A hotel delivery in China

Personal Journeys

A memorable placeOur plane...

November 29, 1998|By Mike Strzelecki | Mike Strzelecki,Special to The Sun

A hotel delivery in China; A memorable place

Our plane shuddered and yawed, heightening our apprehension and uncertainty. Outside the window, rich fields of rice and red sorghum sprawled to the horizon. Water buffalo roamed about. The Yangtze River flowed just beyond our view. Beautiful! But our purpose for being in China was not simply the landscape.

We landed in Changsha. The airport terminal was an aluminum shed with sparse seating and one undersized luggage rack - paltry for a city of 6 million people. We boarded a bus to our hotel. Our drive through Changsha revealed a city devoid of color or vibrancy. Miles of nondescript concrete buildings, one after another, all with the same unfinished look. People staring, but few smiling.

What a stark contrast to our previous week in Beijing: We recalled the Forbidden City, opulent and expansive, with hundreds of ornate red buildings with gold roofs and gilded trimmings. And Tiananmen Square, the massive concrete quadrangle framed by stately buildings of marble and granite. And the Great Wall, wrapping the rugged mountains of northern China like a serpent ready to strike. Cheery people in splashy clothes.

But we were in the other China now, forgotten by progress and untouched by economic reform. To us, it was utopia. We entered the cavernous marbled lobby of the Huitian Hotel at 6:30 p.m. Businessmen milled about. We were told to be prepared by 8 p.m.

At 7 p.m., I heard the faint cry of a child outside our room. I peeked outside. Standing in the hallway were 12 nannies, each holding a Chinese infant in her arms. The babies were an hour early! I cried to my wife and ran into the hallway. The scene will be forever in memory. The nannies with babies were at one end of the hall. At the other end was a loud commotion. People were huddled in a group. Light bulbs flashed. Video cameras purred. More people came spilling out into the hall. People were crying, and one woman was holding an infant Chinese girl repeating, "I love you, I love you so much!" The first baby had been delivered.

Over the next 20 minutes, the babies were delivered one after another, and the tears continued to flow. The nannies wept, saddened to part with the children they cared for. The new parents sobbed, their emotions stripped raw from years of anxious waiting. Zi Li was handed to us at about 7:15 p.m. She glowed with contentment and joy. Her skin was deep yellow and silky to the touch. Her face was pure and angelic. Her eyes were exotic. Her head was shaven, giving her the appearance of a petite Tibetan monk. We held her tight, and our eyes and souls met. Our adoption was complete. On the seventh floor of the Huitian Hotel, in Hunan province of China, I became a father.

Mike Strzelecki lives in Baltimore.

@ New Hope, Pa.

Diane M. Scharf, Parkville

"When I'm weary of the malls, I like to escape to New Hope, nestled along the Delaware River and chock-full of unique gift ideas. Across the bridge is Lambertville, N.J., where antiques shops reign. Peddler's Village is 10 minutes away and offers shopping in a festive atmosphere."

Pigeon Forge, Tenn.

Donna Wynegar, Baltimore

"This is my favorite place to shop during the holiday season. The entire town is transformed into a Southern winter wonderland with white lights and crafted decorations. Southern hospitality is not lost in a small town with big-city shops, brand-name outlets, restaurants and entertainment."

What was your favorite cruise experience or destination?

Please answer in 50 words or less. Send via fax to 410-783-2519, or write to: Travel Department, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St.,

Baltimore, Md. 21278.

Pub Date: 11/29/98

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.