Saturday, October 16, 2010

New Experience

On Friday morning I experienced another "first" while living here in China. One of our Chinese friend's mother passed away suddenly last week and so on Friday I (and others on the team) attended her funeral. I had never met her, but it was still difficult to hold back tears when I saw her family weeping and mourning. Our friend is a "family" member so I know that our Father will comfort he and his family in this difficult time.
The funeral home is also the crematorium as cremation does not require precious land to be used for burying bodies. There is only one funeral home here in Xi'an, a city of 9 million people, so you can imagine it was crowded and is constantly busy. In fact the ceremony was incredibly short as they have to use each room in the place multiple times a day, they only give you a few minutes before the next family needs to use it. Outside of the room where the body was viewed and the ceremony took place, there was an LED sign, much like you would see at an airport, with schedules scrolling along to tell which family will use the room next. Very, very different indeed.

Friday, August 20, 2010

More about the Ningxia project

I was looking through my journal entries while in Ningxia and thought I would share a couple of them. One from the beginning of the trip and then one from the end.

July 13-
1st day of teaching English today. The school buildings look relatively old and the classrooms remind me of what American classrooms might have looked like many many years ago. The teacher's desk is on a raised platform in the front of the classroom with the chalkboard directly behind it. Through my classroom window, you can see the large bathroom...because of this...our classrooms are full of large flies with which we have to contend with while teaching. All four of my classes went well.

July 29-
I was honored with an invitation to go out to eat with some of my students tonight. They took me out to a Hui owned restaurant and ordered a couple of cold dishes to begin the meal. One of the dishes was spinach and garlic. Nothing strange about that one. The other cold dish was sliced cow's hoof. Now, I won't lie, that one took everything in me to try it let alone get it down. The rest of the meal included some very tender spicy mutton and some meat stuffed eggplant that was battered, fried, and then cooked in a tomato sauce. Very tasty stuff. The dinner conversation ranged from talking about learning languages to talking about religions and beliefs. I had a good and memorable time talking with my new found friends. I feel humbled to be able to come to this small town and to get to know the wonderfully friendly people who live here.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Wow! What a great time we had in Ningxia! I was apprehensive at first about teaching English to a bunch of Chinese English teachers, but it turned out to be a wonderful experience. Now that we have been back home in Xi'an for a few days we've had time to reflect on the experience. The area we were in was probably 70 percent Hui (Chinese Muslim minority). The entire town accepted us as if we were long lost friends.
Nicole, William, Josiah, and Caleb all did extremely well for the three weeks we were there. They did wonderful eating the Chinese food for every meal everyday (and some of it was not typical either such as FISH EYEBALLS-way to go Nicole for trying that one!) The last week of the seminar, however, we trapped 4 mice in our hotel room on the 1st floor, so we moved to a room on the second floor for the last few nights.
During the seminar we held two English corners (an event that allows people to come and practice speaking English with native English speakers) in the town square. The first one was attended by well over 1,000 people who came to say "hello" and marvel at the foreigners. Each of us had a crowd of people gathered around listening to us and trying to practice their oral English. Everyone who attended them were extremely friendly and welcoming.
In the seminar itself where we had smaller groups for practicing conversational English, we had the opportunity to discuss several cultural topics such as holidays. It was during these small group sessions that we were able to share about such holidays as Christmas, Easter, and Thanksgiving. Opportunities like this to share about Western culture were abundant.
We are very thankful to be back home, but are also very thankful for all the experiences we had while we were there (such as the last night of the seminar when one of my students took me out to eat and served me COLD COW HOOF as an appetizer). We want to thank all of you back in the states who enabled us to take part in a project that had such a great impact on an entire community here in the heart of China.
I want to leave you with a couple of pictures. One of them is my new friend Mark and the other is a picture of the gorgeous scenery that surrounded the small town that we were staying in (Mark and his friend Tony took several of us teachers to take pictures in the mountains during the last week of the seminar.)

Monday, August 2, 2010

Back Home in Xi'an!

We made it back home to Xi'an on Sunday evening. We are very glad to get back into our "normal" daily routine.
Our Ningxia project went extremely well. We had a almost 100 primary and high school teachers enrolled in the three week English seminar. Our team consisted of about 20 people including children. We got to know some of the participants quite well and will try and keep in contact with them in the months and years to come. Thank you for remembering us while we were there. I will post more details whenever I can since the internet at our house is having some issues. Blessings to all!

Friday, July 9, 2010

This will be the last post for at least 3 weeks. We arrived in Yinchuan on Friday afternoon. I sat with Caleb on the plane and next to him was a middle aged Chinese lady who was thrilled to have a foreign child to play with. Caleb showed her all of his toys in his backpack and she took each one and told him what the name of it was in Chinese and then what sound it made (ie: cows, pigs, trains). She also (very true to Chinese culture) gave me several pieces of advice as to how I should raise him. The plane ride here was, needless to say, a great cultural experience for all of us.
We are preparing for an English training seminar directed towards High School English teachers in this province. Please remember us while we are here and when we return to Xi'an we will post pictures and report on the project.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Gearing Up for Summer

We are excited about being a part of a three week long English language seminar in a predominantly Hui community this July. If you received our latest newsletter, you know how important these types of summer projects are to these kind of Chinese communities. We ask that you remember this event in the next few weeks before this project begins. I want to include a couple of pics I took of some Hui Chinese attending Friday prayer at one of the many mosques here in Northwestern China. Blessings to you all for reading our blog.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Wow, what a trip!

Just one week ago my daughter, Nicole, and I were privileged to make a trip out to one of the poorest provinces of China: Gansu. We met some wonderful people, ate some interesting food, and were in awe of all the "work" that remains to be done in that part of the country.
With this post, I want to simply copy some parts of the journal I took while on the trip. I hope it inspires you to remember this specific province when you think about China.

May 7- It's difficult to soak in all of the natural beauty that I am seeing in western Gansu province. We arrivd in Xiahe yesterday around 12:40 in the afternoon after a very bumpy 4 hour busride from Lanzhou. This morning I had a truly international breakfast: Tsampa (sp?) which is yak butter mixed with ground barley along with western style pancakes. After breakfast, Nicole and I went for a walk along the prayer wheel lined wall of the Labrang monastery. Very moving to see all of the Buddhists praying and spinning the wheels. After we checked out of the hotel, we caught a taxi and were fortunate enough to be able to sit next to an old Tibetan Buddhist monk who gave me the thumbs up when he saw I had bought some Tibetan style hats as souvenirs.
We are on a bus now to Linxia. About half the population of Linxia is Muslim (Hui) and the city is said to have 99 mosques. ...
After a late lunch at a local Hui Chinese restaurant we went to climb the 300 steps (an exhausting experience at 6,000 feet elevation) to the top of a local Daoist temple that sits on a cliff overlooking Linxia. We learned that Daoism is the city's 2nd most practiced religion next to Islam.
It is about 6:00 in the evening and the large mosque here in the center of town near our hotel is blaring the call to prayer. It feels oddly out of place here in China, but nevertheless it is a striking reminder of the millions of people in China that adhere to the faith of Islam.
May 8-Today is our third day of this four day trip. This morning before we leave we plan to go to a mosque and ask to climb to the top of it's minaret. Then we are going to rent a car and go back to Lanzhou through Dongxiang (Chinese minority from Mongolian descent) country.
Climbed to the top of that minaret in Linxia today and counted more than 20 mosques within our line of sight. The drive back was fast and furious. Our Chinese driver was making both Nicole and I sick. We had to stop a couple of times so Nicole's stomach could settle down. The scenery (in Dongxiang country) was breathtaking, however.