Fair? Ahhh Family :)

Paulo aka Paus (my little brother here in Xiamen) – “I think my teacher is very fair. We get three chances. First chance, you have to stand up. Second chance, you have to stand outside the door by the window looking in. Third chance, you have to stand out by the gate of the school.”

Victoria (his mother, my mom here in Xiamen) – “That does not sound very fair to me!”

Paus – “It is very fair, I think.”

(pause)

Kristen and I bust up laughing.

A conversation that took place last night when Kristen and I went had dinner with our family. XICF (Xiamen Internation Christian Fellowship) started a program for families to “adopt” a student during their time here. Our family is Pastor Gabe, his wife Victoria, and their two kids – Jaisis who is ten, and Paulo who is six.

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We’re back!!

We’re back!! No, I’m not back in the States yet. I still have a month here in China. Oh my gosh. I only have 4 more weeks here. Eep! Now that is an odd thought that I don’t even want to contemplate yet.

Well, got up nice and early to register for classes. Curses on the time difference between China and California. I had to get up at about 5:45 to fix my schedule so it would be set for registration at 6:00. After I got everything settled, I went back to bed for about 2 hours. That got me rested enough to start the day so I got ready and got breakfast downstairs. I packed everything up into my backpack and duffel. Yep. Even after buying everything that I did on the Trek, everything still fit in those 2 bags (and my little purse). Score.

All of us were stuffed into taxis and rushed to the airport. It took us quite a while to get there. If ANYONE in the States ever complains about traffic again…just..no. Not even. I’m pretty sure we almost died about 7 times. At least. I wasn’t paying attention to the minor almost accidents. That was the “we almost got crushed by vehicles twice the size of this taxi…We’re gonna die” incidents. But we all survived. We all made it to the airport. And we all got onto the plane on time. And that is all that matters. As Chase put it, “It was an adventure.”

The plane ride wasn’t bad, nor was the bus ride back to Xiada. Oh my goodness, the way everyone was on the bus compared to our first time making that drive from the airport to the university….nothing in common. This time, everyone was stretched out in any way comfortable, joking and totally at ease with each other. This is what happens when you stick a group of 15 people together and then have them travel around China together, experiencing the things that we did. It was kinda funny though.

When we drove onto campus, it was like…oh my gosh, you guys, we’re home! Even more so when walking back into our room. I seriously felt like I was coming home. That I am home. Xiamen is home for us. At least, in China it is. All of us have missed this place. Even better, we are going to get to have an entire weekend to rest and destress (and prepare!) before classes start back up on Monday. I’m going to be taking Chinese 102 in the morning, and EPR in the afternoon (Eastern Philosophy and Religion). I’m looking forward to both of those classes.

Well, it is getting later. I should probably find myself some dinner. I’m also really wanting to head down to the beach tonight. Spend some time alone on the beach, read my Bible, have a chat with God, and simply be. Sounds good to me.

I’ve caught you up on the entire Trek more or less. If you want stories, email me and ask. I’ll do my best to come up with some for you. I survived. I’m alive. And even better, I’m home.

I’ll update you all later. Maybe I’ll get around to posting some more pictures for you to see.

Beijing and Shanghai

So, we left Xi’an and headed to Beijing on a train. We were in a sleeper car. 12 hour ride from Xi’an to Beijing. It wasn’t too bad. We slept away several of those hours. We had to wake up around 4:30/5am though. We pulled into the station at 6am, checked into our hotel, got an hour or two of rest, and then we were off to the Summer Palace.

In Beijing, we had a full full schedule. We visited the Temple of Heaven, Tian’anmen Square, the Forbidden City, the Great Wall, the Summer Palace, and the Spirit Way (Ming Tombs). We were there for 5 days. Sunday was our day off. I went to Beijing International Christian Fellowship with some people in our group that morning. Earlier, almost all of us got up before dawn and went to Tian’anmen Square to see the flag raising at dawn. It was a gorgeous day that Sunday, too! There was a clear sky and snow on the ground.

We went from Beijing to Shanghai on a sleeper train as well. This one was a 15 hour ride though. It was a considerably different experience. Seriously, we were in the foreigners car. Almost everyone in that car was a foreigner. I think there was one berth that had Chinese in it. We got to sleep in a little on this one though. We didn’t pull in until 10:30am.

We had 2 days in Shanghai. The day we arrived and, also, one full day. I didn’t do a ton in Shanghai. It was mainly a rest time. I did go out and explore downtown a bit with some people that first day. It was such a nice day that we all wanted to be outdoors.

Until, that is, we ran into this group of super vivacious Chinese that convinced us to go to a tea place with them. Pretty sure we got scammed. We got to try some good tea, learned some about it, too. However, the trade-off of that was some super flirty Chinese. Both the guys and the girls. Can you say predatory? Shudder. It was kinda amusing though. Tiana got proposed to. She ignored the question. Which, for Chinese..that means no. Well, it could have been much, much worse. Halfway through, they asked if we wanted to stop because if we kept going, it would cost more money. We stopped right then. It cost 220 kuai (yuan/RMB) per person. Yuck… But again, it could have been much, much worse. Thank you, God.

The rest of my time there, I mostly stayed around the hotel. I needed a rest day. A lot of the group went to Hangzhou during the full day. I didn’t want to spend that much money, and I was perfectly content to having a day of rest.

Xi’an

(So…I am WAAY behind on my updates…This one is about Xi’an and the next one will be a combo about Beijing and Shanghai).

We are in Xi’an, one of the former capitals of China.We got here on the 4th and we will be leaving this Thursday. While we’ve been here, we have had history classes every morning for a couple of hours.

Our daily structure has been go to class, have a quiz on the reading from the night before, we listen to two or three people give their presentations on the book they had chose earlier in the semester, we have a lecture, and then we are done at lunch time which gives us the rest of the day for whatever. I just finished my presentation. I am so glad that it is over and done with! My book was on the Opium Wars. I think that it went well. Everyone seemed to like it.

For food, most of us eat at the cafeteria on campus, but sometimes we will go and eat at the hole in the wall noodle shops. A popular hang-out for our group is the Village Cafe. It has some western food, some of the best milkshakes and hot chocolate ever, super friendly employees, annndd INTERNET. 😛

During our free time, all of us have to get our readings done, of course. If we didn’t read…we’d bomb the quizzes, which, I am not doing the best one. Some of them I have done fine on though. But two places a lot of us go to are downtown. The Art District and the Muslim Quarter. The art district has a lot of cool stuff. I got my ocarina there. It has a phoenix carved on it. I got my first experience bargaining, and the guy selling them gave me a lesson in playing it. In the Muslim Quarter, there is a lady, Helen, who does Bible verses in Chinese calligraphy as well as names in Chinese. She is super sweet, and does amazing work. She told me where I could go and get my chop (name stamp) in the Muslim Quarter and what a good price would be. I also got myself a Chinese English Bible while I was in Xi’an.

One afternoon, a bunch of us went up onto the city wall and we biked the 8 miles on it. It was a beautiful day when we did that. Another afternoon, we went downtown near the Big Goose Pagoda. We didn’t go inside (expensive), but we hung out in the parks nearby and then watched the light show in this huge fountain about a block or two away from the pagoda, which was really cool.

From here, we head to Beijing via train. Whoot!

Service Project in Guizhou

We flew into Guiyang, the capital of Guizhou province the evening of February 28th. We stayed the night at a hotel right next to the train station. The next morning, we departed on a train to Duyun, which is a large city in Guizhou. The scenery on the ride was gorgeous. As the train continued up into the mountains, the colder it got.

In Duyun, we met up with our hosts, bought rubber boots and work gloves, and ate at different places around the city. Four of us that ate at a Cantonese style restaurant with a larger group were put into a taxi, and we met up with four others that are from our group at the old train station. China Tim, me, Quin, Tiana, Steph, Kristin, Kayli, and Aubrey got on a bus that would take us out of the city limits to meet up with the rest of our group. On our way up the mountain, the bus got a flat tire. We stopped to get it changed, and we were on our way again. Farther up the mountain, we stopped again. Oil was leaking. Nothing could be done, so we waited until another bus came and picked all of us up. We got off at the next stop and piled into the two vehicles. Six of us jumped in the back of the truck and rode in the back (Me, Quin, Jesse, Chase, Tiana, and Tim) up to the ranch.

The family we stayed with raised Angus cattle. For the next few days, we helped out with whatever they needed done. A couple of the guys shoveled manure, there was a group that worked on the road, and there was a group of us that did posts. They are going to be planting blueberries, so we worked to get the fence posts into the ground. First, we had to dig up the posts out of one field and transport them to the other field where the blueberries were going to planted. After that, we dug the holes for the posts. And just so you all realize what we were doing when we were digging these new holes, some of them were easy to dig. On the flipside, our last hole was the worst. It took us over an hour to dig it. We had to sledgehammer and pickaxe through rock. It was a lot of fun though. It kept us busy. There was a group that mixed cement, and then we cemented the poles into the ground.

Working was great. And better yet, it kept us warm. It was definitely below 0 degrees Celsius. I’m not sure what the actual temperature was. Keep in mind, no central heating. Working kept us warm, and drinking hot water was wonderful. Ok, cold in the States…no. You can go inside and get warm again. In China, you know it’s cold when you can see your breath INSIDE.

I had a blast though. Yes, it was cold. And yeah, no showers. But I really enjoyed getting to see another side of China. The mountains are a gorgeous place. We hiked to the edge of their property and got to see the waterfall. So beautiful.

I got some pictures on the truck ride back down the mountain, too. Riding in the back of the truck down the mountain was so cold. All our faces were red from the wind, and they stung from the mist hitting any exposed skin.

Saturday, March 3rd, was when we came back down the mountain. We got to spend the day in Duyun. Me, Janelle, Daniel, Will, and Russ (one of the guys that works with our hosts) walked/hiking up the east mountain to the monastery up there. We walked around the town and met some of the cutest kids who hung out with us all for a while.

At the end of the day, we rode the train back to Guiyang and stayed at the hotel for the night again. The next morning, we flew to Xi’an for our history component, which is where I am at now. I’ll post some about Xi’an later.