Wednesday, March 16, 2011

That Ram…


Brad and I are sitting in the “Sharing Bar” which is the little cafĂ© in our international dorm. He’s on the internet as I try to blog. Country music is playing in the background. Not today’s Zach Brown Band or Darius Rucker (my favorites) or evenShania Twain (she’s a popular one here), but none other than George Jones. Brad is feeling all warm and cozy on the inside. He just called out “hen hao” (very good!) to the owner / manager and claimed the music as being from his state. Oh,that Southern Pride. You can take the boy out of the dirty South,but you can’t take the dirty South out of the boy. I wonder if the two Middle Eastern guys in the booth eating pizza and smoking cigarettes are equally as impressed with this evening’s selection.

Chinese schools get about a month off through January, their Chinese New Year / Spring Festival. A couple weeks ago we resumed our regular schedule. I use the term regular lightly. I am outsourced to other schools sometimes and last Thursday as I finished up some extra hours filling in for a different school, we’ll name it Plan B, the manager (sort-of) of that school came to me with my schedule for the next week. It included teaching 1st grade and 3th grade at a public elementary school (thus outsourced from my outsource) and a few at her school teaching 20-somethings (which I love). She gave me the primary school books from which to teach and quickly said, “Okay?” (it wasn’t a question) and then was done with me. This was the first time I had received a schedule from her so I thought it was a little weird. She is definitely a tricky one, but she told me she had already emailed Cheny so… I just went with it as cordially as possible.

Though I didn't this time, I have stood up to her before, S.H.O.C.K.E.R., I know. The first time I was scheduled to teach at her school (way back in September) I had to give a demo lesson, a lesson given to a prospective student. She told Cheny that she would have the book for me to use there at the school. Cheny went with me since it was my first time to Plan B, and we got there early so I could have time to prepare. When we arrived she didn’t seem to remember that she had promised me a book and instead told me to teach “anything I wanted.” What did that even mean and how would I know the English level of the students? I was furious but sat down at the one computer to try to think of something. She and Cheny started talking in Chinese. There was a lull in their conversation and I used that moment to get up from my chair, walk over to her, look directly in her eyes (she’s short, don’t worry, I didn’t need my toes) and say, “If you would have told me earlier I could have prepared something, but I didn’t know what I needed.” I was so proud of myself and for the moment didn’t care if she hated me. I was so strong. Then, I cried. Haha -kidding.

Cheny told me later she would have said something if I hadn’t. hmmmm.....

So anyway, I wondered if Cheny did in fact know I had these classes. She had told me previously that I possibly would have extra elementary school classes this semester.

Friday passed, and then Saturday, but I had yet to receive my new week’s schedule from Cheny (weeks are Monday - Sunday). On Sunday after my first class I texted her just to make sure I did need to teach those classes. She said yes. I received my official schedule later on that evening, with still yet another new elementary school class listed Thursday afternoon. Those classes that were given to me from Plan B school had not been the original elementary classes Cheny had been talking about.

Of course, as usual, the ram was already in the woods! (Shout out to my life group sistas.) I didn’t have to teach Monday morning, the college class had something else planned for the students, so I was able to use that time to prepare. I went to Huawen (our home base) where I had a computer, printer, and copier.

I found out there that Cheny didn’t know I was given more primary school classes. She had been told Plan B needed me for hours, but that was it. She called Plan B and found some things out so I could have more of a direction as I planned my lessons. She was also told: 1) I would be given a Chinese assistant to accompany me, and 2) these were smaller advanced classes (between 25-30 students each). I wouldn’t have to deal with lots of crazy kids in a huge crazy-kid classroom. This was good news.

It took me about 4 hours that morning, but I got something together. I went back home and left quickly again for Plan B so I could then be told where the primary school was located.

Things were busy when I arrived at
Plan B. I stood in the lobby type area for a bit and waited. A few minutes later the manager walked up to me and thrust LESSON PLANS into my hands.

“Lesson plans for you.”

“Lesson plans?”

“Lesson plans for you. The school has them. I sent them last week.”

“Lesson plans? But I already made lessons. Can I still use mine?”

“Oh, it’s just for your reference. Lesson plans for your reference.” She walked away as quickly as she had spoken.

Seriously, Cheny had called her THAT morning, why hadn’t she said anything about lesson plans she had already typed up and sent to the school a week earlier??

I stood around about 5 more minutes. The director of the school, the ONLY person above this lady, and fortunately someone who somehow has grown to like me, had ridden the elevator up with me and engaged me in casual conversation. He saw that I was still waiting and motioned to his manager (who was on her cell phone) that I was still standing there. At that she motioned to another girl who was sitting in a chair. That girl got up and came to me; I gathered she was my assistant.

This girl walked up to about 2 inches from my face and happily asked, ‘Hello, I’m _____ and I’m studying French. You speak French?”

No.” – that was all I said. Did she think I was going to be speaking French? You’ve GOT to be kidding me. WHAT is happening to me right now? She looked confused when I responded negatively. She regretfully said that her English wasn’t so good. She then clenched me at the elbow and began moving me down the hall, down the elevator, outside down the street, and then into a taxi. Seriously, I know I’m on my way to middle age, but I assure you I can walk by myself.

We made it to the school and alas, I had one more surprise. I was waiting in an office when I learned that there had been some miscommunication. I wasn’t going to be teaching 1st grade, but in fact 4th. WHAT?! I had 25 minutes to think of something extra to teach concerning “WORKING AT A FACTORY” to 4th graders. So much for having anything prepared. (haha – China. I had to teach about a factory!) Ready, GO.

Well, faithful blog followers, the ram was still in the woods and I was able to do all things through Christ who strengthened me. I made them laugh, I made them cry. (Okay, kidding about that too. No one’s been crying.) I even had them working in groups by the end of class. As the kids filed out, many said goodbye and two girls said I was beautiful. (aaaw, oh stop,... I mean… I’m sorry what? I didn’t hear you.) It had worked out

and I had actually even enjoyed myself! Better yet, now it was OVER and there would be no more surprises!

But, there were more surprises. Happy surprises! I got back to our dorm and I had gotten so much mail! I L.O.V.E. mail! After that my husband surprised me by taking me to a sushi restaurant. I L.O.V.E. sushi and we hadn’t had it since being here! Then my husband surprised me with a beautiful framed picture from our wedding with the lyrics of Crazy Love by Van Morrison printed on it. I L.O.V.E. that song and who doesn’t L.O.V.E. presents??? The next morning I checked my email and had LOTS of Facebook messages filled with love. I L.O.V.E. Facebook love!

Turns out it was a pretty great birthday after all. Of course it was; the ram was in the woods the whole time.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

It's not a religion - Our days with the Sister.

Last month, Feb. 3rd to be exact, was the Lunar Chinese New Year. (Shout-out to all you Rabbits!) Brad and I decided to leave behind the land of dancing dragons, dumplings and firecrackers, to accompany our dear friends Travis and Marissa to the Philippines. Marissa’s parents are both originally from the Philippines, but immigrated to the United States after college. They met once in the U.S. Neither has been able to go back to visit their dearly loved and missed families, and none of their three children have been able to meet the majority of their huge extended family, until this past week. Marissa, my friend who is pure gold in heart and mind and spirit, was the first in her immediate family to make the pilgrimage back home to their motherland. Brad and I were beyond lucky to be part of this trip.

At the very least I can tell you that 1) not a minute was wasted, and 2) I did not go hungry. I will start by introducing Marissa’s Tita Inday, her mom’s sister. Marissa’s mom’s immediate family (parents and siblings) all moved to the U.S. some time ago, but Tita Inday became the lone ranger of her family and stayed behind in the Philippines in order to serve the poorest and neediest there.

Tita Inday is soft spoken but strong, quiet but courageous, humble yet extremely talented. She is steadfast in her pursuit of a life pleasing to the Lord, but she does not judge those whose lifestyle choices are different from hers. She is a servant to the needs of Manila, yet she is a leader of the people. She is revered and she is loved.

“People here won’t mess with you since you’re with the Sister. I mean it. They would think twice about doing anything to you if you were with a priest, but you’re three times as safe being with a sister.” That was told to me by a friend of Marissa’s cousin.

We absolutely did feel safe, but the impact of traveling with Tita Inday didn’t stop there. Taxi drivers felt compelled to tell her (and thus us) their life stories to which she graciously listened and asked questions. (I took advantage of these situations and asked questions as well.) University students greeted us with “Hellos” in English because they also greeted her as they walked by. Tour guides gave us reduced rates because we were just humble traveling missionaries as Tita described to them. (“That’s what you are you know, teaching English in China, you’re missionaries.”)

Tita is in her early 60s. She has been a nun for 40 years. She felt her calling when she was in nursing school, but followed the advice of her mother to first finish her degree before entering the convent. Thinking back upon that time she said, “I was just so in love with the Lord, so in love with Jesus.” She has enjoyed serving the poor, sick, and working with troubled children. She has performed a variety of jobs and held a variety of roles (including Mother Superior), but at the current time she is assigned to teach and carry out managerial duties at a school about 3 hours from Manila. The school has about 5000 students, grades kindergarten through college. (In the Philippines the school structure is K-6 grades, then four years of high school. There is no middle school. Also, a ‘university’ is superior to a college.) There are over 200 employees at this school. She works in the religious studies department. She loves her job.

I asked about her funniest story. She laughed and flashed her amazing beautiful, big smile as she thought back on the silly story. She was running to catch a bus, but saw she could not make it. She knew the bus would be turning the corner so she ran across to the side street instead. There was a police officer on the side of the road. She asked him if he could stop the bus to let her get on. He of course obliged her request (the Philippines are 90% Catholic and NOBODY messes with a nun!). As the bus turned the corner the police officer flagged him to stop. The driver obeyed, opened the door towards the officer, and Sister Rosalyn stepped up the stairs. Sister giggled as she recalled that the passengers made fun of the driver, all saying “Ooooooh…” because it was obvious he was nervous about being stopped by a cop. Sister said she made sure to never put herself in that kind of situation again!

About a decade or so ago, Tita (aunt) was afflicted with breast cancer. I asked her about the history of the disease in her family. She said there was not a history, that she was the only one. She explained at that time in Manila her responsibilities were great in number and stress. She was becoming tired and worn out and pleaded with God for rest. Sheknew that just a week or even a month would not be long enough. She was completely worn out and running on empty. One night she had a dream that she had cancer in her left breast. She went in to see the doctor and although he thought she was healthy he also determined that there was a small possibility of cancer in her right breast. She told him he was wrong, that her dream had told her she had cancer in the left. He respectfully responded, “Okay Sister, we will check.” She was given a mammogram and it turned out that she in fact had cancer in her left breast. She flew to Marissa’s house in the States for better treatment than she could find in the Philippines and allowed her sister’s family to take care of her. She went through all the things women go through as they fight cancer. Her fight was victorious; she was healed, and then sent back to work in Manila.

Brad asked her how she has seen the role of religion change in the past 40 years. Her facial expression made it obvious that a lot has changed over the years. She mentioned that modern-day media (especially American movies and TV) has destroyed the family. She said that it is harder to teach religion now because people are actually more pious than they used to be. “But,” she added, “People are also more hungry for the Lord. There is a big difference between religion and spirituality.” I told her the pastor at our church in Charlotte, NC, has been saying the same thing: It’s not a religion; it’s a relationship. She agreed.


I wrote this journal entry on February 7, the night we returned from the Philippines. How coincidental that on that following Sunday our Charlotte Pastor, David Chadwick, spoke on this exact topic. You can check it out if you wish by viewing the past series here: RELIGION VS. RELATIONSHIP Feb. 12, 2011