The next morning the alarm woke us at 6.30. Ajiet would not wake up, she likes to sleep late like her parents. We wondered how the CCAA had known these things about us, that werenít even mentioned in our home study! Our first breakfast with Ajiet ended up with us eating nearly nothing, because we were so busy! Ajiet didnít eat fruit or vegetables, but rice and bread in all variations were fine.

We had to get back to the Civil Affairs bureau, where we would receive the formal approval to adopt.

After some corrections on some of the forms we all filled in yesterday, the person in charge gave a little speech and then called the families to the front, one by one. The parents received the papers, and the girls got a stuffed panda bear. I was really touched by this small ceremony.

At noon, we had a farewell lunch with the directors and other caretakers from both orphanages. Both the directors had been present at all official meetings, because they had to declare formally that they agreed with the transfer of the children from them to their new parents. There was some concern among group members about the disturbing effect of seeing their aunties again at lunch, but Joe told us that the Chinese etiquette required to offer the caretakers lunch. Erik and I thought that this somewhat gradual withdrawal of her familiar caretakers would reassure Ajiet that her caretakers trusted us and supported our take-over. Lunch was fun, the aunties were very happy to see the children again. The children were much more at ease with their parents than yesterday. Ajiet liked to be fed by her aunties, but was not very troubled when they left.

We had one hour to rest (these first days were very hectic). We played a little with Ajiet, who gave us a smile now and then. In my diary it says: "she lays flat on her back, no tossing and turning at all." I worried about that, would she be so delayed? I didnít know then that this would change rapidly in the next days and that I would recall with longing those easy diaper changes of the first two days. In the afternoon we went to the notary again. The legalization of the papers made the adoption final. More forms here. Then up to the Safety Bureau to apply for a passport. The bus ride to the Safety Bureau took a while and all three of us enjoyed looking out of the window to see China passing by. We arrived shortly before closing time and were told that the passports would be ready on Monday. During the bus ride Ajiet sang a song to herself. It was only her second day with us.

We now had some time off during the weekend. Another first: the backpack. Ajiet liked it from the start and we made our first walk in the city and along the West lake (it was a warm evening and there were lotís of Chinese people out for an evening stroll). Ajiet sat high and dry on our back and loved the view. We also did some shopping in the (modern) supermarket. During the weekend all families enjoyed the breakfast buffet at leisure, having fun with their new children. Waitresses brought napkins, forks and straws. Ajiet showed more of herself every day, she babbled all the time and ventured out on her own to inspect our room, the dining room and foyer. Saturday we all went on an excursion to the tea plantations. Again an early start, but unfortunately we spent most of the time in a souvenir shop for overseas travellers. Very expensive items, and no plantation in sight. We did order a chop for Ajiet with her Chinese name.

On Sunday the rain began, that did not stop before we left Hangzhou on Tuesday. My little shopping excursion in the afternoon brought many problems for Erik, because Ajiet panicked because of my absence. At night we ate hotpot (a Chinese fondue) and the waitresses scared us to death by serving live shrimps in a basket that we were supposed to throw into the boiling water. We only noticed they were alive when one jumped out of the basket. Our screams must have made a bad impression. In the evening I called my sister, and Erik was ticking his watch, indicating that the cost of this conversation wasnít supposed to be a substantial part of the adoption costs. I can live with one person ticking, but when your daughter also starts ticking her wrist, thatís just too much!

Monday we got the legalized adoption papers and the passports and made lots of photocopies to be used later in the process. The next day we flew to Beijing with a rather old Toepolev. This contributed to the tension of flying with Ajiet for the first time. We arrived at 7 p.m and were welcomed by madam Zheng. She took us to our hotel and gave us our room keys already in the bus, so we could get up to our rooms (sleeping children in our arms) immediately, without waiting for check-in procedures. This sounds like a small detail, but this gesture impressed me for its thoughtfulness. The hotel was 2 stars less then in Hangzhou, which asked for some mental adaptation. However, a nice aspect was that the whole group was placed in one corridor, so we lived with doors open most of the time and had afternoon drinks in the hallway. Here we met the family from Shijiazhuang who now had a wonderful 5 year old daughter, who immediately charmed the whole group. She was very sweet with the little children.

Modern influences were plenty in our new surroundings, so Ajiet tried donuts (fine), ice cream (horrible) and milkshakes (OK). On Wednesday madam Zheng and two group representatives made a great effort to get all documents and fees to the Ministry of the Exterior and to the Dutch Embassy.

We were in a hurry because the next 4 days (October 1 until 4) were useless for paperwork because of a national holidays. And our flight was planned on October 6, so the schedule was very tight.

October 1 started with Erik being ill. No national holidays for him. He stayed in the hotel room while I joined a group of families to visit Tiananmen Square. Well, no way, there were hundreds of thousands of Chinese who had the same idea and we never reached the square itself. Instead we visited a park, where they had organized games for children. The strangest was a small plastic pool with some hundreds of goldfish, were children and their parents fished for the best of the not-so-good-looking fish.

At night we called home and heard that my grandmother had died. She was almost 98 years old, and she passed away quietly at a very respectable age. But we were so very sad that she would never meet Ajiet. Oma had seen her referral picture and was very curious.

We had planned to visit her the day after our flight home, but now it was all over. We called home a few times to discuss the funeral, that was postponed to 2 days after our return. In that way, we would be able to say our goodbyes.

The next three days we kind of hung around. The national holidays were not the best time for sightseeing, because of the crowds. We visited the temple of heaven, an architectural masterpiece. It is situated in a huge park, where we walked for a few hours. Saturday we visited the Great Wall with our group. A very long drive, and a very short visit. Yes, it appeared difficult to see the sights with a 2 year old. We are very happy we had the opportunity to travel around China last May. During the adoption trip we didnít see much, because our daily life was centered around napping and playing (and we loved it!). Travel with children also meant washing laundry and washing dishes (well, bottles, spoons, cups) every night. Ajiet was a delight. We enjoyed every moment with her and were madly in love with her.

Sunday October 4 was Ajietís birthday. We missed the not-so-great-anyway breakfast buffet entirely, because we like to linger endlessly in the morning. Then there was a knock on the door and all the families, back from breakfast, sang for Ajiet. She had no clue, but thought it quite interesting. She got presents (she started to understand that part of her new life) and I ventured out in the hallway in pyjamas to make pictures. On her birthday we visited a playground. Ajiet loved it but it saddened me that she appeared never to have seen a slide or a climbing frame. She definitely liked to ride around with mama on a motorized duck.

Everybody got anxious now to go home, to get the paperwork going. Monday was our last day in Beijing, all papers were finished in time. We visited the Dutch embassy to receive the visa for Holland.

Tuesday we flew back to Amsterdam. Ajiet slept for two hours, and it was very difficult to amuse her. She wanted out of her seat all the time. She walked around the plane with Erik a lot. Happily the plane wasnít full, so everybody could have some extra space. In Frankfurt all parents changed the girls into some warm and clean clothes. Another hour in the air and then home. At Schiphol airport a crowd of 50 family members and friends welcomed us back.

This is the stuff where memories are made off. There was a large banner welcoming Ajiet. Our daughter was great and had a friendly smile for everyone. I didnít feel tired at all, it was a great happiness that made me feel great. Erikís parents drove us home, and my 2 sisters went along. At home there were presents, flowers and cards. After an hour or so, all family left and we brought our little courageous girl to her new room. We put her into her new crib and she slept. ...

The trip of a lifetime ended here and our life together had only just begun.

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