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!


I will add some photos soon!! This week I will make an effort to take more too ;)

On Saturday night we (summer staff) cooked dinner for the long-term volunteers and other short-termers. We probably took on a bit too much and decided to cook breakfast for dinner. Some of the american girls took charge and got everything together. We made french toast, bacon, scrambled eggs and potato hash brownes (american style which is basically just grated potato fried). It was a lot of work!! But it did all turn out well. Maybe next time we will do something easier ;)

Sunday some of us went into the city for BICF (international 'sunday group') with two of the long term families here. It was really cool! The particular service we were at is held in a cool restaurant with comfy seats. It was very laid back and relaxed. There were some songs, a testimony and a speaker. After the speaker there was group discussion time which was a cool way to do it.
After that we went to a Texas Grill restaurant! I had a pulled pork platter which consisted of a big bowl of pulled pork and two sides. SO good after a week of only Chinese food!! Then we went and did some shopping around a market. I bought a new pair of shoes (TOMS) and bargained them down quite a bit so I walked away happy with myself. On our walk around Beijing there were a few things that stood out to me. Many people with disabilities were begging at the side of the street. Most seemed to have some sort of deformity or really bad burn wounds. Seeing one particular man was quite shocking and sad.
Then we went to the main imported food store in Beijing for some food shopping! I picked up some (IRISH - Kerrygold) butter [it was funny they stocked quite a few different Kerrygold products!), some pasta and pesto and some bagels. This is mostly as a backup for those days when I just can't face Chinese food! I do love Chinese food though!

That evening we were at Donna's house for dinner and hung out there for a big which is always fun!