Monday, September 21, 2009

What a little bird taught me....

I wrote the following last fall while I was in Harbin. I didn't post it because it talks about God and I wanted to be careful with what I posted online while I was in China. I had completely forgotten about it, and while looking for an assignment in my documents, I stumbled across it again. It is amazing what God will teach you in a time when you don't necessarily need the lesson, but He will remind you of what He taught you in a time when we really need the encouragement. Enjoy :)

Sitting in a café watching a small bird trapped inside try desperately to reach the outside by going through a glass window started me thinking. This small bird is so directly focused on getting outside that the sight of the outside makes it believe that the window is the only way out. It does not know that if it were to turn around and fly the other way it would find an open door. Observing this bird I caught myself thinking how unintelligent this bird is to continually try to fly through a window when every attempt is met with failure. Me being much larger, I am able to see more of the surrounding circumstances than the bird. I can easily see that the other side of the café has an open door that the bird should really be trying to go through. I want to help this bird reach the outside, but it keeps flying around and it does not trust that I just want to help it.

I realized that we are sometimes just like this bird. In life we have our sights set on a goal or a certain path and no matter how hard we try we can’t get there and we can’t make it happen. What we don’t realize is that if we just slow down and go the other way we will be met with success. I kind of compared this to the difference between us and God. God is so much larger than us that He knows the past, present, and future, and all the paths that you will and could take. I imagine God looking down on us, his small finite children, trying so desperately to go the wrong way. This could be anything from walking in sin, to trying to do things on our own strength. When we try to do things on our own and we come against an impossible obstacle we often cannot see that the way to go is right behind us and that our Father is longing for us to stop and turn around and let Him lead us to the right path. We are so small and finite and we cannot possibly see everything that will happen and every option we have. God is so much bigger than us. Like my ability to see the way this small bird should go, God can see better than I what way I should go. The only thing is that I have to stop resisting and stop trying so desperately to go the wrong way on my own. I must calm down, stop and follow my Father trusting that he will not lead me astray.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Sunshine, lilacs and more sunshhine

In the midst of -15degree F temperatures, snow, and lack of heaters, I never thought that summer would come. However, I was thankfully proven wrong. It has been absolutely beautiful here lately. Unfortunately it did take until May before it got nice. The end of April it started to be nice, but it hasn't been until recently that it has been in the upper 70's /low 80's. I do kind of think it a little odd though when I see people still wearing long sleeves and sweatshirts. I myself am still a little afraid that when I walk outside it's all of a sudden going to start snowing, but I have at least started to wear some summer clothes. An interesting observation I have made is that the girls will carry around an umbrella when it's hot and sunny. In China having white skin is the equivalent to having a tan in America and I guess they take it as far as carrying around a parasol of sorts to stay white. The campus is currently absolutely beautiful. I never realized how many flowers they have on campus. There is an extraordinary amount of lilacs and they are all in bloom right now. It smells sooo good!!

Friday, April 24, 2009


It has been far too long since I have given you all an update on my life here. I apologize for not keeping you all in the loop. A lot has happened since I posted last, yet at the same time nothing is terribly new. Live for me still mostly consists of studying, eating and sleeping. It's getting more difficult to come up with fun stories because I've gotten so used to everything here now. I had my spring break a couple weeks ago, and my family was able to come to China to visit me. My dad, mom, sister, grandpa and grandma all came to China to visit me. It was great to have them here, and to have them see where I have been living. It's very hard to actually explain to someone what living in China is like when they have no frame of reference for it, so I feel very blessed that my family was able to come see me.

For the first three days of my spring break my family spent time with me in Harbin, seeing where I spend my time and touring the city of Harbin. After that we all took a train to Beijing and spent another three days there. While in Beijing we went to the Great Wall, saw the Olympic center, visited Tiananmen, and did lots of shopping. On the last night that my family was in China, we all celebrated my grandpa's and my birthday, his being on the 11th and mine on the 12th of April. It was quite the blessing to have them here to celebrate my birthday.

I enjoyed having the chance to act as the tour guide of sorts for my family, having them try the good, authentic Chinese cuisine, and showing them how to travel on China's public transportation, etc. If you want to know what my family thought of their trip, you'll have to ask them about there impressions, but as for me I really enjoyed it.

It's down to almost five weeks until I head home, and I'm finding myself continually conflicted. I'm on one hand very very excited to go home after almost eight months here, but on the other hand I've spent eight months here, and I've finally gotten adjusted to living here, and I've made friends that I will be sad to say goodbye to. I am actually very happy that it will be difficult to leave because that means I enjoyed myself, and that it was a good experience. At the same time though I'm still counting down the days. :)

Oh, and spring is finally here!!!

Friday, March 27, 2009


I've been living in China for more than 7 months. I go home in almost two months. I am beginning to wonder what it will be like to go back home, how my experiences will affect being back at home, how being at home will affect my experience, etc, etc. In some areas I think life will just go back to normal, but in many ways I know it will not. Living in a foreign country, especially one like China, is very difficult to explain to people to a point where they can understand what I have experienced. I can tell people stories and I can show off my skills in speaking Chinese, but much of what I have learned here and much of what has shaped me will never be able to be expressed to a point where people will understand. Only if you have lived or visited China will you ever understand what it means when people talk about the amount of people, the pollution, the standard of living, etc. Most people will not actually be able to understand both the good and the bad about this country. Before I got here and actually lived here for more than two weeks, China was just a place on a map and culture that I knew a lot of the history about. Getting here was a whole different experience. Most of what I ever studied never really had anything to do with modern China, most of it was all before Deng Xiaoping's Gaigekaifang, or Opening and Reform policy. Living here I have experienced and seen so much of what China is today. Yet at the same time it is still very illusive to me. As a foreigner there are some things that I don't get to see because we are presented with the part of China that we are wanted to see. However, it is the same China that most of the nation sees as well. Anyways, it will be difficult to tell people all of this and have them understand it on a truly understanding level. I'm afraid of getting back home and being unable to give people an accurate representation of my experience here. It is not something that can be summed up into a few sentences. I have a feeling that it will be something that will have to just come out in stories, course I'm not the best story teller at all. I'm afraid that when I go home my experience in China will be a year that just becomes missing in my life. A period of time where I will talk about every once in a while, but that is generally ignored in the large scheme of life. Which is right in it's own sense because we shouldn't be living in the past but rather in the present.

So, how will this experience affect me? I guess a better question would be, what do I want to take away from this? Well, most importantly I want to take away everything God has taught me. He has taught me a lot about living in the present, and not in the past or the future. He has taught me that the journey with Him is not easy, and just because you leave America does not mean that it is any easier to seek Him everyday. I learned how much of a blessing and how important fellowship is to your walk. I have learned that I do not have enough friendships with people who are not Christians. I have spent my life in a bubble, and I want to start taking Jesus outside of the church walls. Now, that doesn't mean that I want to abandom my morals and that I want to live a heathenistic life, but it means that I want to make relationships with those people who are lost. It means I should go to them, not expect them to come to me inside the church. Jesus did not stay inside the synagogue and did not spend his time with the religious people of his time; instead, He spent his time building relationships with those outside of the synagogue walls, those who needed saving. He never went alone though, I do not think it is in His will for any of us to go out into the field alone. When Jesus sent his disciples out to preach and heal in his name he sent them out in pairs, not by themselves. I think when missionaries go out by themselves without anyone to back them up or support them in the field it becomes a dangerous spot and they can begin to struggle (I watched this happen to two different people). I have experienced God's care as he provided kind people to take care of me during my travels. I have experienced God's divine appointments as he allowed me to encourage a brother I had never met before in my life and will probably never meet again, and by allowing me to meet some amazing Christians along my travels that were such an encouragement to me. I have learned that I can do nothing on my own, without God's help I am nothing. I realize that I need to depend on His guidance and leadership throughout my life. I have had the privilege of witness God bring people to Him and watching how he has grown a meeting of 7 foreigners and one Chinese to a meeting of about 20, being about half foreigners and half chinese. It was not a result of anything we really did, God just blessed it and brought people. He has shown me that there is a need and a thirst here. Reading the heavenly man while being here also has really changed my perceptions and attitudes towards things. It is hard for me to express what I'm really thinking when it comes to God and church. When I go back home I'm afraid that i will get caught up in religiousity and forget all that I have experienced here. Yet at the same time, I know that fellowship with the believers will help me in my walk.

What am I looking forward to at home? I'm looking forward to seeing everyone that I have missed so dearly. I'm looking forward to being home. Although I have lived here in China for many months it is still not home to me. I'm looking forward to western food, food without a ton of oil. I look forward to having space, and not continually being surrounded by people. I look forward to being able to drive my car again, fresh air being fresh, understanding a culture, being able to have friends that I can tell what is on my mind, green grass, clean streets.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

“幼儿园” (you'er yuan) Kindergarten!!

Today I got the chance to go back to kindergarten! CET had all of us go visit HIT's kindergarten so that we could practice our Chinese and interview the kindergartners. I have to say it was QUITE the experience. Definitely the opposite of our visit with HIT's elderly. When I heard that we were going to visit a kindergarten I had imagined in my head visiting a class, playing with a bunch of cute kids, and easily asking them the list of questions I had for them. I expected them to be cute, adorable, quiet, and willing to answer my questions. In fact, they were actually very cute and adorable, but as for being quiet and willingly answering my questions, they were far from it.

Two classmates and I walked in a class of about 20-30 kindergartners and were immeadietly each given a group of students. I proceeded to my table of kids and sat in my chair fit for a kid 1/4 my size. At first they really didn't know what to do with me! They didn't know whether to speak English or Chinese, and when they found out they couldn't speak English to me that had no clue what to say to me. One kid just looked at me and said in Chinese "foreigner" and then put his head down unwilling to talk to me. The teacher encouraged them to say their names, etc, but they were pretty shy and needed a bit more encouragement. The teacher then decided to have them all recite the 成语 (cheng yu), or idioms, that they had been memorizing. So my table started to recite their 成语 and they gradually got louder and louder until it was practically a yelling match between tables. After that the teacher tried again to have them introduce their names, and as they introduced their names I did my best to understand what they said and repeat it back. If I said their name wrong they were definitely not afraid to tell me I was wrong. I then tried to get them to all write their names for me so that I could see their names. This got them all really excited and they started pulling out paper to write, and they were all fighting for my attention to show me their name. A couple of the kids decided to take out their books and have me read the book to them; so I ended up spended quite a bit of time reading Spongebob Squarepants to them in Chinese. I thought it was pretty funny to see how excited they were to have me reading their book. They were all crowded around me so they could see the book too (one kid was practically in my lap), and they were quick to correct my pronunciation. After an hour or so in the very noisy classroom, my time came to an end and I had to say goodbye to my new "small friends", but it was an experience that I don't think I will forget very easily. I don't know how I forgot how noisy and spirited little kids can be. I have to say though, I have no clue what I'm going to tell my teacher on Friday because I didn't get a chance to ask any of my questions...

Classes have been going well. It is weird to realize that I have been in China now for a little more than six and a half months. I'm now having to start getting things ready for next fall semester, which makes it hard to wait to go home. I've certainly been enjoying my time, and I'm slowly making more and more friends here. I have been blessed while I have been here in more ways than one. I do think I'm starting to come down with a case of senioritis though.

Oh, and it is still very much winter here. I'm watching it snow outside right now, and it started snowing five hours ago.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

China Life

I realized that I never really gave a detailed description of what it is like to live in China. I've decided to describe some of the differences that I have been experiencing here and have in most cases adapted to.

Well, for starters, I have gotten accustomed to washing my face in a wash basin. Normally I would just use the warm water out of the sink and wash my face in the sink, but our sink does not have hot water and Harbin is just a little too cold to use cold water to wash my face. So every night I borrow my roommates wash basin and pour hot water into it and use it to wash my face. The lack of cold water in the sinks in our dorms (and most sinks in China) makes me very appreciative when I come across a sink that actually has hot water. Not only does hot water in a sink make it easier to wash your face, but also your hands and your dishes too.

I can officially say that I am used to using a squatty potty. Granted it's not my favorite thing in the world to use, especially when the floor is wet, there are cigarette butts in the toilet and no toilet paper, but I've definitely gotten used to it. Most of the public places here have squatty potties and you need to provide you're own toilet paper.

The Chinese kitchens are a lot different than I'm used to. I have never once seen an actual stove. I have seen a stove (with no oven) every once in a while, but most of the time people use hot plates to cook on. The kitchen in our dorm consists of a microwave, a rice cooker, an oven about the size of a toaster oven, a hot plate, and refrigerator. They also don't refrigerate their eggs here, or their milk and yogurt.

I have gotten used to using taxis and public buses as my main means of transportation. Most people do not have personal cars here. The main methods of transportation are public bus, taxi and walking. The few personal cars that people do have are generally very nice. I see a lot of Audis and BMWs.

When I take a shower, I always have the toilet and the bathroom sink for company. There is no separate partitioned area for the shower. The shower is water heater on the wall with a shower head connected to it. The shower head is just on the wall of the bathroom and the entire bathroom just looks like a shower, except that the toilet and sink are there too.

I hang dry my clothes every time I do laundry. Dryers must be a luxury or just not a cultural norm because they just don't really exist here. You always hang your clothes in the window to dry. Most apartments have a sun porch area with a shower curtain rod that you hang your clothes on. Also, if you need to hand wash your clothes, which most of the students here do anyways, you use another wash basin except bigger than the one for face washing.

When you go out to eat it is all done family style. You never order a dish for just yourself. If the group of people is big enough you will find yourself in a separate personal room and the table your sitting at has a big lazy susan in the middle of it. Then everyone share's the food in the middle. You pretty much just take what you want as you want it. There is really no dishing food onto your plate using a separate utensil and then eating what is on your plate. You just use your chopsticks to take food that you want to eat and you eat as you go. Rice is generally brought last and is meant to be eaten if you're still hungry. China also has a custom where one person treats everyone at the table to dinner, called 'qing ke' 请客; however, we often end up just splitting the bill.

These are the things I can think of right now. I know there is more, but I'm always afraid I'll just be repeating myself or that people will already know what it's like. Anyways, I've started school again. I started on Monday, and this semester is so far ten times better than last semester. My level of Chinese is a lot higher than when I first got here so the first weeks of the semester aren't miserable like they were last semester. The group of students this semester is a lot of fun. They are very social and they are generally all around the same conversation level. It is a smaller group than last semester, 20 instead of 27. I also have a new roommate this semester, and she is very sweet. Her name is Xue Yi, 薛艺。 She is a graduate student and a few years older than me. She is very talkative, but talkative in a very cute way. I enjoy that I don't really have to think of something to say, instead she'll end up saying something and then I can respond to her. All in all I'm enjoying this semester, I'm glad to be back to school, and time really has flown.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

It's not the places you go, but the people you meet...

I've seen lots of cool places. Places that few people ever get to travel to and people only dream about seeing. I am grateful for the opportunity I have to travel; however, the best part of my travels is not everything I've seen, but it's all of the people I have met along the way. The opportunity to meet people from around the world and share who we are and share our culture with eachother is a once in a lifetime experience. Just the other night my friend Laura and I taught our new Dutch friends how to make s'mores, something they had never heard of before. It was a blast to be sitting at a little charcoal fire using chopsticks, fruit-flavored marshmellows, and cookie-like crackers, sharing a piece of our American culture with friends in the middle of our hostel in Chengdu. In my several weeks of travel I have already met people from Austrailia, Sweden, The Netherlands, England, South Africa, Germany, Mexico, Korea, Norway, even America, and of course China. Meeting these people from all over the world has given me a real understanding of how big and yet small the world is. Having the chance to learn about countries that my understanding of goes no further than where it is on a map, has been something I would never trade. It has made me appreciate how many countries and cultures there are in the world, and that my country is not the only one that exists and of any note.

Most all of the people I have met speak English fluently as a second language and sometimes it is their first language. Each time I meet someone and start talking with them, I discover how each culture influences language and how English can be very different even in places like England and Australia. I have begun to envy all the Europeans that can speak fluent English yet still have their own language that they can speak (and no one else can understand it). It is fun being able to sit and listen to people speak in Dutch one second and then turn to you and start speaking English again. Languages really are a beautiful and amazing thing. They are so complex yet so simple.

In short, traveling has made me appreciate meeting people, making friendships, and building those friendships that I already have, because solely traveling and sightseeing is so empty and void compared to the joy of knowing people.