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Bowling Green, Ohio, USA

After chillin with John’s family for two days, John and I hopped into the car and traversed up to Bowling Green, Ohio – the college town where we met and many of our friends still reside.  Though we arrived around 9:30pm (almost four weeks ago, my apologies for the lack of posts), several of our friends had gathered together to see us upon our arrival.  It was so good and refreshing to see everyone!

Since our friend Mal is graciously letting us stay in her spare room/office for a while, Bowling Green will be our “home base” while we write, look for work, and wait for God to show us how to get to Portland!  We have been attending Glass City Church in Toledo, OH which has been refreshing and encouraging.  I love having a community to connect with again!  I am also happy that God has placed us in a town where we have friends who support and encourage us while we wait for His direction.  Waiting isn’t easy, but I am slowly learning to trust Him more and more with every single aspect of my life.  So until He provides a way for us to move, we’ll be based in BG – though we’ll probably travel around a bit too!

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God’s faithfulness – getting to Shanghai Pudong Airport

Since I find myself in Panera once again this afternoon with a whole afternoon to just write or read or do whatever, I thought I would update you all on exactly what happened as we left China and began our in-transit (read homeless) life on our way to Portland.  Given that the past three weeks to a month have been intense (to say the least), I’m going to split this up into readable chunks so as to not overwhelm you with a two thousand word post (scarily, I have found myself capable of writing them…).  First, getting to the airport to leave China and fly back to the United States.

As you may or may not know, we flew out of Shanghai Pudong Airport on Monday, January 24th, exactly five months to the day after we landed in Changsha, Hunan, China.

But let me tell you this – it is only because of God’s grace and faithfulness that we even boarded that plane.

Rather than launch into a lengthy story, I’ll simply state the ways God provided and proved Himself to be incredibly faithful.

  1. He gave us the money to purchase plane tickets.  Our employers initially told us that they were terminating our contract early and not paying us for February.  A few days later, they refused to pay our return plane tickets.  At that point, we had 2,000 RMB in our Chinese bank account and $0 USD in our US bank account (since we had drained it by paying student loans while in China since we couldn’t transfer money), which was definitely not the 13,500 RMB we needed to get back.  After discussion with them and crying out to God and depending on Him, He softened their hearts and had them pay us just enough of February’s salary (in addition with January’s salary) so that we could purchase tickets.  The five days that we waited for their answer were perhaps the scariest days of my life.  I had no choice but to cling to God and trust Him because I could do nothing to help the situation myself.
  2. He gave us a ride to Wuhan.  To get to Shanghai, John and I were going to have to take the train from Yueyang to Wuhan then catch a train from Wuhan to Shanghai.  The school offered to drive us to Wuhan which saved us money we didn’t really have to spend on train tickets.
  3. He gave us train tickets.  During the Spring Festival rush, ~ 300 million people (roughly the population of the US) travel throughout China.  It is nearly impossible to walk up and buy train tickets, yet we were able to purchase high speed train tickets for the day we needed to leave.
  4. He gave us a place to stay in Shanghai.  We didn’t have money for a hotel room, but we didn’t have to worry about it!  God gave us a connection (John’s best friend’s sister’s in-laws) in Shanghai with a family who let us stay for three nights and fed us.  Their love and generosity was overwhelming.
  5. He gave us plane tickets that we could afford.  We didn’t have a credit card in China, so we couldn’t book plane tickets in advance.  We had to walk up to the Delta counter at the airport and ask for the cheapest tickets available.  They were just under the amount we had left, giving us enough money to land in Columbus, OH with $169.82 USD.

Through this ridiculous and incredible series of events, my faith was tested and tried.  I was often tempted to (and did momentarily) despair.  Yet, God is so faithful and loving.  He provided for us in ways we couldn’t have dreamed of.  My faith has significantly increased through tangibly seeing Him provide.  Stay tuned for how He has provided now that we are broke and homeless in the States!

 

DTW, CMH, and Dayton, Ohio, USA

After a 14 hour flight yesterday from Shanghai, China (PVG), we landed in DTW (Detroit, MI) at 11:15am!  It was so surreal to be able to talk with people and read all of the signs in the airport.  We made it through immigration, customs and another TSA security checkpoint with no difficulty and headed off for Concourse C to catch our connection to CMH (Columbus, OH).

We were delayed slightly due to snow (ahhhhh snow and cold air!), but we landed in Columbus around 3:11pm!  I LOVE short flights!   And flights with leg room!  John’s parents met us at the airport and whisked us off to Taco Bell on our way to Dayton.  We pushed ourselves to stay awake as long as possible, but after about 28 hours of being awake (our Monday was 37 hours long due to the difference in time zones), we crashed at 8pm.  John woke up at 3:30am today, but I slept a full twelve hours and just woke up feeling quite refreshed and starving.

Today we are in Dayton, Ohio with John’s family.  Our plans for visiting family and friends are all very tentative for the next month or so, but I’ll keep you updated about our adventures!  My first adventure will be wandering downstairs to find some breakfast…

An American in transit

Well folks, my time in Yueyang, Hunan, China has come to an end.  After five months, our contract has ended (a bit early due to Spring Festival), and we feel led to move to Portland.  This means that starting yesterday we will be in transit for the next month or so.  John and I left Yueyang yesterday morning to head to Shanghai via Wuhan and arrived after a semi-grueling fifteen hour trip.  We will be in Shanghai until Monday morning when we will catch a 10:10am flight to Port Columbus International Airport (CMH) via Detroit.  We just booked our ticket this afternoon!  Though we were ready to head out at any time, the cheapest ticket by far was for Monday, so on Monday we shall go!

Upon landing, we plan to spend about a month or so traveling around Ohio and SE Michigan visiting friends and family.  Around March, we will head back to CMH to head to PDX or Portland.  Researching and planning all this travel has led to me use airport abbreviation codes rather than city names!  Ahhh!  Once in Portland, we will probably settle there for around six months or so before beginning our next great adventure!  Don’t get me wrong, both visiting friends and family for a month and living in Portland will be adventures, they just are not aventures abroad.  To be honest, I really don’t know how long we will be in Portland, or where God will direct us next, but I do know it will be an adventure for His glory!

Stay tuned for some good old American adventures!  I have no doubt that both readjusting to American culture and moving to the West Coast (I’m a thoroughly Midwestern girl) will provide many entertaining stories!

A disastrous evening OR What not to do in China when you don’t speak Chinese

I haven’t posted much recently because I haven’t done much recently. Other than going to school on Sunday to teach, my days have all been the same. Sleep in, eat pastries for breakfast, chat with friends online, eat a late lunch, write, eat dinner, watch movies, talk with John, write some more, and chat with more friends. Obviously, my writing has not been in the form of blogging (except for the postaday2011 project I’m working on at choosingtomuse.wordpress.com).  However, I didn’t really think that any of this was worth writing about.  So I didn’t write.

And then last night happened.  Now, finally, I have a story to tell!

It was a typical day.  John and I chilled in the apartment all afternoon editing a thesis for our employers (foreign policy during the Clinton administration is dense and boring at least when translated from Chinese).  Around 5:20pm we decided to head to dinner to take a break and refresh our minds so that we could write when we got back.  Since we only have one gate key instead of two, I never take my apartment key with me.  It’s useless if I can’t get through the gate, so it chills in my backpack.  John always has our gate key and apartment key, so it’s no big deal.  I have also developed the habit of leaving my phone at home when running out for lunch or dinner because no one is going to call me anyway.  John leaves his at home too; since we are together, we have no need for phones.  Last night was typical.  We headed out the door, letting it slam closed behind us.  Only to turn around and realize that John had left our keys in the apartment along with my key and our phones.  This sounds like no big deal.  Just go back in and get the keys, right?

Wrong.

Our door handle has been broken ever since we moved in, and since we don’t speak Chinese, we’ve never complained about it or gotten it fixed.  Though our door wasn’t locked, we were essentially locked out of our apartment with no way to communicate with anyone since our phones (with which we could call translators) were inside and we don’t speak Chinese beyond counting, saying thank you, and ordering basic food.  Instantly frustrated by our dilemma, we both set out to figuring out how to fix it.  My first instinct was to go knock on any door and show them the problem hoping they could help.  Our downstairs neighbors’ door handle had been mangled during an attempted robbery last week (oh yes, I feel safe.  And the gate does its job so well!), and they managed to get into their apartment without breaking the door down.  Perhaps they could help us get into ours.  However, the Chinese approach problem solving in a much different way than we do, and as John pointed out, it would be frustrating, difficult, and excruciatingly slow to ask anyone for help.  His idea was to go buy pliers and try to turn the handle.  This sounded like it would be much easier (though slightly more expensive), so I agreed.  Off we headed to the store on our way to dinner.

After trying three stores, we did finally find a pair of pliers (as well as a screwdriver in case we needed to take the handle off completely).  Hopeful, we went to eat dinner, which was delicious.  We recently discovered a new clay pot shop (ok, maybe I should have written about that.  I’ll post about it soon.), and we ate scrambled eggs with onions, peppers, and carrots over steamed rice.  When we got back to our apartment after dinner, we stood at the gate for a minute wondering how to get up past the gate.  Thankfully, a neighbor (whom I had never seen before) came up shortly after us and let us through.  We climbed the six flights of stairs (so looking forward to fewer stairs in my life) and pulled out the pliers to open our door.

It didn’t work.

No matter how many different ways John tried to turn the handle, it wouldn’t open.  Apparently Chinese doors and locks are super secure and have some locking mechanism I don’t understand.  By now, we were cold and irked by the situation.  We were left with no choice but to try to ask the Chinese for help, so we trudged back down the stairs to the apartment building office.  No one was there.  We knocked on the neighbors door next to the office hoping they could help.  They didn’t understand.  So we went back upstairs and tried  the door again.  I am well aware that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly expecting different results.  Sometimes desperate times led to temporary insanity.  Our next door neighbor came home while we were trying the door and shook his head at our attempts.  It wouldn’t work.  He pointed to a number on the wall and motioned for us to call it for help then disappeared into his apartment.  But we didn’t have our phones with us.  Even if we did, we don’t speak Chinese.  Without a translator (and a phone) the number on the wall was useless.

When we need help with the apartment or need something fixed, we are supposed to go knock on one of the fifth floor doors.  The man that lives there is a friend of the man who actually owns our apartment.  However, he wasn’t home last night.  Then I remembered the neighbor who let us up to begin with and headed up to the seventh floor and knocked on the door.  Thankfully, he answered the door and I showed him the door handle and pointed downstairs to our apartment.  He willingly came and looked at the door then called for his father to come.  After some hand motions/body language communication, they figured out that we had left our keys in the apartment and had no clue what to do.

For some reason, they decided to help.  They called one of the numbers on the wall and then invited up to their apartment to wait for someone to come.  They gave us hot tea and oranges.  Our neighbor (I have no idea how to spell his name – Shia Yue perhaps?) offered John a cigarette, and they smoked (a very friendly custom in China).  They even tried to speak slowly and use the few English words they knew to talk with us and put us at ease.  After a half an hour or so, the locksmith showed up.  He was able to pry off the peephole covering and wiggle an iron hook through the door to lift the handle from the inside.  If our door had actually been locked, I’m sure it would have been much, much worse.  Once inside, we were able to call Mrs. Wang and have her translate for the locksmith and our neighbors.  It cost us 50 RMB to get into our apartment, but no damage was done.  We are truly blessed to have such helpful and friendly neighbors.  I suspect that the community-based culture in China encourages people to help each other since the good of the community is stressed over the good of the individual.  Regardless, I am thankful that God gave us such good neighbors.  He really does look out for us.

The moral of the story is to never leave home without your keys or your phone in general, but especially if you live in a foreign country and don’t speak the common language.  The other moral of the story is that God is good and faithful, always protecting His children.