Thursday, September 28, 2006

My Chinese Name

Today was a much needed good day. It's been raining non-stop for the past day, and when you have to walk everywhere this can be a little depressing and pretty much nasty.

Every Thursday night one of the foreign teachers has to attend "English Corner" which is supposedly a place where students can come and speak English , but essentially what happens is everyone speaks Chinese and surrounds the foreign teacher and asks him the same questions for two hours straight. Tonight was my first time to go, so I was asked to give an introduction. I began by telling them about myself and then opened the floor to questions. Shortly into the questions, a girl asked if I had a girlfriend, which was shortly followed by the usual "Do you want a Chinese one?" I laughed, and then my good friend Christina (who had sung for us last week and confessed that she secretly wants to marry a foreigner) asked me to tell all one hundred of the present students about my love life. I told them it was pretty much non-existent and moved on to more equally embarrassing questions. Afterwards Christina found me and told me that my new hair cut made me look very handsome and that I am much thinner now. She then inquired as to if I had a brother and if she could have a picture. I told her I would love to give her a picture and that my brother loves Chinese girls. (sorry Dustin).

After all this we went for a late dinner to my favorite restaurant which we call Happy Guy's. We walked in and ordered some food. Me and Happy Guy and the rest of the Happy family are becoming good friends. While we were waiting, Happy Wife who we've named Stella offered us some coffee which was glorious even though it was instant. It's really special because coffee's pretty expensive here and Happy Guy isn't exactly Rich Guy. I think he was having a family reunion or something because by the end of the meal it was us three foreigners, Stella, Happy Guy and his brother and sister sitting around talking and by talking I mean stumbling through broken English and even worse Chinese. It was a blast though. By the end Happy Guy inducted us into his family lol. His real name is Zhang Hai Long. His family name is Zhang and then his personal name means Dragon of the Sea. I told him I wanted to be Shan Long (Dragon of the Mountain) and he laughed and said "Ok, you Zhang Shan Long." It was great and much needed after a couple of nasty days outside. I'm learning more and more about community and how important it is to have those little glimpses of community in a place where you can feel so disconnected. I don't think life in America is much different in this respect either. Things like talking to a waitress or cashier that you normally wouldn't, gives a little bit of connection and community in a place that's desperately lacking it.

Tomorrow me and some Brothers and Angelynn are going to Shanghai and Hangzhou for October Holiday for a week. We have a 17 hour bus ride to look forward to which should be great. I'm really excited about it all. The Brothers are some real cool guys and we're staying with Jakie's brother who is a professional chef in Shanghai. It's pretty much gonna be amazing. If any of you have seen Mission Impossible 3, the last scenes are in Shanghai and we are going to be going for a day to the village at the very end of the movie.

Be Remembering my new friends that I met eating rice the other day (I call them the Rice boys). We've been hanging out a lot and they're really great guys, I like em a lot and really hope that our relationship continues to Grow. Also, be Talking about my friend Grease (he spells it Grace but calls himself Grease, don't ask me...) Me and him are becoming good friends. We played ping pong today for a while, the guys a stud. I met a guy named Sean tonight that I felt like I Connected with so keep Remembering him too.

My backs feeling a lot better, but keep it in Mind. It still hurts some but not near as bad so I'm pretty stinkin Grateful for that.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Just Call Me Yao Ming

Yesterday was awesome. Angelynn and I went to this place called "Sometimes Coffee" (I guess Sometimes it's not?). I have been craving real coffee lately so we went in and ordered some excessively over priced coffee at 20 kuai a cup. Keep in mind I can eat a really nice full meal for about 7 kuai. So we get our coffee and it honestly wasn't that bad. It probably would have been better (and cheaper) if they used a little less coffee grounds in it, but I was pleased even though I could have eaten for a day off the price of it.

After that, Angelynn had to go back to her apartment for a women's Study with the Family, so I decided I would go out and explore. I walked through the streets of this little China-Town just watching people and going in and out of shops. In one shop I looked around and came out and there was a little boy there. He said, "Hello." I said hello back and then asked him, "Ni jiao shenme mingzi" (What's your name?) and as soon as I said that the kid gasped and started shouting excitedly in Chinese and within seconds there were 30 something little elementary school kids crowded around me asking me questions in Chinese. It was great.

Somehow I was able to pick out little words here and there and answered their questions. They were thoroughly impressed. I've learned that little kids are the best place to practice a foreign language. They are so open to listening and you don't have to fit in their little box of how the language is supposed to be, just long as you're speaking it or trying to, you're in.And if you're not speaking it right, they just sit and listen while you say it over and over till you finally get it right. It makes me think of when He said, "You must be come like little children or you will never enter the Kingdom." But that's another post...

We, me and the now huge group of Chinese kids, sat on the sidewalk and chatted for half an hour when they finally asked me something that I didnt understand but one word, "Qiu" which means ball in Chinese. Mocca, the main leader of the entourage, then made a dribbling motion with his hand. I thought he was asking if I liked basketball so I said yes and then out of nowhere Mocca grabbed my hand and took off running down the sidewalk.

Ok, so picture this: one white boy with a bright orange backpack with 30 little Chinese ten year olds running full sprint down the sidewalk of a crowded street during rush hour. We ran for about 50 yards and then we turned right into this gated area which was their school. At this time, a guard stepped out and held out his head for us to stop and said some stuff in Chinese. Ten of the kids went to him and started saying things, and then while the guard was distracted the other 20 kids motioned for me to follow while he wasn't looking. I was like, whatever, I don't know what's going on, so I snuck past the guard.

We got in and I played basketball with these kids for over an hour. They were the nicest kids in the world, literally. They saw I had my digital camera with me and were going crazy about it, but when we got started to play they showed me to put my backpack next to the goal and I was kind of hesitant to leave my camera there, but I put it in my backpack and as soon as I did they all moved their packs on top of mine to hide it.

I had been culture shockin a little that day, and it was an awesome Gift that was Sent.

Crying Girl

Here's one from an old email. I'll be adding more just posts later on.

Ok so the other day I met for the first time with my Freshman English Majors Class. It was glorious. It was basically a meet and greet type of thing. I really had no idea I was supposed to be there until I received a phone call about 3 hours before it happened during which I was informed that I needed to be prepared for one and a half hours of whatever I would like. The Chinese teacher told me, "Just do a get to know you kind of game. You foreigners are good at that." I didn't know we had such a reputation in the international community...

The class started off fairly normal. I told them about myself and talked a little and then asked them to prepare some questions to ask me. They began with the normal stuff: welcoming me to their wonderful country, inviting me to their hometown and telling me they would "be delighted to be my guide" there. Then came the three girls sitting together.

The girls sat there for most of the class giggling at my answers and the way I talked. Then one raised her hand to ask me a question, "Mr. Wilson, Do you have a girlfriend?" Now this is really a normal question in China, apparently they always ask foreigners if they have girlfriends/boyfriends. I jokingly responded with a "No, American girls don't like me." I answered a few more and then Amiga Number 2 raised her hand and asked in a little Chinese accent, "Mr. Wilson, I was wondering what kind of girls do you like?" The class erupted in laughter and the girl sat down. This seemed a little strange to me, but I answered and then moved on. Then the last girl spoke up, "Mr. Wilson, I was wondering if you wanted to date a Chinese girl? Because maybe we could find you a girl here for you to date like that." I'm not real sure if she was trying to hit on me or if maybe she had heard I made it out of Harding without a wife and was trying to succeed where Harding had failed.

Basically, they want me.

And then Michelle began to ask questions. She raised her hand and stood up like all Chinese students do to ask a question. She started with a thick Chinese accent, "Mr. Wilson, I was wondering if you knew Jennifer Anniston. She is very beautiful." I responded saying that I knew her, and I agreed she is very beautiful. I thanked her for her question, but apparently she wasn't finished. "Mr Wilson, I was wondering if you know Angelina Jolie. She is very beautiful and very sexy." Michelle spoke these last two words embodying everything that goes into the word sexy. Just typing sexy here does not do justice to the pronunciation in her voice. If you could make sexy an actual sound, Michelle did it.

I said, "Yes, I think she is very beautiful. Thank you for your question, you may sit down."

But she didn't.

She followed up with, "Now if you were Brad Pitt which one would you choose?"

I laughed and told her, "Both." and moved on.

And that was a mistake because I think I ruined the next girl's life. Most of the students in my class did not have English names and one of the first things as an English teacher that I have to do is give everyone an English name because Chinese names are way too crazy for us Gringos to pronounce. Everytime I did, all I got was giggles. Anyways this little girl, I asked her if she would like for me to give her a name and she said she would. I said, "How about Kelli?" She got this horrid look on her face and said, "Mr. Wilson, I think that is a dog's name." I laughed and then said, "What about Julya?" At this point her face was beginning to crumble and she mummbled something and sat down and began to cry. I still have no idea what happened. And as I write this, I realize this is almost more depressing than anything, but at the time I was wondering what in the world was going on, and I am still clueless.

Anyways that's the latest. Please Remember my class. I am making Friends and I have a lot of other Friends now. Please try to Remember them in your Talks.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Jumping Rope

I went for a run tonight and sat up on top of hill in a pagoda that lets me see all across campus. On my way back to my apartment I was going through the square here and saw a mom and dad doing double dutch with their kid. I didn't even know Chinese knew what jump rope was (apparently they do, they call it tiao shen), so I stopped and watched for a while.

The couple noticed me watching and motioned me over and said something in Chinese. I gave my usual, "ting bu dong" (I don't understand), but then they started motioning me to jump in. I was like what the hey I got nothing else to do, so I started jumping rope with this Chinese family. I figured I would do it for a little while but by the end of it all I had been there almost a half an hour. None of them spoke English and pretty much all I could manage to say is, "Is this your Father?", and that's pretty much all we communicated using words.

It was a blast though. It felt so good to be connected to a little community in a place where it's so easy for me to become disconnected.

Rob Bell says that that's what sexuality is, connecting. One of the reasons people have this desire is because they are desiring connection. He says America isn't over-sexed, it's just disconnected.

I agree. Maybe that's what Families in American can offer. That one little moment of connection in a world that is ever becoming more and more disconnected. They provide a pocket of community to people who are so desparately searching for just that.
The feeling of knowing that you have a niche or place in this world can go a long ways in advancing the Kingdom in hearts. Honestly, it doesn't have to be anything big. It can be as simple as jumping rope and letting a stranger be a part of your family for just a little while one Monday night.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Top 5

I've been in Shiyan a couple of weeks now and decided to write a top 5 list of things I've learned so far.

1. While the hot water may be on from 7:30 to 8:00 in the morning, getting into the shower at 7:58 does not guarantee that it will last for the duration of your shower. In fact, it won't. Further, it's more dissapointing when it's your first hot shower in a week, and it goes from amazingly warm to arctic cold in the middle of shampooing your hair.

2. The name of my school Hubei Automotive Institute in Chinese (Qi Yuen) sounds remarkably like the Chinese word for "Brothel" (Ji Yuen) when pronounced by us foreigners. And has been known to bring unsuspecting American taxi costumers places that are no Automible Schools.

3. When a car is blazing down the street in the middle of night and is flashing its lights, it means that it would rather hit you than hit its brakes.

4. When brushing your teeth in China, don't use tap water. The water might leave you some little friends in your mouth. Some people prefer to call these friends, "canker sores."

5. When asking a Chinese man how to say "tea" in Chinese, if you don't get it right the first time he'll repeat it except louder. Then if you repeat it back louder but still incorrect he'll raise his voice even more. Until you both end up in the middle of the street yelling "tea" back and forth at eachother. By the time both of you are done and you are still not saying it right, you'll have attracted quite a crowd.

Thanks for continuing to Remember me. I start teaching in six weeks so right now I'm really looking for Opportunities to meet students. The Family here needs to be Remembered as well. Thanks. Hope ya'll are having a great week.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

I definitely got hit on by a Chinese Girl

Right now I will just be posting the mass email I send out. Later, I will add more.

So I really do not know if I can put into words what happened the other day because honestly I'm not sure myself nor do I know if I can convey the ridiculousness of this dinner, but I'm going to try...

Michelle and her three friends invited me to dinner. The first time I met Michelle was an event all in itself that I will have to save for another time. Anyways I went to dinner with them and we went to a place that serves Huo Guo or as we Americans call it "Hot Pot." Basically it's this giant pot that they put in the middle of the table with a fire underneath it and then you order different foods to put into the pot. It's really cool, you cook what you want right in front of you. We head out the door and the whole time on the bus there, our four new Chinese friends are giddy as little school girls. I don't even know a word to describe them. They were like a group of junior high girls when a boy walks by. Essentially, they were crazy.

We get to the restaraunt and they pull out copy of the menu in English. They had transcribed the whole menu into English before our big night. It must have taken them hours. This was all really sweet and a little creepy at the same time.

We begin to order and the food is brought out to us. The whole room is filled with broken English and little girl giggles. The food was amazing, however anytime we said we liked something; more was immediately ordered. The conversation went something like this...

"Oh this lamb is great."
"Oh, Do you want more?"
"No thank you. I am very full."
"Ok, we will get more."

This happened for the first half hour until we realized that if we ever wanted to leave we couldn't comment on the food ever again.

Towards the end of the meal, Michelle announced to me and the two other foreigners there that her and her friends had prepared a song for us. They then began to belt "My Heart Will Go On" by Celine Dion for our listening pleasure. (I seriously wish I was making this up.) They then followed that by what I was later told was the Chinese National Anthem. After singing, they turned to Brian and said with a smile, "Now your turn." Brian laughed and said, "I think Derek should, he loves to sing." I almost choked. But I thought to myself, maybe if they hear me sing this whole ordeal will be over, so I warmed up and let it go. I sang "Take Me To Your Heart" which if you've never heard, don't start. Apparently this little no name band hit it big in China because it is literally everywhere. After an agonizing thirty seconds of singing the chorus, they began to applaud. This is the second time in China I have been applauded for my singing. It is also the second time in my life I have been applauded for my singing. It's about time someone recognized my musical prowess.

After singing, Michelle and Christina then declared that they had prepared a dance for us. By this point, I realized this might possibly become the greatest night of my life. I have never seen anything more ridiculous as these two Freshmen Chinese girls doing a dance that looked like it came out of a Backstreet Boys video.

And if it wasn't already good enough, they then began to talk to us about their love lives. Michelle had a boyfriend who she was "very much in love with" and who "loved her very much." She repeated this over and over for emphasis. Then she told us that Christina's goal was to marry a foreigner. I didn't think Chinese people could blush.

We then left the restaraunt and Michelle took my hand to lead me across the street. My first thought was "aww that's sweet, she doesn't want me to get hit by a truck." After crossing the street she continued to hold my hand all the way to the bus. Finally, we made it back to our apartment and thanked them for the night. As we were about to leave, Michelle spread her arms wide like she was waiting for a hug. This was strange because normally the Chinese do not hug and even stranger because she did not offer any of the other two foreigners a hug. Even stranger also because up until recently hugging a girl in public essentially meant that you were sleeping together. It's not near this extreme anymore but close, and it was even more creepy because I wasn't offered a hug by any of the other girls.

I still do not feel like I have conveyed the excessive awkwarness/ridiculousness/confusion of the night but I hope I have sent a little of it your way. Please continue to Remember us here. Remember these girls and Remember some friends I made the other night. I am going to play basketball with them tommorrow. Hopefully, our Relationships will Grow. Thanks.