I do have more to blog about Zhuhai but I’ll leave that for another time. Right now, it’s time to report on Claire’s hometown visit!
Claire is from a city called Xinyu in Jiangxi province. It has a population of about a million people, which is a small town by Chinese standards. The main industries there are steel manufacturing and the production of solar panels and related items. I had expected quite an industrial-looking place but was wonderfully surprised by the city’s beauty. In fact, after returning home, I read on Wikipedia that Xinyu was named Jiangxi’s Garden City in 2007 and has also been recognised nationally.
Claire’s foster sister, Maeve, had visited their foster mother in Xinyu a few years ago when their family had returned to China to adopt a second child (also from Jiangxi). They really paved the way for us: made contact with the foster mother through their agency, did the trip out there, visited the orphanage, etc. Through their experiences, we decided to forgo a visit at the orphanage and instead focus solely on Foster Mom and her family; after all, Claire had only been at the orphanage a few days as a newborn before going to live with Foster Mom.
It was also through Maeve’s family that we were introduced to Helen who became our guide in Xinyu (Helen had been their guide as well). Before our trip, Helen made all the arrangements for us to meet Foster Mom. Since Xinyu is in a non-touristed part of China, we also asked Helen to arrange for a driver and van to pick us in Nanchang and drive us to Xinyu and stay with us, along with Helen, for the duration of our time there. It wasn’t inexpensive but it was sooo worth it. We are very comfortable on our own in Hong Kong and Beijing but it would definitely be hard for us to manage travelling to and around Xinyu on our own.
We arrived in Xinyu very late the night before we were to meet Foster Mom. We were supposed to have been there many hours earlier but had been delayed leaving Ren’s province due to a severe storm. We were thankful to have arrived safely, though, and were excited about the next day. We were due to meet Helen in our hotel lobby at 10 a.m. From there, I thought we were going to meet Foster Mother but I wasn’t sure where the meeting would occur. However, when we got to the lobby, I didn’t see Helen. I saw Claire’s foster mother instead!
We were joined by Helen a minute or two later. The first words Helen translated to us were about Claire’s clothing: wasn’t she cold? Shouldn’t she have a jacket?! We asked Helen to explain that where we were from, this weather (in the 20s) was summer weather. We found it very, very warm and didn’t need more bundling. Anyone who has adopted from China will remember how the locals insist on bundling the kids so warmly that their little faces are red and sweaty!
We all drove together in our rented van to Foster Mother’s apartment. Paul and I were stunned – and thrilled – that we were actually going to her home. Foster Mother held Claire’s hand the entire way in the van.
Claire was suitably solemn. She looked happy, though, if not a little shy at the beginning.
We parked in a parking garage across from her apartment. As we crossed the street, “Mei Mei” appeared – Foster Mother’s twin sister, who fostered two of the girls (good friends of us) on our adoption trip. They ladies each took one of Claire’s hands and walked up the steps to the apartment building together.
At the top of the stairs were a bunch of neighbours who looked on as we made our way to the apartment. I gazed around in awe as I took in the exterior of the building: there was the brick wall I knew so well from the photos we have of baby Claire with her foster mom.
Foster Mother’s apartment was small but very neat and clean. The kitchen was the tiniest part.
There were two bedrooms, one of which she had shared with our three babies: Claire and her foster sisters now known as Maeve and Kennedy. In that bedroom, there was a double or queen-sized bed and a single bed next to it.
Foster Mother told us that Claire, Maeve and Kennedy slept on the single bed, and I believe she indicated they slept sideways on the bed. I also think she indicated that she pulled her larger bed right next to it.
For most of the visit in her apartment, we sat in the living room around a coffee table laid out with apples and huge grapes for us. Foster Mom’s sister peeled apples for us to eat.
A children’s cartoon was on TV in the background, and that seemed to remind Foster Mom to tell us how she used to line the babies up for snacks in front of the TV and feed them while they watched cartoons. The three baby girls were always together and did everything together she said.
Claire was really cute at the apartment because she kind of looked after the little girl. The little girl had made a game out of dumping candies out of a container and then putting them back in. Claire kept helping her clean them up. And then Claire helped to keep the little girl out of the kitchen because the little girl kept trying to sneak in there to eat noodles. And in the bedroom, Claire kept trying to put back the pillows but the other kids just wanted to throw them around.
Meanwhile, Ren played around on an iPad that Foster Mother’s daughter brought out for the kids to occupy them.