Saturday, April 26, 2008


After many flights, Vickie & Val are home safely with their families again. It was a productive trip--full of hard work, fun times, and many wonderful memories. Best of all, we have a better idea of how the SWI would like to proceed. Since meeting the special needs children, this is an area in which we hope we can assist them. The PT team was invaluable in this respect, and we believe their influence will open new doors for ZKO.

As I sign off on this trip, I want to give families who plan a visit to ZJ a few tips for their must-see/do list:

1.) Walk the streets around the hotel. It's a great way to see the city and meet people!

2.) Visit your child's finding place with an interpreter. You will likely find new friends who just may have been there when your child was found. This happened to Val this trip. With the help of an interpreter, an employee of the place in which her daughter was found was able to communicate that she was there at the time of the abandonment, and may have been the one to find her. She also was able to answer a few more questions, and fill in some information that helps get a better idea of the circumstances and site of the abandonment. These are things that simply cannot be understood by a finding ad alone. I highly encourage talking to locals. They are warm and compassionate, and you may find that they are very willing to talk. Val was asked to take a photo with them, and was asked to email it to the employee. Of course, she is willing and eager to do so! These connections may become so valuable to our children.

3.) Visit hole-in-the-wall type restaurants!!! We had a spectacular dinner in an Inner Mongolian restaurant, found by going down side streets and alleys. Amazing, amazing food. There were all of five tables inside, but it is considered a hot spot. You can always eat KFC at home. :o)

4.) Visit the harbor area near the hotel. It's just a short taxi ride from the Silver Seas/Crowne Plaza--perhaps 6 yuan to take a taxi. You'll get all kinds of great shots of the boats: huge ocean liners and tiny fishing skiffs.

5.) Make sure to do shopping at the antique and Jade market. You can find something for almost everyone on your list. It's not a place like some markets in Guangzhou & Beijing that cater to tourists. You can find jewelry, jade, cloisonné, carvings, and best of all: antiques! There are plenty of things that can be bought on a budget. Plan to bargain hard there. Our interpreter told us, "If they say 100Y, you MUST offer them 20Y, but go no higher than 40-50Y." It's expected, so loosen your inhibitions. :o) Take along bubble wrap if you have room. Or else, have them wrap your breakables well and take them in your carry-on. You can find antique plates, teapots, earthenware, pottery figurines, old Chinese coins, etc.

6.) Go to the Seaside Park, near the huge ship restaurant (a moored, converted ship). On weekends, families fly kites there. There you'll find The Kite Lady, whose relatives make the kites in Shanxi province. They are inexpensive: 20Y for the small butterfly kites, 70Y for the huge ones that fold easily into suitcases. Reels can be purchased for 2Y, or large ones with ball bearings for 20Y. It was a great place to find gifts for little boys on your list.

Thank you for following our trip, and for your kind thoughts, prayers, emails, and comments. They were very encouraging and appreciated! I leave you with a fun photo from the kite place.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Therapists finish, and we have a party!

Today the therapists finished their terrific training with teaching the aunties to have structured play time every day. They will begin to incorporate some specific group play activities, including a gymboree-type program. This was well-received and they are so eager and willing to learn new techniques for the best outcomes of their children.

The PTs have been an incredible asset to Open Arms, and we can never thank them enough for their generosity on ZKO's behalf. The Open Arms program has been very successful, and the aunties are so excited at their children's progress. The aunties were able to bring their babies to the PTs to ask them questions about their individual children, and to ask for specific recommendations for them. The PTs were able to give them concrete ways to improve areas in which the aunties felt their children needed development.

We will be expanding the Caring Kids program, as this has been so valuable to their well-being. We are very eager to expand ZKO's outreach to help the kids achieve their educational potential. We are working with the directors to expand this program, as it is one way in which we can connect ZJ children and adopted ZJ children for mutual benefit.

This evening we had a party with the children. Originally it was only going to be the school kids, but we asked Ms. Yi if we could include the younger ones who were able to join us. We had enough plates/napkins for a CROWD, and she agreed to do so. Vickie and I got caught in a deluge over rush hour. Don't ask. Let's just say that our shoes won't dry out until we're home. :o) We were at the bottom of a hill trying to hail a taxi. There were six directions of traffic attempting to fill a two lane street, everyone trying to make it home for supper. Everytime a bus or large vehicle went by, we would get a shower as we couldn't go anywhere. Finally, it was just funny. We were that we HAD to go to the hotel to change. It made us late, and when we walked into the courtyard, we could hear the children waiting in the activity room. They were so excited, as they had a performance prepared for us.Vickie fills goodie bags: pencils, erasers, pencil sharpeners, RingPops, Mini M&Ms, chewy Sweet-Tarts. I felt like was probably right up there at the top of our favorite moments when we were handing them out. Every LAST one of those children received them with both hands, saying "thank you" in English. Amazing. Just totally amazing. I'm leaving part of my heart here. I know I've said that before, but I just had to say it again.

First of all, they wrote the thank-you cards for their sponsors. WAIT UNTIL YOU SEE THOSE! Precious, precious cargo in my luggage. We grabbed our goodie bags and headed up to the activity room. Inside were the PTs, two huge cakes, and forty fidgeting, but seated kids. They were so just want to love them up. There was a little deaf girl named Chu who was grinning so big. I got to give her a hug and kiss before she left. She is so special. Where was I??? Ok, so we went in and started getting out the games: Pin the tail on the donkey and Musical Chairs. :o) Yup, we decided to teach them some American party games. Ms. Yi agreed to be our demo, and the children hooted at her as she really messed up on her tail. Thennnnn, we got to musical chairs. Hands down, the funnest thing to watch ever. People who live in the building, some disabled young adults, staff, etc. joined the party and were laughing so hard at the kids from the doorway. Part of the fun was watching them! As the seats dwindled, it became even funnier and funnier, as we played the Chicken Dance Song and when it paused they had to scramble. What a blast.

We sat down for a performance by the school children. They did a song in sign language called "A Grateful Heart." Vickie and I were both wiping tears. It was a wonderful way to end our time here.

We sat down to serve cake, and handed out our goodie bags, which were a hit. Then we said goodbye--or "until next time." As we walked down the steps, we kept hearing them say goodbye and seeing them wave to us from above. I can't wait to come back.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Update/Scenes from 2 Nonglin Lu, the street in front of the SWI

Today was another amazing day. The physical therapists began doing the trainings this morning. Then we all went to take the school children to KFC for a treat. This time we avoided the van and they walked a few blocks from school. Yup, there went another huge section of our hearts as we interacted with the kids. Most of them have a special need, but are able to attend the public school near the orphanage. Generous donors--Zhanjiang adoptees giving to the Caring Kids Program--make this possible, to make their lives as mainstreamed into their community as possible.

We've been so impressed in watching the children interact. They are truly family to one another, with the older ones constantly looking out for the younger ones. It's amazing to watch the selflessness of the children, and how they respect their auntie--who by the way, can create instant silence with a single word! Fascinating to watch!

This trip we have spent more time with the older children than with the babies, and it has been such a treat to watch them in their home. We believe Dir.Su & Ms. Yi have created a very good environment for them, and it is not the norm. When we mentioned this to them, they told us that a family-type community is what they have attempted to create. They have done exceptionally well in achieving that goal.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Meeting the babies & children

Zhanjiang SWI, still decorated from Chinese New Year. The flags fluttered in the ocean breeze over the courtyard.

We had a wonderful day starting with Vickie and Val visiting the Open Arms babies, which of course was a highlight. Some burst into tears just at the sight of us, but others toddled around us offering us toys. Of course, they were cute beyond words. It is so wonderful to see them interacting with the aunties, and they are very obviously attached to each other and thriving in their care. We watched as one of the little girls "helped" an auntie with her massages and exercises on one of the OA babies---she knew the drill! At the request of Dir. Su & Ms. Yi, we cannot post photos of the children on the internet but will include them in future newsletters which will be mailed.

At lunch time, we repeated last year's McDonald's outing with the 3-7 year olds. Of course, it was a just a riot. We enjoyed every second of it, as did the children. We piled into the van, all THIRTY-TWO of us in a twelve-passenger vehicle--it was the Zhanjiang Clown Car. What a blast watching the children experience the neighborhood and enjoying their cheeseburgers, fries, orange drinks, and ice cream cones! It was truly a highlight. Many of the kids remembered Vickie from last year, and call her Ayi Vickie. Of course at the end of the meal, 25 Happy Meal Toys were handed out to finish out our lunch. Huge sections of our hearts will stay behind when we go home, that's for sure.

After a brief rest, Ms. Yi welcomed the Physical Therapist team with a drive to DongHai Island, a scenic one hour drive from Zhanjiang City. This fishing boat had just been pushed up onto the beach by about thirty fishermen. There were several ways to see the beach area: horses, a camel, or four wheelers. Ms. Yi definitely wanted the latter. She challenged us to a race on the beach. And won!In the evening, Dir. Su & Ms. Yi welcomed us with a delicious dinner of local delicacies. As before, it was very delicious. At each meal we try new things, and gain new "favorite foods." This time it would have to be the small sea shells that are steamed and sprinkled with sea salt. They tasted somewhat like clams. Absolutely delicious!
Here is Ms. Yi (Dir. Su to the left) serving us these lovely dishes. You can see how colorful and fresh it all is.Shrimp on a skewer, surrounded by pumpkin, the best noodles ever, fish, beef, barbecued oysters, and vegetables.Cheryl (a PT) goes for seconds on the little seashells. You take a toothpick, pierce the edge, and tug. I know my children would have loved them! We were told they are a local delicacy. With this delicious meal, we are ready to do some work! Tomorrow is physical therapy training with the aunties, and our next adventure. Thanks for following us!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Scenes at Zhanjiang's waterfront

Tonight Vickie, Rebecca, & I went walking along the harbor. It was a lovely weekend night, full of families out enjoying the evening breeze. The children were standing along the rail watching the boats. For all you parents who would like photos for your childrens' lifebooks, you are welcome to copy these to your computers. If you'd like the high resolution versions, please feel free to contact me after I'm home, and I'll be happy to send them to you to use. Since I'm posting by email (can't access Blogger here), it's not letting me send the high-res versions. Hope you can enjoy this little taste of lovely Zhanjiang.

These friends were enjoying a barbeque at the park. The people we've met have been so very friendly and warm to strangers!

We don't know what these people were digging. We asked other local onlookers and they didn't know. We believe it's some sort of small clam-like mussel. Whatever it was, it was hard work.
The workers' bikes were lined up, and locked to the rail.

For more photos of just (cute as a button) children, see Val's blog:


This morning Vickie and I flew into Zhanjiang from Guangzhou.  We met our translator, Rebecca, in Guangzhou and she flew down with us as well.  It's very tropical here, and I'm so excited to be in Zhanjiang for the first time.  Vickie is also happy to be back.  She has her list of must-see's  which will be great to experience with her.

We ate breakfast at the Guangzhou we are getting our caffeine fixes.

We were met at the airport by Dir. Su and Ms. Yi and her daughter, QingQing.  We had such a delicious lunch together planning our week, and I'll leave you on that note.  Do not drool on your keyboard!