KennedysOnline

Archive for January, 2008

In China, even snow sledding has twist…

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So it doesn’t snow here in Tianjin, China. But it’s quite cold. Those two things together just don’t seem right. Especially since we moved from Michigan, where the snow that comes in November stays through March. So we decided to find snow. And we did at our ‘water park’ (which is really just a park next to some water) find a sledding hill with snow (which was machine made). The hill/bump was actually perfect for the kids. They even had a mound that the girls endlessly enjoyed.

Come with me…

Kennedy kids (all 5) quite giddy

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Our friends Rachel and Holly

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And, because this is China and you never know what to expect, a camel and goat (?) that you could ride around on/behind. Of course!

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Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

I’ve been contemplating the age-old question ‘What do I want to be when I grow up?’ lately. All four kids will be in school next year – for the first time in 9 years, I will not have a job between 7:15 am and 3:30 pm when they return. Daniel has been trying very hard to help me think through my options … on-line masters program, increase my hours working for administrators at our school, teach English … Figuring out what are my gifts and interests (within the confines of our current life here – for example, I love politics, but can hardly apply my education and experience in China!) and how do they align with the needs all around me has been hard to do! Not only is there a lot to process, but I have so very little time just to think.

Creating space to think is a theme for me in this season of my life. I think Americans always struggle with creating space in their lives to do they things they find truly important. We offer a lot of lip service to the practice of pr@yer, meditation, investing deeply into the lives of others, sacrificing our wants for someone else’s needs … but amid the busyness of our lives, I’m not sure how many of us (me included!) actually make the space in our lives/thoughts to allow it to happen.

I’m excited to share with you the story of a friend in St Louis who made space in her life and room in her heart to invest deeply in two complete strangers. Through an international students program, our friend Donna was matched with two young women studying in the US this year – one from Korea and one from China.

Here are just a few lines from emails we’ve received from Donna over the past few weeks:

11/23/07
Well, our day was wonderful. Our guest was a BEAUTIFUL and very gracious young woman. The words I would use to describe her are classic and elegant. It was her 1st time in a western home. We had a great laugh over me trying to speak Chinese. I told her that I hoped that I was not saying something insulting and the look on her face when I tried to say Happy Thanksgiving was great! She enjoyed the food and is VERY open to learning about our life. It was a precious time and everyone enjoyed having her and “Alice” (our Korean student) with us for the day. I feel as if I am filled to overflowing because of the experience. Thank you for your encouragement and help. It was an easy, fun day, filled with a lot of laughter, family and good food. We all felt blessed beyond measure.

12/7/07
We had the most precious note from our Chinese friend. Apparently she called her family as soon as she got back home and told them all about her day. She said that they have extended an invitation for us to come to China to meet her family and they want to cook for us! How exciting is that. We would love to visit you and them. That would be SO wonderful.

Our Korean student is calling us Grandma and Poppy now. A lot of people who love him call him Poppy and now Young has started doing the same thing She asked yesterday if we would come to Korea for her wedding if and when she ever gets married. She said she would pay our way. I almost fell off my chair! We said we would be deeply honored to be at her wedding. I am going to be very sad to say goodbye to her on the 14th. I can’t believe we have forged such a wonderful relationship with her in such a short time. This has been one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had. The only word I can think of to describe it is WOW! 

1/6/08
I received a call today from our new friend, Fang. She asked if she could bring a friend to our home tomorrow to talk with Ken. It seems he has been to Dad’s House and really liked the experience and is very curious. She told him that she had also been to Dad’s House and that Ken is close to Dad and maybe he could talk to Ken. So, they are coming over tomorrow (Sunday) about 2PM to talk to Ken. Please think of us as Ken answers his questions.

1/7/08
all three of them! Amazing! We feel so privileged and humbled that we have been given this opportunity to just walk across the room. We hope that relationships are being developed!

The only thing we can say is WOW! What Donna and her family are doing is simple. Inviting students who are thousands of miles from home and family to join them for dinner once in awhile, make cookies, share traditions, laugh and learn and enjoy each other’s culture. It is simple and cost nothing – but it does require making space in one’s life. For her friend from China, living in the US is a unique, possibly once in a lifetime opportunity to learn about G-d. But what she learns she will take back with her to a circle of friends, family and co-workers. The kindness Donna showed by inviting these ladies for Thanksgiving will have ever-widening circles that will go on and on and touch countless lives. Many universities have programs for international students.

If you live near a university, a quick email or phone call to the guidance office is all it would take to connect you to students desperate for the much famed warmth and hospitality of American families. InterVarsity C Fellowship has a great website with campus programs, resources, even pages devoted to the “how to’s” of becoming a friend to an international student (http://www.intervarsity.org/ism/index.php). I hope you are as encouraged as I am by Donna’s story.

The best part of your 2008 may be sitting in a dorm room somewhere in your city right now.

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Beating the Winter Blues

In my last post, I wrote about the challenges of living in this city – especially in the wintertime. The roller coaster experiences of living as an ex patriot in a very foreign place don’t end after the first few weeks, months, or even after a year and a half. From what we’ve read, Culture Shock is more or less a six month cycle of heart ache and joy. You guessed it, at the 18 month mark, Daniel and I are (hopefully) hitting the bottom of the cycle. Environmental factors seem to be the obvious driving force this time … we just truly and deeply miss natural beauty.

Living in the US, its hard to imagine going a day, a week, a month without seeing or smelling something lovely – an open field, evergreen trees, snowflakes, fire in a fireplace, birds, white puffy clouds (though our sweet little friend Katie calls the smoke stacks around our house “cloud-makers”, which I try to find some small comfort in) … anyway, despite our desire to hide under the covers and pretend that spring in Virginia is just outside our window, we can’t.

Our kids, our own hearts need us to try extra hard to beat the winter in TJ blues. We recently found one avenue – an indoor waterpark in Beijing. The kids had a blast and it was such a help to all our spirits to make this trip. Enjoy the pictures … and please be thinking of us as we struggle a bit through this season. Sara

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When guests are ready to eat lunch, the waterpark provides Hawaiian shirts for cover-ups. We LOVE this picture of the kids together!

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Main area with wave pool

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Kid’s “Castle”

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Winter Blues (ahem … Grays)

Deep winter is settling upon us. It’s not that it is so very cold outside (typical days between 20 – 40 degrees F), but it sure is gray – the sky, the streets, the trees, the air. Several of the streets around our home have flooded in the last few weeks – including our main route to school and work – and the flooding is NOT from rain or melting snow. Sewer lines in our area are apparently impacted and the sludge had no where to go but up. I was fretting about this a little when I happened upon this description of our city in a China guidebook (Culture Shock – a Guide to Customs and Etiquette in China):

“Drab and miserable, the huge northern port has little to recommend it to visitors unless you have a penchant for looking at factories and chimneys belching choking clouds of smoke. As major entrepot for the northern plains, as a huge industrial base and a hub for transport, TJ is a vital economic force in China. As a place of interest, it has virtually nothing to offer except boredom and phenomenal pollution.”

Wow. I love living in China and I love our little city of 13 million, but some days are harder than others. The relationships He has given us are more than enough to keep our wandering hearts content – but a Crayola sky blue day would sure hit the spot right now.

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