Currently listening to: Some Mad Hope by Matt Nathanson
Currently reading: Passport: An Epic Novel of the Cold War by Bruce Herschensohn
December was a busy, busy month here, so again I find myself apologizing for the lack of blogging. The holiday season is an incredible opportunity to share our cultural, and more importantly, spiritual traditions and stories.
Our celebrations kicked off right after Thanksgiving. Sunday evenings we participate in an English corner at a local university. In preparation for their huge Christmas celebration, we invited Melva's entire conversation group to our apartment to learn to bake cookies. As a community, our goal was to make 600 cookies to take to this party so we wanted to contribute in whatever way possible. These students are so precious. Most of them are freshmen and are just beginning to adjust to university life. Also, many of them are from other parts of the country and they are having to adjust to university life while being thousands of kilometers away from everything and everyone familiar.
So twenty students arrived at our apartment and were completely spellbound for the 2 hours they visited. They were fascinated by our oven--they didn't realize that it was hot! We were baking cookies and one of the girls tried to put her hand into the oven to get the cookie rack without wearing an oven mitt. It's interesting the cultural differences that are hard to anticipate. We knew they would be surprised to see that cookies are made by following recipes (Chinese cooking is done by feeling, a pinch here, and a dab there), but teaching someone how to decorate a sugar cookie is counter-intuitive. Even though I'm a teacher, it was easier to demonstrate the process rather than having to explain how frosting works. So that was our cooking baking party.
The next weekend was the whole English club's Christmas party. It was quite the experience. The students got the opportunity to make Christmas cards and were finally able to eat the cookies they had decorated. Some students presented dances and songs and we presented a living Christmas story complete with a real baby! One of the biggest joys was hearing the sheer delight as He was "born" (when the blanket was pulled off of Mary to reveal a baby sling with a little baby boy).
In addition to these events, we hosted other celebrations not documented by my camera. The most entertaining was the weekend that I had my classes over. The best memory by far is of one of my tough 8th graders wearing our lime daisy-print apron while measuring out the ingredients for chocolate cookies.
The first weekend of break we had a smaller gathering of our university students. We read the Story from Luke and then watched the movie The Nativity. What an amazing portrait of the first Christmas!
Then, on Christmas Day, we hosted a party for the Kennedy's (their entire household was sick at some point in the last three weeks). It was quite the combination of people--our dear friend and her new husband, our Chinese teacher and his family, a Moroccan German, a German Canadian, a Pole, Kennedy grandparents, and other wonderful Chinese friends. Again, the legend of the candy cane was shared and a candle-lit, bilingual Silent Night was sung. I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to share and celebrate Christmas!
Cookie Decorating Party:
Melva as the Chinese-equivalent of Martha Stewart, demonstrating how to make cookies.
The pile of shoes! Thankfully, we had enough pairs of slippers of everyone.
Our friend Phyllis came to help us.
The students made all different kinds of decorations for the sugar cookies.
What color should we pick?
The girls also made Christmas countdown chains.
The cookies were so pretty--we had to refrain from eating them until the party the following Sunday.
We were able to share the Story--Melva is reading The Dream of the Three Trees here.
We had so much fun together!
University Christmas Party:
One of my conversation students and me before the party.
The 600 cookies were all eaten by the time the party of finished!
Acting out the Christmas story (complete with a real baby!)--The angel is telling Joseph not to be afraid.
Santa passing out candy canes with the Legend of the Candy Cane attached in Chinese.
A beautiful Tibetan dancer.
A candle-lit version of Silent Night.
This is my student who is Family--she is from another province and had not yet found a local fellowship. The girl who was the angel in the picture from the reenactment was able connect my friend with a group!
I am enjoying my break. Sometime in the relative future I will write about my trip to southern China. Until then, Happy New Year!