This post is difficult for me to write.
Tuesday, Jeremy and I visited the orphanage where our daughter was found.
It's about a 2 hour drive from Nanchang to Shanggao. However, it took us almost 3 hours because our driver got lost. It's a wonder we all weren't killed. People here are cray-cray on the roads. I don't even know why they bother to paint lanes and boundaries at all. On a four lane highway, you've got trucks, cars, motorcycles, mopeds, bicycles, and PEOPLE. People walk in the middle of the highways! It's one big game I like to call, Dodge The Idiot. Rules don't apply.
Anyway, we finally made it to Shanggao.
And we pulled into the Shanggao County Social Welfare Institute. We were welcomed with a display of fireworks, though not the colorful bursts in the sky that you might be envisioning. It was more like a string of Black Cats by the side of the driveway. I'm not joking.
At the top of those stairs leading up to the front door is where Lakey was left to be found on July 11, 2011. She was estimated by a physician to be just three days old. She was 17 inches long and weighed less than four pounds.
We were told that China does not allow adoptive parents to meet their child's foster caregivers, so we really weren't expecting much out of this visit. We knew that Lakey had lived with a foster family from very early on, but I never really knew when she left the orphanage or if she really did. I've read that sometimes children live with "foster families," but those families live in a type of apartment attached to the orphanage. I wasn't sure how it worked at the Shanggao SWI, and it was important to us to visit the orphanage so that we could ask questions and get as much information as we could in order to share it with Lakey sometime in the future.
No sooner had we got out of the car that this woman walked up to me with a gift of oranges and candies.
I knew exactly who she was.
She was the woman hiding behind Lakey, holding her up, in the three updated photos we received back in November.
This is the dear woman who has taken care of Lakey nearly every single day since July 11, 2011. She is called Popo. Popo wasn't supposed to be there that day, and even Grace was surprised the orphanage director had allowed it. I have to say that I always hoped that somehow I would get to meet this woman so that I could express my gratitude to her for loving and taking care of Lakey all her life, but I never thought it was possible.
Aside: there is no place off limits for a boy and his ball.
We were brought to an open room with a table in the center. Fruit and warm water was waiting for us. Popo came too.
Popo was so happy to see Lakey. She lifted her into her lap almost immediately and jabbered on and on to Lakey in a dialect of Mandarin that even Grace couldn't understand. There is no question that this woman loves Lakey. Grace translated many times, "I think she loves Ming Jia very much." We learned that Popo calls her Jia-Jia, and now Jeremy and I find ourselves calling Lakey that too.
A lot of the other parents we are with declined the opportunity to visit their child's orphanage because they feared that it would grieve their daughters to be there. I can understand their point. But I needed information, even if it only came from seeing the orphanage with my own eyes. I knew that we could help Lakey recover if she seemed to feel any kind of grief from being back.
What really surprised us is that Lakey only wanted to sit with Popo for a few minutes before she reached back for me. Popo made the comment that Lakey had only been away from her for one or two days and already she didn't want to be with her. It's difficult to describe how this made me feel. Of course, I am overjoyed that Lakey has bonded with me so quickly. Really, it was almost instant between us. Well, besides the 20 or 30 minute staredown on Gotcha Day of course, but her attachment to me has far exceeded my expectations.
But I was also sad for Popo.
But I was also sad for Popo.
We learned that Popo is widowed, she has no income, and she has a son who also has no job and can't take care of her. She has fostered (at the expense of the Chinese government) four or five children over the past few years, and Lakey was her last child. She loved her dearly - there is no question about that. You could tell by the way she looked at Lakey and talked to her. To be completely honest, I felt a bit of guilt in taking Lakey from her.
After visiting for a bit upstairs, we headed back downstairs and took some photos. Here we are with Popo and the director of the orphanage, who found Lakey that day at the entrance and named her Shang Guan Ming Jia.
The woman to the right of Popo in the picture below is one of the nannies who accompanied the director in bringing Lakey to Nanchang for Gotcha Day.
Popo said it was time for her to go, and I began to cry. What do you say to the person who has loved your child - fed her, held her, rocked her, clothed her, bathed her and sang to her - all that little girl's life? There aren't enough words, and all I could manage to say to her was,
"Thank you for loving Ming Jia so well. I will never forget what you've done."
And she left.
It was heart wrenching for me. I praise God for this woman.
But we had to move on. We learned that Lakey had actually lived in the orphanage for one month prior to living with Popo. So we wanted to see where she stayed.
The Shanggao SWI is actually a very small orphanage. Only ten kids are currently under its jurisdiction, and all of them are living with foster families right now. Which means the orphanage is currently vacant.
The director told us that we could come back and visit some day, and even visit Popo again.
I hope that we can. I really do.