Monday, October 31, 2011

October 24th

The big day had finally arrived. We were heading back to Brooklyn’s orphanage for the first time since we had adopted her four years ago. The orphanage is housed in a different building than before as they are waiting on a new building to be built. The staff is still the same except that the director has retired and has been replaced by a new one.

We were met by our driver and our friend Ann at our hotel and then made the short 30-minute drive to the orphanage. After a little confusion on our driver’s part in regards to finding the entrance we were there.

While I will try to convey what happened and how it felt to be there as this all happened, I am sure I will not do it justice. It was truly a special event in our family’s history. Hopefully the pictures that accompany this post will give you a better idea of what went on.

We pulled up and all piled out of the minivan. Brooklyn’s special Nanny from when she was in the orphanage was there as was the old director, the new director and about four other support women from the orphanage. They were all standing at the top of the stairs waiting for us. We all walked up and immediately Brooklyn was greeted with hugs and hellos.

First up was her Nanny who was near tears at seeing her. We have over the years sent pictures of Brooklyn back to the orphanage so that they know how she is doing and know how thankful we are to them for the care they gave her. We have not known if they have every received any of the pictures. Her Nanny began pulling out all of the pictures we had sent from her purse. She had gotten them laminated and keeps them at her home. She wanted Brooklyn to know that she keeps them. She was talking to Brooklyn in Cantonese. Brooklyn had no idea what she was saying but she was listening intently and you could tell that even after all this time the two had a connection. As the day wore on you could see that connection grow even stronger.

After all of the hugs and hellos we grabbed the diapers we had purchased the day before and brought them inside. They then took us into a room where they gave us bottled water. I am guessing they thought we were hot. I am not sure that they understood that coming from Indonesia the 80 degree weather they were having was like heaven for us.

While Kathi and I were talking with the director through Ann, Brooklyn was still hanging out with her Nanny. Kade and Sydney had gone out into the courtyard where several children were playing. The children came right up to them and Kade and Sydney played with them and walked around to all of them to say hello.

I was so happy to see Kade and Syd respond the way they did. Brooklyn’s orphanage is a special needs orphanage which has many kids with Down Syndrome as well as Cerebral Palsy and other syndromes and disabilities. Some people have a hard time accepting people like that. I cannot tell you how proud I am of all three of the kids. Without our prompting they were in there playing with the kids, talking to them (some of the older kids knew some English phrases) and just making those kids feel loved, if even for a short time. Sometimes we as parents often see the things we would like to work on with our kids in regards to behavior and believe me I have some things I want to see my kids get better at, but at that moment I was really just so proud of them.

Next they took us all up to the baby room. This room has the kids under three. There were about 10 kids there today. Several of them were out for medical checkups at the hospital. There are about 150 kids in this orphanage and the ages range from a few weeks old to over 18. Many of the children are considered unadoptable by the Chinese government due to their disabilities.

The baby room was definitely my favorite. I tried to hold as many of them as I could. They were all so sweet. All of them were starved for attention. There are just too many of them to all get the one on one attention that they need. I wish I could have taken a bunch of them home and given them the love they deserve. Unfortunately that was not an option so I had to settle for trying to hold as many as I could. It was a pretty emotional experience seeing all of the need that these little ones have and not being able to help. Again all three of the kids played with and talked to the little ones here as well.

While I was holding babies, Kathi was taken around to other areas of the building and was able to see many of the other rooms that kids lived in. It was hard to see all of the kids that don’t and won’t have a family to call their own. We are saddened by this, but we are so thankful for those people who care for these little ones.

After this we all came back to the court yard where there were only a few kids left out playing. There were however some characters there. There was an eight year old boy that Sydney really took to. She was ready to take him home right then and there. He was so sweet. Then there was a girl about 12 who had Down Syndrome. She was hilarious. We were taking copious amounts of pictures and so when she would see the camera ready to shoot she would fly into the picture with a sparkling smile and a peace sign. She even knew some English and was great at parroting what we said in English back to us. She was awesome.

There was also a 15 year old boy with Cerebral Palsy who was talking to Kade. He wanted Kade to know he was smart so badly. He wanted Kade to ask him questions so he could show him he was smart. It seems to us that this culture doesn’t understand that people with CP do not necessarily have any issues mentally. This kid was very smart and he is a kiddo that could have been adopted by the right family but now that he is over 14, he can’t be adopted. He is a great young man and sadly he will be institutionalized for the rest of his life.

I digress. After we said goodbye to these kids in the courtyard we took a bunch of pictures with the staff there. Brooklyn was still hanging out with her Nanny and they seemed to be playing a game that she recognized from before we got her. We were then off to take the about 7 of the women to lunch at a traditional Cantonese restaurant. Count Ann and the driver into the mix and all 14 of us headed out to eat.

This was an interesting experience. First off we allowed them to order for the group. It was a typical family style Chinese meal that you would have back in the States. The large round table with the lazy susan in the middle and family style servings were all pretty standard.

Brooklyn and her Nanny sat side by side the whole meal with her nanny talking Brooklyn’s ear off in Cantonese. Brooklyn did great sitting and listening to her even though she only knows a little Mandarin from her Chinese class she takes. She can no longer speak Cantonese and while she recognizes sounds she doesn't understand the language. It was almost like they could communicate even though they didn’t speak the same language. It was really pretty amazing.

When we sat down each person had a set of dishes in front of them wrapped in plastic. We all unwrapped the dishes as they were serving hot tea and we needed our cups for this. We have never seen this before but instead of drinking the tea they begin to wash the dishes and chopsticks with the hot tea. I asked what is going on to Ann and she says that they are just cleaning the dishes before we eat. “But wait weren’t they just wrapped in plastic because they were clean?” Apparently this is what you do and when in China…so I went about washing my dishes. I got a big laugh from all of them when I started washing my plate. I asked what was wrong and they said that you don’t wash your plate because that is for garbage. Of course it is! You then dump out your tea and they poor you a new cup for you to drink. We are always learning new things for sure!

Next came the food. It started with an eggplant dish that was pretty tasty but a little slimy in texture. Then came the pigeon. Yeah I said it, pigeon. Complete with the neck and head attached and cooked up for you. Again I was really proud of the kids. We told them before we went that when we went out to lunch they had to eat what was put in front of them. To their credit they took small amounts of most things and ate it with a smile on their face. I had some of the pigeon and it was actually really pretty good. I stuck with a leg and not the beak though.

As we sat there more and more food came out. Several vegetable dishes, a beef dish, and then a gigantic catfish all made their way to the table. I know it was a catfish because it was brought to the table completely intact and staring out at me. I stay away from fish if I don’t know where they come from and looking at the pollution in the Pearl River I decided to take a pass on that. A little later they brought out white rice for all of the Getzingers except Brooklyn, who had wanted fried noodles. You might think that white rice is no big deal but the Chinese know how to make some mean rice. It was not Uncle Ben’s for sure. It was far and away the best rice I have ever had. In fact all of the food I tasted was very good.

Brooklyn meanwhile was in hog heaven. Brooklyn can out eat me on a normal day. I do not know where she puts it as she has no fat on her body, but that girl has competitive eating in her future. You can tell that she was eating comfort food as she ate, and ate, and ate some more. She must have had 4 large helpings of noodles and that was after a lot of other food before that. At one point she sat back in her chair and said, “I need a break,” as she patted her tummy. Not a minute later she was back at it, chopsticks shoveling more food into her mouth. Even the staff was impressed by her eating exploits.

Finally we were all sitting around knowing that our time was coming to an end. We asked if they wanted to know anything about Brooklyn and they said they wanted to know how she does in school. We told them that she is a great reader and that she is extremely intelligent. Her Nanny said that they always knew she was smart. They said that if we left her with them for a month she would be able to speak Cantonese again. The old director told us that she wants Brooklyn to be a doctor. We told her that we think she might be an attorney because of her intensity and stubbornness. The director told us again, “She needs to be a doctor!” Okay then.

After lunch was over we all headed down to the cars to go our separate ways. Brooklyn’s Nanny told us that seeing Brooklyn now makes all the hard work she puts in with the kids worth it. That was great for us to hear. After that she started to cry and we gave hugs all around got into the minivan and headed back to the hotel.

It truly was an experience that none of us will ever forget. Brooklyn was definitely worn out by the end, more emotionally than physically. While it was an awesome experience it was a lot for her little mind to process through. She needed to be close to Kathi the rest of the day. She went to bed early but when we asked her what her favorite thing was she said it was seeing her Nanny.

We feel so blessed to be able to make this trip. We have been through a lot of issues in order to even be able to make the trip. This was actually the third time we tried to make the trip and I think for Brooklyn’s sake it was better that she was a little bit older. God obviously knew what was best and allowed us to go in His perfect timing. We hope you enjoy seeing the pictures we can show you.

Next time: Hong Kong Disneyland!

Gifts that we brought for the Nannies.

The homes close to Brooklyn's orphanage.

Picking up oranges for the kids

Brooklyn's Nanny brought her gifts.
It's good to be back together.

Family Photo.

This young man is one smart cookie.

Court yard of the orphanage.

This girl was quite the trickster.

Sydney and her new friends.

The orphanage staff.

Syd is ready to bring this guy home.

Lunch time!

Now our dishes are clean.

How do these chopsticks work anyway?

It is tough when the food looks back at you.

Not sure what type soup this was but it was really good.

Pigeon anyone. I hear the beak is excellent.

The white bars were good. The other

If Brooklyn ever has to have a last meal, this is it!

Noodles to go.

Brooklyn and our friend Ann.

October 24th

Day 3 - Exploring Foshan

The Shunde Qinghui Park

After breakfast we loaded up the minivan and headed to Foshan. Foshan is a city about an hour drive from Guangzhou. It is famous for it’s porcelain figurines and is a nice small city by China standards. About 2 million people live inside the city limits. On the ride to Foshan you go through a nice agricultural area although the skyline of skyscrapers all around is never out of view.

According to our folder for today (thanks Kathi) we were to drop off our bags at our new hotel and then head out to see a Chinese garden, hit Wal-Mart, Starbucks, and have dinner at a highly recommended Italian restaurant called Casa Mia which is apparently run by an expat American family.

We were able to check into a nice Sheraton in Foshan. We were very excited as we were going to be spending two nights in this hotel which meant we didn’t have to be all packed up and ready to go to the next hotel that night. This hotel was great and by all standards really well appointed. However after the one we just came from it was still a little bit of a letdown.

After checking in we headed to a Chinese garden/park that was extremely beautiful. It had Koi ponds, waterfalls that you could walk under, many buildings that were replicas one from ancient dynasties as well as amazing flora that was just beautiful. I went in thinking it was just going to be something to kill some time but I really enjoyed it.

Next up was a trip to Wal-Mart to buy some diapers for the orphanage. Apparently Wal-Mart is pretty common now in China. We chose to go to one that was close to a restaurant that was recommended by trip advisor. Little did we know that it was about an hour to that area of Foshan. If we would have known we would have chosen differently but the call of good food won out.

Wal-mart was interesting. It was on the second floor in a mall like building. It was full of people like an American Wal-Mart. You want to talk about some funny looks. Be a white family with a Chinese girl who speaks English and you get some interesting stares and side conversations! You definitely get a mix of reactions. Some people are very polite and smile at you when you are walking around. Others frown and you can tell they do not approve of our family make-up. Overall though, it was a very good experience.

After this we were to go to dinner at Casa Mia. It was supposed to be very close to where we were. Well our driver could not find it even though Kathi had printed out directions in Mandarin. He called our friend Ann and she had no luck helping him either. We decided to go to Starbucks first and get a coffee mug with the name of Foshan on it to commemorate the trip. While there I talked to a US expat to see if he knew of this restaurant. He said he had heard of it and knew it was close but couldn’t figure out just where. That meant we were left with…Pizza Hut. Not what we were wanting but it was better than the Pizza Hut we have in PKU.

After a dinner we headed back to the hotel to relax a little. I took Kade and Sydney down to the pool to do a little swimming. The pool here was more of a lap pool and this hotel was not set up as well for kids. It seemed much more business oriented. Anyway we got in the pool and started swimming. After about 5 minutes a hotel worker comes out to us and says we should have on swimming caps. I was a little confused so asked him to repeat himself. He said it again and I was like, “Really?” I told him we didn’t have any. I asked if they had any at the hotel to borrow. He said he would look. He came back and told us he did not have any. I asked if they had any to buy. He said yes and I told him we would buy them. He left only to come back and tell me they were out of ones to buy. He then left and came back a fourth time with two that he said we could borrow. Syd and I put them on leaving Kade cap free. Mine was black and Syd said I looked like I belonged in a rap video. He was finally satisfied that we could continue swimming. He came back a fifth time and brought us one more. I recognized this one as one that another swimmer who had just left the pool was wearing. Nice! Kade got that one. He was actually very into it. I didn’t tell him it came from a guy that just left.

After that we headed up to bed. We had an early morning wake up call so we could eat a good breakfast and then head out to the orphanage for the big day!

That is a big pot.

Not quite as nice as the previous hotel but not bad.

The Pearl River view from our hotel.

More pictures at the park.

Just going for a walk.

Just let me put my toe in Dad.

This was a live action performance by two senior citizens. It is of a tea ceremony.

At the park you could get dressed up in traditional Chinese garb and get some pictures taken. For a fee of course.

The Circle of Life.

A full day done. Time for some sleep!

Sunday, October 30, 2011


Love Changes Everything!

These first two pictures are ones we received before we went to go get Brooklyn.

This picture is from the month right before we went and got her. That is her in the middle.

Here she is playing with one of the orphans there now. It was sweet to see her spend time with them.

Above is our first trip to the orphanage in 2007. This is when we met her special nanny. This woman took a special interest in Brooklyn and they were quite bonded.

As you can see from this picture they both still love spending time together. They were never more than a few yards from each other all day.

Our Gotcha Day. You can see she was already a handful.

Back for our visit now. She is still a handful but will at least stand still for a picture.

The reason we call her our little Dragon. The first weeks were a lot of this.

Brooklyn now. A little different pose this time around. She can still have her Dragon moments though!