Oooh…and I was doing so well at keeping in touch. So let’s try again.
One of the oddities of living in China is the state controlled heating. Yes, that’s a thing. And if you are a chronically cold person like me, it’s a big thing. When I first heard about it back in 2008, I laughed. I thought it was a joke. Uh…no joke. Central heating is provided via those old fashioned radiant heat radiators like my grandparents had in their house. They do work surprisingly well, although the bigger the room the more difficult it is to get it warm: our bedrooms are usually comfortable, but our living/dining room gets a bit chilly on cold nights.
None of that is too strange, although radiators are a bit old fashioned in much of the US. What is strange is that the government controls when the heat gets turned on -- November 15-- and off – March 15. The end of October and beginning of November can be quite cold in much of China so those last few weeks before the heat comes on are not so comfortable. Then, before spring has really arrived (as those who just got hit by a March blizzard know!) it can be pretty cold as well. So last week I was counting down – and not in a good way – the days until our heat went off. We did notice that the radiators were not very warm during the day for several days before the 15th, but they warmed up nicely in the evening and kept us toasty while we slept – right up until midnight on the 15th. Yup, I woke up around 2:30 or 3 in the morning and ,just out of curiosity, reached my hand out and touched the radiator – the icy cold radiator. When China says March 15th, it means March 15 and not a minute longer! So we have been bundling up in the evenings, adding another blanket to the beds and doubling down on the hot tea. (Sadly both our hot chocolate and hot apple cider stocks are now depleted, so tea is our only option.)
As sad as it is to have our radiators go cold, we do have some supplemental heat in the form of portable and wall mounted electric heaters. We rarely use the wall ones because they are 1) expensive to run and 2) incredibly inefficient since they are up near the ceiling and as we all learned in 5th grade, hot air rises, so they don’t help very much. (They also accumulate a lot of dust and dirt and smell terrible when turned on if the filters are not cleaned first. That’s a dirty job and getting to the filters isn’t easy so definitely a last resort.) Our portable heater works great and can fairly quickly warm up a small bedroom. It takes two to get our living room comfortable, and since our second heater self-immolated on Christmas morning, well, we are making do with one. (We will likely buy another one sometime after we move.) This week has been particularly cold and damp (sleeting when I left home this morning) so the portable is in my room, and we eat, study, watch TV, etc in that one room. Right now it is warming the kitchen so I can go do the dishes, and a bit later I will move it into the bathroom so I can take a shower without turning into a popsicle.
So some of you are saying, why not move somewhere in southern China where the climate is milder. Well, yes, I would be in favor of that. So far I have not found any programs in the south with a strong focus on independence and enrichment programs for older kids, so I don’t see that happening. But let me also mention that the government mandate on heating is not limited to when it goes on and off. It also restricts where in the country central heating is allowed. Yes, that’s right, where you live determines whether you can have heating at all (other than the electric units, of course). The really “interesting” thing is that the line for heating is drawn at the Yellow River. South of the river heating, at least central heating, is not a thing. In the US that would be basically anyone south of Kansas City. I would not want to be in a Georgia ice storm with no central heat!
As for packing, it is coming along though a bit slower this week due to a heavier teaching schedule and an appalling lack of motivation due to being so cold -indoors- in the evenings. This weekend Kristen and I are heading off to visit another city and explore another program. We appreciate your prayers for our trip and discernment about this opportunity. More soon!
Oh, and 62 days until we leave for the US.
Moving really is the best, isn't it? New places, new people, a fresh start with everything neat and organized in a new home.
Ah, but somehow we seem to forget about what it takes to get out of the old place. And the way that the amount of stuff you have multiplies exponentially as you take it out of closets (as if we have any of those over here -- we don't), wardrobes (those we have) and drawers. But starting early is always a good idea, and to that end...I have begun!
Now, I can already hear you saying...but where??? So here is the next installment in that story (but a bit maddeningly for me even more than for you, not quite the final chapter).
When I last wrote I told you about my visits to "Big NGO" and "The Farm." Both were wonderful options and very different....very, very different. Sadly, and I do mean sadly, by the time I left The Farm, I was pretty sure that that option was not going to be the one. So many great things there and just overflowing with potential, but it was pretty clear that the previous program managers were going to choose to stay heavily involved --from a distance. Under the best of circumstances that is a challenging situation, and as much as I admired and respected all the work they had done, I also felt that our different perspectives on orphan care could make collaborating just too difficult. (Btdt as a good - and honest- friend pointed out.) Instead, they have asked the terrific young couple I met there to manage the program under their direction. I wish them all the best as they forge forward with this great work, as I still think a bit longingly of the beauty and opportunities of that lovely place. Awww...I can hear the sighs as I know several of you were really cheering for this option. Me, too.
So where are we in the decision process? Well, the Big NGO from the previous trip continues to be a strong option, but. During our time in Thailand I met a woman who serves under an NGO program in an orphanage in another province. When I mentioned my desire to work with older orphans she shared what they are doing in that place and the great need for more help to meet the needs of the kids. I have been in touch with that program and hope to be traveling there for a visit/interview in the next few weeks. So stay tuned!
In the meantime you can find me sorting, tossing, giving away and packing with a growing sense of anticipation and excitement. Oh, and 76 days until we leave for Chicago, but who's counting?
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!
Kristen to continue to adjust to college life and find good friends.
Donna to have wisdom in planning and implementing new programs for the youth and for financial provision to cover our expenses.