Left: This is the view of the courtyard upon exiting the conference room.
Below: Note the stainless steel railing and marble stairs. (Being in stainless steel sales, DH thought this was quite impressive.)
Our Journey To Elizabeth Xiaochai
June 07, 2000 - Meet Elizabeth!
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"The greatest gift and honor, is having you for a daughter."
Fa Zhou to Fa MuLan - Disney's MULAN
©2004, Ashley V.
Last Update: June 7, 2021
Within just a few minutes, we were at the hotel and the director met us outside - the camcorder was "on" and situated at shoulder's height. Our Elizabeth was some place nearby. My heart was in my throat. We walked in and I was scanning the lobby (Above photo) We did not know it, but SHE was just across the lobby with one of her caregivers . Guess what we did first - checked in! I was about to "give birth" and had to first check in! Ugh. Donnie and I noted how very beautiful the young ladies behind the counter were, we were already wondering if that is what Elizabeth would look like some day.
Once everything was signed, I expected to be taken to a room where our sweetie must be waiting...nope....as I watched like a hawk while the director walked across the lobby, I soon found that was not the plan. There were huge pillars blocking my view but my eyes never left the spot where I had last seen the director walk. I said, "Donnie, Donnie" and was reaching into the air next to me to get his attention.
Suddenly, she popped from behind a pillar carrying the most beautiful Chinese angel ever born. She was in a pink hand-made dress which was too large on her. Her long legs dangled as the director carried her facing forward. She was SMILING at us!! We began talking to her "Xiaochai!, Xiaochai!" "NiHao, hello!" The director pointed to us "mommy, daddy". Elizabeth studied us curiously and kept smiling. We continued to say her name gently while touching her little hands. It was magic, love at first sight. She grabbed a hold of our hearts for a lifetime, our daughter whom we had waited so long to meet was just before us in her happy glory. This child, born the same week we began our paperchasing, had just reduced her grandfather to tears (yes, Papa, I saw them!) and to say were we blissful is not enough. Speaking of Papa, here is something in his words about that moment:
(Right) This is our hotel in Maoming. Again, we rushed here by all four cramming ourselves and our bags into a tiny little red taxi, one of MANY waiting at the train station. We had LOTS of stares here as we were quite a novelty. Up to this point we had been in fairly well-visited tourist destinations where the locals were used to seeing Western faces. On the train and now in Maoming, Westerners are a little more scarce. We knew all was going well as our guide, Gillian, was in constant communication with the Maoming Welfare Institute director while we were on the train.
"Having travelled with you on your journey to pick up our China Doll, I am grateful for all of the memories. The feeling I had when I first set eyes on her at the hotel was one of great happiness for you. I remember also thinking of what a lucky baby she was to have parents like you as well as your good fortune in having her. I will always remember hearing you, Donnie, saying with great excitement in hushed tones..."
"ASHLEY, ASHLEY, THERE SHE IS!"
As wonderful as this moment was in the lobby of the Maoming Building, we had to break the spell for a moment while we RUSHED to the notary's office which was about to close. We literally threw our luggage into our room and headed to the office which was a quick walk across and down the street.
As we walked to the Notary's office, I noticed the Director was carrying a bag which contained the items we had sent to Elizabeth while we waited to travel. The items included her blanket onto which her Chinese name was embroidered as well as her English name. When I sent this I was not sure it would make it at all or that we would ever see it again. How thrilling to know she received it and was able to use it for the 6 weeks until we got there. And the blanket came home with us!
While at the notary, we went over the paperwork and looked for any errors in our names or dates of birth, etc. We had a lot of fun with Elizabeth during this time. It was our first time to interact with Elizabeth. She was all smiles as she toddled from person to person. It was so wonderful!! It was *really* hard to concentrate on the paperwork with her toddling around.
It was so hot in the notary's office that the director kept wiping Elizabeth's sweaty head with a tissue, it was clear that she was used to hands-on dealings with the children.
When we were done at the notary's office, about 30 minutes later, we all walked back to the hotel and flagged a taxi for our visit to the Maoming Welfare Institute. The director got in the front of the taxi with Elizabeth - NO CAR SEAT!! Elizabeth wimpered as they got in, she had clearly never been in a vehicle before. I snapped this photo of her beautiful profile, she held on to the little sugar-coated gel candy without eating it.
We took a taxi back to the hotel and the director followed on motorcycle. There we were, Gillian, the Assistant Director, Elizabeth, Donnie and me, piled into our hotel room. Donnie and I ripped into the suitcase to get out the gifts for the director as well as the clothing that our wonderful family and friends had given as donations for the children of Maoming. The director accepted everything humbly and we said our final thank yous and good-byes.
Papa heard us come back and anxiously came over to see his granddaughter. The door closed and there we were! Here in the flesh was that same little face we had stared at for so long in the referral photo. She was more lovely than we ever imagined. We sat her on the bed and gave her some stacking cups and other toys. Daddy, Papa, Gillian and I all gazed in wonder and bragged of her intelligence and beauty.
After a few minutes, I left the bedside for just a moment and it happened....she looked my way and whined in my direction not liking my departure.
After an hour or so in our room with Elizabeth, we headed to one of the hotel restaurants which was on the 15th floor and had a beautiful view of the city. I had french fries and an egg sandwich - it was the best food I had ever eaten! Elizabeth enjoyed some congee and preferred mom at this point. She was hamming it up and loved all of the attention she was getting.
The director of MWI arrived to say good-bye to our girl, we took some photos and chatted a while. As she left, we extended our heartfelt thanks. She told us that Elizabeth was a lucky baby to have a family now...we told her that WE were the fortunate ones.
Off to our room - we gave Elizabeth a very quick little catwash, she fell asleep in my arms sucking her thumb while rubbing her bath towel. The hotel had provided a crib but I put her in my bed. It was hard to remove her from my side after finally having her in our arms.
Later I called my Mom in Missouri. She cried and was so happy to hear from us. It was hard to describe Elizabeth's beauty. The words were hard to come by as she really had us speechless. We were so surprised at how small she was, not the size we were expecting at all, she was wearing 12 month clothes although had such long, delicate legs and arms.
I filmed the view from our hotel window and headed to bed...it would be a busy morning, the train was to leave at 8:00 AM.
The MWI was just a few blocks down the road, it has a very unassuming entrance.
As we pulled up we were amazed at how beautiful it was. Pink/salmon colored tile with lovely green hanging plants. The circular shape gave me a sense of safety and togetherness. It was very clean and the courtyard was nicely kept and landscaped. On the lower level, there was play equipment and children running around, we were told that the institute serves as a daycare center for the children of local working families.
Below: Here we all are unloading from the taxi. Gillian our guide is carrying Elizabeth and that is the Assistant Director next to her.
We went to a second story conference room. It was very cold in the room, wow, that air really worked well! The room was quite lovely with a large conference table. The room was clean and tidy and the marble floors were lovely. There were photos on the walls of some of the children from MWI and I recall a section which was about the special needs children. Something I regret is not asking more questions about MWI while we were there. There was some adoption paperwork to complete and I was so distracted by Elizabeth and all of her wonder that it was hard to get any questions asked at all.
We were told that we could not visit the areas where the children lived. Some parents want to do this, we did not. Luckily, our package we had sent in May had arrived safely, including the two disposable cameras. The staff kindly took pictures of the inside of MWI, including where the children lived and played. We had this film processed while in China and the photos are wonderful. We are saving them for our daughter some day. So, while we were unable to physically see the children's living spaces, we do have photos showing the great care these children are given.
Back to the courtyard we went.
We were about to have Mao Xiao Chai
placed in our arms...forever!
As we made or way back to the taxi, Donnie looked up and saw Elizabeth's caregivers waving good-bye. It was an emotional moment, one she was too young to grasp. I took photos of them waving good-bye. We, too, waved, saying "good-bye" and "thank you" to them in Mandarin and Cantonese.
6/07/00 - Meet Elizabeth!