I must say it has taken a full year of being in China and studying the language to get to know this amazing culture around me. During our first year here I discovered a new culture completely different from the one I grew up with. My senses have been exposed to fascinating sights, unusual smells (often not too pleasant), diverse sounds, and distinctive tastes. The language is different, the food is different, their actions and expectations are different, and it all mixes into an unknown culture. I want to share with you observation I’ve had.Because Chinese people think differently from me, I’ve learned to think “inside” their box. One thing that can be difficult to do here is to change, such as a restaurant order. We’ve encountered this many times. If we attempt to ask for an item not on the menu, problems arise. The Chinese are not very flexible to change. One day when we went out to eat pizza, we found all sorts of strange types, like shrimp or octopus, and the menu lacked the standard cheese pizza, if you can believe that! Now the problem arises. We tried to ask for a plain, cheese pizza, but the waiter said “mei you” which means “we don’t have.” So now we have to get creative. We search the menu for the closest thing to a cheese pizza we can find, that being an onion pizza. Mom asked the waiter for an onion pizza with no onions, so that we could get a plain cheese pizza, and the waiter was baffled. He obviously had never heard of such a thing and he told us that he didn’t think the chef was capable of doing something like that. In the end the waiter was a little upset, and the chef totally confused, but we did get our plain cheese pizza, even though it had caused a bit of a commotion! TheChinese mostly see things as black and white, and they can’t think “outside” of the box. So I have learned to be patient, flexible and to think “inside” their box.
This morning at 7:28 am, as the kids were rushing to get out the door to catch their 7:30 bus, with backpacks, lunches, soccer stuff, etc., I look out the window to see if the bus was still there. Not to my surprise, the bus hadn’t even made the turn on to our street. It was stuck in traffic at the turn. In China all drivers “go with the flow”, so if a driver happens to stop to make a turn, the cars begin piling up all around, in all directions. I noticed a new bus driver yesterday on our school bus, and I suppose this driver is not as experienced. So here’s the bus, trying to make the turn.
Finally the turn is made (with the help of 6 ft 4in tall, Mr. Winningham, directing traffic)
But look at the traffic, the street is now, clogged
Behind the red and blue bus is the pre-school bus, the Grey one you see here. He has just as hard a time making the turn now, because the one ahead of him caused all this back up.
The kids finally board the bus around 7:45 (the bus is supposed to leave our stop sharply at 7:30). In China sometimes drivers must be aggressively, patient!
In late August, Sean and I traveled to an antique furniture market just outside of Beijing with some others on our team. This place makes “antique” furniture for export sales, but it’s not what you would imagine. They make new furniture to look “old”. We pulled up in our school van to see workers sitting around staining wood, along with roaming chickens. There were a few large building filled with old/new pieces of furniture. One of the building was the place for manufacturing. At the back of the building we found the saw mill, with workers cutting and sanding boards, in the room before that workers were assembling pieces, and at the front rooms the finishing (staining, painting, hardware assembly, etc.) See pictures below:
I have been in the market for a buffet/hutch to store nice tea cups, dishes, linens, etc. All the new furniture stores in Tianjin are very limited in selection. The retailers in Tianjin sell modern, Chinese looking stuff. So our goal for the day was to order a hutch to be made at this furniture market. Sean found a piece on the Crate and Barrell website to our liking. We printed pictures from the internet, labeled them with correct dimensions to fit the space in our apartment, and placed our order (with the translation help of our friend, Ivette Kierpse).Then the waiting…we were told it would be about a month. This weekend, I was so excited to finally get the piece. Here’s some pictures of the delivery truck, taken from the apartment window. These guys drove over 2 hours from Beijing in the fog and haze, with the truck loaded like this.
Sean discusses the bill with the delivery guys
Here’s the cabinet…before cleaning
One more picture, partially decorated. I’m still working on exactly how to display things. I’m so pleased. Happy Birthday and Merry Christmas to me!!
At the beginning of my drawing semester, the high school art department went on a field trip to a group of art gallerias in Beijing. A bunch of my close friends are also interested in art, so we were able to go together. After our two hour drive to Beijing we arrived at the art center. All of the different galleries were very interesting and I enjoyed myself immensely! Before our return to Tianjin we all went out to eat at a little cafe in the area, I shared a hamburger and an iced coffee with my friend Valerie and although the hamburger wasn’t ideal the drink was delicious! I personally love to see different people’s style of art, I think it is so cool how each one of my friends has a unique kind of art that they do. For example realistic, abstract, or surreal drawings. I love the realization that God made us each unique and different in his/her own way, that he created us with so much care to give us each different characteristics and qualities!One of my favorite exhibits was an exhibit that contained flags with children faces painted on them. The flags were gray and the painted faces were done in black and white. All of the flags were placed in two lines of about twelve I think. At one time in the day fans were turned on so that the flags would span out and flutter in the wind. It was very interesting to see because when you walked into the large room it seemed to be only you and the faces on the flags, the fans made such a loud sound that all other noises was completely drained out. I really enjoyed the exhibit and the creativi
y in it!
Each year our school hosts an International Day celebrating countries around the world. This year’s country was Australia. The day is filled with performances, fun and food. The students are asked to dress up in their home country.
Megan gets a peak at the decorations the day before
Maddie and friends as they get off the school bus
Sean Michael and Megan enjoy the festivities
Jessie dresses as a Native American. She stands along with her British and Korean friends
Some of our American friends and teachers singing “I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy”
Maddie with her Chinese teachers, just before her Sword Play Performance
Megan watches the show
On International Day this year at my school, we celebrated the country of Australia. There were also many Chinese performances too. Below is a picture with me, my two best friends and our Chinese language teachers.
My class performed a Chinese Sword Play.
At my school I have an art class twice a week. For one of our projects we had to create and apply a Henna design on our bodies. For those of you who do not know much about Henna, like me before the project started, it is dried ground leaves mixed with lemon juice that creates a mud like substance. When you apply this to your skin it will slowly dry then crack off, much like normal mud. Henna stains your skin, but it only stays for about a week. People in the Middle east use Henna a lot, most popularly on their wedding nights. Any way, even before I used it i loved it! I think Henna makes such a natural beautiful look on your skin! I soon found out that I loved making Henna designs and that I enjoy applying the on the skin. God has gifted me with the talent of making pretty good designs. One of my friends went on a vacation to Singapore and bought my a few tubes of Henna so because I had the Henna and a few of the teachers had previously asked me about it, I decided to invited my History/Geography teacher and two other high school teachers over to do Henna with me. I got to do the Henna on them all. I think all of the designs turned out really great!
In the courtyard outside our apartment building there is an interesting looking fountain with lots of potential. The sound of water would make gathering in the courtyard much more relaxing. Here’s a view of it from our 8th floor window…Wait!! The fountain is on!!! Amazing!!!
This fountain has only been turned on twice during our first year here. We find it odd that one would not have the fountain going, at least through the spring and summer months; but, I have to remind myself that this is China, and they do things differently here. What we’ve decided is that the management company only turns the fountain on during holidays, like a few hours in the afternoons this last week for the National Holiday, and on the evening of Chinese New Year last February.I had to grab the kids and run down to get a shot, quick before they turn it off again.
We are learning to appreciate simple things…
I have really enjoyed my first year living in China. But one major frustration is the cash-based society here. I just spent four hours reconciling the last three months in Quicken. Can you believe that?! Four hours! We were too accustomed to our life in the US where every transaction is automatically recorded on-line. Checking my balance and spending patterns was almost effortless.Here, most receipts are hand written and all payments are made in cash (no checks). On our first trip to the appliance store for a washer, dryer, rice cooker, water dispenser, coffee maker, iron, etc — the total was more than 15,000 RMB and they refused to take a credit card. I had to go get cash-RMB. And in China the largest note is 100 RMB, so I counted out 150 notes! Money management is a chore.