I've spent a lot of time trying to catch up talking about my trip, but I haven't told anything that has happened in Shiyan recently. Since I came back, things seem to have been fairly slow and yet I feel like I am consistently doing something. We were expecting to have 10 foreign teachers in town this year, but due to problems at a new school two hours from here we have an additional 2 teachers teaching at a middle school here in town. So now we're up to 12. Two more teachers in Xiangfan are having trouble with their contracts because of a health exam so there's a possibility they'll be moving here in the next week or two. Then we'll just be bursting at the seams with foreigners!
The past few Sundays have been pretty good. We've spent a lot of time talking about grace and love because of some personal struggles that have come out recently. My mind has really been occupied lately with how I can best help the Chinese here. It's kept me up at night a few times. Sometimes I feel so unqualified to be teaching anything here because sometimes I just don't feel like I can relate enough to their culture and present situation. But then I remember that I don't really matter, I'm only a medium through which the Father works. Then my mind feels more at ease. At least until I start worrying about it again. It's motivated me to work on my Chinese, though.
The weather here turned cool rather quickly this year. The first week was hot and muggy, but then it turned cooler and it has been fairly clear most of the time. The last two or three days were cloudy and rainy, but today is sunny and warm. Almost too warm after the last week and a half of cool! Tonight there are some new folks coming into town from Danjiangkou. It's the first year that we've had teachers in that city, which is in the same county as us. It's actually smaller than Shiyan so they'll be coming here to find the good shopping and to go to McDonalds. It's weird since we're usually the ones traveling 7 hours to Wuhan for shopping and food. It will be good to have people in two cities that are within 2 and a half hours of us instead of nothing closer than 6-8 hours. Good opportunities to get out of town for one day or one afternoon or whatever.
I was assigned my classes for this term and I'm teaching on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday. I don't know how I pulled that off, but I have two days of no class. That's amazing! I've already filled up most of my nights with class or Studies with students, so now I'm looking for things to fill up my afternoons and mornings. Last year I was able to study Chinese with a lady in our Foreign Affairs Office, but this year her boss won't let her teach me unless I pay her and we hold our lessons after office hours. She would rather teach me for free in the mornings but he insists that I pay her. I'm never free after office hours except on the weekends so I'm not too keen on the idea. I guess I'll have to rely on students to help me study. Helen was such a good teacher, too. As the Chinese are fond of saying, "What a pity!"
If you didn't read my previous posts, I have a new Skype number that you can use to call me from America. It's a 615 area code number and it will just call my computer. As long as I'm around to hear my computer ringing, I should answer. You might need to call twice to give me time to answer. There's also a new way for me to call the States for 5 cents a minute, compared to the 35 cents a minute it used to cost for me to call from here. And I can use my cell phone instead of going to a special phone station. So drop me your number or just call my new number, which is (615) 653-4595. So far only Greg, my mom, and Jennifer have called me. The rest of you are all bums! By the way, I said the first one to call gets a prize. Greg was the first one to call me but my mom called as I was going to answer Greg's call and I had to make a spot decision and I ended up taking her call first. Next time I see Greg I guess he'll get the mystery prize since he was the first to actually dial the number. Now I just have to figure out what the prize is. Any requests, Greg?