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House of Mephibosheth- Da Dian, China

So we came to China, as we go everywhere, with a purpose: we came with the desire to love people, to help where we can, and to leave it a better place than when we arrived.  However, even with our best intentions, when you can’t speak Chinese, it is extremely difficult to connect with local needs (because we can’t UNDERSTAND the local needs).  So when some friends of ours mentioned a special needs orphanage in the Shandong province that may need assistance, we jumped on board and asked to go along on a small, reconnaissance- type mission trip that they were going to be taking.

We met up with Dave, Bruna and Frank, the driver they’d hired, early Thursday morning.  Being a Chinese holiday, we didn’t realize how much that would already affect our morning, but since there were no taxis, we had to take a bus and walk half a mile to get to them.  Then we set out for the small, rural city of Da Dian which was not too far away- only a three and a half to four hour drive.  We got to cross a bucket list item off our list on the way there… crossing the longest sea bridge in the world. The Qingdao Haiwan Bridge, going from Qingdao to Huangdao, China, spans a whopping 42.5 kilometers!!! 

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Traffic proved to be much more problematic than we had expected.  Since it was a holiday, not only were many more people on the road, but there were many more accidents.  We hit one stretch along this seemingly never-ending bridge and we saw no less than 7 accidents: some small fender benders, others affecting 3-5 cars.  Needless to say, the trip there took longer than expected. 

Finally, after driving down tiny dirt roads through fields and pastures, we arrived at our destination.  Just through the gate on our right side was the greenhouse, blooming with green, color, and produce; on our left were chickens and baby chicks running around squawking loudly; as we pulled around to park in front of their home, wild goats roamed and children played.  Welcome to House of Mephibosheth.

Why Mephibosheth, you might ask.  In the Bible, after King David’s (crazy) father-in-law Saul and his best friend Jonathan (Saul’s son) had been killed, he looked for a way to show kindness to their family.  He asked around to see if there was anyone in their family who was still alive. By chance, there was one son of Jonathan remaining- his name was Mephibosheth.  He had been crippled in both feet as a young boy and cast aside by society, but David took it upon himself to restore his father’s land to him and he promised to always let him eat at his royal table.  In the same way, House of Mephibosheth was formed to look after those who were abandoned by the world and to give them a chance to eat at the table of a king (Jesus) forever.

After eating lunch with Steve and his 8 children (both adopted and natural), he showed us around the complex.  Steve and his wife Xinwei had built this complex from the ground up (with actual planning and design assistance from the kids).  It had taken nearly 8 years to construct, but what a place!  Their vision for House of Mephibosheth was to make it a sort of play-land/ theme park for children with special needs, a place where these children could realize who they are and what they are really capable of, and where they could see themselves for their abilities, not their disabilities.  We walked down to the house where their 8 special needs orphans live and watched as they were gently fed and cared for. 

While we were on this first initial visit, we were astounded by one thing over and over again- people kept on coming; people from the village where they lived, people who had heard about their ministry and others who they had never before met.  When we were down there, there was an elderly man who had come to make an offering and he held Steve’s hand and cried because he felt so honored to give to such a wonderful ministry.  It was beautiful.  That was the first time the tears started falling, but it wouldn’t be the last.

We spent the afternoon with Steve’s kids Faith, Ben, Helen, Azariah, Zuriel, Rain, Cocoa, and Raymie.  There were more visitors in the afternoon.  One large group came and brought toys for all the kids so we spent lots of time reading, playing with play dough, doing puzzles and coloring with the kiddos. 

As the afternoon wore on, we jumped on the trampoline and watched the kids play in the water hole, making an imaginary boat out of a storage bin and playing “pirate” with each other.  Zozo (Zuriel) caught a fish, the boat capsized with Cocoa onboard, and the boat was pelted with “friendly fire” of pebbles. 

Then Steve sat down with us and showed us a documentary that the local CCTV (China) station had done on their ministry.  We heard the adoption stories of Ben and Faith, both with cerebral palsy and of Helen, who had a cleft lip.  We watched this mixed family interact and laugh and love each other and it was beautiful.  We sang hymns before dinner and then went to bed early after a long and exhausting day of travel and play.

The next morning we woke up to breakfast made mostly of things from their greenhouse, along with some fresh goat’s milk.  The boys (6 and 8) took us out for a run around the village.  We fought the wind, uphill and down, through fields and along the back roads of the Chinese countryside.  We encountered working farmers, toothless old men, lots of graves, and lots of smiles.  I’m sure they were all wondering who these foreigners were!

After our run, we decided to go into the city to buy some fruit as a special treat for all the kids.  We hopped in the van and went to a simple street market where we loaded up on cherries, strawberries, watermelon, apricots, mangoes… you name it! 

We went back and made a big fruit salad and cut up the watermelon and brought it down to the kids.  What a fun time!  Watching these precious little ones enjoy the sweet fruit with juice dripping down their chins while begging for more was so cute.  Little Moses especially made me smile… he LOVED watermelon… a baby after my own heart.  Shawn too.

We were able to spend a lot more time with the kids this time around, and especially with a little guy named Tian.  This little guy was born with deformed feet and had been discarded multiple times before Steve and Xinwei got to him.  They paid for him to have a surgery where they literally cut his feet apart and put them back together correctly.  But now he is able to walk and pull himself around.  He loved to come sit in my lap and have me carry him places.  He showed me the greenhouse and all the plants, he showed me the new buildings that were still under construction, he convinced me to let him jump on my bed (I couldn’t resist), and I pushed him around on a trike for a while.

These precious, precious feet!
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Later in the afternoon, Steve finally put us to work.  Bruna and I offered to help Xinwei, Steve’s wife (who has cancer) but ended up staying back with the special needs kids and his kids (they always play together and his kids are very helpful).  We watched them play with the baby chicks and go down the slide. They were loving it!

Sweet baby Moses!

The boys helped do some random house things- fixing doorknobs, doors, and then the big project, trying to help fix Ben’s “quad.”  Yes, that’s right, Ben has a little four wheeler that he can drive and ride.  He had told his dad when he was younger that he wanted to run fast, but since that is impossible with his condition, he decided to build him a machine that could give him the same effect.  He is planning to make a Segway for Faith as well because it is her dream to dance.  It is amazing the things he creates! And all out of scrap pieces that he just puts together! What imagination!!!

Look at that expression! That, right there, is WORTH it!!!

What I love about Steve is his practicality.  His kids want something, he will make it happen.  He sees things in them that others do not.  Take Shawn for example.  Shawn is an adult, Shawn is mute.  Nobody thought Shawn was capable of doing anything… but Steve did.  Later he found out that he was completely of sound mind, he just couldn’t talk… but he sure can text!  So now Shawn has a phone and texts what he wants to say.  He helps take care of the other orphans.  Not only has Steve given him a job and a purpose, but he has also given him a voice.  It is a beautiful thing. Not only that, but Shawn is so full of JOY!!! He is such an inspiration!

That evening, we sat down and chatted. The kids showed us some blueprints for things that they were thinking of making… and we watched parkour videos… random, I know, but they loved them! We simply enjoyed our last evening there with this inspirational family. It was a beautiful time of love and laughter!

The last thing I want to share about our time there was a private time when just Bruna and I were chatting with Steve.  A family came in (one of MANY groups who came through there during our few day stay) and sat down with him to talk.  The old man and his daughter were believers and they brought her husband along, who had a bad drinking problem.  They asked Steve for help.  So, as we watched, Steve talked with this man, using Ben as his translator (Ben is BRILLIANT), and you could see that the walls that this man had put up were beginning to come down.  We watched this man come to Christ right there in his living room.  It was one of the most incredible things I’ve ever had the privilege to see.  The honesty in this man’s voice as he clearly recognized that he was a sinner and that he needed help to stop drinking was heart wrenching and as he poured out his heart to the Lord, I swear I could hear the angels rejoicing. 

Our time there was such an incredible blessing! We spent one more morning around their table and it was such a perfect picture of what our Lord invites us into. We have nothing in and of ourselves that qualifies us to sit at the King’s table, yet he invites us, he clothes us with righteousness, and he showers us with kindness, blessings and undeserved love.

After breakfast, we hopped on one of several buses that would take us back to Qingdao. Bus riding in China is always an experience… because in China, there is no such thing as a “full bus” or “personal space.” So when the bus filled up, people began to fill up the aisle and sat on the floor or stood. One guy even whipped out a stool to sit on! Dave ended up with a Chinese man sleeping on his shoulder. It was a hot, sweaty ride, but it was the end to an experience I will never forget!

I wish I could say that I know how they are all doing now, several years later. I do know that Xinwei has since passed. I have no idea how Steve and all of those kids are doing, but I do know that the Lord is faithful and that He WILL continue to provide for them!

The four of us with Steve, Xinwei and their family
 
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Posted by on February 17, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

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Ushering in the Year of the Monkey

As most of you know, our baby Jedidiah was “made in China” while we were there on a two year stint (teaching at an International school).  We used this tag line in announcing our pregnancy (read about that here: https://logsdonsbigadventures.com/?s=the+next+big+adventure).  Anyways, my husband and I picked up on many Chinese traditions while we were there and we wanted to keep some of them going once we got back to the States.  Celebrating Chinese New Year was one of them.

Our son Jedidiah was born in the year of the sheep/ram, just like his daddy.  According to a website I found, this means that he is:

“…tender, polite, filial, clever, and kind-hearted. They have special sensitivity to art and beauty and a special fondness for quiet living. They are wise, gentle and compassionate and can cope with business cautiously and circumspectly. In their daily life, they try to be economical. They are willing to take good care of others, but they should avoid pessimism and hesitation.”  (http://www.travelchinaguide.com/intro/social_customs/zodiac/sheep.htm)
 

  • Strengths
    gentle, softhearted, considerate, attractive, hardworking, persistent, thrift
  • Weaknesses
    indecisive, timid, vain, pessimistic, moody, weak-willed

Not that I put much stock in what these things say, but if he’s anything like his daddy, I’ll be one happy and proud momma!

Anyways, when he was born we tried to get photos of him with a stuffed goat/sheep/ram we’d been given in China over the previous New Year.  These photos didn’t turn out very well at all (see below).

So, we decided to do a second take over this 2016 Lunar New Year celebration which took place on February 7-8 (the 7th was Chinese New Year’s Eve and the 8th was actually the beginning of the new Year of the Monkey).  We were given several special gifts for baby Jedi before we left and so our little Jedi donned a special Chinese outfit for this photo session. Look at the details of this adorable traditional outfit below.

I absolutely love the photos we got of him.  We’ve always been keen on monkeys and we call Jedidiah our “little monkey” so it only seemed appropriate to bridge the transition from goat to monkey with some adorable shots.  Here they are… prepare yourselves for cuteness!!!

We’ll start with his sign- the sheep/goat/ram.

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Then we decided to do a few with both the sheep AND the monkey…

We had so much fun, I just couldn’t stop!  Our ayi (our housekeeper) while we were in China had gifted us some baby shoes and so I decided to throw those in the mix as well.

And finally, our “Little Monkey” with just the monkey, ushering in this new lunar year.

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There were a few more shots that I just HAVE to share… he looks like a little Samurai warrior in these!  Ready to fight!

There were countless others… I went a little bit crazy with all the photos, but I just LOVED his little outfit and, well, let’s face it, my kid is adorable!!!  Happy Year of the Monkey!

 
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Posted by on March 25, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Down the Rabbit Hole… a murder mystery

Last Halloween, in keeping with a tradition started by our friends the Mosbys, we had another murder mystery party around Halloween time. The hosts, Zach and Heather, remained the same, but the theme this time around was “Alice in Wonderland.” (If you want to read about the last murder mystery party, you can read the post A Halloween Harry Potter Murder Mystery). Now I’m not the biggest fan of “Alice in Wonderland.” Ever since I was a kid, the movie freaked me out, and even as an adult, Trent and I tried to watch the newest version (with Johnny Depp and Anne Hathaway), but I couldn’t get through it. Even so, that didn’t stop us from having a great time at this party!

Much like last time, Heather sent out our character descriptions a few weeks before the party so that we could begin preparing our costumes. Trent was going to be the white rabbit, and I was the rabbit’s maid (thanks Heather for always giving us “couples” roles). The night of the party we got dressed up and headed out to find a taxi to get to the Mosby’s apartment nearby in Qingdao (I always wonder what the taxi drivers must think of us crazy foreigners all dressed up).

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As always, their setup was amazing! The decorations, the food, their costumes… it really was quite the wonderland!

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Everyone else arrived in their costumes. We had the Mad Hatter and the Queen of Hearts (our host and hostess), Alice and Cheshire (our friends Kelly and Antonio from work), The White Rabbit and his maid (Trent and I), the Duchess (who literally “borrowed” our friends’ baby Elijah to use as a prop!), Tweedle-Dum (Matt, another friend from work), the cook who loved pepper, and three detectives (friends from work and church).

Here is a group shot of all of us and a few others of the different characters.

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Our wonderful hosts!

Our wonderful hosts!

Trent and I

Trent and I

Antonio as the Cheshire cat

Antonio as the Cheshire cat

Kelly as Alice

Kelly as Alice

The duchess (Nicole) and the Queen of hearts

The duchess (Nicole) and the Queen of hearts

Tweedle-Dum (Matt), Valerio as a detective, and the Mad Hatter (Zach)

Tweedle-Dum (Matt), Valerio as a detective, and the Mad Hatter (Zach)

Trent and I with the "borrowed" baby Eli.  Pretty shortly after this, Catherine and Justin came to get him (they lived in the same apartment complex)

Trent and I with the “borrowed” baby Eli. Pretty shortly after this, Catherine and Justin came to get him (they lived in the same apartment complex)

Erik as one of the detectives and the cook who loved pepper

Erik as one of the detectives and the cook who loved pepper

Heather ordered my costume on Taobao, which is China’s version of Amazon, and I think Kelly and Antonio also got their costumes on Taobao. I also know that Heather used it to order lots of the props for this party.

We sat down to dinner and began to let the mystery unfold. As usual, the scripts guided us along, revealing different clues along the way. I have to say that Trent did an AMAZING job acting his part. He kept freaking out and pointing to his clock (which was our bathroom clock that we attached to him with an old chain) talking about the time. The other actors were excellent too. This was one of the best parties as far as acting went! The wine and food were great, as always, and the night unfolded wonderfully. We laughed and laughed! These parties are so much fun!!!

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Towards the end of the evening, we broke out the Limoncello, from Italy, brought by the one and only Valerio. Heather even got these cute little cups for the Limoncello shots. Her attention to details is amazing!

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After dinner we headed back into the living room to make our accusations and have dessert- Zach made pie!!! I won’t tell you who did it, but I will tell you that I didn’t guess right. I guess that’s why I was a maid and not one of the detectives!

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Afterwards, Zach and Heather tallied the votes for the evening’s awards. Trent and Zachary both tied for best actor of the evening, so they decided to each take half (literally) of the award. Trent also won the award for Best Improviser, which he indubitably deserved!

Tallying up the votes

Tallying up the votes

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The best actors of the evening- The Mad Hatter and the White Rabbit

The best actors of the evening- The Mad Hatter and the White Rabbit

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We hung out the rest of the evening, talking and laughing and enjoying the camaraderie. Heather and Zach throw the best parties!!!

 
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Posted by on October 29, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Jimo Hot Springs

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This post is a throw-back to last September, between Trent’s and my birthdays.

Several of our friends at QISS (Qingdao No. 1 International School of Shandong) had mentioned some hot springs not too far north of Qingdao in Jimo.  So for our birthday celebration (our birthdays are 10 days apart), we decided to go up and enjoy the hot springs for part of the weekend.  We asked our classroom assistants for help getting tickets and booking a hotel for the night (the websites needed to book said tickets are all in Chinese…).

Our plan was to go up after school on Friday and come back sometime Saturday- late afternoon or evening.  The hot springs are attached to a beautiful hotel where we intended to stay… until we saw the prices!  Yikes!  Grand Metropark Hotel was well over 100 dollars just for the one night, and that didn’t include our admission to the actual hot springs.  Luckily our old principal, Alejandra, who had been there several times before, came to the rescue.  We gave her a call and she put us in touch with a “friend” of hers that she met the last time she was in Jimo.  He told us that he would help us to find a hotel for the night and that he would pick us up and make sure that we got to the hot springs.  It turned out that the availability in the big hotel was very minimal and extremely expensive, so he ended up making arrangements for us to stay at another hotel only a mile down the road, which also had some “hot springs” inside.  He also offered to pick us up from the bus stop when we arrived in Jimo.

So, with an overnight bag packed, we headed to the bus stop about a mile up the road from our school.  We walked there, and caught bus 617 just outside of Ocean University (also knows as Haida).  By the time we actually got on the bus, it was already getting dark.  Honestly we were a little nervous about knowing where to get off the bus and about getting where we actually wanted to go this weekend.  Things are always a bit of a toss-up when you don’t speak the language well and you don’t really know where you’re going.  About 40 minutes later on a very crowded city bus, we arrived at the correct stop (we thought).  Luckily it was- we’d been talking to our friend several times throughout the journey trying to coordinate everything.  He helped us to get off in the right place.  He greeted us as we disembarked and told us about this other hotel.  He wanted to show it to us before he booked it, to make sure that it was up to par.  So we climbed in his car and chatted with him a bit while we drove the 5 minutes to the hotel.  Now, for the life of me I can’t figure out which hotel it was (sorry), even with all the help of the internet and Google maps… I have no idea what the place we stayed at was called.  When we arrived, we were given a quick tour of the rooms available and we decided that at only about 250 Yuan, this was a much better and more affordable deal.  He also got us into the hot springs that they have inside the hotel for a discounted rate, and he got us into their dinner buffet, which was already closing up.  We paid for the night and said goodbye to our friend for the evening before practically running to the buffet (not because we were excited about the food that they had there, so much as excited about food in general.  It was already close to 8:30pm and we were starving!!!).  We didn’t even drop our stuff in the room!  As we got a few plates full of semi-warm food, the atmosphere was boisterous with lots of very drunk businessmen (this is very common in China).  We ate while watching the spectacles they were making of themselves, all the while gambei-ing (gambei means “bottoms up” in Chinese… so essentially taking shots… of beer) each other in toast after Chinese toast.  We finished up our food as the help was cleaning up and watched a man run down the hallway to projectile vomit in the men’s room (gross…).

Then we headed to our room to drop off our bag and to check out the hotel’s hot springs. After changing into our bathing suits, we headed downstairs and paid for our entrance.  They gave us each a wristband that gave us access to a locker and then Trent and I met on the other side of the locker rooms.  I have to say, I was impressed with how nice they were, and clean too!  On the other side of the doors, we found several different pools, each with different temperature readings.  It wasn’t a huge area, but it had several options, and after the long day (and week) we’d had, we just wanted to soak and relax!  It was kind of awkward though, because even though we were the only people in there, the guard/worker on duty stared at us shamelessly the whole time (which, quite honestly, we should be used to by now).  We didn’t stay very long- maybe 40 minutes.  We took some photos of the inside.

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After heading back to the room, we were exhausted! We both took quick showers and then headed to bed! Our friend would be picking us up at 8:30 the next morning!

The hotel, which I think was actually more of a business training center, was comfortable enough. The bed was still very Chinese… meaning extremely hard. But we slept well (that happens when you’ve had a full week of teaching 3-6 year olds). When we woke up, we got our first glimpse of really where we were. It was light outside and it was very beautiful. We enjoyed the view from our window until the grumble in our stomachs told us we’d better get a move on!

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We headed back downstairs for breakfast. Again, it was very Chinese, but at least they had some hard boiled eggs, fruit and bread. Somehow, fried sprouts and other hot foods are not what my body wants to eat for breakfast.

Then we headed outside to meet our ride. Somehow overnight he had changed cars and came rolling up in this Pepto-Bismol pink car, with a big ol’ smile on his face. Trent has picked up on the Chinese way and is now unashamed to take photographs of the things we would consider ridiculous, this being among them. For your viewing pleasure…

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He drove us to Ocean Springs Resort, which makes it sound like the springs are from the ocean… they’re not. We didn’t learn until later that these “springs” are just man-made ones (despite being RIGHT NEXT TO the ocean…). The place is beautiful, as is the hotel that we initially wanted to stay at. Here are some photos.

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The inside of the Ocean Spring Resort was beautiful and very fancy (we would expect nothing less).

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Then we made our way to the counter and showed them our tickets (which our assistants had been kind enough to help us order and print out). They gave us each a wristband that opens a locker containing flip flops, a robe, and a towel. Tickets were about 200 Yuan a person (about 40 bucks). We changed (in front of a million watching eyes) in our respective locker rooms and then headed to the springs. When we entered, Trent started snapping pictures, but about 2-3 shots in, he was told by one of the staff members that photography inside the hot springs was not allowed. Boo on you. Here are the few shots that we got.

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The inside was HUGE. It was all in this massive dome-like structure with lots of natural lighting. There were tons of little pools, each labeled with their temperature. They had different themes, there were some with games in them, others with waterfalls or fountains, and there was a huge one for the kids with a massive ball pit in the center! There were hot springs in the “ruins” of an old ship, and all sorts of other cool pools. Trent and I made our way around the different pools enjoying the people watching and relaxing. After a while, we decided we needed a break. We were able to snap a few winning shots without detection…

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We went back through the locker rooms and got these clothes that you are required to wear if you leave (kind of “scrub”-like) and then met upstairs, where someone had told us there were snacks! Indeed there were, but many of them were not necessarily appetizing to us. We stuck to fruits that we knew and recognized, and drank some juice while watching others playing in the springs.

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After we’d rested sufficiently and eaten enough to tide us over, we changed and went back downstairs. This time, we decided to try out the outdoor springs. Here there weren’t any people watching. The weather was getting cooler, so there weren’t many people outside at all! We busted the camera back out and took some more photos out here where nobody seemed to care. You can see the ocean from some of the springs, although the view isn’t the greatest. It is through a chain-link fence that kind of detracts from the natural beauty. The hot water and the cool air were the perfect combination, and we spent the rest of our afternoon out here.

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When we were sufficiently pruned up, we decided we’d had enough and we went back inside to change our clothes. But we’d seen how lovely the outside was, so we decided to go on a little walk. We ended up walking by the HUGE hotel we were going to stay at, and their lovely grounds, as well as out along the ocean. It was beautiful!

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We figured out how to catch the correct bus back to take us back into Qingdao and enjoyed a lovely sunset on the bus. It was a great “end” to a great birthday weekend!

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Overall impressions and suggestions:

It was definitely worth going to.

We know one person since our going who came back with an awful rash. Be careful!

You could easily make this trip in one day if you left early in the morning and came back in the evening. One day of hot springs is enough!

I would suggest staying at the hotel that is connected, simply for the reason that the hot water makes you tired, and it sure would have been nice to go back to our room to chill for a bit between our times in the different pools.

Book online for cheaper entrance! Most of the websites are in Chinese, but you can find a friend to help you!

 
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Posted by on October 7, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Chinese National Day- 2014

National Day

A year ago yesterday we celebrated Chinese National Day… in China. This holiday is always celebrated on October 1st and it commemorates the formation of the modern-day Central People’s Government. It was first established in 1949, although not on that very day, that the People’s Republic of China was born. Now, they celebrate with a week-long holiday called “Golden Week.” In addition to big parades and lots of extravagance in the capital city of China, there are LOTS and LOTS of fireworks… all week long, at all hours of the day and night (so much so that we may never be excited about fireworks again).

At QISS (Qingdao No.1 International School of Shandong), we got a week off for this holiday, and although I had DESPERATELY wanted to go to the Philippines with some of our best friends, the flights were way too expensive and we ended up staying in Qingdao. Golden Week is a huge time of travel for the Chinese, and therefore, prices for flights were SUPER expensive. Thankfully, we weren’t the only ones to encounter this problem. Several other families from our school also ended up staying in Qingdao for this holiday. Our friends, the Matthews, called us up and invited us out to Shilaoren beach (very close to our apartment) to set off some fireworks in celebration. We were excited to join in the festivities!

That night, we headed down to the beach. The weather was cool, but not cold and it was a bit windy; the tide was high. Piers and Lizzy brought sparklers for everyone, and the kids particularly loved these (“big” kids too). They also brought a HUGE box of aerial fireworks to set off. Piers took some cool time-lapse photos with his camera using the sparklers and we all had a great time!

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Trent and I

Now one thing about foreigners on the beach is that we tend to draw a lot of attention… People always stop and ask to take photos of us or simply stand uncomfortably close and stare unabashedly. This night was no different. Even on our tiny corner of the beach, we drew lots of attention. There was a family that stopped by and ended up basically handing me all their kids for a couple of photos. One moment we’re just having fun with sparklers on the beach, the next, we’re in an impromptu photo shoot. It doesn’t bother me so much, but it sure does make me shake my head…

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A random baby that was thrust into my arms...

A random baby that was thrust into my arms…

After all the sparklers had burned down, we set off the big box of fireworks. The kiddos covered their ears while we watched firework after aerial firework shot into the dark sky.

me and the kiddos

After we finished, we all said our goodbyes and headed back to our respective homes. This, having been our first experience with Chinese National Day, was a fun way to celebrate with friends! Thanks for inviting us, guys!

whole group

 
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Posted by on October 2, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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A visit to the Huadong-Parry Chateau and Winery

winery cover photo

One of the cool parts of living in Qingdao was the opportunity to visit all kinds of cool things, even sometimes things that you would never expect to find in China, let alone in the “small” town of Qingdao (only by China’s standards… there are well over 8 million people living there). Now, being the end of September, reminded me of this little “getaway” just over a year ago…

Some of our best friends had previously visited a local winery and had talked about what a nice time they had. So when September rolled around, I suggested that we spend an afternoon at the Huadong-Parry Chateau and Winery celebrating the birthdays we all shared that month. Trent and I are both September babies, born 6 years and 10 days apart, and two of our closest couple friends also have birthdays in September… in fact, back-to-back birthdays. Justin’s is on the 27th and Zach’s is on the 28th. The three of us couples (Trent and I, Zach and Heather, and Catherine and Justin) decided on a Sunday afternoon, the 21st of September, to visit this place.

Trent and I had a hell of a time trying to get there. After church got out, we grabbed some fruit and cheese to share and headed outside to wait for a taxi. We waited… and waited… and waited… to no avail. We walked to the next street up, hoping that the change of scenery would gain us luck… not so. So after about an hour of waiting, and me VERY anxious to get there, we decided to get our scooter. We hadn’t wanted to ride it since we knew we’d be drinking wine and wanted to be safe, but after waiting for so long, we decided it was our only option. Trent headed back up to our apartment (which is no short trip) while I waited in the hopes that I would still catch something. Nearly 20 minutes later, I did manage to catch a taxi, but now the problem was how do I tell him to wait for Trent??? I told the cab driver in my (very) broken Chinese “hiyo yiga ren,” which meant to me, “There is one more person coming.” He must have understood me because he waited while I called Trent and he ran the half mile back down to where I was. In fact, this driver was very kind. We’ve had all sorts of interactions with drivers and most are grumpy and impatient (I guess who can blame them?), so this guy was a pleasant surprise. When Trent got there, we began driving. The next problem… the driver didn’t know where we were going and since we’d never been there before, neither did we. I called Justin and Catherine, who had already been there nearly an hour and a half by this point, and they put him on the phone with someone who worked there. Thankfully they were also very helpful and about 20 minutes later, we were making our way up this beautiful driveway in the mountains to the chateau. We thanked the driver and paid him and then got out to meet our friends.

We opted out of the actual tour of the grounds, on account of how much time we’d already lost, and made our way to our friends instead. They had already found a cute little pagoda and set up shop underneath it. They had brought in bottles of wine (you are allowed to do so as long as it is their wine- Huadong), cheese and fruit and nut platters that we would all enjoy together. Baby Elijah was comfortably laying on a blanket in the grass. Behind us were rows upon rows of grapes, many of which had just recently been harvested.

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Catherine and baby Eli

Catherine and baby Eli

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We enjoyed some time just hanging out, eating and drinking wine, and taking in the scenery around us. Somehow, being here didn’t feel like being in China. It felt like an escape. With the mountains behind us, and grapes and greenery surrounding us, the chateau seemed like a romantic diversion from the normal grind of Chinese life.

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After a while, we decided to go explore and wander around. Catherine hung back to feed Elijah while the 5 of us wove our way through the endless rows of grapes… sauvignon blanc, merlot, chardonnay…

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After a while, we wandered over to some statues…

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I think this one may have had too much to drink...

I think this one may have had too much to drink…

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…and subsequently up some stairs to another gorgeous trellised walkway where we had a clear view of the whole grounds including the iconic chateau.

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While we were up there, we had a lot of good laughs and lots of great photos.

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The view from up here was great too! There was a small lotus pond and it was quiet and serene.

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The guys even invented a game… grape bowling. Yep, using our *now* empty wine glasses, we tried to roll grapes down the walkway and into the cups. It was harder than it might seem to get the grape to roll over the lip of the glass instead of bounce off of it.

game

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As we were making our way back, the owners came to tell us that they were closing up, but we weren’t quite ready to leave yet. Fortunately, since Zach and Heather had been here several times and had good rapport with the owners, they allowed us to stay and pack up when we were ready. We stayed and hung out with baby Eli while the boys chatted.

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As the sun was setting, we packed up and then wandered back down the road in search of (several) taxis to bring us all home. Thankfully we didn’t have to wait too long and were on our way back to reality.

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We really enjoyed our time at the Huadong-Parry Chateau and Winery. We recommend it as a getaway for sure! Their wine is good too! We had a great time!

 
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Posted by on September 29, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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SHOWERed with love! Part 1

SHOWERed with love! Part 1

I have been lucky enough to have 3 baby showers thrown for me and baby Jedidiah (maybe a fourth to come with my old co-workers, too).

The first baby shower I had was while we were still in China. It was towards the end of our time there, but the timing of it all was quite tricky. Nearly every weekend for months before we left was taken up with school stuff or other plans, and all of our friends who worked at ISQ (International School of Qingdao) got out a week before we did for the summer break (which also meant that they would be leaving or travelling sooner). I also had some close friends leaving China (permanently) before school got out. When we considered all these things, we decided that it would be best to have the shower on a weeknight. We chose Wednesday, June 3 as our date. I would be 15 weeks pregnant and we had hoped to find out the sex of our baby before the shower (so that it could be a “reveal” party too), but the doctors said that it was still too early to tell.

The host was my wonderful friend, Catherine. She booked an upstairs room in one of the most popular downtown restaurants, The Canvas, for the evening (which is a restaurant that one of our student’s parents own and operate). We decided on a “Mommy to BEE” theme.

invite

As the date drew closer, I got more and more excited. It still seemed awfully early for a baby shower… none of the typical “bump” games could really be played (since my bump was still very small), but at the time, it was “now or never” and I really wanted to celebrate with my friends in China before we left (for good) to come back to the US. Catherine had been planning for weeks but had warned me “not to get too excited”… after all, we were in China and access to hobby stores or craft places was nonexistent… even Pinterest was sometimes hit-or-miss.

When the evening came, Trent and I took a taxi to Canvas right after our weekly staff meeting. We cab-pooled with some other co-workers and headed downtown. When I arrived and went upstairs, I couldn’t believe my eyes! There before me was the most magical set-up, with lights, decorations, everything! It was gorgeous! Catherine had clearly spent many hours on all the little details. She (and her husband Justin) had hand-made little bees out of pipe cleaners and honeycombs out of Popsicle sticks. She had printed off all these cute little sayings and put them in some photo frames on the tables. Even the water bottles had cute little bee labels on them!

set up

decorations

gracious words are a honeycomb

pollinate the world with the love of Christ

L

Thanks for buzzing by

water labels

the whole setup

She had hand-drawn a beautiful bee-hive for “Baby L” where people could put their thumb prints (in yellow, like little bees) and their names. She had also made a beautiful book for people to sign and write special notes in- just like a scrapbook, with pictures and everything!

Baby L beehive

After I composed myself and picked my jaw up off the floor, I went into the bathroom to change, and Catherine dressed me up with a little bee headband. Then I came out to greet my friends.

cat and my belly

friends

Kelly and Alexa

me and Liz

Paula

The beginning of the shower was very relaxed- people came in, we chatted, they ordered dinner and we all just socialized for a while.

Canvas workers

church and small group

dinner

my table

QISS table

Each person also added their thumb print to the beehive and wrote in my book. Another thing Catherine had them do was to write me a message on some newborn diapers so that when Trent or I are doing late-night changes, we can read messages of encouragement or laughter from our friends.

book, thumprint, diapers

late night diapers

Meanwhile, Trent was downstairs hanging out with “the guys” and the kids.

the guys downstairs

Justin and Eli

Ellie

the kiddos

When everyone had pretty much finished eating, we began with some games. The first game we played was merely an “ice breaker” where we all had to go around and find people who matched certain criteria and write their names on the appropriate number. This was a good game since we had people from several different areas of life… some from QISS (where we worked), others from church (Laoshan New Spring), and others from our “rival” school ISQ. Some people knew others, others did not. The game got people chatting and introducing themselves. The first person who finished won a prize.

game 1

get to know you game

During the second game, I stood up at the front of the room with my back to all of my friends. Everyone began standing. As I read from a list of criteria, if anyone met it, they had to sit down (i.e.- if you are wearing red nail polish, sit down). The last person standing also got a prize.

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game two

The last game, to me, was the most fun. Catherine had e-mailed Trent’s and my parents (sneaky girl!) and had asked for stories about our infancy and childhood. Our parents responded with several facts and stories to share. Catherine read each of the stories out loud and then everyone, myself included, had to guess whether it was Trent or I who had done it. I got all but 3 of them right. It was pretty funny to hear some of the stories that were shared. I believe Kelly Pinyan won this game.

guessing game

guessing game me

After the games, we had cake. Haekyoung, the owner of the restuarant and the mom of one of my 4 year olds, had generously donated my favorite Canvas dessert, carrot cake, for the party (Canvas has DELICIOUS carrot cake). Catherine had made a cute little banner to go across the cake too. It looked almost too good to eat! In addition to cake, there were also cupcakes that Catherine and her mom Charmaine had made. They had cute little “Welcome Ba-Bee” toppers. Both desserts were wonderful!

carrot cake

cupcakes

me and cupcakes

Finally, after cake, was the last part… opening presents. Trent came up and took photos (he had actually been taking photos all night, but had also been hanging downstairs with all the dads and kids while me and the ladies were doing our thing). Trent and I got a lot of cool things for baby Jedi and in some ways, it made the pregnancy feel real. Other than our “Made in China” onesie that we had bought for ourselves and some cute little Chinese shoes and a “100 day outfit” (In China, they celebrate the baby’s 100th day of life) from our ayi, we really hadn’t bought anything for him yet. We had requested that people get things from our registry or that they ship gifts to our home in Texas so that we wouldn’t have so much to pack when we moved countries a few weeks later. We got lots of great gifts, cute outfits, cloth diapers, a jogging stroller and all sorts of other goodies. We are so blessed to have such awesome friends!

gift time

Ecuador

jogging stroller

socks from Raden

Spurs onesie

At the end of the evening, people started to head out. Catherine had made the most adorable shower gifts… little honey facial scrubs (fitting right in with the bee theme). She put them in little jars with bows and labels… they were perfect.

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facial scrub

We said our goodbye’s and then Trent and I helped Justin and Catherine take down all the decorations. Baby Eli was there too, in his own little bee costume.

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Trent and Eli

I can’t even tell you how grateful I was for this amazing shower! Catherine really did an amazing job. I was totally blown away by how much love and time she put into everything and was truly blessed by all that she did. I am so thankful for a friend like her!

Cat and Eli

 
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Posted by on September 21, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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