Drooling on the Pillow

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

China Story 

The population of China is 1,306,313,812 and when you go there to adopt, you go to either Peking or Canton to file the paperwork. (Beijing and Guangzhou are places where Chinese people live. Peking and Canton are places Americans visit)

So if you are adopting from the south of China, the office you visit represents the orphans of (very) approximately 650 million people.

Canton was, for long periods of the colonial era the only ground permitted to non-Chinese. It has European gardens and churches and run-down, but tidy, areas that might be Perugia or Alsace. Almost.

There were six of us in the party, including the translator/handler when we went for our pre-adoption filings and we barely fit into two cabs. We were deposited in front of a huge colonial gate. Inside we could see a large courtyard with several small buildings and a fantastic old pile of a building that looked like the work of a 19th century European architect working with Chinese motifs. From the center of the courtyard rose the biggest tree I've ever seen in my life, whose shade covered the entire compound.

We were hustled into a tradesman's entrance and up three rickety flights to an office that might have been thirty feet long and fifteen feet wide. Four or five young women worked in the room. There were two tables they used for desks and two smaller tables that held a hot plate on one and nothing on the other. One wall was lined floor to ceiling with file cabinets and there were stacks of papers and office supplies here and there on the floor. There was a telephone. No copier, no fax.

I asked Cherry, our translator, if we would be getting to see the rest of the office. She told me that this was it. This office and these few young women handled all the paperwork, all the documentation and approvals for the thousands of international adoptions coming out of the south of China every year. They looked a little frazzled.

Apparently, their boss had a little cubicle of an office one floor up.

Our paperwork was flawed, unfortunately, by the omission of a particular stamp on our visas. This resulted in a lot of discussion and some heroic work by Cherry, who gave the impression that she would gladly shoot anyone who made any of us unhappy. The young women trooped up to the boss' office and came down singly or in groups to ask questions or to clarify a point.

Finally, after an hour or so of sometimes heated discussion one of the young women opened an old suitcase sitting in a corner and pulled out a rubber stamp and showed it to the others. Much discussion, many consultations with the boss. Finally, it was explained to me that this was not the stamp, but it would serve to get me through until we returned in two weeks for the final papers. It was carefully and repeatedly explained to me how I was to cure the flaw in our visa. I didn't understand a word of it, even in English, but Cherry said she did and that she would take care of it.

And she did.
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