Sunday, April 8, 2012

No sleep

It’s 3:20am, and I’ve completely given up on sleep. Time travel is always difficult for me, and my body will not accept a 12 hour time change. The four of us (soon to be 6!), are sharing a small hotel room, with two twin sized beds, which means I am sitting in the bathroom while writing this. I think that I ended my last ramblings with us being surrounded by waiting older children, many who have special needs, all begging me to help them find  a family. I’ll post photos later if/when I get back on the grid. Let me just say this: it’s tough knowing and seeing the need firsthand. Unfortunately, we can’t un-see what we’ve seen, and I even feel guilty for secretly wishing that we didn’t visit the orphanage. But I’ll move forward, and tell about John’s visit with his friends. After 30 minutes of observing John and his friends playing basketball (the older boys hogged the court), we decided that it was time to leave. Before we left, I did ask a teacher if he knew where one boy lives now, after his adoption. A friend of mine (via a yahoo group to which I belong) has been looking for this particular boy because he was his son’s best friend. I can’t believe I actually hit pay-dirt. The teacher went and retrieved the address and phone number in the U.S. of the adopted child. I can’t wait to tell the parents who are looking for their son’s friend!

As we were leaving, we decided to tell John to ask his three good friends to join us for lunch. The boys (who are all over 14) obtained a pass to leave the orphanage, and we jammed into the van and drove to a decent restaurant a few miles away. Our group of 9 (the four of us, John’s three friends, our guide, and our driver) proceeded to eat an elaborate meal in a private room. I won’t bore you with all the details, but there was only one dish ordered that made me literally gag. The lunch once again underscored, that John is, what the guide termed “a banana.” She said he has yellow skin, but he is American (white) inside now. John ordered beef, pork and lamb dishes that are familiar and easy to eat. The dish that I couldn’t fathom was ordered by John’s friend, and Ben, John and David and I all let it pass us by on the big (think lazy susan) wheel.

We then returned to the hotel and crashed for three hours. When we woke up, it was 5:30pm. I had a tough time getting anyone moving, but I knew that we’d be up all night if we slept much longer. We took a taxi to Tiananmen Square and walked around for a few hours. Poor John felt like a foreigner, I think. People here stare and stare at Americans, and now they were staring at John too. Ben doesn’t seem to notice or care. We returned to the hotel by 8pm, and just watched TV until bedtime. Ben has been over the moon excited to see his favorite cartoon program, “The Sheep and the Fox.” Early this morning, Ben told us that today was the best day of his life because he got to eat millet congee for breakfast and watch cartoons.  Ben told our guide (in Chinese) that he loved that particular show, and our guide laughed and laughed at Ben’s Chinese. In the afternoon, our guide asked Ben to repeat the name of the show for John’s friends and the driver to hear. Once again, everyone laughed at Ben’s accent. Ben was from a foster home in the country, and he learned to speak with a distinct accent, which we might equate with a southern drawl. No wonder Ben lost his ability to speak Chinese! All the proper Mandarin speakers thought he was a barrel of laughs. John has been particularly hard on Ben for not speaking Chinese while we are here. I had to point out to John that he spent the first 30 minutes struggling to speak proper Mandarin to his friends, and Ben spoke a dialect that made people laugh at him. Yes, this trip has not been a bed of roses, but it was important and enlightening. It’s 4:00am now, and Ben is now up for the day. I think I’ll take him down to the lobby with his game boy so that David and John can sleep for awhile more. At least they seem to be adapting to the time-change!
Today is April 7th, 9:50pm, Chinese time. We woke up at 4:00am this morning, because of jet-lag. We spent the morning waiting for the breakfast buffet to open, and then spent the day at John’s orphanage. I can’t even begin to describe how depressing that was for me. First of all, John was beyond excited to visit. Fifteen minutes from the orphanage (which was an hour from our hotel by van), John commented that if the van let him out, he could run to the orphanage fast! He really felt like he could fly there on his own wings; he was that pumped up. Then, when we reached the gates of what looked like a federal prison, I think reality hit a little bit. We were escorted to the highly decorated community room to wait for John’s friends to arrive. A minute later, 5 or 6 younger boys arrived, ages 10-13,that John barely recognized. John didn’t even know what to say to them, and he seemed suddenly at a loss for words. John couldn’t seem to string a few words of Chinese together, and the boys didn’t look like they really knew or remembered John.  A few minutes later, three much older boys arrived. These boys did hug John, and he seemed genuinely pleased to see them too. However, there were many awkward moments when no one knew what to say. The boys didn’t understand English, and John kept reverting back to English and forgetting his Chinese. After ten minutes or so of awkwardness, John asked if they could go play basketball together. While he was gone, I asked about the remaining younger boys. There were a few boys who were ages 10-12, who were not invited to join the older boys for basketball. I took each of their photos, and told them maybe I could try to help them find families. One child, age 10, was particularly adorable. I asked the teacher if the child had a special need. The teacher said that he is healthy, smart, and a nice boy. Later, one of John’s friends said something similar. I wondered why such a healthy and cute boy would still be waiting for a family, but then I remembered that John was also waiting and waiting, and waiting. I don’t know if I can help him, but if anyone knows anyone who desires a darling little son, age 10, please let me know.

After sitting around the reception room for fifteen minutes, we decided to walk outside. I tried to take a few photos of the jail-like orphanage, but I was told there were no photos allowed of that area. Once outside of the community room, we were surrounded by children; most of the children had obvious special needs. Several children were dwarfs, several had repaired cleft-palates, and several children had other obvious disabilities. The news must have spread that I might be able to help these children find families, because they all greeted me with a bright “hello!” and then asked me to take their picture. One obviously bright and motive older girl spent her time trying out her English. She asked me my birthday (in English) and my name. Although she was too old to be adopted (over age 14), she kept introducing to other children, telling me to take the picture and find the child a family. Can I even begin to tell you how sad that makes me? In all, we met a few dozen children today, all over the age of 9, all hoping we can help them. One little nine year old girl (who has dwarfism), followed me around more than the others. She kept smiling, and trying to charm me into adopting her. I kept telling her, via a translator, that we have a houseful of boys, but I would tell people that she was so sweet and beautiful. We did meet one child who has been matched. She is going to have a family in the near future. I have more to write, since I only reported up until 11am, but I have to sign off now because it’s after 10pm and I have to help Ben clear out his lungs now. The pollution here, as you know, is incredible, and he’s having difficulty with his asthma. I have to up his medications, “cup” his back, etc. etc. Tomorrow we go to Jinan.

April 7, 2012

April 7, 2012

We arrived in China yesterday afternoon, two hours later than we were scheduled. The flight out of Chicago had a mechanical problem, and we sat on the tarmac for an hour before take-off, after a six hour layover in Chicago. The flight
s themselves were rather uneventful. About 3 hours before landing (it was a 14 hour flight) I suddenly got hot and felt sick, which had me worried, but then I was ok. John slept for 5-6 hours on the flight, and Ben slept for maybe three hours. David and I slept very little and arrived hot and tired. Our guide, Cindy, who is maybe 25 years old, escorted us to the van, and we rode 45 minutes to our hotel.  By then, we’d been traveling for 26 hours straight, so we just walked to a restaurant across from the hotel.  It was a Chinese fast food type restaurant, and John ordered four dishes for us that he thought might resemble the Chinese food we are accustomed to eating. In other words, we did not have eel, duck feet, or any other unusual or exciting dish. We ate quickly and returned to the hotel for an early bedtime. Of course, I was wide awake at 2:00am, and Ben woke up for the day at 3:00am. I put him in the bath at 4:00am, just to entertain him for awhile so that David and John could “sleep  in.” At 5:00am, after John woke up, I attempted to plug in the hot water pot provided by the hotel. This, in turn, tripped a circuit breaker. Poor Ben was in the dark in the bathroom in the tub, while I scrambled around trying to figure out what to do. David woke up , and using Ben’s game boy as a flash-light, he found the circuit box. Now, at 6:00am, we’ve lost power a dozen times this morning. I don’t know if it’s our particular hotel room, or if it’s a hotel-wide thing. We’re only here for one more night, so we’ll probably just suck it up and pretend we’re camping.

Today we are scheduled to go to John’s orphanage at 9:00am today. He’s excited to go see his friends. We were told yesterday that Ben’s orphanage will not let us visit, but we may try to go anyway. Ben was raised in a foster home for most of his life, and we would love to find out the name and address of the foster family so that we can send the family updates. We were hoping that if we visited the orphanage, we might be able to ascertain some information on the foster family. I’ll write more later;  so far I haven’t been able to access the internet much and this might not get posted on my blog.