Monday, January 30, 2012

2012... Year of the Dragon!

 Chinese New Year is still going here in Shanghai.  Lots of restaurants and market stalls still closed, and the local children have been out of school for weeks.  Still some fireworks to be heard every night, although the all night bashes have ended.  

 Madelyn and Gwen both had the opportunity to perform in Concordia'a all-school Chinese New Year assembly.  Madelyn's PE class performed a very cool fan dance, where they snapped their big fans open on cue in quite a dramatic way!  I am trying to load a little video clip of that, but Seth isn't home and I need his help to get it to work.  Gwenny was in an after school program for several months where they learned two different Chinese dances.  I helped her group with hair and make-up before the performance.  
Waiting in the hallway outside the gym for their turn to perform.

Dragons abound... here is the display of stuffed dragons at Carrefour.
This cool guy at an outdoor mall is created out of CDs.
Not sure about this one, he seems to be created out of rocket ship parts!  Not really.  :-)
A little more holiday hoop-la at Carrefour.
Tower of dragons!
I thought this CNY decoration with the dragon cut out of layers of a Chinese traditional dress was interesting.
Again with the same idea, but in a vase shape.

Gwenny and friends at her classroom CNY party!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


We are on the Malaysian island of Langkawi this week for the Chinese New Year holiday, five of us.  Caleb is not with us as he is taking part in a Concordia athletic council service trip.  We are managing to have fun without him, although we feel his absence!

This notice is posted on the balcony door in our hotel room.  We arrived here in the dark the first night. Knowing that there are monkeys here in abundance, I woke the girls the next morning by encouraging them to look out the windows to try to spot a monkey.  To my surprise and their delight, there was one waiting on the balcony railing when they opened the curtain.  He was the happy recipient of part of the contents of the fruit bowl in our room!

Flying squirrels have been another fun wildlife discovery here.  They are not the acrobats the monkeys are, but their unusual body shape and statue-like posture is interesting.
 Jungle path to the beach
 This little crab is about half the size of my pinky toenail, but he busily rolls up little balls of sand to create a tunnel for himself.  As the tide goes out, the beach is slowly covered with thousands of the sand balls created by these busy workers.
We all enjoyed kayaking around a close little neighboring island.  Madelyn and I make a pretty good team.  I do admit to allowing her to paddle while I rested just a little!
The girls have loved this slide!  There are quite a few families here this week, and they've made friends with a number of other kids.  The goal has been to discover which body position allows for the fastest sliding!
The view from our room.  We are in a little bay called Datai Bay.  I bet you can find it on Google Earth, Dad.  :-)
 This is the Island of the Pregnant Maiden.  Can you see her, lying here on her back, looking up at the sky?  We saw this island on a boat trip, and went inland a little ways to a beautiful fresh water lake in the middle of the island.

 Here we are docked on the Island of the Pregnant Maiden.
We all enjoyed swimming in this fresh water lake.  It was very deep, but a comfortable temperature and such a scenic view all around!  Incidentally, Gwen learned to dive off the dock here for the first time.
 Later on during the boat ride we went to an area where these majestic eagles, who closely resemble American Bald Eagles, gather to fish.  The tour boat drivers throw chicken skin into the water to draw these birds, who are supposedly lazy hunters and are happy to eat it.  We loved watching them soar and dive!

 Our little sand cake creation.  :-)
 Tarzan Seth
 One of our many monkey friends, enjoying a breakfast orange provided by the girls.  :-)

Friday, January 20, 2012

Thoughts After Orphanage Visit

On Monday I went with a small group of women to a government orphanage here in Shanghai.  These women go every week; it was my first time.  I've been thinking about the experience these last few days, trying to make sense of it and wondering what I should do (if anything) now that I've seen this place.

I'm not sure how large the facility we went to is, as it seemed to be a part of a block of buildings.  It is down a little lane, not facing a main street.  It has a relatively nice front entrance.  It is several stories high.  I know that some of the children in this place have some type of special need, but I don't think they all do. 

I was sent to help in a toddler room, the other women went to a room down the hall.  The toddler room was filled with cribs, at least twenty, arranged in rows end to end.  There was a small area at the end with a table that appeared to be the work area for the care givers.  There were several children in a type of low wooden chair with a bar in front to keep them in.  I later realized they were tied into these chairs.  The rest of the children were laying on their backs in the cribs.

I was given no instructions other than to see where I could help.  I could not communicate with the Chinese care givers to ask them, so I just began going to the cribs one by one. The room was cold, but the kids were dressed in many, many thick layers, including coats.  I looked into the faces of these children, nearly all of them awake.  Some were whimpering, some crying loudly, others just looking at the ceiling.  I talked to them, stroked their faces, softly sang "Jesus Loves Me" over and over again.  I wiped tears away... my own.  I tickled a few of the babies and got a few smiles.

As I write about it now, it doesn't sound so bad.  The children were all safe.  They were warm enough.  They were well fed, in fact I was able to help with feeding them and witnessed the fact that although the food was spooned in by the care givers at an alarming pace and high temperature, it was certainly an ample amount.  I think what really got to me was the overwhelming boredom.  The children were laid on their backs in bed or tied in chairs by their arms.  The care givers took care of physical needs, but it did not appear to be anymore than that.

I later asked the women I came with if there were toys anywhere, or playtime.  Sounds like there is a playroom, but it is apparently deemed too cold by the care givers.  They don't want the kids to get sick, complicating their jobs, so they only take the children there in warmer weather. 

So all winter they wait.  They sit, tied in their chairs so they won't crawl out to explore.  They lie on their backs in bed, waiting only for their turn to be fed, changed or bathed. 

Why did this wreck me completely this week?  Why did it consume so many of my thoughts?  What does God want me to do now?  I was happy when it was time to leave the orphanage, but even while I was there I knew I would come again.

The first and greatest commandment is to love God with all my heart, soul and mind.  The second is like it, to love my neighbor as I love myself.  I know these little ones are my neighbor.  I know that Jesus says whatever I do for the least of these, I am doing for Him.  Loving Him, loving them, loving Him.  A circle of love.

I mulled this verse over and over this week, wondering if just showing up once a week and loving on these kids for an hour is enough.  What else can I do?  I have had lots of ideas.  Take a picture book to show them?  Bring mobiles to hang over cribs?  Bring a heater so some children can use the play area?  Just get one baby out to dance in my arms with me for a few moments?

I am still thinking.  I am praying for these little ones.  I can't forget their faces.  I am comforted by the fact that God sees and knows each one.

To Him this life is a moment, a breath, a vapor.

And then there's eternity. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

At Malley's Ice Cream Parlor

Catching up on some Christmas break photos~ 
 Our second annual evening out at Malley's to celebrate Seth's birthday... below four cousins study the menu in search of the most delicious concoction!
 Lissy is pretty happy with her puppy dog sundae.  :-)

 Naomi admires Nannie's Christmas shirt, in between bites of ice cream.

 Birthday boy... taller than both Nannie and Pa!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Cousin Girls

Love, love this cute photo of Madelyn and Meredyth Jenna just sent me!  The old fashioned look is so fun and the girls' expressions make me smile.  :-)  Thanks, Jen!

Still My Christmas Boy

 Seth sure has grown up while we've been in China, evidenced by the annual stocking photos we take of him each year.  Fifteen years ago, hours old Sether was brought to me in the hospital tucked inside this stocking.  The top photo is from 2007, our first year in Shanghai.  The second photo is from today... taken a bit later than his birthday as he really is a Christmas boy, born on December 23. 
Don't you love his cool shoes?  They were his one request for his 15th birthday. 

Friday, January 13, 2012

He's Back, Baby

After missing the first half of the basketball season with his ankle fracture, Caleb is back and playing strong.  Tomorrow his team will be playing in a tournament for the international schools in Shanghai, and in a couple of weeks, after Chinese New Year, they will be playing in the Asia Pacific Athletic Conference tournament against international schools from across Asia. 

Last Friday night Concordia won by 20 points against their big rival.  Caleb had a great game, with 13 points and 12 rebounds.  He later declared it the most fun night of his life.  These photos were taken during that game.

After having been denied the chance to do something you really want to do, when you finally can participate again it is oh, so sweet.  So happy for our guy.

Photos courtesy of Marc Ulbrich, Caleo Photos