Monday, December 12, 2011


Every week or so, I invariably get cornered by a group of students as I'm leaving my classroom or walking across campus and the conversation typically goes something like this:

"Hi, Simiiiii!!!"

"Hiiiiii . . . [Oh, no. I don't remember any of their names. A little help from above, please]."

"Where are you going?"

"I'm going to my house!" *Big Smile!*

"Do you want to go to KTV?"

"Er . . . sure. I'd love to go sometime"

"Okay, let's go!"



And I'm whisked away, arms linked with girls whose names I don't remember (have I even met them?). And it's always a blast :)

KTV is a phenomenon you have to experience before you die. KTV is karaoke on steroids (to borrow a term used often by my SV friends). Imagine a building about the size of a motel, gilded on the outside with Vegas-style lights (or just Christmas lights for the more modest ones). You walk through ornate doorways into a palatial lobby and as you approach the front desk with your crew, strains of "P-p-p-p-oker Face" and "Baby" filter into your ears. You choose from among a selection of "packages." Two hours with snacks and drinks. Two hours, no snacks. Four hours with two rounds of snacks and drinks. Twelve hours.

As you're guided through corridors to your private music room, you hear eager, "home-made" renditions of songs you know and love (or used to love :P), as well as songs you've never heard, all belted-out with gusto. Finally, you arrive at your room and it's fitted with a cushioned wrap-around sofa, a large TV screen, a high-tech karaoke machine, microphones . . . and tambourines. Let the singing begin!

I'm Alive! An Overview of the Past Few Months

I did not intend to be gone this long.

There's a lot to fill you in on, but I'll only touch on the highlights and I'll give it to you in phases so you're not overwhelmed.

I must begin with an apology for my failure to keep my blog updated. Sometime in mid-September, the hard drive in my laptop crashed and I basically lost contact with the world outside China for the next month or so. Perhaps, it was what I needed to make sure I dived into the culture here right away, rather than seeking daily support from friends and family hundreds of miles away.

And it worked! I formed friendships right away, learned my way around (mostly just to the supermarket and the mall), and discovered how people keep themselves entertained around here.

October and November
flew like the wind, and not without their share of festivities and surprises. I built relationships with students as I attended student-organized events on campus or took up invitations to visit places of interest around the city. These were also busy months as I figured out what worked or didn't work teaching Oral English and adjusted accordingly. I'm still learning!

In November, we had the joy of celebrating Thanksgiving with some of our Chinese friends. The president of our university as well as a young couple who work in administration joined us for Thanksgiving dinner. Instead of traditional turkey, we had pork and gravy :) Our guests also added to our fare various Chinese delights (and I'm not referring to the expensive heavy liquor our president brought. Long story. Don't worry, nobody had too much to drink).

And here we are! Advent is upon us and I am reveling in the sense of expectation of the Gift to come (the Gift that already came). I'll keep you posted on how we do Christmas this year :)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Mmmm . . . Nothing Like a Hot Cup of Water on a 90-degree Summer Day

Apparently, if you order a glass of water with your meal at a restaurant in China, expect it to be piping hot with the steam still rising from the cup. That's different.

* * *

If anyone can figure out how to fit 14,000 students in one-square mile, China certainly can. This past weekend students began arriving on campus for the new school year, and it was a sight to behold. Yes, somehow, 14,000 students (minus the freshman class) arrived on our tiny campus, suitcases, blankets, and giant thermoses in hand (to carry their refreshing hot water, of course).

Classes began on Monday and when I walked into each of my classes, I was met with stares of curiosity. I don't think my students have encountered many Nigerians in their lifetime ;) I have about 250 second-year students in five classes, all business majors with dreams of making money and traveling West one day. They are eager to improve their spoken English, hungry for information about the world beyond their borders, and easy to fall in love with. Many a time this week, I have looked across my classroom and thought, "Wow! I get to spend a whole year with these students!"

I know it's only the "honeymoon" stage, as they say, but I'd like to think I'll be feeling the same way by the end of the school year :)

On the first day of each of my classes, I told my students that everyone lives for something/someone or is motivated by something/someone. "I am motivated by a desire to help people discover their purpose," I said to them.

I hope that by the end of the term, I will have nudged my students closer to discovering who they are.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Dreams and Doorways

I'm home! For a little while, at least . . .

After over 24hrs of traveling, I arrived last week in Beijing for orientation with the team of English teachers I will be working with.

During our week in Beijing, my team was advised to experience as many of the major sites and landmarks as we could, in order to gain deeper knowledge of the people among whom we will be living for the next year.


I had the joy of climbing the Great Wall in Beijing with some friends from my group. What an experience! What a picture of perseverance and creativity! Again, at the Temple of Heaven and at the Forbidden Palace, I saw beauty in proportions that reminded me how great and magnificent my Creator is.

Reaching for something bigger?

China is beautiful . . . its colors, its many textures and rich history. Its people are unique and profound in their outlook. The grandiosity of their self-expression demonstrates the depth of their soul-searching.

I noticed (randomly) at each of the sites I visited that there were many windows and doorways.

Stepping into each doorway was like stepping into a dream . . . everything looked so familiar, yet, so unreal . . . so imposing, yet so fragile. Each doorway led to even greater beauty--an "inner circle," an ornate garden, or some valuable artifact. I might well have expected to reach the end of the tour and discover the proverbial pot of gold, or the center of the earth, or some other rare thing humanity has long quested for. But it was never there.

I could not help but wonder about the thousands of people who were making their pilgrimages to these famous sites. Did they have unanswered questions? Had they discovered the Doorway that leads to life? Would they return home fulfilled, satisfied?