Monday, December 3, 2007

Going South (but Not for the Winter)

We are now in Haikou, on the northern side of Hainan Province, off China's southern coast. It's very different from Beijing, as this city is visited mostly by Chinese nationals and virtually nothing here is in English. (If Sabrina from the agency were not traveling with us to help us handle everything and interpret for us, I think we'd manage to blunder our way into an international incident.) It's also known as a tourist mecca for said Chinese nationals, being filled with nightclubs and neon.

Our daughter was clearly concerned as we packed up this morning, probably wondering if we were about to go off and leave her behind. Of course, this was simply not happening. Jacquie was able to get some smiles out of her by playing ringtones on her cell phone, from "Spongebob" to the Hallelujah Chorus.

The flight from Beijing to Haikou was of course very different from an American flight - we've never flown on Southwest when the airline serves coconut milk and beef with rice. Xiao-Ling fell asleep in her mother's arms for an hour or two, then sat next to me for the remainder of the flight, devouring buns and most of my rice. We giggled as we ate lunch together, grinning at each other and rubbing our tummies.

Speaking of food, I think our daughter will be a chef, a chemist or both. At breakfast yesterday in Beijing, she had a merry time combining various liquids - water, milk, orange juice, soy sauce, you name it - into a glass and downing the lot. She also charmed the socks off everyone there, from other CHI families to the wait staff, whom she helped out by carting silverware and other table items over to them.

We find ourselves better connecting with Xiao-Ling almost continually. Our Chinese and her English are both virtually nonexistent, but we are able to get the point across by nonverbal cues, gestures, and so on. And in return, she tells us what she wants by context - for example, when she needs to use the bathroom and needs one of us to lift her onto the toilet.

This is not to say that we're totally linguistically at odds, as we've learned to recognize some Chinese phrases to determine what she is saying and her English is starting to come back. She's already told us the #1 kid word in America - "no."

Last night, we shared a meal at the hotel with Sabrina. Our young lady happily downed heaping quantities of noodle soup, papaya soup, beef with vegetables and warm coconut broth. She grandly declared "Xiao-Ling likes meat!" (We're not really sure just why she referred to herself in the third person, but we're not worried about it.) And it was kind of amusing for Jacquie and myself to receive silverware, even though we're both quite dexterous with chopsticks, while Sabrina and Xiao-Ling did not. Nevertheless, we demonstrated our talents ably, thereby possibly making ourselves a little less strange in our surroundings.

This morning, we will start the formal adoption process, which will take a couple of days. More to come!

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