(#16 in the Annie series)
At the Guangzhou train station, in the queue to go to the platform, we stand between two other sets of adoptive parents. (Wait, did I just make it sound as if I was a parent? No, no… just the auntie.) A husband looks at his sweating wife who is carrying a chubby baby in a tummy pack. The baby is sleeping, much to their relief. The wife had been a student in China a dozen years ago. Now they are back to adopt this child to take home to their other children.
This is a common theme, I’ve learned. Parents can’t stop at just one. Apparently adopting Chinese babies is like eating M&M’s. I understand why: These are the cutest children on the planet. But these parents are, like Nikki, adopting special needs kids. This, in my book, makes them extra-super humans. They are going to have challenges most parents don’t have. But they are also going to have extra-super joys, too.
For example: Eloise (above). Her father, named Brent, has come from North Carolina to adopt her. Eloise’s new mommy is at home with her three new siblings, one of whom was adopted from Africa. That was a nightmare scenario; it took them weeks to get through the red tape as judges and other officials tried to shake them down for more money. Brent’s wife ended up staying longer than planned to wait it out—five weeks total.
This time Brent has traveled solo to get Eloise. And though she is 5 and has Down Syndrome and allegedly speaks only Chinese, she does as she’s told when Brent nicely asks her in English to sit in her little blue stroller with her battery-powered fan. She has a smile that could melt iron. It’s a good thing she’s spoken for because after seeing her for five minutes, I was smitten. I’d have taken her home with me.
So all in all, a much smoother train experience, leaving Guangzhou. Yes, we had to find a lift to get us down to the platform, and Annie’s wheelchair didn’t fit down the aisle, so we had to park her at the back of one of the cars (not near our assigned seats). But a kind attendant let us move to another car where we could sit right in front of where the chair had to park. One attendant did suggest that we could stand for the three-hour trip in the space between the cars, but Nikki put her foot down at that. We got seats in a less-crowded car, and Annie spent part of the time in her chair and part of it lying down on two seats with Nikki. I sat in front of them, two seats all to myself. It felt quite spacious.
The darkening world rolled by again, in reverse this time, the mountains and rice paddies, the rivers and farms, the factories, a couple of quick stops at other stations. We were heading into night, and it felt far more peaceful returning than it had on the way out. All in all it was a much easier ride into Hong Kong than out of it, and I was reminded of one more difference between China and HK: On the train the attendants close the restrooms as the train enters HK territory because the waste is expelled directly onto the tracks. This is considered OK in China, not OK in HK.
By the time we got to the MTR (short Mass Transit Railway, and HK’s is one of the best subways in the world) station with Nikki pushing Annie and me pulling our two pieces of rolling stock, things felt familiar to me. It was Annie’s first ride on the subway, though, and since it was after 9 p.m., things were much quieter. Nikki, once again at home in the HK transit world again, easily found the platforms and right trains (I was still turned around) to take the MTR to Anne and John’s.
This time we both know the direction to head out of the station, walking the four-ish city blocks to the Macpherson’s Liberté apartment complex and head up to the 37th floor of Block 6. Anne and John greet three of us this time with great welcoming hugs, delighted to see Annie. They ask if we’re hungry, and though Nikki says she’s not, I’m starving (I’m always starving on this trip, though I figure I’ve lost a good 5 pounds by now). John goes to the kitchen and makes us a late dinner of scrambled eggs, toh-mah-toes and bacon. Perfect.
We each have our own rooms again, and I am, as I was before, captivated by the view out the window. I spend the first part of the night gazing out at the HK cityscape. When I was last in this room, we were two and had the whole trip ahead of us. Now we are three and almost done in Asia. We are almost on our way home.
Before I turn out the light, I see this on the small desk by the computer. One of them has been working here. John, I believe, leads Bible study at their church, The Vine, where they met Nikki years ago.
It says: “Your heart is purified by faith. Faith allows God to bless you.”
And it hits me that faith has been the theme of this journey. Nikki had faith in the process and in her ability to bring Annie home. I had faith in Nikki and Annie, both of them strong, can-do-anything people. Nikki and I both carry faith in, as I like to joke, all the gods and goddesses and ascended masters, as well as in our persistent, always-there companion spirits. We have felt their help and blessings every step of the way. We have had assistance when we needed it, sometimes when we didn’t know we needed it.
And I went to sleep looking out at the lights of Kowloon, Hong Kong, from the 37th floor, offering one of my favorite prayers to all who might receive it: