People say they want to know what it's really like living here. (They may change their mind if I tell too often though.) Well, one thing that still keeps me shaking my head is how much it takes just to do the "usual" stuff. And before people tell me that the kids should help, trust me, these kids of mine help more than any kids I know.
Today they folded at least 6 loads of laundry. There are now two ready to be folded and one load needing to go in the dryer, and I spy that one of the laundry baskets in our sorter is getting close to full...again. Part of the problem I know is living a western lifestyle with Chinese appliances. You know, little things like showering more than once a week, wearing clean clothes every day and wearing pajamas to bed, or at least not wearing your clothes to bed. (Of course my expat friends have not read this far because they are still stuck on the word "dryer". Yes, I know I am lucky and very, very spoiled. If I weren't a Christian I would make the dryer the center of our family shrine. I do know how lucky I am.)
I did three (or four, I lost count) counters full of dishes and the kids put them away. My goal was to have ALL the dishes clean when I went to bed. It hasn't happened in at least four days and it isn't happening tonight either; there are still several pots and the bowls from dinner (7!) waiting but the counter is full and I am not the put-er away-er. So tomorrow, if I start right after breakfast I could conceivably have all the dishes done until lunch time. Obviously I am not lucky enough to have a dishwasher. That's something reserved for the rich and famous.
Sweeping and mopping is absolutely never done. By done I mean finished, we "do" it all the time. All the time, like every ten minutes, but it's still never "done". There is no possible way. My current love affair is with my new vacuum cleaner. I love the area rug that I bought it for, but I just may love the vacuum more. It is quite a novelty here (as are rugs) but with all it's little attachments it has made cleaning floors and furniture actually worthwhile. Unfortunately it doesn't wash the floors, and since every spec shows up on the tile mopping is a must. Otherwise people will see all kinds of trails winding through the house and suspect there is a dead body hiding in a closet. There isn't (I don't think), and I have no idea what those dirty splotches are that appear out of thin air, but I do try to make sure they are <temporarily> mopped up when someone is coming over. More than that would be excessive and futile anyway.
Dusting is just stupid, you can't do it every time things are dusty or you would do it once an hour. So once a week suffices unless I can't stand looking at it. Baseboards and windowsills are black and grimy all the time. All.the.time. I do my best, but they just get dirty again so I pick my battles. The vacuum has actually made the baseboards an easier chore so I may give the window sills a try soon.
Shopping is a nearly every day affair. We couldn't possibly do an entire week's worth of grocery shopping for a family of 7 (3 meals a day, no school cafeteria for these kids) because there is no way to get everything home in a taxi and it would take an hour or more just to carry it all up the stairs (6 flights, remember). Again, part of the problem is the westernized version of shopping... shampoo, conditioner, body wash. (Not that Chinese people don't use shampoo and body wash, but it's the 40+ showers a week in our house for a family of 7 compared to well, 7 for a Chinese family of 7.) There would be a similar issue with deodorant IF you could buy deodorant. Which you can't. So we bring a year's supply from the US and try to make it last for 15 months. Paper towels, ziploc bags, tin foil, peanut butter, batteries (which last all of 20 minutes or 20 photos, whichever comes first) and dry erase markers (which do not last 20 minutes, ever), not staples in most Chinese homes and likely not in the quantities that we use them. We also go through vast quantities of ramen noodles, which coincidentally cost about twice as much here as in the states. Weird. We get our milk in boxes with 16 individual bags...we go through one box a day. We need to haul them up the stairs or up the pulley so 3 at a time is about the limit, that's only 3 days worth of milk. We run out. A lot. And then someone is literally running out to get more. So even when I am not shopping, I am often thinking about shopping because I am pretty sure we are on the verge or just past the verge of running out of something.
And then there's cooking...but that's a story for another day.
While I am in the website updating our wishlist (please go see our Homeschool Wishlist...please?), I feel guilty if I don't post something. So, you get a little update (and please look at the wishlist, too, okay?). Now, you are going to think that life here is fun, fun, fun, because this is going to be another post about something fun. Just to be clear though, it isn't always fun. Sometimes it's lonely and boring, sometimes it's really hard and frustrating. Sometimes it's heartbreaking and sometimes it's just stupid stressful. Okay, enough reality -- sometimes it really is fun. Here is what we did yesterday....we went to Bring Me Hope's Nightwalk event at SIAS University in XinZheng.
But it was during the day. Which really seems to throw some people, but trust me it makes sense. :) First though some helpful vocabulary:
Bring Me Hope: Totally (like TOTALLY) awesome organization that works on college campuses in China to educate and engage Chinese college students about the needs of orphans in their own country. Something most have no idea about it. It's awesome. Bring Me Hope Clubs go to local orphanages and foster homes (including Eagles Wings) on a regular basis during the school year to build relationships, have and fun and well, bring hope and good news. Bring Me Hope Camps are staffed by local students, foreign volunteers and the Amazing, Awesome, Astounding Bring Me Hope staff to run week long summer camps for orphans in several cities around China. (If you don't know about Bring Me Hope, definitely check them out.)
Nightwalk: Bring Me Hope's once a year major fundraiser to raise the money (oh, yea, that money thing) to run the summer camps. Groups gather all around the world at 10pm Eastern time to walk. Well, that doesn't sound very fun, but knowing these BMH people I am sure every location was a total blast. Check out the website for photos from this year's NightWalk.
So...what does that have to do with us? Well, at the same time the people in the nighttime part of the world were walking to raise the money for camp, there were groups throughout China having FUN during the day, celebrating a great year of Bring Me Hope Club and anticipating the fun to come when camps start in July. Our eaglets have gone to camp for four years now, and they LOVE it. It is probably the best week of the year...away from home, on their own, no ayis to make them eat their veggies and read books. Noooooo, instead there is ice cream, bubble tea and volunteers to take them swimming, play games, sing silly songs, lots of arts and crafts, lots of hugs and more attention than one kid can hardly soak up, all in one week.
But back to NightWalk...so we brought 31 kids to Nightwalk (and thankfully we also brought 31 home, I love it when it works out that way). There were probably 100 college students and foreign teachers waiting for our bus so they could whisk the kids off to a great day of running around the SIAS campus, playing in the waterfall, eating in the dining hall, tossing waterballoons, rolling around in the grass, singing and shouting BRING - ME - HOPE, eating ice cream and laughing and laughing and laughing. So.Much.Fun. See for yourself.
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.