So we’ve arrived…tired, sweaty, excited, relieved!  Welcomed with open arms and settling into to our home away from home!

Saying goodbye to our kiddos was easier than I expected and tears were only shed the night before we left, NOT as we were walking out the door.  Thankfully I know that our kids will be well taken care of, distracted from missing us by grandparents, aunties, uncles and cousins, camping, swiming, waterslides and many other fun activities.

Leaving the North American continent for the first time…

After settling our kids into their digs for the next week we met the rest of our awesome team, along with some great friends and family to be sent of with many words of encouragement and prayer.  Heading to the airport on a relatively quiet night I was rather unaware of how I might feel in the next 15 hours.  Let’s just say that while I am feeling extremely enthusiastic about travelling, I’m not 100% sure I feel excited about being in a plane for 12 1/2 hours.  Travelling economy class lends itself to a tight squeeze, not much leg room and sleep that is really more like a perpetual doze!  Thankfully James and I were able to sit together on a window/aisle seat so when it came time to close our eyes we wiggled around to a spot that was adequate for a few hours of shut-eye.

We were given two meals on the plane, watched two movies, played some cars and slept.  Not exciting but it got us through.  We arrived at 5:10am local time to a VERY quiet airport.  It wasn’t quite like that awesome music video of the guy in the airport all alone, but there were a few points that we joked about making our own airport music video.  Making our way through customs was a breeze, they looked at our passports, took our picture and waved us through.  Eventually we found our driver and embarked on 3 hour trek to Baozhong.

You know you’re not at home when…

A few funny/interesting things to note that definitely make us feel like we’re in a new country:

  • “Drug Trafficking is illegal and punishable by death in the R.O.C.” (Republic of China)
  • When you leave an air-conditioned building the first thing you notice is that you’re practically drinking the air because of the humidity.  The second thing you notice is that your clothes basically suck to your skin and are instantly hot the moment you leave the building.
  • Slot Pots (or pit toilets) are not as difficult to use as I expected but one must do it precisely correct for fear of getting splashed by pee and the garbage can beside the pot is meant for toilet paper (one does NOT flush it down the toilet).  AND there isn’t always toilet paper in the stalls at local restrooms but some places will have it just outside the restroom for both male and females to grab as they go in so make sure you estimate how much you need correctly or you’re in trouble.

A few funny/interesting things to note that remind you of home:

  • Taxi drivers make me feel like at any moment I am either going to drive into the tail-end of the car in front of us or we are going to side-swipe every vehicle beside us as we weave in and out of traffic because we clearly have places to be and they don’t
  • Vehicles here are made by Ford, Toyota, Mitsubishi, etc.

Leaving the city and moving into the countryside was beautiful.  The scenery is green but the textures are so different from home.  I will admit that as we drove into Baozhong I felt a bit like I’d stepped into a movie.  The housing is VERY different.  The houses are narrow and the front entrances look more like a business with sliding doors and metal garage-door gates covering them when people are out or at night.

Landscaping is not important here, or so it would seem.  While there is natural beauty here houses are not surrounded by meticulous yards with perfectly potted plants.  Oddly it’s got a beauty that is hard to explain.  As I drove past I felt myself cringe, comparing what I saw to what I would see driving through the East side of Vancouver.  But as I walked the streets later in the day, there is a simplicity in how these people live.  A lack of expectation and I felt safe.  It’s different, not what I’m used to but I can see how one would thrive.  I asked Kathy-Lu about poverty rates here and she responded that of course that was an issue but it’s generally a simpler way of life not the kind of poverty that one might see in the third world, even if by North American standards it would be comparable.

After some refreshing, snacks and lunch we headed to a fishing port a short trek from Baozhong.  It was still warm, there hasn’t been a moment yet that I think we’ve reached what I would classify as “cool” outside.  Thankfully our home has air-conditioning in our bedrooms so I was gearing up for a great sleep.  The fishing port was beautiful, full of people just like there would be at White Rock or Stanley Park.  The main difference being that we were the only white people there.  I thought I would feel strange being in a place of minority but the people we have encountered are friendly and kind.  Smiles and head nods accompany the curious looks and the occasional gregarious “hello”!  While many don’t speak English, or at least not well I have noticed that a smile goes a VERY long way.  We had a picnic along the docks with a bit of warm breeze blowing away the sticky heat and enjoyed some laughs and great conversation.

First Day done…

The drive home was welcomed knowing we were on our way to bed.  But Kathy-Lu filled the car with wonderful stories, bits of information and generally a feeling of love for both our visit and this country she calls home.  She did her best to keep us awake but more importantly made us feel like family.

We are all excited and looking forward to what this week has to hold.  Pray for the children who are coming, for us as leaders to be at peace and on the same page, for health and safety, for relationships to come easily and for fun!

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