delay. Ever since, we’ve had a special place in our hearts for Federal Express. I remember a drive through the pouring rain into downtown Fort Worth, Texas to get some forms sent off while we were on vacation. We wanted no delay. We went through a lot of preparation. Paperwork, painting, purchasing, getting medical exams, seminars, getting antibiotics to take to China, etc. I remember the trouble we had in getting our hepatitis shots — the Missouri Health Department insisted on the phone to Monica that China wasn’t adopting out babies and that we didn’t need the shots because we would not be going to China. When we finally got an appointment to get the shots in Kansas City, Kansas, the nurse tried to refuse us the shots because we didn’t have the exact date of travel at that time. We went through quite a lot in preparation. But we had a lot of people praying for us.

The hardest part was the waiting. All our papers were completed and sent to China. Now we just had to wait. It seemed like it was taking forever. I’ll never forget the day we got the call about Darcy. It was December 13th, 1995. I was at work when my phone rang and Judy Y., our Gentle Shepherd case worker (and Gentle Shepherd director), was on the other end. Judy said that she had tried to get hold of Monica, but couldn’t reach her at home or the hospital. She told me that there was a little girl named Fu Wei Qian that we could accept or reject. A flood of emotion immediately swept through me. I got shaky. This was our daughter! She really existed! Judy gave me a few particulars — Fu Wei Qian had been born on the 4th of July and was healthy. A picture would arrive in their office the next day when we could give Holt our decision. Of course I had no doubts what our decision was. I immediately called Monica at work. The person that answered the 2-South phone said Monica had been floated to 2-West that day and that she would transfer my call to 2-West. When Monica answered the phone, my voice was shaking when I told her the news. We were both crying with joy! This was great! Monica got off work at 3:15 , turning down 2-West’s request to work another four hours — no way, after the news she’d just heard! She was so excited she couldn't think of anything else! She paced the floor at home from 3:45 to 5:00, dying to call people, but thinking she should wait until I was home to share the moment — little did she know that I had already called a few people from my office. I spent the remainder of my workday calling my parents and the guys in the band and friends at work, then headed home at 4:15 p.m.

We spent the whole evening on the phone relaying the wonderful news. Each time we finished making a call, the phone would ring with someone calling to congratulate us after hearing the news via the grapevine.
The next day, Monica drove the Tempo over to Gentle Shepherd and was there, I think, the second it opened. (Monica's input here: I was actually there half an hour before the office opened...sitting in the hallway next to the locked door!)

She picked up the tiny photograph of a little unhappy baby bundled up in layers upon layers of clothing and looking off to the side of camera-view. Monica brought the picture over to the Kansas City Life office for me to see. This was really her! We called Holt immediately and told them, “YES!” We then went out to the Pizza Hut near K.U. Medical Center for lunch to celebrate. Now the waiting was even harder. We had to wait for the approval from China to travel to their country. Christmas was hard — knowing that our daughter was waiting in unknown circumstances so far away. We decided to postpone our personal celebration of Christmas until Darcy could be with us. So, we left the Christmas tree and all our decorations up until we brought her home. The waiting really began to slow down. Every call that came through made our hearts jump with anticipation. January came and went. This part of the waiting was taking longer than what even Holt had been expecting. Things were beginning to slow down in China for several reasons. The first being the current media trend to “expose the horrors” of the “violation of human rights” in Chinese orphanages. There were television scare-reports hyped on the major networks every week — much of it obviously for television rating purposes only. These media accusations did nothing to help the situation, but just made the Chinese government “lose face” and get bogged down answering these accusations. In addition to that, the Chinese adoption departments began to get clogged down translating the flood of faxes and mail that came in from supportive Americans. And then came the Chinese New Year, where everything in China basically shuts down for the entire month of February.

February came and went. Would we ever be able to get to our daughter ? Would she be safe until we got there? It continually nagged at our minds and hearts. Every day that I called Monica, she hoped that it was our confirmation call, only to be disappointed that it was just me. Every day we hoped that we would get travel approval. I remember when my March birthday came and I thought that it would just be a perfect present to get word of approval. So I called Monica at home late that afternoon to once again ask if she had heard anything yet. She again had to reply in the negative. So I went home to celebrate my birthday with a dinner of Monica’s famous barbecued chicken wings and continue our wait. I hadn’t previously verbalized to Monica the thought I held that it would be the perfect fulfillment of my birthday wish. As I walked in through the front door that evening, Monica greeted me with the question “If you could have anything you wished for on your birthday, what would it be?” Without hesitation I replied “Travel approval!” Monica, about to burst, said “You have it! They just called fifteen minutes ago!” On my trip between work and home, Monica had gotten the call from Holt telling us when we were to travel to China. We needed to be in Hong Kong by Sunday, March 24, 1996. This was the best birthday present I could have ever received.

We didn’t got much sleep Wednesday night, March 20th, 1996. We were to leave for Hong Kong the next morning. We were going to get there a couple of days early because Monica had found out through our travel agent that the cost of a couple more nights in the hotel versus the cost of weekend airline tickets was to our benefit. Besides, Monica was certain it would be easier to wait those days in Hong Kong rather than in Kansas City — it just seemed so much closer! Our bags were packed up tight. The huge suitcase for Darcy had been packed and re-packed at least fourteen times since mid-December — it was all that Monica could busy herself with preparation-wise those three long months. After months and months of waiting and praying, we were anxious to get to China. Because of the television reports we had seen about L.A. airport workers taking knives and slicing into soft-sided luggage to steal things, we were taking heavy, hard-shell suitcases. We had Mom and Dad Cochran’s old brown suitcase and a huge dark-blue suitcase on rollers that they had bought for us at the Hyper-Mart. Monica had her blue duffel bag and I had my black duffel bag — the ones we bought at Sam’s Club a few years earlier. We had a dark-blue backpack diaper bag that we had bought at the Burlington Coat’s baby department in Overland Park. We also had a bag with the important papers that we wanted to keep with us at all times and another bag with all kinds of medicine that we might possibly need for Darcy. And, of course, we had the camera bag full of camera and film. For our passports, traveller’s cheques and money, I had a holder that I would carry around my neck, under my shirt. Monica had a passport carrier that strapped around her waist. We had bought them at a little travel shop at Oak Park Mall, where some moronic teenage employee had asked why we wanted to go to China, what with their attacking us at Pearl Harbor and all! Monica had half of the MasterCard Traveller Cheques in her carrier and I had the other half. To keep track of the numbers if one of our sets got stolen, we had in our respective passport holders a list of the traveller cheque numbers that the other person carried. We had bought other things just for this trip, such as: a battery-powered travel alarm clock, a wrist watch (that I actually wore on my wrist), a luggage roller cart, luggage tags (one with Darcy’s name on it), a portable clothes line with suction cups, and hiking boots in case we had rough, muddy terrain to traverse.

We got up around 4:00 a.m. on Thursday, March 21, 1996. We layered on clothing for the range of temperatures we were to run from Kansas City to Denver to Los Angeles to Hong Kong. Monica was dressed in a shirt, her peach-colored sweatshirt and her blue Land’s End jacket. I was dressed in a gray Kansas City Life t-shirt, green shirt, black sweatshirt, and off-white jacket. Mom and Dad C. took us to the KCI airport. We got there sometime before 6:00 a.m. United flight 1269 was scheduled to take off at 7:05 a.m CST. After we checked in our baggage, and since we were there early, we sat in the row of seats facing the departure gate and took inventory to make sure we had everything we needed. We both wore ball caps — Monica, her green one and me, a KC Royals one — because of the possibility that we would have no clean water in China to wash our hair. We had our jackets loaded up with stuff. Monica had snack items packed in her blue Land’s End jacket and I had a slew of stuff packed in the pockets of my new off-white jacket with the blue and white striped inner lining that I bought at K-Mart. I was to go through this arrangement of packing my jacket many times in the next couple of weeks — granola bars, nutter-butter cookie bars, a big bag of roasted Planters peanuts and a Louis Lamour book in the left inside breast pocket, big bottle of water (that we had frozen the night before to retain it’s coldness) in my left outer pocket and my contact/toiletry case stuffed into my right outer pocket. Our minds were on the adoption so much that we never did get into that bag of peanuts during the trip.

It was soon time to go through the security check. We had the carry-on bags on a luggage roller but it wouldn’t fit through the x-ray as a whole, so I had to take all the stuff apart to put through one piece at a time. Things were crowded at the end of the conveyor belt and as I was trying to get room to maneuver the bags back onto the luggage roller, Mom and Dad Bond showed up. They were late because Shanachie, who they were keeping in our absence, had made a mess of their back porch area. Good-byes were made through the glass and we got on our extremely crowded flight, which was a Boeing 757. I had not yet figured out the best way to lug around all our carry-on bags and was having trouble getting all our items through the crowded aisles, without bumping people, and getting the carry-on into the overhead. I think that we had breakfast on that flight. We hadn’t gotten earphone plug cords from the flight attendants because we didn’t know what they were when they handed them out, so we couldn’t hear the Seinfeld episode that was on the screen at front.

We arrived in Denver Airport at around 7:51 a.m. MST. We quickly headed through on the terminal conveyor belt to our next gate. In between conveyors we made a quick stop at the restrooms. We didn’t have to wait long at the gate before boarding United Flight 193 which was a DC-10. I was able to handle the baggage stowing a little bit better this time, but the flight attendant came by before take-off and had me switch our overhead to another compartment. There was some kind of oxygen kit was in that particular overhead and, even though there was no sign to indicate such, it needed to remain clear. I remember asking a late boarder who was stowing a guitar, what kind of guitar he carried. He said, “A Martin”, whereupon I asked, “D-28?”. He said, “Of course. What other kind is there?” Another breakfast flight — rather good, if I remember. We got headset cords this time and watched a Seinfeld episode and the “behind the scenes” Seinfeld special that we couldn’t hear on the previous flight.

We landed in the L.A. Airport at 9:51 a.m. PST. There was construction going on at this arrival area, so we were shuttled across to another gate where we walked up some stairs through tool-boxes and newly set-up drywall and out through a boarding gate. We went through in search of our next gate, only to find that we had just walked through where our gate was. Monica and I took turns watching the carry-on bags while we went to the restrooms to change our contacts to glasses. We wanted to do that while on the ground, in preparation for our longest of flights. I went first. Then Monica. Then Monica went to change some of our U.S. dollars into Hong Kong dollars. I sat on the floor against a pillar while she did that. I took notice of the scenes around me and noticed a loud group of people who were from Africa and were in the midst of travelling around the world. When Monica came back, we went into the waiting area for our flight. We sat in chairs against the wall closest to our boarding entrance and looked at a mostly Asian crowd of passengers. We were amused by some college-aged boys that had apparently been to Disneyland, judging from their Cat-in-the-Hat-type hats. I unpacked my thawing water bottle at that time because it was cold and wet in my jacket. I must have accidentally left it there because it was missing on the next flight.

We finally boarded for our longest flight which was to take-off at 11:45 a.m. It was a big plane — a Boeing 747, United Flight #1. It wasn’t very crowded at all. As we boarded down the aisle, our seats were on the right, about two-thirds down the plane. We had the three seats in our row all to ourselves. Monica sat by the window and I sat by the aisle. The flight attendants told us that we could move to other seats if we wanted to, but we were quite happy with the seats we had. Directly across the aisle was the walled-in area where the stewardesses prepared things. Our area had a TV set attached on the ceiling, to the right, instead of a pull-down screen. The seats in front and in back of us were occupied by some of the African group that I had noticed in the L.A. Airport. From snatches of conversation, I gathered that they were on their way to New Delhi, India and then on to Africa. Flight attendants came by and gave everyone booties and headsets. There were already blankets and pillows at our seats. The headsets were to be plugged into a hole in the armrest for listening to the programs on the screen or to any of several music list channels. The program choices were listed in the in-flight magazine. One channel was even supposed to carry the pilot conversations, but I never heard anything on that particular selection. My headsets didn’t work, so I asked our steward, who had a British accent, for a new set. He said he would get one, but apparently forgot. So after a long period of time, I eventually went back to some other flight attendants and got a new set. The new set only worked on one side so I again got a new set. Third time’s a charm.

We were served lunch on this flight. The pilot came on the p.a. system and told us that the flight was to be a little shorter than the original 15 and 1/2 hours scheduled and that we wouldn’t be flying straight across the ocean. The flight travelled in a route that circled north along the coastlines of Canada and Alaska and south along Russia and China. Five hours into the flight, as people had pulled down their window shades and were trying to sleep, I remember walking down the aisles for a stretch and thinking that the flight would never end. There was room for the people who had claimed four center section seats each, to lay down across their seats. We were a little more cramped, but fairly comfortable. The movies were quite dumb. The first was “Fair Game” and the second was “Get Shorty”. I slept through “The Making of an American Quilt”. Monica wasn’t able to get any sleep. We snacked on Granola bars and Nutter Butter bars. They served snacks and meals and drinks quite often during the flight. They even served a Chinese meal when we got over Chinese air space and later a Chinese tea. The flight was in bright daylight the whole time and most people tried to block it out by pulling the shades and trying to nap. It was such a long flight. It seemed to take forever.

We finally neared Hong Kong and, as the plane descended into what was Friday evening, the daylight quickly turned into dusk. It was quite foggy, but we could see the lights of Hong Kong and lit-up billboards on the sides of buildings. We touched down and descended the steps to board an airport bus (no seats) that took us to the terminal. We went inside, up some stairs and to the right and got in one of the lines for foreigners that were entering Hong Kong. As we waited in line, we picked up a couple of tourist pamphlets that were in some racks on nearby pillars. We had to show our passports to a serious-faced young man in a red stall and hand him our destination forms that we had filled out on the plane. We exited to the right and found the luggage conveyor where our luggage was to arrive, picked it up and proceeded straight ahead to customs. We weren’t sure what to do at the customs station, but the officers just waved us on through the big red doors, anyway. We then followed the signs pointing to the left, which led us through and outside the terminal to where the taxis picked up the passengers. We waited in a long, sheltered line that led around metal bar railings, sort of like an entry line for a ride at a theme park. When our turn came up to get into one of the red taxis, we put the luggage in the trunk, sat ourselves in the back seat and the driver took off. He didn’t understand English or where our destination was. He got on his communications radio and kept saying “Baa-baa-lee, baa-baa-lee” over and over into it. We weren’t sure what he was trying to communicate, but he eventually handed the radio receiver back to Monica for her to read the address to the dispatcher. Monica showed me the paper that had our hotel address and itinerary — it was actually wet and limp from the amazingly high humidity. The sights of the well-lit Hong Kong at night was amazing to see as we drove along. There were brightly-lit and brightly-colored neon signs of Chinese symbols lining the streets everywhere. Miraculously, we got to our destination. The dispatcher must have understood enough to relay to the driver where we wanted to go. He pulled off to the left side of the road (they drive on the left, being a British colony at that time) at the back side of the YMCA International House at 23 Waterloo Road, in Kowloon. We got our luggage out, paid and tipped the driver and crossed the street.

It looked kind of dark and shabby on this particular side of the hotel and I think that there was a little bit of construction going on at this side of the building. We walked left down the sidewalk under some bamboo scaffolding and into the side entrance. We went up a few steps and through a couple of doors to get to the lobby area. By the time we got to the black-marbled front desk, we were dripping with sweat — it was so humid in Hong Kong, and I’m sure we looked odd wearing our jackets that were well padded with travelling items. I could hardly see through my glasses, they were so fogged. We checked in and, as previously instructed by Holt, called and left a message on the Holt office answering machine, saying that we had arrived in Hong Kong. We were given our Holt packet at the front desk and we went toward the elevator area back over to the right. We left our luggage at the front to be brought up on a cart by a luggage porter. There was an attendant in front of the elevators who pushed the button for the doors to open. When the doors opened, there was a tiny little elevator operator standing by the floor buttons to take us up to our room. I seem to remember our room key as a white plastic credit card shape attached to a long green plastic rectangle with the room number on it. To enter the room you would insert the plastic card into the slot at the top of the knob and turn the handle. Inside the door you would insert the green part of the key into the power switch to make the power active. It was a fairly nice room with two very small beds and a nice big wood-paneled closet. The room opened out to the left, past the bathroom. There was a safe in the closet and a silver pitcher of water on the desk area, to the left of the television. Looking out the window we could see lots of high-rise buildings and the lights of activity on the street below. In the daylight we could see that there were business and apartment buildings across the way and a steep-hilled park with stairs going up to the top of the hill. There was also a fire station directly across the street. We had checked at the front desk and found that nobody else from our group list had arrived yet. We left a message at the front desk for Rita P., who was supposed to be the first of our group to arrive. The week before we had left, Monica had called everybody on our list in order to introduce ourselves and to find out when they would be in Hong Kong. The M's, from North Carolina, were supposed to be staying at the much fancier Hong Kong Marriot. The G's, from Ohio, weren’t due yet and we didn’t even know the S. group existed. We tried to get some sleep, but the excitement and anticipation made it a fairly restless night.

Saturday morning, March 23, we went down the mirror-interiored elevators to the ground floor. We walked toward the front desk and took a right through the lounge area to the far end, where we got on the escalator up to the hotel’s I-House Restaurant. We had a nice breakfast buffet with both American and Asian breakfast items and had the tab put on our room bill by showing our brown room guest card which had a line-drawing of the hotel on the front. We then headed back down the escalator and, as we reached the bottom, there were three American-looking people going up. Monica, quickly thinking that these three people fit the description of the M family asked them if they were a Holt adoptive family. They responded in the affirmative, so we went back up the escalator to introduce ourselves and decide on where to meet later that day, after they had a chance to get some breakfast. The M's had decided to stay at the YMCA International House, after all. Monica and I then went to the front desk to check on the status of the other families. None of the others were in, yet.

Monica wanted to go check out the sights, so after dropping our key off in the black front desk drop-box, we headed out the main doors and turned left, then right at the corner and up the sidewalks. It was a beautiful day. We took a wide circular path around several blocks to just get the feel of the area. Both the street traffic and the pedestrian traffic were always heavy. The sights and sounds of Kowloon were amazing. There were high-rise residential apartments everywhere, with laundry on the line outside of most every window. We had gotten directions at the front desk on where we could find a bank and we soon found it in a corner building. We went inside the door and saw some business counters in a tiled room. But for some reason, I don’t remember what, we figured out that we were supposed to go up some narrow stair cases at the back, to another banking business area. It had dark blue carpeting and a winding narrow line of people going up to the windowed counters. The clerk understood English and we were able to exchange some travellers cheques for Hong Kong dollars. We exited the bank and continued on our journey looking in shop windows and alley-ways.

Most of the stores weren’t open yet, but one big 4-floored store, Chung Kiu, with fancy stone globes in the display window, was open, so we looked around in there. The first floor had the expensive stuff — huge intricate jade sculptures, pottery and jewelry. The second floor had clothes items where we eventually bought the kimonos that a friend of ours, Bonnie P, had requested. We also later bought a blue Mandarin suit for Darcy there. The third floor had various and sundry souvenir items, from toys to artwork. That floor also had an art gallery, a Chinese medicine counter, and a luggage area where we later bought another needed piece of luggage. The fourth floor had small electronic items such as electric razors and rice cookers. We continued back to the hotel. I saw a couple of homeless people sleeping in the alleys and we walked through some streets that were lined with some fairly dingy-looking shops.

On our return, we met up with Rita P and her best friend, Sharon. Rita’s husband had stayed home in Omaha with their son, Daniel, whom they had adopted from Korea. We got together with Rita P and Sharon and the M's (Tracy, Amy and Sarah) for lunch at the hotel restaurant where we had had breakfast. Monica had frog legs. Tracy had a “hamburger” which was loose ground beef that had a fried egg on top. Everybody but Monica and I, asked for forks — Monica and I stuck with the chopsticks. Tracy also had some trouble with his monetary calculations and left a whopping huge tip on the table after that meal. The waiter even had to run after Tracy and point this out to him so he could refigure the amount that he wanted to leave.

After lunch, Monica took a shopping trip with Rita and Sharon while I relaxed in the room. I didn’t really have a desire to go out and explore much, but Monica did. Fervently so! I just wanted to get our daughter and get home. There was a lot of political unrest going on at the time between the U.S. and China and Taiwan and I just wanted to get things done without any touristing. Taiwan was holding elections that very weekend, and China had been holding war maneuvers to threaten Taiwan into not voting for a pro-democracy presidential candidate and platform. They had even gone so far as to fire missiles in the direction of Taiwan, which had resulted in harsh statements from the U.S. government. Thus, things were on kind of a delicate stance and we were even genuinely fearful that we would get here only to be denied entrance into China at the last minute. We at least hoped that we could get into the country — we might not be able to get out, but we would at least get to our daughter. So, my reaction was to want to sit and worry. Monica worried too, but her method was in the desire to look and explore in order to keep her mind off the tense situation. There were also other reasons for our differing desires of going out or staying in. Monica had a strong sense of never getting the chance to experience these things again and making the most of it, and I have always had the strong desire not to draw attention to myself – which an American couldn’t help but do in this part of the world. I also had a deep sense of not letting Monica go out exploring on her own. I felt fine while Monica was out shopping with a couple of others in our group, but I wasn’t going to lose my wife by letting her run around on her own and getting lost or hurt or kidnapped. Seeing the movie “Frantic” just the week before we left, where Harrison Ford loses his wife in a foreign country, didn’t do anything to relieve my fears.

When Monica got back from her shopping excursion, she showed me a couple of souvenir gifts she had found for our niece Brianna. We decided to go back to Chung Kiu and finish up with our gift purchases — we didn’t really know if we would have the time to buy gifts after we had Darcy. We went back to the store and ascended the levels, keeping track of items that would be possible gifts. Just about everything on the first level was beyond our range of affordability, but there were a couple of small possibilities. The most interesting part of that floor were the huge jade carvings of ships and ancient palaces and dragons and things that were displayed in a squared area in the central portion of the floor. The second floor had the cloth items. Over on the far left, as we came off the stairs, were stacks of embroidered Satin pieces. We bought a couple of pillow covers there. Off to the far right were the rows of silk kimonos and silk Mandarin suits and silk pajamas. Bonnie P had asked us to pick up a woman’s kimono and a child’s-size kimono and she would pay us back later. We found some items to fit Bonnie’s order and we also saw some infant-sized Mandarin suits and thought that we should get one for Darcy. We picked out a pretty bluish one. When we chose our item, a sales clerk would get another one of the exact size and design that was already folded and in plastic wrap. The clerk would then write up a sales slip to be taken to the register, where our items would be wrapped and sacked. In a circular right of the kimono area counter, we saw some neat embroidery pieces that were framed and enclosed in glass. We bought a couple of those as gifts and went up to the next floor. This floor had a lot of affordable items that we decided would make good gifts for family and friends. In the center area, there were shelves with Chinese screens and small native trinkets, such as fake jade (green glass) figures and Christmas tree ornaments. Further left in the room, there were various artworks and paper cut-outs. We saw several different Mah-Jong sets and, since Monica had long wanted a set, I tried to convince her to buy one. But Monica’s desire had recently waned after being told by her friend FenHua F, that the game was mostly used by people in a gambling situation. The far left wall was lined by a glass display counter that held Chinese medicinal items, such as herbs, roots, deer antlers, cow ears and other animal anatomies. From the far left corner of the room, stretching toward the right, the displays held mostly art supplies and art prints. Once you went past the purchasing counter, an extension of the room went off to the right . Down at the far end of the extension was a small art gallery — but we didn’t get down that far. Near the front of the room extension, on the right, was an area displaying lots of luggage. Monica had figured that we needed another small piece and, after looking around a while, picked a small, green, soft-sided, many pocketed case. The salespeople always seemed to hover nearby and when we would decide on a certain item, would take it to the counter to wait on our purchase. The little, older salesman in the luggage area seemed to dislike us touching the luggage and would go over to any of the pieces that we had picked up to look at, and re-set the piece in another area that, I guess, was better to his liking. We bought most of our gift items on this floor. We then checked out the next floor, but didn’t find anything that we needed there, so we descended the stairs to return to the hotel with our purchases.

That night we left a note of welcome for Bob and “Rondi” (our Holt information had listed Randi as “Rondi”) G. They were supposed to arrive late Saturday night. The G's said later that the note made them not feel so alone when they arrived. The soft drinks in the hotel room refrigerator were kind of expensive, so we decided to make a quick run to the “Friendship Store” that we had heard about and get some snacks. It was a little basement-level grocery store across the street. We dropped the key off in the lobby and turned left to the corner of the hotel. We then crossed straight ahead, across the street to the store. There was a light-blue tiled stairwell with a skinny little downward escalator, paralleled on both sides with stairs. We took the stairs down and turned right toward the refrigerated items area. It was a small store with white shelves crowded in close together. It looked sort of like an old-fashioned mom-and-pop grocery store in the U.S. We looked at what there was to drink and decided to be adventurous. Monica picked some kind of “Alkaline” soft drink in a blue and white can, and myself, some kind of yellowish-green “Aloe” drink in a little clear plastic bottle. We looked around at the items on the shelves for a little while and then went to the tiny little check-out to pay for our items. We paid with a coin, got some change back and headed back to the hotel.
On Sunday morning, March 24, we went downstairs to meet Sharon to go to the Truth Lutheran Church across the street behind the hotel. Rita and the M's were going to go to a Catholic church they had been told about. We crossed the street, entered the Lutheran church and went up some stairs on the right side of the foyer, to the sanctuary level. It was a large sanctuary with a large, multi-colored glass window behind the pulpit. We were given some headsets by a woman sitting at a table in the back of the sanctuary, so we could hear the message translated into English. We sat toward the back, on the left side of the dark-brown pews. The message was given by a woman speaking in Cantonese. A younger woman stood to her right at the podium and translated into Mandarin. Thus, the message was going on in at least three different languages. There was another identifiably Caucasian-looking woman sitting a few rows ahead and to the right of us. We spoke with her a little bit after the service was over.

Later that day, we all (minus Bob and Randi, who basically wanted to stay inside their hotel rooms the whole trip!) met in the lobby area with the stuffed chairs to decide on some sight-seeing plans. There was a small tourist information counter behind the chairs that had some pamphlets and a display of post cards. The decision was to go to Hong Kong Island and take the tram up to the top of Victoria’s Peak. With a little bit of instruction from the girl at the tourist desk, we headed out the front door, turned left then right down the sidewalks, then left across the street to the subway entrance. We went down the stairs and past the numerous lit-up advertisement posters until we got to the level where you would purchase your tickets. We found the subway ticket machines and subway route display maps and figured out what to do and where to go. To get through the turnstiles, you would put your plastic subway ticket into a slot and the ticket would immediately pop up through another slot, allowing you to pass through the turnstile. You would hold on to the ticket, which would also be used to go through the exit turnstiles. We went down more stairs to the train level. We then waited at the loading platform for a train. When a train pulled up, you were to crowd on and grab something to hold on to. There was very limited seating.

We took the subway train to the Hong Kong Island terminal and went up the stairs to get two taxis. We showed the drivers the slips of paper with our destination written on it. Our taxi drivers drove through steep, curvy roadways and dropped us off among some large office buildings where there was a line of people stretched around two corners. Our driver said that we were crazy to wait in such a line. We got in the line and it moved fairly quickly, considering. The line passed an ice cream/snack stand and went down and around two corners to the right. While the line drew toward the incline of the tram starting point, we tried to figure out amongst ourselves what the price was to ride the tram. We couldn’t really figure it out by any nearby signs but paid some money and got through and on the tram without any trouble. It traveled upward very steeply and we got some great views of the island, the office-buildings, and some residences. When we got to the top, we exited onto a little platform on the left, and went up a few steps. A walkway led off to the left and we went that direction to get a good view. There were all kinds of sidewalk vendors selling their wares on the right side of the pathway. They were selling t-shirts, artwork, toys, etc. Monica found a good price on a large carved wooden box of chopsticks and Rita bought a little mechanized soldier (it would later cause much grief and delay upon our final departure from Hong Kong) that would crawl along the ground. Farther down the path, there were a couple of small platforms on the left side. The platform views were spectacular. You could see over the tops of the huge buildings and out across the bay. You could see all the ships and boats out on the waterway. You could look north across to the buildings of Kowloon.

We came back along the walkway and saw that there was a large building to the left with several shops. Quite a few shops, in fact — it turned out to be a small shopping mall. The first big shop had a lot of souvenir items and candy and drinks and t-shirts. I think that we got a bottled water to drink, because we were pretty well parched. We went on up the escalators and through the rest of the mall looking for some restrooms. We looked around the stores quite a bit and agreed to meet outside around the fountains after a while. While we were looking around, we saw a policeman with a machine gun rush by. Monica found another large set of chopsticks in one of the stores and found that she hadn’t got such a bargaining deal with the vendor outside, as she had thought. We looked at some other Mah Jong sets in the same store then went outside to wait on the others. While the M's were getting some gourmet ice cream from a little ice cream shop, Monica and I enjoyed sitting outside on a concrete ledge looking out west toward a more desolate part of the bay. We also saw a police wagon, a roadblock and a lot of policemen with machine guns and wondered what was going on.

When everybody was ready, we headed inside to the elevators which were beside the escalators. The elevators took us down to a level where there was a taxi stand. We walked past a bus and crossed over some lanes to wait for the taxis. We shared a taxi with the M’s. The taxi took us down the steep curvy roads to the Star Ferry area. Around this area we saw huge crowds of teenage girls sitting around in groups on the concrete. We wondered what the deal was and figured there was some kind of meeting or concert that they were waiting to get into. We were to find out later from Yolanda (one of the Holt employees), that these were girls from the Philippines who worked in Hong Kong as domestic help. They would get together to socialize down by the Star Ferry on Sundays, which was their one day off during the week. We exited the taxi and waited around for Rita and Sharon’s taxi to come in behind us. We didn’t see them, so we walked toward the ferry entrance, hoping that they were already there. We finally found them and we all went to get our tickets. We had to use exact change to get tickets and we then headed toward the entrance. We got in the line that was crowding through an entry-way that was lined with large billboards. We noticed signs warning of pickpockets. We made our way onto the ferry and headed toward the front. It was a pleasant, refreshing trip across as we watched the other boats in the bay and took pictures as dusk was falling. Monica and I noticed the huge Motorola sign on a building near where the ferry docked on the Kowloon side. We felt that we needed to take a picture of it for our brother-in-law, Eric, a Motorola employee in Texas.

We all left the ferry and went in search of someplace to eat. The M's were desperately craving American food, so we headed for the Hong Kong Planet Hollywood. It was just a couple of blocks away, down Salisbury Road, past the big 7-Eleven and left around a corner. We went up the stairwell which was painted a dark green and walked past some displays of movie-star clothes and went inside to wait for a table. We were soon seated upstairs. The prices were astronomical, but we were hungry. Monica had some sort of small pizza and I had a chicken sandwich. The music videos that were playing on the numerous television screens were blaring so loudly that we asked our waitress for the music to be turned down a little bit. Our Chinese waitress had a heavy British accent to her English. We remember that Sarah ordered a small bottle of mineral water, which was ridiculously high-priced ($8 American) and as she wasn’t feeling good, she didn’t finish it. After we were done, we shared a taxi with the M's to get back to the hotel. Rita and Sharon were going to walk back and shop along the way. It was hard to sleep when we got back. Tomorrow would be one day closer to the day that we would have our daughter in our arms.

We didn’t have breakfast on Monday morning, March 25th. We thought the Holt schedule had mentioned a breakfast orientation, so we thought that we were going to get fed. Monica and I went down to the lobby area and followed the signs to the Holt meeting. The signs led us on past everything that looked hotelish and up some stairs and past some vending machines to this place where there were a bunch of school rooms with green doors. There were some uniformed schoolgirls going through the hallways. We found our room on the right side of the hall and sat down on the window side. I believe that the G's were already there, so we knew that this was the right room. Rita and Sharon arrived soon after us. A couple of guys, one wearing a green army-fatigue jacket, came in. We were to find out that they were also in our group 24B to enter China, but had been added at the last minute. That’s why they weren’t included on our preliminary lists. They were adoptive father Jon S. from Seattle and his friend, Steve C. Jon’s wife had stayed at home with their young daughter. Fairly soon, an Asian man (wearing a light-colored sports jacket, plaid flannel shirt and tennis shoes) and a woman (also in a light-colored jacket) came into the room and introduced themselves as Jonas and Yolanda. They were our Hong Kong Holt agents. The M's arrived late, saying that Amy was having trouble finding some paper, or something, that they needed to bring. Jonas went over our itinerary for getting ready to enter mainland China. Jonas was very nice and answered our questions and led us through some paperwork. He also made a point of not telling us where the Holt office was, as they had recently been hounded at their office by a recent adoptive family. I remember Jonas telling us to guard our passports with our lives because a stolen passport could bring up to $35,000 U.S. dollars on the black market. Jonas was a Hong Kong native and had never traveled to the U.S. but he was a big fan of Western culture. He told us how he had even named his son, “Indiana Jones”. Yolanda was from the Philippines and had some schooling in the U.S.

When we were done with the orientation, Jonas led us back through and out the hotel and down several blocks to the subway. He intended to show us how to get onto the subways, but that was, by now, old hat to us. We took the subway to the Chinese Embassy building, where we were to fill out forms and be interviewed in order to get our visas to travel into China. It was in a small room that was up the stairs from a tattoo place. The blue-gray carpeted room had several rows of chairs where people would take a number and wait until they were called up to the counter. At the counter, we would take a seat and answer some questions. Yolanda and Jonas were there to help out on our answers. We answered our interview questions and left our passports with the interviewer. Jonas then went over explicit instructions on what time we were to come back and pick up our visas. There was only a small window of time that we could do that and still make our schedule into China, so he stressed that this was very important! He then took us down a couple of blocks and across some streets to a place where we could exchange traveler’s cheques for some Chinese money. It was a little, windowed booth-like place alongside the street. Monica and I had misunderstood Jonas when he told us what amount to exchange. We thought he was giving an amount per couple when he was actually giving us a per person amount. This later led to us sweating the amount of money that we had and needed at certain places before we got to Nanchang. We then took the subway back to our hotel area and talked over lunch plans. The G's, Jon, Steve, Rita and Sharon wanted Western food and headed for a Wendy’s around and down the block. Monica and I wanted to follow Jonas and Yolanda to some authentic Chinese food, so they took us to one of Jonas’ favorite frequented diners. The M's followed along also. I think that I had some kind of noodle dish. Monica had a reddish Russian borsch in a huge bowl. It was fun and interesting sitting and talking with Jonas and Yolanda. When we were done with lunch, we spent the rest of the day either relaxing or shopping, I don’t remember which. We also went to a small Christian book store that was directly across the street in front of the hotel. We looked around there and bought a couple of Chinese kid’s books for Darcy and a small plaque for Uncle Frank and Aunt Helen.

Later in the day, our group gathered up to head back toward the visa building. We went fairly early so we wouldn’t dare miss getting our visas on time. We had to wait in the room quite a while and we spent most of that time sitting talking to the G's. When the visas were ready, there was a crowding around the counters for the appropriate forms and for regaining our appropriate passports. That major hurdle crossed, we all exited the building. Monica had lovingly agreed to do whatever I wanted to do that evening — go out and explore or go back to the hotel, whatever I wanted. We and the G's headed back to the hotel. Rita and Sharon and the M's went shopping. John and Steve went who-knows-where.

It being Rita’s birthday, we stopped at a small bakery in the subway area and bought a white cake with white icing that had some melon balls and other fruit pieces on top. It was now rush hour and we had a little bit of trouble getting on the subway train to get back to the hotel. We finally were able to crowd into one of the cars and, in order to take up less room and also save the cake from getting squashed, Monica held the cake on top of her head. She soon realized that it was so crowded that not only could she not move the cake from atop her head, but she also could not even move her free arm from it’s awkward upward bend (hand towards throat) to hang in a more comfortable position at her side. Randi was comfortably leaning back on a cushion, only to realize soon afterward that it was a little old woman who just stood there, uncomplaining. We got back to the hotel and left a message under Rita’s door to let us know when she got back. We all lounged around until Rita returned. We then brought the cake over to her room and found that Sharon and the M's had also bought her a cake – a small coconut cake. We all sat around eating cake out of our hotel glasses and talking. Rita made a comment about how this was the best birthday that she’d ever had.

Tuesday morning, March 26th, we were all to take care of our hotel bills and meet in front of the lobby desk with our baggage. We all compared our amounts of luggage and waited on Jonas. Jonas arrived with a small bus for us and a cargo truck for our luggage. The original plan had been for us to fly directly to Nanchang. But there happened to be some big business trade show that took up all of those flights. So our mode of transportation was to be a train to Guangzhou and from there, a plane to Nanchang. We loaded up our luggage in front of the main doors to load into the truck, then walked around the corners of the hotel to our bus. It was waiting for us next to where the hotel construction was. The traffic was amazing, with trucks and taxis abruptly cutting across lanes to their destinations. We arrived at the train station, unloaded our luggage, crossed the street and Jonas saw us to the turnstiles.
We said good-bye to Jonas, then showed our visas and our passports and our tickets to a woman in a dark-blue booth. We walked through and immediately no one knew where to go next. We stumbled around for a little while and then a female train employee, who knew English, told us where we needed to go. We all headed down a narrow escalator with our tons of baggage and boarded a train. By now, my back had gone out and there was precious little room for our huge bags. But we managed to get them on the train, with the bigger suitcases pushed over into a corner of the entry section. The regular train travelers carried little more than briefcases. The train seemed to be of an ancient vintage and we all sat on very worn cloth seats. Monica and I sat across from the G's. My back was killing me. There were tiny televisions hanging from the ceiling at either end of the car and I believe someone said that it was running “Kindergarten Cop” in Chinese. But I don’t know for certain — we were facing the wrong direction for the nearest set and the TV on the other end of the car was too small to see — and the Chinese-dubbed dialogue that we could hear, offered no clue, either. The TV programs lasted until we got out of the city.
There were dirty-white lace curtains at the windows of our train car. The view from our window was blocked by condensation in-between the double panes of glass. Some of us talked and some of us slept. Sarah did her homework. It was a rainy day and as we entered mainland China we could see very poor living conditions and rice paddies and mud. We all got up, on occasion, to stretch. The restroom was just a room with a hole in the floor and a sign telling the passengers to use the facility only when the train was in motion. While standing in the entry section, which had an open door, Monica struck up a conversation with a young Chinese man who worked as a musician in Hong Kong. He was going back to visit family in his hometown. He had a harmonica with him and played a tune for her. Monica and I spent quite a bit of time hanging around this open door section, as our window view was obstructed and it hurt my back sitting in the seats. There was some concern among us as to how we would know when we were to get off the train, but after studying a visitor’s guide map and Rita talking to the Chinese businessman sitting next to her, we were able to figure out that Guangzhou was the train’s final destination.

After a couple of hours riding through mostly agricultural regions and small villages, the train came into a more densely populated area. More populated, but still obviously poor living conditions. This was our destination of Guangzhou. When we stopped, we all unloaded from the train, over the gap between train and platform and stepped up into long lines to have our visas and passports checked. We were in Communist China now, and the numerous soldiers standing around with machine guns added to that realization. We all hoped that we were in the correct lines. Once past the booth where we showed our papers to an unsmiling official in a blue uniform, there was a big sign in Chinese and also in small-lettered English telling what items were things that needed to be claimed. We were all waved through the customs area. On the other side of the doorway, there was a small, blonde-haired woman holding up a sign that said “Holt”. She recognized us as Caucasian tourists with lots of baggage and came up to claim us. We were supposed to be met by the Holt representative, Samantha, but this woman’s name was Ruth. She and her Chinese friend, Pamela, led us down some ramps to the parking lot. Some in the group were wanting to use a restroom. The facility in the train had seemed somewhat dangerous and Ruth recommended waiting until we got to the airport.

We had been warned by Jonas to not give anything to any beggars that we might see, but as we walked toward our bus we were approached by a group of children. The sight could break your heart. They were dripping wet in the cold rain and wearing nearly nothing. One little boy had a hideously cleft palate. Monica gave that boy a couple of our coins.

There was a small White Swan Hotel bus waiting to take us to the airport. It was way too small for thirteen people, much less our luggage, too! It was a nightmare getting everything and everyone into the bus. When we finally squeezed in, Ruth explained to us that she had no connection to Holt — she was just a friend of Samantha. Samantha was not able to get away from some business at the embassy. Ruth was a nice young woman (she reminded both Monica and me of our pastor’s daughter, Rachel) but it soon became obvious that she knew absolutely nothing about what we needed to do or where we needed to go. It was a clear case of the blind leading the blind. A feeling of irritation towards Samantha began to rise in me. As we headed toward the airport, Ruth told us that her husband worked in Guangzhou with an airline and that she taught kids at the hotel where they lived. We arrived at the airport’s domestic flight area and as we exited the bus, we were told that we needed to pool together to pay for the bus ride. This was an unexpected expense for us.

We then went inside the terminal, walked up the non-working escalator and immediately looked for some restrooms. Monica told me that the women’s restroom had only one “western” toilet. And she didn’t find that one until after she had used one of the traditional toilets where there was a railing around a small platform with a hole in it. After squatting over the hole, you would flush by pulling the chain above. There was no toilet paper in the stalls, but as she was leaving the restroom, she noticed a single roll hung on the wall near the sinks.

We went back to the table to wait on the lunch that Samantha’s fiancee, Dave, an airline employee who was sitting at a nearby table, had already ordered for us. It was a very good meal with all kinds of food choices on a big round table with a rotating center. I remember Tracy kept dropping things like silverware and food. I think that everybody even tried using chopsticks, to start. The meal finished, Ruth told us what we owed and we all paid up. This was another unexpected expense that Monica and I hadn’t counted on and we hoped that we would have enough Chinese money to make it to Nanchang, where we could exchange for some more.

It was getting closer and closer to departure time and Ruth just kept sitting there at the table unconcerned. Finally, Pamela got her on the move to get us down to baggage check-in. We then headed down the escalator to check our luggage and get our tickets. It was a huge line but we got in it and waited for it to move. It was here where we first saw that people don’t wait in orderly lines in China — they just kind of crowd in, mob-fashion, toward the front. As we waited patiently in line, more and more people began to crowd in between us and the check-in counter. It was then that we began to really thank the Lord for Pamela. I think she began to see that Ruth was standing around wasting precious time and she took the initiative to account for all our luggage and jump through to the front to get our tickets and get everything settled for check-in. That done, we headed toward the flight gate area where we had to wait in line at a booth to pay our airport tax before we could board. I think that took up most of the rest of our Chinese money. Up the escalators to the gate entrances. There we left Ruth and Pamela behind as we headed to the right, toward the metal detectors. It was almost time for our plane to take off. I hurriedly unloaded things from my jacket pockets as each of us had to stand in turn on a box while a uniformed security official ran a hand-held metal detector around us. It was beeping for me and I didn’t understand what the uniformed woman was saying to me and she couldn’t understand English. But I guess she wasn’t too concerned, because after I removed several items from my pocket without relieving the beeping, she indicated for me to step down and move forward, which I did. I refilled my pockets and I walked on through.

Soon, everyone made it through their respective security lines and we all gathered as a group and walked on forward. But nobody could figure out where to go. Every sign for the domestic flight area was in Chinese. We walked on past a glass-enclosed gift shop and turned right looking for any sort of number that we could recognize. As we were desperately trying to find someone to help us, another group of Americans walked past with a young Chinese woman leading them. As we compared notes with these people, we found that they were adoptive parents from another agency, also heading for Nanchang. They were on the same China Southern flight as we were and thankfully had this Chinese girl to take them to the correct flight. We followed along and immediately boarded for take-off. Monica and I sat next to Steve, who told us that his dad used to help build this particular type of airplane in Seattle. The plane was quite small and it rattled as it barreled down the runway for take-off. The flight attendant’s spoken instructions did have an English version, but it was extremely hard to understand. The flight snack was something pale and stringy in little plastic packets. From hand signals and drawings, Randi was able to find out from the man sitting next to her that the snack item was dried squid. The view was cloudy as we neared Nanchang.

An hour after leaving Guangzhou, we landed in Nanchang. As we taxied to a stop, I could see a young woman and her small girl walking through the drizzle on a strip of pavement next to the runway. The plane pulled up close to the terminal and we descended the plane’s stairs onto the tarmac, just like those movies you see set in the 1940’s and ’50’s. It was cold, cloudy and drizzly and as we exited the plane. Two men stood over by the edge of the stairs next to the terminal. The taller of the two, with a bristled haircut and a brownish padded coat, approached us and asked if we were with Holt. We replied in the affirmative and asked if he was Matthew. He said that he was, then introduced his assistant, Mr. Chien, a younger man who was dressed in the black coat with a red “Acme” logo on the back. They then walked us to the luggage area.

Everything had the stereotypical look and feel of a communist country — the huge billboard next to the terminal that had paintings of happy workers and the cold, grimy concrete building where we went to pick up our luggage. As we waited for our luggage in the large, concrete room with the single luggage conveyor belt, Matthew told us that it is not normally allowed for non-flyers to be able to come over to our side of the gate. Mr. Chien was able to finagle them onto the tarmac to greet us. As we were to find out over the next week, Mr. Chien had the connections to manage just about anything for our convenience. We picked up our luggage and exited through gates and past armed soldiers to our awaiting bus. Matthew, Mr. Chien and the bus driver, Mr. Shu, helped us on with our luggage and we headed north off toward the city. Mr. Shu and Mr. Chien spoke no English. The airport seemed to be in a more rural area that was about 45 minutes south of our destination of Nanchang.
As the little bus took off toward the city, we could see small, simple concrete dwellings and occasionally vehicles or people on bicycles. The skies were dark and drizzly and it seemed like we were in an eternal dusk. Matthew welcomed us and introduced Mr. Chien, who we could call “Mr. Money”, and our bus driver, Mr. Shu (a few days later, Catherine, our young Chinese tour guide, would laughingly remark that if Mr. Chien was “Mr. Money”, then Mr. Shu was “Mr. Comfortable”). We were expecting by the itinerary, that we would be receiving the babies on Wednesday, the day after we got to Nanchang. But as Matthew started to get us up-to-date, he informed us that our babies were also at that very moment traveling to the hotel. We would probably have our children within an hour of arriving at the hotel! That was such exciting and emotional news!

And then Matthew hit us with another powerful bit of information — each one of our babies had been living in foster care for the last six or seven months. Wow! One of our biggest worries for the longest time had been how our baby might not be getting the care and love and attention that she so desperately needed and that we were not able to give while she was in the orphanage. We had prayed so many times that God would take care of her in the orphanage and possibly send an orphanage worker to give her a little extra special bit of care during that time. And now, Matthew was giving us this word of joy that our babies had been given this special care! I know that this answered Monica’s prayers and my prayers and I’m sure the prayers of every parent in that bus. I also remember Matthew telling us about Linchuan, the village where the babies were from and how it was known as a place where many intelligent people had come from. He also went into how the babies don’t always attach to both parents right away, so be prepared! He told us that we should write down questions now that we would want to ask the foster mothers. In all the emotion and excitement, we might forget the questions that we would really want to ask. Matthew then told us about how he had worked with several orphanages before hiring on with Holt. He would ride his bicycle to get to the different orphanages and to check on babies living in foster care.

There were so many new sights to see as we got closer and closer to Nanchang. Jiangxi is known as a very poor province and Nanchang has been referred to as “the poor person’s Beijing.” The dismal, dirty-looking dwellings increased and traffic became heavier. The rain continued and we could look out the bus windows and watch the rain-coated bicycle riders on their way through traffic. As we got into the more urban part of Nanchang, Matthew pointed out the huge August Uprising Memorial on the right side of the road. It was built to honor the start of the Chinese Communist Revolution, which had begun here in Nanchang. Most of the large buildings had their business names in large Chinese symbols, usually either in red or in gold. As we got further into the inner-city, we made a right turn onto a smaller street where there were fewer cars but more bicycles. The sights of the shops and residences that lined the streets were so interesting.

Soon thereafter, we pulled left, in through a gate and up to the Qing Shan Hu Hotel. We unloaded our luggage under a covered entry-way for the bellhops to load onto carts and take to our rooms. We then entered a large lobby with the reception counter at the opposite end from the doorway. To the left of the counter was the entry-way of the “Western” restaurant — with the end of the bar on the left side and a refrigerated dessert display on the right. Even farther left of the counter was an entry-way to the restrooms and telephones and, I believe, some kind of hair salon. Most of the right side of the lobby abutted the bar/lounge area. Immediately to the right of the reception counter was the entry-way to the elevators and the Chinese restaurant.

We checked in, got our room keys, boarded the elevators and went up to our rooms on the 11th floor — ours was room 1120, on the right. We then excitedly prepared for our soon-to-arrive babies. We quickly pulled some items for the baby from our suitcases, and Monica prepared some Gerber formula out of a yellow can and laid out the clothes that she was going to put on Darcy. We all kind of hung around the hallway in anticipation of the arrival of the babies. Matthew, trying to avoid having all the families swarm around and scare the arriving babies, told all of us to remain in our rooms and he would be bringing the foster mother and baby to each specific room.

When the foster mothers and babies arrived, they all congregated in Matthew’s room to prepare for the meetings. Matthew soon came out with the first foster mother and baby. The first baby was Nicole G. Then Emily P. The anticipation was huge. People from our group and from the agency we met at the Guangzhou airport were hanging out of their doorways, watching. We were the next room, would Darcy be next? Here came Matthew walking backwards down the hallway being followed by a woman carrying a so very tiny little bundle, in so many clothes. This was Darcy. Her eyes were so big and her cheeks were dark red and looked wind-burned. Her skin was deep brown. She had a pale white splotch across half her nose. Matthew asked us if we recognized this baby as Fu Wei Qian. We had no doubt — this was our daughter whose face we had already memorized from that one early picture. We had worried earlier that we might not recognize her, since we had only seen that one picture, but there was no doubt – this was her!

We invited Matthew, the foster mother and Darcy into our room. The orphanage director filed in soon after. It was about 6:45 p.m. When Darcy’s foster mom first walked into our room, Darcy started to cry, but quieted quickly as the foster mom exclaimed, “Bu tso, Bu tso” (Don’t cry, don’t cry). Monica and I sat on the far bed, Matthew sat on a chair and Darcy and the foster mother sat on the other bed. The foster mother wore a black and white checkered sweater and Darcy’s top clothing layer was beige-colored.

Monica had a letter that Fen Hua had transcribed for her in Chinese asking the orphanage director if we might be allowed to exchange some new clothes for the clothes that Darcy came in. I remember seeing him read the letter and Matthew told us that that arrangement was acceptable to the director. And, as was the custom, we also gave a small gift to the director — a bag of butterscotch candy to take back to the orphanage workers. Darcy’s foster mother, Matthew and the translator stayed with us a brief 4 or 5 minutes.
These were some of the questions that Monica asked Darcy’s foster mother and the answers that were given:
1) What do you call her?
“Qian Qian.”
2) How do you comfort her when she’s frightened?
“Hold her and bounce a bit.”
3) What’s her favorite food?
“She likes rice cereal. She doesn’t like powdered milk. She won’t drink from a bottle. I feed her with a spoon.”
4) Does she have any problems with motion sickness when traveling?
“No. She took a nap on the way to the hotel.”
5) What is her eating schedule?
“Early morning around 6 a.m., 11:00 and 4:00 p.m.”
6) When does she go to bed, normally?
“Between 7 and 9 p.m.”
7) Can she sit or crawl yet?
“She could crawl if she didn’t have so many clothes on.” (note: she could not crawl!)
8) Does she say any words yet?
“No, but she makes a lot of sounds — Da, da, da, etc.”
9) How long has she been with you?
“Seven months.”
10) Do you have any children yourself?
“Two grown daughters. One is 20 and the other is 22.”

The foster mother also said Darcy liked to be held. That certainly wasn’t an understatement! Monica later came to suspect that Darcy was used to being held every single waking moment! After answering a few more questions, the foster mother then said to Darcy, in Chinese, “Here is your papa and your mama,” then she handed Darcy to me, whereupon Darcy began to scream in earnest. This was my daughter in my arms — screaming and arching her back and scared of me, but in my arms! I soon passed Darcy to her mother but Darcy didn’t, as of yet, calm down much.

After a while, Matthew got up and said that it was time to go. It was time for Darcy’s foster mother to leave and one last hug was given to her foster daughter. Monica asked if the foster mother would write down her name for us. Monica handed her the paper Matthew had given us on the bus with our week’s schedule on it and upon which Monica had hurriedly scratched out the questions she wished to ask. After this, the foster mother cheerfully told Darcy good-bye and turned to leave. As everyone was filing out, Monica asked Matthew to ask her if she’d like to hold Darcy one last time. She said yes and as she took Darcy back into her arms we saw for the first time how her heart truly was breaking. She alone stayed another 10 or 15 minutes while Matthew went to “deliver” Catherine to the M's and Mia to Jon.

During that time, Monica and the foster mom together undressed Darcy out of her many layers of clothes. Darcy started wetting the moment the “diaper” cloth was removed, leaving a bit of a puddle on the floor. Darcy was resistant to having a diaper put on. As Monica dressed Darcy in a flannel sleeper, the foster mother seemed distressed. She kept shaking her head and saying “Bu hao kan. Bu hao kan.” Monica understood the phrase to mean “ugly, ugly” but couldn’t fathom why the foster mom would be calling Darcy’s new clothes ugly. Monica was further perplexed when the foster mom, in a vain attempt to communicate, began fingering the short sleeve of Monica’s yellow t-shirt and proclaiming it “ugly” as well. Only after the foster mom had left did it dawn on Monica that she was probably horrified at the skimpiness of the clothing. The foster mom had remained heavily bundled herself, even though the hotel room was quite warm. She was shocked at Monica’s thin, short-sleeved shirt and was truly appalled that the baby was only to be dressed in one layer of flannel. Sure enough, moments after this had finally dawned on Monica, there was a knock on the door. Matthew had returned to diplomatically suggest that since Chinese babies were used to being heavily bundled, they needed warmer clothing than we were accustomed to placing on American babies. Obviously, the foster mom had asked him to explain this to us. We could tell that even though she was grateful Darcy had a new family, she still was worried about her well being. She truly loved her. Monica put Darcy in a red and green plaid flannel outfit (with attached hood) and added an insulated Mickey Mouse thermal suit. The C family (ourselves!) spent a few moments alone together in our room.

One thing that struck Monica the first moment that she and Darcy’s foster mom removed the bulky layers of clothes, was how poorly developed Darcy’s muscles were. We had to support her head like a newborn’s to keep it from flopping around. Her arms hung slackly behind her as though dislocated at the shoulders. This, along with the fact that she was so wind-burned, led us to believe that she probably spent most of her days strapped to her foster mom’s hip as her foster mom worked out in the fields. Darcy would “flap” her arms a bit, but wouldn’t bend them at the elbows or reach for interesting items. She just followed things with her eyes but seemed unaware that she was capable of reaching for things or holding them herself. When Monica would place a light toy in her hand, Darcy demonstrated a weak grasp reflex only. She was 8 1/2 months old, but we don’t think she had “discovered” her hands or feet yet – having always been hidden away beneath thick, bulky layers of clothing. She wasn’t capable of bringing her hands together in front of her and showed no interest in bringing them up to her mouth. She couldn’t sit unassisted or roll over, much less crawl or even support her own weight on her legs. She wobbled like a hula dancer when we tried to “stand” her in our laps. Darcy, like all the babies in our group, licked her clothing or covers to comfort herself whenever she was sleepy — using the underside of her tongue. She would also rub her face on the sheets, but not use her hands.

Matthew had told us to meet down in the restaurant after we had gotten settled. Eventually, everyone headed down that way. It was such a thrilling night. We bundled Darcy up in a white flannel blanket covered with red hearts and went on down to the restaurant. To get to the elevators on our floor we went left out of our room’s door and down to the end of the hallway to three large elevators. There was usually an attendant in the hallway to push the button when she saw you coming down the hall. I noticed that the carpet on the elevator floor had the word “Tuesday” in the center of it’s design. The next day, when I noticed the word “Wednesday” on the floor of another elevator, I remember at first thinking that each different elevator must be identified by a different weekday name, until I realized that all the elevator carpets were changed every day to show the appropriate day of the week. This was very handy to us foreign hotel visitors who could easily lose track of what day of the week it was.

We went down to the first floor and turned right out of the elevator and right at the corner, toward the restaurant. On our left was a tiny little shop that had luggage and shaving cream and such for sale. We stepped down one step as we walked through a little window-lined, shiny cream-color tiled hallway to the restaurant. Outside these glass walls was a little garden and fountain area. This hallway leading to the Chinese restaurant was always cold. Also in the hallway was a stairway leading up to a ballroom or something. We then entered the restaurant that we were to frequent so often in the coming week. To the right of the doorway was the hostess and cashier counter. The restaurant opened out to the left. It was late enough in the evening that there were hardly any other customers at this particular time. Each family came down to the restaurant and sat at a large table over toward the back wall.

The table was set with tea cups and bowls and a rotatable black glass in the center. A pot of tea rested on the rotating glass. Matthew had already ordered some food which was to come shortly. Monica and I ordered Pepsi by pointing to a Chinese Pepsi bottle over on a counter. A rice soup called “Congee” was coming for the babies. There was some sort of thick beige gelatinous substance in a big white bowl that was already on the table, so we decided to give some of that to a hungry Darcy. She ate a ton of it. And quickly. She ate like she hadn’t eaten in days and then she ate like she didn’t think she’d get to eat again. Monica fed her with some chopsticks, to start with, and then switched to a baby spoon that she had brought down. At least Darcy was too busy eating to think about crying. She had been crying a lot but cried less when held by Monica. Every one of the babies spent most of this meal crying and each had to be walked around the restaurant in attempts to calm them down. After we had eaten a little, we decided to go back to our room to try to get Darcy to sleep. It had been a big day — for everybody!
When we got back to the room, we got a telephone call from Fen Hua. She had called to tell us that my parents were worried because they hadn’t gotten a call from us in a while (it had only been two days since we had last called back with a report and we were going to call them that night, anyway!). We told Fen Hua the joyful news of getting Darcy that very evening, then we called my folks to tell them the news. They were to spread the news to the folks back home on a calling list. Matthew had instructed all the families to bathe the babies after supper. Darcy was actually pretty clean — not so with the other babies. But it was still quite a chore because Darcy was terrified of the bath. For sleeping arrangements, we pushed one bed up to the wall so Monica would be on one side of Darcy and the wall on the other. We did this in order to keep Darcy from rolling off the bed.

We all tried going to bed, but Darcy kept crying. Monica took the first shift of cradling Darcy and walking up and down the hallway. Darcy would cry non-stop if laid down or if Monica tried to sit down herself while holding Darcy. However, as long as Monica continued standing, and especially walking as she held Darcy, Darcy was quiet and calm. Whenever Monica looked down at Darcy, Darcy would quickly close her eyes, as though asleep. But, as soon as she felt Monica was no longer looking down at her, those big, dark eyes would open wide and resume their intense staring up into Monica’s face. After Monica had walked for a long time and was quite tired, it was my turn. As I cradled Darcy up and down the hall, it was a little different for me — she would quietly stare at me as I walked but would cry if I looked at her.

After I walked her for a long time, Monica took another shift. Our floor was occupied entirely by adopting families, though not all with our Holt group. This was very adept planning on the hotel’s part, as the hallway was continually occupied by crying babies and pacing parents throughout the nights ahead. There was not much sleep to be had that first night, for sure!

We had quite a time with Darcy’s nutrition the first 24 hours . The first evening, Darcy refused to drink from a bottle, as did most of the other babies. She would only drink from a cup or a spoon. But by Wednesday, Darcy was willing to drink from a bottle — only after Monica found a nipple Darcy liked — a rounded one bummed off Rita rather than the cylindrical ones we had packed — and she was even more willing to drink from it once the hole had been greatly enlarged. She could suck down a bottle in nothing flat. During that first 24 hours, Darcy wolfed down a boatload of formula with disastrous results. She had diarrhea stools four times and threw up huge amounts seven or eight times. She always threw up immediately after drinking the formula that she had guzzled like she couldn’t get enough. She loved the taste of it. Wednesday evening, after talking it over with Amy, Monica finally made the connection that our daughter was lactose intolerant . She cut Darcy off the formula immediately. That evening we mixed her rice cereal with water instead of formula. Monica then fed her with the smaller baby spoon that she’d borrowed from Amy – ours was a bit too big. That night we gave her half-strength Gatorade in her bottle. The diarrhea and vomiting ceased immediately. Later on, we started her on soy formula (traded for from Rita) which she disliked but kept down without problems.

Darcy cried most of the night for the first night. But she quickly bonded with Monica. Monica carried her around all the time in a turquoise-and-purple “snugly” and even, at times, put Darcy down to sleep still wrapped in it’s harness. We figured the harness wrapped around her gave her a feeling of comfort familiar to the many layers of binding clothes that she was used to wearing. We also discovered the 2nd night that she would allow us to lay her down — only if she was propped with a pillow at a 30o angle. Her little back was so swayed that it probably hurt her to actually lay flat. After about one week, she was finally able to lie flat comfortably. Most anyplace we went, there were Chinese women who would gesture for us to cover up our baby in more clothes and blankets — even if Darcy was sweating from the layers that she was already wearing. The Chinese people just weren’t used to warm single layers of clothes.

We had breakfast down in the Chinese restaurant the next morning. There were quite a few people eating there. For breakfast, called “dim sum”, the waitresses would wheel a steam-cart over to the table. The cart held lots of little woven baskets of food stacked on each other. They would remove the lids for the customer to see what was inside and you would then point to which items you wanted on your table. They would then leave that basket. A little pot of green tea was always put on the table and the tea would always have gotten pretty strong by the end of the meal. In addition to the little ceramic bowls and plates, there were tiny little ceramic chopstick-rests to lean your chopsticks on when you weren’t using them. These kept the ends of the chopsticks from getting on the white tablecloth. We tried all kinds of things for breakfast throughout the week. I think that probably our favorite Chinese breakfast dish was a kind of small meatballs. One morning, I pointed to what I thought were some kind of short ribs in sauce, only to find out, as I picked it out of the basket, that it was chicken feet in sauce. I tried to get as much meat off it as I could, but Monica pointed out, after seeing other people eat the same dish, that I wasn’t eating it properly. The proper way was to stick the whole foot in your mouth and kind of suck the meat off until just bone was left. I also remember some kind of stuff wrapped in large leaves — inside was a mass of real sticky rice that had, depending on which of the two in the basket you picked, some kind of meat inside or some kind of sweet sticky black stuff inside. It was real different tasting and Matthew told us some kind of legend behind this dish, about a young maiden who drowned – but I’ve since forgotten the story. The waitresses were usually very kind, but there was most always a difficulty in communicating to them what we wanted to order. Sometimes, when we pointed to an item on the menu, they brought us the item that was under our finger instead of what item our finger was under. There were several times that the waitress would have to ask the head waitress, who was dressed in a dark blue jacket and understood a little bit more English, to come and figure out what we were trying to say. The bill for the meal was always added to our tab that was to be paid when we checked out of the hotel.

We usually ate by ourselves in the Chinese restaurant. The other families usually preferred to eat at the “Western” side. Matthew hardly ever ate with us. I remember eating at the Chinese side with Jon and Steve and Mia for a couple of meals – they were the only other adventurous eaters in the group. We also noticed that, unlike Chinese restaurants in the U.S., rice was not served with the meal unless it was ordered. And even then, we had trouble getting the rice with our meal instead of after the meal.

We ate at the “Western” restaurant several times when the Chinese side was closed to us because of a reception or a meeting being held there. Or when we wanted to eat with the other families or when we just wanted a change in food variety. There were several days when Darcy would cry if Monica sat down without holding her at meal-times, so Monica had to stand as she ate. That was quite a feat – holding a baby, and bringing food to her mouth with chopsticks while standing (much increasing the distance from her plate to her mouth!). On top of that, even though we fed Darcy a bottle of formula and a whole bowl of rice cereal in our hotel room immediately before coming down to the restaurant, Darcy would still act starved the moment our food arrived and cry frantically between bites, as Monica shoveled food into Darcy’s mouth — never quite fast enough to suit Darcy. Monica was lucky to get one mouthful herself to every 3 or 4 she gave Darcy. The first night, Monica didn’t get hardly a single bite of supper. Monica lost 5 pounds the first 10 days we had Darcy! Actually, so did I!

The Western restaurant was on past the other side of the hotel check-in counter. It was smaller than the Chinese side, yet better lit with more windows. They usually had a food buffet with some uniquely-tasting things on it. The main entrees were toward the front of the buffet table and the dessert items and the soup were on the far end. I remember one dessert item that I liked real well — a kind of small yellow cake with a cherry on top. Nothing ever really tasted familiar as “Western”, though. We did eat breakfast there one morning. I had ordered bacon and received some sort of fried Spam. Monica had, after many attempts at communication, ordered a glass of milk. When the milk arrived, it was hot and steaming and tasted like it had been severely sugared. When we were able to get across that we wanted some cold milk for the baby, they brought out a cold can of coconut milk. It was really too strong and sweet for Darcy but I tried it and really liked it.

I’m not being biased when I say that of all the babies in our group, Darcy was the one that received the most attention from the Chinese people — especially the waitresses. I remember one instance in the “Western” restaurant where one of the waitresses came over to the table where several of us were sitting and came up to Darcy and began to play up to her. Two other waitresses came up and tried to do the same. The first waitress picked Darcy up and began talking baby-talk to her while pushing away the other waitresses. Then the head-waitress came over and scolded the first waitress. She then took Darcy and took over talking with the baby-talk, “Wo, wo, wo, wo”. She then had to fight off the first waitress by slapping at the first waitress’ face and running off a few steps with Darcy. Every restaurant that we ate at in China, there were at least one or two waitresses that would make over Darcy, specifically.

Wednesday, March 27, was our first full day with Darcy. Our group was to go to our first government interview at the Office of Civil Affairs. It was a cloudy, gray, gloomy-looking day. Monica was exhausted — having been unable to sleep Monday night in anticipation of entering China and not getting any sleep Tuesday night due to Darcy’s fright and sadness. Our group bus took us through the main road of Nanchang and down some side streets. On one of these side alleys, the bus seemed to almost run down an elderly woman on a bicycle – I think it skimmed her tire, but she was okay. It always amazed us, seeing all the bicycles and automobiles weaving around each other in the narrow congested streets, that we didn’t see more accidents than we did.

We pulled to the side of a small parking area at the government building and exited the bus. We went inside and down a hallway to the left and around a corner on the left to a small grimy-looking elevator. Half of the group crowded in and went up. When the elevator came back down, after a long wait, the rest of us crowded in. The elevator seemed rickety and creaked a lot and instead of going up, went down one floor to the basement. There, some Chinese men were waiting to get on. They looked at us and seemed hesitant to get on, but squeezed in, anyway. After standing there awhile, the elevator slowly went up to the first floor and the Chinese men got off. We then slowly proceeded to our destination floor (3rd?) and got off the elevator and made two rights into a hallway. We went down the gloomy looking hallway to a room on the left. The whole floor had a stark, cold feel to it. We waited in this unlit, cold room. It was so cold inside that you could see your breath.

Outside the windows were dingy gray apartment dwellings and warehouses and factories. It all had the look of a war-ravaged city, what with all the trashy-looking buildings and broken-out windows. Each bonded parent held on to their respective child and waited. Of course, Monica had to stand most of the time. Darcy still wasn’t going to remain calm if she did much sitting. There was a large black table in the middle of the room. It had a raised rim and a sunken center. We sat in black-cushioned chairs around the table, but usually not for long – we had to keep moving to keep from freezing.

After a while, Matthew came in with the government official and the orphanage director. One by one, starting with Rita and Emily, we went to a desk near the doorway for our interviews. Rita had left a particular form that she needed back at the hotel, so Sharon, Mr. Money and Mr. Shu went back for it. For the last part of each interview, each parent would give a thumb-print with thick red ink on the form and the baby would need to give a footprint. None of the babies were very happy to have to have their clothes taken off in order to get to their bare foot. After each family was interviewed, the orphanage director gave the family a gift of several carved wooden ducks in a red box. Almost everything that you bought or were given in China came in little cloth-covered boxes with a little latch on the front. When it was our turn to be interviewed, Monica and Darcy and I went to the desk and sat down. The official was very nice and asked us several questions about ourselves, which we answered through Matthew. In the process of getting Darcy foot-printed, the next interview started and the orphanage director failed to give us our gift. He and Matthew noticed the unclaimed gift after the next interview was over and asked who had not received their box. So we didn’t miss out on our gift after all. After all the interviews and after Rita’s lost papers had been sorted out, we went back to the hotel.

It was that afternoon that Nicole seemed to get pretty ill. The G's consulted with Matthew and then checked with the hotel for a doctor to look at Nicole. The G's told us later that two or three people in white jackets and medical masks came into their room and poked, prodded and took photos of Nicole. Then they gave Nicole what they think was a penicillin shot. They also instructed the G's to open all the windows wide open to let in the fresh air that the baby was “used to” and to crank up the heat in the room to compensate for the damp cold. The G's didn’t know what to think about all this. When that didn’t seem to give Nicole much relief, Monica was consulted by the G's and she gave them some baby antibiotic medicine that we had brought along. This medicine, which came in a reddish powder in little plastic bottles and was to be mixed with water, seemed to help.

Our hotel room in the Qing Shan Hu Hotel was our first home as a family of three. It was on the 11th floor on the back side of the hotel. Upon entering our room, the bathroom was to the right, immediately past the doorway. There were glass shelves on the left on which rested a package of dried noodles that were available for purchase. We also put our supplies for mixing formula and rice cereal on those shelves. Under the shelves were a couple of extremely shallow cabinets. Past the entry-way, there were two short beds to the right with a little console area and a phone in between. That’s where we put our alarm clock and, at night, our passport carriers. Straight ahead of the entry-way, on the left side of the room, was a desk. Then there was a small refrigerator under a television set. Inside the desk was a leatherette folder with hotel pamphlets and a small sewing kit. There was also a plastic bag that could be used for the hotel laundry service. We tried the laundry service twice. The first time, everything came back okay. But the second time, the clothes came back ultra-dingy. In fact, the clothes were so discolored and old-looking that we didn’t, at first, recognize them as being our own — we thought that there had been a mix-up.

At the end of the room was the window, two chairs and the water boiling machine with two little tea cups. I remember continually having to fill cupful after cupful of water from the room’s water-boiler for the numerous activities that needed water. Then refilling the boiler with a plastic pitcher. There was a case of Pabst Blue Ribbon distilled bottled water that Holt had provided for us, but we used it sparingly in the room in order to use those bottles on any road trips that we would take. We would fill up the empty bottles with the cooled-off boiled water. At first, I tried to fill a bottle with water fresh from the boiler and watched as the plastic bottle shriveled into an unusable mess. We took a couple of bottles in the diaper bag wherever we went. The hotel stocked the refrigerator with a few cans of soda pop that were also available for purchase. I remember how interesting it was to use the various consumer products that looked like what we could buy in the U.S. – but had Chinese writing on it, such as the bottled water or the soft drink cans.

Outside our window we could look over some buildings and across a street. We overlooked a long view of apartment buildings, stores and factories in the distance. Several of the nearby buildings were surrounded in bamboo scaffolding while undergoing construction. We also looked straight down a long road going directly away from us. It was fascinating to just watch all the activity along the streets. There was a continual sound of honking horns from the street day and night. That was how you drove in China, with one hand continually on the horn. And at night, whereas Hong Kong was lit up with bright electric signs everywhere, Jiangxi was extremely dark, even with busy street noise still going on.
Wednesday night, we discovered the magical trick of supporting the sway in Darcy’s back with a pillow and laying her at a 30o sort of angle. Darcy slept well. Thank goodness! Monica was, by then, half-crazed from sleep deprivation.

On Thursday, March 28, we went to another government building for our main interview. We drove to some side streets that were fairly close to the huge August 1st Memorial. I remember pulling up to the building and going inside to the stairwell on the right. At each turn on each flight of stairs, there was a cuspidor in each dingy corner. And it looked like not everybody had very good spitting aim. It has been said that spitting is the “national pastime” in China. We went up several floors and we turned right down a narrow hallway. There were windows on the left side, where you could look out and see the large forum area around the August 1st memorial. There were offices on the right side of the hallway. We went inside one room and waited for a little while. Then Matthew and some official brought in some papers for us to fill out. After we had all filled out the papers, we were led back left down the hall to a larger room to wait.

This room had a large working heater to the left of the entrance and a long oval-shaped table in the center. The table was made up of segments that wrapped in a long oval shape with nothing in the center. There were some small red Communist Chinese flags on the side of the table that was next to the windows. This room was a little more cheery than the room the previous day and at least it was heated. Jon and Mia were the first to be taken from the room for an interview in one of the small offices. They were soon back in the room because there was a much-needed paper missing from his file. As the interviews continued, Matthew frantically made calls trying to track down the missing paper and the rest of us said a few silent prayers. If Jon didn’t have those papers there with him, he couldn’t adopt Mia. The papers were finally tracked down to being somewhere in Bejiing, but much to Matthew’s amazement and Jon’s relief, things were allowed to continue for Jon anyway. As each family returned to the main room from their interview, they related stories of the interviewer showing obvious disapproval at these Americans and acting fairly upset with the answers to his questions.

Monica, Darcy and I were the last to be interviewed. We were also the only couple that had no previous children. So as the interviewer asked us over and over again to explain our family situation, he came to the realization that Darcy was our only child. He then seemed to ease up on us and his demeanor even seemed to warm up a little — almost to the point of being friendly. We all passed our interviews and it was now official that Darcy was our adopted daughter.

On Thursday afternoon, Darcy began blowing bubbles. She also gave her first smile — a “half” one to Tracy and later a full one to Steve as he played “buzzing bee” with her and spiraled his finger in towards her nose, while she remained safely tucked in Monica’s arms. Monica was happy to see Darcy finally smile but secretly worried about the idea of Steve touching her face, since she doubted he’d washed his hands since playing with very sick little Mia. Mia, the oldest of the babies, was sick from the moment she was given to Jon. She was feverish, with a runny nose and a loose, rattly cough. Sure enough, about 48 hours later, Darcy came down with an awful cold. Darcy was the last of these babies to finally smile.

Also that afternoon, our itinerary involved taking a trip to the porcelain museum. We were to all meet downstairs in the hotel lobby. As was usual, Monica, Darcy and I were the first ones to show up and the others usually staggered down late. Darcy was bundled up in her Mickey Mouse thermal suit and a knit hat and Monica’s Land’s End jacket and a couple of blankets. When we got down to the lobby, we went over to some couches at the far end and began to play with Darcy as we waited for the others to arrive. There was a slender young Chinese woman in a light brown sweater and red rubber boots sitting on the cushioned chairs in the lobby and she came over to us and asked us if we were part of the “tour group.” After some discussion we found out that her name was Catherine and that she was to be our tour guide. She was a student that Mr. Money had hired. She seemed very nice and her English was quite good.

As the others came down, we introduced them to Catherine. In a little while, Matthew loaded us up into the bus and we headed out toward the Jiangxi Arts and Crafts Exhibition building. When we arrived at the museum, we got out of the bus and went into the building. Straight through the entry-way we could see a room where there were people doing tai-chi exercises. We went up two flights of steps to the museum area. As was to be the norm, Mr. Money got all our tickets and we quickly passed on through. Mr. Money was to become such an essential part of our well-being in China. I even remember a couple of days after we had left Nanchang and Mr. Money, seeing a young Chinese man from behind, in a similar looking black jacket with a red logo on the back, and my mind’s first instant reaction was, “there’s Mr. Money — everything is going to be all right, now!” At the top of the stairs, there was a room to the right and another room to the left. We, at first, went into the room on the right. It was a gloomy, rainy, cloudy day and there were no lights on in the rooms. There were large display cases with beautiful and intricate porcelain pieces. It was cold inside and there was absolutely no sign of up-keep in the museum. This was the hallmark museum of the province, displaying the porcelain that this region was famous for — yet it was cold inside, some of the windows were broken out, and there were puddles of dingy rainwater on the floor.

We looked around at the displays, which held some very beautiful pieces. But it was so hard to be interested in them when Monica was holding something far more interesting in the snugly strapped to her front. It was just so hard to not spend all the time gazing adoringly at our new baby daughter. And Darcy spent quite a bit of time looking us over, too. Darcy enjoyed the other babies and would always laugh when there was another baby around. As we finished looking through this room, Tracy and I went on toward the room on the other side of the stairs. As we walked in, there was a buzzer that sounded — so we walked back out. We again took several steps into the room. Each time we tried it, some kind of alarm went off. This was called to the attention of the attendant in a nearby room, who turned off some kind of motion sensor alarm, so we could continue looking through the museum.

There were some very intricate pieces on display and Catherine would tell us some of the stories and folklore behind the works. When we left the museum, we went left around the corner to a porcelain shop. We looked at the items and it seemed that there were some good prices. Monica saw a set of porcelain eating-ware and said that she had always wanted some. So we bought it. Thinking we were all about ready to go, we stepped outside and went to the bus. But not everybody was done with their shopping. I believe it was the M's that we were all waiting on. They were having a hard time making up their minds on some purchase, so we stepped back out of the bus to look around. There was a small group of young school kids that were about 9 or 10 years old and in galoshes and backpacks, that were looking and giggling at us. I sneakily moved my camera up into position and then, knowing that they would quickly skeedaddle away from photo view, suddenly veered it’s aim toward their direction. Sure enough, they ran. Laughing, they gathered back on the sidewalk across the alleyway and I took another picture of them before they again ran off.

Back in our hotel room, Darcy and I played on the bed and I showed her how to use the remote control for the television set. Darcy heard her first bluegrass music when we came across an old episode of “The Beverly Hillbillies” and the theme song was being played by Flatt & Scruggs. Darcy seemed interested.

Still, no one could hold Darcy, except Monica, without her coming unhinged. But at least she had finally decided it was okay for Monica to sit while she held her — thank goodness! Darcy cooed happily and “talked” all day. Mostly she said, “Da da da da!” She still studied faces intently, but now she had begun to “crack up” when she studied them instead of maintaining that sad, serious look. She began to show an enjoyment toward games and kisses and Mom’s hair brushing against her face. She would study Dad intently and crane her neck to follow my movements about the room. She would now, on occasion, talk louder and louder until she reached a full squeal, but would soften her voice instantly when Mom said “Shhh!” She would now laugh or coo between bites of food, instead of frantically screaming for more. She would still eat quite fast and huge portions, though! Unfortunately, she hated the lactose-free formula and the taste of her rice cereal when mixed with it. That appeared to be the only edible thing in the whole world that she disliked, though. She loved everything on our table at the restaurants! She was especially fond of the “meatballs” for breakfast.

From the hotel room, there was always the sound of horns honking. It seemed fairly normal for vehicle drivers to almost continually lay on the horn while dodging in and out of the bicycle and pedestrian traffic. We could also hear the sounds of distant factory machines and the occasional factory whistle during the work day. We could see smoke billowing from several factory smokestacks on the horizon. Many times we heard long, continuous firecracker explosions from somewhere down in the streets. Firecrackers were set off for almost every occasion. One day upon hearing firecrackers being set off, I looked out the window, and using our telephoto lens, tracked down its source to the front of a building. There were men in white robes and hoods coming out of the front door with large colorful processional arrangements. We found out later from Matthew that white is the traditional color of mourning in China and that what we saw was, in all probability, a funeral in progress.

Friday morning, March 29th, we headed south out of town to tour Qingyun Pu (translated as Blue Cloud Text), which was the house of the renowned ancient painter Ba Da Shan Ren. Matthew was wearing a red McDonald’s t-shirt that a previous adoptive family had given to him. We had noticed that clothing with American logos were quite popular in China.

Our destination was just outside the city, in more of a rural area. The bus exited off the main road and through various rural ramshackle structures. These were some scenes, I remember, that as soon as we had passed through them, I wished I had taken some photos of the area — the crumbling brick rooms with hay stacked inside and the chickens running in through the front door and out through the windows. We pulled around a pond-like area and over a narrow bridge to arrive at the front of the painter’s house. There was a white gateway at the front where we all piled out of the bus. As we took some pictures from the front of the entrance, we saw a couple of local residents taking their food to the edge of the water to wash it off. We went through the entry-way and turned left down a pathway. There were markers in Chinese telling about this historical sight. Matthew and Catherine told us about how this was where the last survivor of the Ming Dynasty lived in seclusion. Later he became famous as a very influential painter.

It just had the feel of an ancient Chinese residence. The rooms of the house surrounded an open patio area with garden trees. You had to step over small barriers to enter each room. The place was sort of a dark-red painted wooden structure. Of course, no lighting. There were reproductions of his paintings on the walls and in display cases. In one section, toward the back of the house, there were wax figure displays depicting scenes in his life. There were also a couple of fountain garden areas where, Matthew told us, the painter would wash out his brushes. One room had a huge bronze bell — sort of the size of the Liberty Bell — that was made in 967 A.D. After we had circled around through the house, we came out through a small darkened gift shop where you could buy a chop (a type of stamp made from a piece of stone) or books or artist brushes, etc. We bought a set of panda paper-cuts and a set of post cards that showed scenes of the painter’s house. You then exited through a garden area with some beautiful old trees.

By this time, it had started to sprinkle and I remember standing in a small sheltered gazebo, first with Matthew and then with Monica and Darcy. The gazebo was near a pond and Monica spotted a pretty little covered bridge going across the pond and wanted a picture of it. I went to the other side of the pond, through some trees with beautiful pink blossoms all around. I took the picture of Monica, Darcy, Matthew and Catherine on the bridge across the pond. We all then went toward the exit. There was another little gift shop here. It was better lit because it had more windows. There were paintings available in this shop and I remember standing inside the shop discussing cameras with Matthew. He had a nice camera and told us that photography was one of his hobbies. We also learned then that the only speed of film available in China was 100 speed. He talked a little about his 14-year-old daughter at this time also, and said that she hated to have her picture taken.

There was a little snack booth next to this shop, but I don’t remember if anyone bought anything there. I remember that on the main city road, on the way back to the hotel, there was a little blue truck driving next to the bus, with a passenger who spotted us Caucasians and kept waving and smiling happily and blowing kisses toward the bus. When we got back to the hotel, we all shared a meal with Matthew at the hotel’s Chinese restaurant.

After lunch, most of the families wanted to rest. Others wanted to take a tour on their own — by just heading down the street. So, Steve, Tracy, Rita, Monica, Darcy and I went out the front gate, took a right and headed off to who-knows-where. The other babies were needing naps, but Darcy was a go-getter, ready for more adventure. This tour was just us and the stark street. I personally didn’t want to go, but I was not about to lose my wife and child in Communist China, so I went!

We got a lot of stares as we walked down the street – Nanchang was not a place where many foreign tourists travelled. The street had some automobile traffic and lots of bike traffic. The sidewalks were wide and the structures that faced the street were mostly little shops, very unlike the shops in our country. The shops in China consisted of very tiny one-roomed stores that were just open out toward the street — usually no door, just a gate and shade that was brought down at closing, sort of like mall shops, only outside. Most all the buildings were deteriorated, dirty concrete structures. One store that we went in was a knife shop that had a Michael Jackson song playing over their radio.

There was a large park-like area across on the left side of the street, so we crossed over to venture through. There were sidewalk vendors of all sorts in the park. At the front, we saw two vendors, one wearing a Tibetan-like hat, selling different animal parts, such as antelope heads and tiger paws, from a sheet on the ground. A few feet away, there was another sheet where there were similar items. I took one quick picture of the vendors at the first sheet and was about to get a close up of the tiger paw on the second sheet when the vendor started to yell and wave his hands indicating that I was not to take a picture of his wares. We guessed later, and Matthew was to verify this, that the reason for the vendor’s actions was that it was probably illegal to sell tiger paws.

We walked on through the park and passed an area with plants for sale and a place with birds for sale in cages. Steve had tried pantomime-communicating with one of the vendors and that vendor then kept approaching him throughout the park, to the point of drawing a crowd. It always seemed like there were one or two men in green army uniforms that were watching us suspiciously. There were all kinds of things for sale, from tiny trees to parakeets. At the end of the park, as we descended a few steps, we saw that there were some puppies for sale. We waited to gather our group at this spot and Steve was finally able to escape the crowd around him. He then told us that he wanted to quickly leave the park because this was the only time he had ever felt uncomfortable while in China.

We went over to the left and walked back along a line of booths selling food items – vegetables and live fish and things. We then made a circle, back around the park, and continued walking in our original direction. We walked quite a ways down the road to where there was a very busy intersection and a large statue in the median. There was a shop across the road that Rita had spotted earlier from our bus, so we maneuvered across the bike and car traffic to get to a shop which had a small carved elephant statue in front. It was just a narrow store that ran the length of the counter. We looked at the items and Rita made attempts to bargain, but to no avail. We then started on our way back to the hotel. We passed many different stores. We even passed a movie theater that was showing the American film “A Walk in the Clouds”. There was also an Avon store that we stopped at. Rita went inside to see if she could find some clear nail-polish that Sharon had jokingly asked her to get while we were out. Steve and Tracy were looking in an athletic equipment store nearby.

Monica, Darcy and I waited outside the Avon store by the racks of numerous bikes and just watched the scenes around us. There were bikes everywhere in China. Scads of bikes. And they were all of an old-style frame with a flat carrying shelf over the back wheel. As we waited by the bikes, a young nicely-dressed young woman came out and started to dislodge her bike and unlock it and leave the Avon store (the bikes all had built-in locks and required insertion of a key to operate). She then came up to us and started talking in English to Monica about “A-won” products. She had a very distinguishable American accent. After Monica told her that she wasn’t interested, the woman told us that she was really just trying to practice her “American English” on us. We told her that she was doing a very good job. We found out that she was the manager of the store and we told her that in America, the product was pronounced “A-von”. She talked a while and came into the store with us when we went to see what was keeping Rita (who, herself, was an Avon representative). Inside the store, Darcy attracted a small crowd of customers. One Chinese mother brought her little daughter over to show her this “lucky girl” who was “going to America.” The store manager invited us to come to her house, but we felt that we were needing to get back to the hotel, so we declined the invitation. That was something that Monica and Rita later regretted tremendously. We also stopped in a tiny little grocery store and looked around for some baby items, some snacks and some film — but we didn’t get anything there. Another crowd of mothering Chinese women gathered around and made over Darcy and instructed Monica to bundle her up some more. We eventually made it back to the hotel.

On our return, we all sat in the hallway with Matthew as he went over more of our paperwork instructions and just talked about things in China. I remember him talking about how male children in China were spoiled to the point of being little bratty “emperors.”

Friday was the first time Darcy made any attempt to reach for an item which interested her. She decided that pulling Mom’s hair was great fun! For the first time, she also began reaching towards her own face. She would only move one arm at a time — never both at once. She couldn’t yet raise her arms over her head. Monica began playing a game with Darcy during this time where she would kiss Darcy’s hands as she raised them up towards Mom’s face. Darcy loved this game and it encouraged her to exercise her arms and increase their range of motion. (Initially she could not even bring her arms that far forward. Also, she couldn’t raise her arms higher than shoulder level.)

Darcy began to kick her feet furiously whenever she was happy… and squeal! She liked to arch her back when being held — I mean, really arch her back! — and look at people “upside down” from that position! She began to attempt to get Dad’s attention, but would still fuss if I tried to pick her up. Her cries would cease the instant I passed her back to Monica. On Friday, she reached her hand up to her face for the first time. She even put her hand into her mouth and had great fun smearing her rice cereal over her face. Then, when her face was thoroughly coated with rice cereal, she buried her face into her Mom’s shirt and thereby wiped it clean… aarghh! Darcy watched her Mom’s face closely whenever Monica was talking to others and she would crack up whenever Monica would laugh during the course of the conversation. Darcy would coo and smile to capture both her Mom and Dad’s attention. She liked to pat her daddy. She would also make hilarious faces and mimic Monica mimicking her! And she would laugh at other babies and reach out for them. She would flirt with everyone but would scream if anyone (including 10-year-old Sarah) tried to lift her from her Mommy’s lap. She basically lived in her snugly carrier. She even liked to sleep in it when it was no longer attached to Monica. Friday was the first day we added vitamin drops to her rice cereal (Yuk!).

For Saturday, March 30, Matthew planned for us to go to the Tengwang Pavilion in Nanchang. Matthew’s attire for the day was a black Atlanta ’96 Olympics t-shirt that someone had given him. On the way to the pavilion, we stopped at a the Jiangxi Rainbow Photo Finishing photography studio to have visa photos taken of the babies. The bus stopped alongside a curb and we crossed the street to get to the studio. We went through the sales floor area and up some stairs in the back. The stairway was lined with framed photos and the actual studio was on the second floor. Most of the babies weren’t too happy with getting their photo taken but everyone managed through it. Darcy was in her pink Piglet outfit — quite appropriate for a baby born during the Chinese year of the pig, eh? I think that most, like Darcy, had to be held by their mothers (or in Mia’s and Nicole’s cases, their fathers) from off-camera, while the photographer shot the picture. From some of the props we saw, we were wondering if this might have been the same studio where the picture of Darcy that we first received from China might have been taken. We then went back down the stairs, exited and boarded the bus to continue onward.

The pavilion seemed to be on the opposite side of the city from our hotel. It was a beautiful day. Actually, the only sunny day we were to have in China. I remember watching the scads of traffic and the uniformed “traffic cops” directing traffic from atop their red and white elevated stands. I also noticed a large number of people of all ages in military uniform walking along the sidewalks. We pulled in through some side streets to park in front of a walled gateway. We went up toward the entrance and, as usual, Mr. Money darted through to handle our entry fee. When we passed through to the other side, it was a stunning sight: across a vast forum there was a huge pagoda structure. It was mostly red and had green roofs. Our group made its way across the forum and up numerous steps to go inside the pagoda. Mr. Money headed us toward a tiny elevator which took us up several floors. We exited onto a floor that had a large gift shop and we were then directed up a set of stairs to a floor where there was to be a stage presentation. The room had a stage at the far end and large red columns scattered throughout. Before the show started, we admired the beautiful designs of intricate tiles on the walls and on the ceilings. As I was taking pictures, the stage show started with some traditional Chinese music being played on ancient instruments. Darcy excitedly bounced up and down with the music. I noted that one of the instruments being played sounded very much like a banjo. I went around the benches on the left side and stepped over the front bench to join Monica and Darcy on the second row. Soon after, there were two dancers that came out to perform a traditional dance. Then a singer came out for a couple of numbers. The singer’s voice was in a traditional style — shrill and warbly to our ears. Darcy lost all interest in the show once the instrumental music became background to the shrill singing. I seem to remember Matthew telling us the story behind the performance – it was sort of like a Romeo and Juliet story. Mr. Money even got to hold Darcy for a little bit during the performance. Up until this time, she hadn’t really let anybody but us hold her. After the performance, we all descended slowly from one level to the next around narrow, dark stairwells.

There was a spectacular view from the pavilion railings. Looking over the rail, you could look way out over the city or over the huge Ganjiang River. We could see people on what looked like houseboats and several fishermen in their boats. There were interesting displays on each floor. On one floor, there was a person doing Chinese calligraphy. There were also several floors with small gift shops. At one of the shop counters, Monica bought a medallion with a pig on one side (Darcy was born during the year of the pig) and the pavilion on the other. Several others then bought medallions, too. Matthew had Mr. Money take the medallions to a level where there was someone to engrave the girls’ names on them.

Coming down to the top of the front stairs, there was a patio area with concrete tables and seats where we and the Gowins sat down to wait on the others. Darcy and Nicole had a good time just laughing with each other. It was around feeding time and the Gowins were able to find some food in their diaper bag to feed Nicole. When everybody gathered back together, we decided to pose for a group picture. Mr. Money took all our cameras and snapped a group photo with each one. He looked rather humorous with six cameras strapped around his neck. We then left the pavilion and went back out to the street. There were vendors all up and down the street selling their wares. Matthew told everybody that we would spend a little bit of time shopping here.

As I mentioned earlier, it was around lunchtime, so there were a lot of people eating along the street-side. There was a food vendor cart nearby where bowls of rice were being dipped out for customers. The customers would then squat down by the sidewalk, bring the styrafoam bowl close to their face and go to work with their chopsticks. Monica, Darcy and I veered off toward the right from the pavilion exit and slowly walked through the vendor’s tables looking at their wares. I remember that there were a lot of Chinese coins for sale at the tables. We walked further away from the bus and turned right at the corner of the street. A little ways down that street there was an old man behind one of the tables on our right. He looked at us and started talking excitedly to us. Being fairly use to the people talking to us and asking us about Darcy, we indicated that yes, she was a little girl from China. Usually the response, from the literally hundreds of people who had previously come up to us, was that they would coo and play with Darcy and make comments on how lucky this little girl was to be going to America. But this old man came around the table and got closer and louder and more angry in his excitement. He followed close to us and continued to shout at us in Chinese as we tried to ignore him and make our way nonchalantly back to the bus. Suddenly and quietly, Matthew slipped himself between us and the old gentleman. They began to talk and continued talking as we walked back the way we had come. Eventually, the old man dropped back and returned to his table. Matthew walked up alongside us and, at our questioning, told us that this man was asking why were these Americans allowed to be holding this Chinese baby? — it wasn’t right! Matthew had explained to him that the government had said that it was all right and that we were allowed to hold this baby. Matthew then said that the man had commented that this was a lucky baby — but even without a comprehension of the Chinese language, we had been able to tell from the man’s inflection and attitude to the end of the conversation, that that was not what the man had said. Matthew was just trying to soften the situation.

We looked around a little bit more at the tables and at the shops, but then headed back toward the bus. As we waited for the last of the shoppers (i.e. Rita & Sharon), we watched the street scenes. We were especially taken with a cute little boy who was bundled up in layers upon layers of clothes and kept looking in the door of the bus. After everyone got back into the bus, we headed back through the side-streets. I remember that we passed some children on the sidewalk who were playing among the red-littered remains of a huge amount of spent firecrackers.

It was so nice that day that Matthew told us that, if we were up to it, we could go visit the zoo that afternoon. We all went back to the hotel and because the Chinese side of the restaurants was closed due to some meeting, we went to the Western restaurant for lunch. Later that day, we gathered in the lobby to go to the zoo. Neither the Gowins or Catherine were able to join us on this outing. Matthew had planned the trip around the time when the panda would be feeding. We walked out the front of the hotel and took a left at the street. We walked two or three blocks and crossed the street to the zoo. There were vendors in front of the ticket booth that sold snacks and colorful little toys. Once again, Mr. Money was there with the tickets and we went right on through. As with everywhere we went, we got a lot of stares from the people around. I really felt like a zoo exhibit, myself. There was a group of small schoolboys that nervously, yet enthusiastically, tried their English on us by shouting, from a distance, “Hello, how are you?” in crisp British-accented English over and over again, then running off.

Just a few yards into the zoo, there was a very elderly gentleman in a dark-blue stocking cap, dark-blue jacket, dark-blue pants and white tennis shoes, who, smiling broadly, came up with outstretched hand and said, “Hello. American?” He shook my hand and proudly said a few more words in English to me. I spoke with him a little longer, shook hands with him again and went on. The first animal we saw on display was the panda, which was located in the very center section of the zoo. There was a large crowd as we walked up the flight of steps off the left of the paved pathway. We then crowded in to see over into the white-walled holding area. The panda had just woken up and was slowly and groggily getting around. It was quite interesting to see and I took some pictures of the panda and tried to get some good pictures of Darcy looking at her first zoo animal. Some people threw some sticks of sugar cane down to the panda which he picked up and started chomping on immediately. I finished up a roll of film, so I stood on top of a short wall toward the back in order to change rolls. I dropped the used roll in the process and, upon not seeing it, feared that I had lost it somewhere in the mud on the other side of the wall. Desperately looking around, I saw it had amazingly landed in a fold of my jacket and I easily retrieved it to store in the camera bag. There was a process we used of marking the date of when each roll of film was completed on a piece of masking tape attached to the appropriate plastic film roll container. The camera bag was stuffed with the Canon camera, an additional telephoto lens, numerous rolls of film and a yellow disposable Kodak panoramic camera. The elderly man from the front gate again greeted me and talked to me a little bit at the panda exhibit. From there we circled the zoo in a counter-clockwise direction.

We showed Darcy some leopards in cages and then we saw a tiger and it’s trainer sitting on a table next to the sidewalk. A group gathered close in around the tiger to get a good look. A leash around it’s neck was the tiger’s only restraint from the viewers. We saw a tiny train for children to ride around in circles. Past the train and around a couple of curves in the walkway, there was a young lady making some kind of hard candy in the shapes of animals. She would lay a stick down on a greased slab of marble and pour out the heated, golden liquid candy onto the stick and around in thin lines of animal shapes. She would then scrape the shape up off the slab and put the finished creation in a large piece of cork for display. It was actually quite pretty.

We saw lots of animals and I remember walking over a little grate over some mud back toward the back-end of the zoo. The back of the zoo aligned with the back of some apartment buildings. We walked around the zoo pond and made our direction toward the exit. There were several exhibits, such as the reptile house, that required an extra admission price. On the last straight stretch leading to the front, I again saw the elderly man in blue. He came up and talked to me like we were old friends. I told him my name and asked him his. He happily told me his name and then excitedly took out some identification papers. His identification card showed a picture of him as a young man and looked sort of like it might be some sort of military identification from his youth. I knew very little Chinese and he knew very little English but he seemed to take me as his friend and even loudly proclaimed something happily to the surrounding passersby while patting my shoulder and pointing to me. I indicated to him that I wanted to take his picture and he excitedly reached out to pull his wife over into the view and he then saluted for me. We happily shook hands and made our words of parting. We then caught up to the rest of the group who were standing in front of the elephant pens on the right. Some spectators were handing branches to the elephants as the elephants leaned against the fence and stretched their long trunks over the barrier ditch and out to the spectators. We watched the two elephants awhile then headed toward the exit. I remember at this time, Matthew was telling us about the crippling life-time fines that are imposed on people in China who have more than one child. We exited the zoo, crossed over to the other side of the street and headed leftward, back toward the hotel. At a street vendor’s food cart, Mr. Money bought every family a piece of fried bread. It tasted great. It had spices and onions cooked into it and even Darcy seemed to like it. Matthew said that if the next day was a nice day like this one, then we would travel to the mountains. It was a long journey that would take the whole day to get there and back.

Also that afternoon, we had another hallway meeting where Matthew passed out the now-developed photos for the American visas and the Alien Resident cards. We also completed some more paperwork in preparation for the American embassy.

The next day was cold and rainy again, so there would be no trip to the mountains. It was Sunday, March 31, 1996. Instead, we would all go shopping at the city’s large Department Store. The bus drove us through the city streets. It was always fun to take in the sights along the streets of Nanchang with my wife and my daughter sitting next to me. We pulled into a spot to park next to the department store and went around the corner to the entrance. I seem to remember a little ice cream counter to the left of the front doors. We went inside the store and looked around on the first floor. There was a display case with candy and medicinal items just to the right of the escalator. To the right of that was a small grocery area. We went up the escalators to the next floor and looked around.

One floor had a few toys on display, which we looked at. We had been searching for an Asian-looking doll for Darcy, but there were no Chinese-looking dolls to be found here, either. All the dolls were Caucasian in appearance. We also looked at baby clothes on one floor. As we walked through the racks there were two women several feet behind us that were looking our way and quizzically talking amongst themselves. When Catherine heard what they were saying, she began to laugh and went over to talk to the women. She then came back to us and explained how these women were looking at Monica, Darcy and me and trying to decide if Darcy looked more like Monica or more like me. They had decided that Darcy looked more like her father. Catherine had gone over to explain to them that Darcy was adopted. Being told about this conversation kind of made me swell up with pride.

Monica was also in search for some particular style of black tights that her friend, Fen Hua, liked but couldn’t find in the U.S. Monica wanted to buy a pair for Fen Hua and a pair for herself, also. After much translation with Catherine of what was wanted, the sales clerk was able to find two pair of the requested item. After a while, we all headed back down to the first floor. We had been running low of rice cereal for Darcy, so we went to the grocery area with Catherine. We found some cereal and took it to the counter to purchase it. Because we wanted to look around some more, we were required to leave our box of rice cereal at the counter to be picked up later, upon our departure. Catherine was carrying our purchase, so the clerk took the package from her and didn’t know that it belonged to us. We also tried to find out if Matthew or Catherine had a favorite type of candy that they liked, so we could get them a little gift. But neither seemed to indicate whether they liked candy, so we didn’t purchase any. We were by then done with our shopping, so we went back to the counter to pick up our purchase. The woman at the counter didn’t understand what we were wanting. Monica tried to pantomime for what we were needing her to give us, but that didn’t seem to work. Catherine was busy elsewhere, so she wasn’t there to translate. After several minutes without success, Monica tried to use some of her Chinese language skills. To Monica’s surprise — the words she chose instantly worked and the woman handed Monica her box of cereal. That incident of being able to communicate by herself, in Chinese, in the middle of China, made Monica quite proud.

We ran across the street through a light drizzle to the waiting bus, which had parked elsewhere during our shopping venture, and went down the road to the historical Museum of the Revolution. It was an old 5-story hotel where the Communist Revolution had its beginning under Zhou En Lai in 1927. Matthew, Catherine, Jon, Steve, Mia, Monica, Darcy and I went inside to look around. The rest stayed in the bus to rest from all that shopping. The hotel was dark, cold and gloomy inside and had a lot of displays and photos and paintings about the rise of Communism. Catherine told us that this was an important historical site that helped school children understand the sacrifices their Communist leaders had made in order to provide them with “the good life that they have today.” Catherine seemed idealistic and proud of the accomplishments of Communism. She was young — born post-Cultural Revolution. While we were there, a large group of school children (about ages 7-9) did indeed tour through — as Catherine had indicated commonly happened as a school field trip. After touring this sight, our bus headed back toward our hotel. As we left, I remember hearing some music being played by some men with trumpets and such, nearby on a sidewalk. They were sitting under a store entry-way to stay out of the rain. On the way back to the hotel, we made a brief drive around the huge monument to Communism on the square. We didn’t get out of the bus because it was raining, the babies were hungry and we were tired of Communism — we just took some pictures out the windows. We then went back to the hotel.

When we got back to the hotel, there was a bride and groom in the lobby. They had just finished having their wedding reception in the restaurant. The bride was decked out in the traditional red-colored dress (white is for mourning, in China). Thinking this would be the last time we saw Catherine, who had become part of our family along with Matthew and Mr. Money, we said our good-byes. Catherine began to cry and asked that we not take her picture at that time. We did get to see her one more time, though, at a special feast that Matthew had planned for that night. Catherine was invited to the feast at our unanimous request.

That night, we were to go across the street from the hotel to the Sunshine Restaurant for a farewell feast. I remember when Monica and Darcy and I went down to the hotel lobby to wait for the others, seeing a couple of little girls, over at the desk near the entrance of the Western restaurant, playing like they were having a tea party. We all gathered in the hotel lobby, and because it was raining, grabbed umbrellas that Mr. Money, anticipating our needs, had come up with on the spot. Catherine was there, after bicycling 20 minutes in the dark, through a heavy rain. We went across the street, through the door and deposited our umbrellas in an umbrella stand. We were then led up some stairs to our own private room. There was a large table for the families and a smaller table that Matthew, Mr. Money and Catherine would sit at. There was a television set in the corner that was used for Karaoke videos. Sarah played some American CDs on her “walk-man” for Catherine, over on a leather couch in the far corner of the room. Matthew had ordered the special items ahead of time and they were brought out to the table. Along with the rice, there were things like duck’s stomach, pig’s ear, pig’s tail, and eel. Jon, Steve, Monica and I were basically the only adventurous eaters in the group and we tried each of the items. Matthew remarked, with some amusement, that a friend had told him that the most expensive cuts of meat in China are the ones that are discarded as inedible in America.

I remember part of the dinner conversation of Steve talking about the history of Chinese Communism. Randi and Sarah were overjoyed to the point of shouting when some normal fried bread was brought out to the table. Everybody relaxed and talked and the waitress grabbed up Darcy to play with — Darcy was just laughing and smiling such a beautiful smile. Matthew and Mr. Money passed out little gift boxes to each family — they contained beautiful “chops” that had the Chinese name of each respective girl on it. Emotions were running high and toasts were made and Amy made a tearful speech to Matthew about how he helped us all during this “hardest experience I have ever had to go through in my life!” Matthew then made a truly touching speech about the hopeful future that these girls now had. After everybody had eaten, Mr. Money brought out some karaoke video disc sleeves for us to pick out what numbers we wanted to sing along with. Some were picked out, but only a few joined in on the actual singing. One number that everybody joined in on (and I noticed Matthew joining in on this one, too) was “Amazing Grace.” Dinner done, we then went back to the hotel to finish up our packing for tomorrow.

The next day, Monday, April 1st, 1996, everybody had their bags packed and waiting by the doors for the baggage handlers to load them up on the cart to take downstairs. I remember everybody trying to slim down their luggage by giving items to other families or by donating them to the orphanage through Matthew or just throwing things away. I remember Steve and Jon giving us an unopened canister of lactose-free formula. We crammed the formula in our brown suitcase. Later, on the final trip home, that canister would burst because of the change in airplane air pressure and scatter formula powder all over the items in that suitcase. Matthew went around to each room with a list showing a small amount of monies paid by each family that had not been used in any of our Nanchang expenses. Each one of the families signed that amount over to be used in the orphanages.

We checked out of our room at the front counter and got a long print-out of the hotel expenditures. We got on the bus and headed back down the road we had first come in on. The sun peeked out every once in a while, but for the most part, it was cloudy, dreary weather. Our luggage was on a separate truck that followed close behind. Upon arrival at the airport, we got out of the bus and got our luggage from the truck. We went up a few steps, through a glass door and turned right to get to the ticket area. For one last time, we waited while Mr. Money handled getting the tickets and checking in our luggage. There was a large Chinese man who was standing around watching our group — Steve and I both thought he resembled Mao Tse Tung. The luggage was checked in and we said our thanks and good-byes to Mr. Money and Mr. Comfortable.

Matthew was to be going on this flight to Guangzhou with us. He was going to meet the next group of adoptive parents who were to be arriving in Guangzhou by boat from Hong Kong. We all showed our passports at a security booth, then walked through a metal detector, walked up the hallway and turned left to the waiting area. The waiting area was large and fairly deserted. We had a little bit of a wait, so our group used the restrooms or looked over the items at the sale counter or talked with Matthew. We sat on plastic turquoise-colored seats as we waited. We were extremely glad that Matthew was with us so he could tell us which flight was ours.
Eventually the plane pulled up and we went out to the tarmac to get on board and take off for Guangzhou. As before, the flight lasted about an hour.

It was still fairly foggy, but we could see the city of Guangzhou as we came in toward the airport. It seemed like a very large city. We landed and once again Samantha wasn’t there to meet us. We followed Matthew to the baggage pick-up area where we waited on our luggage. It came out on one of several large, circular conveyor belts. Matthew steered us to where we needed to go next. We got all our luggage loaded high onto a cart and headed across to where there was a bus from our hotel waiting to take us to the White Swan.

The hotel concierge was on the bus and welcomed us to Guangzhou. He told us a little about himself and that he had gone to get his hotel training in the United States. The bus went through a large part of the city. We saw lots of different buildings and even saw a huge chandelier store. We also drove through an area that literally looked like the bombed-out remains of a war-ravaged city. But even in the twilight, we could tell that there were people living in these structures. We pulled down a long driveway to the White Swan Hotel. It was beautifully lit up with lots of tiny white lights. Travel writer, Robert Kane’s entry:
WHITE SWAN HOTEL (Shamian Island) is a case of saving best for last. The White Swan, with its island location, has the Pearl River on one side, gardens on the other. To note that this 886-room-and-suite hotel is well equipped is to understate. Spaces are big, baths are marble-accented, the presidential suite is one of the most sumptuous in China, and restaurants are diverse, the range a coffee shop and tea lounge through the Jade River for Cantonese fare; Silk Road--an absolute Guangzhou requisite for European fare; and Hirata, a Japanese spot. The health club is a standout; there are a pair of swimming pools, both squash and tennis courts (eight of the latter, if you please), golf driving range, jogging track, wee-hours disco, even an Elizabeth Arden beauty salon. This is one of China's best-equipped hotels. Member, Leading Hotels of the World. Luxury. © 1993, Compton's New Media, Inc.

We got off the bus and stepped inside the lobby. It was huge and it was beautiful. I instantly knew that this was the highest-class hotel that I would ever stay at in my life. Straight ahead was a huge carved jade sculpture of a ship. Beyond that was a huge waterfall that took up most of the center of the hotel’s lower area. Around the waterfall were lounges and restaurants and bars on several levels. The reception counter ran along the wall on the right, so we all went over to the counter and checked in. Being close to the Easter holiday, there was a display on the left side of the lobby that had chocolate bunnies and live baby chicks. Monica took Darcy over to look at the baby chicks. Whereas the Qing Shan Hu Hotel in Nanchang rarely saw foreigners, the White Swan in Guangzhou catered to the foreign traveller. Monica, Darcy and I went up to our room. Stepping out of the mirrored and wood-paneled elevator, there was a small counter on each guest room floor with an attendant to direct you to your room or to press the elevator button if he or she saw you coming from your room to the elevator. We were directed toward the right from the floor attendant’s counter down one of the hallways to our room. The doorways were recessed away from the hallway. Our room was down the hallway on the left.

Upon entering the room, there was a huge closet on the right, containing slippers and heavy white robes. On the left was a brown-tiled bathroom that even had a phone next to the toilet. The room opened out toward the left. A desk, TV and small refrigerator lined the wall on the right. At the end of the room, on the right, was a sliding glass door that opened onto a very tiny balcony. There was a table with two chairs over at the far left. On top of the table was a water boiler and several glasses wrapped in white paper with the White Swan logo. Two beds, with a console in between, were against the left wall. We unpacked some stuff and then opened the refrigerator to put some baby formula items inside. It was packed to the gills with purchasable beverages and candy. I took out a bunch of beverage cans and stacked them in the narrow opening above the refrigerator and below the desk. There were also candy bars, nuts and chips available for purchase next to the television. That evening, when the maid came in to turn down the covers to the beds and leave a chocolate on the pillows, a crib was brought in for Darcy. We set up the crib with blankets and Darcy seemed to sleep pretty well in it. I looked at the hotel information that was in a padded folder in the console and read about all the things that were available in the hotel. The book also showed pictures of visits from world leaders such as Richard Nixon, George Bush, and Queen Elizabeth. The next morning we were to meet Fen Hua’s mother and go through the last of our interviews.

The next morning, Tuesday, April the 2nd, we got a call from the front desk. It was Fen Hua’s brother, Jie Fu, who was down in the lobby with Fen Hua’s mother, Xie Yu Ying. They came up with her luggage and got to meet Darcy and we talked for awhile. Xie Yu Ying was in a dark red top, black pants and white tennis shoes and Jie Fu was in a gray suit and tie. Darcy took to Xie Yu Ying right away. We all went downstairs where we were to eat breakfast and meet with Samantha. The breakfast area was on the other side of the waterfall from the elevators, next to a huge birdcage that was, maybe, around 5 feet tall. The glass that walled the far side of the area looked out onto the huge Pearl River. The river was beautiful to look at and there were always a few boats travelling one direction or the other. Fen Hua’s family had already eaten, so they waited over by some couches in the lounge while we ate.

The breakfast set-up was great. There was a long table set up with every kind of “western” breakfast food you could think of, and more. At the far left side of the table were two chefs waiting to cook your eggs whatever way you asked them to. There was bacon, sausage, ham, eggs, spaghetti, pancakes, waffles, fruits, juices, etc. The breakfast was free to people staying at the hotel. Once you filled up your plate you took it over to cushioned chairs that were grouped alongside coffee-tables. In the center of it all was a woman dressed in black, playing music on a grand piano. Even though Monica and I both loved the authentic Chinese cuisine that we had been getting, it was really nice to get to eat something that had the familiar taste of food from back home. It was here that we also got our first look at Samantha. She was a skinny, large-nosed woman with long red hair and a British accent. The tight beige skirt she wore that morning didn’t give her too much leg mobility. She was going around to each family and checking the papers that we needed to take to our inspections and interviews. She was, at this time, worrying everybody by indicating that there was a problem with our babies passport photos having a light-blue background — she said that they needed to be pure white. Matthew went to check on that and found that it was an undue worry - the photos were just fine.

We had talked to Samantha on the phone when we were in Nanchang, to make her aware of our desire to try to help Fen Hua’s mother get a visa to travel to the U.S. to visit her daughter. Our request had also been relayed to Samantha by Holt earlier than that. She had indicated, during our phone conversation, that she would easily get us in to talk to a close friend of hers at the embassy. So when we met her that morning, we introduced her to X. Yu Ying and asked her about the appointment that she said she would set up for us at the embassy. She simply gave us a name of somebody at the embassy that we should contact. Samantha then asked us about our desires for our exit travel arrangements. We again clearly told her that if Xie Yu Ying was able to travel with us then we would like that to be taken into consideration for flight arrangements. But aside from that, we desired to return home as soon as would be possible. She even wrote all our requests down on her note-pad and said that she would handle it all.

We were all rounded up and Samantha led us out the side stairs and through the glass doors and headed down the street toward the right. Xie Yu Ying carried a large Federal Express envelope with her that contained all her needed paperwork, should we be able to meet with someone at the embassy that morning. We took a left down some side streets and then another right toward the Health Services. About a block from our destination, we came across a large group of energetic school children who were out on the sidewalk doing morning exercise routines. We turned right through the doors into the health building. We stood around in a crowded lobby and Samantha took all our papers and took the information to a front counter area. The counter was set up on a higher level to where she had to hand the papers upward. She didn’t speak Chinese (which struck us as sort of strange for someone who worked in China and would, daily, be in a position of needing to interact with the Chinese-speaking populace) and Matthew was a great help in communicating with the health officials. A baby’s name would be called and a nurse would take that child to a set of white scales over by a small window. I noticed that the area around the window was somewhat dirty. Darcy didn’t like this one bit and it was to get worse. After getting weighed with her clothes on, we were sent toward the rear right to wait on the doctor. We had all congregated in this area with our babies and, when called, shuffled them through the room on the left where a woman in a surgical mask checked their eyes, ears and throat. Then to the room on the right, where the doctor would look over the baby and have us strip them down behind a small curtained-off examining table, in order to verify their sex as a girl. This part was so traumatic for all the babies that, if I remember correctly, every one of the them needed a diaper change at this point.

With all the health papers filled out, we headed back through the doors and out through some different alleyways, back toward the hotel. Back in front of the hotel, we said our grateful good-byes to Matthew, who was to leave us for his next group — which was arriving in Guangzhou by boat. It was an honor to have known Matthew — he was a person with a wonderful, caring heart for these babies. Also, while in front of the hotel, X. Yu Ying, Monica, Darcy and I said good-bye to Jie F., who left his mother to go back to his job. We continued on down the block toward the U.S. Embassy.

We walked down the road to the embassy which was on the left side of the street. The U.S. Embassy was a tall, light-gray building with an iron gate at the front drive, a guard shack to the left of the gate and a smaller entry-way building on the right. On a post, just to the right of the driveway gate, was a large seal with an American eagle in the center and the words, “Consulate General – United States of America.” There was a long line of Chinese people waiting at the entry building, but we went up to the guard shack and told them that we were American citizens and we were all let in immediately through a smaller gate, in-between the drive and the entry building.

We entered the main building and showed our passports to someone that was behind a bulletproof glass window. We then went through a metal-detector. Everything seemed very white and clean inside. We went through a door and into a stairwell and up some stairs to the floor where we were supposed to have our interviews. We looked in one room which was full to the brim with American parents and babies. We then went into another room where we waited to take all our adoption papers up to a glassed-in bank teller-like window where a woman would look them over. We waited and waited. There were only a couple of benches in this room and most everybody had to sit on the floor or stand. The babies were hungry, the parents were tired, the room was hot and the waiting was long. It was also in this room where Samantha, who seemed more interested in talking to an adoptive couple from some other group than paying attention to working with our group to get our papers together, gave us a business card that she had just picked up, with the name of the guy that we were supposed to contact about Fen Hua’s mother. His name was Mr. Shemp.

Eventually everybody got checked out in this room and went to the room that we saw when we first came up the stairs. This room had several couches, a coffee table with magazines, one fan on a stand and a little area with some children’s activity toys. The interview desk was over in the corner by the American flag. The room was cleared out by now and we were able to sit on the couches. For someone who didn’t understand a word of English, X. Yu Ying was putting up with all this waiting and heat with great patience. She spent a big part of the time in this room playing with Darcy. One-by-one the families were called up to the desk in the corner, where a kindly, gray-haired gentleman conducted the interviews. The interviews went smoothly and everything seemed to be a “go” on getting Darcy’s visa to travel to the United States. Samantha then told us that we were done — and on our own.

Monica, Darcy, X. Yu Ying and I went down the stairs and asked at the front glass window if we could see Mr. Shemp or make an appointment with him. We were told to come back at 1:30. We headed back to the hotel and went back up to our room. We looked in the hotel information packet to see what restaurants were open and found that the Cantonese restaurant was the only one open at that particular time. We went to the floor that had the Cantonese restaurant and were shown to a table. The food was good but there were always two or three waitresses standing around us, waiting to serve, which felt kind of strange.

We went back to the embassy at the time we were supposed to, and again we were let immediately through the gate. We had been told to go around the side of the building where the counter windows for Chinese immigration was. X. Yu Ying had tried twice earlier in the week to get an exit visa and had been turned down. And whereas it cost her a precious amount of money (the equivalent of $50 American) each time she applied for a visa, our plan was to talk to an official and vouch that she would be taken care of while in the United States and would be provided for, financially, while in our country and would return to China at the end of the visit. We went in and took Fen Hua’s mother to a short line in front of the far right window.

As we waited in line, we talked to a gray-haired American man in a blue jacket, who was standing behind us. He was trying to help a Chinese artist friend of his get a visa. As we told him our situation, he started to speak kindly to Fen Hua’s mother in fluent Chinese. When we got to the window, we asked for Mr. Shemp. He soon came up and listened to our explanation of how Xie Yu Ying was just going to visit her daughter in America. There was no reason to fear that she would become an illegal alien — she would come back to China because she was raising her granddaughter in China. Mr. Shemp curtly told us that he could do nothing for her at this time and Monica and I made no difference to X. Yu Ying’s situation. He told us that all she could do was to come back at the regular time, like before, and try again — her chance might be good or they might not. Monica specifically asked him, “should we tell her not to waste any more of her money trying?” Mr. Shemp indicated that she should try again tomorrow. We then left to go back to the hotel. We would try again tomorrow through regular channels. As we tried to explain to Fen Hua’s mother what the situation was, the man that had been in line behind us came up and kindly offered to explain it to her in Chinese. We gratefully thanked him and he talked with Xie Yu Ying for awhile. We talked with him for awhile also, and found out that he lived in Minnesota but had spent a couple of years in China.

For supper that night, we thought that we would order a Pizza Hut pizza. The Gowins had ordered one earlier and had greatly enjoyed that taste of home. Since many Chinese people don’t like cheese, we decided to order a small pizza without cheese for Xie Yu Ying. I called up the number and started to give my special order of a sausage pizza without cheese. The person on the other end replied by asking, “Supreme medium or Supreme large?” I again stated my order, only to be met with, “Supreme medium or Supreme large?” After a few minutes of communication confusion, the person on the other end handed the phone to someone else who listened to me and then asked “Supreme medium or Supreme large?” I had already begun to feel the wear of being away from my home country but after not being able to make myself understood to yet a third Pizza Hut employee, I said “Thank You” and hung up. I wanted to be home! I decided to go down the street and get something at the deli that Samantha had pointed out to us on our walk to the Embassy. Leaving Monica, Darcy and X. Yu Ying in the room, I went out the hallway and got into the elevator. On the main floor, I turned left toward the side doorways. Once outside on the side street, I went left down the street toward the embassy. There were a few small shops on the left, past a small area of covered bicycle parking. I remember as I walked down the street, that I was tired of being in a foreign country and really wanted to be home. There was a small deli where I ordered three sandwiches and a large fruit salad. I went back to the hotel and up to the room, where we divided up the fruit salad into the hotel glasses. Xie Yu Ying spread a newspaper out over the bed to catch the crumbs from our sandwiches and we “picnicked” while sitting on the beds. After the maids came in to turn down our bed covers, we went to bed — Fen Hua’s mother in the bed closest to the door, Monica and I squeezed into the other bed and Darcy in her crib. We set our alarm in order to get up and in the immigration line early.

Wednesday morning, April 3rd, Monica, Darcy and I accompanied X. Yu Ying to the embassy. We left to get in line early. It was cool and cloudy with an occasional bit of drizzle in the air. We had been told that it opened at a certain time and we wanted to be at the front of the line, so we had decided to get there extra early. It ended up that the time we were given was way earlier than what we needed to be there— but that didn’t matter, because the line was already stretched out into the street. There were probably about 50 people already in line ahead of us, with more coming. We decided that Monica and Darcy should probably go back to the hotel and get some breakfast, then rest, while I took Fen Hua’s mother through the procedure. I gave Monica the room key and she and Darcy went back to the hotel. X. Yu Ying, who, due to our language barrier, had been very quiet since the time we met her, all of a sudden turned into an outgoing, talkative extrovert. It was like she had been bottled up vocally by her time with us and she wanted to make up for lost time. She immediately made friends with the man and woman in front of us and began laughing and talking non-stop. Fen Hua’s mother had made several attempts to communicate something to me, but to no avail. She suddenly looked around, stepped off the sidewalk and went off among the crowd of pedestrians. She came back leading, by the arm, a young lady in a dark blue raincoat. This woman spoke English and became our translator. Fen Hua’s mother told me that she wanted me to go back to the hotel — she would be all right going through the visa process. I explained to her that Fen Hua would never forgive us if we lost her mother in a strange, big city. I insisted on staying with her and she patted me on the arm and said that that was very kind of me. I talked with our interpreter and found out that she was a college student that was trying to get a visa to go to a university in Wisconsin, where her sister lived. While standing there, I also remember looking down the street where there was a young man going through his tai chi exercises in an alleyway.

After a while, Monica and Darcy showed up and Monica said that they had had breakfast and then had tried to nap, but couldn’t. I was to find out later that Monica hadn’t even tried to put Darcy down for a nap but that they had hurriedly eaten their breakfast, pocketed food for Yu Ying, went to the bathroom and came back to relieve me. Monica insisted that I go back to the hotel and get some breakfast while they waited with Fen Hua’s mother. So we switched and I went on back to the hotel. The breakfast was again, wonderful! After I had finished breakfast, I came back to the line to find Monica and Darcy and Xie Yu Ying in the same spot — the embassy still hadn’t opened up.

After a while, the immigrant gate opened and the line became just a mob around the door in order to get in. We went through the gate house, through an outdoor railed area and in through a door to the main building. From here we went through a metal detector and turned left through a door into the waiting room with the counter windows. We went through a line to the counter, where we gave them X. Yu Ying’s name and her papers. We then took a seat on a bench over toward the front door. I remember a young Chinese man, probably in his early 20’s, who was sitting across from us, who had a slicked-back Elvis-style haircut and was dressed in a powder-puff blue polyester leisure jacket — like a stereotypical Las Vegas hood from the 1970’s.
A young college student sat to the left of Monica on the bench. She wore a brown Land’s End jacket that was the exact same style of Monica’s blue jacket that was back at the hotel. She spoke English very well and obligingly became our next interpreter. We coached Fen Hua’s mother to emphasize the fact that she was raising her granddaughter here in China and that she took that task very seriously and would not want to stay in the United States. After a while, she was called into the interview room, where we weren’t allowed to follow. We then chatted with our translator. She heard what province X. Yu Ying was from and immediately told us that Yu Ying had no chance whatsoever of getting a visa to visit the United States. She told us that X. Yu Ying came from a province that was notorious with cases of citizens escaping from China and remaining in the United States. Thus, there had been a major cutback on people allowed to immigrate from that particular province – especially if you weren’t a student.

When X. Yu Ying soon came back out to the waiting room, she was smiling broadly – and we thought that it must be good news! But she told us, through our translator, that she had once again been rejected. She was smiling at us because of her gratefulness to us for all the effort that we had put into trying to help her. She also told us that her interviewer was Mr. Shemp, the guy who we had spoken to yesterday and who, knowing her full situation at that time, had told us that X. Yu Ying might have a chance! We dejectedly went back to the hotel and up to our room where we telephoned Fen Hua and tearfully explained to her that her mother was not able to get a visa. Fen Hua talked a while to her mother and again to us before ending the conversation. Fen Hua then called her sister-in-law to let her know. Fen Hua’s sister-in-law was to then start on her way to pick up Xie Yu Ying and take her home. In the meantime, Xie Yu Ying spent time playing with Darcy. When her daughter-in-law picked her up, there was a tearful good-bye. We were so glad to have spent the time with the mother of our dear friend and we were so disappointed that she was not going to be able to come back with us. X. Yu Ying also left some items for us to take back to Fen Hua — one item being some medicinal roots or something. I was sort of worried about taking them through customs, but we packed them up and hoped for the best.

Samantha had planned a lunch at a local restaurant later that afternoon, with our group and another Holt group. Monica, Darcy and I were, at first, the only ones from our group to attend. We were later joined by Jon, Mia and Steve. The restaurant was in the opposite direction from the embassy, on the left side of the street. There was a huge water tank of live seafood-to-be in it’s lobby. We were seated at two tables and we sat in-between a family from Iowa and a California family that was of Asian background. They both had adopted children that were older than the babies in our group. When Jon and Mia and Steve arrived, because our tables were filled up, they were seated at a small table to the side of our tables. After eating, we went back to the hotel.

Early that evening, Monica took Darcy and went outside our room to take a walk and visit with the other members of our group. In a few minutes, she came back with unnerving news — the Gowins had just told her that they had just found out that Samantha was dumping travel arrangements in the laps of each individual family! Samantha and the other families were downstairs in the basement level in the travel office making arrangements that very moment. We hadn’t even been called! And the phone message light on our phone showed that we had not received any message when we were gone earlier in the day. We hurriedly gathered together and went down to the travel office. Samantha claimed she tried calling us — but had been calling the wrong room. Well, it should have been her job to have arranged ahead of time to have all the families meet at the travel office, if this was her plan. Samantha was only able to keep our White Swan rooms through that night and we all needed to be out the next day. Because the McManamons had room time at the Hong Kong Hilton and their flight connection was with a Japanese airline, they were going to spend another day in Guangzhou (at another hotel) before going on to Hong Kong. The rest of us would be going on to Hong Kong tomorrow. Mia’s group were wanting to stay in Hong Kong an extra day, so they were assigned a different hotel than the remaining people. The rest of us wanted to go home as soon as possible, so we were assigned to go to the Airport Regal in Kowloon. It was actually connected to the Hong Kong airport. Samantha and the Travel Office had Yolanda on the phone. Yolanda was in touch with the hotels. When our family’s name was relayed to the Regal, we were told that we were already registered and that they would not double-book us by again taking our name at this time. We informed Samantha that we had not contacted the hotel. She figured that in all the booking fuss, the Regal must have gotten our name from Yolanda. We told them to double-check that Grant, Monica and Darcy Cochran were booked at the Regal Hotel next to the Hong Kong Airport. They verified in the affirmative. That’s all we wanted — a room at our next destination! We were tired of Samantha’s poor handling of the situation. She had mismanaged things so much that the Gowins, after they had gone back to their room, even called Holt’s director of China adoptions and complained about Samantha. Apparently, we were all set to leave for Hong Kong the next morning. And supposedly, Samantha was to meet us at the airport. I had strong doubts about that. One memory I have of the travel agency room was an instance while we were all in the room making arrangements — there was suddenly the sound of a crying baby from outside the door into the main hotel shopping area — Amy immediately jumped up and headed quickly to the door with a panicked expression on her face. Sarah, who was sitting over to the side quietly playing with Catherine and knowing immediately what was on her mother’s mind, shouted over to Amy that everything was okay, Catherine was right there in the room with them.

After that, we looked around the hotel area. There were shops of all sorts in the basement level — mostly expensive ones. We walked around behind the lobby waterfall and through a hallway, over towards the indoor pool.
That same night, all of the families gathered in the Gowins’ room. Most of us had earlier bought traditional silk Chinese outfits for our daughters and we all dressed the babies in those. Darcy’s blue silk Mandarin suit, which we had bought in Hong Kong, was two sizes too big. We then set all the babies up on the large bed in the room and had a photo-shoot. It was absolutely hilarious — the babies in their slippery silk clothes pushing and pulling on each other and getting all the more excited by all the camera flashes and laughing and laughing. Mia wasn’t very happy with the goings-on and spent most of her time crying. The other babies just seemed happy and curious. Darcy kept falling over sideways whenever Nicole wasn’t propped up next to her. She would fall sideways, but her legs would still be sticking out in a sitting position. We all laughed and had a great time. Later we went back to our room and packed up all our luggage. Then we relaxed with an American television show that had a bunch of magicians on it and was hosted by Robert Urich.

The next morning, Thursday, April the 4th, we ate breakfast with Jon, Steve and Mia. As Monica and Darcy finished up in the lobby breakfast area, I went to check out. A hotel employee went to check the room for refrigerator usage and reported a damaged Toblerone candy bar. They were going to charge us but I put up a fuss about being charged for a candy bar that I hadn’t eaten and that I had done nothing to. What had happened was, that in clearing out all the cans from the refrigerator to make room for the baby’s formula, this candy bar had been moved to a tray that had gotten a little bit of a defrosting drip, thus getting the candy wrapper a little bit wet and wrinkled. They agreed to not charge us and then checked us out. Good-byes were said to the M's and we packed up into the hotel shuttle bus.

We got to the airport and got into a long line for departures to Hong Kong. Some of us did some quick shopping for souvenirs or film before the line began to move. To my amazement, Samantha actually showed up as the line finally began to move forward. We passed through large aqua-colored stations where we showed our passports and papers. We passed through without a hitch and Samantha was able to lead us straight ahead to the counter where we were to check in our luggage. Our set of luggage was over the limit and we needed to pay an extra charge. The only Chinese money that we had left we had originally intended to keep as souvenirs. But when we took our charge-ticket to the cashier’s booth, we found that we didn’t have enough money to pay the fine. Thankfully, the Gowins had some left-over Chinese money and lent us that. We took our receipt back to the luggage counter and our luggage was checked in. We then all went up a small escalator to our departure area, got on the plane and headed to Hong Kong.

We arrived in the Hong Kong airport in a fog and went to the arrival booths, again. It was here that we lost sight of Jon, Steve and Mia. We went on through the entry booths, Rita found where our luggage was to arrive. We loaded the luggage onto carts and we passed through customs. We found signs that pointed the way to the entry of the Regal. We took an elevator up to an enclosed walkway that crossed over the road to the hotel. There was a hotel employee who picked up our luggage and put it on a conveyer belt that ran the length of the left side of the walkway. We then picked it up off the belt on the hotel side.

REGAL AIRPORT HOTEL (Sa Po Road, adjacent to Hong Kong International Airport, with which it is connected by an elevated over-the-highway walkway) is worth knowing about if you arrive in Hong Kong late in the day and must depart--more's the pity--early the next morning. There are 400 soundproof rooms, with those in the superior category very nice indeed. Airport arrivals and departures are indicated on the screen of each room's TV. There are good dining options: snazzy Five Continents seafood house, and coffee shop, with a trio of bar-lounges. First Class. © 1993, Compton's New Media, Inc.

There was a hotel lounge/restaurant on our right and a few yards to the left was the check-in counter. We all went up to the counter and gave our names. The G's and Rita and Sharon were on their list, but the C's were not. There was a P. Cochrane on their register, but no room for us. That was the last straw — there had been just one too many flub-ups in the last 24 hours and we were mad. We weren’t feeling good at all, either — my ears were stuffed to where I could hardly hear and Monica was dead tired from no sleep, and now, we had no room! Monica was mad as a wet hen and began to go on about their goof-ups and said that we would just sleep on the floor of the airport and Sharon tried to calm her down. I, hardly able to hear anything he said, talked to the manager to get him to resolve their mistake — having refused to book us earlier because “we don’t double book.” He said he could get us a room at a discount (around $160, U.S.) — but that price was still much higher than our room was supposed to have been. They called Yolanda, who worked something out to get us a room at the price we were supposed to have.

Eventually, we got a room that was on the same floor as Rita & Sharon and the G's, but down a different hallway. Our luggage was loaded onto a cart and taken up by the porters. When the elevators opened on our floor, we took a left. Rita’s group and the G's took another left to go through a glass doorway and down the hall to their rooms. We, on the other hand, went straight ahead through a glass door entry-way. Our room was the second door on the left. Going through the door, the bathroom was on the right, then a white-doored lit closet, then the room opened out to the right. It had one huge bed and a futon-like chair that faced a TV that was in the left corner. On the wall behind the TV was a large framed print of a Chinese painting of two yellow birds — I remember that Monica really liked this painting. There was a large sill that you could sit on in front of the window. Outside the window, you could see the hotel wing that the others were in, L-ing off from our wing. From the window, you could see the airplanes making their final approach to the airport landing strips. The planes came real close — we could see them quite well. They appeared to fly directly toward the hotel sometimes, as they circled in to land. The apartment buildings that were visible from our window looked pretty grungy. I also remember that I had a lot of trouble with the water-boiler in this room — the button that you pushed to pump the water out didn’t work well at all.

After a while, we all went over to the airport to check on our flight information. We found out then that we had been switched to a flight going to San Francisco instead of Los Angeles. The rest of our flights would be the same, but our connections would be quite a bit tighter. We would also be getting a refund for this inconvenience. We went back to the hotel and, as Monica and I were worn out and not feeling good, we took a nap.

That afternoon we checked with the others to see if they wanted to go out and do something. The Gowins wanted to stay in the hotel and watch a pay-movie on their room television. The rest of us decided to take a walk and go get some American fast-food and see the streets of Hong Kong. We went down the elevator to the check-in level, then down two narrow escalators, past some shops and restaurants. We walked past a “pub” and out the side of the hotel onto the sidewalk. The sidewalk paralleled the street that went under the airport-to-hotel crosswalk. We followed it down to a street that led toward the numerous surrounding buildings. I remember carrying Rita’s turqoise-colored diaper bag, so that she would have her hands free to push Emily’s stroller or use her camera. We saw a Fuji store and went down a sidewalk to go inside and get some film. I remember seeing a McDonald’s wrapper on the street and knowing that there must be one nearby. We got some 100-speed film (the only kind available in Hong Kong and China) and headed back out on our excursion. Rita had Emily in a stroller and Monica carried Darcy in her “snugly”. We walked several blocks looking into shops and taking in the sights of the people and the sights of all the lighted neon signs.

Rita had gotten directions from the hotel to a McDonald’s and we took a left down a street where we saw a distant McDonald’s sign. We crossed over to the right side of the street, up a few steps and in through the glass doors. It was a fairly small counter area, with a stairwell in the corner leading down to the seating area. We ordered our food, with Monica ordering one of her long-missed twist cones. When they gave her a plain vanilla cone, Monica said that she asked for a “twist cone.” They pointed to it’s shape and said that, yes, it was a “twist” cone. We all went downstairs and sat in the far back left corner of the area, next to an emergency exit door. Our booth was near the restrooms which, according to the long lines, were in heavy use. We ate our food — it tasted wonderful — a taste of home. The babies loved their first-ever french fries. Emily got her diaper changed at the booth and we went back up to the streets.

We walked through the streets and around back toward the hotel, looking at all the sights and shops. I remember one shop with all kinds of live seafood items for sale. We went back to the hotel and found out when the hotels’ tourist shuttle ran. We decided to come back later at a specified time for a shuttle trip and went back to our rooms for the time being.

When it neared the time to meet for the shuttle bus, Monica, Darcy and I went down a little early to look in the gift shops on the check-in level. One shop had a lot of souvenirs, t-shirts, and dolls. Monica showed several dolls to Darcy. Darcy just laughed and laughed and kicked her feet when looking at one particular Rice Paddy doll. We showed her other dolls, such as a little doll dressed in military uniform, but her reaction was exclusively for the Rice Paddy doll. She kept laughing and reaching out her arms for this doll. We also looked at t-shirts. We asked the proprietor how late he was open and what time he opened up in the morning. He told us and we promised to return.

We met up with Rita, Sharon and Emily and went down the escalators to the lower hotel entrance where we were to catch the shuttle. We noticed a small bakery shop on that level, next to the doors, and thought about maybe getting something there later that night or for breakfast. The shuttle bus was next to the curb and we climbed on. Several other tourists were on the bus, too. The bus took off and it was just a wonder to look at all the sights and realize that we were actually here in the exotic city of Hong Kong.

The shuttle took us to an area by the YMCA-Salisbury near the Star Ferry. We committed the pick-up point to memory and went exploring. We walked through the YMCA and past a lower-level bookstore that had just closed. We walked toward the clock tower near the ferry, passing a large art center. It was a beautiful night for our last stroll through Hong Kong. Next to the Star Ferry area, by the clock tower, there was a large promenade area that came out and around abutting the water. The wind was blowing off the water with just enough of a chill to increase the desire to put my arm around the wife that I loved with all my heart, who was holding close this little girl who we loved so much. The lights of the Hong Kong buildings across the bay gave the darkness and fog a romantic glow. Rita took a picture, with our camera, of the three of us standing next to the railing in front of the water.

We all spent time looking around the promenade. Monica and I spotted some kind of display down the stairs, with some music playing over a small loudspeaker. We went to look and saw a bunch of flowers around a mock-up version of the Liberty statue that the students had made during the Tiananmen Square democracy demonstration in 1989. There was a large display in memory of the unarmed student protestors and Beijing residents massacred June 4th, 1989. You could purchase flowers to set at the display. A sign on a box at the front said, “Offer a Flower to those who died for Democracy in China – especially the 1989 Tiananmen Martyrs – on this day, the Ching Ming Festival, when the Chinese remember their departed dear ones.” There were large, green-backed displays of pictures and words about the massacre. It was here that I realized just how deeply Monica loved the people of China. I’ve seen Monica watch a tear-jerker movie or read a touching story without showing much sign of emotion — but looking at this display, I saw my wife weep. Before this, Tiananmen Square was just another atrocity in a distant world, that didn’t affect me. I knew my wife had a deep interest in the Chinese culture, but I hadn’t realized, until now, how deep was her love for this people. And I loved her all the more for it. Monica had a God-given love for this people and she was sorrowful for those who had died for the freedom of their country and for what they believed in. I could see that she was grateful that our baby had lived and was going to go home to the safety of America and our protection. I could sense Monica praying in her heart for our baby. She was also sorrowful that we were leaving this country that she loved, more than likely never to return. Before I came to China, I had never really had any special interest in this part of the world over any other part of the globe. But after we returned to the United States, I developed a keen interest in any story or report that was based about China. It’s mainly because that’s where my beloved daughter came from and it’s her native heritage and also because of the experiences we went through to get to our daughter and bring her home. But I think it’s also based in experiencing Monica’s tears at this memorial display. When I came to the realization of how deep her love was for China, I came to love China deeply also.
We hooked up again with Rita, Sharon and Emily and walked along the shoreline railing, looking at the boats sailing through the bay and the buildings lighting up the misty fog. The atmosphere of the place just reeked of romance and there were several amorous couples about. It felt great to have my arm around Monica’s shoulder, and even Sharon mentioned at this time that she was lonely for her husband. We walked around to the east and looked northward over another railing at the numerous steps from one of the buildings. There were two teenage boys riding their in-line skates down the steps, in an impressive display. We went down the steps from the promenade, past the steps where the skaters were, and in between the buildings. We went around the art building’s outdoor displays and toward the street. We walked past a beautiful hotel fountain with changing-colored lights and down the street to where the shuttle would pick us up. We got on board and headed back to the hotel.

I think we went to the hotel gift shop when we came back and again tested Darcy on the Rice Paddy doll. It still made her laugh and kick her feet joyously, so we bought it — along with a small dress and two souvenir Hong Kong t-shirts. The doll had her own little blue Hong Kong passport and we named her “Nan Chang”, after the city where we three were all brought together. We went back up to our room, packed and went to bed, but didn’t get much sleep that night.

The next morning, Friday, April 5th, Monica, Darcy and I went across the walkway to the airport to find the McDonald’s and get a bite to eat for breakfast. We walked around for the longest time without any luck. Finally, at the far end of the airport, I left Monica and Darcy at the bottom of some stairs that led to a small diner, and went off to find the McDonald’s. I found it down another set of stairs and came back to get my family. We went down and ate breakfast at the McDonald’s.

We then went back to the hotel to prepare to check out. Monica spent some time playing “airplane turbulence” with Emily and Darcy in Rita and Sharon’s room. That game consisted of bouncing on the bed with both girls in her arms, while exclaiming, “Oh, no! More turbulence! … Hold on!” as the girls squealed with delight! I went back to our room to finish the packing. We had our luggage taken down to the lobby and checked out and waited for the rest of our group. When they all got checked out, we took our luggage back over the walkway conveyer belt and down the elevator to the United Airlines check-in counter. We waited in separate lines in order to get through quicker. Our luggage was checked in, we got our boarding passes and, after asking about our refunds, were told that we would get our flight change refund when we got back to the United States. One of Rita’s pieces of luggage was giving the x-ray trouble (it ended up being the battery-operated soldier that she had bought on Victoria’s Peak), so in order to save time and get a place in line at the boarding location, we took Rita’s carry-on pieces and went to find the boarding area.

We were having trouble finding the correct area where departing immigrants needed to pass through, but Bob asked somebody who directed us way down the airport. We found the area and waited out front of a white-walled section for Rita, Sharon and Emily. We had Emily’s papers in Rita’s carry-on and they would need that for boarding. The line began to move for boarding and whereas it took quite a while to clear through the passport station and we were running out of time, we got in line and kept watching for Rita. We still hadn’t seen Rita by the time we got through the passport station and we were getting quite worried. We asked one of the workers to page Rita’s name over the PA, but she seemed quite reluctant and didn’t even try. The plane was being boarded and still no sign of Rita, Sharon and Emily. As we were about to need to board before take-off we saw Sharon coming from another direction. She had gotten through by another route and Rita and Emily were waiting at a different immigration area for Sharon to track us down and bring back the papers she needed to board. At the last minute, we all got on the flight. Rita was understandably a basket-case. We all were by this time.

Our plane was another large Boeing 747 and we were seated in the rear center area next to a couple of missionaries from Texas. It was terribly crowded and we were squashed into two tiny seats and we were stressed. Real stressed! United provided a box of baby-food and juice, which was real nice, but Darcy refused it all to eat only rice cereal and formula. It was such a long, drawn-out flight. The in-flight movies were “An American President” and “Money Train”, but I don’t remember watching much of them. I remember going back to the rear of the plane to mix a formula bottle for Darcy on the small attendant’s table numerous times. Whenever Monica needed to go to the restroom, I held Darcy. Darcy had yet to bond with me and would just cry and scream at the top of her lungs the whole time I held her. I was tired and stressed and Darcy’s rejection was really getting to me and I really don’t remember much about the next 12 hours. I remember Monica standing talking to some people by the wing exit who were acquainted with some Taiwan missionaries that Monica had written to a few months earlier. I also remember standing back near the rear emergency exits to stretch my legs. That’s it! That’s all I can remember of a 12-hour flight. No sleep for any of us. Darcy would remain wide awake all but the last 20 minutes of the final flight (Denver to KC). And she didn’t like Monica to sit down while holding her. Monica and I both had royal sinus infections by then, and the multiple take-offs and landings of our journey just added to our excruciating pain. We both thought one of our eardrums had burst when we landed in Denver. It was awful!

By the time we arrived in San Francisco, I was achy, my back hurt and my ears were definitely stuffed. We went to the luggage pick-up area to pass our luggage in to the U.S. We didn’t have much time between any of our connections, so as Monica and Darcy were in the restroom, I hugged good-bye to the Gowins who were taking a flight to Chicago. We passed through the “New Immigrants Only” booth and gave the woman Darcy’s immigration packet. She told us that it would be several weeks before we got Darcy’s “green card” in the mail. We then passed through customs and the luggage x-ray area. Then we went through a door, turned right and down a hall to where we re-checked the luggage to get to Kansas City. We then hurried down some halls to the boarding area. We boarded immediately. We were seated in the right side of the back part of the front section of middle seats. Rita and Sharon and Emily boarded soon after us, as well as the Iowa family that we sat next to at the Guangzhou restaurant. This flight wasn’t very crowded and we got to comfortably spread out. There was a young woman on leave from the army (she was a mechanic) that sat across from us and she asked us a lot about Darcy. I think that Darcy was getting a little bit of a nap when Sharon came up to talk to us a little bit. I guess that Rita and Emily were napping at that time also. We said our good-byes to Sharon at that time, because we knew we wouldn’t have much time at the Denver Airport, either. They would be catching a plane for Omaha and we would be boarding for KCI.

When the plane landed in Denver, the change in air pressure caused my ears to hurt so much that I really thought they were actually going to burst! I have never had my ears hurt so much, before or since. I was literally holding my ears and gritting my teeth with pain. Monica was having the very same problem. As we got off the plane, we followed the signs to where our next boarding was. I must have missed one of the signs, because we walked all the way to the end of the gate numbers without reaching our gate. We then went around back the way we came, asked at a counter where to go and found out that we needed to go down another wing. We got to our seating area, and because our throats were parched, I went in search of some soft drinks. It was really nice to do business at a counter where English was understood and American money was used. We relaxed for a little bit with our soft drinks before time to board. I remember that Monica changed a stinky diaper while we were waiting and I searched out a trash can to dispose of it. It was hot in the terminal and we shucked a layer or two.

Our next flight was a much smaller plane and a lot more crowded, but it was to be such a comparatively short flight that it seemed like a breeze. Since we now got to board flights early because of Darcy, I was able to put our overhead luggage in the hold without much stress at all.

We soon landed at KCI. It was about 5:45 p.m. on April 5, 1996. We were finally on home soil. Because we were still packing a lot and because we were changing into our Hong Kong t-shirts, we let everybody else crowd off before us. When we exited and walked up the exit hallway, we were the last passengers off the plane. There were a few flight attendants that were looking at us and smiling as we walked up the hallway. As we turned right, around the corner, a crowd of around forty family and friends let out a loud cheer! They were at the end of the hallway holding signs and balloons welcoming Darcy home. It was so good to be home to our loved ones. It was good to see the turn-out of family and friends. There was a lot of photo and video-taking as we came forward and our loved ones crowded in around to get their first look at this new precious addition to our family. It was so good to see everybody! There were even strangers that had stopped to see who this crowd with the placards were waiting to greet. There were hugs and kisses and quick-worded stories. Darcy just took it all in, in wonderment.

My brother-in-law Eric and my cousin Eddie checked with us to see how many pieces of luggage we had to pick up and they went to get it for us. In the meantime, I went to the United counter to get our refund. The lady at the counter had never run into any such thing but called over some guy who was in charge and he made out a couple of checks in the amounts of the refunds. Relatives and friends said good-byes and the ones remaining were our immediate family members and Fen Hua.

We all exited the airport to head to our house for everybody to spend a little time relaxing and getting to spend some time looking at and getting to know this beautiful little girl. Mom and Dad C. had rented a van to transport us, Fen Hua, Lynne’s family and Jan's family. Mom and Dad B. came in their own vehicle. The thing I remember about when we got home was Darcy’s big eyes just taking in her new home, while Monica fed her some rice cereal. We were home! Thank you, God.

Whenever I think back on this trip, my heart kind of leaps in a happy, nostalgic wasn’t-that-a-great-trip-I-wish-I-was-there-again feeling. I’m sure that I romanticize Hong Kong and China in my mind, to some degree. But consider the situation — the combination of spending two weeks in a new and uniquely exotic location and the sole objective and consummation of getting our precious little daughter. I hope and pray that Darcy will grow up with an interest in both her heritages — her adopted heritage of Monica's side of the family and my side of the family histories and her heritage of the land of China. I hope some day to maybe visit China again with Darcy when she is grown up — maybe we would be able to do that, maybe not. I know it really wouldn’t be the same — it wouldn’t have the same circumstance around it. But I will always remember this event with a uniquely special love in my heart.

— Grant