Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter!

I am so thankful that almost 2000 years ago a man named Jesus died a cruel and unimaginable death on a cross and then rose three days later so that I may have internal life!  Rejoicing in a country where He is alive and working in the lives of thousands each day!

Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen! 
Luke 24:5-6

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Welcome to my hometown! Jiaxiang

At the end of every session students always say "welcome to my hometown!" and the reply is, thank you! (even though you know you most likely won't be able to go, usually not because you wouldn't like to, but because you have already been to that area or won't have enough time to get there)  I had previously tried to plan a trip to visit some students but that fell through.  This one however didn't!  So, I was off to visit one of my students, along with 2 other students from TIP in Jiaxiang, Shandong.

I sent off in plenty of time to get to the Beijing West train station because the day before 2 of the other facilitators missed their train by 1 minute. I got there in plenty of time, got McDonald's for dinner and waited in a mass of Chinese until it was time to board the train.  I easily found my bed among the hard sleepers, a middle bunk that worked out quite nicely.  I got comfortable and read for a bit before the lights went off and I slept fairly well, waking up a few times fearful I missed my stop.  Alas, I didn't and Mindy and Lucy were excidedly waiting for me as I got off the train.

Mindy was very worried that I wouldn't be comfortable enough in her home so she arranged for me to stay in a hotel for the duration of my stay.  So that was the first stop where I was forced to nap because there is no way I was able to sleep well enough on the train.  After a couple of hours Mindy and Lucy came back and we went to eat lunch, where we met another TIP student, Raleigh.  Then it was off to a primary school in a village that is one of the schools Mindy works at as the head of the English teachers.  I taught a lesson to a group of enthusiastic 5th graders that involved a lot of thinking on my feet but was a lot of fun.  Then Mindy gave a speech about TIP to the teachers and I did a question and answer session with them to help give them ideas how they can make their English classes better.  After many pictures with the adorable kids, many of whom I am told have never seen a foreigner before and realizing the school had a sign made specifically to welcome me we headed back to the hotel to hang out with Mindy and her daughters Leah and Grace for the evening.
It says welcome foreign teacher from TIP Peking University, or something like that :)
The next day, despite the rain and cold, it was off to Qufu, the city that Confucius is from.  I went with Mindy and Grace, and we had a driver for the whole day thanks to the headmasters of the school I would visit on Monday.  Even though it was really cold, and I wasn't quite prepared for that, it was interesting to see the temple built to honor Confucius, the mansion his ancestors lived in, and the cemetery he and his family is buried in, which is the oldest family cemetery in the world.  This was also interesting because it is a popular destination for Chinese tourist, but not really for foreigners, and that was actually the common denominator over the whole trip.

The next day we had the same driver and this time Mindy's husband and her older daughter Leah also joined us.  First we went to a smaller temple built for Confucius near their city.  The thing that was interesting to me here was every building had the description in front of it, but it also noted that it was destroyed during the cultural revolution and rebuilt thanks to so and so sponsor in 2003.  It never ceases to amazes me how much history and beauty was destroyed in the name of progress during such a short period.  Then we headed to a place that had stone carvings from Wu cemeteries.  This wasn't the most exciting place, but I can say I've been there.  The thing that seemed crazy to me about both of these places is when we arrived there was no one there and they had to unlock the gates for us.  Then when we left they locked them back.  I don't know if this was a deal worked out because I was there or not, it was just a little strange.

Then we went to one of the many hills/small mountains in the area that had a temple built on it.  Once again, lots of Chinese tourists and people doing double takes when they saw me.

Mindy had obligations in the afternoon so after another nap Lucy came and picked me up and we went to a public square that is in the city at the bottom of another series of hills/mountains.  Her husband and son along with Raleigh and her husband and baby daughter met us there.  While we were waiting for them several people were taking pictures of me and I was even offered to roller skate for free, which I declined since the others would be there soon.  It was a lot of fun to climb the hills with them and just enjoy the beautiful day.

The next day I went to a private primary school that Mindy used to work at and her daughter Grace attends.  I taught a 2nd grade and Grace's 6th grade class.  Once again, it was a lot of fun to teach and the kids were so excited, especially the 6th graders.  I can now say I know what it feels like to be mobbed by people wanting your autograph as they all wanted me to write my name for them.  Many of the kids who attend this school live there as their parents are forced to go to other cities to find work.  I went to lunch with the headmaster and a few of the other teachers.  We went to a super nice restaurant and enjoyed a delicious meal consisting mostly of seafood.  I think I counted somewhere between 20 and 25 dishes, and that was for 7 people.  Needless to say, there were a lot of leftovers.  In the afternoon I talked with the English teachers doing another question and answer session with them.  Then it was off to dinner again with the headmaster, but it was much more manageable :)

That night I hung out with my students and their families and then said good bye to all the kids.  Early the next morning Mindy, Lucy, and Raleigh met me to head to the bus stop.  They were originally going to get me a train ticket back, but couldn't, so they felt horrible that I had to take the bus.  It was actually pretty hilarious to see the three of them talking to the driver telling him that he must take care of me and make sure I was alright.  Because of this I was forced to sit in the front seat, which was fine with me because it had more leg room.  So, after saying goodbye to them and thanking them for everything it was back to Beijing, where I am now super busy halfway into session 48!

One more thing I have to mention is money.  Chinese people always feel like they are obligated to pay for everything, and it can be incredibly difficult to pay for anything.  On this trip, I was hoping to pay for the hotel room, but Mindy prepaid for everything so I didn't get a chance.  I already knew that I wouldn't be able to pay for any of my meals, so I let that slide.  Mindy asked me to buy some Uno cards and that is where my only victory came in, I was able to convince her not to pay me back for them.  So, the whole trip cost me a train ticket there, a few boxes of Uno cards, and snacks I bought for the train.  Thats Chinese culture for you :)

Monday, April 11, 2011

spring flowers

Our Lord had written the promise of resurrection not only in words alone, but in every leaf (or bloom) in springtime.                                                                                                                                                     -Martin Luther

Friday, April 8, 2011

Random thoughts: Airport pickup

There is always a certain level of entertainment found in going to the airport to pick up a new facilitator.  You arrive early with your sign and try to get a good place in line where the person will hopefully see you easily.  Then, the waiting begins.  If you are lucky you were early enough to stop by Starbucks before getting in line so you have a nice treat to drink while you wait.

I love watching other people as they wait.  Then, finally, there is the universal smile and nod, with a wave or point usually thrown in for good measure.  The two parties have found each other, and the new adventure is ready to begin!