Tuesday, December 29, 2009

I'll Be Home For Ch*istmas If Only In My Dreams...

This is not my first Ch*istmas to miss being at home and I'm sure it won't be my last but I am sure it was my most memorable and most profound. New traditions were started and the depth of the reality of celebrating Ch*istmas in China has been very moving. I haven't talked about H*M much on my blog in efforts to be sensitive but today, today I will share with you my thoughts on the last few weeks.

First, let me say, we expats (expatriates- people who live in another country) know how to party it up. Between school, fellowship and friends, it's been a busy time. There have been graduations ceremonies to attend, programs to watch, services to plan, carols to sing...I think I've been to something like 9 parties (I'm all baked out). I've had the opportunity to be involved in a couple of different types Ch*istmas parties. One where we gave gifts to some very underpriviledged Chinese families (where we had the attendance of several city officials and the possibility to start up some sort of repeated outreach) and then a C. Eve party designed for English speaking Chinese and other expats (I helped lead wors*ip/MC/plan it- a good learning experience). Both with the purpose to teach those in attendance why we celebrate Ch*istmas and what it means. For C. Eve/Day, the singles from my fellowship had a sleepover/gift exchange/eat all day/movie marathon party. I was able to skype with my family and open our gifts together. It's been a busy, wonderful time.

And just like in America, it's so easy to get caught up in the doing, that you almost get too busy to remember the reason for celebrating in the first place. So easy. Except...it's not. I mean, I was just as busy this month as I was every other December back home. I had as many, maybe even more, things to attend and prepare for but in between all the programs and parties and ceremonies, it was always very clear that Ch*istmas was different here. China doesn't celebrate Ch*istmas. I mean, the stores try. They had a few signs here and there in English announcing Ch*istmas sales. And every once in awhile I came across one wishing me a Happy or Merry somthing or other, but out side of that, it's a normal month, week, day. I mean, imagine. The holiday that many people in America spend months planning for...it's not even celebrated here. It was very surreal.

So, when I went to our student's Ch*istmas program and they acted out the nativity, I cried. Not because I haven't seen it a bazillion times, but because...I don't know. Because I'm living in a place that doesn't understand the beauty of the nativity. Or the meaning. I'm living in a place where people haven't even heard the story. EVER. At one of our parties, we had several people say that they had never heard (much less understood) why we celebrated Ch*istmas until that moment.

See, to you this probably sounds normal. Yes, of course Jen. You're living in China, it's not their custom, of course they don't know. But living here, where things are so normal, so westernized, so close to being like home, it's truly mindblowing to me to hear people in such a huge city of 8 million people to say that they have no idea what Ch*istmas is about. I mean, you expect that in the boondocks or jungles or farmland, but in a city with a huge expat community (who all celebrate this holiday)? The implications of all of that I won't go into but needless to say, it hurts my heart.

I have purposely left H*M out of my blogs but I hope you've been able to read between the lines and realize that my happiness here is totally because of H*S provision. HE has taken wonderful care of me. And this week has been a perfect reminder of how far HE had to come to do that.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Per My Facebook Status...

Here are a few of my fb status updates over the last couple of weeks...

  • just finished making 6 dozen sugar cookies for my students. We aren't having parties tomorrow. We're just having "snacks while we work" day. Wish I could find some food coloring. And sprinkles. And sugar sparkles.

  • why is there constant tapping/banging/knocking/hammering/pounding in my apartment building? Seriously, all day, every day. Who is doing it and why?

  • one more full week of school and then finals. Woohoo!!! Can't wait for vacation time.:)

  • is going to go spend all her money at the Christmas fair. Of course, that'll be in between selling raffle tickets and photographing babies with Santa. :)

  • had a good formal observation and finally finished pinyin. Woohoo! Hot pot with the girls to celebrate (good thing 'cause I think ayi made eel for dindin). And then a caramel machiatto. It's been a good day.

  • my ayi is amazing. She actually unpacked my suitecase that I've been avoiding. I cannot express how happy that makes me.

  • so, my bed is right next to the radiator and it's so dang hot that I have to sleep with my window open. How messed up is that? Seriously, who sleeps with their window open in the winter?

  • is going for a wog (walk/jog). Can't wait to use my new earmuffs and face mask. I love winter!!!

  • had a great Thanksgiving feast today and thoroughly enjoyed the Jin Hai clan. A perfect way to celebrate.

  • is getting ready to cook it up...corn pudding, stuffing and green bean casserole. Mmmm...

Life is good. I had a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner with people from my apartment complex. I don't know if I've ever explained how "living here" works. We have two main apartment complexes that our company uses. One complex is for the married couples with no children and singles living by themselves. The other complex is for families and singles with roommates. I live in the complex with the families and singles w/roommates. So for Thanksgiving, about 30 of us, including about 10 kids, all got together for a potluckish dinner. We all signed up to bring different dishes. It was delicious and oh so fun. We played games, had a couple of readings. Very family-like.

I don't know about you but life is seriously crazy for people in education during this time of year. Parties to host, programs to watch, grading to be finished, finals to be given. CRAZY. I've already been to a program and a Christmas fair (where I purchased some great gifts). I've got classroom "parties" for the next couple of days, a program on Friday night, a party for the needy on Saturday, two parties next week, I think, another open house on the 19th, a Christmas Eve party at my fellowship and then a whole bunch of fun stuff planned for Christmas Eve/Day with friends. In between all that, I still have to grade and finish up all my stuff for school. But, I LOVE IT. I love this time of year. I love the weather, the lights, the carols, the messages at fellowship, everything about it. And this year is extra-special to me. I'll blog about that later.

I'm finally assimilating to the China way of life. What I mean is, when I first got here, there were a lot of every day things that I just couldn't do because it seemed too overwhelming, like cooking. I literally did not cook once during my first three months here. And in fact, my first big time to cook was for Thanksgiving. I know, you're judging me right now. Think about it. I'm in a new country, it's almost impossible to find the things I'm used to using (like cooking oil or normal vegetables), and I have no idea what I can find or where to find it or how to use substitutions. So, it's a big deal that I finally feel like I know where to find things like...stuffing. It's with the dried seafood. Or baking mixes- with the dried seafood. Yes, it seems everythings with the dried seafood. China's tricky like that. If a store does happen to have what you're looking for, I would almost guarantee that it's not going to be in any place you would ever think it would be. Cereal is not with other dried goods. No, it's back in the meat market,right next to the slabs of pig heart and freshly caught fish. Seriously.

Another thing that's recently happened is that I've passed my pinyin test. What's pinyin? It's the written sounds of Chinese. So, Chinese has characters. Example- 汉字 and then there's pinyin. Example-yīdiǎnr. It's basically using the English alphabet to spell out the sounds of the character. By saying I passed my pinyin test, I mean, that I'm able to read it. Which means absolutely nothing because I have no idea what I'm saying. It's actually a very small thing but still exciting because that means that I'm finally on vocabulary. And learning how to speak in sentences in stead of just one word phrases. "Go." "We're here." "This." "Want." "Don't want." I can say things like "wǒ shì lǎoshī" which is "I am a teacher". Impressed aren't you? Still very basic but I'm on my way. Makes me happy.

I've taken pictures of my tree and holiday stuff. It's all on facebook. Check it out.