It was the one question I answered without thinking about our cultural differences. Sure, I remembered where I was as we sat at that wooden table in the middle of the dumpling restaurant. Sitted next to me was Daniel. He was on my left, but on my right was a local. A local meaning a Chinese resident. We shared a table with another couple, 2 ladies taking their lunch break I assume. If we spoke the same language, we easily would have been a part of each other's conversations. We were sitted close. Like pass me the salt, er, soy sauce close.
In the van ride from the Beijing airport to our hotel the night before, we were acquainted with our first guide, Flora. She is only a few years younger than us. In fact, it was the first thing she noticed about us. Typically couples who adopt from China are older with biological kids of their own. We learned quickly through our adoption that most of the families who adopt already have kids, bio or adopted. To have a couple without kids to adopt from China isn't as common as one might think. Flora's exact words to us were "You're young."
"Thank you." I knew she was my favorite for a reason.
We talked government laws on the way to the hotel. She wanted to know how we were able to take off work for our China trip. She was intrigued with the concept of the FMLA. Giving both women and men time away from work without fear of being fired to bring home a new child was a foreign concept to Flora. She agreed it is a good government program to have for its citizens.
12 hours later we sat at the dumplings restaurant waiting for our (melt in your mouth, so delicious, take me back to China this minute, fantastic) dumplings to arrive and continued our small talk. When she asked about our siblings, I didn't really think too much about it. Her next question helped trigger my memory about the country we were presently in. She asked, "Are you close?"
Flora grew up under the One Child Policy in China. Over the years, there were exceptions about the number of kids based on the number of siblings between a husband and wife. For the most part, it was the same. One child. Not by choice, but it was the law. Flora was intrigued by the concept of having a sibling while she only had close friends who she shared an apartment with. Just like most of the people who she knew, it was rare for her to meet someone with a sibling (or more). In that moment, my heart broke for Flora. Not knowing the pure joy of growing up with another human(s) who could relate to the current issues and situations happening in your household made me sad for her. So I took it upon myself to (over)share life with my sister. I told about growing up with a younger sister and our fantastic Hawaii trip just 1.5 years prior to being in China. Flora was intrigued, fascinated, and hanging on every word. Then the food came out and all talking was over, because we were stuffing our faces with dumplings using chopsticks, drinking warm Chinese Coke from a can, and wiping our faces with a tissue. (Tissue meaning a one-ply sheet of a toilet paper square. The Chinese do not believe in making a mess while eating apparently. Each table had a box of these "napkins". I always used an entire box of "napkins" at every meal, because, hey, I get messy when I eat.)
This lunch started our lifetime bond with Flora, our guide, who is now my personal pen pal. We just recently reconnected through emailing each other. She is a sweet soul who is eager to learn about others and their lives. She became more than just our guide during that week we spent with her. She became family. She was the last one to see us as Todd, party of 2, the first one to see us become parents. She Go-Proed, took our pictures, shopped with us (i.e. with me and she loves H&M), ate tons with us, was patient with us, made us feel like a local, and guided us through the most important decision of our married lives. We love and miss you terribly, Flora!
|at The Great Wall|
March 7, 2015
|riding the bullet train from Beijing to Tianjin|
March 8, 2015
|one last picture with Flora before we left for the airport to fly to Guangzhou|
March 12, 2015