Sunday, February 24, 2008


We were going to go to Hong Kong for church today; I moved around a cake job just so we would be able to go. However, Andrew coughed all night and woke up sounding really bad. He certainly didn't need to be running around in Sunday School. The weather was blustery and rainy - not good ferry-ing weather. So, we decided to stay home.

Not being able to go to my Hong Kong church really hits me with the homesickies - I didn't realize just how much I enjoy and need to get there when I can. I was missing my Tennessee church community something fierce this morning and into the afternoon.

Tim was just about to head upstairs for a late shower when he turned on ESPN, just to see if by any luck at all the Vols/Memphis game would be on. Normally ESPN in China shows high-interest sports such as ping pong, badminton and the occasional soccer game. For some reason I can't begin to understand, the game was on, here in China, live! We were able to watch the exciting and highly satisfying second half, only it was noon here and midnight there. How cool is that! Apparently, the Vols are now number one in the country (that would be the U.S., not China!).

We are having a nice, quiet (except for the game) family day here and enjoying it immensely. It seems like we've been go-go-going lately. I'm between 3-5 cakes a week, and I was asked to cater a big dessert event this Tuesday, which I've been stressing about and preparing for. I think we needed some peace in our lives even if it meant not being able to worship this morning. I was able to meditate, pray and listen to some great praise music, dancing with the kids in the kitchen. Not quite the same, but a nice and needed break from our fast-paced daily life.

Tim is currently scouring the import store looking for ingredients for lasagne for tonight (lasagne is insanely expensive to make here in China and the ingredients are tough to find). I have homemade bread and pecan rolls rising in the kitchen, and Ella is napping. Peace to you.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Humble Pie

So, are you in favor of opening up the immigration process, or in favor of stricter border control? Have you ever considered emigrating to China?
What are your thoughts about living in China? Many people have told me I'm very brave to be doing this, and many have said they don't even want to visit China, much less move here. But, did you know that there are people in Asia who see China as a safe haven, the land of opportunity and the proverbial milk and honey? Sound familiar?
There are people who live in North Korea who get killed trying to get into China for a better life. There are people from the Phillippines whose big dream in life is to get to China to work, and it's not easy for them. Living conditions in the Phillippines are such that many - millions - of women leave their children and husbands to work overseas. Just so they can feed their own children, get them to school and possibly into a better life situation, they go to China or Singapore or some other country to take care of the children of those more fortunate. They leave, not knowing when they will see their families again, and faithfully send home money at every opportunity, hoping their children are healthy and going to school. The economic conditions are grim, and many families rely on farming - sharecropping, really. Farming, of course, is dependent upon the weather - this past fall, a flood swept through the Phillippines and washed out all the newly-planted crops. Most people lost everything, and the government there doesn't provide subsidies or welfare.
In North Korea, where people live in constant fear of being considered a traitor or revolutionary, living conditions aren't any better. Poverty, starvation and disease are rampant and there is no outside help from anywhere. People hope to get to China, where they can eat and possibly make a living, but they also live in continual fear that they will be found out and returned to North Korea.
In China, there are many northerners, mainly from more rural areas, who must migrate south to find work at factories, where working conditions can be quite grim. They, too, leave their children - usually with grandparents - and get on a bus to go live in a factory dorm until the following Chinese New Year. Chinese New Year is the only time during the year where people have time off to return home. The vast number of people traveling during this season are making their once-yearly (sometimes even less frequent) trip home to see their children and families they are supporting.
This Chinese New Year, a terrible storm paralyzed most of the country. Transportation systems were shut down and people were stranded in train stations, bus stations, and on the road in the middle of nowhere. Most of China could not go anywhere, much less way up north to their families. It was their only chance to go home. Most are still reeling from the storm - people living without heat or water. Homes were also destroyed in this storm. Our kids' school is taking up a collection to provide blankets, coats, warm clothes and money for the people just an hour north of here.
I've been complaining lately about the inadequate heating system we have. There are little wall units which provide cool air in summer and hot air in winter. There is no central heating or a/c in southern China. It's basically like having a little space heater in a drafty room - not very effective. I found out recently, however, that it is more common to not even have the wall units in most apartments here. People don't have any source of heat in winter (remember, nobody even has an oven here) and - even more shocking to me - no a/c in the very, very hot, humid summers.
In trying to picture China as a safe haven of opportunity for millions of others, I need to reconsider my previous opinions of it. Previously I saw it as a dirty, poverty-stricken place, and in many areas it is. But these same places are a dream come true for those even less fortunate, and there are many modern conveniences and potential for great success here.
I think it's time to re-think my priorities and concentrate on how stinkin' lucky I am. I get to live with my family and I have the luxury of warmer air in this cold winter than most, and cooler air in summer. I have great food available to me all around, and I have indoor plumbing. I can complain that the water smells like feet and sometimes comes out a little brown, or I can be thankful I have a shower every day and water to clean my dishes that I use to cook and eat the food we have in abundance. I can complain about my kids' school not teaching enough Chinese, or about my kids' behavior in certain circumstances, or I can be grateful I get to see them every day and send them to a fantastic, well-credited school. I can look the other way at the poverty and distress in the world around me, or I can look into ways to help people and make somebody else's situation a little better. I can complain about living in China, away from the things I am familiar with, or I can see it as a land of opportunity, a place where people come to fulfill their dreams.

Sorry, I can't resist

Here is one more, in front of the cathedral at Montmartre, the artists' village in Paris. We took the trip with the same people we went to Japan with last June - our very dear Hong Kong friends.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Poof! I did it again...

My favorite part about France? The Eiffel Tower? Notre Dame? The Arc de Triumph? Monmartre? The Louvre? Champs D' Elysses? Versailles? Yes, we saw them all in TWO DAYS! No, mon cherie, it was the FOOD, mais oui! Such good, good bread. Such good, good salads. Such good, good, good, good wine. Ahh, France, I shall miss you dearly now that we are in the land of mediocre bread, nonexistent salads and NOT French wine. *sigh*

But, France, what a beautiful place! What a beautiful language! What beautiful people! What a fat tourist I've become!

Did you know that Notre Dame took 167 years to build, starting in the 12th century, and some of the stained glass is original? When the Germans invaded in WWII they took apart each piece of each window, numbered them, and stored them underneath Notre Dame, then put it all back together afterward! Those French not only understand, create and cultivate beauty, they take great pains to maintain it!

Or that no matter where you stand in a room, the Mona Lisa looks like she's looking right at you! DaVinci achieved this by using many, many layers of paint and varnish to almost make it 3D. It is encased in bulletproof glass with guards on either side, and the room has its own a/c unit inside her little shrine, because she was painted on wood.

Did you know that the Eiffel Tower not only lights up at night, it also twinkles like a 4th of July sparkler for 10 minutes on the hour? It's simply mesmerizing to watch it.

And the Statue of Liberty? We all know it was a gift from the beautiful country of France. But did you know that there are more of them, one on a bridge that was a gift from the U.S., and one in a park. In college, I had a poster of John Lennon flashing the peace sign in front of the Statue of Liberty, but I knew it was not the REAL one because it wasn't that big. Well, we found the one John was in front of and Tim snapped a pic of ME giving the peace sign in front of it. Yes, after three kids and worldwide travel, I STILL want to be a rock star.
But the kids look cooler than I do...

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Gay Paree

OK, Paris is the most exciting, most beautiful, spectacular place I have ever been in, hands down.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008


The kids have off for Chinese New Year this week so we decided to check out a few places in Europe. We spent Saturday and Sunday in Amsterdam, visiting a long-lost, dear friend of Tim's. We had a lovely time. Amsterdam is such a beautiful city, architecturally - I had no idea how esthetically deprived we are living in the modern Chinese city we do! So nice to just look around and see all the beautiful buildings.

Did you know that the Dutch are TALL?? Wow, I seriously felt short walking around in Amsterdam - in Asia I feel relatively normal but not in Holland.

We went to Ann Frank's house - walked through the same bookshelf she and her family hid behind before being carted off by the Nazis. It was one of the more emotional, humbling, sad and inspiration places I've ever been. Go there and remember, because she was just one of millions.

We went to the Van Gogh museum, which was beautiful, of course. We took a canal tour on a boat, which was warm. And a bus tour of the city - we caught a small glimpse of the red light district without the kids noticing what we were looking at - I was able to avoid a few uncomfortable explanations there! We saw a lot of "coffee" shops.

Monday we took a train to Paris, and have been staying at the Disneyland Paris Hotel. Very nice, and incredibly close to the park - like a few steps from the entrance. Any other Disney park, it seems we have to walk quite a ways to get there. Here, we just head out the hotel and into the park. Cool!

It's cold and rainy and completely crowded on a Tuesday in February. Go figure!

More to come...