I went to bed last night with what I can only call “surreal anticipation.” I know today is significant. There’s a baby bed in our room. That hasn’t happened in years. We’re in China for crying out loud. This is really happening.
All this anticipation woke me up early. Like, 4AM early. But today was worth an early start. I thought I’d go get some coffee. There’s a Starbucks near our hotel but sadly it doesn’t open till 8:30AM…. what?!? So instead I settle in with a nice hot cup of Nescafé instant coffee. Mmm… Nevertheless, it’s hot and kinda reminds me of actual coffee so I’m good.
My sister reminded me of a passage in Ephesians where we’re told that God took pleasure in the work of making us his children. That our adoption is actually the revelation of our sonship. The purpose of adoption is to reveal the identity of the father. When we see a child alone, we react with one simple and very natural response, “Where is this child’s parent?” It’s unnatural for a child to be without parents. Orphans don’t know how to answer the question of sonship. So when someone says, “Who is responsible for the care and nurture of these children,” the father can say, “They belong to me.”
This is what adoption does. It identifies the father.
I stayed awake this morning with an awe of the weightiness of what today will forever become for us. I am eager to say, “She belongs with me.”
So, you know how I told you I was hungry and had to figure something out on the train? I talked my sister-in-law into going back there and picking something. A little cowardly I guess. But it was delicious. I don’t really know what it all was but I’d eat it again for sure.
We met up with our group and our guide at the train station and boarded a bus through Jinan to exchange money and check into the hotel. Jinan is considered a small, rural city of a mere 4 million people. The entire Shandong province has nearly 100 million. That’s almost a third of the population of the US just in one province of China. Crazy.
We walked over to a nearby mall for food at the suggestion of John, our guide. We found this noodle place. And you guys… I think I hit a wall. Again, no clue what I’m actually ordering. Thankfully our waitress spoke enough English and had a good translation app on her phone that we could communicate. But it started to really stress me out. There were heating plates in the tables and she kept bringing out food and it was all VERY spicy and there was no way to eat it and the kids were laying down. It felt like dinner was spiraling. The sheer amount of food, in the US would have equated to a $200 meal. I kept trying to send food back because I thought it was more than we needed and it was gonna cost WAY too much. I kinda lost my composure a little and had to walk outside for a minute. I’m not gonna lie, this was a challenge for me. Maybe I was tired. Maybe I felt out of control because I can’t read the menu. Maybe I was embarrassed because I’m just guessing and pointing and saying, “xie xie” to everything because it’s basically the only phrase I know and at least I can be polite. Our waitress was compassionate and kept checking in on us. She brought us everything we needed for this final meal as a family of five. And when it was all said and done, that spread of a meal cost us about $50 USD.
I don’t know why things got so out of hand. I don’t know. But I do know in 12 hours from now we’ll be holding our beautiful baby girl. We will head to the orphanage first thing in the morning and there she will be. We will be hers forever.
They rolled a crib into our room tonight. Kelley packed a diaper bag of formula, diapers, baby clothes and accessories. Tonight is the last night we sleep as a party of five.
Tomorrow is officially Gotcha Day.
When someone says the word adventure, you either get excited or you tune out. Actually, I would argue that everybody is fascinated with the idea of adventure. That’s why we love good stories. We don’t make movies about the boring stuff of the day-to-day routine. No doubt some of that stuff is required for life but it’s the thrill of facing the unknown that makes stories worth telling. You probably don’t tune out. Not really, anyway. You’re probably just thinking, “I could never do that. I’m too ___________.” Or, “I don’t have enough _____________.” We’ve heard people say this a lot in the conversation of adoption.
When we were arranging travel inside China, we were given two options for train travel. One was safe and normal. One was labeled “adventurous.” There was no other explanation than that. We chose that. If you’re going to adopt a little girl from the other side of the world, you’re probably a little crazy already. I think it comes with the territory.
Families who’ve done this trip before us tried to prepare us for what to expect. One travel agency all but told us we were foolish. We stopped doing business with them. They also wanted to charge us almost double for our flights. Nope.
We decided to make this an adventure our family would remember forever. This is why we brought our kids, even though a lot of you looked at us like we’d lost our minds. A couple of you even (lovingly) told us so. Truth is, you’re probably right. But it takes a little crazy in the soup to give it some flavor. So, adventurous train? Yep!
Here’s the deal with the train. It goes about 250 mph through the countryside of eastern China. You have precisely 120 seconds to board the train. There are two doors on each cabin for boarding and exiting. Eighty passengers per car leaving and 80 new ones getting on. With luggage. In 120 seconds. There’s a fair amount of pushing and squeezing. Passengers are eating delicious looking food. I went back to the dining cart to do a little investigation but I can’t read the menu and the only thing on the counter is some jerky and something that looks like Pringles. I thought maybe I’d just point at a picture and pay for it but there are no pictures. Just a long list of items all written in Chinese. I knew I should have studied more. I’m getting hungry though so I’m gonna have to figure something out. Stay tuned…