Saturday, April 10, 2010

Oh Mattel!

Grayson and Tess on China South flight

Arriving at the White Swan Hotel in Guangzhou, China is something like arriving in Mecca at the end of a long pilgrimage.  Here in the heart of mother China is an old imperial hotel.  It is a bit rusty around the edges but it is regal.  It is from another age and time, and if you are on the Chinese adoption journey it is the glorious end to a long and winding road.  I am told, actually, that it was built in 1983 by an investment group in Hong Kong and it was the first luxury hotel in China. 

We arrived here last night tired and cranky.  The trip through the Nanchang airport was crazy: big security checks, lots of stares, smoking, no changing tables in the bathrooms.  For we five families with huge luggage and year old babies in tow, it was tiring in every way.  The flight was fast and hey, here in China they still serve full meals on hour long flights.  So we at least had full stomachs when we landed. It was a whirlwind of noodles and bottles and cheerios and gathering our myriad bags and finally making our way to Shamian Island, the heart of the adoption world for everyone who brings a child home from this place.
Shamian Island
Arriving at 9:30pm we saw boats on the water and lots of lights (think Las Vegas) reflecting the active night life.  Once in our rooms we felt it was a little small for a foursome.  There were twin beds and a crib and we got bedding from room service to make nest on the floor.  We went to bed out of sorts and irritated and woke to the White Swan and all its glory.  First it was the breakfast bar to end all breakfast bars:  a combination of east meets west:  curry and sweet rolls, eggs and bacon and lo mein, dumplings and fruit and cereal and samosas.  The place was filled and the dining room overlooked the Pearl River.  We were seated in the "Adoption" section.  Dozens of families with adoptive children or families returning to China on heritage tours.  People had just arrived from all over China:  Hunan and Mongolia, Naning and Guangdong.  You cannot turn any corner in the White Swan without meeting an adoptive family.  It seems this is a week for US Americans to be here, but I am told Spaniards, Canadians, Australians, French, Scandinavians all make this pilgrimage. 
Grayson and Tess
 Tess not liking being weighed

After pigging out and socializing for awhile we met our group for the obligatory trip to the doctor.  There is a special waiting room for adoptees and their parents and we were ushered through a series of checks including a medical exam, weight and height and a hearing test.  Tess weighs about 19 pounds and the doctor spotted some chicken pox scars on her. We strolled back, had a coffee and did some shopping.  This part of Shamian Island feels like a European City.  Many shop clerks speak fine English.  They have been catering to the adoption industry for years so stores offer all the things we families are thinking about:  free strollers, laundry service, internet access, gifts for our children and coffee.  They are all named English names: Jennies and Jordan's and Emma's places.  Shop clerks coo over your daughter and ask about your group.  I know adoptions in China are down.  There are less babies to adopt for a variety of reasons.  Perhaps the economy on this tiny part of the island relies to much on this industry?  In any case, the economy here thrives on this small narrow market, and they do it well.

Construction everywhere on Shamian Island

One other interesting thing about this Island is that apparently Shamian Island is the recipient of some kind of government money for improvements and the entire area is under construction making gentle strolling very difficult.  The Chinese definitely do not have OSHA as we are free to walk and amble in and among the bricklayers and the electrical cords and the debris. 

When we returned to the White Swan after the morning outing what did we find in our room?  I would never have guessed this was coming in a million years:  a gift from Mattel.  A mint-in-the-box "Coming Home Barbie", a present for our daughter from the toy company.  She is a blonde, white Barbie with a small little Asian baby in her arms.  It is hard to maintain that level of disgust with the whole Barbie thing when "Coming Home Barbie" arrives on your door.

Coming Home Barbie

Barbie came with a note inviting us to the Swan Room in the hotel: a big room with toys with which families can play and meet other new families. So Tessa and I had our first play dates in the Swan Room where she met Barney! 
Tessa and Barney

It is early Sunday morning as I write this.  We have a full day of site-seeing and hanging out at the White Swan.  Monday our guide goes to the US consulate to begin the formal process of getting a USA visa for our baby. 

Geoff and Gray had an adventure in a Chinese Market while I was playing in the Swan Room. I'm trying to get him to guest blog.


  1. Priceless! We all can't wait to see you guys! MKP

  2. Hey, glad you got your Barbie. We didn't stay at the Swan on our second trip but the other folks in our travel group didn't get a Barbie. Say hello to Lucy's for us!

  3. Oh, Amy! Proud and happy Grayson. Lucky little sister that Tessa. What a journey you've told with these snapshots and words.

  4. Oh, Amy, the Coming Home Barbie made me laugh and cry at the same time!
    Alice Pearson

  5. On Jun 14th, someone auctioned your going home barbie for $383.89 on eBay. ebay item # 180517711898 if you dont like the doll, put it up for acution.