Friday, December 25, 2009

Dear Virgina

Reprint of a letter written in 1987 by a little girl named Virginia to The New York Sun. Read it and believe.

Dear Editor—

I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.” Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?

Virginia O’Hanlon

Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies. You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Manifest Your Dreams Today

“The thing always happens that you really believe in; and the belief in a thing makes it happen.” Frank Lloyd Wright

Everything I have hoped and dreamed for has now come true. The future is wide open and I am grateful for all that has been given to me.

Arwyn, Arwyn, She's Our Girl!

I know, you want more about our girl. Part of me wishes I could hold on to her forever right here and not share her with anyone, but she is larger than we are and is ready for the world.

To be delivered to parents from an orphanage is a blessing for all involved. Great joy is given to us as parents, to the children (hopefully) in being with a forever family and to the orphanage staff as they often find joy in seeing their young charges find a home. Those who work with the children know the possibilities of what awaits them later in life and it is sometimes not very pretty, but I will not write of that here.

First, she is a very healthy little girl. She has rolls of fat that hopefully will melt away as she runs and plays with Noah and all of our friend's children. She was still on formula when she was brought to us, though we have taken her off since. She is a fairly good eater but still leans toward rice, which I gladly give her. Luckily, she loves fruit and I think over the next few weeks her palate will broaden and she will embrace more of what we eat at home.

She is one of the funniest children Nathan or I have ever seen. The facial expressions that come from this kid and the antics she presents us with have us in stitches. At first we just did not know what to do with her! We laughed some, but some of her expressions were so serious, we thought she was being serious. Upon flying to Guangzhou, she was in the sling and we were waiting for Noah and Nathan to pick up the luggage. She was making this very serious face at me and I mirrored it to her. She laughed and laughed! She had been trying this for a week and we did not realize it was part of a game. She and I did this for probably 10 minutes and were both laughing hysterically with people standing around watching and laughing with us. It was such an incredible bonding moment.

I know more of those moments will come. Most of the time, I feel that bonding is on fast forward and she is doing so well and then there are times when I realize what a long way we have to go and how patient we all have to be to get her where she needs to be.

She is so precious to us and we are so lucky to have her. Our nighttime issues are getting better and tonight I am awake watching her sleep. I am glad of this as when she begins to stir I can settle her down preventing what I am sure are night terrors. Some nights her sleep is sound but we have some nights when the terrors are strong. I know that as we attach they will get better.

Also, once we get back into a schedule with her life will flow more smoothly.

I'm uploading more photos of the girl as she is cuter than...well anyone but Noah of course!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

the Buddhist Temple in Guiyang

I think...okay, I favorite this thusfar has been visiting the Buddhis temple in Guiyang.  We were so sad we did not have more time on this excursion as it was the best for our entire trip.  Our guide and driver too us to Liang Park.  This park is a natural sanctuary that is capped with a very old Buddhist temple.  We drove through and out of the city and eventually hit a little (I mean little) dirt road through an old part of town (that is very much lived in).  We finally came to the sanctuary which was such a stark contrast to the rest of the city.  There was a man made resevoir which provided much of the drinking water to the city at the base of the mountain.  It was obvious that the area was untouched and was a lush area filled with incredible greenery. 

One of the special things about the park was the monkeys that were indigenous to the area.  They come out in the morning when the park is busiest with morning excercisers and tourists.  We took several photos of the monkeys as you can see! 

After visiting the monkeys, we journeyed up to the temple which was very beautiful.  I won't say much about the temple, as our time there was filled with peace and joy as well as sadness.  If you want to know what I mean, you can ask me, but I will not say here. 

I will say this, the monks were singing while we were there and no matter what tradition it is from, there is nothing more beautiful and peaceful than listening to monks sing praises to their higher power.

We are so blessed to have made this special visit.

More on Guiyang

It was probably obvious to you that I did not enjoy Guiyang City in the province of Guizhou.  However, there were a couple of high points I want to talk about.  On our third day of having Arwyn, our guide Aggie took us to Qian, a 600 year old village outside of Guiyang.  Though this is what many of us think of when we think of China - and these areas do still exist - they are being lost or rather drowned out with the progression of a much more modern society. 

I applaud China, though as they are making efforts to preserve these areas for future generations.  Qian is a very beautiful village that is a living village.  Not like Williamsburg where people pretend to be a living village.  Qian is a real village where people live how they have for the last 600 years, including farming in the traditional ways (okay, all except some of the folks drive new Audis).  We did some shopping in Qian and had a wonderful visit in the local tea shop, which was enchanting.  I am including some photos in this post of our time in Qian.

If you look behind us in the photo of the 4 of us, you can see the tiered gardens where the locals grow their food.  And, the photo that looks like a temple, with the incense, is a temple.  It is a Taoist temple where I was honored to be able to make an offering and ask for blessing on our family.  I was so grateful to be able to honor the Taoist tradition in this way for us and for Arwyn and to offer our thanks for the gift we have received.

We also visited a Buddist temple in Guiyang (see next post).  The Taoist and Buddhist temples were probably my favorite parts of the trip! I wish we could have skipped the Great Wall and other touristy things to see all of the temples in China.

Gyuiyang, Guizhou

While the thoughts are still fresh in my mind, I want to write about Guizhou (Arwyn's province), specifically the capitol city where we stayed, Guiyang.  We flew into a smallish airport on Sunday evening of last week.  Our guide, Aggie and our driver for the week, Mr. Wu, picked us up after a 3 hour delay from Beijing due to heavy fogs.  Guiyang is in the center of a ring of mountains and misty fogs often settle over the city.  That day, however, the fogs had lifted and it was sunny and around 60 degrees.  As we drove into the city we saw that the area was a natural beauty.  In fact, the province boasts the largest cave and waterfall in China.

We drove into the city and it seemed very metropolitan.  Over 1.3 MILLION people live in the city with nearly 3 million in the area immediately surrounding the city.  We went to our hotel, a new Sheraton that was built as a sort of a business destination and was built to seriously appeal to Westerners.  I won't say too much about the hotel, however, they were SO kind to us the entire week.  They went out of our way to make our stay as pleasurable as possible.  The only negatives in regards to our stay in this VERY posh hotel were the smells in the bathroom.  The bathroom was very nice but smelled like cooked cabbage.    We also were in a hotel that turns off the entire heating and cooling system in moderate weather.  Outside, the weather was around 75 degrees.  The first night we were able to use our AC which was sweet, but the next day it no longer worked.  The manager was nice enough to send up  housekeeping to open our windows (a big help, not) and bring a fan.  At least he tried! 

This was the hardest leg of the trip for me.  Beijing is very metropolitan and our agency guides were with us as was the rest of the group.  Doing everything en masse made life fun and manageable in Beijing.  Going into Guiyang was like being slingshot into a foggy dream.  I found it very difficult to navigate the city.  Very few people we encountered spoke English.  I don't mean to sound like an American who expects everyone to speak English.  I do not feel that way.  But, we were expecting to have our guide with us more than she was.  The first day we were dropped at the hotel.  We were dirty, tired and hungry and was hoping our guide would help us get acquainted with the area before leaving us.  She did not.  We were completely on our own.

We did manage on the next day, after getting Arwyn, to get out and get to Wal-Mart....okay - we stopped shopping at WM years ago and I we only eat at McD's a couple of times a year.  Since being in China I have eaten McD's 3 times and shopped at Wal-Mart (a horendous experience!).  In Guiyang there is no air conditioning.  Coupled with the large number of people crowded into the shops and restaurants, I felt like I would pass out each time we went into a building.  We finally found a very posh 6 story department store near the hotel (also unbearably hot) but in the basement there was a very nice grocery store (reminded us of Whole Foods) which was VERY air conditioned.  We went there a couple of times for refuge!!!

Let's talk about the food.  In Beijing, we had a fabulous breakfast buffet.  For lunch, we went with the group and our guides ordered our food for us.  They did a great job ordering for such a large group of people.  We also had a nice buffet in Guiyang, but had a very difficult time eating outside of that.  Okay,  Noah and I had a difficult time eating.  Nathan was fine anywhere.  We ate several times for lunch in the hotel and ate dinner mostly in the room with room service.  We ventured out once to the Chinese restaurant next door which was okay but not great as we did know what to order.  On the last day we finally ate a cheap local restaurant with our guide and it was DELICIOUS.  And, the 4 of us plus our guide and driver all ate lunch for around $12.00.  This was what we were wanting the entire time, but could make her understand that we needed her help.  Her English was excellent, but there is an assumption that wanted to eat at the finer local restaurants, which were more like $30 per meal. 

Oh well.....We had a lovely Thanksgiving dinner at the hotel with a most delicious Turkey!  We were very impressed.  Apparently it is very fashionable to celebrate Thanksgiving here in China and the restaurant was full with double the staff.  We know that because we were fortunate to get to know the restaurant staff during the course of our stay.  But, how could we not, with Arwyn Croy - Ambassador to China - with us.  She appears to be attaching well to us and does not attempt to go to other adults, but she is more than happy to smile, wave and blow kisses at all passersby. 

The culture here is very different from the culture of Beijing and VERY different from Guangzhou, where we are now.  I won't go into details as I do not want to seem disrepectful, but it is obvious that poverty is much more extreme in Guiyang and the average person is much less educated.  This is not in reference to lack of English in the province.  This is in respect to the habits of the people on the street and more.  It was also obvious that Westerners rarely visit this city.  We gathered that by the stares of MANY of the people.  We got a few stares in Beijing, but nothing obvious and few here in Guangzhou, but no one really pays attention to us.  In Guiyang we had people stare hard at us and had children look and laugh and stare wide eyed. 

Well, not a very well written blog post, but my thoughts on Guiyang nonetheless.  I am having more difficulty putting my thoughts in order now as we near the end of the trip.  We are travel weary and ready to come home.  I'll post more as I want to share a few more things about Guiyang. 

Peace Out.  Dana.