Monday, February 22, 2010

Normal Life

I don’t think it’s unreasonable for me to want people in America to be awake when I get off of work. When did 4AM become too early to start the day and maybe enjoy a lovely Skype chat with a friend and/or family member who is all alone on the other side of the world (feel guilty yet)? I don’t think it has, nor will it ever be. It’s a perfectly and entirely reasonable hour for anyone to begin the day. And besides, I need my people to be available to me no matter what time it is (as long as I’m awake). Especially today…

I am bursting!!!

The day started out with very little motivation. I could barely muster the will to get out of bed this morning. I’ve been exceptionally tired the last few days (thanks to many contributing factors), and have just been feeling really distracted and mope-y and wimpy and like I have no purpose here. What am I doing in China? What was the point in coming here? I thought coming here would make me feel more spiritual and dangerous. But the truth is, I’m just living. I haven’t noticed any heightened awareness of the Divine. No angelic visitations. No voices from heaven. Everything feels so normal. Like I’m just doing here, what I did at home (except for the foreign country part).

But then the Lord shows up and reminds me in His wonderfully inclusive way, what this living in China business is all about.

When I got to work this afternoon, I noticed that I was scheduled for an English Corner Bible Story lesson. Normally I know at least a day or two in advance when I will have one, but today I was not prepared. I didn’t even have my Bible with me! Thankfully, my class load was very light and I had several free hours to plan and prepare for the lesson. This was to be my fourth lesson, so going in order from the beginning I was now at the story of the tower of Babel.

I’ve honestly been feeling a little bit discouraged about the English Corners. The first one was SO great, but the following two just felt kind of awkward and like the students weren’t interested or my heart wasn’t into it. I definitely didn’t feel confident in sharing the stories (Adam & Eve and the fall, and Noah’s Ark), I think because it felt like I was presenting a God who was constantly punishing mankind. “Oops, man messed up again… now God has to do something about it. Sorry guys, no more garden. Curses for you. Great big flood. Everyone dies.” These stories sure seemed a whole lot more chipper when I was a child. Maybe a felt board would help.

I had been asking the Lord if I should start somewhere else, but I never really got a clear sense of where else to go. I just wanted the students to know the end of the story so they could more fully understand God’s heart. The feedback I had been getting up to this point was that “God was afraid of man’s power… or repressing man from being greater than Him… or that it was all just a game to God.” I just wanted to grab people and say, “No! You don’t understand… this is only the beginning! Wait until you hear how He really feels!” All along I’ve been trying to convey the heart behind God’s interactions with man and that He’s not cruel or vengeful, but that He is merciful and just. I’ve tried to help them see His mercy in the midst of what might seem harsh, but when the teacher is struggling to find it (knowing it in my heart, but grappling with it in my head), the students probably won’t be too convinced of its validity.

It’s baffling to me how I can (truly) believe something with all my heart, but shudder at the thought of sharing it for fear of looking silly or like I’ve bought into a Fairy Tale. Really, Jaime? What ridiculous and selfish pride you have. It’s so frustrating. I’m just glad that God chooses to use me in spite of this terrible tendency. And I look forward to the day when it no longer rears its ugly head.

So, today… I decided that rather than just plan to tell the story and let students ask random questions (believe me, they get real random and off topic), I would come up with some discussion questions to go over afterward. This was a very good idea. Telling the story only took about ten minutes (the tower of Babel account is only nine verses long). I had crafted the questions to intentionally lead the students toward questioning the character of God. Questions like, “Why do you think God confused man’s language? Was it cruel or merciful of Him? What does this story tell us about God?” Something else that was different this time was that I didn’t “have all the answers.” I would throw the questions back at the students and when they would express an opinion about God’s “threatened-ness,” I would ask them to expand and explain why they thought that (I think I learned this from watching Joe Slawter – he’s a master at this kind of stuff). This proved to be a really great way to get the students talking and to delve into territory outside the direct story, but still well within the context of God and His character. It was awesome.

Somehow (no doubt by divine providence), the subject of the Trinity came up again. I briefly touched on the three members of the Godhead and listed them on the board. Students seemed to really grasp the roles of the Father and the Holy Spirit, but they struggled with understanding Jesus – who He is and what His “role” in the Godhead is exactly.

Oh! Well, let me tell you!!!!!!!

From that point on, I was able to share the entire Gospel story with the class. The whole thing!!! I talked about the “death” Adam & Eve introduced to mankind and how since then man had been making effort after futile effort to regain relationship with God. I shared about the life and ministry of Jesus. Why God sent Him, what the prophets said about Him, what He did on earth. I told the students how He was perfect and blameless and how He became our sin. Faces were very solemn when I described His arrest and crucifixion – I didn’t spare the gruesome reality of what He suffered. I explained the holiness of God and how Jesus took on the punishment of our sin so that we could approach God and stand blameless before Him. I told them how when He rose on the third day He conquered that same “death” that was imposed upon mankind at the fall. We’ll still die, but we no longer have to be separated from God. I explained salvation and how Christians believe people are saved. I shared the simplicity of “believing in your heart and confessing with your mouth…” Scripture was pouring out of me. It was so incredible. I would have given an altar call if I could’ve!

Every ounce of insecurity went running as I shared. I felt bold and confident and SO completely aware of the Lord’s presence. I wasn’t overly eloquent. I stumbled and stammered my way through the story, but I was certain of what I was saying. I was confident in the truth. I can’t really even explain it… it’s like nothing seemed more believable than what I was saying. I knew it was true and I wanted everyone in that room to know it too!

After I shared about Jesus, one student asked why, if He was perfect and if He was God, didn’t He defend Himself or make them stop. That’s when I got to share about His love; about the “joy set before Him,” and how we were that joy. He didn’t defend Himself, He didn’t make them stop because He wanted us. He wanted relationship with us and He knew the cross was the only way. It was so powerful. Even the students who seemed less than convinced hung their heads in humility. It was all I could do not to cry.

And this, my friends, is why I am in China.

I guess this “normal” life I’m living here isn’t so normal after all – at least not in the conventional way.

“We must redefine ‘normal’ Christianity so it lines up with God’s idea of normal… The normal Christian life begins with the realization that we were put here to do the will of God on earth as it is in heaven – and what joy it is to participate in that.” (from The Supernatural Power of a Transformed Mind by Bill Johnson)

I think I did a little bit of that today. And the thing about it is, I didn’t feel exceptionally “spiritual” leading up to this incredible hour. I had simply submitted the time to the Lord and asked that He be present. I lent Him my voice and He took care of the rest. I want this to be my normal.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Xīn Nián Hǎo!

Happy Chinese New Year! It’s the Year of the Tiger and I’m really hoping to get one this year! That’s why they give years animal names, you know. So you can meet and adopt them as pets. I’m really glad it’s not the Year of the Snake or Rat. That would be terribly unpleasant.

My friend, Bojun and his mother invited me to spend the first day of Spring Festival with them at their home yesterday. The festivities began at noon, so I made my way there (eggs & milk in hand) ready to see how this important holiday is celebrated. Apparently, it’s primarily celebrated by eating nonstop. From the moment I walked in the door, I had plates and plates of food set before me. It started with dried fruits and nuts of all kinds: pecans, dried dragon’s eye (I was told this was fruit, not real dragon’s eye… but one can’t be too sure), macadamia nuts, sunflower seeds, dried figs soaked in honey, and pumpkin seeds. This was all the precursor to lunch: fried pork, giant shrimp (completely intact), stir-fried veggies, soup, other things I can’t remember, and of course… jiǎozi (gee-ow-dza). Otherwise known as dumplings, jiǎozi is absolutely required for a proper celebration of the Chinese New Year. And it’s so delicious! Bojun’s mother made it from scratch and stuffed each little one full of different meats and vegetables. It was divine.

By Chinese standards I am an incredibly slow eater. This works for and against me on days such as yesterday. Eating slow means I realize when I am full before I’ve absolutely stuffed myself, which is awesome, but it also means (to my Chinese hosts) that I have not eaten enough (a half-full plate of leftover jiǎozi is absolutely unacceptable). If I could just eat really fast and stuff myself before my brain realizes how full I am, then I wouldn’t be forced to eat until I start gagging from fullness (this may have happened yesterday). I honestly think they gauge my appetite by my outward, not inward, size – an unfortunate misconception I often try to combat by using my hands to show how big my “inside” stomach actually is. The fullness and gagging was taken to the next level when the post lunch plates of fresh fruit were served.

Please forgive me in advance for this next little bit of information. I only share this to fully convey my experience yesterday.

Soooo… I’ve been a little bit “stopped-up” lately. Not sure why or what may have caused this problem, but it was the source of much anxiety going into yesterday’s festivities, especially as I anticipated eating a lot of foods that promote regularity. It wouldn’t have been a problem, except that the facilities situation at the Liu residence is less than ideal. At some point during all the food consumption, Bojun informed me that I shouldn’t eat too much (even though he was the one practically force-feeding me) because going #2 would require a special trip to the #2 bathroom. You see, their bathroom is outside next to their house, and it isn’t actually a bathroom. It’s a shower - a tiny little cement shower that you squat down and pee in (which is extra trixy at night when there’s no light to help you see whether you’re peeing on yourself or not). So had I needed to go “big potty” it would have necessitated Bojun escorting me to the “special” bathroom in the main house, or to the 4-star hotel down the street.
Nothing like discretion.

Thankfully, my fervent and effective prayers spared me. I did not have to take any special trips nor did I experience any painful side effects from yesterday’s mass consumption. I literally ate for eight hours straight. After the fruit plates, the dried fruit and nuts were reintroduced … and then came dinner with it’s succession of courses. Not to mention all the tea and milk and juice.

Overall, the day was really enjoyable. The hospitality extended to me was exceptional, and at times a little bit awkward. Bojun’s house is small… just one room with a kitchen, and a little loft that you get to by climbing up a bamboo ladder through a hole in the ceiling. The “living” room doubles as Bojun’s bedroom, so his bed is right in the middle of everything. By late afternoon, he and his mother were insistent that I take a nap. I really didn’t want to. His mom kept making up the bed and telling me to lay in it, so rather than fully lay down I’d go and sit-lay… this went on for a couple of hours. Finally, I gave in. I didn’t nap or fully recline, but I “cozied” in a bit more, which gave Bojun’s mother the go-ahead to tuck me in. She grabbed a blanket, tucked me in tightly and threw a hot water bottle in under the covers to make sure I’d stay warm (I actually really liked that). It felt very odd to be sit-laying in someone’s bed right in the middle of their living room. I felt like the grandparents from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Except I was the only one in bed.

I was surprisingly emotional yesterday and at points I really, really just wanted to go home – not to my hotel. Home to America. To the familiar and comfortable where I’m known and understood (both as a person and when I speak), where someone will understand why I think something is funny without having to explain it, where I can have a normal flavored potato chip (not kiwi or shrimp), where I can fully express my thoughts and opinions in unbroken English. I can’t really even tell you where it all came from. My hosts were lovely and inclusive and hospitable. Maybe it was just watching their family dynamic and realizing how much I miss my own. I don’t know…

It got better when we all gathered (around the bed with me in it) to watch the national New Year’s production they do every year in Beijing. It was so fun! The production is four hours long leading up to midnight and includes performances of all kinds: dance, song, comedy, magic, drama. Bojun interpreted enough of what was happening so I could keep up (at least for the speaking acts). The night ended with an invitation for me to spend the night (which I politely declined) and a shared cab ride back to my hotel. But not before Bojun’s mother whipped out a measuring tape and began taking my measurements (over my puffy winter coat)!!! I do not know why or what for, and I couldn’t ask her because she doesn’t speak English. So who knows what I might be receiving! A tiger costume to ring in the New Year?

I hope so.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Bravery & Odd Parts

I can’t write and listen to music. Does anyone else have that problem? I’ve been sitting here for about a half hour trying to think of a good way to begin this entry and I like to think that I’m much more quick-witted than that. So I choose to blame this music that keeps carrying me away into deep thought… and the mirror directly in front of me that I keep staring at myself in. I don’t think one realizes their own narcissistic tendencies until they’re placed in front of a mirror for an extended period of time.

By the way, I’m having a really good hair day.

It’s been a long week in contrast to the others I’ve spent in China so far. I worked five whole days, which is one day more than I have consistently worked for the last several years of my life. I like to overachieve when it comes to keeping the Sabbath. My week consisted of 24 English classes, 2 English Corners, 12 bus rides, 3 taxi rides, 3 trips to Carrefour (a magical French Walmart), 1 trip to KFC (terrible, terrible choice), and several interesting food encounters.

I know it seems that most of my “adventures & observations” have been centered around food, and it’s true - they have. That’s because, second to the language, I think cuisine might be the most contrasted cultural element between China & America (or maybe just between China & Jaime… I’m not sure yet). I keep telling my Chinese friends that in the U.S. we really only eat the meat (as opposed to every part) of the animal. And every time I see a soup with all the chicken parts in it, I can’t help but think how incredibly resourceful these people are (after I get over the shock of seeing a chicken head in my bowl). They really don’t waste a thing. I had dinner at a girl’s house last week and her mother made fish. She showed me how if you dry out the fish lung it’s a really healthy and delicious jerky. Mmmm. Fish lung. It’s just nothing I would ever think of eating. I was walking around the wonderland of Carrefour (which is the #2 retailer in the world after Walmart) last night and encountered a butcher’s table with pig feet, thigh, tongue, nose, liver, intestine, stomach and heart all laid out (my high school biology teacher would have been proud of my ability to identify all these parts). It’s just SO different. I try not to react outwardly to the way I feel inside when I see all these parts, “Sick.” I don’t necessarily think we do it better or right in the U.S., I’m just not used to it. So when I see my friend feel a little self-conscious about the way they eat, I always try and make sure to emphasize that it’s just different. It will take time for my taste (and gag reflex) to adjust to the Chinese way. But I will be so brave in the meantime.

Speaking of bravery and eating odd parts… I ate cow stomach the other day. Sometimes your friend tells you that the meat in your soup is “beef” and then after you eat it, has you guess which part of the cow it is. I do not like this game. Mostly because I usually don’t know we’re playing until the bite is working its way down my throat. This also happened with chicken heart, jellyfish and cow tongue. You’d think I would have learned by now.

Not all of my food encounters have been so stretching. Today I had hot pot! I thought of Rosemary Jones the entire time and how much she would have enjoyed such an authentic hot pot experience. It was so great! Hot pot is basically a pot of boiling water with spices that you add all sorts of fun things to.
We had mutton, beef, three kinds of tofu (which was so super delicious), crazy mushrooms that I’ve never seen before, seaweed, cabbage, spinach and some other kind of leafy green. Everything they give you is raw and you put into the big “hot pot” in the middle of your table and wait for it to cook. Then you just grab it out with your chopsticks and dip it into this really great peanut sauce. So good!

But I think the best part about the entire experience was discovering that the key ingredient for making heroine was one of the spices flavoring our hot pot.

Hello, Mr. Opium! Thank you for coming to our hot pot party. How crazy! Unless I’m super naïve and it isn’t unusual to see opium poppy used as a spice for cooking. Please tell me if I’m thinking that this is way more shocking than it should be. My friend told me that it is also often used in traditional Chinese medicine, but only in small doses. She also cautioned me against eating it – which was actually really good because I did end up crunching into some other inedible spice by mistake. China is enough of a trip without an accidental high.

In other news, Qingdao is experiencing record low temperatures right now. It is SOOOOOO cold.
I woke up yesterday morning to about six inches of snow! With the wind-chill coming in off the Yellow Sea, it feels like 14˚F outside… and that’s in the middle of the day! Bundling to the utmost is absolutely necessary, and yesterday it provided me with the added bonus of some much needed anonymity. All you could really see was my nose and it was just as red as everyone else’s. And I LOVE not having to worry about driving in this weather! The public transportation here is well equipped to handle the conditions and all I need to worry about is not falling on the ice when I walk to the bus stop. However, the busses are pure insanity. Yesterday on my way to work the bus was so crowded that I had to climb over a seat and lower myself down to the door in order to get off at my stop. It was awesome.

You know what else is awesome? Gift shopping in China. After our hot pot lunch, my friend took me to the store to pick up some gifts to bring to the family that’s having me over to celebrate Spring Festival. I asked her for some good gift ideas and these were her suggestions: eggs & milk. She said that these two things were very fashionable and practical gifts in China. I feel a little bit silly because it would be so strange to give someone 40 eggs & a huge case of milk for Christmas, but it’s a great gift here. And so affordable. I hope to bring this fashionable trend home with me to America. Merry Christmas everyone!

You’re welcome.

Monday, February 8, 2010


I had a student approach me today and ask about my English Corner Bible lessons. She was only able to attend a portion of the last class and said that she would like to learn more. This is the email she sent me later this evening...

Good evening Jaime,

I'm Ann, the student in Web. Your voice is soooooooo sweet that I am deeply impressed. I am glad to know you cause I am really interested in things related to your major - theo. Though I am interested in this, I don't know much about it. I just want to know more about it. I heard in last English corner you explained something about Genesis, it's a pity that I cannot stay there in the evening so I missed it. Would you please give me a brief description (outline is OK) about what you shared in that class?
Hope we can be good friends!

Have a nice evening!

Ann :)

It's just SO wonderful!!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Bible Corners and Pastries

I’m sitting in my hotel room listening to the sound of exploding fireworks outside. Today is some sort of mini pre-festival day leading up to the Chinese New Year celebration known as Spring Festival. Spring Festival is definitely the most exciting holiday in China, and the most widely and enthusiastically celebrated. The festival officially lasts six days, but preparations begin days in advance. Prior to the festival families do a thorough cleansing of their home, buy new party clothes, and purchase enough groceries to last for the entire six days (everything shuts down during the festival… it’s not like the U.S. where the poor McDonald’s employees have to serve Big Macs on holidays). China does holidays right. The city shuts down and everyone spends time off with family and friends. I’ve been extended several invitations to celebrate Spring Festival with friends and their families. The Chinese are very warm and inclusive and intent on having no one be alone during such an important time. It’s nice.

The ride home from work this evening was beautiful (and mildly frightening). Fireworks lit up the skyline… and by skyline I mean where all the tall buildings are. Right in the middle of all them. Beautiful little flaming sparks flying toward large flammable buildings filled with hundreds of people. Not sure it’s really a good idea to light off big Fourth of Jul-Ivars type fireworks on narrow streets between skyscrapers. I’m just saying…

But it was pretty.

Today was a really good day. I slept in, I ate two square meals (which is more than I can say for most days), and other than finding out that I was supposed to work three hours earlier than I’m normally scheduled on Saturdays (after I was already an hour late), work went really well too! I had my first Bible Story English Corner today!! Oh gosh, it was so good!!!

The school hung a poster on the student bulletin board advertising my class, and I had about 25 people show up (Saturdays are a light day at Web, especially this close to Spring Festival)! After spending a lot of time praying and considering where I should start, I thought where better than at the beginning?! So I set out to share the story of creation with the class. As a preface I talked about Chrisianity from a cultural perspective and how according to recent figures roughly 82% of Americans profess to be Christians. I didn’t go too much into all the implications of the statistic, but more just wanted to give a cultural framework for the Christian faith. Especially since I was not preaching, but attempting to present the faith in an informative way. It was actually really challenging. I had to use a lot of phrases like, “according to the Bible” or “Christians believe…” Definitely a very different way of presenting what I believe. I also explained what Christians believe about the Bible (I defined the word “infallible” and attributed it to the Word), what it is (many students knew absolutely nothing about it), how it’s laid out, who wrote it, etc. I thought it was important to lay that groundwork before telling the stories.

I shared the creation story by reading it verse-by-verse and stopping after each to explain what was happening. I tried to expound as much as I could and draw the students in by asking them questions. I could tell some students thought the story was absolutely ridiculous (this was something I had to work really hard on not getting discouraged by). Others seemed entertained, and some seemed genuinely interested in learning more. After I finished the story I explained some of the different ways people interpret the creation account. I didn’t go into too much detail but emphasized that the point wasn’t how God created the heavens and the earth, but that He created them. The conversation got really interesting when we got into man being made in God’s image. This led to a lot of questions about life & death and heaven & hell: what happens when we die, is hell real, who goes there, how do we get to heaven, how do we become angels, who is Satan, are we ourselves in heaven if our body doesn’t go with us, why does God punish people, what are demons, what determines whether I get into heaven or not… and the questions went on and on. You can understand the difficulty of trying to answer these questions in an informative way. But I am so thankful for the Holy Spirit who quickly brought answers (or questions) to mind that either addressed the questions or provoked further thought.

It will be so interesting to see where all of this leads. It really is so humbling to be sharing the Good News with people who may be hearing it for the first time. I feel so under-qualified, but up for the challenge, and extremely grateful for the opportunity to share not just His story, but also His love. I’ve been asking the Lord to let this passage mark each lesson:

Corinthians 2:4-5 "My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power."

I guess we’ll see what happens! :)

I’m so impressed and amazed at how God works. While making plans to move to China, one of my biggest concerns was my degree. I worried that such a blatantly religious degree would hinder me from securing a job. Only the Lord could orchestrate something like this. The “hindrance” became the wide open door for me to share the Gospel. My boss never would have known, nor would he have asked me to share my “expertise” with the students, if my degree had been in anything else. It makes me wonder why I seem to worry about things so much… He knows what He’s doing.

On a completely unrelated note… this was SO delicious!!!!

Cream Puff!!!!!

Who knew something named after facial hair could be so tasty!?!

Not tasty: “Beef” that is later discovered to be cow tongue. More on that later…

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Shrimp With Sprinkles

(a picture of the Chinese museum near my hotel)

I woke up early this morning to catch a flight to Seoul, South Korea so I could renew the stay duration of my visa. It makes me feel so international and cultured to be able to say something like that. It was definitely more of a hassle than an adventure, but it did offer me a few precious moments (oh… I loved those figurines) of Facebook access. And for that, dear Seoul, I am extremely grateful. If you’re my friend on Facebook you probably noticed the flurry of comments I threw out in a matter of 45 minutes or so. I was just so excited. I still haven’t figured out the trixy way to get onto Facebook in China, but I hear it’s possible. I’ll do some research and see if I can’t make that happen. In the meantime, I’ll just have to let today’s fix hold me (and you) over.

I was the only white person on both my flights to and from Seoul. I’m growing more accustomed to this trend, but it struck me while the flight attendant was going through all the safety & flight info that her switch from speaking Chinese to English was done just for me. I was the only person on the flight who needed her to do her schpeal in English. I felt so cared for. Now granted, she also had to do the schpeal in Korean, but if I had not been on the flight, she would not have needed to do it in English. I had an entire airline catering to my needs today. How cool is that!!? Or entitled…


And in case you’re wondering… yes, China did let me back in. Thank you, China.

After landing in Qingdao I decided to grab a taxi, rather than take the bus. I can’t say why, but I chose to sit in the middle of the backseat so I could see the road. Bad choice. My driver was a maniac. He was weaving in and out of traffic, driving on the wrong side of the road. And I’m pretty sure that he took the sight of brake lights as a personal challenge. The man didn’t slow down… he sped up!! Faster and faster until he found a tiny, little pocket to fit in. I found myself doing the parental slam on the “air brakes” move in the back seat.

Several times I had to cover my eyes or turn my head and look out the side window because I was certain that carnage was in my near future. At one point he slammed on the brakes so hard that I nearly smashed my face into the bar-barricade between the front and back seat. And seatbelts were not an option because they were missing. “Safety First” is NOT the motto of drivers in China.

The thought did come to mind though, that some boys would really enjoy driving in China. My brother, for example. I think he would totally love the chaos and competitiveness. You have to be quick and aggressive and unafraid to use your horn or flash your brights. And you have to be good at spotting random pedestrians weaving their way through traffic (it’s like Frogger, but with people). Some drivers aren’t cut out for this kind of driving… they were the ones exchanging insurance information with other bad drivers right in the middle of all the traffic (we witnessed four accidents from the airport to my hotel).

Hungry, and thankful to be alive, I arrived with a friend at a lovely restaurant near my hotel. Rather than look at a menu from the table, at this restaurant they have you walk around to look at pictures and “live” samples of your dinner options. Because Qingdao is a coastal city, seafood is in abundance at nearly every restaurant, and it was definitely not lacking at this one. The difference here though, was that you see the picture of your entrée next to the creature they’re about to kill to make it. I guess that’s how you know it’s fresh! It would have felt like a fun trip to the aquarium, but all the death made it kind of a downer. Any hint of childhood delight leaves when you know that Mr. Bullfrog is going to be in someone’s stir-fry any minute.

So, I pointed at a few pictures of dishes that looked good and left my friend to do the ordering. He’s typically done a pretty good job of ordering things that I like, and I’ve been extra brave to try some of the more challenging dishes I’m presented with (jellyfish, sea cucumber, pig’s feet… I put it on my plate, but didn’t eat it… and I did not eat the fish eye I was offered the other day). But when our server brought our selections to the table, one dish required a double take. “Are those rainbow sprinkles atop what appears to be fried shrimp?” Hm.

The answer:
Yes, yes they are. And that’s watermelon and pineapple underneath it with a lovely yogurt dressing. I was definitely skeptical… but you know what? It was actually really good. Strange (and festive), but good. I won’t try to convince anyone because I probably wouldn’t believe it if I hadn’t tasted it myself, but it’s true. Come to China and I will take you to the sad aquarium shrimp sprinkle restaurant so you can decide for yourself.

Monday, February 1, 2010


There are few things in life that truly constitute the Joey Lawrence “Whoa!” (from the hit 90’s coming-of-age sitcom, Blossom). I have Josh & Michelle to thank for reminding me of this little known, but universal truth. But, yesterday, I think it’s safe to say, I experienced the granddaddy of all “Whoa!” worthy situations (at least in my China adventures thus far).

Work began at 1PM and I arrived to discover that I had been scheduled for six (!) classes. One of the other foreign teachers had called in sick, so the others and I were left to cover her classes. That meant I was to have my very first “English Corner” class. English Corners are the largest format class offered at Web and it’s possible to have upwards of 50 students at one time. Any student is welcome to come and sit in as the teacher shares on any topic or activity of their choice. Since it’s only my second week at Web, I was asked to do an introductory class where the students could learn more about me and ask questions about my life, America, anything really. I was warned that I might encounter some odd questions, and encounter them I did. Questions about the NBA (which left me with little insight to offer), Seattle, food… I was asked to sing a Britney Spears song (tempting…)! Of course my age came up, and I continue to feel really good about the fact that people in China think I’m super young. The age guesses ranged from 16-25 years old. You should have seen the jaws drop when I told them I would be 30 (gag) at the end of this month! It was very satisfying for me as I am in denial of this very fact and clinging to 29 with clenched fist and white knuckles.

But the really good questions came up when I was asked about my degree. Studying theology is as foreign to the Chinese as eating pig’s face is to me (yes, they eat pig faces here). Many students had to check their Chinese/English dictionaries to learn what theology even meant and they looked stunned once they discovered its meaning. This brought up a lot of questions about Christianity and church. I even had one student ask me why Muslims and Christians were fighting over Jerusalem… only to be interrupted by another student asking me about Lebron James. :) I was really excited because I could tell that the student’s curiosity had been peaked and that this was only the beginning of great conversations!

But this isn’t even the “Whoa!” worthy experience!

Wait for it…

After the English Corner class my boss approached me. Gavin (his English name) is a 27 year-old Chinese man. He studied in New Zealand for several years and while there he was exposed to Christianity. He has a great deal of respect for the faith, but I don’t think he’s a believer… yet. I could tell something was different about him during my interview. When I mentioned that my degree was in theology, he was smiled widely and said that it was “lovely.” When I told him I’d like to have Sundays off, he gave me a knowing look and said it was no problem and that he “knew why.” So maybe I shouldn’t have been so completely floored by what he asked me yesterday afternoon.

Gavin asked how things went and then asked if I would be willing to do an English Corner every week. The topic: BIBLE STORIES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! He said that so few Chinese people know anything about the Bible, and that since it’s such a large part of American culture, it would be invaluable for the students to learn about it! What!?!?!? I’m in China, right? He also said that it wouldn’t necessarily be a time for me to present students with the opportunity to make a decision, but if they happened to do that in their own time as a result of my teaching, then so be it!! My boss said this. In China!!!! I was so floored. And still am, quite honestly!!


I had just been chatting with the Lord about my purpose here too. This is something I never ever could have imagined happening. Not ever. Talk about open doors…

I am humbled and thrilled and nervous and expectant. I have more to say on the topic, but I need to get ready for work. Who knows what awaits me today!!! I guess I can’t doubt the rightness of what I’m doing here in China, or the fact that the Lord is in this and working things unimaginable.
More soon… :)