Thursday, November 29, 2012

Dali

I have a few places on my list that I want to visit before my time here is over.  This weekend I got to take a short trip to one of them.  Dali is one of the most popular tourist spots in Yunnan province.  I don't want to cross it off the list yet though.  I'd like to go there one more time and do some hardcore tourist damage.

I got a kindle from my parents for my birthday and finally used it this weekend.  I loaded it up with some books and spent the car ride there devouring my first book since August.  It's hard for me to pick up a book sometimes, but once I start it's all I want to do.  I read '90 Minutes in Heaven' by Don Piper.  I've always been curious about it.  Pretty cool book.  Rented it. Read it. Done.

We stayed at this cute little hotel/hostel thing.  It's called the Sleepyfish Lodge.  I loved it.  I'd stay there again easily.  It was so relaxing, they had good food, and it was pretty close to the old town area.




You might think this is rare but this is something I see every single day here. 



We didn't do too much.  Went into the old town a few times, ate some American food.  We spent a lot of time playing games and relaxing.  I read and got to be an adult all weekend which was really nice.  I usually hang out with the younger ones but I decided to go the other way this weekend.  When I'm with Americans here it's teenagers and younger, or their parents.  So I'm right in the middle.  Freedom to roam around? I guess so.  We met some really cool people there and had a lot of good, insightful conversations.  It was a perfect little weekend... that ended with food poisoning but I'm just going to act like that didn't happen.


When you see a guy in a silver suit, you take a picture.  


Another every day sight.
This little thing was delicious!

What car????









Most of the restaurants had all of their produce out front so I guess you can pick which one looks the freshest? I like it! 

Delicious dessert place run by the deaf.  Beautiful place. 



South Gate in Old Town Dali
GORGEOUS weather!
So that was my quick little trip.  One or 2 more blogs to come before I'm all caught up on the past month.  Let's hope this never happens again!

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving was very interesting for me for many reasons.

At some point in the last few weeks I came 'home' from a weekend at the farm to find that the water on campus was shut off.  I found out the next day that a pipe burst in the city I guess and so then I was thinking it might be a long time before they get it fixed.  I went almost 5 days without a shower (gross, I know).  I'm sure you understand it means to have no running water: no showers, no cleaning dishes, no water to cook with.  I'm pretty sure the power went out for a while one of those days too.  My VPN was blocked.  There was just a lot going on that week.  A lot that would never usually occur at home (America).

That short little experience kind of summarized what Thanksgiving is for me.  Every year I'm always thankful for my family and friends and good food and health.  The typical American thing to be thankful for.  Still all important, but kind of routine for me sometimes.  This year, I realized SO many little things that I am incredibly thankful for that I so often take for granted:

-Technology: Having skype, texting, facebook, this blog, email, and whatever other ways I communicate w/ people through technology has made this experience a million times easier.  I can't imagine doing all of this without all of the contact I have w/ home.
-Drinkable sink water: I can't drink the water from my own sink here.  Strange isn't it?  It's normal.  Most people here don't drink their sink water.  Everyone has jugs they drink from.  You don't drink the water you brush your teeth with.  Little things like that you don't think about in America.
-Internet freedom: It's not so much having facebook and my blog and Target.com that make me happy, it's knowing that I have the freedom to access those sites.  That the government isn't denying me access to search what I want to online.
-The ability to vote: I didn't vote this year.  I didn't even really think about the fact that there would be a presidential election.  But I taught my students about it.  They know virtually nothing about politics.  Why study it when they have no say in what goes on?  They don't get to participate so they don't really care.  I get to though.  I get to vote.  And honestly, I've never really cared.  I hope that changes when I get home.
-Freedom of religion: WHEW!!!! That's a whole big issue.  I can't even get into it now.  All I will say is that I am sooooo thankful that I come from a country where I can go to choose to believe what I want and I can talk about it when and where I want without fear.
-Every single person supporting me at home: At home I often don't fully understand how supported and loved I am.  I am very aware of it here... and extremely thankful for all of it.
-My friends here: Having a group of 8 girls to celebrate a pretty significant American holiday with was such a blessing.  I'll get to that now.

I spent the day before Thanksgiving preparing everything.  I had to make a list of what I was cooking and when I needed to start everything.  I'm limited with cooking space so I had to plan carefully.  I've never ever cooked any part of Thanksgiving dinner/dessert.  I eat.  That's about all.  I watch the food cook and I smell it and I get hungry and I eat it.  Not so lucky this year.  I was terrified.  BUT it all turned out great!

We had green bean casserole, mashed potatoes & gravy, rolls, glazed carrots, duck, and pumpkin pie... and peanut milk to drink.  Best Thanksgiving? Possibly.

We had a short little lesson, cooked for a while, and spent the next few hours eating and talking.  It could not have been any better.  It was such a perfect day.  Of course I missed being with my family, but I got to celebrate Thanksgiving in China.  How many people get to do that?  Cook their first Thanksgiving 800 miles away from home with a group of incredible Chinese girls?  ME!

I definitely bought an apron because I could.  This is Thanksgiving morning: the start of the cooking.








Our conversations are great.  We talked about everything.  Relationships, crazy roommates, jokes.  Some of these girls are so smart and observant.  They can explain themselves so well in English and getting into their head and understanding them continually impresses me and makes me feel so blessed to call them my friends.

That's pretty much all for that.  They next morning I headed to Dali with some American friends for a relaxing weekend in a beautiful tourist spot.  That'll be my next post.


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Issue

Well, I'm back.

No, I did not voluntarily take a month long break from blogging.  I was blocked for several different reasons.

[China Political Lesson]
I'm going to assume that very few of you know this: China has presidential elections.  Every 5 years, they elect a new president.  That president can only be male, must be at least 45, and must be a member of the communist party I think.  They can only serve 2 terms.  They are elected by the representatives from each province.

This election began right around the beginning of the month.  China got REALLY strict w/ internet access.  They blocked numerous VPNs and filtered almost everything so things streamed at an incredibly slow rate.  BUT the good news was that the election would be over about a week or so after the problems started.  Middle of the month, I was able to get on my VPN for one day.  That's all.  I had to install something new to fix the issue, but I was back... and too tired to blog.  Next morning *BAM* no VPN again.  I found out I could get it on my phone (that's why I was still somewhat alive on facebook) but not blogging.  Then I found out there was going to be some other political ordeal in my town for 4 days so I decided I'd be patient and maybe after that my VPN would be unblocked and I'd be free.... NOPE!  My company issued a brief statement basically saying that they are lame and decided they don't want to play internet war with China and actually fix the issue.  SO, all that to say, I switched companies and now I'm freer than ever and I am SOOOOOO happy.

Did you know that Target's website is blocked over here.  Yup.  Depressing!  Now I get to watch my TV shows, go on facebook, watch awesome cat videos from my sister on youtube, blog, and browse Target's site all I want.

I need to be good and finish one more stack of papers and then I can let the real frenzy begin.  I've been behind all week because I'm pretty sure I had food poisoning Sunday night.  That was a fun 48 hours.  Apparently I don't do well with doing nothing.  Laying in bed watching movies and staring at the ceiling all day was really annoying.  And I didn't have real internet then so I was pretty limited with that I could watch or do online.  The 100+ papers I grade over a process of 3 days got pushed back 2 days and on a day that's busy enough, I'm stuck w/ another 28 papers to grade.  I've been good at buckling down and not letting myself do the things I enjoy until I get it done, but I'm just ready to be paper free for even one day. Too bad tomorrow morning I get another stack of them though.  (Only 16 though, so it's not bad).

28 more papers.  Small group.  Tutoring.  Lesson Plans.  BLOG.  Those are my priorities for today.  And eating.  Once I stop eating for a day or 2, I have to train myself to make it a normal part of my existence again.  Strange and scary, I know.  I'm sorry.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Small Group Status

We have just finished week 7 of our 8 week study :(

GOOD NEWS: We are NOT done meeting after that! 

Yesterday was an interesting meeting.  It started off rough.  It was just very quiet.  No questions were asked.  It just wasn't what I was wanting - first problem right there... it wasn't what I wanted. Towards the end, the girls were all talking (in Chinese) and I wasn't following at all.  When one of my girls decided to fill me in, she told me that she ordered a 'good book'.  I asked when and she said last week!  She went online and ordered a book for herself.  This is the girl who has been throwing out the really intense questions.  That piece of info right there was enough for me to be happy.

I made dinner for them this week.  Coca cola chicken, broccoli, potatoes, bread, lemonade and apple crisp for dessert.  It was my first time actually cooking for people other than my parents so I was nervous, but they said they loved it and that every week we should have Chinese/American meals!

They were the ones to bring up the ending of the group.  They asked when our last week was and I told them the study ends next week.  They asked what we'd do after so I gave them the options: [1] Nothing. [2] We meet just to talk and make food. [3] We continue what we've been doing with the lessons and cooking.  And they said ok.  Ok to what???? So I asked them if they still wanted me to keep teaching them more about the Father.  I said we could split things up and those who wanted to could come over on a different day but we could all still meet on Thursdays.  They said that they came to study the book with me and they want to continue to do that if I'm willing.  HECK YES I AM!

We decided we'd do lessons, make food, talk about our cultures, and do other things together.  One girl wants to teach me cross stitching!  We deemed ourselves a group of 7 Amerinese girls (American & Chinese for those not following). Amerinese girls who make Chinican food. 
The girls looking through our pictures. 
I'm still trying to remember that I can't make things go any faster.  No decisions may be made at this point and I am ok w/ that.  The time I get to spend w/ them and the friendships we're developing are perfect and right where they should be.  As long as I continue to have time to pour into these girls, I'll be content.  I want more but that's not up to me and I want things to be authentic, genuine, real.  It'll be divinely lead when that time comes, if it does.

ALSO, on an unrelated, nothing really important topic: 'A' and I ran 2 km this morning and then went on a 30 min. hike w/ 'S'. We're planning on running the 18 km to town at some point. Baby steps.
Post-run/mid-hike picture.