Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Well... we’re down to the last month now and I really can’t believe it.

Sometimes when I think about my time here, it feels like it has flown by so quickly... at other times it feels like I’ve been here for years. Either way... I feel so lucky to have this experience. I have learned so much, had so many new experiences, and met some
really great people.

I’ve been taking an art class with some of my other foreign classmates. We’ve learned calligraphy, painting, stamp carving, and we’re going to start paper cutting soon. It has been one of my favorite things so far. I’m definitely at a disadvantage- being so un-asian, but it’s been fun experimenting with this different style of art.

My parents were able to come visit for a week in November, and Sarah’s dad was able to come during the same time. We got to show them around our city, and then Sarah and I left with my parents to travel with them to another city for some sightseeing. I can’t express how good it was to see them and to have them experience the sights, smells, and sounds of my life for the last several months.

I had my fears about being away from home during the holidays this year... but Thanksgiving was a wonderfully refreshing day. We spent it with our American friends- complete with turkey legs, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and apple cider. I am so thankful for the family I have here and for the times we get to spend celebrating together. My birthday was the week after Thanksgiving, and we celebrated at our supervisors’ house with a delicious birthday meal and a homemade guitar-shaped birthday cake. The morning of my birthday, I was surprised by a knock on my door. Three of my friends came bearing birthday gifts- a scarf, a hat, and a giant stuffed panda bear head. I was so surprised! Our home-stay family had us over for dinner the night of my birthday and cooked us a meal. I miss the days of home-cooked meals with that family! The birthday festivities continued into the weekend with a Gilmore Girls marathon, fajitas, chips and queso (a near novelty in this part of the world), and many hours spent relaxing on the couch- a much welcomed retreat.

Sarah and I also joined some friends to celebrate another birthday with Karaoke and Hot Pot. While I love that karaoke... the hot pot is NOT something I will miss when I’m back in America.

My days are busier now, working on papers for home and homework for school here... but soon we will drop our classes here so we can prepare to head back home. While I’m not at all ready to leave the friends I’ve made here... I will be ready to be back in the homeland in a few weeks.

I look forward to being back with all of you and sharing about my time here- obviously blogging is not my preferred form of communication, so let’s hang out and talk about it in real life :)

See you soon,

Anna

ps- I tried to do photos again... but I just can't get it to work. Sorry!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

whoa whoa whoa... so you're telling me it's October???

I feel like I begin every blog I write with, “I’m sorry it has been so long since my last update...” or something like that.

So... to keep with tradition... I’m sorry it has been so long since my last update!

I have had more problems with connecting to the internet in the last 3 months than I have in my entire life. I will save you the boring details… but I am thankful I can finally post this long overdue update!

We are now starting in on our fourth week of classes here at our university. We had heard horror stories about our teachers and the workload in our classes. I didn’t really believe them until now. Our teachers started slow (for which I am very thankful)... but now that we’ve been in class for a month, they are becoming more and more intense. We are responsible for memorizing a pretty large amount of Characters and vocabulary. Sometimes I am thankful I sit by the window, just incase I need to let my mind escape for awhile. But, that is usually about when my teacher calls on me to answer a question or speak a dialogue.

I signed up for an art class that begins next week. I thought this would be my first semester without one, so I was thrilled to find out I could take it. The class will teach different styles of painting and calligraphy.

Dr. Frost and his grandson came to visit us a couple of weeks ago. It was so good to see familiar faces! It was also great timing, because my hard drive crashed the week before and he was able to bring me a new one along with the software I needed. Lesson learned: back up your computer as often as you can... especially when you have multiple files of homework you’ve done on there. I will be rewriting some assignments very soon.

I have had so many problems with my computer in the last few months of being here. As it turns out, the internet at my school isn’t compatible with Apple computers. I’m thankful that Sarah uses a PC so I can at least use her computer to send emails and use Skype.

We’ve been able to visit some really great places in the last couple of months.
We just had a 7 day holiday from school for National Day. My friend invited Sarah and me to her hometown for the weekend. It was a “small town” of about 900,000. We spent the first few hours at the annual air show. It was cold, rainy, and we were surrounded by children who had never seen foreigners before. It was a little overwhelming, but once we returned to our friend’s family’s home, I was very happy to be there. They were so hospitable! Her aunt and uncle gave us their bedroom for the night because they thought it may be warmer for us to sleep in. They took us to eat Hot Pot (as does everyone) and it was alright... once they brought out the vegetables. The first course included brains, intestines, stomach, eels.. etc. I did, however, discover my love of peanut milk during this meal. When the meal was finished, we went with our friend and her cousins to play ping-pong at this training facility. While my skills are steadily improving, I was brought back down to earth when I saw an 8ish-year-old boy (who was probably training for the olympics) practicing with his coach. I will never consider myself “good” at ping-pong again.

The highlight of the trip was definitely Saturday night. We saw our first sunset in exactly 3 months. It was so refreshing to get away from buildings and smog and breath the countryside air for a couple of days. There was a sky full of stars to wish us a happy half-way point. The thing I have missed the most (besides my friends and family, of course) has definitely been nature. I am not meant to live in a city of 30,000,000+.

When we returned from the countryside, we spent the next couple of days of our vacation at some of our American friends’ home. We ate at the Papa John’s next to their place and it was just delightful. While I have grown to love the food and the people here... I am thrilled to have a Western weekend every once in awhile.

I was able to Skype with my friends from The Table while we stayed at their house. Sunday was our three month mark, and I am so glad I could spend it with some of the people I love most (even though they were enjoying some pancakes RIGHT in front of me...)

My newest pursuit has been to replace the boots and the sweatpants I lost in my suitcase. It is getting colder (the locals say there are only two seasons in our city... summer and winter, and I can definitely see winter on the horizon) and I am regretting some of the losses my missing suitcase provided me with. I tried to shop for boots and sweatpants in the underground (the cheap stores) but as the salespeople have said, I am just, “too big”. I’m not giving up though... mostly because I only have running shorts to sleep in and these nights are becoming more and more frigid. The next time I see a girl as tall as me, I’m just going to walk up to her, introduce myself, and ask her to take me shopping where she buys her close.

One last thing before I go ahead and post this...
We were fortunate enough to experience the famous Peking Opera on Monday night. I had never heard a Peking Opera before. If you haven’t... please... youtube it. It was quite the experience. I left early... two and a half hours after it began. I am glad I was able to experience some of the art of this culture... but I think this may have been my first and last time to watch the Peking Opera.

I will attempt to be more consistent in updating my blog. The combination of a computer that wouldn’t turn on, faulty internet connections, and a busy schedule have kept me from making it this far on my to-do list.

Thanks for thinking of me and Sarah.
Enjoy the beauty of a Southwest Missouri Autumn for me...

Anna

ps- I tried to post some pictures, but it isn't working. I'll try again soon.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Whoa… I guess it’s been much longer than I thought since my last update….

Well, as I said in my last post, our home stay was just great. We’ve been back in the apartment we’re staying in for a couple of weeks and I really miss living with our family. The last week we were there, they took us out for one of our city’s famous meals: Hot Pot. This special meal consisted of pig intestines, cow stomach, mud fish, chicken… somethings, chicken feet, and various veggies, boiled in a giant pot of hot oil and peppers. Let me tell you… it wasn’t good. For someone who gets queasy from eating fried chicken off of the bone… this was a challenge for me. But.. I succeeded and finished the meal. Fortunately, hot pot is incredibly popular in our city… so I’m sure I’ll have many other opportunities to enjoy it.

We went back this week to visit our home stay and ended up staying the entire day. The visit included the usual amazing lunch AND dinner… Shrek 4 in 3D (NOT in English), art lessons from our little sister, some back porch reading, and great conversation with our host mom.
Can we just move back there for the rest of the semester? I mean… I’m sure the dorms will be great, but I think I could manage another 4 months with this family.

Since we’ve been back at the apartment, we’ve been doing language lessons from our tutor in the mornings and spending the afternoons on some college campuses around our area. We’ve already made some friends and it makes me excited to get started with school so I can be around students more often. We don’t start school until the middle of September.

A few nights ago we spent the evening with some new friends. They took us to ride the cable car over one of the rivers in our city. On our way to the cable car, we passed by a B*ddhist T*mple. Our friends wanted to look inside, so we explored the grounds. It was a really eye opening detour.

We also had the opportunity to attend a wedding last weekend. One of the couples in our home stay family’s group was getting married and invited us to attend. It was so good to see familiar faces. The wedding itself was certainly full of western influence. The bride had a white dress, instead of the traditional red dress… there was no meal or banquet, just a quick ceremony in a hotel conference room.
Our little sister was the flower girl and she. was. excited.

Yesterday we all went to eat lunch at Pizza Hut (YES!) and spent the afternoon swimming at the pool in our complex. The weather has cooled down considerably in the last week (woohoo!) and that left the pool water ice. cold. I have to admit… I’m a little sore today from our intense game of keep away (which Karen, Stacey and I dominated, of course) but it was great to relax and have fun with our American friends. That night after the kids went to bed, we joined each other again at Chris and Karen’s for cupcakes and a game of Settlers of Catan. A looooong game of Settlers of Catan. A day well spent.

Well… I need to get some homework done. I just realized that with my SBU classes + my language classes at our university here… I’m enrolled in 27 hours. What!? And that’s why I have to dedicate entire days to homework… before school has even started.
Thankfully… our grades at the university are not our priority. I just have to remember that when I’m sitting in class and the teacher tells me I’m failing. Haha.

Thank you for continuing to think of Sarah and me. Think of us as school starts and our schedules start to fill up.

Anna B

ps- I'm going to add some photos as soon as I get them onto my computer!



Friday, July 30, 2010

neeehowwww!












We are now in day 5 of our home stay and I could not think of a better family to spend our home stay with. They are a young couple with a beautiful 4 year old girl. I’ve already been challenged many times in our short stay here. They are so full of wisdom and so humble. I look forward to spending more time learning from them and the experiences that have shaped them into who they are.

I have also made it a goal to become an expert at cooking Sichuan cuisine. Our host mom is assisting me in this undertaking. I bought a cookbook yesterday and have already learned a lot from watching our host mom in action.
We have had a lot of food that looks and tastes wonderful… and some that leaves much to be desired.
I consumed my first chicken foot this week. It wasn’t quite as bad as I expected, but I still prefer that good ol’ white meat chicken breast (which they do have here, but you have to wade through the liver, heart, etc. to get there).

Some of my favorite times of the day include meals with the whole family, drawing and watching Winnie the Pooh with YoYo, walking around the apartment complex (there is a little river with many trees and great walking paths), and hanging out with our host mom.

I feel so fortunate to be with such a great family. I am learning a lot and am soaking up every minute of being with them.

I am feeling a little anxious for school to start in September. Not only will we have our requirements for SBU, we’ll have requirements for our other program AND our language load at the university we’re attending here. The teachers in the universities here expect a lot out of you and from what I’ve heard… our plates will be more than full with the work they assign. I am asking Papa to help me be diligent now with the work I can complete so that when school starts in September it won’t be as much of a burden.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Alright. I’m on the front end of my third week here and I’m starting to feel more settled. We were able to take some time to go shopping yesterday to begin to replenish my lack of wardrobe from the missing suitcase incident….

…and I thought I hated shopping in the states. It was one of the most stressful experiences I’ve had since I’ve been here. There are at least 1000 workers for every customer who walks through the door (or so it seems) and they all know exactly what you need (or so they think). I made it out with 2 purchases (for the price of one… I am my mother’s daughter) and a headache. Maybe I’ll brave the madness again, or maybe my minimalist dreams will become a reality and I’ll stick with the 3 outfits I have now.

We started meeting with our language tutor on Friday. The first couple of lessons were pretty discouraging but today I felt like I picked up much more than in previous lessons. A few more and I should be fluent… J

I’m starting to get used to the spicy food they eat here. We haven’t been too brave with the spice yet, but I’m sure we’ll work our way up that ladder.

We got to spend a day with our home stay family last week and it was delightful. They are a young couple with a 4 year old daughter who just might be THE cutest Asian child I’ve ever seen in real life. Her English name is YoYo. I know that Papa prepared our way into this family’s home. I’m sure I will learn so much from them.

On Friday we went with our supervisor’s family and our new friend Stacey to Caribbean Water Park. We had such a great time. It was so good to get to spend time and unwind with our new friends and the kids had a blast. AND, Stacey and I made it into the background of CQ TV segment. A day well spent.

One of my favorite things about our city is the fact that there is ALWAYS something going on outside. In the evenings you can walk outside through the square and find older women and men ballroom dancing, kids taking rollerblading lessons, gymnasts performing their routines, badminton games, and much more. I love that people are outdoors and spending time with each other.

Okay, that is enough for now…

Thanks for reading and thanks for continuing to lift us up as we’re getting settled in a new place.

Anna



Wednesday, July 14, 2010

okay. here we go.

I know, I know... I'm the worst at updates. I'm a journaler, not a blogger... so bear with me.

Where to begin???

In the last 2 weeks I've gone from living in a town of 10,000 people to living in the most populated square mile on earth, to living in the largest city in the world.
Overwhelming?
Yes.

Actually.. for the sake of my lack of thought organization skills and so you don't have to endure the way my brain REALLY outputs info... I'll use some bullet points.

Things I have enjoyed:
- The HK skyline at night.
- Walking... everywhere.
- asian fashion. I anticipate returning to the USA and being 5 years ahead in fashion. Just wait and see... Sarah and I found a store today that only sells clothing in various shades of brown. It felt like I was looking at my own closet... but prettier.
- talking to Papa. not even 2 weeks in and I think I've had more conversations with Him than the last 2 months combined. I am learning a lot.
- touring the campus of the school we'll attend in September. Its next to a mountain with a zipline. Thats what I like to see.
- learning that there is an entire city underneath us here. You can walk down stairs all over the place and get to the underground shopping. Such a good use of space.
- spending time with our supervisor and his family. They have 3 beautiful children who have made us feel right at home.
- SPICY food.

Things I have NOT enjoyed:
- having my entire suitcase (with my copy of the Book, my favorite stuffed animal and the quilt my momma made me... along with a majority of the other stuff I brought inside) stolen from the trunk of a taxi. There is still a tiny chance our (sarah had a bag in there too) bags will be returned but chances are they are gone for good.
- the lack of western toilets.
- the negative effects of said SPICY food....
- the lack of stars. We did, however, see three... yep... THREE stars in HK the other night.

Although I haven't enjoyed the things on the 2nd list... I can absolutely see Papa working them out for good. I am learning to trust him more every day, and learning to see that he is faithful even in the less enjoyable times.

I'll try to be be a better blogger.
Thanks for lifting Sarah and me up while we're here.

AB
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