Monday, August 29, 2005

Children and School

The children started school 2 weeks ago. They really like it. I think the first week they were a little nervous because it seemed most of the kids couldn't speak English well. But I think that they are making friends and getting along very well. Jay is the only boy his age here in the neighborhood with about 4 other girls. He's becoming quite the ladies' man. They come quite often to see if he can come out and play.
The kids start their after school activities today. They have different activities on different days. Jay is doing gymnastics and Tennis. Caitlin has soccor and painting. Rachel is doing an English Lit Quiz team and Rugby, and Nicole is doing softball and Rugby. Things are pretty busy, but they are having fun.
I am enrolling Eli in a Chinese pre-school. He is really excited about it. He will go Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings. Maybe he will be able to teach me Chinese! See that little blonde head at the front of the class? There's my little guy. I think this will be quite an experience for him.

Church here in Nanjing

What a wonderful experience it is to be part of the small group here in Nanjing. We have been meeting at a small apartment in town. Our group consists of a family from Hong Kong, and 2 English teachers, another brother from Hong Kong, and our family. We are small, but we feel the spirit so strongly each week as we take the sacrament and listen to a talk given by a member of the group. We also have primary, mutual, and adult classes. We all take turns giving lessons. I feel that every member of our family has had an increase in their testimony as we enjoy the simplicity of the gospel. They have been very patient with Jay and Eli. They seem alot louder when there are so few people! They have been good all things considered.
There is also a Native Chinese group in our city. There are 7 of them. We are not allowed to have church meetings with them because of the Law, but we socialize with them every Sunday after church. They come over to the Yu's apartment and sometimes we have potlucks (very interesting food, but good). There is a young man going on a mission from Nanjing! This is so exciting. He will leave for Singapore as soon as his visa comes through. He learned about the church while going to school in Singapore and was baptised. You may have discussions and be baptised in a different country, but not here, if you are Chinese. His parents aren't happy that he is going. I think that takes so much faith. He is one of 8 missionaries sent straight from China. Here is a picture of a potluck we had with the church members. Jacob is next to Mike.
A large group from BYU came this last week and will be here for the fall semester. The professor in charge brought his family of 6 kids, so we will have a bigger primary and youth group! We are excited. This last Sunday we met, about 50 of us, in a hotel conference room for church. We are happy they are here.

Things are different

There is always a new experience to be had here in China. Everything is done differently here. We are terrible at speaking Chinese, but we are trying. There is alot of nodding and smiling that goes on. Everyone here has special house shoes. We thought we'd do this too-you know, the when in Rome thing. It was going great until Mike forgot he was wearing his house-slippers and wore them to work! I am spoiled and have a housekeeper. She doesn't speak a bit of English. She always tries to talk to me in Chinese. She thinks that if she keeps saying the same thing over and over again, she I will understand her! But she is really nice and works very hard. We don't drive here. We have a really nice driver named Jiang. He really takes care of us and is working hard to learn a few English words. I guess we meet somewhere in-between as we are learning Chinese words as well. He is funny because sometimes he will go into a new place with me and try to be my translator. You can imagine how well this works as he doesn't speak my language. He did come in and help us bargain for the material for a suit for Mike the other day. I think he did a great job.
Our neighbors (multiple) have chickens and roosters. They run around the neighborhood and sometimes dogs chase them up trees. There are workers in our compound who walk around cleaning (or I should say wiping as I have never seen anything rinsed out or any dissinfectant) everything. They mop the street, they wipe down the playground multiple times a day. They wipe down front portches, electrical boxes, and in the rain, they scrub the road with brushes. I put garbage out on the front of my sidewalk and it dissapears!
Everywhere we go, people stare at us. People bring their babies up to meet Eli like it is some great honor for their child. Most of the time, the baby doesn't even look at him:-) People take pictures and point. The kids are good sports about it. I don't know if we will ever get used to it. When we were at the zoo, we were feeding the turkeys and goats, and looked over to see many people lined up along the fence looking in. We realized that they weren't looking at the animals-they were looking at us! So I guess we were the main attraction at the zoo that day.

Experiences with Food

Going to a Chinese grocery store is an experience that I am unable to give justice to with a description. First you walk in, and the smells hit you. Smells you have never experienced, or want to again (but you know you have to if you want to eat). There are vegetables and fruits you have never seen or heard of, and a few that are familiar. There is this fruit that smells like sour milk. I think that the name even translates as stinky fruit. You must know that the treasured parts of meat that you have grown up with are no longer treasured. The favorite parts are stomach, heads(with all of the head-parts), and feet. There are aquariums full of every fish, eel and snake you can imagine. Even Turtles. They cut them up right there and then for you (live) so you can take them home fresh. Rachel had a special experience at the grocery store when she got light-headed and fainted right in front of the "cut up live turtles and snakes" stand. There was no air conditioning in the store and she was dehydrated. We had 2 carts full of food and Eli in the other cart. I stood there trying to hold her up, but she kept falling down. Everyone in the store just gathered around and watched(that is what Chinese people do. They will gather around to see whatever is going on. Mike and I think we could stand on a sidewalk and pretend to stare at something and we could gather a crowd of at least 20. Maybe next date night we'll give it a go!). Finally some workers came and gave her a chair, a fan, and some sugar water. A bit scary, but she was ok.
Well, we spent the first couple of weeks probably near-starving. But of course, we have gradually figured things out. We eat a combination of Chinese and Western style food. But there are never the right ingredients. We eat a lot of Rice! Thankfully my family have been angels and haven't complained once about the food. There is a Pizza Hut, McDonalds and KFC. We have tried each once. The Pizza Hut doesn't smell like a pizza hut, but it tastes pretty good. When we went their with Jay for his birthday, we looked around and were the ONLY ones eating with our hands!(of course we used hand sanitiser first) They were all struggling with knives and Forks-It's like us struggling with chopsticks.
Rachel and I have both made the mistake of ordering Shrimp. They give you the WHOLE shrimp. I got 6 inch prawns once and there they were looking up at me!!!! I was proud of Rachel. She picked out the shrimp from her soup and prepared them herself and ate them. She said she didn't want shrimp for a long time after that.

5 kids in a 5 star hotel

Our first week was spent at the Hilton. I'm sure I don't have to say much for you to imagine how stressful that was! Luckily, the staff loved the children, especially Eli, so they cut us a lot of slack. We had no car that first week, so we spent a lot of time at the Hilton pool, and going for walks around the hotel. One day we ventured out and found a park. It happened to have a gatehouse in it from a castle built in 500ad. Pretty cool! We also found an awesome Museum (pictured above)that I want to go back to see when I don't have the boys with me:-) Luckily, on Monday July 18 we got our house, a car and a driver! I'm sure that the Hilton was glad to see us go. Hey, at least things were more exciting around there for a week!

On our Way

Well, I guess it's been a month and a half. What an experience! I have told many of our experiences to some friends and family, so this may be a repeat for some, but I thought that I would just write things down anyway, and you can skip it if you already know. We had the best time with our family this summer. What a perfect way to start off the trip of a lifetime. Some highlights were hiking to Timpanogas Cave with Grandma Nick (yes, she made it and we didn't even have to carry her!), our annual trip to Lagoon with the Russon Family, the big Centerville 4th of July race( family from both sides joined and it was a blast!). Even many of the grandchildren from the Nichols' family ran. I wonder if Grandma Nichols remembers telling the kids she'd run the 5 k next year with them. They do! Mom and Dad Russon put together a "reunion" with the Gibb and Russon families. It was so great to see everyone! We really loved every minute of our stay! Thank you!
When it was time to head out to China, Jay's passport had a glitch, so we were delayed. Luckily, we were able to have a small family vacation in San Fransisco on Ford's bill for 4 days before we got on the plane for China. We had such a great time. We stayed right down in the Fisherman's Warf area of town and could walk anywhere. The kids thought the Ripley's Believe it or Not was great. I loved the food. We went to the beachone day and saw the giant redwoods another. We finally made it to the airport with all of our 12 huge rolling suitcases and dufflebags and 7 backpacks, and even had all of our passports, visas and tickets on Sunday July 11th.
We felt pretty cool cause we saw Yao Ming, the famous Chinese basketball star at the airport, and he rode in our plane. (not next to us)
Our first taste of China was to be in the Beijing Airport where we had a 5 hour layover. We were maybe as popular as Yao Ming! There was a group of at least 30 people gathered around us with their spokesperson (who knew a little English) asking us questions and wanting pictures with their children and ours. We are quite the spectacle in China. Is it our family size, that we are westerners, Mike's height, or the red and blond hair??? Who knows?
Nanjing is a wonderful city. It has a population about the size of Chicago. There are many things to do and see. We live in a nice compound close to the school. Mike's office is at the Sharaton Hotel until next year, when they move to a new building. It is hot, hot, hot, and don't forget humid here. There is never a dull moment as there are so many interesting things to see.