Hostels and Beijing

So I made it to Beijing. If you read my previous post you’ll see that my trip to Xi’an didn’t exactly pan out the way I had expected. We took a nice flight from Shanghai to Beijing on Saturday morning. They even fed us a meal on the 1 and 1/2 hour flight. Arriving at Leo Hostel we spent two days in private rooms (the girls in a 3 bedroom and the guys in a 2 bedroom). On Monday we moved out of those rooms and into an 8 bedroom. So far they have not placed any more guests into our rooms, following the Western customs of proximity. (Next time you go into any public place notice how people will place themselves in the space. Such as in public transportation, each person will take their own bench until the car fills and then people will double up. In a restaurant you will not be seated with people who are not in your party because there aren’t enough tables. These things are not entirely true in China. It is more than acceptable to sit with strangers in a restaurant at their table.

Leo Hostel is much nicer than expected. They offer a restaurant, upstairs there are movies, games, computers, and a tv to watch movies, and the front desk is fairly helpful. After trekking with all of our luggage from the airport through the subway on Saturday afternoon we were met by one of the staff members who guided us down some alleys and about a ten minute walk to our hostel.

Valerie and I will be moving out of the hostel on Thursday morning. We’ve had some trouble flagging cabs here in Beijing and we were able to get one today back from the Temple of Heaven late this morning. We now have the number of the cab driver and he told us to call him tomorrow to pick us up on Thursday to take us to the hotel we’re staying at near the airport. At some point I need to buy an extra bag for my stuff. I’ve accumulated a lot of souvinears and gifts over the past month or so and I’m going to have to check a bag on the way home I think. Hopefully I can buy a cheap enough bag and hopefully our cab will not be too expensive. I’ve been praying. I’m glad God has already provided us with a cab, two days prior to our needing it.

The weather has been phenomenal. Our first full day in Beijing was on Sunday. We visited Tienanmen Square, the Forbidden City (which is the ancient palace of the emperor and has over 8000 buildings), Jing Shan (which is a park with a mountain peak which overlooks the Forbidden City), and that evening we went to the Olympic Stadium.

 

Yesterday we spent the day at the Summer Palace. The Summer Palace is a huge sprawl of land surrounding a lake with many gorgeous buildings, a temple, and many gardens.

Today we toured the Temple of Heaven. Many of the temples are surrounded by parks which are patroned by many old people. The Temple of Heaven had whole sidewalks full of old people playing hackysack, women knitting, men playing chess, people dancing, singing in a choir format, and doing taiji.

We also went on an adventure to find the Muslim section of Beijing and managed to find the oldest mosque in China which I think dated back to the 13th century. (I promise I’m getting on that religion post).

Tomorrow we will get up much earlier to go to the Great Wall. I will end China with one of the world’s most renowned monuments. Thursday I will grab some of my last delicious Chinese food, spend the rest of my money, and get ready for my 15 hour journey (MUCH SHORTER THAN THE WAY HERE) home to Kentucky.

 

Advertisements

A Needle and Thread

I’ve spent a significant amount of time in the train station recently. Monday we had planned on booking our two train tickets: one to Xi’an and one to Beijing, for our final week of travelling. After quite a while in line and some frustrating conversation only in Chinese we found out that we could only book two days in advance.

Wednesday we went back to book our Friday tickets. We were set again with passports, money, and the train we wanted. Finally we got up to the desk only to find out that the train we wanted was standing room only. We managed to work out getting 5 sleepers on an earlier train. The train was at 4:50 and we would take our final exam, go to the completion ceremony at 1:30, check out of our dorms and be on our way.

The only trouble which remained was the fact that we were still going to have to wait to book our train ticket to Beijing. Last night we had decided to go to the station between the exam and the ceremony to buy our tickets, then would come back, check out of our dorms and then go back in the afternoon for our late afternoon 19 hour train to Xi’an.

What we found out is that many people buy up all the tickets and resell them at astronomical prices. By this time we had been looking into a flight. This morning we began the process of booking a domestic flight. (Which is difficult to do because we don’t have a Chinese credit card).

With everything in process we packed up the remaining items we had, bought a deck of cards for our long day and night of travel, and headed off to the station to get to Xi’an.

I brought only carry-on with me: one suitcase that doubles as a suitcase and an extra bag for my computer and a few books. Over the course of the month I’ve accumulated some extra stuff, some of which I managed to throw out: a pair of flip flops (covered in the dirt of 2 foreign countries, the beach, Disney world, and Colorado), two towels, an umbrella, my scary mug which cost $.47 and has weird bunnies on it, and the remaining disposable chopsticks. I’ve accumulated 2 additional pairs of shoes, 2 Shanghai University polos, a mug for souvinier purposes, an extra textbook, some movies (yay for movies that were filmed in the theater and cost $.16 with bad English subtitles), a traditional Qi Pao (dress), 什么的。 My luggage is now quite heavy.

We went through security and I was fumbling with so many heavy straps on my bags that I managed to bust the string to my wallet sized purse from Guatemala (that I stole back from my sister and everyone says it looks like Yunan province) which carries all my important documents and money. I was trying to mess with it as we walked through the station looking for our terminal. Christy began asking and asking.

Finally we step up to one counter and find out that the reason we can’t find our terminal is because it is now 3pm and our train left at 14:50… or 2:50pm not 4:50 like the lady at the desk had told us a few days prior. We were all shocked that none of us had noticed the time on the ticket. I’m not surprised at myself. The ticket said the date in Chinese followed by the time of the train which just looked like 1450开。

We stood near the wall and dumped all our luggage on the ground and began discussing our options. Suddenly we had no way to Xi’an, no place to go, and everyone was a little shocked and stressed. I felt very removed from the situation. Luckily Valerie took action by calling Luo Laoshi, our beloved program director and practically mother. We are so thankful for everything she has done for us during the course of this trip.

The rest of us sat down on the floor and just started praying that God would keep us safe and together and work everything out. This trip to Xi’an was so much trouble.

Christy and Valerie took action and left Jamie, James, and I with all the luggage while they went back to the station to figure out what could be done. I think all with Luo still on the phone. Wednesday my experience at the train station had me extremely upset and that’s when we thought we had the tickets. This time I felt very little, I was really only still worried about the small problem of my tiny purse strap.

I walked off into some shops and asked quite a few shopkeepers for a needle and thread. This morning during the test I couldn’t remember some very simple words, but yet I was able to communicate exactly what I needed for this obscure task. Finally having bought some needles and thread for 5 kuai, I went back to the guys and our luggage and began sewing the strap back on in the middle of the station.

Amazingly we were able to get almost all of our money refunded. Still at a loss for what to do or where to go, I was sure that we could go back to Yanchang and to the dorms, there we would be able to talk to Luo laoshi, use the computers in the lobby, and most-likely have a place to stay.

We made our sweaty subway ride (those things are PACKED with people) back to the stop and then walked a block back to campus. The whole time I was concerned about the fact that all of my stuff was so perfectly packed and that I’d thrown away my extra towel and to use the one I had would mean dirty laundry, but that I really wanted a shower.

Thankfully by the time I got back Christy and Valerie had already been working with Luo laoshi. We were able to cancel our reservations in Xi’an and our plane from Xi’an to Beijing had fallen through any. After much conversation and deliberating we bought plane tickets directly to Beijing, from where I will leave on the 15th to come back home.

Just so you know, I am doing laundry–again. I did it yesterday as well. Now EVERYTHING is clean. I’m waiting for it to finish drying. I also got my shower.

I’ve learned two things today: 1. God protects us. I’m not really sure why Xi’an didn’t work out but he miraculously is getting everything figured out for us to get to Beijing. It has not been without stress but despite the trouble, I know I can trust him.
2. When I’m faced with an overwhelming amount of stress in a situation I can remain calm about that because I will most-likely be pre-occupied with some much smaller detail. Such as my laundry or needing a needle.

Possibly re-thinking my desire to be on the amazing race… still. All these experiences are for some purpose 😉

Until The Whole World Hears

While China is widely considered nonreligious I have actually seen a lot of religion being practiced in Shanghai. I’m savoring a lot of those experiences until after I visit the Muslim quarter in Xi’an next weekend. So be expecting a more detailed post about religion in China. The last two days I’ve visited a Jewish museum, a Buddhist temple, and an global Christian Church.

Attending Church in China was one of my goals for this trip. I’ve spent my whole life hearing about ministry, mission work, and the church in China: everything from the Lottie Moon Christmas offering through the International Missions Board to Gladys Aylward’s ministry to orphans during the second Sino-Japanese war. My first Chinese teacher was a woman from my church who had become a believer when she first came to the United States with her husband.

My second Sunday in Shanghai I went with Christy and we met a Chinese lady at the subway stop. With her we traveled a few stops down and then walked a few streets and arrived at some apartment complexes. On a 7th floor apartment Christy and I worshiped with 2 American businessmen and 15-20 Chinese. The teachings were in Chinese of course. Luckily one lady translated some of it for us. Learning about Babylon and the exile in Chinese is not an easy task (thank God for the Chinese app on my iPhone). We sang traditional hymns in Chinese and listened to a visiting pastor from Hong Kong.

There is something really inspiring about walking into a room full of people who are dedicated to the same thing you are. I hope everyone has had this experience. There is something really incredible about walking into a church because when you enter a true sanctuary it does not matter if the building has a roof, if there are people flooding out the doors, if you watch the pastor on a screen from another room or campus, or a community center in the tall mountains of Bogota, if you’re sitting around a campfire, on the floor of a conference room filled with teenagers, the balcony of a cathedral in New York City, pus, if you’re in a 7th story apartment in Shanghai, or a Chinese church building in Pudong. A place of worship is found in the people and Christ offered a family, a home, and a meaning which was eternal. When people are dedicated to God that is a very true thing.

After about 3 weeks in Shanghai I’ve become familiar with the subway stations, a bit more familiar with the language, and more confident with my ability to navigate a large city. Before I left for Shanghai Pastor Jim Miller and his lovely wife Audrey, gave me contact for her brother and his wife who started a church here in Shanghai. I managed to locate the church which is quite a ways off one of the subway lines in Pudong (across the river). I began to get really excited about going to church this Sunday. I spent about 2 days listening to Air1 and singing at the top of my lungs. I knew this church would feel like home.

I took the Subway from the Jewish historic streets and got off on 云山路。 I began following my walking directions and quickly realized I wasn’t quite sure where I was. There was a mother and daughter who seemed to be staring at me for an unnecessarily long time, so I asked them where Hong Feng Lu was, I tried to clarify their directions and then I continue walking. About one block later I asked some auto repair men for directions, when they didn’t know they took me inside their store and I finally one person had heard of the road. He directed me towards the same direction. I wasn’t sure how far to follow the road so I ask 2 or 3 more times. By this time I was really deep in prayer that God would have me there by 3pm.

Just when it seemed no cab was coming, I managed to flag a taxi Chinese style (without any “hei cabs” the people who aren’t really taxi drivers who often offer rides). I arrived at Abundant Grace at exactly 3pm.

I walked into a gorgeous building with stained glass and a red cross at the front (I found out later is actually owned by the Chinese government and the church rents the building). I had my passport handy, I had no idea if the admittance into the church would be hinge upon my proof of being foreign (technically you are supposed to be foreign to take part in the church because it is run by non-Chinese).

I was surrounded by Chinese, Americans, Australians, Africans, Malaysians, and I’m sure others all worshiping the same God. It was the first time I felt at home here in Shanghai. The Church’s tagline was “Do what Jesus is doing: each of us, every day, everywhere.” Matthew 18:20 says that when two or more are present in Jesus’ name then he is there with us.

When people all have the purpose to worship God their hearts are in line with his heart, so when you meet them you can know very little about them but you immediately recognize their same hope, passion, compassion, struggles, and humility for Jesus. We all have identified ourselves in the same way: as sons and daughters of God the Father. We all recognize the same savior: Jesus, the son, our husband and kinsmen redeemer. We’re all dressed in the same clothes–the same spirit, we all match because we’re all wearing the Holy Spirit and adorned with the heart of worship. We all have the same intercessor, The Spirit. We all have the same High Priest. We all have the same Daddy.

I’m so touched by being part of the family of God. I’m so blessed to be part of the church. That I can feel at home because I worship the same God and my God is in the Appalachian mountains (my “hilly billy roots as Mamaw said”), he’s in Lexington, he’s in Bogota, he’s in Shanghai. And the Spirit of God will dwell in the hearts of anyone who is willing to let him in. The Spirit of God feels a lot like hope, a lot like joy, a lot like peace, a lot like passion…

It’s the passion that makes me sing and dance, it’s like a rush of excitement, like tears and shouts for joy, like a burst of something I can’t explain, like my voice will never be able to project loud enough or strong enough to express what I mean.

I had a short conversation with a Chinese girl I had dinner with last week. She asked about religion in America, she said she saw people in movies going to church and singing and it looked like so much fun. I told her it was. I told her I went to church every Sunday and sang because I love God so much and I love to sing about everything he has done.

And I’ll say I love praising God in churches with no roofs so everyone can hear, I love praising God from 7th story apartments with open windows so everyone can hear, I love praising God in crowded cities so everyone one can hear, I love praising God on Sunday mornings, and listening to the Christian radio stations, and when I’m surrounded by all these other kids he’s adopted…. ADOPTED  as his own kids. I was a slave and he set me free! I was a sinner and Jesus picked me as his bride. I was DEAD and he brought me back to LIFE! This is for real! And I am willing to sing it not just in church, but as the rhythm of my step as I walk down the street. I’m willing to see it in every smile. It’s the hope, it’s the peace, it’s the passion and the joy.

And I will sing until the whole world hears. There is something amazing about realizing how big God is, that it’s so much more than your home church, he is working all over the world, and to experience God in another culture, another language, another way of doing church is incredible. It must have been Brother Andrew’s obsession with attending churches where ever he was, despite the strict laws in place behind the iron curtain. It’s edgy, it’s real, and it’s so much bigger than us. The more I travel, the more people I meet, the more places I see, the more I realize how glorious God is, the more I realize I just can’t fathom how glorious God is.

Place your heart in the hands of the Father, let him clothe you in righteousness and the Holy Spirit, let Jesus put mud on your blind eyes and then wipe it back off. He’s still wiping off my eyes to see all the gifts of our Daddy. What it really means to be part of a family, part of the international GLOBAL church. People are looking for that Utopia, the global village… that’s God’s plan too. To reach the NATIONS. To reach us. In our everyday lives. It seems whenever I’m having a really hard time God sends along a small child who smiles at me… I have to smile back… it’s like a smile from him. Butterflies are like his kisses.

In Chinese the word for soul mate means someone who plays the music of your soul. I want to play the music of his soul… his spirit. I want my heart to feel what his heart feels. I want to hold his hand and walk through life in the Spirit. In fact, I really like the Beatles song “I wanna hold your hand.” I like to sing it to God. Sometimes when I’m scared, I feel the presence of God come around me, I feel him hold my hand.

The passion of Christ was for us. We must have passion for each other… and for him. He is my passion. He is my obsession. He’s my everything. My heart will sing no other name: Jesus. Jesus. Jesus.

请问– I Never Thought I’d Need a Compass

With the exception of a few afternoons most everyday had a legitimate plan of some sort: classes, trips, touring . . . etc. In fact, the first few weeks were so jammed with stuff to do that I didn’t hardly write about my days. Yesterday I faced a free weekend looming over me. It’s a little overwhelming to look at two days with no plans in a city at least double the size of NYC. Some people enjoy exploring the city themselves. Even though I can get around pretty well, I dislike being by myself. The first things I do when I come into my dorm room are turn on all the lights, open the window, turn on the TV and music, then and then re-connect the internet and VPN on my phone and computer. The VPN allows me to use facebook, twitter, youtube, and other websites which are blocked by the government  (including netflix which only works in the US, which I also often turn on, though it takes quite a long time to play anything)

Looking at the logistics of buying train tickets, booking hostels, studying for a final exam, and packing up for a final week of travel plus the free weekend was beginning to feel like more than I could handle. This morning I slept in a bit and then watched some TV. By 10am Valerie and I had decided on going to LongHua Temple off the end of Line 3 on the subway.

I grabbed a little extra money in-case we got lost and needed a cab ride home and we set off to the Yanchang station. Two stops later we were in the Railway Station trying to transfer lines. Both very confused we went to the service desk.  I had exactly the words I needed to say to explain how we were coming from Yanchang and needed to get to line 3 and that we had already paid the fare. Apparently everyone but us knew how the transfer worked and it wasn’t a big deal. She scanned our cards and let us through.

Our destination was quite a few stops away and not in the main area of the city so when we got off the subway and grabbed some drinks a local store the ladies were very fascinated with us. They asked how long we were here for, where we were from, how old we were, I was quite happy to practice my Chinese with them, and they were amused at us.

Our directions told us to get off the Subway, exit out gate 1 and then walk east for 15 minutes. I never knew I’d use that compass app on my iPhone. I will say my Chinese character apps have been priceless.

The Temple was gorgeous.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Afterwards we stumbled across a memorial for martyrs and explored a history museum for quite a while, trying to recall information from Chinese 331 history and culture class from the Spring semester.

As we were leaving Valerie went into the restroom and I stood waiting by the door. One of the curators or guards asked me to sit down, she talked to me in rapid Chinese but I was pleased to find that I understood almost everything she was telling me.

After a while we bought some food at a street vendor. It may have been a little sketchy, but my steamed dumplings were delicious and the people were so pleased to have us come, we even came back again for seconds.

From the time we left the South Gate and the graduates asked for our picture to the subway home we were surrounded by lots of friendly Chinese who were fascinated and amused by us.

Language learning and entering a new culture has a lot of ups and downs. Today was an up, and I hope that I can continue to use as much Chinese in my final 13 days here. I feel like today was quite an accomplishment on a lot of levels and if I can feel that way about the rest of my time here I’ll be very happy when I get home to Kentucky. I’m so thankful that Jesus gets me through days I expect to be impossible.

He makes everything possible.

 

Anything For a Free T-Shirt

A few of us have recently been talking about how we’d like Shanghai U tee-shirts. I’m not sure what went down but around Wednesday Luo Laoshi tells us there is a sporting event with participating Shanghai U students, if we go we can get free tees.

I like to have a plan in the afternoons. A lack of plan leaves me sitting in my room, and when I’m in my room I generally get lonely and stressed. An afternoon with my 同学们 (classmates) in the sun, doing a little homework, getting some free tees, and observing some games (“such as tug-o-war”) would be a lot of fun.

Myself, Andrew, James, Christy, Valerie, Anne-Marie, Josh and 4 students from Madagascar met in the lobby to take the bus from campus. When we arrived in the dorm lobby, we were handed pale blue polos. They really aren’t bad, but we all looked at each other a little strangely. T-shirts and polos 不一样。 They aren’t the same.

I’m decked out in my sunglasses and bug-repellent (which I bought from a near by hole-in-the-wall store. It came in a green glass bottle with lots of Chinese writing. The little Chinese woman came over to me pointing to the bottle and then smacking her arm, I nodded. That’s what I wanted). We squeezed into a small van and headed off to see this game day.

We arrive at a building with some modern architecture and fountains and flowers outside. Walking in we see a chandelier spanning two stories. We’re lead to the second story of the building which is lined with wall-to-wall red carpet and video games in every corner.

This “sporting event” is a video game extravaganza? We all wonder. There is a stage up front and China Unicom (those supporting the event) were doing mic checks and trying to make their screen work so they could like their fake Olympic torch. By this time it’s about 2:45pm. The event will start at 4pm. We wander around the room for a while. At 4ish they put us in lines, none of us understands why. After 15 or so minutes of nothing people begin to get restless. It happens 3 more times in the span of an hour. Finally a couple long speeches take place.

I finally translate the words on the power point slide which reads something like “China Unicom’s first virtual movement sporting games.”

Somewhere in the midst of all this we realize, It was not Shanghai University hoping to get the International students support at intermural sports with other students, but China Unicom needing the presence of some foreigners for their poor promotional day.

It was an experience.

In other news Valerie and I came across some more cheap DVDs, so we bought the “Three Musketeers” to watch tonight for 5 Yuan ($.79). The movie was filmed in the theater and the sound quality was poor, so we turned on the subtitles. “All for one and one for all” became “One mind! one Mind!” Some subtitles were poorly worded, others were completely jank and had absolutely no bearing on actual occurrences. It was HILARIOUS. Especially when we notice, half-way through, that there is a girl in the middle of the theater wearing a tiara.

Classy.

This whole day was full of jip and a general consesus of “为什么!?”

That said I met some awesome girls from Sydney today, sounds like a nice place to live someday.

First I think I’ll just make it back home from China. My hard seat for the trains to Xi’an and Beijing are sounding less and less appealing all the time as I feel tiredness take me over. It’s only 9:30pm and I’m going to try to stay awake for a few more hours, I would prefer not to be up at 6am. 6am is a depressing time to be up, because I’m usually tired, homesick, and awake when no one else is. I have regretably finished the Hunger Games, and I’m tempted to read it again. If I find it on DVD I’m totally buying it. This DVD stuff can be really rewarding or just plain hilarious.

I’m pretty sure if you have the right attitude, you realize, at the very least, it makes a good blog post.

Happy mid-morning to all of you in the U.S. I’ll be home in 2 weeks… not that I’ve been counting =)