Today we took a 2-ish hour flight on lovely China Eastern Airlines (including a free, hot lunch & free, checked bags!) from Chengdu to Hefei. We are now in Abbie’s native province of Anhui. Hefei is the capital and is where we stayed in 2005 when we were given Abbie. (Her native town is Chuzhou, where we will travel tomorrow, but the government’s adoption paperwork had to happen in the capital.) Anyway, our local guide, Michael, greeted us with a smile and said to Abbie, “welcome to your home.” He specializes in working with adoptive families in Anhui, so we are in very good hands, as will be evidenced below…
We set out in the not-too-bad traffic and not-so-awful pollution through Hefei, which is now a city of 7 million. Hefei is Michael’s hometown, and he said it has changed a LOT since we were here in 2005, mostly in terms of growth (including a new, huge airport). We stopped briefly at our beautiful, downtown hotel to check in and unload (we are on the 26th floor this time!). Then we set out for a bit of site-seeing…nothing about this city looked familiar to me at this point, but that was about to change.
There’s not much to see in Hefei in terms of tourism, but it was my favorite day of our trip thus far. I had requested two sites: Huiyuan Park and the (formerly Sofitel) Grand Park Hotel. We first stopped at the park, which is important because our small group of adoptive families took a stroll through it with the babies back in January of 2005. Today’s stroll was much more pleasant, though I missed having Reed by our side. It was warm, colorful, and I had my very happy 13-year-old daughter walking alongside me. This park has sections representing different cities in Anhui, including Chuzhou, as well as a replica of a beautiful Buddhist temple, which we had photographed before. It was great fun for me to remember this place again and share it with Abbie!
The next stop was the Grand Park Hotel, which is just down the street from the park. As you might have guessed, this is where Abbie was given to us on January 10, 2005. It is no longer a Sofitel and does not cater to westerners, so CHI didn’t want us to stay there this time, but the visit itself was the best. I immediately recognized the outside of the hotel, as well as the grand lobby full of shiny marble and sparkly chandeliers. We also found the turtles swimming where they were 12 years ago, which nearly brought me to tears. I vividly recall taking photos and video of them to show then 3-year-old Jackson. 🙂
Michael sprang into action to help us retrace our steps at the hotel. We set off in search of the big room where the babies were brought in by the nannies, as well as the smaller room where all the paperwork was done. This hotel was routinely used for just this purpose in Anhui, though it has been many years because adoptions have nearly ceased with the reversal of the one-child policy. Between my memory, old photos from our blog, and helpful hotel staff, we found these places. We felt like detectives piecing together the bits of information and shining our flashlights in darkened rooms and corridors. Abbie thought it was great fun – she was actively putting the pieces of HER story together!
Then there it was…the door through which her physical presence joined ours. We had been preparing for Chu Yong Ran – our Abigail Skylar – for so long, and we had begun to attach to her through her referral photo and story, but now she was here, about to be in our arms. Through this door, our family was made complete: two children; two miracles. Back on that cold day, we spotted her instantly when she entered, despite the seven baby girls wearing identical pink and white snow suits. 🙂 Through this door, we now had our daughter. As Abbie described it in her journal entry tonight, through this door she was “standing in a miracle.” She also wrote, “I could see the past happening in the room.” Today in that moment, I felt the past come racing back and enter the present, and I once again felt the miracle.
We drove back to our hotel, quietly reflecting on our “site-seeing.” We got some noodles and dumplings for dinner, and we prepared our things for tomorrow. We are ready…