I hope you are well! I'm afraid there will be far less pictures and stories accompanying the blog today. This week was busy with jumping back into school and preparing for the end of Quarter 1 next week. Time is flying! Classes are going well and I look forward to seeing my students everyday. Getting back into the swing of things has been an adjustment, but I am so thrilled to be back in school and continue teaching my awesome kids.
During this week, I found my thoughts dwelling on the importance of relationships. Relationships with my students, fellow foreign staff, national staff, the communities I am a part of here in Qingdao... etc. I feel that a great part of my heart for being in China is centered around an intentional pursuit of heaven-honoring relationship building. Expressing love and compassion that does not come from me, but instead is a gift from One who loves far greater and deeper than I ever could. I recognize that here in China I am presenting the world around me with so much more than just myself.
A big part of my relationship building mindset is centered around getting to know China. I spent all morning and afternoon (Saturday) with two Chinese 'Sisters' I have gotten to know over the past almost two months. This week was the 6th Annual Qingdao International Tea Expo! I was so blessed to have these two new sisters be willing to take and teach me. I was the only foreigner in the entire exposition center, which gave me my first real feelings of celebrity in China. People were taking pictures of and with me, not to mention, everyone wanted to practice their English with me! I tried hundreds of different types of DELICIOUS teas and learned so much about Chinese tea history. The truth is, in China, tea is an art form. From the way it is grown, to the way it is made, right down to the way it is served... each and every step is a small, but deliberate cultural part of a larger, elegant craft. I really enjoyed every moment of learning and listening (AND TASTING). This time was also very special because I was building relationships with these wonderful national Sisters. I hope we will have many more days like today!
This week I also had my first KTV (Chinese Karaoke) experience! A popular, fun activity for all ages, it is nothing like American karaoke (which I have never done, but have seen in movies... namely "High School Musical" LOL). Instead, you and a group of friends rent out a decorated soundproof room with big screens, snacks, loudspeakers, a disco ball with flashing light, and microphones... then you sing your hearts out! We had a blast! NOTE: I was sad to learn that Josh Groban does not make the best song choice for karaoke, unless... you know, you are ACTUALLY Josh Groban (but that totally didn't stop me from trying, haha).
Lastly, a really surprise to the end of my week was that I had my first parent teacher conference with a young student struggling in one of my classes. I was nervous (as I suppose most every teacher is before parent/teacher conferences), but ended up coming out of the conversation feeling so supported and partnered with through the experience. It was truly a productive meeting of shared ideas, thoughts, and genuine care for a young person's growth, development, and education. I am blessed to be a part of a community that seeks to put every student on the road to success as a team or a village as the old adage says! What an encouragement it was to my teacher's heart.
THINGS TO KEEP IN YOUR 'THOUGHTS'
- Our administration led the staff in a big meeting this week, giving insight into the school's current status and plans for the future. A lot of decisions are being made and there are many variables playing into future growth and expansion of our school. Please consider asking for wisdom for our leaders, increased student enrollment, and movement in the hearts of local leadership.
- China is cracking down (more so than they already do) on monitoring the internet. China is hoping to ban all VPNs (an external internet aid that gives me access to things like Google, Facebook, YouTube, THIS BLOG, etc) from being used in country. All content passing in and out of internet servers is being screened and monitored with messages considered 'unlawful' leading to arrests of local and expat alike. I have no concerns for myself, but think about the ramifications for others doing important international work in China. Please keep this situation and the future of their work in China in your thoughts.
- My Chinese progresses slowly... my need for it increases daily.
- I started the process of trying to get Benji to China. It's overwhelming and scary, but I miss him desperately.
- I need to spend more time with my Father. In the business of this week and two weeks of travel and 'play', I have become lax in reading his Letters to me regularly. I recognize how importance this time spent with Him is, so I ask for you to think of me and keep me accountable in my relationship with Him.