August 5, 1997 -- Zhanjiang


The next day was to be D-day, daughter or dad according to who was telling it. First we boarded a plane to Zhanjiang, a medium sized town in SW Guangdong province. The town has a small airport, and looked not so well off on the drive in. Our hotel, the Silver Sea, is fairly modern, in a section of town that is being built up as an economic enterprise zone. We knew the Mei babies would be waiting for us in the hotel, so the tension was palpable.

They were coming in from an orphanage outside of the city, where we were not allowed to visit. The Guo babies would be picked up later in Zhanjiang orphanage. We hurriedly put stuff in our rooms, and the whole group assembled in a room on the second floor for the Mei baby arrival ceremony. The Mei parents were along one wall, and the everyone else formed a press gallery on the other side of the room. It was fairly orderly at first. A child's parent(s) stood up when their child's name was called, and the orphanage director brought the baby in and presented her. There were lots of flash bulbs going off, applause, and general mayhem.

Only Christine stood up, because boyfriend doesn't seem to cut it here. After Mei Yun, now Lorna Mei, came in, I (Tim) didn't notice much else that was going on. Lorna Mei looked like her picture, only much cuter. She didn't cry or complain at all, she was too interested in what was going on. Christine and I sat on the couch and talked to her, and she was busy checking everything out. One baby cried a lot, but most of the seems either startled, interested, or asleep. Lorna Mei was completely quiet, but was checking everything out with her eyes all the time. She would reach out for a bunch of keys if proffered, but the social events were more interesting by far.

Along with the orphanage director, who seemed like a nice lady, but sort of official, several of the care givers came They went around saying hello and good-bye to all their now ex charges. They seemed very loving towards the kids, and a bit overwhelmed by the proceedings. They seemed to me to be pointing and waving to Lorna Mei a good deal. When they came to visit her they clapped loudly, and chuckled her on the cheeks quite briskly, which elicited some kind of smile. There were all kinds of posing of parents, daughters and caregivers for pictures, and little red envelopes flying around. Gradually people went back up to their rooms with their new daughters.

During the mayhem, each parent had a brief interview with a notary, who told them the official story of where and when their daughter was found, read from a form. For Lorna Mei this was August 28th 1986, on the side of the road, in Meilu city. Then we had a hurried chance to ask the orphanage director and care giver a question or two. Carol asked where Lorna Mei was found, and the director told us, on the steps of the orphanage. She also told us that Lorna Mei had been drinking formula and eating rice cereal, and that was all. This we believed. The time, date and place of Lorna Mei's arrival in the world seem much more hazy to us, and I had the impression the orphanage director and caregivers would say almost anything that was in the children's interest, and then stick to their story rigidly. This might well include giving the child an earlier official birthday than her real one.

One mother spent some time with Norman and a caregiver trying to find out when her baby really arrived at the orphanage (she was also supposed to be an August baby). After a lot of too and fro she elicited some time in November. The group has decided that while some of the Mei babies are their real age, others are younger, maybe as much as three months. We think this is probably the case with Lorna Mei.

I don't know what I expected. Lorna Mei is really a baby at this point. She looks very pretty, especially sleeping. Her eyes are lively, and she really likes looking around and checking stuff out. She holds her head up well, and prefers to sit up when awake. She likes to touch stuff with a single finger, and can grasp objects pretty well. She can't yet pick something up deliberately, or bring an object to her mouth. Nor can she sit up on her own yet. In these respects she is like several other of the Mei children.

Lorna Mei is very alert, and interested in what's going on. She seems especially interested in people, and in the other babies. At first she hardly made any sounds. Sometimes she would make a crying face, but no noise came out. it was a relief when she finally cried properly on the second morning. Christine and I are pretty doofus parent right now. I managed to make up the formula at 2X the first night, but she drank it anyway. She seems to like her rice cereal quite a bit, but Carol is better at stuffing it in than we are. Carol is being a wonderful auntie in general.

Lorna Mei was a bit stuffed up, with a cough, the first night, as were several other babies. Norman got a doctor in, who listened to Lorna Mei with a stethoscope (thoughtfully brought by a together parent!) who said she has bronchitis. Norman had amoxicillin in his suitcase, and the doctor said to give this to her for a couple of days, which we are doing. Christine thought she had a fever, but Tim and the thermometer weren't convinced. Some of the other babies are running fevers, but no one is too worried I think. Lorna Mei's skin seems very good. She has a bit of heat rash on her head - the doctor laughed when Tim asked her to look at it. Also some diaper rash. but not too. Both seem to be getting better at the moment. The rest of her skin looked great. A couple of the babies had scabies, but people had brought the right medicine for this.

We skipped dinner - Carol brought up a take out for us. Lorna Mei slept very well her first night, more than her parents. Christine still a bit worried about the bronchitis, and Tim just a bit overwhelmed. It was very romantic though, with the little baby in the crib next to the bed. She woke up pretty happy, though still plugged up and with a cough. Some of the other babies are a good deal sicker though, so we are lucky. We have yet to get a full bottle of formula down her, but she likes her rice cereal, especially from auntie Carol.