Monday, March 5, 2012

Home in Many Places

As many of you know, I had the opportunity to spend two weeks at home in Nigeria with my parents at the beginning of the year. In spite of a nation-wide strike and a series of protests across the country that began the day I arrived in Nigeria, my time at home was restful. As a matter of fact, not being able to get around because of a government-enforced curfew was just what I needed. I enjoyed quality time with friends who hosted me for a week (violent protests kept my parents from being able to reach me the first week I was home), then with my precious Mom and Dad. They spoiled me as if I were 6 years old again, and I did not complain. (By the way, "as if I were . . ." is proper grammar. Hearing people say "as if I was . . ." is one of my pet peeves :P Just saying).

I returned from my trip home feeling refreshed and ready to take on a new school term. Before the semester began, I and a few other teachers spent a couple of weeks visiting the homes of a few of our students who don't live too far from our city here. It was nice to be able to meet their families, eat the local, home-made cuisines, and enjoy the countryside landscape. I'll tell you all about it . . . in pictures!

Biking . . . and bumper-car-ing around the ancient wall in Jingzhou

For some reason, the object of the game became "let's attack Simi . . ."

Who Knew Noodles Came from Songzi?

Yes, that dear lady is spinning away at her noodle making machine in a shed in front of what seems to be her home . . .

Love At the Hearth
Our students families did not have much but they loved us with all that they had. Oh, that they might be satisfied with the source of unending love!
I fell in love with this precious mom of one of our students. I love her beautiful smile and her beautiful heart. She hardly ever left her spot by the coal stove the whole time we were visiting . . .
This was breakfast one morning. Every meal was this intense. I love China . . .

There is no central heating in most of southern China, and the temperatures get below freezing sometimes.

Where Does Their Help Come From?
When our student invited us to visit the most popular tourist site in his city--a temple for several deities located at the top of a mountain--I did not expect to see a mass of people making the pilgrimage uphill to pay obeisance. So many people; so many worries: unemployment, poverty, loneliness, unanswered questions, uncertainty about life . . . To whom do they turn for help?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Christmas in China

Christmas 2011 was a time for sharing old traditions and learning new ones. For the average Chinese student, Christmas is void of any religious implication. It is simply one of the many opportunities throughout the year to celebrate relationships and pay homage to materialism.

"On Christmas Eve," my students told me, "you give apples to your loved ones to symbolize your prayers for their safety and well-being." The Chinese word for apple is ping guo; for the Chinese, it is reminiscent of the word ping an, which connotes peace and safety. Christmas Eve for many of the youth in China is also a major shopping day. Stores offer huge discounts and remain open through the night, attracting droves of people. I had the opportunity to witness this for myself at Christmas.

On the 24th of December, two of our (mine and the other foreign teachers) favorite students surprised us by showing up with about 15 of their friends to make us a dumpling dinner. Dinner preparations began around 4:30pm and I joined in the assembly-line-style production, peeling, chopping, rolling, filling, folding, and on and on . . . . One thousand dumplings, eight side-dishes and four hours later, we sat down to enjoy the fruit of our labor.

Later that evening, I went with a couple of students to a nearby mall to witness this phenomenon of all-night shopping on Christmas Eve. Except I was there on special assignment :)

Free Hugs

A friend I met recently told me about how she shared the true essence of the season last Christmas and I thought I'd give it a try. The idea was simple: Stand in a public place holding up a sign that reads "Free Hugs" . . . then watch and see what happens. I decided to try out the experiment along with another teacher on my team. As the pictures and video below will show you, free hugs are welcome gifts wherever you are in the world!