Tag Archives: travel

The Beauty of Nepal

I’ve heard people say, “you can’t take a bad picture in Nepal.” I have to agree. Foreigners flock to Nepal to explore the ancient architecture and the beauty of the Himalayan mountains. But, I think the most beautiful part of the country is her people. With Tibet to the north and India to the south, Nepalis can look Chinese, Indian and everyone else in between. They are lovely inside and out. I have found the Nepali people to be humble and hospitable. A long history of oppression and suffering has honed a resilience that is cloaked with a “shy kindness.” Building friendships with the people has been the most delightful part of this trip. Through them, my love for the nation has deepened and my desire for them to know and grow in Christ has quickened. Oh, what a joy to know the beauty of his splendor amongst the nations!

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The Future Hope of Nepal

In the first two days of our trip to Nepal, I had the privilege of speaking at a national students conference in Kathmandu. An unexpected surprise and joy was to see the vibrancy of the young leaders who worshipped there. There are a total of 6,000 students who participate in fellowship groups throughout the country. This conference hosted 500 of their top leaders. After being around these young people for a few days, I could see why Nepal not has one of the fastest growing churches throughout Asia but why that trend will continue for years to come.

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My Chuck Wagon


Never mind the Liquor Cabinet sign behind our chuck wagon

When we were preparing to adopt Eden, we needed a new car that would accommodate a growing family of six. The Lord provided a great Honda Odyssey that I infamously named, “the swagger wagon.” I was so grateful for that van that I dedicated an entire post to it (My Swaggerwagon). After logging over 111,000 miles, my swagger wagon has now been transformed into “a chuck wagon.” There are no horses pulling our Honda, but our chuck wagon will still carry my entire family and all of our stuff over 800 miles of roadway within the next few days.

Today, we departed the Bay Area after a brief visit with extended family. Our destination? The Pacific Northwest. Our timeline? One month in Seattle and two months in Portland. Our purpose? Ministry, education, following His lead. Our feelings? Hopeful and grateful.

To make a long story short, God opened up an opportunity for us to temporarily move to the PNW to live, to learn and to serve. This was quite unexpected. In fact, it all came together within the last few months in a surprising and sovereign way. While there are definite plans, there are also a lot of unknowns. In other words, some of the details of this trip are “open-ended.” While that might be concerning for some, for me and my family, we find this quite exciting. Life is a faith adventure when you know your Father is writing a story of grace. At times it will be challenging. We won’t always know what the next chapter brings. But unexpected surprises are gifts that build faith and gratitude. I know we always need more of those things in our family. For now, all I know is our venture into the Pacific Northwest begins in our chuck wagon. Your prayers are appreciated!

(This is being posted three days late. We arrived safely in Seattle on Wednesday!)

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Good to be Home

Nearly two weeks ago, we departed LAX for a three-city adoption tour through China and last night we returned home. After finding our bags and clearing immigration, we were greeted by an overwhelming number of dear friends and family. Eden was overjoyed to see the banners, the balloons and the open arms of all the people at the Tom Bradley Terminal. I was especially touched by the children who made their way through the crowd just to touch Eden and say “hello.” Many of them have been praying for Eden’s arrival for such a long time, I think they just needed a kinesthetic answer to their prayers. Yes, she is real. And yes, God answers prayers.

After Pastor Daryl prayed for us all at the airport, we headed to Alhambra for a family dinner. We opened my Auntie Kimi’s front door and discovered the dinner morphed into a belated (June 19) surprise birthday party for Eden. It was a blessed time of fellowship, family and fun. I loved watching Eden blow out 10 candles on her birthday cake, open presents and then disappear into the other rooms of the house to play with all of of her cousins. Family is a difficult concept to teach someone who has never had one. It’s much easier to understand through experience rather than through rhetoric. Last night’s party explained it well.

When we finally got home at 10:30pm, we were greeted outside by a banner welcoming Eden home in Chinese characters. Inside, our house was spotless, the front room was decorated and the refrigerator was stocked full of groceries and meals. So many thanks to the sister-in-laws (Lianne, Judy, Lisa) who shopped, cooked, cleaned, planned and decorated. Thanks to the church families (Janet, Cherry, Moores, Oharas, Ramos’) who helped decorate with signage, provided delicious meals and even planted jasmine in the front yard while were were gone. All of you helped to make us feel overwhelmingly loved as we returned. Your thoughtfulness has made the exhaustion and jet lag feel so much less taxing.

Years later, I don’t know how much Eden will recall about her first day in America, but I have a feeling she will always remember that it felt good to be home.

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Departing China

Guangzhou has been such a different experience than Nanning. The city itself is modern and more westernized. It is densely populated registering as China’s third largest city. It’s a busy metropolis focused on international commerce. Likewise, much of our stay in Guangzhou has been focused on business-the business of completing the adoption process. We have made numerous treks to the Chinese Immigration Office and US Consulate for Eden’s physical exams, to submit final papers and to apply for Eden’s visa.

One thing that has made these trips more enjoyable is traveling with the other families who are adopting through Holt. There are a total of nineteen families in our group. This unusually large number of people originate from Alaska, Maine, New Jersey, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, Florida, South Dakota, New Jersey, North Carolina and California. While all of us spent less than a week together, we still shared something significant as we expanded our families through adoption all at the same time. I have enjoyed getting to know many of the families and hearing their stories. I think all of us have adopted children with special needs and most are believers in Christ. It is encouraging to know that the Father’s heart of adoption is moving through the hearts of his people everywhere.

I leave Guangzhou with mixed feelings. I am definitely ready to come home. I miss my house. I miss driving on open roads. I miss my church. I miss carne asada. I know “real  life” does not actually begin for our newly formed family until we return to Chino Hills and I am ready to start. At the same time, I am somewhat sad to leaving the country where my daughter was born. I have a greater appreciation and respect for the Chinese culture, history and people. Coming home, I also have a greater heart for the immigrants in my neighborhood.

At this point, I am rambling. It is midnight, Thursday, July 12. After all is said and done, Eden passed her physical exams, we have all the necessary paper work in order and her visa has been issued. Shortly, we will be departing Guangzhou and arriving at LAX, July 12, 3:50pm (PST). We look forward to seeing many of you at the airport and it will be my pleasure to introduce you to Eden Joy Meng Shan Hori for the very first time. See you soon!

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Nai Nai

As many of you know, we are now a family of six but have been traveling in China as a party of seven. I am so grateful that my mom has been able to join us for this trip. She has been such a help and blessing to me, Sonia and each of our children. They affectionately refer to her as “Gramsy” but now she is also known as “Nai Nai.” She is quite proud of the new title and even bought a bright red shirt with the words printed on the front in both Chinese and English.

Nai Nai gives so much to us but asks for so little for herself. Start the day with an amazing breakfast buffet at the Guangzhou Marriott and occasionally buy a Starbucks beverage or Slurpee and you have a happy Nai Nai. Gram has had the duty…uh…privilege of being the boys’ roommate the entire trip and has never complained about it. She has been flexible with our ever-changing schedule. She has been sensitive to our ever-growing bonding as a family. She has received her new granddaughter with open arms and an open heart.

Eden has taken quite well to Gram and I can tell she has grown quickly to love her Nai Nai. I don’t blame her. We all love Nai Nai. Thanks, Mom for always being there for the kids, for Sonia and most of all for me.

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Last Day in NN

Today, we depart from Nanning to Guangzhou but before we do, I want leave you with two pictures.

This spider was sitting on the crown molding above Sonia’s head during our entire meal at a small, hole-in-the-wall restaurant. She didn’t know it was there but I did. I didn’t say anything because I thought it was fake. It’s hard to gain perspective in the picture but it’s about the circumference of my hand stretched out wide. After taking a closer look, I realized it was alive especially after the waitress squealed when I pointed it out. If you know about Sonia’s arachnophobia then you know she wanted to kill me.

This sign displays the name of a restaurant near our hotel. We didn’t eat there but I wish we would have. We saw a lot of Nanning but I felt like I never did open the lid to smell full of the city.

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Newbies in Nanning

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Nanning is the capital city of the Guangxi province and boasts a growing population of over 3 million people. It’s a city in transition attempting to blend the new global China with the venerable local one. There are stores selling Gucci and Chanel on one street and shops offering a bowl of hot noodles for $2.50 right around the corner. Mercedes Benz and BMW share the roads with mopeds and bicycles. Modern traffic signals mark every corner but very few drivers heed to them. Crossing the streets in Nanning is a little like playing Frogger except you’re literally the frog and there are no second chances.

Nanning is only a four hour drive from Vietnam so the weather in July runs in the low 90’s and is extremely humid. It makes me sweat just thinking about it. The people are warm and friendly. They seem less pretentious and more relaxed than the people in Beijing. The older generation seems to love kids and is fascinated with our large American family. The younger generation is eager to practice their English since most learn it in High School and college.

The local cuisine is quite tasty. We had garlic eggplant at almost every restaurant we visited. Fried whole, sliced thick and topped with a sweet garlic sauce. Slightly different at every establishment but equally good. At night, the streets permeate with the aroma of garlic, ginger and wood ear mushrooms as people slurp bowls of spicy noodle soup late into the night.

Nanning also happens to be Eden’s home town. We came to here to pick her up but also stayed four additional days to do adoption paperwork and process her passport. Staying here was not just an administrative requirement, it was an important part of knowing my new daughter. Seeing the sights, smelling the culture, eating the local cuisine and meeting the people of Nanning have all been an important part of understanding the context and culture that helped shape who Eden is.

I have grown to love this city simply because this is where my daughter was born and spent the first ten years of her life. Some day, I hope to bring her back to her hometown. I imagine it will be vastly different than the way she remembers it. But alas, I know she will be drastically different as well. Nanning may be losing her, but I hope she never loses the Nanning in her.

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Six Heads


Obviously, swim caps are required to swim at the pool in Nanning. Gratefully, Speedos are not. Unfortunately, Chinese men wear them anyway. Some things are no different cross-culturally and that’s one of them.

Anyway, I love this picture not only because it’s so funky but primarily because it shows six heads all lined up (though mine could count for two). Becoming a family of six requires all kinds of adjustments. Some of the minor changes include changing Sonia’s email address to fivehoris@…com to sixhoris@…com, remembering to ask for six seats when dining out and paying a little more to do so, and counting heads more often to make sure you haven’t lost one.

There are also greater adjustments needed to re-relate as a family of six. Adding one more individual seems simple but is more complex than it appears. It effects everything and everyone. Today, I was in the pool with my four kids and at one point, I felt tugged in four different directions, relationally and literally. Each child is learning to re-relate to one another and to me and to Sonia. This does not worry me because I know it’s natural and necessary but I know I will need to be intentional to give each child his or her own time. I know Sonia and I will need our time together as well.

At the same time, Eden has made a remarkable transition into our family. It is clear that she truly enjoys being part of a family. She loves to call me and Sonia, “Daddy” and “Mommy” and soaks up our affection like a dry sponge dropped in the ocean. She looks up to her big sister and is willing to follow her lead as Tani holds her hand crossing streets and helps her get ready in the morning. I hear Eden calling Evan’s name the most either to play or out of playful frustration.

But, the most interesting dynamic is watching Jaren and Eden together. At times, he is competing for attention as the baby of the family and at other times, he and Eden are playing like equals. We keep reminding Jaren that she is his big sister even though she’s not that much bigger than him. Today, Sonia had Eden take responsibility to hold Jaren’s hand when crossing the street and walking in the supermarket. This brought out her motherly side and helped her bond with him. Plus, he loved all the attention he received from her and gladly accepted the role as the baby of the family.

So many adjustments already made. So many changes yet to come. Is it a little more hectic to be a family of six? Of course it is. Would I have it any other way? Of course not. Six heads are always better than five even in a big pool full of tiny Speedos.

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