As we departed on our interview trip, in true Austin style a man sat in the terminal singing “Happy Trails” with his guitar. Well it happened – we made it! We are here in Guangzhou after somewhat of a long journey, but we finally made it! You forget how long the flight can be…7 pm Thursday departure from Austin to Houston, with a five hour layover until a 1 am flight to Beijing (which is a 15 hour trip itself), and then a four hour layover until finally our flight arrived in Guangzhou on Saturday.
Diedra and I preparing for the long haul
“Happy Trails” couldn’t be a more fitting song to prepare two Texas girls for a two week excursion into China to visit the orphanages and meet the amazing children and staff who live and work there. For the well-traveled, you can probably understand our gratefulness for zero travel issues along the way, with not even one delayed flight despite the crummy weather happening in Texas.
When we arrived, our wonderful adoption guide, Kelly, greeted us in Guangzhou. She took care of me during my last interview trip with Kayley, and I was so pleased to see her again this time with Diedra by my side! We wanted to visit many of the sites that our own adoptive families get to see when they come for their adoption journeys, so it was straight to Shamian Island for lunch. I have to confess, I ordered chicken tenders from the famous Lucy’s – I figured it might be my last opportunity over the next twelve days!
Instead of taking the car back to Shaiman, Kelly asked if we were up to a 35 minute exploratory walk instead. After 24 hours of being stuck sitting on a plane, our immediate answer was YES! She walked us through a large square, and we ventured down a side-street lined with row upon row of shops and people. Guangzhou is a bustling city of roughly 14 million people, and this experience really opened our eyes to some of the differences between here and back home.
Our guide, Kelly, and Diedra
We made it back to the island just in time for the rain to start pouring down (much like back in Texas, I hear), so we parted ways with Kelly and returned to our hotel. We ventured out late to a 7-Eleven, which are apparently universal! As we walked to exit, a handful of young university students approached us, overwhelmed with excitement and giggles! They were excited to see Americans and wanted to practice their English with us. How could we refuse? They were so eager because we were, for some of them, the first native English speakers they had ever spoken to. They told us about their families and their studies. Unlike many American students, their studies had been chosen for them, with their futures clearly mapped out. One of the girls was studying social work, and when she discovered that was our work and even what Diedra studied in college, she squealed with delight. We ended with a photo, hugs, and handing over of business cards. It was amazing to see the reality that, despite the cultural differences, children everywhere have similar curiosities, hopes, and dreams.
After losing the battle to stay awake from jet-lag and time change, we woke up early in the morning. With nothing to do until 11, we went for an early walk and stumbled across a park. Families were scattered everywhere, with a small group of mothers and grandmothers doing a traditional dance. Diedra hopped right on in and tried to join! Fathers and grandfathers were doing the same, even using a sword! The kids were playing and music piped in the background, and the magic of China washed over us once again.
For me, I was preparing for a reunion with our amazing staff and volunteers in China. We were meeting with Jeanne, who has been with GWCA from the start. She’s funny, sweet, and caring, and we’re so lucky to have her. Our quirky translator Lynn is going to be serving as our translator for the interview with the kiddos, and she always does an amazing job. Our volunteer Celese is joining us for the 2nd time as our medical expert and doctor. She is an adoptive mother herself and an incredible advocate for orphans, so her knowledge comes from both a medical and a maternal viewpoint!
The reunion is fun, filled with hugs and laughter. We stopped along our ride for a meal, and my oh my was the cafeteria interesting! We were given a meal ticket where we received a tray of rice, cabbage, and “unidentifiable meat products.” We tried a bite of everything, but being full from breakfast, it seemed safer to wait for dinner. We climbed back on the bus and settled in for the rest of our 5 hour trip.
I’m watching now as the sun sets over the mountains and can’t help but pinch myself and think, we are here, we actually here. These trips run deep for us all. As we approach the breath-taking mountains, I know I am about to meet the orphans who wait for this chance to be hosted, to meet a family, maybe even THEIR family. These are the children that have been waiting for someone to show them they are important, waiting to be told they are beautiful, waiting to know that they are worth something. These children are WAITING.