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Today was not very “Kai Shing” (happy). Night before last we were literally skipping together down the street to the performance, smiling and giggling, and today felt like we went right back to where we started. Most of today was spent in a difficult dance of me taking a risk to reach out to Xiao Mei, and her rejecting me. When I would hold her hand to cross the street, she would hold it limply or shake her head “no” and opt to hold one of the girl’s hands. In the van when we drove to the outing, she turned her back to me to look out the window and avoided my glances or eye contact. All of these behaviors are things we were trained for and expected to some degree, but there’s a big difference between reading about it and experiencing it firsthand. I am continually reminding myself of her position, and the fact that we are all (even the guide whom she’s seem to bond with) just complete strangers to her, and how fearful and uncomfortable that must be to her. The entire day was spent with mostly silence and awkwardness and the few times I tried to reach out to talk to her either in English or my very limited Chinese, she completely shut down and shook her head no. We toured around the Yunnan Ethnic Minorities Village (basically a Chinese heritage living history museum) with our group consisting of two other families from our agency both with new babies and our guide. We could have stayed in this neat place all day long, but the other families were having a difficult time with babies who wouldn’t take bottles and with carrying around the Ergo packs and diaper bags in the high altitude here (think Denver, Colorado’s height). The girls were bundled to the hilt, though we were comfortable in jeans and long sleeves, and a dad in our group wore shorts and flip flops, the guide insisted Xiao Mei was cold and encouraged me to put her in 4 layers including 2 jackets, and our girls who are also doted on by most Chinese ladies we meet insisted they wear more layers. I brought along two jackets for each girl and they wore them all- so much for my fashion plans this trip. It was nearly a high of 70 degrees here today, by the way. Poor girl is going to freeze in New York when we get home!

The minority village was full of neat architecture.

The minority village was full of neat architecture.

Our guide called this a "pavilion".  Hmm.  Maybe not.

Our guide called this a “pavilion”. Hmm. Maybe not.

Musicians from the Lisu minority. (I think)

Musicians from the Lisu minority. (I think)

This is an unauthorized photo.  It went well with my statement to the guide that "Buddha ditched his wife and kids." She is Buddhist.

This is an unauthorized photo. It went well with my statement to the guide that “Buddha ditched his wife and kids.” She is Buddhist, we found out later when she kneeled to pray here.

It's hard to tell, but the one fella's hat says, in English, something to the effect of "got my bling on my hand and you got none".  Genuine culture!

It’s hard to tell, but the one fella’s hat says, in English, something to the effect of “got my bling on my hand and you got none”. Genuine culture!

After the minority village, we went to a government run Pu’er tea house, which is the city Chaela is from. Simao District in Pu’er, Yunnan is the main export for tea in China- the tea leaves are grown and picked here, and the tea is shipped to nearby countries for trade from this city. We had planned to buy tea here and the decorative jars it comes in as souvenirs for her to have from her home village. The ceremony was rather long and all the girls seemed bored and ready to leave, but at this point it is very hard for me to distinguish boredom from sadness for Xiao Mei. She has a distant, blank stare much of the time and I have hardly slept more than a couple of hours each night trying to listen for a quiet whimper in bed because I don’t want her to be up at night crying alone. She tosses and turns much of the night and I known that she must feel so incredibly lonely even though she is surrounded by people.

Three beautiful girls!  They attract a lot of attention.

Three beautiful girls! They attract a lot of attention.

The government -sponsored-tea-house lady had to have a pic with us.

The government -sponsored-tea-house lady had to have a pic with us.

After the tea house, we took a taxi with the guide (all 6 of us in one small taxi with crazy driving!) to a Western Restaurant (so-called) for lunch while we did paperwork to prepare for leaving the province tomorrow. The girls played Memory at the table while we talked to the guide, and then when she left we were back to a silent meal while Claire and Caitlin jabbered together, Xiao Mei looked sad and seemed to sit looking for the closest exit, and Joey and I tried to figure out the best thing to do to ease the discomfort of the situation. At one point Xiao Mei was playing with the knife on the table and I scooted away slightly and Joey removed all the knives from the table. I can’t take any chances at this point- honestly, you could have cut the tension in the room with it right then and there. Joey made the good-intentioned mistake of saying to me: “I know it must really hurt you for her to reject you like this.” I had been doing a good job of biting my lip and holding back the tears and being strong for her sake (I’m sure deep down she is doing just the same, but she is a pro at it) up to this point, but upon hearing that, a big, ugly cry let loose and there was no stopping it. The food was arriving, Xiao Mei looked concerned and confused, and it was just a big mess. I got out my book and asked her if she was sad (she said no- she hasn’t showed emotion or sadness since official adoption day, and I don’t think that’s a good thing, really) and I also told her not to worry, that I was okay. I have to put my big girl panties on and have a stiff upper lip, to some extent-this is not a time for a pity party for myself. I was just at a low point with her all day, and after lunch we came back to the hotel and I am sorry to say I shut the door to our two room suite and crawled in the bed for nearly two hours and balled up under the covers and tried to rest (to no avail) while I just thought, prayed and cried. I thought about how Chaela is the innocent victim in this, how she has had no say in her life while adults make all these important decisions for her and she just has to go along with it. It is so unfair. I feel angry for her and the situation she is in-at the injustice of it all and this poor little girl caught up in such a painful process. I listened to Joey playing games with the girls in the other room and thought what a great man I have. I thought about my sweet babies at home that I miss so much and who love me back and all I want to do is go home and hug them. Joey had some music on in the other room, including Charlotte Mae’s theme song from her adoption, and I realized how much more the words ring true to it this time. “I will wait for you! I’ll be brave, as well as strong, and use my head, alongside my heart. A tethered mind, free from the lies.” Free from the lies that keep telling me she may have been better off in the orphanage, better staying in her home country, better with the director serving as a mother figure than with me. I pulled myself together for today and got up and decided that I cannot be weak and I cannot retreat from the fight when the battle is raging the strongest.

The girls are getting along fabulously.

The girls are getting along fabulously.

Look closely!

Look closely!

We played another round of Hide and Go Seek before heading to the lounge for some snacks and more games of Uno. This is the only time of the day she smiled. The sad thing is, when she smiles, she almost always covers her mouth. She seems ashamed of her beautiful smile because from what we know of her situation, she and at least one other friend were teased at school for being orphans, and we were informed by the orphanage about “one tooth decay” (which could mean one mouthful, or one tooth, but it looks to be closer to the latter- only the dentist appointment will tell), which clearly she is well aware of. It breaks my heart to think of all the things she’s had to endure all on her own without a mommy to come home and share or cry with. The scar I saw on her chest at bathtime reminded me of the major surgery she endured just over a year ago all alone, and with a 6 month recovery without a mother to care for her. We know she has spent at least the past 5 years walking to and from school twice a day (they come back for lunch break and rest mid-day) with other children from her orphanage alone, unsupervised, and it is an almost 2 mile trek EACH WAY. She begins school at 7:30 AM and it ends at 5:30 PM, we think 6 days a week. This amounts to walking nearly 8 miles a day and it is a lot of time to be left independent-it explains a lot of her wanting to do things on her own (like not hold my hand to go places).
Even though I have only gotten to see small glimpses of her personality, the orphanage sent some pictures with her that are laminated for us to keep of her friends and life there. I think they tell a different story of the quiet and reserved little girl we are seeing– there’s a whole lot more to Xiao Mei than meets the eye right now!

These are priceless!

These are priceless!

We were also given a letter that came with Xiao Mei from one of the families who regularly visits her orphanage.

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It was so touching to read how many lives this little girl has touched already. If only she knew just how special she truly is. I pray we can help her to see her value and worth in Christ someday soon!