I've been meaning to write down and share the story of our October visit, but just haven't taken the time to do it. The short version is that the visit was wonderful. We had one day with the three ladies from Yangchun, on Monday, October 20, and it was completely delightful.
The visit was sponsored and paid for by AAC Adoption in Berthoud, Colorado. The women stayed with at the home of one of the agency owners, Larry Bebo. They arrived very late on Sunday night, and came down to our offices on Monday morning, along with the owners of the agency and a local interpreter who is a student in Fort Collins, Colorado, originally from Harbin, China.
They arrived at our offices in the late morning, and it was great to see them again. Of course, the main person I knew was Ms. Yu. She was the lady who gave me Lara in Yangchun, and who I have been sending photos to. At the time I adopted Lara, she was not the orphanage director. However, she is now. Her full name is Yu Hong Ying, and if any Yangchun family would like her address or phone number, please send me an e-mail.
The other two women were officials of Yangchun city. I had met one of them in Yangchun during our adoption, Ms. Xuan, who is the section head for the welfare division. The other woman, Ms. Guo, who is a bit older and extremely sweet, is the City Chief of Yangchun.
They were very excited to see Lara, of course. She was nearly 2 1/2 years old, and starting to talk pretty well. She liked all the attention, and tolerated being picked up by a lot of strangers, but was a bit shyer than her normal self in the beginning. I don't think she remembered any of these ladies, but she recognized Ms. Yu from my photos.
Before they had arrived, I printed out all the Yangchun and Yangchun family webpages and put them in a binder. I also printed out all your e-mail letters of good will and put them in a binder as well. I showed the women the Internet.
They were very interested to find out how so many adoptive families should happen to know me. They told me that my name comes up frequently when new families come to visit, and they treated Lara and me a little bit like celebrities! So, I definitely want to thank everybody who sent on my regards when they visited Ms. Yu in Yangchun! I learned that when the women first got in the car that morning on their way down to visit us, one of the first things they mentioned that they wanted to do was to come visit Lisa McClure. So, it was kind of neat for them to learn that this was exactly where they were headed!
Ms. Yu gave me several photos of Yangchun babies and of the orphanage building. If you want any copies of these photos, (especially if one of the babies is yours) please e-mail me directly. I believe that the babies in these photos were adopted mostly in the Fall of 1997.
We took everybody out to lunch at the Healthy Habits restaurant. It's a cafeteria style place that specializes in salads and pastas. Then after that, we drove up into the mountains to my parents' home in Evergreen. They have a large wooded property with no visible neighbors. On the way up Ms. Yu commented about how clean the air was. Since it was a dreary, overcast, gray day I wasn't thinking along those lines at all, but from her point of view, of course it was. All of them seemed kind of astonished that my parents would live in such an isolated location, and asked if they ever got lonely.
Ms. Yu and the interpreter and Lara and I rode together in my car, and the others rode in another car. So, we did get a chance to talk a bit, throughout the day. I was relieved to learn that the Yangchun officials are very happy about all the Yangchun adoption web pages and the things we've said about them on the China adoption mailing lists, and in fact, feel that we are helping to improve their status with Beijing and thus helping to get more Yangchun babies adopted. Ms. Yu told me that as of October, there were 100 Yangchun children in the United States, another 10 or so in Canada, and a handful in Denmark and Sweden. She said that she hopes to be able to visit all of them one day. I must say that we felt extremely lucky that she was able to visit us here in Colorado.
Ms. Yu told me that she appreciates any and all donations to the orphanage; that they are in need of everything. She especially can use baby clothes in sizes 1 and 2. There are about 150 children in the orphanage right now, in ages ranging up to about ten years. I gather that the older children are placed in some sort of school or training related programs and supported by the city of Yangchun until they are able to support themselves. It's pretty clear that the adoption program allows them to better care for those children that aren't going to be adopted, and that conditions have improved noticeably in the past couple of years due primarily to orphanage donations. By the way, at the end of the Yangchun officials visit to Colorado, AAC Adoption agency did make a cash donation of $1,200 on behalf of Yangchun families, for the purpose of buying washing machines and dryers for the orphanage. If you would like to help reimburse them for this donation, you can send tax deductible contributions to AAC, Box W, Berthoud, CO 80215. The AAC owners just left for Yangchun last Friday, so when they return I'll try to get an update on their visit and the current situation at the orphanage.
Ms. Yu told me that she did receive and greatly appreciated the $150 donation that Yangchun families collected and sent to China with Rosemary Shulman. She told me that she was able to purchase 3 bottle sterilizers with the money.
After visiting at my parents' home, we all drove to my house, about half an hour south, and still in the Rocky Mountain foothills. I planned all this driving, because I figured that visiting our homes would be very different than many of the other homes they would be visiting during their week here in Colorado. On the way, we stopped at our local sightseeing attraction, the Safeway grocery store in Conifer. I figured that if I went to China, I'd like to see where people shopped, so we stopped to show them our grocery store. The cameras snapped while Lara rode the big horse, and we walked down the produce aisle. The women clucked over a little blonde headed baby, while its mother looked quite taken aback by all the attention. It made a nice little diversion on the way to my house.
My house isn't particularly large or grand, but it is on a very attractive wooded, mountain acre and has some lovely views. When everybody arrived, I showed them Lara's small room, and they oohed and aahed and took loads of photos to show everybody back home. They enjoyed looking at Lara's photo albums and we all had a good time keeping the interpreter busy discussing all sorts of things.
When I learned that we were going to be lucky enough to have a visit from Ms. Yu and the other women from Yangchun, I really wanted to make the day special. So I decided to host a dinner for everybody at The Fort restaurant in Morrison, Colorado. It's an old adobe fort that specializes in early Colorado style cooking, mostly things like buffalo and elk and rattlesnake and quail and such. A few months ago, President Clinton hosted a Summit of Eight dinner there for other world leaders. So, it seemed an ideal choice for a celebratory banquet in honor of our guests. We drove back down towards Morrison after a short visit to my home.
In addition to my family and our visitors, I also invited our agency's director (and his children) and another family from our travel group that also adopted from Yangchun. So, all told, we had a group of about 15 people. And it was such a lot of fun! Everybody had cameras, and lots of photos were taken during the evening. I don't know that the women from Yangchun fell in love with the cuisine, but there were lots of interesting things to taste, and we all had a great time! Lara was all over the place, and at one point was seen in the arms of our waiter, entering orders into his computer! Later on, she danced for some of the other restaurant guests!
Yes, it was definitely a splurge, but I've got to say that the day's visit and dinner rank as a highlight for me. I cannot think of a single thing I'd have wanted to do differently that day.
During the rest of the week, the ladies from Yangchun toured the area, and visited other Yangchun families. We were all very excited, looking forward to a dinner reception that the agency was holding on the following Saturday evening.
During that week, Lara had Trigger thumb surgery and an APC friend flew in to visit for the weekend. We picked her up on Thursday evening, and took her up to Boulder for a day of sightseeing on Friday. The weather was miserable, snowing and nasty. But we got home without incident, and I was completely staggered to awake on Saturday morning to 8 inches of snow and lots more coming down!
While I kept my hopeful nose plastered to the window, expecting the snow to stop any minute, it just kept coming down. By the middle of the afternoon, we had 20 inches on the ground, and the TV was reporting most of the major roads and the airport closed. Let me tell you that I was incredibly depressed to have to accept that there was no possible way that we could attend the dinner reception for the women from Yangchun. I have never felt such a prisoner as I did that afternoon.
So, unfortunately, we didn't get to visit again with Ms. Yu and the other women. They left very early on Sunday morning, on one of the rare flights that did take off. I know that they would have liked to visit all of their children, and I am sure that if it can be arranged they will return one day.
Toward the end of the day, Ms. Yu promised to try to learn some English and I promised to try to learn some Chinese. I've been keeping my end of the bargain up, and have been working diligently on my Chinese studies.
The visit was in many ways a watershed event for us. Ever since we returned from Yangchun in March, 1996, I have felt somewhat shortchanged, because I didn't have as much chance to ask all the questions I wanted to ask, to get to know Lara's caretakers as well as I would have liked. I came away from this visit feeling that I had really gotten to know Ms. Yu much better, and the better I know her, the more I like her.
I learned that Ms. Yu is married, with a nine year old son. She's 31 years old, the eldest of six children. Clearly, she adores children, and has worked at the Yangchun orphanage for ten years, ever since she left school. As those of you who have already travelled to Yangchun know, she's an enthusiastic and outgoing person, with a real sense of adventure. For example, during lunch, she was amazed to see Lara drinking ice water. But she was willing to give it a try, even though it was so cold and painful to her that she couldn't swallow it down and had to spit it out. At dinner, she was willing to try a bit of my very rare buffalo prime rib, though that was probably as exotic and tempting to her as eating cat or dog would be for me.
She wants to keep in touch with all of you, and I know that she hopes to see all of 'her' children again one day. I hope that you will make the effort to write and send photos of your families. I know that any of us who return to Yangchun will be welcomed with open arms.
I'm sorry that it has taken me so long to write you all about this visit. It wasn't because I didn't want to, but as exciting as the visit was for us, daily events just have a way of taking over. I hope that all of the Yangchun families will make the effort to keep in touch with each other. We really have been extremely lucky that our daughters were so well loved and cared for while waiting for us. Please send Jim Weaver (or me) your current address and other information for the Yangchun family directory, and encourage other families in your travel group to do the same, so that we can continue to keep in touch with you and keep you informed of all the Yangchun related news.
Also, if you would like to send a post to Yangchun families, please let me know, and I will forward the current mailing list for your Yangchun related use.
Have a wonderful holiday season, everybody!
Lisa and Lara McClure
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