Warning-This is long....but it is for remembering in the future, not a typical blog post.
Diana, Mark and I flew from SFO to Shanghai to start our adventures.
After an easy flight, we arrived to find out my bag never made the plane and was still sitting in SFO. To make matters worse, for some reason the bag tag never was placed on our ticket and the tag was “deactivated” so they don’t know where it is. They had some mechanical problems, the bag conveyor was not working, so they were loading bags onto carts and then taking them to the dock. I had a bad feeling. Trying to deal with lost baggage in China is, well, not easy to say the least. So mark got on the phone with United and was able to submit a claim. I NEVER carry-on luggage, I always check everything, mainly because I have a torn rotator cuff in my shoulder and can’t lift it. And the only reason why I did carry-on was because I had too much stuff and needed an extra suitcase. J
But let’s forget about that and go on to the good stuff!
We spent a very quick night in a Shanghai hotel, then took an early train in the morning to meet our driver and our Guide Samantha. They drove us to the orphanage and worked as a translator for us. When we arrived at the orphanage we were met by Gill, (pronounced Jill) who I had been emailing for the past 6 months. You can read about our experiences in China 8 years ago on an earlier blog post but the short version is when looking through Diana’s medical file we found, tucked in the folds, a red note with Chinese writing. We had heard that some babies were left with Red Notes attached so when they were found people would know their birth date and time they were born, since this is important in the Chinese Zodiac. However, the people in charge at that time would not give us the note. After much pleading and crying, they still did not give it to us. They finally said she could come back when she was 18 and pick up her files.
When Diana turned 18 I emailed the orphanage and asked for the note….they said no.
When Diana turned 19 I emailed the orphanage and asked for he note…..they said no.
So, I thought I would try one more time when she turned 20. I explained to them that she had overcome so may obstacles in her life, had worked so hard, was going to the college of her dreams, but all she really wanted was the Red Note, the only tie to her past and her birth family. Gill opened Diana’s file and put all items on the floor and photographed them all and emailed back saying they didn’t have the note. Then I told her to open the medical record and she sent us a photo of the note.
A short time later Gill emailed back and said that the medical director would like to invite us to come back to the orphanage and give us the note personally. The orphanage director is newer, she used to be a physician at the orphanage who did the medical evaluations of the babies.
When we arrived at the orphanage they took us into the new building (they were building it when we were there 8 years ago) and we went into a conference room. Gill brought out the file and showed us the note, still in the medical record. Then the orphanage director came down and met us. Gill removed the note and handed it to Diana and we all took many photos. We were very, very happy. They let Diana look through the rest of the files and she could see some of the photos we sent the orphanage over time.
Diana gave the director the gifts she brought for the children. Being a percussionist, we purchased several Xylophones and a mixed percussion instrument bag and some small UCLA teddy bears. We brought the staff Sees candy.
We then had lunch in the cafeteria, with Yangzhou Fried Rice, yum! And several vege options for me and had an opportunity to learn about how the orphanage has changed over the years. There were only 60 children in the building, and all of them were special needs, mainly cerebral palsy or Downs syndrome. The rest of the buildings were for seniors. We took a tour of the children’s rooms, but it was nap time so we couldn’t go inside, but a few of the kids were awake and waving at us and smiling. The facility was very clean and the cribs looked new, much different than when we were there in 2009. It felt very sad to see these children without homes.
On the first floor they have an orphanage museum. Diana wrote in a book they have for children to sign when they return. There were photos on the wall from previous reunions and we found our group photo on the stage with the girls holding the huge Teddy Bears. We also saw the wall of baby photos, that was so special! But what was exciting was to see the newspaper clippings from our 2009 reunion. There were photographers everywhere during that trip. We found our friends Mindy, Hannah and Lilly’s photograph in some newspaper, and saw our groups photo on the cover of the China Daily (Like the USA Today) and several other stories. Sadly, the light had faded them and they were very hard to read.
We then headed outside and toured the grounds, took some photos recreating our pagoda photo from June 19, 1997. We also saw the wall with the hand-prints of the children who have returned to visit. We found Diana’s and several other girls who joined us on our trip (Marissa, Hannah, Lilly, Emi, Chay). They took a new hand-print of Diana and will be hanging that as well.
Our final photos were in front of the new orphanage gate. We said good bye and thanked them so much for a great day. Couldn't have asked for anything more.
Before heading back to Nanjing, we stopped at the lake in Yangzhou for a couple of photos.
We drove to Nanjing, crossing the river by car ferry, and headed to our hotel. Thank goodness to mark’s Marriott status, we were upgraded to a lovely suite and used the concierge lounge for dinner.
Sadly still no bag….so will do some shopping when to land in Hong Kong tomorrow.