Saturday, February 25, 2012

Drinks and Friends

Red Dates Bird's Nest Drink... any takers?  I'm thinking it must be bits of nest that are floating in the drink.  Or it could be red dates. 

Bill, Rebecca, Will, Everett and Emma Grace arrive this afternoon.  Hurray, hurray!  Perhaps they will want some nest drink.  :-)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

All Dressed Up With Nowhere To Go

I went to the orphanage again on Monday.  Things were in a bit of disarray when our group arrived, with cribs moved away from the walls and caregivers running back and forth between rooms... because they were wallpapering. 

Wallpapering.  That's what was happening.  There were several men working to apply the wallpaper, and a crew of people taking photos and filming the process.  Publicity, make it look good. 

The wallpaper was cute, bright blue with white polka dots on one wall, and a lighter blue with animal shapes on the other wall.  The kind I might have chosen to decorate my own children's rooms.

They were wallpapering.

I am still struggling with this.  While toddlers sat, tied to their chairs, the room was adorned with cute wallpaper.  I sat with some of these children, singing in their ear, pressing my face against theirs, trying to bring some small comfort. We've been told now not to get the children out of their chairs or beds to cuddle them or let them walk around, because then they want it all the time.  The care givers simply cannot give it.  Two caregivers, two dozen special needs children.  Overwhelming.

We still do clandestinely cuddle, we hug and sing and tickle.  I started to wonder if maybe we shouldn't, maybe the care givers are right.  Are we just setting the kids expectations on something that cannot be given on a daily basis?  Will it ultimately make them sadder, less content?  In my heart, I cannot think that it is wrong to give an orphan- or any child-  love and attention.  That's what we are all made to crave, isn't it? 

We heard a sermon on justice last weekend.  I have been mulling over Isaiah 58 since then.  It talks about loosing the chains of injustice, setting the oppressed free, breaking every yoke.

There is one little boy at the orphanage that always draws my attention.  I cannot determine what his special need is, he seems well and healthy. Maybe two years old.  During my visit this week both his legs and one of his wrists were tied to his chair, a chair with a bar across the front to hold him in.  He was moaning, so sad.  I sang to him and was able to feed him his lunch, talking with him and praying for him as I did.  And then I decided to untie his other wrist.  Really, isn't both legs enough?  He couldn't get out anyway, with his legs both tied to the chair.  I untied the wrist and rubbed his little hand.  Slowly he clapped his two hands together. 

I can't loose the chains for the children at that facility, nor the chains that hold those care givers captive to the way they must run the place.  I can't set them free.  I can only do my little bit for the one hour each week we are allowed to be in that place.

Only Jesus can set anyone of us free, ultimately.  I am praying, praying that God would show me what He has for me to do, what little yokes I can help break, here in Shanghai and just a few months, in Chicago.

Sick Day

Gwen stayed home from school one day last week... she had had a fever at bedtime the night before... but seemed to be feeling well enough to create this cozy spot, complete with umbrella for herself and Trigger.  Isn't Trigger sweet to be so cooperative?

Friday, February 17, 2012

Here We Go Again

Yep, they are the same stickers we were working with in 2007.  If you've made an international move, you recognize these babies.  Not sure why they were sent to us quite this early, but they are a sign of what we have to look forward to in the coming months.  Sorting, sorting.  Does it go in the sea shipment, taking up to 12 weeks to arrive?  Air shipment is much quicker, but space is limited.  Then there are the Do Not Pack items.  Those are either staying in China because they belong to our landlord, or they are necessities that we will carry with us in our luggage... or they are junk that needs to be disposed of. 

'Spose it wouldn't hurt for me to do a little preliminary sorting.  Sticker time is coming soon. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A Thursday in February, 2012

Time flies and time stands still.  Not sure what it's doing now, but we are moving towards Something Big.  More than one something, even. 

Caleb told me last week that there were 100 days until his graduation.  That's big.  The countdown is on.  Yesterday morning I attended a meeting with other senior moms to plan the banquet after the ceremony.  I feel a little like I am looking down on someone else... surely this isn't me, this isn't my child who is now less than 100 days from graduation.  Time flies.

On Monday I made a second visit to the orphanage I blogged about before Chinese New Year.  A room full of special needs toddlers, some blind, some mentally challenged, all alone in the world.  I sang songs again, stroked faces, hugged and tickled and clapped hands.  I fed.  I felt again the insignificance of my contribution to their existence, but I also sensed the ministering angels that my dad and my sister reminded me must be there with those little ones.  It was hard, but it was good.

I had a call a couple of days ago from the company that will do our pack and move on the China side.  They are coming next Tuesday at 10 AM to do a preliminary survey of our household goods.  I remember this.  Done this before.  I remember the planning of it all- what should go in the air shipment?  How about the sea shipment?  Once they are packed, I won't see the items in the sea shipment again for 10-12 weeks.  We're having our parents here in May for graduation... will my house be half empty?  Maybe.  Depends on whether or not we want to live in our house here half empty for a while, or have it half empty in the States for a while.  It actually makes me laugh a little at this point!  We will figure it out.

On a lighter note, Scott got his braces off!  He had had just about enough of them and was pretty pleased to be finished.  Last of the boys to finish.  Can I just say that he looks SO good?  :-)

Our dear, dear friends the Stevensons are coming soon.  Coming to Shanghai.  Ahhh.  What a treat it will be to have them with us, to see and understand a bit of our lives.  We've been so blessed to have most of our family come to experience a bit of China with us, but not any friends from our Other Life.  They are the first and looks like the only.  Thank you, friends!  Can't wait to have you here on my couch with a cup of tea.  :-)

After factoring in the 14 hour time difference, the other day I placed a call to Steve's Sanding Service in Chicago.  Steve answered.  I was requesting a quote for having the kitchen floor refinished in the home we haven't set foot in for four years, seven months and some odd days.  Funny it was, to chat with Steve about working in that house, my house from my Other Life.  In a few months I'll be there again, probably meet Steve and have him redo my floor.  Funny.  Time flies.

This week I had to officially tell Concordia that the Liptak family will not be back next year.  The email requested that I list each current student, followed by their status for the 2012-2013 school year.  For a moment, time stood still.  I typed each name.  Caleb Liptak, graduating, not returning.  Seth Liptak, not returning.  Madelyn Liptak, not returning.  Gwendolyn Liptak, not returning.  Deep breath.  Sigh.  We are moving on. 

I love my life, I love that we've lived in China.  So very thankful.  Glad we're not finished here yet, that there are some months left.  Hoping and believing that God will provide more opportunities for us to "mix it up" as we leave this place, to see a different side of life, to see Him show up in unexpected ways. 

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Saturday Morning Valentine Cookies

 Gwen and two friends had fun this morning decorating and eating heart cookies.  Yum!
 Happy Valentine's Day! 

Monday, February 06, 2012

Madelyn's Fan Dance

Ah-ha!  Finally got this to work.  This is a performance that Madelyn's PE class did at the Concordia all school Chinese New Year assembly.  Her hair is in a ponytail, and she is a bit to the left of the instructor in front, who's hair is also in a ponytail.  :-)  Enjoy!

Langkawi Part 2

Few more pics from our Chinese New Year trip... a game of chicken in the pool!
The beach where we stayed in Datai Bay has a small reef out from the shore.  It was badly damaged in the tsunami five years ago and is slowly recovering.  It was fun to poke around a little with mask and snorkel.  :-)

Here is the maze of little crab trails covering the beach by low tide, and the tiny balls of sand they roll to form their tunnels.  Scott is in the distance on the beach.  Picture in first blog about Langkawi of one of these teeny crabs. 
We had fun one late afternoon when Seth had his guitar down at the beach taking what I call "album cover" photos of him.  Can't you just see it on the front of a CD?
Or this one?
This variety of monkey is a bit more shy than the ones with whom we shared our fruit bowl.  These guys with the big eyes and apricot colored babies hide out in the tree tops, eating only leaves.  We spotted them a couple of times.  Love that cute baby!  Doesn't he look like a stuffed animal toy?
On this morning, we were climbing 600+ steps to a waterfall.  The friendly monkeys hopped along the way with us.  Here Madelyn is having a conversation with one of them. 

We rode the Langkawi cable car, one of the longest and highest I've ever been on, to the top of the mountain for an amazing view of the islands all around.  On a clear day they say you can see all the way to Thailand!

Amazing sky bridge at the top...  these pictures are for you, Andrew, since you knew about this bridge before we did.  :-)

Dinner among the trees on the beach patio... cool look with all the lanterns!  After dinner we loved walking out on the beach to look at the stars.  Amazing how many there are when you get away from the lights and smog of the big city!  The heavens definitely declare the glory of God.  :-)
One afternoon we went out on this Hobie Cat.  Seth got a mini lesson from a local and sailed the boat basically on his own, with just a little help!  The water looks calm by the shore and it actually took us a few minutes to catch a breeze and get out, but once we were out from the bay the waves picked up and it was a bit of a challenge to control this thing. 
Later the same day Seth gave wind surfing a try.  He found out that it's not as easy as it looks. 
He got a great upper body workout, pulling the sail up again and again!  I was amazed he stuck with it for an hour... I think I would have been back on the beach in ten minutes.  :-)

I helped with a reef clean up project one morning.  Once or twice a month, when the tide is at the very lowest, the resort encourages guests to come help rescue small, unattached live corals to put in their coral nursery, and to remove dead and broken corals and loose rocks that are tossed around by the waves, damaging the live corals.   Here are a few live corals.

The recovering reef, at the lowest tide of the month.  It looks like a bunch of brown rocks, but there is an amazing amount of life in it. 
Loved Langkawi!  What a beautiful place.  Missed having Caleb with us...

Thursday, February 02, 2012

APAC Tournament

We're pretty pumped up here for the Asia Pacific Athletic Conference basketball tournament being held at Concordia this weekend.  Guys' and girls' teams from five other schools around Asia have come to Shanghai for three days of tough competition.  Yesterday was a rough one for our guys, losing two games, but they came back strong this morning and won by 50 points.  Caleb has been looking forward to this tournament this whole school year.  It's a pretty big deal to him as a senior, and thus to us, too.  Praying for him to enjoy the play regardless of the outcome! 
These posters of the Concordia guys' team are part of the decoration for the tournament.  This top one is hanging outside on one of the school buildings, and the one below is in the main gym.  Love the game faces on these guys!  Funny story... these were ordered to be be 3x5, meaning three feet by five feet.  Mistake made in translation though, and they turned out to be three meters by five meters!  Makes the game faces a bit more intimidating!  Caleb is on the left side of the V in the one below, third from the front.  Can you find the top of his head in the other poster?
The tournament opened yesterday morning with a pep rally for the whole school.  The elementary school students were all given the blue and gold noise maker sticks... fun for them!  All visiting teams were introduced and welcomed, and Concordia's new mascot (What exactly is a phoenix supposed to look like, anyway?) was unveiled for the first time.  All the students are being excused from a class or two a day to attend some games.  The elementary classes are assigned a visiting school to cheer for!  Seth is helping announce the games for the streaming video feed, and also with the live blogging.
Here's the shot of the day of Caleb from one of the games the guys battled through yesterday.  Again with the game face.  :-)
Photo credit for the picture above goes to our friend Marc Ulbrich, Caleo Photos.

Another guys' game in about an hour... hoping this morning's win gives them great motivation this afternoon!  Have to mention the girls' team... as usual they are playing really, really well and winning!  :-)

To all our Shanghai friends who have repatriated... we miss you cheering with us in the stands!