Sunday June 29
Simon is supposed to pick me up at 9 to go to my student Michelle’s house, but he calls at 9 (!) and says he can’t make it, has a headache. So Michelle and I take a taxi, which is just as well, she lives very nearby, less than a half hour south of campus. Michelle was a child actress, starred in a hugely popular children’s show called “Little Dragon” and several other movies. I expect that her parents will be
After the interview with the parents, her mom presents me with several very nice silk gifts, a scarf, a jewelry case, a tissue box cover, and a few other trinkets. I feel like a heel, two very generous families and I arrive empty handed.
During the visit to Michelle’s, Katie calls and she does not want to be picked up until 5. I negotiate and say 3 (I don’t want to be in traffic retrieving her). I head home, and at , Simon calls, very apologetic and wants to drive me for free to get Katie. Since he lives very close to where Katie is staying, I suggest he just go get her and bring her home and leave me here and he’s fine with that. I have the afternoon to eat peaches, and read, without interruption. Katie arrives home around , very sad to have said goodbye to her good friend Louisa (and I think tired from a late night). Louisa’s mom called to tell me that the mom had slept in and woke up horrified to find a note from Louisa that she and Katie had ridden her bike to Jenny Lou’s, a store about 3 km away, on very busy roads….with Katie riding on the cross bar and Louisa peddling (and of course, no helmets). Glad I didn’t know about this until they were safely returned home!
Around 5 my student Sophia comes over to give me her final project. I say that I will see her again, but I don’t know if I will see any of them again, and I’m sad about that.
At Stephen arrives, windblown and delayed 3 hours, but he’s here and Katie and I both are glad to see him. He stays awake until 9 and then crashes.
Monday. I interview Susan Brownell for another OAG story on the culture of sport in
Tuesday July 1, we meet my student from Yiyang, Eve, at the west gate at and fly to
We go across the street to a huge traditional Chinese (reproduction) building and had lunch, but after more phone calls and discussion, we still weren’t allowed into Hunan TV. We are also told that the road going to Mao’s college is closed and it will be a long hot walk to get there. Strike two for
It is the type of night out that I have read about, but never participated in. All the guys, toasting each other, drinking and smoking too much. I was blown away by Eve, all of 20 years old, holding her own in this room of community leaders. She was charming, funny and an amazingly talented at keeping everyone up to speed on the conversation in two languages. Our limited Mandarin was useless - they all spoke the local Yiyang dialect. I have no idea how Katie processed all this, but the men treated her as a curiosity. I am sure she has never seen so much alcohol consumed in one meal. At the end of the evening we bid adieu to Eve’s real Uncle Zeng Jiande, the driver for the day, who headed back late to
We are met in the morning by one of Uncle Li’s employees, who is also his brother-in-law, Mr. Liao who will be our driver for the day. We head to the new Children’s Welfare Institute, where director Zhu is waiting for us. After a few opening remarks we get a tour of the facility. There are now less than 60 children here, down from several hundred just a few years ago (lots more on why this is so, check Brian Stuy’s blog). Most of the kids are special needs. The nannies are wearing clean (maybe seldom worn?) Half the Sky t-shirts. The kids are on the mats, although one boy is stuck in a cardboard box. Some had head deformities, one infant had major cleft palate. We stayed for a few moments and then went upstairs where some toddlers (mostly boys -- or girls with real short hair) were playing. They too had special needs but all were walking and able to line up and respond to their names. We also saw an Albino teenager, but not either of the two teens I remembered from 2005. Aftter the tour we went back the conference room and asked for access to Katie’s files, (as well as two girls in our travel group whose parents expressed interest in us finding any new information). There was nothing much we didn’t know except for one page with the name of the man who found Katie at the orphanage gate and a photo of the orphanage director at the time she was abandoned. The current orphanage director provided a few other details on the other two girls but I don’t want to share much of any of this until I talk to the other families. After that, director Zhu invited us to lunch and we agreed. At lunch we realized that there might be other info that we needed from the files and they agreed to let us return to take another look. I can’t quite remember the sequence of events, but we got some more info on Katie’s finder and on the other girls. Then Stephen offered to help the orphanage with some item it might need and Director Zhu suggested we get a solar hot water heater so the older residents could take showers. So we all pile into two cars and head to the solar hot water heater store. On the way, we drive by the old CWI and hear that the building and almost every other structure on the north side of the river, will be razed by the end of the year. We drive through block upon block of rubble that looks like a war zone, as this whole old community falls to the wrecking ball. The only structure still standing is a Norwegian Christian Church, established at the turn of the last century and still in operation. The minister, a Chinese woman, comes to greet us. She says there are about 500 members of the congregtation and says there are hundreds of Christian churches in Yiyang, which both Eve and I find to be a bit suspect. We then head to the center of Yiyang, purchase the solar hot water heater and part company with Director Zhu. From there we head to a memorial that has been established in Yiyang for a local resident, “
Thursday. July 3
Uncle Liao meets us at the lobby of the hotel and drives us to his village just north of
Friday. Armed with a bottle of Immodium AD, we head out to
The flight to
This has been a full week. In retrospect, I wished I had allowed more time in