We all know the horror stories people tell you when flying to another country for the first time. With those things flooding our minds, we sometimes get a knot in our stomach as we jump on the plane…only our imagination to accompany us for the next however many hours.
This has been the experience of countless people, as they head on a plane marked with the country name CHINA! I myself had heard the horror stories of the culture shock that was awaiting me. But like anytime you hop on a plane and fly around the world…there are going to be people living a life that is foreign to us…but that is definitely part of the adventure and what makes traveling around the world glorious.
And now without further ado…9 things people traveling to China should know!
#1 The first is one of the most important! Invest in your trip ahead of time. Read – Prepare – Pray. Especially, if you are going on a missions trip or working closely alongside the natives and orphans…you don’t want to just show up and hope for the best. You need to be prepared for both a culture and spiritual shock. Find scriptures that will carry you through each day and have them there to meditate on. Find a prayer partner that will keep you accountable on your trip. Prepare to be part of the culture…learn about their culture/traditions & learn some Chinese (even if they are simple phrases and compliments for your Chinese friends). Having this basis for your trip, will help you dive deeper into building new relationships with the people and learning to LOVE China! It’s not like the West… and that’s okay! In a world of increasing globalization and homogeneity, it’s refreshing to visit a place that is so foreign. Exciting new sights, sounds and smells will greet you at every turn. Keep an adventurous mindset and you’ll experience the trip of a lifetime!
#2 While driving, remember you’re not in Kansas anymore. In many places there are driving rules and regulations…in China, well they are more like suggestions. Believe me, it feels like the old video game Frogger and will be an experience can both terrify & excite you…giving you a road trip/drive you will never forget!
#3 Being stared at is to be expected and not considered rude but normal and very common in the Chinese culture.
#4 If you are going to be working with orphans, or kids in general…learn the song “Xi Yang Yang (Pleasant Goat)”. It’ll get you places with the little kids. It’s their jam. Not to mention that grown ups will be impressed that you know it.
#5 Squatty potties. Just the thought of them can make a person cringe. Sure, sometimes they’re gross and stinky but so are some American public bathrooms too. The trick to the squatty, is to pack a travel pack of Kleenex in your purse, backpack or pocket and then to go to the very last couple of stalls. It’s a secret but most of the potties in the back are the handicap ones and those are American style potties. And if you’re a germ-a-phobe, then you’re already packing gallons of antibacterial wipes and sanitizer, so you’re set to go.
#6 Shopping spree. Buy your favorite snacks before you leave. Snacks in China are not the same as America. Bring something along to curb hunger and keep you energized. Having said this…I love CHINESE snacks, so be open to finding a new favorite to bring home with you!
#7 Whether you’re adopting or volunteering or just being a tourist, tour the orphanage and give as many hugs and kisses as you possibly can. Step out of your comfort zone and find a way to love those who need to know that they are loved. From an adoption standpoint this statement is somewhat controversial, but these trips are never about us and always about the children. These kids want, need, DESERVE to know that they’re loved!
This is a snippet from the experience one of our friends had while visiting an orphanage:
“Last year, I toured our daughter’s orphanage and saw a beautiful young girl who was so sweet and clearly played a role in my daughter’s life. I took pictures of the two of them together, hugged her, immediately fell in love with her, and as soon as I was back at the hotel, e-mailed our agency and begged them to find her file. This sweet, beautiful girl has been deemed unadoptable though and will never know the love of a family. I’ve been given permission to write to this sweet girl and every letter, she tells me that she doesn’t understand why someone like me would care about an orphan like her. I love because God loved me first. If I could bring this little girl home and into my family, I would. Show love!”
#8 Practice your best sorority squat pose, duck face & learn a couple of Chinese words/phrases because chances are pretty darn good that you’ll be approached to be in a picture that will later float around on Chinese QQ. Have fun with it and take it all in stride. You can also take it to the next level and swap pictures…take a picture with them if they agree to take a “silly picture” with you!
#9 Last but not least, the food is remarkable! Try it! Break out of your comfort zone and give it a whirl! You never know what you will discover and crave for the rest of your life…or until you return to China. Oh, and while on this last point…please, please, please LEARN how to use chopsticks. It will be a lifesaver and make eating way more fun!
Our family has been involved with Bring Me Hope since they first started opening camps up to those outside the Bolt family. Our first camp was in the mountains of Nanchang in 2006, and since then we have in part or whole attended camps each summer.
I (Jeff) cared for orphans, but had no desire to actually adopt. In 2007 my compassion for orphans became a passion for one orphan. In April of 2007 my wife, Lisa, and I began our adoption paper work. On October 17th of 2007 after completing all our paper work, we were “logged in” with CCAA (China Center for Adoption Affairs) and began the second phase of our adoption: “the wait”.
This is where most grow weary and discouraged, as the adrenalin and emotion dies down. The months turn to years and all the while you keep that calling alive which compelled you to this decision in the beginning.
We had asked for a special needs baby with a heart condition and figured we would get our match soon. By the summer of 2008 we were next in line for a match, but because we had requested a baby girl we were being passed up by the many other families behind us who were open to other special needs or older children. We doubted our original desire for a baby girl and wondered if we should we be more open, but the Lord continually gave us a peace to wait.
Finally in September of 2009, I received a phone call from my wife while I was at work, “Jeff, you will not believe who just called…We have a match and her picture will be on your computer in a few minutes!”
Two and a half years and the moment was finally here. With tears of joy and emotions we met our Jubilee for the first time, via two pictures sent by e-mail.
There was a catch however; she had a heart condition known as Tetrology of the Fallot. This is a congenital heart defect that has a series of four problems within the heart. TOF is surgically correctable, but serious in nature. The biggest issue was a large hole in her septum that separates her right and left ventricle. Because of the hole, her body processes mixed blood, with and without oxygen, making her more blue in color.
We did all the research we could, including meeting with our biological daughter’s Pediatric Cardiologist so we could fully understand what we were facing. We felt satisfied that, even with limited medical information from China, we were willing to take the risk and accept our match. On November 20th 2009, my wife and I boarded a plane for China destined for Zhengzhou, which is in the Henan province, ironically where the last two years of BMH camp have been at SIAS University.
When we first saw Jubilee, or at least who we thought was her, we were so excited because she was so pink and healthy looking, but in a moment we realized this was not our daughter. Jubilee came out next, and she was tiny, fragile and blue like a Smurf. Her appearance made both Lisa and I gasp. In fact, the lady running the registry was equally alarmed and kept checking Jubilee to see how she was.
The day went from bad to worse and by the afternoon of the same day we were in the local hospital with Jubilee, who was blue and panting for air. Later in the evening the founders of our adoption agency drove to the hospital and sat with us late into the night. The hospital was primitive and the help Jubilee received was limited yet gave her the ability to come home the next afternoon.
Prior to our leaving the hospital I had spoken with our Cardiologist back in the US and he recommended getting updated tests done while we were in the hospital. This proved to be a life saving decision that gave him the information he needed to tell us that her condition had worsened and he felt we ran a 50/50 chance of getting her home on the airplane alive to the US. We had not been able to file the official documentation yet accepting Jubilee as our daughter and were now faced with a decision as to what to do.
Two days after arriving in China we received a phone call at 5:30 in the morning that my Dad had unexpectantly passed away, just two days after we were losing our daughter we had waited nearly 3 years for. We felt at the bottom and raw with emotion, but God had a different plan.
The founders of our adoption agency were still in China and the four of us met to discuss what to do. Lisa and I told them that we did not feel comfortable playing with a 50% chance of survival, 12 hours on a plane over the Pacific Ocean. So in an act of desperation we hatched a plan to take advantage of a 90 day window that China gives all approved adoptive parents to come to China to pick up their child.
Prior to this decision our friends, Ana and Bill Moody, who are physicians at Philip Hayden Foundation in Beijing, had offered to take Jubilee on our behalf and get her a life saving surgery that would allow her to fly home with us. The problem was that Jubilee was not our child yet. We would have to refuse her adoption and leave her with the orphanage. So we prayed that God would influence the orphanage director to let her go to Beijing under the care of PHF. We gambled that IF, the orphanage would let Jubilee go to Beijing, Bill and Ana could get her surgery in time, Jubilee could recover within the 90 day window, and the local registration official would not send our refusal letter we had had to write to CCAA, we might be able to fly back to China in time to get her and stay with in our 90 day window of travel approval.
November 26th, 2009, on Thanksgiving day, we flew home. We left China a week earlier than planned feeling dejected, exhausted and emotionally spent and without our daughter. We hung onto the hope of a “long shot” plan to come back and get her.
Saying good bye to her was agonizing as the orphanage director took her from our arms, not knowing what would happen to her and wondering if we would ever see her again. We missed our connecting flight in Hong Kong, requiring an eight hour layover for the next plane. Lisa was so spent she could hardly walk through the airport and finally lay down on some empty chairs and went to sleep. In an effort to kill some time I pulled out my lap top and checked our e-mail. In it was the best thanksgiving gift ever. An e-mail from our friend Bill Moody saying that the orphanage had agreed to send Jubilee to PHF, she would be on a train with an orphanage worker with in five days. The first of several hurdles was underway, what a miracle!
The doctors in Beijing examined Jubilee, they discovered she not only had TOF but also a second very serious heart defect. This condition would have guaranteed her death on the plane ride home had we chanced it. Over the next 6 weeks Jubilee received her surgery which gave her a new lease on life. She recovered in record time, allowing us to fly back to China on January 22nd .
We flew directly to Beijing and were reunited with our daughter. We flew with Jubilee back to Zhengzhou to finish the adoption that had abruptly ended two months prior. The registration administrator had held onto our refusal letter, hoping to hand it back to us when we returned to China.
We flew home on February 4th , our 90 day window with China ended February 5th. We serve a big God, and He delights to show us just how big He is.
Jubilee is now thriving at home and gaining weight. This summer she will face her big surgery that will ultimately fix, not only her TOF, but also give her a pulmonary artery and valve. We went to China to save an orphan and came home wit
h our daughter, never to be called “orphan” again!
In July 2006, the month before my husband and I got married, we went to China with Bring Me Hope as volunteers. The time we spent with our kids made it very clear that adoption was an absolute for us. We actually tried to adopt one of the little girls in our group, but China regulations did not allow that to be possible for us at the time.
While we were in China we had the opportunity to visit the orphanage where the children who came to camp lived. This experience in visiting the grounds and all of the other children just reinforced for us that we would absolutely want to include adoption as a way to grow our family.
Fast forward to March 5, 2010…
As most of you know, John and I have returned home from Ethiopia with our sweet baby Sam. We got home last Friday and today is the first day I feel a bit adjusted. Ethiopia was an absolutely amazing trip. I am however incredibly happy to be home.
Sam is really doing great. John and I smile the second he walks in the room. It has been an amazing journey because he was not very fond of us the first few days we interacted with him 🙂 He also came off as being a very high strung, aggressive little boy that would not smile. We were really preparing to have our hands full when we returned home with a tough transition. However, he completely changed almost as soon as we took custody in ET.
It is very clear to him that we are mommy and daddy and he absolutely LOVES us!! He is very laid back, laughs a lot, loves to tease us, very playful, and very affectionate. He loves to give kisses (especially to his older brother Kieran). They do fight over toys but working it out…tonight, Kieran counted to three and then put him in time out 🙂 Kieran is struggling a bit with the transition but if Sam is sleeping, he wants me to go wake him up. So I guess that’s encouraging. Anyhow, we just absolutely love him to death!
Update on the Mordick Family’s Adoption for Maggie. Read their story here!
“We are so excited to confirm that all is on schedule. We leave for Beijing on 5/22. Mike is heading home after completing the adoption, so he will take over daddy duties once he gets home. Maggie and I will head to Beijing on 6/3 after our swearing in ceremony in Guangzhou. We’re planning on touring the Summer Palace together. I thought the GW may be too much for her little legs or we won’t have enough time before we catch our flight home later that afternoon. Fortunately, I have so much already accomplished, and I have just a few things to purchase before we head out. Please keep us and Maggie in prayer. This is too exciting for words!”
They have dusted off their suitcases, again. Updated China Visas are fresh in their passports. It’s almost time for the Mike and Cheri Mordick to pick up their third adopted daughter from China.
We knew her from camp as ‘Wanda.’ And you may remember how her adoption story began when she met to-be big sister, Jordan, this past summer in China. If not, you can check out that story here: http://bringmehope.org/sponsor.html . But here is the latest:
“Our agency told us that Yangluo (soon to be Maggie Yangluo) will be moved back into the orphanage from her foster mother. They say this is best as Yangluo won’t blame us for taking her away from her foster family. We’ve sent her a care package with clothes, candy, girly things and the most important thing….a photo album of her home and family. So, Yangluo knows that we are coming to get her in the “spring”. We know that her translator at the Bring Me Hope camp (Vincent) told her that she will have a good family in America, but I cannot help wondering what is racing through her mind right about now. I pray the Lord fills her with peace and happiness and a love for us. I can imagine that this can be a frightening thing for a young girl. Hopefully, much of this will be taking place within the month. We pray we can leave on May 1 if the paperwork comes though.
We are awaiting the Article 5 to be approved by the US embassy in Guangzhou, Guangdong. Once that is approved (sometime this week I hope!), then the courier will send all of our paperwork to the CCAA in Beijing. They will then, at some point of their convenience give us TA (travel approval). That part could days days or weeks. We’re praying only days, though. Once our agency receives that TA, they will make our appointments for us and hopefully travel some time in May.
I read Yangluo’s (aka Wanda) story in the new Bring Me Hope book, Love Delivered. Even though my daughter, Jordan, shared her story of abuse with me, it was very heart-wrenching to read it all in print. None of Yangluo’s medicals state the same story that she shared with everyone in China. There are many inconsistencies in her file and things that do not make sense. I pray she has the strength and spirit to overcome all of the issues in her life. I ask for everyone’s prayers in her transitions and our travels.”
We’ve been looking forward to this concert for months, and it was well worth the wait. Hearing great music and seeing hundreds of people hear about the orphans in China was awesome! We were all wearing lots of different hats throughout the entire day to pull the event off. From prepping Phil’s greenroom to putting flyers on people’s seats to driving around an hour before the show to put up more signs…Once the majority of the pre-concert hustle and bustle calmed a bit, it was really fun to talk to people (and mostly each other as we waited).
Here’s David introducing Phil Wickham…
Phil leading us in worship. He did a fantastic job keeping the focus on the Lord!!
David sharing his experiences with the orphans. He did a great job! It’s hard to believe the night earlier we were all roasting soft pretzels on a bonfire. 🙂
The Adopted Children’s Choir did a wonderful job that night…
Here’s Phil, David and the kids from the Choir… Catching up with good friends…
Thanks everyone who came out to the event, and for everyone else who supported it!!