Friday, August 12, 2016

Flying South...

Who turned up the humidity down south? Other than having the flight attendants strap Kaia's scooter in a first class seat, our travel to Guangzhou went off without a hitch. Being we have been here twice before, with one of those times being for 10 days straight, we feel quite comfortable here. However, things feel quite different than they have previously. We definitely notice less Westerners traveling here. And we're not just talking about less for adoption. Our guide told us we have an "old" (he was probably around 60) guide because young people don't want to be a tour guide in Guangzhou. There's not much money in it, because people aren't coming there to see the sites, as it has mainly become a place for migrants to find jobs. Beijing, Shanghai, and Xi'an have all done a good job drawing foreigners, so the Guanzhou government is not putting money in to compete. Felt a little sorry for him...

One place we really noticed the lack of foreigners was on Shamian Island. In the early 2000's, this island with a strong European feel, was hopping with shops and hotels that catered to the adoption population. We did not stay there either trip, but we did shop there.  Well this time we stayed there, and in our time we only saw one other western family. Our hotel, which is still one of two well known ones on the island, was musty and not seemingly busy.  However, we still enjoyed walking around the island. We were happy to see that it was bustling with Chinese people, and is still a very beautiful and meticulous place to visit.  There were only a couple shops that still had a touristy feel, and oh yeah, Starbucks moved in.  It was a beautiful store front though, that fit right in with the theme of the island.

Catholic Church on island

Found a turtle. You can gauge humidity by this little girls' hair!
Adoptive families know of the White Swan and the red couches. We visited the beautiful lobby, but no more red couches.

Love the Banyan trees on the island.
Saw more than one wedding photo shoot on the island.
But I'm jumping ahead, as we made a detour before we even arrived at the island. Turns out that Guangdong Province is the only one that keeps the orphanage paperwork archived. Our guide had petitioned the paperwork before we came, so it was ready when we arrived at the government building. It felt sort of like being in a library. We had to show our passports, were led into a big quiet room, and sat at a large table looking through Kaia's files. Our guide translated as we paged through the file. We weren't allowed to take photos, but were given paper and pencil to write notes. Most of the papers we already had copies of, along with translations of most. However, we were happy to learn more about a few things, such as her birth measurements, and a police report of when she was found.  I will not share all the details, as they are Kaia's story to share, but we were all pleased to find out more about our beautiful daughter's beginnings. More on this in a bit.
Family photo in the lobby to the government archive building.
We said goodbye to the hotel the next morning, as we were heading to the next city over, Foshan, where we would be spending one night. The two cities are literally next to one another, but due to traffic, and the orphanage being on the far side of the city (Nanhai District), the tour guide thought we would want to stay a night in Foshan and experience the local history. Glad he suggested it.  New fact learned that Joshua would be excited about: Foshan is known as the modern home of Kung Fu, and the origin of Ip Man (Josh loves the Ip Man Kung Fu movies), who taught Bruce Lee.

We arrived at the orphanage, which had more buildings in the neighborhood than I remember from 12 years ago. We were greeted by a familiar looking face. I flipped through the photo album I brought, I stopped on the photo of the sweet young lady who brought Kaia to us. When I showed it to her (Min), she nodded that yes, this was her.  She also informed us that she was the one who named Kaia. Not sure whether or not this was intentional, but it was special for us to meet her again.
Kaia has changed a lot; Min, not so much!
She took us on a tour of the facilities, but we weren't allowed to interact with the children. They said some had been "sick." We did get to go into a room of children in a school room to say hi. Was nice to see children with disabilities included in the classroom.
Where Kaia slept her first 8.5 months.
We met the new director who took over a year or so ago. She was very welcoming to us, and mothering to Kaia. She put her arm around Kaia, and seemed genuinely impressed when Kaia shared a video of her tumbling at the school talent show. Kaia was able to present some pillow case dresses that students made at the Martin Luther King Day of Service our school held.
Kaia and the director.

Look at the proud smile on Kaia's face.

When we adopted Kaia, we were told that the paperwork said her finding place was an Industrial Garden (factory). A couple years later we hired someone to take photos of her finding place. We were told that the interpretation was a flower shop that didn't exist anymore, so our money was returned. So through the help of our guide Daniel, and Min, we found that both interpretations were correct. So following a few minutes of the two chatting and looking at Google maps on her phone, we were on our merry way. After a drive across the city, we came upon a more industrial area, surrounded by lots of apartments. I think we stopped 3 or 4 times asking questions of locals, to which the response was always pointing in the same direction. Suddenly we came upon a large plant nursery. It was a little strange; seemed like a nursery selling plants, as most of them were in pots, yet there were no signs or prices anywhere. I'm still a little unsure of what the purpose of the land is. Perhaps they sell not to the public, but to businesses? We got out of the car when I saw a lone older lady walking out of the nursery. I asked Daniel to inquire who owned this land. She responded that her relatives own it, and that she has worked there for 20 years. Does she remember anyone ever finding a baby? She gladly made a call to her family to ask. Hoping the answer would be yes, I have to admit I was disappointed when she said no. Still, grateful for the timing of her being there at the exact moment we were, as she was on her way out, and no one else was around.  We spent a few minutes walking around the grounds. What a serene place in the midst of what is most likely surrounded by apartments full of migrant workers, coming from distant provinces to find work.
Phoning her relatives, the owners of the nursery

Walking the grounds.
My sweet girl.

Forgot the selfie stick!
Distant apartment buildings enveloping the nursery.
After thinking we would never find it, we were completely pleased that we were able to find the nursery. We finished our time with Min at a lovely restaurant next door to the orphanage. There we had one of our favorite meals of the entire trip. I so wish we had taken a photo of a delicious pastry we had. It was a roll, intricately detailed as a walnut. Inside was a walnut, swimming in a sea of a sweet creme. If I hadn't have been eating with strangers, I would've just eaten that dish!

Over the meal, Daniel interpreted as we asked questions back and forth with Min, and the photographer who accompanied us to the meal.  One sweet observation she made was that when we adopted in 2004 and 2006, the majority of adoptions were of "healthy" babies, yet she noticed we had chosen special needs adoptions. She was surprised by this, but letting us know that she thought highly of us. At that point, Daniel told us that the worker at the archives office made the same comment about us.  We explained that this was something God put on our hearts, and that we all have something unique about us, and that it is what is on the inside that is most important. We also told them that we receive from the girls as much as we give; it's a win-win. This is a major reason why I keep returning to China. Some major cultural shifts need to take place, and I believe they are, even if slowly.

That day was a lot to absorb. We spent the evening strolling around the area near our hotel, and called it an early night. And although I didn't think I would find one, we actually happened upon a Starbucks that had a Foshan mug for my collection! We also found these micro Mc'D's. We passed several along the way, and they just sell ice cream from these walk-up windows. Jaelyn just had to try a McFlurry in a box!

The next morning we headed out early to two local historical sites, Liangs' Garden and the Foshan Ancestral Temple. Both were lovely, but admittedly we tried to hang out in the shaded areas!

Liang's Garden
Liang's Garden
Jack fruit tree
Liang's Garden
She's literally fishing out the money that had been thrown in to the turtles the previous day. Not sure exactly what the snake and turtle represent, but the Chinese are very superstitious. Note the real turtles to the left.
Remember when I said Foshan was the modern capital of Kung Fu? When at the temple, we got to watch young men and women perform from a local school.
These poor boys in these costumes; it was so humid! They actually jumped around on the green polls in the background too. Quite impressive balance. Many people placed money inside the lions mouth, guessing again, for luck or prosperity.
We headed back to our original hotel in Guangzhou, where we then ventured out on the Subway. Our goal was to eat at the Banana Leaf, a fun, interactive Thai restaurant we had eaten at on both of our previous trips here. The food was great, the atmosphere fun. If only the girls weren't so tired! They seated us on the most comfortable couch like seats, and Kaia immediately curled up like a kitten, ready to take a long snooze. Jaelyn and Mike were part of the entertainment as they danced and sang to "I Want to Hold Your Hand."  Kaia would have nothing of it. We all enjoyed eating the peanut roti. It was as tasty as I remembered. It's like a fried peanut butter sandwich, only on a thin pancake/tortilla like bread. Yum!

We rode the Subway back, followed by our almost nightly ice cream bar (wish I took a photo of it; so tasty, and only 3-5 yuan each), then back to our joining rooms, as we say goodbye to southern China in the morning, and head far north.

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