Saturday, February 25, 2012

Celebrating the New Year AND I have a real branch to attend!

29 January 2012


(Hint to Elder Hicken and Angulo) THIS is a NOVEL. 

Dear Family,

This week has been amazing. God works in mysterious ways. On Wednesday Mary took me to celebrate the New Year with her family. She has like six siblings, so currently her family is rich in the ability to have great reunions. I fear that the tradition of celebrating the New Year with a great amount of family will deminish in a few generations, since most families only have one children now. Soon instead of siblings unite with their parents and children, it may be the child meeting their parents with their children. The population will decrease dramatically; then, they will have to stop the one child rule.
The first evening I meet a lot of her family. They gambled, playing a card game, as they waited for dinner. Fruit was served, and I was able to eat fresh Apples, Cutie Oranges, and Longan. At dinner we were gathered around a table. Not all of the family could gather around the table, but I may have been at the main table. They brought out many dishes. Guess how many... TWENTY different dishes. Since this was the real Chinese traditional food, I had to try each dish. They were mostly very good. I wondered about the meat that tasted of cheese though.  I was able to communicate with a few people very limitedly. I think that I may come home with a habit to talk very slowly. I was served milk at dinner, and it tasted a little like medicine. It was suppose to "flavored." It did not taste very well, but they do what they do. After dinner I was so cold. I was lead up stairs to my room, and they let me use their laptop. Even though it was only like seven thirty.  I did not feel like hanging out cold, so I went to sleep super early. I don't think that I have endured jet lag. 
Wednesday morning before we left to visit Mary, my host,'s family, I woke up about seven, my usual time. I look out the window to see China, and I saw many adults, practicing Tai Chi, at the school that I will be teaching at. I had to go join them. When I first met them, I asked for the teacher; then, they realized that I was Mary's new teacher, since I spoke English. They could barely speak a word of English, so they continued. Their movements were hard to imitate at first. After watching them, they pulled out their swords. That was cool to see. I still tried to imitate them. When they concluded, practicing with their swords, they pulled out their fans. I got better at imitating them; then, one gave me a fan to practice with. They practiced to music, and for one song I did pretty well. I was pulled off to the side by a teacher, when they practice with two fans; one in each hand. The teacher show me the basic steps of Tai Chi until the morning work out was over. They practice each morning at seven, but I have not joined them yet because I went to celebrate the New Year with Mary's family and CHURCH. 
I woke up really early on Thursday, since I went to sleep super early. I checked my email, since I could not think of anything else to. I was not informed how to prepare properly for the trip. In my emails I saw my application progress as I entrusted it to my parents after my best efforts. A couple days ago I received an email saying that they received my transcripts in time and my application, further explaining an acceptance letter may be coming. 
Mary likes to sleep in, and there was not much to do Thursday morning. Since my feet were cold, I took a walk. My feet being cold has been a cause that seems to be only a temperary dilemma; although, I feel that I have adapted quickly. The desire to have warm feet was a focus of my decisions the first few nights. The nights and days have sounded like a war outside or a hurricane with all the fireworks. Mary's family did not have any so I did not personally see the adundant fireworks at a good view. 
After lunch on Thursday I was still bored, hanging out. I want up to my room with a hint of home sickness, but I mainly wanted to keep my feet warm in my bed. When they found me there, they said that they had pulled out the badminton rackets and a birdy to play with. I went down to hang out, and I saw one of the family grandma's picking seeds out of cotton. I saw that helping her would be the most amazing thing. When they saw this, they came and joined the work, and we finished picking the seed out of bundles of cotton. Too bad I forgot my cord to my camera I took a good picture of everyone together. (I also forgot my shaver cord to charge that, so at church today I looked a little scruffy. I did get a razor and shaving cream on the day, which this paragraph is describing, but I have this as a new skill to learn.)
Thursday evening was interesting. Mary said that she was going to take me out to dinner. I never know exactly what is going on, but I trust the Chinese people. I was taken to another family gathering. At first I did not understand that was the case, for a government worker introduced me to "English students of the local university," which I found out latter that it was just another family gathering hosted by Mary's Sister's family. The government worker of the daughter of a family friend, which was my age, that was a local English teacher too. The government worker spoke English very well, so we were friends perhaps. I tried to ask her out; although, she lived like two hours away. I am still working on that. One thing that I had to overcome was that Mary would tell me what to say and try to chose the food that I would eat, but I overcame this when I met at this family dinner. I met all the "English students individually." I recalled that on named Christy said that she would be willing to teach me Mandarin. Sarah, the government worker, and Mary lead me to eat at another table that the sister was hosting. Mary's sister's husband loved my excitement to try all the new Chinese food, and he would spin the thingabob with each new dish served to me. It is tradition at these dinners to have toasts like twenty times. I think that it is partially a measure of seeking to be drunk. A man named Mister Wang came to meet me. I expected to go aside to talk a little bit, but he just main a toast, which was all that he expected. I asked his name, but he went back to his friends table. The government worker said that he wanted to make friends with me, since I was American, wanting to host me for dinner the next day. As I sat next to my government worker friend, kind of feeling like my date, I asked for a pen and a pencil, since she explained that we can communicate through a social networking organization popular in China called QQ. Each person suppose to have a number for this social network. I wanted Christy's help learning Mandarin, so I went to go find her with the pen and paper to obtain this "number." It turned out that my new friend Mister Wang was the father of Christy. Christy is nineteen. There was a good group of youth with her and their parents. I felt like I was a celebrity. They wanted to have me over for dinner and take pictures with me. The host of the dinner that I was originally invited to had me go to his house. That was a little scary to receive at first, but everyone was coming. All the youth became my friends. Sarah drove us to the house. Seeing all four the youth reminded me of Jamaica because they were squeezing themselves in the back seat. 
The driving in China is very interesting. Everyone just goes wherever they want. People respect that. Cars, pedestrians, scooters all go wherever they want, so every Chinese has a special sence of carefulness that Americans don't understand. There is a carefulness. With carefulness of course comes a patience; however, with this carefulness they drive slow. 
When Sarah first turned left to visit the family's house, she was driving on the wrong side of the road. If I had not gone to Jamaica, I bet many of you would think I would be scared, but I actually find it humorous. After a few moments we were driving on the right side of the road. When we arrived at the house, I was received by a crowd of people with the youth as a "posse." I met many people there only for like five minutes; then we went to the host's house. I still did not know what is going on. They asked me if I wanted to take a shower. I actually did because I did not the day before. After that they asked if I was sleeply. The plan seemed to be that we were going to say the night there. I was able to please everyone, and everyone loved me. One of the youth loves foriegn people, and the youth helped me join QQ. After that I wondered if the room that I was working on the computer with and shown was my room. When I saw that I was twelve, I decided to sleep. EVERYONE was in "my room," hanging out. I got up to say I am going to sleep, and get out of my room if it was my room. When I told everyone my decision, I was shown into my room. Yeah does this email seem like it will never end. I did not know when the celebration or stay with the family would end ether. I thought I was just going to be one dinner and be bad the day that we left. 
I felt a headache coming though. When I woke up Friday, I had a slight headache and I did not feel like eating. I was praying that I would not get sick, but I came to know the purpose and hand of God in this day as I exercised trust in him. Mary became worried, she decided to return home that day. That morning I tried to eat, seeking a consistancy in my life. I ate a 馒头, a steam bun, and an apple for breakfast. There was a bowl of rice porridge prepared for me, but I was feeling out of it. I went up to take a nap, after drinking a few glasses of water.
My hydration has been an adventure too. On Thursday morning I woke up so dehydrated and cramping. Drinking water is not served naturally at meals. I asked to water, but the glass was so small. I looked for more liquid that I may drink. We ate the same food for breakfast as we did the twenty dish feast the night before. Since I had nothing new to try, I asked for the soup prepared with extra broth. This morning I taught everyone what broth and the importance of hydration was. To this day Mary talks of the broth experience. I have like three bowls of soup. I needed to be hydrated. I needed to take control of my life. I stopped Mary from serving me the food that she wanted me to eat, and after this day she finally understood my right to chose for myself what I want.
After my nap, I felt a little better, but we were still leaving. I was realizing at this time that this would be perfect timing to figure out how to go to church. I found that the closest church in China to where I live as in Suzou. Of course I was questioned. They do not understand the concept of church. Communication is hard, since Mary barely knows English. I learned to not be annoyed by her and humbled myself by the end of this Friday. A family friend had to drive us to Nontang; although, our original plan was to take the bus. The friend came because we waited like two hours standing on the side of the road, waiting, and it never came. When we came home, Mary started talking about going to church tomorrow. Tomorrow was Saturday though. I have boldly emphasized my right to observe my religion for myself. The next morning I was rushed off to find the church for me. I was afraid that they were convincing me to attend a Catholic Church in Nontang. I stood my ground though. A humble servant of the lord came. She spoke English. She was a Chinese kindergarden teacher of a local school. I came out to be a Seventh-day Adventist Church. The sister respected me, and she was a great mediator for me with Mary. Mary wanted to go to the address that I found in Suzou, but I was prompted to say that we should do more investigation to make the trip worthwhile. When I proposed the idea to go on the internet and figure out what I can, they were surprised, asking why I was happy, laughing. They said. How can I do research without a computer or internet. Computer and the internet has been more readily accessable than my own clothing, so I knew that my request would be received.
Mary's little brother was driving us around. Using his computer at his house, I felt good. I had my appetite and ability to work out what is going on, trusting the church. When I found that church websites were not going to offer any phone numbers of local leaders for advice, I clicked to chat with the missionaries ofmormon.org. They gave me the phone number of the district president at Beijing. She spoke of virtual sacrament and meeting, since I was not in Beijing. I was down for anything. Just as long as I can partake of the Sacrament, but God had a greater plan for me. The leader of the Beijing Church heard that lived near Suzou, saying that there is a branch there. She gave me their contact information, and we called to figure out what is best. Mary was so worried. She did not want me to get lost in China especially on my first weekend here; however, my new branch president Benson comforted her, offering the option to stay at her house. Since this was an option, I ask if I could get clothing and stuff. Mary said yes, but when we were on the road, heading out of town, I received the news that I was going to meet new people and stay at their house without anything AGAIN. I basically had the clothing on me.
We were off, and I had the address. It was in English though, and Mary could not attempt to understand that. When we arrived at Suzou, they asked around for a church. I know that it would be the wrong place, but it was Suzou. The place of my new branch, and I was going to stay there. We arrived at a big BIG cathedral. They tried to convince me that this was my church. I asked for the phone to call my branch president. I said that we were in Egret Park. Recognizing where we were, he told me to give the phone to Mary. After discussion, we were off again, but we had another humble servant with us as a guide from the cathedral. We finally met up with President Benson, and he showed us the house that we have our meetings. A couple guys were there, and we hang out. Mary loves to talk. President Benson has been studying Mandarin for twenty years, so he told us Mary's touching vision.
Mary works for a Chinese Ophanage, but she knows how corrupt the system is. She has been working hard, sacraficing a lot obtain this vision, which is to have the profits of the school that I will be beginning perhaps called MaryInternational Education go to build a new private ophanage program by herself. In my house in Capitola, we have heard scary stories of Mary, but I trust as I said in my last talk and article at the Ocean Branch weekly services. Every person is a pure child of God; despite, the natural man is scary. Mary is a very loving person.
Mary gave my two hundred yuan for my bus fare home and entrusted me with President Benson. When I entered his car, I was received by two of his wonderful children. Emma, nearly four years old, and Anders, perhaps two. President Benson said that we were going to pick up the rest of his children after we buy me a bus ticket home for Sunday after church. His children were getting haircuts, and as I waited in the car to see him return with his newly groomed children. I counted FIVE addition children. The oldest Benny, second Hannah, third (I forgot.), Layo, and Oscar. I have eight new siblings now. You may count seven, but President Benson's wife is due this coming week for the eight name Anniegene or something close to that.
The Benson Family is stush (luxurious). When Mary gave me a towel to dry myself off after showing, I received basically a sweat rag towel, and when I look for a towel at the Benson's the first towel that I found as the biggest beach towel that I ever seen like seven feet by five feet. At dinner I broke the news to them, that their common fast food dinners of KFC and what not was a first for me. I know that KFC is not luxurious, but they are stush. I wanted more movies there that I have this entire year. How to train your dragon is a pretty awesome movie. The children all loved me, hoping that I would come every week, but with the new child coming, my extra body in the home was just a warm up. The Benson Family is amazing they were all prepared before I got up about seven. I do not know the time because I do not have a watch or a clock. I can use my phone, but it is sixteen hours off. This morning (today being Sunday) I finally had my traditional oatmeal and raisin breakfast.  I was almost going to go into withdrawals without my oatmeal and raisin breakfast.
The Suzou Branch is a real BRANCH, and it is full of the some noble of the children of God. They are currently recovering from most of the people coming home from vacation. They usually have sixty people. The branch is so mature.
I am so grateful for all that God has prepared for me in China. I never doubted God's care. We even have a YSA Sabbath supper next week for Fast Sunday, and I hear the food is as glorious as it is in the Ocean Branch. I love the people of China. I see that the people that I email may think that I am unapproachable with conversation; Not even one question. Please forward this to the Branch, family and so forth, and post this on my Facebook wall as a note like I use to do with Trevor's emails. Just tag me. Take care. I hope to hear from you soon.

Love

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