An Adoptive Family Brings Their Daughter Back to Yingtan for a Visit and Also Visits the Child the Family is Sponsoring in Foster Care
By AE (UDMCollins@aol.com) who adopted Laura from Yingtan in January 1996 and visited Yingtan in November 2002
Hard to believe, but we did it!
When we visited the Great
Wall, Laura sort of gasped as she touched it and said "I can't believe
I'm finally touching the Great Wall!" But for her ‑ and for us ‑ the visit to
Yingtan was even more wonderful.
Children's Hope International
and Lotus Travel made it possible. Even if we hadn't been able to visit the
orphanage, Lotus would have helped us visit Yingtan. The trip to
Dragon Tiger Mountain was added at the last minute at our request.
We left Guangzhou late and arrived in Nanchang as it got dark, so the 3 hour bus ride to Yingtan was mostly in the dark and in pouring rain. We stopped in the way for soft drinks and cookies ‑ which was good, because by the time we reached the hotel, the dining room was closed with no place to eat in sight. We picked up some ramen type noodles and used the still‑very‑hot water in the thermoses in the rooms to cook them. (For those of you who have only been to 4 and 5 star hotels, the Chinese have, and for years have had, incredible thermoses which keep water near‑boiling hot for a full day. They are in hotel rooms with hot water for use to make tea, rinse your mouth, or just drink. They are used regularly in every day life by Chinese families.)
Anyway. When we woke up the next morning, it was still raining. We got up pretty early and had a very traditional Chinese breakfast in the hotel dining room ‑ none of the French Toast or omelet stuff like the White Swan buffet. Congee, with hot chili sauce, something like kim chee or salty dried sardines to add. Tea smoked eggs, bar‑b‑que pork steamed buns, pot stickers. Both our guide and driver joined us, which helped with the ordering.
We then went to the Yingtan SWI. Laura correctly remembered that it was outside of the City. Our guide said that Yingtan was over 100,000 and then said it was over 1,000,000, although I thought the Chinese sounded like over 100,000. Hard to tell as we drove around. For example, Wuhan exceeds 10 million if you count the suburban areas, but it didn't seem as big as a U.S. city that size. The driver frequently called out the window to help get directions. Finally, we ended up on a road through the country out to the SWI. I wasn't sure if pictures would be OK, and with the pouring rain and a sort of welcoming committee as we arrived, I didn't get a chance to take a picture of the building outside. It is a very white building ‑ almost a porcelain type finish ‑ with blue trim. There is a large, silver colored statue of a woman in a long robe holding a child that stands in a flower bed in front.
It's a little bit of a blur at the moment, but we were ushered in and everyone oohed and ahhed at seeing Laura (Fu Chun) again. (We never used her American name ‑ only her orphanage name ‑ the whole time. That is how all the kids are remembered by the director and aunties.) They all remembered her. The told us what she was like when she was there. We were taken to a sort of meeting room with plates of fruits (including those wonderful little oranges!!!!!). They asked us to tell them about her life with us. We gave the director a photo album of the last 3 years. Although we had sent an album a couple of years ago with pictures through 1999, it didn't appear that the director had a memory of it. In hindsight, we should have put together an album of her whole life since she left.
When we moved stuff so we only had to take one suitcase to Yingtan, I behind the photo album of another Yingtan girl.� However, one of the photos in Laura's album also had a good picture of the girl and Laura together. I told the director who she was (orphanage name), including the approximate date when she left Yingtan SWI, and the director remembered her well. I sent her the album when I got back to Guangzhou. All the aunties gathered for a group photo with Laura ‑ they told us they had all taken care of her when she was there. I'm not sure Laura remembered any of them particularly, but she really enjoyed their hugs and attention.
Apparently we are the 3rd family to have come back to visit. The director wondered how we knew other families from Yingtan. We told her about the Yingtan listserv.� It is clear they remember all the kids who have been there and left and they are all very special to them.
While we were in one room, an older boy came in to get one of the kids ‑ he looked about 12. Couldn't tell if he was the child of a caregiver or an older orphan. But I think the former. In any event, he and Laura were pointed out to each other, as they apparently played together when she was there. Being 12 and 10, they kind of stared at each other with blank looks and shrugged and he went on with his business. Later when we asked if any of the kids who'd been there when she was there were still there, the answer we got was no. (We struggled a little bit with translations at times.)
In the toddler rooms, it appeared to be a ratio of one care giver to 5‑6 kids. I remember an adult bed in one of the bedrooms. Probably was one in the other as well. In the baby room, there were a lot more kids, and also a lot more care givers. I think there were 13 kids, and I think there were 4 caregivers. Many of the kids were in those walker things. But each of the caregivers had a child in her arms. One wasn't in the white uniform the director and aunties wore ‑ perhaps she was one of the hugging grannies.
There didn't seem to be much heat. As we had noticed in 1996 when we were in Nanchang, the official building where the adoption proceedings took place didn't seem to have any heat. When it is seasonably warm, that's OK. But on a cold rainy day it was noticeable, at least to me. Although the kids were all bundled up, the adults seemed more acclimated than I. People's houses were the same ‑ with the fronts wide open to the elements, any added heat inside would have been lost in no time.
We also had asked to visit Fu Lai, the little boy we are sponsoring in foster care through Amity. So we got on our bus again (a bit ostentatious, but we were very thankful with all the rain that day) and with the director and the woman from the SWI who is in charge of babies along with us, we went and visited him and his family.
First, whoever donated funds to get him his walker, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!!!!! He is walking around like a champ. Their home has a step from the front area to the back, dining/living are. He negotiates it with no problem. Very mobile! The mother invited us to sit around her table and served us cups of hot water. Welcome in the cool air. As is very common once you leave the more built‑up city areas, the whole front of the house is essentially open. Don't know if they pull a door or something down at night. There doesn't seem to be any real source of heat, though there may be a cooking stove somewhere. The front area often is used for a store, although this family didn't seem to have a commercial operation in place. There was a busy market place in operation along the street ‑ but I didn't really want to be a tourist at the time so I didn't take any pictures of Fu Lai, his family or the street. Although the foster mother thanked us for "giving Fu Lai a new life," we told her she was the one who was doing that and thanked her for all of her wonderful work as his foster mother.
Fu Lai greeted us and then told us all good‑bye as we left. Although it was a bit early, we then went to lunch. The hotel didn't change currency, but we had stopped at a bank on the way to the orphanage to get some money changed. Good thing, because we hadn't really thought we'd be going to lunch with the director and her assistant. In the meantime, while on the bus, Laura pulled out her school journal, which she had covered with pictures of herself from age 3 to date. Although we had not included the earlier pictures in the album we gave the director, all the earlier photos were glued on the notebook. So the director and her assistant oohed and ahhed over all the old photos and the collage of Laura growing up from age 3 to age 10. They also looked at the journal she'd been writing while in China, including all her illustrations. Laura was very comfortable just sitting with the director's arm around her as we rode along in the bus and the director looked at her notebook.
At lunch, Laura sat between the director and her assistant. They fed her the best morsels of food. Peeled her shrimp for her, etc. One thing I regret is not having honed my skills for making toasts. Many toasts were made. Many that weren't translated for us were between the director, our driver and our guide. No clue what they were! But we had toasts to Laura's return, toasts for Laura returning in the future, toasts thanking us for our care of her, toasts thanking them for their care of her, etc. I had only tea, not wanting either Coca‑Cola or beer, so my toasting was a bit awkward. In hindsight, I should have had one or the other, so that I could have more properly toasted, even if I didn't otherwise drink any. (That's my "Emily Post" note for anyone else in that position in the future!)
We then drove the director
back to the SWI. She had refused to answer her cell phone all during lunch,
but business required her attention. Her assistant stayed in town to
do something. Final farewells and we left. Still pouring rain. I
took some pictures of the fields, buildings, river, etc., as we drove back into
town. Hope they aren't too blurred.
We ended up back at the hotel
and rested that afternoon. Before we went to dinner, our guide showed up
with a birthday cake for Terry (he must have overheard me say something to
Laura). We ate the cake much later ‑ it was wonderful (whipped cream
filling and frosting on a very light cake, with fresh fruit on top, complete
with little forks, a knife, plates and birthday candles). We went to a
wonderful restaurant for dinner. Our guide said the hotel was too
expensive. We went to a restaurant that was recommended by the taxi driver who had taken him
to get the birthday cake. Dinner was 138 Yuan for 7 of us. (At an
8.16 dollar to yuan conversion rate, not bad at all.) The TV was turned on in our
private dining room (the usual style for most "better"
restaurants we ate at was for each dinner group to have its own room). Our guide
ordered for us and we watched the outcome of the 16th Communist Party Congress
election of the new leaders of China.
Then back to the hotel. We had to get up at 5:30 the next morning to go to Dragon Tiger Mountain because the driver wanted to leave by 10:00 to get back to Nanchang. Terry and our guide went shopping for fruits, cookies and drinks so we could have breakfast on the bus.
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