Monday, November 19, 2012

Hello, I'm signing on from London, UK. It feels incredibly more surreal to be here than China. I have been submersing myself in the history of this culture since I was young, thanks to parents who were avid readers and a dad who had majored in English lit. and is a huge fan of C.S. Lewis. When I was about ten, I read "The Hobbit" about three or four times over a period of a couple years. When I was in college, my parents bought me all the James Herriott books and I proceeded to read them over and over through my adulthood. I also read all the C.S. Lewis books along with many other books by British authors, but it wasn't until I was well into my 30's that I tackled Pride and Prejudice. A few years later I discovered Charlotte Bronte, who I believe ranks second in my favorite authors to James Herriott. My favorite movie of all time is "Little Women" (also one of my favorite books). Hey wait, that's based in America. Well, yes, but part of the story takes place in Europe, and in the movie Laurie says to Jo, "Can't you just see us bashing around London?" That line has literally been going through my head on automatic repeat since we planned this trip. Also, I've become somewhat of an addict to BBC mini series, not so much comedies and sitcoms though. I'm more into the historical. There's the more popular Downton Abbey of late, but I've also watched many other older ones, including Lady Jane (I think that might have been a movie, not a series). It was amazing seeing a huge painting yesterday at the National Gallery of Jane blindfolded right before she was beheaded. As I said, I'm more into the depictions of history and truth be told, I was a little taken aback watching the Opening and Closing ceremonies of the London games. The state of the culture today doesn't appeal to me although the people are very friendly and well, chatty, as you might expect. Well so much background...of course the best part about being here is seeing Bryan, no question there. But it's also amazing to see things I've only read or seen vicariously on the screen (even in their modern setting). In Scotland, it was a little more "true" to the original heritage. I got such a kick out of the taxi drivers. They rambled on and on about little things from everyday life and I felt like I was having a pint with them somewhere. There was a lot of sheep too! I mean a lot of sheep. None crossing the road and making us wait, though, which might have been fun to experience. In addition, I counted ten(ish) men in kilts, only one of which was playing bagpipes. Bryan tells me kilts are a rare style of formal wear in Scotland. The thing I wish I could have seen given warmer weather and more time was the Scottish highlands. I've read books describing how beautiful they are, oh well, maybe next time? Yesterday we took a walk around the Westminster area of the city. Because it was Sunday, not everything was open so maybe we'll go back and see the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace and see the inside of Westminster Abbey. I better sign off so we can get to our day.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

China Post #3

It is Aug. 11 and we are on the first leg of our trip home, flying from Guangzhou to Beijing. One thing that was included in our time in Beijing that I forgot to mention was an amazing acrobatics show. It was very dangerous and no nets. I can’t describe the whole thing but one of the acts was a chair balancing act, I think there were about ten chairs by the end with the acrobat doing a one-handed handstand. After we left Xian and the Terra Cotta soldiers etc., we arrived in Cheng-du, the fourth largest city in China. The big attraction there is the giant pandas. It’s in the western part of the country. The first day there was pretty relaxed. We went to an outdoor tea shop where you could get a massage and ears cleaned! None of the Loomis’s opted for the second but most of the others in our group did. We also walked through a beautiful bamboo park and got to see people doing tai chi and other martial arts and dances. The rest of the day we hung out at the hotel, which was a much needed break. The next day we saw the pandas. It was awesome to see so many in one place, and they were fairly active. We also saw a one-week old in an incubator. They showed us a movie explaining the breeding process and also the rescues they have to do when the mother tries to kill the baby. It doesn’t always happen but often. In the evening we went to what they call a face-changing show that included everything from shadow puppets to a musical with video and canned sound added in, ballet and gymnastics, and finally the face-changing which was really dramatic. The use of costumes in China is incredible, and for this part they used masks and changed them instantaneously. Our tour guide said no one can figure out how they do it. I thought that along with everything else the show had somewhat of a magic show spin to it. To me it seemed disjointed but entertaining nonetheless. Our next stop was the very scenic Guilin that attracts tourists from all over the world. It has a mountain range with very jagged and somewhat small mountains. There’s a river that runs through the mountains called the Li River; it then turns into the Pearl River but more about that later. The two days we were there were very pleasant and included going to a beautiful cave, taking a river cruise, and visiting a local farm. At the end of the day I finally spotted some rice fields, yay! I thought I might not see any in both trips to China but as it turned out I finally did. On our way back to the hotel we stopped at a Pearl Museum. We had already gone to a pearl market but this one was special because in South China they have fresh water pink, black, and gold pearls. I bought a special pearl for Samantha since her orphanage is only four hours south along the river where they get the pearls. Finally orphanage day arrived. We split off from the rest of the group and our tour guide rode the bus with us to Wuzhou. We continued thru the mountain range and saw many more rice fields in the valleys. Samantha’s city reminded me a little bit of San Francisco but not as steep. It also reminded me of Orlando with all the palm trees. When we adopted her they brought her to us in the capital city of the province which is more flat. She really loved her hometown and got treated like a princess at the orphanage. They had a welcome home sign on the new building that’s still under construction. As well, they gave us gifts and we donated a printer and some baby items. Unfortunately, there are very few if any small babies there any more! It’s no longer that kind of orphanage but rather cares for special needs children thru a US funded program. We got to see many children and interact with them but didn’t get a sense of what life used to be like for the babies. Since Samantha was in foster care for most of the time, it wouldn’t have given us any context for her situation, but we were still curious about it. We had requested to meet her foster mom but not surprisingly were unable to. They said it was because they couldn’t reach her, maybe so, maybe not; our orphanage people haven’t been very helpful as we’ve compared notes to what other ones allow. It varies a lot depending on each province and other factors. They did show us the finding site where Samantha was left and that helped give us a lot of context. Her birth parents put her somewhere where she’d easily be found, not far from the orphanage. We took a picture of that place but again it’s different than it was ten years ago according to the information we received. After staying in Wuzhou one night, we traveled by bus again to Guangzhou, our exit city. It was also our exit city when we adopted Samantha. Many adoptive families from several provinces go there to have their final medical examination and get their Chinese visa for their child. We didn’t have time to go to some places we saw before but did meet up with our group again and had a great Western dinner together. We compared notes about our orphanage visits and were realizing that not as many babies are being abandoned anymore. Less international adoptions are taking place and more domestic ones are.

China Post #2

On Wednesday we went to the Great Wall. It was Samantha's first time, our 2nd, same place. It was fantastic, except for the rain! Imagine trying to climb very uneven stairs and ramps in the rain. Dave and Katrina made it to one of the higher towers and Samantha and I made it about a third of the way. On our way to the Great Wall we stopped at the jade factory. Lots of impressive stuff, very expensive. On the way home we stopped for lunch at a porcelain factory. The Chinese have their tourist restaurant/factory/gift shop areas down to quite a science. On Thursday we went to the Summer Palace in Beijing, which was very beautiful. Weather cooperated so we had a nice boat ride on the lake. Samantha enjoyed seeing all the intricate paintings on the walkway around the lake, including the monkey king. While there we also had lunch at an older style building, very nice. The rest of the day was getting to the airport, flying to Xian, and getting settled in our new hotel. Today we headed out to see the Terra Cotta Warriors. On the way we stopped at a factory where they make the smaller replicas. The kids got to make their own. Then we did a little shopping and headed out to the site. Talk about amazing, hard to describe but we'll post pictures either sometime during the trip or when we get home. Tonight we're scheduled to go to a dinner show. Always and Forever is taking pretty good care of us. Our local guide isn't quite as good as the one in Beijing but she's okay. The hotels have been decent, not first class but still very nice for China. Every bus ride has been pleasant with plenty of air conditioning and water bottles.

China Post #1

We have finished our 2nd full day of touring in China. We arrived safely on Sunday, and immediately met up with our tour guide. Traveling went well including my back and leg. I had to take some extra pain medication and it worked fine. We have a very nice tour group, a total of four families consisting of four couples, four 9&10 year olds, and three teenage girls. As I write this we have the Chinese coverage of the Olympics on our hotel TV. We miss the US, especially since FB is blocked! Ethan is very kindly putting this up for us. When I say FB is blocked, what I mean is that it is blocked completely for everyone here! Before I go into detail, I want to say it's been very interesting so far doing pretty much a repeat of everything we did the first time around, the main difference being summer vs. winter. Yesterday was very hot but we started early so enjoyed fairly good temperatures for awhile. Today was raining all day. Yesterday the day started out by touring the Temple of Heaven and surrounding park. It's a very impressive series of round courtyards and temples. Everything has been preserved well. In the park, many people were playing games, dancing and exercising, and just hanging out in general. The kids had some opportunities to do paddle ball and play with streamers. We visited some shops and tried to avoid the vendors by constantly saying Bu-yao. After that we made a quick stop at Tianemenn Square. From there we went to the ancient part of the city that's under restoration. First stop was the drum tower, sort of like a bell tower but with several huge drums. Then a rickshaw ride along a canal to our next stop - lunch provided by a local host. It was delicious food and a fascinating experience. More and more dishes kept appearing, and at the end they explained the layout of each shared household. The individual dwellings are about the size of a living room, and the one we were in had the cook's bed, serving area with tables, a small couch, and some highly valuable family heirlooms as the hostess would have been a Manchurian princess. Other dwellings served other purposes, such as laundry etc. In the afternoon we went to a tea house and had a private presentation. Really fun! Sort of like a wine tasting but with tea and a demonstration of how tea is made, special teapots with cool features, even a jasmine tea ball that turns into a flower in the water. Finally, the kids enjoyed watching "pee-pee boy"; I'll leave that to your imagination but his purpose is to show that the water is hot enough. The adults enjoyed it too and it was certainly a selling point for tea since a free one came with each purchase. Today as I said it was raining, but we still enjoyed our excursion to the Forbidden City where emperors lived for a long time. The next place was a silk factory. The presentation there was fascinating, and of course we did some shopping afterward! Then onward to a very nice restaurant for lunch where we had a full duck meal, minus bringing out the whole duck this time like they did our last trip. That was sort of a relief because Samantha would not have liked that! Finally we went to the free market and did shopping for about an hour.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Why China?

(SORRY Blogger won't put breaks in the paragraphs.) The other day I was prepping Samantha a little for our China trip. We are going to visit the orphanage that she's from, and I was telling her about her adoption. Then it occurred to me to tell her WHY we chose China. I'm feeling like blogging about that today. When I was in college, I befriended a girl from Hong Kong. Something inside me stirred, thinking there was something special about this people group. When I was working on my master's at Temple for a degree in ESL, I got to tutor an elderly woman in Chinatown. At first the strong smell of garlic in the area disturbed me, but when I met with my student I couldn't help but love her amazing hospitality and bubbly character. One thing about the Chinese is that they love to laugh. You may think they're a rather serious lot b/c of communism and all that, but quite the opposite is true. Sometimes their laughter is at the expense of others, but unlike in the USA, it's different b/c it's not mean-spirited and people don't take offense in the same way. It's all part of the culture. I admit in giving this "expertise" I'm borrowing a little from exposure to other Asian cultures, especially the Japanese, whom I had more contact with as an ESL instructor when I officially entered my profession. When we were in China, it seemed that random individuals or groups would burst into song. How many times have you walked around a city and heard REAL singing, not someone who's in their own little world or someone performing for a dime? This confirmed my theory that the Chinese are happy! Another thing I love about the Chinese is their industrious nature. They may be a little too much so. You know why everything, I mean everything you purchase was made in China? They never stop working. They're literally up all night working. Construction in the city continues, no one worries about people in nearby four star hotels who may be trying to sleep. Speaking of everything being made in China, I bought a gift for our upcoming trip at a midwestern breadstore called Great Harvest. It was a wooden bread plate carved with their logo, which has a stalk of wheat. I thought, how nice this would be, showing a little about the heartland. And to my dismay when I went to pay for it, there was the tiny sticker "Made in China." I had already rejected several other gifts for that reason. I bought it anyway. I've noticed this seemingly inbred industriousness in Samantha. She loves to organize and help with cooking, laundry, and yardwork, to name a few. I have no doubt she'll succeed in life even though school continues to be a challenge for her. She can't help but succeed, she's Chinese! One more thing before I end this ramble. When Dave and I were starting to catch a larger vision for missions, we attended a conference on China. We got all excited about me teaching ESL and Dave doing something with economics in China. We even considered living there. I'll tell you what, that dream hasn't died. We still see ourselves doing short term trips to China in our lifetime. So why China? Because underneath all the twisted political and cultural brokenness, there's a group of people that know how to live life.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

An A-Ha Moment

I'm starting to see the big picture of why God put me and Samantha together. I know some things about child development having studied it in college and then raising three older kids. I also know some things about language development, having an advanced degree in TESOL. Samantha is lacking in both life and language skills, and since she was young I've felt inadequate to help her, even with my background. But the more I explore how to help her and find teachers and therapists who will address her needs, the more I'm seeing what I can do for her. They're the experts in working with children. I have knowledge that informs my assessment of what kind of help she needs. I continue to seek out that help for her, and then come alongside the experts to reinforce what she gets in classroom strategies, tutoring and therapy.

In other words, I'm the bread on the sandwich so to speak. I hold together the meat of what she needs. I recognize that she needs something, find it for her, then reinforce it. I've known this in a roundabout way but saw it more clearly yesterday when I got to observe on camera what the ISU speech therapist did with her. It was our first day, and I'll be able to do this each time. I can watch the therapy session and then follow up at home. I think I'm a little ahead of the game with my background but still have a lot to learn. In the past, I was able to observe Samantha with the OT when she had sensory processing therapy, and this enabled me to understand her struggles and deal with them myself. However, I got lazy and it became exhausting to be creative in the ways that were required, so I sort of gave up.

Now, I see that this is what God has called me to. I'm not homeschooling anymore; instead I'm the special needs child advocate and supporter. It's new territory as a parent, but I can see how my professional background gives me the resources to do it. Not that someone without my background couldn't do it - I see parents all the time who are learning on the job just like me and doing well at it. The thing my background helps me with is giving me confidence that I wouldn't otherwise have, since I'm not a Type A person. I'm the more cautious, methodical, trial and error type that gets easily overwhelmed when there's too much on my plate and I'm in over my head. In this case, because I've dabbled in language education already, I don't feel in over my head; it's at least vaguely familiar.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

A 20 year old mom of 14 kids

I'd like to introduce you to Katie Davis, who between the ages of 18 and 20 adopted fourteen kids in a small village in Uganda. She has recently written a book called "Kisses from Katie" that I just finished last night. Along with mothering and homeschooling her own kids, she has founded Amazima Ministries through partnering with friends in the US, and is able to sponsor around 400 kids for food, clothing, and medical needs.

Katie has a real heart for Jesus and being his hands and feet. She reminds me of a modern day Amy Carmichael. She is knowledgeable in how to care for many medical conditions that plague the people of Uganda. One thing she describes is removing jiggers from feet, which are little insects that burrow their way into feet and cause painful walking. Once they're removed she supplies shoes to prevent the problem from developing again.

Katie is a true testimony of a young life living out her calling. She shares honestly about the hardships of leaving an upper middle class life and potential marriage. If you need a good book to read to pull you out of complacency, this is it!