When I say I'm taking a beginning Mandarin class, many people ask me, with a bit of surprise in their voices, "How old will this child be?" I tell them I'm not learning Chinese to communicate with the baby as much as I'm preparing for our trip next spring. I'm also preparing to raise a child who -- we hope -- will be proud of her birthplace.
Learning a foreign language teaches you a lot about the people who speak it. Our teacher, who once worked as a translator, has traveled extensively throughout China and has many interesting tales of the people he knows. He has taught us a lot about Chinese culture and history even as he makes sure we can order wine or ask where the bathroom is. He has videotapes of Chinese soap operas, newscasts and variety shows that he plays before the beginning of class each week. It's quite the education!
On the other hand, I also am learning the language partly so I can say things to the baby in the only language she has ever heard. Even though the day she is placed in our arms will be one of the happiest days of our lives, it could be terrifying for our little girl. She will be taken from the only home she has ever known, from the only people she has ever known, and given to strangers who don't look, smell or sound familiar -- and then we'll take her halfway around the world. Maybe it'll help if I can say a few things to her that sound familiar.
To answer the original question, though, we've been told to expect that our daughter will be about a year old when we travel to get her. But there is always a chance we could be referred a 2- or 3-year-old. Our social worker says the Chinese Center for Adoption Affairs usually will give infants to couples younger than 46, and Lance and I are both 45. But we can't be sure of her age until we get that letter and photo -- if she is 2 or 3, it'll be too late to start learning her language! What I do know, though, is that the little one entrusted to us will be the perfect one. Lance and I both are certain of that.
If any of you are interested in learning a few phrases, you can check out this site. It has all kinds of expressions, from "are you hungry?" to "I love you," and you can click on a little icon to hear someone say each phrase for you. It's a little difficult to read the words because they have the numbers 1-4 after them to indicate the tone used for each word, but you'll have to listen to the voice anyway because, trust me, the words don't sound anything like you'll expect! (Special note to Grandpa: One phrase you might find particularly useful is, "No, you may not date until you are 35!")
P.S. -- Please participate in our quilt project! Read the Oct. 15 entry for details!