We have been home for six months and this is the first time that I’m actually sitting down and processing our trip to China. For a while, it was just too fresh, you know? The thought of any attempt in organizing my thoughts made my brain hurt, and so I just didn’t. But now, I think it is time to talk about how this country of a billion people up and changed how I view life. (A bit dramatic, but for real.)
Type A behavior:
* Competitive, Ambitious, Impatient, Aggressive, Fast-Talking
* Often have a sense of urgency about completing tasks, can find it difficult to relax
Type B behavior:
* Relaxed, Non-Competitive, Reflective, Innovative
* Know their abilities and work steadily toward a goal
I would describe myself as a mix between the A and B personality types.
Naturally, no one person fits into one category 100% of the time, but many people tend to find themselves in one or the other most of the time. Much depends on the experience they are going through. I attribute Type A me for the speed with which I compiled our dossier! But when it came to the travel part, I found that a switch flipped and Type B took the wheel.
Packing the Bags!
Let’s start with packing the bags. Pre-travel, I heard many an excited adoptive parent asking about an elusive “packing list”. Maybe not so elusive. I know they exist; that they are indeed saved as a document on many a computer. However, I never saw one, because I never asked for one. I did have the list of gifts for the folks helping us in-country that we were to bring, but that was it.
You know whenI packed? About two days beforehand. Totally goes against every Type A fiber in my body, but I just couldn’t make myself do it. I’m not sure if it was because I couldn’t stand the thought of having everything just laying around (clutter is my enemy), or if it was just me wanting to enjoy the last few weeks and days with our family of five knowing full well that life as we knew it was about to be flipped upside down. For whatever reason, I didn’t stress about packing. Type B was clearly running the pre-travel show.
Gettin’ On An Airplane!
I have flown many times. As the daughter of an Air Force Dad, I grew up mainly overseas, which meant several cross-Atlantic flights in my lifetime. The being-on-an-airplane for a loooooong time did not bother me. Type B enjoyed this easy flight with a light passenger list, the ability to spread out a little more, bulkhead seats with plenty of leg room. Yes… it was nice.
The only time that Type A started to emerge was based on my frustration at not being able to sleep. I knew I would pay for that later(and I did). But I chalked it up to my excitement to finally be headed to our daughter’s birth country, and turned on another episode of Downton Abbey.
Once we landed and got off the plane, I realized that China is a nation of Type A folks. Or maybe they’re not, but they sure act like it when trying to form a single file line! After realizing that use of elbows was not a faux pas, we quickly found our guide and were off to the hotel.
The roads in Shanghai? We came very near death many times, or at least we thought we did! Vans, buses, cars… all passing within two inches of each other with horns blaring. Our driver didn’t seem fazed at all. As we clutched the edges of our seats with white knuckle intensity, our guide and driver chatted in a relaxed fashion and told us a little about Shanghai. We counted cranes and prayed we would make it to the hotel in one piece.
The hotel we were at was okay. We learned there that in China, the air-conditioners don’t work in the winter. So as we tried frantically to cool our extra warm room down, we were in fact just blasting more hot air into the mix. I live in Texas, y’all, but the heat in that room was something else. Turns out that when I’m hot, I’m more irritable, and so Type A me told my husband we needed to switch rooms. We did (twice) and finally ended up in a room where the accommodating staff had opened the window to the January air to try to cool it off enough for the crazy Americans.
We slept much better that night.
“Gotcha” or “Family” Day was like a dream. We woke up, ate breakfast, and waited for our guide. We drove to what seemed like the far ends of the Earth (really it was about an hour) and arrived at a government office building. We signed paper after paper, barely hearing what the officials said each one said. Type B me was trusting that our guide would let us know if there was something wrong with any of it. Type A me was on the edge of my seat, being totally impatient, knowing full well that our daughter was in the same building as we were!
She walked in, and the rest of the room disappeared. Type A me and Type B me were overwhelmed by the emotions that rose to the surface seeing in person the face of the little girl that had been loved for nine months.
The rest of our in-province time was hard. I’m not going to lie. We felt capsized by our emotions. We left Shanghai thankful for our daughter, but happy to move to the next step in the process.
We made it to Guangzhou late in the evening. The air was warmer, and I think just walking out of the airport and feeling temperatures that were more like home made me relax a little. Type A was dead tired and decidedly out of the picture by this point. Traveled into the city to our hotel and settled in for our second week in China.
The next morning, we were happy to see many other families with adopted kiddos, and even more excited that there were several families with the same agency. After a week in-province on our own, we were thrilled that our sight-seeing and bus-riding and shopping and appointments would all be with people who were walking the same path we were. These were strangers who would become friends; people who looked at a child throwing herself down on the floor while crying and didn’t judge.
By this point in the trip, Type A was MIA because she realized that there was nothing else she could control! Nothing. Everything we did, every bus we got on, every stop we made was all dictated by someone else’s plan, and I was actually 110% okay with that. There were times when she would pop her head out of hiding to comment on how well Type B was managing with all of the paperwork and the such, but she knew that this place, this journey, this trip was no place for “impatient, aggressive or fast-talking”. Type B just shrugged her shoulders and did the best she could when fits were pitched and tempers grew short.
Type B was also happy to find friends she could talk to. There was one other mama in particular that she bonded with. Turns out that this mama is very much like me and was struggling with much of the same emotion and feeling completely overwhelmed by this experience. Our families walked around together, ate together, and promised to keep in touch once back home (and, we have).
The trip home was going to take a total of 27 hours. We were fully prepared for misery and I’m glad we were. The trip started out pretty well. We left Guangzhou and flew to Hong Kong. The only snag was the long layover to get on our flight to the States. Our new daughter was likewise not overly impressed with the length of the layover, but Type B just kept pulling out the snacks and repeating “we’re on our way home” under her breath.
There are a few things I remember about the Hong Kong airport.
- 1. I bought a pair of socks.
- 2. Julianne soaked through her diaper and had to change into her emergency outfit
(just hours into the 27 hour trip).
Type A continued dozing. Type B just sighed and changed her pants, and thought hunting for socks was kind of an adventure.
The plane ride home was the exact opposite of the plane ride to China. We were packed in like sardines, and the people in front of us promptly lowered their seats as far as they could, and left them there the entire ride. Julianne slept a total of about 45 minutes. She cried and screamed much longer than 45 minutes. We changed two poopy diapers in a tiny bathroom. I can officially say that changing a 4-year-old’s poop diaper on an airplane makes my Top Ten list of things I hope I never have to do again (add to that: changing diapers in a squatty potty stall).
Type A would have been cringing at the situation had she been present… the germs, the lack of proper sanitation, the germs, but Type B was totally chill. Type B also didn’t care that the flight attendants were making references to her “screaming child” within earshot; she just wanted to be home.
We arrived at home, at long last, and felt like we could finally breathe. We were HOME. With our daughter! It was a moment I will never forget. Okay, actually I probably would forget it because I was so tired. But fortunately, Type A had enlisted the help of a photographer friend weeks ahead of time to record the whole thing.
That is how I remember China, friends. It was a battle between who I had always been, and who I needed to be while we were there. It was learning when to step back and just be. It was crazy and even a little fun at times.
Six months later I can say that Type A me has decided that Type B is really onto something when it comes to this whole “relaxing a bit” thing.
Would I do it all again? Would I take this EXACT trip, the good the bad and the ugly, if I knew ahead of time what it would entail? Both Type A me and Type B me agree on this one.