Monday, November 13



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Today was a funny mix of emotions and unexpected outcomes!

We woke up expecting a positive change in our location. We were leaving JiuJiang by car, heading to YangChun, the birth city of our daughters. The day started out really well and with anticipation since we believed our hotel in YangChun would be much better than our hotel in JiuJiang.

Now, most of you have figured out where this is going! Danny’s nephew Pok Hei had arranged for one of his employees to drive us from JiuJiang to YangChun, and Danny’s niece Lai Yin came along for the ride.

Before we left JiuJiang, we bid farewell to Danny’s mom, and his aunts, uncle and cousin, since they are heading back to Hong Kong today. Then, we said farewell to the locals in JiuJiang, and off we headed.

YangChun is approximately a three-hour drive from JiuJiang. It’s a drive that takes you through rural China, but also through some heavy industrial areas, specializing in steel manufacturing, pottery making, and other very smelly industries. The rest of the drive is gorgeous, taking you past parts of China that everyone should experience at least once. We passed farmers using oxen to plough fields, we passed stone huts that house entire families, and we passed some gorgeous mountains and other scenery. The time seemed to pass very quickly and we found ourselves in YangChun City right on schedule.

Our plan was to check into the Golden Roc hotel (pretty much the only game in town servicing foreigners) and then take Lai Yin and the driver out to lunch, thereby letting them be on their way back to JiuJiang before dark. Well, the hotel has gone downhill in a big way since we were last here, just 18 months ago. In March 2005 when we stayed in the same hotel, it was by no means fancy, but it was reasonably clean and serviceable. This time around, we viewed four potential rooms before settling on the least nasty of them. The walls were mould covered and the rooms very dirty. To say I was upset and didn’t want to stay would be an understatement. In fact, the first thing Danny said was that I should get on the phone to the China Hotel by Marriott (our next destination) and see if we could arrive a day earlier than planned. Thankfully, the Marriott can accommodate us, and we’re going to leave YangChun tomorrow morning by hired van.

We called ahead to the orphanage, and Mrs. Yu agreed to see us at 3pm, so we had time for lunch with our friends, and then bid them farewell too.

Mrs. Yu, the director of YangChun Social Welfare Institute (orphanage) came to our hotel and escorted us back to the SWI. We got to see tons of babies and I got to hold many of them. Thankfully, I didn't accidentally bring any more with me, 'cause I'm
sure Danny wouldn't find that funny, nor would my girls.

Both Emily and Stephanie had a great time visiting. They enjoyed free run of the SWI building, got to play with a toddler or two, and really enjoyed seeing Mrs. Yu.

Mrs. Chen is no longer the Director of Civil Affairs, having been promoted to Vice Chairman of Policy Assistance (or some title similar to that) to the City of YangChun, but we still wanted to see her. She seems very excited about her new job. She looks really, really well, and it was great seeing her.

Mrs. Yu hasn't changed a bit. She's still bubbling with energy, and Emily and Stephanie loved seeing her and they both went to her without any hesitation. She seems very happy, too.

Mr. Chen (no relation to Mrs. Chen) is the new Civil Affairs Director. He seems very nice, too, in a Chinese government bureaucratic kind of way. We invited him along to dinner last night, and then he joined us again this morning for dim sum, so we had lots of time for him to meet our kids and for us to meet him. He is very new to his job, but seemed very comfortable around my kids.

We also had some time with the head nanny that both my girls knew. It was nice that they both spent time with her and she seemed really pleased, and clearly remembered both Emily and Stephanie.

Volunteer worker Sandra King from New Zealand seems lovely too. This is our first time meeting her. The work she is doing is a great idea. She explained that she is spending some quality time with up to 28 of the YangChun babies, speaking English to them, getting them used to some western foods, and letting them see "white" faces. She is using the old orphanage building and it's clear lots of work has gone into getting it cleaned up. In fact, we had a unique opportunity to see the building that Emily was housed in for the first year of her life, since we hadn’t been in there before.

We resolved that we'd have to find another hotel option before we'll return to YangChun since the Golden Roc was just too dirty and mouldy for Emily and Stephanie to be safe.

The city was the same, hustle and bustle and busy with motorcycles, and buses and trucks and bikes. It was great seeing Emily and Stephanie’s birth city again, and we got to take lots of photos.

We had dinner with the officials, then headed up into our room (translation: purgatory) for the night. Believe it or not, there was a loud karaoke party going on either in the room next to us or in the one above us. It was as though they were screaming in our ears. It was the perfect end to a very bad hotel experience.

Not sure any of us got any sleep, but since it was only one night (which happened to be the thirteenth day of the month!), we got through it.