The Perks of Being A Wallflower

There is a little girl named Olivia who is in the heart wing of the hospital right now. On my first day back, her heart started leaking (she has already had heart surgery and has a pacemaker). She is doing much, much better physically. However, her story is a very sad one. She was abandoned at the age of 3. And it was in a hospital that her parents left her. And now she’s back in a hospital, and visiting hours are Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays from 2:30-4:00. No exceptions. Physically, this girl is doing well. Emotionally, I can’t even imagine what she’s going through. Her nanny visits her everytime she is allowed, but that can only do so much. Please keep this little girl in your thoughts, etc.


On Saturday, my roommates and I hired a driver, went to the Summer Palace, ate at Grandma’s Kitchen, met up with Caroline in Soho, and shopped at the Pearl Market. In and of themselves, those things are mildly exciting for me (please forgive me for the “mildly” description. I’ve just been here, done that, etc, and love it, so sometimes touristy things aren’t exactly what I’m looking for anymore). Here’s what excited me the most, however: We did all of these things without a guide, without a translator, knowing very little Chinese.

We were dropped off in the parking lot of the Summer Palace and left to find our way to the ticket booth and buy tickets and explore the place, after haphazardly communicating to our driver how many hours we’d be and where we should meet her. And then we explored the Summer Palace and found our way back to our driver in time. She drove us to a parking garage near Grandma’s Kitchen and then we somehow found our way out of it (that was an adventure we got on video), into Soho, and found Grandma’s Kitchen. We ate there and then explored Soho a bit, and met up with Caroline on time. We bartered in the Pearl Market (I’m terrible at bartering. I got a North Face jacket for 170 yuan ($24.71). Not bad but could have done better). We found our way back to our driver again. We got home safely.

I am very proud of us for Saturday. We explored China “on our own.”

Yesterday morning (Sunday morning), I had the opportunity to play my violin in the w. band. I’ll get to do this every Sunday morning while I am here. I am so excited that the opportunity to play my violin in this manner has come up even in China.

Today, we are going to the Beijing Wildlife Park. Everytime I tell that to a native, their first reaction is “You get to feed the tigers!” Apparently, this place is like a safari; you get into a caged truck and are driven around to see the animals, and they come very close to the truck. This should be a fun adventure.


Weekends are fun (and today is a holiday, the Dragonboat Festival, so it’s a 3 day weekend), but weekdays are my favorite. Because those are the days I get to do what I came for: tangibly love the kids in the foster home. Here are some stories I’ve compiled over this past week. (To put faces with names, visit, and click on “babies” on the lefthand sidebar.)

This kid is a crazy ball of fire. He loves to run around with a goofy smile on his face and destroy anything in his path. I was spending time with him a few days ago, and he took apart a big climbing toy and started throwing all the pieces across the floor. As I was scrambling to pick them up and put them back together, I got whacked square in the forehead by a big plastic tube that he was spinning around. It took me a second to get my bearings together, and when I could see straight again, Wendell was laughing hysterically at me. (I can still feel the bruise.)

This little girl is amazingly smart. She also loves to be in control. And she’s very good at manipulating situations so that she is in control. I have slightly beat her at her own game. I’ve been trying to learn any bit of Chinese that I can. So, during my 2 1/2 hours in the afternoon while the kids are napping (Savannah is not napping), I sit up in this little loft area in the pre-school and read little kid’s books in Pinyin. My roommate and I did this together one day, and we learned our colors. There are also books about animals and fruits and vegetables, etc. So, we brought Savannah up with us. We needed to give her something to do, but she does not like to listen, she likes to do her own thing. We told her we wanted help with our Chinese. She got a big smile on her face and started pointing at the pictures in the books and telling us the names of the objects. We repeat after her, and she corrects our pronounciation. So, I am learning simple Chinese from a 5 year old.

Well, aside from the attachment I already feel to this little boy, he has started to attach himself to me again, on occasion. I was in the big playroom one afternoon, playing with Seth, and 5:00 came around so it was time for me to leave. I told him this, and he immediately lifted his arms up for me to pick him up off the floor. Of course I picked him up, I’m a sucker for that. We walked around the room for a few minutes, and then I said “zaijian (bye)” and tried to put him down. He wrapped his arms around me and pulled himself closer. He wouldn’t let me put him down! He was laughing at this, because he knew what he was doing. I did finally get him on the ground, and he opened the door to let me leave. While I was putting my shoes on, he walked out of the playroom and stood down the hallway watching me. I said bye to him and waved, and he did the same. As I was walking outside and closing the door, I kept my eyes on him, and he kept his eyes locked on mine, with a smile on his face, until the door was closed and we couldn’t see each other again. Dear heart, please be still!!!

I am supposed to be teaching Ben english every afternoon at 4:30. It hasn’t happened yet, because he never listens to me when the time comes. However, I think maybe we’ll both be on the same line soon, because he is really starting to open up to me, much more than last summer (we called him Samson last summer). Most of you know that I am a very quiet and introverted person. I like to sit on the outside of things and watch what is going on. And I am perfectly content with doing that. Sometimes, I do that in the playroom. There is always alot of activity going on, and it is fun to watch the kids interact with each other and the nannies and the other volunteers. So, I sit on the floor and watch things play out. Ben does this too. I’ve caught him standing in a corner on more than occasion, observing everything that is going on in the playroom. It has happened on multiple occasions now, however, that I’ll be sitting on the floor, watching the kids play, and Ben will come out of nowhere and plop down on my lap and start reading a book to himself, or examine his surroundings. He doesn’t need one-on-one interaction, or something large and shiny to keep him happy. He just wants to sit with someone and watch the outside world. A boy after my own heart!

One of my most favorite books is “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky. There’s a line in the book that goes like this: “He’s a wallflower … you see things. You keep quiet about them. And you understand.”

Ben has a family. He talks with them on skype once a week. In a few months, they will come and get him, and he will move to Oklahoma and be an American boy. I hope his family will allow him to continue to be a wallflower every once in a while. Us introverts don’t always need to be specifically included to feel included.