Friday was an incredible day for us as a family. As we travelled the 4 hours to Poyang from Nanchang, we were filled with mixed emotion but also feeling strongly that it was a necessary journey to see where our daughter had lived for the first beginnings of her little life. It was about 30 degrees, cold, icy and rainy. We were fortunate that the weather didn't prevent our from traveling to the Poyang Orphanage. Visiting the orphanage is a rare occurrence for most families, and we were beyond grateful to have this opportunity. We bundled up the babies and left at 8:30 a.m. by bus.
Bruce our guide had told us that we had a good road to Poyang. His definition of "good road" and ours was a bit different. We crossed several lakes by bridge. There were several accidents on the bridges, railing missing, cars smashed. Driving in China is very different than in America. It appears to be more like playing "chicken". Perhaps there are some rules to the road that we don't quite understand.
We drove through very rural areas of the JiangXi Province from Nanchang. We saw chickens, water buffalos and children all running alongside the road. We passed rice patty fields and, in some fields, erected tombstones honoring deceased family members. People were traveling on bicycle and bicycles pulled carts of people covered by tarps to keep the passengers warm. The buildings were mostly brick and cinder block. The earth was red clay. There was a lot of trash in the populated areas, alongside the road in front of houses and businesses. We passed citrus fruit tree groves. Normally the temperature this time of year is that of Florida, but they are having an unusually cold winter.
We arrived to the Poyang Orphanage about 4 hours later. When we arrived, we were greeted by two very nice women who must have had a leadership role at the orphanage. They offered us hot water and citrus fruit. I do not doubt that it was the best that they could offer. In poorer areas, tea is not available so hot water is "tea". The fruit consisted of mandarins an other native fruits that I've not seen. They also stuffed our pockets with the fruit. It is good luck to give fruit, especially gold colored fruit, to children (or at least that's how I understood it). Then the orphanage director, a man about 65 years old, came and welcomed us. The staff answered questions that we had. One of the staff persons, put her two thumbs together, and said something in Chinese to me. She was saying that Elyza and I looked alike.
They then took us for a tour of the lower floor of the orphanage. This is one of the poorer orphanages. The first room had three infants, the youngest was 7 days old. They were bundled up and were lying in what looked like wicker basket baby beds. There were no doors on the rooms and it was freezing, no heat. We could see condensation when we talked, that's how cold it was. In another room there was a small space heater and a line of clothing that hung from wall to wall. Another room housed older babies in cribs. There were several older women who must have been the nannies for the orphanage. It broke our hearts to see these babies lying bundled up in the cold rooms, helpless. It's a sad situation that these children are without homes and families, but I know that the orphanage does their absolute best to take care of these babies. A grace despite a tragedy.
Once the tour was complete we boarded the bus and went to a local restaurant in Poyang. When we arrived, the place was packed with locals. We were led to a room upstairs that was specially prepared for our group. They even turned on the heat for us, which was a real treat! Banners decorated the tables that read "Welcome American Families". They brought dish after dish of local cuisine, fish from the Poyang Lake. The beer was wonderful and tasted like a sparkling white wine. Some tried the rice liqueur that was strong enough to burn a hole through your stomach. It was lively; it was fun; it was a celebration for us families to share with the orphanage staff, who also ate with us.
It's a day that we'll never forget. One that will be an important story of our daughter's history. A day, despite sadness, was filled with hope and celebration for seven special little girls from JiangXi Province.