Monday, November 09, 2009

Wensie ... Or Murphy's Law

So, Wensie is our guide. And she is NO Susan -our guide in Beijing. We went from dull to hair-raising in a matter of hours.

Today was paperwork day. Our guide was going to the American Consulate to apply for the passports and visas with the paperwork we filled out. We were supposed to wait in our rooms until she called to release us in case there were questions.

Ever get locked in a room with an energetic 8 year old? It's vujade all over again. Joseph ended up playing ball in the hallway with him until they got yelled at by a hotel staff that play facilities are in the Swan Room. LOL. I figured someone was going to get annoyed.

At 12:05 we heard a knock on the door, thinking it was Wensie. Nope. I was Jay - another parent. He said "Hi, Wensie here..." He seemed a bit annoyed. Wensie had sent him to tell all the parents to meet up on the 11th floor. So off we went.

We arrived and families slowly gathered, including the Annoying Chinese Woman traveling alone - who yet again talked through THIS meeting too. Pffft!!! We waited for about 20 minutes and then Wensie appeared. Apparently one of the forms were wrong. We were to sign it all at the American Consulate in front of the clerk or whomever. So we had to redo that one form. She kept saying rules changed but everyone was skeptical. Anyway, we did what she said - what we didn't get was why we just didn't do the last page since that was the only one that was wrong?

I was one of the first two people to finish. As I handed mine in, she was having a conversation with someone, stopped to tell me something about tomorrow, and another person came up and she stopped in the middle with me to tell that person the same thing ... Uh, she was having 3 conversations! No wonder things were chaotic.

So I basically said, "no no no.... Just wait and tell us all at once." She said she didn't want us to wait, and I told her it was confusing and this is why we are here!!! So she looked dubious so other families who heard loudly agreed.

So 10 minutes later, she addressed us all (finally) and we heard the same thing at the same time and we could have all our questions answered. Tomorrow we are going to the consulate. She was trying to cherry pick what each person should bring, so I just interrupted and said, "bring everything, why is that a problem? If you don't have what they need, you will be screwed." And everyone agreed.

Some of us got xrays and she didn't tell everyone not to open it. So one family went off and tried. Thank God he couldn't because it's supposed to be opened by customs in the USA!

She then said we would be getting our oath tomorrow which contradicts the schedule we got. And she said only the child and parents need to go. And no cameras or cell phones allowed. Well, I was told that we could take pictures and all our friends who came with us could witness the oath. We all looked at each other skeptically but didn't say anything.

And then the Red Couch discussion started. This is a picture of all the families with their children on the Red Couch. It is a momentous occasion and the color red has a lot of deep meaning in China. So we asked if we would be doing this. She looked as us incredulously and said, "you want to do THAT???" We said yes and told her what it meant to us. She looked absolutely taken aback that we would want to do it. Then she said "ok, bring your cameras." Which got everyone going because we all want to be in the picture. She said she would take it. Then one of the mothers said the pictures she's seen were all professionally done. Well she seemed aggravated about that. And said someone would pay. And so we said we'll all pay. She seemed resigned and said she would ask around for a professional photographer and that we would meet at 1pm.

Uh, sorry, we didn't mean to inconvenience you!! Oh brother.

Anyway, it was done. At least until tomorrow. All I know is that the parents have banded together now in mutual skepticism. We feel that she just doesn't care. One of the parents jokingly asked her if she was out partying last night instead of working on our applications and she said that, yes, she went out with her friends last night. OK. Whatever.

All I have to say is Thank God our agency is so awesome and so terrific. They are working so damn hard behind the scenes and this just makes it unnecessarily harder on them. The families are very protective of our Agency and the director and all the people who work there. And they have educated us all pretty well. They also do not deserve this type of service. Anyway... Everything will work out. They always do.

Afterwards we had a bite a really nice restaurant - the Rose Garden on Shamian Island - Petrus. The food was awesome and we want to go back for dinner.

Then back to the room, relax for a bit and then go off the Island and do some shopping in Guangzhou "proper." Again. But this time we learned our lesson and took a side road to avoid the animal parts, insects and reptiles. We ended up getting JJ a couple pair of sneakers, a pair of windproof pants and a shirt. Joseph's mom and I each got a pair of shoes.

We had another abundantly copious meal at the Guangzhou, which is in "guangzhou 'proper'", off the Island of Idyllic Ambiance. The first thing JJ does was sit by Nai Nai (grandmother) and Uncle (my friend from the USA). My gut said it wasn't good but I let it go. JJ was goofing off and threw a cup of hot tea all over himself. Nai Nai immediately took him in hand, Uncle got him ice, and I just sat across the table making eye contact with him. He just stared at me. If I freaked, I knew he would. He was brave and made it through. A little redness that went away by the end of dinner. So we both learned lessons - he learned not to be grabby, careless - the Korean word is "Kaburah" and cannot be translated easily - the best way is "naughty" without the bad connotations - won't sit still, moves his body around, goofing off, etc. And Mama and Baba learned that one of us must always sit next to him.

Then he had tea and the cup slipped through his hand and it broke. Uncle had to pay for this broken cup. We couldn't believe it but since being in China for a week and 2 days, I am starting to believe just about anything. Uncle couldn't believe it. I told him to let JJ know and Uncle explained to him that he had to pay for it as a result of his carelessness. He is 8, almost 9. He needs to understand that a single action has consequences that impact those around him.

Action leads to reaction leads to consequences. This he must learn. How much do we react? He will burn his hand, fall down and get cut and bruised a hundred times before adulthood. We must sit by and let him learn every time, removing anything seriously harmful as best we can. This is the most painful thing so far.

We are setting boundaries and he does test us. Sometimes it gets him into trouble and in that way, he will learn. He is a very good child and very smart. Sometimes it's harder to parent a smart child but I'd rather have that difficulty than deal will a dull child for the rest of my life. I know. That sounds harsh and isn't very politically correct but it is what it is. How many of us are saints? No one. And how many would choose the latter over the former? Face our demons and admit it? Very few.

I am not an American parent and I was raised by Koreans. Growing up I knew there were distinct differences in the parenting style. But I will discipline in the Korean way since that is what I know - strict and firm with very high boundaries. I know that people who are not Asian may frown on this. But I do not intend to explain the unexplainable.

There will also be a healthy dose of loving. Indulgences are carefully selected and rewarded when they are earned. And we will try to pass on the lessons I've learned about Karma and the way we are all connected, one and the same, altogether. Joseph and I agree on this. And we will try to raise a child who is filled with spirit and thought, and one who will have a good impact on this life to all he is connected to. This we know we will try to do.

Right now he is in bed having a conversation between JingJing and Panda - two stuffed animals that Lilly Ayi (aunt) and Nai Nai bought him. A healthy imagination. And he doesn't even seem tired or the worse for wear given all he has gone through.

Ok. That's all. What a day.

Tomorrow is American Consulate and Red Couch day. Should be interesting.

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