Friday, April 30, 2010

It's coming...

True and visible signs of Spring.

The pear trees are starting to bloom.

The red bushes (not sure what they are) are getting red.  The grass is still unsure.

The birds are hanging outside in their cages. Yes, that's what you are looking at!

Pretty girls get dressed up for the Spring Banquet.

And...I am not wearing long underwear!  Thankfully, no picture of that!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Oh my!

From this.......

To this.....

How did we get so lucky?
May the next two years go slowly.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

What I ate for dinner.

We went out for dinner the other night.  We were taking a friend to Elisabeth's play performance and the appropriate thing to do is dinner before hand.  Our other friend met us and told us that she thought there was a Sichuan restaurant near by where we could get a taxi to the international school.

So off we went to

Which turned out to be Hot Pot and not Sichuan.

We had these spices- garlic and ginger and more!

And cooked tofu and meat and vegetables in this hot pot right on the table.

On our way out, we saw this....

and this....and I wasn't sorry we hadn't ordered them!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Mi4 Mi4 Hua1 Yuan2

We know that we are blessed and privileged to live overseas.  One of our greatest blessings is our school - the ShenYang  International School.  This school has been great for Elisabeth and for us.  The commitment of the teacher's to their students is amazing.  We are very thankful.
Last semester, two of the teacher's decided to do a play.  They came up with a script for The Secret Garden.  They had tryouts for the play (but not for specific parts).   Elisabeth got Mary, the main character.  She had mixed feelings about this, as she knew she would have to be at every practice as Mary is in almost every scene.  Elisabeth also wanted to play soccer in the Spring and that would be a lot of after school activity.  She worked hard, kept her grades up and just did a great job.  We are really proud of her.
So after many months of practice, Thursday was the first night of the play.  They did a total of three performances and all were just so excellent. The cast was multi-cultural- American, Korean-American, Korean, Indian.  It was just a great night and we are so proud of all the students and the teachers.
Pictures below.

Announcements were made in English, Korean and Chinese.

Mrs. Medlock and Mary

"What?  I don't have an Ayah to dress me?"

Mrs. Medlock, Mr. Pitcher and Mr. Craven.

Mary and Colin

Mary and Martha (not the biblical sisters!)  The girl who played Martha was just a hoot.  Really expressive and funny.  Great Yorkshire accent!

Colin, Dickon and Mary.

Colin and Mr. Craven

Claps and cheers to all!

What a wonderful evening!

Friday, April 23, 2010

It's Spring.

We've had some serious signs of Spring in the last few days!  We are down to one jacket and one layer of long john's.  We've actually cracked our windows a few times.  And look!

Forsythia!  One of my favorite bushes.  When we lived in Germany, I used to cut it and use it for an Easter tree.  It really warmed my heart to see it here.  The pear trees are starting to bloom also.  Spring is very short here so we'll enjoy the blooms while we can!
Speaking of Spring- those who guessed that the China Culture test below was a scarf to protect from dust and/or pollution were correct.  China has a huge dust problem because of deforestation.  Our city does not get hit as strongly as some other cities or even countries.  South Korea gets hit pretty hard with yellow dust.
  People wear masks here year round because of pollution, dust and cold.  The scarves are patterned but sheer and people can see through them.  It's usually women who wear them or children.

The first time I saw one, I was a little taken aback!  Some of the scarves are very dark and it looked odd seeing a woman who I thought couldn't see riding her bicycle.
I'd sure love to know the secret of getting little kids to wear them!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Day of Mourning

Today China will mourn their earthquake dead.  All entertainment venues are closed.  Elisabeth learned a valuable culture lesson as the first performance of her school play was cancelled today.  It is re-scheduled for tomorrow afternoon.  It was a good and right decision on the parts of the school authorities.

Read more here about the earthquake   and pray for the people of Qinghai today.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

So what's on our plate this week and one more culture test!

Some teaching and some learning and some activity!
Chinese school is every day.  We get up, finish any homework and head off on our bicycles about 20-25 minutes across the city.  We are in class from 9:00 - 12:00 every day.  
Yesterday was an interesting day.  There was a notice up that the water would be off from 7AM until 10PM.  Since we were caught off guard last week when they turned off our water and electricity, we were determined to be better prepared this time.  We filled up tubs and pots.  We got up at 5AM and showered and made coffee.  We filled our bathtub and did all essential bathroom activity.  When we left at 8AM, the water was still on.  It was raining and it rained hard all day.  The water never went off!  We were afraid that it would be turned off today so we got up early again.  The water has been on all day!
We were glad to have the water on because we have a special Chinese class at our house on Mondays.  We learn stories and vocabulary that we don't learn in our Chinese classes.  It's fun class taught by a Chinese woman with the same world view that we have.  
Teaching is another thing on our plate this week.  Paul was able to teach twice this Sunday at two different places.  Both places were full and his teaching was well received.  I teach ESL once a week at the international school.  The kids are fun and I really enjoy doing it.
This week has lots of activity!  We have a few meetings.  This week is the school play.  The play is The Secret Garden and Elisabeth has the role of Mary.  We are totally excited for her and for the other kids in the play.    I have to bake 10 dozen oatmeal cookies in my mini-oven!  They will be sold at intermission.

So, one more culture test.

What is going on in this picture?  What are the women wearing?  Why?  Guess in the comment section.  BTW, comments are moderated so your comment might not show up right away.

Friday, April 16, 2010

So what is it? Plus,some glamour shots!

It's a school.  The Hui minority Secondary School.  The Hui are a large Muslim minority that are fairly integrated into Han Society. The school is government run and I don't know if Han Chinese (majority group)  go there as well.
 We often eat at this Hui Restaurant.  Look at the Arabic and Muslim symbols on the sign.

You really have to look hard at the picture, but this Hui woman is wearing a veil.  The Hui follow many but not all Islamic practices.  They don't eat pork but they serve and drink alcohol.  Notice the stacks of beer bottles in the blue boxes.  Many people here like to buy their meat at the Muslim butchers because they are pretty clean and the meat tends to be really fresh. 
Until we moved here, I was unaware of how many Muslims were here.  Just some  new facts about China.

So, in case you were wondering about our own assimilation into Chinese culture...let me show you  two  pictures.

Chinese family driving home from work or school or somewhere.  Yes, that is child on that little motorcycle and no, no one wears a helmet.

Here is our version of the family car!  Cycling in China is actually  quite dangerous and you just don't see that many kids on bikes.  It's not unusual for  kids, girls friends or other friends on the backs of bikes. So when we go out,  E. often rides on the back of Paul's bike.  She does have a bike but on a wet rainy night prefers the back of his bike.

Just one more glamour shot.

When I looked at this picture, the first thing that came to mind was "But I don't know nothing about birthin no babies."  Line from GWTW, in case you didn't know.  We just look like we are about to give birth to our bicycle baskets.  But seriously, our raincapes are awesome!  Total coverage, including whatever we have in our baskets. Just one more thing to love about China!


Monday, April 12, 2010

Magic and reality.

A few post ago I used the word "magic" in describing China.  Those breathtaking moments where you know you are living somewhere really special.
Last night, we had one of those moments.  I was cooking dinner and glanced out our back window.  We live on the sixth floor of our building.
We saw something being set up in the complex across the street from us.
It looked like champagne classes in a heart shape.  Here a man is pouring water in each glass.

All the neighbors came to watch as they put in water and candles.

Some people pulled out a table and started playing cards.

Then when the sun went down....

The lights came up!  Magic!

It got too dark for me to take more pictures of the bride and groom, but there was clapping and cheering and hugging and even a little kissing!  The last things is fairly unusual in Chinese culture.  It really was fun to watch from a distance.
Then this morning- reality.  I woke up around 4AM because I was cold.  Really cold.  I got up and looked out the window at pitch black-no street lights.  Paul told me that he had read a note on the door that the electricity and water would be off for a while.  We assumed it was until morning but it was from about 3AM last night until 11 PM tonight.  
Our government controlled heat was turned off April 1st (that is another post for another day!) but we have these air conditioning units that can double as kind of space heaters.  They really take the chill off and having them off was not good!
Since we can't drink our tap water, we have a water machine.  I'm sure there's a better word than water machine but I can't think what it is!  We had luke warm instant coffee made with its water.  Paul tried to chop some coffee beans with a large butcher knife but alas-no real coffee today.
We bought several big bottles of water to flush our toilets and wrapped up in blankets and sweaters.  We went out for dinner and then to a little coffee shop to do homework.  There we found almost all of Elisabeth's high school teachers, who also live in our complex!  It's a small world after all!
Magic and reality- I guess that is just life!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

And then there are the hard things.

There are some hard things about living in China.  I'm not talking about language, culture stress, crowds or pollution.  I am talking about the fact that living in China is hard.  Many people here have a hard life.

China is in an economic boom.  Buildings are going up everywhere-tall buildings, high rises, glass and steel.  Now that the winter is over, we can hear the sounds of hammers, nails, and other construction site sounds.  From our window, we can see many,  many buildings going up.

But for everyone of these.....
And the promise made by advertisments like this.

There are people like this man.  Migrant workers far, far away from their families.   There are thousands and thousands of people like him, far away from their homes in small villages.  They live in dormitories, eat noodles and other cheap meals and send their money home.

In the countryside, they live in places like this.  They go home about once a year to see their families.  Imagine the sacrifice.

Every day we pass people like this on the street.  They have signs around their heads, advertising their work skills.  I was hesitant to take pictures because I don't want to objectify them.  So I took a few from  a distance.  These pictures don't even show the sheer numbers of people that are there looking for work.

One day, we saw an expensive car pull up. Many women rushed up to the car, clawing to get in.  The car was packed with women wanting to work.  It was a little heart breaking.

All over China, you see this character on buildings.

The character marked on the building's means that the building is destined for destruction.  Old neighborhoods like this  old hutong are being torn down.

I sometimes think that Chinese people are among the hardest working people in the world.

I am not Chinese.  I am a guest in this country.  I am not an economist, a sociologist or anything like that.  I have no social solution to the problem of poverty in this country or my own country.
But I do know, that as a follower of Christ, I am to treat people as valuable beings created in the image of God.  So we try to do a few simple things.  We try to greet the people who work around us- the gardeners, the cleaning people, those who are invisible.  We separate out our recyclables.  Many poor people go through the trash, looking for bottles to recycle.  Last night, as we were riding our bikes home from an event, we saw many people going through trash on the street, looking for things to recycle. We put ours in a separate bag, to make it easier for the people in our neighborhood to find.  It sounds a little dumb and insignificant as I write it. But if you saw the people clawing through mountains of trash, you wouldn't think so.
A friend of mine told me an interesting story.  She said that when she would go to a restaurant, she would clear her stuff.  As Americans, we are philosophically opposed to having people clean up for us.  Finally a Chinese person explained that if she kept doing that, someone would not have a job.  It's an odd position to be in not doing work so that someone would have work!
As we are here longer, there might be bigger things for us to do.  But for now, we are trying to be faithful.
We believe that as followers of Christ that we are called to work and live for justice.  In small ways, very small ways...we are trying to live that way.