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Thursday, May 24, 2012

China Bound and Blessings!

We always told Hope that someday we would bring her back to China to visit her family and the national treasures she heard about but never saw. God ordained an opportunity for an excellent fare on airline tickets…so the future became today! The day before spring break Hope, Hailey, and I headed for the airport for an incredible experience.

Our trip was not without mishap! Before we even left Grand Rapids, we accepted a “bump” and were awarded $400 each to take a pre-paid taxi ride to Detroit and were given vouchers for dinner as well. Once we boarded, not one of us slept, thanks to some very social passengers who liked to talk LOUDLY 4 feet from our seats. Even after I shhhushed them in Chinese (yes, I was proud of that!) another group of them gathered to socialize in their not so quiet voices.

First stop: Beijing. Miraculously, God ordained a  blue sky and light breeze for us to explore the Great Wall. We interacted with other Chinese groups—they laughed with us and us with them—it was a welcome break to the panting and gasping from the steep climb.  We enjoyed the sights, but really enjoyed the path PAST the allowed passage.
It was more costly than expected, but we also splurged on a chute ride down the incline. 
Xie xie, Chen Tai tai!

We also visited the Forbidden City and closed it down. It was my third trip but never have I been with someone who was so interested in the famous buildings. Both Hailey and Hope recognized some of the buildings from the Chinese movies Hope enjoys so much.

The second day we visited the Summer Palace. It was a beautiful day again and we enjoyed meandering through the grounds. We walked and explored for hours! Once we decided that we were tired and wanted to go back to the hotel, it took at least another hour to find our way out—we got so lost!!!

That night, Hope was stricken with nerves about visiting her foster family. It made for a very prickly evening, but through it all, she learned values of family. It seems that every time Hope acts ugly, our relationship is refined as silver. We aren’t leaving her. Her value doesn’t decline with bad choices. The safest place is in Momma’s arms, not pushing her away.

We loved Beijing, but the next stop was Kunming! It was another Horrible Flight with turbulence, but once we arrived, Hope’s former teacher met us at the airport. She melted into tears, but it meant the world to her. The next day her teacher (and husband) insisted upon driving us to Hope’s foster village. Originally, Hope told us it was a 4-5 hour trip…I was SOOOO glad that she was exaggerating! We had planned on staying for lunch; we ended up staying for dinner as well. Hope was able to meet an aunt and uncle she never knew before; she met her younger foster brother for the first time (who was SO cute and needs a forever family) and she connected with former friends. It was quite the day—Hope was like a celebrity and people flocked around her. Hope’s “older sister” in her foster family (who she knew before but was only brought in to replace Hope’s work once she was adopted) had talked to Hope over a year ago in a call back home. She had asked Hope “Why were you chosen? Why not me?” which sent Hope in a spiral of survivor’s guilt. Now she gave Hope gifts and told her that Hope was her best friend. Hope even commented later about how her older brother (the family’s bio son) was nicer to her. We exchanged gifts; I was VERY glad that we purchased so many and Hope was tickled that she chose the right size for everyone!  After the many hours, we went back to the hotel tired, satisfied, and burdened for those left behind.

The next day we enjoyed over the bridge noodles for breakfast, taught Hope the art of bartering for souvenirs, and headed back to the airport. Of course the turbulence was horrid—we were experiencing weightlessness and people were using their air sickness bags all around us. We landed in Shanghai and were greeted by a driver—very welcomed sight! He did get lost trying to find our vehicle…but we made it to the hotel in time for me to savor a glass of wine before bed.  

The best laid plans are not foolproof. Hailey has been dreaming of seeing a boy she met when we lived in Shanghai 4 years ago. He was a resident of the Cere Care Center—has CP and perhaps on the spectrum for Autism. Dave has visited him with his trips to Shanghai with work and has taken photos. But, when we traveled halfway across the world to visit him… he was  gone for the Tomb Sweeping holiday.  Hailey was heartbroken, but I tried to console her in saying that it meant that we would just mean that we would return. J
Our first night we were treated to a Shanghai-ese dinner by a friend of Dave’s. In all our time in Shanghai 4 years ago, we never ate like we did that first night! Bruce also procured tickets to the Shanghai acrobatics show—it was as good now as it was years ago. Truly amazing what they make their bodies do!

A dear friend met us at the Cere Center and then took us out to lunch. She is supposed to be visiting Canada this month and then coming to the states this summer…perhaps she will allow us to show her the hospitality she showed us! I won’t make her eat pig’s feet, however. J

A final stop for the day was at the pearl market. I had gifts to buy for my bible study ladies and Hailey had friend that she wanted to bless. We bartered and bantered, we sought great buys and great jewelry. I was really wanting a new pair of beaded sandals but the faces of my daughters said it was time to go…so we headed out. A last minute purchase for hair accessories led to an elongated browse…and then the bartering began in earnest. Hope had learned some of the tricks of the trade and enjoyed haggling. She was definitely an asset as she spoke Mandarin, which typically got the prices lower than we could get them. I know enough Mandarin to get me in trouble, and after at least 10 minutes of bartering back and forth, I heard the shopkeeper start to tell Hope, “ Really, these things I would ask 100 kwai ($16)…” What I didn’t realize was that she was going to offer a lower price…but I blurted out, “100 kuai???” and then I zurburted  on her. Raspberried. Made a very undistinguished sound  in  her general direction, expressing my disgust. Honestly, I didn’t mean it, but I was tired, bone tired, and exasperated to have to go through the process AGAIN to buy a simple headband and comb for my girls. PRAISE GOD that it caused everyone to erupt in laughter—including the shopkeeper! We ended up getting a lower price than I imagined—AND  the girl selling the merchandise HUGGED me before I left! How uncharacteristic of a Chinese girl!!! We still laugh about it today…although the story has morphed into me actually spitting at the girl…which I will never admit to b/c it didn’t happen!

Very early the next morning our flight home was changed from stopping in Japan to being a direct flight. It was a long flight, we didn’t sleep, but it was a necessary evil to get HOME. We hated to leave but were anxious to be home at the same time.

Once we returned to GR, our family greeted us with open arms and bear hugs. It took the better part of a week to get over the jet lag (it’s always worse returning home, isn’t it??!?) but it was good to be together again. There is something about FAMILY…and that is where our heart is!

All my best,