On Wednesday, two days after we received Rachel, we got back on a bus for a day-long trip to Yueyang County, home of her social welfare institute. Lance and I had debated whether Ting
Ting should make the trip because of her ear infection, but we really wanted to see the exact area she was from and tour the facility that had overseen her care the last 10 months. So we bundled her up, packed the Tylenol and climbed aboard for the 2-to-3-hour drive.
After awhile we left the highway and took a teeth-rattling, bone-jarring jaunt down a dirt road that was riddled with bumps and holes and way too narrow for two large vehicles in some places. At one spot when we had to ease around a construction site, the road ahead was on such an incline that everyone moved to the left side of the bus because we were afraid it would tip over!
The area was very poor. Again, we looked out the windows mostly in silence as we realized how blessed we are to have all the things we just take for granted at home. Finally, we hit a large city -- with dirt roads for main streets. A few turns later, and we were at the Yueyang County Social Welfare Institute.
The building was small and somewhat shabby. Someone had painted cartoon characters on the walls in an attempt to make it look a little more cheerful. It served as a true orphanage for awhile, but now all the kids are with foster families, with the SWI overseeing their care.
Bill explained that the SWI included this little patch of land that was being used as a vegetable garden. All around were high-rise residential buildings.
We went into the unheated building and climbed up to the top floor, where we were taken into a play room. My eyes immediately went to the back wall, where I saw a line of walkers. I saw the very walker in which Ba Shu Ting was standing when they took her referral photo. I also saw some rubber mats stacked in a corner -- she was sitting on one of the mats in another photo. Along two other walls were ornate wooden benches. Those benches were in the background of her photos.
The welfare institute director explained that each foster family was required to bring its baby to the SWI once a month for medical exams and other checks. The babies had spent time in that very room in which we were standing. What a gift it is for us to now be able to tell Ting Ting what that room was like -- and that we took her there to say goodbye.
One thing this SWI does that I really like is that they provide formula for the foster families to feed the babies, which ensures they are receiving nutritious food -- and enough of it. They also perform the monthly medical checks. And, best of all, the director said that an SWI employee visits each family once a week to check on the child's progress. Can you imagine DCFS sending a social worker to each foster home in its system once a week? Neither can I!
It's very clear to us that Ting Ting's foster family truly loved her and took good care of her. Again, we feel very blessed.
I was standing up in front of the group videotaping the director when something amazing happened: A group of women and a couple of men walked into the room and began visiting the babies. I looked back to see a woman holding Rachel's hands and saying, "Ba Shu Ting!" and chattering to her in Chinese. Later we asked Bill to come over and translate for us; he says the woman visited Ting Ting's foster family regularly. We weren't able to get much information from her about our daughter, but I did videotape the entire exchange, which will be a priceless memory. And maybe someday we can get a translation of her baby talk with Ting Ting.
That woman and several other workers held out their arms to Rachel, but she wouldn't go to them. Lance did ask the woman to hold the baby for a photo, but it's clear Ting Ting wants to go back to her daddy:
Here are the workers visiting some other babies in our group:
We were thrilled to have this experience to share with Rachel some day.
Lance and I also visited Rachel's finding spot.
Standing there made me wonder even more what dire circumstances had led someone to leave her here, and if that person had any idea that she would later fly to the other side of the world to be raised by foreigners. And I marveled at the strength of this tiny girl who was left in the cold only a day after her birth, surviving to be taken to the SWI, placed in a foster home and then adopted by us. Her life is full of opportunities and blessings that her biological family might not have been able to even fathom. It made me feel very humble that God has granted us this incredible opportunity -- and a wonderful daughter.
We were glad we had traveled to see the SWI to give Rachel a little bit of a link to her beginnings. Much of it will remain a mystery, but we can tell her about this place and the kind people there.
Afterwards we had a nice lunch at a local restaurant. The waitresses were interested in our girls; one of them is holding Ting Ting in the photo at the top of this post.
Then we took a trip to the Yueyang Tower, which is believed to be more than 1,700 years old. It is one of four famous Chinese pavilions and was constructed entirely of wood. No nails or beams were used in its construction; four wooden pillars support its three stories.
The tower is on the shore of Dongting Lake in Yueyang City, a bigger and somewhat more affleunt area. We saw beautiful views of the lake and nearby ports.
When Lance and Ting Ting and I climbed the staircases to the top, we attracted a little attention. An older woman started talking to Ting Ting and was treating her very kindly. I handed one of our intro cards to her, and she handed it to a younger man in the group who read it and explained it to the others. He kept saying a word I didn't recognize and pointing to Rachel. It's possible he was speaking Cantonese. However, I said, "nuer," which is Mandarin word for daughter, and they all nodded and smiled and excitedly repeated the word. Then they motioned that they wanted to take our photo, so we posed.
When we got back outside, a woman approached us and asked, politely and in impeccable English, if we had come to China to adopt Ting Ting. She said she had been living in Great Britain for a few years, but I gave a young woman with her a postcard of Chicago and one of our intro cards. They also asked for a photo, and when they learned we were still calling Rachel by her Chinese nickname, they all stood behind the camera waving to her to get her to smile and calling out, "Ting Ting! Ting Ting!" It was so funny -- I can't believe we didn't get a photo of either of those groups.
However, Lance did catch a photo of Lynette and daughter Dani with the souvenir sales girls:
Isn't that funny? I also caught a photo of Lance and Ting Ting:
It was a cold day, so we didn't linger. And, this time, when we got on the bus we took the (paved) highway all the way home.