Sunday, October 28, 2012

Happy Surprises!

My last post was about a day of unpleasant surprises. Well this past week we were SHOCKED by a most pleasant surprise.

Our head English teacher, Ms. Meow, is an adorable little person only a year older than me. She’s really cool, too. She took us to KTV and sang her heart out to some Shania Twain. Also at our school is a PE teacher who’s name is… well… actually we’re not sure, because he changed it. His Chinese name is Ding Laoshi. His English name is either Todd or Dean. We call him Ding Laoshi. 

Anyway, we have noticed that Ms. Meow and Ding Laoshi hang out quite a bit. He came with us to KTV. They are regularly seen together at lunch. But as far as we knew, no dating was happening, so we took it upon ourselves to plan their future together. We talked about it many times. Kimmie didn’t know if it was culturally appropriate to suggest it to Ms. Meow, seeing as how they are colleagues, so instead we just talked about it to each other. We were so convinced of their happiness together that when Ms. Meow brought another “friend” with her to KTV who was talking to Ding Laoshi a little too much we started planning to take her out.

The candy tin :)
Monday we came in to work as normal. I was sitting at my desk when Ms. Meow came over and put a little tin of candy on my desk, without saying anything, and walked away. The tin had a bride and groom on it. I thought, oh, she must be handing out candy for someone who got married. I wonder who got married? Then the office went crazy! Ms. Meow got married!! To DING LAOSHI!
We couldn’t believe it! No one, even the Chinese teachers in the office, knew they were dating. I think some of them suspected though. Can you imagine a girl in the US keeping a secret from her WHOLE OFFICE of 90% women that she had been dating someone for 1+ year and she was getting married? Yeah, it wouldn’t happen. 

So it turns out that Ms. Meow was way ahead of us. In fact, that night at our Fall Party for the teachers, we found out they had actually been married since August 15th. (We think?) They won’t have their big wedding celebrations until January, then it will OFFICIALLY be official. 

What a happy surprise!!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

A Day in the Life...

As many of you will see in the next few weeks, in my next newsletter I talk about learning patience. Ask anyone in my family- patience is not my strong point. So funny that I chose to write about it just last night, and then there was today…

Sunday we met a sweet sister named Liz. She texted me Tuesday and asked if we could meet for lunch. I said yes, and we set the date for today at 12 pm at McDonalds. (It’s one of the few places we know how to get to without Kimmie. She’s currently out of town.) I have learned from previous experiences that hanging out with Chinese people sometimes requires you to eat things you don’t want to eat, to go places you don’t want to go, and to do things you don’t want to do. Knowing this, when I woke up this morning I quickly asked for patience for whatever our “lunch date” might bring. 

We decide to be brave and take the bus to lunch. It takes a lot longer, but it’s a lot cheaper, and it makes us feel like we know what we’re doing. To take the bus we needed to leave at 11 am, one hour early, even though it’s only about a 15 minute taxi ride away. At 10:55 we’re about to walk out the door and I get a call from Liz. This is what I hear…”Hello, Rachel? I am here with my friend. Can you come early?” Ok, guess we’re taking a taxi. 

I go next door to collect Meshea. I’m standing outside her door waiting for her to use the bathroom and I start hearing panicked screaming coming from her apartment. I ask what’s wrong and she says, “I just dropped my iphone in the toilet.” So we take a detour to find some rice. Prayers for the iphone appreciated, its fate is still unknown.

We get to McDonalds. Thankfully her friend, Alyssa, can speak better English than her, so Alyssa ends up translating a lot of conversation for us. Towards the end of lunch Liz asks if we would like to go meet some of her friends at Bai hai park. I was halfway expecting this, so yes. We would love to go. I ask, “Is the park close?” She says, “It is near. It is 4 bus stops away.” 

Translation- “The park is far. It is 4 bus stops AND 15 subway stops away.” Here’s the thing about Chinese surprises- they would be far less frustrating if they weren’t surprises, but because of the communication difficulties, everything seems to be a surprise. You may ask what’s happening, and you may get an answer, but it probably won’t make any sense to you, or it may only be half of the truth. Ours was obviously half the truth. 

So about an hour later we get to the park. It’s an intense park. You have to pay to get in. Surprise! Luckily, it was cheap. We sit and “have a rest” for quite some time while we wait for the friend to meet us. The friend doesn’t come. We quit waiting and start walking. Without our knowledge, Alyssa buys us some candied fruit on a stick. We are scared at first because it’s a mystery fruit, but this turns out to be a pleasant surprise and it’s actually pretty good. Another pleasant surprise- the park is beautiful! It's on a lake with tons of weeping willows and beautiful landscaping. The weather is also perfect for a walk in the park.

Here are some funny things that were said today…
Liz- “Before you come China, you can’t touch the Chinese?” Whaaaat? Not sure how to answer that, or what it means exactly, but her attention is diverted by a phone call from the missing friend and Lacey and I just look at each other and smile. Later on...
Lacey- “Oh, that’s cool, interesting.” Me- “What happened?” Lacey- under her breath, “I have no idea.” This happens often. We smile and say ok, yes, mm hmm, and actually we’re totally lost but it takes too much effort to understand what’s really going on so we move on gracefully.

We walk around the park for about 2 hours. We finally meet the friend, Ocean. He is a photographer/director/we’re not really sure? As we’re walking, Liz grabs my hand. It’s pretty common to see girls holding hands but it hasn’t happened to me yet. I’m in shock at first, then I walk along normally, then I start to feel awkward so I suggest we stop to take pictures so I can get my hand back. I keep my hands occupied from then on. 

Somewhere along the way a bird poops in my hair. 

We decide it’s time to leave and instead of taking the complicated bus/subway route, we are going to hop in a taxi and pay up. Easier said than done! We walk to the end of one street. There’s a traffic jam so very few taxis are actually passing by. The ones that are have their break sign up. We decide we have to take the bus. We walk to the bus stop and join 23049283 other people waiting for the same bus. The bus comes and all 23049283 of them try to get on an already full bus. They are pushing and shoving and the doors wont even shut because of all the people. We decide the bus isn’t for us. We walk down the street the opposite direction. Still no taxis. I’m losing hope that we will ever see our home again. Thankfully, Lacey has much more patience than I do and she is just going with the flow and *trying* to keep me calm. We decide to take a different bus. It’s been about 45 minutes since we tried to start our journey home. 

Our friends are very concerned for us. Liz looks ill and when Lacey asks if she’s ok she says, “I’m very worried about you getting home.” They are so sweet. As we’re waiting for the bus again, Alyssa runs down a taxi and talks him into taking us home. Hope springs new!! As we’re getting into the taxi Liz looks like she’s about to cry. She tells us she loves us.  She says next time we will go to a different park. 

Over dinner Lacey and I talk through our 6 ½ hour “lunch date”. I realize that I still failed in the patience department. Lacey, in her wisdom, says she realized halfway through the day that seeing how happy they were to spend time with us made it worth while. I’m so glad I’m not doing this alone. I need someone to help me put things into perspective!

More stories full of surprises to come, I’m sure. When you think about me take a second to ask for some patience! I’m always in need of it.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Can I keep them?

While some of our fellow teachers across China are STILL waiting for school to start, we are halfway done with our 2nd week of teaching. We started school on Saturday (yes, Saturday) September 1st and taught through the weekend all the way to the next Friday. It was a LONG week, but a great first week. I'm happy to say it went so much better than I expected!! I have 4 classes of 2nd graders and they are all absolutely adorable. The first day of class they all made name cards and I took pictures of them in hopes of memorizing all of their names.... that's still a work in progress. There are 102 of them all together and that's a lot of names. Most of them are pretty normal, but I do have a few funny ones- like Tiger, Rainbow and Young. There are some kids who, as my Chinese co-teachers say, are "maybe a little naughty," but those seem to be some of my favorites. :) One of my absolute favorite things is to see them outside of class, either walking down the hall or eating lunch, because they get SO excited and starting waving and hollering, "Hello Miss Rachel! Hello Miss Rachel!" It just makes my heart happy. :)
For some of the kids these first few weeks have been kind of hard, especially the new students. They are boarding students so they're dropped off on Sunday night and picked up on Friday afternoon. Lacey (my team mate) has one little boy that has cried uncontrollably in a few of her lessons. It didn't help that his birthday was the first week of school! My sweet little Rainbow was also crying in class the other day, and last night I went over to say hey to some of my students playing on the play ground and one of them was crying. This breaks our hearts! They are so young to be away from their parents and we understand because we miss our parents too. :(
I have two Chinese co-teachers that sit in lessons with me and mostly help with class management. They also give me suggestions about what works with the kids and ideas for lesson planning. Some of my team mates have SUPER involved co-teachers, but mine are pretty hands off. We get along well but so far there hasn't been a whole lot of conversation with them. All of the teachers are pretty busy (and overwhelmed) with school just starting so I'm hoping as things calm down this will change!
This past weekend we went over to another teacher's apartment at a local University and were introduced to "Waffle Night." Every Sunday night several foreign teachers get together and make waffles and invite students over to hang out. It's been going on for several years and we've been invited to come whenever we can. Most of the students at this university are grad students, so I'm excited about an opportunity to meet and hang out with some people closer to my age!
Well, that's a little of what's going on in my life... thanks for all your thoughts and support!
Love and miss you all!

Here are a few of my sweet childrens!

This is Jim. He's kind of all over the place, but look at that smile!!

Harry. :) He is very good at English and a precious little boy.

Tracy gives me hugs EVERY day. It's hard to get away sometimes!

This is Irene. She is very smart and quiet.

Cute little Melissa :)

BOB. One of my favorites, and very naughty. :)

This is Rainbow. She's a stylin little girl!


And Charley! Adorable. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Because professional... so wonderful

Here a few of the fun/super informative signs we've seen over the last month... they keep us laughing. :)

This is hard to read.... but it says "please cherish the green lives"

Washing your "cowboy clothing" will cost you about $4

Not great... but satisfactory.

Oh thanks... that really helps

Friday, August 24, 2012

We're done with class!! 3 1/2 weeks just flew by. When I think back to my last time in China, I remember hitting the one month mark and how FOREVER LONG it took to get there. We had a celebration and made cheesecake. I guess we haven't technically hit 1 month, but it literally seems like we just got here. Adjusting has been so much easier this time but I guess the real adjustment will come when we move-- tomorrow!

This afternoon we had a "sending off celebration" and we lifted up each team and said our goodbyes. It was an awesome time together but sad! We're the only team staying here in Beijing. Everyone else is leaving, or already has left, on buses and trains, some of them going really far away. We've made some good friends on other teams so everyone leaving felt a little like abandonment. :(

Tomorrow we will finally leave the hotel and move into our apartments about 2 miles down the road. The nice thing about staying here in Beijing is that we don't have the headache of getting all our luggage to a new city. A lot of teams had to ship bags ahead, and they may not get them for a week or two. Yikes.

Lift up our team this week as we adjust to our new home and get used to only having each other. If you want more news  from my team, here are my teammates blogs...

A thought to leave you with- something we heard in a message last week that has stuck with me:
"I have nothing to prove. You know my heart."
Does the fact that He knows your heart give you peace or leave you fearful?

Here are a few pictures from my week...

Two of the cute kids that we taught in our micro-teaching practicum.
The one on the left was a mess!! So cute.

Melissa and a sweet baby from across the street.
His family sells us our ice cream. :)

Naomi, this picture is for you. It reminded me of my
beautiful painting!! haha

Lacey enjoying Nathans. It's our team leaders favorite
place to eat. Good hamburgers!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

This week we have been taking a class on Asian Culture and Communication and one of the things we talked about in class is deflecting praise... if a Chinese person pays you a compliment, such as "You are so smart," you say, "No, no, I have only studied hard."
So... there's a boy that works down in the lobby and someone has given him the name Samuel. A few nights ago my friend Lacey and I were hanging out with Samuel and struggling through a conversation. He starts asking me about my major (piano) and then says something with the word "beautiful." I thought he was asking if I played the piano beautifully, so I repeated the question back to him, "Do I play the piano beautifully?" to check for clarification, and he says, "No no. You are so beautiful." I laughed and quickly replied, "No no," thinking I was being a good Chinese person, and he looked at me with a confused face and said, "What, I can't tell you you are beautiful?"
Yeah. So that didn't work.

Here are some things I've done the past few weeks...

I climbed the great wall! It was very foggy that day and super humid so you couldn't see far and we sweat out half our weight. But it was still pretty awesome.

I ate hot pot with my team. Hot pot is where you have pots of boiling broth and you order different meats and vegetables and cook them in the broth. Interesting. This is me with my team leader Kimmie.

These are my team mates, Lacey on the left and Meshea in the middle. 

I went to the summer palace with some friends yesterday. Neat place, but we never actually saw the summer palace. Apparently it's kind of tricky to find. 

At first we thought this might be the palace, but it turns out it was just another temple. 

That's all for now! If you want to follow me on instagram my name is bigrach08. 


Monday, August 6, 2012

Im safe and sound in Beijing and having a great time!
Love love LOVE my team and team leader. We are the smallest team and we have so much in common already. We've already had to force ourselves to socialize with other teams because we found ourselves only hanging out with each other! It's a good thing, I guess.
We've jumped right in to training. Last week we did a good bit of exploring the city and learning how to order food... I thought I didn't remember any Chinese but a lot of little things are coming back to me. I also thought I didn't miss Chinese food, but I've been pretty excited about everything we've eaten!
Since our team is staying here, we've already seen our school campus. I have to say, I think we have got it made. Our organizations headquarters is on the campus of our elementary school which means we have access to a dryer, a full kitchen, a baby grand piano, and best of all, we will get to celebrate holidays with our "family."
There is still a lot of training ahead so keep us in your thoughts. Some of us non-education majors (like me!) still have pretty much no idea what we're doing.

This picture is from our first day of exploring.... these are scorpions, sea horses, and starfish- that you can eat! The scorpions are at this point still alive and squirming around on the sticks. They deep fry them. I didn't try them but a few people did. It's only my first week, not feeling that adventurous yet. :)

Sunday, July 29, 2012

In about 24 hours I'll be boarding a flight to LA to meet up with all my TFP (teaching fellowship program) friends and fly to Beijing! Everyone keeps asking, "Are you nervous?" The answer would be yes, I'm pretty nervous. Mostly about leaving my family. I will be in China for 1 year teaching English to elementary students. I'm very excited about this adventure, and most importantly, being where the Father wants me. It took me a while to get here but there's no stopping it now!
The most common thing people say to me when they hear I'm going to China is, "Maybe you'll meet a Chinese man and never come back!" Let me take a moment to reassure you all that this will not be happening. I know everyone says "never say never," but seriously.... never.
I'm not the greatest writer, so don't expect to read lots of witty stories on my blog... but so many people have asked me to do this so they can keep up with me, or as Mrs. Susan said, "just make sure you're alive." :)
Thank you all for your thoughts and support!