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I think I think too much.

2010 November 14
Posted by Michael

Never did I think that in my life I would make a trip out to China.  It has never really been a thought it my mind that, “hey, I should really go to China.”  Nor did I ever think I would be doing a fraction of the things that I have done in my life.

So here are just a few examples of things that I have done or things that have happened to me (or someone else) on this incredible trip.  I use the word incredible because some of these things are truly hard for my brain to grasp.

Never did I think I would travel China.

Never did I think I would be drinking rice wine… Never did I think I would be drinking rice wine with the people of Li Zi or continuing the crazy party at a restaurant in the nearby city.

Never did I think I would see some guy spit up milk on my dad (it really happened, keep reading for the rest of the story).

Never did I imagine that I would be thinking my life might end in a traffic accident on a highway in China (it obviously hasn’t yet but I guess I still have a few days left here).

Never did I think I would spend the night in an orphanage in China, or any orphanage for that matter.

Being raised Catholic, never did I think I would attend a Catholic mass in China.  I also didn’t realize how many Catholic people there are in China.

So I’m going to stop there with the “never did I think” stuff. I could go on for about 237864765 more sentences.  I will now give you some eye candy.

This photo made the top 10 from this last session.  Yes it was taken during mass and the kid should have been paying attention to the priest instead of me… but she’s so dang cute.  We took a plane from Guiyang and got in another car after en exhausting car ride the day before.  We were all kind of in a daze with only Jimmy and our two escorts knowing where we were headed.  The two escorts were a priest from the orphanage and a woman named Ms. (not sure how to spell it, but this is how you pronounce it) Shoo.  Once we arrived at the orphanage we were greeted with a huge amount of energy that woke us all up and brought the biggest smile I’ve seen yet on Jimmy’s face.

This kids greeted us by grabbing all of our bags out of the trunk and putting them in the lobby area of the building.  We grabbed a snack and then went to hang out with the kids for a bit.  They sang, danced, did somersaults and acted like kids… full of contagious energy.

break dance

I saw more smiles here than I did in any of the bigger cities.  These were definitely the happiest people we ran into (or at least tied for first with the Li Zi people).

After the dancing and singing and running around we took a little tour of the place.  We saw where they ate, slept and studied.

Jimmy saying goodnight

Jimmy went around talking with all the kids, making them laugh, telling them stories and giving them candy.  He also would throw us a heartbreaker every now and then, each kid there has an incredible story.  The workers there also do physical therapy and special ed.  One kid recently learned how to walk and excitedly showed Jimmy as he ran down the hallway. Another we visited was learning how to put himself to bed on his own and stubbornly refused any help from one of the volunteers. These are the shortened versions of the stories just to give you a quick overview.

So, this post could probably be a novel (or a potential documentary, Dad).  Also my ADD is kicking in. So I’m going to post a group shot of all the awesome people we met up with.

the group!

This is also proof that I am really there!

And if you made it this far, you might be wondering about the milk story… So here it is.

As we made out way out of Li Zi, some of the locals invited us to dinner where we continued with that rice wine. One man, we noticed, particularly enjoyed the rice wine… maybe a little too much, but I’m not judging.  Anyways, my dad and I learned a very important word in Chinese, I have no clue how to spell it but maybe it’s something like… kampei..  It means, “bottoms up” and once they figured out we knew that, we didn’t hear the end of it.

So the man who particularly enjoyed the rice wine was seated between Jimmy and my dad.  Between graciously thanking Jimmy and taking bites of food, he would pour us some rice wine and say.. kampei!.. we would clink glasses, down the wine and then show our glasses. We did this a few times, and not only with one guy, but with almost the whole table since they kept calling us “lucky”.  One time, I think the wine may have been out of reach so the rice wine guy grabbed his little cup of milk and decided to toast us with that, instead of the wine.  He toasted, took a gulp, and spit it back out into my dad’s cup and all over his plate. I laughed.  The guy next to me apologized about 4312376 times and got my dad a new cup and bowl.

Pretty funny episode.  Might have had to have been there to fully appreciate and if I run into you at a party I can add gestures and do a reenactment for you.

Enough with my rambling, I hope you enjoy the pictures!  And seriously… if you read this far, leave a comment.  Ask me a question or for me to expand on a story, I promise I’ll respond.  Or if you skipped to the bottom and are reading this now, go ahead and comment anyways.

Oh, here’s one more picture… That’s the church, next to an old house that they eventually want to tear down.

Ok I’m done!

Warm Welcome

2010 November 13
Posted by Michael

So far we’ve visited three different villages.  One where we looked at a potential school, another where there was a recent opening and yesterday we visited Li Zi where they had done an opening about a year and a half ago.

We especially noticed how giving and welcoming the people were.  In one town they immediately offered us some water and cigarettes.  In another town they brought out a bowl of boiled sweet potatoes.  In Li Zi they shove rice wine in your face until you drink it… and whatever you do don’t touch the horn, then you have to drink the entire thing.

So here are the sweet potatoes we ate.  Not bad.

When we arrived at Li Zi, they were waiting…

The horn, full of rice wine

Now this girl was nice, she didn’t shove the horn in my face nor did she spill half of the cup of wine on my camera and clothes.  She saved that for the vicious (but sweet) older women in the town.  They were so kind and generous.  One tried to offer me an egg and when I kindly refused she grabbed me by the shirt and tried to put the egg in my pocket.  She ended up throwing it in my camera bag.

Jimmy got harassed the most out of everyone.  Maybe every 5 minutes or so it seemed as if someone was throwing a bowl of rice wine in his direction.  Being the polite man that he is he would take a small drink, or at least pretend to.

Jimmy and the wine

Pictures, blogging and video cannot describe this experience. It was a wave of visual stimuli with some interesting flute music playing in the background. I also think the slight buzz from the rice wine helped turn it into a somewhat dreamlike experience making everything feel somewhat surreal.

The festivities ended, Jimmy handed out the money, talked with the kids and posed for pictures.  Just as we thought we were safe, we saw them waiting for us again out by the cars.  Upon our departure they offered us some more delicious rice wine.  And to top that off, we went out to dinner with a few people from the town.  We had a great meal complemented with, believe it or not, rice wine.  Yes, we drank some more at dinner which made for the 5 hour drive home a very interesting one.  At least it made the traffic seem a bit more entertaining.

Jimmy hands out the money

The point of this post is to show how generous these people are.  At first glance they don’t seem to have much to offer, but they do.  Whether it’s a cigarette or an egg, it’s the gesture that counts.  They are truly appreciative of the work the foundation has done for them and their community.  They are the most gracious hosts I’ve ever been hosted by and I will definitely miss the rice wine when I go home (but not too much).

The departure

Getting There…

2010 November 12
Posted by Michael

I’ve been on a few road trips in my life but I can safely say that this was probably the most eventful.  This was also the most scenic, the most chaotic, the most fun and probably the most frightening.  I’m very thankful for our driver, Chow (Chao?) who drove magnificently and reminded me of an old video game called Crazy Taxi.

After two attempts at making it to the mountain roads, we finally found one that was open.  Our 8 hour road trip turned into a 12 hour road trip which really didn’t feel like 12 hours since our anticipation kept us excited.  Also, what do to photographers do on a 12 hour road trip? They, of course, take pictures out the window.  That definitely kept us entertained and gave us a fun challenge.  Imagine trying to take a picture while someone is grabbing you by the shoulders and shaking your violently… like I said, a fun challenge!

Anyways, here are some photos from the first trip to the new school in Quan Po village which is about a two hour drive outside of Yan He city.

The kids at the new school

This is the new school, along with Jimmy, a representative from the Department of Education (who they teamed up with to build the school), the 2 teachers and all the kids.  Jimmy said that the school can eventually expand up to about 70 or so students and add on 2 more teachers.

Handing out gifts

Jimmy came prepared with new backpacks and other small gifts for the children.  The well-behaved kids held back their excitement until we left the room, then they busted out all the goodies.

A smile.

A cute girl checking out her new backpack.  We didn’t have much time since the people told us it was about to rain. If it rained we would probably be stuck there for quite a while since the dirt and rocky roads wouldn’t let us leave the village if they were too wet.  Even though the forecasts told us otherwise, that morning before we left, it rained, complements of Nathan.

The old school

You can see the amazing improvement.  This is a picture of the old school (the building with the clothes hanging outside).  Before, they used logs and stones for desks and chairs.  Not a bad upgrade!

First post, travel day

2010 November 8
Posted by Michael

With minor problems and a small delay we made it in with no problem.

Greeted by Jimmy and his smiling face he immediately took us to go eat!  “You like spicy food?” he asks, and we respond “of course!”  After removing my jacket and wiping the sweat off my face, I concluded that it was a great meal to start off the China trip.

Follow this blog for our updates, our stories and adventures as we travel with Jimmy to a school opening and an orphanage.  If the Chinese govt. let’s us to continue blogging through this website we should have some good photos, fun stories and maybe some videos!