What a day. What. A. Day.
At breakfast we learned one of the other children in our group (Ru) was ill and was going to the hospital. She is 15 months and a 1/2 the size of Penelope. We were worried about her and wished for the best for the family.
We were invited to go 2 hours (one way) outside of the city to a Shaolin temple with another family. We looked at each other and instinctively knew what the other was thinking. We declined the offer and instead went to Carrefour, the Chinese version of Target. The hotel called a taxi for us and a few minutes later we were there. Jenn was petrified while Penelope and I sat back and enjoyed the ride. The drivers here follow the Bruce Lee philosophy: be like water, formless, so you can take any form. And they do. They manage to fit their VW’s, Toyota’s, and Ford’s in traffic spots that would get you arrested or killed in the States.
Once in the store we were immediately in the DVD section. I noticed a box for a familiar movie, “The Regular Guys” staring Will Farrell and Mark Whalberg. Only this image was photo shopped, with Mel Gibson and Pierce Brosnan’s heads on the aforementioned stars. The back of the box showed an image from “The A-Team” movie, only Pierce Brosnan had replaced Liam Neeson as star. Next I noticed the DVD for “Battleship”‘ a movie that was either just released or will be soon.
Penelope insisted I carry her throughout the store. This further cemented my decision to get a cab back to the hotel. $1.25 well spent since walking the mile back holding Penelope would have exhausted me for the entire day.
We looked all over and could not find children’s socks. I found an employee and asked if they had them. “Mei you”, or “don’t have” was the unexpected answer. How could this be? Afterwards we wondered if we missed them by not going to the third floor. We were stared at, saw the largest pile of loose rice for sale we’d ever seen, and tried to confirm if they really sell pea flavored Popsicles as the package indicated.
On the way out a group of kids looked at Penelope, then us, and started making comments, none of which I understood, thankfully. Neither of got the impression they were positive.
Another thrilling cab ride and we were back at the hotel. At the hotel restaurant we saw the family with the ill child. She was getting pneumonia so the hospital gave her an IV in the head and medication. The entire visit cost them about $28. In the states it would have been over a grand for that visit.
Back in our room we got the pack of crayons I wanted for Penelope and sat her down with a piece of paper. She spent more time taking them out and putting them back in the box than scribbling. If her actions were any indicator she will be organized and orderly. We wondered what to do next. It was only past noon and the only thing we had going on today was receiving more documents from our guide Vivian. We ventured back out of the hotel, down the street to a tea shop we had seen the previous day. We saw men smoking inside and figured it wasn’t going to be toddler friendly.
The day went on and Pen
elope did not nap. I don’t even remember why now. With no nap and little to do a new Penelope emerged. To distract her from the kicking and throwing (and to give me a break) Jenn let her play in the tub while I lay down. When she came out of the bathroom she went to the bedside table, grabbed the flashlight, and flung it at my face. We’ve been told this is usually a problem with boys and were not anticipating the throwing and kicking!
We sat and looked out the window, we tried some toddler games on the computer, and walked around the hotel more. Nothing helped. We waited and waited for 5 PM to roll around to get the documents from our guide. At 5:30 she arrived at the hotel and gave us our final documents, including Penelope’s passport, the thing we’d been waiting for. We also received a photocopy of Penelope’s notice in the paper when she ‘d been found in front of the surgical hospital. Our guide was kind enough to translate the page for us.
Finally we went back to the Holiday Inn Express for dinner. We ordered and our food arrived quickly. We had said no more chives for Penelope after the last diaper change but recanted and fed her our dumplings. I didn’t realize just how many chives and how few eggs were in the dumplings until I took a look inside one of Penelope’s half eaten ones. Pearl Buck’s description of garlic sandwiches in ‘The Good Earth’ now made more sense. Halfway through our meal she lay her head on the table and went to sleep. I tried to wake her, to keep her up until we got back to the hotel, but it was too late. We let her sleep and paid the bill. I carried our sleeping sack of potatoes back and laid her in bed without a peep.
My fears were realized an hour later when a hanger fell and Penelope started crying. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to know if her cries were shaped by her years in institutional care, but I hear them that way. They seem more vulnerable, more heart wrenching than the cries of other babies. I picked her up and comforted her while Jenn remained in the bathroom, minimizing distractions. She clung to me and made what I call her “wah wah” cry, as though she’s trying to say “mama” while crying.
We’ll see how tonight goes. I’m not hopeful. Tomorrow we fly out to Guangzhou for the final leg of the trip. We’re ready to come home. If we’re fortunate there will be more time spent with the other families, more family friendly areas, and safer streets than those in Zhengzhou.