Monday, May 31, 2010

Monday thoughts, on the last day of May

The girls are next door on the neighbor's trampoline. The boys are across the street at school, playing basketball with friends. I am sitting out on our little deck, having just finished preparing some chicken to bake for our supper tonight. Scott has probably finished up work for the day and is getting in the car about now to make his way across the river home to us.

There are less than two weeks of school left before summer vacation, and only a little more than two weeks until the kids and I head back to the US for the summer. Only one month until Scott heads back to the US to join us and together we join his family for a week at the beach, something we've all been looking forward to. I am excited for summer and the time we'll have with the people we love, but I'm not anxious to leave as I have been other times. The characteristic steamy, sticky Shanghai summer is late in arriving this year, so the weather has been lovely, but more than that I am more and more aware of how much I love this community, the people we've been privileged to meet and the life God has given us in China.

I said good-bye to a dear friend today. It's the time of year for good-byes in Shanghai. She and her family are moving back to the US tomorrow, after nine years here in China. Oh, how I will miss our honest conversations and her listening ear. She and I walked together, through the city streets on the Puxi side of the river where she lives, chatting as if it were any other day and not our last day together. She had a few last minute purchases to make, so I joined her in her errands. On the walk back to her house we stopped at a little stand for a made-to-order sushi roll. We chose the fillings, watched as the woman working the stand put the rice on the sheet of seaweed, added the fillings, and rolled it up. It looks so easy, I told my friend. Maybe I'll try to make it at the beach this summer...

It's Memorial Day in the US. I heard a patriotic song on a US radio program I was listening to online, and I felt a pang. It's not Memorial Day here. Have I taught my kids enough about the great country America is, the sacrifices made for the freedoms enjoyed there, unlike anywhere else in the world?

I've been holding babies recently, beautiful, sweet babies with bright eyes and wide smiles. They are orphans with varying medical needs, being cared for through several different venues run by expats here in Shanghai. God has opened up several opportunities for me to be a part of these ministries, right on the heels of Madelyn starting school. I am in awe of how God has given me significant ways to use my time.

Speaking of school and Madelyn, she is doing beautifully. She tells me many details each day about her friends, her teachers, the games they play in PE, the conversations at the lunch table, the prayers they say before lunch, the songs they sing in music class, etc, etc. It's wonderful to see her blossoming. Her writing, one area I felt I was weak in teaching her, has amazed me. She is incredibly creative! God makes a way when I thought there was no way.

I have more I could say, but I think I'll stop for now. Thanks for listening. :-)

Friday, May 28, 2010

Show Me The Money

Justin took this shot of us outside the village of Xingping, near Yangshuo, at the spot that is the image on the back of the 20 RMB bill. I tried to play with the color in our photo to make it similar to the coloring on the money... couldn't quite get it the same, but I had fun trying. :-) I'm sure you'll notice the similar topography in the two images below.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

This Very Good

Mary and Mr. Wu, April 2010

Mr. Wu, our driver, has been with us since we moved to Shanghai, nearly three years ago. He met us at the airport when we first arrived. I remember in the early days how I would sit silently in the car with him, wishing we could communicate. Very quickly he began to attempt to use the bits of English he knew, and he taught me bits of Chinese.

Mr. Wu's English has progressed far faster than my Chinese. In my defense, he did study English when he was in school. But he has made huge gains to my baby steps in his speaking abilities in the three years we've been here, despite my lessons. He's always a bit rusty from lack of practice when we return to Shanghai after being away for the summer, but he quickly gains back his temporary losses.

Mr. Wu's English has some very distinct qualities to it that we often adopt when we speak with him. Some examples are "I very like this", or "This very no good." Those of you who have been to visit us and have enjoyed some time in the car with Mr. Wu know what I mean! It's easy to fall into his slightly stilted way of speaking, especially in order to communicate with him in the way that is easiest for him to understand.

Today Mr. Wu said something in a manner he has never used before. It so surprised me that I thought about it to myself for a minute or two before commenting to him. He has a sunshade that he puts in the windshield of the car when he is parked to keep the sun from beating in and making the car too hot. As I got into the car around mid-day today, a very warm day, he said of the sunshade and its usefulness, "I love this."

I have never heard Mr. Wu use this very American-sounding phrase. In the past he has always used, "I very like this" in a similar situation. When I pointed this out to him, and how American it sounded, he got his characteristic big grin on his face and laughed.

If only my Chinese was progressing as Mr. Wu's English has. I don't think any Chinese person will ever tell me that I sound Chinese!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Seen on the Street

We found the name of this Yangshuo cafe rather unusual...
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Sunday, May 16, 2010


Last weekend we spent a couple of nights on Moganshan mountain with some of our church small group friends. It's a lovely wooded area, and we enjoyed several hikes through the bamboo forest.

Heading up into the bamboo!
It was a bit of a rainy weekend... I love this misty shot Scott got of Madelyn.

Part of our crew of kids!
We had never seen tea growing before. I was intrigued by how it seems to be so neatly trimmed into hedges. The ladies you see out in the fields are picking the tea, just the new growth off the top.
I am reading a book about the Moganshan area right now, it's quite fascinating. It was a retreat from the summer heat and disease of Shanghai about a hundred years ago, for both foreigners, including missionaries, and wealthy Chinese. The area came to be a thriving summer resort. When the Communist party took over in 1949, of course all the foreigners were forced to leave and many of the homes fell into disrepair. We saw some of these places as we hiked, and also came across several church buildings like this one below. This one was completely stripped inside, just the shell of the once lovely building remains. I am anxious to learn more about what happened in Moganshan. Why has this church been left in this state? I know things are not always what they seem here...

There seems to be an aura of mystery about this place... I hope we can return and discover more about it. If nothing else, it's a beautiful retreat from the city... just like it was a century ago.

Friday, May 14, 2010


I'm not sure what it is about doors that are so intriguing to me. I suppose its the fact that there is something behind them, something often left to my imagination. A window to the soul of a family, perhaps? I took this group of door pictures while we were in Yangshuo a couple of weeks ago, many of them on the hike we took through the karsts, ending in the small, ancient town of Xingping. Some of them are doors we encountered on the occasional farm houses that were tucked away in the wilderness, others were in Xingping itself.
I am always amazed at how Mao is still revered here in China, despite his sordid record as a leader of the country. His portrait is prominently displayed inside this home in Xingping. Bonus when a door is open and I can actually peek inside!

Notice all the red couplets on and above the doors. These are traditional Chinese New Year decorations, wishing good luck, happiness, health and prosperity to the occupants. I think think these decorations stay up throughout the year, weathering as the year progresses, until they are replaced with fresh ones for the following lunar new year celebration. Even the stable below is decorated!

This is the front door of The Giggling Tree, the guesthouse where we stayed outside of Yangshuo. See Gwen standing in front of it?! This door opened into a courtyard where meals are served from the guesthouse kitchen in good weather. Our family and Justin and Mary enjoyed several lovely evenings around a table in the courtyard behind these doors!

We all loved the site of this pup peeking out of the opening in the wall beside this door we spotted on our bike ride. We saw these same openings next to many farmhouse doors... anyone have an idea what they're for, besides a lookout for dogs?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Big Brothers, Little Sibs

Caleb and Gwen, Austin and Jason

Last weekend a number of the families in our church small group spent a couple of nights in a beautiful, remote area a few hours south of Shanghai called Moganshan. It is heavily wooded with bamboo, and there are also many tea fields. It was a misty, rainy weekend, but we enjoyed hiking through the hills all around us.

Caleb and his friend Austin did a bit of toting of their little sibs on our hikes, although Gwen loves to be in the lead and often ran ahead of our whole group of 20+ people, leading us all on our strenuous up-and-downhill treks. :-)

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Monday, May 10, 2010

Check Him Out!

Several months ago, Seth quietly filled out an application for membership in the National Junior Honor Society at Concordia. I knew vaguely what he was doing, but he did it all on his own. Fast forward to last night... Seth was inducted into NJHS, along with 15 other seventh graders, for their high achievement in academics, leadership and service to others. Where did this boy come from? He continues to amaze us! :-)

Friday, May 07, 2010


As I watched Madelyn tackle these karsts in Yangshuo and find herself so daring and courageous, I was overflowing with thanks to the Lord for what He has done in her life.

"I lift up my eyes to the hills- where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip, He who watches over you will not slumber." Psalm 121: 1, 2

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

M & J Faces

This post is a collection of fun face pictures from all of Justin and Mary's visit with us. Some of the photos were taken in Shanghai, some in Yangshuo.

Our street food taste-testing day!
In front of the 500+ year old tea house in Yuyuan, in Shanghai.

Enjoying the fruit of their labors at cooking school in Yangshuo.
Guys at the Bund, on the Huangpu River in Shanghai.

Lunch at a local place in Jinqiao that Mr Wu took us to for blood soup.

Ready to tackle climbing a karst in Yangshuo!

Riding the motorbike Uncle Justin borrowed from a local farmer in Yangshuo.
Wielding their cleavers, ready to chop anything at cooking school!
Get that black eye from fighting the pirate next to you, Justin?

Our faces were smiling as long as M & J were here with us!