If you know the history of South Africa, you will know that the Portuguese discovered it and then the Europeans sailed around Africa to get to Asia to do trade. It was a long and arduous journey and may people died on route. Many of them died from starvation because they ran out of food towards the end. In the 1600 the Dutch got the bright idea to send settlers to South Africa so that they could farm and provide a half way stopping point to take on fresh supplies for the rest of the journey. That is how my ancestors came to South Africa and later married into the many groups that also came to South Africa from France and the British Empire. My closest relative from Europe was born in Scotland in the mid 1800s and came to South Africa when the richest source of diamonds and gold in the world was discovered in South Africa. In South Africa we also speak Afrikaans which is a remnant of this old Dutch.
You can only imagine how interesting it was for me going back to Holland. I think from the first time I set foot on Dutch soil I felt at home. I could see myself in the people. Talk about Viking women!! There were times that I felt small. Some women are more than 6 feet tall. The men are mostly really tall too. I think the Dutch are on average the tallest people in the world and coming from a place like China what a unique change. My modern Dutch improved so much in the 10 days that I was gone. Most of the time I could understand what was being said and we laughed a lot about the way the South African say things and how the Dutch use the same word different ways. We went and visited a port city, where the old Dutch trading companies sailed from and while walking down the street I found my last name painted on a door. There is also a famous singer named Ilse de Lange. She is from the de Lange's who can sing. If you want to see two of her English songs here they are.
Amongst all of this I loved the food and ate more than what I should have. The Dutch are the original cheese heads and I loved all the dairy products. I could have eaten the yogurt all day long. They have all these different varieties. My favorite was the Greek yogurt.
But best of all was seeing the Starfish families in Holland. They made such an effort and they all came to meet me at the airport, with Elise who was a volunteer from Starfish. I was not sure what to expect and as I came closer the two girls, Mei-Li and Norah were the first to greet me. It was so cute, Mei-Li immediately showed me her new shoes and the jabbered away in Dutch. They were both so free with their "snuffeljes" (hugs and kisses) it was as if I had been gone for a few weeks. Jain who had been in Holland just 2 months was a little hesitant and came over to say hello and then immediately ran back to his mom.
I stayed with all three the families and I just loved seeing what a wonderful life they all have. Not just the three of them but in total these three families have adopted 6 children from China. It made me think about the times that the babies come to me. At that moment we at Starfish spend so much time trying to save their lives, getting them medical care and then doing surgeries, that I do not think about the end result. I do not think about the tenderness of the families and how the older siblings will take care of the younger ones. I watch as one of the older sisters helped her younger sister walk across the playground and made sure she did not fall. I loved being in the homes and seeing the pictures on the walls and their bedrooms. I loved going to the schools and supermarkets. They were so hospitable and treated me so well. I came home all spoiled. No one offered me tea and a snack in China, I had to fend for myself.
Another highlight is that Jian got baptised in the Roman Catholic Church and I was able to attend the service. Not only that but Jian family asked me to take a very active role in the ceremony in a gorgeous old stain glass window church near their home. I was so honored that I was asked to take such an big part in this special day for the family. They honored the work we did at Starfish and lit candles for us and said a special prayer too. My most favorite part: The family sang the song "Somewhere out there." Throughout the song Jian sang the words over and over again: "Somewhere out there". That is all he knew. It was too cute!!!
Another great experience was being with Elise and Tineke. They arranged such a well planned benefit evening and raised 20 000 Euros for doing cleft lip surgeries next month. They have been working so hard to raise money for a charity they started called Care4Tina. I am so grateful to them and thank them both very much for taking such good care of me on my birthday. I am eager to see the results the very first medical mission that Starfish is going to be actively involve in. We are going to work with the Xian Children's Hospital to arrange this. Thank you also to the Dutch physicians who are coming.
It was hard coming home after being spoiled so much, but the babies were waiting for me. There was no time for feeling home sick for Holland and I started working immediately. Lots of surgeries coming up and we are working on new adoption dossiers.
Life, Love and Laughter,
Starfish Children's Services
US Tax Number: 20-4682916
At Starfish, we have taken care of 106 children to date, arranged more than 74 surgeries and had 26 international adoptions, so our little starfishes live all over the globe: the US, Netherlands, Norway, France, Spain and in China. Our latest two adoptions were to the Netherlands and Virginia, USA. We currently have 53 babies under the age of 3 and a half at two foster homes. Recently we learned that 6 babies have been matched and we are waiting for their families to come and get them.