Wednesday, March 18, 2009

November 27, 1996 7:10 AM

Today was a day made for Lifetime TV! I am sure I will leave something out but I will try to capture a little of everything. I have placed many photos in an album since I think the photos show the emotion and excitement of everything. We arrived at the Yangzhou Children’s Welfare Institute to a crowd of local people and the sound of drums. As we approached the gate I had visions of the Beijing Olympics as we saw the line of girls in costume playing drums in unison. The emotions overtook us and most of us were crying before we even left the bus. We walked through the gate and were in awe at the size of this event and preparation and planning that obviously occurred to arrange everything. Along with the drums, costumed figures greeted us as we walked down the road. As we walked farther we could see a stage with a huge red banner welcoming the children home to Yangzhou. There were nannies, staff, children, media, and guests all waiting for us. It was very difficult to sit down for their special ceremony! The ceremony started with a Lion Dance followed by welcome speeches by YCWI officials and spokespeople. They showed photographs of how the orphanage has changed in the past 20 years. During the ceremony both Diana and I were very emotional and started to cry and hug each other. Some photographers saw us and began snapping photos and filming with the TV camera. A reporter came to interview us, ask our names, why we were crying and what we thought about the event. I honestly have no idea what I said to her, it is all a blur! We may be in the Yangzhou paper tomorrow, but we may never know! We both actually felt much better and were ready for the next event. We then exchanged gifts (we gave the orphanage a photo album of our 1997 group) and the YCWI gave the girls VERY large Teddy Bears (Diana traded Marissa for a pink bear!) a Yangzhou book and a Yangzhou framed traditional paper cut. The girls then sang “Jingle Bells” (yes Jingle Bells) and other groups sang other songs. They took a wonderful group photo of all the girls with their Teddy Bears on the stage. We then were directed to another large “wall” banner and our next surprise. They had 5X7 copies of the girl’s referral or passport photos copied for each girl and these photos were also on the wall, mingled in with the word “LOVE.” They gave the girls pens and had them sign their names under their picture. WOW! You have to see the photos to understand! Our next event was experiencing Chinese culture. The girls were given aprons to wear and keep and then taught how to make dumplings. They made several and then we proceeded to eat them together in the cafeteria for our group lunch. They tasted great! After lunch we had free time to explore the grounds and take photographs. We were happy to see that the garden was still there and we found the statue, that used to be in front, “placed” in a corner of the garden. We recreated our group shot, of course minus Shae, in the same order the photo had been taken 12 years ago, in front of the Yangzhou gate. After lunch we toured the new building, still under construction, and saw artists sketches of what the finished product will look like. Then we watched a film made about YCWI with the staff and children. It was similar to a documentary, telling of life in YCWI and the process of being adopted, from the first time a baby is found, until adoption day. Many of the older children we saw in the orphanage were in the film. The film was very emotional and I can’t even do it justice to describe it here. Finally the moment Diana had been waiting for, visiting and holding the babies. As we were lead through several of the rooms, she enjoyed playing with the babies and toddlers and held a few of the babies. She was happy to see that they were being taken care of but sad that they did not have a family of their own to love them. The older children performed some songs and poems for us. They were all dressed in new pink clothes, even the boys. One of the exciting things we witnessed was Lilly, Shu Ru, meeting her foster family again. The foster father was so emotional and so happy to see Lilly. He went home and brought back a photo album with many pictures of Lilly and the family together. His emotion made all of us cry again. We also took some photographs of the girls with the “auntie” that placed them into the arms of their parents 12 years ago. When we first heard about this trip, one agenda item that really made us excited was being able to view Diana’s files. However, early into the trip, we heard that YCWI was not prepared to show us files. Several families discussed how important this was to them, and someone must have done some magic because we were told that “files were coming.” They would only let people look at them and photograph them sitting at a table with the orphanage officials watching. We had to do this two or three at a time, so this took quite a while. When it was our turn, and they brought our files, at first they told us everything that we already knew. Then I saw a medical report that we had not seen before. The report discussed that she had been ill and been receiving medication. There was a graph of her temperature as well. The doctor note stated that she needed to be given “special care” so that she would get better. I was photographing all of the pages, when I turned the page and saw it….A RED NOTE WITH CHINESE CHARACTERS! I quickly called for someone to read it to us and she said, “November 27, 1996, 7:10 AM.” Unless you have adopted a baby from China, and especially if you adopted a long time ago like we did, you probably don’t realize how significant this is. This was a note left with Diana when she was left at the orphanage that listed her birthday and the time she was born. We had been told this was her birthday from the beginning, and we were so happy that this was her birthday since it was also her Grandfather DeMore’s birthday, but we were not told she had a note or a time of birth. Diana has asked several times over the past few years, what time she was born, but unfortunately we did not know. On her last birthday, we decided to “choose” a time. This was probably the most important information that we could have found out and it has made Diana incredibly happy. She immediately texted Mark to tell him that she was born at 7:10 AM. I asked if we could have the note, but was told the original had to stay in her files. After much pleading they made a copy for us and of course we took photos of the original. A few others found out exciting information that they did not know, but many files were the documents that families already had. The files also had photos that had been sent by families over the years. We were completely and thoroughly thrilled, ecstatic, elated, and exhausted by the time we needed to leave. We spent the entire day, from 8:30 AM until 4:00 PM participating in this wonderful day. I hope through my photos and videos we can remember this for ever. We ended the day with a buffet dinner and a night boat cruse along the Grand Canal. Diana fell right into bed and is sound asleep. I decided I had to write this tonight so I would not forget anything, although I am sure I have. I hope I have written this well enough so that you can imagine what today was like. It still feels surreal. I wish Mark and the boys were here to be part of this with us. I will have sweet dreams tonight!

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