Saturday, November 28, 2015

Yu Garden
One word description: picturesque
Pryce and I had little time to really research what Shanghai had to offer.  We booked our flights very last minute and held on to our coattails as we left our group to go visit our friends as well as Noah.  
Luckily, our friends are fabulous tour guides!  We taxied over to Yu Garden and its surrounding areas.  I had "tourist" written all over me as I tried to snap photos left and right.  
We made our way through the gardens....three adults, a teen and four children under the age of 6....and a whole lot of others:)  The children did well but our little Noah was d.o.n.e. done by the end.  Poor guy, walking is not his thing!
It was just so neat....the little bridges, the quaint little gazebos (probably not what they call them!)...
the Weeping Willow trees, the koi ponds, and the people....people watching in the US is one thing but China takes it to a new level!
We have visited Beijing, Hong Kong, and now Shanghai.  Shanghai is, by far, my favorite large Chinese city.  It is a clean was really amazing to me how clean it was. 
And the architecture in this part of the city was amazing.

This is the funniest picture to me.  The guy in the background sat and stared at Pryce for what seemed like forever.  Reality, it was more like 10 minutes.  He literally looked at him just like he is real expression but just staring.  Pryce, who had no idea that that the guy was even there, proceeded to play with Noah and the other children....I am guessing the guy could not figure out what in the world an American teen was doing with four Chinese kiddos.  Hilarious.  

Tuesday, November 24, 2015


Our little buddy Noah was anxiously awaiting for us to arrive and he immediately jumped into Pryce's arms as if we had just seen him yesterday!  
 He was precious!  And we were so glad to have the opportunity to visit him during our trip.
 Noah left us in August.  He went to his orphanage for a few weeks and then he was sent to Shanghai for a heart cath and he then had life saving surgery.  During his time in Shanghai, our friends, Americans from Georgia but now missionaries in China, have fostered little Noah.  They invited us to stay with them for a few days and we are so glad we took them up on their offer!
 The view from their apartment is breathtaking.  I am pretty sure they would have thought me a bit crazy had they seen me hanging out of their 64th story window to take this picture. ha!
 Pryce was immediately taken to the couch to let the children play his airplane flying game and eat lollipops.  He was all about this!
 This guy.  He will always hold a piece of our hearts.  His story unfolds before us daily and I cannot wait to hear him tell of it one day.  I have no doubt that God will do big things with this kiddo!

The Children
We were not allowed to photograph the children at all during our trip until the last day when we were given the ok to take pics of the children who were matched or the children who were waiting....essentially, we could photograph the "six."
 This made me so sad for many reasons.  One, of course, was that I wanted pics of children for advocating purposes.  Two, I wanted pics so I could remember those faces of the children who etched their way into our hearts during our week with them.
So, I "accidentally" took a photo....or two.
Our "Waldo"....he is above.  He wore that shirt from day one.  I knew the mandarin word for airplane so I said it to him on day one and he was a bit impressed:)  Nevermind that I said it with a bit of an accent!  
"Waldo" gained his name early on in our week because every where we went, he seemed to pop up....sometimes he even beat us to our destination!  He was simply everywhere.  Everyday when we arrived, he was the first to greet us.  Everyday when we left, his was the last hand we saw waving as we drove off.  When we rested, he joined us...only he didn't rest.  Instead, he entertained Pryce with building or karate or something in between.  He was so smart and creative.  And he seemed happy enough.  And he seemed to be the assistant at the orphanage....he didn't seem to have many rules that he had to follow like the others.  
 This little one stole my heart.  She is beautiful!  I was sure to hold her each day.  And she would occasionally grin.  The staff seemed to dote on her a bit.  Or at least thought she was cute.  
 And this sweet girl.  She was Pryce's girl from the first day.  She adored him and the feeling was mutual.  I worried a few days prior to going...I worried because I wasn't sure I had prepared Pryce fully for what we would encounter health wise with the children in the orphanage.  The first morning, Pryce took off with Mrs. Duncan and when I saw him two hours later, he was beaming from ear to ear and could not wait for me to meet his girl!  She was beaming too.  And giggling.  I would suppose she has cerebal palsy or institutional autism or something of the like.  She was very interactive with P but when he left her side, she would do random noises or her eyes would wander into space....but, man, she was special.  And Pryce saw that in her too and, for that, I am so thankful!  

As for the other children, their faces will not be soon forgotten.  

Monday, November 23, 2015

A TIny Little City in Shaanxi Province

The orphanage was placed in a simple little city in the Shaanxi Province....
 our guide laughed when we called it a city....he said it was just a town.  The population of this "town" is 3,516,300.
 The Eiffel Tower in China, right outside of our hotel window.
 The entrance to our hotel at night....previous trips to China, adoption trips, have left me a bit spoiled.  We have always stayed in great hotels with western foods for breakfast as well as Chinese selections   AND hot bathing water.  We arrived in Yulin to a cold shower with noodles, rice, and the like for breakfast.  By Thursday, we were taking hot showers and eating PopTarts.  On Friday, we had NO water, hot or cold.  
 Everyday in this city that borders Inner Mongolia, Pryce would see "his" tractor.  You would even hear it before it came by our window....twice a day, once in the morning, once in the evening.  I guess we really were in a "town."
 The orphanage was on the outskirts of the actual city.  If the children were to peek out of a window, this is what they would see.  
 We dined at the hotel for breakfast and the orphanage for lunch.  There was a large dining room where the workers and the school children all came to eat.  A cafeteria of sorts.  Most tables in China are large and round with a lazy susan on top.  The prepared food is brought out in stages and the idea is that one person takes a bite and then turns the lazy susan for the next person to dig in.  You "share" your food and whatever comes from double dipping.....there are no serving spoons, it is just you and your chopsticks.  You eat a bite of rice, then a dish of veggies comes your way. You then use your chopsticks that you just ate with to get veggies with.  Repeat.  We have eaten this way in China before but this was new all the same.  We ate this way everyday in China, every dinner and lunch.  Breakfast was the only "single serve, buffet style" meal.  And we drank hot water.  Not hot tea as on previous trips, but hot water from a teapot.  
 We were instructed to eat whatever was brought to our table at the orphanage.  So most days we did just that.  Or we would at least taste it.  Except the one day when we were served Sheep Stomach Stew.  On that day, I am pretty sure even the most adventurous eaters in our group hesitated.  
 Thankfully, we had a resting time right after lunch.  We would all go into a room and share snacks and share stories of home or our morning at the orphanage.  Some enjoyed a little pilates or a nice afternoon snooze.  
 Dinner was held at the same restaurant each night.  And each night ended with a little photography jam session.  If I told you Pryce was bothered by this, lightening would be sure to strike.  
Pryce enjoyed this time immensely and I am most positive that his face can be found on most social media sights in China, along with the rest of our group.  
He was treated like a king at dinner.  Each night, they made this special napkin for him....we assume it was for him as it was the only napkin on the table folded this way.  Everyone knew this was Pryce's seat.
 Shopping in this norther Shaanxi city was scarce.  Not much to purchase close to our hotel so we did not venture out much except to buy water and Coke.  And maybe a Snickers:)  On our last night in there, we found a little market not too far from our hotel.  It was much like a drugstore would be here....kind of a little of this and a little of that for sale.  I snapped a picture of the above item that was packaged so nicely before politely being told that no photos were allowed.  Hmmmm.
 Pryce, always the one to take a leap with the food options on this trip, dove at the chance to eat ice cream treats with Liz.  His description of taste came to "chalky."
 For whatever reason, I loved these cans.  No telling what was offered inside of them but they looked kind of fun.
Jamey.  Jamey was our guide for our entire trip.  One man leading thirteen women, and one teenage boy for ten days.  He went above and beyond his call of duty.  He was our pizza deliverer, our airport deliverer, our translator, and he quickly became a friend who we will cherish forever.  He referred to Pryce as "the little man" and just embraced the challenges placed before him for the trip.  We were the first group he has ever led and I am pretty sure we covered all bases so that he will be even more prepared for the groups to come.  

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Harsh, Yet Reality

I have never been on an exclusive mission trip.  I had no idea what to expect.  I took what I could from others experiences but nothing prepared me for my recent voyage to China.
I knew we would meet many children of varying ages with a range of needs.
I knew I wanted to be a part of a life-changing trip to help these orphans.  I wanted to be the voice that these deserving children needed to escape the life that they live day in and day out.
The children of this particular orphanage that we were allowed to interact with were taken care of.  They were fed - the louder one was, the bigger spoonful one got; one bowl and spoon per room with 20-25 children - these children were of all ages, slept in metal cribs with boards to lie on even if the crib was too small....these were the children who were either not walking OR were too disabled or too young to feed themselves.  But, they were fed.
They were given fresh clothing about every other day.  They had shoes if needed.  They were bathed once during our stay that I observed and they were either potty trained or diapers were changed accordingly.  They were cared for.
Their sleeping rooms were sterile.  There were a few pictures on the walls, each child had a little cubbie with his/her birthdate and name.  It was either eerily quiet or the opposite extreme in the rooms where these particular children were crib bound.  Children cried out in hunger, pain, or just shear desire to be held.  My first day in the crib rooms, I was immediately drawn to two cribs where two itty bitties slept.  Only, they weren't sleeping.  They were screaming.  I walked over and gently stroked the cheek of one and talked to the other, a simple touch and sound and they both quieted immediately.  I asked the nannie if I could hold one and she said no.  I didn't push the matter but instead walked away to peak into the eyes of the others who were waiting. My two itty bitties wailed and wailed.  The itty bitties were weighted down with these little blanket wasn't hurting them yet they were furious because they couldn't get their hands out from under the blankets.  So they laid there staring at a blank, dull, white ceiling.  Screaming.  I asked several more times if I could hold one or both but that was not to be allowed and eventually, after many long minutes of wailing, the tears dried as they both drifted off to sleep as I went back to stroking their cheeks.
Their needs were met.  They had been fed, changed, they had clothing on their backs, and they had shelter.
Downstairs, on the floor where most of our team spent their week, were the classrooms.  Most of the children who had the ability to walk were allowed to come to this floor for the majority of their day.  There were several classrooms, the air was lighter, the walls were more colorful, and many of the rooms had up to date therapy equipment or toys or arts and crafts in them.  It was somewhat cheerful.  The children seemed happy.  We were all amazed at how they just kind of did their own minute one child was in a classroom and the next minute, they were on to see something else.  And they would just get on the elevator and ride from floor to floor, as they pleased.  We truly wondered what kept them from just leaving?  But what I can tell you is that those walls were all they knew.  The windows were up high, so high that most of them could not see out unless they were standing on a chair or being held up.  We asked to take them outside one day and we were told no.  It was too cold.  And it was cold but not too cold.  Alas, they flitted from art to music to therapy to acupuncture and back again....we were always waiting with open arms to greet them and they always came willingly with a smile on their face.  Some days they performed for us or we played a game as a group, the language was no barrier in these moments.
Their needs were met.  They had been fed, they had clothing on their backs and they had shelter.
But don't miss this, the thing they all lack is being cared about, being doted on, being held tight when they hurt, being loved like nothing else matters....they are cared for, in this particular setting, yet they are not cared about.  Harsh, yet reality.  The nannies have a job to do and they do it but they do not have time to do their job and really love the unloved.
Enter, our team.
Our team of 14 went in to do just that, LOVE the unloved.
For 5 days, we sung until our chords were hoarse, we painted until our fingers were numb, we improvised when all else failed, we kissed boo boos, made jokes, taught them an English word or three, wiped the end of the week, their little eyes brightened as they greeted us in the morning, they happily anticipated what their day held in our care, and we all got to see their individual personalities brighten.
Here is where I am broken.  I went into this trip with a purpose and that purpose was to advocate, be the voice to those who are unheard, the orphans.  I wanted to fight for them and help begin the process to get them well on their way to a forever family.  Out of over one hundred children that we actually met (there were probably just as many that we didn't meet plus the 40 that were "in Beijing for surgery"), three are being adopted and three are waiting to be chosen.  SIX children.  SIX.  Mind you, a handful of those kiddos are not able to be adopted due to their age or their family status, but SIX?  That is a hard number for me to swallow when I know and I saw the many children who are just as worthy.
A three year old girl, repaired cleft lip, otherwise healthy; a precious two year old girl who had weakness on her left side, otherwise healthy; a handsome little guy who had repaired meningocele, healthy as a horse and just a year old; several repaired cleft babies both boys and girls; several older kiddos with very doable needs....and the precious, cutest, squishiest little guy of all, our three year old little guy with DS.  Oh my heart.  This little guy was so smart, and so capable of everything we placed in front of him and just so stinkin cute!  This is his hour, his chance.....he NEEDS to be listed yesterday!
So each day I left feeling more helpless than the day before.  I had no voice.  These children will wait and I have come to realize that the voice they need now is in my prayers.  They need me to pray for them daily.  Pray that the heart of the orphanage director will soften and children will get files prepared.  Pray that she will see the urgency.  Pray that the SIX children who do have a chance will take it and run and shine bright in their new life!  Pray for their health.  Pray that it is not too late.  And give Him praise that my three girls were set free and given a chance to glorify Him.  Because, at the end of the day, any one of them could have been those babies in the cribs or the children we ran circles around all week.....harsh, yet reality.