Wednesday, June 29, 2011

So Long, China.

Well, somehow it got to be 11:58 pm on Wednesday night. I don't know where the time went. It feels like just yesterday we were all saying, "Wow can you believe we're leaving in only 2 weeks??" And here we are, with 10 bags packed, ready to head to America. In approximately 5 hours we will be waking up, in the will of the good Lord, to head off to the airport. I'm currently having my last Skype call with Mom and Dad. We have a Skype call pretty much every night, and it will feel weird to actually be able to talk to them in person. And I'm really excited to show off Harvey and his dashing looks.

I've enjoyed my time here so much and I really hate to leave. It's hard to imagine life without Chinese people and without our American neighbors. Somehow I'll deal with it though. I had a breakdown the other night when I was talking to Mom and Dad but I've got myself together and I'm more ok with going home. I really do miss everyone SO much but when you get used to having one life, it's hard to leave it. No doubt, I'm looking forward to Chickfila, Cheerwine, and all things Western, but there's also no doubt that I'll just the same miss the things here. So since I made a list of things I was excited about coming home to, I guess I should make a list about things I'm sad about leaving.

Chinese food. It's a little spicy around here, and leaves my stomach feeling kinda weird but it's just so delicious.

"Hello"s from Chinese people. As you know, Chinese people are infatuated with foreigners. And alot of times they like to yell "Hello!!" at us. And we like to yell "Hello!!" back to them. I will for sure miss this.

Good moods. Somehow Chinese people always seem to be in a good mood. They're always really kind and helpful.

QQs. Unfortunately, I haven't taken full advantage of QQs while being here, but they are little packs of fruit snack-ish things. They're so delicious. And I may or may not have bought 14 packs to take home...

Generosity. Chinese people are so generous. It just amazes me sometimes. Some neighbors brought over 30 eggs one night. Yes, 30. I don't know if they expected us to eat them all, but it was a kind thought. The landlord brought over like 20 peaches. The fruit lady at the market always gives Danielle rotten bananas. When one of Danielle's student's family members is in the hospital and is running out of money and is going to have to leave, the class takes up a collection to send to the family member of the student. This amazes me.

Cheap drinks. Here you can buy a bottle of Coke on the side of the road for like 35 cents.

The market. There's a market about a 3 minute walk from our house and it's so convenient to be able to walk over there and get fruit or vegetables or rice, etc. In America it's like a 10 minute drive to the Walmart.

Traffic. It's insane, but there's never a lack of excitement or horn-blowing.

Well these are only a few of the many, many things that I'm going to miss. And I'm sure once I'm home I'll realize a lot of other things I miss that I wouldn't have even thought twice about.

Now, just to be clear, I am in no way bashing America. I love America and am so thankful for it. I'm not trying to say all Americans are obnoxious and have bad's just that in China there's a feeling of joy and happiness..and alot of times in the States that is not the case. But don't worry...I'll never lose my gratitude for the freedom we have in America and I really do like it alot. Particularly Chickfila. And there really are kind people in the US, I know.

But as much as I love the States, I'm still in love with China. China will always feel like a second home to me, and I hope I can come back again. But if not, I'll just trust it's the Lord's will and try to be ok with that. But for now, it's time to focus on the trip home and reflect on the time I've had here.

To Mom and Dad: Thanks so much for making this trip possible and for giving up your daughter for 2 and a half months. I still remember the day when you told me you were thinking about me going over for Harvey's birth. And I still remember sitting on your bed going insane and not being able to sleep that night. I am so so so thankful for this trip and have learned so much and grown so much. As much as you missed me, it was all worth it, I promise.

To Grace, Lindsey, Ryan, Lyndsay, Harrison, and Daniel: Thank you so much for making this trip so much more enjoyable. It was tough not having friends in Beijing but I just wasn't prepared for how loved I would feel here and how easy it would be to get to know you all. Thanks for welcoming me into your little family and for making an effort to reach out to me. And don't worry, I'll never forget the memories. Such as "might as well" "Stop...look down.." "I've got a brand new pair of roller skates" "I will read my Bible every day!" "Singles or multiples?" Harrison breaking the handle off of the dryer, fairy wings, and much more. I'll miss each one of you like crazy and hope that one day we can meet up again. If not here, then in Heaven. And Grace - I expect a Chickfila date ASAP.

To Josh and Danielle: I can't express how grateful I am for how you've shown so much love to me and made this trip so enjoyable for me. I couldn't have asked for a better time here, many thanks to you two. I'm going to miss all the times I sat on the end of your bed while Danielle fed Harvey, asking hypothetical questions and just making conversation. I'll miss our walks around the lake. I'll miss making dinner for us all. I'll miss helping prepare for SM. I'll miss making sure Harvey's head is turned straight when he takes his weekly picture. I'll miss blogging about my great life with yall. I'll miss doing the dishes. I'll miss our Skype calls with family and friends. Really, I'll just miss doing life with you guys. Again, thank you SO much for letting me come. I love both of you like crazy!! I've enjoyed getting to know you even better and being able to spend this time with you. I'll cherish it forever.

To Harvey: Thanks for making an appearance while I was here. It was greatly appreciated. I love you more than you'll ever know. America is in for a treat! And always remember, I was the aunt that flew half-way across the world to be at your birth. Honestly, I'll miss changing your diapers. And definitely miss holding you. Thank you for smiling at me today. I love you so much. Don't grow up too fast.

Monday, June 27, 2011

we partied.

It was definitely my favorite birthday so far. Definitely. I'll give you the play-by-play on how it went. Which might sort of be redundant since I told you what we were going to do, and that's pretty much what we did, but just bear with me.

1. Cinnamon rolls for breakfast. So. Good. We have a picture of this part of the day but I'll spare you the hideous-ness of it.

2. Church. Good, as always.

3. Lunch: Picnic at the park with Josh, Danielle, the Harv, and Lindsey. Again, I'm in love with picnics. This one was a little weird, but still great. You see, Danielle packed peanut butter and jelly in hopes of stopping somewhere to get some bread. But we couldn't find anywhere to stop. So we ate apples (with peanut butter), pumpkin bread, chips, and pasta salad. Interesting combination, I know.

4. Ferris wheel. After lunch the boys joined us and we headed over to the ferris wheel. This ferris wheel is no ordinary ferris wheel. It just so happens to be the biggest one in southwest China. Not to mention, larger than any ferris wheel in America. It lived up to its expectations and I did not, in fact, freak out because of the height.

5. Chill time. We got rested up for the big meal! Danielle decorated my fantastic cake, Josh worked on the budget, Lindsey took a nap, and Harvey did some screaming. Oddly enough, I can't remember what I did.

6. We met up with the rest of the neighbors at the gate and headed off to the Howard Johnson. If you ever happen to be in the Spring City, please go here. And if you're feeling tired of China and are craving America, go here. I wasn't tired of China, but it was still fantastic. We all got the buffet...which is a little overwhelming. Steak, chicken, fish, pork, salad, shrimp, fruit, ice cream, cheese cake (this is for Daniel), potatoes, sushi, bread, and the list goes on. And on. And on. It was so great. But we could all barely walk from being so full. Literally. Daniel jokingly suggested that we could get a cab (it's like a 10 or 15 minute walk) and I willingly agreed to it. Needless to say, I was disappointed to find that he was only kidding.

7. Cake and games. Danielle made a superb red velvet cake (with cream cheese icing..mmm) but most of us decided that if we had one more bite of food we would die, so we saved it for the next day, today, when we all ate more than enough. Then we played suckatash (otherwise known as "the bowl game"), complete with the addition of a fourth round (where you use someone on another team as your puppet to act out the words), which Joseph told me about a few months ago. It was definitely my favorite round and was so hilarious. I still crack up about Lyndsay using Ryan as her puppet for "I've got a brand new pair of roller skates" and me using Daniel as a puppet for "Kung Fu Panda." I almost threw up a couple of times from the combination of the Howard Johnson buffet and laughing so hard. Then we played a couple rounds of "the family game" which was new to me but is definitely a keeper. And not to brag, but the second time around I won, making myself the head of the family. Where ironically everyone else in the family was older than me.

So that was my 16th birthday. I'm so so glad I got to spend it with the people I did and I couldn't have enjoyed it more. A big thanks to Josh, Danielle, Ryan, Lyndsay, Grace, Lindsey, Harrison, and Daniel for making it so great!

Friday, June 24, 2011

we're gonna party.

I'm not really sure where to start. I've thought of lots of things to blog about in the past few days but they seem to have left my mind. But what is currently most fresh to my thoughts, is our lunch today.

We had our every-other-week women's time today and it was the last one for the semester. Well, first you must know that we have this dear friend named Grace which you may have already read about in a previous post. She's just one of the most Christ-like people I know, and in 1 week she will be moving back to the States. She's been here in China for 2 years and has decided to move to the next stage in her life which will be working with students at UNC. So since today was the last women's time for a while, and Grace's last women's time ever with these people, Danielle decided we should "honor" her a little bit. Josh and Danielle came up with some random questions and today at lunch we all went around and answered each one. Just so you can get a feel for some of what we were doing, a few examples of the questions are as follows: What's your favorite food in the shitang (the school cafeteria)? How have you seen yourself grow this past year? What was your most embarrassing moment this past year? etc. etc. So after we answered the last question in the bag, Danielle pulled one out of her pocket that said What do you want to tell Grace before she leaves? Coincidentally, each of us had written a card to Grace with the answer to this question. Ok, so it wasn't a coincidence. Then we each went around and either read the letter or just said some things to Grace that summed up the card. A few tears were shed, and I'll be honest, my eyes welled up a couple of times. Yeah, I've only known Grace for less than a month. But honestly, even if I had never spoken to her before and only watched her life, I probably still would've gotten teary. She's just an amazing person and anyone listening to what the other girls had to say and watching her live her life would have known how wonderful she is. Christ is just so evident in her life. We're all so thankful for her. In her card I included the following quote from C.S. Lewis:

"Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art… It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival."

Grace will most definitely be missed, but fortunately for me, she'll be an hour-car-ride away, and 5 minutes away from Joe's dorm. We've already planned a Chickfila date for the next time I go visit Joe.

Moving on. Sunday is my birthday. And I'm going to be 16. Pretty insane. I don't really feel like a 16-year-old, I feel more like a little kid. But time will move on, with nothing in my finite power to stop it. I'll continue to wish the days away, longing to go to college, then longing to be married, then longing to have children, then grandchildren. And one day, before I know it, my life will be behind me and I'll be wishing I hadn't wished the days away. That I had taken them more seriously and cherished the moments I had. I'm one of those people who doesn't want to grow up and will hardly face the fact that I'm not a kid anymore. But one day I'll realize it, and wish I had embraced each stage of life, rather than longing for the care-free days of childhood. So for now I'll just try to remember I'm 16, know I enjoyed the past years so much, and look patiently to a life blessed by God in the future.

So apparently 16 is a pretty big birthday. I really don't know why. Something about in the old days girls becoming women. I don't know. I just try to go with the flow. So since Sunday is my birthday, we're going to have a day of celebration. Beginning with breakfast made by Danielle...Clone of a Cinnabon. To die for. Then we'll head to the local "meeting" to gather with fellow christians. After this, Josh, Danielle, Harvey, and I will head to a park in the Spring City and have a picnic. They know me all too well...picnics are one of my favorite activities. If my future husband happens to be reading this, keep this in mind. Then we will ride the giant ferris wheel that overlooks the city and takes 30 minutes to go all the way around. We'll head home and rest up for the next big meal: Howard Johnson. This is a five-star hotel that just came to this little tiny town out here that has a fantastic (so I've heard) restaurant in it. So our little family is going, and my 6 friends are all invited to that. Then we'll all head back to our place for games and cake (red velvet, to be exact). So I'm super excited for it, and really pumped that my birthday will be in China, with these spectacular people. Hopefully we'll take lots of pictures!

Now, for the real reason this blog are some Harvey pictures.

And his 5 week picture...

To see all of Harvey's weekly photos go to Josh and Danielle's blog and click on the link on the right that says "Slideshow."

And just for kicks, here are some funny pictures of Danielle's students' notebooks.

If you can't quite read the words, click on the picture to make it bigger.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

my second home & missing conference.

Here's a timeline for how I've felt with homesickness and such since I've been here. The first couple of weeks: loved it, not homesick at all. The next few weeks to a month: liking China but feeling homesick because there wasn't a lot to do and I had too much time to think. The next few weeks: dying to stay in China for a long time and not even close to ready to go home. My current state: satisfied...dying to get home, but also dying to stay.

If you aren't aware, a conference is currently going on in Tennessee called Skyland Bible Conference. It's always one of my favorite weeks out of the summer. I just love it so much. In fact, I have been to this conference every year since I was 1 year old. And this is the first time I haven't been there. And I couldn't be more sad about it. These days when I have my usual Skype call with Mom and Dad every night, they tell me how conference is going, why Thomas is getting stitches, how intense the annual basketball game was, how great it is to be allowed to wear shorts to the meetings, and so on and so forth. And every time I hear all of these things I just become overwhelmed with a really sad feeling. Out of all of the things that I haven't been able to go to because of being here (which are alot), this is by far what I miss the most. But, I've felt sad about it enough tonight, so let's just leave it with the surety that I'll be there next year. And I already can't wait. And I was really thankful that last night Mom and Dad took the computer to the cafeteria during lunch and passed me around to everyone and let me say hello. So that was really cool. Here's some old conference pictures, just for kicks:

At the annual softball game.

On the way to white-water rafting.

So if it wasn't for this conference, I really probably wouldn't be too awfully interested in going home any time soon. I mean....this has become like home to me. Besides our house in America, this is definitely the most "at home" I've ever felt in my life. I just feel sort of weird about going home. I've gotten so used to being here.

So used to whispering in order to not wake up Harvey. So used to my bed. So used to being called "Annie" by Josh and Danielle. So used to eating dinner and hanging out with friends every Monday night. So used to having Chinese class every Tuesday and Thursday morning. So used to listening to the Harv scream. So used to climbing 3 flights of stairs to get home. So used to silently listening to people speak in Chinese, while trying to pick out a few words here and there. So used to walking 3 minutes down the street to the market for fruits and vegetables. So used to people saying "Foreigner!!" when I pass them. So used to people staring at us. So used to being introduced to people by Josh saying, "Wo de mei mei." (my little sister). So used to not drinking water out of the sink. So used to taking my shoes off when I enter the door. So used to having near-death experiences every time I get in the car. So used to having to scrub my feet more than usual when I take a shower. So used to being able to say anything about people standing nearby, since they can't understand us.

And the list could go on. For a long time.

As you can see, I've gotten comfortable living in China. Just as I have often thought to myself that I am homesick, no doubt I'll do the same when I'm in America, but for my Chinese home. Some reverse culture shock may happen, and most definitely some jet-lag. Adjusting to being in America might be a little rough at first. But I'm really excited about what I've got planned for the rest of the summer, and the following school year, for that matter.

I feel like I've grown so much mentally and spiritually while being here and I'm so grateful for that. I can actually cook a meal on my own. Like I have mentioned in an earlier post, I've already got the whole breastfeeding thing down and I'm sure I'll have no problem with that in the future. I've learned alot about taking care of a newborn. I enjoy reading about how to prepare for the SAT. I enjoy learning the meanings of new words. And you get the point.

But don't worry...I'm still the same person. Just with a little more knowledge, a little more passion, and a little more love.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

chacos. dad. and food.

I figured everyone was sitting on the edge of their seats, checking my blog every 10 minutes to see if I'd decided on the Chacos. So I thought I'd go ahead and give everyone peace of mind. I got the last pair. I've heard a few negative things about the double-strap ones but I think they look better so that's what I'm going with. And I mean...they're free. If I don't like them, I can always go back to the duct-taped ones and donate my new ones to my kind mother. (Don't count on it, Mom.)

Now that we've got that behind us, let's move on to a more important topic. While in China I've missed and will miss some important days to celebrate. For example: Mom's birthday, Rachel's birthday, Katelyn's birthday, Mothers' Day, and Fathers' day. And tomorrow happens to be Fathers' Day. Dad, for your Father's Day gift I'm coming home...I'll just be about 12 days late. But I really am so thankful for him and can't imagine life without him. I guess that's quite obvious, seeing that I wouldn't have life without him. But you get my drift. He's gentle. slow to anger. even slow to frustration (except when he spills something on his pants...his largest downfall in life). forgiving. a great example. joyful. a great leader of our family. a servant. and sometimes a little corny. These are scarcely a few of this man's countless attributes.

If you don't know him, you should. If you do know him, don't take it for granted. Dad, have a happy Fathers' Day! I love you like crazy!

And now that we have the important stuff behind us, we can move back to some less important things.

Obviously, China is much different from America. There's dark-skinned people with jet black hair, there's chopsticks, puke-inducing dogs, split-bottom pants, and an abundance of rice. But what I've been thinking about today is the lack of American food items here. There's import stores where you can buy food imported from America, but only for outrageous prices. So we don't usually do that. Except when Danielle is kind enough to buy real cream cheese for her sister-in-law's birthday red velvet birthday cake (I can't wait).

Even though we have a western breakfast, lunch, and dinner most days, it's not quite the same, since there's still some things that are just hard to get here. And there's some things I've been missing lately. So I have begun to compile a list of things I would like to have soon after I come home (this is aimed towards you, Mom). Seeing that I'll only be home for approximately 30 hours before I head off again, it's not much of a reality that I would be able to consume all of this food in this time period. But I'm hoping to have at least some of everything in those 30 hours, while in Arizona, and the week after I come back. Here are a few things that I'm ecstatic to consume:
Chickfila. The obvious one.
Oreos. Which can be found here. But we do not often get them.
Cheerwine. Definitely can't be found here. It can hardly be found anywhere but North Carolina, really.
Sun Chips. The Harvest Cheddar kind. To die for.
Skittles. I've had plenty while here. But I wouldn't mind some more.
Whales. I think they're sort of a knock-off Goldfish. But they're so different. And so good.
Pizza pockets. Nothing like processed cheese and meat stuffed in a small piece of bread.
Pizza. Dominos, preferably. Yes, it does weird things to my stomach. But it's worth every bite.
Birthday cake ice cream. The best comes from Bruster's.
Yum Yum's. Possibly the best hot dogs and ice cream in town.
Chicken nuggets. My mouth is watering.
Biscuits. Like...real biscuits. Bojangles or Chickfila. or homemade. I don't care.
Mashed potatoes. My mother's mashed potatoes.

Could the list go on? Yes. For a very long time. I like food. And although I love Chinese food very much, there's just nothing like a little processed western food. And when I say western I'm referring to the western hemisphere, not the western part of the United States. Just for clarification.

Have a happy Fathers' Day weekend. And enjoy your ice cream, cheese, and mashed potatoes. And don't rub it in.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Chacos. For free.

My thoughts on Snuggies. Today I tried a Snuggie for the very first time. I know, Snuggies aren't such a big deal anymore. People have gotten past that. But Josh and Danielle have UNC Snuggie here. So I tried it for the first time today. I'm not exactly sure how I feel about it. This afternoon I was reading a magazine (Real Simple, to be more the way..excellent magazine) and wanted a blanket. So I pulled out the Snuggie, and yes, it was perfect and I was still able to read the magazine while having my arms covered. I think it is a very good product and no doubt is very useful. But I just don't think it's so genius like people have made it out to be. I mean, seriously. It's like putting on backwards a severely obese man's bathrobe. But it is for sure useful and definitely a product worth getting. So there you have it...what I think about Snuggies. If you were wondering. I just wasted 2 minutes of your life.

Now. Let's move on to a different product. Chacos. Remember the duct-taped Chacos? Yeah well I've got good news. My mother is a fantastic person. So, being the smart lady that she is, she got the Chaco company's email address, and sent them the link to my previous blog post, asking if there was any way they could get me some with back straps. Wanna know what the lady replied? You guessed would be her pleasure to get me a new pair. And she loved reading my blog and would show my pictures and blogs to her upper management and marketing teams. I'm practically the poster girl for Chacos. Sorry that my mom is more genius than yours. So far I've narrowed it down to 3 different ones, but man when you can pick anything you want it's sort of difficult. Thank you, Brenda Wingler, for your kindess. It is much appreciated.

If you have suggestions on your favorite, let me know. I'm in dire need of some help in choosing.

Well, Harvey's got this new addiction. Called gas drops. And it can calm him at any given time. Not because it relieves his gas, but because it tastes like candy. He's in love. Since Danielle has already written a detailed post on this subject, I will not say more, but I will send you over to her blog to read the post about it. So if you're interested in his insane addiction, click here. And if you're interested in seeing a video of his insane addiction, click here.

Also, the Sound of Music is quite possibly one of the best movies ever made. Ever.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

zao zi and flowers.

Last week we went to a zao zi-making party for dragon-boat festival. Zao zi is pretty much rice wrapped up in a leaf and boiled. So Josh and i went over to some Wu and Fan's house to work on our Chinese culture.

Ryan and some Chinese students giving it a try

Fan (who was clearly the most qualified for the job)

Daniel and Josh

As it turns out, zao zi-making just isn't my thing. I sort of got the hang of it and made a couple, but overall, I left the job to the people who knew what they were doing. In case you're feeling like you need some Chinese culture in your life, I'll give the step-by-step process of how to make this stuff. Not that anyone cares. But it's a Sunday afternoon, Danielle is grading papers, Josh is reading, and Harvey is sleeping. So why not.

1. shape a long leaf into a cone shape.

2. fill the aforementioned cone-shaped leaf with rice.

...and a salted duck egg if you would like.

3. fold the 2 sides of the leaf over the part that is filled with rice.

4. wrap them all the way around.

5. and tie it with a string.

6. put them all in a pot of boiling water.

7. take them out, untie them, open up the leaf, and eat the rice which is now all stuck together in a pyramid shape. and there you have zao zi.

It was a really interesting and fun experience and I met some Chinese people, some of which really wanted to talk to me but had quite a difficult time because of the language barrier. But it's the thought that counts.

On another note, last week Danielle and I went to the flower market. If you happen to be a fan of the Amazing Race show, you may have seen an episode this season where they were in China. And you guessed it...they were in our city. And they did, in fact, go to this same flower market. Pretty cool.

So if you happen to be in China, and happen to be in this city, then you should for sure stop by the flower market. Just so you can say that you went to the place where the Amazing Race went...and because it's a fantastic place to go. We got so many flowers. least 8 dozen. For a grand total of $4.31. You can't really beat a price like that. In America they would've been at least $50, I'm sure. Now, I'll give a little bit of a disclaimer. We had to throw away like...a third of them. We didn't put them in water until a while after they were home, and I'm pretty sure the roses weren't very good quality. So alot of them had a rough time staying alive. But apparently alot of the time, they turn out really well. So we're definitely going back for more. The rest of the pictures of the flowers will have to come later, due to ridiculous uploading problems.

Friday, June 10, 2011

3 things...maybe 4.

I have three things to discuss in this post. It will probably end up discussing more than 3, but I have 3 things in mind. 1, the Harv is 3 weeks; 2, we're leaving in less than 3 weeks; 3, a chaco solution.

First. the Harv is 3 weeks.

Today Harvey Joshua Shelley turns 3 weeks old. I can't believe he's already 3 weeks old. I know, that sounds ridiculous. 21 days is such a short amount of time. But really, I can't believe it. He's already changed so's crazy. So I would like to record a few notable things about this kiddo.

a. He is getting chubbier. In my opinion, the chubbier the cuter. (For clarification, this only applies only to babies and small children.)
b. He hates getting his diaper changed. Particularly since he has recently been circumcised. I know...I'm bringing it up again. I apologize.
c. He enjoys spitting his pacifier out. Until he realizes that it's out and he screams bloody murder.
d. He is obsessed with the milk factory that is located in his mother. But the second best thing to that is his pacifier. He loves it.
e. The next best thing after his mom's milk source and his pacifier is for sure the car seat. For some reason this kid loves his car seat. And loves riding in the car. I'm pretty sure if I was his mother and had to live with him going crazy and waking up every 10 minutes during the night I'd spend a good bit of time riding around in the car in the middle of the night. And the cool thing is that when he falls asleep while riding, he doesn't wake up when you stop riding. He just stays asleep for a long time.
f. He likes standing. Well...he likes for the person holding him to be standing. When he's crying for minor reasons (reasons other than being hungry, tired, or without a pacifier) it usually cures his problems.

I'm sure there's more that should be noted about him, but this is all I can think of for now.

Second. We're leaving in three weeks.

Crazy. I can't believe I've been here for almost 7 weeks. It's insane. I've enjoyed being here so much and even though I can't wait to see my family and friends and such, I really don't want to leave. I wouldn't be surprised if I cried during my last week here. Today it sort of hit me that I'm leaving in less than 3 weeks and I might never come to China again. Ever. And it's kind of a sad thought. I love China so much. So for now I'm just telling myself that I'll come back. And hope that I do. Yes, China can be crazy at times. But I'm ok with that. I love it. And here are a few notable things about China.

a. China has some crazy ideas some times. Alot of times. Their logic is, well, not really logical at all. For example, Harvey was being held by Josh in a sitting up position and our helper told Josh that if he holds him like that, it will cause him to drool alot when he is a little bit older. I don't about you, but this just doesn't seem logical to me.
b. But even though point (a) may make China seem absolutely ridiculous, not everything is like that. You know those seemingly-endless minutes you spend looking for a parking space? And you can't ever find one that hasn't been half-parked in by another car due to bad parking skills of others? Well, the geniuses of China have come up with a solution. Tonight we were in a parking deck looking for a space and they had this incredible invention. So over every parking space there are these little lights. And if there is a car in the parking space, the light is red. And if there is no car in the parking space and it is open for business, the light is green. So instead of searching around for what seems like hours, you can just quickly glance through the place, find a green light, and drive over to it. Pure genius.
c. Everyone thinks the Chinese language would be crazy difficult to learn. And they're right. But so is any language. I honestly think that it would be no harder to learn than English, possibly easier. Chinese doesn't have plurals. So the word for "dog" and "dogs" is the same. Also, there is only one word for I, me, and my. It's things like this that just make it a little more simple. The only thing that makes it harder is the characters. There's thousands of characters, which I'm not even going to try to say is easier to learn than English. But for just learning to speak it and spell it phonetically, not with characters, is for sure just as easy.
d. billboards. So you know how in America you pass like a thousand billboards when you go anywhere? Yes, well I would say the same thing for China. But in my opinion they are (for lack of a better word) better than America's billboards. First of all, they don't try to convince people of things such as the world ending on May 21st, 2011. But that's not my point. So in America the billboards are all along the sides of the roads, right? Not in China. Ok so you know how there's bridges that cross over top of roads. And if you're driving on a road and there is a bridge above that road, you can see the side of the bridge. Well on the side of the bridge is where billboards are in China. I think this is so much smarter. First of all, I feel like if you pass a good billboard (such as the Pass It On ever) and you're into it, staring off to the side of the road, it could cause some problems...such as wrecks. But if it's right in front of you, you're already almost looking at it. And if a car in front of you slams on breaks, it's like a centimeter below the bridge (from your eyes' points of view). And it's harder to not look at them, making it more productive for the advertiser. On the side of the road they're easy to ignore. But not when they're right in front of your face.
e. One of the not-so-good things about China is the gaokao. The gaokao is the Chinese entrance exam. I would compare it to the SAT. Except the gaokao is so much worse. The gaokao is a test that takes approximately 3 days to take. Yes, 3 days. Each day they do 2 subjects. And they aren't allowed breaks, because if they take a break, they might cheat on the test. And literally a kid's entire life is spent preparing for the gaokao. In high school, what they do is take practice tests. That's about it. They don't have history class and math class and science class where they learn about World War II or graphing parabolas or the bones in the human body. They just take practice tests. There is so much pressure put on kids to do well on this test. Pretty much if you don't do well, you're doomed. And your family couldn't be more disappointed. If you do do well, you go to college. And your family will still love you. It's kind of ridiculous. And way too stressful. I feel terrible for every Chinese person that has to take it. It doesn't matter if they do well in their classes or do extracurricular activities or help out their community. The only thing that matters for them getting into college is their score on the gaokao. The SAT doesn't sound so bad now, does it?

Like Harvey, I'm sure there's more to say about China, but I can get to that later. I've given you enough information for now.

Third. A chaco solution.

If you don't know, Chacos are a brand of shoes. I got these shoes for Christmas. I wore them for a while, trying to adjust the straps to get them just right and to get used to them. And I just could never get them right. Then you may remember when we were back in Beijing and went to the Summer Palace...well I wore my Chacos there and it was an awful idea. They just didn't feel right. I tried to loosen them up and thought that would be a good solution. But it just made it really hard to keep on and when I walked I just had to concentrate on keeping them from falling off. It was quite uncomfortable. And I realized that I should've gotten the ones with the back-strap.

So I pretty much thought I would never wear them again, unless somehow I got them to feel right. Until I came up with an incredible solution. So you know what they say....duct tape fixes everything. And yes, it can even fix a Chaco problem. I created a back-strap out of duct tape. I haven't worn them yet but I'm hoping to soon...and I'm pretty sure it's going to work.

Oh and another thing. Fourth. Tonight we had a nice little outing to the local Pizza Hut for Kayleigh Greene's 5th birthday. There are 3 kids in the Greene family and they're all precious. Kayleigh, Zeb, and Layla. And just because I thought you might be interested...Zeb is actually John Zebulun Greene the 5th. Yes, 5th.

Josh and Layla

This girl has got to be one of the chunkiest babies I've ever seen. Actually...the chunkiest baby. She's hilarious.

These people seemed to be having a little too much fun at Pizza Hut. The must've literally ordered at least 35 things off the menu. At least.

Josh and Kayleigh


John Zebulun Greene the 5th. I know....the hair. Isn't it great?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Friends. Thank the Lord for friends.

I love my friends. I love friends. Just friends in general. The idea of friendship is enough to keep one going. I can't imagine life without friends. If you don't have any friends, go make won't be disappointed. And if you know someone who doesn't have friends, go be friends with won't be disappointed. Sometimes you just need someone to talk to. To spill your heart out to. To tell your secrets to. To eat with. To sing with. To shop with. To have sleepovers with. To play truth or dare with. To lay on hammocks with. To bake with.

And the list goes on. You just can't really beat having a friend.

So now that I have emphasized how important friends are to me, I will move on. You see, while in China I haven't really had friends. I've had Josh and Danielle. And that's been about it. There have been millions of people around me that I am dying to be friends with, but that I can't speak to. It kills me sometimes. So I haven't really had friends. Until about a week and a half ago. A week and a half ago I walked into a room that I would call my own for the next month, only to find a letter sitting on the dresser. From a girl I didn't know named Lindsey Mason. It welcomed me to my new home and said how much she couldn't wait to meet me. That letter is still sitting on the same dresser and I will no doubt take it home with me. And keep it for a long time. It warmed my heart. I had a friend...I had never met her. But I knew I had a friend. Later that same day I met 6 friends who would soon become my friends (including Lindsey Mason). I didn't realize that these 6 people would become the people who would bring me endless laughter and joy over the next 30(ish) days. They're not like anything special...they're just friends. And that's all I needed. Friends.

Grace, Lindsey, Daniel, Harrison, Ryan, and Lyndsay are these 6 people. Every time I'm going to see them I look forward to it. They're all so great and I'm so thankful for them. Sometimes it's hard not having friends (although I do keep up with my friends in America over this great thing called Facebook). So it's great to have these people here.

Grace. Grace is one of the most gentle and kind people I know. It's sort of hard to be depressed around her. She has a contagious laugh and dark skin. She loves soccer. She has a huge heart for Chinese people. Actually she just has a huge heart in general. She's such an encouragement to me and I couldn't be more happy to be her friend.

Lindsey. Lindsey thinks like I do. She's the one that went with me to Muslim village. She hasn't been living here long and she stumbles through Chinese sentences trying to find a bus to take. She knows more about current fashion than I do...and I wonder how, because she hasn't been in America to see the fashion in a long time. She couldn't be more obsessed with Harvey. She has welcomed me so much into their little "family" here. She invites me for dinner and a movie. She invites me over just to chill. She can cook like nobody's business.

Daniel. Well. In Beijing we talked to the team on skype and the first time I heard him say "I couldn't care less" I knew I was gonna like this kid. People have a's couldn't care less, not could care less. Everyone says could. And I hate it. So anyways. Daniel is hysterical. He pops out jokes left and right and has everyone laughing all the time. He's just hilarious.

Harrison. Harrison can do some pretty weird things at times. But everyone just cracks up. He brings laughter, that's for sure. From his "might as well"s to his crocodile hat, he gets us all laughing. The downside about Harrison is that he's the only one on the team that didn't go to UNC...but I'll let that go. After all, the first time I saw him I was sitting in my window seat looking out the window and he walked by wearing a UNC hat. Edited to add: Multiple times we have said the same thing at the same time. It's kind of scary.

Ryan. Like everyone else on the team, Ryan is hilarious. Danielle told me he is a good story-teller, and she was right. He's full of crazy stories and I'm pretty sure he's more than willing to tell them all. From the fairy wings to "Stop. Look down." he can make the most depressed person die of laughter. One other thing...I literally don't think I've ever seen him not wearing a UNC shirt. Seriously. And he's like 10 feet tall.

Lyndsay. Lyndsay is definitely one of the most sweet and gentle people I know. She doesn't say much, but I'd say that's a good thing about a person. I feel like she is the perfect example of the meek and quiet spirit that 1 Peter 3:4 talks about being a great price. She also went to UNC, which is enough to make me like a girl. Oh, and just so you know, she's married to Ryan.

And I can't forget my other friends here...

Josh. I'm not sure where to start with Josh. He's hilarious. He plays the piano like a pro. He sings like a pro. He's an excellent dad. He can cook. He cleans up after our meals. He has done so much to make me be able to enjoy my time here. He knows how to say a beautiful, heartfelt prayer. He couldn't love Harvey more. He couldn't love Danielle more. He couldn't love God more. He couldn't love China more. He impresses everyone with his Chinese. He's full of wisdom. He's such a servant to Danielle. And the list goes on. I couldn't love him more and I can honestly say that he ties with Jordan and Joe for the award for best brother in the world. I can't imagine our family without him. Edited to add: he's a genius. Pure genius.

Danielle. Danielle was my first sister. It was nice to have a sister. You may know that my favorite people in the world tend to not be girls. Girls just get under my skin. But this is not Danielle. She is such a great wife to Josh and mom to Harvey. She handled labor like I never would have imagined. She can also cook like nobody's business. She taught me how to cut a pineapple. She instilled in me a deeper love for Michael Buble. She's the opposite of a dramatic girl. She already wins cool points for living in China, but she doesn't act prideful for it. She can drive in China traffic. She pays 8 dollars for cream cheese to use in icing for my 16th birthday cake. She's such a great example to me of a godly wife and mother. She stays up late hours of the night to feed her little boy and I honestly haven't heard her complain once about it. She'd do anything for that little guy. Even though life in China is difficult, she embraces the good things and finds ways to make us feel at home.

Harvey. I get so much joy just out of holding this precious kiddo. He's already changed so much in just 3 weeks and I can't to see how he's going to change in the next 3 weeks I'll be with him. He has so much personality and he his pacifier. He gets joy out of riding in the car. He's the cutest baby I've ever seen and he's currently my favorite baby. Even though he screams, he's still precious.

And I can't forget my new Chinese friends...

Mi Gue You. I have no clue if that's actually how you spell it. But he is a guy Joe met on campus when he was here. He is hilarious. He was talking to me about Joseph and said "He is my good friend. And I miss her very much." It doesn't get much more Chinese.

Lucy. So full of joy and looks just like a Lucy.

Amy. So sweet and kind.

Snow. Quiet. But such a servant.

I'm sure I haven't mentioned all of my friends but these are the main ones. And I couldn't be more thankful for them. They've made my time here so much more exciting than I had imagined.

Yes, I miss my friends in America. But for now I'm enjoying hearing Ryan's stories, eating Lindsey's food, and holding Harvey.

"A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother." Proverbs 18:24.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Some people.

Some people are expecting an exciting post.
I am sorry to say that is probably not what you're going to get.

Some people like to watch babies.
I like to watch parents talk to their babies.

Some people like to put ketchup on their eggs.
I like to put grape jelly on my eggs.

Some people put their head in first when putting on a shirt.
I put my left arm in first when putting on a shirt.

Some people like to plan everything out perfectly.
I like to do things on the spur of the moment.

Some people want to move out of their hometown the day high school ends.
I want to live in my hometown for the rest of my life.

Some people dry their arms first when they get out of the shower.
I dry my head first.

Some people hate the spouses their siblings choose.
I couldn't love mine more.

Some people like to be asleep at 11:54 pm.
I like to blog at 11:54 pm.

Some people skype with their boyfriend every night.
I skype with my mom every night.

Some people like cats.
I couldn't hate cats more.

Some people like strawberries.
I detest strawberries.

Some people think this post is ridiculous.
I do too.

Some people can dougie.
I can waltz.

Some people are dying for their siblings to leave the house.
I've shed countless tears because my siblings left the house.

Some people like to listen to Kesha sing (who happens to be white if you didn't know).
I like to listen to my brothers sing.

Some people tend to speed.
I don't think I'll ever exceed 5 over.

Some boys are in love with my best friend.
I can imagine why.

Some people are addicted to coffee.
I am addicted to apple juice.

Some people hate their life.
I love my life.

Some people spend their spare time reading Harry Potter (shoutout to Ashley).
I spend my spare time doing sporcle quizzes.

Some people wish they had older brothers.
I wish they did, too. Because they're the best.

Some people use one packet of ketchup for their fries.
I use one packet of ketchup for one fry.

Some people like to chill at their local Chinese restaurant.
I am here to tell you that besides rice, Chinese food in America is false advertisement for the real deal.

Some people fall asleep listening to Secondhand Serenade every night.
I fall asleep listening to Adventures in Odessey every night.

Some people stayed up into the late hours of the night to see the new Pirates movie.
I have never seen any of the Pirates movies.

Some people poke fun that I'm a preacher's kid.
I wouldn't trade being that preacher's kid for the world.

Some people have lived all over the country.
I have lived in the same house my whole life.

Some people have never been interested in helping take care of a baby.
I hold a baby's legs on a daily basis while a mommy or daddy careful change the diaper of a recently circumcised and in-pain child.

Some people wish I wouldn't talk about things like circumcision on this blog.
I can't help it.

Some people believe in nothing.
I believe in God.

Some people wonder why I am writing this post.
I wonder the same thing.

Some people stay up all night with their friends.
I have never pulled an all-nighter.

Some people are glad to see that this post is coming to an end.
I am sure you are.

Some people hope I have nothing more to say.
I have nothing more to say.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

You wanted squatty stories? Here you go.

Note: I will use the word "then" way too many times in this post. But I just don't know how to avoid it. And there's a lot of pictures. And possibly stories about my trips to the restroom...

On Friday I went to a small city and/or town called Tong Hai. The purpose was to play with some kids in a Muslim village and maybe encourage their English-learning. I wasn't sure if I wanted to go or not, since I'd only know one person and I thought it just might be sort of...miserable. I had never been to a Chinese village but I've heard more than enough stories about them to make me wonder if I really wanted to go. I just thought it might not be very enjoyable. Everyone told me, "Oh that would be such a good experience!" And I knew it would be a good experience and that I'd get to see what real China looks like. Danielle was talking the other day about how no one really knows what China is like until they have been here. Everyone has this picture of China with a bunch of people in factories, people crammed onto streets, and the kids being geniuses. All of these things are true. But she mentioned that for everything that is true about China, the opposite is most likely true too. For China there are huge sky scrapers and cars in a ridiculous amount of traffic and fancy hotels at which it would be fit for the president to stay. But, there are also homes made out of mud and horses pulling people down a bumpy road and hotels hardly fit for a convict. You just can't imagine it. I promise.

But just for the record, I'm sure America would be hard to imagine also. Chinese people like to watch the show "Friends" to see what America is like. I have never seen this show, but I hear it does not accurately picture the States.

Back to Tong Hai. So I knew that I wanted to see what the real deal was like but I wasn't sure it was worth it. My stomach hadn't been feeling well and I knew I didn't want to spend an extended period of time on the squatty. On Facebook I promised that you would hear stories of my squatty experiences, and you will. So keep reading. And if you have a small attention span, just skim this until you come upon the word "squatty." Oh and don't get too excited. I didn't have too awful of an experience.

So after some persuasion from family members and pure need for adventure, I went. And adventure is what I got. Now, this was no adventure compared to things Josh and Danielle have done here in China, or what Ernest Shackleton went through in Antarctica. But for a typical 15 year-old girl like myself, I'd say it was an adventure. So a few minutes past 6 p.m. I jumped out of Josh and Danielle's van, said a nervous goodbye, and walked with Lindsey to the bus stop. After a short bus ride we got off and met up with 3 Chinese girls...Amy, Lucy, and Snow. Yes, Snow. We walked around the corner to get to the traveling bus station and stopped on the way for a snack was watermelon. This was no typical watermelon. It had brown seeds instead of black, in tasted nothing like watermelon, and had the texture of cantaloupe. I'm starting to wonder if what I ate was really watermelon..

Anyways. We bought tickets and got on the bus and soon began the ride. This ride was 2 hours but I feel like we could've made it in a lot less time if we didn't pick up so many people on the way. Apparently here if you just stand on the side of the road and wave, they'll pick you up. No bus stops, you just stand on the side of the road. And one time we picked up an old drunk man who rode on the floor and paid 10% of the price we paid. So for 2 hours we enjoyed our cheetah-print seats and a bumpy road. We got off the bus and went across the street and met Amy's parents. Tong Hai happens to also be Amy's hometown. So, typical Chinese custom, her parents invited us to shao kao. Shao kao is basically grilled food, typically on a stick. Except you can't always be sure what type of food you're eating. So, being the kind people that we are, we accepted the offer. And there we sat, on tiny stools, around a table of noodles, chicken feet, "meatballs" (which really aren't meat...they're just supposed to taste like that..who knows what they are), tofu, and hot tea. At 11:00 p.m. And yes, I tried the chicken feet. Last time I was in China I ate dog, and I realize I'll probably never be able to top that, but chicken feet seemed like the closest I could get without going overboard. It wasn't bad. But the texture was really strange.

Me and Lindsey

Snow and Lucy

Then we went to Amy's house where we had ice cream on a stick. Which was one of the more delicious things I've eaten in a while.
Lindsey, Amy, and Me

Thankfully they didn't force us to stay too long and we were back to the hotel by 12. It was nicer than I expected, but I was expecting a dump. Lindsey told me that last time in their hotel there were bed bugs. So that's what I imagined. But there were none, thankfully. But the bed...was terrible. I'm pretty sure it was just a boxspring. It was bad. But I was exhausted so I slept great.

The next morning we got up, quickly got ready, and left.

Hold up. I missed the squatty part. Disclaimer. If you are sensitive to gross things, overly descriptive story-telling, or crude humor...I advise you to skip the next paragraph. And if you for some reason are offended that I would talk about my trips to the bathroom on this blog, you have nothing to say because I warned you. After all, what would a blog about my experience in China be if I didn't include the most disgusting parts?

So uh...let's just say...while at the hotel I never went to the bathroom just because I had to pee. Ok,'d prefer for me to use the word urinate. I just urinated when I went to the bathroom to use the squatty for uh..other things. So let's just stomach doesn't handle spicy food well. To say the least.

Ok. Back to the not-so nasty stuff. So then we walked through a market that had literally 100 truck-loads full of cauliflower. No joke. No exaggeration. 100. At least. You see this truck-ish thing? Yeah. the top. 100.

Then we got on a bus and rode it (while being tossed into the air because of the bumps) to a Chinese-Muslim village.

And walked to Ma Lao Shi's house. Ma Lao Shi is a teacher in this village to 3rd-graders. So we got there, introduced ourselves, and attempted to teach them the song "Make New Friends." It didn't go over so well so we moved on to the hokey pokey. Which they all loved. After a few more songs and games we did a scavenger hunt...which my team won. Unfortunately, though, there was no prize.

Me and Lucy

Then (I's only the hundredth time I've said that) we took them all out to lunch where they enjoyed Jao Zi and noodles...and I enjoyed watching. No noodles for this kid.

But I did eat ice cream. Of course. We took our ice cream to the park and soaked up some sun. And I learned those games kids play using their Miss Mary Mack. Except they were Chinese. And weird versions of rock-paper-scissors.

We went back to Ma Lao Shi's house and Amy read The Three Trees to them in Chinese.

Then we walked for far too long and arrived at the "ancient village" or something. It really wasn't as great as I was expecting. But I just sat in the shade while the kids threw water balloons on the ground and talked to me. In Chinese. Most times they said something I just didn't reply. Somehow they didn't get the picture that I do not, in fact, speak Chinese.

We walked to the road and waved down some sort of vehicle that I have no idea how to even begin describing. Then we said goodbye to the kids and hopped on. After that we got on another bus which took us back to Tong Hai and we "explored." I guess Amy thought this would be a good experience but Lindsey and I didn't feel the same way. We were exhausted, sweaty, and carrying heavy back packs. But we begrudgingly followed along. And I think we finally got the point across that the only thing we were really interested in was heading home.

But before that happened, another bad squatty experience happened. So review the disclaimer if you missed it.

We stopped to use the bathroom and I thought, "Oh I should go so I don't have to go later." And boy, was I wrong. So I strolled up to the bathroom and then almost died when I walked into it. These squatties only had a small, 2-foot tall wall between each one. Nothing on the front to conceal you, just a little wall in between. But there was another odd thing about these squatties. They didn't flush. And I don't think you or I would want to know the last time they had been flushed. But it had clearly been way too long. Because there was..solid all of them. Alot of solid waste. And I don't think I've ever smelled anything so awful in my life. Most of my time in there was spent trying not to gag. It was bad. Really bad. And I got out of there as fast as possible. Evidently the Chinese people in there didn't think too much of it. They just sat there (or squatted there) playing games on their phones. Last night I was telling Mom and Dad about it and it made me feel sick just to talk about it.

So we headed back to the bus, got on it, rode for a little bit, got off, sat at the bus station for a long time, and then got on the travelling bus. On the first bus I was sitting straight up and couldn't keep myself from falling asleep. Which made me assume I'd sleep a ton on the long bus. And I didn't. Figures.

After this bus, a man and his knock-off-taxi took us home. And that was the end of my trip to Tong Hai. And I just realized it doesn't sound as exciting as I made it out to be...or as it really was. But it was exciting...I promise.

Oh and just for those of you who decided to read the paragraphs after the disclaimer:
Thankfully I am home with a toilet two steps from my room. Because the bathroom problems are only getting worse. Think "fire"...and there you have my trips to the bathroom. Such is life in a third-world country.