So much to share! Most importantly and most wonderfully, there is no question at all that Cali was meant to be a part of our family. Christi and I are amazed at how quickly and completely she is adjusting. Her magnetic smile comes more and more frequently. She is eating up having a mom and dad. And her relationship with both Graci and Jess continues to grow. The three of them will giggle and talk and play together for hours. Sometimes Graci and Cali will be conversing in Chinese. At other times Jesi and Cali count together and sing the ABC’s together. One of my favorite things is when Jesi tries to interpret things for Cali. Jess seems to think that if she speaks slowly and clearly and uses lots of hand motions, Cali will somehow understand English. And Jess is completely in earnest. It’s simply darling.
Cali is also starting to become a Green in the sense of having a fun, teasing streak in her. The first couple of days we had her, she would watch as Jesi, Graci and I would interact. I would tickle those two. Christi would help me tickle them back. We also learned that Cali is very ticklish. But she would mostly just watch. Then last night something clicked. We were all in the swimming pool. Dave and Mike were even there with the cameras. But Cali completely came out of her shell. Jesi was doing her usual number of dunking and splashing Dad. Suddenly Cali started splashing along with her. It started as a bit of a rebellion against the camera. Cali has endured, but certainly not enjoyed, the cameras that have been rolling much of the time we’ve had her. In the pool, Dave had me hold a waterproof Go Pro camera and follow Cali around with it. Cali was swimming along as usual when she started to slap the water with more vigor than before. I quickly realized that she was splashing the camera. The little imp! I called her on it and she got a big grin on her face. I pointed it out to Christi and Cali started doing it more and more. Then she started splashing me. I got in the hot tub (right next to the pool) with Christi and Jess and Cali started dousing us with the cold water from the pool. Later, as we were winding down, Cali started to tickle me. I was trying to help get from the edge of the pool up to her wheelchair, but each time I’d lean down, she would reach out and tickle my stomach or under my arm. She was having fun with her dad and loving it. And we loved it, too! She is an angelJ.
Yesterday afternoon was quite the adventure for us. Our plan was to go to lunch and then go visit Cali’s friend, Duna, at her work. Dave and Mike came along with us. After lunch, we went to the nearest busy street to catch a cab. Taxis in China are ridiculously cheap ($3.00 for a 20 minute ride?!?), but they are also notoriously difficult to hail. So picture us there: Christi, Jessica, Graci, Cali in her wheelchair, and me. Along with Dave and Mike and some of their camera equipment. The temperature is somewhere pretty far south of freezing. Standing between the main, incredibly busy road and the “frontage road” that runs along every major road in China. (Never have been sure exactly what these frontage roads are for. Buses seem to use them, but so does anyone else who finds they might be useful. Not to mention there are also many sidewalks that double as another lane to drive and/or park on. Glad I don’t have to pass the driver’s test in China!!!) Christi has the girls pulled tightly to her so they don’t get clipped by an aggressive driver (and don’t get me started on the mental state of the people behind the wheel here. For example, at the Teracotta Warriors the other day, we were helping Cali down a wheelchair ramp. A lady on a scooter behind us started honking at us. Because we weren’t going quickly enough. In our wheelchair. Down a wheelchair ramp. Really?)
I stuck out my hand to stop a taxi. Multiple taxis drove by without so much as slowing down. Most had passengers in them. Some were likely done for the day. And others were probably just afraid of the crazy Americans. Then I noticed that a group of Chinese ladies had moved up the street from us. They, too, were trying to hail a cab and had deliberately positioned themselves so that a cab would stop for them before they stopped for us. I am sure of this because they were literally in the middle of an intersection. If you haven’t traveled abroad, you may not be able to envision this, but it really is true. In many foreign countries, there are simply no traffic laws beyond “don’t hit anyone.” So there they were, trying to steal our cab! I pointed it out to Christi. Her immediate response? “Be a man! Go get in front of them!” So a man I became. I walked past them and into position to get the next cab. They started to chuckle, then started to walk past me. I wouldn’t let them. I walked farther up the street. At that point they start to belly laugh at this impudent foreigner, gave up, and let me have the preferred position.
About that time, a motorcycle “taxi” pulled up to me. He was going the wrong way along the street, right next to the curb. This is Xi’an. A city of 8 million people. I would have to say that the traffic here is worse than New York City. And he decides he’ll go head-on into traffic to find some sucker who’ll bite. Apparently I looked like his type. And it you’ve never ridden in a motorcycle taxi, you haven’t lived. Motorcycle in the front, rickshaw in the back. Three wheels (a design notorious for its stability!). The back has had some metal bars welded onto it to provide a framework. A rickety floor and thin plexiglass side panels complete the ensemble. Wanna take your family for a ride through NYC in that? Well, some nostalgia for my time in Thailand must have clouded my thinking, ‘cuz I immediately thought “Let’s do it. I haven’t had this much fun since 1996!” It didn’t hurt that this guy had some limited English and was quite the huckster.
“Where you go?” I showed him the address. With a disgusted look on his face: “Very far. You no get taxi. I take you. 100 Yuan (about $17.00). Me, looking about as intelligent as a wide mouth bass coming up alongside the boat and into the net: “Uh, OK. Yeah. I’ll stuff my wife, my three daughters and me into this rattletrap and then we’ll maybe carry the wheelchair in our laps. And why don’t I write you into my will, too?” Or something like that. I walked back to Christi and tried to sell her on the merits of this entrepreneurial transportation guru. “Honey, it’ll be fun! It’s an adventure you’ll never forget. We’ll never get a cab and it’s getting late and we may miss Duna and….” “NO! N.O. No! Are you completely insane? Go get us a cab!” (Said in the sweetest possible way.) So there we are. Six Americans, one adopted sweetie and one very motivated motorcycle cabbie. I kept trying to convince Christi it was the only way we’d get anyone to take us there. As the cabbie kept telling me we’d never get a taxi, I used my little Chinese to say, “Mama shua bu! (Mama says no!) and then threw up my hands like ‘what’s a guy to do?’ The cabbie and the group of taxi-stealing-ladies caught the humor. At this point, Christi gave up on the idea of me being a man and decided to take things into her own hands. She charged down the street hollering at every cab that passed. When one stopped to let someone out, she held the door open so the cab couldn’t leave. With my yelled encouragement (she was 50 yards away by now) she hopped in the back seat and tried to encourage him to drive to where we were waiting. The driver eventually helped her understand that he was now off work. She jumped back out and continued her gesticulations until she successfully found a taxi that would take us. Poor Dave and Mike were left with motorcycle man. We all got there safely, but our trip only cost 21 YuanJ.
The time with Duna was extraordinary. This wonderful lady has a heart of gold. We’ve mentioned before how important she has been in Cali’s life. They both arrived at the Hanzhong orphanage at about the same time. Duna quickly sensed how sweet and sensitive Cali was and how much she needed a friend. They have become like family in the five years since. Recently, Duna transferred to a spot in Xi’an. Here she works in a facility that houses six boys who have “aged out.” All of them are 15 years old and are no longer eligible for adoption in China. They live in an apartment that also serves as their school. They have staff there around the clock, but Duna comes in for a normal work-day and helps these boys develop skills that will hopefully enable them to get jobs someday. She has spearheaded this type of care in this area and clearly loves the kids she is working with. Christi and I quickly fell in love with them, too. At Christi’s suggestion, we quickly went down to the store around the corner and brought a bunch of treats and fruit for the kids. They were very excited when we came back, mostly for the opportunity to hand all the things back out. You had to be careful, or a grubby skittle might find its way right into your mouth. Felt like an early Christmas. Cali enjoyed seeing Duna one last time. They really do love each other. It was a great final day in Xi’an!