It has been a really, really busy week: eight days, two trips, 2500 miles.
Sorry, no photos because I am a loser like that.
Starting with the second trip of the week...I'll get back to the previous trip in my next post.
So, on Thursday, after being home about 36 hours, I was off again. In case you are wondering, that is just enough time to do a load of laundry, hang it on our laundry porch, hope the clothes dry and pack them again. (Yes, that's a thing. Yes, we have a cooking porch on one end of the apartment and a laundry porch on the other. Maybe I will take a photo as long as there are no unmentionables hanging up.) The second trip of the week was to Shanghai. It was very short so Kristen stayed home with friends. I was literally traveling more than I was visiting, so this was a good decision on her part.
What is traveling to Shanghai like? If travel is easy for you it is an easy trip. If you don't travel well or if you get motion sick, it is not so fun. I don't get sick (PTL!) for which I am very thankful. It's about a 45 minute drive from our place to the South train station (Beijing Nanzhan) and then if you book early enough and are lucky you get the 5 hour train to Shanghai. I think there are only one or two stops the whole way; if you get the train with more stops, as I did on my return, it takes 6 hours. Top speed is about 305 kph (180mph). The trains are clean, bathrooms have toilets AND toilet paper, no smoking: not a bad ride. I don't like the food offered on the train, and it tends to be more expensive so I always pack my own -- peanut butter muffins, a banana, bottle of water. The bonus is you can buy western fast food in the train station. I opted for a Whopper Jr. with cheese. The double bonus was that a Dunkin Donuts has opened since the last time I was at that station. Woohoo! So I also bought a couple donuts. (Okay, three! But I ate two the next day.)
The train trip itself was uneventful, as they usually are. We arrived on time in Shanghai and quickly boarded the subway (fabulous subway system in Shanghai and totally cheap, especially compared to taxis which are very expensive) to the center of town. Armed with my handy dandy printouts of directions and maps I quickly discovered that there is a Starbucks at the subway station near where I was staying. Well, my maps didn't tell me that but it was happy information, though I never did go there. It's always good to know where wifi and hot chocolate can be found. I also discovered that it was a rainy night in Shanghai. No umbrella but my handy-dandy Land's End parka kept me warm and dry. Well, the parts it covered. The hem of my pants was soaked half way to my knee by the time I walked 15 minutes to my hotel and then spent another 20 minutes trying to find the DOOR to said hotel which was well concealed without a sign on the opposite side of the building from the street address. On a warm, dry evening this would have been a mildly annoying adventure; in the rain I was less amused. However, the presence of a Starbucks in the same building as the hotel kept my spirits up until I found the hotel itself. (I did visit that Starbucks later on for a venti hot chocolate, but having left my cellphone in the room I couldn't connect to the wifi so only a half successful visit.)
Okay, enough of the travelog. Suffice it to say the room was nice, shower was hot, bed was comfy, TV had three English channels (BBC, HBO and sports) but the wifi never worked so I won't ever be going back there.
The PURPOSE of my trip -- and yes, there was one -- was to visit a program that provides life skills training, vocational training, a job and a home for young adults with no safety net. Most of them have some type of disability, primarily physical but some emotional or intellectual. Most are from their homeless outreach, though they do accept aged out orphans from orphanages. Most of the young people from orphanages are girls; most of the homeless are boys. The program is set up as a three month life skills program and then a two year internship where the young people work for the company run by the program, receive a legal wage and then pay for their room and board as part of learning how to budget and handle money. During that time they continue to receive classes in reading, math and English as well as experience in running a home and social skills. After two years they are expected to find a job and a place to live. This is very much the type of program I hope to provide for young adults in the orphanage system, so I wanted to see first hand what they do and how they do it. In the time tested model of "search and reapply," there is no reason to reinvent the wheel if you can learn from others who have done it already. Fyi, the purpose of my trip was not to interview for a role with this organization, just to learn from it.
So what did I learn? Some things I already knew:
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.