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April 7, 2006
Soooo very tired.  The brain is starting a slow shut down process, like a train that has run out of steam but still slowly throws out one last putter or two until it comes to a stop.  A sleep pattern has started to emerge and we are not fans of it.  Go to sleep, get up an hour later.  Go back to sleep, get up about 4 hours later.  Go back to sleep, get up again an hour or 2 later.  Then of course there is the nap after breakfast, the nap before lunch, the nap after lunch, and the nap before dinner.  So she’s well rested but we’re starting to hurt.  Over the last few years I’ve gotten very used to 8 hours of sleep.  Zoe on the other hand has gotten used to being held and having someone put her to sleep any time she wants.

Stressful day, tempers are short and patience is low.  Today is Friday so that means we are leaving China.  Bags have to be packed, papers need to be gathered, and consulate work must be completed.  The day starts off as usual with breakfast.  Since it’s the last day we make sure to take pictures of the world-class breakfast buffet we’ve grown very spoiled with.  After that it’s out to the shops for last purchases of diapers, water, and last minute gifts & personal items.  It feels like we hit all the local shops.  Each of them is essentially the same.  They offer laundry services, stroller rentals, pirated DVD’s, and more china & adoption souvenirs than you could possibly believe exist.  And they all start with someone’s name, and end in “Place.”  Jennifer’s Place, Susan’s Place, Lucy’s Place…makes you wonder why none of them are Chinese names but c’est la vie.  Each one of them has a teenage girl who speaks just enough English to assault you as you pass, pressuring you to come inside.  Jennifer’s Place was our staple, but I was kind of partial to the guy on the corner who sold really cool chopsticks…can’t remember what his store was called.  We were there for a whole week and 99% of our existence was literally all in one square block around the hotel.  There were at least 50 shops in that block making their living off the adoption process and the new parents who stayed in the White Swan.

I decided I need one last adventure and run off the island again into the city taking last minute pictures.  I hope some of them capture the flavor, but you really need the smells and sounds of the chaos that all goes with it.  We take one last group picture of all the babies together, which was kind of like swing dancing with eels, but somehow the mom’s all got them down together.  Zoe was in her pre lunch nap so I have no idea if she was awake for the picture.  Helen our guide has us check out and we board another bus and head to the US consulate in Downtown Guangzhou.  None of us has been downtown, so when we see it our collective jaws hit the ground.  The China we have seen has all been a blend of old and new, rich and poor, a place of contrasts.  Downtown Guangzhou looks right out of the Jetsons.  Everything is brand spanking new and so clean you could eat off the manhole covers.  Glass skyscrapers stretch endlessly into the clouds, like giant mirrors, every inch as high or higher than the ones in Manhattan.  Add to that there are at least 10 more in my field of view under construction that are every bit as big.  There is no city that even comes close in any American or European city I’ve every seen.  It’s an architects dream, and everywhere just screams wealth.  In between, the skyscrapers are perfectly landscaped parks that resemble the gardens of Versailles, and the sidewalks are all new and all laid out of the cobblestone brick.  There’s more construction going on here than in Rochester in the last 30 years combined.  This is a big city, well over 10 million people but this all makes it look more like a movie set than any city I’ve been in.  Zoe and the other babies could care less, but all the adults are in awe wondering where all the money came from and how it could be that a city in a “2nd world” country could be so much nicer than theirs!

Inside the consulate takes you right back home, as it looks exactly like the DMV.  Take a number, go wait in a sitting area, and hope to God someone calls your name in the next day.  It’s funny though, as the entire sitting area is filled with babies and adoptive parents from all sorts of adoption groups.  We are told it will take half an hour.  About an hour and a half later we are told the computers all went down and it could take longer.  That’s when real fear sets in, because no one brought in with them food, diapers, toys, or any of the other staples of life when you carry around a baby with you everywhere.  To kill the time we all take our oath where we have to hold our right hands up and swear that we have told the truth with all of our paperwork, then our babies are officially Americans!  Not a tough process.  When the computers get back up, Helen manages to get us out of there first even though we were the last group in.  Helen is like that.  I’m convinced that her father or husband is a general in the Communist Party or a mobster.  One look from her and lines disappear and people jump to make things happen.  She has led this entire process from arrival in China like a logistics master and everything has gone flawlessly.  You don’t think, you just follow Helen and try not to get hit by a bus.  Zoe could care less about being an American, but she does care about getting a pants change so back on the bus Katherine does a quick lightning job and we’re off to the Hong Kong border.  Ben our Hong Kong guide has beers for us, so we have a nice ride back through the manufacturing corridor and back through the border to the Hong Kong Regal Airport Hotel.  We don’t get in until 9 or so, everyone is haggard and tired after a day of paperwork and traveling.  I pray Zoe sleeps, at least some, and everyone is thankful to have a few more channels of English on the TV.  Hong Kong is just like any other western city, it feels safe but lacks the down to earth realness that Guangzhou has.  China just seemed alive, like people just living to live, instead of living to get ahead.  More frantic, but less rushed if that makes sense.  We’re going to miss it, and I am sad to leave and wonder when the next time I will see Tai-Chi, Katas, ball room dancing, badmitten, and hackysack, all being played in one area by 7 year olds to 70 year olds at 8am.  Zoe was very good today, took everything in stride and for the most part was a trooper.  I look forward to seeing Hong Kong, but most of us at this point just want to get home.  We miss Gracie, and are ready to be back in our own bed.