Our second to last day in this adoption adventure was quite a strange paradox. Our morning was spent standing in the secure confines of a brand-new U.S. Consulate building giving a stale, procedural oath. In the afternoon, we found ourselves kneeling at a 1,400-year-old temple on the receiving end of a baby blessing. How’s that for a single day in China?
For our Consulate appointment and oath taking ceremony, no cameras or phones were allowed in the airport-tight government building (even our Chinese adoption agency staff joked that “it’s your country” when it came to the regulations that prohibited even wrist watches). So unfortunately, we don’t have a photo record of the occasion other than a picture outside and a happy family of three on the bus ride home. But quite honestly, it was a bit anti-climatic in the first place, even though it served as a/the major final hurdle in a 15-month-long process. About half of our travel group’s families went in one session (we got the early one… boo for a 7:40am start time!), and the other half showed up as we were leaving. All and all, we spent more time traveling there, getting through security, and waiting for our number to be called than we did on official matters at hand. Along with a full-group oath taking (where each adult stood with their right hands up and repeated after the U.S. diplomat, while all the kids wondered what the heck was going on), only one parent went up to present final paperwork and do the deed, so to speak. So with Sarah at the window since she's the amazing process pro of the family, I tried to keep up with our newly mobile toddler, crawling all over the tile floor like a two-year-old myself (now you understand this old man wearing knee braces everywhere we go). So we were back home by 11am, with Julia’s official visa paperwork in hand and her actual passport being returned before we leave the country Thursday. Did we mention it's the snuggliest little passport photo we've ever seen?
With an afternoon open, we took advantage of a very special opportunity here in Guangzhou. One of the four original Buddhist temples in town is just walking distance from our hotel. Called the Temple of Six Banyan Trees, it was originally built in 537 (yes, five-thirty-seven AD) and features a nine-level pagoda with a name you wouldn’t believe: The Lotus Pagoda. The monks there have historically had a heart for families adopting Chinese children, and are willing to give a blessing to the new family before they set off in their new lives together. It was a rainy, drizzly day and our tour guide walked us through each hall while explaining the various monuments and relics, and even just being in the presence of these brown-robed monks made us feel a spiritual calm. After interpretation from our guide, we kneeled in front of three massive golden Buddhas, the monk raised sticks of incense into the air, dropped water from a fresh leaf onto our heads, and chanted a blessing for our little love. It served as the first time in over a week we had actually stopped long enough to pray for the future, having been consumed in the present moment. And it was the first time our busy little Bee had sat still all day, so we’re thinking the blessing felt as special to Julia as it did to us. Or maybe it was just the cool smoke. Regardless, in our two-week attempt to appreciate as much of her birth country as possible… this felt like a perfect way to wrap up our trip.
Our bathtime routines have become pretty comical. Julia loves the water so much that we’ve had to start stripping her down outside the bathroom before she sees the tub… otherwise, this wiggle worm will practically dive in, clothes and all. In just a week, she’s become so much more confident in the water. Our first couple of baths in Nanjing, she would stay tucked into Mommy or Daddy’s legs, barely brave enough to let go, let alone splash. Now, she’s all over the place, chasing blocks, making waves, and we’re pretty sure she’s just about courageous enough to do a cannon ball soon. We know that all kids in the tub are cute, so we promise not to include too many more pictures of bathtime. But when I captured an epic moment on video, we just had to share. Let’s just say you’re lucky your screen doesn’t have odor capabilities, but you can still listen for the bubbles and watch for the sheepish smile. More significantly, watch for the playful interactions with Momma. Progress!
One more day in China, then we’re homeward bound!