Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Things that are making me laugh.

I've often said that a sense of humor is the unnamed fruit of the spirit.  Being able to laugh and just enjoy things is key to so much, especially in living overseas.  So in that are things that are making me laugh these days.

Did you know we had a little old village woman that lived in our home?  Our little guys loves this shawl and loves being wrapped up in it.  I don't know if it's a characteristic of Down Syndrome but he loves things with texture that he can touch and feel.  This shawl with yarn imported from Uruguay fits the bill perfectly!

Total joy at new books and a new battery operated toothbrush at Christmas.  We should all be so thankful!

Maybe Succcss in Service.  But not in spelling.

NE China is dry and cold.  The saga of trying to find lotion that doesn't have whitening stuff in it, isn't greasy or doesn't require me to cash out a retirement account to buy is a blogspot all its own.  In my quest to find lotion, I discovered this scratching cream at a Watson's Drugs.  I bought it because, well, how could I not?  It was irresistable! Both Elisabeth and I used it in the shower and there was no scratching.  The word "sand" is in the characters but this was basically shower gel.

Taken surreptiously in the line at the ATM.

I bought a new bike.
I want to go to give you a ride home
This weekend.

Awesome misspelling on pirated sweats.  I wonder if they also use child labor to make their clothes.

This was on a bag of bread that we got at Ole- an overpriced grocery store in an upscale mall.  The bread was fantastic but I think we know what food is.

I passed by these two charming ladies as I walked to the bank.  They were dressed exactly alike.  They aren't twins, most likely good friends.  This isn't unusual here- I once saw a group of about five elderly women all dressed in the same purple hat.

Proverbs 17:22 A cheerful heart is good medicine....

Monday, December 26, 2011

The blood and guts of incarnation.

It's the day after Christmas in China. It's sunny and bright and about 10 fahrenheit-not too bad of a temperature.  Paul is out of town visiting a Chinese friend that we knew in America.  Elisabeth is sleeping and the little guy is napping.  Ah, quiet!  How I long for more quiet in my life.
I love Christmas..all of it. I love the lights, the tree, Advent, buying gifts, stockings, chocolate, Christmas carols, St. Nicholas Day...all of it.  Since Christmas is an ordinary day in China and there isn't the shopping frenzy that happens post Thanksgiving in the US, our holiday here has been more simple and maybe more focused.
The day before Christmas,  I read this  rather depressing article.   Here is one  of the  quotes "Ms. Qu has celebrated Christmas for the last few years, she says “because it’s a fashion and it happens all over the world.” This year she plans to go with her husband and friends to a restaurant and then a karaoke bar on Christmas Eve – a habit that millions of other young Chinese urbanites share"
Somewhat ironically, a little while after reading this article, Elisabeth and I went out shopping for some gifts.  We went to a traditional shopping area and then an upscale mall.   So I just have to say, dear China (and around the world)....Christmas is not any of the following things...

Christmas is not Santa (even though I am not against him).  It is especially not Santa with a  large "Merry" and a very small "Christmas."

Christmas is not store window displays...cute though this one was.

It's not elaborate entrances to malls...

Or twisted trees

Mary and Joseph probably didn't think the blood, sweat and tears of giving birth would lead to displays for "Romantic Christmas."  I don't know if there was romance in the manger but there was love, wonderful love.

Even cute little girls in Christmas themed dresses can not capture the meaning of Christmas.

No, Christmas is not any of those things.  The first verse of "Oh, Holy Night" says

O holy night, the stars are brightly shining;

It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth!

Long lay the world in sin and error pining,

Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.

A thrill of hope, the weary soul rejoices,

For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Fall on your knees, O hear the angel voices!

O night divine, O night when Christ was born!

O night, O holy night, O night divine

Artist:  He Qi
Our souls feel our worth as we know that God became man for us.  The incarnation is real and meaningful and gritty.  The visit of the angel to a young virgin was stunning and probably scary.  The sharing with Elizabeth was real as Mary really knew she was pregnant by then.  She needed another woman to share the burden of this unexpected news. 

Nativity:  Lu Lan

Jesus was born in the usual way-blood, sweat, pain and joy.  The amazing writer Sarah Bessey wrote on birth and it's connection to incarnation this powerful essay - Incarnation.  Read this beautiful quote and the click on the link below.  You won't be sorry.

But we keep it quiet, the mess of the Incarnation, because it’s just not church-y enough and men don’t quite understand and it’s personal, private, there aren’t words for this and it’s a bit too much. It’s too much pain, too much waiting, too much humanity, too much God, too much work, too much joy, too much love and far too messy. With far too little control. And sometimes it does not go the way we thought it was supposed to go and then we are also left with questions, with deep sadness, with longing.
My entire concept of God shifted in that moment, leaving my brain and my life and my theology to catch up with what my soul now knew deep. I could never see God as anything other than through the lens of the Incarnation, of his Father-Mother heart and his birth now. No theologian or counter-circumstance-experience can take away from what I know, what many mothers the world over know in their heart of hearts about loss and birth and raising babies and real transformation: it’s Love and it is sacred and it is human and it all redeems. The very truth that God put on flesh and blood and moved into the neighbourhood through birth, even – especially – that experience of birth, now showing us what it means to be truly human.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

People sometimes ask us

what the hard things are about living in China.  Is it living under a different form of government?  Not having a car? Being stared at and called "Foreigner"by people  on the streets?  Yes to all of these.
Is it the nostril-hair freezing cold? Government controlled heat?  Bureaucracy as an art  form? Yes,  yes, yes.
Or is the incredible challenge of learning Chinese?   Saying yes to things you don't  really want to do or no to things you do want to do?  Yes and yes.  Here is an hilarious example of the plethora of mistakes that you can make with one word "ma."
So yes, all those things are true.  But there might be one thing that you haven't considered.  Something that is quite serious, especially for women.

One thing that is hard is getting a good  hair cut.  You know how hard it is to explain to your hair dresser what you  want?   You know how you never look quite like how you thought you would (as in the picture of the movie star that you brought in?).  Well, imagine doing that in Chinese! With people who have never cut foreigner's hair?   Chinese hair tends to be thick and straight. Mine is thin and straight. Elisabeth's is curly-she had ringlets as a baby.  The texture is completely different.   Most  hairstylists in our fairly non-Western city have little experience in cutting foreigner hair.

Our little guy goes with his ayi to her neighborhood barber for this stylish cut. We think it's adorable.  If he hasn't been to the barber in a while, the barber asks about him.

Paul has a barber and occasionally goes to the barber that cuts hair in the park.  Those haven't been his best hair cuts.

I have straight, short hair that is cut in what we call a Mom Bob.  Shorter in back,  longer in front etc.  Before we came to  China,  I had it cut well, thinking that a stylist could just follow the lines.The first hair cut I had here was by an American Ex-pat who was a professional stylist. But I really wanted to practice language and culture and go to a Chinese salon. My friend Eva went to salon where she paid 15 RMB (less than $3.00) for a cut.  So I practiced my hair cut vocabulary with my teacher and rode my bike over to Cool  Cuts. I mumbled something about "jian toufa" and took my seat.  It was around lunch time and I hadn't eaten.   I thought it would be a quick wait and a quick cut.  No such thing. After two hours of blaring music and watching metro-sexual menwith green or purple hair stare at themselves in the mirror and primp,  I left. I did go back later and got a decent hair cut but the noise and musiccombined with difficult haircut language was just too much for me to handle.

Next we tried a place where another friend had good success.  The name of this place is "Camus" and this is where Elisabeth got the Mullet  of Despair.

We didn't go back there.

Next, another friend (who has great hair) told us about a place near our local  Carre Four.  This place was a little more pricey. When you walk in they ask you if you want the 30, 48 or 68 RMB haircut.  This doesn't mean what kind of haircut you get.  It has to do with the level of experience of the haircutter.   We've actually gone and gotten our haircut at the same time and one of us has gotten the 30 RMB hair cut while the other has gotten the 48 kuai haircut. Same process, same amount of time.
One thing that is interesting is that cutting hair in China is very much a man's profession. We have never seen a woman cutting hair. When you walk in,  you put all your stuff in a  cabinet and it gets locked.  Then you get your hair washed by a young man or woman.  Then they take you to the stylist  (who is the important person) and you try to communicate what you want.  The stylist cuts your hair and then your hair gets washed again.  Then it is dried again and trimmed.  There is no tipping at all.
In China, people get their haircut pretty often.   So if you want a haircut, you really have to indicate how much you want cut.  In the US, I usually underemphasize how much I want cut.  In China, if  I don't measure an inch or more with my fingers, I get a little trim. 
We had some funny experiences, too. Elisabeth got her hair cut and the guy asked her to pose for pictures with him. She stood up and he grabbed his phone, put his arm around her and took the picture. It happened so quickly that we couldn't really say yes or no and he meant no harm. But if you see Elisabeth in a picture with a Chinese guy with really stylish hair....that's not her boyfriend. 
Another time, my hair was cut by one of the top guys.  He had blond hair with dark roots.   He wore a yellow shirt half buttoned up.  He mumbled at me in Chinese for almost the whole haircut, with the occasional "Shi ma?" I stopped listened after a while and just said  "Dui" when he said "Shi ma?"  "Shi ma"  is kind of the equivalent of "right?"   or "Do you agree?"  "Dui" means  "yes"  or basically you are giving your assent.  Who knows what I was agreeing to or with?
We've been pretty happy there but there were a few things that we didn't like.  The people were unfailingly kind and helpful.  But there was tons of cigarette smoking and our last few haircuts just weren't that good.  My last haircut is one of the worst I've ever gotten.  Elisabeth got her hair cut really short last summer in a cute pixie and it needs really precise styling.   
So my same friend who told me about the above place told me about a guy named Raymond who actually came to her house and cut her hair.  He worked in a shop across the street from her apartment.  So we walked over last Sunday and got our hair washed and cut and washed and dried.  It was fabulous!  Elisabeth got her hair cut by Raymond. Except his name is Ramen  like the instant noodles but pronounced with a long A. I got my hair cut by "Gary" and it's one of the best cuts I've had.

Elisabeth's hair looks cute and mine looks flat because I have hat hair since it's 0 degrees and I had to put my hat on when we left the salon. But trust me, it's a good cut.

This picture has nothing to do with haircuts...just our little guy doing his version of jazz hands.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Ice and Ants

I got back today from the city of Harbin. I did a little work up there but we also had some time to go see the sights.
Harbin is getting ready for their annual ice festival.   The actual festival is held outside of town but in the downtown,  they were stacking up blocks of ice to make sculptures.

Harbin is one of those places where it is so cold,  it doesn't really snow.  But the river freezes thickly and they score and cut big blocks of ice out of it for the festival.  Along the side of the road, there were trucks lined up with big blocks of ice.

The blocks of ice are moved with big hooks.

A sculpture being worked  on. 

The ice is huge and heavy and some of it is moved by forklift.

Harbin had a large foreign population in the past,  including many Russians.  This is St. Sophia's, an old  Russian orthodox church.   I took this picture at about 5:00 in the evening.  The church was beautiful!

The inside has no icons or religious imagery.   It's actually a museum of the history of Harbin.  It was interesting but I expected to see an Orthodox church.

We went to the pedestrian shopping zone where there was store after store of the same Russian stuff.   Same stuff, same price, no bargaining.  This says Yiwan Russian Shoppin Commodity A Street Unaerground.

Russian goods and chopsticks store.   That's not what the characters say and there were no chopsticks.

It wasn't hard for me to pass on the ground ant snacks.

But this traditional Harbin bread???

Killer! Huge loaf for about $4.00.  It weighed a ton.

I have to admit that part of the reason I bought the bread was so I could have this bag for smaller knitting projects.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

We've got a few things going on....

We've got a happy little guy.

Despite my lack  of science expertise,  I judged the middle school science fair.  We went in teams of three teachers.  The other teachers asked intelligent science questions using vocabulary like "control" and "hypotheses."   I told them their displays looked nice and looked for English mistakes. See  above  picture.

I rode my bike to the market this morning to get supplies for  potato leek soup and salad.  For under $5.00 , I got 2 pears, two oranges, grape tomatoes,  leeks, potatoes, green onion and lettuce. 

Last night was Elisabeth's  last  Christmas choir concert at the International School.

I took a picture of her in what we call her Morticia dress. I was feeling  a little sad and sentimental and said "This is the beginning of the last things....."   She said "What are you talking about,Mom? We still have the Spring Concert."  Sensible girl.

I was also able to spend time with two  special families this week.  I didn't take any pictures as I'd like to keep their privacy.
The first family was a Chinese family.  They actually have three children- very unusual in this land of the one child policy.   Their third child has Down Syndrome.   They did not know before they had him that he had Down's. There is very little pre-natal testing here. But they have strong faith and they chose to keep their son.  She told me that before she had him, she had never even seen a child with DS.  I hope this is the beginning of a good relationship.  It's not an easy road for her with no special services  or special education.

The second family was an American family.  I know this family from an online China adoption board. They came to our city to get their new little  daughter.  We  were able to have dinner and talk a little.  Seeing a new family form is a wonderful thing.  We  were thrilled to be even a small part of it.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

We have a touch of the naughties.

I came  home  today to our helper standing in the bedroom with a screw driver, hammer and nails.  She was lowering the level on the crib because our little guy can now pull himself to a stand and it's "dangerous,  really  dangerous."  Of course, the level right now is so low that I'm not sure I'll be able to get him out!
Yes,  we have a touch of the two's here.  From the throwing food off  his high chair to saying "No" in a perfect Chinese accent, it's  been a little naughty around here.

However, disciplining someone who is so delightful and fun isn't easy. Also,  how do you get upset with  someone who looks so cute in his pajamas?!

Or someone who pats and loves on his elephant?

Or someone who plays cars and makes car boy!

Or someone who doesn't want to nap and  then falls asleep sitting up! Yes....he is very flexible! One of the characteristics  of  Down Syndrome.

See the puffy pants in his crib?

See the clothes on the bed and the unrepentant look on his face?  He got them off the window sill and threw them in his crib and on the floor.  They are now farther away from his reach!
It's funny to see how he tests us.  Our helper doesn't  like him to put his hands in his mouth and she is always telling him no.  So as  soon as she walks in the door, he looks at her and puts his hand in his mouth. Testing, testing 1 2 3!
For  us,  he goes for the computer cord.  That gets an immediate reaction from us...just what he wants!

One more thing that is cracking me up. When we were in Thailand last year, we bought this beautiful celedon Nativity Set.
I've been looking forward to putting it out all year.

It's  really lovely....except  for  one little thing....

One of the wise men appears to have an executioner's hood on. I'm thinking that's  not part of the usual nativity set.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

My Perfect Child | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction

My Perfect Child Christianity Today A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction

Click on the above link for a wonderful article.

Our hearts, minds, spirits and lives have been opened up as a result of fostering our own perfect child.  What a great honor to care for him.