Today we had the opportunity to go to see the Shaolin Temple. But first, we loaded up with breakfast and captured a few cute pics of our princess.
The Shaolin Temple is the birthplace of Kung Fu, and with both of our boys in martial arts, we really wanted to see this place. The Shaolin Monastery, (AKA Shaolin Temple), is a Chan Buddhist temple in Dengfeng County, Henan Province, China. It goes back 1,500 years, and is the main temple of the Shaolin school of Buddhism to this day. The Kung Fu boarding school is here as well, teaching children from 6-18 years of age. They stay at this school year-round and see their families for one month out of the year. I can’t even imagine!
The drive there was about two hours I would say. It is funny how you lose all sense of day and time while you are traveling and experiencing so much. It is back near Luoyang, in a beautiful part of the country. The mountains were magnificent and just towering over us!
When we arrived, we got to see some of the Kung Fu students practicing in a massive courtyard-type area. Our tour guide for the day was named Tiger, and he was great. There was so much he told us that I just can’t remember it all. A lot of the Kung Fu students will eventually go into the military, but not all.
Our first stop was to see a demonstration. We had tickets for a specific time, so Tiger made sure were were the first in line so we could get great seats, and we did! Second row front and center! I am so so glad we went on this trip JUST so we can share the video clips with our boys. The students were amazing! The kinds of things they could do was just incredible! One kid was like a contortionist. Another was an awesome tumbler, and others used weapons like I’ve never seen before. They had a few moments of audience participation, which brought some humor, and then they had older martial artists perform tremendous feats like driving a pin through a pane of glass and balancing on swords! I wish I had pictures from this, but we have video.
The next part was walking through the temple. The funny thing is you think the “temple” is one building. Not so. It is a series of many buildings, each with a different purpose and significance. Very similar to the Forbidden City in that way. We kept walking and walking and learning more from Tiger as we went. I am SO glad we invested in the Tula toddler carrier! I carried Mia in it all day and she even fell asleep in it for about an hour for her nap. Everything in China has steps and raised thresholds. A stroller would never work here. The carrier is just perfect. The only downside is the extra amount of heat and weight that comes with a 30lb child. It was very warm today, but we managed.
After the temple, we walked further out to the Pagoda. This is where there are monuments built for the Shaolin monks who were influential in their time. None of them goes more than 7 sections high, but the height is determined by the monk’s students, as like an evaluation of his work. The monuments serve as tombstones, as this is actually the cemetery where these famous monks are buried. When I asked Tiger about religion in China, he said that most people here believe in the religion of Chairman Mao. Then he pulled out a 100 RMB bill and pointed and said they believe in money. This made me so sad. How devastating that most people in China worship money more than anything!
At this point, Mia woke up, wanted to walk, and was dragging her feet from still being tired. We had an option to go up the mountain in a cable car and see the view (for an extra cost), but all three families who went on this excursion decided it would be best to head back. We were able to eat at a local fast food restaurant right there called Dico’s. Then, we had an opportunity to look at the souvenir shops. We wanted to get something for the boys, so we got them each a t-shirt with the Kung Fu movements on it.
On the way home, Mia was giving us a hard time in the van. She has been super energetic most of the time anyways, and we had some issues the day we went to her orphanage as well. On the way to the Shaolin Temple, she listened when Tiger told her in Chinese to sit down on the seat. On the way back, she really didn’t listen to anyone. We are going to have to work very hard at teaching her manners about certain things, too. Tiger offered her a snack and then she kept grabbing for them and never asking, saying please, or saying thank you, until I prompted her to say “xie xie” (thank you). She was all over the place and when we didn’t want her to do something, she would yell or worse yet, spit. Tiger would try to talk to her from time to time about things, but again, the problem also lies in her dialect. She probably understands a lot of what he said, but not all of it. And he didn’t understand everything she said either.
It is so frustrating and sad and trying when you cannot communicate with your child. Our patience was not at the level where it needed to be, and it was hard to gain any control when your child doesn’t even understand what you are saying. At one point, Mia started crying because I said “no thank you ” about something she wanted me to do or give her and it went on and on and I just finally started crying, too. I just want her to know that she cannot have every single thing she wants. Sometimes that is not what is best for her. Other times it is not polite. And still other times, it would be excessive to have as much as she wants. There is a fine line when you are adopting a child. You need to meet their needs and build trust, but you can’t let them walk all over you get every single thing they want. This made for a very exhausting ride back to the hotel.
When we got back, the other people in our Temple group came and checked on me, since they were in the van with us and saw probably most of what was going on. I couldn’t talk about it without crying. I love her so much, but I have to be her mama, and part of that is telling her “no” when it is not good for her. I hate that I can’t communicate with her in a way that she understands. Of course, we use body language, but that does not always help a stubborn two-year-old.
We had sent out laundry yesterday, so I had to ask Vivian about that anyway. When she and Tina arrived at our room, she asked me what was wrong and I told her about how exhausting the last few hours had been. She stooped down and spoke in Chinese to Mia. Her big eyes showed that she was getting shy, but hopefully she understood Vivian. Mia didn’t say a word. She just stared back at Vivian, as she gave her a little Chinese toddler lecture. Basically, “listen to your mama, she loves you.” It was a bit more involved than that, but that was the jist.
Vivian was there when we visited Mia’s orphanage, and she told me that while she was very loved there, it was also obvious that she was very spoiled. She was probably not told “no” very often at all. Vivian said that she really WAS a princess there. The very pretty ones generally get special treatment in the orphanages. I felt very silly. I was so happy that she was very loved, that the thought of her being spoiled never crossed my mind! The pieces were starting to come together.
Thankfully, about that time, other families started hanging out in the hallway, and I decided it might be good to just chill out there with them and see if Mia would play nicely with the other kids and get all our minds on something else; something fun. She played the shy card again, but some bubbles helped. It’s like all the moms brought out their bags of tricks and we sat around the hallway floor playing and talking. It reminded me how special our travel group really is.
We have another week to go and it is so wonderful having the support and help from like-minded people. We are all in this together. As we talked, we found out that we were not the only ones going through a rough day. We played and talked in the hallway for quite some time and then several of us decided to go eat dinner together. Since this is our last night in Zhengzhou, we ate at our favorite noodle restaurant across from our hotel and enjoyed the company and understanding of our new friends.
Tonight, we are packing to fly to Guangzhou. We leave at 11am, which sounds great, but we still have to finish packing in the morning and allow enough time for all three of us to get ready and have a good breakfast. We are tired. I am emotionally spent. I have cried a lot today and I know that this is all part of the process. Please pray that God will give us all understanding and patience with one another as we work through communication and gentle discipline with Mia. I am also missing Owen and Camden a lot and can’t wait to see them! Thank you all for your continued support. This is the real stuff here. It is not always sunshine and lollipops. Sometimes it is plain hard work. But no matter what, God is here. Please pray He will intervene when we have these moments of difficulty. Pray that we will be able to meet her needs and show her boundaries at the same time. We are so grateful for such an amazing community of friends surrounding us. Thank you again!!!!
Here are some more pictures from our day: