If you have not read Part 1, please do. This post is the continuation of an inspiring story about a girl who overcame tremendous obstacles from childhood to start on a long journey and improve her circumstances more every day. Her name is Daiyu, and after being moved from family to family, she is now with us. She has been with us for just a few days, my father just died, and we are headed for China to finalize our adoption. We anticipated this could be rough, and there would be some emotional struggles for all of us. We did not realize that she may fear that we were just another family that would take her for a short time and soon leave her stranded again in China. A world where she no longer remembered the language, and there were few people she knew. Those she did know were people that she felt had abandoned her once already. So with our bags packed, our paperwork in hand, we headed to the airport.
Friday, January 7 to Saturday, January 8
Nothing Is Every Easy
Once at the airport, we prepared for our long trip as best we could. As we boarded the plane, we tried to prepare Daiyu and often talked about us as her forever family. She was already referring to us as Mom and Dad, which tells you just how much she wanted a stable family life, one she could count on. That would be a long road, however, and one with a few struggles along the way.
As is usual for me, we made it to China but not without some unexpected challenges. For the most part, the flight here, although long, was uneventful. We left our house at 5:30 AM on Friday, January 7, 2011. We arrived at the Changsha airport roughly 24 hours later, around 11 PM on January 8. One slight problem — they were expecting us a day later on January 9, so our guide was not there to meet us, and we had not yet exchanged money.
There was no exchange available at the airport, and we were besieged by taxi drivers wanting our business.
Unfortunately, no one spoke English, and of course, none of us spoke Chinese. The perfect storm — maybe not, but it was not good. We tried to no avail to contact our guide and others at the adoption agency. It took about an hour for our cell phone service to become active and to figure out the dialing issues. Then we got no answers.
The locals assumed our poor little girl was Chinese by birth to know the language by everyone, and they all kept trying to get her to translate. Unfortunately, she could no longer remember what little Chinese she once knew, so she responded hello. We could see the fear and confusion in her eyes. Fortunately, Lisa was very quick to shield her, and we got everyone to understand we would deal with it and did not need a ride. I left Lisa and our very, very soon-to-be daughter with the luggage and set out to find money or some other means of transport. Even if we did find transportation, we had no idea where to go, and our reservation was not until the next day.
First Crisis Solved
After some aimless wandering and searching, I found an ATM. The next miracle worked. Just one little problem, I had no idea what the exchange rate was, and I was looking at withdrawing YUAN. Now that might not seem like a big deal, but with exchange rates varying widely in different countries, 100 YUAN could have been ten cents in USD, or it could have been 1000 USD. Who knows? Back to the cell phone, which now seemed to be completely activated and working. After some browsing, I found the exchange rate was about 15 USD per 100 YUAN or about .15 USD for every 1 YUAN.
Significant challenge #2 successfully met and overcome. Now back to challenge #1, get the money out of the ATM. I could not remember my AMEX PIN for my life, so after a few tries, I gave that one up. Next, I tried my debit card. And yes, that worked. Now we had cash but nowhere to go. The airport was locking down, so we had to leave. I went back to meet up with the rest of the family and luggage only to find Lisa had asked everyone who walked by if they spoke English. To my surprise, she found one young Chinese couple who understood just enough English to understand “hotel.” They kindly escorted us to the airport hotel.
With challenge #3 handled, we worked through the language barrier with the hotel clerk via sign language and got a room. Cash only, but it was about 1:30 AM, and I was just happy to have a room. The guest quarters were OK but not what I would typically choose. We found out the hotel did not supply any toiletries and barely any toilet paper. We also noted the bathtub was full of rust and not anything we would want to jump in and use. With that, we all decided to wait until we reached our final destination the next day to clean up.
What a Difference a Day Makes
Now we get to the next day. Today was much better. We got up and had a delicious meal at the hotel. Then we called and connected with our guide, who arranged to pick us up and get us to our hotel. So much nicer. We welcomed five stars, at this hotel. With cash in hand, credit cards accepted, and a charming room, we should be well rested in a day or so. We found out that Monday is a free day, and Tuesday, we meet with officials, and the adoption will be final by the end of the day. We then wait a few days to pick up our official adoption certificates before leaving for our next stop in Guangzhou. There we will need to complete all of the requirements to get everyone home. All of these tasks will take several days before we head back.
Now for the most crucial challenge. The trip has been arduous on our young, worldly traveler. As she got tired and frustrated with the rigors of international travel, you could tell she was having a tough time. She suffered from a mix of fear and confusion. She had many questions that we tried to answer, and I’m sure she will continue to have questions as time goes on. I wondered when they would come, and now I know. Nothing unexpected or unusual, but I was hoping maybe we would skip that stage. It is tough to go from an orphan to a caring foster family. She bonded with them and then suddenly found your world upside down with a new family you have hardly had time to meet, much less form a bond. She is a tough kid but a kid all the same.
Monday, January 10, 2011
Today was a very, very good day for all. Today was the actual adoption day. I am delighted to say that we now have finalized the adoption, signed the paperwork, and signed the paperwork saying she wanted to be adopted. It was not just a happy day for us. It was a sunny day for all. I have not seen her smile so much since she arrived with us. It did not hurt that she went to bed last night at about 7 PM and slept all night for the first time. She woke up in a much better mood. We all were in much better spirits.
We started the day with an excellent breakfast and then met our guide. We were first off to the passport photo place to get photos of her. Then to the adoption registration office, where to everyone’s surprise, the orphanage director and vice-director, as well as several other officials from the orphanage, were there. Our guide told us this did not happen. She is an extraordinary case, and they were all very happy for her. She did not immediately remember everyone, but slowly some of the memories came back. She started to ask questions and talk about the other kids. We found out there are only two children left there who were there when she was. All the others have been adopted.
The officials, including the Director, are very happy for her and pleased to see her. They drove two and half hours to get to the registration office to spend 20 minutes with her. We will be going there tomorrow to visit the orphanage and have lunch by special invitation. Our guide informed us this was not the norm. The orphanage called her when they heard we were here and extended the invitation.
According to our guide, we usually have to get permission from the adoption registration office, which is generally not given. Daiyu must be an exceptional girl, but of course, we already know that. Our hosts gave us the option of ordering pizza or eating what they prepared (sound familiar Mark, Joleanne, Melody, and the rest of the SEAHP team). We decided to eat whatever they prepared—another adventure. After meeting with the orphanage officials, we started the paperwork to complete the adoption. It was a little like buying a house (please understand the comparison ends with the paperwork). The adoption experience was an incredible moment for all of us. Lisa started crying.
We checked every letter, number, and word on every page of every document, including the translations to English. Everything had to be just perfect because the US Consulate is exceptionally picky about everything being in order. Finally, we signed dozens of papers, oaths, and promises, all of which were easy to make to have someone this special be a part of our lives. There were many photo ops, and will be more tomorrow. Finally, we left and headed back to the hotel. There we immediately had a great celebration lunch and then moved on to —- what else —- shopping. Someone has her eye on a doll, and before we leave, it will be hers. She is also looking for gifts to bring back for all of her friends and family. Today was a great day and one we will remember forever: many pictures and many good memories. Now we have to wait three days to get the final documents prepared. Then we can take off for our next adventure, earning her medical and applying for her VISA at the US consulate. That will be in another city and take another week. After that, it is home, and we cannot wait. You could see much of the fear of another abandonment was dissipating as things began to be finalized.
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
A Visit to the Orphanage
Well, last night was a long but good night. Our daughter was up all night. Finally, around 3 AM, I just decided to get up and visit with her. She is still in a good mood but just suffering from that inevitable jet lag that she will probably adjust to when it is time to leave. Still, it was a good time for us to talk and soon Lisa was up visiting. At least we all showered and were ready for breakfast right at 6:30 AM. At 8:30 AM, our guide picked us up, and we headed for the orphanage, a two-and-a-half-hour trek north.
It was only about 30 minutes into the drive, and I was the only one awake, aside from the driver and our guide. It was an excellent feeling to have our daughter just collapse with her head on my shoulder and fall asleep. On the way back, she switched shoulders and slept Lisa’s way. She was obviously a little agitated or nervous about the trip, and it showed more as we got closer. I’m sure some of her past fears were memories she would rather forget were re-emerging.
An Emotional Visit
When we finally arrived, she had only a very vague recollection, and I’m not sure if she really remembered at all. We were met by the Vice Director and took a couple of pictures in front of the orphanage with Daiyu. She is not too pleased about the photo ops. As a matter of fact, she would just as soon not have her picture taken at all. She was not really rude and is a very polite young lady, but at some point, we did have to tell her she needed to be respectful of the people who went to so much trouble for her. That teenage spirit was showing itself. Fortunately, even if she does not like it, she will listen and respond appropriately to her new parents and other elders. Still, I think she was just reacting poorly because of fatigue and anxiety about the visit. I think she also may get embarrassed and not quite know how to react. Getting her to smile even for pictures was really tough. Regardless, the visit was great.
We went to a very nice conference room where we met many of the same orphanage staff who came to the adoption registration office the day before and some others. I also realized where she gets her taste for fruit. They had tons of fruit. Boxes and boxes of tangerines, bananas, and other fruit. We had some green tea and tangerines while everyone took photo ops.
Now they called a lady named Jenny for her visit. Jenny is in her 70’s and apparently was very involved in helping her get funding and making arrangements for her to come to the US. She was also instrumental in getting funding for much of her cosmetic and functional surgeries done. After Jenny finished talking with her, she took a good bit of time and talked with Lisa.
Then they brought in another staff member named Yihua, and her face lit up like a Christmas tree on the White House lawn. She immediately recognized her and said, “I know you! You were my teacher.” She hugged her, and it was clear there was a bond. As it turned out, she was the teacher assigned to her, and she spent all her time with her.
Next, there were photos that we went through of her as a little girl and as she grew up. It was a very emotional and touching time. I truly believe this staff cared about her. The Director presented her with a decorative gold plate with the name and symbols of the city. Then they presented us with a picture book that included organized pictures and captions of her life at the orphanage. That one got Lisa crying. I will be scanning it and sending an electronic copy to the foster family. I know they will appreciate it as much as we do.
The Orphanage Tour
Next, we did the tour. They explained that there were 50 to 60 children, and about 80% were special needs. There were also elderly housed at the same place, just like the orphanages we have visited in Vietnam with Southeast Asian Healthcare Partners, Inc. The first stop was the toddlers, who were just adorable. I know I fell in love with every one of them. A little downs syndrome boy just kept grabbing me and pulling me down to show me his stuffed bear. There were other children just playing with toys and having a perfect time. Obviously, we cannot be sure how much was done for our benefit, but they try to give these kids good care.
The elder side was a little less desirable. I’m sure that is because the kids always get attention from outside organizations and others who donate and work to get the kids adopted. Then we went to see the room where she stayed while at the orphanage. It was small but adequate and had four sets of bunk beds in the room. We got pictures of her next to her bed which she did remember. She also remembered the top bunk was hers.
Next, we went to see the two children she might remember. They were the only ones who had not been adopted. Now, this was an emotionally difficult part of the visit. A little boy with a cleft lip was probably cognitively delayed but so happy and so pleased to see us. These kids need homes, and soon before they become too old to adopt. One particular girl had been there for some time who was absolutely beautiful, polite, and easy to love at first sight, but she was 15 years old. It is still possible to get special permission to adopt her, but it would be difficult even if it were not for the red tape because of her age. I cannot tell you how lovable she was. But she was sad, and you could tell. I do not believe she had any medical or cognitive problems, but she was just unwanted. Why would any child of God be unwanted? That goes for all ages up to, and including the elderly, we so often work with.
Unfortunately, new parents want babies, preferably healthy babies. Almost no one wants the elderly. Of course, that is not just here in Asia but everywhere. I’m warning you now, Lisa is on a mission. Beware when we get back. She will do whatever she can to start getting this girl and the boy home. What you can do now and always is pray for them, all of them.
Her Memories Continue to Return
Next, we visited the old part of the orphanage. It was somewhat rusted, and most of it was no longer used, except it appeared this is where the elderly were housed. I cannot be absolutely certain. As we walked, she suddenly remembered. She recognized where she played and jumped on one piece of playground equipment that I believe was her favorite. Apparently, these memories were strong because she had no doubt she knew where she was. After taking as many pictures as I could and touring and asking questions, we headed off for lunch with the orphanage staff.
We were taken to a very nice restaurant with a private room set up for us. Unfortunately, because of space limitations on the ride over, our new daughter ended up on my lap for the short ride, and she was none too pleased. I cannot say that I blame her either, but she was a trooper and put up with this indignity. We had a very nice meal (as usual, I am not entirely sure of everything we ate, but that is part of the adventure). She, of course, was the focus of all the attention that I could see was beginning to wear on her. Still, she held up and even enjoyed some of the memories and talking with the staff. They invited us back, and I know they really meant it.
By the time we left, she was talking about wanting to come back and visit again when she was older. She was also talking about wanting to learn the language again. I cannot tell you what an emotional rollercoaster this must be for her. Before the two-and-a-half-hour drive back, our final destination was to see the place she was found. It was a small back street business area, and it was unfortunate to know this is where she was left alone at two years old. We could not imagine how scared and alone a two year might feel abandoned by her own mother. After a search for her parents was unsuccessful, she was taken to the orphanage.
What an emotional day. I am so glad we made this trip. I was not sure initially, but I now know she needed the visit, and I think she will eventually return to learn more about her heritage and history as a child. For now, she has pictures and memories she can carry with her for a long time, if not forever. Tomorrow we will have a Skype call with her foster family, and then we are off to shop. Apparently one of her favorite pastimes. I see bankruptcy in our future with six daughters all shopping. Still, she is so looking forward to it there is no way I can say no. Lisa will tell you I can’t say no to them ever, but I don’t think that is completely true.
For now, I am going to sign off and get ready for tomorrow. We now have all the official paperwork, and Friday, we head for the next city where she will get a complete medical exam. We start the application process for her VISA to return to the US and immediately become a citizen. That is the last phase of this portion of her long journey. I cannot help but wonder what God has in store for her. Whatever it is, we are just so privileged to be a part of it. As someone just wrote me; actually several people, To God Be The Glory. And now for another meal.
Stay tuned for Part III of the series.