Wednesday, December 22, 2010

it's been a year :)

we just celebrated our 1 year anniversary!

a couple from our work gave us a free hotel stay in beijing,
which was just what we needed. it's been a long semester...

The bed we sleep on every night isn't what you would exactly call, soft.
This mattress was definitely an improvement.

Here's another thing that we haven't had for around 4 months.
(a bathtub or a tv by the bathtub)
It was nice to not have to squeegie afterward, too.

the view from our room...

we don't have a ginormous mirror either i guess...

a great happy anniversary card with bonus pictures!

the lobby was even decorated for christmas :)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Beijing Zoo

Last month we went with the entire school
on a field trip to the Beijing Zoo and Aquarium.
That's Daniel with his class in front of the entrance.

It was a beautiful day and the zoo was pretty nice, so there were a few love connections between some students, sitting on benches in the willow trees.

Here are a few of my students from Class 2. I ate lunch with these three girls, kind of a BYOLunch. During that time, I was offered enough food for 4 lunches. The students are so generous! I just wish I liked chicken feet...

This next picture is of my students Robert, Johnny and Jane. Robert misses a lot of my classes due to his poor health. He almost didn't come back this semester but I am so glad he did. Many of the teachers who knew Robert last semester said that he is doing amazingly well this semester with his English and improving so much. Please think of him. Johnny was one of my star students and is a wonderful support and friend to Robert in the classroom. Jane and I have emailed each other a lot during the semester. She is wonderful and will return next semester which makes me so excited!

We are so blessed with our awesome students this semester. Here are a couple more favorites from our field trip. Enjoy!

This is the best shot I could get of the many pandas.

Monday, November 22, 2010

No-Shave November

I feel like I've never had so many questions. China is a land of questions for me..

What's the Chinese word for....?
Will the glass I run over everyday pop my bike tires?
Where are my ear muffs?
Should we stay in China another year?
Why is that truck honking at me?
What is that smell?!
How do I get a VPN so I can update my blog that's blocked in China?

Well, we got the last question answered and so far our bike tires are fine. A lot has happened of course since our last update. We moved from fall into winter...our students had their midterms...The school had a Halloween costume party and talent show. We made a video for the youth group at Cornerstone (Thanks Nathan and Grace Marie for helping us to send it!) Daniel and I have been discussion the "What next" question since our boss will soon be asking for commitments for next year.

China has many challenging and uncomfortable moments and I am finding that it can bring out the best or the worst in me. Today on my bike ride to school I had a dialogue with God. He is so gentle in the way he teaches and chides me. A couple of years ago, I memorized Psalm 46 with my dear friend, Dorothy. God brought to mind the verse: "There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns."

The bike rides have caused me to dread each morning because of the cold and coughing fits I usually have. In my head, I complain, and if left to myself and my own thoughts, the mornings can set a horrible tone for the rest of my day. Today was different though, because I invited Him into my struggle with the pollution, sickness and the cold and he helped me to choose joy today. He flowed into my day and made me glad. I want every morning bike ride to be filled with him because without him in it, I'm a mess.

One beautiful color we appreciated this fall was yellow
another color is red :) Happy No-Shave November!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Lunar Market

is a market near our school where you can get great deals on farm fresh fruits of the earth, especially if you can bargain in Chinese.
When we buy fruits and veggies in our village, we buy directly from a farmer bringing their pears or peppers into town to sell. Many times they are covered in dirt or bumpy but taste so delicious!

We buy our veggies from "our vegetable lady" in the village who has been so kind to us and the other foreigners. People like her make us motivated to learn Chinese so we can practice something new each time we see them.

So far at the Lunar Market we've bought watermelon, roasted chestnuts (smelled heavenly but we weren't fans), fresh honey, towels and a rope of garlic that we hung in our kitchen.

At this market, you can also get the latest in Chinese fashion:

The Lunar Market is not for the squeamish...

You can even go to the dentist at the market :)

To begin to experience what life is like in rural China, there's probably no better place to start than the Lunar Market.

Friday, September 24, 2010

the little things

We've been in China now for almost two months.

It's strange to write that.

I love to travel, and have had the opportunity to go all over the place, but I've lived in the South all of my life, and in Irmo since I was eight years old. Even when I've been in a different place, Home has always been a warm climate, Southern food, and a laid back schedule.

Now Home is different.

And the difference I'm finding is in the little things. Like parmesan cheese. We can get noodles (believe me) and spaghetti sauce, but it's just not spaghetti without that little green tube. Or changing the thermostat. Rather than turning a knob or pressing an up arrow, I have a remote control all in Chinese.

Now, one of the big things that I was looking forward to losing for a year was my car. No more fill ups, oil changes, or insurance payments. But I also lost the freedom to hop in the car and just go do something. Whether it's going on a trip an hour away or to the grocery store, having a car simply makes traveling easier. Now the simplest errand requires at least a 2K commitment by bike.

I miss just hearing random conversations on the street that I can understand. We've been so busy with teaching that we still haven't taken any Chinese lessons, which means that all I can understand is the numbers 1-3, the word teacher, and the phrase "don't touch me." Now before jump to conclusions, assuming I was touching someone: "don't touch me" sounds like how we say "BMW." I was talking about driving a BMW in class and one of my students said "ha, don't touch me!"

There are great things about our Chinese Home too: people are way friendly and hospitable. I got birthday presents from my students, who I had only taught for around 3 days. And we don't get ripped off buying stuff just because we're Americans. Also, the Ramen situation in China is incredible. If you can't find a Ramen flavor you like in China, then you're the one with the problem.

The best thing about Home in China is getting to spend so much time with Corrie. We have the same teaching schedule, we ride our bikes to school together, and we watch Carolina games at midnight together. It's great to spend our days with each other, and Home provides that.

And for the record, I still don't miss my cell phone at all.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Justin Bieber Followed Me to China

I thought I lost him in Washington Heights.

I was wrong.

Maybe I should explain.

While teaching art at Dutch Fork Middle School, I came to learn that most middle school girls and some middle school guys have contracted what is termed, "Bieber Fever." After a short trip to the Urban Dictionary, it started to make sense. Every day during at least one class I had to endure listening to Justin sing about a love he lost or about how happy he was going to make some other girl. But it's middle school, you do what you have to do to keep them from mutiny.

Justin chilling at home

Then we went to New York to work with Dominicans in and around 183rd street, and I found that the epidemic had spread there too. Thanks to Grace Marie Ward and Alexa Hubright, I had to listen to kindergarten through 5th graders belting out "Baby, Baby, Baby Oh" and trying to keep up with Luda. If you don't know who Luda is, that's probably a good thing, but if you need to know, I suggest the Urban Dictionary. Once again, you do what you have to do to keep the kids entertained.

But the class that I teach in China is filled with 19 and 20 year-olds. Their English is really good, and they're very driven to learn and get good jobs. I thought I was finally safe.

I thought.

One day last week during a class break I went to the office for a minute. When I returned, one of my male students had taken my iPod from the speakers and plugged in his iPod. To my horror, he and another male student of 19 were singing along!

Disheartened, I did the only logical thing possible: I took the song Baby and wrote an English lesson based on the lyrics. It's actually a good song for an English class; phrases like, "I'm in pieces," and "shake me 'til you wake me from this bad dream," make for good idiomatic discussions. And a really good grammar lesson can come out of the phrase, "Don't need no Starbucks."

Anyways, teaching is going very well for Corrie and myself, in spite of Bieber Fever. We're really busy getting to know our students and preparing lessons. Once we have more time, we'll post more details, and maybe a new video!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

we're in love with Jessie

We love having a pet to come home to and are so glad we rescued her. We found a vet that takes care of cats. It's about 45 minutes away and they will give us a free check up since she is a rescued pet:)

Our new kitty can be ridiculously precious or ridiculously creepy. It's hard to believe that is the same cat. You can see that she is mad at us. She sulks for 5 hours after we give her a bath.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Picture Day

We had picture day a few days ago here at school. One of the marketing guys took pictures of all of the staff individually and as a group to use for the English and Chinese websites.

Here's one of the poses that they had Daniel and I do...they really love open mouth smiles here.

We found out we are teaching as "core teachers" which means we are teaching 4 mornings a week (Wednesdays off) and will have the same class of students all semester. We like that we will be teaching at the same time and can possibly share lesson plans if there are a lot of students falling into level 2. Level 2 basically means we will have students that know enough English to be dangerous but they still need to learn and practice basic conversational skills.

We are working on getting a skype name, but so far gchat (through gmail) and ichat (on any mac) has been working well to see people face to face and talk. Let us know if you want to set up a time. We are thankful for our computer because it makes the missing home part not so bad.

love and miss you,


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

grilled cheese in a wok: our first ten days in china

now that our jet lag is (i think) officially gone, we're ready to start talking about what's going on in our new home...

no, this isn't a girl's bike.
all the really manly dudes in china have bikes like this.

the school that we're teaching at is doing a really good job of helping the new teachers get accustomed not only to the school, but to chinese culture. we're in meetings pretty much all day learning about the new community in which we live. (i know what you're thinking, "wow, he knows the rule about not ending a sentence with a preposition, but he's not capitalizing anything." that's just how i roll.) what we're learning about the organization we're with which encompasses a manufacturing company, foster home, and school, is that it's a pretty unique and incredible place to work. the people who work with the various parts of our organization make up a community that's very beneficial to corrie and me, but also very beneficial to the people who live around it.

we live in an apartment complex that is part of a farming village, which has a name i don't know yet because i don't speak chinese or pay enough attention. but i do know that our village is really old, and is renowned for its watermelons, so much so that it used to supply them to the emperors. we're about fifty minutes outside of downtown beijing, and we're in an area that is rapidly expanding. basically, the suburbs of beijing are growing towards us, an area called the beijing developing area, or bda.

we bike to and from our school daily, and we're starting to get into the routine of shopping, cooking, etc. in our new culture. we cooked our first chinese meal the other night, and had a chinese guy tell us what the buttons on our washing machine mean. and there was one button he didn't know what did. we get stared at a lot, but it's just because they're curious we've been told. i think i got stared at a lot in the states anyways.

stir fried peppers and we think pork

oh and we found a stray kitten. she was outside of our apartment, and was way mangy and feral. we've taken her in, bathed her, and now we're adjusting to being foster parents. we're not sure if we're ready to be considered "cat people" just yet, so we're looking for a permanent home for jessie. but we're also not ready to put her back on the street if no one wants to adopt her. and we found out you can't adopt a baby in china until your thirty, so we figure this is a good dry run for us in case we want to adopt in a few years...

jessie pre-bath

be looking for corrie's thoughts on life in china soon, and the next clear day we get we're gonna take a ride through the village and film it.

thanks for your thoughts! - daniel

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

we've been in china now for a couple of days, and we wanted to show everyone our apartment! it's a two bedroom apartment on the 4th floor, with a view on both sides. we are about a 5 minute bike ride from our village, and 10 minute bike ride away from the school.

here's corrie in front of our building with her new bike :)
we're in building 41, to give you an idea of how huge our complex is.

our front door.
we have no idea what this means.

come on in!

our coat and shoe rack

the dining room

the kitchen.
wait, are we in beijing, or miami?

our living room.
we love our teal pleather couch,
and it looks like the dining room is glowing...

our desk.
corrie's going to be an awesome english teacher!

our bathroom.
see the shower curtain and the toilet?
there's literally nothing in between...

the view from our apartment

the guest bedroom.
we're getting a bunk bed,
so come stay with us if you're in the neighborhood!

our bedroom

we hope you enjoyed the tour! coming up next, we're going to take a ride through the village, so stay tuned for the footage :)