Monday, February 28, 2011

Sights in Hangzhou

A few more photos from the day Tamara and I spent in Hangzhou last week~ below is one of the rooftops from the Lingyin Temple and monastary. Love the bright color!
Double stacked bird cages, each with a little bitty bird inside

Pathway leading to the entrance to Lingyin Temple and monastary
Sculptures in the grottoes at Feilai Peak- ancient art from the Song Dynasty
I loved how these sculptures seemed to be part of the rocks and forest around them... hidden away in the woods!
Tamara and I wondered if this could be the skeleton of some ancient serpent...!
This is the largest of the sculptures on Feilai Peak (translated means Peak That Flew Here). It is nine meters long!
What does this oddly shaped tree make you think of? Tam and I both had the same thought about it.
Famous chicken dish for lunch... chicken roasted in lotus leaves for many hours.

By West Lake
Andrew and Jenna and their girls are coming to see us in April... hoping these photos get you guys excited about your trip! We'd love to spend a couple of days in Hangzhou with you during your visit. :-)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Meeting Mira Mae

Uncle Scott, in NYC this week for work, had the distinct pleasure of being our newest niece's first visitor. Hoping he is passing on kisses and cuddles from all of us who can't wait to meet her!

Welcome to parenting, M & J! Love to all three of you. :-)
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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

In the Mist at West Lake

My cousin Tamara is here with me this week... a wonderful treat! Today the two of us took off from Shanghai and headed to Hangzhou on the train. It was quite smoggy this morning, but it made for some striking photos around the lake. This picture, which I took in the late morning, appears to be black and white but it is really just the effect of the air quality! I love it! Despite the smog in the morning, it turned out to be a lovely, warm day and we thoroughly enjoyed the springlike weather and the chance to enjoy it in a natural area.

More pictures from Hangzhou to come... although I'm hoping my next post might be of our new niece or nephew, hopefully arriving "on the outside" in the next few hours!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

One of these things is not like the others....

Seaweed sprinkles on a donut... not so yummy to my Western palate.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

At the Construction Site

Part of the joy of our week in Boracay was seeing the progress that had been made at the construction site since we had been there the year before. Where last year we had been tying re-bar and pouring cement columns, this year stands a fledgling school, with preschoolers and kindergarteners learning English in a Christian environment. The progress on the building is made all the sweeter by the fact that it is worked on only when manpower and materials come available through giving of time and funds by those who support the ministry.

The mission of Agape Boracay Academy is "Raising Future Leaders."
Here is the "hallway" of the school... three classrooms under a thatched roof, on the second floor.
One of the preschool classrooms.
While we were at the construction site, we had the opportunity to give the classroom teachers a little break for a 15-20 minute session a couple of mornings. Here the girls in our group (Madelyn in yellow t-shirt at the middle table) are reading stories we brought with us to one class of children.
Just on the other side of the woven walls where Agape Boracay Academy is holding their little classes, we continued the construction work. Most days including lots of shoveling of rocks and sand. Seemed it was always needing to be moved from one place to another! Several days we were a part of getting the 12 buckets of gravel and 7 buckets of sand needed to mix each batch of concrete, and then passing the wet cement by bucket brigade to the Filipino workers in charge of the job to pour footers for another section of the building.
Seth was a shoveling machine!
Taking a break on the scaffold.. favorite hang out in between assignments!
Seems like a small thing, this little bitty school of so far only 5 and 6 year olds... what impact can it have long term? The ministry of Boracay for Christ believes that teaching the Way, the Truth and the Life to this handful of children will surely have an eternal impact, hopefully not only on the students themselves, but also on their families. As the construction project continues, opportunity for more students and families to be impacted will increase as well. In the meantime, what is also being provided by this project is a chance for people like us to dig in and get dirty for a cause... there's benefit in that as well. :-)

Monday, February 14, 2011

Food and Seth

Seth and a little buddy at a feeding site in Boracay

No valentine treats for Seth today. The eighth graders at Concordia are doing a project this week entitled "The 50% Experience." Their task was to purchase food for themselves for seven days with only 70 RMB, the US equivalent of about $10. They also had to turn in their personal electronics, and will need to take cold showers this week. The required journaling about their experiences this week must be written by hand, in cursive. Who writes by hand anymore?!

I let Seth do his food purchasing on his own. He went to Carrefour with a buddy, and came home with two loaves of bread, three carrots, 6 kiwi, 2 chicken breasts, 2 packages of instant noodles, 15 eggs and a bag of bulk rice. He had 7 RMB left over, about $1. He decided to keep that in reserve for when he might be desperate towards the end. Seems like a fair amount of food, but it's not really.

He chopped up all three of the carrots yesterday and put them in the blender with some water, thinking juice would be a good way to consume the carrots. Just raw carrot and water didn't turn out to be as tasty as he'd hoped, although he did drink some of it. Last night we brainstormed an idea to cook some of the leftover carrot juice with the broth from cooking his two chicken breasts... maybe if we throw in a little cooked rice and put it all in the blender again, it could pass for carrot soup. Necessity breeds invention, right?The idea behind the project is that 50% of the world lives on less than $2 per day for food. Interesting for this project to be happening for Seth on the heels of our Boracay trip, where we were feeding impoverished children. Hoping he makes the connection.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day!

Gwenny's handmade valentines, ready for her classmates

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

A Priceless Gift

The beautiful feet and dusty flip flops of some of the children at a feeding site.

Every late afternoon while we were in Boracay, our group helped at several of the feeding sites the ministry runs for impoverished children. We sang songs with them, acted out Bible stories, provided basic first aid, distributed vitamins, did a little craft, and helped serve them a simple meal. If there was the room to do it, we turned a jump rope for them and even played a little basketball.

At one of the sites an older girl, maybe 11 or 12 years old, befriended me. She asked my name and told me hers. It was Micah. She smiled a lot and hung around near me. I was helping lots of children make bracelets and rings out of colored pipe cleaners as our craft. When I slid the fuzzy, flower shaped pipe cleaner ring onto her finger, I noticed that she had another ring on, a metal one with a little purple jewel in it. I complimented her on it and she beamed.

As twilight fell, we prepared to leave and the leader encouraged the children to go back to their homes. We waved and called good-bye to the group of children, high-fiving, hugging, and tousling hair as we began to walk away. Micah ran up to me and pressed something into my hand, closing my fingers around the object and grinning at me. I opened my hand to find her pretty little ring with the purple jewel. I immediately objected, saying I couldn't take it. "Why?" she asked, a hurt look on her face.

I was conflicted. Should I keep it? I didn't need it. This little girl lived in a village of shacks. She had just finished the rice gruel supper provided by the ministry. Her feet were dusty in her flip flops, just like the other children's. Had she given me the only pretty thing she had? I knew the ring was cheap. It wasn't worth much. But I think she loved it. She had obviously been pleased when I had complimented it earlier.

But she wanted to give it. She had placed it in my hand. How could I not take what she had given so willingly?

"Do you really want me to keep this?" I asked her. She looked into my eyes and smiled and nodded.

"Thank you so much." I hugged Micah and smiled back at her, then walked away with the ring in my hand, following the rest of our group back to our hotel and our supper at a restaurant on the beach.

Back to my comfortable life, a life with no material needs unmet.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Year of the Rabbit Celebrations

Chinese New Year is being celebrated in full force! We arrived back in Shanghai this morning, just in time for the loudest fireworks night of the entire holiday. It's the night of the money god... so according to legend, if your fireworks are the longest and the loudest, the coming year will be one of prosperity. The explosions have been going on now for several hours, and will likely continue through the night tonight.Below is the picture of the ship I promised in another post about Chinese New Year decorations. This was constructed completely of white styrofoam outside a small mall near us, then painted red. It stands about twenty feet high. It's fairly impressive, for styrofoam!
The day before we left for the holiday break, Gwen's class had a CNY party, complete with dumplings, oranges, lantern making, story telling, and red envelopes with gold chocolate coins inside. One of the well loved traditions of CNY is to distribute red envelopes of money to children, unmarried young adults, and employees.
Gwen and her friends display their lanterns... some a bit creatively!
I am mulling over lots of things about our CNY trip to Boracay and what we experienced there. The beautiful faces of the many children we interacted with at the feeding sites are going through my head. Hoping to post about some of that soon. In the mean time, I'll be listening to fireworks!

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

First Grade

I have a first grader. Gwen has 17 students in her class, and I often marvel at how well her teacher handles all the students, how organized she is, how effective a communicator. She does her job really well.

Yesterday we visited a local public school here on Boracay, one of the 7000+ islands in the Philipines. We have returned for a second year with several other families to work with a mission called Boracay for Christ. This ministry is run by an American couple in cooperation with a local Filipino pastor and his church. They have been fostering a relationship with the principal of this local school, and he allows the ministry to come into the school a work in a few classrooms a day or two each week. Last year we didn't get the opportunity to participate in one of these days, but yesterday we did.

Madelyn, Gwen and I, and another mom and her teenage daughter were given a first grade classroom to work in, along with the Filipino pastor's wife to translate for us. The classroom was small, and contained 66 students. They were packed like sardines around long wooden tables, five of them filling the classroom with just an aisle at the front for the teacher to stand by the chalkboard. We started out with songs, including "He is the King of Kings, He is the Lord of Lords, His name is Jesus, Jesus, JESUS- Oh, HE IS THE KING!" We taught the children songs proclaiming the name of Jesus, in a public school, yes we did! We acted out the story of Daniel in the lion's den, making clear the point that Daniel worshipped the One True God. We had a picture for the kids to color of Daniel and the lions, and then we passed out beads and pipe cleaners and helped the children make bracelets. We gave each child a vitamin, and then served the students a meal before they left for the day at 4:30, sort of a rice congee with bits of meat in it.
It was amazing to be able to speak so freely about Jesus in a public school setting. It was amazing how many kids were packed in that little cement floor classroom. It was amazing that the principal welcomed us and welcomes this kind of ministry in his school. It was amazing how well behaved the students were, how bright eyed and eager. It was amazing to have my daughters sitting at the end of those wooden tables, coloring a page about Daniel in the lion's den with Filipino first graders. It was amazing to lead a prayer of thanks for the meager meal on behalf of 66 children to the God of Heaven. It was amazing to take photos of so many little beautiful black haired children and then see their happy faces when I turned the camera around and showed them their own pictures. It was amazing to thank that teacher of 66, with tears in my eyes, for doing her job so well. It was amazing.
So I am thankful for Gwen's spacious classroom, the many books, games, and the myriad of other resources that are available there. I am thankful for her wonderful, kind, organized teacher. Now though, I am also thankful for a woman who's name I don't know, but who's patient smile I saw as she shared her 66 students with us for part of the afternoon yesterday. My hat is off to her. She is amazing.