Thursday, June 28, 2007

A new member of the Fellowship

Our first day in Taiyuan is dedicated to getting the last member of Andrea and Dave’s family. As we leave the hotel, Victor shows distress through acting out. It is his last day as the youngest, and as the only son. Does he worry he will be loved less? That he is less special now? Possibly, but he doesn’t want to talk about it.

Victor may not be happy, but the Heavens approve: we see blue sky and sun, or at least the forms of sky and sun one gets here in China. I take it as auspicious; later I learn that this weather is fairly common here. We have it most days in Taiyuan.

We drive to the wholly nondescript building that houses the government agency that handles adoptions. During the drive, Andrea and Dave talk about what Taiyuan was like during their last trip and ask our guide what it is like now. “A lot more cars,” Andrea observes.

“Yeah, a *lot* more,” Dave replies.

Niu Yun informs us that Taiyuan now has 2.5 million residents, a rather large city by Western standards. It’s a coal and steel town; the buildings look gritty and somewhat unimaginative. New buildings, however, rise up out of the ground everywhere we look. Dave once joked to me that the national bird of China is the crane. The construction crane. The crane, though, has a long history in China. It stands for longevity, and is the bird that carries your soul to heaven.

Perhaps the ancient Chinese were on to something. Or yet another thing, rather.

At any rate, despite being a large city, it has the remnants of a village everywhere. We can see old houses with courtyards being torn down; people still sell produce and meat from trucks. Andrea asks Niu Yun about development in this area; a curious question, I think, as our guide is neither trained in economics nor from this province. But as long as I have been her student, Andrea has always had an interest in the experience and insight of everyday people. She has also exhibited high expectations for others. These are two of many ways, I think, that I differ from my advisor. I would not ask this question, and were I to hear the answer, I would disregard it as irrelevant. Somehow she finds information where I hear noise.

We arrive after a fifteen or twenty minute drive. And from this moment forward, we leave my story, and we enter the Chairman’s. The Chairman is the newest member of Andrea and Dave’s family, and I lack the Chinese, and he the English, for me to get permission to tell his story. You can ask him in the future, but not today.

I will, however, explain the change in what I call him. He is a trifle demanding; we originally call him the Little Emperor, then the Little General. Napoleon is even up for consideration. After observing him with his brother, and watching how he is dressed a few days later, I dub him Chairman Mao. He’s little, he’s Chinese, he loves red.

And he seemingly has no respect for other people’s property.

Welcome the Chairman!

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