The Chongqing Zoo is very famous for its Panda Bears. Michael told us that there are maybe 800 protected Panda's in Sechuan Province near Chongqing. This one below was AMAZING! They really do just sit around eating bamboo all day. It was all laid back snacking on those leaves. :)
Tucker loves the carrier, thank you Jesus! As soon as I get my shoes on and pick up the carrier, he puts his arms up for me to put him inside. The Ergo carrier has been worth every penny (and I got it on sale!). This is the one time a day when I know Tuck will stay close to me and feel happy about it. :) We tried to let him down to just walk around and run outside, but he wanted nothing to do with it. We had to put him right back in the carrier. This momma is ok with that!
One of my other favorite exhibits were the hippos. The one in St. Louis was my very favorite, and this one ended up being really cool, too! The hippos were swimming in the water to the right (not pictured), and then all of the sudden, they got out and walked over to eat. It really was incredible!
Behind me you can see lots of children. There were a few school trips to the zoo that day, and the kids were super excited. Tuck seemed very curious about them, and the kids were definitely curious about us. They started saying, "Hello!" People like to practice their English with us.
My friend, Carroll Lane, asked Michael what souvenier is very special from Chongqing. She and I are both trying to find items to give our sons each year on their Gotcha Day (October 14th). Michael said the paintings on these Banyon leaves are very special. I found a really sweet one of a baby panda with its parent.
Purple ribbon jade is found in Chongqing, and it is quite unique. We were able to find a rabbit purple ribbon jade necklace for Tuck to have someday since he was born in the Year of the Rabbit.
I loved this bamboo along the path. Seeing the light shining through on such a cloudly, rainy day just felt so good. This picture below might be my favorite picture of the trip. I was showing Tuck the giraffes. The mandarin word for giraffe is very difficult to say (at least I thought so), and Tuck was just saying it repeatedly. So so cute.
The elephants were very beautiful, too. I love the way elephants travel in families and care so much for one another.
After a couple hours, it was time to say goodbye to the zoo. We made our way back to the van and rode back to the hotel.
We stopped at the mall across the street for Subway sandwiches and grabbed Tuck some wontons. We ate very quickly and then went back to the lobby to meet up with Michael. The time had come to visit Tucker's orphanage. I am so thankful to have seen pictures on others' blogs before in order to not be so surprised. As you can see, the building is very, very large. There are around 500 children in this orphanage. FIVE HUNDRED, you guys. Five hundred children just like Tuck who deserve a family. We live in such a broken world. Michael said many of the children are older. They live at this orphanage until they are 18, and at that point, he said that many get a job at local factories where they don't make enough money to afford housing, so they end up sleeping at the orphanage. SO SO SAD. We asked Michael to tell Tucker that we were here to see his friends and say goodbye...that we would return to the hotel together as a family later that day. Then we walked to the orphanage.
When we went inside, we gave the assistant director our donations. She thanked us and said they really needed some new winter clothing, so we were very happy to help. We made our way to the area where Tucker lived and immediately saw many of the nannies who worked there. They were all very friendly and excited to see Tuck. I am not going to share many pictures here or much about our time there. We want to protect that information and respect our son's feelings as he grows older. It is his story...not ours to tell.
I do want to share this picture of Tuck's main nanny. I want you to see the face of the woman who was his mother the first two and a half years of his life. I believe with my whole heart that in addition to God's amazing plan for Tucks life, it is because of this woman's love, care, and nurturing that Tucker is alive today. We will be forever grateful, and with tears in my eyes, I told her just that.
This was Tuck's crib where he slept every night and every day for his nap. Oh I can't even describe to you how many times I pictured him sleeping in his little bed. We were so surprised to see the pillow we sent him last April for his birthday. They said he did sleep with it every night. He seemed very happy to see it, pointing out Mama, Baba, Gaga, and Didi. We saw many babies and little ones like Tuck. Each of them deserve a home. Every single one. Before leaving, we took the opportunity to take this picture by the purple slide, which is the slide Tuck was sitting on in the first pictures we saw of him.
Today, when reflecting on our visit, Ryan said it best. We did not rescue Tuck from that orphanage. It was place filled with caring nannies who nurtured the babies as best they could. Tuck seemed to really love it there and was so happy to play with his toys and see his friends. I can't begin to imagine how painful it was to be ripped from his nanny's arms at the end of our visit, which is exactly what I did. She was everything to him. I am a complete stranger who took him away from everything he knows. Yes, this is in his best interest for the long run, but now, at two years old, it must be so painful, confusing, and sad for him. Although we didn't "rescue" him from this orphanage (some kids are in very, very sad and terrible places - this orphanage for this age group isn't one of them), we know God has rescued him from his most probable future in Chongqing...a future that I would never wish upon any child.
We got back into Michael's car, and this picture perfectly captures the moment. Tuck passed out from sheer emotional exhaustion. I, too, felt overwhelmed by our experience. So many emotions all at once.
As I've mentioned before, people are not allowed to place their children for adoption in China, as it is illegal. Instead, children must be abandoned by birth parents when they cannot care for them.
The last thing to do was visit Tucker's finding spot.
And to have a finding spot, you must be found.
And to be found, you must be abandoned.
The desperation a parent must feel to abandon his/her child. I just can't imagine...
My heart has dreaded this moment since the day I saw his face, and yet I knew that it was a journey we would have to take for Tucker. We needed to learn as much as we could during our time in Chongqing in order to help him understand and process his past.
What we experienced next will forever be engraved on my heart and silently hidden away under lock and key that only Tucker can access when he is ready. We cannot change his past, but we will always protect his story.
We put him to bed that night close to 8:30 p.m., and I fell asleep holding his hand between the slats of his crib almost immediately. The emotion of the day had competely taken over. I slept soundly, only waking twice to my son crying out with more night terrors, and woke up 10 1/2 hours later. I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to learn about Tucker's past, and I am still processing everything we saw and heard.
We live in such a broken world. I can't wait for the day when Jesus comes, and this world ceases to exist. No more pain. No more tears. No more abandonment. No more orphans. Just love and peace and light for eternity. I cannot wait.