Thursday, June 30, 2011

It's Official!

Mark talking before the local gov't representatives and TV
cameras, with Sa translating
Sa telling Mark which dotted line to sign on
Today we had to be on time to the orphanage, because we were having an "official" signing of the contract drawn up between our Visiting Orphans team, the orphanage, and the Chaoyang city officials (see yesterday's post). The room quickly filled up with government officials, orphanage employees,  TV cameras and reporters, nursing students, and us holding children. The room was adorned by banners hanging (I have no idea what they said) and a large Chinese flag. Nothing was interpreted for us, so I'm not sure exactly what was said, but Mark and a representative did the official signing to cameras flashing, and then he made a quick speech, which Sa interpreted. After the quick ceremony, we did not get to interact much with the kids, because the nursing students were walking around, getting acquainted with the children, and getting a quick lesson/demonstration from Britta. It was actually quite exciting to see the nursing students interact so positively with the children, and gives me much hope for it to continue, despite us not being here.
Britta working her magic

The afternoon crowd was sparse, as some went shopping for supplies and other necessary stops. The butterfly wings and accessories I bought for 10 yuan (about $1.50) were a big hit with the kids. Fortunately they only caused one major tantrum! The nannies served us watermelon again, which I thought they would never do again after yesterday's huge mess, but I guess that may be commonplace for them.
Best 10 yuan I've ever spent!

This costume crossed age groups and genders!

I gave the head nanny the quilts that the ladies from the Methodist Church in Coupeville made for the children.
MeiMei smiling on the new quilt the Methodist church ladies made for him

Tonight we prepared all of the nanny gift bags that we will bring for our last day tomorrow. I am looking forward to the school children coming to visit, as well as preparing the dumplings with the nannies. It will be a packed full emotional day, so please remember us as you go about your day.
Skin to skin time with "The Thinker," who really prefers her
crib to being out, but she handled it gracefully

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Incredible Day....

Each day's experiences seem to be outdoing the previous days experience. I need to come up with more and more adjectives to describe each day!

Group photo at the entrance of Choayang Park
This morning we took the children to the "park." Mind you, this is an amusement park we have been to before, and not one a person easily forgets. The rides are completely outdated, in fact, probably not even legal in the states. Regardless, the children have a blast (well, except those who don't enjoy spinning), and we feel like the Pied Piper with the crowd that follows us around. The media joined us today also, so I'm guessing we should be in a newspaper soon.

Several of the kids were wearing Easter bonnet type hats to
protect them from the sun, no matter the sex. DengDeng didn't seem to
I banged my knee trying to squeeze into this ride!
Sa is wonderful with the kids. This little guy held on to that
potato chip for at least 1/2 an hour.
Tracie, Wu Jei Wei and Jing shooting targets as they gently
moved around the targets.
more water play

We followed up our adventure with a trip to KFC, something I don't even normally do in the states, but if it makes the kids happy, then I'll even eat there!

next stop, KFC
Lovin' those fries!
She wasn't so crazy about the spicy chicken nuggets
first one asleep on the bus ride back
Then another...
Then another...
and yet another

A few members of the team spent the morning at the orphanage working with the physical therapy equipment and preparing to train the nannies. Following lunch, we joined them and spent the afternoon checking in on the kids who were unable to go with us in the morning and enjoying more play time. In the afternoon, Mark and a couple others had a meeting with some local government officials, trying to get the go ahead on organizing local volunteers for the orphanage. So far they seem receptive to the concept, and tomorrow the plan is to have some local nursing students come to get some training in working with the kids. This is a long-term plan that could have major impact, so be remembering us as you go about your day.

This evening we returned to church for what we thought would be an evening Bible study, but this was not so. We were greeted by the pastor and a few other members with some snacks and drinks, but then we were quickly whisked away to what they told us was to meet some elderly people. I assumed they meant an older Bible study downstairs, but they took us outside, around the back, and up a flight of stairs to what was a live-in nursing home. Their church cares for 56 elderly people on mostly a volunteer basis and donations. Incredible for such a poor community!  The best part is that they brought many of the residents into a tiny room to meet us. They were so thrilled to meet us and wanting to be in photos with us. I think we were probably the first western foreigners that most of them had seen. Unfortunately most of us had left our cameras in the original room we began in, because we had no idea we were going to be meeting these people. This one lady sat by me for a long time just holding my hand and grinning ear to ear. I had an english speaker near by tell her that she reminded me of the love of my grandma! It really was a heart warming experience. Hopefully I can get photos later from a couple of the team members who had their iPhones on them.
Friends forever!
We've been buddies since 2007, but never has she been this snuggly to me

On our way back to the front of the building we stopped and danced with some of the older church members who were doing some type of choreographed dances. When the group reassembled in the original room, Mark told the director of our desire to involve more of the church with the orphans, and after the interpreter finished speaking the pastor responded with "Okay, yea." to which we all laughed and clapped. We spent another half hour speaking with others in the room. I conversed with Mary, a gal who runs an english school. Among many topics we spoke on, she was shocked by my response that "No, you don't have to be a Christian to be President of the United States."
You should've seen the floor after all the kids and us enjoyed
the watermelon!
She squealed with delight when I placed these on her. I'm going
to try and buy her some of her own later today.
My new friend Mary. She asked some deep questions that were
difficult to answer without a translator.

Well once again I am exhausted. If there are no photos yet, check back later when Mike has an opportunity to post them. Thanks for thinking about us....two more days with the kids!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

What Day Is It???

YaYa is amazing, and we are told he is being made adoption ready!
Each day is beginning to blur into another, but it was another successful busy day. Typically we go to the orphanage in the morning, leave for a couple of hours at lunchtime so the children can eat and rest, then we go back to the orphanage for a few more hours. This is followed by a quick cleanup before dinner, then off to church, shopping, or hanging out in the square until time to go to bed and start over again. Overall exhausting, but so totally rewarding.

Courtney and Jing aka Diva
Today was such schedule, and we got right to work as we got there. Bubble blowing was the first thing on today's agenda, which is always a hit. The kids love it, as well as the adults, and it makes for some great photos. The only challenge was the breeze that was going on, so you had to choose your bubble blowing position carefully:)

Always the Happy child, but this time an extremely proud one!

While this group was outdoors, Britta and the others that have been helping her prepare the physical therapy equipment were busy demonstrating some of the lifts, etc., for the nannies. That is the main goal, that these things continue when we are gone. They are also making simple posters using photos to help them remember. For the most part I have not been working with this group, but swing by frequently to check on their progress. Having seen these kids from the beginning in 2007 to now, you cannot fathom the joy it brings me to see these children out of their cribs. These are kids that have basically been written off in the past, but yet would light up in the room when I would come in and sing to them (no, not because of my angelic voice, but because someone was showing them love and attention!). As I stand back and watch different team members work with them, it literally brings tears to my eyes.
Keeping Grace warm, inside and out
More smiles
This girl barely responded when we first met her in 2007. Now she
is up walking with a walker and laughing hysterically when Courtney
tosses her in the ball pit

I've been giving this little guy a lot of arm time. He can't even
hold his head up, but you should see him smile and coo when we have
him up and out of the crib.

We ended the morning with some good old fashioned face painting. At first a couple of the kids were frightened, but once they got the hang of it, they kept pointing to new places on their face to get painted (kind of like being addicted to tatoos!). Even the toddlers and some of the kids who are typically unable to sit still joined in.
He wasn't so sure to begin with, but once I showed him his
picture he embraced his lionhood

The calmest she was all day!
Was barely a blank space left on his face when Rebecca was finished

After lunch we did some shopping for the kiddos. I found some wonderful butterfly wings (making me miss my own girls) that I am going to take this morning. Creative play is always lacking here. Sa, the gal we met at the airport, has been working with us every day and is an amazing contact. Her mom is a doctor and she has connections at a local university. She is trying to establish a way to get volunteers from the college working year round in the orphanage. A lofty goal, but a worthy one, so please be remembering this.

Courtney and Angela dancing with the locals
After more playtime in the afternoon and a delicious dinner, we headed back to the public square this evening. We joined in by playing a form of hackey sack (only more like a badminton) with some locals. Courtney and Angela did some swing dancing. A local man must have liked Angela's skills, because he then asked her to dance. He was incredibly good, and she was a quick learner. The song seemed to go on forever, as a crowd of 100 or so gathered around. I think Angela's been watching Dancing with the Stars!

This morning we are heading to a park with some of the children. Should be fun!

Sorry so late....

Sorry it took so long to hear from us, but we have been unable to connect to the internet. Yesterday morning we changed back to the original hotel we were supposed to be in, and when we had extended time to be able to get on the computer, I could not get things to work until getting a hotel employee into my room to figure things out. So I will try and catch everyone up on yesterday's happenings before I post about today. I'm not sure yet as to whether or not I can post photos from here, so if there are not any while you are reading this, check back in a couple hours when Mike can post them for me from the states.
Waiting at the windows (those are the cribs we bought them a few years ago)

my long time buddy Min Yer

In the morning we were greeted by the smiling faces of the toddlers who await us in their cribs, cheering through the window that faces the area our bus pulls into. It warms the heart to see them so excited about our arrival. The day was spent playing with the kids again, as well as more physical therapy work. It was amazing to see children who rarely get out of their crib be able to stretch their legs and walk! So brave and trustworthy they were to work with people they hardly knew, especially for  one of them who is blind. "Peanut," or Grace as we have now named her, is showing some slight improvement.  A wonderful day overall.
Mark helping the happiest boy in the world to use a walker

Pam giving more snuggle time to Peanut

"Precious Heart," who is blind, using the walker

Tracie and her girl

 We wrapped up the evening with a HotPot experience, something well known in this region. Was yet another delicious dinner. On the way back to the hotel we met up we the man we had met on the street who had found Bao, as we had some photos of her to give him. He had a huge grin on his face when Mark showed him the photo album of her. After that we came back to the hotel.I think my eyes slammed shut as soon as I hit the oh-so-hard Chinese bed (good for the back, you know).
Rebecca is a professional now

Jared putting who knows what in the HotPot

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Forward Motion...

Angela and Sa
So much happened today that I want to share. It was an exciting time at the orphanage, and I can only hope that everyone reading this can share my enthusiasm through my words and photos (although in reading back on my earlier post, I see lots of errors due to my lack of sleep!).

As we loaded the bus for the orphanage, we were greeted by Sa, a local girl we had met at the airport the day before. When we told her what we were there for, she told us she would like to join us, to which we eagerly encouraged her to do.  We love to involve the locals, and have had some join us every trip. Her english was great, and it was nice to see her join right in, interacting with the kids.

giving Min Yer a manicure/pedicure. Her favorite color is
purple, like mine!

Yung Yung playing with Lambchop (most of the kids were scared of it!)

Britta setting up the adaptive work center

The children were anxiously awaiting our arrival. After receiving the go ahead by the nannies, Britta, our physical therapist, got busy inventorying the physical therapy supplies that the orphanage already had but had no idea how to use. Some team members cleaned the dusty items and/or pieced some together, while Britta measured and assessed children for various pieces of equipment. By the end of the day she had a child in a wheelchair we had never seen out of bed before, a blind, crib-bound girl up and using a walker, and an adult sized girl standing, coloring while velcro straps held her upright at a work center. Needless to say, this was extremely exciting for us all to see, and we are only on day two!

As I was hanging out on the second floor right before lunch, I saw what I thought to be a familiar face walk by me. I couldn't pull up a name, as it was from a few years back, so I asked her what her name was. She replied with Feng Hua. I probably frightened the poor girl when I excitedly responded with "I know you, Flower!" Feng Hua was one of the older children we worked with at the orphanage the first two years we were here. When we inquired about her last year they told us she was attending a school for blind children. Since she graduated, she is back for the summer, and will be attending massage school in another province in the fall.  She said she remembered us from before. It is so rewarding to see her doing well.
Feng Hua "Flower"
Who knew Wu Jia Wei played the piano
The afternoon consisted of lots of playtime, including walks in the drizzle, and some positive responses from a couple children who usually don't show much emotion.  It's amazing what a little love can do to make an orphan, or anyone else for that matter, feel better.
John and Cha Cha taking a walk

Putting smiles on both our faces!

Both smiled like this all afternoon!

Love this photo of Courtney and the blind girl. She was
caressing Courtney so sweetly.