Decisions

When asked if I would write a blog post about this, I quickly said yes. I thought about this carefully and even wrote the start of two different posts before realizing how difficult it would be to narrow down a specific approach. So. I stopped and I kept it in the back of my mind, waiting to see if something triggered me enough to write another post, hopefully the final post. So here I am. It hit me that I should write about the most important part about traveling with children, deciding to travel with them.
I had more excuses than most as to why I shouldn’t travel with our six kids, when I was asked if I was willing to move to China with my husband. We had just moved back to Michigan the year before and had yet to find a permanent home. The six kids were excuse enough for most.
What made me say yes so quickly was a patient dream that lived in my heart. I traveled as a child with my family, to Mexico in 1985, moved to Papua New Guinea for a year in 1988 and spent a month in Alaska in 1991. My father taught missionary aviation and my grandfather was a retired Colonel, traveling is in my blood. I also wanted a large family, 6 kids before 30 was my plan and fortunately for me I married young and had my kids all before 30. Knowing I wanted a large family I never pressed my desire to travel, not a secret but nothing I strived for either. Through the years my husband traveled for work while I maintained the home and schooled the kids. When my husband asked me I didn’t have to think twice, I agreed the first time he asked and never looked back. 6 weeks later we were in China.
I didn’t have to consider because I knew from experience it was something I wanted for my children. I wanted them to see first hand how varied the world is, that there is no “right” culture just different cultures. The travel would be hard, I understood. My fondest memories are from traveling and each place holds a special place in my heart. Change is a part of life and traveling is like taking an advanced course in change. I love that the world is part of what has shaped my children, that they will always be aware of other cultures outside of our town, our state, even our country. I will admit it has had even more of an impact than I thought it would.
We are currently hosting a Chinese exchange student and my oldest is fluent in Mandarin (he learns other languages for the fun of it now) my second son has begun to learn to read and write in mandarin and as he speaks it he naturally speaks with a Shanghainese accent much to his teachers dismay and surprise. My husband and I enjoy hearing mandarin again. My younger children will have the option to learn and will probably wonder as their classmates struggle with tones.
Developing an ear for accents as a child will last a lifetime. I know because my hearing is not great, but when someone has a thick accent my husband turns to me. Growing up amongst accents and listening to people speak other languages helps.
There are many reasons I could find to choose not to travel but no excuse is as valuable as children who grow up to see the world as a whole and not just our own culture. The world has so much to offer, so many tastes, so many sights and sounds.
My kids have probably benefited even more from learning what it feels like to be in a place we knew very little about, how fear can change to love just from getting to know it more. Sometimes our lives are too comfortable and witnessing firsthand impoverished countries can give children a compassionate side that could never be achieved in our comfortable middle class life.
So as I said there are so many things I could say and I know I have strayed some but in the end it all comes back to the decision to go. My decision, felt more like a bungee jump off a cliff, terrifying, exhilarating with no looking back and I have never regretted it.

2015/01/img_1959.jpg
The kids and I outside of the YuYuan Garden.

2015/01/img_1958.jpg
My husband and a few of the kids in the Forbidden City, keeping track of everyone in the crowds was a little nerve wracking at times but the experience was amazing.

2015/01/img_1957.jpg
The entire family posing at one section of the Great Wall of China.

Posted in Adventure | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Gubei district

Here is another peek into our life in China. These are snapshots of one of our most frequent walks, our first year in China. I am incredibly thankful for these rolling benches as they kept the kids minds off the walk. We usually were walking to the store for groceries and it usually took every one of us to get them home. Fortunately, by the time these photos were taken Wendell, had gotten his license and we could get groceries much easier. This walk was at times are most frustrating experiences in China, and at other times our most fond, as we became acquainted with the locals. It is what becomes familiar that makes a place feel like home, and I will always think of these pictures as memory of home. We’ve had homes all over and each holds a special place in our hearts. A piece of us will always be in the Gubei district.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Posted in Adventure | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Risky Restaurants

This is the reason we were quite selective with where and what we ate.  We were out exploring, when we stopped at the Qibao old town area.  This is probably the best picture we  have taken of the small restaurant’s kitchen.  Not at all the quality control standards we have in the States.  This was a common sight everytime we visited the area and could be seen through any number of restaurants open doors, visible near the front entries, so there was no attempt to hide the kitchen sanitary conditions.  I always figured if it was spicy enough and a hot enough temperature we were probably safe, but just in case we got all our shots before heading to China.

Posted in Adventure | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Worship

One of the most frequent questions about our lives in China has been what Church was like.  I have one word to describe it, amazing.  I can only imagine how great it will be to sing praises in heaven, and attending an international service, hearing the accents blend as we worship God was a reminder of what it will be like.   I can not tell you the number of times chills went up and down me as a song spoke right to my soul.  To sit in a service with over 700 and realize the message speaks right to my heart, much like in our church in Bad Axe, Glenwood, Council Bluffs, or Newaygo, the message is still the same.  The world, has shrunk to us, we have family across the globe and one day we will be reunited.  I look forward to that day.

Image

Ruth and Elijah’s sunday school class

Image

Ruth and Elijah’s sunday school class, Ruth is in front with the pink shrug and Elijah is the light haired kid in the middle.

Image

the song they sang in Mandarin

Posted in Adventure | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Changfeng Park

We came full circle with this park without even realizing it.  For anyone who has visited this park in Shanghai they might get the humor in this.  The paths intersect and allow you to circle many portions of the park, especially if you follow the signs.   Let’s just say the Chinese signage (our personal descriptive terminology) needs some work, maps and signs are just meant to confuse the public.

Less than a month after arriving in China, we visited the park with our new friends, the Hargreaves.   Less than a week from departing, China, the kids and I visited the park with our “old” (China-time, another of our personal terminology) friends, the Blains.  The first time we went we were wide-eyed and soaking up every second of the trip.  This park has held a lot of meaning to our family without us ever realizing how significant it would become to us.

This is the park where we saw our first beluga whale show, rode on our first Chinese amusement park rides, tasted our first Chinese hotdogs, and experienced our first sweet Chinese popcorn (a little shocked on our first mouthful, we were expecting salty and buttery).  This is the park, where the woman faked an accident and which led us to getting a driver.  This is the park where we met a very “interesting” elderly woman.  This is the park we could see from our balcony of our last apartment.   This is the park, where we attended Alexandra Tolkachev’s birthday party, discussing why they should move to the U.S. near us and at the very least Canada.   This is the park, where we took our last excursion with the kids, riding the  boats with the Blains, eating our last meat on a stick, and witnessing the largest gathering of preschool children we have yet to witness.  This park holds a lot of memories for us.

Posted in Adventure | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Random Picture Moment

I decided to just click on a date in my picture album and came across some photos.  So here is a picture from an evening in Shanghai, on our walk home we found a sunken fire hydrant.  We are assuming it is for all the little poodles in Shanghai.  The kids had fun posing around the hydrant, a fun moment for the family, walking the streets.

  Image

Posted in Adventure | Leave a comment

14th Anniversary

So for our 14th anniversary, Wendell and I, explored Shanghai.  We decided on going to some of the busiest places, where we usually spent all our time keeping track of our children and trying navigate traffic.  We really enjoyed dodging traffic and people, and actually soaking up all we saw.  We love our kids and we enjoyed our time out with them, but seeing the city on our own, helped us appreciate the city more and not drown in our aggravation of getting around with all the kids.  The catching taxis, riding subways, walking the busy streets, all very exhilarating, especially for two people from the middle of no-where.  Eating at one of the World’s best restaurant’s helped fortify us too.  (Had to get my Dad’s favorite word in there.) Din Tai Feng, is amazing, delicious everytime, and worth any amount of traffic.  Of course, what better way, than to end the evening with a quick trip into the subway’s local yarn shop, smart thinking, knitting is a great way to pass the time on a subway and those sharp needles will guarantee some personal space.  All in all, we had a wonderful time out.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Posted in Adventure | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment