Sunday, September 03, 2017

Harvey Work Crews

Today's crew had a much easier day. We were sent to two homes, both of whom had already removed their soaked carpet. 
The first house was another couple in their 70's but they had family who had been helping them with cleanup for 3 days. No raw sewage anymore - thankfully. They needed help getting things in boxes and removed from rooms so they could remove drywall. The owner asked me to pack up her dresser. As I lowered her underwear and socks into boxes, I felt so bad for her having strangers handling her intimate things. Other drawers were filled with momentos from her children and from her years as a school teacher. I was so glad for her that the water had not reached the drawers and they were safe and dry. 
As we help people, one thing is always the same. They are often at a loss about what to do. They're a bit dazed and doing their best to just put one foot in front of another. And one thing that always amazes me is that they don't complain. They tell me stories about certain items. "This was my mother's porcelain powder dish..." Or "These were my parents' Russian hymnals." "Please don't throw that dish away--it was my grandmother's." One had a piece of Chinese furniture she had purchased on a trip to China and had shipped home. She was hoping it could be saved because it was teak wood. 
I think the saddest sight has been pouring water out of the photo albums of the lady who had 5 feet of water in her house. She had shelves of photo albums and all but a few at the tops were completely saturated. All of her son's baby pictures. Pictures of trips she had taken. It was so heartbreaking. She just stood there in the room looking at them helplessly. We helped her carry them outdoors but I don't think any of them will be able to be saved. Now that we have digital files, make backups and put them in different places. I hear people saying, "Stuff can be replaced. Pictures cannot." This same lady had also done a lot of ancestry research which was apparently all on paper. I didn't see a computer in her home. She mentioned several times that now all her research was gone. 
Our second house was a young Chinese family with a baby and a 3 year old. Their house was a year old and only got an inch of water. Still....ick. The mom was totally stressed out tho and left for a hotel with the children. It was a good thing because the house got very dusty once sheet rock started to be cut and removed. 
This is definitely the hardest on those with small children and on the elderly. I have seen so many messages on social media asking for help for families who have lost everything and the mother has just had a baby or is about to have a baby. Can you imagine?
Despite the trauma, many Texans are expressing how much they love seeing the kindness toward others and how they wish it could always be this way. 
Maybe it can.
 Let's do this, crew!
 Packing up 
 Jeff removing flooring
 and more flooring...
 Zoey learned to use a crowbar like a boss!
 Sheet rock, insulation and flooring out but the smell of mold was still overpowering.
 The never-ending piles of garbage
Most of the donations that are coming into the church are going out quickly but we o have shelves started indoors.  We are supposed to get heavy rains on Tue so things need to start being stored indoors.  Its also a bit easier for families to 'shop' for the things that they need in the a/c.

Saturday, September 02, 2017

Hurricane Harvey

We currently live in the Houston area and I have been posting updates on Facebook about the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.  Our family was not flooded so we are trying to help those who are suffering around us.  It just occurred to me that I could be posting the Facebook posts here too, in case anyone is wanting to know what is going on here beyond what you can see on the news.  

This was yesterday's post.

I've never done anything as gross as I did today. And I've done some pretty gross things. 
I truly cannot imagine what it must be like to see your memories covered in muddy fecal water. 
Driving through neighborhoods with street after street lined with years of memories brings an instant lump to your throat. Once you walk up to a home the smell is the first thing to assault your nose. We will never forget the smell. Ever. 
The first house belonged to a couple who was in their 80's. They had lived there for 40 years. They were so sweet. The wife had a stroke about a year ago and now a flood. The water got about 2 feet high in their house. A crew from our church was there yesterday so we just had to finish up. We poured water out of lower cabinet items and had to throw most of it away. Anything plastic or porous is unsalvageable. 
Honestly, I wouldn't be able to eat off of anything that had been in that water. There just isn't enough bleach in the world....
On the way to the second house we drove through some hard hit areas and were in awe at how high the water had gotten. A small creek had swollen into a river that seemed as wide as the Mississippi. It was incredible. And the power of the bent fences and broke down brick walls. 
The second house was much worse. The water had gotten about 5 feet high inside. We were the first ones there and the stench was worse because mold had started to grow. A lady probably in her late 70's or early 80's lived there with her cat. She had a lot of magazines and cookbooks which were so soaked that they sometimes fell apart as we tried to lift them. I had kitchen duty and emptied pots, pans, and any containers in the lower cabinets. I dumped the sewage water as carefully as I could but it sometimes splashed on me. Gag! One big splash went down the front of me and into my rain boot. Is there enough bleach for that?! The kids were such troopers. They lugged soaking wet carpet, furniture---whatever necessary. At one point Jake said to me, "Mom, I stink." If boys think they stink... 😂
The second lady had a grand piano which was so special to her. It was completely ruined. It had to be broken into pieces to get it to the street because it was so heavy. She started to watch the demo and I sent her back inside. Some things are just too hard to watch. 
Bless her heart, she wanted to keep her pots and pans, silverware and glass items. But she has no idea where she is going to clean them. And there enough bleach? 😳
We put our shoes and boots on plastic bags in the back of the car, sat on plastic bags and had to keep the windows down to breathe on the drive home. 
If our stuff smells that bad I truly cannot imagine that anything that flood waters touched can be cleaned. 
Jeff and Jillian will be going out on a crew with us tomorrow. Kate and SaraGrace are a bit sad that they can't help but with their heart conditions they cannot be around all that bacteria.
Soggy piles of people's memories
A view of the street.  Every street in this neighborhood looks like this.
My team
This was the owner of the first house thanking the kids for coming.  After this, he invited them back inside to chose a hat from his collection.
 Kind of hard to see but the fence is bent over and covered with debris.
Brick wall broken down.  It went on like this for over and block...just piles of bricks

Entering another neighborhood
 Jordan's feet at the end of the day.  This was after using Clorox wipes.  Ick.
Something I have already grown to love about Texans is their spirit.  There has been no complaining.  No hand writing.  Sadness and grief, yes.  A numb disbelief, yes.  But the victims are able to try to pull themselves together while church groups, friends and neighbors come, roll up their sleeves and just get things done.  We saw several homes with their belongings piled outside but their American and Texas flags still proudly waving.  

Monday, May 08, 2017

Last Stop - Guangzhou

Shaman Island area of Guangzhou to be exact.

It's where all of our kids received the paperwork needed to become American citizens when their feet touched US soil.  I couldn't wait to show the girls around the place that felt like a second home.

Except I knew it would have changed tremendously since we had been here last.

The American Consulate is no longer on Shamian, so most families stay near its new location while waiting for their paperwork to be processed.  The famous White Swan has even had a complete facelift.

I thought one day on Shamian would be enough.
I was so wrong.

If we are able to take the younger kids on a Heritage Tour, we will definitely stay an extra day or two.   I wasn't sure if the girls would like Shamian or find it a bit boring.

They LOVED it.

Jillian said it was the only place in China she wasn't afraid to cross the street.

I also need to mention that Guangzhou is not part of the tour.  The Heritage Tour ends in Guilin.  We opted to take the bullet train to Guangzhou because I really wanted the girls to see where we spent a week of every adoption trip.
After checking into the White Swan--and being totally WOWED by our room--I took everyone across the street to see Christ Church that we attended on every adoption trip.  I wish we could have been there on a Sunday this time.
Second stop...Starbucks.  We needed coffee and some lunch!
Shamian is so peaceful.  My mom and the girls fell in love with it.
Happily, the Phillips family had also planned to come to Guangzhou so the girls all had one more day together.
We have pictures of Zoey and Kate with this statue.  So fun!
I was so excited to introduce my family to Michael and his sweet wife, Lily.  They remembered us and it was so fun to catch up on their family.
It started pouring so we headed back inside for some pictures in the White Swan.  I was thankful that the indoor waterfall was still there.

Molly in front of the waterfall when she was a baby.
And our little blond Chloe as a baby in front of it.
We didn't get to stay at the White Swan when we adopted Jillian (much to our disappointment).
 The rooms are now twice as large as they were when we adopted the kids.  Unbelievably nice.
And the bathroom.....we felt like princesses for the night!
 Another family from our travel group also went to Guangzhou and we all met for dinner at a place with only a Chinese menu.  The mom from that family ordered for us.  All was yummy except for...
...this tasteless chicken dish which seemed to be boiled and served with the head.
Afterward we went for a walk along the Pearl River. So beautiful at night.

The view over Shamian from our hotel window.
Very early breakfast overlooking the river the next morning before heading to the airport.
I made the girls take this cheesy picture - but we WERE very sad to be leaving China.

Zaijin, China!  Hope we can come back someday!

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Yangshuo and Guilin

I forgot to document some of the afternoon after our boat ride down the Li River.  Immediately after disembarking, we met a bevy of vendors on our way out to the vans.  It looked liked this...
 A bit claustrophobic...
This guy was selling photo ops with his cormorants for 3 yuan.
We then went to a large market area where there were stores and restaurants 'for cheaper prices.'  We actually saw cooler items in the vendor area but we were told to wait and shop at the market.  Rats!

The fruit looked good.
The rat did not.  Ewwww....

Then it was time for some fun!  There was a 'spa' that offered fish nibbling.  You plunge your feet into a fish tank and let the fish eat the dead skin off your feet.  Kind of like a pedicure sans the nail polish.
Kind of.
The girls had tried it a few days prior and wanted me to experience it.
It tickled excruciatingly the first few minutes, followed by a pins and needles feeling, and eventually relaxation.
Well...sort of.
Until you looked at your feet and thought, 
"Why am I letting fish nibble my feet?  How gross is this?"

See for yourself...

The following morning came bright and early with the offer of a group tai chi lesson.  I was quite disinterested but the girls wanted to experience everything in China.  So off we went.

The scenery was beautiful - which somewhat made up for the early morning and empty stomach.  And no coffee.
In fact, it was so beautiful that I soon became bored and distracted (oh look!  Squirrel!).  I wandered off to take some pictures.
Ahhhhh...fabulous view.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Li River Cruise in Guilin

I have always wanted to do the Li River Cruise in Guilin.  The pictures I have seen were fascinating and beautiful.  None of them prepared me for the breathtaking scenery however.  It was stunning.  My pictures could not capture the true magic of the place.  You will have to go see it for yourself!

Chloe and Molly and their new friend, Grace
Delightful meal offerings.  We had a box lunch provided by the tour instead.

After a four hour boat cruise (that seemed like half that time because we were in awe), the girls were taken to a cooking school to learn to make four Chinese dishes.  Yum!  
Getting ready to start the class.
Serving up Kung Pao Chicken.  Yum!

While they were cooking, Mom and I took a walk along the Li River.  So pretty.

Don't be jealous.
We ate a delicious dinner of this Kung Pao chicken and two different types of dumplings.  It was so delicious.  The parents all agreed that it was the best meal meal we had in China.

After dinner, we attended a famous light show designed by the same man who did the Beijing Olympic opening and closing ceremonies.  It was quite a feat, with 700 actors and actresses.  

Street scene outside the amphitheater.

A very enjoyable show despite the constant loud talking behind us.  haha  Our guide told us that we needed to tell people to be quiet if they were loud - but of course we didn't.  It's a very different culture so we just go with it as much as possible.