August 16, 2010
It was a satisfying and productive day, but not without twists and turns.
First, the weather promised to be deceptively good. The scorching 100 degree Fahrenheit sun and its heat seemed to be behind us as we were greeted with a much cooler overcast day.
We were all in good spirit heading to the village, ready to accomplish a long list of items on the agenda. So, as soon as we got to the family, we began the sequence of Shumin and her parents taking Vivian and Hubert to one piece of their lush hilltop fields. We planned to profit quite a bit and film several sequences including Shumin picking pears in the trees she had save for Vivian. It didn’t work out, thanks to a downpour that lasted for almost over an hour.
We did shoot a little bit, luckily without causing real damage to our equipment. Under one umbrella, Vivian and Shumin learned from each other how to say “rain” in both Chinese and English.
We continued to do more filming with Shumin and Vivian, focusing on their interactions and bonding. We filmed Shumin reading letters from Vivian and Shumin and Vivian playing on the floor in Shumin’s room. Later, Mr. Zhu explained to Hubert his life and his house, and Hubert shared his family background, telling Mr. Zhu that long time ago, while his grandparents lived in China, they had a similar house, and on the roof of the house there were chickens his grandparents raised. It was a telling moment of Hubert reconnecting with his own past and roots. I could see on numerous occasions that he was also searching for his own identity and identification.
The major effort of the day, however, was on the interviews, namely, with Shumin’s school principal, who talked about Shumin, her family, and her reactions when he inquired whether she was adopted or not, and with Shumin’s birth parents. They gave some vivid accounts of the circumstances under which they made their tough decision of relinquishing their daughter.
Well, yesterday, outside of Mr. Zhu’s house, sitting in a semicircle, Hubert and Vivian arranged a “gift ceremony,” which drew a decent crowd of villagers. As they pulled out and explained each gift they had brought, there was this woman in the crowd who stared at Vivian intensely. Her face was full of emotions, a mix of anguish and longing. I learned that while we were in the school filming yesterday this woman had come from a nearby town to see if Vivan was her own child. The woman was a mother of a child who was adopted from the Jiujiang orphanage 17 years earlier. She did look a lot like Vivian but given the dates, it was impossible… But we interviewed her today and she offered yet another birth mother’s perspective on the international adoption story.
We brought Shumin and her parents to the city and hotel tonight. We had dinner together. From this point on, our camera will focus on the experience of Shumin being in the city for the first time. Tomorrow afternoon, I will conduct an interview with Shumin and her parents. This is our last day with the family – tomorrow we say goodbye and head to Suzhou as Vivian and Hubert make their way back towards Shanghai and the flight home to Canada…