This morning we travelled 30 mins to Jinzhong city. Jinzhong is a city of 3 million and where Ashling/Nana spent the last 4+ years and likely was born. Orphanage visits are extremely rare in China. I wasn’t really sure what to expect. It’s taken me longer than usual to write this post because I am struggling with what to share and want not to share.
We were told there were about 60 people in the orphanage (pretty small) and we just assumed there were 60 kids. We showed up with 60 toys only to find out that only 10 kids lived there and the rest were severely disabled teenagers and adults. I think this was the biggest surprise for me and apparently is very typical of orphanages here. Ashling called some of the older girls- big sister.
The building was very sterile-lots of closed doors. We only saw the 2 rooms that Ashling spent her days in. The first was a small playroom with toys and the second was a room packed with cribs where the kids slept. Everything was clean just very very basic. There was no yard and we learned that she only went outside a few times when volunteers would come and take the kids out.
I am still having trouble digesting that she has mostly spent her life this far in those 2 rooms. I can’t imagine what’s going through her head the last 3 days with all the new experiences she is having. She loved the esculators at the mall today. It’s amazing how happy and smart she is given her limited experiences.
But it’s also clear why Ashling was so loved there. As soon as we walked in, she lit up and led us to the playroom where her friends screamed “Nana, Nana.” They were all hugs and happiness. With the help of our guide, Ashling introduced us to her friends and thankfully told that we were her new mama, dadda and brother/sister. The caregivers were estactic to see her but also so sad to say goodbye. We posed for dozens of photos with every caregiver. It was clear that they truly loved Nana and she loved them.
It was hard to leave all the kiddos and say goodbye to everyone but the hardest part was watching Nana and her best friend Sami say goodbye. Sami ended up running down the hall because it just got too much. (Thankfully, we learned Sami is being adopted next month- to whom is my next project).
I am so thankful for today’s experience and for everyone that cared for her there. I cant put into words how basic it was but I know the workers did the best they could for these little children. Ashling never went to pre-school yet she knows her numbers and her colors. This is solely because of the love of the nannies there.
Ashling blew me away today. She has been pretty quiet since we met her but was talking a mile a minute in the orphange. It was amazing to see her in her element. As sad as she was saying goodbye, she was ready to leave and clingying closely to us. I am in awe over how she can comprehend this situation and is processing it so well.
I also have to say Keira and Connor were rock stars. They asked such great questions and acted so grown up today giving the little kids presents. They also insist on calling Ashling “Nana’ as all her friends do so I think that nickname is going to stick for awhile 🙂
We ended the night at a noodle restaurant with our group. I really can’t believe we leave Taiyuan tomorrow. This trip is flying by so quickly. Tomorrow, we have a 4 hour flight to Guangzhou where we will spend the next week working with the US consulate there. Looking forward to this portion of the trip but sad to leave Taiyuan. We will definitely be back.