The US Consulate in Guangzhou issued Hope’s visa packet on Tuesday afternoon — with a sweet new picture taken at her medical appointment.We celebrated with a photo shoot on the couch in our hotel room, since the iconic red couch at the White Swan (or any other hotel in Guangzhou) is no more. We dressed her in a traditional red Chinese dress or cheongsam, one of several we purchased for her to wear later on as she grows.
Hope’s US visa looks similar to our Chinese visas — a full page sticker in her burgundy People’s Republic of China passport. The officer at the consulate warned us not to open the sealed brown envelope containing original documents required by immigration officials. He told us (and the other families) that we could be forced to return to Guangzhou to get another packet if they found evidence of tampering. You better believe we packed that baby with great care, sealed in it’s large clear folder in our carry on luggage (exactly as instructed.)
It was good to hear the landing gear lock into position and feel our plane touch down at the Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta Airport earlier today, though we actually began our journey on Wednesday a little after noon. With a roughly 12-hour layover in Seoul, we were grateful to whomever had the foresight to build a transit hotel in the middle of the Incheon airport. This meant we could sleep in a comfy bed for the night and wake semi-refreshed for the last leg of our journey. We flew across 13 time zones, leaving Seoul this morning at 9:20 am and arriving in Atlanta at 10:00 am the same day, though the flight actually took 13 hours and 40 minutes. We traveled at varying speeds of 600-700+ mph most of the way, through day, night, and day again. The flight attendants on Korean Air allowed only an occasional peek through the window shades to control interior lighting inside the cabin. I assume they were helping us adjust our circadian rhythms to the extreme time change, thereby minimizing jet lag. We need a miracle, or several, in that regard. Since Hope has no light perception, her circadian rhythm is not continually reset by environmental light. She slept very little on the plane, so we are hoping for a good transition.
You can read between the lines… imagine bringing an 18-month old who doesn’t know you (and doesn’t wish to be comforted by you) on a nearly 14-hour plane ride. She is working through natural and expected grief at being torn away from all she has ever known and thrust into a completely unfamiliar environment with strangers who don’t speak her language. Right now she doesn’t really want to be touched, let alone held for long periods. She is an orphan no more; by God’s grace she has a family. Not a perfect family — but a perfect family for her! Still that emotional transition doesn’t happen overnight. Her joy will come! Every beat of my heart tells me it will come. And it will be sure and sweet and lasting. Lord, give her joy in her circumstances. Give her joy in the journey. You are able.
We pulled out Hope’s sealed brown envelope and presented her Chinese passport as we approached immigration soon after landing. I’m pretty sure we had goofy grins on our faces. Even the stony-faced immigration officers showed emotion when they realized a newly adopted kiddo [i.e., orphan-no-more] was coming through on their watch. It’s difficult to read what they were thinking; but I’m guessing they, too, were celebrating ‘one less’ in their hearts.
For immigration purposes, Hope is considered an IH-3 — a child whose adoption was “full and final” in the child’s home country. According to the Child Citizenship Act of 2000, she was granted US citizenship automatically upon entry to the United States. Getting this final step behind us made my heart sing.
It feels so good to be bringing her home!
As we emerged from the baggage claim area, we looked up to see our son holding a whimsical reproduction of the foster family’s welcome sign, with little Hope Wen Jie photoshopped into the picture.
Thanks Whitney, Jr. I love you to the moon and back… you amazing, warm, funny, silly, lovable, big brother to two Littles and little brother to one Big. I am so blessed by you. ❤︎