Today we went to the Civil Affairs office to complete the adoption. Ava had to write that she agreed to be adopted by foreigners. We then went to the notary's office, where she had to write it again, including writing my full name, which she had to copy letter by letter. The Notary said Ava was found in November, 1999 on a busy city street when she was one year old. She was born with a heart defect and I would guess by then her parents knew she needed heart surgery to survive.
Ava grins a shy grin at us a lot and she did chuckle a bit one time today, but she has yet to laugh. While at the Civil Affairs Office, we had to wait on the orphanage person, who was tied up in a traffic jam for a good half hour. The girls entertained themselves by drawing while our guide leafed through a Chinese Bride magazine. Ava drew a picture of four people seated together on a couch watching television. Aleah asked if one was Ava and she nodded and said aloud "mother, father, sister" while pointing at the figures. She had drawn our family! Through the translator, we learned that her foster home was on the orphanage grounds in an apartment. Her foster mother has one child, a 20-year-old daughter. Aleah asked if Ava was allergic to cats, which Aleah has worried about, as Aleah does not want to part with her grey cat, Hope. Ava said she liked cats. The translator told her about our two big outdoor dogs, a St. Bernard and a Great Pyrenees. She has not learned to swim, nor to roller skate. She has never had a birthday party, nor celebrated Christmas, although she has heard of Santa Claus.
The rain stopped today!! We were tired of being cooped up in a hotel room, so after we came back from the notary appointment, where we received Ava's Chinese passport, we explored the area around our hotel a little. Specifically, Aleah was TIRED of Chinese food! I think that is something she did not expect. She would like some "spicy noodles" from home (which areactually Chinese), but we do not have a microwave or refrigerator, so we cannot boil water to make her any. Aleah asked for water for breakfast yesterday, but they said none was available in the restaurant. Aleah is a water drinker, so having a bottle or two of water a day is not satisfying to her. It is an odd thing to not be able to go to a tap for water.
We went looking for a KFC, which a hotel worker told us was nearby. We discovered we only have to cross one city street to get there, as there are walkways you climb up to cross over the streets below. Aleah had two orders of mashed potatoes and brown gravy and said she missed green beans, especially Grandma's green beans. None were available on the menu. She had a crispy chicken sandwich and french fries, and Ava had some fries dipped in ketchup, as well as a chicken wrap and hot soy milk. There is hot milk for breakfast every morning and I have to say it is DELICIOUS! There was a young man sleeping on top o one of the walkways in a corner. He had his t-shirt pulled up over his face. We went back by nearly three hours later and he had not moved. In fact, I am not sure he was alive! I was thinking last night that Aleah has not been to Nashville, like my older children, so she would not remember the pan handlers we encountered there on the streets. We did take her through the Appalachians last year and she saw some houses in such bad shape she said she would rather live in a cave! So China does not have a monopoly on rich and poor all living together.
Our guide asked where we ate last night and when I said we ate at the Chinese food place down the street for the second time that day, I got the distinct impression she disapproved. She informed me that was a "fast food" place and not a Chinese food place. The girls both had huge bowls of noodles there, plus fried rice, corn on the cob, and beef in gravy, so I am not sure what she thought was so bad about it. Anyway, she recommended we look for other places to eat. So, after eating at KFC, we went to a department store where our guide told us we would find a grocery downstairs. Aleah was thrilled to find some type of wrapped meat she remembered not from her foster grandmother's, nor from her orphanage, but from the "baby house" she was in. She wants to go back and buy more, and I said I would be happy to but need to make sure it doesn't need refrigeration, or if it does, wait till we are ready to board the plane for Guangzhou. We looked for something else Aleah remembers, but could not find it. It is something she calls "sugar bamboo." Evidently her foster grandmother bought some off a street cart one time. She found two other food items (don't ask me what they are) she remembered from when she lived in China and bought some of those as well. She also found noodles in a package like the ones her foster grandmother bought. I plan to buy some to take home and try, as it will be familiar to her and perhaps we can find a way to order some. Ava chose a container of yogurt similar to our lemon yogurt my older kids always loved, and a fruit bowl.
Together, they bought some "cookies" although they are nothing like the sweets we have in America. Sort of glorified rice cakes! On the way back, I had to stop at a Starbucks next to a Gucci's store, and buy a low fat mocha frappuccino. Not quite the same, but similar to America's.
Aleah produced her Nintendo and Nintendo 3DS when we got back to the hotel and I have enjoyed Ava's little gasps and grins as she tries to maneuver her Mario character to compete against Aleah's.
Ava has a wet cough she does not want me to know about. She turns her head to one side and tries to cough as lightly as she can, then looks to see if I have seen her. I asked the orphanage person if she has had a cold or been ill, but received no reply. I asked the translator twice to ask her about it, but the translator, after speaking with Ava, said simply "Forget about it. It's nothing." Hopefully, she is right! I looked for cough drops at the grocery, but couldn't find any. I told the translator to tell Ava it is alright to cough, but have no way of knowing if she did. Aleah, too, had a cough when I got her, and she told me later the orphanage personnel told her not to cough in front of her new mother because it "would make Americans sad" if their new child was ill.
I have been trying new foods, but paid the price last night when I woke up nauseous. I have tried duck in brown sauce, shrimp still in the shell with head and tail attached (I cut off the head, as Aleah said it would be rude to eat it while its eyes were looking at me). I have tried rice cakes wrapped in leaves and flavored with tea, steamed eggs, some type of translucent noodles, and Japanese style cabbage. I LOVE the hot, strong Chinese coffee they serve in the mornings. It may be a tea-drinking country, but they sure serve a mean cup of coffee!!
Tomorrow we will go to a panda preserve, where they have the treasured red pandas. Ava said the foster mother she had before her current one once took her to a panda preserve, but not the one we will go to in the morning. If it is raining, we will try for Thursday instead.
The girls have been teaching each other Chinese and English words and spellings. Last night we played Uno, which Ava caught onto right away, and Top Spot (a spin-off of tic-tac-toe). She seems to be a quick study. Aleah painted Ava's nails hot pink, plus her own. Ava is about 2-3 inches shorter than Aleah, and much thinner. Her little waist is so tiny! Aleah had brought matching Hello Kitty t-shirts and Ava looked very proud when she wore hers last night. I can tell she is going to be a clothes horse!
Mary, from Adoption Associates, called me this morning to see how things are going and said the agency's Chinese coordinator will likely call as well. I appreciated her checking in! There is only so much control an agency has on the process, as they are dealing with a foreign nation and government.
Here's hoping for another rain-free day tomorrow!