Thursday, December 20, 2007

Selling Matchbooks for Orphans

There's this little story by Hans Christian Anderson called "The Little Match Girl." In the story, this little girl needs to make a living, so she decides to sell matchbooks. However, the winter (and cold-hearted people who don't want to help) freezes her in the night.

One of my junior students Syen (he made up his English name) was inspired by this story and decided to sell matchbooks for 1 yuan a box (about 12 cents) in order to raise money for the orphanage that Syen visits with us every week. He recruited some of the foreign teachers and friends to stand on a little corner selling matchbooks for 2 and a half hours last night. Thinking it would be inside somewhere, I didn't dress appropriately for the weather conditions. :) Seth offered his guitar skills and the rest of us offered our faces and singing abilities as we sang Christmas carols on a little street corner in the dead of winter in northeast China. We think we helped Syen sell about 500-600 matchbooks! There are people in America who have tons of money and unwilling to give, but it's these students in China who don't have much at all and are willing to give what they can for the orphans. Some students bought ten boxes, not because they needed them, but because they wanted to help in the only way they knew how. I don't remember the last time I was so cold, but it helped me really empathize with people who have no home to go to this season. I appreciate Syen's heart and even though I am now fighting a cold I'm glad he invited us to do this with him.

Right now I am listening to the Christmas album of Steven Curtis Chapman called "All I Really Want for Christmas." Steven Curtis Chapman and his wife adopted three little girls from Asia (one of them from China) and the album promotes adoption (both foreign and from the States, like my dear friends the Guskes who are working on their third adoption with a little boy named Joshua). For little ones like the kids we see every week. The chorus of the main song says:
"All I really want for Christmas is someone to tuck me in
A shoulder to cry on if I lose, shoulders to ride on if I win
There's so much I could ask for, but there's just one thing I need
All I really want for Christmas is a family
All I really want for Christmas is someone who'll be here
To sing me "Happy Birthday" for the next 100 years
And it's okay if they're not perfect or even if they're a little broken
That's all right, 'cause so am I
All I really want for Christmas is someone to tuck me in
Tell me I'll never be alone, someone whose love will never end
Of all that I could ask for, well, there's just one thing I need
All I really want for Christmas is a family."

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Ice Skating

I saw the funniest thing the other day, at least to me. I want to give you a picture of how cold it is in these northern parts. What does one do for fun when it's this cold outside? My school doesn't have a pond, not really. So, why not convert the soccer field into an ice skating rink?!? The other day men were spraying a large hose on the soccer field and simply waited a few hours for the water to freeze. Wahlah- now you have an ice skating rink! Granted, the ice is only about an inch thick, but students by the masses rent little ice skates (with particularly long blades) and away they go! It snowed yesterday again, so yesterday the same men were shoveling the snow off their rink. Students asked if I wanted to go, but I reminded them that the last time I went ice skating I ended up in surgery with a cast up to my shoulder. But, knowing me, I just might be on this little makeshift rink in a few days' time. :)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

To all my faithful blog readers

To all my faithful blog readers,
I don't know who you are. I don't even know if people read these things. But, if you do and you're wondering why it's been ages since I've posted, I'm back. At least for today.
Thanksgiving was last week and it was a typical Thanksgiving time in China. Of course, nothing is ever typical here, but I think you get the point. Absent from the meal this year, however, was the bird. My team found a big turkey at an import store that we bought to freeze until Christmas. They don't quite know how they are going to fit this 20 pound thing in a toaster oven, but fear not! because Michelle is here and she's done this before! :). Turkey will be served! :)
After a Thanksgiving meal with our Siping team on Thursday, we ventured on to the big city Changchun to gather with 50 others to celebrate the holiday. The guys played football in the snow until they were completely frozen and I did some Christmas shopping with some of the women and their children. We often forget that everything in China takes twice as long to do as it would in America, so we barely made it in time for the Thanksgiving potluck meal. Following the meal was a time of singing, fellowship, and reading songs of thanksgiving from the Good Book. We were exhausted when we came back. If I had to spend Christmas away from my family, I'd spend it with these guys, my team. Some days I want to wring their necks (much like we do with the poor turkeys), but I love them. It's nice to be able to set aside this time.
Most of the time when I have more energy, I then spend this time on a poetic way of highlighting all that I am thankful for. Don't we all? Isn't that what we are supposed to do at this time of year? But, I am more and more convinced that seasons of thanksgiving should not just happen once a year. I AM thankful, but hopefully for all seasons.
Try writing down five things you are thankful for every day, based on something that happened that particular day. It's a lot easier said than done. But, try it. It is the blistery cold days when students aren't participating and the technology you need for class isn't working and teammates are driving you crazy and your plumbing isn't working and you're tired of eating noodles for dinner AGAIN and you had a really bad language day and people keep cutting in front of you at the bank and you.... (wow, I think I just described my day :)-- It is on days like these that you need to make that list the most.
I have often heard phrases like how we, as Dad's children, are "blessed to be a blessing." This week I heard a new one- that "we are blessed with a burden." Because it is only in this way that we can be Dad to these people.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween from Team Siping and Jilin Normal University students!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Baby Boom in China?

Here is an interesting article for those of you who like researching generational trends.

Baby Boom for Beijing Olympics (October 10, 2007, China Daily)
For many Chinese couples, October is the right season to conceive babies, as they hope to have an "Olympic baby" delivered at 8:08 PM, on August 8, 2008, the time when the opening ceremony will begin. While the ambitious potential parents plan to celebrate the Games with a new addition to their families, host country China is bracing itself for a baby boom. The first generation born under the one-child policy has reached the age of childbearing. And also, a mixture of traditional superstition and new trends has led to an abnormal surge in the population. The year 2000 saw over 36 million "millennium babies", nearly doubling the number in 1999 and 2001. Seven years later, the country is witnessing a new rush of baby deliveries since February 18, the beginning of the lunar New Year, the Year of the Pig. Many couples are trying to have "piggy babies" so that they will have a happy and prosperous life in the Year of golden Pig, as the animal sign coincides with gold, one of the five elements on earth. As a result, the number of newborns is expected to hit 20 million this year, according to Xinhua New Agency. And with the "Olympic baby" fever, the numbers of babies will be even higher. The baby boom has already started to put strains on schools and hospitals and later on, job markets. Experts warn irrational selective births could result in a shortage of social resources.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Surprise Encounter

I had to be in Beijing this week for a meeting and ended up not being able to leave right away due to the lack of trains back to my city. We are right in the middle of China's National Holiday, which means that everyone in China is taking at least 3 days off from work to travel and many of them end up here in Beijing. Being here was all completely last minute, but four days later I'm still here in Beijing :). So, I was out and about in a popular part of the city last night doing some shopping (which I just don't do, but hey, I got time to kill :)).

Now, you might know that Beijing has over 12 million people, and with the October holiday week here, the rest of China seems to be here as well. So, it's rush hour (if China even has a rush hour) and I was waiting on the subway platform. I ignored the first train because there was no way humanly possible I could fit. I could see myself struggling with my face smooshed between a person's armpit and the window, and deciding that was not the way to go I waited for the next one. Meanwhile I am just amazed by the sheer masses in a great sea of black heads and start taking pictures of the hounds of people on the subway platform. Through my camera lens I see someone running towards me (which is odd because most people are heading away from me, like a school of fish).
I would have never guessed in a million years who it would be...

One of my best Chinese friends, Tan Chu Michael!

Michael was the very first friend I made in China and over the years we have become good friends. He makes his home in the south (Hengyang, my old city) and I was able to spend some time with him while I was visiting Hengyang this summer. Now, I have not written or talked to Michael since I left Hengyang at the end of July. I had absolutely no idea he would be in Beijing, nor he did me. But there, on the subway platform surrounded by a bajillion people, we ran into each other. How cool is that!?

On his end Michael was with a friend and his friend turned around and said, "look, there's a foreigner taking pictures of all the people in the subway." He kinda rolled his eyes and said that yeah, that's what some foreigners do, not getting too excited about yet another foreigner in Beijing, until he zones in and realizes he recognizes mentioned foreigner :)

Afterward he proceeded to yell at me for five minutes for not calling him or keeping in touch (he has tried and I have not returned his emails, I'll confess)...but, then the clincher "even Ekren (my former teammate who now lives in the far northwest of China) called me from Kashgar and you don't call me!" :) :) It was SO Michael. I saved myself by saying that if I had called he would have known I was planning to be in Beijing and the surprise encounter wouldn't have been nearly as fun.

It's amazing the people you meet along the way.

Friday, September 21, 2007

In the News

In the news... (

Counselors Practice How to Rescue Marriages (September 15, 2007, Shanghai Daily)
The growing demand for marriage counselors in Shanghai has led to the creation of a special training school for people interested in saving marriages. Those interested in improving their marriage counseling skills, or saving their own unions, may apply for a spot in the program to gain experience. The program invites young newlyweds who need advice and the counselors practice their techniques on them. Some of the consultants have no prior experience but receive training. The first marriage consulting practice and training center opened in Shanghai in July. So far, 500 people have enrolled in the program to improve their consulting skills.

China Web-user Dies After Three-day Online Binge (September 16, 2007, AFP)
A man in southern China collapsed and died after a three-day marathon online session at a cybercafe, state media reported on Monday. The web-user, estimated to be 30 years old, suddenly collapsed in front of his computer terminal in Guangdong province, and emergency personnel were unable to revive him, the Beijing News reported. "According to preliminary findings, the length of time this man spent online might have triggered heart problems," the paper quoted a local hospital emergency medic in the city of Zhongshan as saying. The paper did not provide the man's name or the online activities he was engaged in.

China’s Tallest Building Nearly Done (September 14, 2007, AP)
After a more than a decade of delays, China's tallest building is slicing through Shanghai's hazy, skyscraper-studded skyline — a new trophy built by a Japanese property tycoon. The 101-story Shanghai World Financial Center, a 1,614 foot wedge-shaped tower with a rectangular hole at the very top, was topped out on Friday as its last beam was laid amid a drizzle that obscured the building's panoramic view of endless high rises. In a city whose skyline evinces the belief "the taller the better," the building is bound to be a major tourist destination and landmark. The $1 billion Shanghai project by the developer's flagship Mori Building Co., due for completion in time for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, is a monument to the city's ambitions to reclaim its status as a key international center.

And the most interesting...

New Words for a Rave New World (September 17, 2007, Shanghai Daily)
Rapid social change, Western pop culture and the use of English have prompted education authorities to add 171 terms to the national language registry, including those that describe mortgage slaves and loose marital arrangements. Economic reforms and soaring rates of home ownership have produced a new name for those young people struggling to pay off home loans in traditionally debt-wary China: fangnu, or "house slaves." And young, married professionals who live in separate homes to keep the romance alive and maintain their own space are being called "Semi-honey couples" (bantang fuqi), according to education officials."(The new terms) reflect the rapid cultural and social changes in recent years as well as thriving new concepts in our daily lives," said Li Yuming, the senior official at the Ministry of Education in charge of standardizing the use of modern Chinese language. The new terms were registered after two years researching more than 900 million commonly used words and phrases in Chinese, the Xinhua news agency reported, adding that they showed how pervasive Western movies and the English language had become.