I'm typing this update late on Wednesday evening, but I'm not going to post it 'til Thursday morning because we have to pay for internet at this hotel and we don't want to pay for it today since we haven't been here all day to use it. This is Crystal, by the way. And put your reading glasses on for a long post!
First of all, since my last post, things have been a little rough, but nothing we didn't expect. I figured we should let you know, lest you think that the transition is going too smoothly. I think the first day, for TongJie, was so stressful that he dealt with it by becoming kind of lethargic and passively agreeable. Plus, he may have thought it was just a fun day of visiting new friends. After our visit to the Civil Affairs Office for the formal adoption on Tuesday, he started having a hard time. He's been crying a lot and is often inconsolable. Not only is he dealing with the stress of being adopted by complete strangers, he also has an ear infection and we noticed today two new teeth coming in. So if anybody has good reason to cry and be upset, TongJie most certainly does. Today, as we were walking around in a park with our guide, Sarah, we decided to have him try to walk again. The other times we've tried, he has gotten mad and flopped down crying, but this afternoon he started trying to walk a bit and was soon having fun. He can't walk on his own more than two or three steps, but he can walk with someone holding onto his hands. That has helped sometimes to distract him from his crying. It's funny though, when he decides he's done walking he just tries to plop down wherever he is and if we try to get him to take a few more steps he digs his heels into the ground. It sort of reminds me of our dog, Albert, when we try to get him in the door at the veterinary clinic!
About the difficult transition, though, Jeff and I prepared ourselves the best we could for things like this (and worse!), but it's still hard sometimes. It's hard when TongJie is mad and when he cries and cries no matter what we do. It was especially hard on the train this morning when all the Chinese people were turning around and staring at us and clearly talking about us in Mandarin. Finally Sarah went and talked to several of the people and told them that we just adopted him and that we're doing the best we can. I think it's starting to get a little better though – we're all getting used to each other little by little, plus we finished the 2nd day of antibiotics today. Thanks to all of you who have been praying about our attachment, and please keep it coming!
On to the news for today . . . we had to go to Wenzhou, the city TongJie is from, in order to apply for his Chinese passport, which we will need in order to apply for his US visa on Monday, which we will need in order for him to come home with us next Wednesday. So we left our hotel at 6:15 this morning with Sarah, and took a taxi to the train station and then a 3 hour and 45 minute train ride to Wenzhou. Incidentally, Sarah told us that Wenzhou has a lot of factories, especially shoe factories. She said probably around 80 percent of the shoes people wear in China have been manufactured in Wenzhou. So that's TongJie's city's claim to fame. The city is a lot dirtier and not as well kept-up as Hangzhou, but it's a very large city and we only saw part of it. We ate lunch at a KFC and it was the first time we fed rice to TongJie – he loved it, just like everything else he eats. It was comical to watch him voraciously eat the rice and pick up each little piece off of the tray. He made quite a mess by the end. After lunch, we went to the building where they do passports. They probably do other official thing there too, but I'm not sure what. There were a lot of people and we had to wait a lot. The orphanage director met us there to help us complete the paperwork. We learned today that TongJie is the 33rd child to be adopted from the Zhejiang province this year, so in this whole province they don't really adopt a lot of kids like some of the other provinces since it's May already and he's only number 33 from the whole province. TongJie fell asleep while we were waiting, and we had to wake him up to get his passport photo taken. It was hot and crowded and loud in the passport photo place but he did well for being so rudely awakened. But then we had to go back and do it again because Jeff's hands were in the photo and they wouldn't accept it. Luckily we didn't have to wait very long – the lady took us right up to the front of the line, I guess since it was their mistake because they should have known that hands in the photo are not acceptable (they let us keep the "bad" photos). After some more paperwork and signing things, we were finished with the application. We pretty much follow Sarah around and do whatever she tells us to do, like sign this, write your address here, write your employer here, etc.
After the passport application, we rode with the orphanage director to TongJie's orphanage. We were pretty worried about taking TongJie back into his orphanage, especially with the difficult transition he's been having, but the director really wanted all of us to see it and Sarah said she thought it would be okay, so we decided to all go in. Also, we both really wanted to see his orphanage and they don't allow people to take photos inside the orphanage because of child privacy rules, so if only one of us would have gone, the other would have missed out on seeing all of it. In short, we're REALLY glad that we all went into the orphanage. It was impossible to tell what TongJie was thinking, and we'll never know because he's too young to remember it, but he had his same serious expression on his face pretty much the entire time. A couple of caretakers even held him, but he had no problem going back to us. It was really special getting to see where he spent the first 20 months of his life, and we're so glad we'll be able to tell him about it, even though we couldn't take any pictures. It made us sad to see all of those kids in the orphanage, but it made us really happy to see what great care they are getting. We can tell that the caregivers really love those kids, and the kids were happy and healthy. There are several different sections of the orphanage, based on the age of the kids. First, we went to the area with the babies / toddlers – we figured it was probably 3 or 4 years old and younger. All the kids have some sort of special need, so we saw kids with downs syndrome, blindness, missing limbs, lots of cleft lips, and developmental disabilities. We recognized one little boy with albinism from a picture of him and TongJie that we got on Monday from TongJie's caregiver. The kids all looked so happy and some of them waved to us or came up to touch us. One of the caregivers proudly pointed out to us a little girl who is going to be adopted soon. She looked a little older than TongJie. I looked at her and wondered where her adoptive parents live and how much longer they have to wait to come get her and if they have a picture of her on their refrigerator just like we do of TongJie. It sounds like not a lot of kids get adopted often from this orphanage, so it's a big deal when they do. We asked Sarah what happens to the kids when they turn 14 and can't be adopted anymore, and she said that they can stay at the orphanage and go to school and later maybe even go to college or get a job. She said a lot of them end up living their whole life in the orphanage because they have programs for teens and adults as well. That made me feel better because although it would be sad to live your whole life in an orphanage, it would sure beat living on the streets, especially in China with a disability. We went to different sections of the orphanage where they had different ages of kids. We saw elementary-aged children in a music class practicing for a children's day show on June 1. They were practicing their entrance and we got to watch it – it was very good. We saw several young men in a cooking class learning how to prepare meals, and we saw kids of various ages in a "store" that they have for the kids. It was probably some type of reward token store and it looked like there were some older kids learning how to take the money.
I think the funniest thing about the orphanage visit was that we felt like the chauffeur to the president or something. TongJie was a celebrity there today, and he didn't even know it. Everywhere we went was met with cries of "TongJie! TongJie!" or "A Jie, A Jie!", mostly from the caregivers, but there was one point when a whole group of kindergarten-aged kids were crowding around us too, and then they followed us down the hall. The staff members who work at the orphanage all seemed really proud of their orphanage, and proud that TongJie was adopted. At the end of the tour, we went into the director's office and she gave us and Sarah all a bottle of water, and a little package of cookies for TongJie, and then she presented us with a fancy certificate thanking us for the orphanage donation. Also she gave us back the blanket that we sent to the orphanage in February in a care package for TongJie. Then they took a family photo of the three of us. Sarah said that they have a wall where they put photos of the families of their kids who are adopted. We have the website and an email address to the orphanage, and they asked us to send pictures. So, to make a long story short, we are so glad that we decided to go to the orphanage today. Some people have said that the donation seems like an awful lot of money to have to pay the orphanage, but after seeing it today, I was glad to pay that money to the orphanage that raised our son for his first 20 months. So to those of you who helped us out when we were fundraising for the orphanage donation, we want to say "shi shie," a word that we got a lot of practice using today (it means thank you, but I don't know if I spelled it right).
After the orphanage visit, we took the train back to Hangzhou, which as you remember me saying before, was almost 4 hours. I won't go into the details, but let me just say that there was a lot of crying . . . but not quite as much as the train ride this morning. TongJie finally fell asleep right before we arrived at the train station at 9:00. Amazingly, he stayed asleep in my arms as we got off the train and clear through the craziest taxi ride we've been on yet. He had a long day. He's now fast asleep in his crib (it's a playpen-type thing from the hotel, but everybody calls it a crib). Tomorrow we don't have to be anywhere until 9:30 in the morning, and that's just sightseeing. We can't leave Hangzhou until we get TongJie's and Fan's passports, and that will be Friday. Fan is the little girl in the other family that we're with, but they didn't come with us today because Fan is from a different orphanage in a different city closer to Hangzhou, so they applied for her passport yesterday with our guide. So that means tomorrow is an easy day.
Again, most of the pictures are pretty self-explanitory, except for the one of the "finger collecting" sign. That was at the passport place, and while we're pretty sure it's talking about fingerPRINTING, we're glad we didn't have to make a stop at that desk all the same.
I'll post more pictures later, but it seems like four is about the limit when we update by email, so that's all for now.