Thursday, September 20, 2012

Apartment Update

Since you are all DYING to know what my apartment looks like now that I've been living in it for a solid month, I guess I can share some pictures.  I've actually been wanting to post pics of it for the last month, but I won't do that until it looks acceptable and that means putting things on the walls... which has taken me much longer than I had hoped.  Here is the before post and now it's time for the update:
View from my front door. 
My 2 RMB beer bottles all fancied up.  Hey, there I am in the TV that never gets turned on!
The most evil project I've ever decided to do. Those little circles are pieces of paper woven together on a piece of cardboard.  Yeah.  That all happened sadly.
View from the kitchen of the front door.  The fashion bike has been moved from it's normal home under the pictures.
Onto the kitchen...
Look how clean!  This is the water jug I got all by myself!  It's beautiful.
I spend WAY too much time staring at that wall.  Dumb dishes.

This is the 'slash' room. Sorry it's a bit dark and pardon my laundry. 
This is right when you walk into the 'slash' room. Still haven't had a meal at that table.
Slash room from the balcony. I try not to go in here much.  It kind of drives me crazy.

2 shower heads. Luxury living in China.
Onto my lovely room. 
I actually have way more clothes here than I thought. I have minor OCD tendencies so my clothes are all categorized too. I hope this room stays this perfect for a while.
Made those too.  Thank you toaster box cardboard, cheap paper, bamboo clothes pins and string left in my apartment!
My sister and I both have crayon art in our rooms at our colleges.  It's my favorite piece of home I brought with me.
And here I am one more time just because I look decent today and had a camera in my hands.
So there it all is.  I love it.  It feels like my home for the year.  I get excited every day when I get to go back to it so that's a good sign I think.  Now I'm just going to hope that it stays this perfect for the next year.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Sleep Deprivation

Right now would be the IDEAL time for an ambien.  It's 1:30 am and I've been laying in bed for the past 2 1/2 hours trying to fall asleep and failing miserably.  Nutella and facebook have won the battle tonight.  But I did have quite an interesting day so I'm going to write about it since I have nothing better to do.

1. I called the water people today and asked for water and told them where to deliver it all on my own and all in Chinese.  AND.... it successfully made it here meaning I didn't screw up my Chinese the first time it really mattered.  Hooray for me.

2. Went to dinner with my student tonight (last night?). Nothing major happened, but I did get to know her so much more than I expected to and she taught me some really practical Chinese.  We went to a Burmese restaurant and the food I got was spicy and I drank the water because I needed to and so far I'm still ok so I think I'm in the clear on that one.  Once I was finally able to bring up her paper we got to talk about a lot of interesting things.  She shared her beliefs and I shared mine.  A year ago her mother passed away from cancer.  She told me how angry she was and how hard it was.  I guess people in her area think that cancer happens because of something you've done so she was angry that they thought her mother deserved it.  It was a really good opportunity to share.  She didn't ask too many questions but for a first meeting I think a lot was put on the table.  I couldn't believe that she shared so much with me.  Somehow, in the midst of everything, I ended up agreeing to dance at a party for the foreign language department next month.  How many people will be there you're probably not wondering?  Only 4-5 HUNDRED.  Yeah. A LOT. Massive. Crowd. I'm already nervous. Maybe that's why I'm still awake 3 hours after I thought I'd be asleep. UGH.

On our way back we went to the bookstore that everyone tells me about. They have an english section but it's on the second floor in the very back of course.  They have classics like Pride & Prejudice, The Great Gatsby, The Scarlet Letter, Harry Potter (ha), and many others all for around $3.  Some of them are even in both chinese and english.  I will be purchasing many books this year and hoping I can stuff them into my suitcase to bring home.  (I also want to bring home my wonderful comforter that I am constantly raving about to a few lucky people.  It's like a giant pillow that I get to wrap myself in every night... even though it's failing me right now and I'm a bit angry with it.)

As we walked back I asked her how to say a few things that I think will be very helpful and I made sure to write them down.  
-Wo bu hui shuo zhong wen. (I don't speak Chinese). 
-Wo zhi hui yi dian dian zhong wen. (I only speak a little Chinese).
-Qing, gei wo yi ping shui. (Please, bring me a bottle of water.)
-Ni shi shei? (Who is this?)*

*During dinner some random person started texting me in pinyin and I have no idea who they are. They said hello and asked if we could be friends and I said 'Sure. Who is this?' to which they said something that google translate told me was 'embarrassed liver busy' but I got it to finally tell me something along the lines of 'i don't have any normal rituals.  You can meet the Chinese'. So... I have a strange Chinese friend via texting.  Not sure what to do about it.

Time to go fight sleep again. Tomorrow is kind of important and I'd love to be rested for it but I'm doubting that I'll get my wish.  Bummer. Sorry for another post within a 24-hour period.  

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Busy Bee

Life starts to get a little busier for me tomorrow.

This is what my weeks will be looking like starting tomorrow:

Mondays: Teaching freshmen class #2 in the afternoon.  Grading their papers after class.
Tuesdays: Seniors in the morning.  Freshmen class #3 after that.  Lots of grading.
Wednesdays: Freedom... or getting together with students like I am doing tonight!
Thursdays: Small group at 2. Tutoring at 7.
Fridays: Freshmen class #1 in the mornings.  Grading.  Lesson planning when A gets into town.  Tutoring at 7.
Saturdays: Tutoring at 10. Tutoring at 2. Farm at 4. Possibly stay the night there.
Sundays: Hang out w/ my favorite people in the whole country (Jenny, Locke & Nicole).

Last night I met a lady, through a friend, who wants me to help tutor some primary (elementary) students on Thursday and Friday evenings.  I was told it would be maybe once or twice a month, but nope!  Every week.  More money and more chances to practice my Chinese so it's all good!

Tonight I'm having dinner with that student I wrote about last week.  I'm anxious for that.  I had another situation yesterday when I was grading that got me excited about talking to another student next week too.  So I'm thinking my Wednesdays will be great for me to have some one-on-one time w/ the students that I really want to get to know.

Then tomorrow is small group week 2!  Reading more of the word, yarping, and baking cookies!  Should be a great day.

That's all I got for now.  Things are good here.  Enjoying my time and starting to realize how quickly it's going.  Almost 3 months down already!

-Zai jian

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Saturdays

Saturdays are lovely days.  This is what I get to do every Saturday now.  Enjoy.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Small Group

It's over... and it has just begun.  (Look at me being all deep w/ my words.)

'My girls' just left my apartment after our first small group meeting!  It wasn't what I expected, but I think it went extremely well.

[I woke up this morning, after the first good night of sleep I've had in a while, anxious for the day.  Small group day 1.  My devo for the morning was about worry.  Worrying means we're not relying on the Father.  It means we aren't trusting Him.  All morning I yarped for peace and wisdom and for the removal of any worries that I let slip into my head.  2 pm needed to get here.]

5 of the 7 showed up.  One had to go to the hospital I guess(??).  They said she's ok, nothing serious, but not what I wanted to hear.  Poor girl.  Another had to work today but will hopefully come next week.  I made plenty of cookies (probably too many which really isn't a bad thing in my opinion), got some drinks and set up chairs and, before I knew it, they were here!

Right before we met I watched a video about one of my summer camps and it literally brought me to tears.  It was 10 minutes before the girls got here and it was that perfect little kick to remove any worries I may have had that decided to stick around even though they were not welcomed. [The video is on my FB page.  Go watch it.  It's beautiful.]   I have only spent 2 hours with these girls so I think they are still a bit nervous around me.  Goal #1 is to get rid of that as soon as possible.  We sat down and talked for a few minutes before I just buckled down and got into things.  I explained why I want to have them over and how they're not here to be forced into anything.  I told them I want to teach them because it's important to me and I love our Father and I want them to learn who He is.

We went through the lesson I had which was just the 1st chapter of the book.  We sort of went through the questions that I had and they had plenty of good questions too.  Difficult questions.  We dealt with a lot today and it was all really good.  One girl already has a book and she reads it. I found out later that she yarps and watches club meetings on TV.  She's very shy but when she has a question or when I say something that triggers her interest she just lights up.  I like her :)  I like all of them!

We talked about yarping.  A LOT!  They had SO many questions.  I showed them the list I keep by my bed and told them how I usually talk to the Father.  We talked about other beliefs and I told them why I believe what I do.  I told them why I want to teach others.  There was just a lot to talk about.  It got my so excited for the next few weeks with them.  At the end I asked if I could yarp for them and I did.  It's aways been really far out of my comfort zone to yarp publicly but that's where you grow, right?  I challenged them to yarp this week at least once.  I said they could say anything they wanted, where the wanted and when they wanted.

After we ended we just hung out and talked about normal things.  I'm getting some Chinese pop music next week in exchange for some John Mayer.  Brining the JM to China.  You're welcome, Mr. Mayer.  Anyways, the shyness barrier has seemed to come down a bit already.  I'm teaching them to make cookies next week and they took some to bring their roommates.  I think we ended on a very positive note.

My head is spinning with all that I want to share with them.  I want to teach them everything I know.  I want these girls to get it and to see things as I am finally learning to.  AH.  I'm just excited and anxious. I love these girls so much already and I want to know that they understand His love and want more of it.  Nothing could be better.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Heartbreak

I just finished grading papers. [So far I've been great at getting them graded as soon as I get back from class.  Hopefully that lasts...]  Every week I give my students a question to respond to.  Just one page is all they need to write (some get a little excited and write more though).  Last week's question was "Where do you see yourself in 10 years?" Some of them just shocked me.

One guy, we'll call him C, explained why he wants to be a teacher.  He said he has a passion for middle school (here that's the equivalent of high school) students.  He said he wants to always cherish their zest for life and that they will pass their passion on to him.  His words.  Seriously.  He said many people think teaching is a hard job and their income is low but, without teachers, the country will lack scientists, managers, businessmen, soldiers, or even good farm workers.  He said he wants to build his country up through teaching.  He wants to live in a strong and wealthy country and the way to achieve that is through our teachers.  WOW!  Just wow!  He's going to be an incredible teacher.  I wrote that the world needs more people like him.

Here's where the title comes in to play.  I'm reading through all of these papers, some sweet and simple, others inspiring, and I get to one of my last papers.  'R' writes that she has forgotten her childhood dreams because she hurried through the last 21 years.  She's let her years slip away and she doesn't want the next 10 to be the same.   She doesn't want an elaborate life.  She just wants to make enough money to provide for her family and be happy.  She described a typical day of working and then eating w/ her family and going to walk in the park and seeing the smiles on the faces of everyone there.  I flip the page and she writes that 10 years is a long time, but also a short time and she knows that in order to live the life she described, she has to make her own plans and study hard.....

"There is no savior in this world.  Only we can save ourselves.  I will cherish everything I have now so I will not regret it ten years later."

BAM!  I just sat there for a minute.  I didn't want to start writing a  huge response to that one part on her paper, but I didn't know what to write.  I'm hoping I can grab her next week and see if we can get together soon to talk.  What a perfect set up for a great conversation.

These assignments were meant to be a fun, simple way for me to get to know my students and they are pouring out so much of their lives to me in the process.  This week I told them to tell me what superpower they'd want and why.  Hopefully it's a bit more lighthearted, and entertaining.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Delightfully Disoriented

It's time to divulge the details of my delightfully disoriented adventure.

[Background Info]
I was out shopping w/ the L girls until they got picked up to go back to the farm.  I could have taken the easy way back - a taxi - but it was a gorgeous afternoon, I thought I knew where I was, I needed a few things, so I decided I'd walk.  It was only 4:30.  I had plenty of time.

[Real Story]
Once the girls left I headed up to a bakery that I love.  They have this bread that I call 'Crack By Hands'. Honestly. (I saw it a few weeks ago and the sign said 'crack by hands' which I thought was hilarious.  Therefore, I eat 'Crack By Hands' whenever I can.  And I love it.)  Anyway, I got my Crack By Hands, got my map out, thought I knew where I was, and headed back to my apartment.  After about 30 seconds I realized I was going the wrong way so I turned around and went back up to the bakery.  Then when I thought I knew which way to go, again, I started walking.

 [SIDENOTE: My sense of direction SUCKS.  Awful. Terrible.  Non-existent. If I think I need to go one way, I might as well turn the other way.  That'll probably be the right way.] 

After a few minutes on this new road, I knew I was in market territory.  There were vendors everywhere.  That was when I realized I didn't know where I was.  But I decided to just go with it.  There are taxis everywhere and I could have grabbed one if I felt defeated, but I didn't! HA!  I ended up finding a fruit vendor that had those sugar apples that I now love so I decided I'd try and buy a few.  I had a fun little conversation triangle with the woman who worked there and this guy just chillin in a chair.  I asked how much. She started using way too many words.  Before I could tell her I couldn't understand her, the guy beat me to it with a huge smile on his face.  After a few round of this she gave me a bag, I grabbed what I wanted and paid for it.  Then I continued on my journey that included probably hundreds of stares.  Oddly white American girl, wearing sunglasses (strange occurrence here), wandering around by herself on Old Street? Weird.  Yeah.  That's my life now.  I'm used to it finally.
By this point I realize that I'm on Old Street.  I don't know if that's what it's actually called but that's what we call it here.  It's in the middle of town but you feel like you just regressed a few decades as you wander down the choppy dirt road filled with locals who make you feel like you're walking through a movie set.
It took me 40 minutes to get to the bottom of Old St. and, just as I approached modern society, I saw something that finally gave me an idea of what to do w/ my bare apartment walls and tables.  I tacked that little note in my brain and continued back to my apartment, now completely aware of where I was and how long it would take me to get home.  I ran a few more errands since I was already on a roll, said hi to a few guys who decided to throw out probably the only english word they know - hello - and maneuvered my way through the dinner crowd back to my apartment where my poor blistered feet (dumb flip flops) got to plop up on a table while I watched a movie and ate a somewhat Chinese meal that I made.  It was a pretty great day. I'm glad I got lost!  I can't wait for it to happen again! (Sorry everyone at home who is freaking out because of that statement.  China is a lot safer than you think.  I can jump in a taxi whenever. I go out when it's light out.  I DO have a phone even though it's 10 years old. I'll be ok.)

[Follow Up]
This morning, after A and I finished our morning tutoring class, I made her come w/ me to the bottom of old street to grab some bottles that I saw while on my adventure.  When we got there, we saw the piles of bottles... and an old woman who was collecting them.  So A suggested that we ask her if we can buy some off of her.  Sure. Why not?  So A asks her and she says yes.  I paid 2 RMB (she only asked for one) for all 4 bottles.  And yes, they were beer bottles.  Massive, pretty, green beer bottles that will now looks all fancy in my apartment.  I promise.  We stopped up the road to take a picture of us holding my lovely adventure finds.  Who does that? Who buys empty beer bottles off of an old woman on the streets of China so she can decorate her apartment?  I do!  Yup!

My life here is odd.  I love it.  It's great.  I am so glad I have 10 more months here.  10 more months to find the adventures that are hiding all around here. WOO!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Meeting My Small Group

Well, a lot has happened in the last few days and almost all of it has been great.   We'll start w/ Tuesday.

I had my second class!  It went so well.  Much better than the first week, which also went pretty great I thought.  We played my edited version of Scattegories which ended up taking forever but proved to be really good.  They have an incredible vocabulary!  I spent the second half of class (classes are an hour and a half w/ a 10 min break in between) doing our first culture lesson: American families.  I had to mention the school system a bit and I got to watch, and hear, their shock at how little time we spend in school.  AND then I got to grade papers once I got back to my room.  They weren't too bad and it helped me get a glimpse into what their lives are like outside of school.  I was able to make up my grading system for the semester too, finally!
This is my view as I leave my apartment and head to class.
Tuesday night was dinner w/ one of the first people I met in China - T.  She is the english teacher at the #1 school in town.  We met at the school and walked up the street to a little restaurant where her friend met us.  Her friend - K - happened to be a girl I've heard about all summer who wants me to help her w/ her English.  We ended up being there for 2 hours just talking about everything.  It was an incredibly successful evening and the food was phenomenal.  In 2 hours:
-I got invited over to T's house for the Mid-Autumn Festival which happens at the end of this month.
-K agreed to teach me Chinese if I help her w/ her English (which needs no help).
-Both of them are going to come over to my apartment occasionally to teach me to cook Chinese food!!!!!
-AND I got a package from my parents which included a whole bunch of happiness!

I walked back to my apartment as one ecstatic girl!

THEN THERE WAS WEDNESDAY!

I got all ready to go to lunch w/ my first group of girls and one of them, Evan, called me to make sure we were still meeting.  I walked up to a group of 7 girls and was a bit surprised.  They all ended up talking and just decided to come together.  So I only ended up having one lunch, which will make this a bit shorter, but still great!  I got introduced to all of them and told them to decide where we should eat.  They kept asking me things like, "Can you use chopsticks?" or "Do you like Chinese food?" YES to everything.  I'm in China. Of course I like the food and can use chopsticks.  We ended up at a place about 20 feet outside of the school gates.  OH MY GOSH!  Gorgeous place.  Delicious food!
The girls were all super sweet and helpful and their english was great as well.  Some stronger than others though.  I started asking them about their summer and what their favorite parts of camp were and their answers led straight into them coming out to learn more after camp.  I asked if they wanted their own 'books' to learn more and a few of them got super excited about that possibility.  I ended up asking if they wanted to get together once a week for a certain period of time and I would teach them more from the book so they could learn and practice their english at the same time.  ALL of them agreed.  I asked what day works best and they all broke out into really fast Chinese as they decided, almost instantly, what day and time worked best for all 7 of them.  SOOOO.....

Starting next Thursday, I will be leading a small group for 7 beautiful girls for the next 6 weeks!!!!

It all happened so easily. I left feeling strange about it.  It almost seemed too easy.  Not that I'm complaining at all, I was just surprised.  But I know it is probably all of the yarping that happened leading up to it so thank you.  I know good things are going to happen because a bit of chaos has happened since then.

That night, as I was going to bed, I found out that my grandpa had a little hospital visit again.  Thankfully he's home now and things are good there.  But yesterday morning I went to deal w/ visa stuff w/ my boss and the person my boss talked to in the foreign affairs office didn't seem too happy.  I didn't understand a word of what was going on, I just knew it wasn't very good.  In that moment though, I realized how much I like it here and how much I want to stay here.  I thought about the worst case scenario (because that's what I do).  What if they won't provide a visa and I have to go home?  Then what?  Do I just say 'oh well, it was a good 2 months'?  That was when I realized that everything has just started for me.  Wednesday was the day that my purpose here began.  If for some reason I got sent home, I would come back.  I'm not done here.  I've barely started.  I can't just go home knowing the possibilities that are right in front of me at the moment.

Back to the reality of the situation though.  The FA person doesn't like foreigners.  She doesn't trust us and because of the way this visa thing has happened (against visa laws technically) the best she will do is give me a 6 month visa.  After the 6 months we'll have to do it again (the right way) to get me another 6 month visa.  But she promised that I will get one, even if she isn't too happy about it.

There's a huge pattern here.  When the Father starts to work, the enemy tries to show him up.  You can't NOT feel it here.  It's huge.  BUT, He is good and big things are about to happen in these next 6 weeks that will hopefully lead to a continuous cycle of 'big things'.  AH! I'm excited!

Now I'm just hanging out at the farm.  We went to a birthday party on the other side of the farm yesterday for one of the staff's kids.  He turned 2.  When they asked him how old he is now he said 2 but held up 4 fingers.  And one of the men yarped before we ate.  Oh man.  My first experience hearing  someone yarp for a large group of people in their language.  Beautiful!

I got to hang out with this gorgeous little girl yesterday!  She's precious.  She's only 4 months old but she thinks she's on the verge of walking already.  Can't sit up or crawl, but tries to walk when you hold her up.

I finally went on a little hike behind the farm.  I've been wanting to do that since I came out here 2 months ago!

That little blue tarp is where my dad helped build a well this summer.


Can't wait for Thursday!  Keep on yarping for these girls please.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Da zhou

大周!
Big week!

I have a huge week ahead of me.  Not in the amount I have to do, but in the importance of what is being done.

This Wednesday & Thursday (xingqi san & xingqi si)  I have lunches with some girls I have never met.    They are students possibly interested in learning about my Father after some events this summer.  So I received a list of their names this week and called all of them.  All but 2 answered and all who answered are free to meet this week.  I will be meeting about 4 girls each day and spending a bit of time with them to get to know them and let them know why I wanted to meet them.  I'm hoping that their interest remains and that they would be willing to be in a small group with me for a certain amount of time.  J & I worked out a plan for how to go about all of this, but it will only happen if there are girls whoa re interested.

This is a big week.

I'm trying not to get my hopes up.  I'm trying not to expect all of them to be eager to learn more but you know what?  I'm not the one making all of this happen.  I'm not creating a willingness in their hearts.  I'm not coming up with some speech to convince them to want to learn what I want to teach them.  I have no idea what will happen this week.  I have no idea what I'll say.  I have no idea where their hearts are at.  BUT I do know that our Father is incredible, and faithful, and sovereign, and his will will be done.  I know that I am terrible with words in situations when my words seem to really matter so I'm just going to trust that I can put myself aside and let what needs to happen just happen.  So I'm not getting my hopes up that I'll win them over.
-I'm believing that the Father has a much bigger purpose for them than they are aware of.
-I'm believing that this is the time where their lives will change.
-And I'm believing that he'll use me in some way to introduce his message to them.

Earlier this year I started writing down when I heard the Father speak clearly to me.  Here's what I wrote down on April 2: "I will meet you in [your city].  I will show you more of me than you have ever seen.  You just need to continue in that and let go of everything around you."

It's a big week.  An exciting week.  The week that starts why I'm here.  And no matter what comes out of it, I will remain excited and know that he is faithful and he is good.
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AND on a completely unrelated and much less serious note: I LOVE TO COOK!  I made cookies, breakfast sausages, and my favorite thing ever - coca cola chicken.  MMM.  Crepes are on the list this week.  Not sure what else.  Probably more cookies because, if you know me, you know that I have no self control when it comes to those sweet little sugary pieces of deliciousness.



I even made cookies for the kids today while I was at the L's.
A and I also started tutoring on Saturdays.  This past Saturday was our first day and it went really well. We teach 2 classes at a woman's house.  The first class had 5 kids in it.  They were 4-10.  ADORABLE!  We went as basic as teaching them 'hello'.  (A does almost everything since I speak hardly any Chinese.  I'm learning a lot too because of that though.)  The second class had 5 also and I think our youngest was 9 and our oldest 13.  It was a lot of fun and I cannot wait to see how this turns out!  The lady whose house we use gave us a pomegranate on our way out too so we busted that open and I took a picture because I think they look cool.  Don't judge me for being amused by simple things.

Now that's all.
Please please please be yarping for me this week.  For me to be bold and obedient and for the girls to be curious and excited!

Zai jian!