Saturday, October 23, 2010


This morning I had the incredible opportunity to visit an orphanage in downtown Dalian. Bright and early at 7:30 I got on the bust with ten teachers and headed to love on some babies. I was not prepared for what I saw, driving there I was talking and having a good time. In the back of my head I was glad I was going to see the babies and help. I was not prepared for what I saw.

We got to the building. The only way I could tell it was an orphanage was the children paintings on the walls and up the stairs. We reached the third floor where the orphans we were going to be spending time with. When we down the hall the toddlers all immediately stood up in their cribs and were jumping and excited we were there. We all split up, I got assigned to the babies room. Claire, Agnes, Ann, and I were there and played with eight babies. We were told they were 6-12 months, but we think they are a lot older just under developed because the lack of interaction and malnutrition.

I didn't know where to start, they were all so in need of love. I picked up one little one and just loved on him. His diaper (and by diaper I mean a rectangle pad straddling him tied by a piece of string) was wet and he was just staring at me. I hugged him and tried to get him to move his legs and arms around. Shortly after Kristen, the Intel mom that organized it, put some mats down. We got all the babies out onto the mats and just played with them. We continued to play with them for a couple hours.

They were all so cute. A couple of them had birth defects (skin problems, downs, etc) and the others were perfectly fine. We were told that the children her are considered unadoptable. I assumed they were all girls, I was wrong only one was. Well we were told there was only one girl. Until the end of our time, one of the workers changed the diaper and he was a she! We all laughed because we didn't know it the whole time.

Overall I was glad I went and hope to continue to go back in the future. That being said, it was hard. Hard to see those helpless babies and have people tell you they are not worth being loved. Who are they to decide who gets to be loved. At one point I broke down and couldn't stop crying. I felt overwhelming guilt that I grew up in an amazing home, loved by my parents and siblings, and had opportunities abounding. Sadness that these babies will never have a mommy or daddy, sisters or brothers, and a childhood to cherish. As crazy as it sounds, I felt God when I was holding those babies. I just kept signing to them Jesus Loves You...I hope that they felt him too.

The trip to the orphanage was good, but hard. It was more than just a "feel good" trip, it was a glimpse into real life and humbling. I continue to pray for those babies each night. I spent the next couple days in a daze and sad, I am back to normal, but still have those babies on my brain.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Dandong...stuck in the middle

(The friendship bridge between China and North Korea)

This weekend we were invited to a Chinese wedding in Dandong, China. Dandong is about a three hour ride north, and right on the river across from North Korea. It is also where the Great Wall begins, but we didn't have enough time to do both. Being the daredevil that I am, I opted for the North Korean border.

(North Korea's coast)

(China's coast)

We ate a late lunch at a great restaurant and enjoyed the company of my family here...the Smiths, Judy and her hubby, and Janet and Maddie. After lunch we decided to take danger by the hand and went on a boat on the river separating North Korea from China. Now, I'm not up on my current event policies, but I know that US and North Korea aren't really the best of friends. Well...Judy recommended we take the official boat, so we complied.

(Our boat floating in the middle of North Korea and China)

There are two bridges that go across the river. One stops halfway, it was blown up in some war. (Sorry my facts are a little spotty.) The side that is missing was North Korea's, so where it stops is where North Korea begins. It was so interesting to see the differences in coastlines. North Korea's is barren and lifeless. There is a ferris wheel along the coast, although the whole time we were watching we didn't see it move once. People suspect that it is a fake one, to make the country more appealing. I mean really what country that has ferris wheels is bad? China's side, true to Chinese style, was larger than life and full of buildings and restaurants. If it could be lit up it was. I couldn't help but to think what the North Korean's think when they look over the river. Talk about envy.

(Tourists trying on traditional Korean dresses)
At nighttime the line was drawn even more, by the lights. Now, looking into North Korea we saw nothing but pitch black. Someone was joking and said Dandong probably looks like Las Vegas to them. I'm not sure how accurate that is considering they probably have no clue what Las Vegas is. We spent some time on the balcony of this lovely coffee shop and enjoyed the dichotomy of the place.

(Where the lights stop, North Korea starts)

We got back to the hotel and relaxed and then got a call from Judy and Joe to join them for dinner. Dandong is known for yellow clams and they wanted to try them. Little did we know what we were in store for.

(Aligator, fish know the norm)

Dinner ended up being delicious, well the parts I ate. I am still confused as to how the Chinese stay so skinny when they serve so much food. After dinner we were all exhausted and went straight to bed.

(Noodle fish...they were fish, but just tasted like bread)

In the morning a bunch of us went to Xu Dan's parents' house to watch the "hide the bride". It is a Chinese tradition that the man go to the bride's parents' house and pick her up. The trick is before he can take her he has to get to her. He is taken through some obstacles, asked questions (Who will be the head of the house when you get married?), asked to do silly things: sing a love song, yoddle, and bring food.

(Xu Dan's hubby trying to get into the room to find her)

(He found her! The beautiful bride)

(The all women band played while he was walking to her house)

(Kids from Xu Dan's village watching all the fun)

(Chinese wedding pictures...exotic and over the top)

(Red symbolizes her red shoes and stockings!)

(It is tradition that the bride's mom send her on the way with food. They normally split the food in half symbolizing the families are now separated. When a woman gets married her parents lose a daughter and the groom's family now has one. This goes on for the rest of their lives. If they have a child it is the groom's parents' grandchild, not the bride's parents'. )

(Once again, cigarettes at weddings. I was told this is special wedding packaging)

Maids, oh how I love them

One of the perks to living in China is cheap labor. I know that is probably not PC, but it's the truth. Take a look at what some magical ladies do to my apartment every Monday while I am at work. It is so nice to come home to a spotless apartment to start the week out. (Mom, I know you are probably thinking you didn't raise me like this, but you can be proud I am helping out others). :) By the way it is ridiculously cheap, like $2.00 an hour. How can a girl say no to that?

Kitchen before

Kitchen After

Bathroom Before

Bathroom After

Laundry Before

Laundry After (Yes, I actually have to put it away! ugh lol)

Bedroom Before

Bedroom After

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Incredible India

(My Indian visa..showed up 3 days before I left)

If I had to sum up my trip to India in one word it would be enlightening. Not in the Ghandi or nirvana way, but enlightening in a sense that it opened my eyes to a different culture and part of the world. I will be honest, I wasn't excited to go to India for a conference-12 hours flying and lots of people for one day. After it, I am glad I was blessed and had the opportunity.

(Lavasa, India...the country's first planned city)

I was humbled many times in India. Everywhere I turned poverty was staring me in the face. It was hard to take and my heart was breaking for the kids I saw bathing in the puddle of rain water or the parents sleeping with their kids on the street. I wanted to stop the car and give them everything I had. But when I looked past all the lack of possessions I saw happiness. Happiness in the simpleness of life. Happiness in laughing and playing games with friends. Happiness in enjoying the company of others. I had to ask myself, how do these people find happiness with nothing and I complain when something doesn't go my way? I realized that I am blessed (I knew this already, but it just solidified it). Blessed to have shelter over my head, food every day, clean drinking water, clean clothes, and so much more that the people didn't have.

(One of the many beggars that came up to my car)

(Thousands of people were participating in the immersion of Ganesh on the day I arrived, these people were dancing around Ganesh)

(Ganesh...hundreds around town)

Overall my trip was great, sans my drive to the hotel. It is a long story, that perhaps if you are lucky will get to hear from me at one time. To sum it up I was driven to the hotel by this creepy man that kept staring at me and then kept getting lost. The trip was supposed to take 4 hours and it took 5 1/2 hours. It was dark and up a steep mountain. I prayed for peace over and over again and thought I was going to die. Let's just say I was glad to get to my hotel. I learned to be more aware of my surroundings and completely depend of God. Otherwise, I would have been freaking out (more than I was). I am thankful to have the opportunity to travel and learn for my job.

(Cows were EVERYWHERE, this one was stopping traffic...first thing I did when I landed in Shanghai, ate a Whopper!)

The conference was great. I learned a lot and hopefully it will help in all my work preparing for the accreditation visit. I applied to be on a visiting team for another school. I am hoping to get the chance to be on a team before we have our visit in April, but anytime would be great. Everyone says it is a great opportunity and you learn so much serving on a team.

(A bell temple, people come here to pray for miracles)

(I thought this sign was really funny.)

Top 10 things I learned in India
1.) People in some of the slums actually do make lots of money, they just live there so they can afford the luxuries (ie TV, cable, doctors, etc). I was blown away by this. Not taking away from any of the other poverty I saw, but still surprising.
2.) Gulup jamin is amazing. It's basically sugar balls in syrup...where were these when I was growing up!?
3.) Indian women are breathtakingly gorgeous.
4.) Bangles are fun and the men that put yours together are creative geniuses.
5.) Don't carry chocolate in your bag in gets very hot
6.) Indian people have no personal space rules...on the plane some man grabbed my itouch out of my hand to look at it. Then proceeded to take my kindle. The guy behind me tapped me on the shoulder to ask what movie I was watching and if I had anymore he could watch.
7.) You need a visa to travel in India
8.) People are so friendly and genuinely happy, no matter their circumstances.
9.) Henna smells like cleaning supplies.
10.) The people there need Jesus, worshipping idols is in every religion, but more so in India than I have ever seen before.

(Rickshaws are the main form on and you get into all the action)