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Reverse culture shock

Lummi Island, United States

So...New Years Eve we flew back to America. We like to do everything the most stressful way possible, so we met the social worker in Beijing to do our 6 month post placement thing. Lets see, the thought of social workers probably makes most folks cringe just sitting in their nice comfy homes. Imagine meeting the social worker (setting yourself out there to be judged on your parenting skills) mid-international move. We looked at it like, well, this is us, we're real. Of course Little Guy always likes to keep it real and spent most of that meeting under the table at Starbucks. By the way, that was only the 2cd time in my three years in China that I went to Starbucks. The first time was only because we went to be fingerprinted (for the adoption, 'cause they lost the first set) at the old US Embassey in Beijing and we were 15 minutes early and the Chinese guard said, "Go away, your appointment is in 15minutes. We have something more important to do right now". We tried to wait outside the Embassey office and the guard repeated himself, so we went down to Starbucks.
So, my only big mess-up was that we couldn't find the enlargements of the 6 pictures of Little Guy in our 8 carry on pieces. I was fairly freaking out because that meant all the enlargements that I made were lost and I didn't have time to get all the photo's off the school computer to my computer so I was really becoming bummed thinking of those lost photos. But really, we had a plane to catch- so we just answered questions honestly and tried to keep Princess and Little Guy from having a major fit since he spilled her OJ.
Leaving China with that who-knows-if it-was-real passport issued from those-who-did-not- register Little Guy prior to his adoption was quite a tense moment. There were some phone calls being made with the immigration officers and we were really sweating it, but finally they let us pass. We jumped on the airport golf cart to the gate (only 20RMB for the family of 4) and made it. Had the heighten security for flights to the USA (pat down, complete bags recheck) not been delaying our flight we would have missed it. On board we weren't seated together...AUGH...even worse, we have been globe trotting for 3 years, 3 years, and only the 1st flight to China lacked the little tvs on the seatback, what do you know, the final flight was missing them too. We didn't plan for that and had packed about nothing for the kids to do on the plane. Luckily they just slept and ate and slept and were angels!!!!
We arrive in San Francisco and walk to immigration and Little Guy sees the flag and when we have our turn he is just going nuts. He was just overjoyed. He was signing applause and screaming happiness noises. How he could know what was happening to him was beyond us, but he was glad to be an American. Although the immgration officer said he wasn't yet an American...paperwork to come.
The check in people were wonderful to us, we shoved our coats in our checked luggage before we re-checked it, basically added another 5 pounds, thus over the 50 pound limit. The lady was so nice and said, "well you are international so if they took this over there than so will I."
I was so in culture shock! Was this the new America, everyone nice and friendly? Nope, we walked on over to security and got the taste of what's up now. I was wearing cowboy boots (heaviest pair of shoes, & I had brought them from USA the 1st year & I knew it would be a long time before I'd be able to get another pair). We went thru the family line and tried to tell them Little Guy was deaf. That fell on deaf ears. So my ankles had swollen on the 16 hours of travel and my kids were freaking out. Princess's doll ( a my Twinn doll, American product) had to go thru some wipe down special scrutiny thing and she was upset. Really who treats a treasured doll like a a regular piece of baggage. What kind of example does that give the kid? Never fear, due to my slow removal of the boots I then got the same wipe down as the doll. By now Little Guy is worked up, and they are telling me to "Stay back m'aam", even though they sent both the kids thru before us and decided to send me to the boothe where they told me we could do this somewhere "more private" if I wished- while my kids are freaking out. The husband had worn Doc Martins (same reason as the cowboy boots) and was not selected for "the boothe" but had a rough time trying to deal with the kids, 8 pieces of carry-ons and the half-undressed doll with his shoelaces untied. I thought it was an interesting take on America that cowboy boots are more kick-ass threats than Docs.

On to the next flight where none of us were scheduled to sit together. I tried to explain to the agent that our son was deaf and that wouldn't work. "Ma'am, the fight is overbooked and that family (mom, dad, and infant) was here first. " In the end, they seated us-2 in the nice seats (not first class) and 2 in the squished 3 people at the back of the plane seats. Number 3 seat didn't appreciate sitting near us.
We arrive in Seattle, our bags arrive in Seattle, yeah! Teenager was going to fly in from her dad's at 11pm. That made it impossible to get to the island (last ferry at midnight). We decided to stay at the Embassy Suites. It was quite shocking that all other hotels wanted us to book 2 rooms, because we have 3 kids. What? Is there some kind of family planning conspiracy with the hotel industry? Anyway the Embassey Suites have secure our future business by having the suite and not charging for the third kid. Plus they had bacon for the free breakfast. When I was at the hospital with Little Guy and thinking OMG, I can't take it anymore, I told myself, hang on bacon is in 7 days. From the moment we booked that hotel room in the beginning of Dec, I was drooling over the thought of bacon. Anyway, if you stay at the Embassy Suites, chances are the other guests are not staying there because of the 3 kid conspiracy, there are they because they are rich. So we get onto the shuttle at the airport (with our 8 checked, 8 carried on bags) with these other guests. Golf tournament people. I load the kids and the husband and the driver load the bags. These people start talking about how they don't want to wait for us, it is just so crazy that they have to wait for these bags to be loaded, and then there kids start up. Little Guy is deaf, he grunts sometimes, really he is pretty quiet, but he is not to cordinated. So their kid starts making fun of him. And it goes on and on. And the parents do nothing to curb it, in fact they continue to rant about our luggage and say there "must be something wrong with them". I just wanted to cry.
The whole time I was in China, we almost always got stares and if people talked to us we immediately said he's deaf, so they wouldn't think we kidnapped him. I thought when we got to America, I would hardly say anything about his disability, I thought people weren't so nosey here. I just tried to pretend I was deaf and didn't say anything to the people. The ride (5 minutes tops) included a further rant about the people going to a tournament near a military base and the kid saying he thought he should go help those poor miltary kids and teach them a free golf class. Culture shock...secretly I thought those military kids would likely put Mr. Junior Golf Whatever in his place.
So back at the hotel, different people are pushing those luggage carts around and said, "excuse me" to Little Guy. I had to grab him to keep him from being run over and say,"Sorry, he's deaf."
And I realized that I would be saying, "he's deaf" just as often here because people don't understand why he doesn't respond. I felt sad.
But the Embassy Suites was a really nice hotel...free snacks from 4-6pm. Chips and salsa. We hadn't had all you can eat salsa in ages so we were pigging out. Little Guy usually hates red food, but he saw HOW MUCH WE WERE ENJOYING the salsa, so on his own he tried some. He hated it. He also had his first taste of root beer. Also hated it.
The had a hot water pool. At the social worker meeting, she had asked if he was a risk taker. Interesting question for a 5 year old. At a job interview, I expect that question for me, but really never thought about in terms of my kids. Let see, if I give them some money are they going to put it in a money market or the stock market....anyway she meant if there is something he wants to do will he think about or do it. For Christmas (practically skipped that holiday due to the financial burden of the cash upfront eye surgery) we had 2 silk capes made for the kids. He put his on and raised his little arm and wanted to fly. He got outside, climbed to the tallest drift and jumped. Landed face first, lay there and raised that little arm still trying to get his cape's powers to work. He just couldn't figure out why he couldn't fly. We have to be very careful when we let him wear the cape because he will jump off a flight of stairs if he has the chance. So yeah, he's a risk taker. We get to the pool, full speed he jumps in. He can't swim, we'd never taken him before. He flounders, over and over again he tries to get away from us to swim by himself and drinks buckets of water. He just doesn't give up. Some kids started saying "what is this, the special needs pool?" and making fun of him. I was just flabbergasted. In China, people would gawk at us, but they gawked before we adopted him. If they said something about his deafness, it was in Chinese. For some reason that didn't hurt as much. Not my native language, maybe my translation is off, plus it's not my culture.
I had worked in special ed for years. Always when we went out with the classes, people were pretty nice. Now it was a huge shock to see people act this way.
Teenagers plane came in near midnight, so I took the shuttle back to the airport. New Years Eve and I was the only person on the van. The driver was so nice, he was from Thailand. He said he was new at the job but had been here for years. I asked what made him switch jobs. He said he other hotel closed. He had been unemployed for 7 months. He said the job section of the Sunday Seattle newspaper used to be 20 pages, now it is 3. He said it used to be nobody wanted the midnight shift of shuttle driver, he said 15 or 50 (accent not clear) had applied for this job. He said he only got the job because he had worked in hotels for 9 years. OMG! I was thinking that wow, it is going to be tough to get a job. I asked if he thought he Olympics were going to create jobs in the area. He said he had thought so too, but had seen any signs of it.
Teenager was so happy to be back with the family!! Midnight passed at the shuttle waiting area with a bunch of friendly people.
We woke up to our big breakfast. The bacon, I was so excited. They served it but gave like 5-8 slices. But because my stomach had shrunk and I'm not used to eating such greasiness, I could only eat 3 slices. Even my husband couldn't finish all his. I felt so sad when I couldn't clean my plate. They just throw away the food here. In China alot of food is wasted when people go out to eat too, but the places give put it out on the street and the donkeys come by and eat it.
Our ride home was quite interesting...the English signs everywhere are so mind boggling. The little cars move along the road so orderly. We let some fellow islanders use our car while we are away and they pick us up from the airport. I got in the car and noticed the check engine light was on. On the final 5 mile stretch, they inform me that my car needs a new catalytic converter. By this time, I'm so exhausted and culture shocked, that it just resulted in an uncomfortable silence.
Welcome home...

permalink written by  carseat tourist on February 6, 2010 from Lummi Island, United States
from the travel blog: Reverse culture shock
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