In The Way

Backwards China

Before coming to China I was told many things are done differently here. Some would say backwards. These have many reactions varying from disgust, surprise, disappointment, excitement, and remembering all cross cultural training from college to recognize that things here are not necessarily wrong, just different. So different.

Before I get to that, here are most of my students in the Deer Classroom:

Most of the students in the Deer Classroom.

Most of the students in the Deer Classroom.

Some noteable differences include:


 

- People Park Their Car Anywhere and Everywhere. Literally wherever they want. This includes in the middle of the road, on the sidewalk, in front of the gate to your apartment complex, on the sidewalk in front of a restaurant. You name it. If you think your car can fit somewhere, you can park there. From a driving perspective it is awesome. From an everything else perspective, it is just ridiculous.

- The heat is turned on in the summer. It is like 90 degrees or so outside during the afternoon here when the children should be napping at school. Since my office is also the children’s napping area, I get to see this every day. I typically set the air conditioning to a nice 25 C, or 77 F. When they nap they turn my air conditioning off and change the temperature up from 25C (77F) to 29C (84F), which is quite toasty. So I guess technically this is still cooler than outside, but sometimes they will just straight up turn the AC off during naptime which will lead my room to become in the 90s during naptime, in the heat of the afternoon.

- They often have air conditioning on with the window wide open next to it. ‘Nuff said.

- Lights are turned off more than they are on. At our apartment complex there are these awesome lights along the walkway that light up the sidewalks. They are only lit until like 8 or 9pm, after that they are turned off. Even better than this is that at the school’s gymnasium, instead of lighting the hallways to the rooms, the pool, and the gym, the staff uses flashlights to walk around and lead people to the room. When we went to play Ping Pong, they only turned the lights on over the table we were playing on instead of the same room. Not that electricity is expensive here – as far as I can understand it is much cheaper than the states.

Funky eyeball computer speakers to replace the ones I fried!

Funky eyeball computer speakers to replace the ones I fried!

- The electronics are different. Electronics have two prongs, not 3, and they are not polarized, which means that they do not have 2 different sized prongs. I have so far fried my computer speakers and my hot water heater trying to use their electricity. And that’s with a voltage converter and proper adapters.

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Cathy, our supervisor, and her husband Roy and their child at a restaurant about 1 block from our house! Yum!

- Hot soup or noodles are served 3 meals a day. Most notably including breakfast. While I enjoy hot soup and noodles for dinner, I find that eating hot soup for breakfast during the summer to be just, well, different.

- They do not drink ice water. Chinese people do not really drink ice water at all. They have hot water instead, often unflavored hot water. We got drinks and popcorn at the movie theater and they gave us a warm lemon tea water instead of ice water or something. This makes the ice bucket challenge much more of a challenge, really. It is hard to find ice!

- Traffic does not use turn signals. This can be very confusing. Many times people walking, biking, driving a moto scooter, or driving, will simply drive straight at you. With no turn signals, it makes it hard to get out of their way. Especially if you cannot see the motos because their lights are not on in the middle of the night. That is a thing.

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The rugrats themselves doing some sort of group dance thing. These group dance things are very popular here.

- Kindergarten and preschool here is loooooong. The students are here 9-10 hours each day. Compared to most preschools in the States that are only a few hours long, this is quite extensive.

- Meetings, and everything else, are done last minute here. The Chinese work system does not really consider your personal out-of-work life important. So they will often ask you to do things very last minute without considering that you might have personal plans. We have a good understanding at this point with the school about this, that if we are not told at least 1 week in advance, that it probably will not happen if it is outside of work hours. We have a good cultural excuse. The Chinese work long, long hours, like 10-11 hrs a day at the Kindergarten and are typically not paid any more than 8 hours of work per day.

- Most children, before they are potty trained, pee in the street. In fact, they do not even have diapers on. They just wear sort of little pants with giant holes underneath. I would post a photo of this but I feel that it would be inappropriate. So when they need to go, they go, pretty much wherever they want. I have seen kids peeing in the ‘hospital,’ on sidewalks, in the grass, over grates, over trash containers, pretty much wherever. Just today a kid peed right in front of the entrance to the school, right between where the students wash their hands and before they have their temperature checked by the nurse. With no effort by anyone to clean it up. I guess that’s why the new laminate floor in the entrance to the school is yellow!

Air pollution blocking out the sun.

Air pollution blocking out the sun.

-While Traffic is Scary, Bicycling Is Quite Safe, and Slow Here. We bought the fastest bikes we could find for under $200. They cost about $50 each, and they are low quality Chinese single speeds. My bottom bracket is creaking already. I do not think it will survive. However, we live about 1 mile away from the school so it is about a 9 minute bike ride to school and 9 minute ride back. Very slow, easy, and nice. There are giant bike lanes and sidewalks separated by trees from the main road, which makes cycling feel much safer than the states. Suburban areas in the USA are scary to bike in. Mind you, we bike THROUGH some very polluted air and water, but at least we are not competing with cars going 60 MPH next to us.

Meat is chopped, not separated. The bones are not removed from the meat here, so eating it can be a bit of a challenge. Instead of having  a section on the lunch tray for milk, there is a section on the lunch tray for spitting out bones and things like this.


There is much more that we are missing, but that will have to do for now! Thanks for reading, and feel free to Skype or WeChat us sometime! We’d love to talk!

I should also note that I have been adding a photo each day on Instagram at instagram.com/dshinabarger . Let me know if you want to see pictures of anything in particular! It seems like most people like pictures better than text anyways :)

Thanks for reading!

First Week in China

We have arrived in Wuhan, China.

Valerie with some other teachers from the school after getting breakfast after going to the Grungy "hospital."

Valerie with some other teachers from the school after getting breakfast after going to the Grungy “hospital.”

Here’s a summary of what’s been going on.

We arrived on Thursday, and have spent this week either getting physicals, at the school preparing for students who come this upcoming Monday, and resting and recovering from jetlag.

A combination of the nasty pollution here and jetlag resulted in me being sick pretty much since we got here off and on. Upon immediately arriving I felt super dizzy. I thought that this was just from lack of sleep, but it continued for several days, and I still have it a little bit. Jetlag also results in me not being hungry when I am supposed to, and having a hard time sleeping at nighttime here.

The pollution is bad here. Very bad. Surprisingly bad. Valerie and I have bought a few plants for our apartment, and plan to buy more. We want to treat our apartment like the International Space Station – creating our own oxygen with plants.

Some examples of the pollution here:

  • The visibility is extremely low. You can probably not see for more than a few miles away, whereas in the states you can see for more like 10-20 miles away, if not farther on a clear day.
  • We have not really seen the sun very much since we got here. Some of this I think may be due to the weather system, but instead of having sunny days it seems like we have hazy days where the pollution, quite literally, diffuses the sunlight and stops it from reaching the earth.
  • We mopped our porch outside and after about 4 days it needed mopping because it was covered in a thin layer of dust/dirt/pollution.
  • I sneeze at least a dozen times a day, and try and blow my nose constantly. I am trying to keep my lungs clear of the stuff.

    While you can buy pocket kleenex here, this is the more popular option. A rather genius little device: Toilet paper roll/kleenex dispenser.

    While you can buy pocket kleenex here, this is the more popular option. A rather genius little device: Toilet paper roll/kleenex dispenser.

 

We feel quite helpless most of the time — we had to have other teachers from the school help us setup our gas, internet, phones, gas, and water. You cannot drink the water — it must be drunk from a water cooler. It costs $2-3 USD for 5 gallons of water or so. Now that we have everything setup we are able to relax at home much better.

Here’s how stuff is going with the school:

The teachers at the school are quite friendly. A new principal of the kindergarden arrived the same day we did for work, so she is new. She smiles a lot, but is very strict and we refer to her as Umbridge. I think this is a bit harsh, but it seems like the cultural is just rather pushy in all directions here. They do things differently here, and not really in a way that I like.

This has been our week:

  • Monday: Go to the school 8AM sharp. Meet some of the other teachers, get a tour. Then we get whisked away to a hospital about an hour away in the Guanggu District for a physical where they take our blood, get a chest x-ray, check our body fat, get a picture, that sort of thing. They were very fast and efficient, and at the time I thought the hospital was kind of grungy. There was basically no wait for any part of the process so the whole thing maybe took 35 minutes or so. Very fast. We get free lunches at the school but we are so late to lunch that they have run out of chopsticks and most of the food is cold. Oh well.
  • Tuesday: Go to the school. Wesley goes over a lot of the stuff we need to know about the schedule and classes and things, but we are interrupted multiple times by the higher ups with questions about how many English teachers are coming back, what classes we will teach, and other events going on this week, as well as debating whether we are getting paid for being at the school or not.
  • Wednesday: We took the day off to sleep in, watch Malcolm in the Middle, and work on getting internet setup. Our internet seems OK – most of the time it is fairly fast, but a few times we have gone to call landline phones in the US and it has been way to choppy to understand what the other person is saying. Sorry, Nonnie.
  • Thursday: Woke up at the crack of dawn to go to a different hospital for another physical. This hospital was incredibly grungy and gave me a much more optimistic view on the healthcare system in the US of A. I don’t think they ever mopped the floors, I saw several open wounds, there are no bandaids anywhere to be seen, there are long lines with people cutting in line to have their blood drawn, we wait for over an hour for the x-ray, there is one lightbulb per hallway, and I was too scared to look at the bathrooms. I’m surprised – it seems like  this place chose to reject the idea of how germs spread, or anything since Louis Pasteur and modern medicine.
  • Went to school, prepared the classroom, got our QQ — instant messenger setup, dug out flashcards, reviewed lesson plans. Internet stopped working around 1pm, so that ended a lot of our productivity. Tonight we go back to the school soon for some sort of meeting with the children’s parents. We were only told yesterday that we needed to be at this meeting — before that we were told NOT to come to the meeting. The lack of notice for anything and miscommunication can be very frustrating. We were told TODAY that our hours of working are supposed to be 7:30-5:30 now instead of 8-5. What? The most frustrating part of this whole scenario, and any other changes, is that we are pretty much powerless with whatever the heck they decide to do with us. Our only real bargaining power is, “If you do this, we will leave,” which isn’t really useful since we don’t actually intend to leave at this point.
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    My classroom, the Deer classroom

    Our apartment is quite nice. My only complaint about it is the air pollution. We have awesome air conditioners, nice garden and trees outside, and are within about a 2 minute walk of many restaurants and shops. Our kitchen is pretty tiny and does not have an oven. We will buy one so we can cook cookies — a great American tradition. We live in an apartment complex pronounced Wonka Mailee. And the kindergarden school looks like a colorful castle – so we go from Willy Wonka land to the Kindergarden Castle.

    You can see what our apartment complex looks like behind this woman. We see this woman everyday on this road picking up recycling. Sometimes she picks it up and takes it away, othert times she hides it in the bushes.

    You can see what our apartment complex looks like behind this woman. We see this woman everyday on this road picking up recycling. Sometimes she picks it up and takes it away, othert times she hides it in the bushes.

    I have started making Mandarin flashcards — like 5 per day. I will start taking mandarin lessons soon, I am trying to decide who will be able to teach me. My coworkers at the school hardly speak any English, so it has already forced me to start learning certain phrases like, “I don’t understand.” and “How do you say” and “Good morning.”

Hoping to get more plants soon, and maybe see if we can order an air purifier from TaoBao.

Questions on anything? Ask away!

Going to China!

David:

Valerie and I are preparing to move to China for one year to become Kindergarten English teachers. We have our stuff packed, our finances in order, and are pretty much ready to roll. As much as you can be ready for this sort of thing.

Our flight leaves Wednesday morning at 1AM on August the 20th. We should have a VPN when we get to China, so I am hoping and planning to blog every once in a while with pictures and things. This will be our main blog site during our trip, so please, subscribe via e-mail, add us to your feedly, or just check my (David) Facebook, where links to this blog will be showing up.

One thing about moving abroad are the neverending questions. Questions, questions, questions. They never end. Most of these questions were asked directly to Wesley and Marissa. There are many that I have not included as well.

I thought I’d compile all of the questions I have asked of Wesley and Marissa Lawton, or of the school, so far, along with some concise answers.

Here they are:


 

QUESTIONS

  1. What is the time difference? About 12 hours, depending where you live. So 7AM in Wuhan is 7pm in MI, give or take an hour. Wuhan is 12 hours ahead, so 7PM on Friday night is 7AM Saturday in Wuhan, China.
  2. What is the weather like? Hot and coldwise, it is like St. Louis. So below freezing in winter, very hot in the summer. However, it is also a tropical monsoon area, so lots of rain during summer, and more sun during winter.
  3. What is your apartment / living situation like? It is two bedroom, and supposedly has an American style bathroom and shower, and we will be in a high rise apartment with an elevator. But we will know better once we are there.
  4. How much are plane tickets? Well, we got our tickets for around $710 per person, for one way. So round trip would be at LEAST 1500 per person. And that is purchasing them like 2-3 months in advance.
  5. Are you certified teacher? To Chinese standards, yes. But in reality, not really. We completed an online TEFL course which took about 40 hours, plus $200 or so per person. It was officially a 140 hour course, but definitely did not take that long. It was really easy, and I learned a little bit about grammar.
  6. Did you have to get a Visa? Yes, we got a work “Z” Visa. We used a website called Chinese Visa Express so that we didn’t have to make 2 visits to the Chinese embassy.
  7. What is the work like? We will be Kindergarten teachers teaching English. I am really looking forward to it, and I expect it will be a lot of fun.
  8. How much stuff can you bring with? For both Valerie and I we get: 4 giant checked bags, 2 carry ons, and 2 personal items/small backpacks.
  9. Are there any foods that are impossible to get while there? Cheese is really hard to get. So is Mexican food.  But apparently you can use a website called TaoBao, which is like Amazon, to order cheese and refrigerated American dairy products delivered straight to your door.
  10. Are there big spiders or other creepy crawlies? Not really. Or so they say.
  11. What is the pay like? We will be getting paid around $18,000 per person for the year, plus healthcare, housing, and meals at the school, as well as flight reimbursements. While not the most amazing pay, it is much better pay than the US Peace Corps or other similar “Volunteer” experiences. We expect to use a good chunk of the payment to pay off our student loans.
  12. Do you have access to fresh fruit? Yes.
  13. Is Facebook blocked? With a VPN, no.
  14. Can you buy coat hangers and umbrellas in China? Yes. They are made there.
  15. Do you need to speak Mandarin to survive? No, and yes. Valerie and I are both hoping to study, and take lessons, while in China. At this point in my life I can count to 10, say hello, thank you, and my name is David.

Thanks for reading, everyone! I look forward to continuing to update you on our newest adventure!

-David

 

From My Dad’s Kindle.

My father, Delbert Frank Shinabarger, passed away February 23rd.

I have inherited his Kindle, and have been reading through some of his books that he left on the device.

When I first opened the Kindle, it was left open on a book called “Called to Worship”, to a chapter/section entitled “Worship Before the Fall”.

I will include the section, and bold the specific page that was left open. I found it powerful and profound. Thanks for reading.


 

WORSHIP BEFORE THE FALL”

OUR TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY IS A POSTMODERN INFORMATION age. Machines talk to machines, info is measured in bits, and travelers purchase airline tickets without human intervention. Automated checkouts loudly bark prices with prerecorded, mechanical precision. With a click of a mouse, an e-mail has replaced the routine of licking a stamp, driving to the post office, and communicating with a human being.

Digital technology makes communication easier–but intimacy scarce. We pay our bills online, order our clothes through virtual boutiques, and shut out the unwanted distractions of a self-centered world by plugging in our MP3 players, iPods, iPod nanos, iPod shuffles, iPhones, BlackBerrys . . . My, how things have changed.

The way we establish relationships has changed, too. Internet dating is today’s substitute for traditional courtship, and virtual marriage counselors now provide cyberspace advice void of physical encounter. But in spite of our electronics explosion, cell-phpne dependency, and IM addiction, we are a lonely generation. Parents spend less time with their children. Kids are left alone to play video games or text their friends, while Mom and Dad scramble to make money and accumulate things–that is, if Mom and Dad are even together; more than half of American marriages end in divorce. As a result, more and more children are reared in single-parent homes, spending ever more of their time flying solo. But youngsters aren’t the only ones who suffer the bane of being alone. Grandparents, too, live in isolation in nursing homes, forgotten by a generation deluged with data–yet themselves just as isolated–and lonely. Loneliness is the unspoken disease of the soul. But God never intended for us to experience it. He created us to enjoy relationships, because He is the God of relationships.

At the end of your life, no one will remember much about what you have achieved in wealth or position. What people will recall is how you treated them. You will be remembered–or forgotten–based on the love you showed–or didn’t show–to those around you. They will recollect the relationship you had with them. That’s because all of life is about relationships. In fact, everything we do reflects something about the relationships we have–or don’t have–with friends, families, coworkers . . . and God.


 

The rest of the section talks about worship, and the importance of it in your life.

Thank you for all of the support. It has really meant a lot.

The Story of the Beautiful Free Kitchen Table

We are now over two months into being married.

For those of you reading this who are married, this might sound like a very short amount of time.

For those of you are not married, this might sound like a long time.

To me, it seems short. The last two months have gone by too fast.

The wedding was super fun. It was my favorite gathering I’ve been to – I was exhausted afterwards, but it was worth it. We saw many of our friends and family. To end the night we lit off a few Chinese lanterns we remembered we had, then crashed in the RV on site. It turns out some of our closest family and friends stayed up all night talking, playing twister, and enjoying the heart-shaped bonfire.

The honeymoon was perfect, too. We car camped at a different state or national forest campground in the upper peninsula of Michigan and northern Wisconsin. There are different stories to go with each and every day of that particular adventure. Those pictures will show up on Facebook one of these days.

We moved into our first place, a gorgeous two bedroom apartment located in the Midtown Neighborhood of Milwaukee – we are walking distance of downtown and Marquette University.

Living a married life is different. We moved in with very few things – all of it fit into the back of a mini van and Valerie’s car (Skinny P).

There are some very generous and helpful families at Unity, the church we attend, and which I am completing my year as Outreach Ministry Intern. One family member called me at the church and asked me what kind of things we needed for our apartment. I said our priority was finding a table we could eat dinner on with guests.

Fast forward a few hours. I am standing outside Unity on a Wednesday night. Wednesdays are nights of beautiful organized chaos where Jesus feeds, people eat, and many conversations happen. We serve something like 180 meals each week to various people living in the community.

In Guatemala, most restaurants would welcome you at the door with great enthusiasm to come in and enjoy dinner. If I am able, I like standing by the door and welcoming people. The double doors were wide open, letting in the beautiful crisp fall air. Some people ignore me when they walk in, reminding me of when I got paid to “Greet” at Wal-Mart, but thankfully most people look up, make eye contact, and say “Hi!”

This particular evening, a fellow walks in with a sign hanging off of his neck. I assume it is a sign asking for food or money like I see people with on my bicycle commute each day. I ask him “What’s the sign say?”, wondering what kind of response I will get.
The sign says, in all capitals FREE FREE FREE  — BEAUTIFUL KITCHEN TABLE SET WITH CHAIRS — FREE FREE FREE.

I realize this man is an angel sent from God. I ask him about the table, and he describes it as very nice. This is how things work around Unity. If you say you need something, it shows up like manna dropping from heaven. Whether it is bread, a coffee grinder, or emotional support in time of tragedy, it shows up. That Wednesday it just happened to be a Free Beautiful Kitchen table to furnish Valerie and I’s first home.

We eat dinner by candlelight on this table each night. It suits our first home. I hope we can use it for years, decades even.

It is a reminder of community and support. It is a reminder of what to be thankful for.

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