Not only have we arrived in China; we have arrived in Hengyang, our new home city. I will be sure to tell you all about it once I see it. Right now Kristen and I are beginning the jetlag adjustment. I am actually doing a bit better than she is, but I am not going to be too smug about that since it is just day 1. I know better.
Our trip was essentially uneventful which is always a good thing. Huge thanks to our New Day friends for arranging for our beloved driver, HouGe, to meet us at the airport, take us to our hotel and then deliver us to the train station on Thursday morning. We were able to leave our luggage in the van overnight which was a lifesaver. My biggest worry was getting 250 pounds of luggage onto the train. The crowds and the stairs or escalator to get down to the track, wrestling those big bags into the very limited storage -- I was pretty nervous about how we could do it. In the past I had THREE helpers along, and Lindsay and Marissa are pretty strong. Kristen....uh, not so much. (I had to carry HER backpack the whole trip because it was too heavy for her!) HouGe to the rescue! He arranged for a porter to take our luggage to the train for us. The bonus was that we got to go with it and hang out in a reserved waiting room -- completely uncrowded, cool AND we boarded the train about 15 minutes before everyone else. The porter got our luggage into the storage space before anyone else was even on the train. Worth.every.cent. It might just be worth it to use the porter service even when I don't have much luggage!!
Getting the luggage off the train wasn't too difficult. A couple of train attendants (young women) helped but I really could have done it. I think they just wanted to hurry so people could board the train. However....no porters at the Hengyang station. So Kristen and I had to haul it all ourselves. It was difficult but not impossible, and we just took our time moving as much as we could about a hundred feet, then going back for the rest, and then going another hundred feet or so. Rinse and repeat. We were very happy to meet our ICC greeters at the exit area and get everything loaded into the van.
We are now ensconced in a large visitors apartment until we find an apartment of our own. We are sharing with two other volunteers: Deb is an American nurse living in HongKong. She comes to Hengyang on a regular basis to help with the medical needs. Deb and I hit it off during my previous visit and enjoyed catching up last night. Our other roommate is Emily, a Canadian, who is an OT here for 6 months. She will be leaving in about 6 weeks.
Thank you for all the prayers for safe travels; we are very thankful to be here safe and sound. I am sorry there are no photos. I will work on that. Once we conquer the jetlag we will get out and about and show you where we are.
It's a "twofer" today -- two posts in one day. This one is just to say that this site has been majorly overhauled and reorganized. You may also notice that there is a new url: DonnaChina.org. I hope it is easy to find the important stuff, and more importantly that you will find it useful in learning about teen and young adult orphans in China and will be inspired to get involved.
So take a look around, send me feedback on what you like, what you don't, and the typos I missed.
As soon as I can I will start posting more about how you can get involved in the work we are doing in Hengyang and with older orphans in other areas as well. Please be patient with me as we get settled in: it will be a time of massive learning for me, too!
If you want to receive newsletters about our work, let me know on the Contact page. And please consider partnering with us in meeting the life long needs of young people in China without families.
Tomorrow we start the journey to Hengyang!
Well, no one is more surprised than me that I didn't post at all this summer. At all! I certainly had better intentions than that, but two months was just so so short for all we wanted to do. If I could have rebooked our return flights to give us more time I would have, but the cost was astronomical so we have powered through and done as much as we can. The good news is that we saw many awesome friends, a few of the children we had grown to love in China, got most of the shopping done that we needed (clothes, shoes, school books, program materials and brown sugar!) and had the opportunity to share about older orphans both formally at two churches and informally with many friends and family members. Not so good is that we missed seeing many people who we would have loved to spend time with, including many of our Eagles Wings kids. We also did not do the amount of support raising that we needed. Please visit the Donate page to learn more about what we need and how you can help.
So without further ado...here is how we spent our 2 months in the USA!
Excuse me while I digress from all things moving related for a moment.
Recently I have seen comments from parents of new/older adoptees asking about Children’s Day in China. I have also seen some lamenting it. My purpose isn’t to judge or criticize or shame but to encourage adoptive parents to reconsider the holiday by providing some insight into how the Chinese celebrate Children’s Day, and perhaps even uncover some aspects of this holiday that can strengthen family relationships rather than cause distress and conflict.
As adoptive parents we are often reminded that incorporating our child’s culture into our family life is an important aspect of international adoption. To this end many, myself included, spend considerable time, effort, and expense on celebrating Chinese New Year and Moon Festival, two major Chinese holidays. What I have come to understand (realizing that practices vary considerably around the country and from orphanage to orphanage) is that the two biggest holidays for children in orphanages are Chinese New Year and Children’s Day. In fact, few children, unless they are in foster homes, will have much knowledge or experience with Moon Festival – it is a fairly minor event on the calendar. Celebrations of Chinese New Year may be elaborate with performances, red envelopes and special foods, or fairly simple non-events with visitors bringing extra bags of candy, oranges and peanuts. Many children will have fairly minimal understanding of what the holiday is about, and the actual New Year’s Day is often a very quiet one because much of the staff is gone to see their own families.
Most people think about babies when they think of Chinese orphans, and particularly baby girls. While hugging babies is always a good job to have, that isn't the group that has broken my heart and not just called, but truly driven me to do what I do. The kids that keep me up at night are teens and even a bit older (and I don't mean MY teens and twenty-somethings though they all have their moments!!). If you are curious, even a little bit, about the who, what, why, where and how of these young people who are a sometimes invisible part of the orphan crisis, watch this video.
If you want to dig a little deeper, take a look at the Older Orphan page for more information about the questions below. The answers may surprise you.
Yes, we are headed 1000 miles south to Hengyang in Hunan Province! I will be volunteering with International China Concern (ICC). Learn who I will be working with here and check back often for more information about the why, the what and how you can be a part of it all.
Just putting the final touches on the big "reveal"! Thanks for being patient. I am super super excited about what's ahead, but as with all the work we do over here, I need to be careful to follow the appropriate guidelines for sharing information and especially photos. I don't always get it exactly right, but I really do try and want to especially get off on the right foot with my new organization. So...get ready...lots more to come very shortly!!!
So it's been two weeks since I updated about our trip to the Frozen Tundra and my visit to Shanghai. Immediately after my trips I contacted the two organizations that I felt were good program fits to let them both know I am seriously interested. I can't say nothing has been happening, because it has, just not quite what I thought. That should not be a surprise by now, but still...
I'll confess that when I look at the countdown calendar (37 days) I can feel the tension rise a bit and the questions start to swirl, but when I keep my eyes on Jesus, I am confident in the work he has brought us here to do.
So we wait...and pack...and count the days until we need to move...somewhere.
Ryan and Maggie on Easter: THIS is the happy side of that countdown calendar -- 37 days!!!!
Although I tend to focus on the professional/job aspects of our move, there is also the personal side of where we will live, the foreign community (if there is one; there wasn't at all in Jiaozuo!) and what kind of lifestyle to expect. After seven years in China I know a lot more what makes life easy (and hard) and how much hard we can tolerate without falling apart. I brought Kristen with me on this trip so she could also get an impression of the city/life there and because she already has friends living there.
Where to begin? Overwhelming. Amazing. Dream come true? That is still to be determined, but let me tell you this visit really blew me away. We spent the weekend visiting with some contacts from our Thailand conference and quickly found that we had many overlapping friends. Kristen even saw some teens she had met at a camp two summers ago. To say we both felt right at home would be an understatement. There are multiple fellowships that meet on the weekends, and we visited two of them. This may not sound like a big deal but in this city we would be able to go to church every weekend. That has not been feasible for us in seven years. I hope this doesn't sound wrong, but to be able to take church for granted again would be an incredible blessing.
This city is at a high elevation, so it is pretty cold there (oh, yeah, I love the cold... not!) but I don't see that as a deal breaker thanks to my handy-dandy Land's End parka (lol). Shortly before we landed we flew over the most amazing, and highest, mountains I had ever seen. It was spectacular. I didn't get photos of the tallest peaks, which really looked like they were right outside the window of the plane, but this photo will give you an idea. I was conscious of the high elevation, looking for signs that either of us was not tolerating the thinner air, but we both did fine although I was huffing and puffing a bit more on the stairs.
It is a small city (by China standards -- 2 million people!) but has a higher than average western influence and expat population for its size. That is a great combination for us...not too big, but a foreign community and some comforts. We did our part to improve the sales at Starbucks and some local burger and ice cream places. (Interestingly there is no McDonald's there -- not a big deal to us but a little odd since McDonald's seems to be everywhere in China.) Even though our address is Beijing, we have no access to foreign food day to day so we take advantage when we can. The only drawback I see is that eating at those places may be a little too tempting, but then we would probably take them for granted after awhile as well.
We were also able to visit a couple of apartments to get an idea of what is available and at what cost. Another box with a big checkmark: apartments are slightly more expensive than where we currently live but probably about 50% larger. While we don't really need a lot of space for the two of us, a little more space would be appreciated. We also quickly noted the very comfortable inside temperature despite the date. We found out that the central heating stays on for six months, a definite plus. Interestingly one of the apartments had a cooking porch -- we'd feel right at home there!
Transportation would mostly be by bus though taxis are pretty inexpensive when needed. The city is not very large and getting around is fairly easy, and most places are pretty centrally located. It seemed pretty clean and, as in most Chinese cities, we felt quite safe. During our visit we stayed at a youth hostel that was centrally located and very reasonably priced. It was, however, in the midst of some major remodeling, and I don't think they realized we had a reservation. So it was a bit dusty and we were the only guests, but the staff could not have been nicer or more helpful so it was pleasant if a bit strange. Strange doesn't really phase us anymore anyway.
I don't know whether this city will be our next home. I know we would both be quite content if it were, and even if it isn't we really enjoyed our visit to the Frozen Tundra.
About This Blog
Part documentary, part family chronicle and part personal reflection as I try to sort through the ups and downs, the joys, heartaches and surprises of our life and work as we follow the path that God has set for us here in China!
Lindsay and Marissa as they prepare for college.
Kristen's adjustment to a new city and missing her old friends.
Donna's adjustment to a new job, city and especially that we find an affordable apartment quickly.