Once again this year, we were refreshed and inspired by the performers. Our young friends may suffer from various disabilities, but they are all very gifted. We saw dance, heard beautiful music and celebrated with these precious teenagers. They all received gold medals. The following photos only give a glimpse, but even a glimpse encourages us to fly higher.
Warning: this post is random. People ask us about our daily life here and it's hard to explain. Parts of this city are more developed and polished than you could imagine, and then right next door, it's very clearly not. Here's a glimpse of some of our regular activities around our city of 7+ million people.
Let's start with shopping. Ten years ago when Kevin and I taught at a college in Changchun, we were the star attractions when shopping or walking down the road. Now, people hardly notice us because they are only focused on our kids. They are fair-skinned, blue-eyed and always mistaken for twins. They've had their pictures taken with strangers 174,000 times. Approximately. Here we are shopping at Wal-Mart:
Here's a shot of the Christmas decor section at Wal-Mart:
In October, there was much smaller display of Halloween masks and children's costumes. I don't remember seeing that at all last year. Decorating for all Western holidays is definitely increasing. Many shops and restaurants will have Christmas trees or wreathes displayed. There is a fancy four-story shopping mall close to Kevin's office. We had lunch there on Thanksgiving, and I noticed Haagen-Dazs was beautifully decorated for Christmas.
But the funny thing was right next to it, in the middle of the mall's main walkway, was this enormous Halloween display (still there more than a week into December).
In another shopping mall near our home, a Charlie Brown Cafe opened this year. We visited it a few months ago with two volunteers from our Saturday English classes. I had fun getting to know these girls as they translated for me in the adult class for several months.
Speaking of coffee, another friend of ours opened her own small "Book Cafe" for people who enjoy coffee, books and wifi in a cozy environment. She lives in an apartment on the cafe's second floor.
I've been meaning to explain for ages how we pay bills here in China. Bills are never received or paid by mail. Phone, cable and internet are paid upfront on a pay-as-you go system. Every month or two, we add money to our cell phone number by going to one of many China Mobile shops. (Anyone can add money to any phone number, so it can be a fun way to anonymously bless someone with unexpected money on their phone.) Every six months, we bring our cable box's sim card to the telecom office and reload it. Every two months, our electric bill (along with the electric bills of all of our neighbors) are pasted on the downstairs door of our apartment building. We detach it from the metal door, and take it in person to pay the balance.
For water and gas, a worker comes to our home to check the meter, and then we pay in cash on the spot and are given a receipt. This usually happens between 6 and 8 pm, about every two months. We pay our landlord six months of rent at a time - all in cash. We pay preschool tuition on the first day of the month with all the parents waiting in line either at drop-off or pick-up to pay the cashier. Our Chinese friends have bank accounts and debit cards, but credit cards are rare and personal checks don't seem to exist.
Let me know if there are other aspects of Chinese culture you'd like to see or know more about.
Six months ago, Molly and Hudson had pictures taken at their preschool and we were all surprised by the experience: lots of poses, props, backgrounds and outfit changes. They loved it! We switched to a different Chinese preschool in August, and by Halloween, the new school had pictures taken so the kiddos got to do it all over again.
In October, we traveled to a small town near the Russian and Mongolian borders for our medical clinic. The area is very poor.
We weren't surprised by the dogs that would eat from the scattered trash, but we were taken aback by the numerous cows that would do the same thing.
The doctors saw more than 400 patients.
It was so great to visit with several of the families that I met last month. I was able to give them photos that had been taken earlier. This woman was particularly overjoyed because her husband had never had a photo taken of him before. (You can see the two photos I gave her by looking in a previous September blog post.)
I was glad to be able to see this family as well. The man is the one who was so deeply moved by my handshake last month -- that I would be willing to respect him as an equal. It is very sad that there is such a social barrier between economic classes here, but I'm glad that we could begin forming a bridge.
The crowds kept growing as TV coverage increased. Wherever we went, people would mention seeing us on TV. The coverage continued after we left.
This is my good friend Dion who translated for me (the young man, not the donkey :)
Dion and I are standing in the town square.
I enjoyed being able to build a friendship with the hospital president.
Here, Cathy is displaying her chopstick skills in front of Sam, Dorothy and John.
Dion and me again. Although I prefer using a fork, I'm so glad that I can use chopsticks. Before I was healed from MS, I never thought I'd be able to use chopsticks again.
Wherever we went, people were eager to befriend us. This is at an upscale market.
It was a joy to be able to distribute wheelchairs. For me, passing out wheelchairs is way more fun than a trip to Disneyland.
This woman recently had a stroke, paralyzing part of her body. She and her daughter were so happy for the wheelchair. Now she can get out of the apartment.
This family lost their home in the heavy rains last August. We were happy to help out with rent in their temporary home. It isn't much, but at least they can pay for rent through the winter.
This is not the whole group (some doctors were still with patients), but the photo gives a good idea of the team.
A few of our volunteers: James, Angela and Yvonne.
Yvonne and Sheen
Every day and each night, a group of us would pray and sing.
Here, we are prayer walking towards the temple, asking the Lord to awaken the dawn. Psalm 108.