One day we were in Thailand we went to a waterfall. when we got out of the car we saw elephants you could ride. We decided not to ride them right then so we kept going to the waterfall. When we got there we looked around a little and then got in the lagoon under the waterfall. The water was pretty cold but it was alright. After we played around we got out and went back up to the elephants. we decided we wouldn’t ride them but we could buy some food for them to eat. They would take the food from our own hands! It was really cool. After we fed them we got back in the car and went back to our hotel.
Celebrating Christmas in Asia is much different than at home. I have missed driving through familiar neighborhoods and viewing beautiful homes all lit up with Christmas lights. I also miss walking into my local Target filled with an array of decorations, stocking stuffer gifts, and holiday music. Here in China the extent of Christmas feel comes from store-front shops displaying artificial Christmas trees decorated with cheap garland and plastic balls.I can thank my new friend, Kim Culp, who reminded me of a way to bring the true celebration of Christmas to my family. With a house full of mostly teens, we often forget the child-like faith of celebrating Jesus’ birthday. I’m so thankful we have little Megan to keep celebrations fresh. Kim invited Megan to a Christmas party for her new son Isaac (a Chinese orphan boy who God has miraculously given a chance at life). Isaac, a liver transplant survivor, is in the final stages of being adopted into the Culp family.The party was a birthday party for Jesus. Kim had prepared little “gingerbread” Nativity houses for the kids to decorate. She prepared figurines for Mary, Joseph, angels and baby Jesus, made of marshmellows, fruit wrap and other fun candy items.After the toddlers made their nativity houses, Kim read them the Christmas story, then they sang Happy Birthday to Jesus and ate cupcakes. This party was on Dec. 17th, eight days before Christmas day.As I made preparations for our own Christmas this year, I began feeling a little down that I could not cook some of my favorite menu items, or shop at my favorite retailers to purchase gifts for the kids. Megan reminded us of the party for Jesus. Sean grabbed ahold of the idea (as he always does) and made it a BIG party. He, Michael, Jessie and Maddie went shopping at a nearby “stuff” mart. They didn’t find birthday party hats, but did find king crowns, balloons, garland, horn blowers, and lights.
On Christmas Day they decorated our hotel room for the big event. We had one of the best birthday parties ever for Jesus, complete with birthday cake and water balloon toss game.
Balloon Toss game, Megan gets the hang of throwing them…but can she catch one?
First try…not quite.
Second try…in the face!
Third try…nice catch!
Michael plays too, what a sweet big brother.
Thank you Jesus for the excitement of children, and the sweet, simple pleasure that they find in a birthday party.
Okay, okay, I know what you’re thinking, but my title is simply the name of a fantastic restaurant next to our hotel. It’s a beach side cafe that sells, in my opinion, the best Thai food that I have had here in Thailand so far. The first day we came to the island, Ko Samoi, Beach Love was closed, so we ate at a different Thai restaurant. One night dad took us kids, not including Megan, for a walk on the beach at night. We ended up running quite a ways down the beach and back again. So by that time we were all pretty hungry. At night Beach Love sets out tables pretty close to the water, this creates a wonderful atmosphere! We order Pad Thai, a sweet peanut-thai noodle dish, a spicy beef salad (that has hot peppers and other greens), red curry, and spring rolls. In my mind, the thing that defines Beach Love as the best restaurant so far is their shakes. They have mango, lime, tropical blend, and other flavored shakes; but our favorite so far is the coconut. The atmosphere, food, and shakes all make this restaurant unique and delicious.
School. Isn’t it a word that most of us dread? Well, since I moved to China, the Opinions and Facts that frolic in the field called SCHOOL in my brain have multiplied significantly. Their are hundreds upon hundreds of things I could write about concerning the new experiences I’ve had at an institutional school V.S home school, but I’ll keep those to myself for now. Today, I will be educating you on the differences between Korean, Chinese, and American schools and students. I must state that I hold Korean and Chinese students in great respect for their endurance through what I am about to explain. The last two weeks I have been throwing myself a Pity Party as I go over and over the stuff I must memorize from my 4 big finals, but when I stop to think about it I don’t have it HALF bad!Schooling to Asians is one of the most important things in life, for you to succeed. I’ll start with Chinese students. When we taught an English class to a few Chinese students last spring, they told us that Chinese Middle schoolers to High schoolers are physically in school, learning, for approximately 12 hours a day, not including breaks for lunch and dinner. Most student, as you can imagine, get very little sleep. The schooling environment is very different as well. “Structured” would be a good word to describe it . Because their is so many students in classes (there can be up to 50 per class room) talking or any fooling about is strictly dealt with (and corporal punishment is common and accepted throughout the schools). All Chinese students are required to wear uniforms as well. Thankful for American schooling system yet? Well I’m not done!Now there is the Korean schools to deal with! Imagine, I was complaining about studying for all my finals, but just think about having to study for 4 hard final is a DIFFERENT LANGUAGE! AHHHH!!!! I would DIE, if I had to study in Chinese! (Okay maybe I wouldn’t but you would NOT want to see my report card!) There are kids at my school that work extremely hard every day to keep up with homework and studying in English while for most of them Korean is their native language. Then, even my close Korean friend, goes to Korean Academy after school. Academy is like going back to school to study a lot of what you just learned, but the teaching is all in Korean! Sot that they will understand it! One of Rachel’s friends goes to Academy from 5pm to 12pm every weekday then on Saturday goes from 11am to 2pm! Screaming yet? There is more! One of my friend said that in Korea her 3rd grade teacher was her least favorite teacher. She said that if they did not eat all the food they were served at lunch they would have to write a two page essay on Confucius beliefs. Then other punishments would be that if the class misbehaved they would have to raise their arms above their head and hold them there for an hour!Any one up for becoming a Korean or Chinese exchange student?
ECC stands for the Early Childhood Center…the preschool arm of our school. Three, four and five year- olds attend classes called Foundations, Junior Kindergarten and Kindergarten, respectively. Each year they perform a special Christmas program for parents. Megan’s class dressed as stars, came walking in down the center aisle and sang a song. Her class also returned to the show at the end to sing the closing song. Megan did a great job, considering that I don’t think she found her headpiece very comfortable.
In early December we invited some of the teachers and teaching assistants to our home to make Christmas cookies. Ms. Wen (called Wen Laoshi) was one that came. She asked if her husband could come too. I said, “Sure!” When they arrived he was so excited and told me he had never made cookies before. I am always amazed when I hear that someone has NEVER made cookies, much less using cookie cutters and sprinkles. What a treat to join in their excitement. I also invited a teaching assistant that I’ve been working with in my cooking class at school. Her name is Ding Laoshi. This is her first year as a teaching assistant and she very much enjoys working at our school and learning lots from the other teachers and staff there. She was very interested in asking me questions about parenting and being a wife and mother.I was so proud of Michael. He showed up a little late, because he was at school taking the SAT exam. As soon as he arrived he joined in the conversation, speaking only in Mandarin! He impresses me with his language skills and his boldness in speaking, even if he is not sure he’s using correct pronunciation and tones.
The girls had fun with their Art Teaching Assistant, Natalie. She is one of the youngest TA’s on our staff, so she’s a little closer to my girls’ ages and shares some of the same tastes in music, movies, etc. After everyone had to go, Natalie stayed and watched “The Ultimate Gift” (a gift sent over from MeMaw).
The finished cookies!!!