Saturday, May 29, 2010


One of our desires in China is to be part of a community.  In the USA, we were able to use our home and our lives to invite people in for meals, holidays, game nights, barbeque's.  Here, it is easy to be part of a community of foreigners.  Actually, we could spend our whole lives here and spend most of our time with the foreign community.  However, we are in China to get to know Chinese people and culture and that takes some intentionality on our parts.
Today was a good day for community and getting to know people.  
The day started off with some teaching in a local language center.  I just spent three weeks teaching a Saturday morning class for a friend who returned to the US.  It was fun to teach again and the kids were really cute.

The boys.  I'd like to say that sat quietly like this all class...but they are third grade boys!

The girls.  They did sit and do their work most of the class.

While I was  teaching, Elisabeth stayed home and did her homework.  Finals are next week and she has a lot of studying to do.  Paul rode his bike out to the big foreign grocery store to get tortillas.  There weren't any out (not uncommon) but he asked and they found two packs in the back.  We could have done homemade but needed some simplicity for the meal.

Taco meat can be cooked in a wok!

Pinto beans were soaked overnight and then cooked with some oil and salt in our pressure cooker.  Then Elisabeth mashed them down with a whisk into refried beans. 

The people came-young and middle aged.  We explained how you prepare and eat a soft taco.

Pictures were posed for.

Taco's can be eaten with chopsticks!
The girl making the V for victory sign made us the red pillows on the back of the couch. They say "Husband"  and "Wife."

Elisabeth taught some high school girls how to play Mexican train.

We ran into Elisabeth's biology teacher in the market so we invited him to to dinner.  He and Paul taught a different group how to play Yahtzee.

The cat was a big hit.  He was exhausted by the end of the night.

Tonight was a good night,  a night where we felt we made some major steps to getting to know more people and being part of life here.  

Monday, May 24, 2010

Role Deprivation

We've been in China now for over 8 months.  You do get used to another country/culture pretty quickly and things that seemed unusual or different become normal pretty quickly.  My Chinese teacher asked me what we couldn't get in China that we liked in the USA.  I couldn't think of much-decent skin lotion is a big one and we just had a friend bring some in from Hong Kong.  Elisabeth misses Reese's peanut butter cups.  We have heard that you can get them at Jenny Lou's in Beijing so we might need to head down there for a few days next summer.  With the fast train, it's only four hours away.
We also miss access to books.  We've ordered some online but they haven't always arrived.  Beijing also has a foreign bookstore so we might need to stock up a little.  We have a decent school library here and also many friends with books.  But there is something about a bookstore that is really satisfying.
We both have jobs in the states that are really satisfying and a significant part of our identity.  I am a teacher by vocation and calling.  I love to teach.  I love the light bulb moment, the discovery of something new.  I love curriculum and conferences and new ideas about teaching.  I taught Montessori pre-school and kindergarten for many years and still believe in the prepared environment, absorbent mind and didactic materials.  About 11 years ago, I started teaching English as a Second Language in a community program in St. Louis.  ESL is the perfect field for me-it combines everything that I love!  I love language, international people and teaching.  I finished a master's degree in TESOL a few years ago and it just enhanced my love of all those things.
I've taught refugees and immigrants, exchange students and graduate students.  I've taught students trying to get into an American university and homesick spouses who were in the USA because of the work or study of their husband/wives.
Some of the most satisfying years of my life were spent teaching survival English to refugees. These were people from Burundi, Congo, Burma, Uzbekistan, Cambodia, Liberia.  They had unbelievable stories of survival and suffering.  Most had lost children to preventable illness.  Many were illiterate.  Many had high dreams that were quickly dashed by the realities of living in a new country where they didn't know the language or culture.  I think of Simon, a sweet young man from Burundi who desperately wanted to go to school.  The reality for him is that he is now a window washer.  His father was too old and illiterate to really learn English and someone needed to support the family.
I've also taught the extremely privileged.   I've taught young men from the places like Dubai who owned many cars, lived a life of luxury and were truly some of the sweetest young men I've known.  For many years I have had students keep journals and been privileged to read about their lives in the country and in the US.
I've taught the fanatically religious,the truly pious and the non-religious.I've taught the veiled and the mini-skirted.  I've taught people who had the right paperwork to be in the US and those who didn't.  I've taught students who came to ESL for a hobby and those who came to class after working all day or even after working all night.
On a job satisfaction scale, I would rate my job satisfaction pretty high.  Sure, there were hard things.  I don't enjoy grading.  I would just like to tell everyone "Good job."  I don't enjoy writing or giving tests. I don't enjoy seeing students drop out because they need to work. Some of my academic students cheated or plagiarized.  But the job as a whole is wonderful and valuable.
So- role deprivation.  I feel it.  Paul feels it.  We love and loved our jobs.  When we first came to China, we had a vague sense of lostness.  In January, a dear friend gave us the term "role deprivation" and the light bulb went on for us.  That's what we were feeling!  The loss of defined roles is  a real loss when your life situation changes. Naming it helped us to deal with it.
Right now we are very much in full time language study.  This is crucial for our success in China.  But we've had more opportunities lately to use some of our gifts.  I've taught a few English classes for a friend.  This summer, we will go up to an English camp and teach for two weeks.  I tutor ESL at the International School once a week.  Paul has had some good opportunities to use his public speaking and teaching skills in both foreigner and Chinese settings.  These opportunities remind us of what we love and maybe a little of who we are.

It wouldn't be a China post with out at least one picture.  Sorry this is so blurry.  It was taken at the Liaoning Provincial Museum.  It says "The Reception for Audience Complaints."

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A little more shopping.

Elisabeth and I had to do  a little shopping a few weeks ago.  We went to the big pedestrian mall in the center of our city to look for some Spring clothes for her.  As we got out of our taxi, we saw this somewhat familiar looking logo and slogan.

Then we saw a huge displays of pots and tea sets.

Somehow I don't think that Chairman Mao would be happy to be remembered  as a tschotschke.

We went into a Japanese store that was selling t-shirts.

So we took some pictures of shirts that express who we are.

I'm cutesy.

I'm a wanna be Russian.

Yes, we can!

I'm repetitive.

All in all, a good day's shopping in China.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Living the ordinary life in an extraordinary place.

Our lives here are really ordinary.  We still brush our teeth, do homework, shop, clean and all the stuff necessary to survive.  There are differences of course- we shop on bikes or in a taxi.  We eat with chopsticks a lot.  We use many of the same brands (Colgate toothpaste for example) that have Chinese characters all over them.
One thing that is part of our "normal life" is the Spring concert.  Since our daughter has been very young, there has been a recital, a band concert, and orchestra concert or something similar every Spring.  Last week was no exception as the Shenyang International School had its Spring Concert.
Pictures below.

The first few songs were beautiful sacred songs accompanied by flute, violin and piano.

The boys section.  You really have lived until you've seen a group of Korean high school boys sing "Joshua fit the battle of Jericho."

Whole choir


After the intermission, small groups came and performed.  These Korean girls did the Pachabel Canon in D.  It was exquisite.

Other groups came and performed contemporary Christian music and Korean pop music.  It was really fun.

Just a small sample of the ordinariness of our extraordinary life.

Monday, May 10, 2010


Elisabeth with an E li shi bai melon. That is also her Chinese name!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Nan Hu Park

I had a few minutes last Friday between language school and my next committment.  Paul had a meeting, so I rode my bike through this park.  Spring has arrived in NorthEast China and every one is outside.
The first people I came upon were swinging chains. Literally.  I heard an Indiana Jones type crack and followed the sounds.  A group of people were swinging chains that were wrapped in leather on the top and bottom.  They were really friendly and invited me to try.  So I did.  I could swing the chain over my head but couldn't crack it.  I really was afraid of hitting myself with the chain.  So after a few failed cracks, I demurred, thanked them and rode off.

The duck boats were on the river.

A man was playing a traditional Chinese instrument to the accompaniment of a cd.  It was exquisite.

The beautiful wavy bridge and more boats.

A place to eat lunch.  This is a reproduction, not something historical.

This are three rather bad pictures of a bird.  I see them all the time. They are a kind of cross between a blue jay and a magpie.  They fly and feed in flock. If anyone know what they are, let me know.

Revolutionary statue.

Stuffed animals for kids to post for pictures on.

There is also an amusement with this huge ferris wheel.  You'd have to pay me some major money to get me on this.  I've have friends who have been on and lived to tell the tale but I doubt I'll ever get on.

It was a beautiful Spring day and I felt very privileged to spend on hour riding through this beautiful park.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Advertising in China

One of the things that I find fascinating in China is the advertising.  It's not unusual to see big screen TV's on the sides of building advertising everthing from banks to movies to music and so on.  We can see one from our bedroom window a few blocks away.  This one is one the corner outside of our language school.

Advertising tends to be in Chinese and English.  I asked someone why it was often in English and they thought that was an odd question.  In our city of 8 million, there are very few foreigners and the advertising is not directed at them.  We don't have a huge number of English speaker's here, so I am not sure why there is so much English.

One night, as I was riding my bike to an English conversation group, I stopped because I saw this ad for new apartments.

Clearly this ad is to promote the idea of importance and status.  That's a fairly correct translation of the character's too!

But most fascinating is a demolition zone across from our language school.  The building went down in the fall and there is very slow progress being made behind the walls.  But, the advertisements change with the seasons.

There were quite a few of these kinds of sayings.  I'm not quite sure what they meant!

Not far away from your job and close to your happy life.

Listening to the rhythm of our city.  Construct a life with great textural quality.

When Chinese New Year came, the colors changed to red and there were many good wishes.

Whowin is the name of the real estate company.

Finally, as Spring came, new, fresh ads.

Chew on that thought for a while!