I’m so happy you have been checking out my blog… and then I realized there wasn’t really anything to check out anymore. Writing this next entry has been like pulling teeth and I procrastinated to the highest extreme. I now have a new car insurance quote, complained about my procrastination, listened to Fight Song by Rachel Plattin so much I think I have it permanently stuck in my head, complained some more, and then I saw Chris Pratt scared by a dinosaur. Yeah, it’s about time I begin this. I’ve been struggling with what I named the title of this post – why would anyone want to read what I’ve written? Nobody truly wants to, so what’s the point?
Then I remembered I’m not doing this to tell my story, I’m doing this to tell their story, the orphans. They are real, living breathing kids, that I have hugged and loved and played with in China, that are waiting for a forever home. I need to put off my procrastination and tell you about them. Pray you’ll understand why I’ve been affected like I have, and help me try to change how people in China see children with special needs.
So I’m going to start with my first day at the orphanage. The day before, we had just flown to the southern city from Beijing, met the orphanage staff over dinner (SO. MUCH. FOOD, Y’ALL. SO MUCH) , and then tried to sleep, which failed miserably for most of us. China has a ten hour time difference, so when it was 9pm and time to go to bed, my brain was like, “WHAT WHAT IT’S DARK NO IT’S NOT SUPPOSE TO BE DARK OUTSIDE IT’S ACTUALLY 9AM HUH, BODY WHY YOU TIRED LIKE THAT IT’S NOT NATURAL”. I got the grand total of 4 hours of sleep that night, spread over the span of about 9 hours, and my three days prior in Beijing traveling, seeing the Forbidden City, and climbing the Great Wall, basically mirrored that.
Though upon arriving to the orphanage, my exhaustion was the last thing on my mind. However that could also be because we had piled into a van with dusty seatbelts and was driven through the city—a sight that never lets your heart go below a racing. I’m pretty sure there are no traffic laws in China. If there is an inch of space between you and the car in front of you, psh of course that is enough room for someone to cut in front! One way signs? Nope, I need to go that way so it doesn’t matter if everyone is driving in the opposite direction of me! Every morning and every afternoon was an exciting and terrifying adventure all wrapped into one.
The orphanage was a sight to see though! Tucked behind gates and trees sat a massive building with two wings, something I feel you would have missed if you weren’t looking for it. Through the big gate we went, till we parked in front of a smaller gate. Excitement and nerves fighting for domination in my body but we’re quickly pushed along, and before we know it we’re surrounded by a mob of kids! As I’ve previously said, this is when I first met the Mayor! He comes up to me, grabs my hand, and smiling widely, he says, “Hello! How are you?” After a moment of each party gawking over each other, he’s pulling me along to a playground in the back.
On a basketball court we were instructed to grab a hula hoop. We’d just made it in time for morning exercise! Which basically consisted of the Mayor laughing at me because it involved dancing and I’m an awkward white girl who can’t dance.
After the exercises, we were separated from the children and given a tour of the orphanage. Walking in, there are walls of smiling children with their family and it’s such a happy thing to see! The first room we saw was the infant room, and my goodness, they’re just little itty bitty things! A lot of them had cleft pallet or not fully formed limbs. They were the sweetest! It was all I could do not to scoop them all up right then and there, and never let go!!
After getting familiarized with the place we broke off in pairs of two, and were assigned in rooms. My roommate Tara and I made it into a therapy room. When you walk in there’s a puzzled mat on the left and various therapy toys spread around the room. On the mat, there was maybe five or six babies wrapped up in the floor, and a few other older ones tottering around. I cautiously made my way over and sat down, unsure what I was allowed and not allowed to do yet, but a toddler with what seemed to be cerebral palsy made it clear what he wanted immediately. I sit down next to him and he starts leaning out of the seat he was in. I move to help, though I’m not quite sure what he’s doing yet, and suddenly he flings himself out to me, landing on my lap, and nearly giving me a heart attack! I quickly grab him and bring him close. Very curious and surely loved it when I brought a stuffed animal bird to his face, and went “tweet, tweet, tweet!” It wasn’t long before he had to go do therapy, so I directed my attention to some of the babies swaddled in blankets on the floor.
And there were so many! Too many for me to hold! So I had one in my lap and like three surrounding me, and I took the bird toy from earlier and tickled them with it. At some point another baby was added to this mix, and when I touched him with the bird, his face lit up so vibrantly it literally made my heart hurt. I played with him and rubbed his cheek till he got fussy, and I let the other baby I was holding down, and cuddled with him. He began babbling and laughing till it was obvious he was hungry and began fussing again. He only stopped crying when he was laying on my chest and I was singing “Ba Ba Black Sheep” or “Amazing Grace” or “Mama’s Gonna Buy You”. I don’t know how it calmed him, as the truth is I sound like a dying cat when singing, but it was one of the most precious things I’ve ever encountered!
Soon we left for lunch and I had to say goodbye to the babies. We took a couple hour break before returning in time to feed them dinner! It was then I was directed into the room that stole my heart—the one with the girl in the yellow and the other in the velvet dress. I walked in and the girl in yellow came crawling over to me with her signature smile that followed with her saying, “Hiiiiii!” Each time I look at my phone, I can hear her saying that! I loved all the children in that room, but my soul connected deeply with her, but I hadn’t known it then. The first evening, I actually fed a rambunctious little boy who didn’t want to stay in his seat, before I got to play with the kids in that room for the first time. I had another moment of someone flinging themselves in my arms and having to catch them at the last second, but I eventually learned that the girl in the velvet dress was just going to do that when she sees you. And after you’ve caught her, the first thing she’s going to do is give you the best bear hug you’ve ever had in your life.
When we left the orphanage that first day, my mind was reeling. I had had no idea what to expect leading up to this moment, none whatsoever, and as I do with most people, I fell too hard and too fast. Snipbits from the day replayed in my mind and somehow I already felt dread in my heart about leaving and it was only my first day with the kids!
And the relationships with the children and the nannies only continued to grow that week and I pray I can build upon them when I return to China. But there is still $3,995 I need in order to return this November. In these upcoming five months, I will be fundraising and I hope you will support me! Even if you can’t donate money, if you could be a prayer warrior for these kids that is the best thing I could ask for.
Thank you for taking the time to read! If you talk to me in person, I might have already told you these stories. I just get so excited and I just keep blabbing my mouth when it was long time to be quiet, which everyone knows that’s unusual for me! Going on this trip all the way across the world, dealing with a language barrier, and having to put myself out there with people I don’t know at all really brought me out of my comfort zone, and it is nothing I could have done without God guiding my actions and words.
If you have any other questions, feel free to ask me!
– Anna 🙂
** all pictures by Lyn Briscoe and Kim Monsen!