Apr 30, 2010

I'm going to miss being called "teacher".

I've been thinking a lot lately about next year giving up my job to become a student again. While my time in Chin.a up to December, I was both a teacher and student, the role I attached myself to on a great scale was that of teacher.

I love everything about being a teacher.

I love the attention. I love to have control of a room full of people. I love to talk. I love the chance to inspire. I love the thought that for 90 minutes a week, these people are "mine" and I am "theirs." I love that I learn from my students, that it is a two-way street. I love that I can be creative and change my plans according to my students needs. I love that we read parables and act out role plays and discuss what we live for. I love that we laugh and sometimes cry. I love that in English class students are encouraged to be vulnerable, to be honest, and to share opinions without judgement. I love the light bulb that goes off in a students eyes when theyfinally get what the heck I am saying. I love using Chin.ese to surprise them when they need help with vocabulary. I love when they are talking so loud that we don't hear the bell ring. I love notecards. I love noticing when they get haircuts. I love telling them that No, Amer.ica is not a big verion of Gossip Girls. I love when they write notes about what I am saying during class in their hello kitty notebooks. I love when they ask each other for help. I love when they ask me for help. I love surprising them with activities, that they never know what to expect. I love that they shock me sometimes with their opinions - good or bad. I love that for 15 hours a week, the world is right, I am in class, and we are doing life together.

After last week's stereotype madness, I really needed to remind myself that regardless of how different the cultural upbringing of my students is than my own, it doesn't mean that an English class is fruitless.

Last week was a singing competition at my university. Tickets were precious and few, but one of my students was one of the competitors and gave me a ticket! The event was so popular that students even stood in the aisles for the whole 3.5 hour shenanigans. It reminded me of how much I am going to miss this job. I really pra.y I get a chance in this life to have a job that I love this much in the future. I think I am making the right choice to leave since teaching ESL abroad is a high turn-over job and not really used as a career. As much as I am blissfully happy, I am also frustrated with the confines of the system (and dirt poor). But that has nothing to do with my students themselves. I still can't help but hope that one day I can have equal job satisfaction wherever I land.

Just doing some reflecting as I upload pictures from the performance.

Here are some pics of Steve (Su Peng)'s performance!:

The cheering section: my students, Frank (in the background), Jasmine, and Jack.

Singin' his little Chin.ese heart out:

All 18 contestants:

It's fun working for a big university. I hope I get the chance again. All I know is...gotta relish these last few weeks on the job! Thanks for the reminder of how lucky I am to be here, Su Peng!

Walk Slow. xoxo.

Christmas Tree in April.

I haven't blogged in over a week. That is a bad idea when you live a life as strange as mine and want to remember all the quirks and daily happenings. That is the main reason I keep this blog...to be able to look back and laugh.

Lat week's blog hiatus was brought on by the fact that I was angry the whole week. Teaching a class on "stereotypes" to Chin.ese college students is like teaching mice they shouldn't eat cheese. It's just not possible to get through to them. All in all the week was fine, my students are presh heads even when they say awful things like, "black people are so pity" and "all Japa.nese are evil." It has been a long road learning to not judge them personally for the things they have ingrained in their minds and it causes me to take a hard look at my own prejudices. It was in interesting week. And I am glad it is over.

This week was fun and interesting.

On Monday I went bowling with a few friends to say goodbye to our Chin.ese friend Siyana. She moved to Libya on Wednesday to be a translator for a Chin.ese contruction company. Siyana is the third Chin.ese friend I have had move to Africa in the past 2 years. It is interesting because just last weekend I was reading an article in the New York Times about Chin.a and Afri.ca's relationship. And then the next day I was at a goodbye party for someone whose live exactly reflects the news article. Surreal. Living here is like living in the "international" tab of the New York Times.

It definitely makes the news stories more personal.

If you don't know about the relationships between Africa.n countries and Chin.a it is worth looking into. I would post a link here, but I don't want to draw attention to my blog. :)

Yesterday was poetry group, dinner with the girls, and a night out at the winery. At Poetry we read "My Life" by Billy Collins in which he compares his life to various things like a hallway with a thousand doors or a breeze touching everything on a lake. We talked baout what we would compare our lives to and I said, "A Christmas tree in April." As you can see from the photographic evidence, the coffee shop has just decorated for Christmas. Not quite sure why now in April they have decided miniature Christmas trees would be a good addition to the decor. Our Chin.ese counterparts didn't quite see the humor in it, but I was giggling through the whole meeting.

I also had an interesting experience yesterday, I went and bought Chin.ese contacts. i just took my old boxes into the store, asked for contacts and asked them if htey had my "number". They sell Acuvue, but not the same exact kind I am used to. In about 10 minutes I walked out the door wearing new contacts.

This weekend I have nothing planned. I have been contemplating going somewhere because Monday is a national holiday so I have 5 days off (well, 3.5 now). I am thinking I might get on a bus tomorrow and go somewhere alone.

Now I am sitting here, eating a mango, trying not to drip it all over my computer, and wishing I had given more detail to this post. Missing so many days of blogging makes all the events watered down! Oh well.

Here's some photographic evidence:

Off to Libya she goes!

Poetry group and the Christmas tree:

my "foreign friends." When we are all together Chin.ese people often say to each other "they are all a different color" and try to guess where we are from: AMER.ICA (all but the Danish sweet pea to my left). Little do they know we all understand them and laugh:

Walk Slow. xo

Apr 24, 2010

Job Wanted: English Translators

Anyone up for a relaxing stay at the Recluse Mansion?

Oh Ch.ina, you're so silly sometimes.

Apr 19, 2010

15 months...

(how I spend my weekday afternoons..)

The countdown to fluency begins!

Here’s the problem: Chin.ese is hard. I mean seriously hard.

It’s tonal, it’s grammar-less, it’s backwards. Every word has multiple meanings depending on the tone and character. A little extra throat movement on the ‘e’ sound, and you just asked that person to give them a kiss, not a question. A slight exhale on the ‘i,’ and you told your student to hand you that vagina instead of that pen.

And context is of no help. A waitress will stare at you like she's seen an alien if you order a "kele" ( thirsty - 3rd tone) instead of a "kele" (coke - 2nd tone).

And to add to all of this, there’s no help; you’re going it alone. You pick up what you can by listening, you ask for translations, but at the end of the day that’s all you got. No book can give you the listening skills needed to master the tones and most Chin.ese friends have no idea how to teach their native tongue. Tutors abound, but most are college girls looking for a foreign boyfriend, and that's no help to an honest student.

So, to combat this? Flashcards. Always the best answer. An endless amount of flashcards. Potato, diarrhea, electricity, month. Piles for numbers, action verbs, time placers, foods, pronouns.

So you practice. Practice alone, with some friends who do their best not to laugh, some people who politely pretend to understand. You talk to yourself in the shower, sing to yourself on the street. Answer the people on the bus when they ask, "you weize ma?" "no, there are no seats left". Whoa, the foreigner understood that. You talk every chance you can get. To children walking home from school who can't help but stare, to metrosexual men in the bar who can't believe how white your skin is, but steer clear of the old people...chances are they don't speak Mandarin and you'll end up in a mess of local dialect with no way out but a head nod and a swift getaway. And they're probably just calling you fat, anyways.

You practice until you can go to the woman at the noodle shop and ask for directions to the nearest place to buy batteries for your camera. "Ni zhedou zai nali ma, wo you mei dongxi, wo mei yao pian de dianzi?"

And afterwards? Well, you’ve earned it, of course. A stop to the pineapple stand man who is selling huge chunks of the sweet fruit on a stick is in order. "Yao yige bolo." And you go on your merry way.

But that's before you even attempt to actually reading the language! It's a good thing the language was romanized so that the people can even use a computer.

And after you have memorized 20,000 characters, then try writing them. But don't miss a stroke, that could change the meaning of with 因 and you've got yourself a problem.

This is going to be quite the adventure. Countown to sitting in a Chin.ese lecture and taking notes in Chin.ese while reading my Chine.se text book = 15 months. What's the Chinese word for daunting? Oh, 令人生畏. Good to know. AND....go.

walk slow. xoxo.

Apr 15, 2010

Bambi Sighting.

In my almost 22 months of living in Chi.na I have learned to eliminate the word "why" from my vocabulary. The first few months here were full of: "Why is that baby peeing in the aisle of the bus?" "Why did that person just slam into me and not even turn around?" "Why did that man just wander out of the bushes?" "Why don't these people drink cold water?" "Why are the workers following me around?" "Why does everyone take my picture?" "Why did that man just blow his nose with his finger on the side walk?" "Why does everyone stare into my shopping cart?" "Why do boys hold each other's thighs in class?" "Why won't the bus drivers just stop honking?" "Why do people giggle when I walk in the room?"

Oh the world is full of "why's" so it's best just to not ask. Don't ask, don't tell, Chin.a style. It's just better that way.

But today when I went to the grocery store I had a brief interaction with the word "why" again...


a closer look at Bambi...

Who thinks taxidermy is a good way to sell meat?!
There was a pot roast on my grocery list, but somehow I managed to forget that item.
I wonder why?

Walk Slow. xoxo.

Apr 13, 2010

Ode to Hong Kong.

(I love Hong Kong!)

A few facts about Hong Kong I learned/experienced when there 2 weeks ago:

1. Travellers have been known to call the bustling metropolis "Hong Koncrete" but I prefer "Hong Kong Heaven".
2. After the First Opium War (circa 1841) HK became a British colony but was handed over to the Motherland in 1997. Thus, the people have British accents, awesome style, and are generally cooler than anyone walking around Mainland because they escaped the turmoil/devastation/etcetc of the event that shall not be named. The people (at least those I've rubbed elbows with) are very proud of being "from Hong Kong" not..."Chi.na". They consider themselves (are are) culturally distinct from the mainland. (i.e., there's no spitting, pushing for seats on the bus/metro, people line up without cutting/pushing, and no public fighting).
3. The Chin.ese have to keep HK under the same rules as it was under Britian (freedom of press, speech, reli.gion, etc.) for 50 years and then it can do whatever it wants. I'm not sure how it would work if they started taking away freedoms, it's like, how do you retract a modern society? But, I digress...
4. Mainland inhabitants have to have a visa to go to HK. Amer.icans do not.
5. Hong Kong is EXPENSIVE and smells like cold hard cash. There I feet like a pauper in the shadows of Gucci and Prada. It is in fact the 4th largest financial center (after London, NY, and Tokyo).
6. HK has the "Batman Building" from the movie where apparently there's some important scene (having not seen the movie yet taking pictures of the "Batman Building" was kind of anti-climactic.)
7. The water in Victoria Harbor is the most polluted water in the world (so Batman couldn't jump into it for one of his scenes.)
8. When in HK it's hard to know what language to speak. The native tongue is Cantonese but most people speak some English. Speaking Chin.ese will get you little to no-where (unless bargaining with foot massage sellers, as we found out). It's like, you go into a store and are not sure what language you are expected to speak.

Hong Kong, I love you!

I had been to HK before, last year at the tail end of The Crew's Spring Festival trip, but we only went to HK Disneyland and Macau. I still feel like there's a lot more to see, I'm not quite done with it yet, but a few more days there was fun. It's a breath of fresh (polluted) air and an exciting place to be. Full of life, vibrancy, color, and home of the world's longest escalator. What more could a traveller want? Oh! Yummy food. Well, they ahve that too in the form of dim sum. Yum yum yum yum yum. At one point we even ate little miniature hedgehog looking things. That was fun and delicious.

I tried to upload pictures, but blogger is being dumb tonight (thanks, Great Firewall!) So just imagine the most fun, perfect, colorful place. Insert some palm trees and a mysterious fog. Add some background music, maybe a little Regina Spektor. Then splash that picture with some tasteful graffiti.

And there you have it, Hong Kong Heaven.

HK, thanks for the memories. And for being genuinly awesome.

Walk Slow. xoxo.

Apr 11, 2010

24 hour mom.

The last 48 hours of my life have been nutso and amazing.

I sat down to write this and started to cry. ha. Not to be overly dramatic or anything, but tears just started coming out of my face so I got up, made some instant coffee, and here I am trying again to put this into words.

Friday morning my friend Laura came over and helped me carry teddy bears from my co-worker Rebecca, homemade mashed potatoes, vanilla pudding, and strawberries with sugar to the hospital. While I was paying for the taxi, my phone rang. It was a weird number starting with 0 so I answered it thinking it was my mom, "Heeeeeeeey". Well, it wasn't my mom. It was Zhejiang University offering me a full scholarship to recieve a PhD in international comparative education. They wanted my answer right then and my head was spinning so fast that I told them I would call Monday. There were mashed taters to deliver and I just couldn't process that information right then and there. So I basically put the news aside and headed into the hospital.

I had bought train tickets for me and Amanda to go to Shan.ghai that afternoon. She was being interviewed yet again by another journalism crew and then we would head out. After a few hours playing with the babies (it was soooo good to see Harrison's progress from the day before!) we headed to the train station just us two. There is a new Burger King at the train station so we indulged while listening to the Britney Spears cd they had on repeat (reason #1897382 I love Asia).

Well, I made a classic "Jessica" move when I thought our train was leaving at 1:30. The ticket lady had told me "yi dian ban" (1:30) so I never bothered to look at the ticket. Turns out our train was leaving at 1:21, and we were lolly gagging our way to the platform around 1:18 thinking we had 10 minutes. The train lady started yelling "kuai yidian!" (hurry it up!) and we raaaaan to the train. Our car was #1 and the entrance to the platform was at car 8 so we had a loooong way to go. We ended up seperating and just jumping on the train, meeting in one of the cars and walking through the cars to our seats. hahahahaha. oh geez.

We chatted and rested until our train rolled into Shan.ghai around 3pm. We took a taxi out to Pudong, the business district of Shan.ghai, and met with one of Amanda's friends who is fostering a child. She was a kind Australian lady who bought me a vanilla cupcake. Love her. After a short while it was time for us to head to the other foster family's house to pick up baby Chloe.

Baby Chloe is 8 months old and has cataracts. She was staying with a foster family in Shanghai while she was going through surgery and they decided they can't keep her anymore. She wears teeny tiny glasses that are training her eyes to focus and in a few years she will have another surgery. The hope is that she will have restored eye sight by age 5. Currently she can see light and shadows and her little eyes dart around like crazy.

We spent some time with the family in their mansion. It was weird to be in a real house because people in Chi.na live in apartments in the city, not neighborhoods and houses. There were white children running around green lawns and cars parked in drive ways. I could have sworn I was transported to Trinity, Florida! I have never seen living arrangements like that in Chi.na! (I also don't really hang out with rich expats, either). It was weird to see how some people's Chin.a experience is. The family has been here 15 years, it was crazy to interact with them, a wonderful sociological observation. They were wonderfully nice people, but I had a hard time thinking they were "Indian giving" a baby.

We finally took Chloe and headed to the train station again around 6pm. Somewhere along the way we realized that she did not have a full bottle and we were left with no diapers. That was exciting. Riding on a train with a screaming, hungry, wet diapered baby. As if we aren't stared at enough for being tall white women, add a screaming Chin.ese baby to the mix and a large suitcase of her belongings and you've got a real circus. haha.

Luckily, Amanda is a certifiable "baby whisperer" and I bought a million dollar bottle of Evian and made some powdered milk with 30 minutes to go on the train. She finally fell asleep somewhere around 9pm. And all was well.

I took the opportunity in the train station to fib a little and told many Chin.ese people she was my baby. I just love the reaction. The looks on their faces are priceless. hahaha. I was so entertained. ha.

There were no taxi's at all around the train station and after wandering around like crazies we finally paid a private car to take us to the hospital.

Sometime during the day it had been brought up to me that baby Chloe could not enter the hospital because she does not have papers. Once a baby is taken into the hospital, you need to show proper documentation to take the baby out. Well, it was inferred that baby Chloe would be taking up residence at my house. I was scared out of my brains, but of course said ok because who in their right mind says no to helping an orphan?!

So baby Chloe and I headed home together. In the taxi I called my friend Hannah to meet me at the gate because there was no way I could get up the stairs with a huge suitcase and a diaper bag and a baby. I have no idea how single moms do it.

We sat around holding baby Chloe while she slept and talking about how people our age have children when we felt so completely incompitant to have this precious life in our care. Hannah left around 2am and I called my mom to sing her my new favorite song, "I have a baby, I have a baby, I have a baby, hey hey hey hey." And to let my family know that, oh ya, I got a scholarship to the 2nd best school in China. ha. I had forgotten about that in the craziness of the day.

I put some blankets on the floor and slept while Chloe slept on the futon. Amanda had told me just to have her sleep in my bed with me but I saw on Oprah once how a fat lady crushed her baby so I wouldn't do that. I opted for the floor.

The next morning after minimal sleep because I was so worried about Chloe, my dear friends came over. They brought me lunch and let me shower while they played with Chloe. We played with her and discussed what an awesome sitcom we would be until it was time to take Chloe back to the hospital at 3pm.

I miss my 24 hour baby! But after a million diaper changes and warm bottles of milk, I know that a baby is not something I want for a while. That was hard work. haha.

They are going to try to get Chloe adopted out fast so that she can have a family to care for her while she goes through her medical treatments for her eyes. A huge foster care system is really not the place for her.

Also something I learned about while having Chloe was Mongolian Spots. I have never heard of this before. On Chloe's back there are bruise-like stripes that look awful. Amanda and the foster family talked about them as Mongolian Spots. I looked it up and they are genetic pigmentation birthmarks that occur in most asian babies and fade by puberty. It also occurs in half of hispanic babies, native american babies, polynesian babies, and african american babies. So interesting.

It was great to have her. My friend Hannah commented that we were all in "crisis mode". It was like, I am going to care for this baby the best I can. I refuse to get emotional. I will not think about the fact that she was left on a hospital step by her birth mother and spent the first 5 months of her life in an orphanage where she was malnourished and left on her back for so long that she has a dent in her head. I will not be angry because her foster family gave her up. No, I will not wonder about the reasons why she was left, was she the second or third illegal baby so her mom couldn't keep her, was her mother not married and thus afriad of family retribution, was she left because she is a girl? Was her mom threatened with losing her job because there is no maternity leave here and she had to give her up to feed herself? No, I will only love her now in this moment like the precious child that she is, I will make her bottle perfectly and make sure she is warm because in this moment she is in my house and I am her caretaker. Tomorrow that will change but today she is mine. No sobbing, no deep thoughts, just hold the baby and get her where she needs to go safely.

Here are some pics:

All of baby Chloe's earthly belongings. She's a little nomad who needs a home!

Playing in her blankie:

Hanging out in the hospital with the babies and nannies:

Sweet baby Chloe:

Mmmmmm milk:

How riding on a train in Chin.a with a screaming baby feels:

Harrison and Matilda loving the bears sent to us from the chrch ladies in Tennessee:

Well, I accepted the offer for the sholarship to Zhejiang University. It has been my goal and dream since last summer and it became a reality. Everything fell together really fast in the past few days. Everything just went "boom" in place.

It means that June 30th I have to move out of my current apartment. I will be subleasing from my friend Katie in a baller apartment near my current home and living with my friend Laura, and in September I will move to a dorm a Zhejiang University. I will study Chin.ese for one year, then will begin my PhD in comparative education. The classes will be conducted in Chin.ese. Which means by September 2011 I have to be able to read a text book in Chin.ese characters. (Lrd help me). If all goes well I will be Dr. Griner (or Li, Xu, Wang, etc hahaha) in Spring 2014.

I am so blessed because my friend Hannah recieved a scholarship for her masters so we are going to be going through Chin.ese class together next year. I had previously thought I had not received the scholarship because Hannah found out 3 weeks before I did. I was never told no, but I assumed that since she found out and I didn't that I had not recieved the scholarship. Well isn't that a learning lesson not to assume! Geez louise.

The scholarship is given by the Chin.ese government and covers tuition, housing, books, and pays students a small stipend (about half of what I make now working). There are talks of a job opportunity in the works but I am not banking on anything until it is for certain.

My reasoning is this: I have no idea if I want to be here that long. I have no idea if I want to be here today. hahaha. BUT if I am given an opportunity this grand and do not at least try then I am crazy. If I really want to learn Chin.ese and someone is offering to pay me to do it, then I am dumb to walk away when there is really no other option equally as wonderful. Hmmmm...go home and live with my parents and try to find a job in a crap economy, or get paid to earn a free PhD and continue living in the city I love and learning a language I love speaking....um, there's really no contest.

And I also believe that the greatest joys in our lives are not risk or pain free. I kind of have a, "Ok, G0.d, let's do it. Let's learn Chine.se this'll be fun. Let's just see where this adventure takes us. You haven't left me hangin' yet." mentality.

So, that is that. Funny how everything falls apart and gets put back together.

But alas, there are more important things to talk/think about. Think of sweet baby orphan Chloe. For eyesight and a family. Think of Amanda and her 53 babies and 26 nannies. Think of baby Jessica and Matilda who are still in the hospital.

"You and I, we are the Chrch, no? We have to share with our people. Suffering today is because people are hoarding, not giving, not sharing. Jesus made it very clear: 'Whatever you do to the least of my brethren, you do it to me. Give a glass of water, you give it to me. Receive a little child, you receive me.'"

--Mother Teresa

walk slow. xoxo.

Apr 8, 2010

Baby Dooty.

Day 2 with the babies was a blazing success.

I woke up and hit snooze about a million times then recieved a call at 7:40 am from Amanda asking me if I wanted to go shopping with her and one of the nannies. She then apologized for calling so early. She had been awake since 4am. Maybe I don't want one of these babies so soon after all. haha.

I hurried on over to the hospital and guided them to the best supermarket in town. (love you, Carrefour!) There I got to witness what it takes to feed and care for 5 adults and 4 babies for 2 weeks. They bought 8 cases of baby food, 12 bananas, oatmeal, shredded meat, cheerios (not legit cheerios :( ), juice, meat stick things, yogurt, 6 packages of baby wipes, peach slices, chocolate, sanitizer, instant noodles, and a kettle to boil the hospital's mineral water. I had gone to the store with them thinking I would pay for their things, but quickly realized I couldn't afford it. So I bought them all McDonalds for lunch.

We headed back to the hospital where a news crew was waiting for Amanda. She conducted the interview in Chin.ese and I got to talk to the nannies while she was busy. They are so interesting and I am really glad to practice my Chin.ese with them. I think I talked more Chin.ese today than I have in a lonnnnngggg time. They are such cool people. And through those conversations I learned the words for "burp", "scab", and "comfort".

Baby Harrison came out of surgery first and the prognosis was not good. Apparently there are 10 kinds of heart problems a baby can have and he has 2, which is bad. He cried and cried and I had to help hang up the IV bag above his bed because I am way taller then the nannies. I don't like touching that kind of stuff, but it had to be done. It was scary because the heart monitor kept beeping like crazy because his heart rate would sky rocket to the 190's then come back down. Poor baby.

Dr. Xu came to visit and wanted to take me and Amanda to see baby Jessica (referred to as "little Jessica" by Dr. Xu, haha) in the ICU. I didn't really want to go because hospitals/blood/anything in that area freaks me out but I thought I couldn't pass up the opportunity. I think my blood pressure was higher than any kid in there!

We donned the plastic shoe covers and the robes and then headed in to the packed room. There was only one bed available out of 20. Sweet baby Jessica was knocked out and recieving blood and plasma transfusions. All the babies in the room were heart patients. Needless to say, it was heart breaking. The families were all packed into the hallway waiting for news, meanwhile Amanda's babies have no family. She and the nannies are their family until they are given permanent homes.

Little Jessica's recovery will be about a week they said. I was happy to be there because my other good Chin.ese friend, Christina is the head nurse of the ICU. I loved seeing her in her element. She is so good at what she does. Her ability to keep a level head and run the unit was amazing to witness. I would break down surrounded by that much pressure of 20 little hearts under my control. But she does it with grace and care.

Amanda and I went back to the room where we just hung out the rest of the afternoon. I held baby Matilda and the nannies took turns caring for baby Harrison. Baby Thomas was in surgery all afternoon. This evening they were having a meeting about what is next in the treatment for Harrison and Thomas. Apparently, it's not good. But Amanda believes in the expertise of the head heart surgeon (my friend), Dr. Li. He is one of the top heart surgeons in Ch.ina. I'm so honored to be surrounded by such talented people.

I have a list of things to take into the hospital tomorrow. I am making mashed potatoes tonight for the babies, books for Amanda, my laptop since I have a VPN and Amanda can't access her gmail account now that Google has pulled out of Chi.na, and I am going to Papa Johns to get a pizza for them for lunch since they do not have one in Xian where they live. (I for the record, have never been to one in Chin.a-it's really expensive, but when I told her there was one here she got really excited so I put it on the menu for tomorrow).

I am completely floored how in my Chin.a life there has been the presence of orphans since the month I moved here. I have done nothing to deserve these opportunities and I do nothing helpful except hang out and buy things for people. Today Amanda asked me to come back tomorrow because I, "make her life more interesting." She needs companionship from someone with the same ideals, language, and experiences living as a foreinger in this nutso place. I am happy and thankful to be that person for a few weeks.

We were in a taxi and I was explaining how Florida is, "oranges, old people, and Disney World" and she was telling me about South Africa, though she has not been back since 2001. I loved that moment of sharing. Those are the moments that keep me here and remind me that there is something to be learned here that I cannot learn in the states, at a university, or in a book. I feel like this week is a timely gift. I needed reminders of how great it is to be here. I think I had forgotten in the past few months. The babies always give me focus and remind me not to be so selfish when I dream of home. There is work to be done. There are heart surgeries to fundraise. There are nannies to feed. There are people who run foster homes to encourage.

Here are some photos from the day:

Me and Dr. Xu with baby Jessica in the ICU:

Me and Amanda ready for the ICU in our sexy get-ups:

Matilda loves to talk on the phone, this kept her entertained for a good 20 minutes!:

Baby Jessica in the ICU:

What I hope my family portrait looks like one day (jk, maybe). Head nurse Holly, me and baby Matilda, and Dr. Xu:

Head nurse Holly with baby Harrison right out of surgery:

Amanda being interviewed by a journalism crew (while baby Matilda takes a nappy nap):

"Children are the hands by which we take hold of heaven."
-Henry Ward Beecher

I have never asked for anything greater than this: please remember the babies while they are recovering, and the nannies and Amanda as they work tirelessly in uncomfortable circumstances (sharing 3 beds amongst 4 babies and 5 adults) to bring care to the orphans.

Walk slow. xoxo.

Apr 7, 2010

Babies, Age, and Purpose.

I hate my age.

Well, I guess I take that back, kind of. I love my age. Being 23 rocks. I often find myself in conversations with my friends about how free we are. How we can literally choose to move anywhere and do anything. We can travel anywhere we can afford, and if we can't afford it now, we can save up. Nothing is out of bounds or impossible for me at this point in my life. And that is awesome.

But days like today when I am holding orphan babies I wish I was older. I hate that my life experiences don't match the number on my birth certificate. And now it seems like the only thing I can do is......grow up slowly.

You see, today was one of those days that makes me feel like I could live here forever (someone start sending me meds...jk).

Last night I recieved a call from Dr. Xu saying that Amanda from the Starfish Foster Home (chinesestarfish.blogspot.com) is in town with 4 babies for surgeries. I have spoken with Amanda often over the past year but never met her in person as she lives far far away. Dr. Xu wanted me to meet her, saying it would be, "a great thing."

So today after work I taxi'd over to the children's hospital and after getting lost - turns out I wandered the 6th floor of outpatient not inpatient for about 30 minutes, haha, I found the room Amanda was in with her babies and 4 nannies.

It was a wonderful meeting. We got to talk money, surgeries, life purpose, orphans, the state of social work in China, and adoption laws in different countries, all the while holding precious babies. My baby, Harrison, pooped yellow guck on me and crieeeeeed. It was not good because he was crying so much they were worried for his heart. Tomorrow he will have a scan of his heart to see what needs to be done. He is only 8 months old and was left on an orphanage doorstep. He was blue when Amanda recieved him and she kept telling me how she didn't think he would make it. He's doing great now, making eye contact, and squeezed my thumb tightly showing off his strength. What a little trooper.

We went for a walk to buy food for the babies and nannies and found that the nearest grocery store has been closed since Amanda's last visit. I am not familiar with that part of town so I wasn't much help.

While I was holding baby Harrison (who apparently "loves my voice" according to Amanda) I told her about my work in the orphanage here and my eventual goal of wanting to adopt my own. She promptly asked, "any man on the horizon?" to which I told her "um no. Im 5'10." She told me a funny story of her sister marrying a man shorter than her in her native South Africa and how the pictures looked aweful. She is a hoot.

She then told me, "Oh man, because if you were married we could get you goin' on a baby." A free baby. For me. (!!!) She then asked my age and was surprised to hear my pathetically low number. I felt a little like a kid in a big kids jungle. I'm a youngin' trying to play the big kids game. Amanda is 38 and signed a 10 year contract 5 years ago. Which means she was 10 years older than me when she began her work. 10 years. Ugh. What am I supposed to do, waddle around Asia for 10 years until I am in my 30's and someone takes me seriously?

She told me to "hurry it up and make sure I'm married" by 27 so that when I'm 30 (legal adopting age if you've been married 3 years) I can "get a kid." To which I replied, "Ok, I'll get on that."

I hate age. I hate laws about age. Why can't we forget about age and just judge people based on purpose? Not that I want a kid now, but I don't like the idea that there is a deadline on my dream. Ugh.

Anyways, meeting Amanda was very inspiring. She is so cool. She talked about her total mind shift and lifestyle shift when she opened her foster home. She has 52 babies under her care in 2 houses with 26 nannies working 2 shifts. It's freakin awesome. She told me to fundraise and move out there and work with her for awhile. But that would mean 2 things I don't want to do, move, and fundraise. I don't feel like that is the answer for me.

But knowing her is amazing. Holding her babies is even more amazing. And knowing that one day they will be placed in loving families is even more amazing. Most amazing is remembering that God loves each of those children and that no one is an accident. Parents may abandon their babies but God will never abandon us. And we have to do everything we can to help those less fortunate.

I'm organizing shifts of my friends to go relieve the nannies over the next two weeks while they are here. I am also going shopping tomorrow for some supplies and planning to take the nannies snacks. Amanda said they love street food, so I'm going to take them some goodies tomorrow. Anything to help. I feel like a warm body with blazing energy and nowhere to direct that energy. So, time to throw myself into this for the next 2 weeks.

I am so thankful that my dreams are coming true, regardless of age or time. God places passions in our hearts for a reason. 10 years ago I was talking about orphan babies in my middle school classes. Now I hold them in my arms while they cry and spit up milk. For that I am infinitely thankful. Keep dreaming dear friends, cool stuff happens when you do.

Please visit Amanda's blog and keep her and her babies in your thoughts. We really can make a difference in the world. My faith in that fact has been restored today by meeting this amazing woman.

Now....where is that husband?.......(jk...kinda...)

Walk slow. xoxo