Location: Beijing

By 7 o’clock this morning, excitement was already buzzing through the apartment. Climbing out of my top bunk, I could hear Grace and Nicki preparing breakfast for the group. Although sleepy-eyed, the flow from the showers to the bedroom to the breakfast table felt like rush hour traffic. At breakfast, no one was shy about taking seconds or thirds, knowing they have to fuel up for the day ahead. Although there is a slight wave of fatigue washing over the group, the group is not lacking in strength. We all pushed through for our double service day ahead. Nicki and Grace stayed back as chefs, where they prepared delicious, American hot dogs and chips meal. Lexi, Emily, Oliver, Susan, and Elise went to the baby home for the morning. After much observing of the I.E.s, students are rocking babies to sleep with ease and feeding toddlers with no problem. We even have students who can do both at the same time. Today while Lexi was feeding one of the toddlers, he promptly fell asleep on the high chair table. Lexi, worried about the child’s nutrient intake, asked, I.E., if she should wake up the child so that he could finish his meal. It is amazing how quickly we all have taken on parent like attributes while working with these children.

The remaining students, Alexa, Aubrey, Eloise, Hadrien, Aidana, and I, went to the group home. Hannah prepared a nature theme for the activities of the day. We started with the children coloring and designing paper snakes. As time progressed, some children moved outside to play with Eloise, Hadrien, Alexa, and myself. The outdoor games ranged from bad mitten to playing with bubbles. Then Hannah called us back in to make edible mud. Tasty. We scooped chocolate ice cream, oreo crumbles, and gummy worms into a cup. Although this activity captured the children’s full attention, when the sugar was completely consumed, children were bouncing off the wall. In the midst of the chaos, Aubrey, Alexa, and I were astounded by a paper flower bowl created by Kayla, a group home child. She was eager to teach us how to make it. I am always amazed that no matter where I am or who I am with regardless of how much younger they are then me or if there is a language barrier, they can always teach me something new. When Kayla showed us how to make the paper bowl, I could see her face light up, and a slight smile emerges on her face. Although Kayla taught me how to make a paper bowl, her real lesson was that simply letting her be the knowledgeable one teaching me how to make a paper bowl supplied her with undeniable joy.

When we returned from our morning activity, we were all excited to see hot dogs for lunch, bring back memories of our first lunch. Over food, we laughed at the memories of the first few days. It is crazy to think back to a time before we all knew each other because after living in a house together for only a couple of days we have become a family. Knowing that we have only spent about ten days together seems like we barely know each other. But thinking about all the experiences we have enjoyed, all the risks we have taken, all the lessons we have learned, and all the laughs we have shared, it is impossible to remember feeling uncomfortable around my Lifeworks “sisters” and “brothers.”

In the afternoon, Grace, Emily, Lexi, Oliver, Elise, and Nicki went to the group home children. Supposedly they watched an English movie, but from what I heard, it sounded way more fun than just watching a movie. Popcorn was flying, and the children were animatedly discussing the movie in Chinese. Although the children have bursting energy, somehow the students seemed to keep them under control. Now that the students have visited the group home multiple times, the children have started becoming comfortable with them. When the students originally sat down to watch a movie, a young group home boy recognized Grace. He was so excited to see her that he rushed over and sat in her lap for the duration of the film. It is clear that these children have endless love to share, but what is more impressive is the way they inspire love in us. Not only do you feel close to the children, but also your fellow students and Lifeworks leaders. You can’t help but love these children.

At the baby home, Alexa, Hadrien, Hannah, Aubrey, Eloise, and I could feel tighter bonds with those children as well. I don’t believe there is any greater feeling in the world than a toddler who is crying and reaching out their little arms for you to make it all better. The toddlers bounced around as they watched Teletubbies. They are always excited to play with you, regardless of the game. As the afternoon continued, we transitioned to the upstairs with the babies. Alexa moved from room to room, rocking the babies to sleep with ease. No matter how hard the child is crying or how many people have tried to calm the baby, Alexa only needs to hold the baby for a few seconds before the baby is ready for a nap. In the baby playground, Hannah found a new game to play with the children. She wanted to take a photo with two adorable little girls, but when no one was available to take the photo, she had her iPhone so that the babies could see themselves. All of a sudden these little one-year-olds started posing and leaning into Hannah for photos. Then the nurse, Kate, brought in sharpies so that Eloise, Alexa, Hadrien, and I could color on one of the child’s casts. I am always amazed by the way China Little Flower brightens every situation.

Back at the apartment, Mr. Johnson was waiting, eager to teach us about China. Every lesson emphasizes his passion for this amazing country. Today, after student prompting, we discussed how the Chinese people view the purpose of life. This led to a discussion about the history of religion in China. He emphasized how the Chinese acknowledge the importance of several religions and feel when people die they should pray to each God so that they cover all their bases. He pushes us to think about life in different ways, and he makes his students want to be passionate and love something as much as he loves China.

To conclude our Chinese discussion, we all enjoyed a tasty Chinese dinner. It was then followed by a forum led by Lexi. She did an excellent job, making us think about questions that even governments struggle to resolve today. These forums lead us to challenge our beliefs, learn about other beliefs, and become closer as a group. Currently, we are all snuggled up together, watching Mulan and preparing questions to ask Mr. Johnson tomorrow. It is amazing to see the scenery in Mulan and say, “Hey we’ve been there.” Although at the beginning of the trip Mr. Johnson reassured us that no matter how little you do, you will make a difference, I did not realize then that the change would be in me. I cannot wait to see where the rest of this trip leads me.

P.S. Mom, Dad, Josh, I miss you so much! I love you! I cannot wait to see you!