Friday, September 28, 2007

Don't get excited!

But I'm starting to dislike TX weather, A LOT. When we moved down here I was so excited to get away from the MN winters. But this summer I was miserable. It's kind of weird because last summer was hotter, but this summer sucked big time. It makes me want to move home. It's almost October and it's still really hot out.

BUT I really love my church and would be so sad to leave it. Plus John has a great job, we wont find rent (utilities included) this cheap anywhere, and we're probably only going to be in the states another two or three summers.

Ok, I can deal.

We're doing well here. We might go to a Greek festival tomorrow. That would be cool.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


Sara enjoying a plate of pork dumplings.

Many people have asked us about the food. It was awesome! We took pictures of almost everything we had. Sometimes we forgot until we only had a few bites left, but we still took pictures. We had a wide variety of food, but there was almost always meat of some kind. There was almost always white rice, sometimes they were replaced with dumplings or fried rice. White rice comes in bowls for each person. Fried rice comes like the other dishes, piled up on a plate for everyone to share.

When eating out the Chinese order one dish more than the number of people at the table. So when there was four of us we'd order five dishes, plus our rice. One time we had eight or nine people at a table and we ordered like the Chinese. It was a great time to taste different dishes.

We didn't have American food until we met up with some American's on our fifth day. That day John told me he was proud of me that I never asked for McDonald's and I told him that I hadn't wanted any. The food in China is so good that it took some American's living in China to get me to eat McD's. We met them at Starbucks, then had lunch at Subway and it was so late when we finally got to their town that night that the only thing open was McDonald's.

We did end up having McD's four times on the trip, sometimes it was just because we needed something real quick. We had KFC once in our last city - they call chicken sandwiches burgers, I was a little confused. Thankfully John knew that and helped me out.

I'll show y'all some pics of our food. It looks just like the Chinese food in America, it just tastes sooooo much better!

A plate of dumplings. We also had tea, sunflower seeds, watermelon (not pictured) and a fruit a little bit like an apple, but with a pit and a little drier.

A plate of green beans in the foreground, in the background is our Kung Pow Chicken, to the left of that is a bowl of white rice and in the bottom right corner is potato strings. We also got sweet and sour pork that night. In the green beans they had the mouth numbing spice. They use it in really spicy dishes so they can eat it with out their mouths hurting too much. We tried one little pellet and it made whatever part of the mouth it touched numb. I didn't like it at all. John thought it was ok. (3 people = 4 dishes plus rice)

This was our most expensive meal in China. For both of us it cost about $50. This was our Beijing Duck meal that we shared with Philip and Doris (the Canadian couple). They brought out a whole duck that had been cooking over a fire. They first cut off the skin and we ate that, dunked in either sugar or plum sauce - both tasty. Then the cut off the meat. We put meat into little "pancakes" with some plum sauce, onions, peppers, or garlic. You roll it up and eat it like that. It was a really tasty dish. We also had some asparagus and mushrooms, some beef, and a cold dish with duck, beef, fish and asparagus and pickled radish. That was a great meal.

These were the dishes we had at a Muslim restaurant. Unfortunately I didn't like the contents in one dish and I didn't like the sauce on the other. But we did have good lamp kabobs and flat bread at that meal.

This is the meal that I thought was ok and John hated. He said it tasted like frozen breaded chicken that they fried up and threw in some sauce, poor John. He didn't even like the fried rice that night.

This is egg and tomato fried up together. This is a very common dish in China. This version of the dish was really good, but it was sweet. It's not normally like that. We had it another time and it wasn't sweet. I didn't like it as much that time.

This is our meal on a train. We bought the Oreo's and Chips Ahoy cookies beforehand and then I got the ramen noodles on the train. They are very common to see on trains.

Oh yeah - we ate at T.G.I. Friday's one day for lunch.

This meal we have (clockwise) beef on the left (bones included!) then chicken (this was really good) snap peas and bread dumplings (also really good). You can also see tea on the table. We had dessert dumplings at the meal and we also had white rice.

This was a pretty good meal. There's a plate of vegetables, I remember not liking that. We had some good dumplings and a pork dish I really liked. John had this in Tianjin when he went before and he remembered liking it. You put the pork and some onions (that are hidden by the pork in this pic) into the square pancake things, roll it up and eat it. That was very, very tasty. You can see part of John's friend Jason in this picture. They met when John was there nine years ago. We took him to T.G.I. Friday's after dinner for some dessert. We had a great brownie/ice cream dessert and Jason got to have his first brownie. He was a little confused at first, but I think he liked it.

This was a meal that I didn't like very much. We left ordering lunch up to Jason (that was a mistake), we did tell him to not get fish (good idea for us). But he still got dishes that I didn't like. I'm glad that John liked the meal. Starting in front of Jason and going clockwise: pumpkin fries, beef (with fat and bones), cold dish with noodles (tasted like bologna) and cucumbers, eggplant with shrimp. The eggplant dish was the worst for me because the skin was really chewy and hard for me to swallow. I learned that I should always make some suggestion that I like so I'm guaranteed to have something I enjoy.

We ate at McDonald's in Tianjin where John and all the guys took all the girls eight or nine years ago. This is where I learned that in China a small is still a small. It was kind of nice. I also learned I don't really like Big Mac's anymore.

We toured the Tsingtao (pronounced Ching dao) brewery and got free beer and beer peanuts in the middle of the tour. John liked the beer and nuts. I tried the beer and didn't like it (no surprise) and we kept my packet of nuts for a friend back here in the states. The end of the tour puts you into their restaurant which is their beer plus some fried fish snack things. We got more free beer there. It wasn't a weak beer and John hadn't eaten much that day. If we had a car, he would've been handing over the keys. Not that he was drunk, but he was feeling it.

This is the ice cream sundae we got. Well, it's the end of it anyway. The ice cream was on a bed of watermelon - it was strange at first, but it was pretty good. That night we went to a Chinese/Brazilian fusion restaurant. We got only Chinese food because the Brazilian food was mostly seafood on a grill. We had some really good chicken and some pretty good friend rice with pineapple. Unfortunately the fried rice also had shrimp and this shaved stuff on top that I really didn't like. But if you went around that stuff it was pretty good.

We went to a German Restaurant in Qingdao called Monnemer Eck. The food was really good and the portions were HUGE!

Well, that's the end of my food pictures. I hope you guys got nice and hungry for some good Chinese food. Unfortunately to get some good Chinese food, you'll have to go over there.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Sara's Top 10


Ok – so this is really, really long. It took a day and a half to write, it shouldn’t take that long to read. Hopefully this is the longest blog I’ll have about our trip. I do plan on writing more blogs about it though. Some blogs to look for are: food, friends, lodging, teaching, sightseeing a miscellaneous blog about what doesn’t fit into those categories, and I might publish an honorable mention blog for things that I just couldn’t fit into the top 10 but need to be mentioned. I hope this blog answers some questions you might have for me and I hope this gives you good insight into our trip.

I’m so happy to be home and with my son again. It took him a little while to adjust, but we’re definitely into our family routine again. John’s cold has gotten better and he’s no longer suffering from jet lag. I’m still trying to get over it, hopefully I can get a good night’s rest tonight (I’m writing on Friday night at 10:00pm). I’m very happy to be home, but I’m looking forward to eventually living and working in China. Continue to pray for us and our future there, that we’ll listen to God about how and when to go and that the way would be provided.

John and Sara in Tianamen square with the Forbidden City behind them.

Thursday September 20th, 2007

This is not an easy blog to write. There were so many parts of the trip that I loved. However I did come up with a top 10. This is my top 10 as of Thursday the 20th. This list is subject to change with my mood and my memory progression.

1. Teaching at the University Day 7

John and I visited some friends who live in Qinhuangdao and teach at Yanshan University. We got to talk about ourselves for about 30 minutes and then the students asked us questions. I told the students that my three priorities are John, then Malachi then myself. They seemed a little surprised that I put the two of them in front of myself. I told them that I'm a very selfish person but that I'm working on not being so. They had a pretty good grasp on English so they were easy to talk too. They asked us three questions, unfortunately I only remember two: they asked me who Malachi loves more and they asked John how it's possible to start university after not going right after high school. In China you have to go right after or you don't go at all. They were very surprised that John is 26 and still in university. They were so much fun to talk too and the reason it's my number one is because I realized that's how I'd like to spend my time in China. I've heard from our friends and others in China that university students are very curious about God and the Bible. I'm excited to be a part of their search some day.

2. Temple of Heaven Day 5

We saw a video while we were visiting a friend in Beijing. It was distributed by the Christian Broadcasting Network so there may be some bias in it. However I really felt moved by the information I found out and hope it's mostly true, I plan on doing more research into it. The video claimed that once a year when a certain Emperor ruled in China he would have a special ceremony at the Temple of Heaven. He would purify himself for a week prior to the event by fasting from food and women. He would then perform the ceremony which included asking for forgiveness of the sin of the people of China. He would make an incense offering and would sacrifice a calf that was perfect. The Emperor did this because he believed that the God of Heaven was the God above Gods. When I heard about this history I was amazed that it even existed in China. I don't think you'll be able to find a Chinese person who knows about this now. I'd love to tell the Chinese people about their history, and use that somehow to reach them for Christ.

3. Jingshan Park Day 1

This picture is taken from Jingshan Park, I couldn't find one taken of it. This is a view of the Forbidden City.

This park has three pagodas that take a lot of climbing to get to. I was somewhat against going because we had already done a ton of walking that day and I didn't feel like climbing a mountain (it's probably a hill but the word mountain is in the title of the park (I think)). After we left the Forbidden City we had a Hutong tour (by pedicab) and lunch so I decided that I had rested enough to climb the mountain. We did so and it was an amazing view from the top. I'm so glad we did it. After we went down from the top we stopped at a bench with very few people around (this was hard to do) and we sat and prayed. We prayed that God would speak to us about how we're supposed to be there in the future. We prayed for safety for our trip, safety for Malachi, grace for us and Malachi so we wouldn't miss each other too much. We sat there and prayed for a couple of minutes (I had to get up because I was being eaten alive by mosquitoes). It really meant a lot that John wanted to do that with me. I felt very included in the decision (of what to do in the future) making process. We didn't make any decisions at that time, but knowing that John wants me to hear God about it helps me to feel loved.

4. Nankai University Days 8-10

This is a picture of John in front of a dorm building that he stayed in eight and nine years ago.

The reason that this is my number four is because it was great to be walking on the ground that a little 17 year old John was walking around. It was so awesome to think about that. He still knew his way around the University and would tell me when he and his friends would take a certain route that we were taking. He tried to bring me to a small street on campus that had restaurants and shops, but they'd demolished it and put up a huge modern building. That made John really sad because he wanted to take me to a specific restaurant for a specific dish. This selection for number four leads me straight into number five.

5. Sweet and Sour Pork Day 8

This is the meal that I picked as my favorite. We had it at the Foreign Guesthouse Restaurant on the Nankai University Campus. We stayed a building over from it so we decided to try it. I'm so glad that we did. In my food blog I'll explain more about Chinese and how they order, but this time I'll just tell you about this meal. We ordered Sweet and Sour Pork and Egg Fried Rice. John had Sweet and Sour Pork in Tianjin before and was hoping this is what we'd get because we'd already had it two times on the trip and neither time was it the way he liked it. We were so pleased to find they prepared the one that he wanted. The meal was so good, I'm craving some now. Some of the food in China was weird and I couldn't do it. This was a perfect meal for us - therefore, it was my favorite. Oh by the way - sweet and sour sauce is not anything in China like it is in the states. John supposes it might be because a lot of the foods in American Chinese restaurants is actually from the South part of China. I don't know, but I know that the stuff in America doesn't even compare.

6. Day 2

Day 2 in China was awesome! We shared a taxi to the Summer Palace with another couple, Philip and Doris, that stayed at the same Bed and Breakfast as us. They're a Canadian couple (I know, I know), but he's originally English and she's originally Austrian. They still have their accents even after being in Canada for so long (over 20 years I think). We ended up spending the whole day with them. We only got one picture of them and I'm so sad about it, it's of them walking away from us. The day consisted of us walking only a small part of the Summer Palace. We walked the Long Hall (the whole Long Hall which ends at the Marble boat), we went through the second palace gate, climbed to the Hall of Dispensing Clouds and then climbed to the Tower of the Fragrance of Buddha where there was a huge Buddha statue. We definitely worked out our glutes that day :) While we were taking a rest at the Summer Palace we pulled out our pictures of Malachi to show Philip and Doris. One Chinese person cought a glimpse of them and then all of a sudden there were five or six Chinese women hovering over those pictures. It was very surprising, and very flattering. After that we had a Taxi ride with a crooked driver then took the Subway to Wang Fu Jing (a large shopping street). In this section of the underground they had some electric ads that flashed at us between stops. It was quite interesting to see. We then stopped at the Grand Hyatt for coffee and cake and then made our way to the street. We did some sightseeing and a little shopping and then made our way to a restaurant for Beijing Duck. This was an elaborate and tasty meal; but it was way too much food and it was really, really expensive. Unfortunately for me I didn't like some of the stuff that we got. But because there was so much food I still left needing to be rolled out. We got a taxi back to the Bed and Breakfast after that. It was already after eight when we got home, but we weren't done yet! John and Philip and Doris went to a massage parlor while I rested a bit at the B&B. John made foot massage appointments for 8:50pm and Doris stayed there for an 80 minute full body massage. We got into the massage a little late (they forgot about us) and had a wonderful time. It started with a tea soak. While that was going on they massaged our shoulders. After that they massaged our feet and lower legs. It actually hurt pretty bad on my bony areas (ankles and knees), but it was so worth it. It was really cheap too. It ended up being less than $13 for an hour for two people! I'd like you to try to find something that awesome that cheap in the states - you wont. We'd already had two full days of walking and climbing in Beijing so it felt great and it was a great way to end the day.

7. Standing in the Ocean in Qingdao Day 10

It was the Yellow Sea actually, but its part of the Ocean :) While planning the trip John asked what city out of two that I'd like to go to for the last couple of days. I picked Qingdao because of the beach. I was so excited to go to the beach. Unfortunately we didn't bring our suites because I thought it was supposed to be cloudy and cool that day. It turned out to be sunny and warm and we walked to the beach so we were hot! It would've been great to go in, but it was still quite refreshing to stand in it. I ended up walking to a point where the tide was coming almost to my jeans, they got a little wet from the spray. I stood there for probably three or four minutes. That doesn't sound like a long time, but depending on what you're doing three or four minutes is a long time. It was so nice to cool off in the Yellow Sea after a long hot walk. Plus...I love beaches! It was still China though, I saw two boys over the age of three running around butt naked; quite an interesting site that is.

8. Being humbled by the Chinese women Day 10

I have no picture of this, thankfully. John and I had just been shopping in an underground "mall." This mall consisted of five or six shops that pretty much had the same stuff. I tried on some flip flops and decided not to get any. As I was walking away, I thought they were being more persistent than normal. I wasn’t looking back, but they were yelling at us and following us. Finally a woman who was ahead of us who looked somewhat angry pointed at someone behind us. John suggested that I just look back. So we turned around and lo and behold she had my tennis shoes in her hand. Thank God that they were honest enough to keep pursuing me, and thank God that John finally suggested that I look back. It’s not that I didn’t have shoes on, but after I was in the water I kept my flip flops on because I didn’t feel like putting walking shoes on yet. Boy am I glad that I didn’t leave my shoes there. If I’d remembered and gone back, I still might not have gotten them back.

9. Day 11 and 12

When planning our last night in Beijing we had decided to get a hotel by the airport so that we wouldn’t have far to travel the morning we went home. We needed to do more shopping on Wang Fu Jing so we thought maybe a hotel in that area could take our luggage while we shopped so we didn’t have to take a taxi out of Beijing and then back into Beijing to shop. I eventually suggested that we leave our luggage at the Hyatt. So after we took the train from Qingdao to Beijing and the Subway to Wang Fu Jing we walked to the Grand Hyatt with our luggage and I sat next to the coffee and cake place while John went up to ask if they hold luggage. He came back a few minutes later and said they don’t hold luggage. We lugged our luggage over to the restrooms (across the huge lobby) and while I was washing my hands I thought it would be great if we could get the cheapest room here so we wouldn’t have to do so much driving around. I knew he would say no but I thought if I didn’t ask that I’d be sorry. So I asked him and he said that the room at the other hotel was already paid for. I wasn’t too disappointed I wasn’t really expecting him to say yes. However, he did tell me that there was a café on the 7th floor so we could get a snack (we were both very hungry). After we got out of elevator John joked that we could knock out the other couple that rode up with us and take their key. We were heading in the direction of Club Oasis thinking that that was the café, when all of a sudden John stops in front of room 714 and says “or we can take this room.” I reply “how would we do that?” thinking that he was joking. Then he says “with this key.” I start jumping for joy right in the hall of the Grand Hyatt Beijing. It was awesome! The room was the cheapest room they had, but it was SO nice! It is by far the nicest hotel room I’ve stayed in since our honeymoon (there have been a lot of hotel rooms since then). We had a wonderfully western bathroom that even included a tub! I took two baths that night, once before dinner and once after. It was the first soft bed of our stay (for some reason Chinese people like their beds really hard). This was such a great surprise for me. When John and I and our friends were at the Grand Hyatt for coffee and cake I commented that it would be really nice for us to stay there – that night John went online and made the reservation. He said it was so hard for him to keep it a secret almost our whole trip. I’m so happy that he did and I’m so blessed that he did that for me. I really felt loved that night.

10. Taxi ride to Beijing Airport Day 12

This is a picture of a toll booth on the way to the airport.

The reason that I picked the taxi ride to the airport is because it was by far the nicest taxi ride we had. Taxi’s caused some difficulty in the trip. I’ll discuss it more in my “transportation” blog, but having a really nice taxi ride to the airport made a big difference on my feelings as we left the country. It helped the day to start out right and we had a really good travel day until we messed it up by reading on the plane in Detroit. The taxi was a newer car that was clean and in good shape. He had the air-conditioning on and some very nice Chinese music (without singing – which is sometimes good). It was a little too pricey, but I think it was worth it, and we were able to get rid of our last Yuan which we were a little worried about. Put that together with my #9 and it makes for a great last couple of days in China.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Jet Lag :(

It's almost 5:00am on Wednesday morning but my body thinks it's almost 6:00pm Wednesday night. We tried to avoid jet lag, but apparently we didn't do a very good job. John got sick on the trip home and is (hopefully) sleeping right now. He skipped work yesterday because he can't miss anymore classes this semester. I hope he's feeling better today. I don't think I've cought the cold though - thank you Lord!

There will be many blogs and pictures to follow but I just got home Monday night and my in laws brought Malachi home yesterday. They're still in town so I wont even have free time until tomorrow. So it'll probably be a little while until I get anything published. I'm sorry if you're having a hard time waiting to hear about it, but I couldn't do my blog in china. It's one of the things that the country wont let the people have very freely.

I did email my family during the trip (Bethany I'm sorry I forgot to include you in those I really should have).

I've missed home and my blog and your blogs and freedom on the internet and the sky and all kinds of stuff. I've got all that back now so I'm getting pretty happy.

Love you all, will update soon!

Sunday, September 2, 2007

So long, farewell Auf Weidersehen, goodbye

I realize it's funny that I used German in my title there, since we're going to China, but I like the lyrics, I think they are the perfect title to my goodbye blog.

Not my forever goodbye, who knows when that will be, this is just a temporary goodbye. To let you know that I love you guys, will miss you guys, but will see y'all soon.

I guess this sounds a bit melodramatic but I'm kind of in a weird mood right now. My baby is gone and John and I can do whatever we want for the first time in a year and 10 months - it's such a great and yet horrible feeling. I miss him already but at the same time I'm so relieved for the break. This vacation is going to be so good for John and I, it's sort of like a second honeymoon.

Thing to pray for:
- safety in travel (cars, planes, buses, trains)
- safety in country
- successful business meetings
- rest and relaxation
- that the Lord would speak to us and that we would obey
- little to no difficulty in communication
- easy, fun shopping times

We leave tomorrow at 9:00am central time, we get there 8:00am central time on Tuesday - never before have I traveled for 23 hours straight. We leave the morning of the 17th and get back on the evening of the 17th (that's where we get our day back :) Check here for updates throughout the next two weeks.

Love and God's blessings to all.