We had the pleasure of finally meeting Linda, an expat here in Chengdu who seems to know all the right people. She has been involved with countless non-profits and has an uncanny ability to promote and advocate projects. During our lunch meeting with her, we were able to discuss some very practical things, including the purchase of a house and fundraising among expats and corporations directly in Chengdu. It was a very good conversation and Sara and I are so thankful for her input and effort on behalf of HS.
To be honest though, it was also a reality check moment for me... We were able to talk about timeline and what the next year will look like for us. Granted, I talk about this almost every day in the states with Guidance Team and supporters and potential agencies. But being here, sitting in Chengdu having lunch with the sound of taxis and Sichuan speak all around me, just made it all the more real. I had to take a mental pause to wrap my mind around the idea of moving here... And not only moving here, but potentially within the next 12-18 months. WOW.
Linda had arranged for us to speak at the Chengdu Rotary Club meeting in the evening, so after lunch Sara and I put together some resources for the Club members and then dressed appropriately. On our way out, Sara delivered my favorite quote of the day: "I already love this job - we get to dress up!" It was 5pm so we walked to a little print shop to print 10 brochures and 12 handouts, giving us plenty of time to get to the meeting by 6:30. Of course, our errand went China style: it took the entire hour to print those 22 pieces of paper. By the time we walked out of the print shop to catch a taxi we were a bit frantic. Rushing around in the humidity and heat with our dresses and heels on, we waved and waved for a taxi. It was rush hour. Taxis were everywhere. But they were all full. Finally, after 25 minutes of waving and calling, we were able to catch a taxi that was dropping someone else off. By this time it was 6:25 and we had just 5 minutes to get all the way across town in rush hour. We nervously texted Linda to apologize and let her know we might be a little late. As it turns out, there was no need for that--Father was looking out for us and gave us a crazy fast driver (scary, but necessary). He got us there by 6:32, before Linda even arrived herself!
The Rotary Meeting was unlike anything Sara and I had ever done. Sitting there with several powerful and distinguished businessmen, eating a four-course meal in that Crowne Plaza meeting room, I was totally a fish out of water. Nevertheless, Sara and I mustered up all the confidence we could and presented HS, sharing about what we are doing and what we hope to do soon. They had lots of questions for us. It was another reality check moment. How are you gonna pay for this? Who is backing you? How are you qualified to carry out such a major endeavor? How are you getting permission from officials to open your home? They gave us a lot of things to think about. They were very kind, and several of them asked us afterward to keep them updated as we grow and develop. One of them is the owner of Maxxelli real estate, and he told us he had some ideas for a house for us, and that he'd be interested in meeting with us again before we leave the city. So lots of good things came out of the evening, but not all in the way we expected. Just as the day before, it was a lot to take in all at once.
Today we are having lunch with our friend Cary to talk about going to the orphanage sometime this weekend. The rest of the day we will be taking time to process and discuss all that we have learned in the last few days. Whew. Stay tuned!