December 27, 2006

out of service

The internet in China is down, southern China for sure. Shanghai, Hong Kong, Taiwan (and myself in little Nanchang) cannot communicate with the outside world. A couple nights ago there was an earthquake off the coast of China near Taiwan. It was a 7.1 and damaged many of the underwater data cables in the oceans between China and the rest of world. We haven't had email during the last couple days. And it seems the only surviving things are those related to Google. So, my gmail (Google email) account works and so does Blogger (which is now owned by Google). Big bummer because I wasn't able to call Christmas night or today (the 27th in the US) when my family gathers together at Grandma's for Christmas.
We actually felt the earthquake here, but justified the shaking because our guy teammates were dancing in their apartment to Vanilla Ice. They'll be embarrassed that I posted that on the internet.
They say it will be 2-3 weeks before it is fixed. If you call me on Skype, it sounds like I'm underwater. Ironic huh?
It seems we're going old school for the next 2-3 weeks, write me a snail mail letter. Or email me at my gmail account. ;)

December 25, 2006


It is Christmas morning here in China and our team is meeting together for breakfast in about an hour, but I wanted to send out an update on the Christmas celebrations in China.

Celebrating this holiday has been so interesting in a new culture. The decorations of Christmas in China are pretty much all Santa Clause (compliments of a huge Chinese beer company). The company pretty much has decorated our city with the same picture of a large Santa with a blonde haired woman on his lap. The only other signs of Christmas is at the local McDonald's and Pizza Huts where Chinese girls serve in Santa mini-dresses, and the occasional grocery store decorations. As a marketing major, I'm ashamed.

I wanted to know more about celebrating Christmas in China and my best source of information is always my students. So I began to ask around. In class one, many students were of the thought that Jesus was from America and he was somehow friends with Father Christmas. They concluded that they must live near each other and work together. (Remember this is university level). At that point I completely changed my Christmas lesson plan. They got a handout from the Book.

As a reminder I teach 8 classes of 50-60 students so in a normal week I see about 400 students. I teach every lesson 8 times over, so this week I was able to act out/read/sing Christmas to 400 students. If you know me, I am a horrible singer, but my students love my voice. So I performed Silent Night, We Wish You A Merry Christmas, and O Holy Night in the classroom. They received a handout with the entire story (fill in the blanks to keep them alert) and we talked about the origins of Christmas traditions such as the tree (from Germany), Santa Claus (from Myra/Turkey), and the term 'X-mas'(from Greece)(which is what the beer company used). I was able to get a world map and show those countries as well as Israel and Egypt and it's proximity to China. We also talked about Wise Men from the 'East'. I pointed out that America was not even close to being discovered at this time, and that Jesus never went to the US. At one point in the classroom I started to tear up when I was describing a manger for my ESL students.
The students were fully engaged during their two hour class and many came to multiple class sessions.

On Saturday the team of 7 threw a enormous Christmas bash in our apartments. We all live stacked upon one another so someone coined it the 'Tower of Christmas' and had our students sign-up to come in 20 minutes increments to move up the Tower of Christmas. On the 3rd floor there was the Story of Christmas, on the 5th floor there was star ornament making, and on the 6th floor there was dancing and singing. The students would stay in each apartment for 20 minutes and then move up the tower. The festivities started at 11am and the last group left at 9:40pm. We were exhausted but the new group of students running in to our homes totally excited was always rejuvenating. I'm not doing it justice, but please know that the hundreds and hundreds of students experienced a stellar party. The Father was really working in our team and in the students. Some Chinese teachers heard about the party and came to help. It was really an incredible time that will hopefully open the door for many conversations in the future.

And finally... Last night we had a Christmas eve dinner and service with the foreigners serving here in Nanchang. The Word was read in 4 different languages and we sang, thought for our students during this time, our families at home, and people serving all over the world. We sang and the sound was absolutely beautiful. At one point I looked out of the window in the conference room (at a local University) and a crowd of Chinese students had gathered to hear the singing they heard from the street.

Being around such amazing, committed, and loving teammates and Chinese friends has made missing this holiday season with family a little easier. We have today (Monday) off because of our contract, but our students are in classes. Tomorrow when you are celebrating, I will be teaching a full day in the classroom. I'm excited to teach tomorrow and have follow-up conversations. After that I'll be giving finals and then we'll have time off for the Chinese New Year.

Chinese New Year plans include a mini-tour of India, staying with Indian contacts there. We (four of us) are finishing our time in Kolkata to work in the homes of Mother Teresa, but we don't have a contact there. If you have someone you know in Kolkata, I'd love to take them out to dinner. Then we're heading to Thailand for a conference, and I'll be going with some of my girlfriends back to Koh Payam the island that I went to for tsunami relief. I am so excited to see the nationals there again. A bungalow on the beach is $2.50/night, so we're spending a week there. Big spenders I know.

Well friends that's it. It's time for Christmas morning. We put a 20 kuai cap on each others gifts (about $2 US) so I'm excited to see the creativity. I'm attaching a picture my teammate Dan took last night when I was yakking away telling a story. Just put this face to these words and it's like I'm in person ;)

December 17, 2006

the incarnation

Rachel, my roommate is pretty incredible. She's really thoughtful and full of thoughts. (Those are different things.)

She wrote this the other day and I can not stop thinking about it.

“The immensity of the Word that spoke worlds into being couldn’t keep his head upright without his teenage mother’s hand behind it.”

to will one thing.

“Most of us are like Mother Teresa in that we want to will G and the poor. The problem is we want to will everything else as well. We want to be a saint, but we also want to feel every sensation experienced by sinners; we want have a simple lifestyle, but we also want all the comforts of the rich; we want to have the depth afforded by solitude, but we do not want to miss anything. Small wonder life is often a trying enterprise and we are often tired and pathologically overextended. Medieval philosophy had a dictum that said: Every choice is a renunciation. Indeed. To choose one thing is to turn one's back on many others. To marry one person is to not marry all the others; to have a baby means to give up certain things; and to pray may mean missing television. No wonder we struggle so much with commitment. It is not that we do not want certain things, it is just that we know that if we choose them we close off so many other things. It is not easy to will the one thing.”
-From the book "Holy Longing" (borrowed from Mikayla)

December 15, 2006

raging Friday nights

Tonight Mikayla and I are doing lessons plans for next week's Christmas lesson. We're on the couches with Apple laptops on our laps (appropriately enough). This is how we roll on Friday nights in Nanchang. Lesson planning tonight so that we can enjoy the weekend. The pressure... to fit this huge celebration/tradition with all it's meaning and then present it to students in 1 hour 40 minutes... is a little heavy. We're working hard and hope to shine some light on what is an 'adopted American party' in China with Santa Claus posters everywhere (which happens to be sponsored by a big beer company).

Right now we're shoulder shrugging and head-nodding to Phoenix's "Long Distance Call". Our soundtrack also includes Over the Rhine, Something Like Silas, and old school Phil Wickham. We've drank tea and hot chocolate while being bundled up in my 65 degree apartment. I'm chewing cantaloupe flavored Chinese gum and every once in awhile we look up from our lesson plans and ask random questions. Tonight I used one of my two Starbucks Tazo Chai teabags. It's funny to think how we ration our American stuff. I opened the tea bag an hour ago and Mikayla and I smelled the black tea goodness. We laughed at ourselves, but then continued to smell it. Awhile ago Stephen got some oatmeal and I asked for a packet (I think I bargained some how). I asked Mikayla if she was going to ask for Oatmeal and she replied, "I mean we're close, but we're not oatmeal close. You know?"

I'm convinced sometimes that our lives are Reality TV worthy. C'mon who wouldn't want to watch Lesson Planning and tea bag sniffing. And what culture uses Apples and Cinnamon Oatmeal as currency? It's all real interesting.

December 13, 2006


I'd be lying if I said moving to China was a smooth transition. I've come to the realization that I was (and probably am) quite spoiled. I took for granted freedoms (to meet, speak, etc), air conditioner/heater capabilities, water coming out of a faucet, warm showers, soft couches and beds, internet access, etc. I assumed that life had those things. I didn't expect the staring (at us 'foreigners') or to be treated differently.

Today I had such a frustrating experience at the copy shop. A 5 minute service turned into a 35 minute test of my patience and levels of anger. I stomped in the copy shop like a spoiled American (no one noticed because they were staring at my face and speaking loudly in Chinese) but the point is that I stomped. I felt so much anger and hostility in that moment and longed to be back in America where I could be anonymous and warm and understood. I wanted a hot shower, down comforter and a soft bed. I wanted to be in a public place and understand the language, and I wanted to express my anger to the copy machine guy.

I got home and the internet was down and no water was coming out of our faucets. I whined to myself. I started to think, "Could it get worse?" and then realized that I'm a fool. Of course it could.. .and is all around the world. I don't have it bad here.

I'm writing this because it's reality and there are days that it is harder to be here. There are days that I think, "What the heck am I doing this year?!" And often times during that same day, I know why I'm here. It's as clear as it can be. Tonight I had a group of friends over and we talked about long-lasting Things and had great conversations. That's what I'm doing this year.

December 7, 2006

would you rather...?

This week was a catch-up/review week in the classroom and one of my equalizing activities was the game 'Would You Rather...?" The classes that were a little ahead got to play this personal favorite of mine. My classroom has come alive in recent weeks as students are becoming more comfortable with showing creativity and expressing thoughts and opinion. The students are not just names and faces, but friends. Many have come over for lunch, or I've been to their basketball games, or they attend our weekly Coffee Talk. So, their personalities are becoming more evident before my eyes. I hope that some of their "Would You Rather...?" responses will give you some cultural insight, give you a good laugh, make you think, and most of all that you might answer a few yourselves! Comment away!

So, here it goes...


swim the Pacific Ocean OR walk around the world? (Hannah)

be the first beautiful girl in the world but very stupid OR the leader of China but very ugly? (Robin)

have a kangaroos abdomen OR a camel's back? (Elaine)

a black face OR big and fat fingers? (Cynthia)

have red hair OR a big face? (Kathy- who notes, "I don't want to have a red hair, but I had it since I was born. So I dye it to black.)

have lots of pests in your abdomen OR lots of parasite in your stomach? (Kathy)

be the last one study in the Harvard OR the No.1 study in the deaf-mute school? (Dawn)

become a man OR become a panda? (Lena)

always watch a ghost on TV OR always hear a cry sound around? (Angel)

live at the top of the Alps or live in the ocean? (Gabe)

all of paper becomes money OR the water we drink becomes oil? (Selena)

If your husband require you to stay at home as a housewife. He hates you get out for work. So, would you rather to obey him OR to find a job what you like? (Crystal)

have no money OR no future? (Jennifer)

be a millionaire but no friends OR be a poor but have some friends? (Lindsey)

Miss Allison, would you rather marry a millionaire you don't love OR a poor man you love? Shawna goes on to say, "I can choose one, because in such a economic society though money isn't everything you can't do everything without money."

have river and mountains OR Mr. Right? (Nichol)

have elephant's leg OR pig's waist? (Nichol)

live in a desert OR travel to Egypt? (Lucy)

have cancer OR birdflu? (Andy- important to note that birdfly is circled)

learn language fast OR sleeping good every night? (Louis)

eat an ant OR eaten by a tigger? (Cori)

have a umbrella made from mushroom OR soft bed made from bread? (Ellie)

drink petrol OR drink tears? (Carly)

If Catilin and Cynthia are in danger, you muse help one would you rather chose Caitlin or Cynthia? I don't know what I should do! (Oxford- commenting on the two girls that adore him.)

go into snake's hole OR go into the lion's cage? (Melissa)

a God in the heaven OR a devil in the hell? (Ginger)

body folds into a car OR arms like propeller? (Jude)


December 5, 2006

livin' the dream

When I was in college at SDSU, I met many incredible friends- two of them were James and Vince. As the three of us dreamt aloud our post-college plans, we all agreed that our desire was to serve. We would bounce ideas off each other, often times read the same books, challenge each other- you get the idea. Well I think today is officially the first time we are all serving overseas at the same time.
James is in India, Vince is in France, and I am in China. And to think, a year ago we were all taking finals in San Diego and dreaming of 'the next year'. This picture was taken at a good-bye party for the 3 of us, given by Drew Lundgren. How I miss the sunsets of California!