Sunday, August 30, 2009

A new purchase!

Chinese word of the day: 自行车 zì xíng chē.  I will tell you what it means momentarily, but since that's the most exciting part of my post, I will bait you along for awhile with other things.

First, my apartment.  The rooms are getting slightly less empty, and I've found a great place to sit and work, read, and pray: 

Here are the other rooms in my apartment, with a little more TLC than when you last saw them, but still pretty empty:

One major adjustment for me has been living alone.  I have lived in close quarters with other people for the past 7 years, sharing a room for most of that time.  I remember times in grad school, especially, when the only times I was ever alone were in my car or sometimes in my office, which I also shared.  But now, in spite of never having wanted to live alone, I have this big apartment all to myself!  It has its benefits, but I'd rather have roommates.

Now, a random shot of my teammate Lisa and I on campus, drinking soy milk from baggies:

And a shot of the classroom I will be teaching in tomorrow morning:

I haven't actually been in the room, but I stood on a chair and peeked in the window so I had some idea what I'd be working with.  University students in China are split into classes based on their major (e.g. Junior English majors class 1, 2, 3, and 4).  They stay in these classes all four years, and also stay in the same classroom for many of their classes.  So they'll stay put, and I will rotate to the different classes I will be teaching.  Interesting!

Now, finally, the 自行车 :

My new bike!  Hooray!  These are the people at the bike shop that helped me get my new Giant bicycle ready to ride.  Most Chinese bikes are one-speeds, but this shop sells bikes with gears, and they even have helmets!  I'm so excited for the blessing of having this mode of transportation to explore my city and get around campus faster.

My teammate is the one who took my to the bike shop.  We collected stares as foreigners riding through town Chinese-style, with me perched on the back of her bike.  Then, once I got my bike, we went exploring and collected some more stares as the foreigners with the funny bikes and the helmets on our heads wending our way through bumpy, muddy streets.  It was great.  

Dear people of Qufu, please don't steal my bike!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Almost Teaching

I got my teaching schedule!  The department finally decided who is teaching what classes.  I have:

Freshman oral English (2 sections)
Junior writing (2 sections)
Junior video (2 sections)

You may notice some irony here -- how is the girl who never watches movies teaching a movie class?  I will be learning along with my students and getting some help from my movie-savvy teammate.

Regarding my teaching schedule, here are some reflections on ways that China is NOT like the U.S.
1) China maybe flies by the seat of its pants.  I don't think an American department would feel comfortable making their class schedules 3 days before the start of classes, and I don't think American teachers would feel comfortable having only 3 days to plan their courses!

2) China is maybe not as information-hungry as the U.S.  As an American, there are lots of pieces of information I would like to know right now, such as: How many students will I have?  When is the October holiday?  When does the semester end? What does the department expect of me?  

But alas, this information-hungry American will just have to wait.  I have never even met or corresponded with any member of the department.  I have not been given class lists or textbooks.  I don't really know what's going on.  And it's OK!  It will all get figured out, and it's all in His hands.  Here's to a new start -- I'll be teaching my first class at 8 a.m. Monday morning. :)

Friday, August 28, 2009

Plans Can't Keep up with Changes

I think I've already introduced you to the "three ambiguities" we learned about China in our training, but if not, here they are again:

1) Nothing is as it seems.
2) Plans can't keep up with changes.
3) If you're not confused, you're not paying attention.

I got to experience #2 this week.  Our foreign affairs officer called my team leader around 9 p.m. on Wednesday night to tell her that she would take me to the police station at 9 the next morning to complete the paperwork for my residence permit.  So at 9 the next morning, we went over to her office, and (lo and behold), the plan had changed.  She said that the necessary people were out of town, so she would call me later in the afternoon and we would go then.

Later that afternoon, she drove me down to the station and we got everything squared away.  It was a good example for me of how plans here are often made and changed at the last minute.  Once all my paperwork goes through, I'll be an official resident of Qufu!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

New Digs

Chinese word of the day:  jia.  Jia means "home," and the two radicals in the character represent a pig under a roof.  Interesting.

I chose jia as the word of the day because, after six weeks of living out of a suitcase, I finally am in my new home in China.  Hooray!  My arrival in Qufu has been a long time coming, and now that it's here I am getting a little apprehensive about starting outreach and teaching on this campus.  There is so much here that I can't do or understand on my own, which means I have to depend on the Lord and on the people He's placed in my life, especially my two teammates.  Dependency is a good thing, and it will be good for me.

I have a few pictures to share -- join me on my journey to Qufu!  This post is especially for people back home who are curious about my new place and don't mind wading through a long post.  (So basically, this is for you, Mom and Dad. :) )

On Sunday night, we took an 8.5 hour night train from Beijing to Qufu.  The train station was complete chaos: it was oppressively hot, and there was a massive, pushy crowd.  I have heard that the Chinese equivalent of "dog eat dog" is "man eat man," and after spending an hour at the train station, I can see why.  It's every man for himself!  Here are a few pictures from my perch on the top bunk:

We were stacked three high in the "hard sleeper" section.  This was my view down.

Sara got to celebrate her birthday on the middle bunk on a night train in China.  She is another new teacher who will be in my province.

Looking down the aisle from my bed.  I had a great night's sleep and we arrived in Qufu at 7:45 the next morning.

With my teammate Tarah beside our iron horse.

My other teammate, Lisa, getting some noodles with me on the day we arrived in Qufu.

Shoot, I love me some noodles.

My apartment has several big rooms and some basic furnishings.  When I first saw it, it seemed like too much space for not enough stuff.  Hopefully it will start to feel like home soon.

My kitchen.

Here's a market just outside campus.  It's streets like these that make me love China.  

We took a pedicab for a team outing to help me get acquainted with Qufu.  Tarah and I are enjoying the bumpy ride.

So there's the beginning!  The rest of this week will be devoted to settling in and doing team-building activities.  When I know my class schedule, I will start lesson planning.  Please be lifting up my students, who will be arriving on campus very soon.

Last Days in Beijing

Training in Beijing finished with two days of sessions for all ELIC teachers.  Up to this point it had just been the 50-some new teachers and families, but hundreds more descended on the RuYi hotel last week.  During this time, I was shopping, packing, and preparing for the last leg of my journey to Qufu.  See below for my last couple days in Beijing!

Whaaaaat?  What is a Waverly, Iowa sweatshirt doing in the market by the Beijing Zoo???  It would be like finding a Qufu, China shirt in some random shop in New York.  I went to school in Waverly for two years, so of course I had to take a picture.

This picture is also from zoo market.  I was looking for shoes.  Picture this stall times a million and you have a good idea of what the market was like.

Some friends and I went to Houhai, the lake district in Beijing.  The night life in Houhai includes dozens of middle aged couples ballroom dancing!   There were also people jump-roping, playing hackey sack, and lounging in couches by the lake while live music pumped from the bars. 

A view of a fun street in Houhai.

I finished my time in Beijing playing telephone pictionary with some friends in the hotel while I waited for my 9 p.m. bus to the train station.  This was a great way to end the 5 weeks I've spent with these awesome people.  We laughed a lot and then prayed together over our new beginnings all around China.

Saying goodbye to Jenn, my roommate, before boarding the bus.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Chew Food

I'm in Qufu! I would like to take this opportunity to educate you on the proper pronunciation of my new town.  It's "choo foo," as in "chew food" without the D.

We arrived at about 7:45 this morning after an uneventful night train ride from Beijing.  I want to do some cleaning and take a nap, so this is not a real update.  More to come later...

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Won't you be my neighbor?

Chinese word of the day: 北京 Beijing.  Beijing means "north capital."  (This is because it is the capital, and it is in the north).  The character 北 (bei) is also in the name of the street I live on, Beiwa Lu.  Here is a shot of Beiwalu (A) in relation to the rest of Beijing, with the city center marked at Tiananmen Square (B): 

And now a few shots to show you my life in Beijing for the past four weeks.  Here is Beiwa Lu in front of my hotel.  The RuYi is on the left:

The Wu Mart across the street, where I get groceries, laundry detergent, and cookies:

My fruit vendor:

And now, a little something special.  You suffice to be hot?

My team leader, Lisa, is here in Beijing now, too, and I got to have dinner with her yesterday.  Tomorrow, all the rest of the returning teachers will arrive, and the RuYi will be overrun with foreigners.  I'm starting to feel a little sad to be leaving Beijing and the friends I've made here.  It's only been 5 weeks since I said my goodbyes and packed my bags to go to Colorado, and only 4 weeks since I packed my bags to come here.  This weekend I'll pack up for one final journey -- my move to Qufu!  Please be thinking of me as I make this final transition.

Monday, August 17, 2009


Eating all your meals family-style is nice, but germs spread fast.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Great Wall

We went to the Great Wall of China yesterday.

I love being able to type that sentence!  For any of you who will travel in China, please make it a priority to experience the Great Wall.  I first went in January 2006 on my 10-day trip to China.  It gave me goosebumps to watch the wall stretch out endlessly on both sides of me, knowing that it was hundreds of years old and thousands of miles long.  I read about it in history books, but never expected to be standing on it myself!  Here is me at the Great Wall back in 2006: 

And here is me at the Great Wall in 2009:

It was on that trip in 2006 that I first became interested in China.  Although I didn't know it at the time, the trip was one of the ways that God set me on a path to return here to serve for a longer period of time.  He gave me a glimpse of the awesome things that He is doing here, and a vision for how I could come be a part of that.  Thank you to my supporters, who have made it possible for me to return!

Friday, August 14, 2009

One Year Later

Think back to one year ago this week.  What was happening in Beijing?

The summer Olympics!  They started on 8/8/08, and on 8/13/09 I had a chance to go walk around the Olympic Green.  Only one year too late.  It is now a full-time tourist attraction, and if you're willing to shell out 30 or 50 kuai, you can go inside the buildings. (We didn't.)  One of the girls I went with, Jenn, actually attended some of the Olympics last year, so she gave us the inside scoop on how the place looked during the Games.  Here's what it looks like now:

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Relative Simplicity

I've been doing my laundry by hand here, since for some reason the cheapest laundry around is 4 kaui per item (about 60 cents).  Anyway, I did a whole bunch the other day and was folding my laundry on my bed.  I got it all stacked up, and my thought was, "Shoot!  I have a TON of shirts!"
There they are, all 15 of them (about half of the shirts I brought to China).  This is a ton of shirts??  Not compared to how many I used to have!

Somehow, in having to reduce my belongings to two 50-pound suitcases and a carry-on, my standard of abundance has been re-set.  It was hard to decide what to take to China and what to give away or throw away.  It was also a lot of work.  But now, it feels freeing to live more simply, with just the things I need and not a lot of extra junk.

Having said that, I still live with far more stuff than most of the world.  It's tempting to pat myself on the back for living simply, but take a look at some of the mess we trainees hauled across the ocean:

And that's just a fraction of it!  So I may be getting a taste of the joys of simplicity, but it's definitely relative simplicity.  

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Beautiful Beijing

Chinese word of the day: 漂亮 piao liang.  Paio liang means beautiful!

When I left Iowa, I thought I was saying goodbye to blue skies and green grass for the next eleven months.  I had heard that Beijing was so smoggy that some people use headlights at midday.  (I believe it.)

However, I have been blessed to discover that there are many beautiful, natural areas around here.  Yesterday was free so we went to Badachu, a park outside Beijing with a small mountain, a chairlift, eight holy Buddhist sites, and, yes, an alpine slide.  Today after class I went with a few friends to a park just three bus stops away.  I didn't realize such a pleasant oasis was less than a mile from the bustle of the neighborhood we're staying in.

The best part was clear blue skies and sunshine for two days in a row.  It wasn't even humid today -- so nice.  The Internet is not letting me post pictures at the moment, so let me give you a picture of the things I saw at the park today:

Weeping willows -- dozens of them!
The skyline reflected in still water.
Families drifting by in paddleboats.
White birds circling from trees across the pond.
-doing tai chi
-peeing (only the under two crowd)
-playing an awesome Asian instrument
-taking pictures
-posing for pictures
-talking on the phone
-playing cards

It was a relaxing couple days and refreshing to my soul.  Aw, Beijing, why you so beautiful?

Update: Pictures!

A few of the girls at Badachu.  Notice that Sara has already adopted the Asian sunbrella.

Chairlift up the hill

Detail of one of the Buddhist shrines

Heading toward a bridge on the alpine slide downhill.  So fun!

Doing some homework at my new-found neighborhood park.  Blue sky and all!

Love the willows at this park.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Only in China...

Every day in China, you see something you don't see every day.  That's one thing I love about living here -- there's always something unusual or interesting to look at as you're walking down the street.  Sometimes it's the Chinglish translations on T-shirts and signs everywhere.  ("Go to the beach to need a breathe"?  "I do, do feel that I do, do will miss you much"?)  Sometimes it's people sleeping in odd places around noontime as they take their mid-morning rest.  This morning, my "only in China" moment was looking out my window and seeing a balding, middle aged man practicing sword fighting on his roof.

That is all. :)

Friday, August 7, 2009

Summer Palace

Chinese word of the day: Yihe Yuan 颐和园. Yihe Yuan is the name of the Summer Palace, a popular Beijing tourist attraction. (There were about 40,000 people there the day we visited, according to a sign we saw. There is no shortage of people in China.) This is a beautiful, wooded area on a small lake where the imperial family would go to relax. In fact, many of the beautiful buildings and gardens were funded by an empress who diverted funding from the Chinese navy to beautify her summer resort. I visited there yesterday and liked it a lot! Pictures below:

The gentleman on the right is playing the arhu, a traditional instrument, while all the other old dudes sing along. We came upon them in a pavilion on Longevity Hill.

Another random instrument player, this time playing the flute in the woods off the path.

I liked this hazy view of the island.

There are dozens of classical buildings like this, serving purposes ranging from dressing rooms to temples to places to watch the moon.

The largest building was this Buddhist tower overlooking the lake.

Here is the view from the tower. There are many, many more buildings that aren't pictured here.

We took a boat out to the island and then walked back to the hill on this bridge. It is called "Seventeen Arch Bridge." The name comes from the fact that it has seventeen arches. (I learned this from my tour map.)


I will never cease to be amazed at the footwear deemed appropriate by Chinese tourists for a long day of hiking and walking.

Things are going well in Beijing. I ate hot pot last night with our two student guides from the Amazing Race. We haven't had a chance to meet very many Chinese students, so it was nice to see them again. Our Asian Culture and Communication class is over, and we start our teaching classes next week. I'll send you off with the "Three Ambiguities" of living in China, which we learned in our culture class.
1) Nothing is as it seems.
2) Plans can't keep up with changes.
3) If you're not confused, you're not paying attention.