Monday, May 26, 2008

Kindess of a stranger

Saturday I headed to the orphanage in the peculiar weather of a hail storm. I am not absolutely certain, but I believe this was my first hail storm in China. Hailing a taxi, I didn't care how much he was going to charge me; I just wanted out of the pelting rain and hail. I told the driver where I wanted to go, and he replied that it would be 10 RMB. That's fine, I replied. We then entered into a typical taxi discussion. Are you a student? No, I'm a teacher. Where are you from? America. Oh! You look like a Russian! I know, everyone says that. So you teach English? Yes. How long have you been here? 3 years. Do you like China? Yes, very much so. And so on. The discussion moved into the weather and how it was strange and terrible today. We turned down the road to the orphanage and he commented on how bad the road was. I apologized. Just as we were reaching the orphanage gate, he commented, "There aren't many taxis on this road." "Yeah, I know." "How will you get a taxi to go back?" "I just walk to the main road." "That's a long way!" "It doesn't matter." It was at this point that he surprised me with his kindness..."What time are you going to leave?" "4 o'clock." "OK, I'll come back to get you then." I was thrilled not to have to walk all the way down the muddy, wet street to the main road, and thanked him profusely. Sure enough, at 4 o'clock he pulled up to the gate to take me back. However, his kindness may have had a slight ulterior motive...on the way home he started commenting on my big beautiful eyes, gave me his cell phone number so I could call him for a ride at any time, and asked for my cell phone number. I only pretended to add his number into my phone and politely declined giving him mine. Regardless, his kindness was appreciated!

Here are a few pictures from the orphanage:

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Coming to a city near you

The collecting bags under my eyes and mounting stress indicate that the semester is almost done! In four weeks I'll be hopping--no, traveling; hopping seems to indicate a greater amount of ease and perhaps even enjoyment than that trip actually contains--across the ocean. Below is my my somewhat tentative itinerary for the summer. I hope to catch up with as many of you as possible! I look forward to many coffee, pizza, and ice cream dates! stomach just growled...
  • Saturday, June 21: After an obscene amount of travel hours, I arrive in Indy late at night.
  • Monday, June 23: After visiting the dentist to get real glue put on my retainer (see earlier post) I'll be flying down to Tampa, Florida for one of the most exciting events of the summer--meeting my nephew Ethan! I'm lucky enough to get to watch him while my sister starts her residency.
  • Saturday, July 5: I arrive in Chicago late at night...which means I get to spend that Sunday morning (and the next several) with you Rez folk! However, my time in Wheaton will also be dominated by the three grad classes I'm taking. Many people I love + classes = no sleep for three weeks.
  • Sunday, July 27: drive up to Minnesota to my great aunt and uncles ranch/farm--it's off to one of my favorite and most peaceful locations in the States! (Very) Small town Minnesota!
  • Tuesday, July 29: Lana picks me up from the ranch--I'm off to the twin cities to spend time with her and hopefully a couple other friends.
  • Friday, August 1: Fly to LAX to see two of my favorite people in the entire world...and to go to Disneyland!!! My first trip to the LA version of the Magic Kingdom; it doesn't get much better than that. Buzz Light year here I come.
  • Tuesday, August 5: Red eye flight back to Indy
  • August 9&10 or 16&17: Columbus, Ohio?
  • August 23&24: one last trip to Wheaton/Rez?
  • August 25: begin the long journey home.
  • August 27, early afternoon: home sweet home
Home is probably going to look a little bit different when I return. Right now, the hutong area of my neighborhood is being torn down. You can check out some pictures at my flickr site; here are a few as well.

Monday, May 19, 2008


Taxis often honk their horns as they drive through my neighborhood. A honk has various meanings. "Get out of my way!" "Do you need a ride?" "Be careful, I'm coming." I have long since become immune to the noise, and rarely even notice it in my apartment anymore.

2:28 pm today. The discordant note of all the taxis horns mixing together throughout the neighborhood was impossible to ignore. The sound was harsh, uncomfortable, and emitted a mood akin to loud wailing. This was our indicator to stop what we were doing, to stand and to remember what took place just one week ago.

I was in the middle of my language lesson, racking my brain trying to remember the characters I hadn't studied nearly enough. The book was put aside. My language tutors and I stood up and gazed out my window. They bowed their heads; grief etched on their faces. Echoing in the mournful wail of taxi horns I could almost hear the question of the week, why?

Three minutes passed. Lessons resumed. Taxis drove off. Life continued.

Life with a more somber color. Television entertainment canceled. Student entertainment activities canceled. Flags half mast. A cloud of grief, briefly punctuated by moments of joy as one more impossible survivor is removed from the rubble. Today, a 61 year old woman. Buried for a week. A flash of hope in a sea of despair.

But life continues. One student comments, this makes me feel weak and small. Another comments on how Chinese people depend on themselves, but now they are faced with the reality that they are not in control. I hear the faint whisper, now, yes, even now, I'm tilling the soil.

If anguish were visible, almost the whole of this benighted planet would be enveloped in a dense dark vapor, shrouded from the amazed vision of the heavens! And the products of it all will be mainly evil - historically considered. But the historic version is, of course, not the only one. All things and all deeds have a value in themselves, apart from their "causes" and "effects." No man can estimate what is really happening sub specie aeternitatis. All we do know, and that to a large extent by direct experience, is that evil labors with vast power and perpetual success - in vain: preparing always the soil for unexpected good to sprout in. ~J.R.R. Tolkien

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Mourning with those who mourn

I have nothing profound to say. Writing that I'm saddened or burdened by the numbers that steadily climb by the thousands each time I check the news seems too cliche, almost trivial. Yet as more and more stories of tragedy pour in, my heart is heavy. Most of my day is consumed by the mundane--the quiz that has to be graded, the lesson to be planned, the five parts of a plotline to be taught. But then the thought of those still buried plunges itself into my thoughts throughout the day. The word "chaos" is on the handout in class...Miss Katherine, what does the word mean? The first picture that comes to my mind are those shaking, crumbling walls and panicked faces. My mind flits to Burma, another nation ravished by disaster. So much chaos. In the midst of a shaking world, I'm so thankful I have a Rock to stand on...and yet, my heart cries out tonight for the many of this land who do not have firm ground to stand on. Tonight, I'm mourning with those who mourn in this land and pleading for stable foundations to be built in the midst of the rubble.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

A little States-sick

I almost titled this post "a little homesick". However, to be perfectly honest, I really consider China to be my home right now. After being here for almost three years it really does feel like home (despite the fact that I'm clueless when something like my retainer breaking happens). In the past week, though, I've been a little homesick for the States--which is somewhat unusual for me. Here are several reasons why:
  • My sister graduates from medical school today! I have now missed her and my brother-in-law's graduation from med school. One of the hardest parts of being over here is missing big events in the lives of people I love. I'm also itching to meet my nephew Ethan!
  • It's the beginning of May, which during my four years of college I associated with the end of the school year. Although our spring semester begins much later here, I still find it hard to believe at this time of the year that we have seven more weeks of classes.
  • I've begun looking for and purchasing plane tickets for this summer. As usual, I'm going to try to get around to see as many of you as possible. Look for a post of my itinerary soon!
  • This weekend I've been working on a culture lecture I'm giving this Thursday. My topic is Chicago, so it has been building anticipation for this summer! As I was adding pictures of Giordano's deep dish pizza, I really just wanted to hop on a plane! :)
As much as I may be longing for things in America right now, I can also truly say that I feel incredibly blessed to be here. And no, I'm not just saying that. I wouldn't trade this for ten--even a hundred!--deep dish pepperoni pizzas. :) I'm eager to share stories of the year with you this summer!

Thursday, May 1, 2008


This week I've been asking for a spirit of "interruptability" (I know it's not a word, but I would like to petition for its entrance into the dictionary). With 130 midterms to grade, lessons to plan, and grad work collecting dust, it is very easy for me to get caught up in my schedule of efficiency. Consequently, I tend to get very annoyed at interruptions. However, I realize that it is often in the interruptions that the Father is working, so I asked for a willing and welcoming attitude toward those interruptions. Our Father is one who responds to requests and he has given me a few such interruptions this week.

The first interruption occurred Monday morning as I was eating my morning snack of dried pineapple. All of a sudden, I bit down on something hard. I immediately spit it out and discovered that it was my glue from one side of my permanent retainer. I let out a groan and an "oh shoot...", as I realized I had no clue how to solve this simple-to-fix-in-America problem. I get reminders every now and then that I really don't have this "living in China" thing down pat. Luckily, one of my language tutors is a Siping native, so she knew where to take me. In fact, it's quite obvious. I needed to go to the mouth hospital. Yes, there's one hospital to take care of all mouth problems. My tutors went with me and after visiting a few offices, I was sat down in a chair and presented with a variety of glues. Never before have I gotten to choose the glue for my retainer. I was presented with a 76, 84, and 104 RMB glue. I asked for the difference and the dentist told me the first two were from China and the latter was from abroad. That settled it...104 RMB it would be. The dentist went ahead and made the fix and all seemed to be well. Until two days later. When all the glue had broken off again. So this morning I made another trip to the mouth hospital with my very kind tutor (willing to go on her vacation day!). They reglued it for free; I only had to pay 2 RMB for the electricity used for the equipment. However, I was also informed that the glue they were using isn't really for this purpose. Hmmm... Regardless, I can go back anytime in the next three months and have it fixed, so I'm looking to get my full 104 RMB worth of work done! I'm not sure exactly what I learned from this interruption other than the Chinese word for "spit".

The other interruption came yesterday afternoon as the sky darkened and thunder started to rumble in the distance. Thunderstorms are rather rare here and I really felt led to put away the mile long to do list and just be still. I lit some candles, made a cup of hot chocolate and sat down to watch the storm outside my window. I had an awesome time of just being with my Father. This was a very sweet interruption, and a good reminder to me that sometimes it's more important to just sit and watch the rain come down than pursue worldly efficiency.