Along the way we stopped at a rest area for a bathroom break. I feel certain this entitles the girls and I to charter memberships in some sort of club. It was an experience to say the least.
We finally arrived in Shenzhen City, the home of Lily's orphanage. Shenzhen, as I have been told several times by different people upon arriving here, is Hong Kong's greatest competitor. It is one of the, if not the most modern city in all of China. There are no native residents as all of the inhabitants have moved in from other areas of China. And you can tell it's a new city. The buildings and roads are not all on top of one another. While there are still plenty of skyskrapers things are more spread out and much more contemporary.
We quickly ate lunch at the KFC in Lily's district, Longgang District, and then headed over to the orphanage.
We were first taken into the office area where a few of the staff members were waiting to answer any questions we had concerning Lily. They then proceeded to show us her file and allow us to take pictures of what it contained. What we found out was invaluable.
Did you catch that? The tenderness of the blanket? The compassion of the formula and toys? She was left at 8 in the morning when passerbys were everywhere not at midnight when no one would hear her cry and she most likely would not survive the night. And a note giving certainty to the day when she entered this world was attached. Whatever circumstances or convictions prevented her biological family from parenting this sweet girl, one thing is perfectly clear...she was loved.
We then walked to the living area where we were able to give a photo album to a precious girl whose family was supposed to travel with us. Due to an injury to the father's leg, their travel dates were delayed by several weeks. It is heartbreaking for them and for her but I was so happy to be able to give her the pictures of her new family and see her beautiful smile.
|Annie and her photo album|
I had hoped to take pictures of many of the other children there but they didn't allow that. Only the ones waiting for families. And time was short since we were being allowed to visit Lily's foster family as well. We finished walking around the facility and viewed her sleeping area, play area, dining area etc. It was a newer building with bright colors and from what I can tell a very loving staff.
But an institution is an institution and it came across as such. It left me with much to process.
|The bed she has been in for the last month after moving back to the orphanage.|
After a quick walk through we returned to the van along with one of the staff and were on our way to Lily's foster family. Because the orphanage is only about 5 or 6 years old, children abandoned before it was built resided in an old folk's home. That is the case for Lily. At age 1 1/2 she moved from the old folks home to Longgang and then 2 years ago she went to live with her foster family.
Her situation is very unique as most kids from Longgang live in simulated homes. She is the first (or one of the firsts) to live with an actual foster family. It was worth every minute in that van to get to meet this family.
We walked in and they motioned for us to sit down. The father poured cups of tea while the mother loaded the coffee table with candy, boiled peanuts, and fruit for us to eat. They pulled up chairs and began to speak on how proud they were of Lily while the guides translated. They told us about her schooling, her achievements, her skills and talents. About how happy they were for her to have a family and a chance to succeed. They told us countless times how they hoped that we would email pictures of her back to them so that they would be able to watch her grow. Again, I can say without a shadow of a doubt, she was loved.
|She loved to do Lily's hair. She brought in some of her accessories and went to work.|
|A momma is a momma in any culture. Here she fixes Caroline's shoe when she sees it's untied.|
|It was a blessing to be able to meet such an amazing woman.|
|One last gift.|
|One last goodbye.|
There is much more that I learned on this trip. And one thing in particular that is worthy of its own post.
But for now I am so thankful to have a better understanding of Lily's past. And thankful to see confirmed what I knew from the beginning of this process...
...that we are the ones who count ourselves blessed to call this child our daughter.