Saturday, November 1, 2014

The Really Long and Overdue Update

Mainly because I'm an extremely distracted university student who does not want to study at the moment, its high time I finally update this thing.

Well as most of you have probably figured out, I'm home, safe and sound and boy do I have some stories to tell!

First off, lets talk about the remainder of my China adventure! After my Gotcha Day (well thats what I call my adoption day, I've never really cared if it was politically correct or not), we as a summer staff were surprised with a camping trip to the Great Wall. Yes, I said a camping trip to THE Great Wall! Seriously, who even hears about that kind of stuff? For all that I've done in these nineteen short years on this earth, few things have come remotely close to what I experienced in those mountains of Gubeikou.

It was a great time to just slow down and sit in wonder of this amazing structure. We were in a very remote part of the Wall that was not as well kept as the bigger tourist sections. I've always been a fan of ruins so this six plus hour hike just took the cake. By the time we got to our campsite, the sun was setting and we were exhausted. But it was the good kind. However, we were thankful to sit down to a nice meal and a campfire! 

We knew that our time together was coming to an end and that reintegrating ourselves back to whatever our lives were before would be our next challenge. I'm thankful for the time that I had in China and for the people that I got to experience it with. They were all absolutely amazing and would forever be my China Family. 

Coming home was definitely hard, as was to be expected. I was very happy to see friends and family again, but I did miss the sort of independence that I had in China. As previously mentioned in probably some other post, I've been out of the country before, but I had never just been by myself, I had always traveled with friends or family before. Even being in college. I go to school in my home town so my parents are literally down the high way. 

When I was here I really did feel like it was the real world. Working a nine to five "job" per say, and being able to hang out and explore at my own pace without any usual pressures of school or other obligations. The responsibility did freak me out at first, but by the middle of the internship, I found myself thinking that I could get used to this. I could see this as something to make a life out of. What a scary thought. 

Well Now that I've been back for about three months, school is back in full swing. This week was midterms and being the irresponsible young adult I am, I'm blogging instead of studying... 

It seems as though I am back to real life and that my time there was almost like a dream. Or is this the dream? Almost like an alternate reality, my life here at school and my life in China were just completely separate. 

I was fortunate enough to see Nick and Stephanie last weekend, in Texas nonetheless. That was when my two worlds collided and it made my head spin. It was absolutely wonderful to see them in another context, reminiscing about the adventures we had and telling stories we may have missed the first time. It was exciting to hear about their next adventure to Europe! They have given me so much advice about travel and life in general. I'm so glad to be able to call them friends! Their adventures can be found on their website !! They are truly inspiring and if you ever need to find a reason to travel, all it takes is one conversation with them and you'll be sold. 

Now all I guess that's left to say is this, college is definitely hard and I miss having adventures abroad. But it doesn't mean that my life here can't be one as well! Right now I'm just trying to make the most of what's in front of me. I have great friends and live in a wonderful place! I don't know what God has in store for me next, but for now I'm just going with it! 

Until next time! 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

A Story from Anhwei

I honor of my adoption day.

I've begun teaching English to one of the foster home workers here who is actually from Anhwei, my birth province. It's been a joy to be able to get to know her! And although there's a language barrier, we've been able to somehow meet in the middle when telling stories. Last week, she showed me photos of her family and hometown, always smiling whenever one her daughter came up on the computer screen. Its been great to see what its like in Anhwei, which is about 10 hours south of Beijing by train, or so I've been told. 

She also seemed very interested in my story as well, questioning every detail. I was confused at first but it later occurred to me that by today's Chinese adoption standards, my abandonment and adoption is actually somewhat unusual. Most orphans now a days have some sort of mental or physical disability. I'm not entirely sure when the healthy ones began to be kept or if they were all adopted or whatever the reason. She did ask if I had any physical issues, since I seemed to be quite normal to her. I answered no. I now realize how fortunate I am. Some children are kept for a couple of months and then given up whenever medical issues are discovered. Apparently I was found a day after my birth. I just always assumed it was a regular occurance. In addition to this, I was adopted when I was seven months old. Most children are at least a year old by the time their families come to get them because the process has now slowed to taking at least a year, if you're lucky. Some of the children adopted can be as old as 13. I can't imagine what it would be like to wait that long for a family as well as having the fear of aging out of the system looming over your head. 

Another question that caught my attention was when she asked if I hated my birth parents. I can tell you the answer right now. No. I don't hate them. I was surprised when she asked, I guess some kids do have problems pertaining to their birth parents and possibly resent them for their abandonment. I did not know them and I don't want to make an assumption on their character based on a single action. Sure, that action forever changed the lives of me and my family, but I'm sure glad it did. I do think about them sometimes. Not as much as I did when I was younger. At least I think of my birth mom. Who wouldn't? I wonder if the decision was hard for her. I wonder if I was a classic case of someone who couldn't afford to raise a child or if she was young and just pulled a "Juno" (movie reference). Some questions may never be answered. It doesn't really matter now. Whatever the reason. It happened and I'm here now. In letting me go, she provided me with I life neither of us could have ever imagined for me and I'm grateful for that, whatever her intentions. I hope life is good to her wherever she may be. I have been incredibly blessed beyond anything I deserve. It was only the intro of my story and I intend for it to have so many chapters, and I thank her for being the one to start it. 

3 weeks ago, I walked down the road where I was found. It was a simple street and I'm amazed I didn't get hit by a car. The street was long and busy. In recent years they've torn down houses and replaced them with brand new apartment buildings, but you can still see some remains of small brick houses overlooking the street. I suspect I may have come from that direction. Ma'anshan is a city of about 3 million people and it's growing. I've been asked if I would ever be interested in finding my parents. Honestly, the chances of finding them would be like finding your contact lens in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Going back, I wasn't particularly emotional. It wasn't some hallmark movie or anything overly romanticized as some documentaries might make it seem. I never felt like a part of me was missing and that coming back here would somehow fill a void that was never there. I know who I am and who I was made to be. I am grateful for the opportunity to see where I came from and amazed at how I got to where I am. I'm eternally thankful for my wonderful parents who have loved me even before I was born. God has always been looking out for me and has always had a plan for my life, and I am grateful for what He has done and for what He continues to do.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

I'm Not Good at Bargaining

So today we went in to the Big City once again! And all by ourselves this time! Souvineer shopping like crazy! I can't believe I only have 3 weeks left in this amazing place! Anyhow, we hit the lunar market at 7am and the pearl market later in the day after teaching English to some locals and I'm dead tired. I apologize for the lack of grammatical accuracy, (is grammatical even a word?) I just need to post 1. Because it's updating my life if anyone out there cares that much, and 2. It's part of our internship (summer staff duties). So you can say it's been a full day! 

Haggling prices for souvineers gave me more anxiety than I've ever felt in my life. I though South Africa was bad, this makes that place look like an amusement park. The shop owners were relentless. They could smell fear. Luckily for me they would just grab my friends who were unmistakably foreign and I could just go quietly about my business. That is, until I opened my mouth...

Oh! I also happened to run into a guy that I graduated high school with today, which has been the weirdest occurance thus far! It's a small world after all... 

It's been awesome how much I've grown closer with my fellow interns/coworkers, and they never fail to put a smile on my face after a long day! It's funny that I've only known them for 3 weeks! (Well that and we live together so we might as well like eachother).

Watch out Beijing, it's not the last you've seen of us! 

I really do apologize for the lack of depth this post seems to have, and I hope to make up for it in photos!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Working 9 to 5...

So I've finished my first week of working full time and I can only say that I'm exhausted. But its the good exhausted, the one where you're glad that you go to bed tired for all the right reasons, glad that your days are filled with excitement and promise and glad that your nights are filled with laughter and fellowship. This is my life, and its a pretty darn good one.

Most mornings, I'm with the children, playing and learning with them. It astounds me that although they are just preschoolers, they are learning both Chinese and English at the same time. Most days, whenever the teachers or nannies are giving instruction, the children know exactly what to do, meanwhile, I'm just staring blankly into space. Luckily most preschoolers are pretty forgiving and they usually just look at the poor Chinese American who cannot speak or understand whats going on and have pity on me.

In the afternoons, I have an hour of Chinese class after lunch. Yep. I'm attempting to learn Chinese. So that's been more or less interesting due to my ability to not absorb language well. Its mostly conversational because they knew it was bad enough trying to get me to sound right, who knows what would've happened if they would have thrown characters in there as well! After class, I'm officially to begin teaching music class to some of the older children here on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and English to foster home workers on Thursdays and Fridays and hopefully get some Chinese practice somewhere in there all the while taking photos of anything and everything! They may be posted on the foster home Facebook page, blog or website soon so keep your eyes peeled! Actually you wouldn't be able to tell if they're mine or not! The other photographers here are so incredibly gifted at what they do and its an honor to work with them!




It was nice this week settling into a routine and starting to actually get work done...I feel grown up..what is this?! I'm falling more in love with these kids every day! They are so precious and loving! I'm pretty sure I would do anything just to make them smile! I have been so incredibly blessed with this opportunity and by these kids and every person I've encountered here. My friends are so encouraging and its been wonderful to live in a community such as this.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Lost in Beijing...

Monday, our summer staff had our first big adventure in the Big City and it was absolutely fantastic! We started early at 8 in the morning, taking a bus from our small town to the nearest subway stop. From there it would take us an hour to get to inner city Beijing. We took in a couple of main sights such as the Temple of Heaven, where we got to join in the holiday festivities, mainly games and dances! I feel as if the locals got some entertainment out of a bunch of westerners trying out these games and by the looks of it, they were about as amused as we were! We also walked around hohai lake and some of the older buildings in the city as well as treating ourselves to some fried scorpion at the market. By the way. It was gross. Don't do fried scorpion. 

A funny thing about this trip was that our guide decided to leave us in the middle of the day. Yep, we had to fend for ourselves and get back home to our village before 8pm which was when the last bus left. We had good instruction and were able to navigate back home. We later prank called her pretending to have taken a wrong train. I think (hope) she was amused! 

All in all it was a great day getting to spend time together as a group. We had all been so caught up in training and orientation that we almost forgot that we're friends too! I absolutely love every single person that I'm working with! They're amazing people who have a heart for service and a heart for orphans. We all have that connection. We are here because we have a love for these kids and would do anything to see them smile. I can't believe I still have 5 weeks to spend with these gifted peeps! Ya, some of us are fluent in Chinese, insanely athletic and musical. We like to play ultimate frisbee and a few of us have a jam session every once in a while. What can I say? We're a pretty talented group! Haha! 

It's been so wonderful getting to know everyone, and we've become such fast friends as well. I live with three roommates and I must say, it's pretty crazy in our apartment. We're already to that stage of being so comfortable with each other that we borrow money, shampoo, clothes in addition to eating out together almost every night and just being crazy in general! It's been one heck of a ride and we haven't even gotten to the good part yet! We're just getting started!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Story In Which I Got More Than I Bargained For

Orientation so far has been incredible. Where I thought that I would be just taking photos of children all summer and editing those (and I'm not at all opposed to that) this internship has turned out to be so much more. First off, we are a team of 11, and we're not interns, we're summer staff. When we meet at 8 every morning, I still can't believe that I get the privilege to work along such amazing people! 

There is so much more to this place than just an internship. On our second day of the job, we were given the task of teaching English for two hours at the local middle school. We had a little bit of preparation, but other than that, we were basically tossed into the deep end and told to swim. Luckily the day went through without a hitch. We were even invited back the next day to teach the teachers as well. It was funny to see the kids faces when I walked into the classroom when they were expecting a "real" American to teach them, and they got me. Some asked me if I spoke Chinese and I would just reply "This is English class, we speak English." And I would just bluff my way through. Oh, and the official tally is up to 41 people who have tried to talk to me since I've been here.

 We met some of the children today and heard their stories and it was my first emotional experience since coming here. They are so sweet and precious and loving that I can't imagine anyone leaving them. What I want to do is adopt them myself, but apparently you have to be 30 to adopt in China, so I have some time. Seeing them just makes me realize how easy my own experience has been in comparison, they've gone through all that I had to and beyond that and it breaks my heart that I was so fortunate and they still soldier on. These kids are my heroes. And they just represent a nameless and faceless thousands that haven't made it to a loving place such as this. As part of our training, we saw some photos of the other orphanages around China, and the realities are this, there are simply not enough people to care for the orphans here. One care giver can be responsible to an upwards of 20 children. There are just stories upon stories upon stories of kids not getting the proper care. To find out more about what kind of children I'll be working here this summer, here's the blog for the foster home


As I have been here for about a week now, I feel as if I've acclimated to living here and living among these people. My roommates are amazing, as are the other volunteers that inhabit this place. I'm beginning to accept this as life, which is both thrilling and scary at the same time because of the short time that I'm actually living here. 

We're traveling into the heart of Beijing on Monday for the annual Dragon Boat Festival which is one of the most celebrated festivals in China with only Chinese New Year and the Autumn Moon Festival being more important. The tradition spanning back to 300 b.c. When the famous poet Chu Yuan fell out of favor with the emperor and threw himself into the Mi Low river. The local people loved and respected him so much that the immediately went searching for his body, all the while throwing rice into the river so that the river dragons would not eat him. Chu Yuan was never found, but every year on the fifth day of the fifth moon, people gather and race boats that are painted to look like dragons in his honor. I cannot explain my excitement to be able to participate in such a wonderful cultural holiday. I have a growing respect for the Chinese people and their culture with civilization spanning back to the days that parallel to that of Ancient Greece. I'm proud to have come from such a people and I'm excited to share in their happiness with the upcoming holiday! 

Well, I suppose that's a good place to leave at for now! Hopefully I'll be able to write later and add some photos of the festival to accompany this blog that has gotten much too wordy for my taste!