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Sunday, July 31, 2005

The Train Ride-(From another family, while receiving their son)

(This story was shared on a forum, and I had to share it here because it was so beautifully written.)

On Friday morning (7-8-05) Paul, LiLi and I boarded a train in Taiyuan (with the assistance of our guide, "Barry") for the 5+ hour train trip south to Yuncheng.

Now when I say we "boarded the train" it sounds like such a simple, hassle-free thing... But it was nothing of the sort. If one wants to get "off the beaten path" in China one must be prepared for some.....Discomfort ;o)

We arrived at the Taiyuan Central Train Station and swam into the veritable "sea" of people all headed for the same train that we were; there were probably 500 - 1000 other people all crowded into the terminal with suitcase, and bags of coal strapped to their backs, and chickens, and children and ....Each and everyone of them thought we were quite the site to see. SO if you don't like being in a fish bowl then steer clear of the train station or any other super crowded place. We just smiled and had a good time of it.

Barry was able to walk us all the way to the train and straight to our seats - so that was a HUGE deal as we would never have made it otherwise! Then it was "bye bye Barry" and we were on our own - headed south to Yuncheng!!! CHUG CHUG CHOO CHOO and away we went!

The first part of the journey was flat terrain, less plateau. There was field upon field of corn and apples and cauliflower, and other veggies. There were farmhouses and people working in the fields. Mother, Father, and children all in a row hoeing and planting and weeding.

Eventually the fields started to give way to mountains and mountains of coal, and blackened men working in every capacity with the coal. They were breaking it up, and shoveling it into bags, and driving machines that moved it from one place to the next..(keep in mind that it was probably about 90 degrees with 90% humidity outside).

Then we started heading into the mountains...
The terrain here was very similar to the high desert terrain in Utah, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico...Dry, hot, craggy, beautiful..And old. AND it is here that one starts to see the "cave" homes that so many people live in here. YES, I did say cave homes. We learned about this when we were in LiLi's province last year - as the terrain and living situations are similar.

Our guide in LiLi's province told us that these caves/homes have been used for thousands of years, and that when a new one is dug out what they do is put a pig inside the cave for 3 days -and if the pig does not die then they know that there are no gases and that it is then ok for humans to move in.

There are no "amenities" of running water or electricity.. So the river or stream nearby becomes a critical life element for these mountainous families. The nicer of these cave homes have a facade of sorts put on the front, but most of them are not that way. I will include some photos of them in the TRAIN file later on). There were mile upon mountainous mile of these cave homes, and the stepped fields that these families tend each day. Some of them have sheep that they herd. Usually the caves were in clusters and neighbors were helping neighbors...So so poor...One cannot begin to imagine life as it is for these hard working people. We must remember that these are the hard working families that our children come from.

As we came out of the mountains into the hills there were more fields... And men and women ploughing with both horses and oxen pulling the ancient ploughs - leather straps tided to farmer and beast to make one piece of "machinery" to till the soil.

Old men in Mao hats on ancient bicycles, and old women beating the laundry against rocks in the river. Young mothers with babies peeling vegetables for dinner as they squatted in dooryards, and fathers and sons sitting by the railroad tracks to watch the "iron beast" go by. And the coal miners...Always the blackened coal miners sweating and pounding and lifting and toiling...So hot, so hard working....

The images are vivid ones.. Like a trip back in time. The Good Earth (read it if you haven't) is alive and well and working so hard in North Central China....

As we looked out the window of our train - we felt spoiled and less productive in our lives than these amazingly resilient, hard working people. We tried to watch with RESPECT - not pity - since that is exactly what these people deserve. These people ARE our children's people...These are the solid, ancient people that give them all of their beauty and determination. (I think that each of us with children from China would certainly say that our children are nothing if not determined!!).

As these scenes rolled by we were all the more clear about the fact we cannot judge these families when they find it necessary to "abandon" their children. They have nothing..There is no doctor to fix a cleft lip, so surgeon to mend the injuries, there is no "Planned Parenthood", there is no money...There is no anything extra...No help from the government...Their reality is the soil to be tilled, and the coal to be mined, and life in a cave home with no running water....And yet they came to the train tracks to wave as we rode by....

Tomorrow one of their own will be entrusted to us...A son of their own will become one of our family. The HUGENESS of this gift and this responsibility is heavy on our shoulders. We are humbled in the face of the proud people that our son comes from. We know that his ancestors will never be far from him.. And watching to be sure that we do right by him for the privilege of receiving him as our son.

Before adopting LiLi we were an average "white" family, but then LiLi was entrusted to us - and we became a Chinese family. Now we are being entrusted with another child - a son of China - and we become even more indebted to these people for their generosity and faith that we will somehow do right by their children. These thoughts are heavy on our minds today on the eve of our adoption of YunDong. We are filled with respect and gratitude and awe. We have taken the time to learn the CORRECT way to pronounce his Chinese name, and the correct way to say the name of the city he is from - so that we can teach him the correct way to say it...To show our respect we have learned these things.

We took a train ride back in time.
We saw the land where our son was born.
We saw his people - now also our people - hard at work as we rode by. They stopped their toiling to wave to us - do they know somehow that we are here for him, and they want to tell us that it is ok that we are taking him away from them for a time? We hope that is what they are saying...They smile, they wave - we smile and wave and then we are gone....But we vow not to forget who they are and where our children come from.

Cheryl and Paul Cutting
Proud parents of Dang YunDong born 9/19/01 in Shanxi Province, China.


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