Usually when you go on a trip, especially one that lasts longer than a week or so and even if you're having a great time, you're kinda sorta looking forward to going home, getting back to normal, having your own space again. Tonight is our last night in Xi'an and I don't know that I've ever felt this reluctant to go home! I even almost regret that we are spending the next 3 days in Beijing- wouldn't I rather stay here and work more with the students and watch more stupid movies with Blondie? There are still dishes I haven't tried, places I haven't seen, and oh my gosh there are a zillion more things I could buy!
We spent yesterday afternoon at a nearby orphanage. After 15 minutes careening across a huge dirt road with giant potholes and huge deep puddles, we finally drove up to a 5-story Pepto Bismol-pink building with turrets and a new-looking jungle gym out front. A foreign organization runs the fourth floor and I was told I wouldn't see anything too frightening there. We arrived at nap time, so we spent the first 20 minutes looking through photo albums of adopted children, and then individual albums the staff will give to the families once the children are adopted. I was thankful we got to see those pictures, because some of the kids did have some major problems and it helped to be prepared.
Almost all of the kids in the orphanage were abandoned as babies. Most of the small babies had cleft lips and palates, but all the older babies and toddlers we saw had their lips repaired. Suyuen, the woman who invited us, told me that one baby without a cleft lip had actually been abandoned by her drug addicted mother who walked out of the hospital after giving birth. Suyuen laughed about how the baby had to quit "cold turkey". Her name was May and she smiled a lot and I wanted to take her home with me. We also got to play with the 2 and 3-year-olds. They seemed to either immediately latch on to us or glare at us from a distance. One of the glowering ones, Renee, was about to be adopted and Suyuen asked if we'd spend more time with her, to get her used to strangers. We took Renee and Emily, a little girl who had been burned on one side of her face and body, outside to play on the jungle gym. Emily glowered more than Renee, but would allow Phillip to hold her for some reason. (Suyuen told us that the children are hardly ever around men and seem to gravitate towards men whenever they're around.) We spun them around on a merry go round and put them on swings. After a while Emily finally stopped tearing up and Renee let me carry her back inside. Success!
We also saw some older kids, although Suyuen took us one at a time and didn't let us play with them. Some are autistic, some have epilepsy, some are still mysteries. There was Jonathan who had too much water in his brain and a much larger skull than normal, and Anna whose limbs were twisted and couldn't move, although she did smile at me. We were all having a good time just playing with the kids, but there was a short period of time where I came back from saying hello to the older kids and went straight to the baby room. I'm not sure where Phillip and Blondie were. Some of the staff (and the staff child ratio is nearly 1:1) were all feeding the infants. The older babies were left to play on the other side of the room and a few of them were crying, so I went over to play with them. They didn't want to play, they wanted to be held. Eventually I found a way to hold three wailing boys in my lap and entertain a fourth with rattles, but there were three or four more that weren't getting any attention and there wasn't anything I could do. All the workers were busy with the infants (and the infants that were already fed were crying too). Sometimes a worker would take a baby out of my lap and give me another so she could feed the next one. So that part was horrible. There was no way I could hold all of the crying babies. And you could tell that's all they wanted- the minute I picked them up they'd stop crying. They'd hold onto your neck and fingers and stare up at you and calm down a little.
This was not a scary orphanage. The colors were bright, things were clean, the workers (all Chinese women) were friendly and spent a lot of time just playing with the kids. They had a lot of toys, enough beds, enough clothes, huge sinks for taking baths, and they weren't hungry. But none of that seemed to make up for the fact that no one could hold all the babies.
But today- today was Phillip's birthday! We ordered a cake from the bakery on the first floor and celebrated with some students this afternoon. It was so hard to say goodbye to them. When it was time to go, they didn't stand up or get ready to leave. They just kind of sat there and looked at us dejectedly, but after much hugging and discussion of letter-writing, they left and Blondie and Phillip and I went into town for hot pot. Hot pot again! Whee!
And then, on the way home, we stopped at Music Town for about the fourth time in two weeks. Music Town exclusively sells pirated music and DVDs. In fact, you can go upstairs and ask Garfield, the nice English-speaking employee, if you can preview your movies on a little TV so you can make sure that there are English subtitles and that there aren't any people coughing or talking on their cell phones in the background. The movies cost about a dollar each and we will have to hide them in our luggage on the way back to Seattle.
We leave for Beijing at 10:30 tomorrow morning.