Thursday, March 31, 2011

Let's play a game. Its called 'You know you are in China when.'  This is how it goes...

You know you are in China when:

1.  Crossing the street is real life frogger, and driving is real life mario kart

2.  You are forced to swallow a chunk of fat WHOLE because you don't want to offend those who prepared dinner for you

3.  Everything smells the exact same, and it isn't a good smell

4.  You look and act like a tourist

5.  Everyone stares at you

6.  You can't read any of the signs, food labels, newspapers, magazines, etc

7.  You can buy a new release DVD for only 44 cents

8.  Peanut butter is the best treat you can have, and you put it on everything

9.  You can pick up single grains of rice with chopsticks

Things I thought I was going to miss before I left:

My little car

My phone

My hair blow dryer/ straightener

Our dog, Tobey.

Things I actually miss:

My family

My friends

My bed


Real Cleaning supplies

and a Cafe Rio Salad

BUT would I ever trade this experience for the world??  Absolutely not!  I am having the time of my life.  This is one of the best thing I have ever done in my life!!

Oh by the way, I was joking about Tobey.  I guess that I sort of miss him.   

Friday, March 25, 2011

A Blessing

Everything happens for a reason...
And everything seems to fall into place when you are doing the right things.
Since we have been in China, we haven't been able to take the sacrament on Sundays.
We aren't allowed to talk about our church with anyone.
Even though this is the case, each Sunday we have gotten together as a group and have had a devotional.

About a week ago, two girls in our group were waiting at the bus stop.
They had missed the bus that they were going to take and we were waiting for the next stop.
As they were waiting, a man pulled up in his car and rolled the window down.
He was American, and began speaking to them in English.
He asked them if they were ILP teachers, and they responded yes.
He then asked them if they were from Utah, and the responded yes.
He asked them if they were Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and they responded yes.
It turned out that the man happened to be the First Counselor in the Bishopric of the Shenzhen ward branch.
Shenzhen is located about an hour away from where we are living.
He had been looking for our group for the past couple of months.
He was in Zhongshan for the weekend for work and was on his way back to Shenzhen.
He had gotten on the freeway and had the feeling that he needed to turn around and try and find us.
He had no idea what we looked like, and was just looking for Americans.
It absolutely amazes me that he found us. 
We are going to be able to now take the sacrament on Sundays and I couldn't be more grateful.  

I am living in a country, where they don't even know who God is.
But I know who God is, and I have faith that he is with me at ALL times.
The gospel may not be here in China yet, but I can make sure that I still feel of the spirit.
While I have been here, my testimony has been strengthened immensely. 
I have become closer to my Heavenly Father through prayer and scripture study.

In Matthew 19:26, it reads.. "With God all things are possible.."

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Looking at the Positive

Last week, I was told that our teaching schedule would be changed.  I would no longer teach my home group class.  Our home group class, is the class that we spend most of our time with.  Even though we teach four different classes a day, our home group class is the group of kids we are in charge of.  We start each day with this class and we end each day with this class.  I was pretty upset because I grew to love the children in my home group.  It was no longer awkward, and the kids were just barely starting to get to know me.  We were able to have a good time with one another and they seemed to enjoy the way that I taught them.  The children in my home group were all very smart.  They speak English pretty well and understand when I speak English to them.  Things were starting to flow, and I liked the pace that everything was moving towards.  I thought that I would still be able to see my kids and that I would still get the chance to teach them.  However, this was not the case.  I no longer will be teaching them at all.  Instead, I am getting put to be the head teacher of another class in Grade 1.  The class sizes were too large and the teachers decided that they needed to split the classes up.  The classes will now be smaller, which will be easier to manage.  We start tomorrow in our new classes, and I am a little nervous.  My new home group is more difficult to manage and the kids don't speak English as well.  The new transition will be hard at first but I have decided that I am going to try and look at the whole situation in a positive perspective.  Everything happens for a reason, and there is a reason that this change is taking place.  I am going to develop the same love that I had with my other home group with my new home group.  I will teach them the best way that I can.  Here is a picture of my old home group!  They all love to flash the peace sign when they pose for pictures,  I am not sure why this is the case.  It just makes me laugh. 


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Our Chinese Family

The other day, the eight of us girls were eating at a noodle shop that had opened up below our apartment building.  We were really excited about the shop opening because they made stretchy noodles!  We were such a big group that the owner had to bring a table outside.  We were eating outside in the middle of the walkway.  Everyone was watching, because not only were we in the middle of the way, but we were all American.  A very nice dressed woman pulled up in her car, got out and began to stare at us.  She walked to the building next door but continued to look in our direction.  We proceeded to watch as this woman didn't go into the store and began to walk back towards us.  Eventually, she made her way to our table.  She looked at us and began to speak Chinese.  We tried our best to explain to her that we only spoke English.  She understood and responded back to us, partially in Chinese and partially in English.  Long story short, we arranged a schedule where we are going to teach her and her 14 year old son English.  She wanted to pay us, but we aren't allowed to accept cash through our program.  She was so confused with this information and we explained to her that we would have to do an exchange.  So in exchange for English lessons, her family is going to teach us how to cook.  No one in her family speaks any English and so we were anxious to get started!  Last night was our first night having dinner with her family.  Her parents cooked for us and we were told that they were excellent cooks.  And oh boy, they weren't just excellent cooks, they were MIGHTY cooks.  It was the best meal that I have had here in China so far.  The food was fresh and it tasted delicious.  We were so grateful for the meal that they had prepared for us.  After we had finished eating dinner, her mother pulled out a bag of Doritos chips.  You should have seen the faces of all the American girls.  It was a dessert that I will never forget.  We gave her family American names so that we would be able to call them by something that we can actually pronounce.  Her Chinese name translates to Sharon in English, and then we gave her son the name Tyler.  We also gave her parents' nick names and they were so happy about this.  We call her father, Poppy and her mother, Nanny.  Every time we would use their nick names, they would put the biggest smile on their faces.  It was a great night as we ate, tried to teach them words in English and we showed them where we live on a map.  I am grateful for the relationships I am making in China and I am glad that we now have family to call our own.      

Monday, March 14, 2011

First Vacation

I recently returned from my first vacation!  We  traveled to Guilin for one day, and then Yangshou for three days.  Our transportation was a sleeper bus, which is a bus with beds.  It took twelve hours to get to Guilin, and I must say those were long hours.  The sleeper bus had three rows of beds on it and the beds were very small.  They were the size for a midget.  Since I am tall, it was a challenge to fit myself and my huge backpack in such a small space.  On our way home we took another sleeper bus, and I was put on a bed that had no bars on the side.  It was a bed in the middle row and I had a near death experience multiple times.  The road was bumpy and the bus driver was taking sharp turns.  I did the best I could to balance myself.. I guess in China they don't believe in seat belts.

When we arrived in Guilin, the weather was horrible.  It was pouring rain and absolutely freezing!  We didn't pack very warm clothes because we thought that the weather would have been better.  We had directions to find our hostel, but unfortunately they weren't very clear.  We ended up walking in the rain for about two hours completely lost.  It didn't help that everyone we asked either didn't speak English or gave us different directions.  Eventually, we found our hostel and we were able to get dry.  In Guilin, we went to the Long Ji rice terraces.  It was amazing!  Farmers plant rice on the terraces once a year and they harvest it.  Along the rice terraces there are little villages.  One village consists of women with the longest hair I have ever seen!  They wash their hair with rice water, it must be some type of magical shampoo.  I am trying to decide if I should start washing my hair in rice water or not.  I think it would be a good idea not to.  We didn't have much time in Guilin and before I knew it we were on our way to Yangshou. 
During our vacation, the weather never cleared up.  We were upset because basically in Yangshou all you can do is outdoor activities.  Such as going to the mud caves, taking a bamboo raft and hiking.  The weather limited us from doing all of this, and so we actually decided that we are going to go back to Yangshou for our June vacation.  I barely got home and I am already looking forward to going back.  The weather will be a lot warmer!  Even though the weather was dreary, we didn't let it ruin our trip.  We still had a blast and made the most out of the experience.  Our hostel was along West street, which is a huge shopping area.  Along the street there were little vendors and shops.  I must say that I got extremely good at bartering.  You can usually get the price down to a third of what they are asking for.  I got an item down to a sixth of the price and I was so pumped.  The other girls in our group started asking me to help them purchase things.  It will be weird going back to America were you can't talk the price down on anything.  I will probably try to talk down the price of a burger at McDonalds or something like that.
 One of my favorite things that we did though in Yangshou, was that we decided to go clubbing.  We went bar hopping and just danced.  It was so funny because right when we would walk in the bar and start dancing, the DJ would turn the music to American music.  It was usually either Lady Gaga, or Justin Bieber.  Everyone would stop what they were doing and watch us.  People from the street started watching us from the windows.  When we would leave a bar to go to another one, the Asians would take out their cameras and take pictures of us.  I felt famous and I can honestly say that it was like being followed by the paparazzi.  By the end of the night we had probably taken around 100 pictures.  Some of the people would try and sneak a picture and instead we would grab them and have them pose with us.  It is funny because it is like they have never seen an American before.  They are amazed to see a big group of white girls.  It will be interesting to see if we get this same reaction everywhere we travel.

It was good for me to see the difference from where we are living to other parts of China.  We are blessed to be living in such a clean, nice area.  I didn't realize how blessed I was before I left.  We haven't even really seen a small portion of China, but some of the parts that I did see on our vacation were very poor.  Homeless people were begging on the street and families in the villages had very little.  Our hostel was down a long alley, and there was a family living in one of the empty buildings.  Every time we walked by them it broke my heart to see how little they had.  I am so grateful for everything that I have back at home.  I truly am blessed with the life I have.  I am more appreciative for the small, simple things in life.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Home Sweet Home

I wanted to share some photos of my little Home Sweet Home in China.

This is the apartment building that we live in.  It is across the street from the Kaiyin School.

 Sara and I in front of the Kaiyin School.

My little corner of the world...or at least my little corner in China.  This bed may look comfy, but trust me it is not.  I think I am averaging about 4 hours a night on this thing.

This is my closet...and Sara's closet...and Katie's closet.  Yep, that's right...a closet for three!

This is the bathroom.  No comment.

Our washing machine which is on our deck.  This thing has already ruined it's share of clothes.

The kitchen...we finally figured out the oven.  We counted out all of our add water only muffin mixes and we have enough to eat on every Sunday!  YUM!

And last but not least...WALMART!  It wasn't quite the way we expected it to be.  But it is was definitely a fun adventure.

My new home in China may be humble...but the experience of it is grand!


Today after class, Sara, Katie and I decided to go on an adventure.  We had heard about this big grocery store called Vanguard.  We decided that we were going to go and check it out!  We took the Kaiyin bus and got off at Vanguard.  The store was huge!  There were four floors and it had everything!  Food, home appliances, electronics, and more.  It was a clean store too which made me happy!  We bought juice, banana bread, garbage bags, and snicker bars.  Snickers are the only chocolate bar that you can find here.  Snickers and dove chocolate.  I am glad that I like snickers so much!  When we were done shopping we realized that we didn't know what bus stop we needed to go to.  We saw a bus stop across the street and figured it might be the right one.  As we crossed the street we saw a vendor selling pineapple.  It looked wonderful!  We asked how much, and she said 2 yuan!  Katie and I decided to each buy a piece.  It tasted as good as it looked!  I was one happy camper.  I just hope I don't get sick from it.  It was the first street food that we have bought.  We went to the bus stop and waited for a long time.  The Kaiyin bus had not come yet and that was the only bus we knew about.  We soon realized that we needed some help.  I asked a women if she spoke English, and of course she said something back in Chinese.  We said, "We need to go to Kaiyin."  She spoke Chinese again and we figured she couldn't help us.  About five minutes later, the woman we had previously talked to, got on Bus Number 6 and started yelling at us out the window.  She yelled, "Kaiyin! Kaiyin!"  And was waving for us to come with her.  Sara, Katie and I looked at one another and jumped on the bus.  Before we knew it, the whole bus was trying to get us to Kaiyin.  Everyone was looking at us and speaking Chinese.  We knew the Kaiyin bus route, and Bus Number 6 was headed in the right direction.  All of a sudden, the bus took a drastic turn and went off the freeway into a little town.  I was crossing my fingers hoping that they were going to get us back to the school.  The woman we had talked to at the bus stop, got off the bus and told us to stay with another older woman.  We stayed with her and eventually she got off and motioned us to follow.  We were in the middle of some little town and we had no idea where we were.  We don't speak any Chinese and she doesn't speak in English.  We followed her for about five minutes and she lead us to an apartment building complex that we recognized.  It is a stop on the Kaiyin bus route.  We said xie xie (thank you in Chinese) and we went our separate ways.  We were able to catch the Kaiyin bus and make it back to the school.  It was amazing for me to see how lucky we were to be able to get home.  It was pure luck that a woman on the bus knew what Kaiyin was.  We were extremely blessed.