Thursday, December 04, 2014

Day Five & Six: Losing XinQin, Nanjing

Our greatest glory is not in never falling,
but in rising every time we fall.
I've needed several days--apparently a week--to write this post. While I knew I needed to let anyone following us know how we were doing and what happened, I couldn't find the right frame of mind to write about something we still don't understand. Dazed. Betrayed. Confused. Fractured. Angry. Sad. I think I'm coming around to the acceptance part of things. The part where I look at the ground, and once again start moving my feet one in front of the other. More often I look up.

I also didn't want to write a post that would make someone turn away from the idea of international adoption. I don't think things like this happen very often.
I'll try to make this very complicated thing simple. But please understand there is more. There is always more.

Overnight, XinQin changed her mind. On Facebook I kept it brief, saying she'd been told horrible things about America and refused to sign the papers. But the things she'd been told about America were only a springboard, launching us into a day-long nightmare. The more we tried to figure out what her fears were, with our interpreter and the staff at the Civil Affairs office, the more we tried to ease her mind and answer her questions, the darker things became. It was a very quick descent. She was no longer the excited 12-year-old/acting 9 or 10-year-old. Her words, her tone, her demeanor were that of a 15-16-year-old, angry, hateful, commanding, determined. It was a startling transformation.
And yet, we knew. We had read, we had studied, we had prepared. This was typical for girls this age, especially as reality set in of what was happening to life as they knew it. We were determined, as well. With the stories we'd read, the child always comes to a crossroads. A concession. An admittance that this was a show, and she really did like the parents, and she signed the papers, and the real work as a family began. 
That never happened. With her possible ADD and bipolar issues, she was unreasonable, not listening, insisting her friends at the orphanage knew what they were talking about, talking over people, shouting, "I don't WANT IT," over and over again as the adults in the room scrambled to pull up pictures, emails, letters from other children who were happy in America. She would not let us touch her, would not make eye contact. Made faces, rolled eyes. At one point she unpacked every item we'd brought her and set them in neat and orderly piles, even re-dressing the Barbies as they were when we gave them to her, telling our guide that she would not have these things if it meant she had to come with us. She maintained throughout that she knew we'd be good parents to somebody else. If we were staying in China, she would go with us. That didn't really help. When she gave back the camera, to me directly, that's when I lost it. Sadness, failure, sorrow for this confused girl, and my own confusion hit me hard. 
I'm going to say the situation escalated. I've never seen Brandon fight so hard for something, ever. CCCWA (China Center for Childrens Welfare and Adoption) and our American agency were on the phone. In the midst of this, she loudly threw out very serious threats. And everything stilled. Then everything in that office sped up, and we were told that because of these threats made by an older child, the adoption was being dissolved and would continue no further. We were stunned. We were in tears. But China would not allow us to put ourselves in the position of a 24-hour watch, guarding the doors and windows, chancing taking her in public where she could shout anything in her language and we wouldn't know how to defend ourselves from false accusations. If she were to be lost or come to harm while we were still in China, the penalties for us would be harsh, and they considered the danger to us and herself real. They took over, and ended it. She showed no remorse. No compassion. She laughed and made faces as we cried. We cried because we still wanted to give her love. To give her family. Because it was so clear that she didn't have any idea what those things were. 

We were told that she would go to a different orphanage. She needs help that I don't think she will get. The rest of that night, each of us hardly slept, and my own voice in my head kept telling me, "We were too late. We were too late." Then I would hear her voice yelling, "I don't want it!" And then I would think of Maren, waiting at home. Not much sleep.

The entire staff at that office, who had at first been distant, had tears in their eyes, were dazed. "I'm sorry," they said in English, taking our hands. "I'm so sorry." 

And during that day, our guide, Jin, became a cushion for us. That's just the best way to describe it. She cushioned us. She got us out of our old room to an upgraded king size. She listened to us, discussed with us, comforted us. When we made the decision to go home as soon as possible, she was on the phone, handling the arrangements. She made sure we had what we needed, which wasn't much because we couldn't eat and we were totally exhausted.

The next morning, Jin called and offered us a tour of a Confucius temple just a block from our hotel. She promised it would be peaceful, but no pressure. We decided to get out of the room and walk with her. We were grateful we did. While we were very subdued compared to our trips to Forbidden City and the Great Wall, the small temple and grounds were beautiful, and her telling of the history was soothing. Confucius established the education system in all of China, and Nanjing was home to one of the national "colleges" and testing centers. Again, 600 year old history and art surrounding us. She took us into an ancient market and we were finally able to buy some gifts for our family--something we were saving to do with Sara. Then Jin led us to a divey little restaurant she knew was clean and safe for visitors. She offered to order a few local favorites for us to try and we let her, as we were beyond decisions like that. It was a delicious meal, and the first I'd eaten in 24 hours. Jin left us at the restaurant with a promise to pick us up for the airport at 6am the next morning. As she left she paused and said, "I know you are good people. You are good parents. Very good."
That meant so much.

We went back to the hotel and crashed. When we woke, Brandon suggested we go for one last walk. It was night, and the river was lit with lanterns and boats. He suggested we could buy some snacks to bring back for the kids. So we did that. Walking is good. Walking in China, even when something horrible has happened, is good. So below are the pictures of that "cushion" day.

We are home, now. We've been home almost a week and Chelsea and our grandbaby, Carly, are here to help soften the blow. My parents were the ones to tell the kids and then comfort them. We spent some warm hours at my sister's cabin with them on Thanksgiving evening. I'm counting my blessings. A couple of days ago the anger came. It may come again. I don't like it.

We haven't addressed whether or not we may try this again. Neither of us are ready to talk about that.

But today I felt somewhat at rest about things. We've decorated for Christmas. Lots of hugs are being shared in the house. There is still a tightness in my chest. A need to ask what it was all for. But then I remember that I've never been in charge of that. I'm not being petty or glib when I say that I've been through worse. I have, and I've been okay. I hope that XinQin will be okay. Most of all, I love my family. I'm thankful for family. I'm thankful that I opened my heart up to love like that. I'm thankful that Brandon followed me.

Ginkgo trees are everywhere in Nanjing. The species is so ancient they are referred to as "living fossils."

The ribbons or tablets are prayers or wishes. Often they are academic.

A relief on the roof of the building above.

Jiangsu province is famous for Salty Duck. It's cured like ham and delicious.

Our sweet Jin. This is Wild Herb with Bean Curd, Peppers, and Ginkgo Berries. The greens were like young, crisp asparagus, but tasted sweet like grass or green wheat. It was really tasty the way it was prepared.

Jiangsu is also the birthplace of fried rice. By far, the best fried rice I'd ever tasted. Fresh and light.


We were glad they didn't serve Salty Duck presented like this in the restaurant.

This store was beautiful but we had no idea what anything was.

Soft-shell crabs on a stick.. Lots of things on a stick.

Gelato on a stick.

These women were doing a little jazzercise.

Early flight at the airport from Nanjing to Beijing. 6 hour layover. 12 hours from Beijing to Seattle. No sleep.

2 hours from Seattle, there were loving people waiting at this cabin for us.
Thank you to our loved ones and your offerings of love and encouragement. Thank you.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Day Four: Gotcha Day for Sara Liu Xinqin Jensen

Today is a blur. Very emotional, exhausting and filled with lots of gratitude, and lots of feeling overwhelmed! We have XinQin and she is amazing. She has chosen to be called Sara! She has been very good at answering to Sara or Sara Xinqin. She is all over the place and wide-eyed. She was very shy for about 10 minutes, and then she took over. We sat for 20 minutes going through the photo book we sent her, with our guide translating. She showed us her cross-stitch and coloring, and let us hug her. She didn't hug back at first, but she had no trouble taking our arms to get our attention. She seems to be about the same size as Maren, but as we anticipated, acts more like she is about 10 years old in maturity. I think this is good. She will have a chance to be a kid with us. She holds our hands as we walk. It's very sweet and a relief. She was holding an umbrella (it's been pouring) and a Barbie doll (we brought 2 of our collection with us) and as she noticed Brandon and I walking on either side of her, she promptly handed me the umbrella and took my free hand, then handed Brandon the Barbie and took his free hand. So we walked like that. The best part was Brandon holding the Barbie. ;)

She is very aware of us and what we might like. She shares without asking. She was concerned when I didn't eat dinner (my stomach was too uneasy--not from food, but from the emotion I heaped on myself ) and insisted I share some of her fries (she requested KFC for dinner). I'm not sure she'd eaten there before, but she definitely wanted to try. She is eating very well and seems to know what she wants, although at dinner tonight the chicken she ordered was too spicy so she gave it to Ba ba (Brandon is Dad). I am Ma or Ma ma. Easy-peasy. She ate all her vegetables and rice. She eats fast and practically from the edge of the plate. I'm so glad she has an appetite. She patted her belly to let us know she was full.

She strikes up conversations with people and even bargains prices down, ha! But our conversations are funny. We don't understand and we try and try and then BLAMMO we figure it out and she just beams. None of our translator apps work reliably, so tomorrow we will get a pocket translator, no wifi necessary. We've had to do some funny pantomimes. She laughs a full laugh. She seems patient with that. I honestly don't think she has any idea what it meant when our guide told her she will learn English so we can talk.

Her and Brandon have hit it off. This is a blessing. His interest in learning how to speak Chinese is cause for a lot of laughter between them. He teases. She teases right back. After this full day she seems very comfortable with both of us. I fell asleep at 3 for a little but, and she laid down and fell asleep, too. We both slept for an hour. Then she was ready to go again! We walked out and about. She walks fast, but adjusts to our speed when we hold hands, which we do because we're afraid of losing her. Brandon lets her use our room card to key the elevator (required to punch in our floor) and get into the room. She's super quick to memorize. Earlier, he had opened his iPad for translating, then a game. A while later, she asked to use the iPad. She took it and opened it with Brandon's password. Without us telling her what it was. We will have to be careful with this one!

The orphanage gave her a disposable camera to use, and she LOVES taking pictures. We let her use up the pictures in that, and then this afternoon we gave her her own little Vivitar point-and-shoot digital. She was wide-eyed and so happy. She jumped up and down and said "Thank you, Mama!" in English and hugged me! She was astonished. She has been shooting lots of pictures, even making Brandon and I kiss for pictures as she giggles. That was probably the best investment we made as far as things for her to do. She likes to fold paper, too. She was telling us and when it was clear we didn't understand, she started singing "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" and I gasped and sang it with her! She turned to her backpack and pulled out a little container full of tiny paper-folded stars! We will have to get her some folding papers.

We played a few games of UNO. She caught on fast and won 3 games out of four. We didn't play with the "UNO" rule. Keeping it simple. We also practiced counting in English while we played, and saying the colors. She knows a little English. Hello. Thank you. Sorry. Okay. Some numbers. One, two, three, four. She plays math games on the iPad so she knows basic math. We didn't evaluate her yet or anything, we just observed her answering the problems correctly.

But she is busy, and we're sure that this is her personality and maybe some ADD, mixed with the excitement of being here and being with us. She rode her first escalator today. She was a little nervous but did it. I gave her "high-five" which Brandon taught her earlier. Her eyes were wide as we walked through the shopping district. She picked out a little kit to make rubber-band bracelets. We need to keep her hands and mind busy. We will figure it out.

It's 7:30 here and it feels like 9:30. We're exhausted, but encouraged. She is sweet, sassy, curious, trusting, and speaks her mind. I am thinking how we are going to spend the next few days with her in a hotel room. Hopefully the rain will clear and we can schedule some activities with our guide. We don't want her (or us) growing dependent on electronics for entertainment. We also need to set a few main boundaries (don't run away from us when we're walking, put the game away, time for bed, etc) which is difficult without a translator, so we're excited to get the pocket translator for that, too.

I'm afraid of how it will be once we leave any guides and are on our own, and on a plane, and get off in a place where nobody speaks Chinese. I imagine her becoming her shy self again for a time. We will take it as it comes.

I'll post pictures tomorrow. Time to work with Google translate for a bit! Keep us in your prayers! We are happy and grateful, and overwhelmed. She is lovable. She may be exasperating. We are laughing a lot, and scratching our heads a lot. This is a big thing to do. Big.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Day Three: A Miracle and Nanjing

We arrived in Nanjing at 11:45 am and met our new guide, Jin. She is older than Emma and very kind. She is like a mother to us, and loves her city. Nanjing is the capital city of Jiangsu province, and XinQin lives about 40 minutes from here. It's 1:30 in the morning now, and we meet XinQin at 9:00am this morning.

I'm feeling all fluttery.

I need to get the room ready for XinQin, and get her bag organized, and put the things we'll take with us to the consulate in a backpack. I was going to do that last night, but I fell asleep. Hazzard of 16-hour time differences, I guess. I can't believe we get her tomorrow.

We had another miracle just before we left home. Weeks ago I made a request for any photos of XinQin growing up. She's been in the same foster home since she was 3, so I hoped somebody had taken pictures of her during that time. It felt so important to me to have record of her connection to China and being a child, and I desperately wanted to see her during the years we've missed.  We only had 5 pictures of her from age 10-11. But our agency said it was rare to get pictures like that.
The day before we left home I received an excited email from Kayley, our agent at GWCA, with almost FIFTY pictures attached! I cried. I called Brandon at work and he cried. It was such a blessing. Before, our window into XinQin's life was pretty foggy, and these pictures of her from age 3 to 11 threw the window open. They also made my heart ache a little that we couldn't get her sooner. I would have gotten her sooner if I could have. Here are just a few of my favorites.

Jin took us walking around all the shopping near our hotel and we bought lunch at a supermarket. they make a stir fry for you with ingredients of your choice and then charge by weight. Brandon and I split a large container of stirfry and a small complimentary soup for $1.65. Not too shabby. It was delicious. We also bought water bottles, but will save the fun shopping for when we have XinQin.

We walked back to the hotel and relaxed for a few hours. "Relaxed" as in Brandon slept for 4 hours while I posted the previous posts. :) When Brandon finally woke up I was crashing and my internet no longer worked, so I went to bed at 7pm, to his dismay . . . I couldn't even keep myself upright anymore. SO tired. And he was pretty much awake, so he went for a walk. I was asleep before the room door closed. I'm curious how his walk went. Of course, he's sleeping great, now, but I got 6 hours, so not too bad, I'll try again in a bit.

The pictures of Nanjing are taking FOREVER to upload, even one at a time, so here is one:

It's about 60 degrees and hazy here. Lots of old sycamore trees. The city isn't as showy or as big as Beijing, but still very old and colorful. It's built along the Yangtze River (just upriver from Singapore) and is very industrial. There is a 6oo year old Confucius Temple just behind our hotel. Jin told us Nanjing was the capital of China for 10 dynasties, and the capital city went back and forth between Beijing(Peking) and Nanjing for a while. I'll try to post more pictures later!

I can't believe we'll have her tomorrow. I can't believe it. 7.5 more hours . . .

Day Two: Jade Factory and The Great Wall of China

After our trip through Forbidden City, we climbed back into our bus and headed toward the mountains. On the way, we stopped at a restaurant and jade . . . place. It wasn't made of jade. Jade was crafted into all kinds of decorative things and sold there. Beautiful things and delicious food. And we were hungry. My fitbit counted almost 9000 steps from our morning excursion. So, you know, that's a lot of steps. During the Great Wall trip, my fitbit counted about 12,000, but it reset while I was on the wall, because it resets at midnight, and back home, it was midnight. The night before. ISN'T THAT CRAZY? Anyway, enough about my fitbit, I'm just saying, it was probably about 15,000 steps for the day. That was a record for me.

(Enough about the fitbit, Krista, that's boring)


I think I'll just post pics again and caption as necessary. I'm running out of time before we go get some dinner! Brandon has been awesome this whole trip. We are having a wonderful time!

The food was really good. Very fresh. We just turned this lazy susan when we wanted something. My favorite was the onion and duck dish. Yum.
L-R: Brandon, Mark, Tiffany, Margaret, Matt, Lorraine

This is raw yellow jade.

We asked the tour guide how much this was. He said $65,000. We gasped. He grinned and said, "Free shipping."

Silk embroidery was on display. These were my favorites.

This was the demo table. These "family balls" are carved from one block of jade. They end with numerous globes, one loose inside the other, representing generations.

This is on the floor room.
 And then we were off to THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA. We chose to take the harder route. Because of course we did.

Holy smokes, the Great Wall. This was not the harder route.

This is the harder route. 
Maybe it's a toss-up.

Couldn't figure out why this loaded sideways but I decided it was appropriate. Because we could barely breathe.

We climbed these really steep stairs to the top of one of the towers. Amazing.

Just the three of us. Me, Tiffany, and Great Wall.

We were walking on and Mark said, "Hey, look at your celebrity husband." Picture time.

This was the alternate way we took down, I highly recommend it.

Lorraine, Matt, Margaret, who turns 73 on Thanksgiving, and Emma. Happy Birthday, Margaret!

Our turn.

Our adoption group! Hey, Mark! Over here!
An exhausting, glorious day. Loved it.