Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Orphanage Visit

We made the long drive to Guiping today. Obviously the purpose was to see the orphanage where Maya spent most of her life, but we also greatly enjoyed the drive there. The countryside is amazing, with dramatic mountains jutting out of the valley and the most red, fertile soil I've ever seen. Every inch of space is being used to grow crops. The setting may be beautiful, but the people here live very primative, hard lives. Lily said, "Your daughter's life would have been very different here. She would work all day in the fields, not be educated and would most likely marry in her early teens."

We saw water buffalos pull ploughs through fields and whole families wade through the rice paddies in their wide straw hats. We saw pigs being carted to market and a man carrying an unbelievable load of chickens. Lily said, "This is the real China, not what you see back at your 5 star hotel." We also saw a man walking down the road completely naked as a jay bird. Poor Madeline turned 10 shades of red. Lily said, "THAT'S not the real China, that's just a crazy man!" Maya was great on the long bus ride. I hope she likes long plane rides too!

This was taken either when the bus broke down, when the bus ran out of gas, or maybe when we got lost. We wondered if we'd ever make it to Guiping! The bus driver also got lost on the way home. His wife was in the front seat with him and they seemed to be having a heated discussion. I'm pretty sure she said, "I told you we should have stopped and asked for directions!"

To the Davis family: We saw your beautiful daughter, Xia Lu today! The orphanage director called her foster mother and she was waiting for us when we got there. Xia Lu was understandably shy with all of the Americans taking pictures, but I can assure you, you will have no trouble falling in love with this little girl! She is so precious, looks healthy, and her foster mother seems wonderful. I'll e-mail you later!

Maya Qiu Ju sitting at the front gate of the orphanage where she was abandoned as a newborn. She was so tiny, only 4.9 pounds and was found by a local family early in the morning and taken to the police station. Lily said she's certain she was abandoned simply because she's a girl. Apparently abortions are very easy to get here and are encouraged in cases of unwanted pregnancies. That is why giving a child up for adoption is illegal. The government feels it's unnecessary because a mother should have taken care of the matter early on. In the countryside they are now allowed to have two, but second daughters are not wanted. Lily said in this area young boys outnumber girls 7:1.

This is a view of the front gate from the road. I can't imagine the thoughts of whoever it was that left her here. I couldn't help but look around and wonder if they hid beside a neighboring building and waited until someone found her, or if they just walked away and didn't look back. I do know that they have missed out on a precious gift. I can't understand their life anymore than they can understand mine. I wish they could know how much their daughter will be loved.

The man in the photo is Mr. Gan, the director of the whole Social Welfare Institute (there's a senior citizen's home across the courtyard from the orphanage), and he is the one who named Qiu Ju. The woman is Mrs. Wei, the director of the orphanage part of the SWI. While we were there, she carried Qiu Ju, but when I walked by, Qiu Ju reached out for me to hold her. As she handed Qiu Ju to me, Mrs. Wei smiled, patted me on the back and said to Qiu Ju, "Mama". We were asked to not take any pictures inside the orphange, but I can tell you that it was especially difficult to see the tiny newborns laying on the hard boards in their cribs. The nannies seem kind and hard-working, but there aren't enough hands to go around. Maya's only been with us 3 days, but we already can't imagine her vibrant personality in this dismal setting. One thing we have noticed about her, which is heart-breaking, is that when she's upset, she doesn't wait for someone to comfort her. She comforts herself almost immediately with the quick thumb in her mouth. Her referral information, at age 6 months, said, "She is a very obedient baby and will not cry to affect adult's work." You can't teach a 6 month old obedience. She just learned that when she cried no one was coming to comfort her. I'm amazed that through it all--her tiny birth weight, her abandonment, her life in an institution, with all those knocks against her, somehow she managed to thrive. This little girl is a survivor and we're so proud of her.

The directors took us out to eat at a local restaurant. There's a little more to this chicken then we typically see. We also had "pig tail soup". Madeline has a bit of a tummy ache tonight. Still, I thought the luncheon, which they insisted on paying for, was a very kind gesture by the directors. Mrs. Wei especially seems to know these babies so well. She was so happy to see that Qiu Ju will have a big brother and sister. I showed her Abby's picture and she said she's very beautiful. When we got on the bus, Mrs. Wei stood outside and waved until we were out of sight. It was a long day, and we're all exhausted. Tomorrow we go to a local museum. Just two more days until our flight to Guangzhou.

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