Onward, Intrepid Traveler!

June 20, 2012 - Beijing, China

Time to shake the dust off the coffin and resurrect this decrepit blog!  For those of you who have traveled alongside me through India and Nepal, the Great Asian Adventure continues north to China.  After a delayed flight, a missed connection, an eight hour layover, and two hours sitting on the runway before the final airplane even took off, I'm writing to you red-eyed and sleepy-tailed in seat 16G (the row with all the leg room!), a few hours out from Beijing.  Despite a rocky start, I am feeling adventurous and haven't failed to notice a few auspicious omens predicting a good journey: a bird flew around my head in the Oakland airport and a week ago, I got a fortune cookie that read, "Prepare for an exciting trip soon to come your way."

So I'm off on my first Asian business trip!  Fortunately for me, "business" won't entail three-day conferences and boring meetings.  Instead, I'll be spending the next two months with a production crew of eight, filming and editing 100 short instructional videos for caregivers in Chinese orphanages.  We'll be spending 2-3 weeks each in Shenyang, Nanjing, and Changzhou--if you look these up on a map, you'll know as much about these cities as I do.

So how did I end up here, crusing at 37,000 feet, once again making my way over to my favorite continent?  To pack it into a nutshell, I've been working for the past six months as a filmmaker for a rad non-profit called Half the Sky.  Started by an American couple with adopted Chinese daughters, the non-profit converts orphanage spaces into nursery rooms, preschools, and youth multi-purpose rooms, then employs additional caregivers to provide education and nurturing care.  Though the headquarters (and 10 employees) are based in Berkeley, the real heart of the operation--multiple offices, 56 programs, and several thousand employees--are spread throughout China.  The programs have been incredibly successful at helping kids form attachments with caregivers, avoid the developmental delays typical of institutionalized children, and adjust more easily into adopted family homes.  So successful, in fact, that the Chinese government has asked Half the Sky to create a program that will train every last caregiver and foster parent working for welfare institutions in China.  As part of this grand endeavor, we'll be creating a distance learning program with these 100 short videos, which we're calling the Video Resource Library (VRL).

Thats where I come in!  For the past six months, I've been co-writing scripts for videos like "Helping a child with cerebral palsy learn to feed himself," "Top 20 words to know in sign language," and "Creating a learning environment for a child with a physical handicap."  Since an enormous percentage of orphaned children in China are diagnosed with some special need (I once heard this figure is as high as 90%) and training for special needs is limited, nearly half our videos are dedicated to special needs and education.  The timing of the trip and the subject matter couldn't be more serendipitous: I've been researching special education programs over the past few months, and I am strongly considering returning to school for a Special Education Teaching Credential, with a focus in Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing.  This trip will be the perfect opportunity to engage with kids ranging widely in age and special needs; I'm hoping these next few months will help determine whether teaching is truly a bigger passion than filmmaking, and if so, which age range and special needs would be the best fit for me.  On location, I'll mostly be editing film and animating our illustrator's drawings, but I've been promised some time behind the camera and ample opportunity to play with the kids.

All of which brings me, quite literally, to Beijing!  We fly out tomorrow for Shenyang, our first location, and will begin filming on Thursday.  On my last day in the office, I got some good advice in another fortune cookie: "Stay close to your inner self.  You will benefit in many ways."  On the airplane, I got yet another one: "The world needs your positive energy.  Go out and conquer."  While the idea of conquering orphans doesn't quite add up, I like this two-fold advice to connect both within and without; it's been seeming to me lately that having one without the other misses the point entirely.  I've decided to carry these with me like a two-sided coin in my pocket, setting the intention to be equally connected to myself and those around me for the duration of the trip.  Flanked with my fortune cookie wisdoms and a $25 film camera I bought at a yard sale yesterday, I have absolutely no idea what I'm in for, but our plane will soon land and there will be no turning back.  Onward, intrepid traveler!


June 20, 2012
Hey there, Banana Girl, I am so excited for you as you're off on your next wonderful adventure! Homer & I are so proud of you and Beth--such fine young women you have become. Thanks for sharing your travels with us. Stay safe, healthy, happy and curious. Life is a Banquet; Taste and savor as much as you can.
June 20, 2012
So good to see you back on the blog. Have a wonderful, safe, exciting adventure. Lots of love from thousands of miles.
June 20, 2012
Onward and upward! So proud of you and excited for this new journey. Stay open to any and all leadings to your future...you know I'm a biased preschool teacher but you can make a world of difference from 0-5 years!
June 20, 2012
I loved reading your travel blog for SEA. Enjoy China (and since when were there fortune cookies in China? V. confused.) Don't forget the Imodium and always carry tissue paper with you and you'll be fine :) Just like in India/Nepal!
June 21, 2012
Have a safe and wonderful trip Katie! We know that whatever you decide to do with the rest of your life, you will make a great impression on the world!
YOFA on the other side of the family:
June 22, 2012
Girl, you sure know how to do things right!!! Another great trip and getting paid to do it!!!
With your creativity, you would be a great SPED teacher. Ha ha. I was just telling someone about Katie Scissorhands the other day. When you came to visit, we knew we just had to give you paper and a pair of scissors and you would be busy for hours!!!Have a great trip. Can't wait to hear about it. Love, Aunt Diane
June 22, 2012
Thanks, everyone! You are all so wonderful.

Aunt Diane: Hahaha, I just got back from my first Chinese supermarket experience, where I went to get paper, scissors, and glue! Not much has changed.

Aunt Susie: I'm currently thinking kindergarten, but won't ever have to officially decide: with many special ed programs, you're qualified to teach from 0 to 22!

Tzu-Ying: All the fortune cookies were from Chinese restaurants in the U.S., before the trip. I forgot the toilet paper, but I've been sneaking some from the hotel.
June 23, 2012
Have a great trip!
June 24, 2012
It was great to skype with you the other night! Have a great trip!
A. Heather
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