This is Lisa tonight —
Today we were all up early to head out for our visit to Ryan’s SWI. It took us about 1.5 hours to drive south down to where Ryan has lived for the past six years. The scenery in the DongGuan area is noticeably different than in Guangzhou. Much of the area is much greener and the city looks quite prosperous, although Kyle remarked that so many of the little tucked away shops were selling a hodge podge of furniture, clothes and food – just random storefronts open to the street with people sitting outside of them.
The SWI was tucked away down a side street and behind a locked gate. It is home to 800 children and some elderly folks. The children range from babies to those children in their 20s. The institute is divided into the Sunshine Academy area (home to the school and some of the children live there, like our son did); a foster village like setting (where 5-6 children live with a nanny and her husband), and then the regular institute. They are currently building 2 massive structures that will house offices and additional institute living and then the school will occupy one entire structure vs. only the 2nd floor now.
We weren’t really sure what to expect, but as we entered the school and went to the second floor, several employees came out to hug and kiss Ryan and to meet us. He was beaming from ear to ear. We met the director of the Sunshine Academy, who appeared to be a wonderful woman. Then, another woman, that handles all of the adoption paperwork for the children and brings them to the civil affairs office, showed us around. As we wandered down the hallway, staff came from everywhere to once again say hello and then goodbye to Ryan. We were allowed to peek into the pre-K type room, where the little ones were eating their lunch. Then we headed into the K-2 class, where Ryan spent much of his time. All of his friends were filling the room to eat their lunch. They were all smiling and talking to him. We were an oddity to many of them – this big tribe of people including 3 other Chinese children. Several of the little boys were very engaging and asking me questions, showing me their food or the items on the wall. A few of the boys knew some English words and could understand what I was saying. It was very heart-warming vs. sad. The children appeared well-cared for and seemed as happy as they could be. We tried to take some pictures but we were told to stop, as not all of the children are orphans. Some are living there because their parents are currently in prison and there is no one to care for them.
Ryan decided that he couldn’t miss his last lunch with all of them, so he promptly sat down and devoured a bowl of rice, chicken and vegetables. They give the kids heaping amounts of food. Kyle, Dylan and Ashley were offered plates but decided to pass.
As we went out into the hallway, I had one little boy follow me and he wanted me to pick him up. When I didn’t, he jumped into my arms. That did make me a bit sad, but as soon as I said “honey, I can’t hold you right now,” he promptly got down and waved us goodbye.
Ryan’s teacher came out to meet all of us and she was very nice. We were given 3 huge file folders of work that Ryan has done over the past several years in school, much of it is in Chinese but we could decipher some of it. Today, he was showing Charlie his math work and started doing small addition problems onhis own for Charlie. Charlie almost fell off his chair. With the way that our kids love math, Charlie might need to start a side job running a full math academy.
We next headed toward the room with showers and at least 45-50 toothbrushes and toothpaste cups. I told our guide, Kelly, that I could not imagine getting 50 kids ready for bed each night with teeth, bathroom (oh and yes, they only have squat potties(!) and jammies. After that, we headed into the bunk bed area where Ryan showed us his bed (top bunk). He promptly got his shoes off and climbed right up, despite his vision issues; then once down, he proceeded to come down forwards vs. backwards – he obviously had mastered the skill, even though it looked like he might take a header any second. It looked like 8-10 kids slept in each room.
Then we headed downstairs to walk around the entire institute area which had a playground, an exercise area, a bird cage with parakeets, a park area and a big koi pond with hungry fish. Our guide just happened to have a huge piece of chocolate cake in her purse, which she gave the kids, and fish promptly ate. Dylan is not a big fish or bird person, so he chose to hang in the background in those photo shoots! The children certainly don’t have free rein into those areas, but Ryan had obviously spent time on the playground before as he screamed “slide” as he was running out the door.
We met many kind people today who obviously cared for Ryan very much. The children were not a “job” to them and they truly do want to see them all adopted at some point. Additionally, the institute was immaculate in terms of cleanliness everywhere that we went.
We weren’t sure how Ryan would react with our going back to the SWI (this is the first time that we have ever done that), but he seemed to know that his was his last time to see it ever again and that his family was now his “forever family.” As soon as we got back to our hotel today, he became much more outgoing and animated, almost like this big weight had been lifted off of his shoulders.
So, if any of you are ever contemplating adoption, we highly advise you to follow your heart and do so. So many of these children are waiting and you can just see it in their eyes that they just want someone of their own and someone to love them. As we were leaving the SWI today, Kyle turned to us and said “now, when are we getting our next SISTER?!” Ha.ha. As Charlie said earlier, our family is complete at this time, so I told Kyle that he could start planning for his own future adoptive family.
Post coming back to the hotel, we got in our usual 15 min. swim, before teh heavens opened again and the rains came. Let’s just say that we don’t recommend Guangzhou in May!!
We ate dinner at one of the same Italian restaurants tonight and I think the Turkish (?) hit man owner was drawn to our family. He hung quietly by our table staring at us for a long time, and then finally came over and introduced himself to the children. Of course then a man at another table asked for a hookah pipe that they promptly rolled out, so another round of explanations was needed for the kids. They have become quite “worldly” on this trip!
Kyle thought that we should all just move to China, but between 24 million people minimum in any given city, no fresh water to drink except for bottled water, and squat potties, I told him that I would need to take a pass!
Then to leave you with one last humorous note of the day..our second room at this hotel has come complete with 2 bidets in the bathroom, so we have had to answer 101 questions from very curious children about what a bidet is. We told them under no circumstances were they to touch any of the buttons. So last night, Aunt Rita goes into the bathroom and Dylan is mopping up the floor filled with water. We said “what happened?” He replied “oh, I just spilled a glass of water.” After much prodding, he admitted that he had pushed the button while NOT sitting on the toilet, so it cleaned the bathroom with a massive spray of water. We could only laugh as that is such a Dylan move.
Tomorrow, we are off to visit a local park, probably with our raincoats in tow!
Here are photos from today:
This is the Director of the Sunshine Academy, who was very happy that Ryan had found his Forever Family.
Ryan actually sat down with his friends and enjoyed a bit of a “Last Supper/Lunch” with them before we left.
Toothbrushes and Cups for ALL!
Ryan’s Upper Bunk where he slept.
The SWI had a large playground with lots of equipment. Ryan is apparently a bit of a playground hound. That’s good – he’ll fit right in with K/D/A.
He likes to swing as well…
Ashley & Dylan testing some of the exercise equipment out.
Kyle doing the same.
Ashley & Ryan picking Magnolia Blooms.
The Boys squeezing their last few minutes in on the playground.
One last picture before leaving.
The Driveway into the Dongguan SWI
Family Photo outside of the SWI
The Foster Child area where some children lived in alternative arrangements in a foster situation.
Children’s Uniforms drying outside.
Feeding the Koi Fish some Chocolate Cake in the SWI fish pond – Nutritious AND Delicious!
In the back courtyard of the SWI.