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| Kai Shing, Kai Shing, Kai Shing!

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Kai Shing, Kai Shing, Kai Shing!

I am excited to share good news today and some progress! It didn’t start out great, but as the day went on things took a new direction. Since we weren’t going to the orphanage today at Chaela’s request, we needed to find something to do with our free day here. In my pre-trip planning I had on the itinerary to go to see the Stone Forest, the most popular attraction in Yunnan Province and where scenes of the movie Avatar were filmed.

It looks amazing.  Too bad we won't see it.

It looks amazing. Too bad we won’t see it.


But, because of the long car ride (almost 3 hours each way) and realizing that she gets car sick easily, we decided to stay close by and only go someplace on foot. We’ve already seen all there is to do around the hotel- the zoo and the Green Lake Park -before Chaela joined us. After breakfast we walked around the park a bit, but she didn’t want to ride the boats around the lake and she seemed really disinterested in the things we tried to show her and do with her. She was startled by one of the very deformed beggars lying on the street (it SHOULD startle anyone, but he is ignored by all who walk by because it is just something you sadly get used to seeing around here) and looked up at me gawking. I was so glad to see this because it is not a common response here. It is culturally acceptable to make fun of disabled and handicapped people, and a deformity is something that is laughed at and shunned. I have grown to love the people of China and this place, but there are some things, like this, that are hard to understand even cross-culturally. There is actually a theme park here in this city, The Dwarf Empire, where about 100 little people live in mushroom huts and they put on daily performances. People pay admission to come and be amused by them. The saddest part is that this place is actually a better alternative for them than their lives wouId be living in the real world here. Anyway, I can tell by her response to the beggar that this little girl has a heart of gold- she is helpful, respectful and already is trying to “mother hen” Claire in certain situations. She takes her hand when we are walking around, she helps her get food and carry her plate, and she has helped her pick up things that she drops. I love her so much already, and I long for the day when she will accept my love and be able to trust me enough to love me back. She is precious and so deserving of the love of a family. I am thankful to know she has had a small taste of love or she wouldn’t be grieving so much. So many have written and encouraged me and shared their stories and helped me put this all into perspective. I do not now believe that we are even close to a “worst case scenario”. After hearing horror stories of children lashing out in anger at their new adoptive families, clawing at the door to get out, refusing to show any emotion at all- I am thankful this is all we are experiencing! However, it isn’t over and it doesn’t mean that this won’t happen when we get home and it all really sets in, but for now it could be SO much worse! Her grief may in fact be a good thing, her attachment to her caregivers helpful for the situation in the long run because it means she has the ability to attach to us, to love more easily, and to recognize a loving relationship when she sees one. Today I am thankful for all of these things and the people who helped me to see this when all I saw was darkness.

The park was less crazy today, thank goodness!

The park was less crazy today, thank goodness!

After the park, we ate lunch at a Japanese restaurant across the street from our hotel. Chaela ate a bowl of rice and it was the most I had seen her eat. Meal times and down time is a bit awkward because we can’t talk easily (and we feel bad just talking amongst ourselves and leaving her out of the conversation) and there isn’t internet except in the hotel to do Google translate. Even in the hotel, coverage is so spotty that we can’t rely on that. Therefore, I am often breaking out my trusty “Crunch Time” book. Xiao Mei even brought it to me once today and I have seen her flipping through it looking as if to find some way to tell me something (it has no Chinese characters, but we figured out she can read the Pinyin! I mispronounced something and she looked confused, took the book from me and told me how to say it correctly!). The book IS quite helpful to communicate a few things like “Do you need to use the bathroom?”, “are you hungry/thirsty?” And other necessities. For the price of this book you would think it would have more phrases, but at least it’s a start and great for emergency situations like “don’t hit/bite/scream!” And “STOP!” Thankfully we haven’t needed any of those as she is very shy and reserved with us so far. BUT, we did get her to show us a little of her fun side and get her to smile and even laugh!

IMG_1438 from Joey Odell on Vimeo.


That’s the power of play. I can’t recommend enough to adoptive families to be sure to pack a simple bag of balloons and a container of bubbles. These have been breakthrough tools in each of our three adoptions and it didn’t fail this time. It filled me with hope to see her laugh and I could finally see the light at the end of the tunnel! It doesn’t mean we won’t take steps back again, but we really needed this today as we were sinking pretty deep.



Another breakthrough this morning, and something I had been concerned about, was the issue of her bathing. I didn’t really know how to approach her about taking a bath or a shower, not knowing exactly what she was used to. I had the guide come to our room and ask her about it, and she said she took baths, but that she didn’t want to. I let it go for the first two days, but by this morning I knew she needed one and have no idea when her last one was. Claire and Caitlin went first and when it was her turn I awkwardly told her in Chinese (with the book that has been a lifesaver) that it was time to bathe. I didn’t know if I should stay in to help her, leave and give her privacy- I was sweating this one, and so was she. I know with my biological daughter this age she is extremely modest and would never want me in the room when she is changing or invading her privacy anymore in that way at all. I didn’t want to overstep my bounds with her on the third day. I took cues from her and started to leave, and Joey told me not to rush out and shut the door and make her feel it was something to be ashamed of for me to help her. I felt like a dope (to use Caitlin’s word) and asked in Chinese if I could help her. She said yes, which surprised me because she’s said no to almost everything else. I tried not to looked shocked by how skinny she is (she makes my daughter Grace look chubby, and she is thin as a rail!) and I helped her into the tub. I handed her a washcloth with soap on it and she pushed it back to me for me to do it. I was just thrilled that she would allow me to help her with something so personal. I washed her and got her out as she was shivering- I think more from nervousness. It was a precious few moments that I will never forget because I felt like she was beginning to trust me and it set the tone for better days ahead. She knows she has a mama to care for her needs and I am honored to be able to do it.

Who knew the bathroom could also be used for a crazy balloon game?

Who knew the bathroom could also be used for a crazy balloon game?

We spent most of the day in the hotel room playing hide and go seek, doing puzzles, playing Memory and paper dolls. Xiao Mei said two colors in English during Uno and she helped the girls and I count to ten in Chinese. We finally heard her voice today when she wasn’t speaking to someone else! She has been quite helpful for us as we fumble around to communicate in stores and restaurants. We bought some Popsicles from a convenience store and when the cashier told us the amount, we couldn’t understand. So, Xiao Mei politely took the money from Joey and showed him what to pay! I’ve tried to get her to do some girly things with me today- tried to see if I could paint her nails, put a headband on her, or braid her hair but those things are entirely foreign to her and she is not interested. Our guide suggested that tonight we go to the Dynamic Yunnan Nationalities show. We happily went as we have maxed out all of the entertainment items I brought for the girls to do in the room. It was an amazing performance celebrating the different ethnic cultures of the region. I hope it is a memory Xiao Mei keeps for life. She seemed very impressed!

Claire's antics kept everyone laughing.

Claire’s antics kept everyone laughing.

The show has traveled across the world.

The show has traveled across the world.

It was colorful and impressive.

It was a totally “China” experience and so stunning and impressive!

Claire crashed.  Too much fun.

To everyone but Claire, apparently.

Two small children has significant parts in the show.

Two small children had significant parts in the show.

It was all energy, song and dance!

It was all energy, song and dance!

We'll never forget it!

We’ll never forget it!

I hope one day to bring her back to her beloved home of Yunnan Province and finally take her back to the orphanage to visit when it is no longer a sad thing. When she can rejoice in saying ‘look at me now’ and thank those who played a part in giving her a beginning that helped to shape her into the beautiful person I can already tell she is inside. When we were in the hotel restroom preparing to go to the show, an elderly woman entered and she helped her to find an empty stall, completely unprompted. I have been taking note of the little things she does- like giving Claire a toy she was whining about when she was about to use it for herself. She is a sweet soul and I can’t wait to get to know her better. I feel so blessed to have her in my life as my daughter! During the show when the guide got up to change seats, she became very concerned. She has taken quite a liking to her, which is understandable- she can speak both of our languages and has been a go-between for us. She dotes on Xiao Mei and says how much she would love to have a daughter like her- that she is beautiful and smart and “normal”. I feel a little sad when Chaela prefers to hold the guide’s hand on outings, and when she asked the guide if she was coming with us to the U.S.A. Poor thing- I wish she were in many ways! Though communication has been a challenge with the guide at times, she is growing on me and I will never forget this woman as she has helped us through a very difficult few days. A great example of the communication challenge- remember the “relaxing tea” she was supposed to bring by to help Xiao Mei (and me) sleep? She came by with a bag of Starbucks black tea and said, “here is the tea. But, don’t drink it at bedtime because it will make you not sleep. Drink it in the morning. And, don’t give it to the children-it’s not for children. It is very good. It’s no problem.” Total fail.

We disturbed the dignity and repose of the restaurant "kids room."

We disturbed the dignity and repose of the restaurant “kids room.”

Tonight at bedtime I tucked Xiao Mei in awkwardly after helping her put rash cream on her legs because she indicated she was itchy. I kissed her on the cheek and told her “Wo eye knee” (I love you). She reluctantly accepts that from me, but when Joey tucked her in right after and said, “love you!” She replied, “Love you!”in English. I think it’s great for him (she really seems to be happy to have a daddy), but I can tell I am going to have to work the hardest for her love more than anyone. She will easily and probably quickly bond with the children, for her main relationships in her life have always been with peers. Those who have hurt her the most and left her in her life have all been women. It’s going to take time for her to see me in a mother role, or even to understand what that means and looks like. She told the guide today that her favorite thing she did today was play with the girls. Caitlin is thrilled to hear that, and I am so glad we brought them. It has helped Xiao Mei so much to see how they interact with us and to have little girls she can relate to. The language of play and laughter is universal, and it really is the best medicine for an aching heart!

These smiles are priceless!

These smiles are priceless!


IMG_1426 from Joey Odell on Vimeo.

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