Jinchang, Sunny – Max: 26; Min: 6; Avg: 16
We woke early, excited about what the day would bring. We showered, dressed and packed and went to breakfast. We were told that breakfast was at 8:00am, we assumed “from 8:00am” and arrived at 8:15am. We were shown into our own breakfast room and the waitresses brought breakfast – two types of “porridge”, steamed bread, whole pickled garlic and other vegetables and noodles. There wasn’t any tea for Lene and just one cup of instant coffee for Steven and warm milk for the children. It turned out that breakfast was served at 8am prompt and finished at 8:30am. At 8:30am the waitresses left, not to be seen again.
We met in the lobby of the hotel at 9:00am. The Director was waiting for us, sitting with another lady. We said hello’s before getting into the bus, the Director leading the way. The trip to the Jinchang SWI was relatively short, (ca. 1,5km and no more than 5 minutes) from the hotel – three left turns, and we were there. I have added a map, which can be seen by checking the Afternoon page, and the route to where the SWI is, is drawn in turquoise.
The Jinchang Social Welfare Institute. It is not situated on a corner, but as the picture is put together from 4 photo’s, and the rounded front of the SWI “cheats” the software that joined the pictures together
As we arrived, we recognised the SWI from the pictures we have seen, but were surprised that the road continued past the SWI, as we had the impression, from pictures we had seen, that it was at the end of the road – but things change quickly in China.
We got out of the bus and were greeted by a gentleman, who we believe is number 2 at the SWI and a lady – the lady in white in the pictures below. We were led up to a third floor meeting room where there were other nannies sitting around the tables.
The Director welcomed us and told us that they were all truly looking forward to this day. The the next hour passed with us asking questions about the SWI, Megan our guide translating them, the director answering them and the guide translating the answer. Yanmei sat on the laps of the nannies, who stroked and re-styled her hair and generally made Yanmei feel very much at home. Yanmei took it all very well, smiled, let herself be pictured with the different nannies. The lady we met in the hotel looked after Yanmei during the meeting and afterwards. During the questions it dawned on us that the lady (who is in orange in the pictures below) was the nanny that had brought Yanmei to us in Lanzhou, more than 6 years ago.
After the Director had answered all the questions we could think of, we handed the Director and the nannies the pictures of other children that have been adopted from the home, and whose families had sent us albums and pictures to take with us. Everybody was very excited to see the pictures, and one could truly see the happiness in the nanny’s eyes when they recognised a child. They told us that they recognised all the children and told us further that they remembered Yanmei and used to call her “Huahua”, which we were told (and have since confirmed) that “hua” means flower or bloom and “huahua” means anything resembling a flower (what a coincidence, when Yanmei’s surname is now Bloom!).
We presented the Director with a copy of H. C. Andersen’s complete works, in Chinese, with an inscription from Yanmei thanking the SWI for looking after her during her first years and 10 reproductions representing some of his most famous stories. We also thanked the nanny’s for the love and care they had given Yanmei during her years in Jinchang. The Director presented us with a copy of the Wuwei horse, the horse from the Leitai Han Tombs we had visited the previous day and Yanmei and Daji received a 1,5m high “Love, Peace and Happiness” ornament (the one you see hanging in many different places in China, from very small to very large in size and can be seen on the right below).
The director gave us Yanmei’s folder to look through. It contained her adoption information, her birth certificate and 4 copies of a very small, passport sized, picture of Yanmei. We were allowed to have a copy of the birth certificate and one of the copies of the pictures. We asked about the finding ad, but the SWI did not keep copies.
Two Canadian Families, family Boulineau and family Munk, had sent us a donation to purchase something for the SWI. The Director told us that the SWI needed a washing machine and together with our donation we purchased a washing machine later that afternoon from the three families.
The Director told us that they had planned a show for us later in the afternoon, but the SWI currently had no electricity, due to some road works in the area, and that the show would take place in the evening instead. We left the meeting room and went down a flight of steps and visited the different rooms with the children of the SWI.
The rooms were spacious, with cots around the walls and a play pen in the middle with room for 15-20 babies in each room. Everything was spotlessly clean, as were the children, both washed and in clean clothes. The nannies were undoubtedly genuinely affectionate to the children.
The babies either slept, or crawled around in a large play pens in the centre of the room – we saw two rooms with small children – probably with about 10 in each. Daji saw a child with a cleft lip – who he was very interested in. The children seemed content, there was no screaming or children crying due to lack of food or attention.
The last room we saw was for older children – most, unfortunately were brain damaged, and one girl, about 12 years old was blind. We were told that she and an older girl, who was currently at school, had been in the SWI when Yanmei lived there.
After visiting the different rooms we went outside. The ground (first) floor is a kindergarten for about 120 children. They were outside playing. Daji ran off to join in, and we barely saw him again the next 15 minutes. Yanmei was the centre of attention, having her photo taken with the different nannies, some of whom had looked after her during her stay.
The children from the Kindergarten were inquisitive, but did not seem particularly surprised to see foreigners. Playing around or standing in line they acted just like children from anywhere in the world and were amused that we wanted to take pictures of them. Some children were out playing, others doing physical exercises and some taking advantage of the beautiful weather to be taught outside instead of in. Just before lunch they all lined up and marched back to their rooms. We were shown the kitchens were food was prepared where the kindergarten and SWI children eat lunch – and I assume dinner for the SWI children.
Finally we were shown around the old people’s home, saw their rooms, dining room, card room, exercise and billiard room and their discotheque with spinning lights and high-tech music equipment. They seemed quite happy with the distraction. By 12 ‘o’ clock we’d seen what there was to see, asked the question we could think of and taken the pictures we wanted to take – although we don’t feel that we took enough! A few pictures of the outside, and we said goodbyes, knowing we would return in the evening.
We had had a good morning. Yanmei had tackled all the attention well. She had happily been photographed, let her hair be fixed and unfixed and was patient throughout, even though she didn’t understand a word they were saying to her. The staff had been kind and open, and the smiles on the nannies faces when looking through the pictures of Jinchang girls showed that they really did care about “their” babies. For us all it was a very positive experience that cemented our belief that Yanmei had been well looked after during her early years. For Yanmei it will be something she can look back on, helped by the pictures and video, help her tackle her own past and develop her own identity as she grows older. She clearly enjoyed her being the centre of attention.