Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Arrived in Chenzhou
Yesterday we made the 4 hour drive to Chenzhou. The city reminds me a lot of what Changsha looked like when we were there 4 years ago. There is a much newer part where we are staying right across from the government building. We have a huge park area in the middle which is a large area where people go to do whatever (perhaps get their ears cleaned too). Today we will go to the older part of Chenzhou where the orphanage is located. There are a lot of rundown areas ever in the newer part. I asked Smiley why the cities have been cleaned up so much and he said that the local government has offered awards to cities who follow certain rules and clean up. Believe it or not Changsha did not get it last year so now are trying again. After we arrived we visited a local school. It was quite an experience. It was the biggest school I have ever seen with the middle school at the back and primary school at the front. The primary school kids were on break and were literally running wild when they saw us. They don't see foreigners much or maybe ever never. With only 400 adoptions from Chenzhou last year and only a few that would have visited the orphanage (and then it would only have been for that day) the only people that would visit Chenzhou would be for a return visit like we are doing. Our guide actually organized the school visit through the orphanage, so one of the assistants from Chenzhou SWI met us at the hotel and we followed him there. The director of Chenzhou SWI called the director at the school while we waited out front just to get final approval. When we went in the gates we were swarmed. Scott had to scoop Kayla to get her safely off the ground and I held Addy tight. An english teacher for 14 year olds invited us to see her classroom. While we made the walk up 6 floors to get to her class on the other side of the school the whole primary school followed us. Addy kept saying, "I don't like this!" because they all wanted to check her out. When we got to the classroom the kids were doing their eye exercises which they do twice a day to strengthen their eyes. The mound of books on their desks took up most of the space. The kids who followed us were also pushing into the classroom and after the teacher got them out it was much better. They sang a song for us and then the teacher said they could come up and ask questions. So then 65 kids descended on us and it felt like a crowd in a stadium. Addy hid behind me and our guide's face looked like one of worry that he this wasn't a good situation. Once we could pull Bailey out of the crowd that surrounded him (he didn't seem to worry too much as he is such a trooper) we flew out of there as fast as we could with the whole elementary school following again. We fade it safely out of the gates which was a big relief for the kids. The classrooms hold 65 kids in each of them and are just plain desks with their books on top and two blackboards on each side of the room. I could only get a handful of pictures because the kids were usually too close to take any shots. Then we came back to the hotel to go swimming (it is about 25 degrees here so the kids are HOT) but the pool was closed. They took us to a tennis court on the hop of the building (that was quite an experience) and the kids played tennis. The balls were the oldest, softest and dirtiest things you could imagine and then Bailey hit one over the really tall fence and almost hit a group of men training as guards at another hotel. The kids blew off a lot of steam which was great except for Kayla getting hit in the head with the ball twice (she was like a magnet out there). When we got down to the lobby after showering the workers came up to us and said that we would have to pay 40 Yuan because one of the tennis balls was missing. We went for dinner with our guide and driver which is always a great experience as we learn more about their lives and they answer all of our questions. The food was so spicy that not even Scott could eat it so there was slim pickings. Bailey's eyes were dripping with water as he attempted the beef. And our guide ordered the mildest he could. Everything is spicy in Hunan...even the children (as we could see at the school). Smiley thinks that Kayla is not spicy but that Addy definitely is. I would have to agree. When we arrived back the worker at the hotel came up to us and said that they found the tennis ball so we would not have to pay. They must have gone through the streets searching for some time. There are a lot of people with extra time on their hands. Wherever we go (hotel, store, restaurant) they always have about 5 times the numbers of workers that we would have back at home). We were happy to pay the $4 for the tennis ball but whatever. They could have done with a new can actually. When we arrived at our hotel be were bumped up to a better floor with nicer rooms because the manage said we are foreigners. The we also didn't have to pay for the pool and other recreation (except for if you lose a tennis ball) As we drove yesterday Kayla announced "I was born here. But we don't know where." She doesn't really understand much at her age but at least can see something concrete other than what I have been telling her back at home. It is very strange for Scott and I to look around and imagine the whole scenario and the lives of our daughters (what was and what could have been). There are 14 counties in Chenzhou where babies would come from (and that includes the farm areas) that surround the main part of the city. Any baby outside of that area would go to a different smaller orphanage. I asked Smiley if Chenzhou was considered to be poor and he said that 100 of the babies that were adopted out last year from Hunan were from Chenzhou and the other 3/4 from other orphanages in Hunan so in that case it must be. This morning will be exciting and humbling. Like Scott said yesterday, "Tomorrow is the big day that we have been waiting for". That it is!! I asked our guide more about adoption for local people and he also said that you had to go through the whole process similar to what we do. The only difference is that once that paperwork is done someone living here would get a child much faster than our very long wait. He has a couple of friends who have adopted a second child. It really is a way around the one child policy for some people with money if they really want a second child. That way the girls stay in China which is so important for the problem they are faced with of having so many more boys than girls at the present time.