Location: China

For many of us, today started off bright and early, not because of a wakeup time or because we needed to be out early, but because we found ourselves so jet-lagged that we awoke two to three hours ahead of the designated wake-up time, and spent the remaining time anticipating the exciting day that we had ahead of us. When breakfast finally arrived, we were greeted by a traditional American breakfast of cereal and some sandwiches. After breakfast, we went to the place that we had all been waiting to see, which was one of the little flower homes, where we met and played with many little smiling faces, some babies and some toddlers, who walked around the room, ready to meet their new friends. Over the next half an hour we met, played and learned about many different children. Half of the group began upstairs, where the younger kids lived, and the other half stayed downstairs, where the older kids played. After our first session of play, we were able to have a quick discussion with Little Flower’s creator, Brent Johnson, who discussed how these kids came to the home, how the problem of abandoned children has developed in China and the role that the Foundation plays in these kids lives. Over his speech, he stressed the importance of love and cared to these children and made sure that we understood the problems that they faced daily, and how we could help them to overcome these disabilities. After our talk, we were able to have another session with the kids, and we rotated locations to make sure that we were all able to experience both groups, the babies and the toddlers. After a long and somewhat tiring play session with the kids, we had to say goodbye, promising to return tomorrow for more fun. After the home, we headed off to our next destination, the great wall! We packed our bags, filled our water bottles and we headed to the wall, eager to see one of the most amazing historical and cultural monuments in the entire world. Once we got there, we soon realized that this expedition would not just be a sightseeing tour, but it would require some hard work to get to the great views that were at the highest point on the wall. Although everybody in the group made it up very far up the wall, only a few were dedicated to making it all the way to the top, and their hard work was rewarded with the satisfaction of reaching the top, as well as a few sore muscles. However, the view made all of the hard work that we did worth it because we were able to see for miles, out over Beijing and across mountains. It was enough to impress even the most jaded mountain climber. After a short trek back down the wall, which also took about half the time, we got back on the bus and headed back home, dead tired and ready for a long shower. Dinner was an adventure of its own. The particular restaurant where we ate specialized in Peking Duck, one of China’s greatest and most well-loved dishes. For many of us, we had never had duck before, and it was an opportunity to experience something that we had never experienced before. For everyone else, there were plenty of side dishes and other food to keep us full, even if the duck was not to our taste. After dinner, we had a group discussion about the nature of disabilities, including those we had seen the kids experience this morning and even those in our own lives that hold us back. We each got an opportunity to listen to one another and to speak about what we had experienced and what parts of our personalities could limit us in some way. After that, we discussed the differences and the similarities between the difficulties that we faced and the ones that we witnessed in the children. Ultimately we came to the realization that we had much to learn from these kids, but also that we had much in common and in many ways we were alike. This gave us something important to think about whenever we interact with the kids in the future, as we can use these similarities to relate to them and to see the great people that they are. With that thought in everybody’s mind, we headed off to a much-needed rest, eager to see what the next day had in store.