Friday, August 22, 2008
We stayed on the floor at the church the first night crammed into a room. They put Brian in a room that was literally on the roof; you had to walk on the roof to get there! After a cockroach attack, he crammed into the room too. We all woke up a little sick the next morning and soon my throat was crazy red and swollen! The church was really kind and let us sleep in and even brought us throat drops!
As we walked in the first session, we were attacked by the most energetic, crazy peppy girl I have ever met! She was so excited to use her English. “My name is Kevin, I’m female Kevin though, not the male name.” She made us laugh so much. Her eyes would be huge as she would talk to us about random things using her textbook English.
This conference has been running for 17 years. There are about 70 middle schoolers and 70 high school and college students that help out. They go all out with this thing. The theme, ‘Rock My Dream’, really never made sense to me, but they had big fancy signs and gave us all T-Shirts. At the main sessions they would pretend like they were filming a TV show or something and had big cut out boxed that looked like video cameras. The worship team seriously rocked out and had trendy costumes the first night.
We had been invited to this conference by Cherie (shofar lady as we affectionately called) that we had met during our time with the aborigines in Lalashan. The pastor of the conference wasn’t too sure that he could host four Americans, but he changed his mind after seeing the article that was written about Pastor Alvin and us running the conference in Lalashan. The article mentioned that I was a dancer and that Brian was related to Michael Redd, the Olympic basketball player. The picture was of me showing some of the kids a dance.
We spent most of the conference confused about what we were supposed to do. We just smiled and talked to kids. They were thrilled to practice their English. We helped played some games, and again had no idea what was going on. They made Brian (or ‘Brain’ as they had accidentally printed on his name badge) participate in a game where they saw who could throw a shoe the farthest. We each had a chance to give a twenty-minute talk to the large group. I talked about how I was like a sheep: that I had gone astray (Is. 53:6), My Shepherd had found me (Mt 18:11-13), that I follow him and know his voice (Jn 10:27) and one of my favorite verses: “He tends his flock like a shepherd; gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart” –Is 40:11. Adriana and Brian really wowed the crowd and delivered the perfect message that the students needed to hear.
The pastors were really thankful that we had come. We got to set an example of putting faith into action and just love people. We encouraged them to make a difference in their middle & high schools and colleges. They really got the vision we were hoping to share of starting local and moving east to China and beyond. The pastors were touched as we prayed for them before we went.
That wrapped up our time of service in Taiwan. And we were exhausted. We had given it all to the people we worked with. I had made a lot of friends and learned a lot about Taiwan. I learned more Chinese in my short time in Taiwan than the whole time I was in China because I was surrounded by and living with the people. I’m really going to miss these people.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Being at National Yilin University made me really miss OSU. It was fun to walk around campus and label things mirror lake, the oval, and RPAC. We had a good time praying for Ohio State and thinking a little about next year. It’s hard to believe it’s my last year. It will be over so soon. I still don’t have much clarity about what happens after graduation. I feel like I have a hundred options set before me…I see this long hallway full of doors. I know in time the right door will be open and it will be made clear to me.
After the tournament we spent the night in Taipei. It reminds me a lot of Hong Kong or NYC, but has it’s own Taiwanese features. We walked around a busy part of town and ate and shopped a bit. We all decided to get our haircut and went to a nice salon. It was really funny to watch them freak out about what to do with Brian’s hair! I don’t know why I ever thought it would be a good idea to get a hair cut when I cannot speak the language. I was kind of horrified as she cut me some thick bangs! Well, there is just nothing I can do. My friends laugh that I’ve been FOBified. FOB is a term we use for native Chinese people.
We leave tonight to help run another youth group an hour south of Taipei for a couple days, then we will be back for a few before I leave. Wow, time has flown by!
Sunday, August 10, 2008
We took a six-hour bus Sunday to Taoyuen in the center of Taiwan. It was interesting to pass by the many rice fields between heavily populated areas. The reality of how crazy this trip was started when we scrambled in the city to find the aborigines that had come to pick us up. We frantically jumped in the church van in a busy traffic area and started our two hour journey up the mountain. It quickly became dark and we kept making random stops to pick up and drop off people. This experience would have been almost frightening if it wasn’t so obvious through these people’s love that they are my brothers and sisters.
When I woke up the first morning after fighting the cockroaches, a chorus of snoring, and a variety of handy man fix ups in the house we were given to live in, I screamed when I walked out the door and saw where we were. We had climbed the winding mountain at night and I really had no idea what the place was like. Twelve feet out our front door and you would be off a cliff. It is honestly one of the most amazing scenes I’ve ever experienced. The mountains truly take your breath away. I don’t know how to describe them without sounding cliché. You couldn’t see anything beyond the mountains. The clouds were hovering at the top. You could see tiny villages and farming areas on some of the mountains across the way.
You couldn’t help but worship as you looked out at God’s creation:
“Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the skies.
Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains,
Your justice like the great deep.” –Psalm 36
It’s really rare to get an experience to work with the Aborigines. A traveling pastor that Priscilla had ministered with around Europe with had put together this conference and invited us to help. For five days we had several meetings a day at two of the Taiya tribes churches. Pastor Alvin would do a few sessions mixed with breaks. We were always organizing our sessions on the fly. Basically our whole trip we had no idea where we would be or what we would be doing the next minute. We were asked to lead worship for the pastors one afternoon. Priscilla plays piano well, and Adriana had the drums. Ai-Hua sings in Chinese, but she couldn’t really hold the melody. I was left to try to lead the tune of the song, MC and figure out with Priscilla frantically what to do next after a song ended. I started by explaining I had never done this before. They were really great and I think they we blessed by our time of worship and prayer.
Everything is different when you have to work with a translator. I would say about half of a sentence and then pause while it was translated. Everything literally took twice as long. Talking that slowly often made me lose track of what I was saying. I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been for Priscilla. She basically had to translate everything. We would sit really close to her during a service while she repeated everything.
Some of the youth groups we worked with were really amazing. Western culture and worship music has traveled all the way to these Taiwanese mountains. The group would sing songs and dance. Like usual, going into a service we had no idea what would do. We would introduce ourselves one by one and then sing: “Jesus Loves the Little Children…all the children of the world…[picture it]…Red (Adriana) and Yellow (Priscilla) Black (Brian) and White (me) they are precious in his sight…Jesus loves the little children of the world. After a few games we would randomly chose one of us to give a testimony or talk. You had to be prepared at all times to speak…Priscilla is ruthless! She is a great leader!
It was really fun to eat with the people and experience their culture. It feels like everywhere I go and meet with fellow believers is like a family reunion. We have a lot to talk about and a lot of laughter. It’s amazing how complete strangers from literally the other side of the world can feel so comfortable with each other. Some of us stayed up just talking and laughing under the stars. I made some stupid comments that made for quick inside jokes that I don’t think I’ll ever live down.
The conference was really amazing. It was great to bring together aborigines from different tribes and see people changed. It was a miraculous time unlike I’ve been a part of before. God’s presence really met us. It was made clear that we were to enter the kingdom like little children. We danced and jumped around and the kids prayed for the adults.
The last day we drove to the Lalashan Forest Reserve and then hiked to see Taiwan’s largest tree. It’s over 2,000 years old, has been struck by lightning and is still going strong. The water coming from the mountain stream was so refreshing. I never thought I would drink water from a fountain in Asia let alone straight from the source, but it was the most delicious water I’ve ever tasted.
We then met people from various aborigine churches at the peak of another mountain for a special 08.08.08 ceremony. I cannot believe this van stuffed with 16 people could make it up the side of this mountain. Seriously inches away from a cliff. When we first made it to the top you couldn’t see much, because the clouds were surrounding. We spent most of the time praying for Israel. We danced and sang and blew the shofar for victory!
This was one of the weirdest things I’ve done in my life; God’s really taken me on an adventure. Amidst everything, I still just take things step by step. I told God, ‘where you go I’ll go,’ and I wouldn’t take it back for anything.
I flew into Kaohsiung (in Southern Taiwan) and as usual Priscilla insisted that I didn’t need to worry about details, that she would just meet me at the airport. After going through a bit of a stressful customs I was so excited as I pictured Priscilla waiting for me with the crowd of onlookers shouting at me as I came through the door. Instead, my smile of anticipation quickly turned into a confused looking around and eventually a lady coming up to me that said, “are you Karen?” I waited around for a while then figured out how to use the pay phone to call the church. After two confusing phone calls with half English speakers, being cut off by the pay phone, and being denied to borrow a cell phone I felt kinda lost. All I could do was wait. I knew it would all work out, but I started to feel a little lonely as some of the shops in the waiting area closed and there was only about six people left. I then got the idea to try my computer and I called a number on Skype. I got a hold of them and directed them to me. It was a joyful reunion!
I jumped right into what the team had been doing. We went to one of the churches and had a meal, games, worship, some testimonies and prayer. It’s a lot of work to entertain and teach youth, but also really fun and rewarding. The team was at this church for four days.
The team was put together by Priscilla. Her aunt runs one of the churches that we are staying at here and her family has started several. Her mom is quite a character and causes us many laughs as she translates and bosses us around lovingly. There are ten of us from Ohio about half high school and half college. There was a team from Chicago here earlier from Pricsilla’s cousin’s church, but I just missed them. What is really special about our team is that we mix with some of the local youth to run the camps. There are about six college aged Taiwaiese that we’ve become good friends with. It is interesting working on a team with a language barrier.
Everything we do takes twice as long. Whenever there are instructions, teaching, or prayers they are said first by the speaker, then translated into the opposite, either English or Mandarin.
The first morning we got up and climbed Monkey Mountain to pass out tracks and worship outside. This team has truly been run down. They’ve been doing kids camps for three weeks and sometimes at two different schools a day! They were great sports about hiking and praying for people. About half way up our climb we ran into a big gang of monkeys! I was so blessed to see them in their natural habitat. We saw a mom and baby clinging on to her as she jumped. One guy was just chilling by us so I decided to see how close I could get to him for a picture. Bad idea. He hissed and showed his teeth at me; I was so scared!
It is sobering walking the streets here. There are temples and shrines everywhere. You see people putting incense in their food to sacrifice it to their gods. You can smell the burning of ‘hell money’ that must be purchased at a shrine for them to provide for the ancestors which they believe are in hell needing material wealth. Talking with Priscilla really opened my eyes to the fear they live in and how they are controlled by it.
It was fun going back to the church the other two nights to be with the kids. We played a game with them where they had to re-create the dance move David or I did. It was really funny when I did the worm and one guy tried to do it. The ministry time at the end of one night was really significant. We asked the kids if they wanted prayer they could come up. I was blessed that four of the teenaged girls I had been hanging out with stood in line. The mostly just asked for prayer about their school work, but I insisted that Pricilla (my translator) go a bit deeper. I don’t know what she said and asked but as I silently prayed and Pricilla talked, tears began to flow down two of the girls faces. One of them accepted Christ and said her mom was a believer and her dad wasn’t. I just prayed that everything her mom had prayed would be heard. We then had the chance to pray with her mom and encourage her.
Other than great times at the church, I enjoyed laughing with this team. Pricsilla, Adrianna and the rest have such full laughs that you can’t help but join in. We had some good meals and spent some of today at a fancy mall.
I don’t know what will come of the rest of our trip. We leave to work at a conference for Aborigine’s put on by a pastor Priscilla knows. This will probably be one of the wildest things I ever do. I’ll be with Priscilla, Adrianna, Brian, and a local, Ai-Hua. After that conference in the mountains, we’ll come back to Kaohsiung and eventually make it to Taipei for a bit.
I’m already learning a lot as I have had more alone time to be silent, think and pray. I hope that God reveals a lot to me during these next few weeks.
Sunday, August 3, 2008
To get into HK was quite an ordeal. We flew into Shenzhen, a city close to Hong Kong still in main land China. We then took a bus to cross the border. We had to get off the bus twice for customs to get our passports and bags checked.
I wish I had more time in the city since it took so long to get in. We quickly went out to a nice dinner at a Japanese restaurant and then to the harbor ferry light show. National Geographic Travel says its one of the 50 best lifetime experiences and I would agree. From the boat the lights are amazing. The buildings in a 360 degree angle have lights and lasers going off. I pointed out to some of the team that I thought it was coordinated to the music on the boat and no one, including myself, couldn’t believe it was possible. When the music turned off though, the lights did too, and it was explained they were coordinated!
After the boat ride some of us went to meet two of Wendys friends that run the Gateway Camp which the 24-7 team went to in July. They were amazing people. They took us to a popular part of town and then up to a third floor local’s and artist café. The menu specified that they wanted to keep it a quiet and secret place, so I felt honored to be there. It was refreshing to talk to some natives from HK that spoke perfect English. Jason and Juliana had crazy stories. God is working so much through their lives.
I then stayed up with Kate, my new great friend, and chatted and prayed until 3am. It is so amazing that we could have so much fun together yet still be vulnerable and honest about our lives after really only knowing each other a few days.
In the morning Wendy and I said bye to the team and got to venture around Hong Kong a bit more. I was surprised that there weren’t more people on the street. Wendy explained it really is a night culture. We took the subway to the airport which was quite an adventure of being crowded and doing a lot of walking. I loved the experience. The train to the airport to a great route and let me see how beautiful the area is with the water and the mountains. HK is really etched out of rock.
I’m off on another adventure in Taiwan now. I really loved China and can’t picture anything topping my love for it. There is so much more to think about; I’m sorry my blogs are so long, but I rarely get the time to write
The end of trip number two and the beginning of the last. They really do feel like completely different trips. Understandably because the people, location, and dynamics are completely different.
It was such an amazing joy to join Wendy and the team. It is truly unique and remarkable that a group of people I’ve never met can become such close family in a matter of days when you share the same Papa. I felt as though I had been with the group their whole three week trip! I feel so privileged and honored to be with them. They were so kind to work out a lot of details so I could meet them.
Once we got back from the zone, we continued our stay at Holly’s Hostel in a T area of Chengdu. We were blessed to be shown around and hosted by some long-termers, one of which I admire so much and will miss dearly. We enjoyed shopping around the area and our favorite memories will be the unstopping laughter, prayer, and deep conversations.
We would gather once or twice a day for a time of prayer and worship. We would process the trip, what was going on in our own lives and really dug into what Papa is doing in China. We feel that we are truly in a Kairos time and are extremely honored that Papa would share his story with us. We prayed for the gov and for the value of the people. We prayed for the church and saw the significance of the earthquake and it’s epicenter close to three minority groups that will one-day lead a charge West. This is truly a time of a new China. Papa is blessing it as His people turn to Him. His plan is so big. I trust him for so much I don’t understand.
Wendy had challenged Peter to an arm wrestling match and we couldn’t wait to see what happened. Walking back from the SHOP, we had a few stools and decided in true Chinese style to just plop them down and start the match. A small crowd formed as Peter pinned her. Then we pulled a guy from the crowd that was being encouraged by his friends to go against Peter. As they arm wrestled, this guys bicep literally looked like a tennis ball; it was crazy. They ended up in a stop and every one had a good laugh about it.
After one of our times at the SHOP, Wendy, Peter, Kate and I went out in an interesting district. Like most of the bars here, there is always some type of live entertainment. We walked in as a Chinese man in perfect English was singing some John Mayer. Thankfully, Kate shares my same passion for having fun and goofy dancing. By the first set of techno songs we were up dancing with some old Chinese man. We danced up to the front and I started grabbing others half dancing on the side and encouraging them to join. Wendy and Peter jumped in and we had a unforgettable time. I love the way they dance here; so innocent and basically just bopping around. One of the guys had hilarious facial expressions. Between techno music, another guy would jump up and belt out a few songs. We were almost crying when one of the guys, no joke, started singing zippidy-do-da zippidy-day, my oh my what a wonderful day! I think if this had happened in the States, he would have been booed off stage and likely got things thrown at him, but the people here loved it!
As we left the bar owned ran up to us and thanked us for bringing some life to the bar. He gave us all T-shirts that were honestly the biggest I’ve seen in China (you know how free T-shirts go).
The next day was the Pandas!!! It just shows how extravagant our Papa is. I missed seeing the pandas at the Beijing zoo with everyone because I went to ch.rch, but seeing them in their hometown as the research institute was so much better! The pandas were amazing, so cute and fun. On top of everything else we got to see the pandas that had been born just a day before! That is international news! They were pink with no hair and closed eyes. I couldn’t believe it!
After that I had a great time with Wendy, Peter, and Carey visiting a local area, eating dumplings and getting a massage!
The last night was so amazing. After dinner we went to get deserts and to share our time together. During truth & dare earlier in the week I was dared to casually walk up to one of the guys and challenge him to a dance off. It was actually rather embarrassing, but silly all the same. We then spent seven minutes on each person, encouraging them, speaking into their lives, thanking and praying for them. It was so beautiful to see the love in that place. I was so encouraged and will remember that night for a long time to come.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
I’m really excited about this next adventure in Sichuan. Wendy and the team are beautiful people from across the States and one from South Africa. We just got word that we will be going to the zone and working with kids. I’m really excited, but also reverent that we may see some pretty shocking sights. We’ll be living outside and surviving off Peanut Butter & Jelly for four days! I would appreciate pr.ys of protection and encouragement!
It’s the end of one trip, the beginning of another.
Today was a little nerve-racking to say the least. I woke only to find that the three presentations I had to give today were not working. After getting that fixed, I presented about the Sichuan earthquake, the Miao minority group on Hainan Island and China’s agricultural policy. I said my goodbyes and headed to the airport! I don’t know how I could get through this without my Papa. He has felt so close these past few days, calming my nerves and giving me peace.
I absolutely loved my time in Beijing. It was honestly starting to feel like home and felt kind of abrupt to leave so quickly. I cannot imagine a better study abroad experience. I know I won’t look back and remember my time in the classroom, but I think I learned some valuable things about China’s history, culture, and agriculture that will shape my view of the country.
I’m going to miss the OSU students I spent every waking moment with more than I would have imagined. Just walking into Jess, Ashe, and Amanda’s room today made me cry…I started calling them my sisters from week one. I loved getting to know my roomie Juan and working out some of our cultural differences. Being in a group that size, for that long, will always have some conflict, but I think we worked out quite well and learned a lot about ourselves.
There are so many people I wish I could have had long conversations with. I have grown to love them and see such hope and direction that can be brought to them. I hope it is not the end of all of our relationships. I was blessed by a few of the girls writing me notes and assuring me that even when there are not words said, I can live by an example and cause others to wonder.
I’m really going to miss my China mama, Dongfang. She was an amazing friend to us. She was so open and inviting. I felt like she really let us in on her life. She could joke with us and we just knew that she truly cared for us.
I’m also so sad to leave all my new Chinese friends. It inspires me to find some study abroad students at OSU next year and make friends! Andy was so kind to take me to the airport and hang out with me before I left. I had promised much earlier in the trip to give him his first try at Starbucks and we had our chance right before I went through security. It was pretty sad to give him that last hug. I think he’ll make it to the States sometime!
I may need some more reflection time to examine all that I’ve learned about myself this trip. My goal was to come completely open to change. The trip was not what I pictured; I thought I would have more alone time than ever in my life and have a lot of time to pr.y and press into the character of my Friend. Instead every day was jam-packed. It helped me to learn to be patient and take peace at every quiet moment I got.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
Inner Mongolia has been a refreshing trip. It is so good to venture out of the city and into the rural area. I cannot describe the beauty of the mountains, the grasslands, the agriculture, and the huge blue cloudy sky. The people are beautiful as well. We are celebrities here. A lot of the people here have never seen someone from another country. I love saying hi and waving to people who are staring. The usually giggle a bit and wave back.
The houses that we’ve seen aren’t as shocking as I thought they would be. They are mostly built of red brick. Some are made of stone and mud. As you travel through the countryside little villages pop up with about a hundred homes. Then every half hour to hour you pass through a small city. I wonder if children have to come so far to go to school. It is clear that many in these villages live in poverty. It is just hard to comprehend as we drive through.
The agriculture areas are everywhere. They seem to stick cops wherever they can. The plots seem really small for each farmer. All the fields look really well taken care of even though we seldom saw people in the field. It was fun to drive though a town and see people outplaying cards and other games.
We still have not got close enough to the people to understand their lives. To see their poverty. Every bathroom/ smoking break for the Chinese men has it’s own little story. Once we went to a hospital clinic thinking the WC might be nice. They took us through the clinic to the back where there was an outhouse literally right next to a pig house. Kinda gross but I’m getting used to the squatters. Some of the girls refuse to use them, but I don’t think it’s such a big deal.
The capital city the train came into was pretty large. We stayed in a very nice hotel. The train ride wasn’t too bad! It was nine hours. Each section had six beds, piled three high. We hung out, looked out the window and watched Mulan. The train ride home was through the middle of the night. We played cards for a little while then slept for about six hours.
I don’t know the total amount of time we’ve spent on this bus…but I would guess at least fifteen. We drive somewhere for about two hours, get out and see something then keep going.
Our first stop was at a cattle farm. They have 500 employees and 10,000 cattle. That was our first interesting dining experience of the trip. They had sheep mutton and then a lot of sheep organs…gross!! These people in Inner Mongolia drink…A LOT! It’s a part of their culture to toast the host and guest with Biajiu. It’s been really funny seeing our hosts get tipsy almost every meal!
After the meal we ventured out in our huge bus to see the cattle. This bus has made some crazy scary maneuvers! The landscape was breathtaking. I have never seen this China before. We hung out with cows and joked around with China Baba for a while then headed to our next hotel.
China Baba (Daddy) or Wheel man as we like to call him is crazy. You have to love this guy! He is our driver back at CAAS…I don’t know what his role on this trip is other than entertainment. He speaks very little English, so we spend most of our time with him laughing at his charades. Wow…I hope to get some video up of him…he’s so funny!
When we pulled into the hotel at a small city, a crowd of local people started to gather to watch the parade of foreigners. We went on a walk relatively unbothered until near the hotel end when one lady shook our hands, then everyone came over to greet us! The hotel was at a natural hot spring. We were all pretty exciting picturing ourselves outside surrounded by mountains in a hot spring. Instead of this picturesque scene, the ‘hot spring’ was our bathtub that we filled with the sulfur smelling spring water!
Every meal is crazy…biajiu and more biajiu! A tradition of their culture is to have young women sing to you to encourage you to drink. They have these white scarves that they put around you after you take your three shots. I took mine gracefully and thankfully wasn’t sung to, to drink more! Some of the people on my trip are really pressured by the locals. These pour guys never want to smell Biajiu again! All the while China Baba is there filling our cups, laughing and smoking. He asked us to sing our Ohio song, and he tried to join us as we sang Carmen Ohio…He got the OH-IO! We joke that we’re going to pull all our money together and ship Wheelman to OSU. They students would surely get a kick out of him!
I enjoyed a long conversation with one of the guys on the trip. I feel like we’ve all had very little reflection time. These bus rides are more than sufficient think time. We talked about the poverty and how he never wants to complain in America again. I’ve had a few interesting conversations on the trip and learned a lot about our perception of China.
The view from the back of the hotel was beautiful so I decided to get up at 5 to try to catch the sunrise. They don’t have daylight savings time here so I think the sun rises at 4! By the time I got out there the sun was pretty much up but still lighting the town beautifully. I started wandering around watching all the old people doing their morning exercises. I stopped at one point to take a picture and an old man started talking to me. ‘Woe Bu Dong’ (I don’t understand) is one of the few phrases I know. I started walking with him and playing the usual charades to communicate. We went to a monument describing the hot springs and did a few stretching exercises. When he ran into one of his friends I caught one word: Me Gue (America). We walked a bit more and parted ways at the hotel. He wanted a picture with me. It was a special time. He’s my new Chinese grandpa!
The landscape drastically changed today. In our hours looking out the bus windows, it shifted to a much sandier area. We stopped at a forest where there is a unique type of tree that can grow in the sand. It is the only forest left of this tree in the world. Then to an Inner Mongolian tent area where we ate lunch. We made it to China’s third largest lake. It was pretty muddy but pretty. They have a pretty impressive museum. Between the locals, there is a lot of tourist areas.
This night that we stayed in another small town was my favorite. They Chinese administrators with us kept saying the real party is this night. We were all a little nervous considering how much they had pressured us to drink until this point! It really was a party. After dinner there was a traditional Inner Mongolian performance of singing and dancing. While we were learning a dance in a circle loud firecrackers were set off behind us and then our own fireworks show.
All the drunken Chinese administrators wanted to do was sing and dance. Well you know I’m the lady for that! Even though I was probably the most sober one there, I joined right in dancing with them. At some point I pulled in a few of the local girls and used some of DJ skills to get them dancing. At one point a bunch of the locals came so we had a huge dance party!
The following morning we got up and went horseback riding! What a treat. When we went around to some really scenic areas…check out the pictures. I kept joking with one of the guys that I couldn’t wait to frolic in a field. He found the song “born free, as free as the wind blows…as free as the grass grows…” on his i-pod and declared it my official frolic song. I had it in my head for most of the trip. I had some quality frolic time in a few fields. One field was like a photo shoot of Chinese people as I danced!
Overall, the trip was better than I could have imagined. I accomplished my three goals of exercising with an old man, dancing with local people and frolicking in a field. I really enjoyed my time on the bus to have some alone time. We all basically listen to music and look out the window. I’ve had some sweet times just sitting with Papa and pr.ing for myself and all the people I’m missing back home. I’m just amazed that He made all this and knows every hill, every bush. It’s more breathtaking than anything man could create.
Saturday, July 19, 2008
Well, over the last weeks, we all have had experiences that we will cherish for a lifetime. The Summer Palace was extraordinary, the Great Wall was indescribable, meals tend bring interesting stories, the nightlife has been a good time, and so on, everyday has held a wealth of enjoyment. That being established, there is one part of this China experience that out-classes any excursion… and his name is China Baba, or Wheelman as we like to call him. Wheelman is our driver when we go out on our CAAS excursions. His company is always appreciated, even when he is not wowing us with his top-class driving skills, there is never a dull moment around the legendary Wheelman. Even though he speaks very little English [he knows the important words] Wheelman is always good for a laugh, he is the center of attention. You never know when you will round a corned and see Wheelman sprawled out on one of the lobby couches enjoying an afternoon smoke, or being chummy with his cronies in a local restaurant. Here are just a few bright spots and classic memories that came from hanging around Wheelman. First off, his superior driving skills… He doesn’t take any business out on the crazy Beijing streets, his graceful top speed maneuverability skills are off the charts, his driving commands much respect. Also, meals with Wheelman are always and enjoyable experience. He take charge of the entire restaurant, whether it be flagging down a waitress, checking into the kitchen to see what’s up, or even retrieving the food for the table himself. He also never lets a glass get anywhere near empty. We all were fortunate enough to see an entirely different side of Wheelman during our time in Inner Mongolia. Since he was just along for the ‘road trip’ and was not driving he was able to participate in the local Mongolian traditions… which is pretty much a barrage of mutton dishes and constant series of toasts between the hosts and the guests throughout the entirety of EVERY meal. During these afternoons and evening we were all entertained by his antics that included fantastic impressions, funny stories, and most importantly, frequent displays of his love for disco dancing. There is never a dull moment when the Wheelman is around. He is just another great example of one of the many incredible wonders that China and our study abroad experience has had to offer. I am very glad to have been able to meet Wheelman; I cherish our friendship, and look forward to every encounter and hopefully a future visit by him to Ohio State [fingers crossed].
And here is a video of me dancing with Wheelman. After one of our crazy Inner Mongolian parties, I was one of the only one's that would dance...despite me probably being the only sober one! Buckeye Sounds should be proud!
Sunday, July 13, 2008
Ordering food is not the big ordeal it used to be. We are getting great at pointing and the few words we know help! And, I’m getting very comfortable with not having any idea what is going on around me! We are all growing a little more independent and feel confident journeying over to the mall or trying out a bus route. Life generally goes on as normal.
I’m starting to feel not so out of place. In fact in Starbucks today as I was writing my paper, I caught myself looking at some foreigners and thinking, ‘tourist’!
This week we had an interesting trip to a more rural area of Beijing. I agreed with one of our professors explained that we aren’t seeing the true country until we see the rural areas. We’ve been studying a lot about rural poverty and inequality. It is crazy to see the effects of urbanization on China and many developing countries. Our ideas of urban and rural areas are so different. We often think of inequality and the poor in urban areas.
I could stare out the bus window the whole trip and be intrigued by every little common everyday thing that the Chinese people were doing. Kid walking to school. Baby peeing in the gutter. Old man playing chess. Guy riding his bike piled incredible high with who knows what. woman using a strange broom. Naked kids swimming in a dirty pond. Our attempts at capturing the moment with photos usually fails, but it’s all great to give us a better understanding of the real China.
I’ve found the best way to learn about China is to ask. The most interesting things to me are the thoughts and opinions of the people that live their daily lives rather than what a textbook or lecture tells me. Although conversations with the graduate students and random other people I meet may be slow and take a lot of patience, I think it is the most precious part of my trip. While I am learning about the real China, the person I am talking to is simply thrilled to be putting into practice the English that they’ve studied for so long.
I’m learning that no matter where you are in the world; people make the place. When I look back on this trip, all the things that we saw and did will be pretty amazing, but what I’ll take home with me the most is what I learned about myself and the OSU and CAAS students. I’ll cherish all the awkward giggles, translation misunderstandings, silly questions about America, those in depth talks, inside jokes and making genuine friendships.
I found out they don’t really hug much here in China. There have been some people I’ve grown to love so much I just gave them a huge awkward hug…I don’t think they knew what to do at first. It’s been fun to watch them grow more comfortable with our American greeting and give me a hug when they see me! It’s going to be hard to say goodbye to China and the relationships I’ve all grown here!
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
I feel like this program is almost over and I still have so much I want to do! It often doesn’t feel like I’m far from home. Just like I went away to college or something. Skype has really helped me stay connected with people. I love calling my friends cell phones and hearing the surprised, “this is Paige?!”
Ashe and I were eating in the cafeteria and talking about how this whole experience has been a lot more comfortable than we expected. We haven’t had much of the cultural frustration (other than our miss of cheese & any dairy product). The language barrier is still a problem. I very much desire to talk to the people and hear their stories, but it’s never much more than smiles and pointing.
Saturday we went to one of my favorite parts of Beijing. Beihai Park is a beautiful lake area with gardens. We wandered around with a great group of CAAS students. They were a lot of fun. My favorite part is Hohai, which is an older part of town. There are tons of restaurants, bars and shops. Please check out the pictures! The Hu Tong area is full of old people loving life. They stay active and work out, play ping-pong and board games. Last time I was here we saw a bunch of old men in speedos swimming in the frozen pond…crazy!
A group of us went back to check out the night scene. We brought our good friend Andy and had a great time. The atmosphere is really fun. All of the bars have big cushy couches to hang out on and chat. We went into one bar and the first song was Soulja boy (apparently no one there knows the dance…we were the only ones on the stage!) Then there were three college-aged girls and a guy that entertained us with basically glorified karaoke. I mentioned to my friends that this kind of entertainment would never be cool in the states!
Sunday, Juan, Ashe, Amanda, Jessica, and Mark came with me to chrch! We had a great time and were bombarded by Chinese students that wanted to talk to us after. We then met up with Elaine to go wedding dress shopping for Amanda’s wedding. The dresses were really cheap…a lot under $100! They were all basically the same size (understandably). We saw a lot of couples…in China the groom comes with the bride as she picks it out. I can’t picture that in the States! This was her first time shopping, so she didn’t really want to buy anything. Trying on a dress was a crazy experience!
Monday we had two classes. They are almost finished. We talked about the poor areas of China and farming. Wow, a lot of their income is around 1000RMB a year. I cannot imagine. I hope I get to see these areas one day. There is just no way to comprehend. After class we took Andy to a farewell dinner at McDonalds. It was his first time going…I think he liked it!
Tuesday was our Great Wall adventure! I am so thankful the weather was cool; I have NEVER climbed that many steps in my life! A few of the people in the program and I had been training for the past week by climbing the seven floors to our rooms instead of taking the elevator. I felt pretty fit! There is no way to explain how steep it is…it really is climbing a mountain! It was really fun to be there with all the Chinese tourist. We got many request to have our picture taken with people!
I woke up early and had a nice walk and quiet time this morning. How freeing to have my Best Friend with me everywhere I go! This afternoon as I was climbing the steps I heard some singing in one of the top floors. I stopped as I recognized the tune…as the deer panthe for the water so my soul longs after you…I was sure that it was this song. I slowly made my way up the stairs. I saw an older man kneeling with several books around him. He heard me behind him and I started to tell him I knew the song. It turns out John (as he would like me to call him) has been to Ohio State. He even wondered when he saw our group if there were any true belivers in the group. Tears came to his eyes as we spoke. He carries a wonderful light. I asked if we could sing the song together before I left. It was beautiful. We are getting dinner hopefully with a few students tomorrow. I was sure giddy after that, Papa is so faithful!
Well, I’m off to bed. I can’t wait to wake up in the morning. Andy moves in the morning, which I’m sad about. But he gave me his bicycle!!! It is horrible shape. He hasn’t ridden it in three months! It has no breaks and the wheel is a little shaky…a TRUE Chinese bike! He remembered Lightning (my bike’s name) and named his BMW (like the car company he said). BMW and I will be off for an adventure in the morning!
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
Monday, July 7, 2008
· Cottage Cheese
· Blue Skies
· Fast Internet
· The Prayer House
· RDPs (random dance parties)
· The Boogie Button
· Mac & Cheese
· The Ville
· My sisters
· Being able to understand my classes
· Free time
· J House
· Any Cheese
· Swimming pools
· Being able to brush my teeth and drink water from the faucet.
· Picking on Allyse and her picking on me
· Being able to read a menu
· Lightning (my bike)
· Going to the park
· Northstar Café
· Kelcie’s Jeep
· The Ark deck
· Ice/ ice water
Saturday, July 5, 2008
Happy Fourth of July!!!! It doesn’t feel quite like the fourth here. The only American flag and eagles I have seen are on this sweet pair of shorts I bought at the Wal-Mart here for 50 cents! (pictures to come later). We also sang ‘Proud to be an American on the bus.’
The closest we got to fireworks was at the Laoshe Tea House where there was an acrobatic performance where a really flexible girl balanced 6 candles while doing crazy moves! There was also the most amazing shadow puppet performance ever, amazing kung fu, traditional dances, and ear screeching traditional Chinese instruments.
I’m almost half way done with my time here in Beijing. The reality that I have 6 papers and three presentations is also becoming clear!
The dynamics of our group of thirteen has certainly changed. After two weeks, people’s attempt at a good first impression starts to fade. I’m learning a lot about myself and how to work with different people. I so badly want to have deep conversations with these people. I can see that a lot of the uneasiness comes from insecurity. Please join me in prying for these opportunities. I’ve taken my usual spot as the peacemaker and it gets a little lonely at times! It’s pretty neat because there is just something different about the security I have, knowing my Papa and that he knows me. I know that they see it. They’ve already joked with me about it, but I hope its something that makes them wonder.
Yesterday I met with the lady, Jane, that is organizing the relief work for Sichuan. It looks like it will work for me to go! I have a lot to figure out…flights, travel insurance and such. This will be a challenging time, but really refreshing to meet up with Wendy and her group! It was so great to hang out with Jane. I stayed at her house for six hours chatting. A Chinese girl Lill is staying with her for a week while she goes through training on how to do therapy using art and music. Wow Lill has an amazing story. Just like the brave young girls we hear about in the movement. Lill made us a traditional dinner and we enjoyed being such close sisters in the same ‘family’, yet never having met each other! Papa is good!
Monday, June 30, 2008
I’m on the search for the real China. While my classes are great…sitting in a room just isn’t doing it for me. It is honestly hard for me to comprehend that I’m in another country. I feel sheltered in this program. We have very little free time and every day is structured. I guess this is what taking 15 credit hours of class in 6 weeks should be like!
Friday morning we went to the U.S Ministry of Agriculture. I am beginning to realize just how important and interesting agriculture is. This is the business of feeding the world! As all eyes are shifting to the rising power of China, they are in a significant catch 22 when it comes to food sustainability. Peasant farmers are given their own land (only a half hectare!) even if it would be more productive for farmers to work together and use large machinery; it is a matter of security to keep peasant farmers investing in the land. The urban movement cannot handle any more people. This is opening the door of opportunities for countries, such as America to get in on importing foods to these 1.3 billion people.
I love parties. Friday the CAAS students hosted an ‘English’ party for us. We were told to prepare a few acts; but in normal American college student fashion, we thought of a few ideas and decided to wing it. Bad idea. They were prepared with Tai Chi and kung fu routines, traditional Chinese instruments and a special welcome song. We taught them the national anthem…it was really awkward. Then we taught them some ballet moves and I finished up the night teaching them the Cupid Shuffle. These events are fun because we are treated like celebrities. Everyone wants to talk to you and get his or her picture with you!
Saturday was a great tri p to the Summer Palace. I didn’t know I could find that much green in Beijing! It was truly remarkable. I just cannot comprehend that they could build these huge palaces for the emperor’s…it’s ridiculous!
Sunday, when I set my eye’s on the huge Haidian Chrstian Chrch I began to tear up. This is home to me. They have five services that are filled to the max. There was standing room only in the English service I attended. It was very much like a contemporary service in the states. I knew all the songs and enjoyed the message. I was just so refreshed to worship again. I made quick friends and went to lunch some students from the University of Florida that are studying here for three months.
I enjoyed this little adventure by myself as the rest of the students in my program went to the zoo for the day. I felt kind of free for the first time!
Elaine met me in the afternoon and went shopping at Off-Price. It’s owned by the same people as TJ Maxx and Marshalls. She is a great shopper and helped me pick out a few things I’m really happy with. Their shopping process is really weird; I never would have figured it out without her!
Afterwards, her husband (who I later gave the English name Shawn), picked us up and took us to their apartment. It was really neat to go to the fifth ring and see where the majority of the residents in Beijing live. It is definitely different than the commercialized touristy look of the rest of the city. We hung out for a while then she and her husband treated me to one of their favorite restaurants. It was some of the best food I’ve had yet! I was so humbled by how kind they were to me the whole day. They really took care of me and I had a blast!
So the search for the real China continues as I make plans to hang out with students and venture into the city. I feel like I got a fresh breath of air from this weekend; getting to worship and get a break from the loaded program. I begin and end every day exhausted. I’m trying to live up this time to the full!