Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Family of 7

Jinna Rai's first few days at home have gone really well!

The first morning she was here,  Colsen and Miles got up early and couldn't WAIT for her to get up... they kept going in to check on her.  The boys were standing right in front of her with balloons when she opened her eyes, and she smiled and started talking immediately.

 Then she enjoyed meeting Rayna, too!

She enjoyed going around and exploring through the house, and also loved her inaugural visit to the park.

She seemed to recognize everyone from the photos in the book we had made for her, and has settled right in at home.  When Strider got home from school in the afternoon she was so excited to see him!  We also had to say goodbye to Aunt Sue, who did an amazing job taking care of the other kids while we were gone!

It was a great first day with Jinna Rai home!

Friday, October 21, 2016


God surely heard the prayers of many on our behalf this week and granted us such a wonderful homecoming!

Celebrating U.S. Citizenship for Jinna when we landed in Detroit
Our journey from the last hotel in China to our doorstep in NC was about 31 hours, and it was pretty tiring,  but not nearly as bad as I anticipated it to be.  Our first two flights went quite smoothly, and while all the security checks and baggage checks got to be wearying at all 3 airports, we weren't stopped by anything major.  We enjoyed being able to travel with the Childs family (who we had been with all week), and also another family who just adopted and was headed to Maine.

 Our last flight, from Detroit to Charlotte, ended up getting delayed for almost 2 hours which was a pain.... and we felt even worse about it when we finally arrived in CLT to find...

A whole bunch of Wrays waiting for us!  We had told everyone to stay home and not come to the airport because we knew we would be getting in late, but they totally disobeyed me and came anyway!  On a school night and everything!  Our plane didn't get in until almost midnight, so those kids were up LATE (the latest EVER, according to Kai.  :)  ).

We stepped off the elevator and were completely surprised and overwhelmed (almost literally) by the Wray clan!  Suddenly there was a whole swarm of cousins surrounding Jinna Rai, waving posters in her face.  But our little girl is quite a trooper....even after all the changes she's endured over the last 2 weeks, and all the travel in the last 2 days, she was still able to take it all in calmly and with some smiles.

We're not sure how much she comprehends, but I know she felt like that impromptu party was pretty special because on the way home in the car she kept tracing over the letters on the signs and pointing at herself and talking away (in Mandarin).  Then she gestured that she wanted me to put them all in her special backpack -- where she keeps all her personal treasures.  She also was pretty excited to play with a little stuffed animal one of the cousins gave her.

We finally got to bed last night at about 2:30 am, and even though that was the middle of the afternoon her time, she went to sleep -- and slept all the way through until 9:30 this morning!  Thankful that jet lag has either passed us by or is just postponed for a couple days.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Getting to know Jinna Rai

Our little animated girl is good at letting us know what she likes and what she doesn’t like, even without a common language.  Her facial expressions tell us a lot!

She and I have both been learning some new words, though.  I’ve learned enough Mandarin to get the pronouns down, so she knows what’s hers, who I’m talking to, etc.  We can also tell her it’s time to sleep, time to read a book, etc.  And I’ve learned her favorite things - -numbers.  She loves to count and point out numbers everywhere.

Her English words are now comprised of Mama, Baba (what kids call Daddy here), thank you, please, water, food, banana, and bathroom.  (All the essentials!)

The first thing she mastered really well was saying thank you to us.  She delights in telling us that, probably 50 times a day.  Every time we bring her a little food, open her water bottle for her, fix something that she needs, open a door for her, etc., we hear “Shank-oo Mama! Shank-oo Baba!”  We’re happy to have such a grateful child.

Another thing that was not hard to figure out is how much she loves accessories!  

Gifts from Unknown Faces

Our daughter has lived in an orphanage for the last 6 years of her life.  We have heard the stories, read the research and the books, and we know that institutional life can severely impact the child’s ability to later “attach” or bond with anyone.  Our prayer all along has been that someone in the orphanage would have cared for her, loved her, and taught her how to receive love.

We learned that her orphanage in Shijiazhuang was one of the ones that has a One Sky program in it.  One Sky trains workers to nurture the children and transform their childhoods by helping them to love and to learn.  We eagerly hoped and prayed that our Jinna Rai had been selected to be part of that program!

The first two times we went to her orphanage we didn’t receive much information about her, but we could tell she was well loved.  Some of her “nannies” cried as we said goodbye, and the other children seemed quite attached to her as well.  We were thankful.

Then, our guide had to return to the orphanage a third time to pick up some things, and at that visit she was given a huge photo album to give to us.  In it there are 159 pages full of photos and writing all about her!!!  Between November of 2010 and March of 2015 someone took notes and paid special attention to her, supplying a whole page of information about every two weeks!  This is unbelievable to me.  I made my other children baby books, but only for the first year of their lives…. There is no way I could have made a book as extensive as this!

What a huge, huge gift this is to us, and to Jinna Rai.  Already she loves going through page by page, repeating, “Wah!  Wah!”  (“me! me!”)

I have no idea which nanny made this book for her, and most likely, on this side of Heaven, I will never get to see her again.  But her love for our child has most likely completely transformed Jinna – and our family.  Without this enormous but anonymous gift, our lives would be so much harder.

A few days later we had the pleasure of meeting with Dave and Darlene (John and Lois Kyle’s daughter and son-in-law) at a very overpriced Starbucks in a Chinese city.  As we talked with them we learned that Dave has spent years volunteering every Saturday at a local orphanage.  When he and his team first started going there it was clear the workers were not very nurturing and didn’t even really view the children as people.  But as Dave’s team began modeling love and compassion, the workers began to follow their example, and over the years, the whole tone of the place changed.

Isn’t that incredible??  Because of a small team of volunteers just giving a few hours a week, hundreds of children’s lives have been radically impacted.  And not only them, but any future families for those children as well.  Yet those families will likely never know the faces of those who have made such a difference to them. We are very grateful for those who have given to the “least of these,” possibly never seeing any fruits of their labor, but making a lifelong difference!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Zoo Day

We went to the zoo this morning...  It was rather small and some of the exhibits were under construction, but we had fun seeing some animals and hanging out with the Childs family anyway!  The big highlights were hearing the lions roar at each other, and feeding the giraffes.

We never did find that Animal Square Toilet, though!

Hello, Guangzhou.

After a not-so-fun flight from Beijing to Guangzhou (thanks to a whiny, overtired, demanding child, a bumpy, smallish plane, and lack of air conditioning), we made it to the “Flowery City.”  Compared to smog-filled, crazy-traffic Beijing, this city is quite literally a breath of fresh air!  There really are flowers everywhere along the highways, and the weather has been quite warm and breezy. 

When we arrived we were told there would be a lot of traffic on our way to the hotel (and we thought, “Of course there is.  Even though it’s 8:30 at night, there must always be traffic!”), but it ended up not being terrible, and ever since then it’s been relatively easy getting around to the various meetings and appointments.

We had medical checks the morning after we arrived.  Basically this was like to going to the city health clinic and waiting in a hallway in between shuffling into the various testing rooms.  We had been told to expect a wait of about 4 hours, but it was really only a little more than an hour.  The sights and smells could have been a little overwhelming to this non-medical-loving girl (me), but the other adoptive families around us stayed upbeat, so I just focused on them.

This was our first opportunity to meet the rest of our travel “group.”  (In Beijing, we were the only family adopting through our agency in that province at that time, so we were just on our own with the guide.)  Since all adoptive families must spend almost a week in Guangzhou, we expected to be grouped in with several families, as is the norm. 

 But God in His infinite mercy spared us from having to travel in a herd (which I don’t really like), and orchestrated it so that there was only 1 other family in our “group!”  And, to make us all smile, He chose to make that family be from North Carolina!  They have been a lot of fun to go around with.  All 3 of their biological children came along on the trip, and they have adopted a little 5-year old named Emma (who also has club feet like Jinna!).  Jinna and Emma have become good little buddies, and we hope they’ll be able to meet again in the future since we only live a few hours apart. 

On Sunday morning we had a nice treat, spending time with some Americans we had met earlier this year!  Dave and Darlene are the daughter and son-in-law of friends from church and they have lived in Guangzhou for almost 8 years now.  When they came to NC a few months ago we talked about our upcoming trip here and they graciously invited us to be their houseguests.  Since we had free nights at the Marriott hotel here, we decided that would probably be the simplest plan (so we could meet up with the guide and group easily), but were happy to at least see Dave and Darlene for a few hours.  They told us all about the state of affairs here and how life really is – very interesting on many fronts.  It was nice seeing familiar faces and having conversations in English without accompanying charades!

Then in the afternoon we went off for our next big adventure with the “group” --to the Chen Family House, which was a school at one point for the large and prolific Chen family.  Now it is open to the public and there are a few shops inside.  It was an enjoyable place to just stroll around …. And/or have a few more battle of the wills with our little girl.  :)

The next big destination was called the Liwan Market.  We had been told it was the place to buy pearls and jade, and I guess I was picturing a small little marketplace with a few vendors.  It turned out to be a 5-story, wholesale, very large mall full of just jewelry!  It was extremely overwhelming.  We were very glad to have our guide with us and she whisked us down to a few specific little shops where we were able to buy, well, pearls and jade.  In the pearl shop, there were 3 walls lined with clear plastic bags of strings of pearls, all different shades and quality levels.  The women working there pulled out some samples and labeled the prices and then we chose what strings we wanted to make into bracelets or necklaces.  After we chose the strands, they handmade the jewelry right in front of us, tying knots after each pearl.  (My mother told me once that that is how you know if you have real pearls or fake - -if there are knots in between each one!) 

By this point we were all exhausted and were happy to head back to the hotels;  we had had enough of using squatty potties for the day!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Sightseeing Days

 we awoke in better spirits, ready to make the most of the day.  Our guide informed us that we would be touring Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, and then old-city Beijing, so off we went.

Tiananmen Square was huge, as I knew it was, but even bigger than I expected.  Flora told us that it can fit I million people at once!  Thankfully there was only a small fraction of that there that day.  Since we knew it would be a lot of walking, we had borrowed a stroller from the hotel, and we found ourselves very thankful for it.  Much of the time she was riding over bumpy stones, but Jinna was still happy.
The Forbidden City kept reminding me of the Chinese version of the Biltmore Estate.  Opened to the public finally in the 1920’s, it had previously been occupied only by the Emperor and his family.  During the Ming Dynasty (1400’s) it was built to have 9,999 rooms!  The number 9 was considered the most superior number.  In actuality, when someone actually came through and counted there was something like 8,700 rooms, but close enough. (ok, a little bigger than the Biltmore maybe!) We explored the outer court, the inner court, and then the palace gardens.  Flora told us many fascinating facts about it all as we walked.

 We also ducked inside the little shop to buy some jade and a little necklace for Jinna Rai.  As we waited the woman painted her name inside a little bead with the tiniest of brushes!
Afterwards our guide took us to an authentic Chinese restaurant for excellent dumplings – so good.

Then we found ourselves whisked onto a rickshaw which took us around the old city.  We were amazed to see that people still live there in tiny quarters - -with public restrooms – but our guide assured us that the people who live there love it (he is one of them).  We visited with a homeowner inside her home and she showed us how they do things. 
Then, at the end of the tour we climbed the tall “Drum Tower” (across from the Bell Tower).  We happened to time it perfectly so right after we arrived at the top the performers came out and did a big drum show.  Very cool - -Jinna was mesmerized.
Thursday was the Great Wall day!  I was a little skeptical about how long the travel would be, and we tried to ask our guide ahead of time.  She said it would be about an hour and a half, and when Pete asked if it would be pretty smooth roads, she answered that we would go to the airport and then past that into the countryside and we would get to see a small village, yeah.  So Pete said we really should go.  I submitted.
Well, it turned out the trip there took 2 hours, partly due to ridiculous traffic (as usual) just getting out of the city center. Then, it was not just a smooth road as one might picture from a very large city to a very large touristy landmark.  It was about a million turns down very bumpy roads, including unmarked narrow alleys through towns, all start-and-stop constantly.
I had been warned ahead of time that children from orphanages often get carsick during their adoption trips because they’ve never been in cars before and the driving is crazy.  Well, after that trip to the Great Wall, I can safely say that our child does not get carsick.  (Thank you, Lord!)

Anyway, we finally arrived, and even I had to admit that the trip was worth it.  We took a short shuttle to the bottom of a large hill, and then took a cable car up the mountain.  (I tried not to look the whole time.)  All through this trip Jinna has been pretty unfazed by all of our travels and amazing sights, but the cable car finally seemed to amaze her.
We were able to walk along the wall for a while, and it was a beautiful day to enjoy all the views.

Then, after another great lunch at a restaurant our guide selected, we took the long, bumpy trip back to the city - -and, to our great shock (not), got stuck in all kinds of traffic again.  Somehow, safely made it back.

Jinna spent the rest of the afternoon entertaining us with songs and dances, indicating that she wanted us to video her. She’s not a shy child!  I think she’ll fit in just fine in the loud and crazy Frank household.