Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Thursday, December 04, 2008
I worked an hour and a half of overtime (plus another hour tomorrow morning).
I didn't chop off anything while using various sharp tools at work.
I blogged for the second time this week.
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
In the past few months I have:
Moved with Matthew, Jennifer, and the kiddos into a brand new town home that has a room that is all mine and just for me. And it even has a door. And a bathroom. And a closet.
I have not had a car to drive since October 15 because my car won't pass emissions and the temp tag expired. Thank you Matt Britton for giving me a ride to work everyday since then. You're a champ. My car is currently being fixed by the most awesome guy ever. Bill Simpson lives near 840, south of Franklin. He works out of his home and can fix your car for loads cheaper than any garage can. How does $200 instead of $600 sound? Awesome, that's how. I should be driving again by the end of this week.
I went to MS for Thanksgiving and had a blast. The food was amazing, almost worth the two years away from home. I did miss the pecan pie, though. Christmas is coming, I'll just hope for some then.
I still miss China a lot, but I'm getting used to being in the US and don't feel quite as much stress from the change. Although after 4+ months, it's still not a walk in the park.
I'll try to be better. It's all anyone can ask or expect.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Tuesday, September 09, 2008
Sunday, September 07, 2008
Tuesday, September 02, 2008
My Favorite Family Member
My favorite family member is my oldest brother Michael. I like him because he is always nice to me (unless I wake him up). He's always in a good mood, so he's fun to be around. He knows how to have a good time and he almost always invites me to go with him. I like being around him because he is a good person and he's not that hard to get along with.
Your visit was looked forward to. We really missed you. The thought of your next trip is overwhelming - not because of your presence. Because you owe me five dollars.
Dad, you are like a tall oak tree.
You stand tall before the problems of life,
You withstand even the mightiest winds,
Yet you are as gentle and fun as a puppy.
You bring happiness to people who need it most,
And you expect nothing in return.
You are an oak to withstand all but people needing happiness.
When I am an old man, I will talk to dogs.
I will wear ugly golf pants and clear my throat a lot.
I will live next door to a golf course and keep all of the balls that come into my yard.
If anyone drives their cart into my yard, I will throw the balls at them,
I will yell and clap my hands whenever anyone tries to hit their ball,
When the golf course goes out of business, I will hang out at Wal-Mart and tell stories to people I know.
I could let my dogs run around the neighborhood chasing people,
Or I could keep anything that kids leave in my yard.
Then I could sell it to pay for the gas going to and from Wal-Mart.
I might even steal other people's mail.
But I can't do it just yet because I'm still in high school,
I still have to get a job and retire,
I have to wait a couple of decades, too.
Besides, my parents would never allow it.
Friday, August 15, 2008
Saturday, August 09, 2008
Sunday, August 03, 2008
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
My brother and his wife have joined an event called Walk to Cure Diabetes, which is being held all over the country on various dates throughout the next few months. For this event, people will walk (or run) 5 kilometers in order to raise awareness and money for help in finding a cure for juvenile diabetes. Until this event (September 27 in Dallas for us), you can easily donate money to our team (Team Suzy Q) by clicking on the logo at the top of my blog. You can also donate through Stacey's blog (see link above). So far Team Suzy Q has set a goal of raising $16,000. Too much, you say? Well it's the first day and Billy's already raised $1000. With your help we can meet our goal and be that much closer to finding a cure. Donations of $1 are welcome, right alongside donations of $1000. If you feel inspired to join our team, you can click on the logo and you'll find a button to join up. Don't worry about your location. The event is in Dallas but I'll probably be running down the sidewalk in Nashville. If I earn a t-shirt, I'm sure they'll mail it to me. For more information about juvenile diabetes research, feel free to visit the JDRF website.
Friday, July 11, 2008
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
Angelyn and I always dreamed of being treated well by our school. So to pursue this dream, we pestered them until they agreed to drive us from Shiyan to the Xi'an airport. This was a big deal for us because this meant we wouldn't have to bother with buses, trains, or taxis, which would be a big deal with our luggage. China has been changing quickly. Just last year a car ride to Xi'an would have taken 12 hours. Now there's a highway scheduled to open in December that will cut that down to 3 hours (thanks to about 100 bazillion tunnels they dug straight through 350km of mountains). Now the drive is expected to take 6 to 8 hours, depending on traffic and road conditions. To make a long story short, we took the opened portion of the highway for almost an hour, off-roaded on a dirt/gravel road for two hours or so, and spent the rest of the time mostly on two-lane paved roads winding through the mountains of Shaanxi province. While the view was breathtaking and our driver was fun and friendly, the drive ended in disaster. We got to the Xi'an area around 5 (about 3 hours later than expected), and got on the expressway to head to the airport. Somehow (I still don't know how because I saw with my own eyes the signs we were following toward the airport) we ended up on the wrong side of Xi'an. By the time I figured it out and showed the driver where we were on the map (ironic that I used a Chinese map better than the Chinese driver could), we were 70 miles away from where we wanted to be. So we turned back and sped towards the airport. The driver didn't seem too concerned when we saw a sign saying we had another 30 minutes, even though our flight was scheduled to leave in 60 minutes. Plenty of time, he said. Well, we pulled off the highway at 7, found the right terminal and pulled up to the door at 7:10, jumped out, barely said thanks to the driver before running inside, and arrived just in time to get totally lost inside the Xi'an airport. We were flying to Hong Kong, so we had to go into the international terminal, which was set off from the rest of the terminal by a frosted glass wall. We couldn't figure out how to get in. People in there had us running back and forth down the terminal for 30 minutes, handing us off from one person to the next, all of whom had no idea where the international terminal was. Finally, at 7:40 (the exact time our flight was taking off) someone let me through into a roped off area so I could ask his boss. It seems he couldn't ask himself. Turns out, the guy was guarding the rope blocking us from where we needed to go to check in. And he didn't even know it. Even though I said "where is counter 52?" (because that's where we needed to check in) and it was ten feet around the corner where he could SEE IT. Airport employees are smart sometimes. So we missed the flight to Hong Kong, which means we missed the 3 flights after that.
All in all, we arrived at the airport 5 hours later than we were told we would arrive. We spent 400 yuan on phone calls, expensive airport hotel rooms, and expensive airport hotel ramen noodles because we had to rebook tickets and stay the night. I really don't know what to say except that it's a lot easier to enjoy speaking with airport employees when you're NOT running around with over 100 pounds of luggage flopping around you. On the upside, it seems we would have missed our other flights even if we had made it to Hong Kong because American Airlines and Dragon Air are dumb. But I'll have to blog about that another time. There's so much more to this story, you should expect at least one more installment. You won't be disappointed.
Monday, July 07, 2008
I've had such a long time to think about leaving and it's been such a long process saying goodbye to people over the weeks, I'm not quite sure how I feel about it anymore. Angelyn and I originally stayed longer to attend a friend's wedding, but the friend's visa to America didn't come through so the wedding was postponed. (it's a Chinese girl marrying an American guy and they were trying to time the wedding so she could go back to the States with him) Now that the wedding is postponed, I find myself wishing this whole leaving process had been taken care of three weeks ago, when I finished teaching. But I've been able to enjoy some good summer weather here with my remaining friends, so it hasn't been a loss.
Today I walked up the hill behind our apartment building and took a few pictures. The sun's out today and the sky is really blue, so it's a great way to end my time here. I don't feel like wrestling with the internet to load pictures right now, but I'll do it when I'm in Nashville or Cleveland with a better connection. I'll even post those pictures from Michael's trip that I was supposed to post 2 months ago. If you're keeping track of me, I'm leaving here at 6 in the morning tomorrow (that's 5pm CST Monday night), I'll get on my first plane in Xi'an at 7:40pm Tuesday (6:40am Tuesday morning), and eventually reach Nashville at 9:40am Wednesday (9:40am Wednesday). Drop me a line if you're in the area!
Friday, July 04, 2008
I'll be home in a few days! That's weird. Our school agreed to drive us to the Xi'an airport Tuesday morning, which means we won't have to wrestle any bags onto trains or buses. That's an incredible blessing! They were very reluctant to do it at first, but Angelyn is awesome and gave them a good guilt trip about fulfilling their obligations and 15 minutes later everything was approved by the proper authorities. We'll leave Xi'an Tuesday night (Tuesday morning in America) and I'll arrive in Nashville after four flights. If you happen to be at the Nashville airport around 9:20 on Wednesday morning, make sure to say hello to me. I'm sure I'll be a little too tired to notice you unless you initiate contact. Big banners help. So do brass bands. And ham sandwiches with mustard, a slice of American cheese, and a crispy piece of lettuce. And a cold root beer. Or just waving and yelling my name.
Thursday, May 29, 2008
In the past when people asked me how long I would be here, I would always answer "until I don't want to be here anymore." That was the only answer I knew to give. I didn't really plan to come to China for long before I actually came. I had some friends introduce the idea to me, I called them crazy, they pressured me into going to a meeting about it, and then it just sort of hit me and stuck. If you had told me a year before I graduated that I'd be in China, I would have laughed in your face. It just shows how quickly a path can be revealed in your life. Well, after coming here I always figured I'd stay until I felt like I should go home. I've been told by others who've come and gone that sometimes you just suddenly know that this is your last year. Last semester I fully planned to stay here another year. I really like a lot about being here. I also really dislike a lot about being here. I don't want to make any lists or anything, I'm just saying that suddenly it just makes more sense for me to go than to stay.
I will leave Shiyan on July 7. I'll be at the Nashville airport on July 9. At this point I have no idea what I'll be doing in terms of a job or anything like that. I don't know if I'll be spending the rest of my days in the States or what. I've considered the idea of coming back for language school. Increase my skill set, that sort of thing. At this point all I know for sure is that I hate teaching English here. I'm not going to miss it. I'm not going to miss having 23 hours of free time every day. But I'm going to miss my friends. And I might even miss the 11pm false alarms when my friends think there's a prowler.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
First thing first. I'm not trying to toot my own horn here, but if you'd like to read an exciting story involving me, prowlers, a folding chair, and intention to make a daring leap from the fourth floor balcony to the third floor, just click here. For a little background, you should know that about a month ago, while Michael was here visiting, someone broke into the third floor apartments in the middle of the night and stole some money from Trip and Jessica.
Now, on to other news. Of course you know about the May 12th earthquake in Sichuan province. If you don't know what I'm talking about, you need to get out of your bubble. I wrote a brief blog entry the day of the earthquake just to let everyone know I'm okay. At the time I didn't realize the extent of the devastation and for some reason I haven't come back to comment more on it until now. It's been an incredible experience to see the reactions of the people here. The sorrow and despair, the patriotism and unity, the surge to donate anything including blood, supplies, and money. On the 19th, exactly one week after the earthquake, the country began a three day mourning period. It began at 2:28pm, the time of the earthquake, with 1 minute of silence. That's how I was told it would begin. Actually, when the clock struck 2:28, every train, truck, and taxi in the country blew its horn. That's a lot of noise. My first thought was "that's a strange way to have a minute of silence." Then I learned that it was meant as a wail of grief. A nation wide wail of despair after so many tens of thousands of people were killed. That's intense. For the next three days, all places of entertainment were closed, color was removed Chinese language websites, online entertainment was blocked, the only available media online, on the radio, and on TV was about the earthquake. For 72 straight hours. It seems strange to a foreigner like me to have such an enforced period of mourning, but if you know the culture here it seems fitting that they would honor the people of Sichuan as one big family and in such an all-encompassing way. There's still so much happening in Sichuan and so much work to be done there in the months ahead.
Now it's time for me to go. I actually have to go to class. Boo. On the upside, I've only got three more days of class over the next two weeks, so I can't really complain. Anyhoo, I'll write more later. I know that my own blogging doesn't quite cover all the events that take place here, so I'd suggest that everyone check out the links I've provided to other Shiyan blogs. Angelyn and Jessica's blogs will probably provide insight into any events at my school, while the others may or may not mention me but should still be interesting and thought provoking.
Monday, May 12, 2008
Saturday, April 26, 2008
We had a pretty good time in Beijing. We didn't get the train I wanted coming back to Shiyan, so we arrived at the station at 1:30 and had to rush home for my class that started at 2:10. Thanks to no line waiting for taxis and a good driver, I made it with time to spare. I just had the one class on Monday, but then Tuesday I had class from 10 to 5:30 except for lunch. Of course, lunch is 2 1/2 hours here, so it's not quite as bad as it sounds at first. Then the rest of the week I had off due to the fact that some old classes ended and the new ones that began were all on Tuesday. Yay! Lucky me. Basically the whole time Michael was here I was whisking him around from one park or mountain to another. He made a comment about wishing he had a step counter to count the number of stairs he walked up here.
There's a lot to write about, but I'm dead tired from spending 19 of the last 24 hours on a train taking Michael to the airport and then coming back home. Every train I got on with Michael, we seemed to get stuck next to some guys who sounded like they had chainsaws stuck in their throats all night long. I think if there was a snoring event at the Olympics, China would be taking home an extra gold medal this year. Anyhoo, I'll fill in the details and pictures tomorrow. Right now I just want everyone to know that Michael was dropped off at the Wuhan airport this morning and should be somewhere over Russia on his way back to Newark as I type this. Hopefully he'll sleep well on the plane and be ready to greet the American day when he lands. That's all for now, I'm off to bed.
Friday, April 18, 2008
We got to the airport at 2:30, about 35 minutes after Michael's ETA. I wasn't TOO worried because 1) I'd told Michael this might happen and he should just find a seat and wait for me if I'm not already there waiting for him, and 2) Sometimes it takes an hour or more to get through customs. Well, there we were arriving at the airport, me being not too worried. I ended up only saving about 9 yuan by taking a bus before getting in the taxi, so that part didn't work out as planned. But the taxi took me to the new Terminal 3, which is a good 15-20 minute ride away from the other 2 terminals if you have to go through the loading area to get back to the road. Well, the driver got out and asked for me if this was the right terminal and he told me it was, so I ran inside to find Michael. After 20 or 30 minutes of asking around, pacing back and forth in front of the arrivals gate, and looking at different screens with flights on them, I finally realized that Michael's flight was coming in at Terminal 2. At that point I was more worried. It was after 3 and I figured Michael had been sitting around for about an hour already. I found the shuttle to the next terminal, had to wait about 7 minutes for the driver to decide it was time to leave, sat through the 10-15 minute ride, and then rushed through the departures area to find the escalator down to Arrivals. As soon as I got off I saw Michael sitting in the seating area. Apparently it took almost no time at all to get through customs, so he'd been waiting about an hour and a half for me to get there. He didn't mind too much, I think jetlag had muddied his brain activity a bit.
We took the airport shuttle into town and then walked past Tiananmen Square and up a few blocks to get to where we're staying. It was about twice as far as we thought because Beijing is hugemongous and things are just further than you think. On Friday we climbed the Great Wall and hunted up the Bird's Nest and Bubble, two of the venues for the Olympics. Today we toured the Forbidden City and Tiananmen. Tonight we're planning to go back to the Bubble and watch some freestyle swimming events that are being held. It'll be pretty cool to be able to go inside and watch some world-class athletes. And without the crowds of the Olympics. We hope.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
P.S. - I'd like to give a special shout out to Angelyn, the greatest friend a guy could ever wish for. She's covering my classes while I'm gone to Beijing. You're the greatest!
Tuesday, April 08, 2008
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
[Teenage mutant ninja supernatural turtles]
Whoa, did someone sneak an extra word in there? Mostly an exact literal translation, except that the Chinese prefer to call the turtles supernatural turtles (神龟), or “god-turtles,” for the more literal-minded. Thinking this particular phrase might have some root in China’s rich cultural heritage, I did a Baidu image search. Hmmm. Lots of TMNT. No legends involving Guanyin and a massive turtle or something? I guess it’s not as important as TMNT. You know… the god-turtles.
Heroes in a half-shell
[Heroes draped in hard armor]
Hmmm… dramatic, but decidedly less turtley.
They’re the world’s most fearsome fighting team
[They take on the world’s fearsome challenges]
Hmmm, so these “challenges” the translator made up are fearsome, but the turtles are not? Maybe it’s because they’re god-like.
We’re really hip!
[We’re the greatest!]
This is actually less humorous than a ridiculous cartoon character from the 80’s saying “we’re really hip.”
They’re heroes in a half-shell and they’re green
[They are green heroes draped in hard armor]
Wow. Nice dramatic effect.
Hey - get a grip!
[Hey, catch up!]
Hey, a turtle is telling you to catch up! That is so cool but crude.
When the evil Shredder attacks,
[When bad egg Shredder comes to make trouble,]
“Evil”… “bad egg”… more or less the same right? Yes! …in Chinese.
These Turtle boys don’t cut him no slack!
[The supernatural turtle guys will not give him an easy time]
Now I see why they’re not referred to as “fearsome.”
Splinter taught them to be ninja teens
[Teacher Splinter taught them to become ninja youths]
And here you have the translator correcting the original lyricist’s mistake of not giving Master Splinter proper respect.
He’s a radical rat!
[He is a rat brimming with passion]
Ah yes, “brimming with passion,” the little-known synonym for “radical.”
Leonardo leads, Donatello does machines
[Leonardo is the leader, Donatello is a genius inventor]
This line has lost the ambiguity of “does machines,” but I guess we won’t miss that.
That’s a fact, Jack!
[This all is true, man]
Props for not using “杰克” (Jack).
Raphael is cool but crude
[Raphael is cool, but he’s a bit crude]
Nice! They even toned it down to just “a bit crude” to save him some face.
Gimme a break!
Yes, he is less crude in Chinese.
Michaelangelo is a party dude
[Michaelangelo is a mack daddy]
Well, it’s debatable whether 万人迷 means “mack daddy” or “ten-thousand men love,” but the real question is where’d the “party” go?
Ah, there it is.
Saturday, April 05, 2008
Wednesday, April 02, 2008
In class we were brainstorming ideas on how to help things along. I suggested they designate a day each week as an "English only" day, but they said they've tried it in the past and it didn't go well. Classmates would slack off and refuse to speak English, friends who weren't taking part would make fun of them for speaking English all day, and they would end up getting discouraged and quit after the first day. So then I thought, why not try it again, only you can speak Chinese with people not in class. They'd only be required to speak English with their classmates. That would avoid people outside of class making fun of them. But if your only choice for practicing English is the same group of classmates all the time, you get tired of talking to them. So I expanded the idea, why not invite the other English major classes? Then we'd have around 200 or more students taking part in English Day each week. Then I thought, why not invite anyone and everyone to participate? So many students complain that they have no one to speak English with, and we foreign teachers often complain that students only target us to practice their English.
Well, at this point things got exciting. In my mind, anyway. At first the idea only involved the 35 students in my class, then grew to include 70 students, then 200. Now the possibilities were enormous. We could get 500, 700, or even (dare I dream) 1,000 students involved in this! Now the problem was how to know who's participating in English Day. You don't want to have to go around every Tuesday asking people if they prefer English or Chinese. I told my students that before class on Thursday they need to come up with some ideas of something everyone could wear as a sign of participation. Something cheap and plentiful. Today a student told me it's possible to get something you can write on and pin on your shirt. Very easy, very cheap. I think they plan to start this next week, so sometime this week we have to go out and find a few hundred of these pins and some markers to write on them.
When I was telling Angelyn and Jessica about this on our way to lunch Tuesday, we were all getting really excited. One of them commented that we could be starting a revolution and we all got more excited. It feels weird to say we're starting any sort of revolution in China, but at least it's a revolution in getting students to practice their English. I'm sure there are some types of revolutions that wouldn't be so welcome. This was really all quite accidental and sudden. I don't know why it took so long for this idea to form itself in any of our brains, but I'm glad it did. It seems to me that at the very least our English majors can take advantage of this to get in more practice and form the habit of speaking without their teachers looming over them, forcing them to speak English. If some students got into that habit, it would definitely revolutionize the classroom environment. I'm tired of having to practically flog my students to get out more than one sentence. I look forward to the day I can leave my whip at home when I leave for class.
Tuesday, April 01, 2008
1) We cooked more. Vegetables in China are extremely cheap and usually fresh out of the ground. We can buy one dish in a restaurant for 5 yuan or we can buy enough vegetables to cook 5 dishes and cook them ourselves for the same price. I cooked a few dishes that got better each time I tried, and Angelyn and Jessica provided a plethora of dishes, fried rice, and soups. Of course, dirty dishes are from the devil.
2) I lost weight. I didn't know I'd lost weight until a week ago, but apparently I lost about 8 pounds. Probably due to the fact that I only drank 3 cokes the whole month, we walked 90% of the time instead of taking the bus, and I pretty much only ate meat once a week at most. I feel good, though!
3) I had a birthday. I don't know how I didn't blog about this earlier, but I turned 27 back on the 11th. It was a pretty great day. Angelyn and Jessica got some of my students to dress up as the Olympic Mascots and recite a poem for me. Then they brought out a spice cake with cream cheese icing! It was the most amazing experience of my life. Apparently I got the cake mix and icing in the mail from my mom (thanks, mom!) back in October and Angelyn stashed it away secretly after she heard me exclaim that it's my favorite. I totally forgot about it and had no idea where she had acquired the cake nor how she knew it's my favorite. Praise God for good friends! It's hard to beat a birthday with great friends and great icing on your cake.
4) I meditated. No, I wasn't sitting in some weird position in my living room, hovering over the floor. I just spent a lot of time thinking about... well, just about everything there is to think about. For one thing, I often thought about the poor who we were trying to imitate. Almost every day people would offer to pay for me to do something so that I wouldn't go without, so that I would be able to have fun with them, or because they thought it was crazy for me to walk an hour and a half across town when I could just ride the bus. I would always ask myself if people who are actually on welfare in China get this kind of treatment. I imagine many of them might beg and receive money from strangers, but they don't usually seem to have a band of friends about them offering to pay for everything. I think this past month was made much easier due to the support and assistance of many friends, and that seriously makes me want to know more about others and whether they have this same type of support. I have a much different view of how much a small bit of money can help a poor person on the street. Or a large amount. I also meditated about many many other things that I'll have to address later.
This list is far from all-inclusive of the things I learned and did this past month, but it's all I can think to write at the moment. April is being billed as Active April, so we're doing different activities and actively pursuing certain goals that we have set for ourselves this month. It should be a fun month. I'll write more tomorrow, especially since one of my goals is to actively blog. Thanks for being patient, I hope you enjoy my return to blogging!
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Friday, March 21, 2008
Thursday, March 20, 2008
So now I'm stepping back and instead of looking at all the bad and annoying things around me, I'm trying to be more optimistic. This glass isn't half empty! It's sort of almost halfway full! So I won't sum up today by saying I almost hit two guys in the face. Instead, I'm gonna tell you that today I did NOT punch two guys in the face. And right after I didn't punch the first guy, we found a store that sold whipping cream and they even whipped it for us for free. Yay! Then on the way back to school Jessica didn't punch a little girl in the face. Which is way funnier than me not punching a man in the face. (I hope you realize that "not punching someone in the face" is code for "I really almost punched someone in the face but restrained myself.")
But there are always things that you just can't put a pretty face on. Like racism, or riots, or affairs, or outright hatred. I know I have a hard time with a lot of things, but I just don't understand when people refuse to love. When promises made are considered null and void because you think you might like someone else better. Or when someone dies but you can't go to their funeral or offer support because their congregation split from yours and no one in that group will associate with you anymore. Shunning someone in public because they support giving a Bible to someone. That amounts to public hatred. Turning your back on someone in the supermarket when they say hi to you. Preaching hatred instead of love. Legalism instead of truth and spirit. Limiting yourself and everyone you come in contact with instead of letting Christ set you free. I admit that I've got a whole tree growing out of my eye, but some people don't even realize that they're blind in both eyes and walking into a pit.
There's so much more that I want to say, but I don't think I should. Most of you probably have no idea what any of that alludes to, and that's okay. This post isn't aimed at you. If you do know, then hopefully you understand my meaning. Selfishness, unfaithfulness, pride, hatred, ungodly actions; they all manifest themselves in the smallest and largest ways possible. If we can't take a slap in the face without giving up or slapping back, then we need to reevaluate ourselves. We should respond with love! If we can't love unconditionally, it's not really love. If we can't be loyal to our first love, what's keeping us with our second love? Or third? If, in a town of 15,000 people, both lost and Christian, the only ones who aren't welcome at your funeral are the other Christians, what's the point of even calling yourself a Christian? Even though I'm pretty sure I'm not perfect at all the things I just mentioned, I still can't understand blatant disregard for some of these. Some of the most central aspects of Christianity and Love, yet we can't seem to even grasp the idea.
I have a feeling my blog has developed a negative tone during the last few posts. I have to be honest, I've been very very down lately. I have some great high moments everyday, like when my family calls or I'm with friends here, but then 2 minutes later I'm back down again. For the last two weeks. I have faith that I'll come out of this rut soon, but I just want people to know that they don't help by abandoning or being hateful. I'm not just saying they don't help me. They don't help the world. They don't help themselves. They don't help the Kingdom. They don't help God. The only one they help is the very one trying to destroy them. So if you're not helping, sit back and put things in perspective. You don't matter, others matter. I don't matter, others matter. We don't matter, others don't even really matter. Only God matters. And he's already told you what to do. Love him first. Love others first. He'll worry about you. That's all that matters. My cups not half empty. My cup overflows.
Tuesday, March 04, 2008
Right now I have one class on Monday afternoons, a Tuesday/Thursday morning class, and 4 other classes in the other afternoons. We've also set aside a time for the foreigners at my school to get together at 8 most mornings each week to study and talk. So far, it's been fun. On top of that, we found a Chinese Sister to tutor each of us for an hour each day to continue our language learning. There's also a study on Saturday nights at my school, some birthday parties coming up, Michael is coming to visit in April (if you didn't know, my brother is coming in April!!!), a weekly guy's lunch that we're trying to plan, and all sorts of things that I don't even know about yet. It's been fun comparing schedules with people trying to find a time to get together. One thing we're focusing on this term is smaller groups. Less worrying about getting everyone involved, more attention on being effective and fulfilling our purpose. It should be a good term, I think.
Meager March is off to a fair start. I've had my computer on a lot just because I still have some necessary things to pay attention on Skype and my email, but I'm trying to avoid any and all frivolous use of the internet for personal use. I can only use it for important things, like class planning, research, talking to my family, etc. By the way, my family can feel free to continue trying to call me this month, I won't abandon you. I'm on day 4 and I've spent 13 yuan, so I'm doing well with money. The total for the month averages out to 5.45 each day, so I'm a little under par. I'm sure there will be some big expense just over the horizon, though! Well, I'm up to 15 yuan with all the time I'm spending doing personal things online today, so I'm going to run along now. Happy birthday to the 50 bajillion people having a birthday in my family this month. Happy birthday today, Suzannah! Much love to all.
Friday, February 29, 2008
Well, now that Festive February is drawing to a close, we're preparing for Meager March. I've got my walking shoes dusted off, my stomach is ready to say goodbye to restaurant food for a month (sorry Happy Guy!), and my computer is already pouting from the lack of attention it will get. I'll probably wait a few days to see how much food eats into my 5.5 yuan daily budget before attempting any internet time. Since internet costs 2 per hour at the library, that's what we're going to charge ourselves. That's a big chunk of one day's budget for an hour, but if food turns out cheap enough then I'll try to manage a few blog posts in March. Wouldn't want you to think I've fallen off the face of the planet! The massive amounts of free time in March (due to lack of movies and other electronics to waste our time on) will be spent in physical exercise, spiritual meditation, intellectual upkeep (fancy phrase that just means "reading books"), and forming good habits. That's the plan, anyway. I think that the 6 of us doing Meager March in Shiyan (myself, Angelyn, Jessica, Darla, John, and Megan) will be able to encourage each other a lot to stick to the spirit of the month. That spirit would be a spirit of relflection, improvement, and action. Anyhoo, I'm worn out at the moment so you'll just have to wait a few days until I feel comfortable spending money on another post. I've only got one and a half hours left before March, maybe I should go buy a Coke or something. Nah, I'll just go to bed.
Thursday, February 21, 2008
If you recall our list of alliterations, February is both Focus February (because we were focused at language school for a while) and Festive February (to celebrate the less well-known holidays each day of the month). Well the 20th of February was Hidey Hoe Day. Never heard of it? Neither had we, but we're glad we came across it. At 12 noon on Hidey Hoe Day, you're supposed to run outside and yell "hidey hoe!" to scare away winter. We also found a website that called it Hoodey Hoo Day. Well, at 12 noon on that day, Angelyn and I went out on her balcony and yelled. We weren't sure which was correct, so she yelled hidey ho and I yelled hoodey hoo. Then we quickly retreated inside before the neighbors came to investigate. Lo and behold, it's been getting warmer every single day since then. Granted, it's only been 2 days or so, but it's so much warmer that I probably don't need a jacket today. I am a new fan of Hidey Ho Day.
For the last two days I've been trying to clean my apartment. It's in a perpetual state of disarray, so I figured I should do something about it. In two days of work, I've managed to make a bigger mess in every room. And sweep half the floor in my bedroom. I'm making progress! After I post this blog, I'm turning off the computer and getting more serious about cleaning. In another day or two, we'll be called to the English Department to get our class assignments that will begin on Monday, so if I don't finish cleaning now then it will spill over into class time. If that happens, I'll probably never finish cleaning. I'm not much of a multitasker sometimes. Alrighty, that's all for today. I won't be back online until my apartment is undisarrayed. See you either tomorrow or next month.
They don't just shoot up into the air, though. They then explode and throw pieces of cardboard and paper (and sometimes colorful pieces of burning metal or other minerals) out in all directions. It's the loudest, most chaotic, most dangerous thing I have ever witnessed. It only took about 5 or 10 minutes for me to get freaked out (even little kids are given things to light) so I left and watched the explosions from a safe hilltop on our school campus. You can literally turn in any direction and see a fireworks display on the first and last nights of the festival. The festival lasts for two weeks and every day in the middle is filled with intermittent bursts of fireworks (intermittent being every 5 minutes). The first and last days, you don't really go more than 10 seconds without more booms and kapows. It's pretty cool, I must say. Anyhoo, last night was the last night and I unfortunately went to bed very early with a very bad headache so didn't really witness any of the celebrating. I feel better today, though. Oh well, I'll just buy some fireworks and make my own show this weekend.
We are pleased to report (as of 2/20/2008) that the funds received by FHU for the benefit of Jeremy McGill’s medical expenses total $23,566. FHU has expensed $13,500 for a net balance remaining of $10,066. There have been 114 donors and 123 gifts given.
Thanks to all for their generosity in helping Jeremy in this crisis.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Before going to language school, I had a pretty good idea when people were talking about me. I usually could understand them. It's been happening every day since I came to China, so I'm fairly used to it. Sometimes I can shrug it off, sometimes it instantly puts me in a bad mood. I guess it's kind of annoying automatically being put in a separate group. I'm never viewed as normal. 99.99999% of the time I am viewed as a strange outsider from the moment anyone spots me. It's never assumed that maybe I'm just a normal guy who breaths air and bleeds blood. I like reading. I like nice people, tend to stay away from mean people. Things most people in the world do naturally, I do those same things. Not so in China. It's assumed that I'm filthy rich, don't understand anything going on around me, am as helpless as a newborn, and that if someone says hello to me on the bus I am then indebted to them and should teach their child English. In fact, I understand plenty of what is going on around me everyday, I can go shopping just fine on my own, thank you, I don't know you or your son and would prefer not to teach either of you English, but thanks for asking, and chopsticks aren't nearly as hard to use as the Chinese seem to think they should be.
I should try to get to the point so that you won't think I'm just feeling angry today. The point is that in the past, when I haven't been able to just shrug these things off and they have made me angry, I have always run through a list of things in my head that I would love to say. I've got a nice rant prepared about how Chinese people never act towards other Chinese the way they act towards foreigners. I was told just less than two weeks ago that Chinese people never say "can I make friends with you?" to other Chinese people. Yet since being told that, no less than 4 total strangers have come up and said that to me in Chinese. Chinese people don't yell "ni hao!" across the street at other Chinese people they don't know, but I can't go outside more than 30 seconds without someone between the ages of 2 and 90 yelling "helloooooo" at me. My list of things to say also includes things like "take a picture, it'll last longer", "I'm not a performing monkey so don't treat me like one", and many other things along those lines. Back to my point. I used to get angry and run through this list of things to say, but I never felt confident in my ability to say them. It wouldn't do to yell at someone and have them laugh at my poor grammar, right? Now I'm confident that I could say most of the things I want to say, but I have to check myself. It's one thing to have these things run through my mind, it's a totally different thing to act on it. With my newfound knowledge and power to say things coherently in Chinese comes the responsibility to actually interact in a civil manner. Before I could just convince myself that I can't say anything at all to the offender and thereby convince myself to just smile and walk away or to just ignore them completely. Now I have to accept the fact that I can say something but I shouldn't say it. The difference is actually much bigger than you would expect. Going to language school has clarified a lot of things for me, but in another way it has complicated things.
At the same time, language school has made me more thankful for the people that I have known for a long time. Happy Guy, the fruit ladies, Juice lady, the egg and flour lady, they all are used to me and we have a long history of saying hi to each other and chatting while I buy things from them. Since they all work in the same general area, they have all passed on the news that we studied Chinese during the break, so they're all anxious to chat with us even more. After going to Happy Guy's hometown for a couple of days, he's even commented on how much strangers are amazed by me. He couldn't believe how many people would stare at me, follow me around, and yell hello at me when I was in his village. I'm not strange to him, I'm just Brian. His daughter even scolded a few of their neighbors for talking about me as if I wasn't standing right next to them. They didn't believe her when she said I could understand them until I assured them that I could, then they just laughed their way inside, probably embarrassed.
So did you catch my point in all that rambling? Maybe I should sum things up. Language school has helped a lot for obvious reasons. When living in China, it's always easier when you know Chinese. However, things have also gotten more complicated. Now I have these old habits that are suddenly much more dangerous because of my improved skills. I definitely need to work on changing these old habits and replace them with more helpful ones. Finally, no amount of frustration caused by annoying strangers can compare to the thankfulness I feel for the people who treat me like a normal person. Being treated like a normal person in a place where the vast majority of people treat you like something else entirely is something that cannot be described.
Here are a few pictures from my two days in Zhang Village near Linpa, Henan. Happy Guy took my camera away from me about 5 minutes after I got there so most of the pictures are "Chinese style". That means they're either tilted or not centered.
Here I am with Happy Guy, soon after my arrival.
Stewie, HG's son. He's 9. You can see the neighbor's grandkid in the background.
Here I am in front of the house. It's the traditional style of a house with an enclosed courtyard. The sign over my head is wishing Zhang Cheng (HG's daughter) a happy 12th birthday. The others are (l to r) HG's little sister, HG's older sister, HG's wife, and HG's mom.
This is HG's little sister and her son. He's actually 5, he's just a little small for his age. He's got the pose down, though.
This is a short video just after Amber blew out her candles. You can get a look at the cake. Chinese people know how to make a good looking cake.
Happy Guy took several videos trying to get in every single person at the party. Since the party spanned several rooms and more than one yard, I've only put in this one video to give you a taste. The very first lady you see sitting in the corner is Happy Guy's 90 year old grandmother.
Sunday, February 17, 2008
Thursday, February 14, 2008
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
I ended up staying overnight because Happy Guy tricked me. He told me to come on the early morning bus and then after dinner he'd take me to catch a bus home to Shiyan. After I got there he started talking about where I'd sleep and all this other stuff, but I was telling him that I hadn't planned on staying and didn't bring anything other than my camera and a book to read on the bus. Then he told me that there wouldn't be any more buses going towards Shiyan that day and that I should just stay and ride home with them the next day. Of course, what could I do but agree? It's not like I even knew where I was other than somewhere north of Shiyan in the next province. It was a lot of fun and I'm glad I stayed. As awesome as Chinese food is, it's even more awesome when you're in a village in the freezing cold. Meal time is when you get to fill yourself with hot food and tea and warm your hands on the bowls and cups in the process.
There's more to the story, but I'm tired and I just realized I haven't even gotten the pictures off my camera yet. I'm going to sleep off some of this chapped skin I got from the wind (in just one day!) and I'll post pictures and more stories tomorrow. Wan an! 晚安！ Good night!
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I was also forwarded an email that was originally written by Jeremy himself:
Dear friends and family,
As most of you know I was attacked by four elephants in southern China. I'm now in Thailand in the Bangkok hospital. They will be realeasing me today because they have not received payment and I have no more insurance. I hate to be in need, but I am in need. Freed-Hardeman has set up a fund for me to help with my medical bill and to help me get home back to the United States. So I'm here to ask you to help if you can, and if not, forward this E-mail to all your friends and to churches. God has seen to it to keep me alive in this incident. I know my pain can show his glory. Thank you for your prayers and please continue to pray. Right now, they are holding me prisoner until I pay the full amount, and this really discomforts me; this is no joke they are holding me prisoner until my hospital bill is paid, please help, I want to come home,
good enough to smile, strong enough to cry
That's all I know. He's been getting much better, had an infection at one point from his original surgeries but got over that, and is getting a lot of visitors since quite a few China teachers are in Thailand during winter break and also for a conference this next week. As you can probably see, any help that can be provided for Jeremy will be greatly appreciated. If you mail something in to Freed, make sure that it's clearly marked for Jeremy McGill so they will know what to do with it.
Thursday, February 07, 2008
Tuesday, February 05, 2008
Super Tuesday is coming to a close in America at the moment, so we're all glued to various news sites to catch the latest updates. It's tough to follow politics from China since I can't just turn on the TV or radio and listen to whatever is going on. I have to actively seek it out online. Since I'm not always interested in politics 100% of the time that means I'm not always keeping up. Luckily we have Jessica, an avid supporter of Barack Obama, to keep us on our toes. She's also an avid opponent of Hillary, so we don't mind her rants and raves. She's down in SE Asia traveling through Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand at the moment, so we're missing her on this Super Tuesday. Come back, Jessica!
I finished class Monday. Originally I was supposed to finish this Friday but we worked ahead by meeting on Saturdays and meeting twice this past Saturday. Today is the Chinese New Year, so our teachers wanted to be free to go home during the holiday. I didn't mind helping them out during the holidays, but it was definitely tough having 20 days of class shortened from 4 full weeks to barely three. I survived, though, and I feel like I'm more confident in my Chinese ability. I can also write a daily journal in Chinese and I managed to read a newspaper article in class Saturday afternoon. It was about a retired teacher who had someone open a dog selling business in the apartment above her and all the noise, smells, and fighting that ensued. Now I just need to try not to forget what I learned.
I'm going to miss Kunming. It's got incredible weather and equally (if not more) incredible western food. There's a place here called Salvador's that has amazing Mexican food and ice cream desserts. And it's just down the street from a place that sells root beer and Dr. Pepper. The down side is that I spent waaaaaaaaaay more than I originally planned to so now I'm practically broke. I was expecting my bank account to be low due to the cost of the school, but I also planned on us only eating Western food once a week. Boy was that overoptimistic! We were lucky to stick to three times a week. I don't even know if we did stick to three times a week. Luckily Meager March starts soon and I'll only be spending 170 yuan that month. That should just about make up for the money I wasted on quesadillas, ice cream on top of brownies, root beer, and the two awesome foot massages I got.
Happy Guy has been texting me about coming to his hometown after I get back to Shiyan. It's about 3 hours to the north by bus, just into Henan province. I think I'd love to go if I wasn't just getting back from a bus, a flight, and a month away from my apartment. Plus, I'd be arriving after all the festivities. It's like inviting someone for Christmas or Christmas Eve and them arriving late on the 26th. I told him I'd try to go visit next time he goes home, he just needs to let me know when I'm not halfway across the country. :) As it is, I'm looking forward to being in my own apartment again, seeing some people I haven't seen in a while, and just being back in good ol' Shiyan.