Monday, October 27, 2008

Fall chill

I guess we don't have to worry about the Buckeyes being humiliated in yet another National Championship game. Honestly, that's a relief. We can let JoePa be humiliated this time. It turns out Pryor does still have room to improve. He's going to be haunted by that last pass for awhile.

Weather. Americans love to talk about it. As I taught my freshmen last week, it's our most common small talk topic. They find it quite funny that we're so fascinated by the topic. Regardless, it's what we do. Without further ado, here's the weather update for us...COLD. Those three weeks of balmy fall weather disappeared overnight a few days ago. The water in the fountain is now frozen when I walk to class. My winter coat has been pulled out of the closet, and gloves have started to litter my apartment. It's all downhill from here... However, the chill does have its positive side effects as well. Hot cocoa, soups, candles, and soft blankets suddenly contain an extra comforting appeal.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Right foot green

I was filled with dread as I listened to the hordes of feet tromping up the staircase. It was Wednesday evening and it had already been a long day. The day was only about to grow longer, with the arrival of 300 freshmen for a welcoming open house at all of the foreign teachers' homes.

I'm just going to be honest. I hate large group gatherings. I'm the type of person who hovers in a corner and hopes to find just one person to talk to the whole night. That tactic doesn't work so well when there are droves of students pouring through the door with the sole aim of seeing you (and investigating your home).

Rewind a few hours. Two senior students sat on my couch. We had just finished a movie and were chatting about life. The discussion started to go deeper. Curiousity overcoming her, the student questioned me about how I communicate with my Father. I delightedly watched as the first few glimmers of light and hope began to appear in her words. These are the moments that make all of it worth it. No pizza. Missing my nephew's dedication. No football games in the Shoe. Entertaining of large crowds of freshmen.

The fact is, the crowd control of Wednesday evening is necessary to get to that moment on the couch. It took many nights of large groups and apparent shallowness to bring us to that point. And so, with an upward plea for cheerfulness, I braced myself for the arrival of many eager faces. For two and a half hours I laughed, I smiled, I posed for pictures, and I contorted myself into all kinds of strange positions. Yes, the entertainment in my house was the great game of Twister. I yelled, "Left hand, red!", "Right jiao...yellow...huang se", and all variations of colors and appendages in English and Chinese for several hours. My voice was hoarse by the end, but the students left with grins and excitement on their faces. I can only hope and ask that some of those students will in the coming months and years be sitting on my couch with similar questions.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


I know I have been terribly absent lately, but there has been a lot going on. I did want to give you a glimpse, though, into the BEAUTIFUL fall we've been having. With temps in the upper sixties and little wind the leaves have been more spectacular than I've ever seen them here. Here's a little peak!
Today we have 17 people coming in to visit us and get a picture of our life over here. The next few days will be crazy, but fun as we show them around our little city!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Nowhere to hide

Team plays a huge role in my life. My teammates are my friends, my co-workers, my family, my doctors when I'm sick, my fellowship group, my dinner companions, my next door neighbors...the list goes on. The experience of living on a team in China, in a city where there are very few other foreigners, is difficult to describe. However, one basic fact is that we become quite familiar with each other's idiosyncrasies and odd habits. There's no laughing or pointing fingers, because let's be honest, we're all a little strange. Yet there are moments when our "strangeness" becomes more glaringly obvious. For me, one of those moments was when the team found out I won a silver ribbon at the fair for the jumper I sewed for 4-H. Yes, I'm a nerd...and proud of it. For Sonny, one of those moments happened last week. Somehow, Wu discovered the story of the Black Shirt. Apparently, for the past three years there has been a Black Shirt living in Sonny's bathroom. If you're a fan of my photos, you may have noticed that Sonny ALWAYS wears solid brightly colored shirts. I have never, let me repeat, never seen him wear black. Consequently, when Sonny moved to China three years ago, he was dismayed to discover he had packed a black shirt. Concerned by the fact that his colored shirts might get upset with a dark neighbor, Sonny placed the shirt in the bathroom instead of the closet. Then one day, he just got angry at the black shirt. After ripping off both sleeves of the shirt, he went back with a pair of scissors to even out the cut (a fact that was not surprising to any of us...Sonny is very precise). After the outburst of anger, the shirt was neatly refolded and put back on the shelf in the bathroom. Each summer the shirt would be packed up and stored in the office, and each fall the shirt would be unpacked and put back in the bathroom. Wu somehow got it into his mind that an "intervention" (Sonny is opposed to this term) was needed. Really, Wu just wanted something to light on fire. So after recounting the tale to the team, he got us all behind his idea to burn the Black Shirt. Finally Sonny agreed, with lingering protests that there might be something in the future he would use it for. At 10:30 at night a few of us banged on the doorman's door to let us out of the building (they lock the door at 10 pm...don't ask what we would do if there was a fire). It took about 10 minutes and 5 knocks before he groggily came out in his long underwear. Finally outside, we stuffed the Black Shirt with paper and let free our pyromaniac spirits. The shirt was quickly, much to our satisfaction, engulfed in flames. The wonderful thing is that these quirks each of us have, including getting angry at black shirts, are accepted and make up part of why we love each other. It's a blessing to be in an environment where your strangeness doesn't need to hide.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Where have I been?

Things have been slightly crazy lately! Following the big celebration was last minute preparation for our new teammates' arrival. I spent awhile running around town trying to find items to make their homes more homey. For example, it took four grocery stores to find jelly. For some reason items disappear in Siping for large chunks of time. We had been butter-less since the beginning of the year, but luckily that has recently reappeared at one grocery store. Our new teammates arrived early Thursday morning; Friday night we had them partying to celebrate Jude's birthday and by Saturday we had them competing in the school's sports meet. Daren gave the foreign teachers major face by winning the 200 meters. As he says, he better have won since he was racing against "all of the old guys". Apparently there was a younger and older division. As a reward for his quick legs, he got an electric massager that's shaped like a dolphin. After all of that running, that dolphin is his new best friend. Sonny got to try out his shot put skills and Wu attempted the long jump. I got to practice my action shots. :) Luckily, the women foreign teachers are not usually asked to compete. This week is the national holiday, so we have no classes. We've been filling the time with team building activities. I'm actually looking forward to the end of the holiday and to finally getting into a set routine. With festivities, holidays, and visits from VIPs, this past month has hardly felt like a "regular" schedule.

Jude's birthday party
Daren in actionSonny in actionWu in action