Friday, March 1, 2013

Visiting Foshan Shunde SWI

Well, if I thought yesterday was an emotional day, this one was right up there with it! We drove about an hour away to Foshan to visit Lily's old orphanage. I wasn't sure who or what she would remember, and I also wasn't sure who would be there to greet her. When we got there, though, it was like a party, all for Lily! The old orphanage director, Ms. Li, came back to visit, as did Lily's old "mom" (a nurse who used to work there, who absolutely adored Lily) and her foster father. It was amazing! People just thronged around her, smiling and hugging and snapping photos like crazy. Lily was a little self conscious and hesitant at first, but pretty soon she was laughing and smiling and hugging right back. Even the staff who weren't there when she was adopted came out to greet her because Lily is famous at the orphanage for being the first child ever admitted. Lily was born in October 1999 and was found in January, just when the orphanage was completed. The guide told us that she was everybody's baby and that everyone just loved her. She also told us that Lily's name, Li Yi, was chosen because she was the first child there, and because everyone wanted her to have a wonderful life.

We knew from the paperwork we got from Lily's previous adoptive family that Lily had had a few episodes of respiratory illness that landed her in the hospital and for which she was treated with heavy duty antibiotics. The antibiotics were ototoxic, so over time, she lost her hearing because of the use of those drugs. We learned, though, that she had acute respiratory episodes that would send them running to the hospital with Lily turning blue. They said that one year she spent more time in the hospital than she did at the orphanage. She was treated with steroid which made her look very chubby. We had always laughed at her "fat" baby photos, but now we know why she looked the way she did.

Her foster father is a doctor, and apparently her poor health was the reason she was placed with them. They wanted her to be with someone who would know just what to do when these episodes hit. We told them that Lily has pretty serious asthma and that we still deal with crises with her from time to time. In fact, she's on Singulair while we're here, and of course, she's been using her inhaler.

We also learned that in order to pay for Lily's first cochlear implant surgery, all of the staff sold flowers during some festival. I don't remember the name of the festival, but the flowers were for graves and tombs. They sold 200,000 RMB worth of flowers in order to make the surgery a reality.

It was a little awkward and difficult to explain why Lily was coming back with a different family than she left with. They all (rightly) remembered Lily as being an absolute treasure and couldn't fathom a family changing their minds about wanting to be her parents. Our guide asked us if they suffered any punishment or penalties because of the decision, and it was hard to tell her no. We tried to reassure her that disruption is rare, but it was still a tricky thing to talk about. I had emailed Ms. Li a few times over the last 6 years since Lily came to us, so she at least had some background on the situation. That was helpful. The staff asked us all sorts of questions about Lily - what her interests are, what kind of student she is, how she does in the family, what her siblings think of her. (The discussion of our family led to Ms. Li revealing to everyone how many kids we have, something that we've learned to keep secret unless we absolutely have to share that info. Curtis said our guide was speechless when she heard.) ;)

The orphanage where we went today turned out not to be the one where Lily spent her first six years. Even though that one was only built in 1999, they decided to tear it down and build a new one. So the kids and staff Erie being temporarily housed in a facility inside the sugar factory in Shunde. It was either a school or another orphanage or maybe a daycare type facility because it had a center open courtyard with a playground, and rooms all around. I think it was 4 stories high. Next month they all move into the brand new facility. I hope it's a lot better than the current place because it left a lot to be desired, at least as far as we could see. I didn't see many toys, but I did see that the staff seemed to care about the children. That was good. But it was hard to see so many significantly disabled kids with so little to play with or do or interact with. There were kids with severe CP, kids with Down syndrome, and several older kids with nondescript intellectual delays. There was one adorable boy with Down syndrome who hung around us for a good amount of time. He kept hugging us and saying "hello," and sharing his treats. I hated thinking about him being stuck there. He was probably 12 or 13, and in a brochure they gave us, there was a picture of him when he was probably 5 or 6. Poor little guy. He'll probably spend his life there, until he's moved to an adult facility. And that's if he's lucky. My heart hurts thinking of it. I wish we could have gotten his picture, but they wouldn't let us photograph any of the kids. :(

Lily was awesome the whole time we were there. She played ball with the older disabled kids and gave the kids lots of attention. That's one thing I really love about our kids - since they have siblings with differences, they're not afraid of others who are also different, and they see them as real people. I was proud of her.

One great thing that happened was that the "mom"/nurse brought a bunch of pictures for us to have. We were so grateful! There were baby pictures (see below) and pictures as she grew. The foster father also asked for our email address so he can email us pictures he has. What a blessing to have all of these missing pieces filled in! We promised to write everyone and to come back and visit later.

After we said goodbye, we drove back to Guangzhou and our guide took us to a popular Cantonese restaurant. We ate tofu skin salad (which was the best dish I've eaten since we got here - SO yummy!), fried noodles, some soft tofu thing we had to pick meatballs out of, some veggie dish was was some member of the cabbage family, a mixed mushroom dish and some sort of flower tea. All of it was very good.

Now we're back at the hotel and trying to figure out what to do with the rest of the afternoon. It's cloudy and drizzling outside, and we've pretty much exhausted the nearby shopping options. At the moment we're watching a documentary in Chinese about a watering hole in Africa. ;)

Here are some pictures. I can't caption them from the mobile version of blogger, but most are self explanatory. The woman in the nurse's hat is "mom," and she truly thought of Lily as her daughter. The photo where Lily is wearing the blue striped outfit shows what the steroids did to her little body. The ones where Lily has short hair and is wearing yellow are from right after her cochlear implant surgery. She wore a processor on her back, which s what the black straps are for. They were amazed to see that the has two behind-the-ear processors now.


  1. What a trip! So glad she got to go back and with you. How great that you got those photos and got to meet her foster family- love how the missing pieces were filled in. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Tana, hi there, I discover your blog from a fellow Foshan Shunde friend (I am the moderator for that group), I have 2 daughters from this orphanage and in one of the pictures you have you will see my daughter's picture in the back ground (3 daughters in that picture). I would be interested talking with you. I also have a deaf daughter (teen) that was adopted. The two daugthers I have from Shunde were deaf in one ear.
    my contact I also have a blog

  3. Tana, Hello. We brought home our son, born August 2009, from Foshan Shunde in Dec 2010. He had cleft lip and palate. He has been joy to us this time at home. Your trip looks like a great time. The director is the same director when we were there. Can I ask that when you e-mail her, do you have it translated into Chinese first? The pictures take me back to when we visited the orphanage at Noah's adoption. Thank you for your blog.
    Linda Ritter .

  4. Lovely post...I bet this really took you back. We are waiting for a daughter at Foshan Shunde...I am wondering if you got any pictures of any of the toddlers? Also, I'm not quite sure if I understand, but did you say that they are living in a temporary place right now and will be moved next month? Thanks!