It’s our last day in Nanning. The official adoption paperwork is completed and China is satisfied that we are the legal parents of Xia Jing Qiao, now Ava Jing Qiao Pierce. However we still have another hurdle to pass, the United States immigration and border control must understand and welcome QiaoQiao as a part of the greater United States community. Thus the flight to Ghuanzhou, home of one of two American consulates in China. This part of the proceedings will add an additional week in China before we return home.
But before we fly, we board the van again with our guide, Jane, to visit the care center where QiaoQiao has been living for about the last six years. We are here to collect memories, to ask questions, to help create a timeline for her life that will allow her to feel more whole, to know her identity, and to understand her past. When we return home, we will use these pictures and memories shared by her teachers to create what is referred to in the adoption community as a Lifebook, an album of life experiences that includes all major transitions and important family and caregivers. This is the sobering reality of adoption, that no matter the beauty, it is an experience built on a foundation of loss and grief. We help adopted children to cope with that through information and communication that is open, honest, age appropriate and thorough.
The care center surprises me in nearly every way. It is actually an apartment, rented by an organization providing care to certain orphans in Nanning. They are a private organization, but funding for some of the children, like QiaoQiao comes through the orphanage, where they originated. It is a bleak building, but probably not unlike other homes in the area. Concrete everywhere, peeling paint, dim lighting, and faded decorations. Very similar to a wealthier home in Bundibugyo. Out front is a beautiful tree covered in Chinese New Year decorations, and a pile of old bikes for the children to ride.
We are told that this is only one apartment, but that other children are in some other apartments in the area. This particular apartment, three stories high and with four bedrooms houses thirty kids. QiaoQiao shows us her bed, occupancy already taken by another girl her age who has been waiting for a place in a group home rather than the orphanage. QiaoQiao has left behind all her belongings for this new girl, and we spot the clothes we had mailed her as a gift, in the bunk. Each bed has a private box they seemed to call a “mimi”. This little locked box is kept inaccessible to other kids, a nice idea. We wonder what happened to QiaoQiao’s as she has come to us with nothing but the clothes on her back.
Most of the kids from the center are at school when we arrive, a ten minute walk away. However a few kids, maybe ten, wander in to watch us. Most have that desperately hopeless look that makes me crazy. I want to hug each one and bring them all home to families that will love them. A little baby, about 2 years perhaps, sits in a high chair in a corner throughout our meeting with the teachers. He barely moves and watches us through slits of eyes. He looks jaundiced.
We ask our questions and type answers on the ipad so we will not forget anything, particularly the full names of children that QiaoQiao counts as friends. She may wish to find them later. After a brief tour we wrap up with more questions and the gift of some artwork that QiaoQiao has made, along with additional pictures of her from their computer files. We feel so lucky to have met such wonderful teachers. There is no doubt that this is an institutional setting and that QiaoQiao has lacked tremendously here. There is also no doubt that these Aunties really do care and are seriously overwhelmed with kids needs.
Before I leave, two beautiful little girls come in in matching clothes. About two years old, they are foster twins, unrelated girls who came in to care at the same time and have grown up as twin sisters. I fall instantly in love and have to remind myself that I am only adopting one child and I have enough on my plate for now!
We leave markers and activity books for each child in QiaoQiao’s age group, and candy for the others. I ask permission and give a piece of chocolate to the little old man-baby in the corner. I pick him up and find him stiff and heavy in my arms – mild cp. He IS adoptable. I whisper hope, peace, love, and families into every corner of that place and over the babies in that room. I tell them they are lovable, that they are important. I wish for them a future and a hope.
Now it’s time to leave and get ready for the airplane. I am exhausted from the emotions of the care center and I can’t seem to stop crying, though I try hard to hold it in. My heart is burning for those who are waiting for families. I will not forget them.
The airport is hot and smoky with cigarettes, our gate is clearly marked with a handwritten sign “Flight delayed due to breakin the plane”. Hmmm, that doesn’t sound so good. Nevertheless we leave only a little late and enjoy an hour flight to Ghuanzhou. QiaoQiao is a troper throughout all of it. She loves the excitement of a new place, loves the adventure, loves to travel . . . fits right in with us. 🙂
We arrive in Ghuanzhou as it is getting dark and drive an hour or more to our hotel. Ghuanzhou is muggy, warm, and feels a bit angry. Our hotel is noticeably less wonderful. We fall asleep as soon as our heads hit the pillows.