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Archive for October, 2006

The World is Getting LOUDER, post script

As Daniel left this morning for his language lesson, I was reminded of why language learning is so difficult. It was actually His idea to confuse the languages (Gen 11), to keep us humble, to continually point us to dependence on Him. We rely on mercy alone to move forward in these efforts.

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Sometimes, sharing a meal is the best way to communicate!

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The World is Getting LOUDER

Over the past few weeks, we’ve noticed that our world is getting noisier – not just the firecrackers and trash trucks and egg vendors – but the world of language. When we first arrived, Chinese was so foreign that for the most part, our ears tuned it out. In the busiest supermarket, I felt quite lonely, like living in Maxwell Smart’s Cone of Silence. Today, walking home from language class, I was struck by the conversations all around me – understanding a word or phrase here and there, feeling that perhaps my loneliness in Chinese settings is not a permanent condition.

Our language ‘nurturer’ invited us to his home Sunday for lunch. We struggled through with our dictionaries, body language and a few ‘wo mingbais’! (Ah! I understand!). Our local friends remain gracious and encouraging. What a privilege to break bread with this family!

After lunch I headed back to English Club for another night of oral English practice. The night’s topic was Travel – where have you been, where do you dream of going? In my group of 30 or so, I was the only one to travel outside my home country. What unimaginable luxury to have seen North America, Europe, and Asia! Most students study English in order to get better jobs, to travel, to see the world outside China, and most know they probably never will. The cost and the restrictions on travel to the US particularly are incredible hurdles. Many substitute the experience of travel with learning about the US from western TV shows, especially the sitcom Friends. Hmmmmm….

They ask such good questions! Do Americans like Chinese people? How do American students have so much time and money? Do they love Chinese like we love English? What do Americans think of their many liberties/opportunities? It is a humbling and moving time for us.

I was told this past week that people who can speak both English and Chinese can communicate with over 50% of the people in the world today. That is a staggering statistic. Please keep us in your thoughts as our Chinese and English relationship building efforts continue.

— Sara

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Our patient language nurturer and my co-learners, TJ & Phyliss

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A Family Portrait (of sorts)

With the recent addition of a goatee (not pictured), I am expanding my creative repertoire (or maybe its just the donkey meat I ate for lunch today talking). A current look at the Kennedy family…

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(ZK just saw this picture and thought I was the happiest, due to the beverage I am enjoying…)


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AA English Club

Just a short post today … last night, myself and four other staff members went to a local university to participate in the AA English Club (the AA stands for Ardor and Ascent). It meets every Sunday night for one hour of conversation, drills and cheers (“We are not animals! We are human beings! We WILL improve our English!”). The five of us were shown to three bursting classrooms – each with 100 students in them. We were asked to introduce ourselves, then moderate and help correct the pronunciation of various discussion groups. A ratio of 1:60! The students were incredibly gracious and welcoming, though some were nervous about practicing in front of foreigners.

SO, if you ever find yourself in our city on a Sunday night, let me know! Its a very special experience – and a wonderful way to connect with some of China’s most hard-working students. Sara

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The Joy of Friendship

For the last week, we hosted our dear friends Patterson & Sharon Hicks who were visiting from the States. Their visit has long been the object of great expectations (they booked airplane tickets to China before we did!). All expectations were exceeded. Never before have we experienced such encouragement. Below are pictures from our trip, but they cannot begin to express the blessing these amazing people brought. We are grateful beyond words!

— Dan

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Sharon & Patterson Hicks

Climbing of the Great Wall (Dan, Sharon and Patterson)

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Before After

Exploring our neighborhood

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We went ‘local’ by enjoying Meat On A Stick from a street vendor. Our little gaggle turned into quite the attraction for the locals. Notice the last picture with myself (Dan) surrounded by two locals all showing four fingers. We have this ‘conversation’ everytime we leave the apartment. “si ge haizi!?” It means “four children!?”. In a society where most families have only one child, four kids in a family always draws a crowd.

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Patterson began to fully realize his celebrity status that has thus far evaded him in his home country…

Sighting-seeing in Beijing

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Tiananmen Square

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Forbidden City (yes, there is a Starbucks in the Forbidden City! I love this country…)

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The Temple of Heaven

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The Water Park, or The Park with Water

For several weeks after our arrival, I was repeatedly invited to bring the kids to the Water Park. Overwhelmed and exhausted, I could not imagine anything I wanted to do less than haul our four kiddos to a place with lots of water slides, pools and sprinklers. I had many reasonable objections: none of the four are good swimmers, I can’t read Chinese characters to understand the instructions, hygiene standards can be uncertain and I simply wasn’t up to the spectacle our very white skin in swimming suits would have created.

What a mistake I made! It turns out that the Water Park is actually a large, beautiful park surrounding four lakes (hence, the water park). There are bridges stretching over lakes full of water lilies, turtles, paddle-boats, gazebos for local musicians to entertain passersby, open areas of weeping willows and grass, and sculptures throughout. Never having lived in a mega city before, I was so thankful to find the overwhelming Water Park was actually a haven of creation and beauty – and only 10 minutes from our house!

We’ve enjoyed the park several times since recovering from my mistake. During our first visit, we happened upon a local accordion player, who graciously serenaded us with Edelweiss when he noticed us listening in. We also discovered ‘American Pie’ – a local delicacy featuring a waffle stuffed full of various flavors of ice-cream. Zach hunted around and found a Mongolian lamb skewer merchant and Noah delighted the crowds by consenting to have his photo taken repeatedly. It has become a family favorite!

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Our kids enjoying the fresh air and sculptures

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Local couples having their wedding portraits made

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“American Pie”; Zach’s new favorite – Mongolian lamb skewers; new friends

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Noah and Zach Doing Song

zach and noah sing “head shoulders knees and toes” in chinese! And their Dad and Mom said “good job, Noah and Zach! How did you do that thing!” “Because we learned it at chinese class”

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[From Dad: Click here to view video. Clearly their best work to date.]

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Beidaihe – Part I

Beidai-What? Pronounced BAY-DIE-HUH (I like to hit the “huh” part hard), Beidaihe is the location of the annual staff retreat for our city. Famous for apples, pig intestine sausage and shellfish, this beautiful part of China was one of Chairman Mao’s favorite swimming retreats (he was reported to be one of the best swimmers in China). We got back from the 4-day trip last night and head to Beijing for 3 days in about 30 minutes. So we will share more later. For now a family picture of us on a non-restored part of the Great Wall in Shanghaiguan.

— Dan

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