August 25, 2014

Blast from the Past

The boys are out having pizza with Jeremy and our weekend house guest, Chris. I'm at home with a napping baby (yay for naps that will hopefully cure baby of her teething fever and general no-nap yesterday fussiness, but boo for missing fun at Pizza Hut). I'll use my surprise free-time to blog! So, Chris is a friend of ours who goes way back to our first year in China when we taught English in Southern China. Jeremy was his English teacher when he was a freshman in college when he went by the English name Christian. Now, he's all grown up, and goes by "Chris" because it's easier for his friends from Korea and Japan to say, but like parents who keep calling their kid by their original name even after he's moved away from home and all his friends call him by a shorter version of his name, we persevere in calling him Christian. The boys call him "Uncle Chris." Adorable.

It's been so fun to see a student and good friend from way back when (make that eight years ago!) He's doing well in his business career and has a wife and baby girl who is exactly one month older than Violet! Since he had business in Shenyang, he arranged his trip so that he could stay with us for the weekend before seeing clients during the next week. One of our surprise roles in Shenyang has been providing a place for friends to crash. We're thrilled to see how God uses our blessing of a spacious apartment with comfortable couches to bless friends who need a place to stay or just want to come visit us and enjoy a change of pace in a different city. We really should start a guestbook!

Back in 2005-2006 we were the first team from our former org to teach at the school Christian attended. It's great to hear the school is doing well and ELIC still has a team of English teachers there! I've also been encouraged to hear our friend talk about the positive influence our teammates had on his life during that time. What a cool thing when God allows you to see that you've made a difference in someone's life. (And, way to go Badgers!)

During his stay, Chris hung out with me all day Friday while Jeremy and the boys were at school. Since he's now a parent, I didn't hesitate to bring him along to our weekly Mom's group where he got to see lots of little kids running around like crazy! In the afternoon, he helped me out by acting as my interpreter at the bank (which was quite comical because after he helped me fill out the initial forms they took me back to a little office where there was a woman who spoke perfect English to help me!)

I'm all signed up for on-line banking so that I can buy stuff online again! Woohoo! Being a foreigner sometimes makes stuff like that complicated. For example, after getting all the stuff done at the bank we got home and tried getting me signed up with a website that wanted my ID card number. Since I'm not a Chinese national, I don't have that number, so I couldn't proceed. Super frustrating. Chris got on the phone with taobao (internet site) and sorted it out. Wow!

Fast-forward to Monday morning...Christian just left our place this morning. We all hated to say goodbye. I still can't believe how my kids took to him like they've known him all their lives, but as another friend said, "He's just awesome like that." Personally, we needed this visit to remind us we're right where we're supposed to be. God always does that when we doubt. Once, while buying a car in Texas we basically prophesied over by a used car salesman who didn't even sell us a car (can't spell that whole deal out here...) This time it was just the peace that came with a good visit and knowing we love what we have the privilege to do here...and remembering what a privilege it is!

So, to recap, Saturday we left our neighborhood and got out into the big city to have some fun. "Uncle Chris" let the boys choose any restaurant they wanted for lunch on Saturday. They chose Pizza Hut! Pizza Hut is a fun experience with a Chinese friend because we order so differently. When we go, we order a large supreme pizza, a medium pepperoni (stuffed crust if the boys are lucky) and a pitcher of Sprite. Chinese like to order a pizza and then lots of other stuff to try. Pizza Hut's menu in China is very diverse. We ended up with a stuffed crust pepperoni pizza, fried calamari, chicken wings, fried rice with seafood and lemonade.

After lunch, we hopped on the subway and headed to a huge park that's located in the northern part of the city. One of my Shenyang bucket list items was checked off as this bad boy around the park.

And I quote, "Is anyone pedaling back there??? This thing is made for short people!"

As we puttered around, the boys caught sight of a huge lake with paddle boats and immediately demanded that we check off their Shenyang bucket list item "paddle boat on the lake." Jeremy was less than thrilled as this involved more pedaling in a vehicle designed for short people. The boys and Violet loved it, though.

We ended the day with a visit to Shenyang's newest attraction: Peter's Tex Mex! This is the same restaurant most of the Americans I know love to eat at in Beijing. The story goes that the Beijing Jianguomen location closed (not sure why), so they moved a bunch of people to Shenyang to open the new restaurant here. It was super yummy and Christian enjoyed trying out our hometown special food: fajitas and chips & guacamole.

Sunday mornings are usually spent in attendance with brothers and sisters to study our favorite book, but we couldn't do that safely together, so we opted to attend the birthday party of one of Kanyon's classmates. The party was held at a new English learning center. Somehow someone knows someone and they let them use their space as a party room. There was a clown and pizza and balloon animals and minion cake and lots of 6 year old boys! Chris tagged along and had quite the cultural experience.

After all that, our dogs were barking (haha...I taught Christian this saying and now I can't stop saying it). Chris has a car and isn't used to all the walking we made him do over the weekend. He decided to treat us all to a foot massage. Our turn for a cultural experience! The whole lot of us...three adults, two boys and a baby shuffled into a private room inside a clean, Japanese-style spa complete with white zen rocks and sliding rice papered doors. There were four small beds to lounge on, a TV, snacks and soft drinks. Soon, three masseuses (is that really a word??) filed in and began rubbing our shoulders as our feet soaked in steaming herb infused water. After the shoulders, they rubbed our feet for almost an hour! I'm really amazed the kids just chilled the whole time. I held Violet and K&C watched Chinese television programs. Even though there were no freak-outs, I'd still like to go back sans children sometime for the full effect of relaxation!

This morning we bid our special guest goodbye. Hopefully it won't be another eight years before we see him again! I'll end with a classic photo of Christian and Jeremy from back in the day!

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