Friday, November 22, 2013

Orphanage Visit

Today we visited Mariel's orphanage, the Social Welfare Institute of Guangzhou.  That place is huge.  There are several buildings, and I couldn't keep up with what each of them were for.  There was a newer building for offices and a physical therapy center, one for medical treatment, some that housed some of the staff, and more children's residential buildings.  There were a couple of play structures, a sandbox, and a small fish pond.  The grounds were pretty well-kept and the building that we went in was older, but clean.  It was reported to us that about 1,000 children are under the care of the SWI, half of those in various foster homes and half residing in the institution.  This orphanage is partly supported by Half the Sky, which trains the teachers and caregivers, and pays several of the salaries.  If you are able, giving financially to this organization or to one like it (Love Without Boundaries and others), is a wonderful cause that truly does change the futures of so many children.
Mariel had been in foster care for about the last 2 1/2 years, but she would come back to the orphanage from time to time.  I'm not sure if she had extended stays during these times or if they were just day visits.  Prior to foster care, she lived here exclusively, so it was important to us to see it.  She came back to stay at the orphanage prior to us adopting her, on November 4th. 
She seemed pleased to show us around and introduce us.  At one point, she leaned over and kissed me on the cheek.  This was the first show of affection she has had toward me, which was so welcomed, but I know it may have been merely for show at this point.  But I took it as positive anyway. 
We first saw a large group of babies with a few nannies in a playground area.  It was a beautiful and warm day, and I enjoyed seeing them outside in the sunshine.  There were some in cribs and some on blankets on the ground.  There were some of them being held.  But there were so many...  Helping them was a beautiful young girl who our guide said has already "aged out," meaning she's over 14 and is no longer eligible for adoption.  Her place in life is to live at the orphanage and work as a nanny and care for more orphans.

We went in the building where Mariel lived.  The 3rd floor was open and there was a courtyard below with a basketball court.  There were a couple of preschool classrooms (this is the only education that Mariel has had) and the children in this area were below having their PE time.  Mariel showed us her classroom and the chair she sat in.  Down the hallway were some younger children lined up in high chairs watching a children's program on TV.  We then went through another door to the residential area.  We saw the laundry room, restroom, bathing room (big stainless steel sinks and a couple of large basins), bedrooms (Mariel's room had 10 cribs in it), and an eating area.  We went down to the basketball court to see the children.  There is a little girl who is Mariel's best friend who is being adopted on Monday!  We got to get a few pictures of them together.  Hopefully, the girls can stay in touch.  Each child we saw was beautiful and to watch them and know where they are and why they are there just tears at your soul.

All I can manage in this post is observations.  To go beyond that is something my heart just can't do right now.

We left and went to Mariel's finding spot, the place of her abandonment.  Only me and our guide got out so I could take pictures.  We did not tell Mariel why we were there.  I left there only wanting to know more, but there isn't anything else to discover.  We'll likely never know the how's and why's.  I do know that she was meant to be found.  Amazing Grace.

In front of the sign for the orphanage

Wish I could read her mind here.

Mariel and her favorite teacher

The restroom

Where she was bathed

The dining room

Her bedroom

Isn't this the cutest?  Their little drinking cups.

Waving hello to her friends.
Our guide told us that she yelled happily to them, "I have parents!"

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Next 3 Days....

It's been a few days since I've written anything.  I guess I feel like now that we have both our girls that we're in the home stretch!  Home is still a week away.  :(  There also hasn't been a lot of time to write.  This tiny apartment is crowded, and it seems like someone always has the ipad! 

On Tuesday, 11/19, we went back to the Civil Affairs Office to finalize the adoption.  We had to sign several papers and were asked some of the same questions that we answered about Cora Li.  The notary interviewed us as well and stumped us for a second on how long we have been married.  :)  We were there a couple of hours, I think.  Mariel didn't have much reaction to being there again.  She and the rest of the kiddos were pretty bored.  The afternoon was spent at the hotel.  Mariel began showing some of her personality.  She is so girly and prissy, a little bossy, a little dramatic, but fairly easy-going.

On Wednesday, 11/20, we had the morning free.  We walked to a nearby park.  It had an area with a few kiddie amusement park rides.  Mariel was SO excited to see these.  The boys thought they were too big, but Mariel and Rebecca rode a little train, a carousel, and some little go-carts.  The girls were hilarious on those cars.  These were not bumper cars, but with Mariel not seeing well and Rebecca having little sense of space, let's just say we are very hesitant about drivers' licenses in their future!  They also were drawing a crowd, which was a little embarrassing.  I think we were the only ones laughing.  We then walked through the park some.  There were people there doing various exercises and dancing, and a few others singing or playing instruments.  It was a really beautiful day and many older people were out enjoying it.  We also rented a paddle boat and everyone but Cora Li and me went around the lake a couple of times.  Cora Li was getting a little fussy and I didn't think she would want to sit still in one place for that long.  In the afternoon, we had to go to another building to apply for Mariel's passport.  Upon returning to the hotel, I had to go and complete paperwork for both girls' American visas.  That evening we went to a Mexican restaurant for dinner.  About the time our food came, Mariel started complaining of her head being hot.  She did feel a little feverish, but she ate pretty well.  Billy carried her as we were leaving.  She laid her head on his shoulder.  Because we had to pass McDonald's, we stopped in for some ice cream to go.  By the time we got back to the hotel and had some ice cream, ibuprofen, and decongestant (she's had a little congestion and cough since we got her), she was back to her happy self.  It was good to get to baby her a little.  We didn't get a chance to check her for fever, so we did not lie at all on the medical questionnaire the next day...

Today, the girls had to get their medical exams and TB tests.  They don't do the skin tests anymore; it is a blood draw.  :(  Mariel did well and was very cooperative for all her exams.  Her vision, of course, was abnormal.  If I am remembering correctly, her vision in her left eye was 20/100 (not too bad), and in her right eye was 20/800 (yikes).  I'm anxious to get to her ophthalmology appointment once home.  She does have to hold things very close to make out characters or detail, but she does fine seeing changes in terrain, like stairs, and notices a lot of her environment like any normal-vision kid.  She does have nystagmus pretty bad. 

Cora Li was pretty OK with the exam as long as I could hold her.  She screamed so much during the general exam, she pooped everywhere.  The doctor got out of the way though.  :)  The worst part was that awful TB test.  Two nurses did it behind closed doors.  We were not allowed in there for that.  Oh, how she screamed!  She must have fought pretty hard because it took them about 10 minutes to get a blood sample from her.  She was exhausted and a sweaty mess when they finally brought her out to us.  We now wait for the results to come on Saturday.  If either of them is positive, we will have to stay another 6 weeks, so pray that all is normal. 

We left there and went to the Guangdong Museum.  There were several different exhibits: History, culture, natural resources, pottery, painting, wood carving, etc.  The museum, to me, was too big with a lot of wasted space.  It was difficult to find all the exhibits or at least where you were to enter them.  The kids got really tired of all the walking that they didn't really enjoy it. The architecture, including the museum, and the surrounding buildings was amazing.  The opera house was the strangest building I've ever seen.  The Canton Tower, the 4th largest structure in the world, and the largest television tower in the world, was across the river.  There was also a massive stadium there that was built to float on the water.

Our day was finished with another trip to Trust Mart, our first shopping trip with Mariel.  She kept loading up the shopping cart!  :)

Tomorrow we visit Mariel's orphanage (where she was until she was 7 1/2) and also her finding spot.  I'm sure it will be an emotional day for all of us.  I'm praying that it will be a somewhat happy one for Mariel, to see some familiar faces, but also a chance to say her goodbyes again.

 She wanted a bow too. (Good thing I had one of Ellen's in my purse!)
 Opera house
 Guangdong Museum
Canton Tower
 Happy about eating!
 Nap time
 Paddle boat ride
 (Civil affairs office). Dad entertains.
(Civil Affairs office). Passing the time.
 Ready for a new day

(Notary office). Twirling with her doll

The cars

Monday, November 18, 2013

Gotcha Day Pics

The Moment

Meeting Her



Pretty sure Billy and I were exchanges tearful glances here.

Our family (minus 3) plus "Wendy" from Guangzhou SWI

Still in shock but she did take my hand.

Gotcha Day

 I'm finally getting around to putting the words down 24 hours later.  Yesterday was emotional.  The whole day.  First, Cora Li didn't sleep that well.  She didn't want to be in the crib, so she slept with us most of the night.  Her little feet "gently"massaged my side most of the night.  ;)  After we got up and finished breakfast, I went with our guide and the other families to do some preliminary paperwork and make a few copies.  Billy took the kids back to the room during this time, including Cora Li, who screamed in protest.  She calmed down and, you know, after that, she's been much happier with Billy and being away from me (and by away, I mean a few feet).  Maybe she's beginning to trust that Mama always comes back.

   I went back and forth from excited to nervous the whole day.  The boys were particularly antsy as well, lots of roughhousing, which didn't help my mood any.  We finally met our group downstairs at 2:00 to go to the Civil Affairs office.  It seemed to take forever to get there as there was lots of traffic.  The area where we went was on the 8th floor.  This is the same area that we received Rebecca over six years ago.  Along a couple of walls, there are red couches with black and white pillows on them.  There are two other families in our agency's group and there were four more families there as well.  We had to double-check a document for accuracy before they started bringing the children out.  I know one of the other families got their children before us (they got a boy and a girl at the same time) because the little boy screamed at the top of his lungs and did so the entire time and even halfway back to the hotel.  When it was our turn, we all walked toward the playroom area and they brought Mariel out.  She had her head down and stood there for us to greet her.  She finally managed a "ni hao"and we all headed over to our area on the sofa.  She sat down, and the lady from the orphanage prompted her to show us some things from her backpack.  I in turn gave her a Cinderella doll and a stuffed pink "My Little Pony." She had Cinderella on her backpack too, so it was a neat connection.  She had the things that we had sent her (which did not look to be used at all, so I wonder when they were given to her) plus a few other items of clothing and a couple of photo albums.  The lady from the orphanage told her to show us her photo album.  When she turned to a picture of her with her foster mother, big tears started to flow.  She sobbed a little, but never made a sound.  Billy handed her a tissue, and she wiped her eyes.  I just sat beside her and rubbed and patted her back.
   About this time, Billy was communicating through Miko, one of our guides, to ask the orphanage worker some questions about Mariel.  I don't even have an idea of how long we were there, but it seemed like an eternity sitting there watching our daughter experience such sadness and loss, while I felt powerless to give her any solace.  I know the One who did though.  We got up to take a family picture with the orphanage staff person, and not long after that, we all left to come back to the hotel.

   When we arrived back, Billy went with our guide to complete more paperwork while I took all the children back to our room.  My plan was to walk her through the rooms and show her around, but she took charge and pretty much went through and checked everything out on her own, with me following.  She loved all the things we brought for her, the clothes, and especially the costume jewelry.  She was especially excited to see the little tube of lip gloss and the bottle of glittery nail polish.  When Billy returned, it was time to think about dinner.  We debated whether he should just go and get something to bring back to the room, or if we should all go out to dinner.  We finally decided on the latter, and then as we were walking, there was the decision on where to go.  We ended up picking a pizzeria, thinking that there would be some Chinese options on the menu.  There wasn't so much, but we got our waitress to ask her what she wanted.  She ordered mushroom soup.  We ordered some penne pasta and chicken for Cora Li and, of course, a pepperoni pizza for the other kids.  When the food came, the total unfamiliarity of the food and the family she was with, I think prompted more tears.  Uh-oh, big mistake on the eating out.  What do you do when your child's world has just been shattered and there is absolutely nothing that can be done to make it better?  Well, when we finished eating, we stopped at McDonald's and got some ice cream!  She had a strawberry sundae, and it really did bring some smiles.  :)

   Bedtime went pretty well.  Mariel and Rebecca took a bath together.  She wanted to wash her own hair and do all of her own self care.  She did let me brush through her hair.  At some point, we facetimed with Nannie and the kids so that they could "meet"her.  When she was tired, she headed to her bed on her own, and I went to tuck her in.  Kissed her good night.  I remember saying, "I know you have no idea what I'm saying, but we are very happy to have you as our daughter." I then told her "I love you"in Mandarin.  Good sleep was had by all.