Today was the day Simon and I had been dreading--yes, dreading--since Gotcha Day. After that traumatic experience for Gemma, we were not at all convinced that taking her back to her orphanage was a good idea. In fact, even this morning, less than 2 hours before we were to leave, I told Simon that maybe just he and Gracie should take the journey, and Gemma and I would stay here. She still had her cold, and I guess I had moment of panic. After some thought and prayer, though, we decided to go as a family. And I'm sure glad we did.
The trip was a little over an hour long. Gemma slept a bit on the way because I gave her some cold medicine this morning. I think our guide, Rebecca, said something to her about where we were going, because she had her serious face on all the way there. Gracie was even a bit nervous, too. "Mom, just as long as Gemma doesn't cry like she did on Gotcha Day," she's said to me numerous times the last couple of days. We were all a bit on edge.
I was on the verge of tears all the way to Zhongshan City. Then I saw the city name on a sign, and I almost couldn't contain myself. Somewhere in this city there exists a woman and/or couple who had to make the excruciating choice to give up their daughter. She/they may still be living there for all I know...even close to the orphanage. It just blows my mind how God orchestrated circumstances so that Gemma and we would be united at this place at this time in the course of history...for all of the little details that He had to put in place before now to bring us to this point in time...I.AM.IN.AWE.
Anyway, once I got within the city limits, I calmed down. The city is beautiful! Lush and green, with tree-lined streets. And it's so quiet! Compared to the hustle and bustle of Beijing and GZ, it was a welcome change of pace. Rebecca told us that Zhongshan City was voted one of the 10 best cities to live in in ALL of China.
We arrived at the orphanage gate, and it looks exactly like it does in all the pictures I've seen of it in our Zhongshan--Yahoo group. Gemma's teacher met us at the door. In China, kindergarten begins at age 3, so Gemma had already been in kindergarten. We started our tour in the canteen. It just so happened that Gemma's "class" was there eating. The 4-5 year olds that were her mates were all there. They all said hi to us at the nanny's bidding. I picked Gemma up, and after about 2 minutes in there, she started to cry...actually, to sob. It wasn't like Gotcha Day, though. Simon and I really believe that she was crying tears of "please don't leave me here," because as she cried, she wrapped her arms around me, which she hasn't done yet. She hasn't even let me hold her, really, until today.
She, Gracie, and I left the canteen and walked around outside for a bit to help her calm down, and she did. Next, we went up to her classroom. There was still a picture on the wall that Gemma had colored with her name on it. The teacher took it off the wall and let us have it. We saw the classroom where she had learned some fruit and vegetable names, food names, and some numbers. It was a pretty normal looking classroom, actually. Simon, the techie, was impressed that her classroom had an LCD projector in it. We don't even have one of those in HALF of our Kellogg classrooms! LOL! Gemma did okay in the classroom, but I held her the whole time.
Next we went up to her bedroom. On the way we saw the playground where several of her pictures and videos were taken. The whole orphanage was clean, bright, and well cared for. There were even a couple of swimming pools for the kids. Everyone was extremely friendly, too. When we reached her bedroom, all her little mates, who we had seen in the canteen, were getting ready for naps. Gemma had another little breakdown here, but not as bad as before. Simon and Gracie passed out all the toys we brought to the kiddos, and Gemma was brave enough to let me put her down. But she didn't want anything to do with passing out the toys. She just observed. The kids were ecstatic to get the toys. We made sure each kid in the room had a toy. We pretty much disrupted nap time, but the nannies were okay with that. :) We saw the empty crib where Gemma used to sleep. Interestingly enough, I did not react emotionally about her empty crib, like I did when I saw Gracie's. What got me was all the other cribs that were still FULL. I know that several of her mates have families coming for them, but not all of them do, and that makes me sad.
So, at that point it was about time to go. We felt that we had accomplished our goal--to see Gemma's home from the day after her birth until last Monday, and to let her see it one last time, as well as to realize that she is staying with us forever and for always. She had calmed down by this point, and she was walking with me, but we noticed that her right hand was clenched, like she was still really nervous. It didn't unclench until we were well into our drive back to the hotel.
She fell asleep on the ride back, as well. Poor little thing! She was emotionally spent! When we got back, it was past lunch time, so we walked directly to a yummy Mexican restaurant we visited a couple of nights ago. The transformation that came over this little girl was amazing! She was smiling; she was laughing; she was being silly; she was playing with Gracie. It was almost as if a weight had been lifted for her. We were so happy to see this!!
We thank ALL of you for the prayers you sent heavenward on our and Gemma's behalf. God heard and answered every single one of them!!
We have Gemma's medical exam tomorrow. We're a little nervous about that, as she will have to get a TB test and a pretty thorough examination. We would appreciate your prayers on her behalf yet again. We are excited, though, because 5 Lifeline families flew into GZ tonight, and we will all be joined as a group for the remainder of our stay here. We should be able to really get to know them well and form some tight bonds to last well into the future.
Oh. And tomorrow is our 17th wedding anniversary. What a wonderful way to celebrate!!!
"Zhongshan City Welcomes You"
At the front entrance of "Z"
Waiting in the reception area (the first time Gemma let me hold her)
Comforting Gemma by going on a little walk
Gemma's drawing--they let us have it. :)
Whispering "I love you"
Lambie checks out Gemma's classroom
In Gemma's dormitory (sleeping room)
Look how she's holding on to my neck! That's a GOOD thing.
The lady on the left is a nanny (ayi), and the lady on the right is Gemma's teacher. The 10-year-old girl accompanied us on our tour. Her mom and I are friends via the Internet. :)
The universal color of school buses.
Simon and Lambie chill while the ladies visit the squattys.
A new girl emerged at lunch...
Gemma likes getting her hair dried.