Hallmark tells us that the appropriate 10th anniversary present is made of aluminum. Nonsense. I’ve got one better. Sarah and I celebrated Thursday with 19.8 pounds of pure Chinese delight – who goes by the name “little lotus” – and there’s no doubt that this year we gave and got the ultimate gift. Even gold at our 50th stands no chance.
Seeing that our biggest wedding anniversary yet fell just three days after we became first-time parents, we (happily) paused our tradition of visiting a new National Park each year. Instead of hiking a river gorge wearing CamelBaks and eating Clif Bars, we chose to walk the beautiful city of Nanjing, China wearing a toddler and mixing formula along the way. Oh how life has changed, but dang we wouldn’t change a thing.
Knowing we’d be out for a lengthy stroll, we tried out the ole’ Beco baby carrier on Dad here. As with most things, it seems, Julia took to being fastened into this new gizmo with a smile… sucking her thumb, quickly adjusting to her new position, and beginning to observe her changing surroundings.
Nanjing is really a beautiful city, and we’ve quickly fallen in love with this place, not only for the significance of it hosting our family union. The roads are lined with shaded, arching trees and the city’s botanical budget must be astronomical, as every street corner is landscaped meticulously with multi-color flora. It has the clean, big city feel of a Chicago mixed with some European artistic flare, of course rounded out with a heavy dose of classic Asian architecture and culture.
The walking tour started with a trip to Walmart. Yep, Chinese Walmart. Similar in some ways, very different in others. Like, “very different” meaning turtles floating in the “seafood” tanks in the food center. The best part was the local lady who literally sprinted after us, thinking she was spotting a foreign baby. After removing the hoodie from Julia’s head and revealing that we only (only!) had a Chinese tike in tow, the lady was sorely disappointed and slowly slid her iPhone back in her pocket. And so began a theme for the day, with two white folks sticking out like a sore thumb and attracting attention everywhere we went. We were told before we came that most Chinese have never traveled overseas, and in some towns here, it’s not THAT common for Americans to visit. It’s also not rude to stare in this part of the world (or take pictures of strangers, it seems). So throughout the day, we’d catch locals sheepishly snapping cell phone shots of us. They were shocked – but excited – when we’d turn and pose, flash a peace sign as a gesture of good will, and give them a full-on memento of their sighting. And don’t get us started with the hilarious stories about the old women who come up to us everywhere (photo below), and freely squeeze Julia’s cheeks… or worse, yank her hand out of her mouth and shake their finger at us if she’s sucking her thumb. Or the grandmother who let her toddler climb all over Julia at breakfast, then proceed to set their kid’s food right next to Sarah’s plate on OUR table as this old lady fed him hovered over the little lotus’ head. These folks are a hoot, and only a week into this trip we’re not only comfortable at times being the only westerners in sight… we’re absolutely embracing the unique opportunity to bond with another culture and provide such simple entertainment by merely walking by.
In general, we’ve become enamored with the Chinese people. As a whole, they seem to have such kind spirits and whether it’s a hotel lobby staff or local street vendor, they carry themselves with a smile and are quick to welcome an exchange (even though nine times out of 10 the language barrier prevents any real dialogue). Most touching has been the few “conversations” we’ve had with locals about adoption; it’s either a subtle-but-significant pat on the shoulder or small comment in broken English (like, “You do a good thing.”) that has reassured us that the people here “get it” and see our hearts and motivation for being here.