We started the day bright and early.  We arrived in the lobby to head to the civil affairs office to receive our official adoption certificate. We found out then that once we were finished at civil affairs we would travel over to see Liz’s orphanage.  (Uh, thanks for the advanced  notice).

The meeting at the civil affairs office was really more of a ceremony than anything else.  Not really sure why we were there.  Basically, the woman who had conducted our interview got up to read a script that stated we were officially the adoptive parents of our children.  That was the same thing she told us on Tuesday.    Anyway, my guess is that it helps the civil affairs office feel better about the process?  We were just dumbfounded as to why we had to make the return trip for the 4 minutes of … never mind, I’ll let it go.  We got our certificates and left.  Bada bing.

Our orphanage visit was fairly remarkable.  I don’t know how to express the feeling that I (and I think Sandy would confirm) get on these visits.  It was the same feeling I had nearly 20 years ago as a student at Nanjing U when we would spend time in an orphanage for autistic children.  It’s joy at being with these beautiful children mixed with a sadness that we can’t do more to help.

I should start from the beginning, though.  Miss Jiao (the woman who accompanied Liz on Gotcha! day) met us at the front of the building.  She explained to us that up until about 4 months ago, they had been on the 12th and 13th floors of the tall glass building in the pictures.  Their new location had just been completed, though, and the children were now there.

Our first stop was at the office where we were allowed to view Liz’s official file.  It had a few pages written in Chinese with various summaries.  More importantly, it held pictures of her as a baby that we have never seen.  We asked if we could get copies of the pictures or if I could just take a picture of the pictures myself.  We were told no, that they would lose their jobs if it was found out.  Really?!  It makes absolutely no sense to us and these pictures are not likely to see the light of day ever again.  I asked again later if there was any way we could get a quick shot of them.  We were told that we had all of the pictures they had.  We explained that we have never seen some of the pics in that book … particularly those of her as an infant.  They assured us we were wrong, of course, and told us that Liz can see them if she returns to Changsha as an adult and requests them.  Right, I’m sure they’ll still totally be available then.  This episode was extraordinarily frustrating and I’m not even sure how to react to it.  It’s honestly one of the hallmarks of a bureaucracy run amok … nobody feels like they can do anything for fear of losing their job.  It just makes everybody stupider and sad.

The visit got better after that as we went to the floor where Liz has been living.  We saw the bed she has been sleeping in and started to meet some of her friends.  We also met the woman who had primary care responsibility for Liz.  One of the most (if not the most) touching events of our trip occurred as Sandy and this woman thanked each other through their tears.  As they were doing this, Liz jumped from the nurses arms back into Sandy’s … it seemed symbolic and sweet to me.  Liz has been loved.  That’s comforting to us.  We had a similar experience when we met Claire’s care-givers … it’s so comforting to know your children were loved during a time you couldn’t be there for them.

We continued our tour and ended up at her “school” room.  We met her teachers and then met her group of friends.  Seth and I ended up on the floor playing with a girl who has some very clear problems, but is apparently waiting for her adoptive family!  So excited for her.  Liz played with her friends for about 15 minutes in the school room and had a great time.  There came a point, though, where she was ready to go … so we did.

One bummer about the day was that Seth got pretty sick tonight.  He had essentially the same symptoms as mine from the other night.  He thanked me for making him sick … you bet, bud!  Lisa and Joe came to the rescue with some Advil cold medicine.

Dinner was had on the 2nd floor of the hotel at the Food Street.  The hotel has been super busy with some sort of convention, so lets just say that the service was a bit slow. But by the end of two hours we had all eaten, including a family from Pennsylvania who has adopted a son with the same anemia Liz has.  Anywho – Seth didn’t join us for dinner, he just rested up in the room so I took him some get well food, which was the highlight of the meal – the french fries.  We hadn’t ordered off of their “western” menu before, and the fries are worth mentioning.

After dinner we put Liz to bed and tried to stay awake and watch a movie so we could do something fun since it was our last night in Changsha.  No such luck.  We all fell asleep and when I woke up at about 10 pm I realized we had all fallen asleep and just threw in the towel.