For the most part, we are eating as local as possible. I’d be fine avoiding all western food until we returned, but the rest of my crew needs a little taste of familiar every now and then.

We eat out a lot. This is a HUGE change from life at home, where we rarely eat anywhere but home. It turns out that we actually are saving money by eating at local restaurants than cooking at home. We do eat breakfast in our apartment and lunch at New Day, but dinner is different most nights.

I don’t miss cooking. I miss chocolate chips cookies and baking, but cooking – not so much.

When it comes to cooking in our apartment, I pretty much just make breakfast! Our fridge is smaller than the one I had in my college dorm room. Funny how back home I thought we needed a bigger fridge. It is about a 3 mile round trip walk for us to get groceries and then up 6 flights of stairs…so when we shop we only get what we can carry. So much different from home.

6.11eatingout-1One of my favorite things to do is get on a bus and pick a random stop to find somewhere to eat. So far this has worked perfectly….so much good food! We typically can eat as a family for $7 (total).
6.11eatingout-56.11eatingout-66.11eatingout-86.11eatingout-36.11eatingout-10My kids take advantage of drinking all their water when we are walking or on the bus, so when we sit down they are out and get to have a pop – also so different from home. Better sugary pop than contaminated water!6.11eatingout-116.11eatingout-13I met up with my friend Meredith for a little exploring and coffee at Central Perk. It was in the most random location – 6th floor of an office building. Reruns of Friends play on a tv and the entire shop is decorated like the show. 6.11eatingout-156.11eatingout-16Fried grasshoppers and donkey burgers. We went with a group of teenagers and the peer pressure to try them was strong. The Campbell guys all partook. The girls didn’t want to try it and I thought it was best to demonstrate how to stand up to peer pressure, so I didn’t eat one. 😉 (I do want to mention, most of our Chinese friends here have not tried these…just in case someone was thinking grasshoppers are a standard dinner dish).6.11eatingout-17The donkey burgers were good. Just a little fyi – don’t use Google Visual Translator at a restaurant with donkey meat – donkey is not translated as “donkey”. I’m still laughing at parts of that menu translated in English!6.11eatingout-186.11eatingout-19

The top of the food list is: Dumplings. Fried Rice. Cilantro/Cucumber Salad. Sweet & Sour pork. Duck Tacos. Noodles. Soup. Kung Pao Chicken. And Churros with Ice Cream.

We’ve pushed the kids to try new things, but also let them order their favorites regularly. Last time we were in China, Corbett and Hudson found a favorite fried rice restaurant in Guangzhou. They still talk about how good it was. When you ask them about their first trip to China – it is the first thing they bring up. Next week we will be back in Guangzhou and we’re hoping we can find it again! Food is a big deal 🙂

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  • Nicolet - food is indeed a big deal. It absolutely my favorite about holidays, going to a local market and finding lovely foods. Can’t wait till its summerholidays! Enjoy your weeks there.

  • Steffany - The food sounds DELICIOUS! with the exception of grasshoppers. Just don’t think I could do it, I’m with the girls on that one! 🙂 And thanks for clarifying that the locals don’t eat them either, I always wonder these things.
    As I read your posts – walking an average of six miles per day, smaller fridge, only able to buy what you can carry groceries, eating out everyday – what do you think will change about your lives once you return? 10 or 11 weeks is a long time. They say it takes 20 days to make something a habit…maybe walking more will find it’s ways into your days? Will you walk to that chick-fil-A next time you go? 🙂
    I love your families adventure, their courage, and your love. It shines through your photos and posts. Thanks so much for sharing this amazing adventure 🙂

  • Jessica - I am loving these glimpses into your time in China. What an amazing experience!

  • Donzel - This is the blog post I was both dreading and looking forward to! I love to eat and try new foods, and since I’m in a cooking slump this post is pure torture. BUT, it’s so great that your family is trying new foods and being adventurous! My husband and I still remember the tiny fried fish we had in Greece – it was such fun to eat everything except the tail!

  • Caroline - What an incredible opportunity this is for your kids! I love that you’re there for long enough that they truly get to immerse themselves in another culture. My sister and I are headed to China in November for two weeks and will be in Beijing for 5 days, so I’ve loved following along on this journey! We’ve travelled pretty extensively in Europe but have never been to Asia. Needless to say, we are super excited! Do you have any tips for choosing more authentic restaurants and places to eat? We typically try to get away from the city center to find where the locals go but I’m not sure how feasible that will be in a city the size of Beijing! We love little hole in the wall type places, especially those with no pictures that cater towards tourists. Enjoy the rest of your trip!

  • susie - Looks yummy! wish I could eat out like that too! I spend so much time around food in the summer.

  • Bianca - I love reading your posts from Beijing! We are heading there in January and would love some recommendations of good places to eat!

In our quest to find new places to explore we often ask Chinese locals and expats. A frequent recommendation from several expats was to explore the Beijing 798 Art Zone.

We probably didn’t time our visit the best. After a long day of traveling and some appointments, we made our way to the 798 district. We ended up unknowingly taking the extra long route, so the kids were a bit done for the day before we even got there.

We tried to make the most of it and look around for as long as we could before little ones started falling apart.

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Most of the streets were lined in murals and graffiti art. There were a couple murals I was hoping to see, but we didn’t find them. The district was a lot bigger than I thought it was going to be. In hindsight, I would have mapped out the exact locations of the murals and sculptures I wanted to see. You win some, you lose some.

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They were troopers. Despite being tired, they knew I wanted to look around, so they did their best to have good attitudes. I appreciated their extra effort…ice cream for everyone. Thank you kids.

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Overall, it was a really cool district. I think I would value time wandering its’ streets if I was a resident of Beijing. There were so many tourists and western style shops/cafes. I can see how it would feel like a little retreat for those that want a bit of a taste of home while living far away. Since our time in China is limited (we only have 5 more weeks!), we want to wander the streets where we see few to zero tourists. However, it is fun to show the kids the diversity of a large city and the incredible variety of the districts.

And we got delicious ice cream.

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The SnapShop + Mpix giveaway winner has been contacted. I am not announcing the name – in case she wants to use it towards a Father’s Day gift! Reading about the fathers you are celebrating was so encouraging. There are a lot of inspiring men in your lives!

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  • Jodi - Thank you so much for sharing this journey with us; what an adventure!

  • Byron - It looks really cool. (All that jumping; your kids must have good knees)!

    5 more weeks? It seems like forever but I expect it will fly by like the wind.

  • Kelly - Wow what a fun colorful area!!

Prior to coming to China, we often heard two things: “You guys are going to go to China and not come back.” AND “You are going to bring another little one home.”

We usually simply smiled, knowing with fair certainty that neither was going to happen. Could we move to China? – absolutely, but not right now. The second – well, you can’t just fly to another country and bring home a child!

China will always be an important part of our family tapestry. Always. Maybe one day we will stay longer than a couple months, but for now we will fly home to Oklahoma. Aside from our dear family, friends and community – we will return for Chris’ job. I can work anywhere. Chris – he needs to be planted in Oklahoma.

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Child welfare – family preservation, adoption, foster care – it is not a ‘here or there’ thing for us. I use my voice online to advocate for children across the globe. In day to day life of our family, Chris is on the front lines in Oklahoma advocating for the children in our state.

Together we choose to be a voice for kids. Kids in our community. Kids on the other side of the globe. Kids.

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Exciting things are happening in Oklahoma in the foster care realm and I’m getting to watch Chris flourish in the midst of it all. For three years now, he has been of a team (111Project & 111Tulsa), whose primary objective is to be part of the solution to the foster care crisis in our state.

Day in and day out his team is challenging others to join in:

  • Foster care prevention through coming alongside birth families
  • Foster family recruitment for kids in need of a safe, loving family
  • Foster family retention through support and respite care

In January 2016, the team introduced CarePortal to Oklahoma. CarePortal is an online engagement tool between the State (Child Welfare workers) and local churches. Child Welfare workers uncover the needs of kids/families and then submit a request for help online. Churches are made aware of the needs in the community (already vetted by state workers) and given the opportunity to meet the needs.

CarePortal has been in Oklahoma for 1.5 years.

285 churches/small groups have signed up across the state.

1,088 families served

2,363 children impacted

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I could write a book filled with stories of how Care Portal has impacted families and children in our state. Beds given. Bus passes provided, so parents can visit kids. School uniforms. Washers. Dryers. Food. Basic needs met, but also not so basic needs met. Families kept together. Kids safe and fed. Case workers feeling supported and heard.

Beyond the essentials, Child Welfare workers are able to advocate for other needs…needs that help kids not just survive, but begin to thrive. Needs that would not be met otherwise.

Honestly, much of what Care Portal provides are things done by the local government in other states. However, Oklahoma continues to face harsh budget cuts. These cuts are felt the deepest by the most vulnerable – the children in our state. Care Portal is picking up where the state cannot.

Chris is in a job where he is thriving and able to use all his gifts and talents in the most perfect ways. He spends a significant amount of time driving across the state. He is constantly on the phone with government leaders, case workers, church leaders, and foster parents. We miss him when he is gone, but it sure is exciting to watch big things happening in our state. It is inspiring and beautiful to watch so many people come together to make a difference in the lives of children that too often fall through the cracks. Churches spanning denominations and joining together to collectively be a part of something truly significant – impacting a child. A family. A community.

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(wife brag – Chris is featured in the most recent issue of Tulsa People)

When our time in China comes to an end, we will board a plane and return home. There is much work left to do in our state and I know a good man committed to see the work done for as long as he is able.

When the major foster care challenges in our state are solved, Chris will have worked himself out of a job. We will celebrate in that moment and then I guess he’ll start job hunting. Maybe the next job will land us in China.

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Below are several posts with more specific information regarding the work Chris and his team are doing. There are also some practical ideas of ways to be involved in child welfare beyond being a foster or adoptive parent.

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  • Heather - I have loved reading about your time in China and laugh because we did something very similar with our family this year. Last summer we up and moved to DC for a year so my husband could advocate for teachers and education around the country. It’s wonderful watching him in his element, going on family adventures, embracing the unknown and experiencing a new lifestyle different than our own. We even home schooled for the first time ever. Out time is about to come to an end and the number one question I get from friends and family is “are you going to stay in DC?!” We too feel called to return home and continue the work we started there but will always have a place in our hearts for DC. Enjoy the rest of your adventures in China!

  • Tiffany - WOW!!! The CarePortal looks awesome. And Congrats to Chris on all his hardwork, heartwarming to read.

  • Emily - This is amazing!!!!! As a foster/adoptive momma and foster care advocate who strongly believes the church was always the answer to the orphan crisis I’m obsessed with this resource and see the great need we have for it in My state, Michigan where our system is so terribly corrupt and in need of the church to wake up and do their part. Is this program something that has been implemented in other states or solely in OK? I would love more information. Thank your husband for his work, one child would be worth it all, but it seems as though the impact is much greater even!????

  • Stephanie R - Have you read The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See? I recently read it and loved it. Perhaps an interesting perspective on adoptions from China. It was surprising how much I loved the book. Enjoy your trip!

  • Rebecca - I am a foster mama and I love hearing about this effort in your state. Also these China posts are so beautifully photographed and narrated. Thanks for sharing so much of what you are seeing and experiencing.

  • Katie - As a foster family, it is so encouraging to see such amazing support for bio families and foster families. I would love to know more about how we can get involved with something similar in California. Doing foster care has taught us so much, and stretched us in ways we didn’t think possible. God’s hand is evident in the brokenness.

  • Emily Bartnikowski - I am so moved by the work your family does – and so grateful that you are sharing it with us. American is lucky to have you among its citizens <3