Wednesday, May 27, 2009


(I'm tired)
I awoke as my bedroom door creaked open. I rolled over to identify the intruder. Peeking his head in the doorway was Jack, one of my closest friends at school, and, as of a month ago. a new brother. He's also one of my favorite people in the world. But it was 8:30 on Saturday morning and I had just had one of the most people-ridden, tiresome weeks of my life. All I could muster was a groan and I just rolled back over. Jack got the message and quietly closed my door and left me there. I probably should have said something like, "hello," but I just couldn't do it. I just laid there, feeling invaded. The long week had started the previous Saturday with a surprise trip to Beijing.

For several months, IECS had been preparing for three "English Weeks" in our three cities: Baoding, Lang Fang, and Tianjin. Dozens of Americans had raised thousands of dollars to make the two week trip; they had taken off work and prepared music and skits to perform, among other things (like buying me Tums and more mac n cheese). Our five man team in Baoding was preparing for their arrival as well. But then the Swine Flu came and for a myriad of complicated bureaucratic reasons all three of our English Weeks were prevented from coming to China. There was nothing IECS could do. Money was lost; time was wasted. It felt like a kick in the pants. Our IECS Director, Newt, had already arrived in China early before he knew that the trips were canceled. So in lou of the canceled English Weeks, Newt invited the IECS team to Beijing for a final gathering before the end of the year. It was a bittersweet time, the last time our team would totally be together. But it was like salve on the wound of the English Week cancellation and we were all grateful to reconnect. The Baoding team arrived in Beijing early on Saturday morning to take advantage of our time there. We visited the Olympic Square and went inside the Bird's Nest, which honestly felt more like an empty stadium than a historic playing field. But we made our own fun, as we always do. Unfortunately, we mismanaged our time at the Bird's Nest and at 2pm we were all starving... for American food. And we were all getting a little edgy.

"If we keep talking we're just going to get angrier," Tim pointed out, "No more talking until we find the place where we're going to eat!"

The rest of us liked the idea and consented. For a good ten minutes we just walked and pointed. We made the trek (no pun intended... you'll see) to an outdoor mall where we knew there was a lot of foreign options. We went to a few restaurants to check out their menus, still in silence. The waiters were more than a little confused. After several attempts at choosing a place with thumb-votes, Tim broke the silence in frustration. It was interesting to see all of the misunderstandings come out. Each person had different ideas in mind about how much to spend and what he wanted to eat, but we couldn't talk about it. Eventually we settled on McDonald's. We hadn't intended to eat there, but when we spotted the COLDSTONE in the mall we decided to save our money for desert and eat cheap. The other big surprise at the mall was the underground movie theater.

"Oh man," I said to Tim, "if Star Trek is playing, I'm going to see it."

We walked down the escalator in our excitement (running would overdo it... it's an escalator) and there it was, a huge cardboard advertisement for Star Trek. We entered the clean, futuristic looking cinema and saw that it was playing, in a half hour. We rushed to Coldstone to get milkshakes and snuck them into the theater(I don't know what the Chinese rule about bringing your own snacks is, but we didn't want to risk it). It was awesome: the movie, the milkshake, the deafening sound, the science-fictionness, the dad in the front giving high-fives to his little sons at the end of the movie...

That night and the next day our team celebrated being together with great food and good conversation. We essentially said goodbye to six of our team members, who aren't returning next year. The Boading team arrived back home that Sunday night with just enough time to go to bed. Here was my schedule for following week:

Monday: Class and English Corner until 7:30pm, then English Night practice until bedtime.
Tuesday: Chinese class in the morning, English Night prep in the afternoon, and English Night at night (which was a huge success), then McDonald's again... it's an English Night tradition.
Wednesday: Class all morning, NT Wright reading assignment in the afternoon (for dude time the next day), then Team Dinner and Family Time at night.
Thursday: Class all morning, Dude Time in the afternoon, our friend Ken's birthday dinner, then a student-run English event at night called the "Flame Youth" (Vince's creation), in which we were participating in a few skits.

I'll stop here.
The Flame Youth event ended a little later than expected (Vince even had to cancel his rendition of the "I Have a Dream" speech) at around 10pm, which meant I would be going to bed when I got home, just to wake up at 6:30 the next day to go back to school for class. So, Jack, the intruder form earlier (or later, depending on how you look at it), invited a few of us to stay in his dormitory. He said he had a couple empty beds and he could make more empty if we needed to, which we knew meant he would kick roommates out. Our friend Tony from Beijing was visiting us and decided he would stay with Jack (he was instrumental in Jack's decision to join our family), and so did Ryan. Now, I'm not one to miss out on a good sleep-over; so, despite my exhaustion and my expectation of a poor night's sleep in the dorm, and my fear that if I said yes it would mean that one of Jack's roommates would be sleeping outside on the concrete that night, I said yes. Jack was so happy; he couldn't get the smile to leave his face. He worked so hard to make our beds nice for us and to take care of us. It was a great time to be together. The electricity cut off at 11pm, as it does for every dorm on campus, and we went to bed. Around 11:30 I was about to drift off... when, all of a sudden, my good friend Tony beat me to the punch, audibly. He started snoring at a volume I've never witnessed before. I laid there trying to overcome the noise for about an hour and a half, when I finally achieved Nirvana. 6am came swiftly, and I wasn't happy about it, as the night of sleep seemed to do more harm than good. But breakfast in the cafeteria with the guys was well worth it. I used the experience to explain the word "snore" to my classes that day, which made them laugh. Most of them said they had roommates who snored, but none of them said they did. Hm...

My day at school ended around 4pm and I met up with Tony and Tim in Tim's dorm at Hebei University to find Tony sprawled out in Tim's bed watching Max Payne on Tim's laptop. I quickly pulled out Hot Fuzz and told him to switch movies (I had just bought it). That night we went to a Spa, a long-overdue gift we had promised Tony as a Christmas present. We sat in the hot tub and sauna together, got massaged, and ate at the free midnight buffet. What a great time. It was relaxing, but I still longed for that sleep I'd been missing. That's why, the next morning, when Jack popped in my room at 8:30 I shrunk away.

But our Father blesses us and meets, even in those times of exhaustion and bad moods. Scratch that: the boss meets us especially when we're tired and in a bad mood. Sometimes that's when he uses us the most. It's then when we rely on Him. All that he asks is that I be me, and He'll be Him. Somehow, after that tiring week, Jack and I are closer, and two other students, Jack's friend Billy and our friend Ken, have heard the Good News and are studying and considering what they've heard. Be thinking about them. Ken and I have talked a few times recently about the Father and he's got lots of questions.

This weekend is the Dragon Boat Festival in China and we have Thursday and Friday off of school. About one billion people will be eating Zong Zi's, sweet rice and a date wrapped in a leaf triangle, to celebrate. Me? I got a good night's sleep last night; I just read for about an hour; I had cereal for breakfast and a bowl of Macaroni and Cheese for lunch. And I'm ready to go again.


This country is fickle about websites and it doesn't like blogger right now, which is why there's no media on this post... yet...


Cameron said...

Yea, you updated your blog!

esther lee said...

Are you staying another year?