Tuesday, April 13, 2010

On Blessings and Oaths

Grayson lighting incense at Buddhist temple

The Chinese put a lot of stock in ritual and symbol and blessing and luck. Red is mounted by doors to ward off evil at the Chinese New Year, thresholds are created higher to make it difficult for evil spirits to enter, stairs in general are thought to block passage of bad spirits. Everywhere there are symbols for luck and characters for luck and blessings abound. Our guides Catherine and Helen have done a great job of explaining various Chinese religions and traditions. They have talked about traditional gifts at traditional times in our new children's lives: pearls and jade and tea sets. It has been fun to shop and think of the things I will give Tessa at certain times in her life. One piece I love is the jade pendant in the form of a round circle. It is a traditional gift to a 16 year old girl and it means the unity of the family. (Most things either mean luck or happiness or togetherness of family, actually.)

When I went to buy one for Tessa Geoff said, why? We'll be back before her 16th birthday for sure!

Guide Helen at Buddhist temple

Today our guide, Helen, took us to a buddhist temple in Guangzhou called the Temple of the 6 Banyan Trees. It was a beautiful temple, and we learned that if you put a coin in a big sort of incense burner and then touched a dragon head you could have a wish. Gray managed to get the coin in twice. Two wishes for him. Then she bought our group some incense and showed us how to light three sticks and then bow to the buddha three times. For this you would earn three wishes. What did I wish for? Well health, happiness and togetherness of family of course!

Amy and Grayson asking for wishes

After the three wishes Helen led us into the great hall where we removed our shoes and a buddhist monk came and blessed our babies and our families. The monk rang a deep gong many times while chanting in Chinese. Then he chanted and sprinkled water on us each in turn with a green leaf of some sort. We asked Helen what the blessing meant and she said, it means good luck and happy, healthy family that is always together.
Receiving blessings

I contrast these lovely blessings and offerings of health and happiness to the process at the US Consulate in Guangzhou, the place where all of us were sent to take the oath of citizenship on behalf of our children. Geoff wore a tie. I made sure little Tessa wore Red, White and Blue and we were off. We had a 40 minute bus ride through the city to the fifth floor of an office building which houses the visa program of the US Department of State in China. The consular representative who greeted us and led us in the oath told us that every morning the room is filled with over 300 Chinese being granted Visas for the US. Our group that afternoon was about 20 families from several agencies. Most of them were familiar to me as they had been cavorting in the White Swan with us all week.

We waited for a long time and then one by one they called each set of parents up for a "face check". They checked to make sure the faces on the passport matched the faces that greeted them and matched the babies photos. We signed a document and got our passport copies back. It took about 60 seconds at the window and the consular representative came out and told us about their office and what they did. 25,000 Chinese got visas last year; 3,000 of them were for adopted children. She led us in the oath is which we swore everything we said in our adoption paperwork was true. She wished a happy birthday to a couple of our April babies and wished us safe travels. She reminded us that our children would be US citizens when they touched down in the US at our port of entry. Miss Tessa will be a citizen when we land in Newark, NJ later this week.


  1. Amy, it's very serendipitous as Beth referred to Banyan trees in the readaround last night! :-)

  2. You all look so happy and excited, especially Grayson. Can't wait to see you all. MKP

  3. One of my favorite places....May you receive all your blessings and then some! :)

  4. Can't wait until you come back soooooon! We miss you over here! Tessa, can't wait to meet you! I have loved loved loved loved reading this blog. Thank you. xoxoxoxoxo Andrea