Sunday, June 18, 2006

The Year Has Flown By...

This photo was taken today, after church.

This one's for my Dad! A Chinese Hearse! Happy Father's Day, Dad!

Amanda and Tyler's wedding lunch. Our driver was invited in to eat with us.

Wow. None of us can believe that we've been here in China that long! We actually arrived July 13th of last year, but we leave this Wednesday to make the journey home to see our family, for 6 weeks. This year has brought so much to our family. I can only feel gratitude and amazement as I look back and see the blessings we have received while adjusting to such a different way of life. I can honestly say, there has not been one boring day! We have developed such a love for these amazing people. We have learned to accept the challenging, along with all of the good. The children have adjusted so well, I am happy, and Mike enjoys his job. We all love the little church group we have here. We have learned to a larger extent, that following the gospel is a way of life, and we can do that anywhere we go. We have learned to eat some crazy things. Mike and I were talking about how glad we are that he made the kids eat whatever I made, ever since they were little. We didn't really cater to their individual taste buds. We have been to a couple of Chinese restaurant lately, and are amazed at what the kids will eat! We have been learning a new language (and will continue to try to learn!) Our eyes have been opened up to a world beyond the USA. It has been such a pleasure to learn about people and other cultures. We have seen some beautiful places, and many amazing things of the Chinese culture. We will never be the same, and for this we are glad. We look forward to this next year, and the challenges, and opportunities it will bring.

And now, this week...We get to go to Utah, to visit family! We are all so excited. We just hope that they will still love us if we smell, um, a little...Chinese(??), not that Chinese smell bad, just different:-)

Some things that have happened this last couple of weeks:

The move is on. It has been on, then off, then on. This has been a huge learning experience for me. I realized, afterward, that it was just like buying souvenirs at Confucius temple. Barter, barter, barter. They will push as much as they can, we will push back, and then, in the end, you have to just be willing to walk away (which I was this week, when they wanted to put the dishwasher in the garage because they didn't want to put it in right. When I laughed at that, they wanted us to just not use the door in the kitchen and they would put the dishwasher in front of it). Well, funny how they changed their minds, and decided to do it right when I told them I didn't want the house that bad. Suddenly, what was absolutely impossible, is possible. Amazing!

We went to a good-bye dinner for a friend. It was a Chinese meal, with a Chinese fellow. One of the dishes was duck tongue! We managed to not eat the duck tongue, but had to eat several other questionable dishes. Nicole was given the high compliment of being like Mao. At least, he thought it was a compliment. He also mentioned that he noticed I treat my girls as equals to the boys. He said that in China, the boys are much more special, and would receive more food, and special things. I knew all of this, but was surprised to here someone actually say it!

The children all finished school! I spent a lot of time at the school for different things, mostly end of the year parties. Jay had a water party, Caitlin an exhibition on nuclear energy, and Rachel and Nicole a special award ceremony for the secondary school. They were surprised, but not nearly as surprised as Michael and I, to receive the award for being the top student in their grade in a couple of subjects: Rachel for Art and Performing Arts, and Nicole for Performing Arts. I should explain that the reason Mike and I were so surprised, is that we feel we didn't pass these talents down! All of the kids worked very hard in school, and we are proud of them. Eli is especially excited to go to kindergarten next year at the same school as his brother and sisters!

We drove to Chongzhou yesterday for the luncheon for Amanda and Tyler. They are the couple getting married this summer, in Utah. This was at a Chinese restaurant in Chongzhou. They had 28 dishes! A huge production. Luckily, Tyler asked them not to bring the pig's head, platter of livers, and a couple of other scary dishes to our table. Because we don't drink, they just kept filling our glasses with sprite, as Amanda's family would come in and toast us. You are supposed to empty your glass, and show them it's gone. The family members were drinking alcohol, and us sprite. Amanda, and Tyler were also drinking sprite. We were so sick by the end, and weren't surprised to here that most grooms pass out during their celebrations, and the best man then fills in and finishes the toasting rounds for him.

Today is Father's Day. The kids made a fun movie for Mike, and Rachel is in making cinnamon rolls. Mike is just happy to lounge around. It is very difficult to find a gift for him here in China, so I hope he likes the label-maker we got him:-) We are both so grateful for our fathers, and hope they have a wonderful Father's Day, too!

Today was the last day having church in our house. There will be a very small group meeting in an apartment for the summer, and then we will go back to the hotel for the fall. The plan is to come back to our house after Christmas, when the group shrinks a bit. It has been great having church at our house. It will, however, be nice to not have to worry about keeping the house ready for a while...

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Pictures of Laura and Jonas

Laura has a cleft palate, but her lips are fine.

This is handsome Jonas. The babies were bitten by fleas the first night they were here, at the hotel next to the hospital.

Jonas and Laura

This has been such an eventful week for our family. I mentioned in last week's blog about Amanda and her two orphan babies coming for cleft palate and lip operations. It was such a blessing for our family to be able to help. Rachel and Nicole each spent hours this week helping to watch the two little children. Because of snags and tons of Chinese paperwork, the doctors who came from Columbia University, were not able to start any operations until Wednesday afternoon. On Sunday and Monday, Amanda stayed at the Rusts' apartment (one of the BYU Teacher couples). On Monday, Rachel went in right after school, and stayed until 9:00. Laura, the little girl had been sick with a fever, and told that she wouldn't be able to have the surgery. On Tuesday morning, they were called into the hospital, and told to stay there until the surgeries. They were given a bed (no cribs)in a room with 3 other men. The room was meant for six people. Luckily, someone from our group found a small portable crib (not common here in China) for them so they wouldn't roll off of the bed. On Tuesday evening, Rachel and Nicole helped with dinner and the babies for a young women activity. They made some posters to cover the disgusting hospital walls. It was my turn to help out on Wednesday morning. After a miserable (and un-needed, according to the U.S. doctors) EKG, and a Lung X-ray, we found out the surgeries wouldn't happen until Thursday. They came out with me to lunch, and then to our house for showers, baths, and some relaxation. While we were still at the hospital on Wednesday morning, we saw some older children, between 4 and, maybe 8, waiting to be diagnosed to see if they could have surgery to fix some deformities they had been born with. They had the sweetest smiles. I couldn't hold back my tears as I walked away from them.

On Thursday, Jonas and Laura, had their surgeries. It turned out to be a blessing that the surgeries were delayed. Laura's fever was gone, and she got the OK for her surgery. I had been with my friend Ginnelle,all day, unpacking boxes, but was to be at the hospital to bring dinner and help until the children went to bed. Nicole went in at 3:30, and I met them at 6:00. Nicole stayed until 9:00. The babies were miserable, of course. I decided to stay the night and help with the children, because we could see that it was impossible for one person to take care of both of them at once. I pray that I never have to stay in a Chinese hospital for my own medical care...

The hospitals look like they are about 60 years old. All of the equipment in the rooms are old, and the walls are dirty and falling apart. There are six gurnney-type beds per room. They share a small bathroom, with no shower, no soap, and you have to bring your own T.P. The air conditioning is poor. The rooms are filled with mosquitoes. The nurses in China, are not like the nurses in the U.S. They do not "care" for the patients. They do some things like change I.V's etc. You must provide your own food. The worst part is how disgustingly dirty it is. There were children who had major reconstructive surgery, and the Chinese doctors refused to give them pain medication because the medication is addictive. In our room, there were three other men. One man had cut off his fingers with a saw. He layed there in quiet pain all night. Laura was especially miserable Thursday night, and I spent a lot of time pushing her in her stroller,up and down the halls. On these walks, I saw so many miserable people, just laying there in pain. Some had a family member there to take care of them, but many had no help. As I walked past the restroom, a horrible stench was present. The medicine room was left unattended, with the door wide open. There was a baby from an orphanage in the room next door. The woman taking care of her did the bare minimum. The baby was miserable, and when Amanda went in to try to help, the lady said, "She's just an orphan." Which is the exact attitude that is present at the orphanages here. Amanda's babies are so blessed!

On Friday, the babies were feeling much better. All of the members of our group spent so much time helping Amanda with the babies. It was a great opportunity for all of us. On Saturday, we had our last enrichment activity before everyone leaves for the summer. Amy will be married this summer, so we had a shower for her. A couple of the brethren from the group watched the babies at the hospital so Amanda could attend. We had crepes. Yummy! This morning, the children were released from the hospital. Amanda came here with the babies, and they showered and bathed. Rachel, Nicole, and Caitlin were so wonderful with the babies. They all stayed for church, and Sister Mooth had prepared some food for them (she had invited them to her house, but there wasn't enough time, so they stayed here). They ate, and then grabbed a taxi to the airport. Marney, a member of our group, is flying back to Xian with Amanda. It would be so difficult without some help.

This week, everyone in our family was able to help. Even the boys had to be patient, as I was helping out. Everyone had a great attitude, and it was a blessing for us to be able to serve these sweet little babies.

A couple of other happenings for the week:

Rachel, Nicole, Caitlin, and Jay, all participated in a track and field day at school. They had a great time, and suprisingly enough (suprising because they are my children), did pretty well.

I had a conversation in the park with two old women, with very thick Nanjinghua (Nanjing, and every city, has their own special dialect). It took me saying hello to them 3 times before they acknowledged me( and yes,they had heard me), but after that they were very friendly. They were shocked by my age and number of children. One lady kept her face about 4 inches from mine, just staring at me and smiling with her pearly black teeth.

We decided to negotiate moving across the street this summer. Pretty crazy, but the other house seems to fit our family better, and besides, it will give Mike something to do while we are gone:-) We'll see how it works out...

And, for all of you who are following my special freebie tape-ons...I got a new hand-towel taped to my milk carton yesterday!