On the first of December 2000 we are at Schiphol airport again. Just like 2 years ago, we are about to fly to China. Again we are on our way to bring our daughter home. The journey is planned exactly the same as in 1998, and yet everything is different. This time our 4 year old daughter Ajiet is walking beside me, ready to finally meet her sister.

We have a pleasant flight to Beijing, where we stay the night. It is cold and sunny and very special to be back in China with Ajiet. She is well aware that we are in her country. And she is happy to be here. We fly to Hefei on Sunday. Because of the stop-over in Beijing we feel rested and full of anticipation.

In our hotel room we drag around the furniture for some time, to create an efficient place to parent 2 young children. The 9 children in our travel group will arrive the next morning on the fourth floor of the Holiday Inn hotel Hefei. These 9 children come from 5 different orphanages, so we are told to expect a complicated and lengthy meeting.

On Monday we are awake long before the alarm goes off. Only Ajiet sleeps like a baby, and it is very difficult to wake her. This is actually quite scary, but it must have been something to do with jetlag. All 9 couples assemble in the Magnolia room, where everbody gets really nervous. Mister Ding, the local guide, tells us that due to the bad weather, several orphanages are late. So we all sit and wait.

After about half an hour, mister Ding decides to start the paperwork. From the beginning the paperwork doesn't go smoothly. Not everybody gets his or her own papers and a lot of papers have to be switched during the process. (Another couple, who adopt a baby, is very surprised to see her picture. It appears to be the picture of our 2 year old Lotus.) On top of this, mister Ding has to leave, because he is ill, and a replacement takes his place.

Amidst this mildly chaotic scene, my eye falls upon a nanny with two kids, who have just arrived and who peep into the conference room from the back door. A very large girl looks somewhat like our referral...what! Her nanny says: "mama" and points in my direction. I look behind me, for there are a lot of mama's around, but I think she means me! Is this her??? Yes, it is our daughter..ERIK LOOK!

We look and look again and Ajiet slowly walks her way. She is so big, and she is beautiful. Then the nanny retreats with the children as the children are not supposed to meet us yet. After this very special moment it is even harder to concentrate on the paperwork. I have seen my child. She is mine, but on the other hand she is a complete stranger...

At last mister Ding tells us to stand at one end of the room, to receive our children one by one. I start photographing all those happy meetings then realize I have to change a roll of film VERY quickly. Hardly finished this when I hear "Li Rong Mei".

O my god, we throw our camera's into the hands of others and step forward. Erik has Ajiet on his arm. There she is and when she is given to me she starts crying. There is my daughter who is so scared. She cries her heart out and she throws herself backwards and I have a hard time holding her. How I wish it would have been easier for her. We sit down and she calms down a litle. It helps when she sits with her face away from me, looking in amazement to what is happening. Ajiet is wonderful, she welcomes her sister without any reserve. She talks to her and tries to play with her.

Lotus and her friend from the same orphanage cry a lot, and we (the mothers) are asked to wait outside. There we are, the children are so sad, and we cannot comfort them, as we are strangers to them. Lotus' nanny comes to visit and she sits awhile with Lotus and me. There's no one around to translate for us, so we just smile to one another. The nanny tries to retreat unnoticed, but Lotus is very sad when she leaves.

Ajiet is wonderful as a big sister! She runs back and forth between dad in the conference room and mom and Lotus in the hallway. She tells me when to go in, when I have to sign the paperwork. She plays with Lotus, and is very nice to the orphanage people. She is wonderful!!

After a few hours it is over and we are allowed to go back to our room. We are now a family of four. We are also very, very tired and we all go to bed. And believe it or not, soon we are all sound asleep. After waking up, Lotus and Ajiet play together and Lotus is amazed about everything. She isn't happy, she isn't very sad. She has withdrawn into herself. It appears it is just too much for her to grasp.

Ajiet and Lotus take a bath. It is wonderful to look at both our daughters. We feel very rich. At diner Lotus surprises us with her healthy appetite.

And then a very special day has come to an end..

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