Color Day in Qingdao

Yesterday was our school’s Color Day, and let me just be frank. I really really enjoy spending this kind of time with the students. The interactions they have with each other and the staff are priceless because they are quite different from the daily norm and grind of the semester.

I had two classes in the morning that went well, and I saw several students who really put effort into their color costume, face paint or whatever it would take to show the pride they have in their color. As I mentioned briefly on Instagram before, our school has this day where five colors represent certain values that we hold dear as a body. The colors are as follows:

Red: 精 (Excellence)

The young ones on the Red Team line up to move locations.
Time outside together while the colors walk across the stage.

Blue: 德 (Virtuous) – I just realized I have no Blue pics. Yikes…

Orange: 智 (Wisdom)

The Orange Team represent!

Yellow: 爱 (Love)

On my way to hang out with the yellow students…
The Yellow Team showing off. 😀

Green: 新 (Modern)

The Green Team! No Hulk this year… :\

Classes were normal in the morning, but after lunch the activities set in. From 1:30 – 2:15pm, the groups split into their colors and did team-building games at various locations on the campus. I took this time to just walk around, admire and take in the connections and memories being made among the collection of grades 1-12. The high school students came up the ideas for the activities and had to lead each group. The younger ones followed through and did their best to reach the goals.

I saw leadership, teamwork, laughs, focus, intensity, teachers, students, staff and excitement build as the time flew by. That’s what happens when you have fun, right?

The Best Dressed!

And when 2:30pm rolled around, it came time for the first round of “Best Dressed” of every color to walk across the stage (see above). As the staff and students walked by in their own individual fashions, much smaller groups from every color were chosen based on their costumes. It was such a good forty-five minutes to an hour of just natural bonding time with students that I know as well as others that I just met. But it didn’t stop there. The next ten minutes or so were when the colors took group pictures followed by a school-wide one. It may or may not have been a little toasty when so many gathered in one spot. As they say, 人山人海. 😉

Getting ready for the school-wide pics

While we walked away from all of the festivities, I reflected with the other elementary foreign teachers about the afternoon. One could immediately and totally learn so much more about students days like this. A prime example would be one of my 2nd graders. A boy, *Jason, at the outset of our time outside for stage-walking he clung to my arm and gave me several hugs throughout. Instantly I learned that this child needs physical affection. (Gary Chapman always comes back to me in moments like these.) Obviously I cannot fill the void that his parents should give, but I can be a source that he can daily reciprocate with in appropriate ways.

Students like Jason emphasize the reason why I am a teacher. We can guide students in their intellect all we want, but their hearts are what truly matter.

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Having a Baby in China

Yes, it’s true. I’m going to be a father! My wife is now in her fifth month, and I’m doing fine. (HA!) I say that because it’s our first child, and we plan to have it in China. It’s also because I believe the news is hitting me more and more while the number of people I tell grows larger.

Countless thoughts have run through my mind in the past month or so, but none compare to the ones I have had related to responsibility and limited time. I have considered our family’s future, along with its education, air quality, medical care, culture, church, etc. But some recent experiences have been reminders that have shown me the weight and span that all this parenting business will encompass. Continue reading

Lonely (and Empty) Everywhere

A good Chinese friend of mine recently asked me if I ever feel lonely while living in China. I thought about it for a minute. I pondered on my past experiences, what I’ve read on the subject, and the possible path this conversation could go. Therefore, I answered in a way that I’ve learned is one of the best ways to communicate here. Answer the question with a question.

“Of course I feel lonely here sometimes. Doesn’t everyone have a time where they feel lonely wherever they are?”

The response set my friend back. With the thinking process being quite different here, I usually receive a sigh, a move in sitting position, or both. I’ve learned that the signals could be a combination then of “Oh, I hadn’t thought of that before,” or “You really have no idea what you’re talking about,” or a mix. Thankfully, in this circumstance, my friend sat back with a look of the former. When this happens though, I continue to examine the nonverbal gestures that my crossfire opponent is sticking to me. This is one thing that I’ve learned recently. If I don’t understand even the slightest in a discussion, no matter who it is, I watch how the person is trying to communicate and pay attention to the tones (even if Chinese is a tonal language, ha). I don’t think any national knows that this is what goes through my head every time I hop on a bus, take a taxi, walk the block, etc. What are the people here doing? And why? But only surmising is a dangerous thing, so why not chat with the locals of whom I am contemplating?

It is through these numerous occasions that I’ve heard, seen and felt the emptiness and loneliness of people. If you’ve ever picked up heart-to-hearts with random strangers in a country not of your own, then you probably know what I mean. You start to walk through the daily grind and see what it is that has become an escape from life’s problems for them. Taxi drivers prefer to smoke while businessmen tend to crave various wines and liquors. The majority of the rest of the nitty-gritty occupations taken by the rising youthful generation pulls out their (possibly) knockoff smartphones and run their fingers up and down a screen trying to refresh 2-week old fish.

Do I become lonely in China? Sure, but it was in our first two years here that I had to digest the reality of solely relying on our Heavenly Father since most of our support was on the other side of the world. Have I been lonely in the US? Oh yea! Location doesn’t cause loneliness to dissipate. God made Eve because He saw that it was NOT good for Adam to be alone. Am I saying that everyone should marry? No. What I’m saying is that even when one is lonely, no matter where you are (literally or figuratively), there is One who is with you if you count the cost, believe, and confess.

A Child-Like Change

Last Saturday, I went to meet a student. I shared with her how hard it is for me to celebrate birthdays and holidays because they remind me of how I should be the other 364 days in the year. Examples I gave included Christmas, Thanksgiving, and New Year’s Day. I then proceeded to ask what she thought about this. “Good question.”

I thought so too because it’s been what has triggered my Scrooge mentality for years.

Then, she said, “but on days like Thanksgiving, I think we can be more thankful.” Okay… I hadn’t heard that before, or at least I hadn’t been willing to hear it. The more I chewed on this conclusion, the harder it was to forget. I couldn’t let those words go. The following day’s (Sunday) afternoon was when the excitement and joy hit me. In my heart, I realized what I had been doing for years was hurting the relationships I have with people. Why? Because I wasn’t looking into others’ love languages. I was being selfish and not thinking about the joy that others could be experiencing with gifts, time together, etc.

The thoughts continued to flood in… Continue reading

A Change of Perspective

Recently, an event happened within the Chinese culture that did not make much sense to me at the time. It’s easy to feel disrespected no matter where you are at in the world, but the difference comes in the reaction. Though I try to be more proactive, there are still those times that come out of nowhere.

Exhibit A
I was waiting at a local bus stop behind a wall providing shade for me. I knew there was a space under the wall, but I didn’t know how important that space would be. Continue reading