And we're off!

>> Thursday, July 27, 2006

Ni Hao! Well, we are off to Xian tomorrow for a four day trip with our neighbors, the Jagodas. We are really excited to see other parts of China. The boys are just really excited about the train ride there (little do they know they will be stuck on that train for 14 hours).

These pics are from our day trip to the Summer Palace. This was one of our favorite places we have been so far. As I was going through the pictures, I realized that most of them are scenery. So, sorry to possibly bore you, but it is actually the only way to try to explain how wonderful and beautiful this place was. So, here you go...

The first three are of a quaint little village and bridge built along the river. It was so great, this was one of my favorite parts...I guess you are lucky I stopped at posting three pictures!

The second part was exploring the actual Summer Palace which is built up on a hill. The boys loved exploring the buildings and tunnels that climb the hill. Unfortunately, all you get is a picture of me in a door, as we were too busy exploring and hiking ourselves to take pictures of the boys.

The rest of the pictures were from our paddle boat ride on the lake and hiking through the grounds of the Summer Palace. It was truly beautiful.

Just a sidenote...I had to throw in another one of Kaleb and Trav's converations. You may not care, but at least the grandma's will appreciate it! Kids say the darndest things...
Kaleb: Hey Daddy, I bet a lot of people in China want to marry me, huh?
Daddy: Uh, sure.
Kaleb: And Barrett too. But, I will probably just say no, because I need to marry an American.
Daddy: Why is that?
Kaleb: It would be too long before I could understand anyone here.


Big (or little) News

>> Thursday, July 20, 2006

Really quick...just a little update on the orphanage. I was able to go again this week. Another amazing experience, but no tears this time. I was able to spend a lot more time with the little boy that was so precious. I just need to figure out a way to keep him...
Ok, I write to you with mixed emotions about our news. It happened...the moment I have been dreading for the almost nine years I have known Trav. The subject that we have disputed since we have been married. I knew it would happen, just not at the time of our lives when we are most transient and busy. Yes, Trav came home the other night with a puppy.

Anyone who knows us knows I am NOT a dog person (let alone a pet person) and Trav is a super dog lover. He has begged, bribed, and given favors in hopes that he can get a dog. Well, two nights ago, he took matters into his own hands and gave into the man with the knapsack of puppies outside the subway. He tried to justify it that since I couldn't adopt the little boy at the orphanage, at least we could save a little puppy from China. Hmmmm, quite the humanitarian.

I tried really hard to be mad, but just look at his face and his tinyness. I think I kind of like him. Oh, and the boys...oh, the boys are in heaven. They talk non-stop about the puppy and thanked Travis over and over. Kaleb loves the puppy, but Barrett LOVES the puppy. He has always been the more animal loving child of the two. He won't leave the puppy's side, even when he is in his box sleeping. He is so gentle and sweet. He cleans up after him, feeds him, holds him, and plays with him. If we don't hear from Barrett for a while, we check on him and he is out on the porch talking to the puppy and we even found him inside the box with the puppy one time. So, here we China with a puppy. What do ya do.

Last week, the boys had their first experience at a Chinese barbershop (any barbershop for that matter). A couple of days prior, Trav and I were casually talking about getting the boys hair cut, when Travis teased that the Chinese barbers would probably shave them bald. Well, as much as we didn't think Kaleb was listening, he sucked in every word. So, one day as we were walking to our house, we spontaneously decided to get haircuts. We sat Kaleb in the chair and he just started wailing at the top of his lungs and wouldn't stop. You better believe that everyone within a five mile radius was staring at the crazy Americans in the Chinese barbershop. Come to find out, Kaleb saw the hair guy pull out his clippers and thought he was getting shaved for sure. After assuring him he would still have hair, he was ok. Here are before, during, and after pics...

Before: Two shaggy litte boys desperately in need of a haircut

During the delicate art of buzzing of the head

After: Besides the hair color, skin color, and everything else on their bodies, they looked just like the other Chinese kids with their new hair do's



>> Sunday, July 16, 2006

Hello! Another fun and busy week goes by. How is it possible that I don't have a job and no other responsibilities outside of being a mom and housekeeper and we are just as busy as ever? Outside of the many "fun" things we do to occupy our time, Travis and I are both getting ready to teach English to Chinese students, and Kaleb is lined up for a photo shoot. Being a foreigner here, there are some great opportunities to earn a little extra cash! We need to pay for our upcoming mini trips to Xian and Guilin this month and next.

I had an amazing experience this last week that I wanted to share. I had the opportunity to go to an orphanage and spend time with the children. Just a little background...this orphanage is considered to be one of nicer ones in China, so it was clean and the kids were generally healthy. The majority of the children were healthy, little girls, or little boys with some kind of handicap or deformity (cleft palates, missing arm, no fingers, down syndrome, etc). These are the children that people gave up because the parents who wanted a boy and had a girl, or had a child with a deformity and wanted a healthy child. The parents are allowed to have one child here in China to control the population.

A little more background...this orphanage does not adopt the children. The children stay there until they are about 13 or so and then are on their own. I guess there are actually very few orphanages that actually do adopt out children here. I was able to witness the nicer side of orphanages in China, but I learned so much about other orphanages here that absolutely breaks my heart. The conditions are exactly what you hear about...I can't even bring myself to think about it, let alone write about it. We would not be allowed in any of these orphanages. I guess the women in our church have been working for three years just to gain entrance into this orphanage. Absolutely no pictures were allowed (which, of course, broke my heart).

When we arrived, we started with the babies. We held them, loved them, sang to them, and fed them. There were about 15-20 babies ages 1 week to 1 year. This was amazing and I, of course, shed too many silent tears looking at these beautiful babies. They may be fed and changed well, but they don't have the love they deserve.

Next, we played and helped feed the older children. They were all precious little souls, but I found myself especially interested in a little boy about 2 or 3 years old. He had been dropped off at the orphanage a couple of months ago and they said he was just so sad...cried all of the time and never played. At first, he would have nothing to do with me whatsoever. But, one time, I reached my arms out to him and he let me pick him up. After a few minutes, he laid his head on my shoulder and just kept staring right into my eyes. He was attached to me for the remainder of the time. It was time to go and I went to set him down and he wrapped his tiny arms around me and held on so tight. I sang to him and hugged him and then had to put him down. He stared at me with tears rolling down his face with his arms outstretched. Leaving that little boy was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I got in the car and cried...not because of his conditions, but because that little boy will never know the love of a mother and father. I wanted SO bad to take him home and give him the life he deserves. I cried several times that day and night. I am going to the orphanage again this coming Wednesday. I may not be able to do much, but if any of those kids feel love and happiness from me spending time with them, than that is what I will do.

Well, I had a wonderful birthday yesterday. One of my requests is that I could go out by myself and do two things I can not do with my little ones around...browse the endless shops on the streets and photograph. So, Trav watched the boys while I went out for four hours...what a wonderful and perfect morning. When I got home, Trav made me lunch. He then proceeded to blindfold me. I fought him for about 10 minutes on this, but he prevailed. As if we don't get stared at enough around here, my family led me all around town, onto a crowded bus, and into a busy market. All I knew from behind the blindfold was people laughing at me and bumping into a few trees and walls. Trav surprised me by taking me to Yu Show Market to the tailor shop to have a dress made for me that I have wanted. How fun is it to pick out or design a dress and choose the material and have it fitted exactly to me! He is seriously the best! That night, we all went to a Chinese Acrobatic Show, which was amazing. Man, the things these people can do! What a wonderful are some pics of yesterday...


Happy Birthday Little Barrett!

>> Monday, July 10, 2006

Hello! We hope you all had a wonderful 4th of July. Like I said before, I was bummed we missed the festivities, as the 4th of July is one of my very favorite times of year. We had our own celebration by going swimming and trying to create our own American style barbeque with our neighbors, the Jagodas. Our meal included hot dogs and hamburgers on make shift buns, chips, jello with whipped cream, and pasta salad. We had to go to a special store to just get those ingredients. It was great and felt a little like home!

We celebrated Barrett's birthday on the 7th instead of the 8th, because we were gone all day to the Great Wall of China on Barrett's birthday. He was so excited to turn four and was so sweet and grateful for the presents he received. He is so easy to please and would be happy with an ice cream cone for his birthday...what a sweet boy. On his birthday, we went to the park of his choice, then to eat at the restaurant of his choice (McDonalds, of course), then we went to meet Travis at Chouyang Park where we were going to ride on some rides (but it turned out that they stopped the rides right before we got there...bummer). But, thankfully, there was a fun playland there where Barrett, Kaleb, and Savannah Jagoda had a blast. Last, we went back home to sing Happy Birthday and eat a No-Bake Cheesecake (hey, man, I have to get creative with food here).

After a busy birthday on Friday, we had a Great Wall trip planned for the next day. Trav's internship company, Abroad China, planned and sponsored the trip. We rode a bus way out to a wonderul, little village nestled in the mountains. FINALLY, we got to see some of the "real" China. We were all in awe at the beauty and way of life of the village people. We explored the village and hills and then some townspeople made us lunch. Yeah, um kinda scary, but we're starting to get used to the crazy food we see sometimes. But, they were so hospitable and seemed to love having us around. As we would walk around, people would come out of their houses to watch us or try to talk to us. The following are some of the pictures taken in the village.

This little girl seemed to love having us around. She would come out of her house everytime we walked by and shyly wave to us.

Next, we headed off for a trek to up to the Great Wall. They boys rode a horse for part of the way for a small fee. The hike was actually quite a steep and long trek, but the boys did great. The part of the wall we hiked up is referred to the "wild wall" as it is not restored in any way. When we got to the top, we could look in both directions and see the wall extending across the mountains. What a cool thing to see. Although I do want to go to the touristy part of the Great Wall sometime (Badaling), I absolutely loved our trek up the wild crowds and beauty surrounding was perfect.

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Last, after the trek, the townspeople once again made us food. Little Barrett was dead tired and couldn't even make it through dinner. What a cutie!

Allrightie then, there is another day from our China journal. Until next time...


Beihei Park

>> Monday, July 03, 2006

Hi all! I'm a bit backed up on what's been going on around here, so let me back up about a week or so. Trav's internship is going great so far. Like I said before, he is in a brand new building, a big office with a view, is working with investment funds and venture capital, AND gets free lunch every day (that seals the deal for me). Now, I mention this because before we came, a very small part of me was afraid that Travis would be working in some sweat shop making toys for the dollar store for you to buy back in the states. Ok, so that's an exaggeration, but I didn't know what to expect with anything before we came here.

Ok, back to Trav's internship. So, two weeks ago, Travis and his boss flew to a northern province for two days to conduct some business. Of course, he couldn't communicate very well with most of them, but the people loved him! We were told beforehand that seating arrangements are very important when eating meals. The seat at the head of the table is the seat of honor, and then from there people sit in descending order of importance or status. At each meal, Travis would try to be inconspicuous and sit in the seat furthest from the head of the table, but they wouldn't hear of it. They would shoo him up front to the seat of honor and sit him by the presidents of the companies.

After being seated, the food would begin to arrive, where Travis was served every "fear factor" kind of food imaginable. There was no getting out of tasting everything (most of which still had eyes peering up at you from the plate) because as soon as the food arrived the president of the company was serving Trav up a healthy serving.

Throughout the meals, they all made toasts, one right after another, half of them directed at Travis (of course he has no idea what they were saying, he just smiled and raised his glass of coke). They even made him toast one time. Hee hee, I wish I could have seen it when he stood and said one of the only Chinese phrases relating to food he knows...Hao Chi...which means good food. His vocabulary might not be extensive, but they liked it! Anyway, I laughed my head off at his stories from his trip about him trying to get used to a world completely different from what we know.

Ok, moving on to other aspects of our life. Church is now very interesting. Our ward has gone from HUGE to very small in a matter of six weeks. All of the expatriate families (except husbands) have returned home to the states for the summer and there aren't many visitors in July. Today, Kaleb, Barrett, and two other brothers were the only kids in the whole primary! The people are wonderful and we really like the ward. I just found out today that we have the opportunity to go to some of the orphanages and hold and love the babies and spend time with the children. I am really excited about this and will keep you updated! We are absolutely FORBIDDEN to speak about the church to anyone, so the church finds many ways to spread service and kindness. It is amazing to see the work over here even though members are not allowed to speak about it, even if asked directly.

Since Trav works all week, the weekends are our precious time to go to all of the places we want to see. Travis claims he wouldn't ever need a travel agent with me around. Dang right boy, if I'm going to travel all the way across the world, you better believe I am going to see all of the sights before I leave here! We have eight weekends left to fit everything in. So, needless to say, we have something planned every weekend. Last Saturday, we went to Beiheii Park, which is here in Beijing. I'll explain the day along with the pictures...

First, we went on a Hutong Tour in a rikshaw (spelling?). Yes, I know you are wondering how this skinny man pulled our fat American behinds all over, but he succeeded (he only had to get off once to push the bike up the hill). It was fun and shocking at the same time to see the hutong houses. What a humbling experience. I've said it before, and I'll say it again...don't ever be ungrateful for what you have. I feel ashamed to think of how spoiled we are in every way back home.

Some pics of the hutongs

Next, we were searching for Beihei Park, when we came upon a side entrance. I am so glad we found this entrance...we walked through a little ancient, round door, through a bamboo forest, through an old garden building, and straight into a fairy tale land. That's what I called it because it was so beautiful and didn't seem should have been in a story book. I loved it! I took some pictures, but as usual, it didn't capture the moment. The whole day was great, but even if I just saw this, I was more than happy.

Next, we explored through Beihei Park and then rode on a boat around the lake. Of course, this was the boys' favorite part. Kaleb even got to drive and thought he was hot stuff. I kept hearing him say, "This is the life..." I was thinking to myself, yes, this is the life...even as a poor student family, we can do everything because it is so cheap!

Well, another successful day marked off in our travel log. I will post pics of our trip to Summer Palace and this week is Barrett's birthday and we are going to the Great Wall...Yeah! Thanks for the comments and emails...we love you all! the way...Happy Fourth of July! Even though it is one of my very favorite holidays, I almost forgot about it completely! The swimming, barbeques, parades, picnics, and fireworks...I am truly sad to miss it. I hope all of you have a blast (no pun intended)!


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