Wednesday, June 24, 2009

When it rains, it pours

Sometimes it all seems to pile up.

When I logged onto the internet today--I quickly found that all Google-related web services are now blocked over here. This means Gmail, Gtalk, Google Search, Google Translate and a billion other services that I use on a daily basis.

So--to keep count, here's the roundup of items blocked by our lovely Great Wall:
-Google and all its wonders
-Blogger (ok--that's through Google, but I'm still listing it separately)
-MySpace (occasionally, when they're in the mood)
-Twitter (I don't really care about that one)

the list probably goes on and on--these are just the ones that I've noticed. I'm not placing any personal feelings about this blockage on here--just sharing that it's blocked. Also--that I obviously am able to function despite the block.

Finally--I received this warning from the US Embassy yesterday. I thought I would share:

June 19, 2009

The Department of State alerts U.S. citizens to the quarantine measures imposed by the Government of China in response to the 2009-H1N1 pandemic that may affect travel to China. This Travel Alert expires on September 30, 2009.

Current quarantine measures in China include placing arriving passengers who exhibit fever or flu-like symptoms into seven-day quarantine. Although the proportion of arriving Americans being quarantined remains low, the random nature of the selection process increases the uncertainty surrounding travel to China. The selection process focuses on those sitting in close proximity to another traveler exhibiting fever or flu-like symptoms or on those displaying an elevated temperature if arriving from an area where outbreaks of 2009-H1N1 have occurred. We have reports of passengers arriving from areas where outbreaks have occurred (including the U.S. and Mexico) being placed in precautionary quarantine simply because they registered slightly elevated temperatures.

In some instances, children have been separated from their parents because either the parent or the child tested positive for 2009-H1N1 and was placed in quarantine for treatment. This situation presents the possibility of Chinese medical personnel administering medications to minors without first having consulted their parents.

The Department of State has received reports about unsuitable quarantine conditions, including the unavailability of suitable drinking water and food, unsanitary conditions, and the inability to communicate with others.

Travelers to China are reminded that all foreign travelers, including U.S. citizens, are obliged to follow local procedures regarding quarantines and any other public health-related measures. The U.S. Embassy will be unable to influence the duration of stay in quarantine for affected travelers. The Chinese government will not compensate people for lost travel expenses. Travelers to China are urged to consider purchasing travel insurance to protect against losses in the event they are quarantined.

For more information on U.S. Government policy during a pandemic, and for travel safety information, please see the State Department’s “Pandemic/Avian Influenza” and “Remain in Country” fact sheets on Further information about 2009-H1N1 Influenza, including steps you can take to stay healthy, can be found at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control website at, the U.S. Government pandemic influenza website at, and the World Health Organization website at

I guess I'll just say that I'm wondering if maybe I should've come home for the summer after all. It's gonna be a long day!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Worth a thousand words

Everything is still blocked up over here, so I can't post pics to my blog. Maybe eventually we'll get access back, but I'm not holding my breath. If you'd like to see pics of my latest adventures, use these links to see my facebook albums:

Hiking and Camping on the GREAT WALL!!!!

My Birthday:

Monday, June 8, 2009

Change and other things

The rain has been falling all day and outside it smells like swimming pools and cigarettes and weed-wacker exhaust; although as far as I can tell, cigarettes are the only legitimate odor present. I've been living for the past weeks under my mosquito net--which comes in a tent-like structure with pretty pretty cheap purple lace as an accent. Now that climbing in and out of bed requires an extensive zipping and rezipping process, most of my day-to-day belongings are found sprawled at and around my feet--my laptop and camera, a book by Capote and another by E.B. White, two thin theology books by Bonhoeffer and Barbara Brown Taylor, an orange highlighter, the second season of 30 Rock dvds, a "Survival Chinese" pocket dictionary, a few socks, a few one yuan bills, a packet of tissues, my cell phone, three pens, a ponytail holder with two bobby pins attached, and an empty water bottle. Strange bedfellows, I know...but I'm most comfortable with a moderate level of clutter surrounding me.

Summer is only just beginning to pull its punches and show its hand. I keep the refridgerator stocked with water and jello, fresh fruit and yogurt...because the idea of actually cooking anything seems a little overly ambitious these days. As I've mentioned many times before, Wuhan is one of China's four "furnace cities"--and the heat is a wet, heavy, humid, air sapping heat. It hasn't totally hit yet--only strong hints of the summer to come. So far I've kept my goal of no a/c--but the fan has been spinning at full speed for a few weeks--so it's a relief to turn it off for a few hours as the rain pours down outside.

The school year is finally winding down and I'm preparing for another change in pace. A few months ago I began looking around Wuhan at the other employment options here--after two years of teaching with my university I wondered if I should consider the jobs in town that offer a higher salary or a different type of work. After considering several different options, I have finally accepted a position with a training school here in town. It's a company that provides English language learning for students, business people, and anyone else who wants to improve their English ability. I'll be working a little bit more than my schedule at the university--but I'll earn a salary that allows me to totally support myself and forgo the fundraising I've been dependent on for the past two years. With the economic climate being what it is in the US (and everywhere), I'm really blessed to be able to do the Work that I do and still earn a living.

And so at the end of this month I'll be moving from my shady green neighborhood and my cute apartment at the top of the stairs to somewhere new. I'll be looking at apartments soon, but am guessing that I'll be much closer to the center of town in a much more urban setting. I'm both excited and sad. I love my little apartment here, with the preschool/kindergarten below and the trees rustling beneath my window. I love the sounds of the street sweeper in the mornings and the wail of the recycling man pushing his cart down the alley. All the birds in the trees on the hill. Even the radio broadcasts projected every afternoon through the campus PA system. I'll miss it here.

But, change happens. I'm really thankful that I'll still be in close contact with my students and will still be able to Reach Out to them--maybe even more effectively since I will no longer be an employee with their school and can have more freedom to Hang Out with them. I'll still be doing exactly what I came here to do--just with a different job to pay for me to do it!

My mom used to say that I had the hardest time with change. And of course it was true. If we changed the type of twinkle lights on our Christmas tree, it would bring tears. I got moody if our furniture was rearranged. I cried miserably each time we moved towns or houses, each time we changed schools, each time life shifted. I hated the instability of my early life.

I think about that all the time now. I used to pray so often that Father would give me a life of stability. A life where I could get married and settled and never move again. Never make my kids move. And now I laugh when I think that I've moved in and out of places every year for the past 7 years. (ok ok--last year I didn't move apartments, but I had to pack up all my things for the summer and move them out--and for four years of those 7 I was in college and just moving dorm rooms--but it all counts) I laugh when I think how I'm so grateful for it all now--the changing houses and schools and churches and lives--so grateful that my habit of clinging disparately to one set thing was over and over again challenged.

Don't get me wrong, I still struggle with change in a big way--I don't even live in the U.S. but I feel really sad that Conan has moved from New York to L.A. and has a new set and new time slot!

But there is a difference in the tears that I once cried over change and the tears that I now cry. I still feel it deeply--but no longer despairingly. Because I know that G_d took all those changes in my life and gave me strength. I know that the adaptability I was given through each change eventually brought me here to China. I know that He blessed me with this awesome life that I lead--full of changes and an unknown future--that to many seems quite unstable. I accept all this change because I know that He DID answer those prayers of my youth, not quite with an unchanging way of life, but with an unchanging Presence. The stability of His Spirit. The stability of His guidance. The stability of His Purpose.

The reality of life--or at least, the reality of the life that I've been Called to in this moment--is that in order to grasp the stability of my Father, I have to give up the stability of location. I have to be open to the new places and changes He brings my way. I have to detach from these Things I've come to love--my apartment, my schedule, my neighborhood--in order to stay attached to the One I love. I'm ok with that now. I know it's worth it.

So I've committed to a third year here in Wuhan--and it should be quite interesting. Right now I'm letting myself be a little sad over moving and changing--but I'll be sure to update you when the sadness passes and the excitement hits! Because I begin teaching in July, I will not be returning to the U.S. this summer. Instead I'm planning on taking a month long vacation around Christmas--after two years away from my family during the holidays, I'm ready to return to a Tennessee Christmas! So please keep me in your Thoughts--this means that I'll have spent a year and a half in China without a trip home--which is an emotional adjustment to make when most of us come for 10-11 months and then go home each summer. I know I can do it--I just need His help as I do. A year and a half is a long time to go without seeing your family at all. But I think that knowing I get to be with them for Christmas will make it worth it! (although I'm going to go crazy if I don't get to see my sister and brother-in-law SOMETIME in the next year or so--if y'all read this--I'm coming to Germany if I have to sell everything that I own!!!)

End note--I still can't post pics or links via this proxy site--Blogger is still shut down over here (along with YouTube, Myspace, Twitter, and countless others). So if it ever comes back I'll fill up my blog w/pics. Until then I'll just have to be really really descriptive! Love to you all!