Adopting from Ji'an
Our trip to China
We adopted a baby girl JI Nan (born on 8/22/97, her American name is Erika Jordan Nara) from the city of Ji'an, Jiangxi Province on 10/14/98 through an adoption agency called Chinese Children Adoption International located in the Denver area. Our group (nine families including us, if I remember correctly) traveled by air to Hong Kong arriving in the early morning of 10/12/98. We stayed the night in a hotel there after doing some sightseeing. A local guide tried to entertain us and take us to sights, but most of us were either too tired, too anxious, or to weary of visiting tourist traps. Most of us went along with this merrily. Early morning on the following day, we boarded a bus to Guangzhou. We then flew from Guangzhou to Nanchang and arrived perhaps around 7 in the evening. The local CCAI representative met us at the airport and took us on a small bus to Nanchang Lake View Hotel.
We Received Erika
We received our babies that night--we were exhausted from all day of travel from Hong Kong, with no chance to eat lunch or dinner (can't believe they scheduled it like that). When we received her, Erika was in her orphanage clothes--red, knitted split pants, a thin, tattered undershirt, and another tattered top on top of the shirt. Her clothing smelled sour and had definitely seen better days. Her diaper was full. (Other babies seem to have been received in a neater condition--ours appeared to be an exception.) We gave her a bath (a new experience for her, we could tell), changed her into clean clothes, fed her the rice cereal-formula mixture from a nippled bottle.
Erika was Tiny
At this point, Erika was approximately 14 months old and weighed 14 lbs. (We had been told by the orphanage that she weighed 8.5kg (a little less than 19 lbs) and 67 cm long, but she was much smaller than advertised). She was not able to sit up (she was able to maintain that position if we sit her up), roll over, crawl, or walk. She was undernourished but otherwise appeared healthy and spirited. She came to us with a severe cold and red, infected pimples on her head that did not respond well to any medication we or others had. She had some but not a lot of hair on her head--most of it was fine, brown baby hair. She appeared to be unaccustomed to the idea of playing with toys, books, or stuffed animals or to the idea that she could eat as much as she wanted (and there was more of it where it came from). Within hours after receiving her, she quickly discovered food, which helped her gain perhaps as much as one pound by the time we left China. She was bewildered and did not even want to touch the toys at first but, at the same time, was fascinated by them. She recognized a comb and put it against her head, making us think that either she played with a comb or someone combed her hair in the orphanage. Though sick, Erika struck us as being an alert, curious, and happy child. She appeared to respond to Chinese at some level (I know a few phrases but neither one of us can speak Chinese) but she did not utter meaningful phrases and was, for the most part, silent during the first few days. She then began to vocalize more (baby sounds, not speech just yet) as she got used to us.
Sightseeing in and around Nanchang
Our group stayed in Nanchang for about a week until we received the babies' passports. During this time, some toured the city, took a trip to the Teng Wang pavilion and to the studio of Badashanren. (My wife is an Asian art history professor at FSU and was looking forward to seeing his studio.) We were sick most of the time from the cold Erika gave us and did not have too many chances to venture out of the hotel.
Back to the U.S.
After returning to the U.S. on 10/24/98, my wife took Erika down to Florida. (She has a full-time job at FSU. I finished up the semester at the University of Pittsburgh and in January 1999, I took a leave of absence from the University of Pittsburgh and followed them to Florida. I now teach at FSU as well and am in my second year of my leave from the University of Pittsburgh.) Since both of us work, we put her in preschool affiliated with a local church when she turned two. She has been learning a lot of "academic" skills (colors and shapes), physical skills (fine and gross motor skills), as well as social skills (not hit or push, etc.).
Shots were no good
When she arrived in Tallahassee, my wife took her to a pediatrician. We quickly found out that none of the shots given to her in China was any good, so she underwent a whole new series of shots. Otherwise, Erika was doing well. The infection on her head went away in several weeks.
Erika grew fast
Erika's developments during these months were quite amazing. She was cognitively and physically quite delayed when we adopted her but she caught up in no time. We tried feed her good nutritious meals along with a dose of daily "physical therapy" (just active physical play) my wife devised. She began to stand up and walk in early December 1998 (at about 17 months) and crawled "correctly" by Christmas. About a year later, in November 1999, Erika was 34 inches tall and weighed 27 lbs (a little above average for Southern Chinese girls) and began to speak in two-word sentences.
Erika is now three
Erika turned three just on 8/22/00. She is now 30 lbs and 36.5 inches tall. She is a very cheerful (and humorous), intelligent, inquisitive, and sensitive child. She is very talkative, affectionate, shy around strangers, and active (never a dull moment). She loves to read (i.e., being read to), work with puzzles, sing songs, draw and paint, play with bubbles, watch TV(!), watch video of herself we made in the past two years, play with stuffed animals, do role-play with them, do dress-ups with Mommy's clothes--you get the picture. She is completely toilet trained, can almost dress herself (and undress) by herself, name all the letters of the alphabet and numbers, can use scissors, can express feelings ("I am sad because..." "It's amazing!"), and knows her shapes, colors, and animals. And she has only been in the U.S. for 23 months. Our preschool teachers tell us that she is doing extremely well, having no vestiges of earlier delay, and may be a little more advanced than her American peers. In terms of language development, she is right where she should be. She can speak in complete sentences, can use words like "because," "when," and "if" correctly, express what she is feeling ("I am sorry I hit you"). She has also learned some pragmatic aspects of language, such as negotiating ("Can I, can I, can I please...?" or "Dada said that I couldn't watch TV..."). I speak to her in Japanese and she understands most of it, but she chooses to respond to me mostly in English.
We often talk about how uncanny the match was between us and Erika--our temperaments and lifestyle seem work well with hers (and this we felt from the very beginning). Other parents with Chinese children feel the same way. The Chinese do have the magic touch.
Our adoption experience and the Ji'an Orphanage
All in all, our experience with adoption has been extremely positive, no real snag to speak of. Our agency was competent and experienced. One thing about the Ji'an orphanage. We did not have a chance to go to Ji'an but, during our stay with Nanchang, we had a chance to talk to the director of the orphanage. The director, in his 40s, just seemed like a unfeeling bureaucrat, different from a warm, caring person we had expected. He did not have much information to offer about Erika (doubtful that he knew too well who she was; she had to ask his assistant whenever we asked him specific questions about Erika). He said that there was a note attached to Erika when she was found but could not remember what it said. The note was lost. He told us that the children ate several times a day (rice cereal and formula on some days, congee and soup on other days, seasonal fruit, esp. watermelon). Erika did not have any illnesses to speak of. We did not come out of this meeting feeling too well about the director. We received several pictures of the orphanage (outside view) from CCAI, which are almost identical to yours. I am very curious to know more about the orphanage, how it is set up inside, what rooms are like, etc. About a year ago I heard that a woman in the area was adopting from Ji'an, so I gave her a little note and pictures of Erika, and asked her to give them to the orphanage director via the CCAI representative in Nanchang.
Gifts to the orphanage
We were asked to bring some small gifts for the Chinese staff and orphanage, which we were happy to do. In addition, three of us in the group bought a box (each) of formula (40 lbs in each box as I recall, about 70 US dollars) at a local department store and gave them to the orphanage. We gave ours to the director when we had a meeting with him. We wanted to do something for the orphanage to show our appreciation, so some of us in the group toyed with various ideas as to what to give. We were told by a local CCAI representative that many gift items never get to the children in the orphanage and are more likely to turn up in black markets. (We were discouraged from giving gifts of this type and this appeared to be the adoption agency's policy for many, if not all, orphanages.) Items mailed from overseas are likely to see the same fate. We don't know if the orphanage received the formula; we had no way of knowing. (HN)
Please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org 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.