Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Friday 11-23-12

We stopped at a pharmacy on the way to the orphanage because John had a canker sore and I was totally constipated - rice at every meal will do that! The pharmacy was empty but five different pharmacists surrounded us to help. Denise was great with translating my jokes about the little problem I was having and the pharmacists were all in hysterics as we left. For me it was a victory to make the Chinese people laugh. I tried to make the gal at the currency exchange desk laugh. She told me she could only exchange clean, new bills and gave me back half of my American cash. I told her that in return I also wanted clean, new bills. She did not find this humorous at all, even though I kept saying, "I'm kidding, it's just a little joke..."
So, the orphanage - the main reason for making this journey - was a very emotional day. The ophanage is very different now than it was when Jemma was there. There were about 100-200 healthy babies available for adoption each year from about 2000 to 2006. Now, there are none, except for a few special needs children who for the most part, will probably never get adopted due to the severity of their illness. There are foster families on the grounds who live in apartments there and each family takes care of four special-needs children. The children get medical care and go to school on the premises. The facility is also a home for senior citizens and special-needs adults.
When we arrived we were brought into a room off of a main office. This was like a dining room, with a big wooden table and chairs all around. We were somewhat squished into the space, and didn't know what to expect. Regan was there, an American student of Professor Vivian Ling's, because she and I had corresponded beforehand. Regan is studying at the University of Nanjing and she took a bus from there and met us at the orphanage. (Vivian Ling is the translator to Mayor Ni Wencai's book about the adopted children from the Gayou SWI - we are featured in that book.) We had also arranged for Ni Wencai to meet us at the orphanage, though we were told that he was recently appointed the head of the Communist party in Gaoyou and might be too busy to meet us. We had also inquired about a particular nanny who was in two of the photos that we have of Jemma when she was in the orphanage. We were originally told via email that she had retired from the orphanage but that she would try to visit. When we arrived they told us it was not likely that she would come as she had another job to be at. The director and three staff members, along with Denise, John, Jemma, Susan, Rebecca, Regan and I all sat around and discussed the children. They had Rebecca's and Jemma's files already out for us and told us we were welcome to get copies of anything we wanted. There was a photo of Jemma that we hadn't seen before, at least not in color. It was somewhat disturbing to look at as her face was very swollen and red. They said the photo was from the day they found her and that she was very sick. There was a lot going on - it was a bit chaotic, and Jemma started to get very withdrawn and emotional. Suddenly, she crawled under the table and said she just wanted to be alone. Around that time, Ni Wencai arrived and it was a big deal. I was very happy to finally meet him. He brought the girls each a copy of his book and he signed them for us, which was very nice. We tried to take pictures with Jemma, but she was still sulking at this point. I asked Denise to tell him that she is usually a very happy and lively kid.
We were then taken on a tour and visited the children. Thankfully, one of the staff members seen here, carried Jemma around, which instantly changed her mood - the kid still likes to be carried! First we went into the in

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