What God Taught Me in China

We’ve been home now for over a month and It’s hard to explain this part of the journey. It’s been a tricky few weeks and as in anything, you don’t really know how things are going to go until…well…they go. The language piece has been tough but not as rough as you’d think. Olivia is able to communicate well with gestures and already speaks about 50 English words. Her sweet nature has been a God send. Even though Olivia has lost so much, she remains amazingly flexible and adaptive.  In fact, it seems like she’s always been here with us. Still—I can’t imagine what she goes through each day in a new home, new culture…new life.

God’s lessons are revealed each day as Olivia grows and our family changes along with her. I see the compassion and love of a little girl who finally has a family.  It’s an amazing thing to be a part of.

So where does this blog go from here?  I started by writing about life’s meaning and then learned that such a topic was irrelevant.  It doesn’t matter what life’s meaning is….what matters is what you do with your life.

God continues to show me this lesson each day.

While in China, we met a wonderful family. Here’s their blog, aptly named I might add:

http://itsawonderfullife-walkers.blogspot.com/

During our hectic hospital visit, amongst all the chaos, we discussed God’s Grace and how people (and I am one of them) see the Walkers as saintly. But they don’t see it this way:

“It’s not everyone’s mission to adopt,” Deanna Walker said.  “People have all sorts of gifts and this (adopting orphans in India and China) just happens to be ours. Not everyone is called to adopt.  Some people are called to be lawyers or doctors, etc…that is their gift and this is ours.”

I agree wholeheartedly. God has a unique plan for each person.  Some are called to save endangered grasslands or give bone marrow…that’s not me. Instead, God entrusted us with Olivia. Her presence in our family reminds us everyday, how powerful and wonderful God’s love is.  Without Him, everything loses meaning.

Just as I wrote about “What I Learned in China”—I’d like to complete this entry by explaining what God has taught (and continues to teach) me through this adoption experience.

  • I truly believe that God would have found a loving family for Olivia–no matter what. The gift of this experience is that He chose us to share in His Grace.
  • This life is filled with wonderful people who submit to God’s calling no matter the costs. The Walkers are examples of this. The world is full of “needs” and our job (like the Walkers) is to search our hearts and find our role in mending these needs.
  • Even though God has taken us this far, I still find it difficult to give Him complete control of my life. Surely the best advice I’ve heard is “Let go and let God.”  When you hand over your life to God, amazing things happen. Through all of the craziness in China…God found a way. He will always find a way if we let Him.
  • Part of our lives are set into motion before we are born. I can’t explain this… It just seems as if Olivia has always been with us.
  • God continues to push me towards being in the moment. Life makes a lot more sense when I step back and take a look around me.
  • Family is everything. Nuff said!
  • Did I already mention…God is in control…?

What I Learned in China

It was a life changing trip on so many levels…and I learned a lot.  Some things were obvious, while others….not so obvious.

Driving

Of all things (other than Ning Qiu) that stick out from our trip, the driving (or drivers) is the first that comes to mind.  Chinese drivers are what Arthur Fonzarelli used to call “nutzo.” In the U.S. you have one idiot cut you off or weave in and out of cars like Danica Patrick, but that is the outlier here in the states.  Not in China, where “nutzo” motorists are the norm. You think I’m kidding? In China, cars NOT pedestrians have the right away. In fact you see these public service signs all over the place with pictures of old people trying to get across the street. You don’t have to read Mandarin to get the point. Every time Reece and I stepped away from the curb it was as though we were taking our lives into our hands. In fact our drivers (and there were 5 of them) rarely braked unless coming to a complete stop.  Think about that for a moment.  It wasn’t like we were driving down country roads here.  The streets were packed with everything from buses to bicycles. Perhaps the most harrowing drive of my life occurred on our last day in Wuhan, where our driver buzzed through a park, nearly wiping out several cyclists….oh, and there was a semi going the wrong way down a one way street. After awhile it became a joke…how many times could we brush with death?  I just thank the Lord I live in Cincy when it comes to transportation.

Food

We heard different things from people.  Some said the food in China was great, while others said it sucked.  I’m no gustatory expert but after a week of the stuff I was toast.  There’s only so many meals you can have with noodles and rice. Luckily, every hotel we stayed in had wonderful breakfast buffets filled with western/eastern foods so I didn’t suffer. All in all the food was good.  The only exceptions were one extremely salty meal in Beijing and an authentic Chinese lunch in Wuhan where our chicken was served in pieces…and I don’t mean nugget pieces. I mean a chicken chopped up as though someone just put the poor clucker on a chopping board and had their way with it.  Not very appetizing unless you enjoy chewing on bits of cartilage. Another note to mention was the sweets—or lack of.  We went into more than one bakery filled with the most delicious looking pastries imaginable, but most were just bland and disappointing. I was told that Chinese don’t like things as sweet as Americans and now I believe them.

Religion

I always thought China was a Godless country but I changed my views after our trip.  The truth is, there are many religious in China and religion is accepted. However any form of protest against the government is forbidden and against the law.  Our trip to a Buddhist temple was one of the highlights.  I saw how there are many Buddhas just as in Hinduism there are many gods.  I also saw how Buddhists light candles and incense for the same reasons as Catholics do.  In fact there were many things that I saw as parallels to my Christian beliefs.

Modern yet not

There are mega cities in China surrounded by miles of farms and small towns.  It sounds like America, but it’s not.  There were few free-standing buildings or homes.  As we sped across China by train, I only saw one area that could be considered a neighborhood like you see in America’s suburbia.  Most of the landscape was farmland, communal type structures, shack villages or immense, seemingly abandoned warehouses.  It’s a weird mix and one guide mentioned how China has modernized too quickly.  Supposedly the country was a shell of itself just a mere 30 years ago and such tremendous growth has caused issues with modernism and traditional living.

Water

The water is so bad that Chinese people don’t even drink it. Most times I noticed people drinking hot tea rather than water in restaurants. All I can say is that if you’re a bottled water distributor, take your business to China…you’ll make a mint.

In a hurry

I don’t live in a big city so my perspective is midwestern, but everyone in China seemed to be in a freakin hurry.  So much so that my wife and daughter were pushed aside with regularity.  The only exception was in the Beijing airport where a group of wonderful strangers offered Reece and Ning a seat on the terminal bus.  Anywhere else, it was dog eat dog and every man, woman and child for themselves. Even the lines were whacked.  As one guide said, Chinese people won’t cut in line but they will guard their space no matter where it is. Our first guide, Alice, had to push Reece into the subway cars because as she put it, “we won’t make it unless you get in there.” The cool thing is, Chinese people rarely take things personal, so if you step on them, push them aside, cut them off in traffic, you don’t heard and grunts or cursing.  Of course they could have been cussing us out in Mandarin for all I know.

Where’s the sun?

After two weeks, I never once saw the sun in China.  There was a constant haze blanketing the entire area. One elderly lady looked at us and exclaimed “How lucky for this girl (Ning Qiu) to grow up with clean air.”

Prices

It was cheaper for sure in China but not in the outlets. Cars cost more in China because the taxes are so high, yet you still see plenty of BMW’s and luxury cars which brings me to the next point…

Where’s the middle class?

Every guide said there’s a huge gap between the rich and poor in China and this gap is growing wider each year. Nevertheless, many Chinese try their hand in small business and work long and hard to scrape by. In every city I saw hundreds of small businesses cramming the shopping areas and streets.  According to one guide, most Chinese work 7 days a week and only take off during Chinese New Year. Pretty depressing if you ask me.

Chinese schooling

With so much competition for jobs, there’s a lot of pressure on students in China. One guide mentioned how her son complained about not having a childhood with all of the schooling and pressure.  Just like in the states, there are many different types of schools in China but the ones we learned of spent over 12 hours a day in class with 2-3 hours of homework each night.

Professionalism

Most people we dealt with in Chinese hotels, airports and through our adoption agency were efficient and professional. This fact became embarrassingly clear when we went through immigration in Newark, New Jersey where in the span of 30 minutes, American workers cussed at and ridiculed 4 immigrants entering our country.

Bottom line…it was a trip of a lifetime but I’m glad to be home.

Catching Up

We are home! Actually we’ve been home since Thursday but I’ve been too tired to do anything except eat cheerios and take extended naps. When they say the time change is more difficult coming home, they aren’t kidding (whoever they are).

I nearly kissed the ground when we landed in Newark, New Jersey. Nearly…but airports are nasty places. Here’s Ning’s first pic as a US citizen.

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By the time I took this photograph, we already had logged 18 plane hours  (from Guangzhou to Beijing to Newark) but we still were staring at a 2 hour flight to Indianapolis and a 2 hour drive home. Our first flight from Beijing to Chicago had mechanical issues so the flight was delayed 5 hours. I won’t go into specifics but trying to reschedule our flight from Beijing to a city near Cincy took God’s intervention. I had never felt such stress in my life. Ning was sick, Reece and I were drained, the Beijing airport was enormous and nobody seemed to know English. Somehow we were able to get things straightened out and make our flight. Still, we had customs, immigration and a car rental to figure out by the time we made it to Indy. Thanks to God and our wonderful family, we made it back.

I had three days worth of blogging that were lost before we returned home. (Don’t ask). Most of the cool stuff had already taken place but I still would like to share those last three days with you…

Monday: Safari Day

We visited this whacked out zoo in Guangzhou called Safari Park. I call it “whacked” because when you first get there you take a tram through dozens of carnivorous beasts. Here’s the tram:

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And here’s the beasts…

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This guy is nuts. There’s no fence between he and the bears, only a shallow ridge.

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There’s also plenty of herbivores who could do a fair amount of damage if they wanted….

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We sat next to a family who had already been to the park. They told us that during their last visit, the animals nearly stampeded….thanks for sharing.

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The sheer volume of exotic animals was amazing. This place had tons of koala bears, pandas, giraffes. ..you name it. Here’s Ning feeding the giraffes…she was a little freaked out.

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Ning will always be Little Panda to me but I think a better name might be Little Tiger.

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Ning had her first ice cream at the park. At first it seemed to be too cold but in the end she devoured it.

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This is how her day ended.

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Tuesday: US Consulate

There are no electronics allowed in the Consulate, not even a Casio watch so I don’t have any pics of the day. Just imagine a scene much like our doctor’s debacle except with less room. It was a stressful experience because the US computers were down and nearly delayed our trip home…but thanks be to God it all worked out.

Wednesday: Last day in Guangzhou

The last day  before our trip home was nice. We spent the morning feeding Koi at the hotel garden.

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It was a nice setup, except Ning nearly fell into the pond several times.

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There was a waterfall and walkway right next to our dining area.

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Our hotel was top notch. Here’s a few more pics of the place.

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There was even a small mall inside

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Our hallway had this Star Trec vibe going so when we first arrived, I couldn’t find my room.

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Here’s a pic out our bedroom window. The hotel flags had fans so they always seemed to be blowing in the wind.

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Unfortunately, I didn’t get pics of the city. Guangzhou is a cool place with lots of restaraunts and shops within walking distance. It was our favorite city of the trip…by far.

The last evening ended with a boat cruise on the river.

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Ning was a little off so Theresa and I spent most of the night chasing her down.

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I’m bummed about losing the blog entries but hopefully this captures the last days well enough.

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Man zou!

Shopping and Shamain Island

It was a full morning/afternoon. Early on we took a trip through one of Guangzhou ‘s shopping areas. Our guide (Richard) accompanied the group of four families…providing much needed direction.

Here’s a few merchants preparing shipments of jewelry right on the streets….

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This is the area we walked through on our journey for souvenirs.

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Anyone for squid on a stick?

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Richard said over 80% of the world’s pearls come from China. Guess where our first stop was?

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After a quick trip to an embroidery shop (sorry no pics. ..I was keeping Ning Qiu busy) we took the bus to Shamain Island. Richard told us that it used to be controlled by France and Britian. The architecture is beautiful…

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We had a chop (stamp) made for Ning at this place.

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Master Wang is a respected artist and (according to Richard) well skilled in the craft of stamp making. Here’s Wang creating a stamp with the Chinese characters “Olivia Ning Qiu.”

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And here’s his shop inside. It was over cast today so the pics are a tad dark.

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There’s a famous statue of children following a lady here. The site is a favorite photo opportunity for adopting parents…but a film was being shot so the area was off limits. Perhaps we’ll make it back for a pic before Thursday.

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Shamain Island is a favorite destination for photographers….I can see why.

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Doctor Doctor in Guangzhou

We just spent the better part of Saturday traveling from Wuhan to

Guangzhou. We went by bullet train. My pictures through this trip aren’t too great because we were rushed and Ning needed entertainment on the train.

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Here’s a pic of our guide, Kristina whom Ning liked very much.

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The train was a lot like an airplane, only it stopped every hour or so which made the trip longer than I would have liked.

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After a four hour ride through China’s countryside, we arrived in Guangzhou.  It was the roughest trip so far since we had a fidgeting four year old to deal with. Ning has no sense of stranger danger and will take off with anyone. Traveling in crowds has been challenging.

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By the time we got settled in the hotel, it was around midnight. It’s a ritzy place called the Garden Hotel. I’ll try to get more pics but at midnight we could have been at the Taj Mahal for all I cared…I wanted sleep.

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Since the U.S. Embassy is here, the Garden Hotel is used by several adoption agencies so the place is crawling with adopting families. Reece and I are in the minority here as most people we’ve met have adopted numerous times. Our Madison group consists of four families…two of which who’ve adopted 14 kids each!

The next day came quick. We had a 10 a.m. medical appointment and the scene at our clinic was chaos. Ning had to be checked by four separate docs so imagine 4 crammed lines of squirming, fussy kiddos to navigate and you get the idea of what our morning was like. Through this ordeal we met some amazing people all gathered for the same purpose. It was unreal….

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Most people dealt with it very well…

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Our last line took almost an hour to get through. Here’s Ning being a real trooper during her physical…

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Afterwards we made a quick trip to buy a few store items.

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Ning wants to be held all the time so buying this stroller was the best $30 we’ve ever spent.

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Now time for a nap!

Road Trip part 2

We visited the Yellow Crane Tower today.

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http://www.chinahighlights.com/wuhan/attraction/the-yellow-crane-tower.htm

To get there you need to walk through a park. Here is Ning and Mama doing just that.

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I forget if I blogged about this already, but the elderly here are fond of practicing their Chinese characters.

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The walk wasn’t too long and took us to a front entrance.

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The inside of the Yellow Crane Tower park was set up similar to yesterday’s temple. Here the court yard area.

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And here’s Ning Qiu looking for fish.

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Chinese poetry is written across several walls. Kristina related how Chinese students must memorize several of these classics while in school.

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There’s another path from this court yard leading to the tower. I could take pics of this stuff all day…

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Finally we arrived at the tower.

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As I said, it’s under construction however most of the building is open for public display.

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This mural relates the fable of the Yellow Crane.

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http://www.warriortours.com/cityguides/wuhan/yellow_crane.htm

I had to lug Ning Qiu up four flights of steps and was struggling when we reached the top.

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At least I had enough stamina to take this pic.

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From the tower you can see the city of Wuhan. This gives you an idea of how big the place is.

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It also provides a cool overlook of the court yard.

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I rang this bell nine times for good luck. I tried attaching a video of the momentus event but it was too large to add from China.

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Afterwards, Reece and Kristina gathered some dirt to commemorate our trip to Ning Qiu’s birth province. I just hope it makes it through customs.

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Ask me about this photo sometime. …

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Last Day in Wuhan

It’s our last day in the capital of Hubei province. Ning Qiu started the day with her favorite food…noodles.

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We dont leave for the train station until 3 p.m. so we had some time to explore the streets.

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Ning Qiu doesn’t like to walk and the streets are busy so most of the time we carry the lug.

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Seeing two Americans causes quite a stir here. Most people stare us down as they walk by. Perhaps it’s because our daughter is dressed in bright pink from head to toe?

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I’d never heard of Wuhan prior to this visit but now I can see how China is growing.

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We walked only for a short time. The streets here are no place for two preoccupied parents.

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At least this fella seemed to be taking it easy.

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