Wednesday, April 25, 2007

It pays to be organized...

Today is Administrative Assistant's Day. As the team's unofficial AA, Robb decided to shower me with flowers. It's pretty awesome having flowers in every room of the house. :) Tonight was supposed to be our girls' study...but various situations resulted in it being just Michelle and I. Michelle made a grand entrance into my apartment, pulling off the door handle (don't worry, that happens frequently) and flinging a bowl of popcorn all over the room. We swept it up, made another bag of popcorn and pulled out some M&Ms to munch on. The M&Ms actually led to quite the interesting discussion. They were the "Bunny Mix" variety and so had various Easter animals printed on them. Our discussion was initiated by this M&M... Katherine: "Is this a dog? How is a dog related to Easter?"
Michelle: "Maybe it's a goat...but I guess a goat's not related anymore to Easter than a dog..."
Michelle: "But wait...isn't a male goat a sheep?"

Katherine: laughing...choking on popcorn

We soon digressed into discussing whether a bull is just a male cow or a whole separate type of animal. Haven't reached a conclusion on that one yet...

Sunday, April 22, 2007


Yesterday was one of those days when it felt good to feel useless. Now usually I'm not a big fan of feeling like a disposable commodity; in fact, this is very rarely a welcome sensation. However, I couldn't help but feel joy welling up in me yesterday upon arriving at the orphanage. Most of the team is in Beijing this weekend, so I had borrowed a teammate's bike and ridden all the way out to the orphanage. OK, the italics in "all" seem to indicate I'm a fitness guru, which you all know is a lie. It really isn't that far...but it did feel great to stretch the legs. Anyways, after about 30 minutes of grueling pedaling I pulled into the orphanage. Parked outside the gate were two buses (now, I don't want you to get the wrong idea here...the buses should probably be called "minibuses", Siping is a small metropolis). The orphanage is sequestered way on the edge of nowhere, which means buses don't usually make it out there. And the fact that there were two of them waiting by the gate...well, it was unusual. However, their surprising presence wasn't more than a quick flicker of a thought in my mind--living in China I've gotten used to not asking "why?". Yet even though I did not ask that forbidden question, I got my answer just a few short minutes later. I walked down the hallway of the retirement home, out the back door and to the gate of the large pink castle (aka orphanage). Usually, when you walk through the gate a flood of kids comes running to hug you, pull on you, try to talk to you, laugh at your Chinese, etc. However, I walked through the gate several steps without a single greeting. It was at that moment that I noticed the large horde of university students running, jumping and playing with the kids. The students outnumbered the kids by far and were more than handling the task of entertaining them. Obviously I was not needed outside in the play area, so I headed upstairs to the toddlers. Once again I was confronted with crowds of students...perhaps about four per toddler. The large group of students, on their own initiative, had arranged for the two buses to bring them out to the orphanage. I must admit, my eyes got a little misty as I watched them play, cuddle, caress, and love on the kids. I was entirely useless...and ecstatic. As much as I love my weekly trips to love on these forgotten ones, there's nothing that brings me more joy than seeing them remembered by the future leaders of this country. These students are in an environment where they are pressured from all sides every day to excel and look out for themselves. Competition is fierce, so there is no one to trust for success except themselves. They are working so hard to earn a better life for themselves and their parents. Seeing a huge group of them lay aside the pressures and take time to care for the lower echelon of this society simply makes my heart burst. How many students does it take to change a diaper?

Thursday, April 12, 2007

This is China...

A few of the things that have recently caused me to smile, shake my head, and think "only in China..."
  • We were informed this week that we needed to give our FAO our May holiday plans by this weekend (April 13th). Considering May holiday is always at the beginning of May, this seems like a perfectly reasonable request. However, we have yet to find out when May hoilday is. Well yes, we know the general vicinity of the holiday, sometime around the first of the month. But the actual dates? We were informed in that same memo asking for our plans that the school would make a decision around April 20th when the holiday would take place. The only possible response is to chuckle...
  • The team was quite excited with the discovery at the end of last semester of cans of spaghetti sauce at a local store. This is a "western" item that we used to have to travel to Changchun to buy. We were so excited that within the first couple weeks of this semester, we had bought out the whole supply of sauce. And alas, the store does not seem to be restocking the sauce. Changchun here we come...
  • The other day I gave a quiz to my junior writing students. It was a pop quiz, but I give a quiz almost every week, so the class wasn't all that surprised. However, later in the class one of the students came up to me with genuine remorse on her face, saying, "Miss Katherine, I'm so sorry I did not do well on the quiz. I promise I will try harder and study more in the future." Now I was quite the brown-noser in school, but I don't think I ever apologized to my teacher for my poor performance!
  • It is spring. And spring means new life. Therefore, the school has decided that demolishing sidewalks to make room for wildlife is necessary. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of wildlife. However, the new "life" they are planting only seems to accentuate the barren landscape...examine the photograph below and let me know if you agree with me.
This past weekend was packed full of Easter activities. We had a great time of fellowship on Sunday. In the morning I went to the local fellowship and then met with the team for a time of celebration and reflection. After that we all contributed to a tasty homecooked feast--which left us all groaning that we had eaten too much. Exercise is always the best option after a big meal, so we headed outside to hide eggs and then documented Sarah and Josiah searching through the park. After the egg hunt we met up with brothers and sisters for an Easter dinner...that none of us were hungry for. Check out my photo site for pictures from the day!