Journey to Guizhou – Day Five (Liuzhi)
The journey to Liuzhi can only be described as HARROWING, and I would like to recommend to anyone traveling between mountain cities in Guizhou that their train system is lovely. : -) Picture mountain cliffs with no railing, two lane roads with trucks passing around corners, fog, wind, rain, and thousand foot drop offs. When we finally made it to the city, our driver told us he was happy we did it in the dark, as he thought our hearts wouldn’t have taken doing it during the day. That certainly made me smile.
The city of Liuzhi has mostly Yi and Miao people (80% minority), and is the closest city to the Long Horn Miao, one of the smallest ethnic groups in China. The village closest to Liuzhi only has 100 families left. Many anthropologists call the Long Horn Miao one of the most unique cultures in the world, a living “eco museum”. They are completely self-sufficient, and the children cannot marry outside of the village, nor can anyone marry in. Long Horn Miao are known for their hair that they wind around cow horns on their head, and the total weight can be over 10 pounds!
The next morning we met with Director Wu from the orphanage, and she was so very kind. The orphanage in this city is small, but the babies and children were obviously well loved.
Some of the great kids we met included a little toddler who had a failed spinal surgery so she can sadly cannot walk. Oh, she was smart! She was sitting in her little chair just watching us, and each time I went up to her she would lower her eyes as if maybe if she didn’t look at me I would go away.
There was one little baby they showed us who had the BEST smile. He has club feet, a clenched fist and one turned in ear. He just lit up the room with his grin whenever we talked to him. I do hope we can help him medically.
One of their children with cleft was zooming every which way in her walker and was SO curious and full of life. I can’t wait for her to be chosen by a family as she was just so adorable. Maire tried to hold her for awhile, but there was just too much to see and do with the toys we brought, so she quickly wanted down to explore.
My favorite little boy was a preschooler with severe CP in both of his hands who was sitting on a little stool when we came in. When he saw the crackers we had brought, he scooted over with his legs and asked for one. His tiny little hands were all curled up though, and it was quite difficult for him to grab the cracker, but once he got it…..oh he was so happy! All in all, I think he ate about thirty crackers before his nanny finally caught on and said “no more,” as she was worried about the stomachache he was probably going to get. Whenever he would finish one, he would scoot over to me or Arlene and ask for another. He was just so sweet. It is so unfair that some children are born into bodies that keep them “trapped” – especially for those children who are poor or orphaned, and who will never have a chance at finding healing through therapy.
We met the most beautiful twelve-year-old girl with scoliosis who also had a failed surgery. You know how some people just have an “aura” of sweetness and gentleness? Well, that was her. The orphanage has not filed paperwork on her, but we encouraged them that a family WOULD want to adopt her. If she cannot be adopted, then I am wondering if we could bring her to the US for surgery. She was so gentle, and she made sure each child had crackers and toys. She is not currently in school but she said she loved music, so we want to buy her a keyboard.
This orphanage has so many older, healthy kids. They have SO little. We asked the director if there was anything we could buy for the kids to help them, and so we went to a department store to get the older kids some things, and it was SO much fun. We went to get backpacks, but then as we passed each aisle, we would say, ‘do the kids have umbrellas to walk to school with when it rains?” and the director would shake her head no, so in would go ten umbrellas. Ditto for socks, toothbrushes, shampoo, soap, jump ropes, basketballs, pens, pencils, etc. We had quite the crowd watching us check out, but oh, what a treat to be able to help the older kids with the most basic of needs for such a small amount of funding!
This orphanage was very small and clean and felt more like a home than an institution. We had to smile when we saw all the crayon marks on the white walls. A universal event, I guess, when a crayon ends up in the hands of a small child!
Liuzhi only takes in about seventeen kids a year (it was explained that minority groups do not abandon their children very often), but many of the babies who are left are found with very complex medical needs. Sadly, in this mountainous area, when babies are abandoned it is often very cold, and so some babies pass away before ever making it to the orphanage. The staff here try their very best with every child in their care, and I do hope we can help them more in the future when they bring in a baby with complex medical needs.
Much too soon it was time to head to the train station for the next part of our trip. Everyone was so worried because our Chinese director Lily was heading in the opposite direction to catch a train to Zhaotong Yunnan to visit our foster care program there, while the foreigners (us) were catching a train back to Guiyang by ourselves. There was lots of conversation about whether we could make it on our own, and after we reassured them again and again that we would be fine, they still insisted on taking us onto the train themselves to make sure we were settled. The people we met here were SO very kind. We were all sad to say goodbye and look forward to returning to this very special city someday.
Amy Eldridge, Executive Director