Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Starting to Head Towards the Chapel

I'm leaving for Lynchburg in the morning because Amanda and Jonathan get married on Sunday!  It seems like just yesterday I was hiding in a tree taking pictures of their proposal!  And while I was in China they had their engagement pictures taken.  They turned out so good and I can't wait to work with Jeremiah and Kathie again (they shot Ashley's wedding in March)!  Besides finishing packing to leave, the only thing I have left to do is write my Maid of Honor toast.  I have lots of ideas floating around in my head but I need to get them out into a cohesive statement.  And I'll need to make sure to wear water-proof mascara and have plenty of tissues in my pockets, because I'm going to cry, I know it.  

But back to the packing...I was pulling things out of my closet to take and before I knew it I had nine pairs of shoes to pack.  Nine!  Do I really need nine pairs of shoes for this trip?  Probably not.  But considering I'm bringing home all my dirty laundry to wash and I packed 1/4 of my closet, I'll have lots of outfits to choose from and I need to be prepared.  Like Girl Scouts.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Mug Monday and Giveaway Winner!

This mug is obviously from The Well.  They ordered them years and years ago when I was still a student to use as a giveaway after one of our fundraiser banquets.  We still have boxes of them in the basement and we fill them up with candy and coupons and use them as prizes for when we have contests and things.  And this one has become my pen mug.  The little purple guy hanging out on the right?  He was a gift from someone in China, and it is actually a pen in case you wondering.

 And not a whole lot to say about today.  Went to the gym, went to work, came home and went to the pool.  I am rather on the pale side and considering that Amanda's wedding is a week from yesterday (!) I'm taking advantage of every opportunity to turn a shade darker than white.  And thankfully the pool wasn't too crowded and noisy today.  I actually fell asleep, it was quite relaxing.  I hope you had an easy, relaxing Monday as well.

And I am excited to announce that the winner of the Chinese fan is...Stacie!  Thanks so much for following faithfully and letting me know about your trips!  And since you're moving in across the street next week, I'll wait and just hand deliver it myself!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Welcome Home

I spent the afternoon taking and uploading pictures of my new apartment on facebook.  And it literally took me all afternoon because my internet kept going out and my computer kept freezing.  But it was worth it because now all my friends and family that don't live in Johnson City can see it.  And since I know I'm not facebook friends with everyone who looks at the blog, I'll put some on here too.

My fun welcome mat
First look into the living room
Shelf of happiness
Kitchen antiques and Coca Cola spice rack
I love my room!
Photo books and magazines

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Saturday Souvenirs

Today was the type of Saturday that Saturdays are supposed to be like.  Sleep in, take your dear sweet time getting ready, meet a friend for lunch, spend all afternoon catching up, go to the grocery store, make dinner, watch a movie and eat ice-cream out of the carton.  In case you didn't pick up on it, that's what I did today.  With Jillian.  Jillian returned on Monday from a three week mission trip to Kenya!  We talked about it over lunch and then came back to my place and looked through approximately 300 pictures.  It was so neat to hear about all of the things they did and saw and experienced.  I was very impressed.  This is a really hard core trip, and I don't know if I could do it.  I think the last time I went camping I was in middle school and only stayed one night, and that was enough for me.  They spent the majority of the time sleeping in tents and Jillian said they didn't have a shower for the first ten days! Jillian also brought me some Kenyan goodies.  The first thing were some cookies, called Nice Biscuits.  If you've ever had the candy Chic-O-Stic, I think they tasted a little like that.  Quite tasty.  The other was a beautiful scarf, BEAUTIFUL!  It has lots of rich colors woven in slightly, shiny thread.  I love it! 

Friday, June 24, 2011

Cranberries in the Cupboard

My mom is wonderful for many, many reasons and one is them is that every time she comes to visit or every time I go home, she puts together a basket of goodies for me.  It will be full of my favorite snacks and foods, and other little things that make me happy.  When she came to help me move into my new place she brought this awesome picnic basket full of things, and one of them was a box of cranberries.  I put them in the caninet when I was unpacking and honestly I'd forgotten about them until a few days ago.  I opened them up and popped some in my mouth and immediately puckered up, they were so tart!  Normally I can just eat cranberries plain, but not these.  So, what to do with them?  I was making some plain whole wheat, brown rice to go with dinner and figured why not just throw some in?  So I did...and it was good!  They plumped right up and sweetened up the rice without being too tart.  Then this morning I was making my tuna salad sandwich for lunch and I put some on there, and it was also quite tasty!  So thanks Mom for a box of tart cranberries that made some plain dishes delicious!

Tonight I was running some errands and remembered that I wanted to find some cute, kind of dressy flip flops to wear at Amanda's wedding reception.  I do love a good pair of heels, and our bridesmaid's shoes are a good pair if heels.  But I know I won't be wearing them all night long and I don't want to be barefoot, so the solution is a cute pair of flip flops.  I found a pair of sparkly, beaded blue ones at Kohl's and really wanted them because they would match really well, but they only had them left in extra large, and my feet are definitely not extra large.  I did find a different pair, but you'll have to wait til the wedding post to see them!

Giveaway Extended!

I have not heard nearly enough stories about interesting trips, so entering the giveaway has been extended until 5:00pm on Sunday, June 26th.  Go to the following post for directions on how to enter!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

I Turned Right

I did something tonight that I haven't done since getting back from China.  I went to the gym.  I've had my gym clothes in my car for over a week now, and every day when I leave the office I've hesitated at the stop sign, "Should I go right and to the gym?  Or straight through and home?"  And every day I've gone straight through and home.  Finally tonight I went.  It was rough.  I ran slow and sweat a lot.  But I went.  

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Chinese Fan Giveaway!

 Well, I have done the best I can to sum up the bulk of my time in China.  So I'm leaving you with a few last pictures and the instructions for my first blog giveaway!  Woo hoo!  
Down the street from our hostel in Beijing.
Breakfast at the hostel :)
Bikes, bikes everywhere!
This was near the orphanage.
The best meal we had in China, at a Chinese-Korean BBQ!

Before I left for China I decided I would get a souvenir to use as a giveaway.  The first place we had the opportunity to buy things was at the base of the Great Wall and that is where I picked up this fan!  

To enter to win, leave a comment on the blog answering the following question: What is the most memorable trip you have ever been on?
 Those who are official followers through Google Friend Connect (on the right side bar) may leave a second comment for an extra chance to win!  The cut off to enter is Friday, June 24th at 5:00pm.  A winner will be picked at random and announced on Saturday! 
I look forward to hearing from you!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Precious Little Ones

The third place we worked while in China was at on orphanage.  We were told ahead of time that the conditions were not very good and at that it would be hard to handle.  And they were.  But this was one of those experiences that nothing could have prepared us for.  And just for reference, this orphanage was located in a single apartment, where 29 children from about 3 weeks to 13 years lived, and they all had a disability or health problem. As we stepped off the elevator onto the sixth floor of the apartment building, where the orphanage was located, the smell of urine and old food was overwhelming.  There were bags of trash laying in the hallway and a crowded drying rack of onesies, split pants,  and little shirts in the corner.  As soon as we entered the apartment a child immediately grabbed our hands or held up their arms to be picked up, which we did, all the while trying to take in how cramped and dirty things were.  And honestly, for about the first hour or so that we were there, I just wanted to leave.  I love kids, but I don't know if I've ever felt more uncomfortable.  It smelled bad, the children were dirty, and emotionally, it was just a lot to take in.  I wanted to help, but didn't really know what to do or where to begin.  One of the helpers had handed out cookies and the girl I was with couldn't help but have it all over her face and hands, so I cleaned her up.  Then I asked for a brush and tried my best to get all the tangles out and pull her hair back from here face so it wouldn't get stuck in the snot constantly running from her nose.  My insides were being torn in so many different directions.  I was trying to do all these things without getting too much food or snot on myself, and then I'd feel so guilty for being so concerned about it.  I didn't want to get dirty and feel gross for a few hours, when here was a nine year old girl who couldn't walk or talk and spent most of her time lying on a hard wood floor. 

Some time later it was time for them to eat, which consisted of cups or bowls of instant milk.   I was handed a bowl and pointed towards a girl in a wheelchair to feed.  Every other spoon full or so she spewed back out, usually on my face or neck.  One of the workers told me that she spit when she was happy, because she couldn't really talk.  Knowing that made getting spit on a little easier to handle.  Later there was an older boy who was getting really rowdy and needed to be corraled and I was trying to figure out how when I spotted a deck of cards.  I pulled him aside and just started dealing the cards out between the two of us, and then showed him how to take turns putting the cards back down on the table one-by-one, and he loved it!  We did that for another thirty minutes until it was time for us to leave, which was a bit if a relief that first day.

Our second and third trips to the orphanage were much easier to handle.  I think mainly because we knew what to expect.  Leaving on the last day though was so hard.  We walked out of those doors knowing we would probably never see these precious little children that had stolen our hearts again.  But more than that, not knowing what the future held for them, but knowing many were bleak.  Would they have the surgeries they needed?  Would they be adopted?  We didn't know and probably never will.  It was these experiences and thoughts that taught me a lot about faith.  I know that the Lord loves these children more than we do and He holds their lives in His hands.  Their position in life doesn't make sense to me, but I am so thankful that I can trust the Lord and his sovereignty.  But even still, say a prayer for these adorable little ones!

Megan and Ting Ting

Jessica taught her Miss Mary Mack

Tiffani and my card playing buddy.

William and Jessie

Me feeding Amanda

my favorite picture from the whole trip

Monday, June 20, 2011

Are You Ready For Some Mug Monday?!?

Amanda and I at the game.
This mug was either a birthday or Christmas gift from Jenni a few years ago, and I loved it!  Not only is it a Patriots mug, but it's a really nice Patriots mug.  Now, for those of you reading this who haven't actually met me, or known me for a long time, you probably don't know that I'm a huge Patriots fan.  During football season, I'll come home every Sunday after church and I put on my jersey and watch the game if it's on, and if it's not I'll keep another on to catch the updates.  And I don't just watch the games, I jump and scream and bite my nails.  And this past Thanksgiving my family and I drove from Lynchburg to Detroit to watch the Patriots take on the Lions in the Thanksgiving Day game and it was ah-mazing!  But anyways, back to the mug.  I've never actually used this mug to drink from, it's always held my Sharpie collection, because I do love Sharpies too!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The University

A normal morning in cafe.
The place where we spent the majority of our time working was at the universities.  Our team of nine was split into three groups of three, and each smaller group worked at the same university every day.  On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday we were there from about 7:30am to 3:30pm, and on Tuesday and Thursday we were there from 2:30 to 7:00pm.  We spent a lot of every day with a group of students who are believers.  We'd usually meet them in one of the cafes on campus and talk about ministry, our walks with the Lord, and overall just try to be an encouragement to them.  When we were weren't with them, we were out on the campus meeting students.  We'd try to start conversations that could lead to deeper ones, and would invite them to a Christmas party we were having.  I know this is all very vague, but for security reasons it has to be.  Since I can't share more about that aspect of our time at the universities, I'll at least share a little more about the cultural side of it.  

The "mess hall" where we ate with the students.
It didn't take long to figure out that Chinese college students are similar to American college students in many ways.  They enjoyed hanging out with their friends, watching films (as they always referred to them), listening to music, and surfing the internet.  Girls blushed and got giddy when they talked about guys that they liked, and the guys would show off in front of groups of cute girls.  But as similar as they are in some ways, they are drastically different in others.  Even though they enjoy doing the same kinds of things as American college students, they do them far, far less.  They spend the majority of their time dedicated to school.  When I asked them what they do for fun or in their spare time I often got blank stares.  Having hours each day to do whatever they wanted was a foreign concept, because for most, if they weren't actually in class, they were studying.  We also quickly discovered that a majority of students are majoring in something that they don't want to be; it was their parents choice.  From the way I understand it, parents pay for all of the schooling, and then once the children have a job they send so much money back to their parents each month.  Since the parents are paying for school, they have a big say in what the child will study, and since they want to be well taken care of they choose a field that makes a lot of money.  So often our conversations would go something like this...

Me: So, what are you studying?
Student: Hydro Electric Energy (or something else that I don't even know what it means).
Me: Whoa, that's impressive!  Do you enjoy it?
Student: No
Me: No?  So why are you studying it?
Student: It is what my parents choose for me.  

After hearing this over and over again it made me so thankful that my parents let me choose the school I wanted to attend, what major I wanted to study, and what job I eventually took.  If my parents made me study Hydro Electric Energy I'd still be trying to pass Chemistry I!

And this is completely unrelated to the last topic, but it's one of the most interesting things I experienced on campus, and that is "ice-cream."  We were in the cafe one day and the students said they wanted to order us ice-cream.  "Oh good," I thought, "I love ice-cream!"And then they brought it to the table.  Definitely not anything close to what I considered ice-cream.  It was shaved ice, covered in cold beans, yes beans, and then topped with jam.  I loved about 95% of everything I ate in China, except the ice-cream.  

Hot tea and ice-cream...

 One place where we could always find students hanging out was at the soccer fields.  They still had P.E. classes, and in the afternoons different classes would be playing each other.  And for some reason, I just really like this picture.  I think it's the contrast between the afternoon soccer game at a university, with high rise apartments being built in the background.  And me, Wesley, and Megan are the middle set of shadows in the bottom. 

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Dinner and DVDs

Under the table shot.
Tonight was a good night, as nights out with old friends usually are.  My friends Michael and Haley were in from Knoxville for the weekend and Jessie and I met them at Cheddars for dinner.  It was a fabulous time with fabulous food.  We were all stuffed but it looked like we hardly put a dent in our food.  Jessie and Haley had Spasagna, a Cheddars original of combined spaghetti and lasagna.  I had the World Class Chicken Sandwich which was delicious; I swear everything is better with bacon on it.  I don't remember exactly what Michael got, but it looked good and full of calories too.  Michael and Haley also sold me one of their old DVD players for cheap, and I am quite thankful to have it.  And it's kind of ironic because I was thinking this afternoon about the similarities between my life and characters from some chick flicks.  The first one is Mary from The Wedding Planner.  There is a scene where it shows her working one of her weddings and these two girls see her and one of them says "That's the wedding planner," and the other one says "She must have such a romantic life..."  Now, I'm not saying my life reminds me of hers because it's romantic, because let's face it, it's not.  It's just that right after that it shows her going home and eating and a frozen, microwavable meal and spending her evening vacuuming her draperies.  It made me think of how sometimes I do all these fun, exciting things during the day and then go home and eat Hot Pockets and iron my shower curtain.  The next character is Jane from 27 Dresses.  For one thing her name is Jane and my nick name from my family and few close friends is Aimee Jane.  But after August 6th I'll have been in three weddings this year and five overall.  So it's been an ongoing joke all year that I'm turning into Jane.  Thankfully my dresses haven't been like the ones from the movie, and I actually have been able to wear one again.

 And the last one is from Fried Green Tomatoes, which I'm watching as I type this.  I've actually only seen this one other time, so it's not like I remembered it, but when the following lines were said I just laughed.

Ninny: Did you know they took my gallbladder out?
Evelyn: Why no, I didn't.
Ninny: It's still in the hospital in a jar, I guess that's where they keep them.
Evelyn: I guess...

It's just that after I had mine out I was disappointed that they wouldn't let me keep it.  I thought it'd be fun to have it in a jar on my desk so if someone asked what it was I could casually say, "Oh, that's my gallbladder."

Saturdays in China

During our time in China we did three different types of work, and the very first thing we did was help at an English school.  And we did this on our Saturdays.  Why Saturday?  Because this particular school offered its classes on evenings and weekends, sort of like extra-curricular activities.  Yes, students there take more classes as their extra-curricular activities.  The level of dedication to school is so much more than it is here.  I swear I met kids in elementary school who studied more than I did in college.  I spent the majority of my time at the school working in the kindergarten class.  Since they were so young, in many ways it was just like working with kindergarteners here in the Sates.  We spent a lot of time playing and doing crafts.  Megan and I did get a chance to lead an activity for them, which we all enjoyed.  We had 6 different pieces of paper with simple objects and their names on it, such as cat, shoe, apple etc.  We went outside for the activity and tacked them to different trees in an opening.  Megan or I would tell them to point to one of the objects and then run or walk or hop over to it.  Usually what ended up happening was that as soon as we said the object, they just took off running to it, but oh well.  In their classes at school during the week, things are very structured and they never go outside, so this was a very welcomed break from that and we were happy to provide it for them.

The teacher was explaining a new Cay and Mouse game to them.

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