Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter: China vs. America

I'd say the biggest difference I experienced on Easter would definitely be... CLOTHES.
In America, Easter is a day for girls to wear something new and fancy. Get all dressed up! Ditch the jeans and wear a cute dress for once. Bring out those sassy heals. Going to Church on Easter is something like a fashion show. And that's totally doable, because even if its 50 degrees outside and your dress is sleeveless, or you can barely walk in those sassy heals you've got on, all you really have to do is walk a few steps to your warm car, a few more to get inside the warm Church, and then back out to your warm car and home again.

Not so in China! As I got dressed yesterday morning I thought, oh, wouldn't it be nice to wear something cute today? My white lace skirt? Maybe that one pair of heals I brought but haven't even thought about wearing yet? And then I considered what it took to get to Church. First, a 15 minute walk to the subway in 40 degree weather. A 40+ minute ride. Another 10 minute walk from the subway to Church. Get to Church and it's cold inside (there is a pre-determined date for turning off the heat, and that was 2 weeks ago). Then reverse that all on the way home. After considering all of this I decided on Toms (those are cute, right?), jeans, and a somewhat cute shirt that no one saw because I was never warm enough to remove my jacket.

The good news is, NONE OF THAT MATTERS! The Savior has still risen and is alive today!
I had a wonderful Easter Sunday, surrounded by brothers and sisters from all over the world who came together to celebrate the Good News. To end the day, I went over to some friends apartment at a nearby college campus to eat waffles, decorate eggs and cookies, and have a good time. About half way through the evening we all stopped our talking and decorating to listen to a Chinese brother tell the Easter story in his own language. Although I have no idea what exact words he used, I know the story, and I was so honored at that very moment to be in China, at that school, in that apartment, with all of those dear students.

If I had to sum up my China vs. America Easter experience in a few words, I'd have to say...
"Same same, but different."
While on the outside things might look a little different, everything that matters is still the same:
He is risen! He is risen indeed.  

These are two of my precious boys, Andy and Danny, proudly displaying their Easter artwork.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

James 1:27

Around Christmas time my teammates and I had the wonderful opportunity to help out at a Christmas party that some of our friends put on for a group of blind orphans that live down the street from us. We had been hearing about the orphanage all semester but hadn't had the chance to meet the children yet. There are 3 girls and 6 boys who live in a special apartment setting and attend a school for the blind.

About a week before the party we went to a Christmas concert at a local Church and heard the children sing. It was by far the highlight of the concert for me. They sang several Christmas carols in English and you could tell they were loving every minute of it! Their enthusiasm and joy was so moving and I'm pretty sure there were a lot wet eyes around the room during their performance. At the Christmas party we had the chance to hear them sing again and again it brought tears to my eyes. These children love music and they have no fear of singing their hearts out! The room where we held the party has a baby grand piano and there were always 2 or 3 children sitting at the piano picking out tunes they knew. It wasn't an especially beautiful sound, seeing as how there were several songs going on simultaneously, but I loved watching them play.

Through all of this I found out that two of the boys were taking piano lessons and several more of them wanted to take, but their teacher didn't have anymore time available. So she asked me, would I be willing to teach some of them? Oh dear. Yes, I've been teaching piano for years, but teaching a blind student is a whole different ball game and there isn't a whole lot of instruction out there to guide you, especially for kids who have no access to braille music. But I thought, hey, its this or nothing, and it would be a good learning experience for both of us. So I said yes!

Because of the Chinese New Year/Spring Festival holiday, we just finally had our first lesson this past Friday. My friend Paula, who teaches the two other students, had been trying to communicate with the children's Ayi (the lady that takes care of them) to find out exactly who wanted to take, but she hadn't really gotten that far. So we just decided I would show up and teach whoever was ready. I had a one hour time slot to teach. Well, I got to the children's apartment, and there were six children sitting around the kitchen table, ALL excited to start piano lessons! Again, oh dear. Since I obviously didn't have time to teach all six of them, Paula and the Ayi decided I would start with two, a little girl named Katie (or maybe Kitty? it depends on who says it) and a little boy named Allan. I was a little intimidated because these children were two of the weakest English speakers, but we had bigger problems than this anyway so might as well just jump in.

Surprise surprise, the lessons went really well! Sweet Allan smiled the ENTIRE lesson. I had read that information needed to be given in small amounts and it was good to stop every once in a while and just let them play and explore the piano. I tried to do that several times with Allan, but he wasn't having it! He was super focused the whole lesson and somehow we communicated just fine. Katie, however, did need a few breaks to play the only song she knows on the piano, Row Row Row Your Boat. She also did great and our communication was a little tougher, but by the end of the lesson we had it figured out.

Over all, first day was a success! It's still a little scary... I feel completely unqualified for this, but these children are so sweet and excited to learn so we will just have to learn together.
Thoughts appreciated!!

Here are a few pictures of the children from the Christmas party... 

Katie is the one in the middle. Three songs going on at one time! Katie is more than likely playing Row Your Boat. :)

The children are having a Christmas tree decorating competition. They did really well!

Saturday, March 9, 2013


During the Chinese Spring Festival we took a little vacation to Thailand.  Our ultimate destination was our company's annual conference in Chiang Mai, but first we spent a week with our friends at the beach. Instead of writing a long story I thought I'd post some pictures. I'm not so great at writing anyway.
 Hope you enjoy!

 Our first stop was Phukett. We spent 2 nights there waiting for our friends to arrive so we could all go over to the island together. And we rode elephants!! Pretty cool experience. We bought bananas to feed our elephant and he was really greedy and ate them all in about 5 minutes. :)
 After our ride we watched a little elephant show. Meshea played soccer with this elephant, then we all got "elephant massages." Don't worry, the elephant barely tapped my back. I'm sure it could have ended horribly and this probably wouldn't be allowed in the good ol' USA, but it was fun, it made for a good picture, and I'm still alive!
 Our next stop was Phi Phi Island! When we left Beijing it had been below freezing for about a month so this was a wonderful change of scenery and weather. To get to the island we had to take a 2 1/2 hour ferry ride.
 One day we hiked up to a lookout point. It was pretty miserably hot but the view was worth it. We stayed on the beach on the right side.
 At night the tide went out and the beach grew a lot! Unfortunately you couldn't see the sunrise or sunset from our beach, but it was still beautiful.
 One of Thailand's famous foods is banana roti. They call it a pancake but its not anything like our pancakes. Its basically really thin dough with bananas wrapped inside, fried, and topped with whatever you choose. I tried nutella and sweetened condensed milk. They were both delicious!
 A whole bunch of us went on a half day (that turned into a whole day) snorkeling trip. I've never been snorkeling in the US but I'm sure its much different than in Thailand. Our driver stopped the boat and said, "Ok! Jump in!" And that was all the instruction we got all day. It was a lot of fun, besides our boat almost flipping and throwing Meshea into the ocean. The water was really rough that day.
 After snorkeling they took us to a tiny beach and we had a cook out. Really good food, but then the boat that was supposed to take us back to our island broke down and we were stranded for about 2 hours. We still had fun!
 This is the whole group on Phi Phi. These wonderful friends teach in Nanchang and Taiyuan. We had a great time hearing all about each others semesters and just getting to know each other better. Awesome people!
 Our final stop was Chiang Mai, for the conference. Our first night we ate at Miguels. I had eaten there 3 years ago when I was in Chiang Mai working at a similar conference. That week was when this journey really started for me, so it was really cool to be back in this city and eat delicious Mexican food!
 The last night of conference we had a big banquet at the Shangri La. The food was delicious and Travis Cottrell performed and lead us in song. It was a chance for all of us to get dressed up and, of course, take lots of pictures! It was a great way to close out the conference.

Our very last day in Thailand we went to Tiger Kingdom to play with baby tigers. You could also go in the cage with adult tigers but none of us were quite that adventurous. We got to pet these little guys and feed them.

And that is the end of our adventures! We're now back at school and settled into our teaching routine. Vacation was wonderful and warm, but I was very excited to see all my sweet little Chinese babies again. 
Thanks for reading! See you all soon!