Crazy Foreigners Eat Scorpian

Back in June we went into Beijing and some of our team decided to sample some scorpian at Wangfujing Street market! I was happy to sit out on eating and take a video! :)

Watch below

Made it back!

After a long journey, I made it home to my family on Sunday night! I had really hoped for an upgrade on my long flight, but alas no. HOWEVER, I made an amazing contact, a man sitting next to me, a divine appointment for sure. Won't go into it here, but was incredible.

I made it home to a nice welcome home party at the airport - more than I was expecting! and to see my family. we were all together again for the first time in 3 months! It has been weird settling back home but taking it day by day.

Thank you for all the support I got this summer, prayerful, moral, financial… I will share more in the coming days and weeks about this trip!

Family reunited!

My welcome home party! Totally unexpected!

Last week, week 13

Wow! Time his flown by here in China. I've left Beijing for the next few days for my last adventure before I go home. I fly home next Sunday, leaving me just one week until I leave. Which also means I have been here for 12 weeks now. Crazy.

I arrived here at Eagles Wings Foster Home this morning. It's not my forth time here. I spent 5 weeks here last summer, then visited for 4 days in January, and also came in June to see one of the boys before he was adopted. So I know these kids really well. Some of my favourite little people in the whole world. I was welcomed by big smiles and shouts of 'Rob gege'. I will stay here until very early Tuesday morning when my next adventure begins...

Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday bring a whole new adventure. I am helping with the Formula Project that New Day runs. We will be visiting three different orphanages (one each day) to distribute the formula and check on the children in the project (weighing and measuring etc.) It will be exhausting but I am looking forward to it! Read more about the formula project here.

Finally, I will return back to New Day for my last two days. I will spend Friday in the foster home seeing the kids for the last time. Saturday we will hopefully do something fun to celebrate/mourn my last day.

It has been an amazing trip. In some ways I am ready to go home, but I know once I get home I will miss China and what I have been doing here so so much. Thank you to everyone for your support.

Second time on the wall this summer!
Dinner at Sarah's (Chinese lady in black) I have mostly been working with her this summer!

Third time at the Great WAll this summer! Can you tell it was a much tougher climb? So sweaty!!

Week 10 update

Long overdue update! I am almost fully better now! I left hospital after 4 days and have been returning every few days for check ups.  No more problems with abscesses and my arm can almost fully straighten! This trip has certainly been full of new experiences! I've had a minor procedure, laughing gas, ultrasound, 4 day stay in hospital, lots of IV's and even an MRI! The only remaining issue is for the insurance to fully cover the MRI which was expensive!

So what have I been doing other than getting sick? It has been getting a bit quieter around here towards the end of July. June and early July were very busy, and full of lots of teams and groups coming to serve. It kept us all busy helping coordinate all of those people. So we have all gotten a bit more of a break from the craziness! I'll share some of the more notable moments below.

When a new child comes to the foster home, due to a space opening from another one being adopted. When a new child comes, they have a Chinese name given by their home orphanage and all of the children here are given an English name too. Often a member of staff, or volunteer or visitor is asked to name the child and must them commit to praying for the child until they are adopted. A big commitment! Well the most recent child was a 4 month old baby girl with a heard condition, and I was asked to name her. I thought (and prayed) long and hard about what I would name her and decided to name her after Natalie Northcutt. Natalie first invited me to China back in 2011. She is a very close family friend, like the 7th member of our family. She lived in China for 5 years, studying Chinese for 2 and working in an orphanage for 3 years. She has dedicated so much of her life to orphans in China that it made the most sense to name baby Natalie after someone who loves these children so much. The new baby finally arrived a few days later and since then, I have visited her every day to play with her and pray for her. She has a big personality for such a small baby!! Please join me in praying for her as she grows up and receives surgery in the coming months and that she will recover well and have a full life! 

Natalie's profile on ND website

Last Saturday I got to meet two very special families! Two families who had just arrived in Beijing for their adoption trips, adopting two children that I know! One of those families adopted a girl who came to camp the past two summers, who heard about her from their niece who came home last summer telling them to adopt her - and they did just that! The other family adopted a boy you may have seen on my blog - George, who I met on my first trip to China and got to visit on the past three trips too. This boy is 13 and would have aged out in just a few weeks. This is a very special family who had originally intended to adopt a young child, but after hearing about George and his story felt called to adopt him. Older child adoption is not easy for the family or the child, but this family know that and still want to give George a family. They are following God's call and it is amazing to see. Was so great getting to meet both families!

Those are the two biggest stories! My time at the foster home is starting to come to a close. The summer staff program officially ends on 9th August. I do not travel home until the 24th of August, giving me two extra weeks. I will stay here for a few extra days, visit the kids at Eagles Wings for a few days, stay with my friend Kevin for a few days and hopefully get to tour a new foster home or two. I always try to visit a new place (or two!) on each trip just to see more of the work that is being done in China!

unexpected week

so this week didn't exactly go as planned... I'm in hospital right now and will be staying for a few days...

Over a 10 days ago I thought I had gotten two bites under my armpit in my sleep - strange place huh! It was quite sore whenever I moved my arm but I figured it would just go away after a few days. But then it didn't. And I realised it had been going on for quite a while with no improvement. Thankfully at that moment a doctor from New Zealand arrived for a week to work in the foster home medical clinic. So I asked her to have a look and she immediately diagnosed it was an abscess <An abscess is a collection of pus in any part of the body that, in most cases, causes swelling and inflammation We were talking about me going to the local village hospital (ok not village as in African village hospital - it has a nice building and am told is clean, but still not the same as a Western hospital...) Thankfully my insurance covered an international hospital so on Wednesday off I went to one of the international hospitals in Beijing.

I didn't know what to expect but it over exceeded my expectations! A beautiful building, almost like a hotel, I was seen right away and by an American doctor who knew straight away what it was and what was needed. So off I was to theatre to have the abscess drained. They put me on laughing gas, injected the local anesthetic (which was still mightely painful!) and got to work opening and draining the fluid. Thankfully I had gone loopers with the laughing gas and had no idea what was happening so by the time I came back around it was all done. I was sent home with some painkillers and an appointment two days later.

I'll cut to the chase... Came back Friday (today) and they decided to admit me as an inpatient as the other abscesses were not reducing with antibiotics. They wanted to put me on an IV and run some tests. Not nice huh! On top of that there was some stress getting approval from the insurance company. This place is expensive and I can't get access to cash to pay for it that quick. It would take days to get that money wired to me and taken out. Finally it was all sorted and I was given my own (super nice!!) room. This afternoon they did an ultrasound to see the shape size and position of the remaining abscesses and put me on an IV ever few hours.
Don't feel TOO sorry for me - this is my room!

Dinner time! so much food, barely ate half of it!

About to go to sleep as will be woken up in 5 more hours for an IV and I'm EXHAUSTED. Please pray for strength, rest and healing. Thank you all.

5 Week Reflection

5 weeks ago I arrived in China which means I have 8 more weeks to go. This is the perfect time to reflect on what I have done, learnt and experienced so far.

We spent the first week in orientation and trying some different things out. That weekend we went into Beijing for church on Sunday and had some yummy Western food. The second week we started with an adventure by public transport into the city to see some cool sights. The rest of the week we (summer staff) settled into our roles and learned from our different supervisers about what we would be doing. My role is to assist the volunteer and education manager for the foster home. So I spend a mixture of time in the foster home and in the office, where I have my own desk and computer! My role is most busy at the start of the volunteer times so in the morning and afternoon making sure volunteers know where they should be and helping them get settled into the areas they are assigned. Volunteers can be in either the baby room, toddler play room, pre school or backyard school for older children (6+).

Good Times:
* Getting to know the other summer staff and make good friends with them. We all get on so well which is such a blessing. This experience would not be half as good without getting on with them as we all spend so much time together.
* Being with the Chinese staff in the foster home and learning from them is so great. At this organisation they really have invested in the Chinese staff and have them running pretty much the whole thing (the way it should be!!) so I am really loving getting to know them better and helping however I can.
* Getting to know the kids better and knowing which kids like certain things. Especially the kids who do not like strangers, its so awesome when they run up to me! 
*Learning more about myself, hearing from God about the areas in my life where I need to work on changing. The culture here at the organisation I'm working at is so focused on prayer for the kids and seeing miracles happen. There is also a dream culture where we are encouraged to write down our dreams for the future. This has been an awesome exercise to really sit down and think through what I want in the future and pray about that. 
*The variety of things we get to do! From helping take the kids on outings, to holding babies, to helping in preschool, to teaching the nannies or teachers some English, to playing with the kids in the backyard, to helping work on the kids developmental goal sheets to taking photos. And that's just the foster home stuff! We've been into Beijing LOTS, seen the Great Wall, tienenman square, forbidden city, art district, houhai lake, temple of heaven, old and new summer places, pearl market and wangfujing street..... I love beeing near Beijing!! 

Tough times:
* Sometimes it gets stressful dealing with the big groups and coordinating where everyone goes! Not all groups are that easy to work with which makes the job tough!
*Work days are long, I normally work from 8-5:30 and every second Saturday. And on our off days we normally go into Beijing either for church or for sightseeing  (by choice!) so it is hard to find time to unwind!
*The heat!! This Irish guy isn't used to high 30's Celcius! 

Thank you so much for all of your support!!! This is an incredible experience and opportunity!! I am so blessed! This coming week will be full of lots of goodbyes as the session 1 summer staff leave and the new summer staff arrive. Only 5 of us are staying and 6 leaving. :( 

Special weekend!

Friday night I left work at the foster home early to make my way to ZhengZhou. I got the bullet train, which is really such a great way to travel as it's so smooth and fast from Beijing. I met my good friend Kevin and stayed the night with him. We rode across the city to his house on his new motorbike which was fun! We stopped for some street food, of course!

We got up early on Saturday morning and had a traditional Chinese breakfast at... McDonalds!! (ok, not at all traditional!) and I got the bus to the nearby city where Eagles Wings is - just north of ZhengZhou. I arrived just before lunch time and was met my excitement and smiles and lots of kids shouting 'Rob gege, Rob gege' (Big Bro Rob)! That really never gets old! I got to see lots of my favourites and then went to see Barry of course! The other kids in his house were napping and he didn't want to so we just hung out!

The exciting news, and main reason for this trip is that Barry will be adopted mid July!! All those prayers worked because this boy is going home soon to a wonderful family! He seems very happy that he has a family and I got to show him more photos of them than he had already seen and tell him about his family! He will have one older brother and sister, and a mom and dad! I couldn't be more excited for him! When I saw him he told me he is going to america and has a mom and dad! I was nearly tearing up hearing him tell me! Little does he know that I have spent whole lot of time dreaming, praying and hoping for him to have a family of his own!! He was so funny too and said he wants to go to Ireland too!! I told him I can go see him in America and he said ok. He kept bringing that up later on saying, Rob you come to America, ok?! I had to explain to him that it wouldn't be right away but that I would try as soon as I could!! I love that kid so much!

Barry will be adopted in just a few weeks!!!
The nannies then took some of the kids outside to the playground and we had even more fun!! Though it did get a bit much with about 8 different kids calling 'Rob gege.....' over and over!! I can only do one thing at a time!! Not that I'm complaining though, I wouldn't trade it for the world!! We played outside for a while and when it started to rain, went inside to the trampoline which was fun too! Wesley was his usual charming self showing me his variation of break dancing!! The kids went back to their homes and Barry showed me the package he got from his parents! He got a photo album of their family and house. When he saw a photo of his mom he would say how beautiful she was! How sweet! He also got a disposable camera to take photos of his life there and some crafts and such to share with his friends. He is still very protective over his family package and the nannies keep it well away from the other kids and get it out for him when he wants it! Everyone is so happy for him to have a family!

I ate dinner with Barry and his home and read them a story and we sung some songs. One of the girls asked 'Where are my Mama and Baba?'.... heartbreaking. I then went to say goodnight to Wesley and his home and hung out with those crazy boys for a while! They really are crazy, in a good way of course! I lived with many of those kids all summer so know them so well! Especially Yong and Qiang who have more severe CP (cerebral palsy) so while they are smart boys they cannot speak words so it does take time to know them! They were particularly excited to see someone who knows them so well!! I helped tuck them into bed and at their request got the guitar and pretended to sing them a song goodnight! NOTE: I can neither sing well or play guitar!! So there was lots of laughter too!

One of the hardest things is to hear of the kids who aren't being adopted tell me that Barry or another kid will go to MeiGuo. Some of them can never be adopted as they are too old (over 14 and aged out) but some we are praying will have their chance soon. It was definitely an emotional day. Seeing the kids so excited to see me return again made the trip so worth it. While I love what I am doing at the foster home in Beijing - I am learning so much from the staff there and its such a great program and home, and I am glad to chose to work there this summer! These kids here really are the ones I think about daily at home! I am so grateful to be able to visit them!

Going well!

The past two weeks have been quite busy! We are all well into the swing of our different roles.

Last Thursday there was a big ceremony at the foster home for a sponsor. It was a big affair with lots of officials there. There were lots of speeches from different people, the kids performed and the volunteers performed too! We performed an Irish dance. There were 10 of us dancing; 2 Irish, 7 americans and 1 Chinese!

My typical day here:

8am prayer meeting

9am-12pm work
12-1pm Lunch
1pm-5pm work

The 'work' consists of being in the office helping Sarah (my supervisor) with various tasks, coordinating where different volunteers should be (baby rooms, toddler rooms or pre-school) and also getting time to play with the kids too! I'm getting to know lots of kids too! Yesterday I was asked which kid is my favourite and I listed off about 5 or 6! Too many for just one! Make sure you read the Foster Home Blog!

One other exciting thing which happened last Saturday was one of the Eagles Wings boys (who I was with last summer) was adopted and his family were flying home through Beijing so we (me, Donna and Marissa) went to see them! Ethan didn't remember us but he was so happy with his new family!

Fun day!

Today was another awesome day! Our first big adventure out of the village! One of the staff took us by public transport into Beijing, which involves taking a 40 minute bus, followed by the metro and changing between the many different metro lines in Beijing. She showed us around a few different sights and then left us with money for dinner and journey home and we had to do it ourself! Thankfully we all made it! The subway is fairly easy but the bus is harder to know where to get off when we get to the village as its just a long long road that all looks the same with trees on either side.

In the morning we went straight to Temple of Heaven and walked around that park. We didn't go into any of the temples but we had a look around! What was most fun was seeing the old women and men dancing and playing games outside! We took some fun photos!

Then we went to HoHai which has a cool lake and Hutong area. This part of the Hutong (old buildings) has been restored so is much more touristy and developed. We visited some cool shops and took a group photo!

We then took the subway over to WangFuJing Street (Beijings 5th avenue). Picture the complete opposite of traditional old style China, Wangfujing street is very built up with every kind of shop you can imagine with many high end shops! We got some ice cream and then walked around the market area. Some of the girls were feeling extra brave and even tried some scorpion in the street food area! I certainly wasn't going to try it, but happily took a video of them doing it! We had a great dinner at pizza hut and then made our way home by subway (including changing line twice!) and getting a bus! We made it back in good time and that evening we had to practice our dance. On Thursday there is a big ceremony in the foster home and we offered to perform an Irish dance for all the guests and kids! It has to be really good and perfect by Thursday so we have lots of practicing to do!

Keep an eye on the foster home facebook page for lots of photos with the kids!