I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if I have enough time to, that is: time is moving faster now more than ever! I feel like God is holding the fast forward button on his godly life remote, reclining back in his godly cloud chair in heaven. I mean, let’s be honest: some things are funnier to watch in fast forward. For example, Jon, already late for his lunch date, trying to start his motorbike outside of his apartment. If Jon trying to start it by putting the bike in gear and running it up and down the sidewalks on campus isn’t funny enough for you, hit fast forward. Just be sure to play it in normal speed when it never starts and he shouts in anger as he puts it back inside. That was a couple months ago, and ever since I’ve had the busiest and fastest two months of my life. Each of the last six weekends has been characterized by travel; either I have traveled somewhere or Ryan and I have entertained travelers in our apartment. As I write this, there are 12 American teachers sitting in my living room going over lesson plans as they prepare for “English Week” at our school. More on that later…
Beijing with the Phillips
What a blessing it was to see Peter and Janet in Baoding, Hebei, China! Tim had the great opportunity to show his mother and brother his Chinese life: his apartment, his classes and students, his friends, his team, favorite restaurants and foods, coffee shops, etc. I got to taste this when Greg and AJ visited me. There’s no substitute for experience; I can tell my friends and family about my life, but to see it is another story (Don’t feel bad, Mom, you got to see Nate’s Chinese life; so you know what it’s like!). This time also reminded me how much I love Peter. His trip to China was the most time I’ve spent with him in the last couple years and it was great to reconnect on our lives; plans, girls, etc. We got to see Tiananmen Square and The Forbidden City (my first time) together. Our good friend, Robert, invited us over for dinner at his mother’s Beijing apartment and we cooked dumplings together. Truly, an unforgettable experience.
The IECS babes all traveled to Lang Fang to watch Glee and bake cookies, at least I imagine that’s what they did… The Dudes came to Baoding and stayed with Ryan and me. We… talked… in several locations for about 24 hours. After dinner at a nice restaurant I handed out some Norfolk (Emerson’s) cigars I had brought over and all of us smoked together. Later we watched a kung fu movie. What did you expect?
April 30-May 2
泰山 Tai Mountain
Bethany and I joined our good friends, Vince, Loretta, and Lucy, to Tai Shan, one of the biggest and most famous mountains in all of China. It is known for its beauty, but also for its difficulty. As many mountains in China are, Tai Shan has been paved with concrete stays all the way to the top. It took us about 4 hours to reach the summit, and we rarely stopped. The last hour was one of the most difficult physical tasks of my life, only to be surpassed by the 10k race two weeks later. The trip was short and sweet: a bus trip through the night Friday night, Tai Shan on Saturday, then to the capital of Shan Dong on Sunday, home by Sunday night. I was so tired at the top that Bethany, Lucy, and I rode (expensive) cable cars most of the way down. Later Vince found out that I didn’t take pictures during the ride. “What!” he said in disbelief, “that’s the only reason anyone rides it.” He was so overly upset that anytime one of us was upset about something the rest of the trip, we would just say, “Cable car!”
I had my students draw a self-portrait, and for each body part they had to write things about themselves, like for mouth-what you want to say; for heart-someone and something you like, etc. I drew a self-portrait on the board as an example. Here it is.
Cinco de Mayo – Robata Pinata
We decided to go get drinks to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. Ryan, Tim, and I decided to make a pinata. Unfortunately, we didn’t have paper mache or… whatever else a pinata is made out of. But we did have boxes, imaginations, and an affinity for science-fiction. So, after about an hour’s work, out came “Robata Pinata.” We took it to a bar and busted it with a fake sword. For some reason, the Chinese people weren’t as excited as we were about busting a box full of candy all over the floor, even though it looked like a robot. (btw-If you want to keep enjoying the holiday in the future, don’t look up its origin, because there’s really no reason to celebrate it and no one in Latin America cares about it. It’s about as good a reason to drink as 5pm is.)
North Face 10k in Beijing
All of the IECS teachers traveled to ChangPing, just north of Beijing to run a 10k race together. We had all been training for a couple months and were all prepared… sort of. My training had kind of peaked at about the 6k mark; so for the first half of the race I was feeling good. Then things went downhill, literally. Everyone knew that the trail had hills, but we all underestimated how hard it would make the race. Nearly everybody finished about 10 minutes slower than they anticipated. The last 20 minutes was the hardest of my life. I’m not sure how I finished. At one point I was running (on empty) and I saw Peter, who had already finished. “Go, Jon! Only 2km left!” he shouted. This didn’t really encourage me because I just wanted it to be over immediately. About five minutes later I saw Stephen. “Alright, Jon! Just 2km left!” What is this, Groundhog Day? I thought to myself. Somehow I finished in 70 minutes, which was slower than I wanted, but it felt good, at least it did later. It was also a great opportunity to hang out with Ken, who came with us to cheer us on. That night, after the race, a bunch of us traveled to the city to eat a good American burger. Ken and I split a blue cheese burger and a barbecue-onion ring burger. Later Ken told me that it was “the best dinner ever!” The next day Ken elaborated: “I think yesterday was the best day ever.” Well said.
The Bossman comes
Newt, the head of IECS, came with his assistant (and our friend) Frank to stay with Ryan and me. He was here to spend quality time with the Baoding teachers, but also to prepare for English Week, which started a week later. We ate dinner at a restaurant we have endearingly called “The Sleeping Newt” because during our first week here, Newt took us to eat there and then… fell asleep. This time Newt didn’t fall asleep.
12 Americans arrived on Friday night to kick off the highly anticipated English Week, something the students have been stoked about for a while. Bethany, Ryan, and I were most of our students’ first American friends; so having 12 more come to our school just to meet them is quite a big deal. Saturday night we had “English Night”, which the resident teachers usually run, but this time it was (other than leading music) Newt and the other teachers in the spotlight. After English Night, Newt invited the 300 students who attended to come and meet the teachers. And boy, did they accept! The 12 teachers were swarmed with hundreds of instant friends. I spent my time in the back of the room coaxing my students to go and talk to them. “I’m too nervous!” they told me. But I kept pushing and most of them took the risk. Throughout this week there will several lectures and English Nights, a day trip with students to the Great Wall, and finally and American Square Dance Night, which might turn into the biggest even this school has ever seen. It’s humbling and freeing to not be the center of attention for once. Ryan, Bethany, and I are here to, as Ryan put it, set the other teachers up for success, and as they meet and befriend students, they set us and IECS up for success. Most of our good friends at Hebei University (where Tim, Kerry, and Amelia teach) were friendships that started on an English Week 2 years ago. It’s amazing how much of an impact one week can make. June 23
I go home.