Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Our Trip to Chengdu, Part III

In this post I’ll talk about our day-to-day life in Chengdu. Life in China had a great pace for our family. On Mondays-Thursdays our typical schedule was as follows: I would get up at 6:00 AM and study my scriptures, work on my lessons and at 7:30 AM get everybody else awake. We would study the scriptures, have breakfast (usually hot and cold cereal) and get ready to go. On two or three days a week, I would take the older children out from 9:30 AM - 12:30 PM. Once or twice a week we would go out as a whole family. We would do many different things, such as going to “Levi’s market” (a place where people could buy all sorts of trinkets), buying movies, random explorations (such as taking a bus and seeing where it took us) museums, book stores where you could buy 2 and get 5 free, “Wide and Narrow Alleys,” a 4D movie at Wanda Plaza (including some delicious Bamboo rice delicacies), and so forth. These were some of my favorite experiences on the trip. Probably everybody’s favorite activity was getting massages, and Levi definitely loved going to the movie store. 

Here is one example of what happened on one of those morning trips; on this occasion we went out as a family - it is representative of many such adventures.
We went out to explore the area by the North Gate of Sichuan University. When our whole family goes anywhere, taxi drivers are often a bit nervous when they stop and say something like, “I cannot take all of you!” We already know that and so we split up into two groups: Mom, Levi (for protection), Annemarie (for Chinese) and Rebekah. Then Maria, Joseph and Katrina go with me. I hailed the first cab and Lani’s group got in. I told the driver to head to Sichuan Daxue, Bei Men – north gate. It should be very clear, taxis have taken me there many times. We went back and forth a few times and it seemed like he was not clear on where to go. I said, “We can get out and get another cab.” Eventually he said he knew where it was and they left. Two minutes later, my group caught another cab and headed to the north gate as well.

I knew there was trouble when we arrived at the north gate and there was no sign of the others. Hmm…. We waited a few minutes and gave them a call. It turns out that the driver had dropped them off at the south gate and they needed to find another cab and get to the north gate. The good thing was that Annemarie was forced to talk to people to find out (a) if they were at the right gate, and then (b) tell the taxi driver where to take them. So that was good, and we were very glad we had two cell phones.

Once at the north gate, the trip itself was a great success. We got steamed buns, went to my favorite egg bread place, and found a computer store that really intrigued the kids. They were selling a 3-D computer that everybody liked, and perhaps even cooler, Rebekah became the huge star of the show with many employees going crazy over her. She was crying because she wanted to play with all the fragile technology and one of them gave her a fake cell phone and told us she could keep it because he didn’t want our baby to cry. She was very happy with the fake cell phone and we made our exit from the shop. We also found several great movies at a location near there and returned to the jiaozi place that we had eaten at with Paul. It was a great day – and again that is just one trip out of many.

Wherever we would go, people would stare at us and start counting. Often I heard them say, “Sige haize!” (because they have counted incorrectly) and then I would flash the sign for six and say, “Liuge haizi.” That was always a good conversation starter. And conversations did happen. Many people would ask me if America has a “fa quan” (a word relating to a “fine” for having children) and they will tell me about China’s “fa quan.” Others ask if we plan to have more children. Most give a thumbs up and say, “Hao lihai!” or “Hen zhufu!”
While Katrina had fun on the outings she came on, her preference was to stay home with mom. Katrina enjoyed this, especially when the Weavers were present. She would play school where she is the teacher and the principal. She would put her hands on her hips and talk about getting on the “Good good path” or the “bad bad path.” She had Sister Weaver draw a picture of Great Nanny (who Sister Weaver has never seen) and then Katrina critiqued the picture. Fun stuff. The Weavers were such a blessing in lifting and building up each of our children. While the Weavers was there our ordinary life included lots of fun times with them, talking, learning about family history, and enjoying the treats Sister Weaver would make.

At 12:30 we would all meet up to eat lunch (sometimes we would eat out) and then Levi and I would head to the University, where I taught three classes each day (Levi was a great student and took all my classes!) While Levi and I were at school, a tutor would come to our home and teach Lani and the girls Chinese. In general what would happen was that each school-age child would read to the tutor for 20 minutes and then the tutor would read to the children. Later in the day there would be a movie in Chinese, and playing with neighbor children. This was one of the highlights, to see my kids genuinely playing and having fun with children from China. They were able to communicate sufficiently to have fun together.
Levi and I would get home around 8:00 PM. Everyone would go to bed (Levi would watch a movie) and Lani and I often went on walks and spent treasured time together. For a few more glimpses into ordinary life, here are some quotes from Lani, Joseph and Maria:

From Lani: We went to the mall that is a 20 minute walk from our house.  It is a super nice mall, with A/C and nice bathrooms.  John and the older kids watched a movie in the movie theater (in Chinese) and I shopped at the nice grocery store so Rebekah could sleep.  Katrina and I were seated on a bench and two 20 year old girls came to talk to us.  They knew a few phrases in English but did not understand much. They told Katrina she was beautiful and Katrina talked and talked to them. She knows how to say, “What is your name?” in Chinese and how to count to ten.  They loved it. She loved getting a picture with them and all the attention they gave her. Then an 18 year old college bound young man came and sat down and did some translating for the girls so they could ask more questions. They were all so friendly and fun to be with.

I had a lot of fun with the tutor today and Annemarie was jealous I had more time with her than she did—really we had the same amount. Went out to play before and after dinner. Maria practiced her rip stick that she bought over the weekend. At first she was frustrated and wanted to quit but she kept trying and did well. Annemarie and Maria made new friends. Katrina tried out her few phrases.

Maria’s pet turtle’s name is Hulk and he is a fun distraction. Sunday we went on a walk to the right of our neighborhood and over two bridges. There was thunder and lightning but no rain till the very end.

July 29, 2014 - This morning everyone slept in till 7:30. Annemarie, John and I went to tai chi. Our instructor is eager to pass on her passion for tai chi.  She says it is a dying martial art and lots of people don’t do it with their whole spirit.  I have had more time with the tutor and I love it.

August 1, 2014—Friday - Today is our full day of activities; after Sichuan museum, a park, dufu cottage and eating lunch at restaurant, riding the city bus one kilometer to ancient market, it was already 5pm and we took a four minute taxi ride to Metro which is a German store chain with imported food and reminds me of sams club or Costco on a smaller scale. Anyway after an hour there we ended up in their section of massage chairs and everyone got some serious massages using the remote controls. They also had these crazy exercise machines that you would stand on. After we left the store it took us 35 minutes to catch a cab. I was with Levi, Annemarie and Rebekah and we had the stroller and some groceries. We walked to different streets to see if we could be more accessible but it got kind of frustrating because we would see 5 or 6 empty taxis just drive right past us. 
Here it seems like at least 10% of the cars driving around are taxis so they are normally very plentiful but apparently not in the area were in.  It might have been extra hard to because it was rush hour—6:30pm.

We were SO grateful when a taxi pulled over to drop someone else off and we could get in. We were beginning to feel very helpless, not knowing how to use the bus system or any other way home.

Maria took Hulk the little turtle out to play in the puddles in the grass. He loved it and tried to swim and dig in the mud.  He was really good at hiding and was super fun for Maria and Joseph. Katrina has had some drawing lessons from Hattie the tutor. She has learned how to draw butterflies, fish and desserts like ice cream cones and cookies.  She loves it and gets so excited and likes to teach what she learns.”
From Joseph – “We went to a place and I ate duck neck. It was really good. I want to eat duck neck more. But it was really spicy. During the week Hattie comes. I read a book to her and she reads a book to us. I summarize books and both of us read it together. I look at the pages and most of them are fables. And I found this new kind of Sprite. It is called Ice Mint Sprite. It is so good. That’s all.”

From Maria: “July 12 2014: We played with a girl who lives in our neighborhood. She is also 9 years old so her Chinese is easy to understand. Her English name is Cindy. We played tag, hide and go see, wolf chicken and baby chicks. Then she took us to her house. She lives in a tall apartment building and we got to go on the roof. We could see everything from there. It was amazing.

We were incredibly blessed to come on this trip as a family. It was a wonderful bonding opportunity for us, and truly expanded all of our horizons. We drew closer together as a family and realized that in the strength of the Lord we can do hard things. As stated previously, we could not have done this without the Weaver family. We are SO GRATEFUL to them.  We made so many friends from China and we deeply appreciate their kindness towards us. We look forward to returning to China in 2015.



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