Sunday, August 31, 2008

Butterfinger and Bike Birthday

Katie's birthday was August 18th, but Victoria thought it'd be nice to have a late birthday party here in Mengzi.

Dave, another American teacher here at Hong He University, made an amazing Butterfinger cheesecake since it's Katie's family tradition to have cheesecake for birthdays and since cheesecake in China is always a special treat. He made the Butterfinger crumbs on top in the shape of a basketball for Katie.
So delicious!
For part of my birthday present to Katie, I got her a few bike accessories since we plan on buying bikes soon to get around in Mengzi. I got Katie a bugle horn (so much louder than the Chinese bike bells, which will be useful for not getting run over!), a bottle holder that can attach to her bike, and a personalized KATIE license plate (from Indiana! Ha . . .). The Rices kept my "Bike-It-Right" theme going and got Katie a gel-cushioned bike seat, spoke lights, cards and clothespins to clip on her wheels, and a heavy-duty bike lock. Now she's just missing the actual bike!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Thank you from China Mobile

Last week, I went to China Mobile to change my cell phone plan so that my number would be a local number for this area, rather than being based in Yichang. You know how confusing cell phone plans are to begin with? . . . try figuring all of that out in a second language and through translators! But I did come away with a new service plan and a new number (you have to change your number when you move which I think is ridiculous. It's still the same company, China Mobile, why can't you keep your number?). I also came away with free "thank-you-for-changing-your-service-plan" gifts. I received a plastic basin, a toothbrush, a tube of toothpaste, a bar of soap, and a China Mobile mug. Why those things, I'm not sure. But I guess they're useful and promote personal hygiene . . . and I did need more coffee mugs (see previous post).

Friday, August 29, 2008

Life is (not so) Good

Sadly, when I unpacked a box of kitchen stuff that Katie and I had shipped down from Yichang, this was the condition of my favorite coffee mug. I thought we did a good job packing our dishes, but I guess they couldn't withstand being thrown around by EMS, the mailing service we used. Katie and I lost about half of our dishes, but they weren't that valuable and can be replaced. It was random and odd which dishes survived and which dishes were reduced to shards of glass. Four other glass coffee mugs survived the move without a scratch. We lost the crock pot, but the coffeepot made it. All the large plates were intact but the cereal bowls were smashed. I will miss that coffee mug. Life is good when you have coffee, but it's not quite as good if it's not in the right mug.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

我的家 My House!

Let me give you the tour . . .

It's basically just two rooms, one room being the kitchen/dining room/living room and then a bedroom with an attached bathroom. I have a massive king-size bed, two TVs (for one person!), a balcony, nice carpet in the bedroom (rare in China), Western-style bathroom with an enclosed shower (also rare in China), huge windows with a pretty view of the mountains, a relatively comfortable, new, good-looking sofa and chair, a desk, plenty of endtables/coffee tables. Thanks to Brian, I also have a refrigerator and a washing machine (although we're still figuring out how to hook up the washing machine)

I'm still getting unpacked and organized so hopefully as time goes by there will be more decorations and "homeyness." And, as always, it's hard to get an adequate view of a house in a photos, but I tried. The kitchen is still a bit lacking, but I think it will come together soon although it will always be small. But it's just me, so I can handle that.

Technically the building I live in is part of a hotel. We have a key-card that we scan rather than an actually key (Nice if you lock yourself out, as I already have. You just go to the front desk in the adjacent building and they come let you in). The apartment, especially the bedroom, feels a bit "hotel room-ish" still. Hopefully when I rearrange some furniture and get more of my stuff set out then it will feel more like a home.

I'm actually really enjoying living on my own for the first time in my life. Katie lives right across the hall with an almost identical apartment so we can each have our own place but still be right next to each other. After a lot of wondering about housing, I'm really thankful to have such a nice apartment.

If only Mengzi had an Ikea . . .

Welcome Home

I'm so excited about living near and working with Brian and Victoria Rice and their family. The Rices really are family to me. We're going to have so many good times here in Mengzi.

When Katie and I arrived last Friday night (well, technically Saturday morning since it was almost 1:00 a.m.), we were each greeted by a supply of food, a huge bouquet of flowers, and a sweet note compliments of Victoria to say "Welcome Home." Victoria's thoughtfulness means so much. I've been making good use of the instant noodles, bread, peanut butter and jelly, instant coffee, oreos, and fruit she had waiting for me and now that the flowers have opened they smell amazing and look beautiful!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

I Fought the Roach and the Roach Won

So last night I found a HUGE roach in the bathroom perched on top my hairspray bottle (sorry, no photos, I was too grossed out to think of the camera). For all of the roaches that Katie and I exterminated in Yichang, you'd think I'd be a little more used to them. But, the nasty creatures still gross me out and this was my first solo roach battle. Last night's roach was way too big for my cool new Super Swat Fly Swatter that I brought with me. For lack of any Raid, I decided to first spray it with glass cleaner to either A) kill it with chemicals or B) make it move to a place where I could whack it with my tennis shoe. The glass cleaner made it run around on the counter and then move to door frame where I gathered all of my courage and attempted to hit it with the shoe. Well, I hit it but didn't kill it and it darted away under my newly acquired washing machine. We had to call a truce at that point. I wonder if the glass cleaner finally got to it or if it's stealthily waiting to spring out at me tonight.

So will there be more or less roaches in Mengzi than in Yichang?

Must remember to buy Raid . . .

First Day of Class

I have my first class today at Hong He University. I'm teaching Introduction to British Literature to junior English majors once a week on Wednesdays. I'm rather excited about it. It will be more of a challenge on my part but a nice change from the typical oral English/speech classes I have been teaching. The class is a very brief survey that starts with Chaucer and finishes with a few 20th century writers. Basically the idea is just to familiarize the students with the major British writers and their most important works. Brian Rice taught this class before so he'll be a help and a good resource whenever I need it.

I also have 5 classes of freshmen Oral English (also English majors); however, the freshmen students have to complete two weeks of military training (this is standard in every university in China) before their classes start. I won't see those freshmen students until sometime after September 12th. This works out nicely for me because this week and next, I'll just have the Brit. Lit. class, leaving me pleanty of time to get my lessons planned and organized, as well as time to get moved in and settled, before having a full schedule.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Olympic Experience

Katie and I landed in Beijing last Thursday afternoon. Our flight to Kunming didn't leave until Friday morning so we decided it was worth it to venture out to see if we could catch a glimpse of the Olympic excitement. We took one of the new subway lines and then walked as far as we could towards the Bird's Nest, Water Cube, and Olympic Green area. It was slightly rainy, there were big crowds milling about, and jet lag was setting in. We didn't see any events and we didn't get to run into Michael Phelps (as Katie was hoping), but it was cool to see the burning torch and to hear the cheers coming out of the stadiums.

I was in China in 2001 when they made the announcement that Beijing would host the 2008 Olympics. After that, whenever I visited Beijing, I would see the Olympic countdown signs. After seeing the number of days in the hundreds and even thousands, it was amazing to see it down to zero.

I've decided my Olympic experience was quite complete. I got to see most of the coverage including the Opening ceremonies in English in America. I made great use of dad and mom's DirectTV to record the events and skip over commercials. I got to see most of my favorite events. I cheered for and against China (by the way, I think the final medal tally was a good compromise . . . China with the most golds gains face and pride, America maintains its reputation with the most medals). I got to see the buildings in person but didn't have to pay anything or wait in line. And I watched the closing ceremony in China.

And now we wait to see what's next in China . . .

Oh and a new photo for this post . . . we saw a family on the subway on the way to the Bird's Nest. Their son who was about four or five, had the Olympic running man logo shaved into his head! It's a little hard to see in the photo because the subway was so crowded it was impossible to get a good pictures, but I think it's so crazy how crazy Chinese people were about the Olympics!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

First Post from Mengzi

I don't have time to write much, but I made it to Mengzi, my new city. After being told that the school was going to have us live in a hotel room for the whole year (which didn't go over well), Katie and I put our international diplomatic skills (and a lot prayer) to work and were able to get the school to move us into new apartments. It will take a while to get unpacked, moved in, organized, and completely settled, but at least I have a place to settle in to. The apartment still needs kitchen equipment and a washing machine, but we've been told those things are on the way. This afternoon, we should get some information about our classes and the curriculum since classes are supposed to start . . . um yeah, tomorrow. Getting to see Brian and Victoria and the kids was great and they had a supply of food and a beautiful bouquet of pink lilies greeting us in our rooms. Since I am now the proud owner of a new camera (thanks Grandpa and Grandma), I'll try to post pictures as soon as I can. Thanks for all the thoughts and prayers as I traveled. It was a long trip and we did have a slight fender-bender in the van on the way to Mengzi, but we were all safe and my luggage arrived with me and in tact.

More to come from Mengzi . . .

Monday, August 18, 2008


I know God's word says that God will do "exceeding, abundantly above all that we ask or think" but when you see that verse fulfilled in your own life it's amazing. God has abundantly provided for me this week, more than I ever asked for or thought possible. I'm humbled, grateful, refocused on the responsible that comes when people entrust you with their support, and more confident that exciting things are to come.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Blogging in Brief

So, I haven't been blogging. For some reason my blog motivation and creativity decreases on this side of the world. In an attempt to catch up before the packing insanity starts, here's the last few weeks condensed (but not necessarily consecutive). In the words of Sergeant Joe Friday it's "just the facts . . . ma'am."

~Babysat the dogs while Mom and Dad went to Baltimore for their 30th anniversary trip.
~Took the dogs on a road trip and visited my grandparents in northern Indiana.
~Had a China reunion with Marty and Selena Pagano, Carma, and Katie and Shawn and Kim Swingle
~Drove to Gallesburg, IL to see Katie and her family and visit her church
~Went to Cedar Point in Sandusky, OH with my cousins
~Made an impromptu trip to Madison, IN to see two of my childhood friends
~Went back up to northern Indiana to see grandparents and relatives
~Took a train (my first in the US) to Detroit to see my sister and John and their new house
~Met up with my high school friend Lakisha and went to a wedding of another high school friend
~Spent some time helping mom organize old family photos
~Shot my .32 pistol (a college graduation present) with my dad
~Did a short China presentation at a business owned by a man in our church
~Took a field trip with mom to the new, state of the art downtown branch of the Indianapolis library (that library is amazing, but I am still loyal to my Coatesville library!)
~Did some cleaning projects for mom
~Watched most of the Olympics while multi-tasking on the computer . . . yeah for wireless! (more Olympic thoughts to come)
~Hung out with my grandparents at our house
~Met up with the whole McGunnigal family while they were on their way to OH

As always, time flies at home. I leave next Wednesday. Let the packing begin . . .