Monday, December 31, 2012

looking back on 2012

Tomorrow is the beginning of a new day and a new year. My life has been quite exciting this year, especially the past few weeks. All these things make me stop and think how truly blessed I am.

This year I sang in church for the first time outside of the choir. One of my dear friends and I did a duet and it was such a great experience. Singing has been a big part of my life this semester, and I'm thankful that I can use my voice to encourage others.

This year I left the United States for the first time ever and went to China for two weeks. I will never forget that trip, or the fact that I got a brother for Christmas. :)

This year I submitted my first college application. College is scary but really exciting to think about! I haven't decided where I'll be going or what I'll be studying, but it's all in God's hands so I need not fret.

Those are only a few of the many things that happened in 2012. It has been a good year, to say the least.

I don't have any New Year's resolutions yet but I think one thing I need to work on is procrastination. But I also need to work on being less judgmental. I need to stop and realize how much I have been forgiven, because I've been forgiven much. Realizing that is one of the best ways to be a pleasant person. 

"The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks." Luke 6:45

May God bless you all in this new year!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas with Levi

I'm fairly certain Levi enjoyed Christmas this year! He got some very fun presents, one of which is an erector set. He spent nearly four hours (straight!) working on it yesterday afternoon. We went to the beach for lunch and to spend the afternoon visiting with my Dad's side of the family. I think it was Levi's first time at the beach. He seemed to thoroughly enjoy it. :)

He and Chloe have gotten along really well so far. I know that will only get better as he learns English.

I'm so thankful that we were able to get Levi so he could have Christmas with us. I'm glad he enjoyed it, and I hope we will be able to explain the reason for Christmas to him soon.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

home at last

After three flights and three airplane meals, we are finally home. Our flights all went smoothly and I know my family is happy to be home. We got in around 11:15 last night, and didn't go to bed until 1 or two in the morning. Levi did great on the flights and particularly enjoyed having a personal video screen on the seat in front of him. :)

I slept until noon, along with a few other members of the family. The rest of the day was spent raking pine straw and doing some shopping for Christmas. I can't believe it's only two days away!

There are so many people to thank for things they've done for us this trip, but I doubt I could ever list them all. So thank you, all of you, for everything you've done! God has certainly blessed us through you. We hope to see many of you at the Christmas Eve service tomorrow. :)

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 21, 2012

day thirteen (last day)

We've been packing and doing last minute Christmas shopping today. I'm excited to get home for Christmas, but I will miss China. It would be awesome if I could come back again someday soon. But I'm thankful for being able to come on this trip at all!

a man dressed as a chicken blowing a horn.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

days eleven and twelve

Yesterday wasn't a terribly exciting day which means I didn't get any pictures. I wanted to spare you the pain of reading a short, image-less post. Everything went well at the consulate, but Levi also had a fever yesterday. We stayed at the hotel for most of the afternoon. Today he's feeling much better and Lord-willing he'll be all ready to travel in two days. :)

So today, I just did a little shopping with my Dad and a little shopping with my Mom. We walked by this gorgeous cathedral, but I don't know the name of it.

I'm really excited about the gifts we've gotten for each other and for our friends back home! I love that it's so close to Christmas because our gifts we take home for friends will also count as Christmas presents. Killing two birds with one stone, right?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

another couple...

So I saw another sweet couple on the island, and they seemed eager to have their picture taken.

They were trying to do a heart with their hands but it turned out to be more of a triangle. Oh well. ;)

day ten

Today, our guide took us to visit a Buddhist temple and an art museum here in Guangzhou. Both were fascinating and it'd be nice if I could go into more depth about the religions here, but I'm really not the best person to do that. Maybe I can persuade my Dad to do a post about the religions we've learned about here. :)

Just in the ‘Nick’ of Time (a post from Marie)

Anyone who looks too closely here will immediately see that my stitchery is not as nice as my Aunt Doris’s.  She made stockings for each of the girls and I wanted to make one for Levi.  These are the ultimate Christmas kitsch around the Owens’ household.  It has been months in the making, but it is ready to use Christmas Eve!  I want to thank the nice lady over at the Pleasantview Schoolhouse blog who posted something awhile back about packing enough stitch work for a long trip.  Now that the stocking is finished, I can move on to Grayce’s quilt.  Thankfully, the quilt does not have any sequins.

While I’m thanking nice ladies, I really must send tremendous thanks to Kim Jackson and Angie Rylands who have both offered tips to help us manage our China trip.  Their advice has been spot-on, from where to stay, what to eat (and not eat), where to shop, etc.  They could seriously write a China Adoption survival guide.  Thank you ladies!

Monday, December 17, 2012

day nine

I had no idea before today that people ate certain parts of animals. We went shopping around in the Pearl Market for a little while today and I saw some very different things for sale. I tried to get a few pictures but I was also trying to stay with the group so they're not the best pictures ever.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

day eight

We attended Christ Church of Shamian this morning for their Mandarin/English service. My Dad wrote a post about it over here, and I highly suggest you read it (after mine, of course ;). It was great to be able to worship with our brothers and sisters in another country. It's a good reminder that the church is everywhere and we need to keep them in our prayers. The music was partly in English and partly in Mandarin, so I really enjoyed singing along in Mandarin! :)

Our lunch consisted of McDonald's sandwiches again. This is the view from the third story of the building it was in (second floor of the McDonald's):

It was SO crowded, just like it was a few days ago. It's very hard to find seating for 6 when all the chairs are taken.

a message from Chloe

Hey everyone! Chloe here just coming to say 'I AM IN CHINA!' It is so fun here! I love this island! It is so nice and peaceful! The food is... umm.... interesting;) There is a huge breakfast buffet (which you probably know of if you have been reading Abby and Grayce's blogs) I love the hard boiled eggs and the apple juice =) Thankfully, there are a few places we recognize like Pizza Hut, KFC, McDonald's and Subway. We still need to find KFC but we found McD's (thankfully) and Subway is right at our door, so I am happy =) There are some really good noodles that you just pour some hot water into, and they become delicious! I love the Pringles! Sour cream and Onion are the BEST! WE have eaten at a few Chinese restaurants so we have ventured out a little ;) Believe it or not, Sweet and Sour Chicken is NOT served! So, that disappointed me =(  Levi is really funny and sweet, he LOVES Shaun the Sheep and the game Home Sheep Home =) He laughs kind of loud but it is so funny to hear him=) We went to the Safari park a few days ago, I got to see REAL pandas and a non-sleeping koala! Levi enjoyed it and so did everyone else!  I miss Charleston a lot, but this island kind of reminds me of downtown =) It is so fun to walk around here, it is so cool! As you most-likely know, we bought a really fun feathered thing that i love to play! It is really funny, whenever we are outside, people stare at us! I can't wait to get home! I miss Gringo's so much! This is one of the best places to spend money but a great place to get gifts ;) We went to church today, a Mandarin/ English service, it was so cool! I hope everyone back home is doing okay and i miss all of you! Talk to you soon!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

more couples

We've been staying here a week now, so I've accumulated more pictures of cute couples on the street. I just love seeing how they coordinate their clothes because it's so different from American styles.

 I especially love her skirt and his pants in the picture above.

I mainly took the above picture because of his pink pants and shoes. They made me happy. :)

day seven

I can't believe we've already been here seven days! If you can't already tell, I really love China. Guangzhou is great. Our guide said that since we've been here the whole time, we can't really appreciate how close to home it really is. Maybe if we come back to China we'll get to experience the smaller towns, but I'm thankful that this trip has been in the city.

We took Levi to get his immunizations and a health check-up today and it all went smoothly. He was very brave getting his shots and the TB skin test. :)

We went to Pizza Hut for lunch and it was delicious. It was much better than an American Pizza Hut, in my opinion. After that, our guide took us to see the Dr. Sun Yat-sen's Memorial Hall. It's a beautiful building, both inside and out, so I definitely enjoyed that trip. (I also enjoyed seeing the perfectly maintained lawn.)

Friday, December 14, 2012

day six

Today was a chill day. Grayce still wasn't feeling great so she stayed in the hotel with a parent most of the day. The rest of us spent time walking around the island, walking to a McDonald's for lunch, and playing games in the park.

To get to the McDonald's, we walked through a market area where I saw lots of interesting things for sale. Dried sea horses and dried star fish were for sale. I guess they're used in cooking, but I'm not sure what exactly they are used for. I also saw lots of turtles for sale, along with fish, rabbits, kittens, and hamsters. There were crates of puppies too, and seeing them definitely made me miss my own dogs! Unfortunately, I didn't get any pictures on that little trip because I was focused on helping find the McDonald's, which happened to be in another shopping area that I did get a picture of.

It was very crowded, but we were all thankful to finally reach the McDonald's. If you know me well, you'll know that I eat at McDonald's once every 5 years, and usually avoid it at all costs. But it was a nice treat not having to use chopsticks and having something that tasted a little more like home.

We watched a lot of Shaun the Sheep today too, but we did go play in the park for a little while with our feather thing. It's pretty much like playing hackey-sack, but with that shuttlecock thing. It's a lot harder than it looks, but it was good exercise for all of us.

Other than that, we've just been hanging out in the hotel. Thankfully, Grayce is now feeling a little bit better. Please continue praying for her so she can enjoy the trip again!

Tomorrow, we take Levi to get his medical exam and then we might explore the city a little bit. I'll try to get more pictures than I got today. :)

Thank you all for your prayers and sweet comments!

day five: visiting the orphanage.

Yesterday, we were able to visit an orphanage in China. I don't want to share too many details on here because the internet isn't always a safe place. But I would definitely like to give you a taste of what life is like for an orphan over here.

The children in the picture above (8 years old and younger) were eating their lunch when we arrived. The younger children live at the orphanage and do all their school there. Once they get older they'll be able to attend a regular school. Many of them have special needs, physical, mental or both, but some are very minor needs. These children were very sweet, and it breaks my heart to think they were unwanted.

All of the children were sweet, but there was one in particular who was especially endearing. This little boy has spina bifida, so he can't walk but still has a little movement and feeling in his legs.

When we asked him what his name was, he said it was Don. He was very proud of being able to write it down for us in English. He's 8 years old. What stood out to me about Don was how happy he is. His smile made me smile, and I really hope he gets adopted by a loving family.

Here are three other children I saw yesterday:

Feel free to share the pictures. Our guide said very truthfully that a child's file doesn't stir any emotions, but pictures do. Please keep these children in your prayers, along with future adoptive families. Pray for the orphanage workers too, who are so patient and kind to these children.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

day five {briefly}

Today was a very good day, except for my sister Grayce being sick. I managed to not have much time for blogging again, so I'll just try to share a little bit of what happened today.

We went to the orphanage to see the children and get updates, but also to meet Levi's foster mother. I wasn't sure how that would go since I've heard stories of foster parents that aren't the friendliest. Levi's foster mom was very kind and I could tell she loved him and wants to do what's best for him. I really wish we didn't have the language barrier because it would've been nice to talk to her more. Lord-willing we will be able to keep in touch with her somehow, but we will take some time to get settled back home before we do anything. 

On a side note, while at lunch, the foster mother was very helpful since I still cannot figure out how to use chopsticks properly. The food had to be transferred from the dish to your bowl with chopsticks, so I might not have been able to eat if she hadn't taken pity and helped me.

While at the orphanage, we also got to meet and visit with quite a few other kids 10 and under. I might do a special post about them tomorrow since we don't have anything planned, but all I want to say for now is that they are all complete darlings. It breaks my heart to see such sweet but unwanted children. Please keep them all in your prayers!

After the orphanage and lunch, we came back to the hotel. My Dad and I took a walk around the island (again). I really love the island and the weather here, almost enough for me to stay. Plus, everything is so green that going back to a Charleston winter is going to be depressing.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

day four

We've had a long day and I haven't had time to post until now. We went to the Safari Park (zoo) and that wore most of us out. (Levi fell asleep in the car on the way back!) After that we explored the city and did a little shopping.

There are a lot of pictures in this post because a) it's a good way to remember the trip and, b) I'm extremely weak when it comes to cute animals.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

day three

We're making progress in all the paperwork, but as of today, Levi is officially an Owens! Such a happy time.

After our appointment downtown with the notary, we went to the supermarket. The supermarkets here are quite different to the ones in the U.S. but it was really fun looking around. I'm sure we looked ridiculous taking pictures in the supermarket, but I wanted to be sure and remember what a Chinese supermarket is like.


wedding pictures

One thing I've enjoyed about staying on this island is that there are a LOT of young couples getting wedding pictures taken here. The island is full of gardens and beautiful buildings, so it’s no surprise. Every time we go out, I see at least three couples posing. It’s awesome. Many of the couples like to make their wedding outfit less traditional and closer to their own personal style, which I absolutely adore. Don’t get me wrong, traditional is perfectly fine. I just think it’s sweet that they add their own tastes into the mix and coordinate together. Totes presh. (I think my family is getting tired of hearing me go "Aww" every time we see couples.)

My favorite outfit so far I failed to take a picture of so I’ll just describe it. The bride was wearing her white dress, but with a black and white polka dot sweater on top. The groom was wearing dark yellow pants, a plaid shirt, and a white vest. It was so sweet. I wish I’d have gotten a picture.

Here are a few actual pictures of other couples (wedding photos and not):




They're not the best quality because I didn't want to seem TOO touristy. You know how it is. But they're cute, right? Maybe I'll get some more(better) pictures as we explore this week.


Monday, December 10, 2012

day two from Rick

Rick here.  On a lighter note, we met our guide for the first time today and believe it or not, he was wearing a Carolina Gamecock sweatshirt.  You really couldn’t make this sort of thing up.  Being a Citadel graduate, I really don’t have a bull dog in the fight between the Chickens and the Cats, but here we are in Guangzhou China and our Chinese guide  “Richard” is sporting Gamecock feathers.  Some of my friends may have seen that as a strange omen, but I see it as just another reminder that the world is a small place the more you have the opportunity to explore.  

God has been good and we have enjoyed our trip so far.  As you know from reading my lovely daughters’ posts, we met Levi and have him with us in our hotel room now and we are having a great time.  We have spent our afternoon with games, laughs, pizza and trying hard to communicate with each other.  Laughter is the universal language and we all seem to be fluent.  He enjoyed his first pizza tonight and ate four or five pieces. 

Levi seems to be adjusting well these first 5 hours or so, but we do know he misses his foster family.  We plan to visit with his foster family on Thursday.  He can read several english words but we aren’t sure he knows what they mean.  He is in good spirits generally and loves computer games.


We have more appointments tomorrow and we’ll get to do some serious shopping.  We hope to buy water in large quantities, some toys, snacks, and a Wii power supply (if possible). 

As an Electrical Engineer licensed to practice in several states, the duties I have to protect the public compel me to confess that I am directly responsible for an overvoltage failure or it may be called “destructive testing”.  The China power system delivers 240 Volts to 250 Volts to the wall receptacles.  Our Apple devices have plugs and cords rated for 240 Volts, so they were able to plug directly into the wall receptacles.  However, the Wii we have is not rated for 240 Volts but only 120 Volts.  I didn’t bother to check the rating of that power supply until after the “pop” and small puff of smoke.  The good news is that no one was hurt (unless you consider my personal pride as a someone).

day two!

Today has been very exciting, to say the least. I'm not sure how to organize all that happened, so I guess chronologically is the best option. :)

We woke up this morning and went to breakfast in the hotel. Here is the buffet (this is for you, Mrs. Jackson!):

After that, we went shopping around the island. All of the store owners we've met so far have been very kind and welcoming to us. In one store we went in, the owner made tea for all of us (three different types) so we could have a taste of the way China does tea. That was quite a treat! We were also able to buy a Chinese/English Bible for Levi, so that was good.

At 1:30, we left to get Levi! Chinese drivers are quite different from American drivers, so it's always interesting to ride in our bus. Sometimes I wonder if the lane markings mean anything to them. I'm also surprised at how close they drive to other cars. I'm so thankful I don't have to drive because I'd be a nervous wreck. 

We waited for a while at the adoption center with numerous other families waiting for their child. It was a very happy time for everyone. I might be kind of biased, but I'm pretty sure Levi has the cutest smile I've seen. And his laugh is awesome. :) I look forward to being able to communicate better with him as time goes by. It will definitely be a hard transition and your prayers will be greatly appreciated. But so far, so good! God has blessed us tremendously, and I hope that we will also be a blessing to Levi. :)

We met up with a family we know through a mutual friend since they happened to be in Guangzhou while we are here. This is the Gonzalez family receiving their new daughter:

Last, and definitely least, a cool phone booth we saw while exploring. :)

Go check out Grayce's blog because she's blogging about the trip too. :)


Sunday, December 9, 2012

day one

After over 24 hours of traveling, we arrived in China yesterday afternoon. It was a long trip, especially for someone like me who can’t sleep on a plane. I was able to take a few short naps, but my eyes were definitely bloodshot and dry when we landed. Also, Korean Air is my favorite airline and I highly recommend it if you're doing any international travel. :)

Today, we did a little bit of exploring around the island we’re staying on. The weather is beautiful here, warmer than Charleston. This is the kind of December weather I like the most. ;)

An interesting thing I’ve learned about Chinese people so far is that they enjoy taking pictures. Pictures of themselves, pictures of their friends, and as we’ve noticed, pictures of Americans. Grayce decided to take pictures back, and I think she'll be posting some of those on her blog

Not much else has happened yet besides sleeping, eating and walking around. Tomorrow, Lord-willing, we'll be going to get Levi! I don’t know the schedule for the rest of the week, but I’ll plan to update the blog once a day so y’all know what’s happening over here. :)

Incheon International Airport in Seoul

Chloe and her KFC in Seoul

the view from the hotel room

Sorry if some pictures are blurry! It's hard to focus while walking. :P