Monday, October 31, 2011

When you live in a family....

You get to live with your fun big sister who wore the tiger suit for the ICS volleyball tournament this weekend.  A tiger suit that she had especially made!

You get to go to Sunday morning fellowship with your Baba. (Side note- check out our friend's loom.  I covet!  She had it shipped to China instead of her furniture!  How fantastic is that?)

You also get to find out that all the cool dudes wear jeans and chambray shirts.  The cool dude on the left is a teacher at the international school.  He is from a large family and two of his brothers have Down Syndrome.  He has a soft heart towards our little guy.

You can read books....

or read your Baba's text books.

Yes, of course we will read it to you.

You also get to watch your pretty jie jie make homemade graham crackers so that her friend's could come over and have S'Mores.

S'More- China apartment style!

And you get to celebrate the World Championship all the way in China!

Saturday, October 29, 2011


All though we are thrilled with our little guys developmental steps, there are some that are just.....eww.


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Teaching the teachers and having fun doing it.

One of my fun projects right now is doing some teacher training in our school and some of our city schools.  I've done one training workship and am working on writing some curriculum. Last Friday I got to go with the coordinator of these trainings to a local public school in our city and teach a one hour English class to 35 4th graders.  The purpose was to show the teacher's some new and creative way to teach English. I chose to do Reader's Theatre with the group. Reader's Theatre is a kind of play where the actors get to keep the script when they perform.  It's great for reading, vocabulary building and pronunciation practice.  Plus it's just plain fun.
So last Friday, the coordinator and I were driven to the school.  The school has over 1000 students and is fairly well known in our city.  When we got there, many of the kids were outside at recess.  We went in and met the principal and sat down for water and fruit in a nice kind of conference room.  This was the first time I'd really been inside a Chinese elementary school and it was pretty fascinating. The class sizes are large but not overly large. The classrooms were bright and cheerful and the teachers were kind to their students.  It really was a good afternoon.

The outside of the school.  It's in the middle of the city.

Play equipment was pretty minimal.  A few ping pong tables and exercise equipment.  Several children were jumping rope.  There was also chess available.

The inside of the class.  36 seats and 35 4th graders.  All well behaved - at least while I was there!

This says "Hao, hao xue xi, tian tian xian shang" or "Study hard, every day make progress".  I think every child in China knows this proverb.

Complex math problems on the board- sorry for the glare.

When we got there, I handed out scripts to each child. The Reader's Theatre play we were doing was very simple.  It was about a girl who wanted to buy new shoes.  We then read through it (first me, then they repeated each  line. Then we read it together.  Then they practiced at their tables.

After they practiced, they performed.

It takes  a lot of courage to get up in front of your classmates and read something you have only practiced once or twice!  It went well, even though the English levels varied.

My new friends.  This little girl on the left in the pink was a sweetie.

More of the 4th graders.  The red scarves mean they are part of the Young Pioneers- the Communist Party's youth program.

All line up to go back inside.

It was a rewarding afternoon.  It's great to be doing the thing I love- teaching children, teaching teachers and having fun!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

What's hanging out in our neighborhood.

I get home from teaching every day around 2:00.  When I got home today, I saw this.

Who knew there was animal sacrifice here?

The da bai cai and cong (big white cabbage and leeks) are all over the place drying but these are also hanging on strings all over the place.  I think they are some kind of peel from gourds.

You can also see the quilts in the background- airing things out here is a big thing, especially as the seasons change.

I got on my bike and rode across the university campus to a little shopping place.  There is a market with fresh vegetables and meat and a small grocery store.  Upstairs is one of my favorite kinds of China places- if you want it, they probably have it.  It's just tiny store after tiny store. I had to pick up some pants from the tailor- 3 pairs of pants hemmed for about $2.00. 
Then I turned the corner to go and buy envelopes and I had one of these only in China moments.  A slightly older woman got up from where she was sitting with her friend and greeted me warmly. She introduced me to her friend as her "hao pengyou" 好朋友."  She asked me about Elisabeth and our little guy and asked how he was doing and where was he and so on.  We had a fairly lengthy conversation as I bought my envelopes.
Here's the thing.  I am not sure who she was.  She looked vaguely familiar but I can't place her.  She is probably one of my neighbors in our complex. The truth is there are no secrets in China, especially for a foreigner.  When we go out with our little guy, we are greeted by all kinds of people who know his name and his story...and we've never told them either! China is a big country but it's really one small village.

Our little guy is growing and growing and his relationship with his jie jie is sweet to watch.  Here they are doing core ab. excercises. Who is pulling who?

And finally- we've been working with the little guy on drinking from a cup.  We bought a sippy cup that came with these fantastic intructions.  I've tried to get a good picture but I just couldn't.  Here's what I got.

It says "Before and after each use, be sure to clean it with cold water.  Do not boiling it to avoid the print peel zoff.  It's not affect the normal function while the print is fade. Keep the juice nipple in a clean and sanitary place away from cockroaches after cleaning, and avoid the direct sunlight.  Please replace the nipple three months a time to ensure the baby's health.  Don't heat with the microwave.  Check the cup frequently, if any broken found, please replace immediately.

No problem on the cockroaches....

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

My day...not so unusual.

I woke up this morning at 4:00 to the sound of a very stuffy nosed baby, gagging and trying to breathe. When we put him down last night, I knew we'd be up at least once with him so 4:00 AM didn't seem too bad. 
We got him up, suctioned his nose and put him back down to go back to sleep.  That is for him to sleep- we knew that our night was over.  He fell back asleep about 5:30 and we both got up.  That's not all that unusual for us as we have to be out of the door very early.
Also...and this is key- our water was due to be turned off at 8:00.  Not just us, our whole complex.  We don't know why. We assume it was some work that needed to be done.  The first year we were here,  we didn't even read the notice.  And by "didn't" I mean "couldn't."  There is just nothing like having a Master's degree and being illiterate. So our first year here, when the water went off, we were unprepared.  Let's just say that when the water goes off, you can't flush your toilet.  Do I need to explain more? 
The second year it went off, we were also unprepared.  More prepared than the first year, but less than we should have been.  I think that day we also had no electricity.  Good times.
So this year, we were ready.  We (and by we, I mean Paul who can actually read Chinese) read the notice. We  boiled water last night before and put it in our thermos.  China has awesomely big thermoses.  Our water guy was due to deliver water today so we would have plenty to drink.  Our plan was to both shower before 7 and then fill the tub with water for toilet flushing etc.  I also had some vegetables that needed to be scrubbed for the pot roast I was going to make.
So...I got in the shower about 6:40.  Around five minute later, as I was going for my second shampoo, the water went off.   I started screeching at Paul to start filling buckets with water (I was less worried about the shampoo in my hair than the grossness of unflushed toilets).  But no...over an hour earlier than the appointed time, the water went off.  Fortunately, I had soapy water in the kitchen sink left over from the doing the dishes, so we could wash the vegetables and we were still able to make the pot roast.  I did get the shampoo out of my hair.

We have a wonderful woman who works for us to take care of our little guy.  She also loves to bake.  So score for us.  I asked her to make some rolls to go with the pot roast.

Apparently though, I asked her to make us bagels, not rolls.  Still score for us!  I even have cream cheese in the freezer.
So after a morning of giving my students grammar tests, I went to Moms in Touch.  Moms in Touch is an international prayer group where mom's gather to pray for their schools.  Ours is international, of course, so we pray and read the Bible in Korean, Chinese and English. I love it.

Got home around 3:00 to discover all toilets flushed because the water was on.  Yay!  Hung out with the sweet baby until I got a call from a friend reminding me that I needed to go and pick up butter from her apartment.  Butter is rarely found in regular Chinese grocery stores.  You can get it from a store that imports (expensive) or from a huge market in the north part of our city.  My friend's husband works up there and he picks it up for her and others.

7 cubes of butter for 94.5 RMB or about $15.00. This should last us for quite a while!

A little knitting, some reading (Same Kind of Different as Me) and now we are heading off to bed.  Hopefully tomorrow will begin later than 4:00 AM.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Finally- the Great Wall.

On our last morning in Shan Hai Guan, we took a taxi out to the  part of the Great Wall that is in the mountains.  Or rather, our hotel called a taxi that overpriced our taxi ride.  But what can you do.
First we tried to go up the cable cars but they were closed.  It's not unusual for people to take cable cars up.  There are portions of the Great Wall all over China that are open to the public and most have cable cars.
So, since they were closed, we decided to walk up.
I have a great fear of heights. When we lived in Europe, it often took all that was in me to climb cathedrals to the top.  But if I focus and concentrate, I can do it.  Especially if Paul is with me.  So we started walking. It's not as hard as it looks because you are going so slowly.  You do get passed up by tiny little Chinese women wearing high heels but we have been here long enough that doesn't even injure our egos.

No panic attack yet.

Looking down from almost the top.  I stopped walking a little farther than the small house on the left.  I was doing well but some nice students came by and starting talking to us.  They wanted to take our pictures.  I let go of the side, lost my focus and that was that.  Paul continued up and took these pictures.

Looking further up.

And further- Paul came back down to me before and didn't go this far.

Guard tower at the top.

The first time we saw the Great Wall was in 2007.  We were in van heading out from Beijing with our friend Rudy.  He suddenly announced "The Great Wall!" and we looked up and there it was- truly magnificent.  The portion of the Great Wall we went to in Shan Hai Guan was very non-commercial and magnificent in it's own way.  Definately a place to keep on the list to visit.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

This week in China...

New slippers were bought, to the utter amazement of our little guy.

It was International Day at the International School. Elisabeth carried the Dutch flag.

The bai cai (cabbages) and cong (leeks) are out and drying - a sure sign of fall.

Chicken enchildas were made in a cake pan with tortillas made by a Chinese woman, enchilad sauce bought at an import grocery in Beijing, Edam cheese from New Zealand and Bitey cheddar cheese from Austalia- the only cheese available in the store the day we shopped.  The enchiladas were fantastic.

Hats were knit and tried on- come on Winter!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Yes, we still have our sweet baby.

Lest anyone think we are slackers and vacation all the time (despite the plethora of pictures so far posted and yet to come), that trip began on a Thursday morning and ended on a Saturday night.   Life goes on as usual with teaching and teaching and studying Chinese and college applications and so on.  Our sweet baby just gets sweeter and sweeter and our hearts ache to think that someday we will need to let go. My wise husband tells me that we need to love him as much as we can while we have him.  But I think we will love him forever and our hearts and lives will never be the same.
Every so often (I am sure there is a schedule that I don't understand), we get an e-mail telling us that the orphanage called and that we need to take him in for vaccinations.  We've been two or three times now and the people there have been unfailingly kind and friendly. The orphanage is quite a way out of our city and so we hire a driver who will take us there, wait for us and take us back. There is no way to either find a taxi who is willing to drive that far or find another taxi willing to take us back.  So we call the faithful driver Ji and he comes and gets us.
For some reason this morning, I had all kinds of anxiety about going to the orphanage.  Even though it rarely happens, I've been afraid that they would say that he looks good and should come back.  We have to remind ourselves that this child isn't ours- we have no decision making power over his life.  He belongs to China and to the orphanage and they have the authority over his life.  That sometimes makes me feel a little vulnerable both for me and for him.  I know Who is in charge and that He makes all things right in the end.  Yet I also know that we live in a broken and fallen world where vulnerable children do not always end up with an ideal outcome.
Anyway, at 8:30 we got in the taxi and headed out.  I took our ayi with us as there might be some time that she has to take him out there alone.  We made it through heavy traffic and arrived.  I've never seen children outside before (I've always been there in winter) but today there were children outside and playing.  This both made me happy and tore at my heart.  So many children living there.  The caregivers were clearly invested in the care of the children-throwing balls and pushing swings.  It relieved my heart to see this.  I don't know if as a special needs child, this would be the kind of care our little guy would receive. But it still was good to see that the orphanage is a place where children are cared for.

So here is our little guy and his life right now.

Playing in his crib when he should be sleeping.

Looking out the window.

Building with pillows.

Playing with his ring stacking toy....

and successfully getting the ring on!

So today, we were off to the orphanage for a vaccination.
The nurse remembered his name and said how much he had grown.  After the vaccination, we had to wait a while to see if there was any fever or reaction.  She came and talked to him and asked us a few questions.  This really thrilled me as I have never really known if they knew who he was.  She remembered when he went out of the orphanage over a year ago and was impressed with his progress.

What's going on? Oh, this looks like it will hurt.

It hurts!  But he recovered quickly.

While we were waiting to see if he had any reaction, I went outside and took these pictures.

This is the hospital that has a playground next door. The babies and toddlers were playing there.  Many of the building have new paint and murals and they look great.

These children looked like they were about three.  They were going to play games with a ball.

The babies and toddlers playing with the ayi's.

The babies and toddler strolling away.

The playground through the window of the clinic.

I always leave the orphanage exhausted- partly because it is a long trip and partly out of the sadness of children not having families to live with.  But seeing a fresh and clean place with caregivers who were truly engaged with the children gave me some hope today.  I know some of the other realities in orphan care are darker.  But this was good for me to see.