We arrived in Hefei. Our new guide greeted us after we picked up our luggage. She guided us through the parking lot to a waiting van. I disliked the driver on first impression. He had mean eyes, a surly expression and a hacking cough. We piled into the dirty van and had another forced waiting period, an hour drive from the airport to the hotel. We soon discovered that our van sputtered if it was sick too. The driver got out in the middle of the highway and opened the hood and listened for quite a while. It wasn't too reassuring a start.
Anhui Province has broad toll roads that were not as congested as Beijing. The girls in the toll booths looked like flight attendants from the 60s. They wore small angled hats, lots of makeup and had huge smiles on their faces. Their heads moved robotically on their necks to follow our progress through the toll all the while they held the full teeth smile. We just witnessed "smile service". Our guide said the girls must smile the whole time with a big smile or they get in big trouble. I bet they have no smiles left for their families at the end of the day. Their faces have got to hurt.
After checking-in at the hotel, we ate a quick noodle lunch and saw a western couple eating in the noodle shop, we had first seen in Beijing . Ben and I decided to introduce ourselves. We found out that they were on the journey of adoption like us. They were suppose to meet their son that afternoon like us. How sweet of God to put a couple in our same hotel to talk to in English in a city of 4.4 million who speak Chinese.
Our guide advised us to take the stairs when we arrived at the Civil Affairs office. The seven of us hurried up four flights of stairs. From the stairwell, we entered into a dim hallway with fluorescent lights beaming from a room a long way down the hall. We walked with eagerness to the small lighted room with a large table. We sat around the table and waited some more.
First to enter the room was a toddler with two caregivers. Next a lady from Vietnam came in and sat across the table from us. She was waiting for her Chinese daughter. Then minutes later the couple from the noodle shop entered. They saw the little boy in the corner play area, and their faces broke into the sweetest smiles as they moved to greet their new son. I felt privileged to watch.
And who should come through the door next? Our son, Teddy. He was all smiles.
He handed me the panda we had sent him ( the first proof that he had gotten our package and photo album) and kept grinning like he knew us. Within a few moments the enormity of the moment was understood, our precious son began to cry. His big fears and little fears rolled down his face and my heart broke. As he inched into the hall, we gave him a little space. A few long agonizing minutes later, I kneeled on the hall floor and held my littlest child.
It was an Ipad that calmed Teddy. He couldn't help taking interest as colorful shapes floated across the magic screen. Now that I am home, I despise that it took an Apple to tempt a son out of tears. It seems like the Garden of Eden with Wi-Fi, and I was the snake. Like any child of Adam, Teddy soon touched and tasted the forbidden fruit. It brought all the knowledge and promise of a new life and banished all the heartache of leaving the only place he had ever known. Well, when we got home, I had to crawl on my belly, because Ben and I decided the use of electronics was not conducive to family bonding. I guess the Ipad is once more hanging in that Forbidden Tree. I am afraid to say, it looks mighty juicy and delicious to a 7 year old.
When we get to commune with our son in the coolness of the day, I know we made the best decision.
Teddy and Baba