The baby is six days late now, and we’re seriously considering going to the hospital tomorrow and asking for it to be induced before it’s too big.
Two days after the due date, on V’s birthday, we went into the centre of Beijing to see her sister’s new pet shop. She (“Scarlet”) has just got engaged to a guy from Hubei. He seems nice enough but he needs to stand up for himself a bit more. This month he’s been persuaded to open a pet shop in one of the most expensive areas of Beijing, apparently just to take care of Xiaobei while Scarlet goes to work. They sell dog accessories and groom dogs, but there didn’t seem to be any animals on sale, so I don’t know if you can even call it a pet shop technically. I don’t think they’re really earning enough money to break even, so if anyone in the Sanlitun area needs their dog washed, let me know.
I thought it was a bit silly to go on a day trip when the baby could come at any minute, but she persuaded me by taking along all her documents, her hospital bag and her mother, and we ended up having a nice day walking around the hutongs, checking out expensive imported food and wine. The sun even came out. It felt like the first day of spring.
A few days later and we’re back to grey smog. I’m keeping myself busy with all the organisation necessary for a new baby. We’ve picked a boys name and a girl’s name in English and in Chinese. My surname doesn’t work as a Chinese one, so we’re sticking with V’s family name for the Chinese names. This presented another problem as her family name 梅 (“mei” – Plum tree) sounds exactly the same as the word 没 (“mei”) which means “not”. All Chinese names have meanings, for example Scarlet’s given name means “outstanding culture” and her father’s means “the people awake” – however since their family name goes first it sounds like their full names are “lacking in outstanding culture” and “the people stay asleep.” Fortunately V has avoided this as her given name just means “flower” – and anyone hearing “mei hua” will just think “plum blossom” and not “without flowers.” The ones we picked had to work in a similar way, and I think we’ve got it right. We came up with plenty of ridiculous ones along the way too – “meiwenti” (no problem) “meiyou” (don’t have any) “meixi” (Lionel Messi) and “meisaidesibenchi” (Mercedes Benz).
I think we’ve got some pretty good names sorted out now, and the English names sound quite like the Chinese ones too. While we were planning these names we were for some reason under the impression that it would be normal to write both an English version and a Chinese one on the birth certificate, but a very helpful woman at the British Consulate set me straight this afternoon. Apparently we have to just register with a Chinese name if we want the baby to have a Chinese passport. Our plan is to stay in China for about the next four years or so, and if the baby had a British passport we would need to apply for a visa for him/her every couple of months, in Hong Kong, and that’s obviously a stupid idea. So it looks like when we move to the UK we’ll have to go through the process of resigning our infant from Chinese citizenship, applying for British nationality and perhaps even changing his/her name by deed poll. Such are the ways of the world.