A Trip to Guixi
Last October we returned to China to adopt our second daughter, Maye
Xialan--(Guo Xialan). We adopted our first daughter, Annalee Weiwei, in
August of 1996 in Maoming City, Guangdong Province. She was born in Huazhou, a smallish
city in Southern China, but we met her in a hotel in Maoming City, halfway between the
City in which she was born and Zhangzhiang, where we were staying. Thus, we did not
have the opportunity to see city in which she was born. Of course, at the time that
was not utmost on our minds. We were new parents simultaneously thrilled and overwhelmed
at the prospect of taking care of a six month old baby.
Last Summer, when we received the referral for Maye, I hoped that we would
be able to visit the city of her birth, but realistically understood that this was not
always possible. We left the States on October 4, spent two wonderful days in Beijing,
then flew to Nanchang where we would welcome daughter number two into the family.
Like many of you, we stayed at the Lake View Hotel near Nanchang. We met
Maye the first night we spent in Nanchang. The children and orphanage
officials had just made a long trip from Guixi, yet they spent hours with us
answering questions. I could tell they were caring people and concerned for
the welfare of the children. We asked as many questions as we could think of, then retired
to our room with our new daugher. We spent the next few days getting to know our
baby and sightseeing in Nanchang. I assumed that Nanchang was as close as we were going to
get to Guixi, but our intrepid agency representative and Chinese guide made call after
call and after three days of arranging, we boarded a bus and made the four hour trip to
The road to Guixi was a modern, well paved road. For those of you
who have travelled outside the big cities in China, you'll understand when I say that it's
best to look out the side of the bus and don't pay attention to the road ahead. Somehow
the drivers seem to pass and miss head-on collisions, but looking ahead is not for the
faint of heart. We passed through small towns, rice patties, beautiful hill country and
saw parts of Chinese life that would be missed by just staying in the luxury hotels.
After four hours, we crossed a bridge over a river and we were in Guixi.
We drove into the courtyard of a government building and waited for
further instructions. While Guixi is a semi-large city, it is not one where many
westerners travel. We were soon the object of much attention. People were curously
looking at us through the gates of the courtyard. We waved and did our best "Ni
Hao". We were then escorted through a building to a conference room where
several officials greeted us and gave each of us a photo album with pictures of Guixi
Welfare Institute. I immediately knew that this was the greatest treasure that I
could bring home for my daughter! We were then treated to a several course banquet.
I could not begin to count the dishes, but the specialty cuisine of Guixi is very spicy.
Our hosts were gracious and generous and I will always remember that special banquet.
After the feast, we gathered to board the bus and head back to Nanchang.
Then we learned that we would have a tour of the City, but we would not be able to
see the Welfare Institute. On the outskirts of town, the driver turned around and
our guide surprised us by telling us that we were going to drive through the courtyard of
the Welfare Institute. We drove back through town, down another road, took a right hand
turn, drove up a slight hill and there we were. We drove quckly through the
courtyard with video cameras humming. We did not stop. The entire tour lasted
less than two minutes, but those two minutes are emblazoned in my mind.
The building is fairly new and well maintained. It's a large three
structure, made of typical Chinese tile with a blue tile roof. One wing
houses elderly people, the other children and the middle are administrative
offices and medical facilities. The pictures we received show children in a
fitness room exercising with older people. There is a library, common eating
room, sleeping rooms and medical facilities. Outside a new playground was
being constructed. Flowers bloomed in the yard, which was nicely landscaped.
Many improvements have been made to the facility from the donation fees. In fact,
the structure was one of the nicest I saw in Guixi.
Again, our time was very short. We were not able to go inside the
Institute. It seemed as soon as we drove into the courtyard, we were driving
out. We passed an older girl (9 or so) riding her bike home from school.
Several older children live at the Institute, attending school during the
day. A little further ahead were a row of one-story buildings and out front
were "hugging" nannies holding babies. We were told, this is where many of
the nannies or aunties live and they assist by tending to little ones during
Soon we were back on the main road of Guixi, about to say goodbye to the
officials who had guided our tour. But, first we needed souvenirs from Guixi. We asked our
guides to stop and buy us a typical Guixi souvenir. We stopped at a small
confectioner shop and they bought two boxes of special Guixi delights. At the risk
of sounding ungrateful for this kind gesture, suffice it to say, I've put away four packs
each of this "candy" in Maye's China box and hope never to taste it again. It
was a cross between dried pork rinds and black licorice, an acquired taste for sure, but
one I'm sure not to acquire!
While our guides were busy buying us treats, our group got off the bus and
walked up one of the streets. Several of the group had brought their babies
along and soon we were surrounded by hundreds of curious Chinese people
looking at us westerners holding Chinese babies. We never felt threatened,
however. People were smiling and I was doing my best, "this is my Chinese
baby" that I had learned two days before. However, my baby was back at the
hotel with my husband. I didn't know how to say, "That's her Chinese baby."
But, the message got across. The crowd kept getting larger and larger and in
short order the police came up to see what was going on. I don't know if any
official action would have been taken, because we were "herded" back on the
bus. My biggest regret of the trip was that my video tape had run out, so I
couldn't record the only time in my life that I will be "mobbed." Is that
how Paul and Ringo felt in the early 60s?
We then dropped off our guides and finally had to head back to Nanchang.
Twelve hours after I left the Lakeside Hotel, I returned to husband, Tom, and baby,
Maye. I hoped I had captured memories and images of her first five months. We
will never be able to understand all the whys and wherefores of her birth family, but
hope giving her this glimpse will be a comfort to her.
Since we returned, I have written to Annalee's director of Huazhou Welfare
Institute hoping that we can make a connection there, also. Meanwhile, we
learn all we can about China, will begin Chinese language school in the Fall
and continue on our life journey of building our family whose origins began
in two different cities in China. (JS, a. 10/98)
Please e-mail me at
if you have any additional information or if your child is from here and you would like to
post a picture here or other contact information.