Not much of fan of China anymore…

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Taken from our hotel buffet area of the almost slum apartments overlooking our western luxury.

So there we were, traveling through the gritty streets of Beijing with the midday pollution haze enveloping our bus when the tour guide made the most insightful statement. Without hesitation, over the microphone the following words were casually announced, “China like a car, we turn on right blinker and go left”. She was describing the paradoxical nature of modern China and at least once a day for the duration of the trip, Tracy and I repeated this simple phrase back to each other. Whether it was the woman picking trash off the Great Wall of China and then tossing it over the side into the grass, or the constant site of children squatting on the side of the road under their parents encouragement to empty their bowls out of the open back of their pants. China is place of constant contradiction and has left us most confused. I get that nobody is perfect and we all have parts of our personality that conflict with who we are trying to be, however, China seems to nationally take it to a whole ‘nother level.

As we were taking the thick layers of cloths off Meili for our first inspection of this precious present sitting in the middle of our bed, the air in our stuffy little Nanjing hotel room seemed to be sucked right out when Tracy and I saw something unusual. She knew right away what it was but I was much slower to appreciate what we were looking at – and some of you reading might already know where I am headed. On the upper part of both legs where horizontal marks, clearly not something a child is born with. “They are strap marks, I read about these”, Tracy’s trembling voice utters to my puzzled ears. You see, in many Chinese orphanages, the nannies will strap the children to the small toilets until they finish their business. Evidently, the straps must be tight enough to keep their wobbly bodies, far to young to even be sitting up, from falling over.

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There looking up at us in a near catatonic state wearing nothing but a diaper hanging off her bony frame was our newly adopted daughter, already bearing an unwanted tattoo of pain – care of the system she was abandoned into. How do you comfort the blank, dark eyes; looking in wonder if you too will brand her little body with a cultural tattoo? Tracy quickly wrapped her frail frame into her loving arms trying to hug those marks away.

“China like a car, we turn on right blinker and go left”

Before we left for China, I was looking for information on the Birds Nest because I really wanted to visit the site of the opening ceremonies of the 2008 Olympics. I am an enormous fan of the Olympics and have enjoyed decades of these opening spectacles – clearly China’s was one of the best ever. Imagine my surprise to learn that this enormous architectural wonder has hosted only one sporting event since the closing ceremonies of the 2008 Olympics. The realization sunk in like a slap to the face, China no more cared about the Olympics, sports or the glory of competition than they do the thousands of abandoned babies across their own country. Like a screaming Napoleon complex of epic proportions, China staged one of the most amazing Olympic games ever for the single purpose of making the world forget about the millions of dead peasants that litter the last six decades of their own complex history. Or all the liberties the rest of the world enjoys yet the government of China refuses to grant their own people.

“China like a car, we turn on right blinker and go left”

Before leaving the orphanage on our staged visit to the center of our daughters brief life, we were led back to the freezing room where we first met the orphanage director. The table still gleaming with fresh fruit and tea for us, the honored guest. Here we sat for more than 30 minutes making uncomfortable conversation with the system responsible for the hidden marks on our daughter – smile and be respectful for the families following behind who are also looking to rescue a child! I watched our (tour) guide begin to fill out a form completely in Chinese and then slide it over to me. “Sign here”, he said pointing to an open space surrounded by ancient Chinese characters. What am I signing? “Form say orphanage visit go well and place clean”. Oh yes, that is right, we need to assist our orphanage director in his dance of state sponsored systemic abuse. Ashamed, I endorsed the well-intentioned (sometimes) but tragic treatment of Meili with a stroke of the pen. Conflicted. Once again.

“China like a car, we turn on right blinker and go left”

In hindsight, I wish our adoption agency would have spent some time preparing us for this and how to deal with it. We have all the manuals to the cars that drive well right off the lot but what about the damaged ones with cracks hidden under glossy paint? We were given 3 pages of books for parenting children, biological and adopted. However, special needs children are a challenge we signed up for, without hesitation, but these marks on my daughters legs were put there by another human being. These emotional scars scream for a resolution that we will be forced to provide in the best way we know how – and we ask for understanding from a child who was never given much.

So today and for right now, I am not so much a fan of China anymore. My daughter embodies all that is great of old China – a rich history of innovation and harmonious living. However, her body displays all that is wrong with modern China. The only reason we were able to adopt her is because she was passed up for domestic adoption – and the only reason she was not adopted domestically is because she was not perfect enough. Even typing those words makes me mad as hell. And motivated to do something about it – which I plan on.

Our efforts to erase hurt and rekindle cultural pride in Meili has already been in full swing for the last 3 weeks and showing signs of improvement. She laughs and giggles. She plays with the kids and even lets Daddy pick her up now. Yep, everyday that passes we can see another demon walk away from our daughter in defeat. There a many difficult battles left to fight but we have the support within the adoption community and our tight circle of friends to be victorious – and we will be.

But, why can’t we make China turn right? I believe we should and can. I believe our international adoption agencies specializing in China should be doing more to educate adoptive parents and empowering them to bring about change. I also believe those same agencies could be doing more to shove that foot of protection in the crack China left open in the Adoption gate.

I believe these distant daughters of mighty China deserve more than silent compliance on our part.

Still conflicted…

PS – for those of you waiting on our advice for adoptive parents considering China, it is still to come. Just had to get this off our chest…