HNC 中美中心-Sunshine and Smiles

Hello there! 大家好,

It has been far too long, so this is here to share a brief update about what I’ve been up to over here in Nanjing, an introduction to our HNC program, as well as some travel notes and an Easter blessing.

Classes/Classmates: The atmosphere here at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center is quite unique, and I would say by many here (including myself), it is very underappreciated how special it is. That’s not to boast, but just to express how truly grateful I am to have spent 8 months (2 remaining) at this Institution, and how much a blessing each day has been. The courses are rather tough, and require a lot of translating and close Chinese classmates to help each other along, as we assist their English courses. Most all the classes relate with the main subjects of Economics, Energy and the Environment, Politics, Law, and Cultural Studies. Students are mostly Chinese and American, but there are also a few hailing from other nations, including Mexico, Canada, England, New Zealand, Russia, and Nigeria (probably missing a few, forgive me guys!) The mix of ethnic backgrounds and nationalities, combined with the constant free flowing of Chinese/English with students taking advantage to grow in target language (some more than others, I definitely have a reputation of holding to mostly Chinese, slackin’ lately however!) all makes for a lively atmosphere around the center, though also very quiet.

It is a rather small place so the sense of community is very strong, and it has indeed from the first week become like a family.

Basketball Squad: We have a great group of guys here really building solid relationships, including my roommate. We have been blessed with new hoops this semester to replace the others, which were likely the same for the 30 years the Center has been open, and looked every bit of 30. Unfortunately, one of the rims, which could have fallen off (and was due to do so) on any given bricked jump shot, finally gave way under the stress of a bit too powerful Slam by some big MN fool… yikes, but it is all well now J A good friend here, Jake Barkin, wrote a great article about our team, which I believe can be found in the HNC Newsletter/Blog.  Very fun mix of basketball styles and cultures, sometimes bit of conflict (just a bit ;)) but mostly smooth going. We have been playing well this semester, organizing our own tournament style of madness, started 3-0 with a few games left, we shall see what happens!

Dragon Boat:  There is also a team coming together of Dragon Boat rowers. It is reminding me of this past summer competing against the French camp at CLV in northern MN, 森林湖的龙舟太厉害了!…. Training takes place on nearby Mochouhu Lake, and the coach is a very intense Chinese man who knows his Dragon Boating seriously, passionate for the team to grow together and prepare for victory. I was training for a bit to join the squad, but decided to just commit to basketball as time invested became an issue, can’t do it all… But will likely be joining the Lala Dui, designated cheer team to urge our classmates to a Win in the final races at the end of May, 加油!

Weather blues: The weather in Nanjing this time of year has been pretty “blue”, meaning makes everyone around feel rather down and blue, not the sky let’s be clear…  It had been rainy and cloudy every day, so just must let that inner sunshine radiate through, easier said than done! BUT, it was actually a BEAUTIFUL Wednesday, sun shining in full for our basketball team to play a bit, and relax amid a stressful week. And then again, Thursday early morning awoken by the startling sun at 6AM for a Dragon Boat/Basketball workout (The few and the proud early risers J) Same thing today being Good Friday, 3 in a row, it’s AMAZING! Thanks truly be to God.

Travels: Over these 2 semesters, I’ve been fortunate for the opportunity to travel several neat places with wonderful people, including Shandong for 十月一号and Taiwan for Thanksgiving, as well as most recently Japan with Takumi’s family and the Sisters of Wakayama and Henan, China with my roommate for the Spring Festival over our winter break. All of these have many stories/testimonies I’d love to share but yet to collect the notes and pictures together ( he’s pokie!..) I even made it for a lovely short visit home in between semesters, a surprise for some (XA!) and spent with my dear lovely Mary over her birthday/Valentines day, grateful! Not much longer and reunited 🙂

Now, after 2 months hard at the books and midterms, we have a spring break over this next week, so I’m going for my first completely solo trip planned to Xinjiang 新疆 way out in western China bordering Pakistan and many other ‘stan nations. I’ve heard from many that it’s their favorite part of China, beautiful people/culture and fantastic scenery. Very excited to see how God leads me, prayers for safety and neat people/experiences along the way appreciated!

Upon returning, I look forward to sharing more about the faith community here (God moving in big ways!), a few other insights into HNC life, and reflecting upon my spring break trip.

Finally, most importantly, May it be a blessed Easter weekend for you all, as we remember and reflect upon the death and Resurrection of our Lord Jesus, the mercy of the Father giving us new life by faith in him. 感谢主耶稣,复活节快乐!

Take care!

LPJ 周力伟

HNC 中美中心-Sunshine and Smiles

Hope and History

Though the election itself is weeks passed, I found this a powerful call for needed change, to seek understanding and share each other’s burdens. Thanks for expressing this guys!

Skydentity Chronicles

By: Oyintarelado (Tarela) Osuobeni and Reuben Moses

It is real. Donald Trump is going to be the 45th president of the United States of America. This thought ran through my mind as I walked back to my dorm from Wednesday dinner. Feeling ornery, I entered my room to unwind and pray after a long emotional day. I went on my knees and recalled the numerous Sundays in church that pastors had stepped up to pray about the next president of the United States of America. They prayed for God’s will and purpose to be done. I clasped my hands, closed my eyes and attempted to block out the world around me.  

“God we prayed for your will, and this is your will so help me to….”

Before I could utter the last words of my prayer, I started crying. Watery eyes turned into tears, trickling tears turned into sobs…

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Hope and History

Daily Prompt: Faded

via Daily Prompt: Faded

It has been on my heart lately to share more about daily experiences and testify about small daily miracles. Making this more a routine habit is a challenge, to go beyond sharing stories and experiences in face to face encounters around here in Nanjing, so here I am to blog a bit, take a break from research paper writing 🙂

Rolling with this prompt provided, I’d like to share a testimony about how I recently had reaffirmed that the Faithfulness of God is never fading away, always present in every detail.

While traveling in Taiwan this past week, I had this one encounter that really felt like a Divine appointment.The Friday after Thanksgiving I was leaving my hostel in Hualian (a city where I didn’t know anyone) with plans to head to Taipei to visit some Winona friends before returning to Nanjing the next day. I wanted a decently early train ticket that would give me the most time there. Arriving at the station, just a short walk from hostel, I found that there weren’t any tickets available to 1:30 in the afternoon, forcing me to wait a few hours.
I don’t know about you, but times like that, delays or pauses in my plans are frustrating. However, I thought I’d make the most of it and wander around. I even prayed a bit, to see how I could possibly be effective in the short extra time meeting a few new people.

I walked over to a park with my couple backpacks over my shoulders, looking like someone a little lost and out of place, and came across two assumed homeless guys sitting on a bench drinking rice wine and grapefruit juice, as they offered nice greetings and invited me over to chat, asked what I was up to.

Upon first impression, I honestly didn’t see them in the best light, and had many perceptions about their story and situation I assumed to be true, but I chose to push through that and actively engage/listen to what they may have to say about life and this beautiful day we were both experiencing. One man was very energetic and quirky, walking around us and rambling, while the other was slow to open up but offered a seat next to him on the bench. Neither of them had much, pretty dirty clothes and clearly living a struggled lifestyle.

The conversation we had was simple, nothing too special, explaining my situation and asking them a bit about themselves. Somehow or other, they brought up the topic of Faith, (this springs upon me very often, so not too surprising but still highly intriguing!), and we got to discussing this, as they shared their belief in Christ.

When I told him I was also Christian, and showed this Live Generously shirt I happened to be wearing under my warm vest that was heating me up but didn’t fit in my bag, he became very emotional and started thanking God and worshipping casually mid conversation right there. He called me an angel, of which I am certainly not (yet), and we just continued to chat about life and God’s faithfulness, delaying trains and giving encouraging simple encounters. He shared about the struggles of living by Faith in Hualian  花莲 and his heart for the city, and encouraged me to join him in praying to/worshipping God right there.

Not too many people were around, but it just amazed me how unashamed this guy was, despite his circumstances. It wasn’t a loud and wild affair, to an outside observer would appear a typical conversation on a bench, and he just continued there with me for ~20 minutes, taking in the sunshine.
He told me repeatedly during this time, “Praise God continually, and Pray more, Always pray more, seek Him first!”

It was obvious this guy has been through a lot, and barely had anything of material worth, but he encouraged me in powerful ways from that position, incredibly moving.

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I was kind of getting ready to move on, after sitting there for a good amount of time, when he simply asked me to give him a piece of blank paper, claiming that he’d use it do something neat.

I gave him a small sheet from a notebook in my backpack, wondering what he intended to do with a simple piece paper. He spent a while folding it in bizarre ways,and then slowly tore it apart making a little scrap pile of paper, as he casually continued conversation. He then picked them up one by one, unfolding it and then tossing each piece aside, as none yet amounted to any particular shape: scrap pieces.

From the start question of his folding and tearing, I doubted anything would come out from the whole process as it was pretty messy. But, coming to the last scrap of paper, he picked it up and held it for a second, treasuring his work, before unfolding it to reveal a folded cross.

–He showed me a process of taking a mess of scrap pieces and finding the cross in their midst, like how God takes our broken pieces and makes us new, covered in the grace of God through Christ, amen!

He then gave the cross to me and told me to keep it, to always be reminded of God’s Love and Faithfulness. I didn’t know how to thank him, so I just gave him a hug and expressed gratitude for his simple gift and time we shared together. I then continued on my wandering way, trying to comprehend the weight of this small interaction, and how I may be able to pay this forward, share faith as he did in such a bold and simple way. This guy was an angel to me.

May you find this encouraging, I know I did. Everyone has a story and something powerful to share, take time to listen. Who can you be an angel for?

Psalm 108:4-5 “For great is your love, higher than the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth.”

Levi 力伟

Daily Prompt: Faded

Do not try to reach perfection

Say Yes To Greatness

Do you try to reach perfection? If the answer is yes, then give up on that idea. Human beings are not able to reach perfection, and do you not think it would be boring if you became perfect? What would there be left to improve? But let me tell you one thing, there is no need to reach perfection in order to become a better person.

“If you look for perfection, you’ll never be content.”
― Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

If you try to look for perfection, you will never be content because not only you will never be able to reach it but you will also only meet with frustration and disappointment. But there is no need to worry, because BECOMING A BETTER PERSON has nothing to do with BECOMING PERFECT. And in fact, those two notions are completely different.

Becoming perfect means removing any mistake…

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Do not try to reach perfection

春节Spring Festival Rockin’ in Hunan 湖南

Back in the Frozen NE, Dongbei (东北)

I’ve completed the long return up to the far Northeast and Changchun for the new semester, feelin’ drained from the journey up here but yet strangely refreshed and ready to get things going again. There are many experiences from the trip I’d like to share with you guys, especially the time with Kaizi’s family over 春节,the Spring Festival, and what that’s all about, so let’s get to it!

 

Boom Boom Bian Paoooo!! (鞭炮)

Most of this is from when I just returned to China after the trip home a little over 3 weeks ago, at the start of the Chinese New Year, so some is in present tense and some from looking back afterwards:

I’m back to my second home 😉 It feels great to return, but so happy I was able to make it home for a short stay to be with family. It was so worth it, though the extreme distance for such short time made it seem sort of like a dream looking back. I have wanted to taste what its like to be in China for this holiday for some time, so its sweet for that to come true. So far, there are really no words to properly describe it thoroughly, must be experienced! The fireworks have not stopped, very few moments of silence around here. They are REAL loud too, definitely not child’s play, easily could be mistaken for gunshots and kind of sounds like warfare is going on, but that’s how they roll for the holidays here, pretty wild! Of course, the most rowdy time was the 20 minutes right around midnight before the New Year, where the explosive 鞭炮 (bianpao) fireworks were nonstop coming from every direction and just gained momentum, it was chaos.. I was pretty much overcome with jetlag at that time, though I tried hard to fight it.. However, during the final showdown I still got up to look out the balcony of the 5th story apartment we were staying in and see what was going on. Boom, BOOM, boooooooomm!!! Full sized big bloom fireworks (don’t know what else to refer to them as) were being set off right in the middle of the entrance courtyard between apartments, with very little space to spare. Firecrackers were going offff all over, couldn’t hear what anyone was saying or one’s own thoughts basically, wildest and most reckless display I’ve seen. Pretty dangerous stuff, but no one seemed to mind it, just the usual thing. I was amazed at it all!

Over the next couple weeks, the fireworks and such continued at all times of the day, and most times it would startle me pretty good as I can’t control my reaction to them, much to the amusement of Kaizi’s family and friends who are not affected in the least by the spontaneous blasts.

 The Main Event

The New Year performance, or 春晚(Chunwan), is a 4.5+ hour live show with nonstop small skits and singing performances, along with other stunts all to bring in the new year. It starts at 8 and goes until about 1AM, only gaining energy the whole time. Apparently, some 690 million folks tuned in for this epic night, setting a new record. It was very entertaining, and I’ve heard it said that if you can understand the majority of it, you’re more or less fluent; by that standard I’m getting close!

Why Spring Festival?? 春节有啥意思?

So, what exactly is behind all these performances and fireworks, the meaning of this holiday time and traditions? The history and ancient culture that this Chinese New Year and Spring Festival (Chunjie春节) is built upon is vast and complex, tough to really explain as I still don’t understand much of it. It seems the reasoning behind much of the tradition and what it all means has also been fading with time through generations, as much of the time to my curious questions I just get “No reason, it just is what it is, it’s what we’ve always done” 没有什么,没有原因,就是这样. This is understandable and just the way things are, most every culture has certain traditions like those of this holiday, but very few cultures have such a long history as the Chinese, so it’s a little different ballgame.

Describing my experiences celebrating with Kaizi’s family and learning about the holiday with them is tough to write about fully, I feel like there is no way to properly express it all! But I’ll start with the basics, and go from there. This year according to the lunar Chinese calendar is 羊年,or the “Year of Yang”, which could be Year of the sheep, lamb, or goat. The meaning of Yang year that separates it from other years is still unknown to me, and to many Chinese as well, including Kaizi :p We are still working on figuring that out… There are many traditional sayings, greetings, and wishes over this time, including “新年快乐 (Happy New Year),三‘羊’开泰(Wish you good fortune),‘羊羊’得意(Joy to you, or walking on air ),羊年大吉 (May your Yang year be lucky),身体健康 (Wish you good health),万事如意 (May everything go smoothly)” These are all said and heard very often everywhere you go, but mostly among family members, and in WeChat (Weixin微信) group chats with friends. (Most every Chinese has Weixin on their Pingguo(Apple)苹果iPhone, most reliable and convenient form of short message communication.) These sayings are also said over and over on all radio and TV commercials, from all businesses and companies alike.

红包Hongbao (Red moolah bags)

During the Spring Festival, red fortune packets with money inside(红包Hongbao), are given out to kids from parents and elders, customs vary depending on the place. I received one from Kaizi’s mom the first morning of the holiday, and was very grateful as I read the gold letters on the packet to her, “大大吉利”(Dada Jili), to which she giggled in response.. I thought I may have pronounced it wrong? Nope, a different mistake, as she explained I read it in wrong order. It is to be read up and down, not left to write, so it is “大吉大利”(Daji Dali). The meaning is, “Wish you big fortune”. Kids all over China during the festival receive much joy in opening these packets, just as I did opening mine :)

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^^Chillin’ with much extended fam 🙂

 What didn’t we eat?

Of course, an important (if not Thee most important) aspect of any holiday season around back home is… what? Yeah, you already know, the FOOD. It’s what it all revolves around, the joy of preparing and eating a delicious meal (or one after the other in this case) with the whole family together. Definitely no different here in that respect, but the food itself is certainly of its own kind, yet tasty all the same. However, unlike our holiday time, they don’t only have one meal together for the occasion, but a whole week of them! Such a variety of dishes were prepared and shared throughout the Chunjie (春节,Spring Festival) most of which I was pretty sure of, but others still not sure even after being told as I’d never eaten anything like it. Kaizi’s dad and uncle did most of the cooking, insisting on little assistance, as the rest of us hung out and played games.

When all was ready, they’d call us over, and there was no waiting around at that point. All would leave whatever they were doing and dash to table; when it was mealtime, it was MEAL TIME! Just a warning, I like to talk about food and can go on for a while, hope you don’t get too hungry 😉 There would always be rice served to all, of course, but from there it varied. They would try to explain what most of the dishes were, and some like I said I still didn’t know, but I’ve pretty much always been one to try anything I’m served, so that’s what I did. Most everything was delicious, and something I would hear often around the table was 力伟,多吃一点!(Levi, eat more big man!) They enjoyed watching me eat and getting me to eat more, sometimes failing with 筷子(Kuaizi, chopsticks), only with slippery foods, not due to lack of chopstick yielding skills. Along with the ever present rice, there was always some sort a potato (土豆,Tudou) dish, a vegetable like 白菜 (Baicai, cabbage), other various dishes of the like, but always most important, front and center, the meat! All of them were delicious I would say, the beef (牛肉 ,Niurou), chicken (鸡肉,Jirou) and pork (猪肉,Zhurou)all not too different from home, but prepared differently. However, no matter what meat it was, most every part of that animal is eaten. The chicken dishes would always have the head in with it, and the pork with the pigs skin included, pretty tasty actually! Maybe just me..

There were also many fish dishes served a few nights, fresh from a sort of live-well in the corner of the kitchen where the poor little guys waited for their time. The fish was usually pretty spicy, (有一点辣,Youyidian La) as the Hunan 湖南region of China is known for its spice style, and that was something I was uncertain I could handle, but I enjoyed their spiciness. They also like to eat the fish heads, (鱼头,Yutou), a delicacy, something that I couldn’t get used to… One night, they even prepared 兔子(Tuzi, rabbit), or in their dialect Touzi. That may have been the best dish of them all, real nice and tender. We definitely didn’t go hungry, good eats! I

 Bound to happen sometime..

However, one night the inevitable happened. I go by tasting whatever I’m served, but there’s a line that I didn’t want to cross… Yes, one afternoon while we were all watching a movie, they told me how excited they were about cookin’ up dog for dinner that night, (an infamous delicacy here and in several other countries in this part of the world), and I was thinkin’ nooooo whyyyyy… It is a question often asked after visiting China and whatnot, did you eat dog, (狗肉,Gourou) or anything else strange? Up til then I’d said no, never will, how could I do such a thing? My family has 2 dogs at home that I love, man’s best friend that I just visited… Nevertheless, when it was served in a big pot at the table that night, they agreed to that, dogs of course are great companions, but also added that their meat is very delicious and I should definitely try it. They told me they don’t eat it much, just on special occasions, and they really hoped I’d try a bit. They were all chowin’ down, so I thought well, when in China… Kaizi picked out a good piece and set it on my plate, and I gave it a go… Feel odd saying that it tasted good, so I’ll just say it wasn’t bad, but definitely not like chicken or anything else. It was certainly a shock mentally just knowing what I had eaten was indeed dog meat, yikes Levi… So yup, that happened, I tried it, but definitely don’t want to go for it again. I see dogs as great friends not to be eaten, but as a part of their culture it’s viewed as a savory snack. Fascinating cultural differences, what makes life interesting, eh? :)

The meal times would last a good while, with little chatter while eating but after all had their fill there would be lots of talk and just hangin’ around the table. Between meals and such, their family, like mine back home, loves to play lots of cards. However, they mostly play Chinese style poker, which I tried to understand but it’s kind of a hopeless endeavor. It was fun to just watch, as it can get pretty intense, slammin’ money down on the table. They love it!

Over the holiday, there were also many showcased NBA games on CCTV5, so we watched some of those. A few games, they wore jerseys with their team names in Chinese, in honor of the New Year. Many funny commercials were also shown with popular players, like James Harden and Jeremy Lin (of course), wishing a Happy Chinese New Year those other wishful sayings in Chinese above, pretty interesting. The NBA Commissioner Adam Silver also had a message shown over and over with New Years wishes, very clear they are pushing for an even stronger market for the NBA in China than it already has. (Surprise!) A go to ice-breaker for me here is to just ask guys about the NBA, who they like and whatnot, they are HUGE fans here! It also helps when describing where I’m from if they are NBA fans, because then I just say I live where the 森林狼(Senlin Lang, Timberwolves) play, and Boom they got it locked. Then they sometimes ask why I live in such a cold place like here, and I say good question… 🙂 MN just gets ya, no place like it eh?

CCTV-5 even for some unknown reason had a Twolves – Rockets game, prior to big KG trade. It was real fun to watch over here with Kaizi’s family, who doesn’t watch basketball often but took it in with me, cheered on the hopeless wolves together 😉

Hit the Streets

Watching those games inspired us to make it real outside, and so we took it to the streets. When I’d played basketball before around Kaizi, he wouldn’t really try to join in at all, and didn’t really have any interest to learn the skills. Shooting to him was something completely foreign, didn’t have the feeling to it at all. So, one day we went over how to shoot together from the very basics, and slowly step by step, even in the rain the first day, he became pretty decent. (I think that if I’d taken the time to teach others how to shoot sometimes in high-school, that’d have helped me greatly tune my own shooting woes, as we learn most by teaching.) It was a good time, and we played PIG a couple times later, and I got lucky to win. He learned the skills pretty quick, I was impressed!

It was also fun playing with a few of his little cousins, and other locals in pick up games at Kaizi’s old middle school. Beautiful weather in a festive atmosphere, playing with fireworks cracking off from all sides was pretty strange!

 Magic Heat Box

Cloudy and rainy mostly around these parts lately, but cozy inside only because of a heater box 烤火箱(Kaohuo Xiang, a wooden box with a heater inside) in front of the living room sofa. They sit on the couch with their feet on the box and a shared blanket on top, so all keep warm, its brilliant! There’s no indoor heating down in these southern parts, and the walls are very thin, so though it may not be all that cold outside, it easily gets real chilly inside, especially in the mornings. It’s warm with family love around that heater box though! Gotta love it.

Coffeehouse: What time is it?? Gametime, whoo!!

During the afternoons, we would get together with a bunch of Kaizi’s friends at a coffeehouse to hang out, chat (聊天, Liaotian), and play games. It was a great group to get to know and learn from, through playing a couple games, like “谁是卧底?” (Sheishi Wodi, Who is undercover/ a spy?). That one we didn’t play too often, but the goal of it is basically to explain a word you receive by being as vague as possible, to blend in with the others, as there is one person whose word is not the same, but very similar. Then vote on whose the one whose different, til finally succeeding. It’s a fun game, but the concept behind it to blend in with all those around you and not doing anything to stand out is not the greatest message, better being different! Of course just a game, and pretty fun too especially in Chinese and with other Chinese friends.

Another game we played much more of was 狼人杀 (Langren Sha, Werewolves kill?) That’s the literal translation, but it’s a lot like the game Mafia played back home around college at WSU and even at Shepherd’s Field with visiting mission groups, always a great time! It is a real intriguing game, though not going to attempt explaining it here. It was interesting though how Kaizi’s friends would always choose to go to this one coffeehouse each time because it had the specific special card set to play the game. It was cold and rainy most days unfortunately, so made it fun hanging around the coffeehouses and just enjoying each the friendly company.

Cousin’s Engagement

Kaizi’s older cousin got engaged over this time so the whole family went out to celebrate. We all shared in a big delicious meal, apparently at the restaurant the fiancée’s father owns. Very fun, festive time around then! I’ve been trying my best to get familiar with the 周 (Zhou) Fam here, learn names and understand relationships, but there are so much extended family around now that that is unlikely. They can somewhat speak the Common Mandarin Chinese, 普通话 (Putong Hua)with me to understand clearly, but that’s only when directly speaking to me and they don’t like it. Speaking with each other, they of course go off in their sweet accent that I’m learning a bit of slowly, but its real tough. They enjoy teaching me some small bits and hearing me repeat it poorly, get a real kick out of it.

Churchin’

On the first Sunday after the New Year, Kaizi told me his Aunt knows of a church nearby we can go check out, the only one they know of in a smallish city (yea..) of more than 4 million.. I imagine and pray there are a good number of underground house churches, but that’s unknown.. We found our way to this upstairs church tucked in some back alleys, walked in and found seats. I don’t mind it and I am understanding where they are come from, but I can tell right away when I’m around people who rarely if ever have seen foreigners, as they tend to stare unashamedly, totally cultural but takes much getting used to. This church very likely had never before had a foreigner attend, I’m not sure, but it seemed that way. (I didn’t see a single other foreigner the whole time in the area around Yiyang 益阳 and Guiyang 贵阳 until I met up with Ukrainian friends in Kunming 昆明,almost 2 weeks!) Definitely understandable, as it is a long trip like I described to get out there.. many people would give looks of wonder and just stare blankly, until I would respond with a smile and a wave, to which they’d respond with an even bigger smile and wave, never fails. 🙂

Anyways, an interesting story came from this experience at this church. As we sat down, a lady came up to us and asked me if I understood what the pastor was saying (of course Kaizi did..) I told her I pretty well understood Putonghua 普通话 ,common Mandarin Chinese, and she just said OK, I’ll see what I can do, and left. I didn’t know what she meant by that, so just let it be. The pastor at the time was speaking what seemed to be a mix of the local dialect and Putonghua, so some of it I understood, and it was no problem, really passionate speaking and interesting to listen to! However, next thing I know the usher lady who had just spoken with us had made her way around back and up to the front to where the pastor was, approached her mid-sermon and whispered to her something about there being a silly foreigner in attendance who doesn’t understand the local dialect, so please speak just Putonghua for him. The pastor gave a surprised chuckle, and then explained the situation to the congregation, and asked me to stand and wave to be welcomed, which I did,  but forgot about a low ceiling above me and bumped my head pretty hard, provoking much more chuckles as I sat down in the small pews pretty embarrassed from the whole situation. (don’t enjoy getting unnecessary attention called upon me).

So, the service continued as the pastor spoke in the common language, flustering some in the congregation who don’t really speak or understand much Putonghua, just know and speak the dialect. That made me feel pretty bad, as they came to hear a nice message on a typical Sunday, and then the pastor changed things up and spoke differently for some dude (me) who barely understood anyway. The pastor apologized at the end to those who don’t understand Putonghua.. However, it all just turned out to be a silly situation out of my control, and after the service, all were very grateful to meet the strange, giant foreigner, but I was much more thankful to interact with all of them. It is sad that it may be the only church around the area in a fairly large city, but it is filled with loving and passionate believers, Praise the Lord for that! Please continue to pray for churches all over in China, and all other parts of the world, for it to continue to grow and more people searching for Hope and something to believe in to have eyes opened  and accept in their heart the Grace, Truth, and Everlasting Hope found only in Jesus. 🙂

An old lady was talking with Kaizi afterwards, and he said she wanted to take us to give us a gift. So, without thinking twice, we followed her out of the church, thanking and blessing all for the wonderful time, and walked with the little lady through small back alleys all the way to where I assumed she lives. She told us to wait as she went up, soon coming back down with a small something, being 4 CD’s of an apparent Christmas singing performance the church put on this year. She said one for each of the 2 of us, and 2 others to give and bless others. We thanked her much for her kindness, and parted ways. I have yet to see watch the performance CD, but should be neat to watch!

Hit the Tracks

Quite the mix of experiences made for a definite unforgettable first Spring Festival impression, one of which I am so grateful to Kaizi and all his family/friends who made it so. I hope you also understand a bit more about Chinese culture and what the whole Spring Festival celebration is all about. 🙂

From his home, we continued on by train to Guiyang with a friend there for a few days, and then to Kunming and Lijiang with other friends for a week, all before making the return trip way up to Changchun. Those were wonderful experiences as well, thankful to all those friends for making it possible, and hope to write about the time spent down there soon.

Great to be reunited with tight family of foreign students and other Chinese friends around here as back to studies. Trying best to make it all count and grow much more, as this time will fly by just like the last semester did; loving the present moments of this lifetime adventure, seize the day ya’ll! Carpe Diem 🙂

Also excited to watch the Madness of March in the NCAA Tournament unfold from over here! Know so little about who’s been good this year, which I think will  strangely help me do much better. 🙂 We shall see!

All for now, 谢谢大家!

God Bless,

力伟

 

 

 

春节Spring Festival Rockin’ in Hunan 湖南

Faith, Fam, and Fun-lovin’: Like 爷爷

Movin’ On

Man, the last few weeks have turned out to be quite a turn of events, and lots more traveling than I or anyone anticipated, but for important purposes and for people loved more than anything.

I haven’t taken the initiative to open up about what’s been going on lately, so here we go. I probably put far too much time in to writing this, but worked on it to be genuine, from the heart. It turned in to a whopper! Hope you enjoy and take something away from it.

The first week down south ramblin’ around at the start of February was great, with beautiful weather and freedom to do whatever and go wherever, making plans on the fly. I will share about what adventures Kaizi and I got ourselves into in Guangzhou 广州in a later post, but first will describe how things suddenly changed a few days into our time in Shenzhen 深圳.

SZ Shenzhen

A little over two weeks ago, Monday the 2nd , was a day for the books, a really great one and tough one in the same, and feels like a much longer time back. I might describe it in too much detail, but it was a wild one. It started out with tuning into the Super Bowl (超级碗) while staying at Kaizi’s uncle’s place, nothing like SB Monday mornin’! Fun time watching that, especially with the Chinese announcers getting real into the game, made it way better. However, no humorous ads over here L Sad the Seahawks lost, but oh well.. One of Kaizi’s favorite singers is Katy Perry, so he very much enjoyed the halftime show. I thought it was obnoxious, and missed the WSU Chi Alpha style comedy halftime show they do instead, much higher quality of entertainment. (Represent!) Should have skyped in 😉

 

After that silly game ended in unfortunate fashion, we headed out to lunch with some family friends, ate some amazing dishes, and then went to this interesting amusement park called 世界之窗 (Shijie Zhichuang, Window of the World). Apparently there are 2 of them in China, but the one there in Shenzhen is the biggest. I don’t know what there were more of at this place, palm trees or foreign tourists? Such a beautiful sunny today that we spent there, a place like none I’ve been to before. It basically has miniature sculptural versions of important landmarks from places all over the world, so providing a window of the whole world. Very well done I thought, though a pretty old place. It had everything from the streets of Venice to the pyramids of Egypt, and it was set up in a way that one could capture these places in the same shot, looks pretty strange. It even included a small version of the Niagara Falls, which I’ve never been to, and a pretty big Eifel Tower, which we took an elevator to the top of at night with nice views of the city. (Just an aside: Before going there, I had heard of Shenzhen, but didn’t really know much about it.. However, like so many in China, it is immensely populated, with more than 20 million people, more than twice that of NYC!)

It was a neat time there, though I think definitely styled more for younger kids, but that’s OK, it’s what ya make of it. We lived it up, unashamed 🙂 We made our way from there to a recommended Hotpot (火锅,Huoguo) place, an interesting poppin’ spot in a mall. It has a long wait, but provides many tables out front to wait at, with snacks and drinks, and those wait tables were filled too. Never seen a place like it before, real interesting. There was also an arcade right next to it, so you already know we hit that up while waiting.

 Twist from Heaven

The food there was delicious, making it clear why it’s such a popular place. However, halfway through the meal there, I received a message from my dear mother insisting we need to talk on the phone right then, something that doesn’t really happen ever, so I knew something was up. After a long while of working for connection, I finally made it work, hoping her news wasn’t anything too serious. I was real worked up wondering what was going on across the world from outside that restaurant in the super mall that required an urgent call, when she just told me straight up, how our awesome grandfather 爷爷 (Yeye, Big Papa) Ron Johnson had suddenly passed away from a heart attack that morning. I couldn’t believe it, and questioned whether what I thought she said was true, and then it started to sink in…

 

A dreaded call like this happens to us all at one time or another, there’s no way to really prepare or anticipate of course… My whole life I had yet to receive a call like that, someone so close and dear to me going home to Heaven, so I was simply in shock. I broke down right there, in front of lots of clueless Chinese shoppers, wondering how it could possibly be so… It hurt so much being so far away from home, wondering how my family was doing with it there. I trust God’s timing with everything, knowing He always has it all in control, and so I don’t doubt that this fits in His perfect plan, it was simply Grandpa’s time. However, it’s hard to understand why now, for anything like this..

 

I returned to the restaurant and my friends definitely knew something had happened, so I told them and we grieved it together, leaned on my bro Kaizi. As I came to grips and control of thoughts there in Shenzhen, I felt a sense of calmness come over me that I knew Papa was at eternal peace in a better place with the Lord, nothing better than that! However, I also felt the pressing need to be with family to comfort each other, that we should somehow make it work for me to get home for this time. We finished dinner while discussing it with Kaizi and his uncle, and afterwards with mother began working out the best option. My original goal was to stay the year straight through, not return home in between even over the long break, to make most of it and maximize, but this definitely changed things. The timing of such an event, if were to happen, couldn’t have worked better with my schedule to return home as we were just traveling and with classes not in session, so that was incredibly fortunate. The return trip would also get me back just in time for the Chinese New Year at Kaizi’s home we had planned, on the 18th . Somehow it all still worked together, almost too well.

 Switched on a Dime

Yes, somehow we made it work and turned plans around to make it back home for a little over a week, believe it or not! The next day I got on a train with Kaizi that we had already scheduled before to return to Guangzhou, got my stuff together and a 2 hour bus ride from there to Hongkong for a night, and the next morning got a flight from there back home. It happened so fast and my mind was running all over the place, it was hard to register I was really going to make it make it back so quickly, and what it would be like with the strange mix of seeing family and friends I hadn’t seen in so long, but under such sad circumstance of my grandfather’s passing. It was a grind of a journey back, hard to find much rest, and no one to talk with as it was a pretty empty flight and had no one in seat next to me. Entering back into the US first in a layover stop through Seattle was pretty strange, being so used to the Chinese culture after 5 months, takes time to adjust for sure. I could say lots about adjustments but another time..

 MN

I eventually found myself back in MN, hard to believe.. I know the way Grandpa was he would most certainly have said, “Golly, don’t worry about it, keep doing your thing in China, Levi. I’m more than fine now where I’m at, carry on!” And I could have done just that, but it would have been real hard to pass the time and move on, to grieve without family and without ever experiencing this sort of event before. The importance of being with family is too great, really can’t put a price on it, and definitely worth all it cost to make it happen.

 

So, there I was, back at the MPLS airport and picked up by my dear sister Maddie the night of the 4th, after just hearing and making return plans two days prior. I really needed a hug at that point and she seemed to also, so happy to see her! We made it together to my grandma’s house where much of the Fam was gathered, on the way struggling to prepare in seeing so much family at once after not seeing them for so long, and under the hard situation. It was so great to embrace them all and just be together, and that whole week I was home I couldn’t believe I was really there; maybe partly due to being emotionally exhausted and jetlagged.

 

Giving Grandma a big hug was so great, and she was overwhelmed by the love and support showed her over that time, really amazing how kind people are, holding her up and keeping her strong. That first night I arrived, many of us went to see Grandpa together for the last time, and that was an incredibly powerful moment, so blessed to have made it back to be with for that. We love you Big Papa! You truly meant so much to so many, with an impact and legacy that will stand forever.

Celebrated Life

That first weekend was the wake and funeral, which took lots of preparation, but all our eyes were really opened then to what an amazing man Grandpa was by the overwhelming numbers of people who poured in to show support, and he deserved it all. Only Ronnie wasn’t present, as he just graduated from basic training down south that week and had responsibilities there, prayed for you bro! We all thought the service and all went great there at the First Presbyterian Church in St. Cloud, so many wonderful people gathered to remember and celebrate a full life well lived. Many great hymns were sung and memories shared. My dad read a very powerful piece on what Grandpa was all about, the kind of person he was and what was most important to him, and as he read it I couldn’t help thinking that so much of it I see reflected in my dads life and what he has always been to me. I also read a piece of scripture (Romans 8:14-23, 31-38) in Chinese, struggled through it as Biblical Chinese wording is tough sleddin’, though most in attendance would be satisfied with whatever foreign sounds came out of my mouth, all sounds the same right? 😉 Still so amazing to see everyone there and honor Big Papa, still so sad he’s gone from here, but I know I’ll see him again some day.

 No Place Like Home

I was just so grateful for each moment to be had around home with family that week, though the rest of it wasn’t real eventful, but just soaked up the quality time together, and of course the great home cooking. It was great to see a couple of Gabe and Dad’s games with Prep, and push him around in practice a bit too 😉 Even made it to a Gophers game, a Wolves game, and of course an SJU game; all victories but the Tpups, who’s surprised by that.. Also was sweet being able to meet Maddie’s dude, roll tide 🙂 The time around there flew by real quick, but it was so wonderful, a real blessing though for a tough reason.

 

I knew going back home for such a short time it wouldn’t be possible to see all those I wished to see, and so I tried to keep it on the down low I was back at all. Please forgive me those whom I didn’t get the chance to see back around home or even notify I was back in the USA for that time, especially those around campus in Winona, wish the time was longer to make a trip down there and visit but just didn’t work out 😦 I miss you all so much and can’t wait to see you when back in July! Will come along soon enough J

 Back at it

It felt like I had just gotten used to being in MN, when before I knew it, I was getting things together to make return trip back to China. It was a wonderful refreshment and blessing to make it home over this time, and I feel geared up and ready to get back; another exciting journey to begin!

 

It was a lengthy expensive haul across the pond again, of course, but always meet some neat people along the way to make it interesting; like for example this time an Italian project developer named Alessio sat next to me, on his way to Macao, China to finish building a huge water park above a giant casino.. that’s pretty neat! It’s a longgg ways to get to where I am at now, but worth it, went something like this.. After several exchanges on plane through MPLS/Seattle/Hongkong , overnight in Hongkong and then rushed bus to Shenzhen, barely made flight to Changsha where I met up again with the main brotha Kaizi, train to Yiyang, and finally an hour more taxi ride to his hometown (city) of 沅江Yuanjiang , just in time to bring in the Chinese New Year with his family. Quite the hike, and nailed it!

 

This time of the Spring Festival has been very intriguing and of course a one of a kind event; I’m still getting some thoughts together to share about it soon! This culture is so complex and fascinating to me, and I am still trying to understand it bit by bit, and share what I find so others may know too.

These last 3 weeks have been quite a time, a whirlwind sudden change of plans, all triggered by one event and all in order to be present with family to remember our dear Big Papa. He was the man, plain and simple, a full life deserving of all the love he received for what he humbly gave first.

 Power of Influence

Final thoughts, on influences: I’m blessed to have such amazing influences and examples like Grandpa in my life, (many also outside of family) and it gives me more drive to continue what I’m doing right now with more zeal, thinking of them and all they’ve done for me makes me want to succeed for them. I thank God for all of them, for their part in helping me become who I am and to be where I’m at now, on my way to become I don’t know yet what, but I trust it’s in God’s hands, trying to follow Him closer daily and be Spirit led. I owe all I become to God and what He has done in my life through these influences.

 

The position of my influence I’ve been given now while studying and traveling in China comes down to this: to be a good rep of the USA culture to all here whom I across here in China, and of Chinese culture to all by what I write here and tell about back home. This way we can understand each other more, though yes I am just one voice.

Ultimately and most importantly, however, my unchanging position of wherever I’m at is to be an ambassador for Christ in being unashamed of His relentless love and all He has done for me, for us all, when He paid it all on that ole rugged cross. I’m just praying that everlasting light shine and manifest through the way I live, to be encouraging to others from the faith and hope the Living God has freely given me, living out the Word like my fun-lovin’ Grandpa “Rollickin’” Ron showed so faithfully in his to all who knew him.

That’s what’s been happenin’, been a ride to remember, just trying to hold on to the One who holds me.

We are all difference makers, with an influence greater than we will ever know.

谢谢大家,Thanks ya’ll.

Stay fresh,再见 Byebye!

力伟

Faith, Fam, and Fun-lovin’: Like 爷爷

Primetime Frozen Beauty Pt. Deuce/2

Be Still

Since classes and finals ended at the beginning of January, it has been nice to have a lot of time to relax reflect on the first half of my time here at 吉大(Jilin University), as well as enjoy lots of fun with friends as most all of us, one after the other, leave to go home or travel some place nicer/warmer than Changchun 长春 (i.e. anywhere else ;)… Just kidding, Harbin 哈尔滨near the Russian border is definitely colder, as found out last a while back in a visit with friends) Today, it came my turn to say goodbye to friends from school for a bit and am also presently on my way out of the Northeast 东北 with my Chinese brother on a 38+ hour train ride to see what’s out there in the great land of Southern China, let’s go!! More on this later…

Before coming, I made a list of many worries and uncertainties I had of coming here, but also of many goals I hoped to achieve. I put much of it to prayer at that time, and have found that over my time here, of course my anxieties were nothing to worry about as every need has been met, and my goals are developing, falling into place. Just amazing how that works, and owe it all to God, constantly showing me how He has it all in control, teaching me to just be still and trust in Him. Some changes come up that we just can’t control, but we just have to roll with it and know God must be working something better. Kind of an example of this being just last month, when everyone under my same program, the Confucius Institute Scholarship (孔子学院),had to switch to dorms to the building where our classes are held. This was a big step down as far as living conditions go, but good on convenience. Most everyone was pretty upset as we had our own, nice community and home at that first dorm, with a big kitchen we all shared, and that would all change in a different, bigger place. However, it turned out to be a sweet change that most everyone is satisfied with, and opened many doors and new relationships that weren’t possible living at the other dorm. Of course, switching dorms isn’t a huge deal, but it is a big change, one that God cares about and is working with and through, though not always easy to see without taking a step back, or looking back later.

Small Group
Aside from life around school and class, of course my primary purpose of coming here, I have also gotten myself involved in several other areas ☺ One of the goals I had was to start a small group Bible study, continue on from what’s great about Chi Alpha back home, so a while back I worked and prayed on starting that up. Like anything new and different from day to day life around the dorm, when it started for the first couple weeks there was a lot of interest and it was a great success, almost too much to handle. However, this was no ordinary small group venture, and there were many challenges that came with it. Firstly, the most common language among us is Chinese, which we are all in the progress of learning, so there are definitely limits; that made it neat though! A few Chinese friends joined too, which was great as they helped with things we didn’t yet know how to say. Also, the varied mix of people with different backgrounds, different beliefs. That all tossed together was tough to shuffle, and it was hard honestly to really get into the Bible at all. Definitely a learning process, but many good conversations were had, and I saw how it helped many of us, including myself, to just talk about how things were going, ups and downs, triumphs and struggles, homesick, worries etc., to see how though we are facing similar troubles daily and often feels like we are alone, God and His Word is always there willing and prepared to help us with our every need. After running well for over a month, our schedules started to get real busy and finding time for us to meet wasn’t working, so it sputtered out unfortunately… I plan to get it going again this next semester at the new dorm, prayers appreciated! There is already a great weekly English Bible study at the new dorm, but no Chinese one, so let’s see what happens and what God has is store ☺

朋友们, Cakes, Holidays
I have been blessed to have many great friends here, lots of Chinese, but also many others from all over the world. It always make for an interesting time, whatever we happen to be doing and wherever we happen to be! Though I have not been able to really post pictures myself, many have made it to Facebook thanks to my dear friend, Zhoukai, or Kaizi 凯子。I don’t know if I have introduced him to you yet here, but he is an awesome dude and quickly became a close friend, the one I am traveling with now to visit his home and family, celebrate the Chinese new year, 春节(Spring Festival). (I owe a large portion of any of my improvements in Chinese this year to this brotha for sure, as he always corrects my mistakes, even if I get upset as I tend to mess up a lot.. ) Anyways, most of his pictures consist of us eating food or celebrating birthdays with legendary Chinese cakes, which for a while seemed to be a daily occurrence, fun times for sure! For my own 21st birthday right before Christmas, I hoped to not really do much, just make some pizza with friends around the dorm, but then they surprised me with cake and all that, turned into a great memorable time, thanks guys! 🙂

Over the main holiday’s of Thanksgiving and Christmas, of course the hardest times to be away from home and family, I was fortunate to be invited to an American English teacher (Jacob)’s house with his family, as well as with many more English teachers from around the area to celebrate with them. (Jacob was the one who first invited me to check out the church I now attend, the one I walked by so many times without knowing it was a church.) Just to have the feeling of family atmosphere over those days, let alone the amazing food dishes and fun times we shared, was super great and I am so grateful for all of them. The holidays outside of that time here were odd here as you just don’t get that festive feel like home; they felt like any other day, and we had even still had classes those days. But they were made special thanks to Jacob and his family reaching out to me, big time props to them ☺
Put Me to Work
I have been fortunate to have several English teaching/tutoring opportunities come my way. I started with tutoring some middle school kids one on one just once a week at their home, which was really sweet and convenient. A couple of my professors are the ones who give me the connections of families they know who are looking for an English tutor, so thanks to them!

The kids I have tutored have honestly been a joy, really smart kids. One in particular, Peter, amazed me every time with his crazy knowledge of many subjects in only 6th grade. He is seriously brilliant, don’t know how else to put it, and I could see him making a big difference in this world some day. He wants to be an inventor, but doesn’t know what to invent yet. I tutored him in physics and chemistry, as his English has little troubles, but most of the stuff we went over he tended to already pretty much know, look out world I’m tellin’ you! Next semester his family wants us to go over a Steve Jobs book together, as he is basically Peter’s hero. I have tutored a few other kids off and on as well, but they have all been preparing for exams lately, bout to rock em for sure! ☺

Another opportunity a while back came up from a Professor to teach English once a week at a kindergarten, so I thought why not? The first few times were rough yet interesting, and I found it to be possibly the easiest job ever, but veryyy tiring as these kids basically just drain all I’ve got within me every time. Lots of respect to those in education who teach these lil guys daily, wow! I had 4 sessions of 20+ kindergarteners and preschoolers (ages 3-6) each for a half hour, and all they wanted me to do was go over very basic flashcards with them and play games, sing-a-longs and dance. Each class had their regular teacher present to help control and try to keep their attention. When it was time to go each time, they’d sing a “Goodbye Teacher, see you next time” song, and then I’d wave goodbye as they all would run at me at once and hug my legs at their height, just bout knock me over every time. 🙂 It was real easy and payed well, such a joy hanging out with the little fellers for a while every week, (I even spent the afternoon of Christmas Eve with them, great way to celebrate ☺ ). Though they will likely not remember me, the awkward giant who sat and repeatedly read mysterious flashcards and sang songs to them, I’ll always remember them and their silliness.
Ballin’ Out
Since the weather went and got all cold months back, I haven’t been able to play nearly as much basketball as I’d like to (meaning every day), but still find a place to get up and down regularly. The group of Chinese guys I played with on Tuesdays was real good competition, with many guys bigger than me, and they were just so fun to joke around with, at the same time learn some things (often not so good but useful.. 😉 ) from them. However, they all headed back to their hometowns a while back, so that has been a bummer; hope to be able to play with them again in the spring! A group of many foreigners, mostly from Africa, also get together on Friday’s at a gym of a nearby campus, which has been OK but it is mostly for exercise and messing around, as the talent isn’t real great but lots of good friends there.
A couple of American friends, also Christian, I met there playing ball a ways back told me about a dream they had of starting up a 2 week youth “Next Level” basketball camp, and they asked if I’d be willing to help. They wanted to set it up over this time of late January, so I thought of course let’s do it! It worked into my schedule perfectly to do the camps and then head south with Kaizi after, so I was pumped. We were preparing for it and getting ready to go, things looked good, but in the end a couple days before it was to start it all got called off as not enough kids signed up, big bummer! Turns out the ad agency wasn’t able to get the word out in time before kids signed up for other things.. Anyways, I wasn’t happy about that missed opportunity, just the way things work in China sometimes I guess, but the last few weeks being able to relax and spend with friends was really great ☺ I also spent much of it finding gyms to play ball in, reflecting and writing these blogs, or preparing for HSK 5 with Kaizi and a good friend/classmate Elnura from Kyrgyzstan, trying to keep each other on task but often ending up cooking something tasty or watching Chinese movies.
Adventure Beckons
Now back to this trip south to Guangzhou 广州with Kaizi, adventure is calling indeed! I am so excited to get down south to see what’s in store there, to meet my bro’s friends and family, but first gotta get there.. Before getting on this almost 2 day train ride, I didn’t really know what to expect, as I have little experience with this long of train trip, aside from going to 西安Xi’an from 北京Beijing with my UVA bro Yijie 一杰 last summer (a definite blast!), an overnight sleeper but less than half as long as what’s in progress here. That time I found to be pretty luxury compared to now, where my spot is the highest of 3 bunks, where my feet can hang over freely about a foot, but also where there’s minimal space between the train roof and the bed, making getting up and laying down a real struggle for a big man… but hey it’s a spot to lay down and stretch out at least, I’ll take it! Will soon be laying down for the second night aboard, with little sleep to be had, but have met lots of neat people, making it enjoyable; just can’t wait for the warm Guangzhou sunshine and green grass to come in the morning ☺
Setting up the trip was rough of course, deciding when to where with who, and much thanks to Kaizi in figuring out the train tickets over this time, the toughest and busiest time to travel in China being around the New Year. The plans for the trip are:

1. Guangzhou 广州for 3 days – Just arrived today, beautiful and warm! Staying at Kaizi’s aunt’s place with his parents and little cousin
2. Southeast to Shenzhen 深圳 for 3 days - Seeing a few friends, will check out a church there that a friend recommended too
3. A bit north to Changsha 长沙 for about 3 weeks, staying around Kaizi’s hometown with his family and will celebrate the New Year, Spring Festival with them, look forward to that!
4. West to Guizhou 贵州 for 2 days – Seeing a good friend from up in Changchun, Louie 刘翳,at his hometown
5. Southwest to Kunming 昆明 for a week – Will see another good friend from up at Jilin University 吉大, Bobo 博博visit his family and travel around, meet other friends there from up where I’m studying.
6. Very far Northeast train trip back up to Changchun at beginning of March after month of travel, hopefully warm up there by then! 😉

Really looking forward to this next month travelin’ around with Kaizi and other friends, visiting their hometowns and their family/friends, getting a feel for where they come from and constantly learning from them/their way of life. Will be super sweet to see these parts of China I’ve yet to experience, and of course just enjoying some time off and away from school up north, make it feel new again when I return.

Will be speaking as little English as possible over this time, and so also to help with this I won’t be using social media, but will be keeping a blog of the experience as I go. It’s been interesting already here, and though warned by Kaizi, I quickly found that I indeed don’t understand much at all the accents spoken down here, including Kaizi and his family. However, they can also speak what I know, 普通话 or Standard Mandarin. They are so welcoming and friendly, a very comfortable place. (Why am I studying up north?。。 Nah, it’s great up there too, but a great break being here.)

Soon off to check out what downtown Guangzhou has to offer for the day, and continue to just take it all in as we go along.

Pumped for the adventures to come, hope all is well for all elsewhere, you’re missed!

Peace & Blessings,

Levi, 力伟

Primetime Frozen Beauty Pt. Deuce/2