Upon landing in Nanning, we were immediately whisked off to our hotel. On the 30 minute trip, our guide bombarded us with detailed instructions: what to expect, when our girls would arrive, and what needed to be prepared in advance. We were told that they would arrive at 9:30 in the morning in our hotel rooms. The five of us looked at each other and said, “This is it!” Shortly after 9:30 the next day, our lives changed forever. A knock at the door that we all instinctively knew must be Anah’s, signaled her arrival. We felt like the paparazzi as she marched boldly into the room, followed by her Chinese escorts. To be honest, it was an awkward moment. There was no sense of recognition or greeting. She just headed straight for the bed, where we had laid out a new dress, some toiletry items, a coloring book and crayons and some snacks. The rest of us just watched her as she quickly made herself at home.
The first thing that grabbed her attention was a comb and brush. We think it’s probably because it was shiny. She spent her first 10 minutes with us just combing her hair. When she tired of that, we introduced her to the coloring book and crayons. She picked out crayon after crayon, scribbled with it, and then squealed. I doubt she has seen that many before. (Good thing I didn’t get the 50-crayon set. It might have been too overwhelming!)
Afterwards, we were able to sit with her caregivers and ask questions via a translator. My parents were also there to help. We learned that she was a very quick learner and will copy whatever others are doing. In her foster home, she was actually one of two Down Syndrome children fostered there. Her older foster sister had aged out of adoption eligibility (we assume then that she must be over 14). They called her “Apple”. Because Anah is so small and petite, they called her “Cherry”. Janna is now going to be her new “Apple”.
The rest of the day was filled with firsts: first time watching her eat and learning her eating habits, first time taking her to the bathroom and discovering that she didn’t know how to use a western toilet (no wonder she seemed petrified at going to the bathroom after we were assured that she was toilet trained!), first time seeing her stubborn streak, first time putting her down to bed (which was not unlike a wrestling match).
We were all exhausted by the end of the day. While the information we received about her happy nature, intelligence, and easy-going personality was accurate, she was far different than what we would have ever imagined. The learning curve is steep and we already are feeling it. But we also know that as with any new child, biological or not, it’s going to take time for trust to develop as well as time for us to figure out how to communicate and get through to her.
That is why I am comforted by the reminder from Jesus Himself that He will not leave us as orphans. There are moments when I feel discouraged. This morning, I woke up early, pondering and planning how we were going to navigate through another day. It was in this time that He reminded me that this is not something I need to face alone. He has not abandoned us. We will never be orphans.
As I write now, Anah is still fast asleep. I’m sure she is just as exhausted as we are. But we will press on. I am sure that our little Cherry will have much to teach us.