Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Julia Mei's Foster Family

We were at the point in Nanchang that we had nothing to do except wait for Julia Mei's passport.  This left 2 full days to fill up. On Wednesday (Christmas) I let my guide know that I definitely want to visit Julia Mei's orphanage.  We went to the Civil Affairs office to request permission and to pay the fee. My guide called the orphanage director and she said we could visit the orphanage,  foster home, and we would eat lunch there.

We went for a stroll at People's Park and that night we went to watch a light show.

The kids are doing great so far, and they really have different personalities.  Jacob is ready to smile and laugh over anything.  He is mischievous and always trying to get into something.  He babbles all the time. He grabs my finger to show me what he wants. He gives big,  drooling open mouth kisses. He loves to interact with Julia Mei, although she's not always receptive.  He likes to get in her space and sit on her.  He doesn't cry often and is a great sleeper. He has had a much easier transition compared to Julia Mei.

Julia Mei is a little princess.  She likes things clean and orderly.  She likes to be carried and held. She likes to be fed and for me to hold her sippy cup as she drinks.  Once she gets going she is pretty bossy and has a huge voice.  She is smiling more and enjoys cuddling with me. She still struggles with sleeping and that is when she breaks down in tears. 

We took the 2 hour taxi drive over to Gao'an on Thursday.   I expected it to be rural,  but it was another city. The orphanage was cold. Beyond cold. There was no heat and our hosts offered us hot water to sip on just to stay warm. We chatted there for a few minutes and went outside to take pictures. 

There are currently 21 children through this orphanage and all of them live with foster families.  This huge orphanage is empty. If translated correctly,  only 1 other child is currently eligible for international adoption.  They continue to provide for the children after they are no longer available for adoption by allowing them to complete school and teach them a trade if they are able. All of the children have special needs.
We arrived at the place that Julia Mei lived her entire life. Her apartment was on the second floor and I think it had 3 rooms. Once we entered the apartment it was like a huge party, with lots of loud talking, smiling faces, and fruit to share.  Julia Mei's foster parents were older, with 2 adult children, a grandchild, and 2 other foster children.  The younger foster child is unable to see and the older one I believe is also visually impaired and it looks like microcephally. We were packed in that kitchen and the gifts started. A beautiful new jacket,  pants, and hat for Julia Mei.  For me, a handmade scarf and a cross stitch that took 3 months to make. Julia Mei's foster sister put the scarf on me and laughed and chattered in Chinese,  probably about my big and wild hair that she was pulling up for me. Julia Mei was all smiles although she was 110% bossy about eating enough clementines,  and she was catered to by all. I got to see the bedroom and where Julia Mei slept.  It looked like a changing table and I believe there was only 1 bedroom.  Her play area was on the floor. Everybody took out their phones to show me pictures and videos of her as a small infant. She was clearly treasured by this family.  The mother explained that they live in government housing and will need to move out in 2 years when they tear it down.

We went outside to look at the river and to take more photos. They lit fireworks as we left. I will never forget this place and I'm so amazed even to have had the opportunity to meet this family since that is not always allowed. Their home would clearly not be cut out as a foster home in the United States and in fact,  a child would probably be removed from such a setting. The extreme poverty did not matter.  The neighbors,  extended family,  and foster parents provided care and love in a familial setting that an orphanage could never match.

We went out to a fancy Chinese restaurant.  We sat in a private room and the food kept coming. It was very traditional and everybody grabbed foods from the center plates. I fed Jacob and Julia Mei's foster mother fed her lovingly with chopsticks. I put some finger food on Jacob's plate. By the looks I suppose that's not how it works in China. We drank corn juice and I attempted to use chopsticks as everybody laughed.

We said our final goodbyes and dropped off the foster mom. She was sobbing and Julia Mei passed out in the car after crying herself to sleep. It was more difficult than I expected,  and likely extremely confusing for my daughter. 
After that we drove to her finding spot and took pictures. With traffic it took about 4 hours to get back to Nanchang.

I know how hard these pictures might be to look at. Please know that this is the best case scenario for an orphan in another country.  If you are ever led to provide support for orphans internationally,  please do so. If you know a family that has adopted internationally multiple times, don't question their sanity.

Two less this time around.

1 comment:

  1. The pictures are not hard to look at. They provide great insight and clarity for what life means for many people outside of our country. Your children are so very blessed to have you come for them Rachel. Safe travels on your way back home!