Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Jillian came to visit

Ancient Culture Street in Tianjin

A local food market. This is the first time I have seen rabbit and pheasant offered.

So funny....I think 3 star was a little generous.

The moat around the Forbidden City.

Forbidden City

Some food offered at the Night Market in Beijing.

The Great Wall or Long Wall as the Chinese call it.

Babies at the Starfish Foster home.

In December, our friend Jillian came to visit. We met her right before we moved to China at a 3 week cross-cultural training in Colorado. She was in Burundi serving with World Relief for 9 months and is back now starting Graduate school for social work at Columbia University. We stayed a couple of days in Beijing and toured the Great Wall, Forbidden City, Tian'An Men square, Temple of Heaven and other usual places. We also had the opportunity to fly to Xi'An to visit a foster home there called Starfish Home. It's an amazing place and there are 50 babies that we were able to love on and play with. It was part work for me as the woman who runs it has a lot of knowledge and wisdom that she is willing to share with me to help me in my work here in Tianjin. We were also able to sneak in a trip to the Terra Cotta Soldiers and had the most scary taxi ride that I've had since being in China! A memorable time and we were thankful that Jillian could come and spend time with us. Here are some pictures (by Jillian Lee).

Monday, January 11, 2010

Thanksgiving in Korea

Lily on "that guy's" shoulders.

All of us together at the airport.

We were so glad to be able to travel to Korea for Thanksgiving and spend time with my brother, Doug and his wife, Molly. The morning of our flight Lily declared that she had a bb in her ear and was quite adamant. When I looked, sure enough there was a orange air soft bullet lodged in her ear canal. Some of you might not know that Lily is deaf in one ear because she lacks an ear canal so when the working ear is blocked....she can barely hear. What a way to start a day traveling! I decided I didn't want to try to get it out and damage her one hearing ear so I wrote Doug a quick email to let him know what was going on. When we landed we headed straight for their apartment, had lunch and then Doug, Lily and I headed off to the Korean doctor for her problem. He looked in there, took a little tool that got behind the bb and popped it out. Ting, ting, ting----into the stainless steel container it went and we went out to the foyer to see how expensive it would be as insurance was not going to cover it......only $7. Whew!

We had a great time visiting, eating, sightseeing, shopping and playing. Seoul is much more western than where we live so we ate at Outback, On the Border, and Burger King. We did some sightseeing to the Korean War Memorial, Gyeongbokgung palace, a university and just had a good time. Matthew was able to find his Christmas present--a bass guitar. He has been borrowing one since last year and taught himself how to play. Kelly was happy to shop a little at Forever 21. John loved playing ping pong in Doug and Molly's apartment building rec room and Lily just loved all the attention that "that boy" and "uncle Molly" gave her. We enjoyed their company and their amazing hospitality!

Lily was amazed that every bathroom had "regular" toilets and not squatties. She would go into the bathroom and look into each stall to see how many were "regular" and exclaim, "No Squatties mommy!" She was also so happy that the bathrooms have toilet paper in the stall. Here we have to carry our own at all times because most places do not have it. I saw a toilet paper dispenser that had a red button on it. If you push it, it makes a "white noise" so people cannot hear you use the bathroom. Amazing! Even the park bathrooms were nicer and cleaner than most of the bathrooms here. If you have lived outside of the US you may understand our fascination with restrooms!

The air was much cleaner also and when we came back to Tianjin, David and I both noticed that our nose and throats burned. It took a couple of days not to notice anymore. There is also much more English, written and spoken, so it was much easier to get around. Seoul is beautiful with mountains close by so it's not totally flat like in TJ. But, it is also much more expensive and not where we are supposed to be so it was nice to visit but China is still where our heart is.

We are so thankful that we have some family on this side of the world and that we were able to spend a holiday with them. By the way, we had Thai food in Korea for American Thanksgiving....a truly multi-cultural experience. :0)

Can you tell John is excited about Burger King? He hasn't been there in almost a year and a half.

At the Korean War Memorial...my dad served in the navy during this war.

Silk worms anyone? We saw these a lot and the smell is actually worse than what they look like. They are about $5.

These cans of coffee come of the vending machine piping hot. So nice!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

I am Free!

We were recently at a conference and we sang this song:


Through You the blind will see
Through You the mute will sing
Through You my heart screams I am free
I am free

I am free to run (I am free to run)
I am free to dance (I am free to dance)
I am free to live for You (I am free to live for You)
I am free (I am free)
Yes, I am free (I am free)

Through You the kingdom comes
Through You the battle's won
Through You I'm not afraid
Through You the price is paid
Through You there's victory
Because of You my heart screams I am free
I am free

I am free to run (I am free to run)
I am free to dance (I am free to dance)
I am free to live for You (I am free to live for You)
I am free (I am free)
Yes, I am free (I am free)

The week before we had three new children brought to the orphanage. One child is hairless--not one hair on his entire body but otherwise normal. One child has a leg that does not move. One child is both deaf and blind. All are adorable boys. When we sang this song, I had a vision of the children I love running, singing, dancing and having whole bodies loving the One who loves them most. Their lives here on earth may be limited but one day they will be free~

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Summer visitors

We had our second set of visitors and the first from the USA. My dear friend, Audra, came in July and accompanied Matt's friend, Josh. We started off the trip in Beijing visiting the Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, Confucius' temple and experiencing some Beijing culture. We had a few adventures staying in a hostel and I lost Audra and Matt for a short time. Audra and I went to Qinhuangdao and had a great time relaxing and seeing the Great Wall. Matt and Josh went to the wall in Ji Xian and Josh has some great video but sadly, I don't. :0) Many memories were made and it was really difficult to see them leave. Here are some highlights from their visit:


The summer began with Kelly taking a trip to Mongolia with a team from school for two weeks. They did a lot of hiking much to Kelly's dismay because her pack weighed roughly 37 pounds. They spent time with Mongolian students and learned about the culture there. They built yurts (their type of home) for people in the local fellowship there and spent time at the orphanage which was Kelly's favorite part of the trip.

There is not a lot to do in summer in Tianjin but we did manage to find a few activities. Every Monday night the expat families here went to the school and had a picnic followed by games like kickball, soccer, basketball and the little ones played on the playground. It was a nice time to get out and use some energy as well as get to know our other team members better. We also got away to a small village called Ji Xian and visited our friends and had some adventures on the Ldi ropes course and climbing wall. This is where we celebrated John's 10th birthday. He was able to shoot bb guns, have a horseback ride and a motorcycle ride all on his special day. The Ldi experiential course was hosting a game day for the local village children and it was a joy to see them have so much fun and build relationships with the team.

We did manage to get away as a family to Qinhuangdao which is a smaller city of 1.5 million but nicely located on the Bohai Sea. It was relaxing, beautiful and we loved every minute. We stayed at a Holiday Inn right on the Sea and went to see the Dragon's head which is the part of the wall that starts in the sea and also the third gate. The third gate has some unique history and you can walk through the tunnel that the Qing army dug to bypass the wall and eventually overthrew the Ming dynasty.

As first year staff, we stayed behind to help cover the vacant positions. David had more time to work with our Chinese national team. He also had language lessons, spoke at fellowship and emceed fellowship. Jenny did some work for school, orphanage and had time to paint and decorate the apartment a little. We have spent the last couple of weeks helping new staff shop and learn how to get around here in Tianjin. Summer is over now and we are looking forward to spending next summer in Michigan with our family and friends!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

How is life in China different?

I get this question from friends and family back in the States. How is life different in China? Whew! A loaded question. I can only compare it to where I have lived before which is the Midwest and also Tennessee for 3 years. Almost everything is done differently here.

Living in an apartment with 4 kids has been a little bit of an adjustment. One of our bathrooms is not very pleasant so often on a school morning 3 of us will be brushing our teeth at the same time (in the not as gross bathroom) with me spitting over Lily's head trying not to slime her. We pay in advance for our electricity and when we get very low our power goes out for a while and then comes back on. We have air conditioning and heat only when the government turns it on. It doesn't matter is it is 90 degrees in April, the air doesn't come on until June 10!

In China, people live their lives outside which I LOVE to watch. Anything can happen on the sidewalk or street. They exercise, take walks (sometimes in their pj's), get their hair cut, eat, cook, play mah jong, play cards, get keys made, bikes fixed, urinate, spit, sell bootleg movies, sell clothing, and the list goes on. Lately, we have witnessed a few fistfights. Being illiterate is very challenging. We get a receipt and the first thing we do is write down what it was for and where we bought it because otherwise we won't know later what it was for. We don't know what a store sells until we actually look inside the store.

Another difference is transportation. We don't own a car here and take a taxi, walk, or take a bus everywhere. Soon I will get up enough courage to buy a bike. We walk miles more than we did in Michigan. There are not many rules of the road followed here. I have had a taxi driver drive in reverse down a 4 land busy road because he missed the turn. As we were driving back from a Beijing doctor appointment, we have had a driver drive like a crazy man because he needed to get to our destination to have a cigarette. There is no regard for pedestrians, left hand turn lanes or lanes in general. It's amazing how fast you adjust and just accept that this is the way it is and we are in His hands!

There are many things that are different but that I enjoy. Because most parents work and people retire rather young, the grandparents are always seen outside with their grandchildren playing and talking with other grandparents. I love that we can walk 5 minutes and find a huge selection of fresh vegetables and fruit. I LOVE the food....simply the best. I love how our college age students always make sure we find a taxi and tell the driver where we live (even though we can do this ourselves). I'm sure they think we speak horrible Chinese and are amazed we can get anywhere by ourselves!! I especially love that that I can volunteer at the orphanage and spend time with the children there.

Life in many ways is simpler yet more complicated for us because of our lack of language. Living overseas you learn that different doesn't necessarily mean bad.......it's just different. I am so thankful that we are here and that our children are learning these things early in their lives.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Jing Jing

In November, at the orphanage, my friend noticed that a little girl looked a little like Lily. We inquired about her and learned that her name was Jing Jing (Lily's chinese name) and she was about the same age as Lily. I do not believe they are twins but this gave me a special interest in her. We also learned she has a severe heart defect and was having more and more problems with energy level, almost passing out, etc..

I couldn't get her off of my mind so I talked with David and we agreed we wanted to try to get her the help she needed. We met with the director of the orphanage and they were very agreeable and said they would even get her a passport if we needed to take her out of China for surgery. This is VERY unusual. During this meeting, we also found out that the director is good friends with a co-worker of mine and so we automatically had some guanxi or relationship which is crucial in this culture.

A man from our company's daughter lives in Beijing and works with a foundation that helps orphans so I contacted here and was able to take Jing Jing to Bejing last month for her first tests. They show that she has pulmonary atresia, ventricular septal defect, and collateral blood vessels and that she needs more extensive testing to see if surgery is possible. They did not have a bed for her then so they said they would call when one became available. Apparently, they have 60 beds but there is a shortage of nurses and support staff so they can only have 30 beds occupied at one time. Poor Jing Jing was carsick the entire way there and back and was just so pitiful.

The hospital called on April 16th and said they had a bed available--could she be there that night? After 4 hours of dozens of phone calls and text messages, we were on our way to Beijing for a CT scan and an angiogram. In a Chinese hospital, a patient has to have someone with them 24/7 for the entire stay. Also, they do not provide ANYTHING for you. When I say anything, I mean toilet paper, soap, towels, eating utensils, bowls, and so on. Also, the patients food is not provided and costs about $1.25/meal. I guess that is one way to keep costs down!

Kelly and I stayed with her on the weekend and what an experience. First of all, we were the only English speakers in the hospital. When we didn't understand what was being said, sometimes another Chinese speaker was brought into the conversation or sometimes they just spoke louder and louder as if we just couldn't hear properly. At lunchtime, I went out and stood in line for Jing Jing's food. When I put my bowl in front of the woman and said Jing Jing's name she informed me that they didn't have food for her. I couldn't understand the rest. I have found that I'm getting used to not know they "why's" of things I don't understand. You just move on. So, I fed her some of the breakfast I had bought on the street earlier. It was quite the adventure and special memories made for both of us.

Jing Jing was supposed to have her angiogram on Tuesday but we got the call that they couldn't do it then---maybe Wednesday or Thursday---or maybe next Tuesday. WHAT? Our Dad moved mightily and she was able to have the test on Thursday. My friend, Kimberly, was there and loved her through that test and recovery. The doctor concluded that she has a severe defect, made worse without treatment for so long, but is operable.

Please join me in lifting this little one up. All life is precious and our hope is that once she has the surgery she will be able to have a loving family. Please check out my link to the Tianjin International Committee for Chinese Orphans.