Monday, October 18, 2010

Coffee - Such a Luxury

10.17.10 - It’s right at noon and I’m sitting in a fancy coffee restaurant where even the napkins cost money. Brad and I teach tutoring classes on Sunday in different places and I happen to have a long break (which includes a lunch-time) between my two, two-hour classes. I am tutoring in an area called Taidong (tie-dong). It’s a huge, crowded shopping area. There is one Walmart in Qingdao and last week I somehow got there on accident walking around after my first class, though this may have been a blessing in disguise. I am hoping to make it back to Walmart today after class to catch the bus home. The bus I usually catch to go home from the nearest stop (227) turns being a bus rider into a contact sport, commencing with the step up into the door. Don’t worry, I know how to use my shoulders! I’m hoping the bus I can ride home from Walmart (226), will be a bit more pleasant.

Okay, back to my location. This restaurant sits on the second story, looking over a busy street so the view right now is fantastic. There are two huge love-seat like couches for chairs on each side of the table so it is easy and quite comfy to get settled in and relax. Too bad you can only sit here if you order food for a minimum of 18RMB (just under $3 – expensive!). My first time here was a month ago on my first official tutoring day. I was so excited to relax, get some coffee, and spend time planning my 2nd lesson. But then I saw the menu… and realized that I could either get a small cup of coffee for about $4-5, or buy a “pot” of coffee for $8-9. Yes, dollars not RMB. Were they serious? It’s just beans and water! This girl is used to buying dinner on the street for less than $1, and now they wanted me to pay four TIMES that for a small cup of coffee? The cheapest selection was the “Italian Coffee” and for some reason it was only offered in pot form for about the same price as their other single cups of Joe. Fine with me, I thought. Just give me some coffee! When I received my order I was very confused for a second because my cup and pot seemed so small. Seriously, you were about to charge me 9 bucks for a pot of coffee THAT size? Seriously?? ...wait a minute….. It was soon after that moment that I realized I had in fact ordered espresso. Guess the joke was on me! Erin Butler, I know you’re so disappointed in me. I made sure to drink it all and am sure I probably had the jitters for the rest of the day.

Well, today I at least knew what I was getting into. I ordered my espresso and searched the menu for a semi-inexpensive and small meal. (The majority of the dishes they serve are huge dinner size portions.) I came across a picture that I found quite exciting, though I couldn’t figure out what it was called. Turns out that “Characteristics Muffin” means waffles! I was allowed to pick from about four different types of syrups, one including bean flavored. Gross. I chose honey. The honey came in this thimble-sized pitcher and it had a friend, a miniature pitcher filled with like…thick liquid sugar with the color and taste of Crispy Crème donut glaze. YUMMERS! Sorry, my picture doesn’t include the mini-pitchers. They were brought about 10 seconds too late and I had already begun to destroy the waffle, in all lady-like fashion of course.

Yesterday (Sat) Brad and I had lunch with one of his middle school students and her father. It was this student Shirley (her English name) who asked him in his first week of teaching, “Are you a Christian?” He was completely caught off guard as we had been told and understood that talking about religion was off limits. (The BYU folks even had to sign a contract that under NO circumstances would they talk about their religion AT ALL!) He replied affirmatively and asked her the same. She told him that she was a Christian as well. Brad gave her his email and her mom emailed him later that same night. Lunch was arranged after a couple of emails.

Shirley’s parents lived in Iowa for about 4-5 years and that is when they became Christians. Upon moving back to China, they wanted to join a solid community of believers. They visited the official Chinese government-run church but didn’t think it was for them. They decided to join a “house” church instead. I bet Brad and my facial expressions were pretty funny to look at when he mentioned that his house church had about 500 people! (Only about 300 people attend each week due to other obligations of work, etc.) I saw an evening news excerpt on Christianity in China last year so I had LOTS of questions! In some cities house churches are illegal and people are punished for going, but in Qingdao, especially because of its outside German influence in the early 1900s, things are not as strict. House churches get into big trouble, no matter what city they’re in, for bringing in foreign speakers or guests, though they are allowed to bring in a Chinese speaker. (That must be why foreigners here go to their own church. There is an International Fellowship that we could go to on Sundays at a hotel and in order to get in we have to show our passports. Other foreigners meet in small groups. ) He also gave us really amazing information about the demands of the Communist Party on children. At age 14 students have to join the Communist Junior League. If they don’t, their classroom teacher won’t be eligible to receive monetary bonuses. Also, if they join the league they receive a special pin that they then wear to school on special days. This makes students who are Christians feel very uncomfortable because they don’t want to join the league. I wanted to ask why exactly they don’t want to join the league, but didn’t.

How lucky were we to have had that conversation?! I really am appreciating the moments when I am able to catch glimpses of what China is truly all about.


  1. wow! loving the posts! totally picturing you on the couch, drinking your work all over you. :) love the conversation w/ the student. so fascinating!

  2. Can I tell you how much I LOVE that the bus you take is "227" - how fitting!

    What a great story teller you are with your pictures and dramatic explanations. Maybe you should take up writing picture books or something when you come back. :)

    Miss you, friend!

  3. love the characteristic muffin! looks DELISH :-) Very cool that you got to eat with that girl and her dad. So interesting about the communist junior league. wow. I miss you so much!!

  4. Hey Dana! I agree with Neely, you are a true story teller! Its like I was "there"..well the pictures help as well...:) How awesome that you had dinner with Brad's student and family? I know it was awesome to talk about Christianity! :)

    We miss you SO much! Love, Love, Love the blogs! Please dont stop writing your "story" really might be a book one day!

    Love you,

  5. just reading this again. have you continued to talk to the student/his parents about personal stuff?