Wednesday, September 26, 2007

One Month Chinaversary

I have been here for ONE WHOLE MONTH...and I've made it! I had lunch today with 2 of my new Chinese friends and as I sat there chatting with them, I felt blown away. So much has happened in one month! Thanks to all for your Thoughts and sweet messages to me over the past month. The Support from home has given me strength and joy in this first month. I can only praise Father for getting to be here, to see him work and to live this life!

Here are some pics of my new world.

My apartment building--good ol' number 19.
View from my bedroom window--the red-tiled roof is a kindergarten.

View to the right.Street from my apt to the main road through campus.
Some Scenes from around Campus:
Notice that all the girls use umbrellas on hot days to shade their fair skin from the sun.
Alot of girls hitch rides on bikes like this

Not sure the story of this, but so far I know it's the remnant of Cultural Rev. destructionA study park on campus
Close-up of above park
Our front gate
Right outside of the front gate--the market is down this street

Hanging out with the twins, Kunduz, Yultuz, Ramilah, Fawn, and Sarah

The freshman all spend the first weeks of school in prep for the army.
Answering Dyl and Nikki's question: McD's has the 6 yuan menu-which ALMOST equals a dollar
This pic didn't turn out--but it's green pea pie!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Western Embrace

Last weekend I gave in to my “American urges” as one dear friend likes to say. It began Friday night. I had a terrible time trying to get across town to a girls meeting and ended up arriving an hour late (My thoughts on the bus—“Hmmm…did that say Yangtze River? Something’s not right. Where am I again? Ohhhh…I should have gotten off 3 stops ago. Niiiiccccce.”). Exhausted and hungry and mildly annoyed, Fawn and I walked a while after the meeting thinking about where to eat. Pizza hut was somebody’s suggestion and we both agreed. What a relief!

Pizza Huts in China are near to fine-dining experiences—well, compared to many on-the-street places. There’s mood music, hosts escort you to your seat, there are place settings, full menus, and dimmed lights. Sitting there with Fawn as we continued to get to know each other almost felt like a date—but probably just because, let’s face it, she’s my newest crush.

Later on that night we ended up at VOX, a ‘hangout’ where a lot of foreigners gather on weekends. It was an interesting mix of young teachers and students from China, Africa, Europe, Wisconsin…you name it. They play 5-year-outdated hip-hop and people can relax, meet each other, speak English etc…It was a fun escape for the night.

Then on Sunday, I continued the slide down the slippery slope of Western retreat. I went to a nearby bookstore and spent a few hours browsing their English selection, bought a Chinese copy of The Little Prince (makes me think of my big sister—and now I have it in English, French and Chinese!), searched in vain for the Chronicles of Narnia (they have some CS Lewis over here), and humored some students wanting to use me to practice their English.

While there, I met another man from Africa, who is teaching French at Wuhan University. We chatted for a few minutes, and after I asked him where he was from, he asked about me, “Where are you from?”
Me: “Where do you think?” (I wasn’t being coy—he made me guess earlier)
Him: “Hmm…I am not sure. Not the States, I know.”
Me: “Really? You don’t think so?”
Him: “No. Perhaps you are from Great Britain?”

The same thing happened to me countless times in France and now has followed me here. I promise, I do not try to come across as anything other than American. Respectful and culturally sensitive, yes…but still American. Maybe it is because I speak French to them and they assume that Americans are incapable of learning another language (thank you, Madame Burns!!!). My mom’s side of the family looks very European in their facial features, so maybe that has something to do with it. It’s probably just because my Southern accent is different from what they hear on TV. Anyway, it’s interesting.

It was upon leaving the bookstore that it happened. FULL immersion into all that is wrong from the West. I couldn’t help it—I walked out of the store exit and the Evil was right there, staring me in the face, illuminating my path, dazzling my eyes. Golden Arches.

Reader, I ate there.

After 3 weeks of mostly Chinese food, I didn’t just want those french fries—I desired them. It overpowered me. I hadn’t eaten all day and had a long bus ride to Fawn’s in front of me, so I ordered a chicken snack wrap, fries and a coke.

I don’t even eat McDonald’s in the US! It’s disgusting to me there. But the ease of a place that understands my order, that is more affordable and fast than Pizza Hut, and that tastes familiar and American is very appealing to me here.

What can I say—I guess I’m lovin it?

Friday, September 14, 2007

The Day to Day

The students have all begun classes and campus is filled and bustling, but I won't actually begin teaching until October 8th. I've received my course load and am really excited about it. I will teach two classes of PhD students (much older than I!) English Writing and four freshmen classes of English Pronunciation (similar to 'Hooked on Phonics'). I'm nervous about the freshmen--if they don't know how to pronounce English words, how will they be able to understand the words I am speaking?

My days are mostly free until Oct--which has been nice, but I would rather be teaching. I would like to travel, but I'm grounded in Wuhan until the police station approves my residence stamp for my passport (probably next week). I'm thrilled that Fawn Bauer and I both have Monday's off, so we are hoping to travel together with our long weekends. Fawn's been here for a semester and mostly knows what she's doing, and I think we are quickly becoming great friends. She's incredibly hilarious with a dry humor and perfect comedic timing, and I feel incredibly lucky that she's in Wuhan.

But with no travel options yet, I usually wake up around 9 or 10 and spend a little time on the phone with friends using their Skype credit or phone cards (it's evening for them). It's pretty pricy to call home from here--but there are good deals on calling to China from the US, so I'm dependent on their generosity. I'm pretty sure I'm buying my own internet service next month, so my Skype will return!!!

I go to the market and buy lunch from street vendors or pick up fresh vegetables for home. I don't have an oven (the Chinese don't cook with ovens at all), but I'm getting pretty good with a wok. I love walking to market--I can buy bananas by the banana, not the bunch! A week's worth of veggies costs maybe US$2!

And now I've found my favorite vendors. There is a woman selling leek-filled fried dumplings for 1 yuan (maybe US$.15 for a bowl). She likes to touch my curly hair. There are two young girls with spicy fried potatoes who know how to ask "how are you?" but nothing else. There's the bread-guy who offers me cigarettes.

Any market endeavor includes lots of staring, whispers and giggles in my direction. Several fathers have had their small sons walk up to me and say "halloo". I smile and shake their hands and try to see if they know other words--but it always ends with them shyly running away.

The people here are so kind, so quick to laugh, so bright. The girls wear bright colors and heels and always look pulled together. The nice taxi drivers have tried to chat--one I think asked how old I was (maybe? there were numbers involved and pointing at my face), another offered a cigarette (makes me wish I smoked so I could accept the offers!). At grocery stores, the workers walk up and 'present' items to me--holding a shampoo bottle Vanna-White-Style--"ahh yes...shampoo..." as I motion 'no', they turn it over and (I assume) read to me off of the label. "Ting bu dong, xie xie" (I don't understand, thank you). I move down the aisle and the ritual continues (so--it turns out that this is their job and not an act of kindness--but they're very friendly). Any attempt to speak the language is met with laughter and good humor. When I leave I think I hear them imitating my pronunciation. I'm ok with it if they're just making fun of me--why should I expect anything else!

I made another friend on campus the other day. There is a man from Mali (in Africa) working on a PhD in soil science and we spoke for some time, mostly in English but also in French (his official native language) for about 15 minutes! He is a professor of agriculture in his country and has studied around the world (Russia, France, elsewhere in Africa).

My afternoons are random. Some time figuring out the city, I've babysat a little (the 3-month-old daughter of another American at a nearby campus), some time with Adam and Jeremy, some time exploring campus, working out lesson plans, cleaning, talking on the phone, riding my bike etc... For dinner I cook or reheat lunch, meet friends and try out restaurants, or go to the staff caf.

So that's life for now. I'm pretty sure that this is the calm before the storm--next week a girl's group is relocating to my apt and Fawn and I are hoping to become close with them and encourage Family possibilities. Every Friday afternoon, the foreign girls meet for support and Thought. On Sundays there are Family gatherings throughout the city. And when I begin teaching, I'll have "English conversation hour" in my apt for students.

There is so much opportunity here for Connections with students--so much that it can feel overwhelming as I see it looming in front of me. I keep Thinking, "Dad, you better be the one doing this, b/c it's way to big for me." I remember the Thought of M__ on Sinai Mountain "...if you don't go with us, don't send us up from here. How will anyone know you are pleased with your people unless you go with us?"

I'll confess that I have a very strong temptation to stay locked in my apartment, under my covers, and only come out to teach and eat. My friend Jonathan Harrison is in another city in China, and he wrote about that urge on his blog ( I had to share it:

"You ever slept to get away from the world? I hope not. I guess its a form of alcoholism. Although the consequences are a lot more beneficial. I wouldn't advise it though, it starts to become an addictive behavior. You know, it gets to a point where you can't go 24 hours without sleeping just a little. That is when you know you need help."

It would be very easy to go inward, to be a recluse, a Jonah, and forget my Purpose. But my Book just keeps showing me my Dad--who Sends, who shoves us out of the nest and pushes us Outward--over and over again.

I will say that it is only by the strength of all your Thoughts for me and his Promise of Help that I'll be able to give the love and the time to others that I should. Because it's too easy to be introverted, to be lazy, to be tired...and I really don't want to give into it at all.

I'll try to get some pics of campus and Wuhan loaded next time!

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Visual Aids

Saying Goodbye

Dee helping to stuff my suitcase
Saying bye to Dee and Tim

At the airport--fellow China Workers Jonathan and Beth
A sweet goodbye from Valerie
A sad goodbye with my Momma
A view from the window (that's for you, flightless Tim)
To Market, To Market, to buy a fat hog....
The freshmarket down the street

One of the street vendors
Jeremy trying to haggle

raw meat...uggh
These fish were still alive--they were flopping around on the floor of the market

Home Again, Home Again, jiggity jog.

My living room

Another view Bedroom

Kitchen Office and enclosed balcony
Decorative baseboard throughout apt
Crown molding!!!!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

A litte a' this, a little a' that...more notes from Wuhan life

An Upper Room--Sunday afternoon, I was Lucky to be invited with some of the Friends here to attend a Meeting with a registered Group in Wuhan. They are allowed to meet and Celebrate together, but only foreigners are allowed to gather—the doors must be closed to the Chinese—who have their own registered Meeting. Anyway, it was a lovely meeting. There are many Brothers from different countries in Africa here in Wuhan who led most of the meeting. The Group is made up of English teachers, students from India, Africa and all sorts of other foreigners here for one reason or another. The music was so filled with Celebration and Thanks and was just beautiful. As we met, I looked at the closed doors and closed windows, and I remembered another time when a gathering met in a locked room. A Visitor appeared among them and revealed Truth to them—and yesterday I couldn't help but Ask for the same thing.

A New Friend--As I was reflecting on the meeting and walking home on campus here, I passed a girl eating a pomegranate--which is a fruit that I love and rarely find in the US. We eyed each other as we walked past, and when I turned to look back over my shoulder at her, she was looking back at me. I motioned to her fruit, awkwardly trying to "say"/motion something like "what is that?", assuming that she couldn't speak English. She and I began talking and it turned out that she is an English major here at the university!!! She's a sophomore and she spoke English quite well. She asked if she could come up to my apt, so I had her up and showed her some pictures of America and we spoke in English for a while.

I can't tell you how thrilled I was to have made a new friend. I invited her back for more English practice on Monday, and she arrived 20 minutes early with a bag of tangerines with green peels (they look like limes—but taste like a sour orange) and a pomegranate for me! She's so sweet. So we sat together and shared oreos, oranges, coca-cola and stories about our families and our hometowns. Our friendship continues to grow, and it has been interesting to say the least. There are some cultural differences that I've had to learn in our conversations (like not eating everything that you're offered!), but overall, the language of friendship is so strong--it's just amazing how it transcends all cultural barriers!

The "randomness" of our meeting has again reminded me of how BIG He is and of how in control He is of my time here. My cup runneth over.

Fit--Have I mentioned that my apt is on the 5th floor of our building?! There's obviously no elevator--so I'm getting quite a workout! My muscles are still adjusting to all this--we rode our bikes for about 35 minutes to the college across the lake from us for lunch with all the Wuhanites and the hills almost ripped my legs apart!!! It definately burned!! My bike is just a cheap little thing without gears or anything--but I have to confess that I love it!! I paid 150 yuan for it--which I would guess is about $20. It has a wire basket in front for my purse and books (all the bikes here have baskets--it's so cute). Anyway, between the bike riding and the climbing all these stairs and the heat and the walking to bus stops and standing on buses--I'd better be getting fit! I don't actually care about it except that I would like to be able to make it up my stairs someday without losing my breath...and would like to be able to bike around campus without feeling wobbly-legged afterwards! That's all I'm askin for, if shapely legs come along with that, then I'll of course take it too :)

The Shift Outward--It's been so wonderful gathering with all the other new foreigners and sharing our new experiences together...and I've noticed something very exciting at work. As we first began to get to know each other, we all shared OUR story of how we each ended up in China, and in a sense we were each very self-focused: "This is what He did in Me, this is why I came, this is what I think, this is what I want from this year or two in my life" etc...

But a shift has already begun as we each live our lives in this city, in this country. We're seeing the Need, we're feeling His longing for these people, we're beginning to fall in love with them, and we're beginning to Hope for and Think of those He sent us For, those He wants to know Him. And it's becoming less about our own stories and more about theirs. Or maybe more about His.

Please keep us all in your Thoughts.

I'll post pictures asap.