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Adventures In Adoption, Or Everything I Need To Know I Learned From A Fortune Cookie

Everything about China adoption involves milestones (and acronyms. Lots and lots of acronyms). PAPs celebrate DTC, LID, LOI, I(800)A, the PA of the I(800), even the IH3*, and time is measured by how long it takes to achieve these things. These are the constants, and they are some of the only “sure” things about the process. We take comfort in our ability to control them, especially since everything else is WAY outside of our control. We take even more comfort, however, in marking the passage of time.

Since we first saw our son’s picture back in April, time has ticked away in an endless loop of two-week cycles. Seriously. EVERYTHING has taken two weeks: Two weeks to schedule the homestudy, two weeks to have it finalized, two weeks to get child abuse clearances, two weeks to file the I(800)A, two weeks for it to be approved, two weeks to get the Article 5, two weeks for TA, two weeks until travel, two weeks in country……But here’s the thing: After waiting four and a half years, it’s incredibly refreshing to be able to measure time in small blocks. It means goals are actually being accomplished and the nebulous “wait” is drawing to a close.

We’ve also tried to make the most of the last few months. I’ve read everything I can get my hands on about China (I don’t think this comes as a shock to anybody who has read my rambling discourse on Chinese toilets or heard me profess my deep and freakish desire to patronize a Chinese Wal Mart). We’ve thrown ourselves into learning as much as possible about local culture. This, of course, includes cuisine (and here’s where we run into our first little hitch).

I have a painful admission to make: I don’t like Chinese food. I used to, way back when I was a kid. I couldn’t get enough of garlic chicken or Moo Goo Gai Pan. I never met an eggroll I didn’t like. And then, one fateful evening, I got food poisoning. Right before I boarded a flight to Winter Park, Colorado for a ski trip. I’ll spare you the gory details, but suffice it to say that it was a number of years before I could even *look* at a Chinese food menu again, and I’m pretty sure I still get evil looks when I go near a bathroom at DFW International Airport. When I finally decided the coast was clear to once again venture into the land of Chinese food, I got food poisoning AGAIN, this time from suspect shrimp toast. Another 5 years passed before I revisited my food nemesis, but, alas, I’ve never quite regained my early passion for the PuPu Platter. I’ll happily eat a dumpling now and again, but if given a dining option, I’ll head straight to the Mexican food restaurant every time.

I am fully aware that American Chinese food and Chinese Chinese food are two totally different animals. I know full well that authentic Chinese food does not consist of gloppy, overly sweet sauces, nor do genuine dumplings resemble what you can order from your local delivery place. With that in mind, Kevin and I set out to find an actual Chinese restaurant here in the greater Jacksonville area. We took to our local FCC forums (Families With Children From China), we researched every corner of the internet, and we finally discovered that there is, indeed, an authentic Chinese restaurant about 45 minutes away. And on one rainy Saturday in July, we piled into the F-150 and headed down.

As soon as we walked in, we knew we had hit the jackpot. We were handed two different menus; one was packed standard Americanized Chinese food options, but the other…..Oh, the other. It was a heavy tome, filled mostly with pictures. Sure, there was congee (and Kevin was particularly interested in trying his very first congee, as we know it’s a staple on the hotel buffets in China), and there was a dizzying variety of dumplings. As we leafed through, we discovered duck feet (boneless!), bird’s nest soup, squid, chicken feet (not boneless), eel, and octopus. Grasshoppers were offered in at least three different preparations, and the homemade chili oil on the table was so potent that it stuck with me for the next two weeks (come to think of it, let’s add Mr. Chan’s Chili Oil into the two week cycle).

We ordered vegetable dumplings, beef congee (with a cilantro garnish. I got to give Kevin a little culinary lesson on how cilantro is also known as Chinese parsley. If you know Kevin, then you know that cilantro is a food group for him, along with cumin, garlic, and sometimes oregano), and a couple of entrees (we based this on picture alone). I won’t go far enough to say that it was the best meal I ever ate, but it was definitely authentic. And it was good. Kevin took comfort in the knowledge that congee is always a good option, and I learned that chili oil that’s been steeping for God knows how long is POWERFUL. Delicious, but capable of causing your ears to steam. When the check came, we were a little bit sad to see that the ubiquitous fortune cookie had made its appearance (Fun Fact: Fortune cookies aren’t found anywhere in China. They were invented in California and based on a Japanese cracker recipe). The fortune cookie at the end of our meal was the only thing not 100% authentic about the restaurant, but we went with it anyway.

I’ve been known to save the little paper fortunes for YEARS. I still have one floating around that I got when I was 12 because it made me giggle. In fact, if you go through old purses or wallets of mine, it’s a certainty that you’ll find at least one small folded fortune tucked in somewhere. It’s an idiosyncrasy of mine, and a bit of a superstition, too, I suppose. If it’s a particularly good fortune, then I feel bad for tossing it away, as if somehow it won’t come true. It’s silly and illogical, and I recognize that, but I can’t help it. So, even though we were presented with a totally non-authentic fortune cookie at our newfound authentic Chinese restaurant, we still opened our cookies to read Confucius’ words of wisdom. Mine was something vapid and nondescript, but Kevin’s? Wow.

Kevin’s fortune read “Remember three months from this date. Good things are in store for you”. You see, even though we were still locked tight within the dreaded endless Two Week Cycle, we knew that the math lined up. Three months from that particular date contained 6 two week cycles; the last 6, as a matter of fact. The very last day of the very last cycle falls on October 30th. That’s the day we bring Jack home for good. It’s a Saturday, and it happens to be exactly three months to the day after we read that fortune.

That tiny slip of paper is now tucked safely into Jack’s baby book. One day we’ll tell him the story of how his Mommy and Daddy were on a quest for real Chinese food, and we found, along with an appreciation for a good dumpling, that faith can, in fact, be found in a fortune cookie.

*Translation: Prospective Adoptive Parents celebrate sending their Dossier To China, the Log In Date of said dossier, the Letter Of Intent to adopt a certain child, the application to adopt a foreign orphan, the Pending Approval of said application, and the visa that signifies that your child is a citizen upon entering the US.

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