The anticipation of returning to China to seek out my girl, Xiao Gou, has rendered me completely overwhelmed. If any of you have ever been in China as an expatriate, you know that despite the many hardships we encounter, we still have the protection and assistance of our host companies. This time I am completely on my own. Okay—not completely, because I’ve had generous sponsors to step up and help me make this journey to Xiao Gou possible. It’s not for me they are doing this, but rather to help a girl who has been wronged by her family, government and fate. Using my previous reputation in China as an advocate for their orphaned children, we all hope to be able to bring some relief to her life that has so far been filled with tragedy. That being said, coordinating the many details is still my responsibility.
Some of the issues I have been juggling since the trip has become a reality:
Fundraising was the first project to tackle and I have to admit, I have been blessed by generous people. Myself and my family raised part of the funds by having a yard sale (round two tomorrow), selling hubby’s golf clubs, pearl necklace drawing of which several of you have given to (thank you!), and utilizing reminbi funds left over from our time in China. However, the bigger chunk has come from two families who came to know Xiao Gou’s story through reading my book, Silent Tears. Moved by the injustice that life has dealt her, both families reached out to me to ask how they can help. The first family—I’ll just use his first name of Jeff, has corresponded with me for over a year to help me think through the options of how to best help Xiao Gou. He and his wife donated the funds to buy my airline tickets. The other family—who I have recently come to know through email correspondence– donated a substantial amount to make the journey a reality. Both families gave generously much more than I expected. Do I have enough? I don’t know—it is going to be a trip on a tight budget, but I’ll make it work somehow. Both families have adopted daughters from China. They have asked to remain anonymous for now but they know who they are and I am forever indebted to them for their kindness, as well as to the rest of you who are so generously supporting me through donations, prayers and encouragement.
Maybe a seemingly insignificant detail…but finding comfortable shoes to wear that will not increase my back problems as I trek through airports and on the ground in China. This has proved to be so difficult because I am a not a ‘sneaker type’ of girl and all of the comfy shoes for back problems have proven to be too ugly to buy. I know—such a trivial matter but based on experience, a necessary task. There is nothing that will magically take away the pain but I don’t want to intentionally intensify it! I also want to be in the best shape possible when I meet with Xiao Gou’s current guardians, to present myself as a confident and strong ally.
Securing a video camera in case they allow me to shoot some footage of Xiao Gou that will benefit her in the future. I actually went to Best Buy and traded in my Flip for a camcorder that would get better audio. I had to do some heavy explaining to get them to give me the store credit to use, since nothing was actually wrong with the Flip except for the poor audio quality. I’m going to miss that flippin’ Flip.
Booking a driver and van to take us into the under-developed, poor city that Xiao Gou is now residing. It is going to be a 10-12 hour drive from our take off point and I will need the driver to stay with us the whole week in order to bring us back. Through colleagues in China, we have discovered that it is quite expensive. Matter of fact, too expensive. Therefore we will probably be taking a train for most of the way and then transferring to a bus to take us the rest of the way into the small city. Once in China, I will secure train tickets and bus fare for the journey. Of course, I have the fear that I will not be able to pull this off—but I am trusting God that it will all come together.
Lodging! I will be staying in three different cities during my time in China. In my starting city, the grown children of my dear friend, Connie, have generously offered to open their home to us for a starting point and ending point before we fly back to the states. This is a huge burden to them but a huge burden off of me to find hotels during a month that an international expo is happening and reservations are slim and expensive. Thank you, Peelmans! Now, I am working with Lucy (some of you remember her, if not go to my website blog and find some postings about her) to reserve hotel rooms in Xiao Gou’s city. For the 3rd city, that is still being determined and I’ll probably have to find something once I get there—and that will be a comical exchange with a taxi driver as he will no doubt try to take me to the Marriott, which I won’t be able to afford.
Scheduling—working with the orphanage administrators for permission to visit when it is convenient to them to receive foreigners. Lucky for me I have Lucy, so emails are flying back and forth for discussions with them. I also plan to attempt a visit with Xiao Gou’s grandparents, who visit occasionally. I want to discuss with them what they feel Xiao Gou’s status is and what is planned for her future.
What to pack? I want to pack light, of course, but I have to think of what can go in our suitcase that can feed us during the time we are in Xiao Gou’s city. I am thinking Ramen Noodles might be our best friend, along with granola bars for sustenance. I also want to bring Xiao Gou a practical gift that she might be able to keep with her and not have taken away. Based on her love for drawing, I am thinking some art supplies. That then puts me in the position of what to bring the other children, of which I have no information. I think what I’ll do is wait to meet them, and then do a donation run at a local store. That is if I have any funds left to do it with! (Get into the pearl necklace fund-raising if you want to help! Drawing soon!) A doctor’s appointment to get a script for Cipro just in case we run into some bad food or water—I need to get on that!
Passport for daughter and Visa for both of us. The passport adventure resembled a Saturday Night Live skit: Get to the courthouse and meet my hubby who drove an hour from work—to be there only 20 minutes before closing. Take an important phone call on steps of courthouse and get in with only 8 minutes to spare. Then realize we need cash or check/money order for fees and only have a credit card. Run across the street to the gas station to get a money order but the guy tells us we have to pay for it in cash. RUN down the street to the drive up ATM and stand in line with the cars. Get cash, run back to gas station (in heels) to get cash, then jaywalk (I mean jayrun) across street, up stairs and through the courthouse doors that they have kept open 5 minutes past closing just for us. (Luckily Amanda told them why we were going to China and they had mercy). Apply and pay fees—passport task complete. Visa next.
Obviously, my nights lately have been sleepless with relentless questions swirling around in my head: Will Xiao Gou remember me? Will I be able to do something to help her? Will I get lost in China? Be killed in a train wreck? Remember how to speak Mandarin? Be able to find food my daughter and I can eat? Make a good impression on the orphanage directors? Get through the many flight connections and be at the proper gates in time? So many questions and a lot of uncertainty are with me right now. However, I feel secure in the fact that I am following God’s plan for myself and Xiao Gou. There is a reason that I cannot forget her and I refuse to shut that part of my life away. Please pray that I will have peace in this—and that all of the details will continue to come together.
Stay tuned for more obsessing from Kay Bratt!
P.S. Did you know that I hate the cold? It really intensifies my pain so I have re-learned this phrase to use with the hotel staff: Wo shi Meiguoren. Wode fang leng-si-le! Qing gei wo hai yao beitzi! Anyone want to take a guess? [My pinyin spelling may be off..]
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