Monday, September 25, 2006

Week of Firsts!

First class, first dental visit, first time to a new church! Yes, I had a great week with a little bit of scary put into the mix. First of all, my classes last week went very well and I had a great time getting to know all my students. They all picked English names, as is a tradition here for the students, and it was funny to hear the different names they came up with. Some of them wanted really wacky names, which weren't names at all but verbs and random objects instead. I had one guy who wanted to be Seafood and another girl who wanted to be called Bone. I strongly encouraged them to pick a real name, and after some serious persuasion on my part they agreed to change it. The only difficulty I have had so far is the unwillingness most of them have to speak out in class. I got very frustrated today with one of my classes because they weren't participating at all and I took it as laziness and lack of attention. After class I had one guy approach me and tell me that he along with some others are fearful to speak out in class because they are afraid they don't know the correct answer and will be humiliated. I know this will be an obstacle that I will have to help them overcome, but at the same time I want to be sensitive to their feelings of insecurity. My goal throughout the year is to help them feel safe in the classroom both with each other and me, and hopefully through time they will feel more comfortable speaking in class.
My dental visit last week wasn't quite as thrilling. Many of you may remember the agonizing trouble I have had with my tooth since June. Well, I finally got very fed up and just couldn't take the pain anymore. So with some help from Don, I got a translator and took a little trip to the hospital. In a nutshell, I must have a root canal which will take 4 hospital visits. I have completed the first 2 visits and will actually have the root canal in two and a half weeks. I am somewhat frightened because I have heard that the Chinese believe a little pain builds character and I don't think they numb your mouth as much as they do in the States. Well, thank you very much but I think I have enough character and would rather have the drugs! However, it really isn't up to me, so I guess I will just have to put myself in their experienced hands and trust that everything will be alright. The bright side to this adventure is that I got to meet 3 students (one of which is very close to my age) who acted as my translators, and they will probably go with me again on my next visit. I know that God has used this tooth problem to open the possiblity of new friendships, of which I am very thankful!
Yesterday Dee and I visited the other Christian church in the city. It was a wonderful time of worship and for the second week we have been able to use the Pinyin hymnals that we got. Pinyin uses our alphabet to spell the Chinese words, so it makes it easier to read. I know people around us were probably laughing hysterically to themselves because we completely butcher the words, but the important thing is that we are trying and at least now are able to participate during the worship time. After church we met three girls from Indonesia who were sitting next to us. They are studying at the medical university here in the city and are also new to China. We gave them our phone numbers and they seemed excited to get together with us sometime soon. I am thankful for the new people I have met, and pray for continued opportunities to meet and get to know the people around me.

Prayer Requests:
**My students
**My teaching (both lesson planning and actual teaching in the classroom)
**Relationships with other foreign teachers, Chinese staff, and others I have met
**Continued Spiritual Growth

Monday, September 18, 2006

New Adventures!

Yummy fish eyes!!

"I'm not too sure about this!"

Well I know the question burning in everyone's mind right now is "How was your first day of teaching?" Fabulous! But first things first.
Last week was fairly slow and was the last chance at relaxing and being a couch potato that I will have for a very long time. On Friday, the other members of my China team gathered together in Nanning. There were 14 of us total and we had a busy weekend filled with both business meetings as well as times of sharing how God is at work in various places throughout the country. It was so great finally being able to put faces and personalities with the names I have seen in emails. The most touching and memorable time during the weekend was Friday afternoon. We spent several hours listening to each person share what God has done in their life over the past several months and then spent time in prayer for that person. It gave me a chance to hear about each person's ministry as well as know specific ways I can be praying for them.
On Sunday after church, we went out to eat to a restaurant with private dining rooms where we met with the pastors from the 2 churches in Nanning. I ate all sorts of new food, including the fish eyes that are probably grossing some of you out by looking at the pictures! They actually weren't all that bad. They were somewhat powdery and chewy, which made them a little difficult to swallow. I will probably not make this a part of my regular diet, but at least I can say I have eaten the eyes of a fish!
Today began my first day as a college teacher (sounds so grown up)! Teaching 18-20 year olds is very different from the elementary children I am used to. I had a wonderful day and really enjoyed getting to know my students. One of them did have to tell me to speak slower and I know that will be a daily struggle for me. I can already tell that I will be spending more time lesson planning than I ever have before, but I know that is what it will take for me to be a great teacher.
I have received so many heart warming emails and want to thank each of you for all your prayers and encouraging words. I want to assure each of you that God is at work in a mighty way in this country. Doors are opening and hearts are becoming more and more receptive to Him! Continue to pray for the Chinese people who have a heart for Him and are striving each day to share His grace and love with their countrymen. In closing I want to share a verse with you that I came across this week during my quiet time. I am currently doing a study on the Epistles and read a verse in Ephesians that is so familiar to me, yet speaks to my heart in a different way each time I read it. "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." Ephesians 2:10
Know that God works in a special and unique way in the lives of those who are His children. Be encouraged by this verse and know that God is at work in you and all around you and has a very specific purpose for your life. It doesn't matter if you are 8 or 88, He is still at work and has paved the way for you to fulfill the ministry He has for you!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Lessons, Jioazi, and so much more!

Alright this could be a long one, so get ready! At the beginning of the week, I got my bike from the school, and I just love it. I ride it all over campus and even to the grocery store which is right outside the front gates. I was actually able to find one that was tall enough for me and had a little basket installed on the front. Dee and I were riding through campus and I told her that I felt a little like the Von Trapp children in The Sound of Music. Then I burst into singing, “Doe a deer, a female deer.” We have had a great time exploring both on and off campus since receiving our bikes. However, riding it can be frustrating sometimes because there are virtually no traffic laws here. Well, they’re here; it’s just that no one abides by them. There is not a single stop sign on campus and when leaving campus, I feel there should be a big sign that says “Enter the city at your own risk.” I feel a lot like Frogger (from the old Atari game) whenever I venture off campus. I am frantically trying to dodge cars, buses, bicyclists, and moped riders without getting flattened like a pancake. (Dad I know you’re probably feeling anxious as you read this, but don’t worry. I always remember to look both ways before crossing!)
On Tuesday, Dee and I began taking language classes from a woman named Bunny. We will have them twice a week for an hour at a time. There is so much to learn, and it is all very exciting! The most complicated thing about learning Mandarin is that there are 5 different tones and most words have different tones to mean different things. For example, shi means yes, I, and ten but the meaning is determined by each tone. I can tell it is going to take a very long time to be able to communicate effectively, but I know the effort will be worth it.
On Thursday we had grade level meetings and I volunteered to be the coordinator for Listening and Reading. I don’t know exactly what the entire job will entail, but I know it is a pretty big responsibility. Primarily I will be in charge of putting together the semester syllabus, mid-term, semester final, and attending weekly meetings with the other coordinators. I volunteered for this position mainly because none of the other teachers felt comfortable doing it, but I also knew it would provide me with valuable experience in a leadership role within the school.
On Friday, a group of six ladies from the States came to visit for the weekend. They are from various cities in the southeast and they came to observe the church in China and its various ministry opportunities. We had a wonderful time fellowshipping and laughing all weekend. On Saturday night we got together at Don and Karen’s house (they are the couple who I am working with here at the University) and had a Jioazi party (they are like dumplings). We all sat around making them and then eating, and eating, and eating some more!! Later in the evening a group of Chinese students came to visit and mingle for about an hour. The students were all English language students, some of whom studied their first 2 years at SCIC (my college). One of the girls (June) was absolutely full of life and animation and she just talked and talked. She actually reminded me a lot of myself when I start telling stories. Anyway, she began telling me all about this English teacher they had last year at the SCIC who was beautiful and all the boys loved her because she was young. They were all sad because she did not return for this year. Then June looked at me and with lots of enthusiasm said, “You could be the next superstar!” Dee and I looked at each other with surprise and we both burst into laughter. I’ll let you all know whether or not I actually become a “Superstar!”
This morning we traveled to Angel House which is a home and therapy center for children with Cerebral Palsy. It was amazing to see the work that was done with the children and how functional some of them are because of this program. We spent a few hours taking pictures with the children and watching them in their therapy sessions. They were so precious; you couldn’t help but smile when you watched them.
Overall, it has been a wonderful week filled with exciting new activities! This coming week will be filled with lesson planning and last minute preparations. I become more excited each day about this upcoming school year, and I know that God has amazing things in store for the months to come!

“This morning we must endeavor to ascend the mount of communion, that there we may be ordained to the lifework for which we are set apart. Let us not see the face of man today till we have seen Jesus.” ~Charles Spurgeon

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Apartment Pictures

Cozy Kitchen

First Full Week!

This past week was wonderful and exhausting all at the same time! It was filled with meetings and opportunities to meet the other teachers. There are 40 total foreign teachers from various places around the world. Most of them are much older than I am, but they are all very kind and I am looking foward to getting to know them more as the school year progresses.
I got my class schedule and found out that I will be teaching Listening and Reading to entering Freshman. That is exactly what I wanted, so I am very happy about that!! I basically will be teaching Monday-Thursday from 8:00-12:00 and Friday I have one class from 10:30-12:00. Some afternoons I will have free and some will be used for office hours and English corner. There are also Mandarin classes for 3 hours every Friday afternoon. However, Dee and I are looking into taking private lessons a couple of times a week instead. I think I will learn the language faster if I am just taking with one other person, and we can choose what we learn. I will begin teaching on Monday the 18th, but will continue to be busy until then. I have workshops all this week and I think next week I will be testing the new students to determine their placement in classes.
I visited the church for the first time this morning and am so thankful that there is a public place where believers can gather to worship. The order of service was very similar to what we have in the States, however everything about the service was in Chinese. We sang familiar hymns that I was able to sing along with when I could remember the English words and I knew the scripture passages that were being read, so I could follow along there as well. At one point during the sermon, I began daydreaming because I couldn't understand what the pastor was saying. So I opened my bible and began reading from Romans 10. I got to verse 14 and just paused to reflect on what I had read. "How then can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?" How wonderful it is that there is someone whom God has called to preach the saving message of grace to these people. In a country where Christianity is not widely practiced or accepted, there is a place where believers can gather to worship the almighty Lord. Although I may not have been able to understand the words, my heart knew what was being proclaimed, the beautiful message of our wonderful Lord.
"How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, "Your God reigns!"

Outside of church building

Going to church!

Prayer Requests
* Continual adjustment to the new culture
* Relationships with other teachers (both foreign and Chinese)
* Direction on whether or not to teach additional English classes at the church