Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The return!

Oh Happy day! With much help from Donald I was able to get the proxy server up and running so now I have my blog back! And thats all I'm going to say about that issue...
Unfortunately it's been two months since my last post. Many things have happened since then and I'm not sure I can even account most of them but I will try.
May was busy with studying and preparation for the GRE, as well as Emily, Ott, and John's visit. Emily and Ott arrived at the end of May with mixed emotions between the two of them however all in all it seemed they enjoyed themselves. I was so happy to see them. Indescribably happy actually. We went to Catholic church and Shanghai together. Both were new experiences for us all in some ways. John met us in Shanghai and after a little travel confusion we said goodbye to Emily and Ott and hello Changzhi. At arrival I got in a huge fight with a taxi driver effectively using my Chinese we got a bargain for the trip.
John and I taught my students Baseball, and I wrecked my bike. Then we went to Beijing to take the GRE. The results should arrive at my parents house at the end of this month, along with me. After Beijing we traveled to Hangzhou on our 3rd anniversary and enjoyed each others company for our last remaining days together... in China. 3 years isn't quite so long when you only have seen each other for a grand total of 5 months.
I came back to CZ alone and sad but Hai Li and Shen Ling surprised me at the airport and I love them for that. I spent a lot of this last month finishing up classes and getting things organized to move to the next chapter. I threw the sisters a graduation party which was fun. We invited Melissa and I think she enjoyed that.
I leave in two days for Tai Yuan then off to Inner Mongolia again where I will stay until mid November. Except the three weeks I'm coming to America to visit my family and friends and participate in my BAFF's wedding.

Looking back on this year it's hard to say where growth occurred, though I know it did. I know my life and my being has taken new form. Living in a foreign country, living ALONE in a foreign country should effect anyone who experiences it. I have felt overwhelmed with interaction and simultaneously felt complete isolation. I have drowned in my own self loathing and been raised up by the Holy Spirit within me. I cannot look back on this experience and say I was brought here on my own accord. Not brought but led. Drawn to this place as if my soul belonged here. Through pain and joy I have shed layers and found in me the person for now that I should be.
Where do I belong now?

"Although I have sent them far away among the nations, I have been a sanctuary for them in the countries where they have gone."
~Ezekiel 11:16

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Riddle me this

Here's a riddle Hai li told me today:

There are 5 people on one side of a bridge at night. They need to cross, but they only have one light. They can cross the bridge two at a time, but someone must bring the light back after each trip. Each person travels at a different speed across the bridge.
Person #1 - 1 second
Person #2- 3 seconds
Person #3 - 6 seconds
Person #4- 8 seconds
Person #5- 12 seconds

What is the fastest time possible for all the people to get across the bridge? The people must walk on their own, they cannot be carried.
Good luck!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Thorn Bush.. King of the trees

Summer Palace; Beijing. Sui Hai Li, and Me.

So many things to write about! I can't believe a month has gone by since my last post. I've been really really busy this last month, and will continue to be through the next two it seems. I'm coming up on my ten months in China and I still feel very blessed to be here. I have to be honest and say that I have faltered with my strength of being away from common conviences of my life in America. However, the cold weather finally broke and the warm sun was graciously welcomed by me for sure!
A few weeks ago the warm weather beckoned a "dragon" into my home, I don't care
what you say Wally, I'm calling it that. So many people gave me the great advice of just knocking it off the ceiling (which I can't reach even on a chair) with a broom then killing it or magically getting it outside the house. Well I decided to let it reside in the living room and I stayed in the bedroom for a day or so. Especially after it attacked me! (Fell off the curtains onto me when I shut them on night). Eventually Sue's boyfriend came and killed it. Now I will say the feminist side of me is slightly ashamed that I felt the need to have a man come and kill the thing; but in my defense I didn't need a man to do it, just someone else besides me. A woman would have sufficed, even a small child, anyone else... I could have done it myself had I had the support of a roommate to take the tension off that lingered between me and the dragon for the five days it resided in my home. I just wasn't prepared for that. It made me realize I took living with Mitch for granted. He was good at cleansing our home of anything that moved. Such as "bats" haha good memories! Anyway last night a HUGE bug came into my home and I took care of that all on my own, ever-so cooly might I add. I'm growing.
Moving on, aside from the warm weather bringing outdoor creatures into my home, it has brought me outdoors. I started running again, some days I look like Forrest Gump with the students that fall in running with me around the dirt track. I enjoy the company. I'm quite competative so it pushes me to move past that dreaded word... "jogging" and into what I'd consider actual running.
Being away from home on Easter was harder than I let on to anyone, including myself. However the Lord surrounded me with gracious people at church who let my mind slip away from this longing of my
heart to be near my family. It was the first time in 7 years I hadn't made a three hour drive back to Murfreesboro afterlunch at grandmothers. It was also the first time in 10 months I felt like getting behind the wheel of a car. I wonder if I can even drive anymore?
I took a mini-road trip at the start of April to Taiyuan. I stayed with Shen Ling's parents with her and Hai li. It was fun but I was so tired by the end of it.
Two weeks later, Hai Li and I traveled together to Beijing for me to take the first part of the GRE. I'm waiting for the results. While in Beijing we went to the Summer Palace, which was beautiful, and I bought a dress for Sarah's wedding, AND Cheese, pancake mix, and syrup! Awesome Beijing trip! I go back on June 6th with John to take the rest of the test. I'm anticipating a low score so as not to get my hopes up. Oh yeah, John's coming back to visit which is amazing! And would not at all be possible if it wasn't for Ott
so hooray! Also Ott and Emily will be here in less than 3 weeks! I also can't believe thats happening! I'm so excited to show them around. The sisters and I have planned a dinner to celebrate them being here. That should be fun!
This past weekend was May Day (Labor day) for China and so I had friday off. I went with some students to The Great Valley, which is about two hours away from my school. It was beautiful! and insanely crowded. But it wouldn't be China w/o crowds. It was a great trip, so pretty, the weather was perfect. The students were very nice and I had a great time with them. We hiked around the mountains and then took a slide down which was so much fun!
Then on Sunday I went and walked around the wetlands out on the edge of my city. The weather as I said has been beautiful.
So basically I've traveled a lot this month.
Thursday through Saturday is a sports competition for the school. I'd like to participate but I'm having trouble figuring out what events are for the teachers. We'll see, maybe I'll just watch. On sunday my friend Jenny is getting married so I'm going to spend most of the day watching that and I'll have more pictures for you when that happens.

"The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it."
~John 1:5

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

3 Eggs, a Chinese Easter Story.

This is not my story. However, it is a true story that was experienced by my friends, and the leaders of Volunteers for China, David and Ann Wilson. I cannot read a story like this and not share it.

Easter Week, April 2000, we were privileged and honored to attend the 15th Anniversary Celebration of the Amity Foundation, Nanjing, China. Amity, formed by Chinese Christians, serves as a Chinese humanitarian organization to show Christ's love outside of the church building. We visited a number of agricultural, flood control, church construction, and education projects that Amity Foundation had initiated and managed with local churches and government agencies.

One of these projects is near Wu Ding City, located in Yunnan Province, on the far eastern foothills of the Himalayan Mountains at about 5500 feet elevation. Water is very scarce there; earthquakes are very common. This is a desolate area of China, where farming on the extremely steep hillsides is by manual labor. The dusty, desolate, barren hillsides have terraces moving up each hillside at three foot intervals, where corn has been hand planted, weeded and watered for as far as the eye can see. This is their livelihood.

We arose very early, joined the other sixteen Amity-invited guests, and loaded into five government-provided Mitsubishis, each costing over $40,000 (more than any person in the village we were able to visit could expect to see in a lifetime). The vehicles began the ascent to a mostly Christian Miao village in the high mountains. Within ten miles of leaving WuDing we were on a dirt donkey trail, going up vertically at a forty-five degree angle, many times slanted horizontally at a thirty degree angle. Looking down from the passenger side of the SUV, we could not see any road below us, but only the deep distant valley floor that got further and further away. This view easily lets us know that one slip to the right and we were all going to face eternity quickly.

After ninety minutes of driving uphill, around blind curves, on the mule wagon rutted road and bouncing around in the SUV which had no seats belts, we arrived at the outskirts of a village that is located on "sort of" a plateau at about 7000 feet. We all put on our coats, as it was windy and much colder than Wu Ding in the valley far below.

This Miao village consisted of forty-eight families with annual incomes of less than $100 per year. They raise their food on the hillsides and sell what they have left over for other necessities. As we approached the main street, actually a cart path through the village, we heard singing coming from the villagers who had lined the path. They were singing the alleluias of Easter songs! We walked through the crowd, shaking dirty, labor calloused hands. Then their smiles and hand clapping greeted our group, as they rejoiced that visitors, fellow Christians, had come to their village. We inspected the newly built elementary school building, we viewed the water cisternthat now stores water for crop irrigation, and we drank from the first-ever village water spigot. Yes, one water spigot for the village. All of these projects had been accomplished with the assistance of Amity Foundation in partnership with the local government. Only the villagers truly knew the hardships that had been removed through those projects. Previously the women and girls had needed to walk two miles downhill each day of their working lives to obtain water and then bring it back uphill. The smiles on their faces told of the joy that had been brought to the village. It was Easter weekend and all rejoiced.

As we were leaving the village, each SUV was approached by three village ladies, each insisting that the windows be rolled down. Tears flooded our eyes as each visitor was given a gift of three eggs. The village wanted to express appreciation for our having come. They wanted us to remember them. Needless to say, we did not deserve a gift nor did we need one to aid in our remembrance. We all recognized the value of the gift they were giving to us and we tried to refuse. Yet, in the Chinese way, they insisted and we each left with three eggs. They had given each of us the most valuable item they had in the village, eggs, three eggs. What an image of the Trinity; it was indeed Easter. As these Miao villagers knew, our same Father gave all of us His most valuable gift, His Son.Praise God for those who are willing to give the best they have to give.

I am being honest when I say that all I have to offer the people of China is my ability to speak English. What a blessing that ability has been to my life. It has allowed me to see this culture first hand and experience so much more than I ever could have imagined. Maybe you aren't as fortunate as I have been to be able to devote a year to this place, but the Wilson's lead teams here for the summer. If you're interested let me know!

"Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead."
-James 2:17

Saturday, March 28, 2009

sparseness of words

I spent today in a moment of reflection. It began from this never-ending exhaustion I've experienced this week. At first I blamed it on the fact that I have been working every single day since the semester began. Then I decided that my work schedule is very limited so possibly it was caused by allergies coming on from the changing seasons. I still feel that this is part of the physical reason, but I've determined that it has to be something more; something far beyond a change in season, or lack there of in Changzhi's case. I am becoming deeply rooted in this place, for reasons beyond that of normality. For that, I feel I am leading two separate lives. I feel very connected to a few select people back in the states. Ironically none of the people I feel close to in America live in the same city as the other. My how we grow and change. I feel like each one of these people brings out a part of me independent of the other, yet still they all have some similarities to the other. The deep roots of Americanism, or the ideals of that, connect us all in one way or another. I had to move to China to learn that. That being said, my original self is struggling with maintaining some form of that lifestyle I am to return home to all so soon, and at the same time grow and adapt to the person I am becoming here and now. How does this work? How does this balancing act, this transformation, fully occur without hinderance or defect? I am uncertain. Just as I am uncertain of what happens within the walls of a cocoon yet I know the beginning and end results are significantly different.
All that being said I feel like this change in many ways is unknown to me. I feel that I live my life of normalcy, as normal as a foreigner can be in a land so vastly different from their own. I work, I study, I read, I spend time with my friends. All the while becoming increasingly tired. Maybe this feeling is coming from the Lord trying to tell me to slow down. Maybe I'm missing something. Something I can only learn while here, in this place. Maybe I am too focused on my life of increasing monotony and I'm overlooking moments of extraordinary influence. I am on the downward slope of my time in Changzhi and I find myself more unsettled about leaving this place than I was with coming here to begin with. Why is that? Maybe coming to that understanding, or the realization that question even exists is the reason for my exhaustion. Maybe my body had to rest in order for my mind to become clear enough to ask these questions.
What's next?

"By waiting and calm, you shall be saved. In quiet and trust lies your strength."
~ Henri Nouwen

Monday, March 16, 2009

Moshing for love.

So this past week has been the week of large packages. I'm pretty sure my boss hates me because he always has "mail boxes" as he calls them waiting for me in his office every week. Last week I got a HUGE box from John that was full of all my favorite candy some sweet shirts and this CD of some band I've never heard of.. A Plea for whating? Sounds like something associated w/ bulimia but who even knows?! KIDDING! I'm so pumped about this new CD! I took a picture with it then ripped it open and listened to it from start to finish. So good! Yeah I danced in my apartment... don't act like you're surprised. This week I played one of the songs for my students and did an english activity "tell me what you picture when you hear this song"
Retribution as pictured by Chinese University Students:
  • The singer is adamant about water conservation and protecting the earth's natural resources and wants people to become aware of this.
  • A Fierce basketball game that turns into a quarrel.
  • A Crazy angry driver going through a crowded city and onto a highway.
  • A Funny Crazy man Complaining about something in society.
  • A Lion's Roar
  • A man represents a group of people complaining about being oppressed by society.
  • A group of cool guys performing this song men are dancing crazy to the music, wearing all shiny black. (haha so close!)
  • People that do not fit in trying to find where they belong in society.
  • A war song - Two armies in an intense battle eventually everyone looses their arms (weapons) and it becomes a hand to hand competition, in the end only one man survives. He is alone.
  • A nascar race that becomes very close at the finish.
  • It's midnight in the rainforest, you can hear lions and tigers howling, hunters are around a fire celebrating, they are dancing and wrestling. Very uncivilized.
  • A Gloomy room full of bones and coffins a man causes them to move, it's very scary.
  • Slaves shouting about their oppression.
  • A group of beasts
  • A boxing competition, it is very fierce, in the middle they have a break then when they begin again one man is bleeding and one man wins.
And now for my two favorite:
  • Soldiers w/ large guns dancing then aliens come to earth and the soldiers must fight the aliens, but they are still dancing the whole time as they fight the aliens with their large guns.
  • The devil calling you to hell.
hahaha I LOVE China! This one girl looked absolutely terrified of the song. I asked if they liked it and she shouted NO! haha Then I explained the music and the band and why I like it and yadda yadda. I tried to explain hardcore dancing, I thought they would ask me to demonstrate but they didn't. Which is unfortunate because I'm really good at it!

This week I got another package and it was from my dentist and the sweet girls that work in his office. I've gone to that dentist since I've had teeth so it was really sweet to get such a loving gift from them! Ironically it was full of candy! haha, some magazines AND Doritoes and Cheetos!!! So excited about that. Floss, toothpaste, and toothbrushes were in there too. I really will use the floss girls I promise! (I know you don't believe me but I will! All this candy I'll have to! hahaha) Thank you so much!!
My Kenyan neighbor Sue always sees when mom or anyone sends me a package and she comes over to check out the goodies. I'll have to share the wealth for sure. Mom's all about the packages, Sue says that it means people really love me and miss me back home. I think she's right.
Speaking of missing and loving people. Saturday was Plea's CD release show in Nashville. Most of my friends were there and I hated missing it. That was the second day I felt so far away since coming to China. The first was Christmas. But I was missed as much as I missed being there turns out. My girls took some great pictures for me, and my friend Lego painted "I mosh 4 Wendy" on his chest and back! hahaha I love that boy! I do miss those shows. But as John reminds me there will be other CD's and other shows that I won't miss. He's very supportive and I'm very blessed to be loved by so many. I called Emily and cried to her about being alone then Sarah called and we cried together. For some reason crying with them made me feel better.
I'll be home in a little more than 4 months for Sarah's wedding I'm so excited! It will be a busy visit, seeing everyone and spending time with my family but I'm excited for it.
Today is my dad's birthday! Happy birthday Daddy!!!
Happy St. Patrick's day everyone else! Oh I'm not wearing green.. should probably get on that.

I love and miss you all!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Consistent movement and stillness

So as was told in my previous blogs, and most of you know by talking to me in some form or fashion.. my holiday was slow moving and full of watching a lot of TV online. However I did travel to Linfen to visit Hai li and Rui Rui's families. That was a good trip! Their families are so kind and welcoming. Their homes are both in small villages on opposite sides of this large city. It was a completely different side of Chinese culture I had yet to see. A wonderful experience all around. I traveled by bus and I was so tired when I got back. I was really busy the weekend following my trip and on monday we celebrated the lantern festival, which is the ending to the spring festival. In the morning I met Jackie, and another teacher here who is also named Wendy (lucky girl) and we went to Ba yi square to watch the parade. We saw men dressed like tigers dancing and all sorts of wonderful things. Alice met up with us there too and after that I took Alice and Sweetie out for Hot Pot. Then I was even more tired than before. I was suppose to meet up with sweetie at her home and spend the day there but I had no energy for that. I went home and took a long nap. I love nap time in China. Then that evening I met up with Wendy and Jackie again and we "roamed the street" to see all the beautiful lanterns. There were hundreds of thousands of people in the street. Fire crackers started at 6 am and went all through the night. Needless to say all the noise scared away the demons (which is the purpose of this day).  
I had a week left of winter holiday after this. I found out the Russian's were leaving which meant Sue (from Kenya) and I were going to have to teach their classes. So now I teach 10 classes a week all freshman and sophomore oral english. So far it's going really well. My sophomore students are very active and we've had good discussions. I think I'm going to enjoy this term. That being said, My days are very busy lately. I went from doing nothing for weeks to not resting. It's ok though, I like it better this way. 
On another note my wonderful BAFF Sarah Holmes got engaged this week to her love and that brings me joy! If all my plans work out I'll be home visiting during the time of her wedding so I'll be blessed to see that! It's all up in the air right now but I pray it all works out. I have to drag Emily back out here somehow don't I? 
I've decided for Lent, which begins tomorrow in China, I'm going to devote more time to prayer and reading scripture. I was doing really well with this before the holiday began then my routine changed and I became stagnant. No good. So instead of giving something up I'm adding. I did tell Emily I was going to give up cheeseburgers though... so far so good. I've had about three cheeseburgers since I've come to China.. all from Mcdonalds so those don't really count. 
Ok picture time!
Hai Li and her niece at the harvest festival

Traditional drums used for the harvest festival

Rui Rui's niece


Outdoor Opera


My boss Dean Wei

Chun jie' kuai le!

"Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders you have done. The things you planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare... I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart." 
- Psalms 40: 5, 8