Some of our workers post this statement on every e-mail they send "Every child is a diamond in HIS eyes." What a beautiful thought. I realized how true that is after we spent time with over 200 children this week!
It is so interesting to travel across country. I hope some of you will enjoy reading what my eyes saw from trains and buses. I hope this section is not too long and boring for many people. I wanted to break it up with each orphanage but our travels are so intertwined, it is difficult to separate it.
I also think you might like to know what it's like to keep up with Ron for a week, which is a challenge in itself.
Nanning is the capital city of the province we visited and it was very beautiful with many flowers. I do not remember exactly where I saw some plants but I found it interesting that I could identify many plants, trees and flowers. There were mums, poinsettias, palm trees, four o'clock plants, magnolia trees, pine and spruce trees, marigolds, impatiens, a tropical bush that I cannot begin to spell that we had growing in the Caribbean, roses, century plants, and hibiscus. The beautiful tall grasses that we spend a fortune on at Pike's Nursery, grow wild along some of the roadsides. Light green and dark green plants were nearly trimmed and grown in designs with palm trees interspersed throughout the roadways in Nanning.
We got up in Beijing Monday morning at 3:30 a.m. to catch a taxi at 5:00 a.m. to go to the airport bus stop. We did not know if we would find a taxi that early, so we were prepared to walk the 20 minutes to the subway and go that way if necessary. It was about 10 degrees with a strong wind blowing so we felt so fortunate that we only waited about 5 minutes for a taxi. You can go 30 minutes in a taxi for about $3. They don't charge by the number of passengers but the length of the drive. We arrived at the airport with an hour to spare.
When we arrived in Guilin, a three-hour flight, we were met at the airport by a couple of men who were scheduled to drive us to Rongshui (another three-hour trip by car). A businessman we know in Beijing volunteered to furnish us with a driver that works for him.
The highway to Rongshui from Guilin was like a snake. The road was paved and good but it was one curve after another for three hours, over and around mountains. It was like driving through the Smokey Mountains for three hours. Clouds hoovered over the mountain tops and the views were spectacular down into valleys below. There were few villages because of the rough terrain but whenever there was level space, we would see a few houses and fields of tangerine trees, loaded down and ready to be picked.
The only problem we had was the driver was supposed to wait a few hours for us to visit Neil Taylor orphanage and then drive us to Nanning. They let us out at the orphanage and proceeded to leave. They told Luke, our orphanage director, that they could not wait for us, but another driver would come and take us to Nanning. We knew that was not true but we couldn't do anything about it. Later, we were told the men misunderstood. In any event, we were stranded in Rongshui for the night.
The girl on the left is sponsored by Jeff and Loraine Spangler. Luke, our Director, said she is the most appreciative of all the children. She started talking and crying and when Luke translated, I started crying too. She said she wanted to help poor children like her have the same opportunity to get an education as she has been given.
We had a wonderful time with the children and it was so special to see King and Wang Zhen Zhen, a little girl with heart disease that Ron found deserted in a hospital about five years so.
The children performed songs and dances for us and showered us with little gifts and drawings they had made for us.
After visiting the children until about 8:00 p.m. we went to a local hotel to sleep a few hours. We had heat in the room so we fell asleep quickly after a very long day. The weather had turned cold just that day. We dreaded having to wear such heavy clothes when we left Beijing in the cold weather but our warmer clothes proved to be very welcome with the weather in the south very cold.
We got up at 1:30 a.m. and caught a 2:30 a.m. train to Nanning. We rode to the train station in a local taxi. I'm sure all of you will be jealous of my experience riding in one of these vehicles at 1:30 on a very cold morning.
There was no heat in the train station and we had an hour wait because we had to get there 30 minutes early to buy our tickets. The train was also late arriving. We were the only people in our cabin on the train, but it was a very old train and there was no heat. We were already cold waiting in the train station for an hour. We slept in all of our clothes, including our coats, beneath a light weight comforter.
The train ride to Nanning went a different direction from the way we drove from Guilin so the land was mostly flat. Banana and sugar cane fields were plentiful.
Mark Zhu and a driver met us at the train station and we drove three hours to Tian Ding, the location for John Connor Brown orphanage.
Here's a picture of John Connor Brown orphanage:
A former orphan from Yongshan is working as the supervisor for boys at John Connor Brown orphanage.
We arrived that day in time to have lunch with the children. It was a delicious lunch. The chef that day was Phillip, another worker who went to the university with Mark Zhu, our director.
We seldom get breakfast anywhere so we asked Mark to stop and buy some fruit and steamed bread along the way. We are lucky if we are somewhere where we can eat at lunchtime, but sometimes we are traveling and eat only fruit.
The drive from Nanning to Tian Ding was also somewhat crooked with mountains mostly in the distance, but the land is level. The mountains in this province are pointed (a very different sight for us in America). Along the way, more and more fields of bananas and sugar cane were growing. Truckloads and cart loads of green bananas or cut sugar cane were traveling along the road going to market. Peasants had roadside stands, selling bananas very cheaply.
Trees have been planted along the roadside and their trunks are painted white to serve as reflectors in the light of cars driving at night. It is a very beautiful drive and looks very different from the rest of China because we were heading toward Vietnam.
My heart was heavy and tears came to my eyes realizing that we were not far from where Ron's brother, Ned, was killed 40 years ago this February in Vietnam. He saw country just like this for the two years he was in service.
Since we only have 14 children at this new orphanage, I gave the small bag of toys sent by Jacob and Grace Anne Richardson, to these children. Their eyes got bright and they had a wonderful time picking some of the little things from the pile of toys.
Ron was also having a very good time!
Phillip, the worker on the left was the chef the day we arrived. He has worked in a restaurant, so he really had prepared a good meal for us.
We spent time with them until they had to go back to school at 2:30. We went into the town and checked into a hotel. We spent several hours with Mark and Swan (directors of the orphanage). We were just exhausted so we did not go back to the orphanage that night. We had a choice of a room with heat or a room with internet. It was not a hard choice. We took the one with heat.
Early the next morning, Mark took us to the local bus station and we took a bus back to Nanning. We arrived in the afternoon and checked into the hotel. That night at 7:00 p.m. we were invited to the Christmas party for Toyota employees in the ballroom of our hotel. There were about 1,000 present for a big dinner and entertainment.
Pat Martin, the Canadian lady teaching English at Wesley's House, two workers and three children came by bus for the dinner. A presentation was made by the CEO to contribute a truckload of shoes, clothing and books to the children at Wesley's House. Our children sang a song that night.
If you want to view Pat Martin's pictures made at Wesley's House you can go to http://picasaweb.google.com/Ms.Pat.Martin/Pingguo#
Pat Martin has a slide show on her blog so you can see pictures of the Toyota party we attended and many pictures of the children at Wesley's House receiving gifts and enjoying their Christmas party.
When we checked out of the hotel early Thursday morning, we asked the hotel clerk to write down in Chinese the train station to give to the taxi driver. When he let us out, we realized we were at the bus station. We checked to see if there was a bus to Pingguo but it would be four or five hours before the next bus left. We came back outside and talked with another taxi driver (a lady who spoke some English). She said the girl wrote down the bus station so it was not the fault of the taxi driver. She said she could still get us to the train station in time. She went through red lights, around all kinds of traffic and was speeding, no doubt, but we made it with time to spare. I told Ron it was apparent we were not in Peachtree City because there were no police in sight! Police in PTC have stopped someone for a traffic violation every time we drive through.
Peter picked us up at the train station and drove us out to the orphanage. It is only about 10 minutes from the town of Pingguo. We spent the entire day there and intended to see the children's Christmas performance that night but Ron's back was hurting so much we went to the hotel early. Ron had not slept well the night before so he was not feeling very well that day. The children were precious and warmed up to us quickly. They kept bringing us drawings they had made for us.
We were surprised to find the cook at Wesley's House is a former orphan from Mama Jo's House in Biyang. He is now working there as the cook.
The laughter of children was heard at each orphanage. There were smiles and happiness everywhere. It was a joy to see the children clean and happy. If the joy of helping others is complete with the Christmas holidays, we truly experienced it overflowing this past Christmas week.
For lunch Christmas day, we ate with the children, enjoying our rice with cooked carrots and turnips (or some type of root vegetable). Christmas night, we had rice with a pork stew. They had bought steamed buns and fruit for the children as well.
Life is very simple for our children and workers but such joy to behold! The children take turns washing the bowls they eat out of and they were doing an excellent job. We had no worry about unclean dishes with these children doing the cleaning.
Little boys were happier playing with a certain rock they had found in a pile that would spin like a top than our children in the U.S. are with a $100 present. It humbles you to see the little children and know what they have experienced and been through and still they can smile and be happy again. This happiness is only because of the sponsors who make it possible.
Ting Ting, the first heart patient we brought to the U.S. is working in a factory, as she completes her on-the-job training from a technical school. She has expressed an interest in working at one of our orphanages. I believe she would be good working with young girls because she can relate to their lives, being an orphan herself. Ting Ting called us on Christmas day to wish us a happy holiday and told us to "wear more clothes to keep warm." Since she speaks no English, Peter took the call for us while we were at Wesley's House.
Friday morning, we took a local bus from Pingguo to Nanning. By the way, I must side-track to tell you that the worst public restrooms are at bus stations and on trains, but I've learned to hold my nose and use the hole in the floor nevertheless. They compare with a very bad restroom at a service station in the U.S.
At Nanning, we took a taxi to the airport. We had time to eat at a restaurant at the airport before our flight. We arrived back at our apartment in Beijing about 7:30 p.m. Friday night.
Five days of travel and we packed in so many places, experiences and beautiful faces of children! It was a joy to be with our workers and get to know them better. It was really a spectacular week and one we will never forget. No Christmas will ever "top" this one.