Saturday, December 29, 2012

Goodbye 2012

I cannot even express what a boost of mental energy this group has been for me.  Although I'm even more exhausted than I was a week ago, I am having a blast and am enjoying every minute.  I'm catching a cold, but it'll go away soon enough.  Sleep will come in a few days.

I am done with my first semester!  All I have to do is turn in grades and that will only take me a few minutes.  The only obligation I have is dance class on Wednesday and that isn't an obligation at all.  I feel so free!!!! Haha.  It's a beautiful thing.

In the past few days the group, my students and I have done so much it feels like.  We have had shopping adventures, eaten plenty of local food, watched a New Years performance at the lake - Gangnam Style included - and this morning we climbed the mountain in town.  The mountain is about 3,000 steps.  Sitting down right now feels like paradise!

Some of the American girls came to my dance class on Wednesday and we had a blast!  S Club 7 provided us with an adorable jazz song and we did some tap too.  I love being able to dance again!

The lake here is incredible.  I posted pictures on my facebook a while ago but this time I got to go there with my actual camera. It was already dark so I didn't get good pictures of the lake.  When we got there we happened to get to see a huge performance.  The place was filled with locals.  There were lots of traditional minority dances and they even had a huge group do Gangnam Style.  It was fantastic!  After that we walked around the lake.  I managed to get a sweet group picture of every person that came! Self timer rocks!  We have been all about group pictures and I am all for being photographer.  It's so much fun.  My students have opened up so much and it is just getting me even more excited for next semester.

When we came back we saw lanterns in the air, so we bought 2 of them.  Only one worked though, but hey, it worked!  It had Kung Fu Panda on it!  We all signed it and were able to watch it float on into the night.

This morning was the big hike.  We left at 8:30 this morning and got back at 1:30.  5 hours of walking! Almost 3,000 steps up, and back, plus the 20-30 minute walk there.  I can't believe I made it to the top. My legs are going to fall off tomorrow.  One of the guys couldn't come.  He's pretty sick right now.  Yarp for him!  They only have 2 days left here and I hope they can all finish here and travel back in good health.

Tonight we're meeting up for dinner and we're having a big sleepover at their hotel.  I love having them here.

Last thing:  Happy Birthday Mom!!!!!!  I cannot wait to see you and spend lots and lots of time with you!  I love you!

Happy New Year everyone.  I couldn't be ending 2012 any better!  I can't believe this is my life.  I am so blessed.  I'll let you know how the first few hours of 2013 go.  Thank goodness we made it this far ;)

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas

It's done. The #1 item on my mental bucket list has been crossed off: spend Christmas in another country.  I never thought it would happen, but it just did and it was an incredible thing.

The American group is still here.  I actually didn't see them at all today (I'll explain my day in a bit).  They've been doing camp, loving on all of the students, and getting the full Chinese experience.  Every moment I get to spend with them is such a blessing.  They couldn't have come at a better time.

I have been so overwhelmed with love this week.  It has been unreal.  On Friday, when I arrived at English Corner, I had a room full of about 100 students chanting my name just for simply walking into the room.  I felt like Bieber performing at a mall.  It was the most overwhelming feeling ever.  I think I looked absolutely terrified.

On Saturday, the group went up to the farm with us.  I (all by myself, in Chinese) ordered jiaozi and baozi for us.  I ordered it a day in advance and told her I'd come the next day at 3 to pick it up! AND IT WORKED!  Haha.  I was so proud of myself.  We had a great time playing games and eating good food.  Santa even showed up for a bit!!


Sunday was a marvelous day.  10 1/2 hours of pure greatness.  I met my girls at 9 and we walked to the service we were going to attend.  Everyone was so welcoming.  I understood a bit of the message.  My girls understood the majority, if not all of it.  By the end they were singing along.  Afterwards, we grabbed a quick lunch and I was able to talk to them and ask what they liked, disliked and what they're overall opinion was of it.  I'm anxious to dig a bit more when we meet on Thursday.  After that we went to the place the performance and dinner would be, but the time changed so we had around an hour to spare.  We went to the park and ended up going in this 'haunted house' that's inside of this huge monkey looking thing.   It was terrifying!  My throat hurt the rest of the day from screaming so much.  It was so much fun though.   Then we took some pictures.  Self-timed jumping pic: nailed it!  I love our little photo shoots.

By 1, we headed back to the performance place and that went on for a while.  Some singing and dancing happened.  Mostly it was just a great chance to talk and be in the presence of all that Christmas is about.  I met this sweet 83 year old woman who kept coming up to talk to me.  I asked if I could take a picture with her.  She's about 4/6" maybe.  I had to bend down so low to get closer to being her height.

Other villagers I got to 'talk' to!  I love these people!
The dinner was absolutely delicious.  I love Chinese food.  It's insane how often I crave it.  I could live off of baozi I think.  I've had it every day this week and I still want more!!!

Once it all ended my girls wanted to go shopping.  So we ventured all around the city and got to spend more time together and have some fun.  I adore all of them.  They are just so sweet.  The city at night reminds me a bit of SF.  Just lights and hills and lots of people.

[This time of year, it's customary to buy apples for people you love/appreciate.  The word for apple and for peace are very similar in Chinese (ping guo & ping an) so to give someone an apple is to wish them a peaceful year.  Well, I got about 9 on Friday from my tutoring students and I ended up with a total of 37 as of last night.  INSANE!  Good thing I like apples!]

My tree on Friday night. 

My tree after the party on Christmas Eve.
All around town they have these stands where you can have them wrap your apples up in tissue paper or gift boxes.  Christmas decorations were finally put up everywhere.  I've been told they are really Spring Festival decorations,  but they put them up in time for Christmas.  Trees, lights, Santas, signs that say 'Merry Christmas'.  It finally felt like Christmas here, even if it didn't come until 2 days before.

I came back to campus and there was dancing in the big quad so of course I jumped in on that.

Christmas Eve

There was a big Christmas party Monday night for the foreign language department.  I was expected to dance so at about 4 I did a 2 minute piece in 20 minutes and spent the next few hours panicking.  It went extremely well though.  I had a little 4 year old out there with me and he calmed me down/stole the show.  It was a blast though.  I received about 20 apples last night.  I was just speechless.  We played games, participated in traditional dances and did some classic Christmas carols.  All in all, it wasn't normal Christmas Eve, but it was a beautiful night.
My absolutely beautiful 'sister' Helen (find out about her further down!!!!!!).


I was nervous about today.  I was worried I'd have some breakdown or something.  I woke up, got ready (looked adorable too) and then headed up to the farm.  I spent the day w/ the Ls.  The girls and I played Just Dance 4!  It felt like being home.  We played some other games and watched Dumb & Dumber.  HA!  Around 7 we went to the other side for a staff gathering.  So my Christmas dinner was Chinese barbecue.  Grilled zucchini, mushrooms, beef patties, and best of all, chicken gizzards.  Christmas I'll never forget!  That's for sure.

I am so incredibly blessed.  Being home for Christmas next year will be nice, but being here was something I will always remember. The reason we celebrate is the whole reason I'm out here and if I lost sight of that, a tex from my student sure was enough to bring me back.  One text from one of my girls today was enough to make every single day out here worth it.  I'm positive I have another sister here, a sister who I may not see again in this life, but will spend plenty of time with in the days to come.

Merry Christmas to all of you at home!  Don't lose sight of the beautiful gift we've all been given.  I may not have opened any presents today, but I have never felt more thankful and loved in my life!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

New Friends & Renewed Outlook

It's 9:50 and I'm about to crash, but just wanted to give you all a quick little update about the past few days.

I've been in sort of a funk the last few days, or maybe weeks.  I decided the other night that I needed to get out of it.  I was talking to Evan and he kept pointing out how abnormal I seemed.  I was just letting everything get the best of me knowing that most of it was preventable.  I was so behind on my devos and getting into the Word.  So I stepped up my game and snapped out of it.  I also got the Christmas present I'd been wanting for a while now: American friends!

The Americans came in the other day, 8 of them.  They are a dream for me.  All of them are awesome.  We all have been hanging out constantly the past 2 days.  It's really been putting my language to the test and I've surprised myself a lot.  I know more than I thought, or at least am capable of piecing together things to resemble sentences.  Either way, it's been great.  They started English camp today and it went great.  I get the privilege to be a part of it when I want.  I'm still exhausted but this is an opportunity I won't have again until summer rolls around so I'm going to jump all over it.  I'll spend the first week of January curled up in my bed hibernating until I'm forced to function like a human.  Basically, this group has been a huge blessing to me in the past 2 days and I still have another 10 or so days with them.

It has been absolutely beautiful here... outside.  Inside? Freezing!
I received 2 packages yesterday.  Also a major blessing.  The mail lady got so excited to give them to me.  It was a fun little, practically wordless, situation.  My cuzzo got me a little baby Christmas tree and I set it up on my coffee table right away! It's beautiful, just like her :)  I got some cute clothes from her and my grandparents also.  I'm quite spoiled.

THEN... oh man.  I finally took advantage of having keys to the dance studio and went over there on Wednesday.  I taught the lady I tutor for, her daughter, niece, and sister-in-law.  30 minutes tap.  30 minutes jazz/ballet.  It was lovely.  Then I stuck around for a while to just dance by myself.  I literally locked myself in, turned most of the lights off, and just did whatever I wanted.  Therapy.  Also, I'm super out of shape.  It was a sad reality check.

Today was my normal tutoring, but the kids were oddly attached to me... literally.  It took me almost 10 minutes to leave because about 5 of them latched onto my legs and wouldn't let me leave.  One of the girls asked why I had to leave.  They usually run out and attack me with hugs when I get there and then follow me out as I leave.  They're precious.  I always leave there feeling so lucky.  It's always a good reminder of the opportunity I have.  I am so thankful that I get to do this.  Getting back to that mindset when I've let myself drift is really good.  I need to stay there.

Tomorrow is more camp, my first real Chinese tutoring session, my normal English tutoring, and then some quality time w/ my lovely ladies as we close out our Harry Potter experience.  I'm so sad it's all going to end tomorrow.  Yep, I'm one of them now.

I can't believe Christmas is less than a week away. For those of you who don't know this, Christmas is on the same day for us: Tuesday, the 25th.  Just because I'm in China doesn't mean Christmas changes dates. (Love you mom! Hahaha).   The town has started putting up decorations and creepy Santas and playing Christmas music.  It's pretty nice.  It's starting to feel like Christmas sort of.

That's enough for now.  I really need to get to bed.  The group and I are getting breakfast on the street again tomorrow morning.  Steamed buns, weird taco things, noodles, fresh fruit.  I can make myself get up early for that.

Good night for me.  Good morning for you all.