It’s a Girl! “…It’s nice being the only American teachers on our Central campus…I think they want to make certain all is well with us.”

18 Aug

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Our dear Sister, Sophia, and Xie have a baby girl! We rejoice for the healthy child and both parents. The doctor eventually did a scheduled C-section when he determined five days earlier the umbilical cord was wrapped around the baby’s neck twice. Two days prior to surgery, it had changed to only one.

The next day, we awoke at 7 a.m. to no electricity, the first time it has occurred all summer (it is amazing how quiet it can be with no electricity). It was to be a 95 degree day outside, and began at 78 degrees in our two main rooms. It was only off four hours, so the indoor temp rose to only 85. After reading about the problems in India the previous days, where the entire electrical grids had shut down, we felt blessed, indeed.

The summer days have progressed too quickly, in my mind. Like in America, July 4 comes around and the next 30-45 days fly past. Terry has progressed in her language skills, and I have worked daily on computer-based projects.

We have also realized anew that we truly enjoy each other’s company more than we could ever express. Our silence is golden, when it needs to be, as we are in separate areas of our three-room apartment “working like little beavers.” We have both enjoyed numerous books on our kindles and Terry is working on another baby blanket, getting them ready for the births occurring around us.

I rediscovered the College Press commentaries in pdf format on my external hard drive, so have had many hours of great reading…and have been listening to 2010 FHU and 2011 Harding lectures made available through iTunes U.

Walker and Elizabeth Sloan were married in July while home during their summer break. They were doing a great work on the East campus as two singles, and should do even better as a married couple. When Elizabeth sent the photo of their cutting the cake, Terry immediately said, “Elizabeth is so pretty.” My response? “Both Elizabeth and the cake are so-o-o pretty!” 🙂 (nobody notices the guy at these events).

We’ve had some needed repairs in our apartment in recent weeks. The air conditioner in our bedroom quit working July 21, on a day when it was a hot 93 degrees outside and very humid (we’re seeing temps around 83 degrees in our non-air conditioned rooms now…80 in rooms that are air conditioned). We called the appropriate people and they responded quickly, scheduling the repair the next morning …we moved our bedding to the office floor where the other AC was working and had a good night’s sleep….the repair people came around 11:15 a.m. (a Sunday) and it was working again by noon. We had only two students for Assembly, since so many are traveling and away for the summer. But their being here helped us communicate with the repairmen, and, as usual, they were polite, professional, and efficient.

Three days later, the water heater was not working. We sent a text to the two people who are our contacts, knowing one was out of town. Within two hours someone was in the apartment, fixed it in just a few minutes, and we had hot water soon thereafter. About an hour after he left, the director of personnel for our entire campus was in our apartment checking to make sure it was fixed.

Two days later, the push-button on the commode no longer worked, which forced us to manually “lift the chain” to flush it…we called and within 35 minutes someone was in our apartment to fix it (it seems we are having several things stop working right now, huh?). I told Terry “it’s nice being the only American teachers on our Central campus…I think they want to make certain all is well with us.”  🙂 We deeply appreciate it, and we tell them often!

We have had some delightful visits during the summer. Different teaching colleagues send their college-age children to meet us while home for the summer…others want their junior or senior school children to visit, too. We enjoy the 60-75 minute visits, and learn more about our city, county, province, or country because we ask as many questions as they do.

One of our visitors, Queenie, helped me set up a wireless modem in our apartment, which opened up all kinds of nice surprises on my Kindle Fire (Sports Illustrated magazine and online access to all kinds of sports-related materials). I split the SI subscription with my son, Gregory…he gets the print edition and I get the online edition. Queenie’s dad teaches computers on the campus, and they brought a dealer from the city to set it up…great price and even better service. 🙂

In one visit, which was over 7-hours, the student mentioned the disgust with the lack of privacy in the girl’s dorms, and told us something we’d not heard: they pay some $1,200 yuan ($190) per semester for their dorm room…usually 6-8 per room and the same price regardless of the living conditions.

We’re finding more of those who live here in Jingzhou are finding ways to commute from home, which gives them control over their housing but also allows them to miss ‘optional’ early morning and late evening study sessions, where they sit in the classrooms as a group studying. The freshmen and sophomore classes especially do not appreciated being forced to study on someone else’s schedule. One student: “all I accomplished as a freshmen in the evening study sessions was feeding the mosquitoes.”

Our junior students will have 3-4 classes every day, including ‘optional classes’ on the weekends….which means we have little contact with many of them unless they are really interested.

I would love to have a Sears or Home Depot store here to sale different safe interior paints. Hugo and Kelly came for lunch and told us they had finished decorating their new apartment…but because of concern about paint fumes, they will wait one whole year before moving in. They can smell the fumes and are attuned to the dangers. And this is the norm…we have two other married friends who refurbished the interior of their apartments and then waited 9-12 months before moving in. They are all amazed that the lead-free paints, etc., make it possible in America to move in almost immediately. 🙂

One of our closest friends, Howard, has finally moved his family to their ‘house,’ which is some 200 yards away on our campus. It’s not that far, but not the same as having him one story above us…we always enjoy his drop-ins.

We have been able to watch some replays of the Olympics on the internet. I would never want the American athletes to lose, but I found myself rooting for the Chinese when it was against all other countries. Interesting to have two countries to enjoy watching.

I have talked at length with our students about the 2008 Beijing opening ceremony, which can never be bettered, as far as I am concerned. We did not get to watch the London opening ceremonies, except in short clips, but it looked ‘ok.’ I read in Sports Illustrated why that might be the case: “The 2012 show, with a cast of 10,000, required about 200 rehearsals, which is modest compared to the clambake in Beijing, where director Zhang Yimou had his 15,000 cast and crew members rehearse an average of 16 hours a day. (One rehearsal lasted 51 hours.) Zhang’s 2008 ceremony cost a reported $100 million, more than double the $42 million in Boyle’s budget.” Now that tells you why it was so spectacular…it’s the Chinese way.

After standing over an hour, we finally were able to purchase tickets to Wuhan and Beijing for our trip. They only sale them 10 days ahead, so the express train we wanted was full. One of our senior students met us there and helped us communicate with the very professional staff. They were quite helpful and looked more like what we have seen on the airplanes here…every dressed modestly but in matching outfits. I receive this email from our student later in the day: “I cannot imagine two foreigners like you can handle all this stuff in China without speaking chinese. YOU ARE GREAT! If I were you I would not have the courage to do so.” I told her we were either courageous or crazy, and that we’d have to decide that upon our arrival back home. 🙂  We went to a ticket agent instead of the train station and were able to get the Z3 ‘soft berth’ night ticket on our return trip…leave at 10 pm from Beijing and reach Jingzhou around 6:30 am.

We have found that as long as it is 88 degrees or below outside, we could manage inside’s temperatures.

As we were planning to leave for our Beijing trip, China was being hit with a record third typhoon within a week as torrential rains and floods brought by two powerful storms still affected many regions. They hit in the southeastern part, near Shanghai and Hong Kong. Surprisingly, we had no rain as a result of it in our area. The country is faced with a tremendous burden from floods and other disasters due to frequent typhoons since mid-July, Chen Lei, minister of water resources, said on Monday. “It is the first time that the country will have been hit by three typhoons one after another within seven days,” he said in a statement posted on the ministry’s website.

I noticed this in Chronicle publication in August: Owners of Apple devices in 50 countries downloaded the Gospel Broadcasting Network app the first day it became available, the executive director added, surprised that China ranked second in downloads behind the U.S. Blackwell credits GBN with the potential to reach half a billion “outlets,” or devices capable of receiving the network or its shows. He bases the figure on hundreds of millions of mobile devices in the world capable of running GBN apps, along with viewers who watch on television and computers. I also encourage you to read the interview by Meredith Rodriguez regarding her China work.

We had some nice confirmations as we began our 14- hour train trip to Beijing. The first class car was very clean, comfortable, and spacious, causing us to both respond “that we’ve never traveled first class before.”  If you think of a typical airplane in first class you get the idea….the reclining seats were spacious on the two-hour trip from Jingzhou to Wuhan, and we found a McDonald’s at the first stop so were able to get full on ‘comfort food’ and also some carbs for the 11:57 a.m.—10 p.m. ride to this country’s spacious and modern capital. (Train had both a Western and Eastern-style restroom…McDonald’s Eastern only…those things are important when you leave the comforts of home:-).

The cost of the Jingzhou to Wuhan ticket (2 hour trip) was 83 yuan ($12.99). From Wuhan to Beijing ticket (9 1/2 hour trip) it was 333 yuan ($52.11). Our return trip was the same 12 hours, but was in a ‘soft berth’ sleeper unit…quite nice since the ride is smooth (I have always told Brinson and Aiden that sleeping part of the way makes it go faster, to encourage them to not fight sleeping in the car on a long trip). It was 486 yuan ($75.06). Jingzhou to Beijing: 1,445 kilometers (897 miles)

On each train, there was one lady assigned to go up and down the aisle regularly to get anything off the floor…needless to say, it was clean. Everyone was professionally dressed, in matching outfits…no free drinks, etc., but someone was available to sale items often. Saw some newer, modern buildings along the way and open  It was also ‘different’ to have air conditioned air in every store…they also have heat in the classrooms, etc., during the winter since it is much colder (think of the northeast in the USA).

Our retreat/seminar was both refreshing and encouraging, and revealed a great Family here. The sessions were held in a Foreign Language School, and many of the attendees were students at the school, learning Chinese. In fact, most of them had great Chinese after 1-3 years of being full-time students….were in China on a student visa, and are not teaching in university classes. Some came initially as Let’s Start Talking teachers. I am thrilled to report they are talented, faithful, and energetic for Important Things! Two are here with children, and were especially impressive to Terry and me. Two from Pepperdine, others OC or Harding. One couple used to make annual trips from Arkansas to Haiti each summer, and their group of 12-18 would eat and stay at our house at they left/reentered via the international airport. It was great to see them again after several years 🙂

We ate at Peter’s Tex-Mex Grill for one dinner, and, folks, it was ‘the real thing!’ Amazing! Wow! Great! And just a block away was an authentic Italian restaurant…and we also ate “real pizza” … this IS an international city!

The trip to Beijing was magical in many ways. The train ride, other Family members, delicious food…the following information gives some background on The Great Wall and the Summer Palace that we visited:

Perhaps the most powerful advertising words in history came from the mouth of Chairman Mao: “Until you reach the Great Wall, you’re no hero.” Figuratively this means ‘to get over difficulties before reaching a goal’. The statement our students use: Until you have climbed the Great Wall, you are not a true man.

The Great Wall of China is already the longest man-made structure in the world but we may have to start calling it the Greater Wall of China. A five-year archaeological survey done by China’s State Administration of Cultural Heritage (SACH) claims that the total length of the Great Wall was 13,170 miles long and reached across 15 provinces.

This is more than twice the length previously thought. In 2009, SACH reported that the wall was 5,500 miles and stretched across 10 provinces.

“The previous estimation particularly refers to Great Walls built in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), but this new measure includes Great Walls built in all dynasties,” Yan Jianmin, the office director of the China Great Wall Society, told the China Daily.

The Summer Palace (see page 7) (literally “Gardens of Nurtured Harmony”) is a palace in Beijing, China. The Summer Palace is mainly dominated by Longevity Hill and the Kunming Lake. It covers an expanse of 2.9 square kilometers, three quarters of which is water.

Longevity Hill is about 60 meters (200 feet) high and houses many buildings positioned in sequence. The front hill is rich in the splendid halls and pavilions, while the back hill, in sharp contrast, is quiet with natural beauty

The central Kunming Lake covering 2.2 square kilometers was entirely man made and the excavated soil was used to build Longevity Hill. In the Summer Palace, one finds a variety of palaces, gardens, and other classical-style architectural structures.

In December 1998, UNESCO included the Summer Palace on its World Heritage List. It declared the Summer Palace “a masterpiece of Chinese landscape garden design. The natural landscape of hills and open water is combined with artificial features such as pavilions, halls, palaces, temples and bridges to form a harmonious ensemble of outstanding aesthetic value.” It is a popular tourist destination but also serves as a recreational park.

Our train trip home was awesome! We were able to get a good night’s rest as the train did its work over 11 hours…it left and arrived exactly on time…literally to the minute! So impressed with Family in Beijing and prayers solicited for two who are having babies soon and two other families with three wonderful children between them.

Greetings from Terry: I have begun learning Tai Chi (from a DVD I ordered) in the privacy of our apartment.  My goal is to strengthen muscles, improve balance and relieve tension.

Dean Catherine and her daughter, Lily took me to a piano concert/recital in a theater in Shashi.  The ages of the participants ranged from 12 to early 20s. They were magnificent! I thoroughly enjoyed every part of it.

I finished reading the book, Encountering the Chinese. In the past few weeks we have had a few of the local students over for lunch one at a time. We have enjoyed hearing their thoughts and views. When they come over in groups just the outgoing ones speak up so this is a way to draw them out a bit. I am really looking forward to Gary getting to know my last semester students. They will enjoy each other.

Howard introduced us to one of his teacher friend’s daughter. Her English name is Queenie. She is a junior in a university in other city and is home for the summer. She came over last night for a visit. She was a true delight and reminded me of my niece, Darra. She used to attend discussions and “parties” at Gary and Signa’s when she was in middle school.  Sunday morning she brought a friend and joined us for our 10:00 meeting.

The Olympics have started in London and we still have not gotten to see the rerun of the opening ceremony. We get to see some of the events the Chinese are broadcasting on line.

We got to have the newlyweds, Hugo and Kelly, over for lunch. It was so good to see them again. They asked many questions about having and rearing children..

I finished reading the book, Hazardous Duty (squeaky clean mystery) by Christy Barritt.

Lately when I go for my evening walk I see couples holding their little naked infants who are wearing only a bib, not even a diaper. The parent who is not holding the baby is usually carrying a fan and fanning the other two.

Our expectant sister, Sophia, found out the cord was wrapped around the baby’s neck twice. After two days and many requests on their behalf the cord was only around once. So, one day after her due date she had a successful C-section and delivered a healthy baby girl. We are all so very thankful. Gary and I got to visit them in the hospital after a couple of days. Xie, her husband was in the room taking good care of the little one. Sophia is still very weak but hopefully will gain her strength soon. The new mothers in China stay in bed and at confined at home much longer than American new mothers. Sophia has asked me many questions about how we do things in America. The Chinese do not think it is healthy to wash your hair for several weeks after giving birth. They also believe you will have headaches in old age if you go out in the wind during the first few weeks after giving birth.

I like this quote, “Life is not about waiting for the storms to pass. It’s about learning how to dance in the rain” (unknown author)

I am so glad we were able to get tickets to take the train to Beijing and add that to our list of experiences. The electric trains are amazingly quiet and smooth. It glides into the station like a long smooth snake. We were in the last seat of the last car at the end of the train. We rode first class to make sure of getting a seat. It was clean, new, spacious and refreshingly cool with plenty of storage space.

Everything on the train is labeled in English as well as Chinese. Verbal announcements are also The train station is in the north part of Jingzhou which we have not been in so we got to see new sights as we headed out of town. I actually saw several neighborhoods of single family dwellings with large neat vegetable gardens all around them.

The train car from Wuhan to Beijing was warmer but still spacious. As we traveled on it became more crowded with people sitting on the floor in the space between cars and standing in the isles on the second class cars. Smoking is not allowed on the train of which we were very thankful.

We arrived in Beijing at 10:00, waited 30minutes in line for a taxi. Rode 30 minutes to the hotel, waited about 30 minutes for our room, showered and had just dropped off to sleep when they knocked on our door needing to make another (continued from page eight) copy of our passports. Needless to say we slept very well when we finally had the chance. Our hotel is at the CAMIC campus (Civil Aviation Management Institute of China). Saturday we shared a breakfast at the McDonalds complete with sausage, biscuit, hash browns and scrambled egg. We forgot to take the written hotel name so we had a bit of an adventure getting back to our place. May the pedestrian who helped our cab driver be blessed. Several of our group arrived after we had already eaten so I accompanied them to the restaurant just for the fellowship. These are good people from OK, TX, and Brazil. One couple knows my nephew, Remington and another has a daughter that was in nursing with Wendy at Harding. I ate my first bite of Beijing duck. It was dark meat and tasted a bit like mild roast beef to me. It was not hot and spicy like I had expected. It was served with a small crepe in which you put bite of duck, sliver of onion and a sliver of vegetable then wrap it up and dip it in a sesame sauce.

Sunday morning we met together with about35 people, everything being spoken in Chinese. Later in the afternoon Gary and I went to the mall. It was very much like the Galleria Mall in Plantation, FL. We enjoyed window shopping the four floors then I bought a 350 piece Peter Rabbit puzzle, whole floor of the mall was devoted to children clothing, toys, photography, educational material, (to page 9) paraphernalia and   very large imaginative play area. We ate dinner at Subway before returning to the hotel.

This city is big, busy, crowded and a bit more complicated to travel around in as a new comer but it is very clean and pleasant to the eye.  The weather as also 7-9 degrees cooler each day.  — Love, Terry

From the China News Daily —  More Chinese tie the knot in churches—First came white bridal gowns, with intricate veils and long flowing trains becoming a common sight at Chinese weddings. Now, more young couples are choosing another imported tradition: tying the knot in a church.

Although the Christian population is in the minority in China, churches and cathedrals nationwide have reported a boom in bookings, with some purposely courting nonbelievers by offering quasi-religious ceremonies.

“Until 2008, we weren’t allowed to hold such weddings (for non-registered parishioners),” said Fan Guoxing, a pastor at Haidian Christian Church in Beijing. (to page 11)

“Now the rules have been relaxed, I’m officiating at about 40 a year, half of which are for nonbelievers.” Saturdays are the busiest, he said, sometimes with as many as eight ceremonies to handle.

At the other side of the country in Sichuan province, Xie Hongxia, a Catholic wedding planner for Chengdu diocese, estimated that about 90 percent of the 70 or so weddings held annually at the city’s cathedral are for non-Christian couples.

Wang Manshu and Jiang Jin were married on Feb 12 at Haidian Christian Church, which is in the capital’s Zhongguancun technology area.

“We were worried our booking would be rejected, so we were really happy when we got a positive response,” said Wang, 35. “Young people like us need a special (church) ceremony. Our hearts could be purified, and it helps us find a deeper connection.”

The couple spent 6,000 yuan ($940) on their big day, which included the cost of the venue, the pastor, decorations and choral music. It would have cost even more had they not arranged their own bridal stylist, photographer and cameraman.

“Traditional Chinese weddings are too complicated,” Wang said. “Although expensive, the church was no fuss at all. We were briefed about what would happen during the 30-minute ceremony and didn’t even meet the pastor until just beforehand.”

According to tradition, the bride’s father walked her down the aisle in front of 100 family members and friends, before Fan, the pastor, gave a brief sermon. The couple exchanged vows, each time ending with an “Amen”, and then joined to light a candle symbolizing their unity in marriage.

“It was an education for me,” said the bride’s 65-year-old uncle, Wang Tianyu, who said it was his first time in a church. “Young people are having a lot (see page 12)   of quick marriages and quick divorces nowadays. Maybe a solemn church wedding will help them take marriage more seriously.”

Xishiku Catholic Church, also known as Beijing’s Northern Cathedral, requires non-Christian couples to have a civil-marriage certificate before they can book the venue. The price is 2,600 yuan, which includes decorations and, on Saturdays, a full choir. Volunteer Zhou Fucheng at the church said the ceremonies generate much-needed income for the church. However, not all parishioners are happy about the their churches being rented out to nonbelievers.

“Some Christians have voiced their objection and believe we host the weddings of nonbelievers just to make a profit,” said pastor Fan at Haidian Church in Beijing. In doing so, though, many more people get to know about our beliefs.”

He explained that originally either the bride or groom had to be a practicing Christian for a couple to get married in the church. It was only later it was opened to all comers. Ma Qing, 43, who was baptized in 1985 and works as a volunteer at Southern Cathedral on weekends, said she has an open mind about nonbelievers choosing church weddings.

“The church welcomes all who are interested,” she said. “We greet newcomers and let them decide if they want to know more. Some were married as nonbelievers and were later baptized.”

Whether the latest wedding fad leads more into the Christian religion or not, church phones are likely to keep ringing in the short term.

Mao Weiwei, 27, said she has seen countless white weddings in movies and TV shows, and was also impressed when she read about how one of her favorite singers, Christine Fan from Taiwan, got hitched in a church ceremony last year.

But it was not until she saw her non-Christian friend exchange vows with her “Mr. Right” in a church that she started to imagine it for herself.

“I never knew such a ceremony was available for nonbelievers in China,” said Mao, an instructor at an English training center in Beijing. “Now I know, I can’t get the idea out of my head.

“Traditional Chinese weddings are a bit too grand for me. I want mine to be perfect, celebrated in an intimate, serene and sweet manner.”

According to a recent report on internet use, Chinese netizens now number around 538 million, and the penetration rate is 39.9%. This means that China is on track to achieve the central government’s target of 45% by 2015. It is particularly noteworthy that the number of rural internet users is expanding dramatically. In the past, due to a lack of telecommunication infrastructure, rural residents had little access to the internet.  But now things have changed. The number of rural internet users has reached 150 million. This is about 27% of total users. About half of them are using mobile phones to get online. In addition, the report also finds that the demographics of internet users has also undergone a shift. Many more middle aged and seniors are joining the crowd. About 17% of net users are over 40 years old.

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Posted by on August 18, 2012 in Jingzhou


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