Thought some of you might like to hear a bit about our visit to the orphanage last month. Sorry it's taken me so long to get organized enough to post, but as you all know, life gets kind of crazy around the holidays.

First of all - thanks to everyone who sent photos, letters, and donations. It's so much fun to deliver them! When we got to Mrs. Yu's office and I took out the big, fat packet, all the assistant directors all came in close to see the photos. As they pulled each family's envelope out, they would start chattering about the photos right away. It never ceases to amaze me how they all remember so many children! But they knew every one. You can tell it means a great deal for them to see these kids so happy, healthy and well-loved. For those of you that sent donations with me, we had hoped to go shopping with Mrs. Yu with the money. Unfortunately, she was at meetings in Maoming until Sunday afternoon, and we had to leave Monday morning, so there was no time. She did tell me that she needs warm blankets and warm clothing for winter, so a lot of the money will go for those items. She usually sends photos of what she buys, so when I get those, I will pass them on to you.

We spent a couple of hours at the orphanage Sunday afternoon. What fun!! They have sooo many children right now. Over 150! The new orphanage is full, plus they are using the front building that you drive through to enter the compound. They have babies on two floors of this building. We also got to see rooms in this building where some of the aunties live. They were several babies less than two weeks old. There was one darling little girl around age 7, who Mrs. Yu said is "a little slow" and will be going to a family in the USA soon. Also, a beautiful 4 year old who is Hep B positive. She often goes to Guangzhou with Mrs. Yu when babies are delivered. Mrs. Yu told us she asks when she will get to have a family too - it just broke my heart to hear this. In past years, we have seen a couple of older toddlers with obvious mental issues. She told us that these girls are now living in the countryside outside Yangchun with families, so that is really good for these girls.

This is the first visit where I've left my camera in the bag. So, I'm sorry to anyone that was hoping to see the usual 100+ photos of babies, but I decided this year to just have fun and enjoy the babies. And they are all so beautiful. So many happy, laughing babies. Many were very responsive to us - laughing and cooing, playing games back and forth. You can tell how much the aunties love these kids. The only unhappy babies were the ones waiting for their bottles; and they were letting us all know they were hungry! Mrs. Yu pointed out several little girls who would soon be going home - all beautiful, healthy-looking children.

Our Chinese friends who live in Yangchun always go with us when we visit the orphanage. (They have even become friends with Mrs. Yu). They have one daughter who is 8. This year they told us they hope to adopt a baby from the orphanage - we were so excited to hear this news. So as we visited the babies, Andrew and Maytee were studying all of them carefully. It was so interesting to listen to what they thought, and what is attractive to them. It is very important to Andrew that the baby have a long face. He feels this is more beautiful and makes her more intelligent. What is so funny is that his wife Maytee has a very, very round face and she is very pretty and is the brains of their business!

I know most of you realize this; but we are so lucky to have Mrs. Yu and to have adopted from Yangchun. Two days before traveling to Yangchun, we went back to our third daughter's orphanage in Sanshui. They moved into a gorgeous new compound in early 2003. It looks like a postcard, but is primarily housing for elderly residents. We had a brief meeting with the assistant director and a couple of the aunties. But we weren't allowed to see the new orphanage. I didn't want to take photos, just wanted to see the facility and play with the babies, but it was not allowed. Compare that to Yangchun where we were welcomed with open arms and allowed to wander in and out of baby rooms, pick up children, play with them, etc..... And I know any Yangchun family visiting would be allowed the same access. Mrs. Yu is truly a very, very special lady.

We visited the town square after dinner. The big hit now on the weekends is some of the city's top karaoke singers have a competition in the park in the evening. If you get a chance, make sure and visit the square. It has a big lake, elaborate greek columns, wide sidewalks
and lots of landscaping. At night, there is music, dancing, pitchmen - lots of fun and lots of people. While we were walking around the park, Mrs. Yu saw her dad (she looks just like him!) and then she saw her brother and nephew, so we had the chance to meet a few of her extended family members. There is a brand new hotel being built on the grounds of this park. It is expected to be very nice, so maybe soon there will be a viable alternative to the Golden Roc. I'm amazed by the changes each year. This little town looks a big more "big city" each time we visit. The shops are fancier and more like boutiques. There are more cars. The old China keeps disappearing little by little. Our friends are typical of the "new Chinese" They are entrepreneurs, in their mid 30's - their business is growing and they now have their own factory and they recently purchased their very first car, a Mazda and have taken driving lessons. They each took turning driving to show us that they both could. It was so cute to see their excitement and pride in owning a car - something so many of us take for granted.

Another new attraction is a park on the edge of town that has dancing water type fountains. It is very new, and looked like it was not yet completed. It was nice, but after 20 minutes, it was enough. We found out the show lasts nearly an hour. It was fun to watch the kids dance to the music and chase the water. Many of the water effects are within the concrete, so the water appears and disappears magically - the kids love it.

Mrs. Yu is very excited for the reunion next year. She does not know who will be traveling with her yet as there may be some changes within Civil Affairs in the next few months. But she is going to let us know by early spring who will be coming with her. She's hoping that lots of families will be able to participate either at the reunion or at the regional gatherings.

That's the highlights. If anyone has specific questions, please let me know and I'll do my best to help.

Best wishes and happy holidays to all the Yangchun families!

Betsy