Saturday, August 1, 2009

24 hours and over 7,000 miles…

From the time we left home in Sharpsburg, Georgia and arrived at Motel 168 in Shanghai, it had been exactly 24 hours. Our flight was very good. We flew Delta in business class and had the latest arrangement in seating. The seats were at an angle to each other instead of two side-by-side. It was convenient, easy and private. Ron and I had our heads almost to each other and could lean over and talk a little. It was not as cozy this way but Ron keeps his eyes closed with music on the entire trip anyway.

Our son, Ronald, came with us to China to go on to the construction site of the orphanage in Zigong. He flew Continental through Newark and left Atlanta two hours before us. We arrived in Shanghai one hour before he arrived. We waited for him and got him checked into his China Air flight to Changdu where he was met by Jacob and Robert, two of our workers.

The next day, we left Shanghai by train for Nanchang with Vivian, a volunteer worker from Shanghai. Another Chinese girl went with us. Ron met her father, a businessman, who is the owner of an engineering firm, on our last trip to Shanghai. Vivian had arranged a meeting for us with a Youth Foundation run by the government. They met us at the train station and took us to dinner. The next morning (Sunday), the four of us met in our hotel room for a brief service and to partake of the Lord’s Supper. We met the foundation folks at breakfast and then went to a meeting at their office headquarters. They run three orphanages (with less than 150 children in all three facilities). In the meeting, we learned that they have access to 20 acres of land and want to develop it into an orphanage, school and other facilities. We drove to the site (about 45 minutes away) but it was so over-grown in trees, bushes and undergrowth, we could tell very little about it. You could not even walk through it because of the thickness, which is much like a jungle.

From this site, we went to see a new school that will be ready to open this fall. They are very proud of the modern facility and wanted us to see it. Then we stopped at a local restaurant for lunch. After lunch, we were planning to drive to see one of their orphanages that was half-way to Changsha, our next destination.
Unfortunately, there was an 18-wheeler truck overturned in the middle of the highway and we were sitting in traffic for well over an hour.
That wasted time and in addition to the two or three hour drive it put us at the orphanage late in the afternoon. When we drove in a line of little girls were on one side of the drive and little boys were on the other side and they were singing to welcome us. They wore uniforms and were very cute. Their tops were white with navy skirts for the girls and navy pants for the boys. They all had the red scarf around their necks signifying that they are members of the Youth Communist Party League. We were escorted to see their rooms and throughout the facility. The main building in front is new but one-story buildings in a U-shape behind the main building were older with wood shingle roofs. The children’s rooms were plain with just the usual bunk beds (each with a mosquito net) and a bamboo mat to sleep on. This is typical for summer because it’s cooler to sleep on.

The rooms in the older building were classrooms, craft and reading rooms as well as many displays of Chinese memorabilia. They spent a lot of money on this facility but much of the funds went into the displays of things to teach the children about the history of China.

The son of the headmaster is preparing to leave to go to Boston to get his master’s degree this fall. He spoke good English so he followed us around to translate for us and just to practice his English. The twenty-four children were eating dinner in the dining room by the time we finished our tour. A private room was already set up for us to have dinner. The food was very good – some dishes were ordinary things but others I could not identify and didn’t try them. The government men and the headmaster spent most of their time drinking and having toasts but we continued to eat and enjoy the meal. Drinking at meals is a big part of the social aspect of meals for the government people. We have to keep on explaining that we do not drink any alcohol. They understand a little because we are “strange” Americans, but the two Chinese girls (who are Christians) did not drink.

We parted ways with Vivian and the other girl and they went back to Nanchang with the drivers in one car while two of the men drove us on to Changsha. It was late when we arrived and they had difficulty finding our hotel. We got to bed about 11:30 that night and were dead-tired. I had not felt well all day and slept quite a bit in the car as we drove, which is very unusual for me.

Jackie, our worker in charge of medical in China, picked us up and drove us the two-hour drive to Chengde. We have had time to rest this week as well as oversee how things are shaping up for the medical mission to begin.

The Chinese workers had over 200 names of people to call to see about scheduling their children for surgery this week. Some have already had the surgery; others were wrong numbers. Some people were reluctant to talk with the workers, not understanding that anyone would give free surgery to their child. As of today, over 50 have agreed to come. We may not have enough patients for the two weeks but when the TV and newspapers publish the opening ceremony on Monday morning, we know there will be others to come that we did not know about.

The hospital officials are wonderfully cooperative and nice. They have shown us so much kindness and courtesy. The hotel is nice but has the usual drawbacks – noisy, things not working like they should, poor communication, etc. The breakfast buffet is adequate but not great. The city is nice – typical of a smaller town.
Wal-Mart is a good 30-minute walk from the hotel. We have walked it once to get a few things. There is a walk along the river and we have taken advantage of this beautiful scenery and gotten some exercise at the same time.

Dr. John Bailey and his family from Texas will arrive this evening. They have been to visit the John Connor Brown Christian Care Center already. They provided the funds for that orphanage in memory of their grandson, who the facility is named for. John Connor Brown was a young man scheduled to come on a medical mission with his grandparents a couple of years ago but he was killed in an accident only a few weeks before the mission. We are pleased that his family has honored this young man with an orphanage that provides a very good home to almost 100 poor children.
The medical team consisting of plastic surgeons, anesthesiologists, operating room nurses, etc. and many volunteer workers will arrive tomorrow. My next section will tell about the Opening Ceremony and the beginning of the cleft palate medical mission.

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