Monday, October 22, 2007

Many hats

Blogspot has been working the past couple days in China. Ever since it came back online, I've been thinking, "I need to post..." However, I keep putting it off. Yet I know the longer I wait, the more I push my luck. So here goes an entry composed by a very tired mind...

Do you ever feel like you're trying to wear too many hats? Lately I've been feeling that a lot. I sometimes
find it hard to juggle the many hats of teammate, teacher, Chinese student, friend, mentor, coworker, guest lecturer, seed sower, sister, daughter, and long-distance friend. Soon, I'll likely be adding the additional hat of graduate student. I feel as if I'm excelling in one of these roles, it means I'm sacrificing another role. The most important hat I wear is daughter and student of the Father. Lately, I've been asking the Father for wisdom on where to spend my time and energy. As the pace of things pick up here I know this is an area I need a lot of discernment in.

This past week was a frenzy of activity in addition to the normal schedule that included our PA visit (observations & evaluations), a lecture on the Oregon trail, movie night with students, additional lesson planning, a visit to the local primary school, and a trip to Changchun.

Friday morning several other teachers and I were guests at a local primary school's Foreign Language Week. I was expecting that we would have to give some sort of a performance and likely have to sing songs. However, I was not prepared to be split off from the rest of the foreign teachers and sent to entertain a Grade 1 classroom full of seven year olds who barely spoke English. I spent an hour of thinking on my feet to meet the requests of the teachers. I told a story, sang a song (This little light of mine--slightly adapted, it was the only one I could think of), taught them the ABC song, and taught the game "Duck, duck, goose". The kids were adorable and it was fun to go out on the playground and play the game with them.

This weekend I headed over to Changchun to hang out with the Norries. It was wonderful to spend some time with them. I have such a deep love for that family and those kids, and always feel like a part of the family when I visit. It was fun to read stories and cuddle with Sarah and Josiah.

Finally...GO BUCKS! I just had to mention the #1 team in the nation...

Monday, October 8, 2007

Oh how the mighty have fallen...and cold feet

Just a quick note here to express my glee over this weekend's football games. See ya later USC--how does it feel to be under that Sports Illustrated curse now? The Buckeyes surprisingly continue to dominate...and seem to be creeping up on a possibility of a National Championship game. Hmmm, is it just me or does this sound a lot like a certain season a couple years ago? All I know is we seem to perform better with low expectations. Would have liked to have seen LSU tumble from number one, but watching Florida lose is a nice consolation. Indeed, it's good to be an Ohio State fan these days.

On another note, fall has definitely arrived in the Dongbei--and as usual, well before the heat is scheduled to come on. It's now the season of layers of blankets and hot chocolate.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Whirlwind tour of Nanjing

The first week in October marks the National holiday for China. This holiday is one of the three holidays that almost the entire population has off of work (also Spring Festival and May Holiday). Consequently, it is one of the busiest times to travel. Guanxi strings are pulled all over to purchase train tickets to travel and visit family.

This year, Sarah and I decided to brave and join the traveling crowds for a trip down to Nanjing. We decided to save a few bucks by taking a train all the way down to the southern capital--a twenty-four hour train ride. Prior to this trip, my longest ride had been 10 hours, but I felt a 24 hour ride would be a unique and important cultural experience. The ride actually wasn't bad at all. Reading, eating, and playing cards made the awake time pass quickly and there was plenty of time for sleeping.

We rolled into Nanjing Monday afternoon and were quickly impressed by the convenience and modernity of Nanjing. Sarah and I decided Nanjing is like Shanghai, only still "Chinese". The city is very developed and overrun by western chains (Starbucks, Papa Johns, Pizza Hut, KFC, name a few). People seem to be wealthier and much more fashion conscious. We definitely felt a little bit like country bumpkins come to visit a big city.

Monday afternoon and Thursday morning were spent at a leisurely pace and we enjoyed some long hours in coffee shops. Tuesday and Wednesday were our high-paced touring days of the city. For the short amount of time we were in the city, we saw a lot. Tuesday we climbed to the top of Purple Mountain (I've never been so drenched in sweat in my life), visited Sun Yat Sen's (the Father of Modern China) mausoleum, toured Linggu temple, and visited the site of the Ming tombs. After very refreshing showers, we joined the girls from team Nanjing for a Pride and Prejudice marathon viewing.

Wednesday we began the day visiting the museum in John Rabe's house. John Rabe was the Chairman of the Safety Committee during the Japanese massacre in Nanjing (in the States known better as Nanking). This Safety Committee was a group of twenty foreigners who remained in the city and created a safe zone for refugees to find protection from the rampages of the Japanese. Thousands were rescued from the violence--and 600 alone just at Rabe's house. It was fascinating to see this museum and the legacy of love this group of people left. After the museum we grabbed lunch at a cafe (real sandwiches with amazing bread!) and then set off on a journey to locate the ancient Ming city wall. With a map in hand and a few wrong turns, we eventually did find the wall and had fun exploring the area around it.

Thursday afternoon we boarded the train again for the 24 hour journey back home. I always love coming back home in China. There's a certain amount of relief as I enter my "safe space" again. Since I was already gross from the train ride, I headed out on a bike ride shortly after returning home. On the way back in from the ride I stopped by my fruit seller. She knew I had been traveling and asked when I had returned. My reply that I had gotten back that afternoon earned me a reproach for going for a bike ride. She thought I was surely too tired from the journey to do a silly thing like that. Her sense of concern for my health was a nice reminder that indeed, I was home.

If you want to see pictures of the trip you can check out my photo site and Sarah's photo site.