We were able to call the orphanage on Thursday afternoon and made our first visit there the next morning. We brought gifts for Director Su and his wife and little girl, Assistant Director Yi and her daughter, and for Elsa, who runs the office and speaks quite good English. When we arrived, Director Su was in a meeting (according to Elsa, it was a boring meeting) so we had a pleasant visit with Elsa and Ms Yi. We were asked what we would like to do and how often we would like to come to the SWI during our stay in ZJ. We were soon asked if we would like to go to Open Arms and play with the babies. Of course, Riki's face lit up! Mine lit up AFTER I saw the room full of active and alert little people that really seemed to be thriving.
The ZKO team has done some amazing work here. The families that receive these blessings will have little opportunity to understand what has been done for them but it is so huge! All of the Aunties were on the floor and seemed to enjoy the babies. The babies were all active, alert, and seemed happy and healthy. And, although a couple of them did cry when I looked at them, most of them were quite easy to engage and bright. After about an hour, it was time for the babies to rest. Elsa, Ms. Yi and I had an opportunity to discuss the rest of my visit and what I was and was not willing to buy. We agreed that we would take the oldest children shopping and to McDonalds on Monday and do the same with the next group on Tuesday. I was asked if we might buy some shoes (and possibly some clothes) for the children that did not go to school and were "Special Needs" and therefore would not go shopping with us. Also, they wanted shoes for the toddlers who were beginning to walk. Of course, I agreed. I also offered to buy fans for the five or six(?) school kids' rooms and asked about the special needs kids and was told that they did not have fans either. I said I thought we should buy fans for their rooms as well. Since I seemed to be such a fan fan, they mentioned that on in between days they did not like to run the AC in the baby rooms because electric was so expensive.
Imagine our surprise when the van arrived Saturday morning with a party of 12! to show us around: Director Su with wife and daughter and the two assistant directors with their families plus Elsa and the driver! We really thought this was pretty special and pretty extraordinary. They took us to see some of the local attractions including the magnificent Volcano Lake and Dong Hai Island with fish farm along the causeway and a totally tropical feeling.
It was wonderful to see how they interacted with one another ... they function like one big family and we agreed that they would all be our Zhanjiang family too!
I couldn't have been more proud of Riki. She bonded with the kids and was amazingly gracious all day. At the end of the afternoon she gave everyone a very eloquent "thank you" for giving up their day off and for showing her the Zhanjiang area. She told them that the day was very special and that she would always remember. They all cheered and applauded! (As her reward I took her to Crowne Plaza for brownies and creme puffs!)
It sounds as if they're being such good ambassadors of adoptive ZJ families, all the while enriching Riki's knowledge of her heritage. Some of you donated to help her buy things for the orphanage, and they've been able to buy fans to make sleeping in the bedrooms more bearable for all the kids. Being in the tropics, it's almost unthinkable to go through a hot summer with no air moving. Several more things were purchased, including shoes and school clothing. This is truly going to be an unforgettable trip for everyone involved--especially Riki, and we hope that more of you will be able to visit with your children as well.