Monthly Archives: January 2012

Going to India

There are many things I want to do in 2012, one of which is to travel and see more of the world.  Of course this is always one of my dreams, one of my goals, one of my desires.  There isn’t a place in the world where I wouldn’t like to visit at least once.  In the past few months, I’ve been looking forward to the Chinese New Year because I knew I would have time of work and I wanted to take the chance to see another part of the world.  I considered taking a trip to Vietnam or Thailand, both places I really would love to see. But time flew by, I hadn’t made any plans or organized anything and I wasn’t quite sure what would be going on with my work situation or my finances.

Last month, I learned of opportunity to travel in a different way and see a completely different part of the world.  A place I really don’t know much about, but as always, any new place is a place I’m willing to go.  Somewhere where I can guarantee the sights, sounds, smells and tastes will be different from anything I’ve ever experienced.  Not necessarily to see a tourist area, not a tourism trip.  But an opportunity to see the true lives of the people, experience the true feel of the country, and a chance to serve.

I learned a couple who attend my church, and also run a non-profit organization that serves underprivileged around the world, were organizing a trip to Bangalore, India over Chinese New Year.  Travel with purpose and see some place new, that is all I needed to know, I was sold.  There were some logistical issues that needed to be resolved before I committed to the trip, but everything, amazingly, fell into place and I am leaving on Saturday for 8 days in Bangalore, India.

I decided to blog before leaving on my trip, to give you a little background information on where I’m going and what I will be doing.  Then you can anxiously sit and wait for my return to hear more and see pictures.

Honestly, we don’t really have set plans when we are down there.  The people I’m going with have many contacts in Bangalore and the surrounding areas.  We will be working while we are down there in what ever areas we are needed, but we aren’t exactly sure until we show up and they put us to work what we will be doing.  There is an orphanage where we will be visiting and serving, Lara, who is organizing the trip, has a medical background and has often provided medical care on her trips down there.  The people we will be visiting with and helping out, it whatever areas they need, are mostly Dalits in villages around the city of Bangalore. As you may know, India has a caste system. Dalits are the lowest caste in India.  They are the “untouchables”, the poorest of the poor.

Bangalore (or Bengaluru) is the capital of the state of Karnataka, which is in the southern part of India.  With a population of about 8.5 million people, it is the 3rd most populous city in India. The average high temperatures in January are 80-85 Fahrenheit or 27-29 Celsius.  The lows are around 60 degrees Fahrenheit or 16 degrees Celsius.

From what I hear, India should be it’s own continent.  Everyone I know who has been there says it is completely unlike any other place on earth.  I have been told that coming back to Shanghai is a relief because everyone is so civilized and the traffic is so calm, and there are actually traffic laws which people follow.  I hear that I will be throwing away the shoes I wear while I’m there because the streets are so vile and disgusting that my shoes will be destroyed and no amount of cleaning will make me want to wear them again.

So… really I don’t know what my trip has in store for me.  I’m relying on the knowledge, connections and organization of others.  I’m going without expectations and with my only plan is to not have a plan.   Keep me and the group I’m going with in your thoughts and prayers.  It should be an exciting journey,  and I will share in detail my experiences when I return.

Below is a piece from Gathering Together‘s website about the India trip:

In the villages just outside the city of Bangalore (in the state of Karnataka), GT partners with locals to support Faith Baptist Children’s Home (FBCH), where many orphans are taken care of. Through the generous donations of our supporters, we have been able to start a vaccination program, help dig a well to provide clean water, purchase shoes for the children, and then return to give booster shots. During the service trip in September, 2009, we were also able to vaccinate the children in 3 villages and build relationships with the village leaders in order to return in June and do some more health education projects. Bangalore Baptist Hospital (BBH) also followed up on testing some villagers with symptoms of TB. BBH then registered the people with TB for the government program that provides free TB medication. There were also 2 groups of teachers sent and partially supported by GT that trained over 200 locals in the surrounding area.

This area is very impoverished and people lack the very basic necessites of life. Also, many of the people we are helping here are in the lower castes or are dalits (untouchable caste), so there is very little opportunity to improve their circumstances on their own. GT’s focus is to find sustainable ways to help people so that they can then help others. One way we are doing this is to help some of the children at the orphanage and villages obtain a higher education. Through our medical assistance we hope to improve the health of the next generation so they are able to better support their families and be educated on how to maintain their own health. This also helps families by reducing the need to spend as much money on the care for sick children and other family members.

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Top 11 in 2011

2011 was a crazy and adventurous year for me.  11 days into 2011, I embarked on a journey which not only inspired this blog, but has changed my life.  On January 11, 2011, I said good-bye to family and friends and left for a year (or more) in Shanghai.  As my first year in China and 2011 come to an end, I want to reflect on some of the memories I have from the last year of my life (in China).

Of course, I will include links to my blogs which originally recorded these memories in case you missed them.

1. Hong Kong

Hong Kong

After taking off from the States, before arriving at my destination for the year, I spent five days in beautiful Hong Kong.  Traveling alone is never easy, but I had a couple motives for being there.  First, to get my visa for China.  I left on a plane to Asia before actually having my Chinese visa needed to enter the country.  Secondly,  I managed to time my trip and my move to China to coincide with my friend Irene’s wedding in Hong Kong.

Sightseeing on my own!

When I walked off the plane in Hong Kong, alone, in a city and country I didn’t know, where they spoke a language I didn’t know, with two huge suitcases full of everything I thought I needed for a year abroad, I remember having this thought, “What the expletive did I just get myself into?”

The LONG cable car ride!

2. Chinese New Year (another post) –

Shortly after arriving in China and starting my job teaching at Kid Castle, I had 11 days off of work for the Chinese New Year holiday.  It was a difficult time as the few people I had met in Shanghai had left town, and I was in a strange place by myself with nothing to do.  But it gave me the chance to explore my new home, write lots of blogs and experience what Shanghai had to offer.  And, naturally, gaze in wonder and delight at the millions, or billions of fireworks lit off around Shanghai for the occasion.  The most remarkable fireworks I have ever seen, and they went on for hours and hours, and days and days…

Fireworks below my bedroom window!

3. Day trips & Exploring –

Whether exploring Shanghai on my own, going to Suzhou with friends or Hangzhou with my mom & Matt, I’ve had a lot of fun seeing China through little day trips and outings to explore my city and the surrounding areas.

Suzhou

Sitting on a bus with my friend Roger, counting the minutes until our train leaves, wondering if the bus driver will ever pull into the Suzhou train station he is circling, then running as fast as we can through the station only to miss our train was one of the most hilarious moments I can remember this year.  The hilarity was only magnified  as Roger captured the whole event on video on his iphone.

Finding greenery, nature and the cherry blossoms of spring in a park in Shanghai, outside the hustle and bustle of the center of the city with Adam, Yumi and friends from their school.

Zhujiajiao

Wandering around the beautiful, ancient water town of Zhujiajiao with my mom and Matt, negotiating with a rickshaw driver to get us into the center of town, finding amazing hole in the wall restaurants, taking loads of pictures, buying souvenirs and people watching.

4. Food and Beer

I once heard that there are over 45,000 restaurants in Shanghai.  I believe it.  And there are probably two new ones opening, and one closing down just about every day.  You can get a meal for under a dollar in Shanghai, or you can pay over $100 (USD) per person.  I have eaten street food (which doesn’t even count as a restaurant) for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  I bought breakfast for three for under $2. I have paid about $8 for a cup of coffee, not espresso, nothing fancy just a boring cup of bad coffee.  I have paid over $12 for a glass of wine and $10 for a beer.

Coffee

Shanghai has amazing cuisine from all over China.  If, right now, you are sitting in the US thinking to yourself “I don’t like Chinese food”, you have never been to China.  Chinese food could be anything!  There are so many different amazing, delectable, weird and perhaps disgusting foods that originate from all over China.  I love Chinese food, there is so much variety in Chinese food.  The girl who never could tolerate spicy food in the first 28 years of her life picked a Sichuan restaurant for her 29th birthday dinner, and ordered bullfrog!

Pomegranate flowers

Craving something different?  Shanghai is an international city, the choices of cuisine are endless.  I have eaten French, German, Greek, Korean, Jamaican, Mexican, American, Nepali, Italian, Indonesian, Japanese, Thai, Taiwanese and Turkish food in Shanghai.

I love to eat, I love good food and I love good drinks.  So many great memories are formed over delicious food and beverages.

Cheers!

I have my favorites, I have my go-to comfort food locations, I have the locations that are convenient for quick meals while I’m working, but there are so many more places to explore and try!

5. Qingdao

For the Dragon Boat Festival in June, I was able to get out of the big city of Shanghai for a couple days and visit  the little town of Qingdao (population 8.7 million) with a couple of my friends and co-workers.  It was a great time, despite dreary wet weather, to see another part of this huge country, hang out with friends, and enjoy the beer capital of China.

Yes, this is China - Not Europe. Qingdao!

We explored the town of Qingdao, got a ride from a stranger in a downpour and thunderstorm when there were no taxis to be found, ate Shandong cuisine, drank beer from a plastic bag, explored the famous Laoshan (Lao Mountain or 崂山) and did some shopping.

Fun on the beach in Qingdao

6. Familiar Faces –

Moving halfway across the world by yourself is nerve-wracking, even for the bravest and most adventurous souls. While I have met many people in Shanghai and made many friends, it was a great pleasure to have some familiar faces in Shanghai with me for most of my first year in China.

Adam and Yumi Bray were here the longest.  Adam and Yumi both graduated from Portland State’s Master’s of International Management program with me in 2010.   They actually met in the program and afterwards got married and moved to Shanghai to study Chinese.  While we were never close during the MIM program we became great friends while living in Shanghai.  I loved going shopping and getting massages with Yumi, and when Adam was around there was always beer to drink and trouble to cause.  Unfortunately, (for me) Adam and Yumi moved back to the States just before Christmas, but they will always be a part of my 2011 memories.

Salman was also in the MIM program with us.  He came over on the same program as Adam and Yumi to learn Chinese. After about 5 months in Shanghai, Salman moved to Beijing to pursue employment opportunities there.  I miss the laughter that always comes with hanging out with Salman, but I know he isn’t too far away.  I will always remember seeing him walking towards me on Wangfujing in the middle of Beijing and telling my mom, amidst thousands of Asian faces, “He is the one right there, with the dark hair!” when my mom, May and I met up with him in September for some delicious hot pot.

Junyi is originally from Beijing, and moved back to Beijing this past year (also after graduating from the MIM with Adam, Yumi, Salman and me).  Being in a different part of the country didn’t keep him for coming down and visiting us in Shanghai, from calling me at 2am or from being a familiar face for me in China.  He showed us around Beijing, and always provides fun, excitement and laughter.

The 5 MIMers eating Sichuan food and drinking beer for my birthday in Shanghai!

I was so happy to have my early birthday dinner in Shanghai with four of my friends from grad school!

7. My Sister’s Wedding

The biggest event of the year! And it wasn’t in China.  The end of June, I flew back to Portland, Oregon to spend two rushed, busy, crazy weeks with family and friends.  Birthdays, the fourth of July, a bachelorette party and the most amazing wedding I have ever attended.  On July 9th, 2011, my big sister married the man of her dreams.

A happy bride and groom

Gorgeous girls!

Not only was the setting beautiful, the decorations beautiful, the bride beautiful and the wedding party looking pretty hot, but it was an awesome time with spent with family and new extended family, friends and loved ones.

8. Mommy!

Another highlight of my year, was having my mom and her husband Matt come visit me in China for about 12 days.  It was really a dream come true for all of us.  My mom and Matt had both long dreamed of someday visiting China, my mom of course also has always wanted to come visit me in the places I have gone.  It was my dream to have family come see my life here, show them around and introduce them to the things and places which are part of my everyday life that I have grown to love.

Nothing was as exciting as the moment my mom and Matt appeared in the subway station by my house, me waiting anxiously to greet them! (Excuse my blurry cell phone pic)

It was an action-packed vacation!  No rest for the jet-lagged! On their first day of travel they journeyed by private car, plane, high speed train, subway, public bus, taxi and foot.

On their first full day in China, I had them out of bed and on the road before 7am, I don’t think I stopped going until after they were back in the States!  Hangzhou, Shanghai, Zhujiajiao, a bullet train to Beijing and the Great Wall.  Villages, cities, temples, gardens, historical sites, modern China, food, beer, coffee and probably a zillion photographs between the three of us shutterbugs.

My mom and me at the Temple of Heaven in Beijing

Two of my greatest weeks in China were spent with my mom, showing her around and discovering new places with her.  Now, she just needs to come back so we can do it again!

Climbing the Great Wall

9. Taiwan

Another National holiday, another week off work, another chance to see the world!  In October, I escaped the millions of Chinese traveling for National Day and landed in Taiwan.  Whether or not Taiwan is in fact the same country as China, I will let you debate on your own.  But I happen to know they do not celebrate or recognize October 1st, the date of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. Therefore, I found it the perfect opportunity to go visit friends and be shown around the beautiful island of Taiwan.

Sun Moon Lake

Five days in not enough to see all Taiwan has to offer, and it certainly isn’t enough to eat all the food they have to offer (although I tried…) Despite being a quick trip, I was able to enjoy a relaxing vacation in Taiwan.  I saw bits of Taipei (even though the weather tried to keep me from it), I had dinner with more MIM alumni living in Taiwan, I visited Taichung (the home town of my friend May who I was traveling with), I explored the village and surrounding area of Houli by bike, I saw my co-worker and friend Osteen’s home town of Caotun, the beautiful Sun Moon Lake and the town of Jiji, famous for being rocked by a horrific earthquake in 1999.

10. New Friends –

I have met so many wonderful people in Shanghai.  Chinese and foreigners like me.  Some grew up here, some came for a short time, some came for a long time, some have come and gone in the year that I have been here.  I have gotten to know amazing co-workers at Kid Castle, like my Chinese colleagues who always make me laugh, and the other foreign teachers who are each on their own adventure in a place so different from their homes.

Some co-workers and me at Qiandao Lake

May and me on the Bund

I have created amazing friendships and a church family through both of the churches I have attended in Shanghai, Shanghai Community Fellowship and Abundant Grace International Fellowship.  They have been my support and my lifeline in 2011 and I know I have found some lifelong friends in them.

I stumbled upon the perfect apartment on smartshanghai.com and in doing so found a great friend and roommate who I have lived with for the past 11 months.

All my new friends in Shanghai have given me wonderful memories of 2011!

11. My Kids

I came to China with a job, a job to teach Chinese kids English.  I had never taught before in my life, I had been around kids, worked with kids, dealt with kids, but never had to control a classroom of 20 children that didn’t understand my language.  My students have been a huge part of my life for the past year.  They have made me smile and laugh, they have made me angry and frustrated, they have made me cry and they have made my day.

How can you not love this face? He is also about the sweetest most loving boy in the world.

There are students who I only taught for a short time, subbing for another teacher, there are students who I have taught all year.  There are students I will greatly miss when I’m not longer teaching them, and students that I honestly probably won’t remember.

Brian, Howard, Gland, James, Jerry, Henry, Judie, Amy, Alina, Maxine and Lisa!

I have students who run across the school screaming my name to give me a hug every time they see me.  They can be delightful, they can be little spoiled brats, they can test my patience like nothing else, they can cause me to lose my voice.  Some of them I don’t think have ever retained or learned a word I told them, others are so smart they blow me away each day.

My year was full of memories at work with all my little Chinese students and my fantastic co-workers who made my job worthwhile.

I hope 2012 brings more memories and fantastic adventures in China and where ever life may take me.  Happy New Year!  I wish the best for you and your families this year as well!


2011 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 11,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.


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