Thursday, January 12, 2006

Bonaparte has a smart mouth

Oh good heck. Matthew says its perfectly normal and Chinese children are raised this way, but that still doesn’t make it easy to take: Nora has a smart mouth. When asked if she wanted anything to drink at dinner, she said no. She always says no. I wanted Matthew to press her a little because she hasn’t had much to drink today and when asked again what she would like to drink, Nora said dog piss. Sweet. When Matthew said something to her about mis-dialing a phone number, she called him a fool/pig. When asked if she wanted to taste a pepper/beef dish, she said, no, too spicy. When the person asking the question agreed that it was indeed spicy and it burned her mouth, Nora said: “you deserve it.” It just comes out fast and without malice, she is smiling all the while. Matthew says it is the Chinese way. I told him that she wouldn’t be learning the English equivalents, I hope.

Today we went to the Nanning zoo with YuYu’s parents. I am filling in the gaps a little at a time. YuYu’s dad is a kind of social worker, but maybe partially disabled? He does not work a full schedule and walked right into the zoo without paying because he’s disabled and had some kind of lifetime pass? He looks fine to me, so if he is/was, it’s an invisible disability. YuYu’s mom is the kindest, most tender woman. And, of course, when she’s around, Nora pretty much ignores me, sigh. Oh well, I’ve got the next 14 years, at least, until she uses that smart mouth on me as she turns 18 and leaves me standing in the dust with a “you deserve it” on the way out.

This morning she and YuYu were playing with a blanket spread on the floor and I looked up as Nora was trying to get YuYu to move, but since she doesn’t know English, she was just hurting YuYu instead. I had to get stern, TING! BU YAO NA YANG (stop, you can’t do that). We went from giggly play to big wailing MAMA, MAMA, MAMA. But I got her to blow her nose and gave her praise and we went on like nothing happened.

We arrived at the zoo in time for the morning variety show. First we fed elephants sweet potatoes. The girls got pretty brave and fed them pieces of potato placed in their nostrils as the elephants reached up into the first row of seating. It was pretty chaotic and one cheeky elephant started reaching too far and Nora got pretty nervous and I had to get between that over-reaching trunk and my kid and pretty much got elephant snot all down the back of me. Matthew called me hero mother. I was just glad that the laundry man was coming today, oh gross. The rest of the show was what you’d expect in a country with no ASPCA or child labor laws: dancing bears, tight-rope walking goats with monkey passengers, bike riding monkeys and bears, contortionist pre-teens, the regular stuff. The animal enclosures didn’t smell, so that’s good, but they were very very small and very randomly grouped. Baboon, next to lion, next to boar, next to Asian porcupine, sure, why not; kind of a Peaceable Kingdom approach to zoo keeping. But I’ll say one thing, the bird collection was incredible, wow, so many and so diverse/colorful. Too bad we were running out of time and had to rush by those exhibits. I talked to Ellie and Mimi on a cell phone while we walked through the zoo, I sure do miss their sweet faces. We ate at McDonalds, the fries were so good, the hamburger meat a little, je ne c’est quoi, Chinese, but oh boy, Nora LOVES catsup. Watch out Mimi, make room for two straws in the catsup bottle. And I got a real self-esteem boost when we dashed into a department store to find a different jacket for me and I can’t wear a women’s XXXL and I’m typing this in my really smart men’s XL jacket.

I finally asked Matthew what he does when he’s not dragging foreigners to the zoo all day. He had mentioned something yesterday about a foundation that helps under-privileged girls go to school and well, he’s the Chinese administrator of it. It’s called Girls Global Education Fund, initiated by adoptive parents and the girls are mostly sponsored by foreign adoptive parents and I’ve got a new favorite charity. We had dinner with three women who also work/live/are GGEF. Someone (local person) lets them rent a three room apartment for a one room rent (concrete floors, no kitchen, very very Spartan, very). One staff member (a divorced woman) and her 16yo daughter live in one room. Two other staff members (who both started as sponsored students) live in another room. The third room has a bunk bed and is used for storage and the common room is the office. We all went to dinner at a nearby restaurant and the food was FANTASTIC. I asked Matthew if the women could take the extra food back to the apartment and he said they didn’t have a refrigerator, so tomorrow they will. GGEF takes applications from orphans (parents have died and the government won’t take them into the state run orphanage because they aren’t abandoned, there is family, no matter how extended, that should care for them) and girls from very poor circumstances (typically, father dies and mother abandons children to paternal grandparents because new husband won’t/is not expected to take on her kids) and tries to keep them in school. Matthew did this as a volunteer for several years and was able to start administering the program full-time for the last two years. They’ve been keeping this going on the most narrow shoe string for nine years. Who knew? I’ll try to find the link and share it another day.

So, I know this should be about Nora, but she’s simply not letting me know what she’s about. She is withholding herself from me really well. She is LOUD, exuberant (when I’m not involved) and very very very pretty, but that’s all I’ve seen so far. Add that to the language barrier and we’re still very much strangers. When people say that they’ve never considered adoption because how could they love someone else’s child, that just overwhelms me: I can’t imagine loving a child more than I love Ellie, YuYu and Mimi, it’s just not possible, these are my children; I would throw myself between them and any speeding object, e.g., bullets, trains, buses. I’m not there yet with Nora, but I did take a big stripe of elephant snot down my back on day four, so I know I’ll get there for her too.


Melissa said...

ROFL- I love the elepant story-good for you! I am really enjoying your story on and off post. Keep up the great outlook and things will change. I hope to learn all your tips later this year!

Melissa in NJ

Holly said...

Marji, You are a great writer! LOL! You had me hanging on every word. LOVE the elephant snot. Don't worry about not feeling able to "take a bus" (as Chris and I call it) for Nora yet. It took me about a year with May before I could say I'd step in front of a bus for her. With Janie, I felt I would take a bus for her almost immediately. All things with time. You are doing GREAT!! Love,

LeeAnn Mill said...

Marji, You are doing great and have a wonderful attitude through all of this. I know things will begin to change for her once you are home. It is so hard for her to understand when she is traveling around and living out of a hotel. Hang in there!! LeeAnn

Anonymous said...

Hey - just came across this tonight as I was reviewing old messages to get Betty e-mail addresses. I am so proud of you - you give motherhood a good name. I look forward to hearing more - sometimes the most difficult child is the most precious (if any of your children can be more precious). You and your family are in my heart.