Today is a special day and we are filled with anticipation as we will have the opportunity to visit the First Social Welfare Institute of Changsha, Tamlyn's orphanage. Here we would get to see where Tamlyn lived for the first year of her life, meet the caregivers who looked after her, and hopefully, snap a few pictures.
A gentle mist met us as we exited the hotel to board the bus. This would be the first time it rained during our stay in China and I tried not to think of it as an omen of any sorts. As the bus maneuvered through the bustling city, our minds were racing, drawing mental pictures of what the orphanage would be like. Would it be dirt-ridden hell hole with hundreds of babies in a large room being treated like cattle or would it be a clean, modern facility where the babies are well cared for and treated like individuals? Would it be something in the middle? We would soon find out.
The bus turned into a driveway which was shielded by two large iron gates. The building which stood before us was about 5 stories tall, white, brick, and well maintained. As we exited the bus, a guard unlocked the gate and allowed us to pass through into the fenced courtyard. With Tamlyn tightly in Mark's grip, we waited outside the entrance for an escort to show us in. Mark's bear hug on Tamlyn tightened as he wondered how she would react to being back at the orphanage again. Would she think that she was being brought back to stay or would she know that she has a "forever" mommy and daddy now?
Group Photo with
Orphanage Director (left)
Within a few minutes, we were being escorted to the top floor of the orphanage. As the elevator opened, we caught the sight of several toddlers playing bumper cars with their walkers. There seemed to be about 20 of them bouncing around in the halls and popping in and out of doorways. We were immediate escorted to a conference room which was flanked by chairs along the walls and a large meeting table in the middle. Shortly, the orphanage director and his staff arrived to greet us. The director, who was a smiling thin, middle-aged man, said a few words of greeting and handed each of the families a token of their appreciation (an ornate plate). In return, we handed them our gifts of appreciation.
The Crib Tamlyn Shared with Another Baby
The Room Where Tamlyn Lived the First Year of Her Life
After exchanging pleasantries and taking a group photo, we were finally escorted to the room where our babies lived for the past 12 months - cameras blazing. The clean square room was about 20 feet wide with windows flanking the far side, 5 cribs lining the wall on the left and a changing/play table to the right. The bare wood floor was clean and in relatively good condition. The cribs were empty now, but there were about 5 toddlers scooting around the room in walkers. From talking to the caregivers, we found out that 10 babies occupy this room, 2 per crib. They showed us Tamlyn's crib and told us that another baby from our travel group was her cribmate. Tamlyn took all this in stride; not letting us know one way or another how she felt.
Next they took us down the hall to the playroom. This large sunny room was about 30 feet long and about 20 feet wide. The floor was bare wood and a handful of toys lined the walls. A few posters about safety and nutrition were posted here and there. One thing that we noticed is that there was no soft area where a baby could have some "tummy time". Many of the babies, Tamlyn included, have not yet learned to crawl or roll over and now it is easy to see why.
This was the end of our visit and as we slowly walked back to the bus through the spring drizzle, it kind of saddened us to know that Tamlyn may never see this place again. It almost made us feel remorseful that we were taking her away from her culture and country to live a "better life" in America. Mark held Tamlyn a bit tighter as the bus pulled away.
We had a little time left in the day, so a couple of us decided to do some more shopping. So we headed back to Walmart to pick up a few more items and snacks. We made sure to pick up a few bananas for Tamlyn, hoping that they would help her with her bout with diarrhea.
Later in the day, Helen brought Tamlyn's Adoption Certificate and Chinese Passport to our room. Grace noticed that the picture in the passport didn't seem to look like Tamlyn. Helen said she would investigate.
Playing Games at McDonalds
That night Grace once again "cabbed" it to McDonalds to pick up burgers and Happy Meals. We are quite sure that this was Tamlyn's first taste of a Happy Meal and she eagerly wolfed down the Chicken McNuggets, fries, and apple juice. Mark, just as eagerly, ate the burgers and played with the Happy Meal toys.