Tuesday, May 31, 2011

That's how we roll in China.

Monday's are my days to get things done!  Since we have had our little foster guy, it's been more complicated to keep up with things.  He had a  severely compromised immune system when we got him last fall and at the advice of the pediatrician, we kept him in for most of the severely cold winter.  It's been warmer here for about a month but it can still be challenging to get things done with him. We live on the sixth floor of our building...and we don't have an elevator.  Carrying a low muscle tone, limp baby up the stairs in addition to groceries...not that fun.  Add in that that our local market is two stories with stairs.  If I walked over to the market with him, I can only get vegetables and meat- not the milk, yogurt etc. that is on the second floor.  I can't do the stairs with a stroller and he is just too heavy to carry and carry groceries.  Plus, there are no carts to sit him in.
So on Monday's, my helper comes.  I try to head out as soon as she gets there but that can be challenging.  Our little guy is a morning napper but the time varies.  If he isn't asleep when I leave, our soft hearted helper lets him get up.  This leads to a challenging day all around!  I need him to be asleep when I leave.
Yesterday was a fairly typical day.  In spite's of Sunday lack of naps and late night, our little guy was bright eyed at bushy tailed at 5:00 AM.  I've gotten used to waking up this early and most of the time don't mind getting up with him.  Most of the time.
Fortunately, he went to sleep right at 9:00 and I was able to go out immediately.  I had a meeting at the international school at 9:30 to discuss some ESL curriculum development and I wanted to be on time.  Wonder of wonder, miracle of miracles - there was a taxi right outside our apartment complex.  I headed out to the school (about 20 minutes away),  and had a wonderful meeting with one of the Chinese (nationality not teaching matter) teachers.  Some exciting things are happening in our city with schools and curriculum and it was good to be able to think about being a part of that.  I hadn't been able to find my keys that morning and I thought Elisabeth had had them, so I went over to the high school to ask her.  No keys but it was nice to see what she does during the day.
Then- big miracle!  There was a taxi outside of the school.  The school is at the end of a road, surrounded by factories and the countryside and the main traffic is donkey carts.  But there was a taxi with a very nice driver and we had a good conversation about family and American propensity towards divorce.
Back home to a still sleeping baby so I decided to get on my bike and go to the big grocery store.  Spring is wind and dust season here and wow!  风很大!Dust and wind and wind and dust!  I made it to the bank to get out money, only do have the bank tell me "system error."  We have an American bank that has a China partner and rarely have issues getting out money.  I didn't have enough cash to shop (using a debit card is rare here) so I biked back home to call the bank.  We love the google phone!  Called the  US bank and guess what....a holiday!  Banks are closed for Memorial Day.  So that was that.
At this point, our little guy was up and needed lunch.  I also ate lunch- our sweet helper had made us zongzi  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zongzi  so I ate one and some soup.  At one o'clock, a student came over for help with her writing.  She has been accepted into a PhD program in England but needs to increase her IELT's  score a little.  Her spoken and written English is really good and it's really a pleasure to work with her.  She is from a small village and is just so interesting to talk to.  She saw the picture we had from the 25 anniversary of the Shenyang International Church and that lead to a great discussion about the kinds of things we like to talk about!
After she left, I biked over to the local market to get milk and food for Tuesday's dinner.  However, when I got home, I discovered that our helper had only made vegetables and rice for dinner.  We had thrown out some meat that was in the freezer when we defrosted this weekend so maybe she had planned on using that.  Either way, the chicken that I bought for Tuesday's dinner became Monday's dinner and now I need to go back to the market.
Elisabeth got home around 4:00 and we ate a quick dinner around 5:30.  At 6:30, people started to arrive for the class that we have on Monday nights.  We studied the story of the woman caught in adultery.  There is something about slowing down and looking at a familiar story in a different language that is really refreshing.
Collapsed into bed around 10:00....only to be woken up by a sweet and happy face at 5AM.  Today I get to stay home and work on curriculum and work with my tutor.  Both days are good kinds of days.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

A day of cross cultural confusion and fun

We haven't had a day like this in quite a while....but it happens even after you have been here for a while.
This afternoon we went to the 25th anniversary of the Shenyang International Church, commonly referred to as Xita (West Gate) as it is in the Xita neighborhood of our city.  Xita is basically Korea town.  Our city is pretty close to North Korea and we have our fair share of North Koreans who have made it out or ethnic Koreans whose families have been in China for a long time.

So we got in the taxi to go there and our driver just finished a cigarette.  Taxi drivers aren't really allowed to smoke when they are driving and most obey that rule.  He was a nice enough guy and asked if we would mind if he ran into a mini-market to get lunch.  He came out with a loaf of bread, a sausage and a diet coke which he ate while he drove us to the church.  He asked about our little guy and we told him his name and a few details.  He told us we had love in our hearts or sympathy (爱心)and then spend the rest of the ride calling out our little guy's name.  Even though that got really old, really fast, it was nice to know that our little guy really does know his name.  The taxi driver lit up another cigarette so I opened up the window and protested.  

On the way to the church, we called up a seamstress who had made some skirts for me.  We had arranged to meet her at the church when she picked up the fabric.  So we called her and we were to meet in front of the church.  When we got there, we waited and waited and waited. After 45 minutes, we finally gave up and went in, thinking that she could text us when she got there.  An hour later she arrived, breathless and apologizing.  She had been up at Qi Pan Shan, about an hour from our city!  We felt terrible that she had rushed back but we had no idea that she was there.  Anyway, the skirts are lovely, if a little form fitting.

The anniversary service was packed with people from all over the world.  There are many Africans here studying at a medical college and many of them are active in the international church.  We like going there for the worship and freedom and joy.  However, the service is on Sundays at 3:00 and that doesn't always work for us.  This service was full of joy, color, dancing, singing and praying.  It was fun and I am glad we went.

Afterwards there was a potluck but our little guy fell apart as it was really noisy and he was really tired. So we walked out onto the main street to a little store that my friend took me to when we first arrived here.  It's one of the only places you can buy light brown sugar.  We also needed diapers and milk but they didn't have diapers.

By this point we were hungry so we went to a Korean barbeque place.  We love Korean barbeque and have eaten it many times.  But somehow, we just couldn't understand the waiter and he couldn't understand us. Usually you order meat and some vegetables and you cook them right there at your table.  We ordered bibimbap, which is my favorite.  Some how an order of kim bob landed on our table and a mystery bowl of soup.  I tried to feed to tofu to our litte guy but it was too spicy.  Fortunately we had an egg on the bibimbap so I fed him that.  We took the kim bob home with us.  It was just the oddest experience to just not understand what was going on in the restaurant. I asked them to cook the egg on the bibimbap a little longer and they brought me some kind of spice. We think they were telling us something about the meat....or maybe not.

As we were leaving, two ladies came in and looked at our little guy.  I heard one say to the other "Oh, he has problems."  I looked right at her and said "That's right."  They weren't being unkind but it still rankled.  We feel very protective of our little guy.

Since we still had no diapers or milk, we walked over to the big Korean grocery and got those things.  To get to the market, you enter a kind of mall and weave your way to the back and then up three flights of stairs.  There is a pretty large Korean grocery store with fun stuff to buy.  But I was on a mission for diapers and milk and that's all I got.  Paul and the sweet baby had to wait outside.

We fell into a taxi and got home more than an hour past the sweet baby's bed time.  He cried a little and then fell asleep.  Maybe he'll be tired enough to sleep past 5AM tomorrow.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Re-entry and Reverse Culture Shock.

We are about ten days away from our first trip back to the US since we left for China about two years ago.  I've been reading a lot about re-entry and reverse culture shock.  It won't be the first time for Paul and I.  We lived in Germany for a few years in the late 1980's, while he served with the US military.  The world was much bigger then!  No e-mail, long distance phone calls were complicated and expensive, no internet.  When we came back to the US, we discovered that people were now using bank cards to pay for things.  We had never heard of this before but we had opened up a savings account and had a bank card for it.  We asked at the grocery store if we could use it and they assured us we could.  But we discovered we couldn't, as it was a savings account.  So we left our groceries (in Davis, CA) and drove all the way to Sacramento (where there was a branch of the bank where we had our account), drove back to Davis and paid for our groceries in cash. Embarrassing!

Now the world is smaller in many ways.  We have almost constant communication with people from all over the world.  We can watch some American TV on Hulu.  We blog to keep people up-to-date on our lives.  We live in a large city in China- about 8 million people.  We can find a reasonable facsimile of almost anything we want here.  We've all heard the about the ex-pat returning to the US, only to find himself standing in the cereal/cheese/potato chip aisle at the local grocery store stunned and overwhelmed by the choices.  Or the person who goes into Starbucks to buy a coffee and thinks "This would be one days wages in XXX country."  I've heard those things enough that I don't want to be that person.  Plus, Starbucks costs about the same in China.

I also don't want to be the person that judges America based on our experience in China.  I've worked with enough refugees and immigrants to know that people really want to come to the US and live there.  It's the land of the second chance.  Faulty, for sure and not above criticism.  But I don't want to be a snotty ex-pat.

We have read and heard about a couple of things that I do believe to be true.  One is that people are less interested in you and your experiences than you might think!  A friend who lived in Austria in the time of snail mail and crackly long distance phone calls told me that she was surprised at who kept up with her and who didn't.  People she wasn't sure she would recognize supported them and their work there and people who were their closest friends didn't.  We have found that to be true since we've been here.  We've been disappointed as several friends have come to China and not contacted us.  All were busy and had legitimate reasons but we would have loved to have known they were coming.  On the flip side, we get amazing e-mail and messages from many friends far and near and have many friends that have kept in great contact with us.

For our daughter, this is a reality that is particularly true.  We left our small college town in the MidWest when she had just finished ninth grade.  She has now finished two years at a small, international high school.  It's not always been easy for her.  She has done service trips to the Philippines and Yunnan.  She has seen poverty and orphans and some hard realities.  She has changed.  She has high hopes to spend time with her friends.  Of course, their lives have changed also.  They are busy with jobs and school and relationships.  We hope she won't be disappointed.

Our two years here (so far) have changed us in deep ways.  Some of our experiences have been exotic and interesting.  Some have been hard.  We are looking forward to reconnecting with friends and family this summer.  However, I am also looking forward to just relaxing, going to the library, renting a movie at Redbox,   drinking coffee with friends and reading People magazine (if I even know who the people are!).  We have an intense nine week schedule.  Sadly, Paul will not be with us for seven of the nine weeks!  We'll be apart at at the beginning, together for two and then apart for about another month.  His work schedule is different than Elisabeth's school schedule and that is the reality of our life right now.  We won't be able to see everyone but we hope to be able to see as many as possible.

See many of you in a few weeks!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Rick Warren comes to China

So our little guy got new clothes.  When we saw this outfit, we immediately thought of Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life    and lover of the Hawaiian shirt.

See what we mean?

So we got out our copy of The Purpose Driven Life.

The Chinese Rick Warren studied it intently.

But preferred his picture book.

Oh, how we believe this little guy has a loving Father who has His hand on his life and a purpose for him.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

More bullet points

* This little guy has very high hopes for his relationship with the cat.  The other day, our little guy offered him a toy to play with.  However, the cat thinks that our little guy is a plaything...and watches him for wiggling toes and fingers.  Keeps us on our toes.

* Elisabeth just got back from the high school Spring trip to Inner Mongolia.  They spent the time at Shamineau East.  We have been there as a family twice and the camp has a very special place in our heart.  We are glad she got to go there again.

*  I am trying to teach our little guy to sleep later than 5 AM.  Any suggestions?  

*  We arrive in the US June 6.  The first place I am going to drive after not driving for two years....the LA freeways!

*  We are looking for a car to use in the STL area from June 29 - July 3/4.  E-mail me if you have one.

*  Airlines tickets are expensive!!  We used to be able to do the St. Louis - San Jose flight for about $250.00.  Now ...well, not for $250!  Car rentals, gas...oh my!

*The other day I was walking home from a meeting.  I was on a busy street and saw the police pulling a few cars over.  I think there had been a minor accident.  A guy selling pirated cd's  went riding by on his bicycle cart  and stopped to look at the situation.  No fear of arrest or trouble.  Different cultural understanding of the law.

* We can buy mango bingsha (ice sand) here for about 50 cents.  They are fantastic.  

*  The amazing thing about finding high school and college friends on Facebook is that they are middle aged.  How did that happen?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Some more of the foster babies.

This is the newest of the little foster babies.  Yay to the orphanage for calling our foster care organization and asking for a foster family.  Right now her medical needs are high- feeding issues and a seizure disorder.  Right now she is staying with one of the doctors who works with the orphan clinic.  She needs a more permanent foster family and we are hoping that a Chinese family will be willing to take care of her.  The woman holding her is one of the other doctors who works with the foster care program.  She is a hero to me because she is the doctor who found our little guy and got him into foster care.

Every few months, we have to take our little orphans to the clinic for an exam.  This is fun but lengthy  visit.and it's more fun to go with a friend.  We went with one of the other fostering families.  This little guy sitting next to our little guy is almost paper ready to go.  He just needs a family willing to accept some of his special needs.  He is another one that has come a long, long way through the loving care of a family.

Our little guy showing us that he can flex!

We asked our  Chinese friend who is going to take care of our little guy over the summer to come to the exam.  We wanted her to know where to take him if he got sick and to talk to the doctor about Down Syndrome.  Down Syndrome is not a well known syndrome here and we wanted to her to have a greater understanding of where he was developmentally.

I think he will be well loved by this sweet sister.  And yes, he is teething like crazy!

Waiting, waiting.  This hospital is a training facility.  First you get asked questions by a resident.  This tends to be in Chinese and English.  Then the resident examines the baby.  Then the doctor comes in and asks questions and then examines the baby.  It's very thorough and well done and we are so thankful for such good care for our little guys.

The wonderful doctor Nancy getting her hair pulled while examining our little guy. Nancy was our doctor when our little guy was in the hospital last October and she really fought for him.  She is currently the foster mom for the little girl in the pictures above.  Yes-these doctors are amazing.
 In the background you can see the other foster mom and her little guy answering developmental questions.  You can not see the Chinese resident asking the questions but you can kind of see the visiting American medical student who is there observing.  A few minutes later, the Chinese doctor who was helped get our little guy into foster care and fought for him in the hospital came in to take a look.  Then more people came into admire these two little guys.  It was a great party.

One other little guy in our foster care program was adopted this week.  But so few of them actually are.  There are times when the reality of these children really hits me and it's a heart ripping feeling.  They are all special needs in one way or another and we hope for long term families for them.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

New Clothes and other matters

We've been really blessed with the amount of clothing for our little guy that has been passed on to us.  One very generous friend just mailed us a box of darling new and gently used clothes for our little guy.  He is now quite fashionable!  Thank you, Maggi!

Summer pajama's with a frog theme.

Osh Kosh B' Gosh!  Adorable

Baseball onesie.

Not new clothes but a sweet sleep picture.  We find him in almost every position now.

Speaking of new clothes...we were sitting at an outdoor cafe in Thailand when I saw this dress hanging on a rack outside a small store.  I told Elisabeth to go and look at it and she looked, liked and tried it on.  It was on sale and a bargain.  Here she is all dressed up for the high school Spring Banquet.

Cute hair and pearls.

And...to top off this post...The Toilet Restaurant.  Elisabeth's mentor teacher took Elisabeth and the other student in her mentoring group out for lunch here.  I have no words so I'll just let the pictures speak for themselves.  

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Bullet Points

I was inspired by my friend Gillian who blogs over here to do a bullet point kind of post.
My mind is full of details and my concentration is nill.  I am not having deep thoughts about much.  I mostly think about this summer, google calendar and trying to see as many people as possible before we return to China.

So in no special order.

1.  This summer we will be in California, Oregon, Washington,Minnesota, Missouri, Illinois and Canada.  More places will probably be added.
2.  We will fly into LA and visit Azusa Pacific College and then fly to San Jose about a day later.  I'm not sure that a college visit the day after you fly in to a country is the best idea but it was the only way to fit it in.
3.  In late June, we will fly to the Pacific Northwest and look at Seattle Pacific and Trinty Western.  In late July, we will be near Portland looking at George Fox.  There might be a Wheaton trip somewhere in July.
4.  We are looking forward to driving, Trader Joe's, new clothes, the ocean, closets and toilets that flush the first time.
5.  The sweet baby will stay with a Chinese friend for the summer.  We will miss him every day.
6.  Paul will be in China for the first seven weeks of our trip.  He will join us in July for a few weeks and then stay in the US for a while when Elisabeth and I go back to China.  
7.  We were thrilled to find lower priced tickets on Korean Air.  They are the best.
8.  Elisabeth took her AP history test last week and is at school right now taking AP English.  She has the SAT's on Saturday, June 5.
9.  The high school choir had their concert last week.  It was lovely.

Talking to one of the teachers.

Proud dad.

10.  Our little guy is teething like crazy.  Tylenol is our best friend.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Mad Skilz!

Aside from a sweet personality and almost perpetual great attitude, our little guy is getting some great skills.
His sitting has improved dramatically-he rarely falls over.   He spends quite a bit of time looking at his cards.

He can transfer objects from one hand to the other.


Hand off!

Left!  And then repeat.

He is starting to bear weight on his legs.

Look, Mom!  No support but the pillow!

Isn't his round head cute?