We got into a taxi in the hotel and Conner gave the driver our destination. As we drove there, he asked me several times, "do you see a school?" At first I thought he was just anxious to get there, but then I realized he was asking because he had told the driver the general area to go to, but did not know the exact address. We meandered about for a bit, the driver rolling the window down a few times and asking random people for directions. Finally, we arrived.
As we were cleared by security and walked in, I came to a sudden realization. This was a school for the blind! I should have known this, but somehow this information had eluded me. I had envisioned Conner's school like the one he attends in America. A school for typical kids with support services for those with disabilities. Somehow, realizing that we would be with a group of kids who were all visually impaired was very moving for me. When we arrived, all 300 or so kids in the school (ages 6 to 21) were in the outdoor soccer field listening to morning announcements and then doing some calisthenics. As Conner and I walked into this area, he was greeted by several teachers who were obviously happy to see him. As the teachers called him by name, kids in the back row of the calisthenics heard them say, "Jia Xia!" (Conner's chinese name) and a ripple went through several rows of students: "Jia Xia! Jia Xia!" As the calisthenics came to an end, Conner was surrounded by kids who were eager and excited to see him.
After our presentation, the teacher asked Conner if he would like to spend the day with the class. He was so happy! We went to lunch (and eventually dinner) with them in the cafeteria. They had an afternoon break where they were able to just hang out. They went to PE class outside where they did more calisthenics, threw balls, jumped rope and did pull-ups and push-ups. It was a poignant experience for me to observe him with this wonderful group of friends all day. No wonder he struggled so much when he came to America. In addition to leaving behind his culture, country and language, he left behind a tremendous group of friends. Friends that were supportive, kind and loving towards each other. The few kids that had some vision were so quick to help those without. They laughed and joked with each other. This is a boarding school, so they were really more like siblings than friends. I was overwhelmed with what a great group they are.
Some in the adoption community are of the opinion that once a child is adopted to America, all communication with their home country should end. Any previous relationships must be over since now they have a family here. For the life of me I cannot see the benefit to this point of view. I can't tell you how grateful I am that Christi has been so encouraging of our older kids in keeping in touch with their friends and loved ones in China. It was a truly moving experience to see the reunion of these kids who love each other so much.
During the day I also had the opportunity to observe some of the younger kids as well. This school really felt like a little slice of heaven on earth. The kids were so kind to each other. They helped each other when they could. It was so sweet to watch them find their way by feel between classes, up and down stairs, to the cafeteria and the outdoor sports area. The teachers were also very special. It felt like a very loving, safe and warm environment.
As the day progressed, it became quite apparent that Conner had a particularly special relationship with one of the young ladies in his class:). They clearly had a crush on each other. It was fun to watch Conner in this environment that was so comfortable for him. Instead of feeling overwhelmed as he is surrounded by young people who are speaking a language he has challenges understanding, he was a vibrant, funny and popular leader in his peer group. I am so glad I had this opportunity to come with him and see this outgoing and social side to our son.
After dinner at the school, we had to head back to our hotel. Once there we had the chance to meet for a few minutes with a family from Georgia that was there on an adoption trip. They had just received their daughter earlier that afternoon. They only had a few minutes to talk, but it is always fun to connect with others who have adopted and really understand the joys and challenges of the process.
So ended our third and last day of the trip. As I mentioned before, it really felt like heaven just rolled out the red carpet for Conner. Prior to leaving, we had the impression that we would only have a short time with Conner's foster Grandpa and brother. We didn't think we would be able to see either of them on the second day of our trip and we had envisioned a short visit at his school. Conner was worried that he would be bored! Instead, virtually every waking minute was filled with people who Conner loves and who love him. He was surrounded by not only wonderful friends, but wonderful weather. He spent more time with everyone than he had envisioned. And he had a fantastic trip from start to finish. God is good!