The buses we rode during our stay in China were terrific – wide seats that reclined a little, private air vents, and plenty of room so that we were not all sitting on top of each other. They also sat very high, so we had wonderful views of passing scenery. After meeting in the lobby and taking final pictures of ourselves as a childless couple, the very kind men in top hats and scarlet tails helped us board the bus. I obsessively checked and rechecked that we had all the red gift bags in hand and that the diaper bag was zipped and slung over my shoulder. Even when I sat down on the bus, the diaper bag strap stayed firmly over my shoulder and I clutched it in my lap, like it was some sort of life-preserver. And maybe at that moment, that was exactly what it was. It was a something concrete that was in my control to protect. Soon we pulled out of the driveway of the hotel and merged into the city traffic. One road merged to another bigger street which eventually merged into a multi-lane, elevated highway. When we exited the highway back onto surface streets the roads were much more congested. The congestion was utter chaos. Buses, mini-vans, subcompact cars, sub-subcompact cars, motorcycles, motor scooters, tricycles, pedal powered cargo wagons, and bicycles all danced around each other, horns honking, competing for every inch of road space and missing each other by mere fractions of an inch. It was frightening, yet amazing to watch. As we pulled up to the Civil Affairs building and started to turn right I looked down beside the bus as a bicycle rode along the right side of the bus and passed in front of the us, even as the bus was actively turning. All of us on that side of the bus let out gasps, yet the man on the bicycle calmly kept pedaling and the bus driver kept turning and we all were safe. At that moment I decided that driving in this country was something that I never wanted to attempt!
Our bus driver pulled into the driveway of the Civil Affairs building, only to be told that the bus was too large to pull through the gates and turn around in the parking area. We disembarked on the sidewalk and made our way to the front door of the building which was located on the corner of two busy streets. It sat back from the street just a little with the sidewalk opening out in front of it. We walked through the lobby to the elevator. There was a single, shiny brass colored elevator on the left with stairs winding around the shaft tower just beyond. We were headed to the second floor. A few people headed up the stairs. The rest of us crowded into the elevator. As the door closed I remember thinking about the weight limit and giggling to myself that we would be stuck on the elevator as our daughters waited for us!
The elevator opened up into a small waiting room with two couches that sat at right angles to each other along the walls. There was a reception desk in front of the elevator, to the left of the waiting room. A window stood open above the couch facing the elevator. There was a faint breeze coming in the window. We all gathered in this small area, most of us standing because there just were not enough seats. The window over the couch looked down on the parking lot courtyard our bus could not enter. Conversation stuttered among us as we all attempted to appear calm. Yet any close observer could see the fiddling hands and hear the nervous laughter. Every time the elevator dinged all heads would snap around to see if the girls were arriving. People wandered out of the waiting room to the left to look out the window that overlooked the street below. Standing at that the window they turned left to look down a hall that ended in a huge wall hanging proclaiming Guangdong Adoption Registration Center. It seemed as if we waited and moved around this small area forever! Finally our coordinator said that we were going to move to a larger room.
We took off down the hall towards the wall hanging and turned right to go through a door that opened into another hall that headed to the left. There were closed doors all along both sides of the hall. The floors were tile, the walls white with pictures of children who had been adopted, the doors were dark wood. Though warm, the hallway was airy and wide and bright. We were escorted to the second door on the right. The room smelled closed and hot, the air heavy with the humidity of the subtropics in October. The far wall was covered in huge windows. A vinyl covered sectional couch sat along the wall to the right and under the windows. About a four-foot space was left between the couches by the windows. In the center of the room was a massive conference table. Someone found the latches to the windows and opened them, allowing the some air movement in the room, though the breeze was not very cool. Each family staked a claim on various parts of the couches. We chose a place 1/3 of the way down the couch along the right wall and unloaded all our belongings. It was the first time since we left our room at the hotel that I let go of the diaper bag. The families moved around the room. Emotions ran even higher than they did in the small waiting room. Ms. Flower and Ms. Britain became tearful as they realized their life-long dreams of having a child were about to be fulfilled. Mrs. Diamond stroked the hair on a doll that she had brought to give her daughter. Mr Adams set up his camera on a tripod so as to capture a picture of each child as they came through the door. I was hot, very hot, but my hands were cold as the adrenaline of the moment coursed through me. There we sat, seven families, waiting to hear four life changing words. Finally our coordinator walked into the room, closed the door behind her, and uttered what we had been waiting 16 long months, traveled thousands of miles to hear,…
“The girls are here”