Apparently the power of the pen, or keyboard as it were, has gone to Catherine’s head. What was she thnking posting half-naked pictures of me on the web? I’ve already received lascivious emails complimenting me on my nakedness….Oh well. It’s too late now. Things are going surprisingly well. I don’t know how men who aren’t married to pediatricians do all of this stuff. Catherine has been amazing with Lili while I’ve felt pretty much like a bug watching a windshield approach while flying backward as fast as I can. Lili’s been amazing to watch. Watching her smile for Catherine was really great, but I was too caught up in the moment to stop and get the cameras. In fact I find that while I want to take pictures I don’t take that many right now because it’s all little overwhelming but wonderful too. I actually just want to enjoy the moments and let the pictures come when they will.
Unlike Catherine I found the trip to Walmart great fun. But then my astonishing command of mandarin seemed to help with the interaction of our fellow Walmart shoppers. Apparently if you can say Ni hao (the all-purpose phrase which can mean – hi, how are you, what are you looking at, etc) then you obviously must be able to speak Mandarin. I trot out the few stock phrases I’ve learned despite the hours of tuturoing with Julia – my 18-year-old tutor extraordinaire who knows: Mandarin, English, Cantonese, her local dialect and Japanese. My language ability, or lack thereof, merely reflects my rock-like absorption rate, not her teaching abilities. Even Min – my cousin-in-law – tried to teach me a few phrases but mostly just laughed at my poor pronunctiation.
Back to the crowds at Walmart. Imagine the last payday Saturday before Christmas and triple the crowds, noise and stuff – and that doesn’t even begin to get close to how crowded it was at 3pm on a Tuesday. One thing I’ve discovered about being in China, especially since we left Beijing is how openly people gaze at you. It looks like staring but I don’t feel any ill-well or 7th grade snickering happening. I see them looking at this short-sleeved Lao-Wei (foreigner) with a very cute little (15.4 pounds or 7 Kilos) chinese baby and they just look, for minutes at a time. Whole families gazing speechless at us, and while lili can make me speechless sometimes as well, I think they are speechless for a different reason. I wonder how they feel about foriegner’s adopting their little girls? So I say Ni hao and they come up to me and Lili, pinch her cheeks, grab a thigh, adjust her clothing, what have you, speaking rapidly the whole time. I smile and nod before eventually shrugging my shoulders in incomprehension. I then say the Xie-Xie. (thank you). It seemed to go well. Occasionally like yesterday young people will want to practice their English. The picture from yesterday was of Felecia and Hank Lee with a friend of their’s who was too shy to speak. They were students at Nanchang University studying Medical English. They translated for the crowd of about 20 people who gathered around us. Some marveled at the size of my feet (size 13), some marveled at how little clothing I was wearing, some marveled at Lili, as they should have, some wanted to know how much we paid the orphanage (my answer to that was she was worth any price), and I think some just wanted to hear the foreigner mangle their language.
It was a lot of fun, and while I felt like a zoo exhibit ,everyone was very kind, warm and welcoming. They even chased off a few beggars who were bothering me. Apparently shaming them by the looks one old woman gave the beggar. I know I wouldn’t have wanted to have been scolded like that.
Anyway Hank and Felicia decided I needed a chinese name and they came up with Li Shanling which they said means kindhearted, helpful soul and father of Lili. I have the pinyin and the characters written out so I’ll have to have Min let me know if that is what it means. Regardless it was a lot of fun. The food is excellent and feeding Lili with chopsticks has been amazing. She eats so much with them and looks like a baby bird while doing it, of course we aren’t pre-chewing her food. Using chopsticks really is much easier than using a spoon, of course chopsticks don’t work well with prunes mixed with congee (a rice-like porridge that is a staple food in China) so we use a spoon for that. Everday is a day of discovery as we write our own instruction manual for this wonderful person.
We’re off for a walk in the people’s park before lunch in local restaurant. The whole food from here n the Jiang Xi province and in neighboring Hunan province is known for it’s spicy flavor. Because of it girls from this region are universally nicknamed “spicy girls” with a knowing smile – or so we are told.
I’ll try to take a few more pictures today, both of the Lili and also of life in Nanchang in general. While I was looking forward to coming, I just hadn’t thought about how much I’d enjoy the trip and how much fun it would be. Our time in Beijing was really nice because it gave Catherine and I some time alone away from work, school and distractions. Something we haven’t had too much of lately. I’m now really starting to wonder what I can do to find work here in China, so I can actually become fluent in Mandarin as well as giving Lili the chance to learn her native language as well.
Off to do homework since Catherine and Lili are both taking their after breakfast naps. -t