Saturday, February 11, 2017

Travel Diary: Day Five

Travel Day Five was Thursday.  In Chinese adoptions, Thursday is the day that families take their children back to visit the orphanage and, if possible, the child's finding spot.  For many children, it is a reassurance that they are not going back to that place.  Imagine that someone comes and takes you from an orphanage and gives you new clothes, all the food you want, and a warm, soft bed--yet none of the words that they say make any sense.  Are they telling you that this will end?  Should you enjoy it while it lasts?  For many of these babies, once they go back to the orphanage, say goodbye, and then leave with this new person, it helps things to click and they understand that they are never going back again.  It is the deep breath that they have longed for.  For adoptive families, it is a chance to see where our baby has been so that we can one day answer questions that our babies may ask, and to thank the people who have cared for our babies until we could get here.  We really, really wanted to go and visit the Foster Center where our Judy Lin was cared for since she was four months old, to thank the sweet nannies who worked around the clock so that she wasn't in the hospital alone when she was four months old.  Out of curiosity, I wanted to go to Suixi and visit the Suixi Welfare Institute, since that was what we first knew of our sweet girl--that crying baby in "Swayshe."  And selfishly, I wanted that sweet picture of redemption--our girl, on the steps or by the gate where she was left all alone, with her forever mommy and daddy.  Maybe someday we will return and take her there, and explain to her all that we know, but we did not get to go on this trip.  It is a six hour drive from where we are now!  It is in the same province, but we are in the northern part of the province and she is from the south.  Our guide suggested that we not make the trip.  We would have had to leave after our Police Department appointment, and would not have arrived until almost 11 p.m.  Since we have not been able to stay up past nine, this would have presented a problem for all of us!  Then we would have had to make the return trip the next day.  Judy Lin seems to be getting stronger, but we don't know if she is actually getting stronger or if it just seems that way to us because it is possible that she was affected by making that long trip on Monday to come to us for Gotcha Day.  If a one way trip was that hard for her, a round trip in 24 hours could be too much.  Also, she is doing pretty well with us, and we don't want to jeopardize that in any way.  So, although I would have loved to see where she was, we decided not to go.

Since we weren't going to the orphanage, we had an "extra" day with no plans.  Our guide said she would take us to a museum or a park, depending on the weather.  It was quite chilly out, but when she came to pick us up, she said that we were going to a park and that we might see some elderly people "doing some exercises."  I was picturing a big, open field with a group of little people doing yoga somewhere, but boy, was I mistaken.

We arrived at the park and got out and I strapped Judy Lin on.  There were beautiful flowers and a lake.  We started walking down the path and talking with Aron and the other couple that has been with us this week.  We were enjoying our coffee, people watching, and looking around at the beautiful landscaping in the park.  It was so crowded!  There were lots of grandparents with their grandchildren.  Aron said that the parents work and the grandparents take care of the babies and young children for them, even if the parents want to hire a nanny or put them in daycare, because they say they can do it better.  And the parents worry that their babies will be more spoiled because they are with grandparents all day.  It is so funny how much alike we all are!

As we continued to walk, we saw a group doing yoga.  I mentally checked that off the list--group of people exercising, check.  Just as Aron said!  However, I was totally unprepared for what I was about to see!

We turned a corner on the path and there was what looked like a colorful children's playground.  There was brightly colored painted metal everywhere--not a piece of equipment was not in use, and there was not a child in sight.  The "playground equipment" was actually exercise machines!  There were rowers, bicycles, and ellipticals.  There were machines with rollers sticking out at various angles (Hello, Protocol!  We need these!).  There were pull-up bars and stations with solid circles with bumps on them to massage your palm and improve circulation.  There were stretching posts.  There was one really cool little contraption that you sort of rode back and forth on?  It looked like it did something to your hips.  And ALL of these machines were being used by elderly Chinese people. Kinley jumped on the pull-up bar and Zeke joked that she lowered the average age on the equipment by about 60 years.  There was even a 70+ year old little grandma doing the splits on a bench.  Zeke said, "We let ourselves get old."  It was amazing and inspiring and a little bit funny, all at the same time.  We watched for a bit, then kept walking, but as we walked away, two sweet little Chinese grandmas came up beside us and started chattering to Judy Lin in Chinese.  She loves that, so of course, she was grinning at them.  One of them reached out and rubbed her on the cheek, then smiled at us and gave us a big thumbs-up and kept walking.  We haven't really been able to discern what the people here think of the Americans who come and adopt their babies, so this was a nice gesture and (of course) it made me cry.

We kept walking and there were badminton courts and ping pong tables, all full.  There were groups of elderly people playing hacky-sack--and playing it well!  There were places to play music and people practicing for the Canton Opera.  There was one spot where we stopped to watch some folk dancers, and on one side of the sidewalk there were two groups under a tree: one group was doing ballroom dancing with their huge boom box, and the group beside them was doing some kind of sword dance exercises, with their huge boom box.  Across the sidewalk were the folk dancers on a stage, in costume, with their music and microphones.  We kept walking and came to a group of women line dancing, with their music.  And all the while, there were crowds of people around us.  It was so interesting!  We didn't know where to look next, but we were so busy looking we didn't really take any photos.  Zeke videoed some, but I'm going to have to go back for pictures.

We did find a playground while we were there.  Judy Lin wasn't really big enough and it was pretty chilly, so we walked through and came back out.  There was also an amusement park beside it, so Zeke and Kinley headed off with our guide to buy the card needed to ride.  They rode a jerky roller coaster and some cool little cars on a track above our heads.  It looked like you had to pedal them, but they found out while they were there that you didn't, so I think they took a free ride.  There were arcade games, fishing, and little ride-on cars on a track, along with the usual fair rides--spinning things, swings, etc.  Some of the characters decorating the rides looked a little scary to us!  It was also a good place for the two of them to practice saying "thank you," which sounds like "she-a-she," or at least we think it does!

While we were in this part of the park, I fell in love with the Banyan trees.  They are beautiful!  The branches have to be trimmed because they will grow down into the ground.  There is some kind of moss hanging from them also, and Aron said they need lots of water, so they are only found in this part of China.  I wonder if they would grow in North Alabama?!?!

There were also beautiful flowers and flower arrangements in the park.  Since the Chinese New Year celebration has just ended, everything is decorated here like it would be for Christmas at home.  Guangzhou is known for its flowers, and the red one is the official flower of Guangzhou.  Aron said it is used for food and for medicine, although she wasn't quite sure what kind of medicine they make with it.  It was beautiful and I enjoyed looking at all of the landscaping and getting ideas for my own yard!

When we came back to the hotel, we decided to have the buffet for lunch with the other couple from our agency.  They have adopted a sweet little 22 month old girl, and we have enjoyed getting to know them!  It was nice to sit and relax for a bit.  We wandered around the hotel, then came upstairs and napped for a bit before deciding to go for a walk.

We went down to the grocery store to kill some time, and I bought Judy Lin some new shoes since all of the ones we brought are too big and it is COLD outside!  I found some that she and I liked, and I took them to the sales lady.  Here, at a store, you take your purchase to someone and they write a ticket for you.  You take the ticket to the cashier and pay, then take your receipt and the ticket back to the sales person and they give you your merchandise.  It seems very inefficient!  When I handed her the shoes, she made a face and reached behind her.  She got a pair of leather tennis shoes that looked like boys' shoes.  They were red and white striped on the toe with a blue heel with white stars.  I don't know if she thought we needed them since we are Americans or what, but thank goodness when she held them up to Judy Lin's foot (chattering in Chinese the whole time!), they were WAY too big.  After trying another pair of red leather tennis shoes, she decided that her foot really was tiny and she let us buy the pink pair we really wanted.  Judy Lin loves them!  I think she's a shoe girl.

She enjoyed some snuggles with Daddy before bedtime.  She LOVES playing with the sticks that move the curtains from side to side!  They are her favorite toy and how we calm her down when she is upset.  She is such a sweetheart and she has adapted so well.  We are starting to see some new parts of her personality come out.  She wouldn't let me give her any water the first two days, and has just started drinking again.  There are some small ways that we realize we are seeing her grieve, and it is hard to watch.  We will just keep loving her hard so that she realizes she can trust us and that we aren't going anywhere--at least, not without her!

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