Location: Beijing

Team morale this morning was surprisingly high given that most of us stayed up late the night before watching a very informative and historical video about past Chinese dynasties (just kidding, we ditched Brent Johnson’s pick and went for “The Proposal” instead). Our group was split and assigned to either the baby home or the group home based on who wanted to attend Catholic mass. Myself, Grace, Alexa B., Aidiana, Oliver, and Christina accompanied Thomas to an apartment in the same complex as the group home. The priest’s sitting room served as the church, with the coffee table dressed as an altar and the unblessed hosts stored in a faded Winnie-the-Pooh tin. The accommodations were simple yet intimate, and it was a peaceful way to begin the day.

My group headed over to the group home to begin an action-packed couple of hours. Having already spent a morning with the group home kids, I knew the fast track to their good graces: piggybacks. Oliver was a personal favorite among the younger boys because of his killer spin move, while Grace was loved by the more shy children because of her comfortably familiar presence. I also was able to spend time with some of the group home kids that were closer to my age, such as Peter (15) whose badminton skills had me running from corner to corner on the court. When lunch time came, everyone trooped back to the apartment for grilled cheese prepared by Hadrien, Aubrey, and Dan. Aidana summed up the morning quite accurately: it was the most tired she said she had ever been.

Our afternoon excursion brought us to the 798 Art District, a collection of streets lined with eateries, little shops, and street sculptures. The group split into smaller divisions and explored the area with wallets full of yuan. Jewelry was a popular buy for most of the girls, but I opted for a wallet so I could finally ditch the ugly under-the-shirt necklace-style pouch my parents had packed for me to hide my money and passport while I was in various airports. On the ride home, I saw my third car crash since coming to China. We have begun to keep an unofficial count as crashes are rather common. I guess it is a foreseeable outcome when cars frequently blow red lights, drive in the oncoming traffic lane, make frequent U-turns, and merge blindly between lanes. Thankfully, our China Little Flower drivers are quite skilled at safely transporting everyone.

Dinner was as delicious and exotic as usual. I tried dragon fruit for the first time and was pleasantly surprised by its lightly sweet taste and kiwi-like texture. What I once would have referred to as “group life” I now would call “family life” – while we miss our blood relatives at home, there is plenty of love within the apartment, group home, and baby home to keep us all smiling!