Last evening I used all the skills and mental capacities I’ve developed over the course of my legal and business career to negotiate the cost of dry cleaning one stuffed elephant – who goes by the name of Horton.
This occurred in the reception area of the rather lovely Mayfair Lagoon Hotel in Bhubaneswar, India and came about because Horton had spent the previous 24 hours at a local orphanage. Various important issues had to be canvassed before resolution was at hand: was this a mere “hathi” (elephant) or actually a Ganesha; if not a deity (I argued that he was a Canadian elephant so more prone to lumberjacking than being the object of worship), then was laundering better than dry-cleaning; what category should he occupy on the long list of the hotel’s laundering options. It turned out that he’s the equivalent of a little girl’s dress (ie. Rs. 200 or $3.55) – that seemed like a decent win-win resolution for all concerned. Horton, in the meantime, sat observing all this from his perch on the counter, while one fellow checking-in inquired as to whether the hotel was handing out these fine specimens for free.
Of course, there is a reason for this elephantine lead-up – Horton was about to descend into the bowels of the hotel’s laundry because we’d left him overnight with Rani after our first visit to the orphanage the previous day…and it was highly likely that some of the local lice population may have decided to emigrate.
So, as many of you Facebook-types know, we met our new daughter for the first time on Thursday of this week. I wouldn’t be being honest if I didn’t say we were excited but apprehensive at the same time. It helped hugely to have Abinash (I’ve dubbed him the “Fixer”) come and have a drink with us the previous evening and tell us how great Rani was when he met her six months ago. Abinash has been helping throughout this process on the Indian side – ushering forward movement in government agencies, working with the orphanage, etc… He’s done a brilliant job – so lot’s of thanks are owed to him. Nevertheless, given what we learned about transplanted children during an 8-week course we’d completed at home, our expectations of instant connection and happiness were very low.
Sure enough, a whole bunch of kids were lined up to meet us when we rolled in – and the least excited of them all was Rani. Apparently, this is the opposite of her normal behaviour so we think Mr. Mohanty (the head dude at the orphanage) was slightly embarrassed by this uncharacteristic display. We, on the other hand, were expecting it – so it was all running to script as far as we could tell. Even after the provision of a couple of gifts for her – a fuzzy rubber ball and Horton, we didn’t see much change over the first hour or so. Here she is with Brita around that time.
As with most things (ok, that’s probably a bit of an exaggeration), tickling breaks the ice! I didn’t know that but Brita did! Once the giggles started up, the change was amazing. There was constant smiling, asking to sit on laps, wanting to play, wanting to show us off to her friends – an incredible transformation! Some of these will give you an idea.
We ended up spending half the day with her and left letting her know that we’d be back tomorrow – much excitement ensued. Our relief was palpable on the way home!
You never know what a few hours will bring but when we arrived at the orphanage on Friday, all the previous day’s enthusiasm was still there on Rani’s part. She came running across the courtyard in the pouring rain to meet us and then ran off (beckoning us to follow) so that she could tell her caregiver that her “parents had arrived”. A damn fine start, thought I! She was even visibly miffed when we paid attention to any of the other kids – clearly, the adoption of us had begun…
Abinash and Mr. Mohanty went off to the passport office to check on the status of the missing booklets while we had a nice lunch with Rani and the staff. Al fresco, I might add…
Our intrepid investigators of all matters passport returned with some not so good news. No sign of the new passport booklets – meaning returning to Delhi this Sunday is not going to work (they wouldn’t let Rani onto the plane without photo id of some sort). Apparently, these booklets are already 8 days late – something which hasn’t happened in the 20 years the passport official has been running this office. Not only that – but it looks like all the passport offices around the country have the same problem. Abinash flew back to Delhi to see what’s what via his contacts at the Ministry of External Affairs – but who knows??? We’ve rebooked our flights and are now returning to Delhi 6 days later in the hope that this gets resolved next week. The only consolation is that this is a really nice place in the midst of some amazing warm downpours (which I love) and I can still courier the other documents to the Canadian High Commission. With any luck, this delay won’t change our timing for heading back to Canada.
Back to the matter at hand, and I’m writing this on Saturday evening which is just over 24 hours since we brought Rani home – WOW! I have to take my hat off to the orphanage – they’ve done a splendid job raising this little girl from when they got her at age 1 to almost 4. All those danger signs we were warned to look for in transplanted kids (eg. not making eye contact, acting out, etc…) seem not to be there at all. She’s been amazing! Sleeps through the night completely, loves her cuddles, has learned to eat with a spoon and fork already, asks when she needs to go the bathroom, seems to feel and express happiness & sadness (ie. a range of emotions)…hooray! Fingers crossed but so far she seems incredibly well adjusted, laid back and open to all sorts of new things. Given what we observed, she was certainly well-loved, taught, and prepared for new parents at SMSS. We’re very grateful for the job they did.
Oh yeah – she did have some lice on her when we brought her back so Horton had to suffer dry cleaning activities very early in his life. He’s now curled up with Rani in her cot. We and Rani are lice free after the application of appropriately hellish chemical substances in our hair.
Tomorrow – we find out if she’ll dip a toe into the swimming pool.