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Tears of Joy

An excerpt from the book Grace from China by Jacqueline A. Kolosov, published by Yeong & Yeong.

Shamian Island, where our hotel stood right by the U.S. Consulate, was once a sandbar in the middle of the Pearl River. When Europeans first came to China, they developed the island into a trading outpost. British and French colonial buildings are still there, but now they're used as schools, offices, and homes for local people.

These days American adoptive parents bring their Chinese daughters (and some sons) to the consulate on Shamian Island for their U.S. visas. First, though, the children get medical exams and photos. After marching around from our hotel to a photo shop to the clinic, we headed to the consulate, passing the Chinese guards outside and the U.S. guards inside the gate. On the day we visited, more than thirty girls and their families were waiting for visas.

"More than four hundred adopted Chinese children will travel to Shamian Island with their new parents this month to get U.S. visas," Sam explained as we settled into the waiting area. Some of the babies were already crying. It was going to be a long day.

Four hundred adoptions a month to the United States alone. That's around five thousand a year. How many more children were still waiting to be adopted? How many would never have families again?

As we waited our turn, Xiao Ting's bright, curious eyes darted everywhere. Perched in my mother's arms, she pointed to strangers and said, "Da!" Most people managed a friendly smile in return.

Every family filled out a visa application. Here, Mom had to write down everything we knew about Xiao Ting. She also needed to state that Xiao Ting had no known family. Under eyes, she wrote, "brown"; under complexion, "fair." I wanted to add "curious and lively" to the miscellaneous column, but Mom said that wasn't a good idea. "Jess," she said, frowning, "comedy and immigration just don't mix."

I sat on the floor of the special waiting room for adoptive families and played with Xiao Ting, trying to keep her occupied so she wouldn't get fussy. After a few minutes, Mom gently touched my shoulder, and I turned toward her. Mom's eyes were bright with tears. "I couldn't have done this without you, you know that?"

I nodded, then gazed into my mother's eyes. "We're a family now. You said so yourself."

Xiao Ting was smiling at me.

"You, Xiao Ting, and I are a family."

"We certainly are," Mom agreed, her eyes wet with tears.

"Don't cry," I whispered.

"But Jess, I want to. These are tears of joy."

Copyright Yeong & Yeong. 2004.
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