Thursday, June 26, 2008

One of a Kind Road Trip

I don't even know where to begin today's post, and we're all three pretty worn out from the events of the day, so we're going to go a little sparse on the text (ya think that'll really happen?), and no video, only stills. I think you'll still find it satisfying.

We got up early this morning, around 6am. We've all been sleeping through the night, and Katie usually takes a bottle early in the morning and conks out for another hour or two. This morning she didn't, but woke up on the sunny side (as usual) and didn't go back to sleep after her bottle. We had a good time playing until it was time for (adult) breakfast.

Ah yes, breakfast. I really can't even describe to you all the wonderful and not-so-wonderful buffet selections we have here. Some things I would never have considered having for breakfast, and some things I would never consider having at all (not many of those though). This morning it was coffee, a couple small pastries, fried rice noodles with soy sauce, an unknown but tasty cooked green vegetable, several types of steamed breads and cakes, and a boiled egg.

Anyway, after breakfast we met the Ottenbreits, Auntie Nora (traveling with the Peters), and our guide David, who had hired a minibus and driver for the day. We hit the road for Beiliu City at 9 for what was supposed to take 2 hours on an expressway. Due to traffic and especially road construction, it took 3 1/2 hours, and half of it was on a road too bumpy to be called an expressway.

The countryside was rugged and beautiful, like you see on those calendars hanging in your favorite Chinese restaurant. It was overcast and rained some, but the rice paddies, banyan tree groves, and gumdrop-shaped hills rising out of the pancake-flat plains were really awe-inspiring. Unfortunately, the road was so bumpy that I didn't really get any good stills, and the videos inspire more nausea than awe.

Once we got to Beiliu City, all our traveling woes proved worthwhile. We found the orphanage with the help of 9 year old Thea, the Ottenbreits' newly adopted daughter, who had spent 2 years in the orphanage after being abandoned by her older sister (after her parents both died).

At the gate leading into the orphanage, David read two signs written in Chinese characters. The one on the left identified the Guangrong Institute, an old peoples' retirement home, and the one on the right indicated the Beiliu City Social Welfare Institute. A single gate and guardhouse protected both places. Inside this gate was where our little Katie was abandoned by her family who probably hoped that she would be found by the watchman. They must have known the orphanage was just across from the retirement home.

That is exactly what happened. The guard found her under the canopy of the Guangrong Institute and called the authorities, who then walked her across the street to the orphanage. We know all this to be true because that's what was written in the short blurb we received with our adoption referral on May 2nd. We also know that blurb is true because when we talked to the guard at the gate this afternoon, IT WAS THE SAME GUARD!

After being spotted at the gate, a fairly large crowd gathered around us, and Thea indicated that she knew most of them. Two ladies came forward and reached out to Katie while we held her; they turned out to be the two nannies who most often cared for her while she was at the orphanage. They seemed genuinely happy for Katie, though they weren't all that happy that Katie didn't want to go to them. They were very sweet, and wished us all the best when we parted.

Just before we left, we inquired of them and the guard exactly how Katie had been found. The guard said he remembered she was in a cardboard box with a single blanket around her. The nannies said that they still had the blanket, and would we like to have it? Obviously, we said yes, knowing that it might be in pretty bad shape or infested with who knows what, but when they brought it, it was a colorful beach towel, somewhat worn but perfectly clean and nice.

After taking boatloads of pictures and videos so Katie will have mementos of her time in the orphanage (not to mention a souvenir from her birth family), we left there in quite a state of happiness. We went to a local (Chinese!) restaurant called the Baicoatang Restaurant and ate more wonderful stuff, then headed to the ceramics store to buy some local products.

Beiliu City is known for ceramic and porcelain teapots, cups, urns, and other decorative items. The shop is basically an outlet store directly across the highway from its gigantic factory. We went in to check it out, and the ladies went wild. Fortunately with the draconian weight restrictions imposed by Shenzhen airlines, we agreed that we could really only carry on one item in a shopping bag, so Soulmate settled on a delicately beautiful tea set with teapot and 6 cups with saucers, as well as one small rice bowl and saucer. We will give both to Katie when she is older so she will have souvenirs from her first town.

I took pictures inside the store and outside of the store and factory. The manager approached me and asked me not to take any pictures in the store, since their items were all trademarked, and, in short, they didn't want another company to rip off their designs. I told her I understood, and promised not to publish any pictures of the inside of the shop. Sorry.

Finally we left there and headed for Thea's "found" location, which turned out to be an hour outside of Beiliu City to the north. This leg took us deep into the back country over roads with potholes so deep I was sure we were going to ground the chassis of the minibus. All the potholes were also filled to the brim with the day's rain, so you could only tell how deep it was by watching someone else traverse it. It was fascinating to see the most rural and agrarian side of China, having mostly been in bigger cities so far.

We wearily made our way back to Nanning by about 8pm, making it 11 hours of travel and visiting. Katie was an angel the entire time, playing, eating, and sleeping despite the cramped conditions and washboard roads. Kari Ottenbreit nominated her for the "best baby in the world" award, which we know she'll win if it ever comes up to a vote.

Katie went to sleep with nary a whimper after a bottle and a diaper change, and Soulmate and I are sleepily wondering at our good fortune to have a baby like her. I'll try to post some video from today in the next couple days if I get a chance, but meanwhile, here are a few key photos from the day's events:
Here is the Guangrong old folks' home:

Here is Katie's orphanage. She lived on the 3rd floor; Thea and Sophia lived on the 2nd.

Here is Katie with her nanny. The man in the red shirt is the guard who found her on July 29, 2007:

I never found out who the old man in the photo is. He was just hanging around the guard shack (in the background), so maybe he is a resident of the retirement home.

Here are the 5 of us in one shot. Katie didn't really want to stay in the nanny's arms, prefering Soulmate's, which gratified us.

Here is our family and the Ottenbreits' standing in front of the sign on the gate that identifies the Beiliu City Social Welfare Institute (the sign is above my head):

Here is the Baicaotang restaurant where we ate lunch:

Here is the GXKC ceramics factory:

And here is the outside of the outlet store:

This one captures the factory sign as well as a veritable parking lot of bicycles and scooters, all belonging to factory workers, I'm sure. This shot was thrown in because this is, after all, a blog that started out being mostly about bikes and bike racing, even though it has been thoroughly hijacked by little Katie.

Enough excitement for one night. Maybe I'll have a chance in the next 5 days to upload some video clips from today. I have a boatload of them. I promise I'll pick mostly ones that won't induce nausea due to the rough roads...


RammelClan said...

Hello to the Cragle family!!! I love reading your blog Doc, but can't wait for you guys to be home, although we will miss the pups a ton! We have had beautiful weather since you left and the girls, dogs and I spent the entire day yesterday by our new inflatable pool with a slide. We will definantly have to have a pool party once you and little Katie come home. My girls would love a new playmate! Can't wait to see you and don't worry about the dogs, they are great, no more accidents for Pip either!
love you all,
The RammelClan

Nathanael said...

To Uncle Doctor Steve and Auntie Beth from Nathanael, Hi!

Katie is so cute! And I'm sure it's a blessing that she's quieter than most babies. Good luck. Bye, from Nathanael.

Jonathan said...

What a special treat for you guys to be able to go to the orphanage where Katie and Thea were. Brought a tear to my eye when you got to meet the nannies and the guard who found her. Thanks for taking the time and effort to share via the blog, since it gives us the visual to go along with the written word.

Anonymous said...

Wow, you guys! AMAZINGingly great cataloguing of the trip - thanks so much for taking us along via the blog. I am still recovering from crying boatloads (of joy) over it all :) So glad that Katie is attaching herself to you so well, I knew it would be that way - God prepared her for you in the same He prepared you two for her. I am so very glad about you finding the orphanage and the guard (!!!) because that was one of the things we've been praying about was the information piece. God has been so faithful and brough such blessing and answers to prayer in just a few days, hasn't He? Crazy how everything in your life can turn upside down and inside out in that same period of time - wow! Isn't it amazing being parents? Still can't wait to see all of you, praying for you all! Love and hugs, Kristi (well from all of us, actually - AnnMarie made a card and found some stickers today that she wanted to share with Katie :) I offered to mail it to your house so it would be there when you arrived but she wants to give it to her in person - we're all so excited!) Hugs!

Jeff & Kellye said...

Thank you for your pictures and congratulations. Our daughter was found in the same place exactly one month later. We will be traveling in a few weeks to meet her. I can't thank you enough for sharing your story!

Denise said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.