Thursday, July 30, 2009

Anna's quotes

We have been driving all week, staying with friends and not having much internet access, so I am way behind on blogs. However, before I forget these Anna-isms, I thought I'd just write down two of them:

"Where are we?"
"Mississippi"
"Did Mrs. Sippie eat my fruit rollup?"

"Keep your eyes open girls for a restaurant."
"No, Daddy. I will keep my eyes closed for a restaurant."

Monday, July 13, 2009

We must start from the simple premise that Africa’s future is up to Africans

Our partner, Carter Crockett, just moved to Kigali on the 12th. On the 11th, President Obama went to Africa to give a message of economic hope and partnership. I've highlighted some portions of his speech below, one that is the latest indication that we are in the "right place... right time". The whole article can be read at:http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2009/07/11/obamas-speech-in-ghana-on-african-development/

“We must start from the simple premise that Africa’s future is up to Africans.”

and the West has often approached Africa as a patron, rather than a partner.

This progress may lack the drama of the 20th century’s liberation struggles, but make no mistake: it will ultimately be more significant. For just as it is important to emerge from the control of another nation, it is even more important to build one’s own.

So I believe that this moment is just as promising for Ghana — and for Africa — as the moment when my father came of age and new nations were being born. This is a new moment of promise. Only this time, we have learned that it will not be giants like Nkrumah and Kenyatta who will determine Africa’s future. Instead, it will be you — the men and women in Ghana’s Parliament, and the people you represent. Above all, it will be the young people — brimming with talent and energy and hope — who can claim the future that so many in my father’s generation never found.

To realize that promise, we must first recognize a fundamental truth that you have given life to in Ghana: development depends upon good governance.

As for America and the West, our commitment must be measured by more than just the dollars we spend. I have pledged substantial increases in our foreign assistance, which is in Africa’s interest and America’s. But the true sign of success is not whether we are a source of aid that helps people scrape by — it is whether we are partners in building the capacity for transformational change.

This mutual responsibility must be the foundation of our partnership.

The continent is rich in natural resources. And from cell phone entrepreneurs to small farmers, Africans have shown the capacity and commitment to create their own opportunities. But old habits must also be broken. Dependence on commodities — or on a single export — concentrates wealth in the hands of the few and leaves people too vulnerable to downturns.

In Ghana, for instance, oil brings great opportunities, and you have been responsible in preparing for new revenue. But as so many Ghanaians know, oil cannot simply become the new cocoa. From South Korea to Singapore, history shows that countries thrive when they invest in their people and infrastructure; when they promote multiple export industries, develop a skilled work force and create space for small and medium-sized businesses that create jobs.

As Africans reach for this promise, America will be more responsible in extending our hand. By cutting costs that go to Western consultants and administration, we will put more resources in the hands of those who need it, while training people to do more for themselves. That is why our $3.5 billion food security initiative is focused on new methods and technologies for farmers — not simply sending American producers or goods to Africa. Aid is not an end in itself. The purpose of foreign assistance must be creating the conditions where it is no longer needed.

America can also do more to promote trade and investment. Wealthy nations must open our doors to goods and services from Africa in a meaningful way. And where there is good governance, we can broaden prosperity through public-private partnerships that invest in better roads and electricity; capacity-building that trains people to grow a business; and financial services that reach poor and rural areas. This is also in our own interest — for if people are lifted out of poverty and wealth is created in Africa, new markets will open for our own goods.

One area that holds out both undeniable peril and extraordinary promise is energy. Africa gives off less greenhouse gas than any other part of the world, but it is the most threatened by climate change. A warming planet will spread disease, shrink water resources and deplete crops, creating conditions that produce more famine and conflict. All of us — particularly the developed world — have a responsibility to slow these trends — through mitigation, and by changing the way that we use energy. But we can also work with Africans to turn this crisis into opportunity.

Together, we can partner on behalf of our planet and prosperity and help countries increase access to power while skipping the dirtier phase of development. Across Africa, there is bountiful wind and solar power; geothermal energy and bio-fuels. From the Rift Valley to the North African deserts; from the Western coast to South Africa’s crops — Africa’s boundless natural gifts can generate its own power, while exporting profitable, clean energy abroad.

These steps are about more than growth numbers on a balance sheet. They’re about whether a young person with an education can get a job that supports a family; a farmer can transfer their goods to the market; or an entrepreneur with a good idea can start a business. It’s about the dignity of work. Its about the opportunity that must exist for Africans in the 21st century.

America has a responsibility to advance this vision, not just with words, but with support that strengthens African capacity.

With strong institutions and a strong will, I know that Africans can live their dreams in Nairobi and Lagos; in Kigali and Kinshasa; in Harare and right here in Accra.

Now, that triumph must be won once more, and it must be won by you. Fifty-two years ago, the eyes of the world were on Ghana. And a young preacher named Martin Luther King traveled here, to Accra, to watch the Union Jack come down and the Ghanaian flag go up. This was before the march on Washington or the success of the civil rights movement in my country. Dr. King was asked how he felt while watching the birth of a nation. And he said: “It renews my conviction in the ultimate triumph of justice.”

And I am particularly speaking to the young people. In places like Ghana, you make up over half of the population. Here is what you must know: the world will be what you make of it.

You have the power to hold your leaders accountable and to build institutions that serve the people. You can serve in your communities and harness your energy and education to create new wealth and build new connections to the world. You can conquer disease, end conflicts and make change from the bottom up. You can do that. Yes you can. Because in this moment, history is on the move.


But these things can only be done if you take responsibility for your future. It won’t be easy. It will take time and effort. There will be suffering and setbacks. But I can promise you this: America will be with you. As a partner. As a friend. Opportunity won’t come from any other place, though _ it must come from the decisions that you make, the things that you do, and the hope that you hold in your hearts.

Freedom is your inheritance. Now, it is your responsibility to build upon freedom’s foundation.”

Monday, July 6, 2009

Differences between our two girls

Traveling with our girls also highlights their differences - and oh how we love both of them! Tonight, we were driving home from Lian's camp in Fort Worth. We had just had some dinner. Definitely nearing bed time. Anna would not stop talking. Our entire road trip was like this - constant Anna chatter. We finally resorted to our "Quiet Game." You know, the one where you see who can be the most quiet. At the mention of this game, this is how the following ensued:

Daddy - "It's time for the Quiet Game."
Lian - "I LOVE that game!" (proceeds to be silent for the next ten minutes)
Anna - "No."
Anna - "Let's play game."
Anna - "What game, Daddy?"
Daddy - "The quiet game, Anna."
Anna - "Oh. What's that?"
Anna - "We play game."
Anna - "Mom, you be Bob. I be Cucumber (referring to Bob and Larry from Veggie Tales)"
Anna - "What, ma?" (I hadn't said anything)
Anna - "Momma - you be Bob. I be cucumber. Mom?"
Mommy - "Look, Anna, we are almost home. I can't be Bob."
Anna - "Home to Texas house?"
Mommy - "Yes, Anna."
Anna - "We aren't. You be Bob. I be cucumber."

and then we pulled in the driveway. So much for the quiet game :)

Advice for traveling long-distances with small children

My friend asked if I could write about advice for traveling with small children. We often say that our children were conditioned to travel long distances from the moment they arrived into our family since we had to fly home from China with them. Lian has traveled back to China with us when we went to receive her sister and both girls traveled to East Africa with us last Fall. They have made several domestic flights to see family and for work with me, but this was the longest stretch they've had in a car. We didn't know what to expect. Everyone said, "I hope you have lots of DVDs." We actually didn't pack any intentionally. Of course, we weren't sure if we'd have to buy one mid-trip to save our sanity, but thus far we haven't needed one. but overall it wasn't nearly as bad as we thought it might be. We have two completely different personalities in our children - Lian is quite content to play by herself quietly in the car, but when she's tired and hungry she can get grumpy. Anna is a constant chatterbug and hates to be confined, so we weren't sure what to expect. To be honest - at the end of five days of traveling in the car, Dano and I were ready to have a little space :) So here's a few pointers we have learned on this road trip and our other travels...

Children will rise to the occasion. If they hear you talking pre-trip about how tough the road trip is going to be in front of them, they will probably think it's going to be difficult. So make the preparations fun. Be excited about it in front of them. Don't complain in front of them.

Emphasize Team-work. We always start out any trip with a little family cheer. May sound corny, but I think it reemphasizes the fact that we are a team. If one of us is grumpy, it affects the rest of us. We are a team and we have to work together to make our trip a success. That means everyone has to help. S

The Power of Music and Podcasts.
Prior to moving all our earthly possessions, Dano downloaded all of our music onto his IPod, so we wouldn't have to bring any CDs to Rwanda. According to Anna, classical music is her favorite. Anna is a non-stop talker. When she's not talking, she is singing to herself. This has driven us a little crazy on this trip, but we found that classical music helps calm her. We've also downloaded our own podcasts, not just kids music - i.e. BBC, 60 Minutes, Tim Keller sermons, along with enough 80's music to keep us going - stuff that makes us feel like adults. We tell the kids this is our tiem to listen to the radio and we expect them to respect that. Again, have high expectations - they will rise to it.

Two Hour Jumping Jack Stops and Find the Mc-Ds with a Playground. The kids need to run around and so do the adults. We tried stopping every 2 to 2 1/2 hours and we all did jumping jacks together outside the car. Pretty funny looking, but you'll never see the people at the gas station again :) The playgrounds at Mc-Ds were definite life-savers. We never spent more than 30 minutes at a rest-stop and never sat down at a restaurant. Always took our food with us - as that kept the girls busy in the car.

Fun, but relatively healthy snacks. The girls love the fruit roll-ups we brought and they take a long time to eat, so they're great! String cheese kept in the cooler is also great. We also got each girl a little bag of candy and when they're extra good, we give them a couple jellybeans or whatever is in their stash. And definitely give the incentive of at least one DQ stop. It's an incentive for the parents as well :)

Lian's Advice - Lian has her own blog for her friends called www.lianmeistravels.blogspot.com. If you want to check it out, send her an email at lian.mei.smiles@gmail.com, as it is a private blog. She wrote down some of her advice last night, which we'll try to post soon. Some of the advice was to bring lots of books and stickers and eat lots of snacks. I probably packed too many books. Would definitely go lighter on that load.

OK - those are some quick thoughts for the morning. Let me know if you have any questions.

We Made it to Texas!!!!

All I have to say is my children are amazing. We moved out of our home on May 31. We then lived with our dear friends, Brook and Susan Selby, for three weeks. Then we moved to Dano's mom's house for a week. On June 29 we took Lian to her ballet dress rehearsal. As you can see from this picture, she looks so beautiful! We were so proud of her. The next morning, we packed up the car, went to the travel clinic for our last shots for Africa, and then started driving towards Bend, OR to say goodbye to my bestest friend, Suzanne. We took the girls to the bouncy house in Bend and to swim in the Deschutes River. What a great way to start our trip across the country.

It was six hours to Bend, six to Boise, ID, where we stayed with Laura and Peter Barton before leaving at 7 am on July 3. We thought it was a 12 hour drive to Colorado Springs. I was a little mistaken - 17 hours later we arrived to Matt and Melody Monberg's home - at midnight. And we only stopped twice for 30 minutes each. The girls were incredible.

On July 4, we drove 7 hours to Amarillo, TX, where we had the chance to stay with some friends of my parents - the Ramirezes. We watched the fireworks in the heart of Texas. Felt very patriotic. On July 5, we drove the last six hours to Ft. Worth. A friend in Dallas told us about some missionary housing that the Southern Baptists have. We cold-called Cross Timber church in Burleson, TX and they are graciously letting us stay in their guest house even though we aren't technically "missionaries." We cannot believe their generosity - it is a 3 bedroom rambler, super comfortable, with a huge yard. The girls are so excited to have their own room and Lian quickly set up and organized their room. As much as we are so grateful for the generosity and hospitality of our friends, it felt so nice to set up home (even though it's only two weeks) as just our family.

We took Lian to the Hope Connection camp this morning at Texas Christian University. This is a camp run by Dr. Karyn Purvis (author of The Connected Child) and is for adopted children who have some emotional needs (attachment/sensory) due to being in institutional care when they were babies. There are only ten 5-8 year olds. It is a normal fun day camp, but everything that is done is done in a way to help the children heal neurologically and emotionally. We immediately fell in love with Dr. Purvis upon arriving. We are the only non-Texas family and are grateful they made an exception for us. Lian was immediately put at ease and is so excited for the water-balloon fights, swimming, and arts they have promised. She has a buddy named Sarah, who is a senior Psych major at TCU. We left her this morning so grateful for this opportunity.

So...our time in Ft. Worth has begun. We do not have internet at the house, so our time on the internet may be a little intermittent. Thanks for everyone's prayers for our safe travel.