Tuesday, June 8, 2010

life at ludicrous speed

My time in China is quickly draining, and my friends here are realizing it. My neighbors tried to book me, Ryan, and Bethany for dinner and the date I had to tell them was Friday, June 18. My meals are quickly being booked up and all the guys I have told I'd like to play basketball with are cashing in their rain checks. On Saturday, I played baseball with Koreans in the morning (I batted .1000, by the way) and played basketball with Chinese students at night. Two times in the last four days I've been set up with boys to play basketball with by mutual acquaintances. Today a Finance professor named Mr. Wong asked me to play with some of his students. On Friday my student, Sunny, asked me to meet her at the playground so her classmates, who I'd never met, could play with me. It will be a rude awakening playing basketball in the States; I won't be able to just park in the paint and own it. But now at least I know what it's like to be Yao Ming... by living in China, I mean. I'll never know what it's like to be 7'6".

The Saturday basketball game was after a going-away party my students threw for me. I have taught these 2 classes for 3 semesters now and I'll probably miss them more than any of my other classes. So, to celebrate our friendship, my students reserved a corner of the cafeteria, brought a laptop, a microphone, an amp, a slew of wooden rollers and dough, so that we could all make dumplings together while doing KTV (karaoke, Chinese style) in the background. I opened the party by singing the only Chinese song I know, 朋友 (pengyou-friend). The classes are 95% girls and the 10 boys all sat by themselves near the computer, eating nuts and drinking beer, which they bought at the cafeteria. So, I forced them to let the girls teach them how to make dumplings, something I love to do and hope to take back home with me. Inevitably, the party turned into a flour-fight.

Things are just as busy in the classroom. Since we are leaving a couple weeks early in the semester, we are having to make those weeks up now, meaning that during these last couple weeks, I have double the classes. Not to mention, I'll be giving all my exams the week before I leave, and for one class, the day before. Accelerated grading will be a theme starting this week.

But through all this there is immense purpose. After the English Week it hit me that if there can be this amount of impact in one week from students getting to know some teachers that they had never met, how much more can I have an impact in a few weeks with friends I've known for 2 years. Deep, life-hinging conversations are being had all over Baoding. Two girls have become true daughters of their Maker in the last two days. My buddy, Robert, is asking the Father for the gift of the holy ghost. My tutor and I just had a long conversation about the meaning of life yesterday. I was able to share the whole story with her. Things are happening and it's exciting to be a part of it. I'm just trying to keep up.


By the way, if you've ever wondered what my classes are like, this should give you a pretty good idea.

Friday, June 4, 2010

we ALL miss you, greg

Every day I get the same question from a different student.

"Jon, I hear you're coming back (always instead of 'going back')to America, and that you're never coming back to China..." It's not exactly a question, but the sad puppy face that always follows is effectively the question mark. And I always answer the same way.

"Yes, that's true that I'm going back to America," I say, with a bracing-for-impact expression on my face, "but never is a strong word."

I'm always sure to explain that I love China and that I'm not leaving because I don't like Baoding or our school or the students, but that it's just time to go home. A couple days ago, after class, my students, Ivy and Charlotte, were telling me how much they would miss me and that they hoped I would come back. After a few minutes of this, Ivy suddenly remembered something important.

"Will you see Greg when you go home?" she asked (Ivy met Greg when he and AJ came to visit).

Somehow it came up that she thinks Greg is very "handsome", which is the catch-all word the students use to describe an attractive boy because they don't really know the words "hot" or "physical specimen", which would both be apt descriptions of Greg.

"Can you please email me some pictures of you and Greg before you leave?" she asked in earnest.

I love that my leaving reminded Ivy that she needed pictures of Greg. But I guess it makes sense; shouldn't all things just continually remind us that we need to see Greg's glowing face again? I thought I'd share the pictures I sent with you. The first one is on top of Pike's Peak in Colorado. The second is from our Newfoundland trip a few years back. The third is from a silly moment in the Longwood house at ODU, but now I'm not so sure why we thought it was funny enough to spend so much time setting it up (Paul Sanders's hand can be seen holding Bella from under the table). The fourth is at a lobster restaurant in Maine, also from our Newfoundland trip.

Ivy responded to my email by saying this:
"Do you mind if i share the pictures with some of my best friends?
And could you sent me more about your "silly" pictures? I want to make a photo album of ours."

To inform everyone, I spoke with Greg a few days ago and he is surviving boot camp. He has the nickname "Under the Radar" on the front of his uniform because he is doing his best to stay out of the line of fire and just get through the darn thing. And it's working. He'll be back in VA just a few days before I will be.

Don't be shy, ladies; it's okay to ask for silly pictures of Greg for a personal photo album of yours, too.


Also, here's a video of Greg throwing a snowball at a tiger: