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Trip to China
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Friday, June 20, 2008

What a day! It was one that I was, admittedly, looking forward to and dreading at the same time. Today we visited Shepherd's orphanage and finding location and I knew it was going to be extremely emotional. And I was right.

It started out especially early since our guide would be picking us up at 8:30 to start our journey. The drive to Dongguan was less than an hour, but full of anxieties and expectations on my part. Sweet Shepherd laughed and sat on my lap contentedly the whole way, having no idea of what this day would hold. When we arrived at the orphanage we were greeted by the director, a very kind older lady who takes great pride in the way her little charges are cared for. She led us up the wide stairway to the second floor where we were taken into a waiting area, the only room we saw with an air conditioner. We chatted for a few moments as the nannies arrived, each waiting for a chance to hold Shepherd again. He picked and chose, slyly enjoying the game of having everyone's undeterred attention. Chris and I had decided beforehand that we would let Shepherd set the pace. If he wanted to go to one of the nannies, we would allow it, but we would not allow anyone to take him from our arms if he wanted to stay put. We were worried that he might be overwhelmed, confused and tearful when faced with this dilemma of old vs. new, but it was not so. He happily put his arms out to his nanny, one of three that cared for him, and was content as she carried him while we toured the floor of the orphanage that he called home. We saw his room, about 15' x 20', full of metal cribs with minimal bedding. The babies were all feeding themselves bottles, content to lay and watch as we entered and then left the room. Across the hall was a play room with four babies inside and a laundry basket full of toys. One of the children had decided he'd rather have naptime instead of playtime and was facedown, asleep, on the floor. The other little ones met us at the door expectantly, rattling the baby gate that held them inside. We were reminded that only a week ago, it was our Shepherd who was rattling the gate hopefully or laying on a wooden mattress feeding himself a bottle. Suddenly all the energy expended on our parts to get our paperwork completed as soon as possible seemed completely insignificant... what a small sacrifice we had to make in order to bring our son home as soon as possible.

We were allowed to ask the director any questions we had and she was very gracious as she tried to answer all our queries. We asked her how he received his name: Yuan Yang. She said his name means "Far Ocean" and it was given to him as a hope or a wish for him. She went on, telling us that when he was found, due to his clubfoot, they expected that he might never be able to walk normally. His name was chosen for him in hopes that one day he would be able to journey far away, unimpeded by his deformity. We were so grateful for her thoughtful explanation and we are certain that one day, her words will hold great meaning for Shepherd. She also told us that he was very popular at the orphange, he loved waving at people as they came and went. He was called "little son" since he was one of the only boys at the SWI. After some additional questions, we followed the director out of the building where we took pictures with her and then we left. I had expected Shepherd to be sad or uncertain if he wanted to come with us, leaving his first home behind. But he was very content in my arms. He leaned toward me and put his arms out for me to take him before we left the orphanage, and he stayed put as we stepped into the van to leave. My heart was filled with joy and sadness at the same time. How could he leave the only home he'd ever known without so much as a wimper? Was that a reflection on his new home or his old?

Our next stop was Shepherd's finding location. He was found about an hour south of the orphanage, between Dongguan and Shenzhen. It took us a few stops to ask for directions, but our amazing guide and trusty driver did not disappoint. We found the town, Chang An, and then the market where Shepherd was found. For some reason, this was even more overwhelming than our orphanage visit. We arrived at the market and it was clear that we were in a very industrial town, in a very poor but well-traveled area. The driver dropped us off in front of the market and we walked through the rows of vendor stalls to the back, where Shepherd's report states that he was found. Walking down the aisle of the market, meats on the left of us, fish on the right and the pungent smell of raw pork overpowering every sense I had, I felt overwhelmed. So hyper aware. And so very protective. All I wanted to do was hold our son tightly, capture the spot for him on film and get back to the comfort of our hotel. It broke my heart to contemplate the 'why' and the 'how' of his abandonment. It is a place in my mind I cannot go, it is knowledge I will never be privy to and sadly, neither will Shepherd. Thankfully God had given us the first day since our arrival with no rain, AND blue skies! On such a backdrop we were reminded that He can heal all wounds and make all things new :)

Once we were on the road back to Guangzhou the mood lightened again as Shepherd began babbling and playing in a way we had yet to see. He was making all sorts of silly sounds, imitating Chris and I, blissfully unaware of the emotion that had been looming so heavily just moments before. The rest of the afternoon was spent winding down with a long nap for baba and Shepherd and then dinner at our new favorite restaurant on the island... Italian! We strolled around after dinner and laughed and talked like we were newlyweds. Newlyweds with a 19 month old, that is ;)

Visiting Shepherd's orphanage

Shepherd and his buddy

Where, until 4 days ago, Shepherd rested his head

High fives with his favorite nanny

The market in front of Shepherd's finding spot

Approximate finding location

Shepherd and baba heading back to the van

Goofing off on the way back to Guangzhou

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