Sunday, December 19, 2010

There are no goodbyes in heaven, right?

It finally hit me tonight. 

I'm not going to see these people, again.  I'm saying goodbye to the most difficult, unique, and beautiful chapter of my life so far.  Last night and tonight have been my first final goodbyes to some friends.  The bestowing of farewell gifts has begun, and I feel bad knowing that most of them won't make the final cut into my suitcase.

These next 3 days are sure to be the shortest and longest of my life.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

(S)Mothered

In less than two weeks I'm not just losing a place that I've called home for 14 months, I'm losing about a billion moms in my life.  This mothering certainly rubbed me a bit in the wrong way for a while.  Okay, sometimes it still does.  But because I'm leaving soon I'm going to view everything about China through rose colored glasses.  Deal with it.

These days, when my students chide me about my milk tea addiction, when everyone who visits me tells me I ought to keep my windows open for good health (it's 20F outside!), when my girlfriends insist I only drink hot tea during my time of the month (or as they phrase it: "When my Aunt is visiting"), and every single one of my students insists that I don't wear enough clothes (meaning they don't think I don't dress warmly enough) I wonder how life will be post-China: How will it be when I'm back in a place and people no longer are concerned about the clothes on my back, my health, and the foods I ingest; when cute little store ladies don't tell me what to buy, and certainly don't switch goods from my basket without my permission; when my bike won't be latched onto someone else's by the time I come back for it, should I leave it unsecured; when none of my friends are tossing food into my bowl throughout a meal, whether I want it or not; when most people in polite society won't ask me the reason why I'm not married; when random strangers on the street aren't asking me how much money I make, and telling me I should demand more; when a small comment about being tired doesn't incite questions about what time I go to bed, and instructions on how to get a good night's rest? How's it gonna be? (Cue Third Eye Blind song)

I'll miss you, Mama China.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Taxi - 出租车 (Chūzū chē)

They honk. NON-STOP.  The careen around corners as if roads are typically empty (and in China, they're never empty.).  They speed up and hit the brakes between every. single. speed bump.  In other countries (I'm not saying which, because I am so not comparing.) drivers might just slow down on a road with speed bumps or sudden curves, but no, no, no, not in China.  Gas = Yes.  Brake = No.  It must be a question on the licensing tests around here.

A friend of mine visiting from the states made an interesting observation in his second or third week here:
He said, there are two rules for driving in China.
1. Never, ever let someone in front of you.
2. Never hit someone.

Number one, is number one for a reason.  Driving in China, is a never ending game of chicken.

Picture this: One lane is about to end. Two cars, side-by-side are racing to cut in front of the other. Who will be the game's loser, thus losing all kinds of face, and brake first?? Dah, dah, dunnn!

But, believe it, or not, I have witnessed fewer accidents here than in the US.  Now, this may not be a fair comparison, seeing as I am not on the road as often while I'm in China. I live on campus, and go downtown via bus or taxi a few times a week.... but as crazy as the driving strikes waiguoren (foreigners) like myself, it seems like I would have seen more than two accidents in a year and half, a fraction of the number of accidents I saw in only two months at home this summer.

And, believe it, or not, I am going to miss these crazy taxi experiences.  Tonight, I managed to actually have a real conversation with my taxi driver that varied from the usual.

The usual:
Me: San Xia Da Xue (Three Gorges University)
Taxi Driver: *grunt*
Taxi Driver (after several minutes of studying my foreign features in the rearview mirror): Ni shi na guoren? (What's your nationality?"
Me: Meiguode (American)
TD: Nide hanyu hen hao! (Your chinese is very good!)
Me: Huh?
*he repeats himself*
Me: Oh. HA.
TD: aegqbeixgbenagb (something indecipherable and far and beyond my language skills)
Me: ehh?
*he repeats himself*
Me: Ting bu dong (don't understand)
*he laughs*
..Several minutes pass...
TD: bgosnhrgbwgb (something else I don't understand.)
Me:  Dubuqi, wode zhongwen bu hao. (Sorry, my Chinese is bad.)
TD: hai, bu cuo! (still, not bad!)
And we may go through several rounds of this where I yell out random answers to questions taxi drivers usually ask ("I'm an English teacher! I like Chinese food! I've been in China for a year!)

But, tonight.  Tonight was different- my taxi driver using dramatic gestures, spoke slowly and clearly. I wanted to kiss him.  Someone who actually understand how to speak with someone with limited knowledge of the language?!? It was a Christmas Miracle.

So, for those of you wondering what a conversation with a Chinese taxi driver might look like, let me share with you: (I will spare you of each time the question had to be repeated due to my poor understanding.)

He asked me where I was from.  He asked me what I did.  He asked me how I like Yichang.  He asked me if I was married.  He told me I should find a Chinese husband.  I laughed. He asked if I had an American boyfriend. I said yes. (It's hard to describe "seeing someone" in this culture.) He told me something where he blew air between his lips and clapped his hands together, which I have a feeling was some kind of talk about relationships, and caused the cars behind us to lay on their horns because traffic had moved on ahead of us. I told him I was leaving China in two weeks. He asked me why.  I told him I'd been in China for over a year and needed to go home.  He grunted in understanding.  He asked me if I knew my numbers in Chinese.  I counted to ten for him.  He asked me to read something on a sign.  I looked at it and told him I couldn't.  He pointed to another sign, I told him I only knew 300 characters.  He said that wasn't bad.  I directed him to my apartment. He was impressed by my knowledge of "turn left" and "go straight".  I paid the fare.  He said bye. I told him to be happy everyday because I didn't know how to say anything else slightly meaningful when saying goodbye.

"Be happy everyday!" written: 天天快乐!(Tian tian kuai le.) It's a common "best wishes" kind of statement here. And I still can't get over how strange and cheesy it sounds to us Westerners. Now, be happy everyday, everyone. That's an order.

**No, that is not my taxi driver in the picture. I stole this photo from the internet.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

我是英文老师

I was in the middle of jumping up and down while turning in circles when I look over at the door and see two of the administrators gaping at us from my classroom door-- Hmm. Maybe playing Simon Says with the high school class on the last day of my part-time job wasn't such a bight idea; Well, at least they missed the part where we were all jamming to non-existent music just minutes prior-- Just as these thoughts enter my mind, the administrators timidly step inside and ask if they can video my intriguing lesson. They smile widely behind a camera as we take turns choosing students to step in front of the class and play Simon-- My instructions? Order us to do whatever they please as long as they can express it in English. (In case you are wondering, Chinese High School students are far and beyond more innocent in nature than American High School students.)  Later I receive an email thanking me for my excellent English lessons. Go figure.  

Sigghhh. I'm going to miss teaching English as a second language.






Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Etcetera

As I sit here reflecting on all that has happened since my last blog post, my head spins with the possibilities of subject matter to relive as my fingers flicker across my keyboard. Instead, I suppose I'll hit the highlights:

  • Found reason on three occasions to pull out the "holy wooden tub" from the junk room of my apartment (Thus named for the endless leaks it produces without a tarp as much as its use as a bapt*stry-- How's that for discreet?)
  • Renewed relationships with friends from Jingzhou, Wuhan and even an old family friend from Pennsylvania.
  • Celebrated Thanksgiving alongside the Oldhams, Kelleys, and my sweet friend Madison after baking 3 Apple Pies from scratch.  (I mention this whenever I can.  eg. "How was your weekend?";  "Well, I didn't bake 3 apple pies this time, but it was productive enough."
  • Become as comfortable with Shine as I am to my left arm.  (And I'm left handed.)
  • Traveled to Fenghuang for the third time of my stay in China-- 8 hours on a train is nothing to cheap souvenirs and quaint coffee shops.
  • Discovered that being separated by 8,000 miles doesn't stop some relationships from growing.
  • Signed up and studied for the HSK Level 3... and then skipped it. (Mind you I use the word "study" loosely.  I was ill prepared, would be an understatement.)
  • Managed to put recipes left from my friends Katie and Elizabeth to use and overcome my phobia of being domesticated.
  • Spent enough time with Daisy that words are no longer necessary in communication.  We merely blink at oneother and understand.
  • Come to habitually speak such a simplified form of English that my Chinese friends think the English on movies and television shows must be in a different dialect.
  • Finally become what I would deem as wholly self-sufficient in this foreign land. (With two weeks to spare!)
        ....etc.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

生日快乐

October 1st marked my 25th birthday.  I won't pretend that I didn't have a bit of what I've coined "My Mid-Twenties Crisis", but it was a grand day despite my lack of enthusiasm for being a year older and spending the majority of my "shengri" on a hard seat, in a packed, smelly train "dao" Guilin; My friend Kara flew from the States to accompany me on my travels, and I had a week of vacation and adventure to look forward to.  On a grander scale, October 1st marked the PROC's 61st Anniversary.  Besides the suffocating crowds in every public arena and the patriotic music they played a few times on the train, I can't say I witnessed much of the celebration this year, but happy 61st, nonetheless, Communist China.

Despite the expected difficulties (not "specifically expected difficulties", more like "difficulties in general" kind of difficulties) I had an extremely pleasant week and have the pictures to prove it.  We rode on bamboo boats on the beautiful Li River, biked 6 hours in the mountainous countryside, satisfied my Western food cravings (well, some of them), bargained and shopped until our bags could hold no more, and chatted with complimentary locals until I was almost fooled into thinking I'd become fluent in Chinese overnight:  The trip was a success.  All things included, though, I'd have to say the most invigorating part of my trip was the companionship granted that I miss most when I am in this Asian land.  Kara, besides being a treasured friend from college, is a Christian, an American, a girl, and unmarried-- all coming together to form the sort of rare and invaluable sort of companion that I could not have appreciated more at this time.  I am blessed.


Friday, September 24, 2010

A Night on the Town

Last night I decided to treat my friends, Daisy and Lucinda (their English names), to dinner at Pizza Hut, being that they had never eaten at said fine establishment-- Oh, who am I kidding? I wanted to take a break from Chinese food and eat pizza.  As we entered the restaurant, I immediately spotted a group of what could have possibly been Americans; but, sometimes it's hard to tell.  I turn to Daisy and Lucinda and point out the "Waiguoren" (foreigners).  My friends laugh and Daisy replies, "You are like a Chinese!"  Ironically, I didn't even mean it as a joke.  Without even realizing it, I had looked at people that look similar to me, and called them outsiders, inadvertently and erroneously considering myself on the inside.

I eye the wide eyed travelers for a minute; they eye me; and we all dutifully look away, replacing our looks of curiosity with indifference as good Western people do.  Daisy nudges me: "Go talk to them in English!"  I shake my head.  "Why not?"  I respond, "Oh, well, where I come from people don't usually talk to people they don't know."  Blank stare: "真的吗?/"Zhendema?!" (Truly?!)  I pause and think about it.  "Yeah, typically it's a little strange to be so friendly."  Daisy and Lucinda look back over at the strange foreigners, most likely seeming even more strange to them now.

We eat our dinner and fill our stomachs until we all declare: "我吃饱了!" (wo chi bao le: "I can't eat anymore")  And I suggest that we go across the street and hang out at 夷陵广场 (Yiling Square).  Being the day after the Mid-Autumn Festival, Yiling Square is host to even more dancers taking part in their style of choice: Traditional Chinese, Latin, and Ballroom.  Every corner of the square is occupied by a separate group with their own powerful stereo competing against the blaring music from the next group. I watch, mesmerized, as the most petite little children move in perfect unison to a Backstreet Boys Song.

 I try to follow along with a group of people doing Latin dancing, but end up causing a scene, as everyone who sees me starts to stare and laugh.  Not malicious laughter, rather, good-natured smiles and chuckles that so often are bestowed towards me in daily life in China. Still, fearing that my dancing attempts look insincere, and wishing, not for the first time, that I didn't stick out so severely, I give up.

We then cross through a large group of Ballroom Dancers clogging the center of the Square where Daisy and I assume our positions and butcher the art together as best we can, while Lucinda looks on, shaking her head at us, as she often does.  I ask Daisy how to dance correctly, and she tells me "Oh! ..我不会" or "I can't".  And so before I realize what's happening Daisy and Lucinda begin stopping dancing couples and requesting that they teach their American friend how to dance.  The first couples shake their heads in modesty and embarrassment, insisting they don't dance well, and I continue to insist to Lucinda and Daisy that it doesn't matter, until a lady much shorter than myself marches up from nowhere, takes my hands in hers, and with surprising force pulls me into step with her.  With a strained smile plastered on my face, I clumsily try to keep in step and turn and twirl in time while keeping my head up.  After several long minutes, however, I begin to feel the rhythm and catch on to her routine. Suddenly, her look of determination turns to complete joy as I begin catching on, and I can no longer force myself to wipe the smile from my face.  Meanwhile, Daisy and Lucinda continue to laugh hysterically and take pictures with their cell phones.

Soon after thanking my gracious dance teacher, and waving to the many curious observers, we realize the time and and scurry off, managing to cram into the last bus headed back to the university for the night.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Traffic Jam

Question: What do you do when a 15 or 20 minute bus ride into town turns into a 70 minute ride?  My Answer: Take pictures of the bored people on the bus, of our exaggerated faces of misery, and of the cute little Chinese people stuck in traffic next to bus; yell, "Tian tian kuai le!" (meaning: Be happy every day) out the window to strangers; and sweat.  (Cause... it's 500 degrees outside.)

Friday, September 17, 2010

Dear World,

Not to be cynical, but cynicism is not equal to intellect.  Oh, and intellect is not equal to wisdom-- MMkay?

In Love,
Jessica

Monday, August 30, 2010

BACK.

I boarded the plane that would take me back to China with a fever and a throat that was nearly swelled shut: Not exactly the note I wanted to start on as I returned for another semester in China.  The flight was long, to say the least, and the layovers certainly didn't aid in the overall experience.  But as I stepped out of the luggage claim of the Wuhan aiport, I was immediately greeted by my smiling Waiban, with big slaps on the back shouting, "I know you! I know you!"  Although, I've always been fond of Jian, the enthusiastic greeting coming from this typically docile character, caught me off guard and served as a precedent for how I've found my transition thus far-- surprisingly pleasant.

The American faces are different this time around [pictured above].  I felt crushed at the end of last spring to say goodbye to the old team, who had become like family to me, but have been blessed with another great crew to work with.  Clay, Rebecca, Kelly, and Brad heartily welcomed me into their circle of friends, full of laughter and lively conversation.  It seems hard to believe we only met days ago.  I suspect there's something about lack of personal space, sleep and showers, that bonds people together more quickly than when comfortable, well-rested and groomed; For our extra time spent in Wuhan, ensured that any and all camaraderie would take place in said nature.

I find the mixture of familiarity and changes comforting, as I sit here in the same apartment with my old friend and new roommate, Shine, after having dinner with a group of old and new friends.  Next week, I begin teaching my Oral English classes and as I prepare my lessons I feel experienced and self-assured.  This time around, I'm teaching in a different college, one in which the students, I hear, actually care about learning English!   So, as I paint pictures (that my Chinese friends so sweetly describe as "like a Child's art") and strive to give the same apartment a fresh, new look,  I can't help but be excited for my newly found world in China, which is familiar enough to be comfortable, and yet, different enough to feel as thought it's endless with possibilities.


Saturday, August 14, 2010

I PASSED!

I did it. I passed the HSK Chinese Proficiency Test. I'm tempted to leave it at that, so you'll be impressed, but maybe I should add that I passed the most basic level offered-- the Level 1. Meaning, I almost have the understanding of a two-year old.... Hmm. I'd say less than that, but a lot of one-year-olds don't understand squat. So, maybe somewhere inbetweeeeen there.

A pass is a pass, I say!

PS- Yes, I now allow comments on my blog. Thank you to Shmeliz, Ashlee, and Sun for being the firsts! And now you are forever immortalized on my blog. NO THANKS NEEDED.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

An American Summer Sandwich

I just returned from an incredible weekend with a group of friends. The inside jokes, the teasing, the shared interests.. Simply the understanding between my American friends and myself is one of the biggest things I've missed from my relationships in China. Sometimes I've heard Americans speaking of this problem almost as if the blame is to be placed on those people different from themselves. But I think most people, when taking an objective standpoint would agree: it's just hard to learn how to relate to someone from a different culture. And the cultural differences between China and America possibly hold one of the largest gaps on this planet.

My first year in China was a lot harder than I expected it to be. And for those reasons, I find myself sinking into the undeniable comfort of familiarity that now surrounds me, and clenching my teeth at the thought of the discomfort that will shortly ensue upon disembarking from my plane and stepping foot on Asian soil, once more.

It's been an interesting summer, what with being sandwiched between my first and last experience in China. Looking back, it seems I've been home far longer than just a month and a half. Each stage has been so vastly different from the next:

Stage 1-- Everything is weird! *Cry, sleep, cry.* (Exhausted and emotional state)

Stage 2-- Everything in America is PERFECTION! (Beyond excited to be home)

Stage 3-- Nooooo, do I really have to back to China? (Denial, denial, denial)

Stage 4-- Dude, when I go back to China I'm going to.... (Acceptance and contented preparation)

I have to admit there are times when I flip-flop unexpectedly between Stage 3 and Stage 4, but since the last time I hit Stage 3, I've realized I would be heartbroken if I was unable to go back and step into a classroom of fresh new, excitable faces, eat all of my favorite Chinese dishes, improve my Mandarin, talk about things larger than life in my apartment, provoke Daisy to bite her fist at me, or walk around taking in all that is Yichang.

So, onto the second loaf of this Chinese/American sandwich, where I shall swallow all that I can chew! (Just nod and feel inspired, as if that made sense.)

Monday, June 28, 2010

Mushy Gushy to YOU, Z, E & K




About one year and two months ago, I made a call late at night to a family friend, someone I now call my agent, who would be leaving for China the next day to obtain teaching jobs in China: "I need you to assure me I won't be alone."

"We won't let you end up on your own."

*Deep breath* "Then sign me up."

And that was that. On the last night possible, I signed up to move to China the next year. And there was no turning back. And I haven't looked back.

I still wonder what possessed me to do it. I had never even been to Asia before. I had never spent more than one month overseas. (Not counting the first 5 years of my life that were spent in Brasil, that is.) My family was reluctant to see their single daughter go so far, especially to a place, that many Americans falsely believe is dangerous. And despite my efforts, I couldn't convince any of my friends to come with me.

I certainly like to think some good was done by my being in Yichang this past year. Or should I say, He did some good through me, but all I know for sure is, I am a better person for it. The reasons for that are many. But there are three reasons that are easy to name-- Katie, Zack, and Elizabeth.

Without one of these three people, I know that my year in China would have been vastly different and more difficult. Without one of these three people, I wouldn't have been affected in the same ways. We challenged each other at times, mostly in positive ways. Valuing unity, and each holding a greater purpose on our hearts, we worked together, we traveled together, and we celebrated Holidays together. And I know, on my part, I've grown from the conversations I've had and the time spent with each of these 3 people, whom I've come to respect and love.

Not to be sappy, but I've been blessed to be a part of your Chinese family Katie, Zack, and Elizabeth. I, along with Yichang, will miss you!

(I mean, c'mon, I've been gone a week. I don't miss you yet.. :)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Wrap It Up

This week: Goodbye dinners, final exams, Dragon Boat Festival, study for HSK, turn in FINAL grades, devo./studies, more karaoake?!, TAKE HSK, exchange money, pry my passport back from the authorities, PACK, refuse to say goodbye to Katie, Zack & Elizabeth, bus dao Wuhan, 4 flights... HOME!!!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Top Spots in Yichang: Children's Park

The other week, I joined two of my friends on a morning outing to Children's Park, to celebrate Children's Day (another holiday the US should adopt from China--along with Singles' Day) and we went despite the rain.  (If you cancel outings due to rain around here, little will get done.)  In my opinion, Children's Park is the coolest place in Yichang (Closely followed by Yiling Square). And yes, way cooler than the Three Gorge Sham..err..Dam.  Just kidding. (Sort of.) I wouldn't want to diss the world's largest structure of its kind, and this city's pride.  It's cool that it's the biggest, and an engineering marvel.  But it's still a hunk of concrete, right? Why does everyone travel to see something just because it's big?  I would rather visit a moderately sized something pretty.  Idon'tgetit. 

Alas, I digress... back to the park; It's got loads of things to do, including paddle boats, rollerskating, feeding birds (if you're up for an arm scratching frenzy), haunted houses, carnival type games, a bit of shopping and tons of awesome play areas for kids.  Yet, strangely, it never seems very crowded.  That's what I like about Yichang--it's got a lot of benefits of a big city, without seeming overly populated. (Except of course when my arms are weighed down with groceries, and I can't find a cab, or I have to pull out my dagger-like elbows in order to get on the last bus run of the night.)

That's all in this edition of Lonely Planet. [Before I make anymore unnecessary, (yet enthralling) parenthetical statements.]












 


Saturday, June 5, 2010

Two Weeks...

Until I fly back to America.

*Hyperventilate*

So much to do, so much to dooooo

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Jessica's a' Comin' To Towwwwwn.

She's makin' a list. Checkin' it twice... I felt like blogging today, but didn't feel up to being sappy or sentimental about my first year in China, and this is the only way to do that. You see, in 3 weeks I will back in the good 'ol US of A. It seems hard to believe. But I will save my thoughts and mixed emotions regarding China for another time.

For now, it's time to focus on things ahead.

Liiiike what I want to do when I first arrive in America: (*SQUEAL*)

1. After squealing, my first plan as soon as I disembark from the plane is to sing the national anthem, and kiss the ground I walk on. Maybe I'll even eat off of it- Yeah, it'll seem that clean after dodging giant loogies on the ground all year. (Sorry, if I just grossed you out. But.. they're not my loogies. Don't kill the messenger..err.. blogger.)

2. I will then promptly turn to a random person with a sarcastic remark or joke that only a fellow native would understand... I might still be the only one that thinks I'm funny, but I'll gladly settle for a mercy laugh that we Americans are so good at, or even a look of comprehension.

3. 'Merican FOOD. Unfortunately, as my friend Elizabeth pointed out to me, my first American meal will most likely occur in the LA airport. So, I'll settle with anything cheap that I couldn't get in China. Which is most things. (A list of the first meals I want to have is another list entirely.)

4. I will then run to the Ladies Room, and dance around a Western toilet supplied with *gasp* its own toilet paper and then wash my hands with *gasp* also supplied soap.

5. Perhaps at this point I may take the time to call my family and talk to loved ones for the first time without the aid of a fuzzy computer. I'll also probably cry out of excitement and delirium.

6. Assuming I'm not ready to pass out due to the exhaustion of moving, being at my third airport of five, so far 20 hours in the air, and a serious cause of jet lag, I will then prance around the gift stores flipping through English newspapers, magazines, and paper back books.

7. Perhaps at this point I will simply sit in a chair, waiting for my next flight to Dallas or Houston, Texas (whatever), and stare at all of the, what will surely seem to look like, very tall and large Americans, after my time in the more petite population of China, with the same wide eyed stare that I've come to usually recieve rather than supply.

8. Upon arrival in some airport in Texas, I may repeat these actions, or, more likely, I will merely exist, unconscious, in some chair, or corner on the ground, and hope that someone will wake me up before lift-off to Pensacola.

9. After arriving in Pensacola, everything gets blurry between reunions that I've anticipated more than a little, gift giving that I've carefully thought out, checking off an entirely separate list completely composed of food, and kissing my nephews and nieces about 12 dozen times.

10. Lastly, when things settle down, I may take a moment to think of my friends still in Yichang, and sign onto Skype to brag to Katie, Zack, and Elizabeth about the American food that I ate that day

Anyway, this is just a quick list I threw together. Nothing I've thought about in great detail, or anything.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Futbol Americano

We entered the stadium with football and Gatorades in hand, Katie and I eager to teach our Chinese friends about one of the best traditions in our culture--American Football. It started out just with Katie and myself teaching a couple of guys that we study with.  Katie, who knows more about the sport than I and doesn't throw like a girl, taught the guys the basic rules while I twirled around in circles and texted a few more people inviting them to join us.  And thus we add to the game another American teacher, Jimmy, and 3 more students, all fresh out of class; making an even match of 4-on-4.

We teach the guys the correct way to toss the sphere-shaped ball, and try not to laugh at the sheer amazing-ness of their form, and then count off "One, two, one, two..." to divvy up the teams.  And we're off.  

Acting as QB for my team, I instruct my teammates, 3 Chinese guys, to stand on the starting line and "Go" when I counted to three.  

Take 1: "One, two, three..."I look around; one of my players dances behind and beside me calling for the ball and the others stand in one place waving their hands around.  

Take 2: This time the players learn to stay in motion, and upon successfully passing to one of my teammates, he begins to run backwards upon seeing people come at him, and is tagged behind the starting line.

Take 3: I pass to another teammate who also manages to catch it but immediately attempts to pass it to another teammate, and chucks it on the ground.

Take 4: One of my teammates suggests that he throws.  I toss him the ball, and before we are even off the starting line, he pitches it to Katie on the other team.

Still, we persevere.  We all alternate QB-ing and don't worry about the fact that we stink. Soon, however, we start to throw on target, we start to catch the ball, and we start scoring.  Katie and Jimmy's team start shaking in their knees and call a time-out to discuss the next play.  My players suddenly look to me for leadership so I call them together into a huddle, and after giving each of them a long, serious look I start to speak: "Put your left foot in, take your left foot out..." soon we are doing the hokey-pokey until  we realize the other team is ready to get going.

The game commences, and so does the banter.  I beam with pride at one of my students and his English trash talking abilities. Oh, how quickly they learn. (sniff)

I have no clue who won, since we didn't keep score, but we did it.  We played touch- American football in China.  And it was amazing fun.



Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Please forgive me, America.

Today I taught my students some American slang just for the fun of it.... and probably to the devastation of my students' English abilities.

Proof: (A few dialogues written and acted out by my students)

What's up, Man?
Hang out.
How's it hangin'?
Still  kickin'
Gotcha


Yo Dude
Let us eat some dinner
No.
C'mon.
Okay
Ew. The food stinks.
Ouch. Sick!


Holla.
Wow!
That concert was very slammin'.
Fo' sho'


I really did try to restrain myself from teaching...most of the ones included.... Really.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Live, love, laugh... (B)Log

Oops. I already broke my goal of blogging everyday, I've just been too busy living!  Let me fill you in...

Tonight, Katie and I went to downtown and danced with all of the locals in Yiling Square and worked on a special video project. (Coming soon!)

Today, I wore my Qi Pao to class (I'm discovering I don't have many occasions to wear it) and all of my students cheered when I walked into class and jointly exclaimed, "BEAUTIFUL!" and "snuck" pictures of me on their cell phones throughout class.

Sunday, Zack taught a great lesson about recognizing the truth in the morning and that night our Chinese group had more great conversation.

Saturday, I went to a scenic attraction outside of Yichang with my good friend Daisy, and some other sweet students.  I got up at 6:30 on a Saturday for them. If that's not love, I don't know what is. It was an exhausting but amazing day. Daisy taught me how to insult people in Chinese.. "Your brain is full of water!".

Friday, Zack and Elizabeth's study group joined forces with mine to read about David and Goliath.

Thursday night, Katie and I attended a talent show for foreigners at our University, Three Gorges.  One of our American friends played guitar and we watched some really great dance numbers put together by the Indian and Nepali students.  People all over the world, join hands!

Thursday, I was a guest speaker for a nearby Middle School where I talked to the top English students about American culture and encouraged them to study English.  I then signed autographs and posed for photos before being escorted to a fancy dinner.  I kid not.  During a Q & A session after one of the 11 year old girls told me my children would one day be beautiful, a 10 year old boy stood up and asked, "Do you like me?" and I quickly replied, "Of course!" as he sat down and covered his red face as the room roared with laughter.

Picture 1: Daisy and I at a waterfall in a cave this past Saturday.
Picture 2: Although not the same students from this past weekend, pictured are students around the same age from a similar event last term in Wufeng.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

我爱孩子

I LOVE children.

Ask anybody. I'm ridiculous. Walking down the street, I will blubber over a
dozen different chubby faces.  I really don't realize I'm doing it, until
whoever I'm walking with makes some sort of annoyed grunt when I point out a
child and demand that he/she take yet another gander at an example of God's
perfection.

On countless bus and train rides I've become buddies with a child who is
barely taller than my knee.  Parent's love this. A waiguoren that pays
attention to their daughter or son is taken as a compliment (luckily for me,
since I can't help myself.)  Oft times I've been handed babies after simply
complimenting the child and exclaiming "how lovely!" in Chinese.  The
youngest are usually completely shocked by my foreign features. I once made
 a baby cry at the mere sight of me....But I don't like to talk about this.

Slightly older children think I'm a mystery to be solved, and will gape
openly at me, and smile in delight, at the strange language that escapes
from my lips.

Children that don't look big enough to talk, point at me when I pass by and
shout, "Waiguoren!" or "foreigner."  This to me, is a huge difference in
culture.  No one in the States typically can tell who might be foreign
judging on looks alone.  Yet, it almost seems like "Waiguoren" is one of the
first words Chinese children learn.

When I need a pick-me-up in my day I often go out to the playground in front
of my apartment and play with dozens of kids who are always eager to get me
going in another game of tag.  Many of them, along with their parents,
already know me.  Several of the children will excitedly approach me without
their parents even needing to prod them.  And it's in those moments, I feel
most at home.


So, here's a tribute to the out-of-this-world cuteness that I've admired in
China for so long~ it's Children.


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

没关系

On the way to class today, I stop by the corner store to buy a few things.  A couple of snacks and a Gatorade, to get me through the afternoon classes and a handful of dry erasers markers, that I go through all too quickly, add up to almost 20 RMB.  As the petite cashier rings up my purchases, I immediately throw the items in the wonderfully large teacher's bag that I carry. I then pull out my plastic blue bank card and run it through when the cashier suddenly starts hurriedly speaking to me. I can't make out anything she's saying, but I gather there's some sort of problem with my card.  This doesn't make any sense to me because I know there's more than enough in my account, and I use my card at this little store all the time.

I try to decipher what the problem is, with my broken Mandarin, but don't get very far.  All I gather is that they are asking for cash.  I almost always have cash, being that all of the local places we eat at don't accept cards, but, of course, I don't today; Nor do I have time to run to the ATM.  I rummage for a little cash, hoping there's some I overlooked, but come up empty handed, and sigh as I realize I'm just going to have to put everything back... Oh well.

Looking forward to making a hasty exit, I rummage through my annoyingly gargantuan bag that seems to have swallowed up all of the markers, when a young woman steps up to the counter and offers the cashier the money for my purchase.  "No, no, no!" I say pushing her outstretched hand away.  (Anytime I'm stressed out I forget to speak in Chinese.)  She starts putting the things back in my bag.  I pull the things back out of my bag. She puts them back in again, and I continue looking for those stupid markers.

This goes on for several more seconds. 

"No, no, no.." I catch myself, and switch to "Bu yao, bu yao!"  I tell her I don't want them.  "Mei guan xi, mei guan xi, mei guan xi," she insists that it's no problem.

This goes on for a few more seconds.

Worn out, and realizing that this woman is wanting so desperately to allow me to save face, or avoid humiliation, I finally give in, and relinquish my search for the phantom markers.  Thanking her as humbly as I've ever thanked anyone, I exit glimpsing her mouth "没关系" or "No problem" one last time.


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Even better : )

Here's something I've found to be true:  life is beautiful.

It's not always obvious.  Sometimes we have to search for it.  But hidden in the folds of misery are sparks of pure beauty waiting to be discovered.

I saw some of it tonight.  As the curtains close on my first year in China I witnessed the power of the one directing the show.  He led two beautiful girls to him and they fell in love with his goodness.  They want to be with him forever so they gave up their former lives for fresh, new ones.  Water took away all the old faults and left them pure and whole.  We are sisters now.

The celebrations were made all the more joyous when I learned today I am definitely going to be hired for another term to serve here in China.  No more waiting in limbo, waiting for my future to be decided!  I can begin planning for the next semester knowing that He is taking care of me and is working mightily through me.  I can't wait to see what gems lie in store for the future.


Courtesy of Katie Marshall

So, I asked Katie to write my blog post for me....

Things I am thankful for today:

10. Spring is here!
9. My stunning roommate, Katie.
8. The two new sisters who were born this evening.
7. The really gifted, caring, intelligent girl who lives with me.
6. The group of awesome students who call on His name.
5. K-to-the-T's exquisite cooking.
4. The fact that our family extends over the whole world.
3. The one, the only, Katie Marshall.
2. A splendid night in celebration of new life.
1. Katie

Monday, May 17, 2010

Taste Like Potato Chips


Today I Ate a Scorpion. 'Nuf said.


A group of my students took me and my roommate, Katie, out to a fancy dinner tonight.  And like the scorpion, the evening turned out to be a pleasant surprise.  The restaurant had a beautiful view over-looking the Yangtze, the guys were, as always, a lot of fun, and the food was amazing.

(Seriously--the scorpion was seasoned excellently. Salty and crunchy = DELICIOUS. :)



Sunday, May 16, 2010

Laugh it off.

Being a foreign English teacher in China, you find yourself oft the reciprocate of many requests for large favors. One of my boldest friends is a one of a kind young Chinese girl with excellent talent in getting exactly what she wants from me.  These talents include, dragging me unwillingly into singing competitions, having me edit her major English papers at the drop of a dime, having me listen to English speeches she needs to present, and dominating every conversation topic at our nightly studies of the Good Book as a means to improving her English. 

This, as you can imagine is a bit much to handle at times.  But there's also something endearing about this student.  What you see, is what you get.  And I find candidness refreshing.  I must admit, however, I tend to spend time with her in small doses--this is with both of our best intentions in mind, of course.

Tonight as we gathered for our Sunday night study, I was feeling positive and more than eager to jump into the reading (written by our friend John.)  As we began to read, however, this special friend of mine would have something to say on each topic.  I'm sorry, did I say on topic?  I mean, she would have something to say having nothing remotely to do with the topic.

This is pretty common, so it didn't come as a surprise, but she was in rare form on this particular evening.  We were not getting anywhere.  Katie and I subtly steered the group's attention back on topic every so often, determined to make some progress.  Soon, however our friend had plunged into a 10-minute story about some random student and his emotional issues.  How this came up no one knows.  I'm not the only one to notice.  Several of the boys in the group seem to be tuning her out, Katie at least pretends to listen to her with a pained expression as I grind my teeth and avoid eye contact, so she won't direct her conversation towards me.  Just when we think she's done, she remembers something she hasn't mentioned, and is asking Katie's advice regarding some minute situation.

I look around the room at the vacant expressions of people who have deemed it a lost cause and clench my fists, and dig them into my temples, contemplating bashing my brains in. Instead, I opt for silently praying for patience.  Now, with a less angry mindset, I attempt to maturely direct my attention to the speaker, but I can't help but notice her theatrical tone as she jumps from one topic to another in her monologue, waving her hands around to an audience sleeping with their eyes open. And suddenly I feel something rising in my throat.  It's a giggle.  I manage to clap my hand over my face in time, so no one notices.  But then I can't stop.  The giggling has just begun, and with all my might I can't make it stop.

Just as I begin to gain control of myself, though, Katie glimpses my expression and looks away quickly.  Katie's mouth begins to twitch as our friend's voice continues to rise and fall as the monologue continues, and Katie bubbles over in laughter.  This spurs me on and soon I've released the snort.  Soon, all of the boys in our group are awake and laughing with us, and our friend sits in utterly silent befuddlement. 

After a moment, we manage to settle down and Katie apologizes for the disruption simply with a "Sorry, we're a little crazy tonight," and then I steal a glance at Katie and we almost lose control once more. Fortunately, and quite miraculously, our friend is quite oblivious to the reason for our amusement, making some lighthearted comment about our silly antics, and we continue on with our study, Katie and I dutifully avoiding eye contact.

We need a vacation.


Saturday, May 15, 2010

Images of a Successful Day

Brothers and Sisters from Jingzhou come to visit us.  They teach the Word in their dialect of Chinese. There are in-depth discussions going on long after each of the meetings. 

Sitting in the midst of it all, I watch shining eyes, and furrowed brows, and gratefully soak in the energy that comes from talking about subjects larger than life, despite not understanding everything spoken.

I belt out the lyrics with all of the others voices blending in song. Throughout the room brothers and sisters close their eyes as they sing with all their hearts.  

We dish out the food we've prepared; laughter rings throughout the room, friendships are formed, stomachs are filled.

Before we say "Amen," I sneak a peak: Eyes closed so tight, heads bowed so low.

Students accept free copies of the good book, eagerly flipping through, and clutching them as they leave, showering us in gratitude.

Farewells are made between believers in Yichang and Jingzhou as we grasp hands, exchange emails, and wish blessings on each other.  

And with souls energized, and hearts warmed, we go home.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Every last one of the 34 Things I Did Today... You're welcome.

  1. Rolled out of bed after much adieu.
  2. Taught my 8:00 class through puffy eyes and a sick feeling stomach.
  3. Came back
  4. ..No comment
  5. Felt better..
  6. Talked to Nora on Skype while I fried bacon.
  7. Said goodbye.
  8. Greeted Katie after class.
  9. Took shower.
  10. Made pancakes.
  11. Ate pancakes.
  12. Felt much better.
  13. Intended to study Chinese.
  14. Strummed on the gee-tar.
  15. Figured out it was the last day for my Chinese Pod free trial.
  16. Downloaded 10 jillion Chinese lessons.
  17. Didn't study Chinese.
  18. Went to Wal-Mart with the crew.
  19. Bought a lot of food.
  20. Put money on my phone.
  21. Greeted our Jingzhou guests.
  22. Ate chicken and had fellowship.
  23. Had an amazing time singing.
  24. Tried to listen to the lesson.
  25. Couldn't understand.
  26. Had more excellent fellowship.
  27. Played with Elizabeth's cute, wittle puppy Alexander found on the street.
  28. Tried to join in on heated debated going on in the living room.
  29. Couldn't understand.
  30. Went back to the apartment.
  31. Chit-chatted with the Katester.
  32. Ate a bowl of cereal.
  33. Downloaded Chinese Pod Lessons until I started seeing spots.
  34. Aaaaannd, updated blog in a zombie-like trance before going to bed.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

We Smell Like Pharisees

Being far from the body of believers in the US, I've been meditating a lot on why the Family isn't growing in America.  And to answer this question, I first saw the problem in myself.

I can feel myself changing.  Yes, it's been ever so slowly, but He is at work in me, I hope.  More and more I fight to concern myself with others lives and worry about their struggles and think that much less about my own.  …Boy, is that hard, or what?  Well, it's hard for me.

 Less of self, and more of thee… 

When I read about the Son, I am frustrated just by how much further I am from the goal than I ever knew before.   I am selfish, I can be judgmental, and my heart has been hardened to those in need.  Discouraging, right?  But then it dawns on me, that at last I've come to the point of self-realization.  From what I can see, the members of the body who are the most difficult, and the most divisive, are those that would happily evaluate themselves as a genuinely good person—someone who is better than most people. 

And it might be true.  Certainly these people aren't committing crimes; maybe they're self-disciplined, and perhaps even more giving with their material possessions than the average Joe.  But it is this satisfaction that people have with themselves that seems, to me, to be the most dangerous mindset anybody could have.

I just wonder what incredible things we could all be doing if we breathed in a good dose of humility, observing the large gap between our own actions and those of the Son of Man.  What if we all thought about what else we could be doing rather than kept a tally of all the things we've already done?

None of self, and all of thee…

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Write on!

Oi! I'm not sure I knew what I was thinking when I proposed a daily blog post.  How do some people do it?

Anyway, here are some journal entires (some are excerpts) that I had typed up in a Word Document last term to remember my students by. The students are instructed to write 5 sentences in English about anything they want.  Spelling remains unaltered. Enjoy!

Clay

"Today I got up late so I don't have breakfast.  Mrs. Jassica is the best teacher of the teacher that ever taught us. The teacher wear much beautiful than before, I think her must very happy. My teacher Jassica also that beautiful, when I see her I think I must learn English well, or I will can't fellow her. Today is sunny, no wind."

Steve

1. I'm hungry today

2. Because I have nothing for my breakfast 

3. I want to a bottle of water and a cup of and something to eat

4. I think that's enough for me, but I'm still hungry

5. So I hope to have a big meal. but how? it's impossible we are in the class.

Peter

"I can't guess what Miss Jessica will do every do.  But she always give us surprise and make all of us laugh."

Max

"One stone two birds.  I really like to make it happen, but at last I missed it."

Kobe

  1.            My Chinese name is Wu Xiung Long my Enlgish name is Kobe
  2.       .    I like Jesscia very much.
  3.      .     I like in play basketball.
  4.    .  I want to make a lot of money in the future.
  5.       .   My English is so pool. So I want to improve my English.

Frederick

"I get up early, but not have breakfast, I'm hamgre now."

Abe

"Today is Monday.  This is a rainy day.  I'm taking classes English.  My English teacher let me wirt five sentences.  So I did that as above."

Lizzie

"Most of us like having this class and this it's interesting and full of fun.  But, I sometime fear of it.  I worry about the teacher ask me to answer ask me to answer or do some other things.  It doesn't mean I dislike it, just don't know how to do with it."

Will

"My stomach have some problem.  Because of I felt not very well with my stomach.  I think I must be well in several days"

NEXT ENTRY…. "Today is fine, because my body change fine."

Ben

"I feel happy for have so kind teacher."

Jake

"We are only take class and do homework and do homework.  I know we must study hard in university, but we also need play."

Luke

"It's raining today.  And I'm not fine.  I missed my family very well.  At school, I want to try my best to do everything well.  But not at all.  I don't want to go abroad after graduation.  It well depend on much money and much time.  For my family, it's a big pressure.  I only want to make everything better.  Try my best to get much knowledge, find a good job for myself.  To make my family happiness which is my best wish."

Demetri

"It rains.  I don't like rainy day. I don't feel very good.  But today's course makes me alittle happy.  And I think it will be a sunny day tomorrow."

Kevin

"I'm not like the life now I living.  Time past quickly, but I find I have learned nothing. I don't understand myself, what am I?  I think I can do many things.  In fact, I can do nothing.  I know my body is bad, but why do I smoke often?  I said to everyone. "please live happily, because you will die so long".  Even though, I'm not happy.  Ya-Ha I want to be a happiness boy. I haven't been happiness, why?  Perhaps it's my mistake."

Nancy

"In the morning we had an oral English class and the foreign teacher. Jessica wore a t-shirt and a long dress. Came to our class.  I thought she is beautiful and so cool because today's weather was not very high."

Bill

"But the most exciting thing is that I am nice to see my Enlgish teacher—Jesscia

Alex

"Last night Bill went to play basketball and hurt himself in his face.  when he went back to the dormitory he alway standed in front of the mirror to check the injury.  He felt sorry to see other people because the apparent injury has bad influence on his image.  He is going to cry and unhappy."

"After lunch, I went to sleep.  It is nice that I have dreamt Kobe.  And when I woke up, I felt disappointed because that just a dream."

Barry

"I was very thankful to Jassica.  Because when I was debting she was listened. Although she couldn't understand."

"The morning of today is so hurry we don't want to be late for Jassica's class so we not have breakfast. When I come in the classroom.  I say hellow to Jassica, but she looks like unhappy and not even take glare at me."

"I prefer like to agree this view. When I see some lovers do all things together.  I am eagerly to make a girl friends."

"Last night. when we over the class.  Bill and Alex played basketable. as other members whom they come from grate two in this unvisity joined played basketable. Maybe it was for dark. One of members has fouled in the game and unfortunately his hands beat Bill's face. so it was made Bill's blood boil and left the playground."


I have a feeling these mean a good deal more to me than you, but I felt that these quotes are the appropriate ratio for the types of entires I got all last term.  I always loved hearing about the same instance from several students.  This term, I have them journal on topics of MY choosing.  I'll fill you in on those goodies another time..

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Hungry? Why wait? Grab a rabbit.

Description: White-ish. Obese. Annoying. Beady red eyes. Annoying. Dirty. Excellent jumping abilities. (aka. annoying)

...But cuddly!

Price: Negotiable (Will pay you.)

Age: Well, it was, believe it, or not, a Christmas present. But he was small then. So.. not old.

>>If you could get back to me before Katie sees this, that'd be sweet!



Sunday, May 9, 2010

Cross-cultural Cuisine: This One's for You, Mom

"Four more bites, and stop crying."  These are the words that so many loved picky eaters hear growing up; And I was no exception.  OH, those blissful times sitting at the dinner table by myself, after everyone else has left, glaring at my meatloaf while contemplating the best moment to slip the last 2 out of 4 bites to my dog (I was always too chicken to actually do it.)  Eventually, my merciful mother, feeling sorry for this stubborn, skinny 7-year-old, comes out and softly coaxes me into taking another bite, while trying not to laugh. Soon, I'm skipping off to watch Nickelodeon, unaware that you, Mom, YOU were making me a better, stronger, more open-minded person.  Yes, you were.  And now, this ex-picky eater must admit, Meatloaf March potlucks are now my favorite!

Last term I made a goal to take each of my students out to dinner at some point throughout the year to get to know them better.  Chinese students--never to miss out on an opportunity to practice their English-- always willingly oblige. And a lot of great things have come from these outings.  It wasn't long, however, that I learned to fear these words: "Traditional Food."

Let me tell you about the first time this phrase was used in a conversation with me: A sweet girl with excellent English, Teresa, tells me how excited her parents are that she is eating with her English teacher and they've instructed her on a traditional specialty that she should introduce to me.  "OK!", I say energetically.  And so on the way to dinner we make a stop to try a famous local beverage that's been around for 130 years. (I may, or may not have made this fact up.)

"Oh, a drink", I think. "Well, this can't be so bad."  As we near the window I see some strange pieces floating in the beverages being served.  Teresa's friends politely decline a cup, and although this makes me a bit concerned, I know there's no backing out on the hospitality being offered me.  

I take a sip and feign a smile that I'm afraid came out as a grimace.  

"Do you like?"  Teresa asks nervously.

"Mmm! So, what's in this?"

"Sperm."

~Moment of silence as I ever so deliberately finish swallowing.~

"Reeeally... Fr-from an animal?"

"Yes, do you like it?"

"It's interesting! So, it's umm, sperm. From an animal."

"Yes, from in the sea."

There are two choices at this point in time. Either, I throw the cup of sperm into the trashcan and, thus, throw away any chance of friendship with these sweet girls, or... I drink it.

"Oh."  And... I sip... and actually swallow. (All modesty aside, I deserve a medal.)

I've seen some pretty bizarre dishes on menus.  So, I didn't doubt it right away.  Endurance my friends.  This is what gets you through.  In my last 8 months in this fine country I have sat through many a meal chewing and swallowing without grimacing.  I have mastered the technique of scooting food around my plate and popping the occasional tiny piece of tofu, cow's stomach, or meat gelatin into my mouth in order to satisfy the gracious host.  You see, there's something called "saving face" in these parts.  If you make it clear that you don't like the food you've so generously been given, you would be forcing your host to lose face.  And, well, that just isn't nice.

I must urge you not to assume that I don't like Chinese food; really, I have come to love just about anything any street vendor will will dish out.  It's these "famous foods" that I am occasionally graced with that pose the ultimate challenge. 

As we continued our walk to the restaurant, I grasp at one last semblance of hope and turn to Teresa, "You know, are you sure you have the right word? For... this?"  Teresa promptly digs out her phone to reference her Chinese-English Dictionary.

A moment passes and I watch the realization flush her face.

"Shrimp.  I mean to say Shrimp." And she looks at me, mortified, and I look down at my half empty cup, and I can't help it-- I laugh. Hard.  I can't stop laughing.  Finally, she laughs.  And then we're all laughing.



I couldn't have done it without you, Mom.  One small bite of meatloaf for picky eaters, one giant cup of shrimp juice for friendships between all eatingkind.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Saturday.

Well, I just had one of the best two hour conversations of my entire life!  One of my friends left just a few minutes ago and t's now 11:37 PM. I was worried that I was going to fail on Day ONE of my new blogging endeavor. We're cuttin' it close, people!

Allow me to fill you in on a typical Saturday in the life of Jessica.  Today, I woke up... erm.. let us just say, ridiculously late.  Usually one of my students comes on Saturday mornings for my Chinese lesson, but he had called me last night asking if we could switch to Sunday afternoon.  So, I enjoyed my shameful amount of sleep, thank you very much.

The afternoon past swiftly, I practiced the guitar a little, downloaded some lessons from Chinesepod.com (learning Mandarin? Check it out! It's awesome), did some dishes (pause for Katie to remember why she loves me), and yelled at our obese rabbit that jumps on every surface available in our apartment about... 235 times (approximately).

Every other Saturday, I host a singing devo. at our apartment.  So, I grabbed some rice noodles mixed with egg and lettuce for dinner at Sogo (our local super cheap food spot), then bought some snacks for the group at the nearby little corner store, where I'm pretty sure I provide the owners with 90% of their income, and awaited the peeps.

Being that we Americans stay pretty busy with special studies among other things these days, I ended up being the only American and the only believer able to be present at the event. Despite being the only one who knows the songs, we had a great time!  About 10 friends showed up, and I ended up singing a few partial solos.  Upon finishing a Chinese song that we sing just about every Sunday with the Family, all of my friends applauded~ They are easily impressed and just sweet~ but I'm not so sure that they get that reading Pinyin is incredibly easy compared to their memorization of thousands of characters.  Anyway, after an hour or two, everyone left, except for one of my friends, Alexander.

Alexander has been studying regularly with Zack for quite some time, and has been searching for answers for a while, as well.  Under Zack's tutelage and his own dedication, his knowledge of the Good Book is nothing less than impressive.  Somehow we ended up in a long conversation about all of his doubts and concerns about the faith.  I can't remember ever feeling so pumped after a two hour conversation.  I was actually trembling.

Strange, isn't it, that when talking about someones doubts and fears it can make you feel more self-assured in your own beliefs?  I have no doubt that HE was with me throughout the conversation.  Answers flowed from my mouth so easily, it amazed me, and I knew I wasn't alone.  We had long moments of silence and contemplation, and at one point I even allowed myself to let the words that we believers so often fear admitting more than anything, "I don't know." I believe that Alexander had asked something about why miracles don't still happen, and why, in light of his sacrifice, it all had to be the way it was, instead of another way.  I gave him a few theories, talked about how the plan seemed, in many ways, to be perfect, but, in the end, I told him I couldn't fully comprehend the mind of the Almighty.

I don't know all of the answers.  No one does.  But I believe that more than sufficient evidence has been placed before me, to lead me to believe what I do.  And my admission surprisingly seemed to spur one of the most logical and evidence-driven people I've ever met towards positive interest rather than cynicism.

At the end of our conversation Alexander was quiet, "I need some time to think about all of this." And as he left, "Thank you, I know something from you."  And I looked at him and realized as I said, "I know something from you, too."

Friday, May 7, 2010

Light the firrrreee... on my behiiiinndd

Ladies and Gents, it is time.  Time for an intervention.  Yes, I am intervening on behalf of myself.  Too many wonderful things have happened. Too, too, too many wonderful things have happened and have not been recorded.  My first year in China is coming to a close in no time at all!  And so few tales have been told.  It's a travesty.

From now until June 20, 2010 (the day before I fly back to the US for summer Holiday) I will write a blog post every day.  That's right EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

It might not be magnificent.  It might not be more than a few sentences.  But it will be a post.  And that's better than no post.

For it is time to reflect on the beautiful things in life, right here in Yichang, and to share them with my readers.

Until next time.... (Tomorrow : )

Thursday, April 15, 2010

COMMIT *gulp* MENT

Hello,

Are you planning to stay for the next year. I hope you can, the student loves you, and the teaching office gives you good appraisal; that makes the university offer you a second year contract, and you will get raised in the second year.

If you are planning to stay for the second year, please let me know.

Cordinally,

Jian Qiang


I got this email recently.  It sits unanswered in my inbox.  It breathes down my neck and makes me sweat... no rhyme intended.  I was so preoccupied with the terrifying stench of commitment upon first read, I didn't even chuckle at the precious spelling of cordially.  I see it long after I've closed my internet and shut down my computer. The words dance inside my eyelids as I drift off to sleep.  Choices, choices.  I once begged an English professor at Harding University to choose a paper topic for me.  "Why?" he replied.  "Because I'm so indecisive! I drive myself crazy."  I said pathetically.  A slow smile crawled across his face, "You sure about that?"

For those who haven't heard, after weeks of painful "pro" and "con" list writing, prayerful consideration, and begging just about anyone to make my life decisions for me, I've decided, Lord willing, to come back to China for the Fall term after summer break.  I'm not sure if it's a serious case of cold feet, or what, but I've been kind of freaking out about this decision.  You may be thinking, "Honey, we are talking 6 months here, not eternity" and to this I would respond, I am turning 25 this fall! Next stop THIRTY, hello!!! Who will be here to tell me I am being ridiculous on my birthday, and my forehead wrinkles don't look that bad. Besides, pick the plank out of your own pupil!

OK, where was I before I started arguing with myself? Ah, yes- I trust that He will take care of me, but with my three closest friends here, leaving for good, I find myself becoming more keen on the idea of staying in Florida, kissing on nephews and nieces, being able to drive a car, turning on the television to find people speaking English, going a day where I eat food devoid of heaping amounts of oil and MSG. . . . you know, things like that.  I'm not going to round this post off with a moral, or the way I've come to realize I shouldn't worry about tomorrow, for today has enough worries of its own.  (Although, I know this to be true.)  Rather, I will ask you-  Pray for me.  And while you're at it, consider joining me in China, OR ELSE. Just kidding. (But seriously.)

Friday, March 26, 2010

Recall

Do you recall when I chatted with you

As I combed my Barbie's hair?

You were like my super imaginary friend;

Intangible, but I knew you were there.

 

Remember when I made a deal with you

After school on the bus?

I said if you gave me a boyfriend

I'd still (mostly) focus on us.

 

How about that time I sat in the dormitory,

Lost in confusion of where you were?

Hot tears, accused you of not listening,

Not hearing a single word.

 

Should I remind you of the time,

My trembling hand signed that contract?

I dared you to follow me,

Bit my lip, and apprehensively packed.

 

Why is it only after I've choked down humility,

And with a raw throat, sung your song,

That those lyrics, I finally recall?


I AM here, will be there, and was all along.

I AM here, will be there, and was all along.


Sunday, March 21, 2010

Another week has come and gone.

Just one week ago, two members of our small family abruptly move to Wuhan. Their arrival into our lives the term before had been a gift, a sign that the work we were doing was wholly good, and so we begin to doubt. The night we find out, I fall asleep whispering pleas to Him for encouragement.

The next morning, a sister is born.

Days ago, that same sister abruptly finds out the job she has applied for, has a position ready for her. We try to keep our heads high, still excited for the new life she has chosen, and glad for her success in finding work. So, we say our goodbyes and she moves on.


This morning, we meet with our Sunday Crew, trying not to notice who isn't there. No extra chairs have to be pulled forward, no one needs the lesson interpreted. And then a friend tells us he wants to be our brother. And I look around the room at the rest of my Yichang family soaking in the elation of the moment.

You know, what's funny? Going in, he hit his head. Hard. But he's ready to give it another go. And so we try again. This time he tilts his head forward, and is finally fully immersed in His commitment. And we sing and hurriedly swipe at the tears, knowing full well the wonderful joy that comes despite the bumps. And quite inexplicably, the room is full, again.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Perspectives. Proportions.. Purpose...

There are days when the catastrophes of the world make one realize how small and weak a single pair of limbs are, a single pair of eyes, a single mind… heart. When you’re any twenty-something year old, how spiritless would you be if you didn’t feel as though the world was your stinkin’ oyster? Or that you, and you alone, had the ability to change the world- To truly make a difference. But it’s times like these that the goals that consume much of my day (i.e. today's list- plan class, eat lunch with friends, learn 5 Chinese characters, read, do laundry, floss) seem so menial. Well, they are so menial. I recently learned of the fifth largest earthquake occurrence in Chile. Soon after- one in Argentina. How many people were sleeping soundly when their homes caved on top of them? OH, Dear Lord. Thousands are mourning the loss of loved ones in South America, meanwhile, outside my window, a deafening display of firecrackers is setting off car alarms as the people of China celebrate the Lantern Festival. As Alanis would say: isn’t ironic… don’t ya think?

Last week, while the rest of my family gathered for my grandmother’s funeral in Texas, I was gallivanting around India, having the time of my life.

Sometimes I let myself slip into a darkness, in which I feel so helpless. So useless. And I wonder… what can I do, anyway? Here I am in a foreign land, teaching classes to students that don’t care about their English, and sharing His teachings with people, most of whom believe it holds no personal truth for their lives. Am I wasting my time? Maybe I should be cleaning up the rubble in Chile. Or, at least, I should be home, throwing my arms around my Daddy’s neck, and assuring him I won’t leave him, too. You know, really making a difference. Doing some good.

And it’s in these moments, when the words begin creeping into my thoughts- "Just give up. It's too much. What can you do, anyway? You can't even open a coke bottle with your scrawny hands!"- But something, or someone, reminds me - I’m not doing it alone. I’m not alone. And I take comfort in these words, that I hope will encourage you, as well:

"…Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed…"

"….Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us…"

Or, as Jewel would put it: My hands they’re small, I know; but they’re not yours, they are my own... And they are never broken.

I’m small, I know; but there's nothing small about my God.





Rest in our love and His peace, Grandma Joyce.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

La dee dee, it's Poetry

So, I looked at my pathetic blog and realized it needed to be spiced up a bit. I considered filling my online journal in on the Holidays... on the recent trip to Beijing (maybe I'll post pictures)... but as I pondered what to write, I decided to write a poem about writing. I'm new at this. But poetry is kinda fun, so yippee yi yay. And since I don't allow comments on my blog you can't trash my writing or think I'm fishing for approval- which gives me courage.


I want to Write


I want to write.
I want to write something eloquent.
Fashioning my thoughts
Into words
Perfectly.

I want to write.
I want to write something nonchalant.
Slapping my emotions
On Paper
Carelessly.

I want to write.
I want to write something beautiful.
Making your eye glimmer,
Your lip quiver,
Tremulously.

I want to write.
I want to write something daring.
Challenging your raised eyebrow,
Your suppositions,
Bluntly.

I want to write.
I want to write something funny.
Tickling your ribs
Until you admit I’m
Witty.

I want to write.
I want to write something meaningful.
Weaving something worthy
Of reading
Thoroughly.

I want to write.
I want to write something simple.
Smoothing your brow.
You can breathe
Easily.


I want to write.
I want to write something grandiose.
Stabbing at that which is unattainable
And doing so
Humbly.

I want to write.
I want to write something for me.
Observing merely the minute details
Between sunrise and fall
Accurately.

I want to write.
I want to write something for you.
Pulling your head
Onto my Shoulder
Tenderly.

I want to write
I want to write… something.
Hoping only that you
Will Read It
Willingly.