Chun Jie Oranges

During Chinese New Year (Chun Jie) it is common tradition to take a box of
oranges as gift to the family one is visiting. Thus oranges are for sale all
over the city. Very near our school and apartment is a large wholesale fruit
market. People travel from all over the city in small three wheel trucks, bikes
and other vehicles to purchase fruit that they will then go and sell on the
streets. The kids and I got off the school bus near the fruit market and took
a walk over to see and take pictures.

Semi trucks line up with orange boxes stacked higher and higher

Notice this semi truck below…in the center near the line of boxes colored
lime green, there is a Chinese man sitting among the boxes

Another view of vendors on the street

Another view of the trucks

These vendors are selling oranges along with many other types of fruit

Return favor — Chinese Dinner

On Sunday evening our Chinese students returned the favor and invited us to
dinner at a nearby Chinese restaurant. In their culture, I believe that they
always feel inclined to return any type of hospitality. Since we had invited
them over for tacos, they wanted to take us out. In most Chinese restaurants
there are private dining rooms that can be requested. The guests of honor must
sit at the place at the table facing the doorway, so they can greet people
coming in. Sean and I were instructed to sit in these seats. The kids
interspersed among the students. First we had some cold dishes, salads, and
meats. One of these dishes included chicken feet!! (we have seen this dish
before) Then the hot dishes came. Most were pretty good, but a couple we had
to just politely taste. The one that sounds the most disgusting is the blood
dish. It was congealed pork blood served with spring onions and spices. Other
dishes were much tastier…chicken and beef with vegetables, shrimp and tofu, a
whole steamed fish, and roasted chicken. The chrysanthemum tea was delicious.
There was also a sweet soup served at the end of the meal.

Megan eats chicken feet!!

Jessie and Maddie sit with Wayne

A group shot in the restaurant

A Trip to Church

Today was quite an adventure getting to church. On a normal Sunday, we
leave around 9:40 and take two taxis the 15 minute ride to our fellowship. We
were on skype this morning with our family in South Dakota until around 8:30
am. In the midst of that conversation we got a call from our friends, who have
a minivan, offering us a ride. Snow was covering the streets and we didn’t see
many taxis about, so we were thrilled with their kind offer. Now keep in mind,
their vehicle holds 9 passengers. We have seven in our family, and they have
five. Things would be a little squished, but that was okay with us. As we
drove by the gate where many of our team members catch taxis, our friends
stopped to offer a mom and her two kids a ride too. (Her husband had to return
to the states during Chrsitmas break to be with his father in hospice care).
Now we were really crammed with 15 in the 9 passenger van! But we were nice
and cozy. We made it to church and our friends told us they had lunch plans so
we’d have to get our own ride home. After the service we met up with another
family of five to try and get taxis to lunch. What normally is a short walk
from the church building to the street to catch a taxi felt like forever. The
wind was gusting against our faces and the snow was still pretty deep in the
parking lot. We finally made it to the street, but no taxis were to be found.
When it snows here in the city, the Chinese, who would normally ride a bike or
take a bus, will spend the money for a taxi. So we decided to walk to a nearby
restaurant for lunch. Again the wind whipped through our bodies, sending
chills. After eating we had to face the same problem again…how to get a
taxi. At this point we needed four taxis for all the people in our party.
After no luck we decided to walk, some more, to the nearby bus stop. As we
walked along our party was spread over at least one block. Some in front, some
in the rear. Actually the ones in the rear were the lucky ones…a taxi came
along. Maddie was in that group. The rest of us made it to the bus stop and
caught the next one after about a 5 minute wait. Which doesn’t seem long, but
when it’s 17 degrees outside…one can get a little chilly. We boarded the bus
and began our ride home. Unfortunately the stop nearest our apartment is at
least a 20 minute to walk to our apartment. There we were again in the freezing
cold. All the kids stayed in good spirits. Sean carried Megan. She kept
saying, “I cold daddy.” We spent the remainder of the day in our warm, cozy

High School Christmas Banquet

On Saturday night Michael and Rachel attended their first high school
banquet. Sean was asked as a teacher to chaperon, so he and I go to attend as
well! The event was held at a hotel located near our school. The kids enjoyed
getting dressed up and going out. Each of them had a date with a friend from
school. The evening included a nice buffet, (which had exceptional sushi),
some talent from various high school students, a drawing for door prizes, and we
thought would be ending with a dance. The dance didn’t end up happening, so
many of Michael and Rachel’s friends came to our apartment to hang out, drink
apple cider, and have fun. As we left the hotel, we had a nice
surprise…snow!! Read Jessie’s blog for more about that.

Student Baking Party

Our company, LDi, has an outreach to students from a local university. Over
200 students gather on Sunday evenings to improve their English speaking
skills. During the holidays we invite smaller groups into our homes for baking
parties. We hosted one of these. Most of the students were freshmen and far
away from home, living in a dorm. I think they really enjoyed coming into our
home and learning how to make cookies. Many said they had never made cookies
before. I showed them how to color frosting with food coloring, roll and cut
cookies out with cookie cutters, and of course their favorite part was
decorating with icing and sprinkles. My kids showed up right after school and
joined in the fun. Megan got lots of attention, but the students also enjoyed
taking pictures with Michael, Rachel, Jessie and Maddie. One of the girls had
attended the high school play last month and knew who Michael was, she was very
excited to meet him.

Pictures above and below, with our kids. I still can’t figure out why they
want to hold up two fingers in pictures. I asked one girl, she said it meant
victory. But all the Asians do this, especially the kids at TIS. Now my kids
are starting to do it in all their pictures (notice Rachel)!

In the kitchen after we rolled and cut with cookie

As they were leaving another one of the girls noticed our little nativity we
received from the Baileys. She studied it a bit, then asked, “Are you
religious?” then went on to say, “I’m religious.” The question took me by
surprise because in America people are not comfortable discussing religion. But
I am thankful that God put us in a culture where people are open and ready to
discuss issues of the heart. Please pray that we will be ready at all
times to give an account of our faith, and that we do this in love. Pray for
the students in this picture, that they all come to know The Lord.

Thank You Bailey’s

To our delight, we received a Trader Joe’s care package from our dear friends
in Tennessee. We had a guy come to our door on Thanksgiving Day with the
packing slip. He needed to verify who I was with my passport. Then Michael and
Rachel took the slip and my passport down to the local post office, to pick up
the box. We had such fun opening it and retrieving all the goodies. The kids
received candy, and pretzels, Nancy got me some baking supplies and plastic wrap
from Costco, and for Sean some yummy sesame crackers from Trader Joe’s. We sure
are enjoying the taste of the yummy TJ snacks from home. Nancy ‘s efforts
helped pave the way for all the questions my inlaws and parents had about
shipping stuff to us. Thanks, Nancy.

My Cornucopia

Well, one thing is for sure, the vegetables here in China are cheap! We can
walk outside our apartment gates and find numerous vegetable stands selling
every fresh vegetable imaginable. For our Thanksgiving dinner I planned to have
fresh vegetables and dill dip (a Gail Headrick tradition), a fruit gobbler
(turkey made of fruit skewers, see Jessie’s blog), potatoes for mashing, sweet
potatoes for baking, clementines for the table, and green beans…all of these I
found at my local vegetable stand, and more! Total cost of all these yummy
produce…under $15 American dollars!!

Chinese Traffic Outside our Window

As most of you know, we live on the 8th floor of our apartment building.
Last Tuesday night during dinner we kept hearing horns honking and honking. I
finally looked out the window to see what was the matter. I’m not sure, but I
think some may use the street in front of our building as a cut through when the
roads are jammed. So anyway, this road is a single street with two lanes. But
Chinese drivers don’t often pay attention to traffic lanes. Here’s a picture of
what drivers do when they are impatient in traffic. They just go into the
oncoming lane to make their way to the front of the traffic. But this causes
gridlock when new cars in the oncoming lane meet bumper to bumper with the
vehicles in the wrong lane. See below the white jeep with stuff on top is going
the correct way, but just to the right you see two vehicles facing the opposite
direction. They are trying to form two lanes out of one. The traffic was
backed up in both directions for at least 1/2 a mile.

Encouragement through Parent/Teacher Conference

On Friday, October 31, I went to the school for the parent/teacher
conferences. In 6th through 9th grades the school has student-led conferences,
where the students create a binder with a selection of work from each class.
She then fills out a form which discusses her strengths and weaknesses in that
particular selection, and also talks about her progress in the class. I heard
from Rachel and Jessica and was very pleased with their progress. I also heard
wonderful things from Michael and Maddie’s teachers. But the thing I wanted to
share that encouraged me the most came from Rachel’s English teacher. At one
point in our discussion, she shared with Rachel and me, how thankful she was to
have Rachel in the 9th grade class. Miss Richards told how all the staff had
been praying, since last year, for more Christian students in that particular
class. She shared how Rachel was an answer to their prayers. She exhorted
Rachel to be courageous in sharing her faith with her fellow students. I was so
blessed and inspired to know that all last year, during our decision-making
season and preparing to move, there were people here praying for the arrival of
my students.