|We started off today checking out of the hotel and driving to the Guangdong Provincial Archive Building. We had to go there as an official visit to get permission to go to the Yangchun orphanage. They require a fee to visit the orphanage (800 yuan) and another fee to see the file (100 yuan). This was not optional even if you didn't want to see the file. We had already seen the file during our 2007 visit and took pictures of the pages. Today, we were not allowed to take any pictures; however, a translator sat with each of us and answered any questions about the file. There was really nothing new in the file. I had seen every piece of paper in there except some medical form about an HIV test.
After our whole group went through that process, the guides had pizza delivered to the buses. We sat on the buses eating Pizza Hut pizza. I think it was an "everything" pizza including pickles and pineapple.
It took about 3.5 hours to drive to Yangchun. We arrived shortly after 4 pm. Wow, Yangchun has changed. They now have a mall. They are building like crazy. Yangchun is a city of 1.1 million people which is small by Chinese standards.
As we drove along the highway near Yangchun, we saw rice paddies with workers toiling in the heat. Nearby stood dilapidated housing. I started thinking about what Renn's life might have been like if she hadn't been adopted. It might have been starkly different.
We are staying at the East Lake Hotel that is across the street from the East Lake. It's a pretty nice hotel and certainly nicer than the one we stayed at last time we were here. On the front of the hotel, they hung a big welcoming banner.
At 5 pm, the "opening ceremony" started in the big ballroom on the 3rd floor. Several officials were in attendance: the Mayor of Yangchun, Guangdong provincial officials, and many staff members of the Yangchun orphanage. We heard several speeches including the mayor, a provincial official, Mrs. Yu, and a parent. It might sound boring, but it was really touching. I had tears in my eyes. The welcome was so overwhelming.
Then, the Yangchun girls (yes, all were girls) lined up and gave out gifts to the officials. At the same time, the officials and Mrs. Yu had a very special gift for all the Yangchun girls -- an incredible book and DVD about Yangchun. It is a gorgeous book.
After dinner, we had more time for meeting with Mrs. Yu and the nannies. I didn't think Mrs. Yu would remember Renn. How could she after 10 years?
Many people had picture books with them and other such identifiers. Renn's mom was a slacker. I didn't get my act together before we left. I was under so much stress from work and our rental problems with the house in Raleigh that the only thing I managed to do was print out one picture of Renn with Mrs. Yu on our visit in 2007. And that was crumpled up.
Renn and I walked up with her new book so that Mrs. Yu could sign it. She was talking to someone else, but when she saw Renn she got all excited and started to say "Shang, Shang." She called over one of the other staff members who also immediately recognized Renn and gave her a hug. I recognized this woman from our 2007 visit. She was also the person who was holding Renn when she was handed to me. All the years I thought she was a nanny, an aiyi. However, I found out tonight that she is an office worker. She is the one who does all the paperwork to get them adopted.
Why the office worker knew Renn so well I have no idea. I told Renn later maybe it was because she was trouble. :-) I know that she scooted around the orphanage before we got her. She was very mobile from an early age.
Mrs. Yu finished with the other family, and we took a picture with her and she signed the book. The guide had stepped away while Mrs. Yu was talking with the office worker about Renn so I had no translation. Then, the guide stepped back, and I asked him to ask Mrs. Yu to repeat what she was saying. He translated that Mrs. Yu said that they never called her Shang while she was at the orphanage. They always called her by her nickname -- Tanshui, which is the actual town where she was found.
Renn was pretty impressed that Mrs. Yu knew her. I did not need any old pictures or even her name written in characters.
It was an amazing evening. A grand homecoming.