Thursday, November 19, 2009

Home Again!

We left Beijing early in the morning of November 17. The weather is very cold there. It is below freezing with a 15 mph wind and snow on the ground. We were ready to come home. The flight to Toyko was no problem but we ended up waiting five hours in the Narita airport to get our flight to Atlanta. There was a mechanical problem with the airplane and they kept pushing back the time of departure. We were unable to upgrade to first class accommodations so we were cramped into middle seats in coach. I think we got the last two seats available on that plane. Although airlines have cut many international flights, there are often a shortage of seats on those that are flying. The services have been cut drastically and that makes a long trip even more uncomfortable.

We arrived in Atlanta more than 24 hours after we left Beijing. The last two days of jetlag have been difficult. We can hardly stay up until bedtime but then can't sleep the entire night. The body clock just does not want to readjust quickly.

Thanks to everyone for your prayers and interest in our travels. As contracts are signed for the new orphanages, I will continue to update the blog. It's a small way I can keep everyone informed that follows my blog. Please check it from time-to-time in between our trips to find out the progress of our work.

May all of you have a blessed Thanksgiving. We can surely count our numerous blessings every year as they outweigh the negatives of this life. God bless you!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Arrived in Beijing Wednesday night

Our flight to Beijing was about two hours. We took the subway from the airport to the first stop and met Sophia, one of our workers in Beijing. She was kind enough to offer us a place to stay while we are here. We heard that Beijing had recently had snow so we knew it would be very cold here. Normally, heat is not turned on in apartment buildings until Nov. 15th but with an usually cold winter starting early in Beijing, they have already provided tenants with heat. This was a pleasant surprise.

When we descended to land, as usual for me, my ears stopped up. The right ear never opened back up. I awoke up at 2 a.m. with excruciating pain in that ear. I moved to the couch about 4 a.m. to keep from waking Ron up. When he got up about 7 a.m., he gave me a pain pill and I went back to bed and slept two hours. I woke with horrible pain again and pink liquid oozing from my ear. We decided I would need to see a doctor. I was still under the influence of the strong pain pill, so I felt very unstable. I dressed and we left for the International Hospital. It was snowing heavily so we took a taxi. Ron completed papers for my admission and we did not have to wait long for the ENT to see me. He said I had an enormous amount of wax build-up and he began to clean it. It was very painful so he decided we needed to put softening drops in every 30 minutes and wait two hours for him to finish. I laid on two seats in the waiting room and sent Trip, Sophia and Ron out to eat lunch. When the doctor saw me again at 3 p.m., he washed out the ear and a lot of stuff was removed. He gave me a drop to use in the ear and nose three times a day for two more days. I also have a prescription for antibiotics. This trip to the hospital was not cheap - probably cost about $200.

The pain has stopped. My ear is still stopped up because of the drops but I think it will be fine now. For years, I have had infections and pain in this ear, but all the other doctors just gave me antibiotics to clear up the infections. I don’t know if removing the ear wax will solve the problem, but this old ENT doctor seemed to know what he was talking about. I just felt so blessed to be in Beijing when this happened instead of some of the remote towns we have just visited.

Ron has some work in Beijing, but we are also getting a few days of rest. We will leave for home on November 17th, one day earlier than planned. I told Sherry (who works with us in Atlanta) that it was no problem getting along with fewer clothes because often we didn’t get showers and change clothes but every two to three days. She said that is common in China. I told her that’s why my eyes are looking more slanted and China is beginning to feel like home.

We met our schedule this whole trip and accomplished everything as planned but there was no spare time along the way. I know very well why Ron wanted to give me the schedule after we boarded the plane in Atlanta!

Thanks again for your prayers and for your love for us. It will be good to be home again.
The Amazing Race

I know most of you have seen a little of the AMAZING RACE reality show. The last part of our trip was just like this. We didn’t know exactly where we were going or how to get there. We had to ask a lot of people for directions and help along the way. We had deadlines to meet so we had to be in certain places at specific times. Ron runs a very tight trip schedule.

Chinese people are not accustomed to seeing old people wandering around China (not part of a tour group) so they are both curious and understanding.

The only people we watch out for are at bus stations and train stations who try to grab your bags to get you to take their taxi. These are illegal and scalpers. They charge a very high fee. Some are very aggressive and rude. They walk beside you for long distances trying to take your bags even though we tell them NO over and over. They are not just being helpful like the other people.

When we returned to Xi’an, Jackie got us to the airport and we flew that night to Wuhan. We stayed one night in Wuhan and left early the next morning for the bus station not knowing what time we could catch a bus to Jing Zhou. We only had about an hour long wait. No one spoke English at this bus station, but one lady was kind enough to look at our tickets and escort us to the right waiting room. She came and got us when it was time to board the bus. We find people very helpful at most bus and train stations.

It was a very cold three hour long ride. We encountered cold weather in Wuhan and as in most of China, no heat is turned on until November 15th (hotels do have heat but not in other buildings). The bus station was cold with doors open and there was no heat on the bus. It was raining and very windy.

Someone who knew Ya Ning Langley came to meet us at the bus station. Her husband came to drive us around and a friend of hers from the school (a middle school English teacher) came to translate for us. They were so kind and generous and would not let us pay them or cover the lunch expenses. This is the kind of generous people we find everywhere we go in China. We first went to the government office, but the manager was not there. We went to lunch and enjoyed that time getting to know these very kind volunteers.

After lunch, we went back to the government office. A man and woman joined us in their conference room and I could tell immediately that we would not work out any kind of deal there. The woman took over the meeting and was as cold as a dead fish and as kind as a tiger. It was evident in her tone of voice and body language. After a long discussion between the volunteers and this lady, it appeared our volunteers did their best to represent us and our reason for being there. The lady informed us that they had an orphanage for 40 children and had no need for us coming there. We were told that they do not feel that orphans who now live with an old relative should live at a care center. Most of the children we find do have old relatives but they are poorly cared for and they are happy for the children to have a better life and a good education that we can provide for them.

It was reported to us before we went to this city that they have at least three buildings that could be used for an orphanage. Communication sometimes gets off-track if you are not getting the information from the person making the decisions. It was evident this lady was making decisions and our presence was a waste of her time.

The volunteers were extremely disappointed. They drove us to a location of interest in the city where the city wall is located and has become a beautiful tourist site. They drove us back to the bus station and helped us buy bus tickets for Yichang. They tried to pay for our bus tickets. They made sure we had some snacks and water and knew which bus to get on. Within a short time, we boarded another cold bus for another two hour long ride. It was still raining.

At Yichang, Rod, a classmate of Judy Yang‘s, one of our workers in Atlanta, met us at the bus station and escorted us to the hotel he had reserved. It was a new 39-floor hotel (five star hotel). He got a big discount for us so the room only cost us about $60. If a Chinese person makes the reservation, the room rate will be considerably less than if an American does it. It amazed me that rates are so flexible. I prefer a system where rates remain the same for everyone, but it seems most of the world does not work on that system. I had been cold all day so I took a hot shower and slept for eight hours under a down filled comforter. It was really nice. I can truly say we have had the best accommodations and the very worst accommodations. It changes from day to day.

The next morning, Rod met us at the hotel. Rod teaches Economics at a university. He is a very nice 30 year-old young man and he worked very hard for us arranging everything. He would not take any payment for his time. He said for us to just consider him a volunteer.

We checked out of the hotel and went to the travel desk to get airline tickets for Beijing. A government worker and driver came to the hotel to meet us. This was a very good sign. We drove about one hour to the Three Gorges Dam area. What a beautiful sight! This was perhaps the prettiest place I have seen in China. Clouds were covering the tops of some mountains. Valleys and rivers ran beside the roadway. There are about three check points along the road for people entering this area but with a government car, we drove right through. As they say, “it’s all in who you know!” We did not get out to see the Dam on this trip because we were limited in time. It was hazy and rainy again that day. We arrived at a small town just past the dam. It was a mountain town with streets running up and down steep hills.

We met the Civil Affairs workers at the first care center we visited. It was a three-story building housing 91 elderly people and all rooms were occupied. The outside of the building needed painting but the rooms were all clean and tile floors were spotless. The old peoples’ beds were neatly made and their clothes put away in chests. Each old person had a room to themselves. I think three people shared the same bath. The grounds were well kept and it appeared to be a very nice home for the elderly. Some were watching TV and others just walking around very curious about foreigners visiting them.

It was lunchtime when we finished at this facility so they took us to a hotel for a very delicious lunch. The two Civil Affairs ladies were very kind and nice. This was helpful after our encounter with the tiger lady in Jing Zhou.

They drove us to another care center where they house 70 elderly people. This facility is a seven-floor building. It was unbelievable! I did not see a single mark on any wall and the floors were clean. It is a brick and some type of block on the outside. The rooms were all as clean as a museum.

Again, the old people’s rooms were neat. Some of them were playing chess and others were walking around the gardens outside. There are exercise rooms and empty rooms that can be used for a library, classroom, recreation room, etc. on each floor. The outside was perfectly landscaped with trimmed shrubs, a bridge crossing a little stream, and beautiful concrete and gravel paths running to different areas. A playground was nearby and a newly paved area is ready for a basketball court.

We could use at least four floors for orphans, housing at least 100 (if not more) children. I think there are three rooms, bath and sitting room in each section. We can probably get four bunk beds in each room (8 children) so that would house 24 children together in each section.

The officials said we could set up a separate kitchen for the children. We feel sure the food they serve the elderly is not as nutritional as we would prefer for the children. They also said that although there are primary and middle schools within safe walking distances, they would provide transportation to take the children into town to better schools.

Everything we encountered this day was positive with full cooperation and them going above and beyond whatever we could possibly imagine. It is another “too good to be true” situation.

We met the director and vice-director (the man’s daughter) and they were very nice. We need our directors to go there to train because this facility was as near perfect as any care center you could find anywhere. I know a home for the elderly is just as difficult to run as a home for orphans. These directors want it to be the best and they have succeeded. If this works out and a contract can be signed with these officials, I should call this section “We struck gold.” It is far more than we ever expected to find. Our trip has been hard but very successful so far.

Our next challenge will be to find directors for the next two orphanages. Locating Christians or believers who can be trusted is not easy in China.
CHENGDU to XI’AN and on to YONG JI

We took a bus from Zigong in the afternoon (3 hours ride) to Chengdu and met Jackie, our worker from Xi’an. The next day, Ron and Jackie visited the two hospitals that I mentioned in the last section.

We had a very nice new hotel in Chengdu. The manager went out of his way to do things for us even though Jackie, our worker from Xi’an was with us. We left about 7 p.m. the next night to go to the train station. The manager helped with our bags to the end of the street and hailed a taxi for us.

The train looked like a newer train than most we have ridden, but it turned out to be the noisiest one. Our cabin was at the end of the car and the cabling or connection for that car was slipping and making a huge noise every few minutes. There was a lot of squeaking and rattling. We were on this train for 16 hours and it stopped at many places to either board passengers or let other trains go by. This trip was through the highest mountain range in China so we went through many tunnels. The countryside was very beautiful with tall mountains, valleys and rivers all along the track.

We ate lunch as soon as we arrived in Xi’an about 3 pm that afternoon. Jackie got his car and we left to drive two hours south to the small city of Yong Ji. We had another nice hotel (which we felt we deserved after the long train ride).

The next morning, we met with the Education Department official who had some old school buildings for us to consider for an orphanage. The first two we looked at were very old and would be expensive to remodel. They said they had another building we might like.
It was behind a very beautiful school (kindergarten through primary school). The village had gone in jointly with the education department to build a three-story building to house boarding students, but they got about 80% of the building completed and ran out of money. It has very good construction and will take much less to finish the building than to remodel an old one or build a new one. It is very beautiful, painted peach and white, like the school building. They said we could use two floors and they will use the third floor themselves for their boarding students. We would have enough space on two floors to house enough orphans, so we are very interested in moving forward with this location.

The head of the Education Department is a very nice man and really wants us to operate a care center there. He took us to lunch and treated us with a great deal of respect. He wants us to work with him and register under the Department of Education as a private dorm for students and not have to deal with the local Civil Affairs. If this will work, it will be a lot easier for us. The Civil Affairs officials are often the most difficult. He seemed to want us to avoid them if at all possible. Our attorney in Beijing will talk with him and decide if we can legally do it this way.

Yong Ji is a very clean city. They do operate a coal power plant that provides power for the whole city, so the air is not very good for this reason. If this contract can be worked out, Ronald (our son) will go there when he has completed the kitchen and dining room at John Connor Brown orphanage.

The things that need to be completed on this new location are stairway rails, bathrooms (plumbing has been roughed in for one section), tile floors throughout the building and kitchen set up with equipment. There is a large room completed for the kitchen, but it’s just an empty room now. The courtyard needs to be completed for a playground (basketball goal in place but it’s still just a muddy mess). Some painting will be needed too.

Hopefully, we can have this building ready by September, 2010, for students to begin the fall semester of school.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Next stop – Chengdu

We took a bus from Zigong the same afternoon. We left at 4 p.m. arriving at Chengdu at 7 p.m. Ah, a hotel again after several days of hard travel! We checked in and went to eat in the hotel dining room first. We ate a bowl of rice with pumpkin and shredded potatoes at the Jackson Family Care Center for lunch. We didn’t eat the pork because the Chinese like the fat and I saw them chopping up the meat with mostly fat and only a little of the leaner meat. They also like bones in almost every piece of meat, believing that it adds more flavor and nourishment to the dish. We took showers after dinner (the drain did not stop up from dirt, even though it had been about two days since we got the shower in Kunming at the Super 8 hotel). We got a good night’s rest and woke up about 6 a.m. We met Jackie Fang, our worker from Xi’an at the breakfast buffet and then he and Ron went to the military hospital for a meeting and lunch.

This hospital will most likely agree to a joint-venture to do open heart surgeries for us just like we now do at a military hospital in Xi’an. This will provide us with more patients and more children that we can save. The hospital is well-equipped for heart surgeries and also cleft palate reconstruction. We will pursue the next cleft palate medical mission with this hospital.

While I stayed in the room to work this morning, Ron and Jackie were served lunch by these uniformed officers of the military. Ron was bragging that a 3-star general (a lady) served him today. I think his head was a little too high in the clouds bragging about this but he’ll come back down to earth quickly enough.

The hospital bought us train tickets tonight to go to Xi’an. Our workers were unable to get tickets but the military had no problem getting us soft sleeper beds. It is a 16 hour train ride so I hope it will be a newer and cleaner train than the last one. We will leave tonight about 9 p.m. and arrive in Xi’an at 1 p.m. tomorrow. We will immediately leave to drive about three hours to the next location to look at a possible site for the next orphanage. I will report on our success with that trip in my next segment.
On Our Way to Jackson Family Care Center

We boarded another train at 4:30 p.m. for Zigong, Sichuan. It was the oldest and perhaps the dirtiest train we have been on. We had two men roommates in our cabin. One was a young soldier in fatigues and the other a middle-aged man, both silent the entire trip.

This trip was a total of 17 hours on the train. I can’t avoid a bathroom when it takes this long, but I try to visit these bathrooms as little as possible.
Restrooms on the trains and bus stations are the worst! After a few hours of daylight, with nothing to do but read or listen to music (as Ron does), we settled in to sleep. Our roommates were asleep by 8 p.m. so we turned out the lights. I went to sleep immediately and although I woke several times, it was 8 a.m. when I got fully awake again. Ron said he thinks he will buy me a train when we get home!

The trains are noisy and have many stops along the way either to board passengers or switch tracks to let another train come through. These stops are about two minutes long so I go back to sleep quickly.

After 17 hours on a dirty train and no shower for more than 24 hours, we feel rather grimy. I try to wear clothes on the train that will wrinkle the least since we sleep in our clothes and must wear them the next day as well. In this case, it was two full days and two full nights in the same clothes!

We arrived at Zigong at 10 a.m. and Jacob was to meet us at the train station. He was not there when we arrived so I got out my sheet of information to find phone numbers for Ron to call. Almost immediately, a crowd of men (about 10) gathered around me to try to see the paper I had of our schedule. I folded it back up but they still stood around. About that time, Jacob drove up and these men walked over and watched us load our bags in the van. Guess they don’t see many foreigners in Zigong!

Usually when we arrive at a train or bus station many taxi drivers are trying to get passengers. They do not take NO for an answer but walk with you trying to take your bags away from you and being persistent. It’s very annoying, but Ron and I stand our ground because these are the ones that do not use their meters and charge Americans a large sum to take them anywhere. Traveling in China requires experience and toughness. Ron is now a “pro” and knows what to do everywhere so I have confidence traveling with him.

We arrived at the beautiful new Jackson Family Christian Care Center and were very pleased to see the change from the crude construction we observed in August. The finished facility is very nice. They have completed almost everything but continue to do some clean-up work around the building. They will have picnic areas around outside in various areas that will be wonderful for the children.
The school paved the area between the school and care center and put in a track for running. There were ping pong tables, benches and lots of areas for the children to play. The road into the care center from the school has been paved so it improved things greatly.

We inspected the building and saw the cooks preparing lunch in their new modern kitchen. Since most children live too far to go home for lunch, the care center will serve lunch to 150 students and teachers each day. They will pay a small amount for their lunch but it will cover our expenses for food and have a little extra for our effort. It creates good will with the teachers and school officials as well. We ate lunch with them yesterday. The children told us they loved the food and their home there. It is very pretty and we are happy to provide a good life for these poor children.

Only 27 have moved to this facility but they will be bringing in more and more children as they locate them. It was difficult to know which children live at the care center because all the other school children were there together. We met the new director, Mr. Chan. He seems very nice and qualified. He is a Christian and lives in that general area. His wife will move there this week.

Jacob and his wife will relocate to our Mama Jo’s House Care Center in Biyang. Our director at Mama Jo’s quit and we need a lot of work at this facility. Jacob is willing to go work and improve things there now that he has finished the Jackson facility and there is a director in place.
The Travel Only Got Harder

We left on a night train to Kunming, the hometown of Sherry Shi, one of our Chinese workers in the U.S. After an overnight train trip (12 hours), we arrived at about 6:30 a.m. and walked outside to find it very cold. Up to this time, the weather had actually been rather warm. It was nine degrees Celsius that morning in Kunming. We brought coats knowing that the weather will also be cold in Beijing when we get there. This was the first segment of our trip where the coats went on our backs instead of just hanging on our arms. They felt so good that it was worth worrying with them the previous week.

Sherry arranged for her cousin to meet us at a hotel that was not far from the train station. We had trouble locating that hotel and after asking people in several other hotels that did not know where we could find it, we finally got directions from a group of German tourists getting ready to board a bus.

We tried to get a room for the day at that particular hotel but none were available. We wanted to get a shower before meeting with the hospital personnel, so we went back up the street to a Super 8. They let us rent a room for a few hours but it was really bad. The carpet was molded from the shower water running into the small, crowded room. The shower was just open in the small toilet area with a drain in the floor. It was my first time to take a shower like that but I felt so grimy, it didn’t matter. The room looked like what I THINK a brothel would look like, but it served the purpose for us to clean up and change clothes to look fresh for the hospital visit.

A translator from the university came to help us for the day. He was a very nice young man and did an excellent job. After learning what we do in China, he refused to accept any pay. He cared for us the whole day and helped us to the train station that afternoon.

Sherry’s cousin is a doctor at one of the women and children’s hospitals owned by this private sector. She had a driver take us to the hospital who we needed to consult with regarding the next cleft palate medical mission. She was a very kind and sweet lady and very helpful to us. We appreciated her so very much. She took her time to do this for us and we are grateful.

After a meeting with the hospital officials, they invited us to a nearby hotel to have lunch. It was a very delicious meal, one of few we have had since we left home. We said our goodbyes and went to another location to meet two doctors (one from China and one from Singapore) who have an organization to do medical work for the poor in the Kunming area. We met them at a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant and caught up on what they do and explained our work in China. They were able to give us some information about the area that may be helpful in deciding where we will do the next cleft palate mission.
Next Stop – Wesley’s House at Pingguo

The drive to Pingguo was very mountainous with curvy roads around the mountains. It was very beautiful but dangerous. We met a large truck head-on around one of the curves and barely missed having an accident. Even this experienced driver drove in the middle of the road. The center line means nothing in China. He drove right down the middle until he saw a car coming. That was like playing “Russian Roulette” on a mountainous road. We are amazed that there aren’t more major accidents, although there are a large number killed in transportation accidents every year.

The countryside around Nanning, Tiendeng and Pingguo is very beautiful with tall pointed mountains and flat lands in between with fields of banana plants, sugar cane and rice paddies. The mountains are covered with evergreen trees (many newly planted) that are a type of pine or spruce. In the valleys, you could see small farms but I saw few houses and wondered how the people found their way to the flat valleys to farm. Every possible hillside is terraced and planted if there are no trees. We even see gardens along the roadside (shoulders of the road). They do not waste any land that will grow food. It is their survival.

The hotel in Pingguo is probably the most beautiful we have ever had but even it had its drawbacks. The furniture was more Japanese style with straight wooden chairs so we had to pile up pillows to be able to sit in them. The bath is glass with pretty Japanese wood stripping. Not much privacy unless you are rooming with your mate!

The hotel is across the street from a beautiful park but at night they have loud music until 10 p.m. Also, fireworks (the loud kind) are shot off regularly. Ron said they never need a holiday or any reason to justify using fireworks.

We stayed in this hotel last year at Christmas and thought the noise was because of the holiday, but there was no holiday this time and it was the same. I could not help but laugh when I heard the song, “Who Let the Dogs Out?” playing over their loud speakers. I told Ron I had come all the way to South China to get to hear that!

I was so tired the night we arrived that I went on to sleep at 9 p.m. and ignored the music and fireworks. Ron was up working. After he came to bed, he received two phone calls that I never heard. Our travels certainly make me sleep well. I never sleep this well at home, but I am also not this tired at the end of the day.

We spent one day at Wesley’s House. The children were at school when we arrived. Ron inspected the building to get a check list of what needs to be done. The children came in for lunch and were very shy around us but before long they were sitting near me, stroking my arms, looking at my watch and rings, staring into my eyes and giving me spontaneous hugs.

Once I walked out to the flagpole to sit in the sun a few minutes. One little girl came and climbed up the steps to sit with me and before long I had about 10 children all over and around me. A little boy about five was stoking my hair and rubbing the skin on my arm. He would look intensely into my eyes and my heart just melted. I told Peter later that I wanted to bring him home with me. He said one of the visitors with Jim Griffith last September wanted to take him home with her too.

The children gathered around waiting for our taxi and it just breaks our hearts to leave them. They are happy and have a great life there but they are lacking so much love and attention that they will never get from relatives.
To Our Next Destination
John Connor Brown Care Center in Tiendeng

After another five hour train ride, we arrived in Nanning. Since this trip was during the afternoon, we had seats rather than a sleeper bed, but it was not great. It was a very dirty train and we had to deal with peasants (the poorest people in China travel this way). There were also many screaming children and since they do not use diapers in China, they let them go to the bathroom wherever they are even though there are crude restrooms on the train. There was a lot of loud talking, arguing and eating going on the entire trip. Only the uneducated and very poor have poor manners and are often rude. The more educated people always treat us with great respect and courtesy, but we never expect it from the poor class in China.

The seats were terribly uncomfortable so Ron’s back was hurting worse the next day. It was the only train we have been on that was late arriving at the station. You might know it would be this one! But we changed from the poorest level of transportation to the very best when we arrived in Nanning, three hours from Tiendeng to our destination that night. (Tiendeng is located in Southern China about 50 miles from the Viet Nam border).

Mr. Edward Li, the head of Toyota, heard that we were coming to visit our care centers in Tiendeng and Pingguo. When Jim Griffith and his family from North Canton, Ohio, came in September, Mr. Li personally escorted them. He was in Guilin at the time we arrived, so he sent a driver in one of their new $60,000 cars to meet us at the train station and drive us to the John Connor Brown Care Center in Tiendeng. The driver stayed overnight at a hotel to take us to Pingguo the next afternoon.

We were invited to stay in the home of Ross and his lovely wife in Tiendeng. They are volunteers who help at the orphanage. Ross is from Australia and Raewyn (I’m not sure if I have spelled her name correctly) is from New Zealand. They have two children of their own and two adopted Chinese boys. Their children are wonderful teenagers. We got in about 11 p.m. so we met their sweet children the next morning at breakfast. The Chinese boys are younger. They were found in suitcases as babies as part of a smuggling ring of Chinese babies. They are very fortunate boys to have a lovely family now.

Their house is amazing. It is narrow but has five floors of rooms. There are two rooms and a bath on each floor so the winding stairs just go up and up from the first floor to the roof.
From the roof, they have a fabulous view of the mountains, fields and lake. They have white tile floors that were spotless. It was a beautiful place, but right on a very busy and noisy street in the middle of town.

We owe a lot to this family. They also gave Ronald, our son, a room when he first arrived in Tiendeng. They have encouraged and helped him so much. Ross and Ronald have done a lot to clean things up at the care center and assist the workers in making this a better place for the children. The construction of the new kitchen and dining room has begun so Ronald’s time will now be devoted to that work. Ross said he and his wife will continue to help Mark oversee things at the care center. They are helping teach the children, get things better organized and maintain a cleaner care center. They have sorted through a room full of clothing that was donated to see what is usable and what needs to be passed on to others.

Ron did a check list of things that need to be done to improve the building. With so many children, things are naturally going to get dirty, so walls and windows need to be cleaned and many places need new paint. Maintenance of the buildings is a constant problem, but we want the children to live in a clean and nice facility.

Seeing Ronald was especially nice. He has
accomplished so much in the few months he’s been in China and we are very grateful for his assistance. The children love him and call him Uncle Ron. They sometimes drive him crazy hanging on him and teaching him Chinese words, but I think for the most part, he loves them very much. He said sometimes he has to say, “No, no, that’s enough,” and they have learned that they must stop playing with him so he can do other things.

Ronald built a wonderful table for their dining room. It bothered him that the rice cookers were placed on the floor and the children had to bend down to fill their bowls. Now they have a nice table for this purpose. The present kitchen is in another room and food is brought to the dining room and served family style at the tables. While workers and children were away for recent holidays, Ronald scrubbed every pot and pan in the kitchen, organized the shelf items and cleaned the floor.

The children were so sweet and well-behaved. They wanted to touch us and hug us all the time we are there. They laughed and enjoyed the fact that we are Ronald’s parents. I told them when I arrived, “I am Uncle Ron’s Mama,” and they kept repeating “Uncle Ron’s Mama.” It was difficult to tell them goodbye when it was time for us to leave.

We ate lunch that day in the city with two government officials from the school system. The building we use for the care center is on the school property, so we try to keep a good relationship with these employees. The Toyota driver also had lunch with us and then drove us to Pingguo.
Many Miles Behind us and Many More to Go
Neil Taylor Christian Care Center Was Our First Stop

One week ago we left Atlanta and we have traveled many, many miles. Trips to China with Ron are challenging and not for the “faint-hearted.” But it’s a great adventure and experience if a person is flexible and does not expect a “luxurious tour.” It is anything but that! We go days without a shower or bed and have many meals of nuts and fruit in-between hotels. Don’t worry, we have not lost any weight!

From Shanghai we flew to Guilin where we met John Li, our worker over the foster care children in that city. John brought Lilly, a fellow-Christian and his English teacher, to meet us. She helps John with the visits to the orphan children. We had lunch together and then they saw us off at the train station as we left for Rongshui.

Rongshui is the city where our Neil Taylor Care Center is located. Most of you remember that King was our first burn patient to the U.S. and lived with Ron and me for 19 months. When he returned to China, he chose to go to this care center.

King came to meet us at the train station and had dinner with us the night we arrived. We did have a decent hotel that night and good food in the restaurant. King came back the next day about noon and went to lunch with us before we left by train for Nanning at about 3 p.m. King looked really great. He’s grown taller and was clean and neatly dressed. He lives at the high school but comes to the care center when he has time. He has classes all day and at night. He is studying seven subjects and said his work is very hard. He must study almost all the time to keep up his grades. He said he would have made 100 on an English test but carelessly made one mistake that cost him 4 points. He said he ranks #7 out of 67 students. We encouraged him to keep up the work because he wants to come to the United States for college. He was so sweet and our reunion with him was comfortable and lovely.

King’s thumb that had surgery has become bent due to scar tissue so he really needs to have more surgery to correct that as well as at least two facial surgeries. We will help him return just as soon as we can, but it can’t delay his education.

Due to an outbreak of N1H1, schools had closed in that city.
There were only 20 of our orphans still at the care center. The rest had gone home to visit relatives to reduce the risk of exposure. A 16-year old girl from our care center was in the hospital with fever but they did not know if it was the flu.
We only had about a half day at the care center but really enjoyed our time with the precious children who hung on our arms and loved having pictures made with us. The children never want us to leave so it’s hard when it is time to say goodbye.

Rongshui is difficult to travel to and it’s so remote, you feel like you are on a movie set when you arrive there and look around. It just doesn’t seem real to wake up with roosters crowing (at a nice hotel in the middle of the city). The only taxi available is a motorcycle with a covered tent-like structure over it. It only cost cents to ride in it. Only a few cars are on the roads.