As you know, today was the day we visited Abigail’s home city and the only home she’s known until a week ago: the Chuzhou Social Welfare Center. The city, Chuzhou (“Chew Joe”), was about a two and a half hour drive from our hotel in Hefei. Given good roads and light traffic, however, it would have been just a little over an hour long trip. The traffic, by the way, is ludicrous. You know those little yellow lines that are painted on road surfaces? In Hefei they are apparently meant to be ignored. There was a joke that our CHI coordinator told after a near miss about Chinese bus drivers that I might have to subject the CRCC Family to when I return. (Sorry in advance for this – as you know, I’m a horrible joke-teller). Let’s just say that between the traffic, the pedestrians, and the poor visibility (the pollution here clouds the air morning to night; it is by far the worst I’ve ever seen), I’m glad we’re all in one piece.
As you can see from the pictures below, the orphanage is not in a great part of town. This is to be expected, I guess. What you can’t see in the pictures are the feelings you get as you drive to this place, which by all accounts is a wonderful Chinese orphanage (and for this we are so thankful).
Let me give you some details into what we felt.
I was struck by the poverty I saw on the way. It didn’t matter if you were in the city or in the countryside, the standard of living her seems very poor. And so I began to wonder where Abbie was born. Was it in the city or the countryside? Wherever it was we’ll never know. What we do know is that she was loved by someone, because they took the risk necessary to make sure that she would be found and cared for almost immediately. There are two pictures below of the place where she was found. It is literally the front gate of the orphanage. Placing her at this location is risky because if you get caught leaving a baby, you’re prosecuted criminally. I’m so glad that someone did in fact take the risk though. Abbie was well-loved as we found out…
Upon entering the Abbie’s floor of the orphanage we were greeted by concrete floors that had been newly mopped and air that was hovering in the 30’s (In this part of the country, they have little by way of heat, although certain rooms used space heaters to take the chill off). But the cool of the air didn’t hinder the warmth of the nannies and “Grandmas” that greeted us. If I haven’t mentioned it before this orphanage is part of a pilot program where children are placed with trained and caring volunteers for two play dates a day – these volunteers are called “Grandmas.”
The Grandma pictured below is Abbie’s (we have her name on our video tape but I can’t play it now because Abbie is asleep and I don’t really want to risk waking her). Anyway, Grandma was so happy to meet her and even though Erin was reluctant to let her new daughter out of her arms, she did. And we’re so glad she did. The Grandma was very wonderful, although she was displeased we didn’t have more layers on Abbie to keep her warm (I guess grandmas everywhere have similar characteristics).
After handing Abbie around several more times to several more people, we then toured the remainder of the orphanage. By Chinese standards it is small in size, housing only 100 children, 40 of which are Abigail’s age or younger (our guide yesterday overestimated the size, saying about 400 children were here). A kind nanny took us to Abigail’s crib and placed her in it (but surprise, surprise, Abbie didn’t want to stay in it – she’s not wild about ANY crib).
From there the tour turned a little sad, as it gave me a picture Abigail’s early days. I went into one of the nursery wards, with the very young housed there. What struck me as I walked into a room with 10 or 15 cribs was that it was completely silent. No crying, no thumb-sucking…just, silence. I looked around wondering if the babies were all asleep, but they weren’t. Many were just lying there, face up to a barren white ceiling, passing time. Even though I knew that it was probably nap time, I still felt sad. No matter how caring these folks are, the ratios just aren’t great, so there’s got to be a lot of this barrenness of experience in their little lives.
On the way out of the orphanage two things happened that were wonderful! First, we learned that Abbie’s nickname was “Little Beauty” and we certainly agree! Second, and the highlight of the day, Abbie really wanted back into mom’s arms after being passed around for a while among her caregivers. It was great to see and I know it meant so much to Erin! This is also a great sign for the bonding that is taking place between the two girls God has seen fit to bless me with. I wonder how important this was for Abbie, too. Going back to her orphanage and then NOT being left there, but rather taken home with us. Do toddlers get this at some level? I think so…
On the whole, we wouldn’t have missed this chance to go be where Abbie had been. We know that she was taken care of by wonderful people. We also know that they loved her! And now we can tell her stories when she asks. Heck, we can even show pictures and a lot of video.
In other news Abbie and I had a wonderful evening together. We roamed the halls and she let her dad show her off to people who didn’t understand a word he was saying! They just smiled anyway at “Little Beauty” (I think that’s gonna stick :^). Things were even going so well that Erin went off to our final meeting here in Hefei and I got to play with Abbie and lay her down for the night. As of this moment she’s still sleeping…way to go dad!
The meeting Erin is going is to prepare documents for the American Consulate, which is our last step in the adoption process. The consulate’s job is to verify her adoption and medication records, her PRC passport, and our visa application. While the PRC considers Abbie ours, we could still run into a hit
Abbie on the road to the place that gave her to us…
On the road near the Chuzhou Social Welfare Institute (about a kilometer from it, in fact).
Erin and Abigail at the place where she was found. This gate would have been locked at the time she was placed here.
Looking at the Chuzhou Social Welfare Institute from just inside the main gate. On the left is the building that handles the infirm-elderly and on the right is the children’s building.
Erin, Abbie, and the previous orphage director in the courtyard outside the orphanage.
Abbie sitting on Grandma’s lap!
Abbie with Mom and her Grandma from the “Grandma Program” the orphanage has. “Grandma” is teaching Abbie how Jackson is her Ge Ge (big brother).
One of Abigail’s peers, all bundled up for the cold air in the nursery (no wonder Abbie’s Grandma didn’t approve of how she was dressed).
Abigail with the nannie who handed her to us. All of Abigail’s caregivers seemed wonderful!
Abigail’s crib…she was near a window, only one crib and an aisle away.
One of the wards in the orphanage. I went in two just like this and the hardest part to take was the silence.
A shot of a few (by no means all) of the diapers that were hung out to dry.
The area immediately surrounding the Chuzhou Social Welfare Center. This is typical of the neighborhood in which this facility is located.
Abbie’s dad on his way out from the orphage. The shot it taken from the spot where Abbie would have been left for caring arms.
On the ramp away from the orphanage.