Monday, March 5, 2012

Sterling Mei: (25) Hiking with Happy Goat

Guangzhou is know as "The Goat City" or more eloquently, "The Eternal City of Rams." and the main park in the city center has a statue of the 5 goats that reaches high above the ground below. It is known as the "Shrine of Five Celestials", built in 1377. There is a legend of the founding of the city that involved five celestials riding on 5 rams who came from the sea who blessed the land with bountiful harvests of rice. This story is still told to children of the province today. The monument to the 5 rams sits atop a man-made mound, beneath which is buried the first King of Guangdong.

The city has written records going back to 214 BC, which puts it at about 2200 years old. In fact, during three separate dynasties, Guangzhou was the capital city. At present day, Guangzhou is the largest city in the province of Guangdong in the country of China., located along the Pearl River Delta. Guangzhou is a massive economic and cultural force in all of Asia, ranking as a major international city.

History is very important to all Chinese people, and it is incorporated into the very architecture of the buildings, roadways, and parks. A history is told to all Chinese, and it flavors everyday life.
Thus… let me tell you about "Happy Goat."

Happy Goat (also translated sometimes as "Pleasant Goat, or Happy Sheep" is a smiling, cartoon goat that we noticed early on within the city of Guangzhou. We were cracking up about a poster depicting a laughing, dancing goat one day when our agent, Simon told us with a big smile about a local children's cartoon called Happy Goat! He told us that Happy Goat is shown daily at the orphanage, and assured us that our daughters would recognize it.

Yes, he was correct.

We tested this theory, walking through a video store yesterday. We came to the children's section, and as we passed the Happy Goat videos, Sterling came alive. We are now the proud owners of Happy Goat 2012 The Movie. We also walked through the toy section of Trustmart (a Taiwan based mega merchant that has merged with Walmart) and again, as we passed Happy Goat merchandise… Sterling's legs and arms began wildly flailing about. We are now the proud owners of a pink Happy Goat ball, and two Happy Goat plastic toys.

And so, I can be seen walking through the streets of Guangzhou with 20 lb. Sterling strapped to my chest, facing forward with Happy Goat clipped to the carrier, and my 15 lb. backpack strapped to my back, also with Happy Goat clipped securely on the side. After 8 days of this configuration, it feels normal and even comfortable. At least, it seems comfortable until the end of the day that will often find me on the floor of the Fitness Club as I complete the yoga poses of shoulder stand, plow, and happy baby… allowing my spine to stretch, compress, and finally pop back into alignment.

There are 9 guys that work in the fitness center, and they always line up and watch me. I have absolutely no idea what they are thinking. When I get done and stand up… they all bow. I have no idea what to do, and so I bow back… and then they bow again, smile, and say things I cannot understand. I am clueless, but it all seems pleasant enough.

Sterling is an extremely expressive baby, her caregivers called her clever, crazy, and dangerous. That is keenly accurate. She loves to be swooped up high into the air and then swung down quickly… the quicker the better. She loves to ride elevators, escalators, and all things moving. Last night's boat ride was 2 hours of bobbing up and down enjoyment. And then, there is the back of her head. I can't tell you why (because I have no idea), and I can tell you that it is uniquely her (because no other adopted babies do it), but it seems to be a great idea to Sterling! In short… if she really likes something, she will grab it with both hands, hold it high over her head, and then she will bring it down and rub it on the back of her head. This is how we know she likes an object.

She has a separate unique indicator of approval of what she sees, tastes, or of what we do. We call it her "Monkey move." When something really makes her happy (if she can not lift it to the back of her head) she will bob her head from side to side and make the sound, "Ew-ew-eww". This seems to delight anyone who is observing, and leads to the laughter of everyone.

Sterling is an attention getter. She holds court in elevators and restaurants. She is charming and seems to draw people from across the room. I have met many, many Chinese men and women as they come over to make googley faces at my daughter.

We are beginning to pack up today, and will begin our 30 hour journey tomorrow that will take us from Guanzghou, through Beijing & Chicago, to Dayton, and then home. Sterling will get to ride: buses, trains, 3 jets, elevators, escalators, moving sidewalks, and finally… our car and her first experience with an infant car-seat. Oh my… I don't think she will be making her Monkey Moves for that.
We have a full supply of cheerios, diapers, wipes, spit cloths, snacks, bottles, formula, toys… and a limited supply of sanity.

Anyway… my daughter will have a bit of her history held tightly in her hand and probably pressed on the back of her head as she drools on Happy Goat and she is strapped to my chest. Like the Five Rams brought prosperity into Guangzhou, Sterling will sweep into the United States, from the sea riding on me… probably a very relieved, contented, exhausted, and somewhat Grumpy Goat.
There may not be a statue to 5 Goats at my house, but there will be an occurrence of monumental significance for our family.

It will be the first time that the 5 Shepherds are gathered together in one spot on the globe! I think we may all make Monkey Moves to commemorate the moment!

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