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China: Day 11 & 12 – Passing Time & Making a Mess: A Trip to Shamian Island and a Prune-tastic Snack

The required Guangzhou portion of a China adoption trip can be summarized in two steps: get the medical exam (wait for results), then file for a U.S. visa (and wait for said visa). It’s kind of that simple. Before and after those steps, plenty of free time exists while paperwork is pushed behind the scenes, so most families set out to explore the sights and sounds of the city. With Julia being relatively so young and so-far immobile, options like the zoo safari didn’t make a lot of sense… so we spent Sunday and Monday in quieter settings, killing time on a secluded sandbar and having the most epic snack (I mean, mess!) yet.

Shamian Island is a tiny enclave south of Guangzhou’s downtown (quite literally a sandbar island) not only known for its French and British history, but also the history of American families having previously adopted from China over the years. This beautiful historical area (once divided in two concessions given to France and the United Kingdom) has only three east/west streets crisscrossed by five north/south roads, and is dotted with hotels, restaurants, tourist shops, and pedestrian walkways and parks. To us, it was like a mini Savannah, Georgia meets French Quarter, oddly enough. To thousands of families of yesteryear, it previously served as home base for Chinese adoptions when the legendary White Swan hotel was basecamp and the old U.S. Consulate was right next door (the medical check was even on the island, so families never had to leave the peaceful surroundings). Since the Consulate moved into the new Central Business District recently and for the past three years the White Swan has been under complete renovations, a trip to Shamian Island now consists of nothing but a leisurely stroll for families like ours. So stroll we did. We found The Bee some killer Chinese slippers and had a stamp hand-carved with both her U.S. and Chinese name. It was a great morning on a surprisingly cool and windy day, and made for a much-needed break from the recent (and upcoming) hustle-and-bustle.

In the afternoon, what should have been a routine snack before dinner turned into one of our favorite moments yet. Like many epic memories from this trip that involved just bonding in the hotel room, Jujube was simply being a ham as she devoured prunes for seemingly the first time. She’s still pretty far behind in terms of eating, so we’re relying on spoon-feeding baby food to fatten up those turkey legs. And while we’re eager to get her caught up to solids, times like these make us appreciate the remnants of “baby” left in her. As Mom kept shoveling in the treats and Julia kept physically and verbally showing her excitement for the tasty goodness, we let her get messier and messier while I inched for the camera. Lying on the floor to get the right angle, I couldn’t help but smile from behind the viewfinder. This kid is friggin’ photogenic, and when you slop a bunch of orange goo on her already kiss-worthy lips… she becomes irresistible. Irresistible I tell ya.

We ended the day Monday exactly how we have for a week: at dinner, in love with this new family of three, simply marveling at the blessing of a child before us, and sad that the day has nearly passed. When sitting still, the little lotus always has an object in her hands, and it’s always banging on some surface to make a fun noise. Her Granddaddy thinks she’ll be a percussionist, and we tend to agree. She’s super fond of Starbucks’ stirrers (evidenced by both the breakfast and dinner picture from today) as they’re the perfect size for drum sticks. As apropos (and loud!) as it would be, chop sticks are still too big. But when the time comes, I dream of getting her a little kid’s drumkit so she maybe grow up to be that cool chick drummer in high school. For now, highchair trays and lullabies will have to do.

To make the day even more special, we experienced another “first” tonight, upon putting Julia in (what we believe to be) her first swing set. We’re not quite sure what she did and didn’t do in her first 22 months, so we can only guess by what we saw at the orphanage ourselves and her reaction to our initial interactions together. She loves to be in motion, so we figured she’d take well to the friendly blue dolphin swing in the hotel playground. And sure enough, she melted right in. With a huge smile on her face as she swung back and forth, and her belly button hanging out for good measure, she chuckled as Mom tickled her feet at each pass. We laid back and looked up at the fading sun and I said outloud, “Life is good…”.

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"I am a lotus flower – delicate, fragile, yet strong... floating, unfolding, and blossoming into the life where I belong.”