My Chinese, locked out, Mexican food, Thanksgiving.

Yes, each of those happened to me. Today alone.

To start, I woke up early and taught seminary. I am grateful for this opportunity for many reasons. I have never been very good at the Old Testament. I'm at least passable with the other books. The Old Testament is like me doing calculus. And if you know me, I haven't had math since I was about 16 years old. Not my thing. So now I am learning the Old Testament much better and I love that. I also get to start my days, every other week, with an hour of spirituality, despite the dead pan attitude of my skype attendees. Seriously, teenagers in the morning is bad, but over the internet where you can't stare them down? Worse.

But the best thing is the preparing of the lessons in which I learn and feel the spirit and grow according to my own knowledge. I believe I need this specific boost at this time, partly because of the challenges of living in China, but also dealing with the challenges that life is giving us in general right now. Things are hard and the gospel is good.

After this, I go back to bed for about 2-3 hours. I am not a morning person. I need that morning nap. It gets me going for the rest of the day. And apparently I need it when I roll over and find it is three hours later. Today I exercised, thank you Pinterest, and then called my mom for a good chat. Then I finished getting ready, had some leftovers for lunch and headed out the door. Without my key. As the door slammed shut I remembered that I saw my key outside my purse. Lovely. Now this isn't Utah, where the doors are unlocked until you lock them. I have no door knob. Just a pull lever. The latch will always catch. Which means it always locks. Always.
Fun, huh? Since it was 1 o'clock and I had stuff to do for a while I didn't worry about it much. I called Daniel and  told him I was a dork and to make sure he comes home on time. then I went with a woman that goes to church with us and we walked like around our nearby shopping centers for nearly 3 hours. I was successful in what I was looking for and came home with about 30 kuai in my pocket. (That's like 5$). This can't do much.

While shopping we found these little treasures.

In any of you understand what these are supposed to mean, please let me know. We are making a little bit of a collection of bad translations or just bad English in general. It's awesome.

When I got back I went to see if the building managers could let me in. Nope. Not unless I wanted to partially destroy the door and get new locks. Not happening. So I called Yimi, my translator, and had her call my maid to find out how she got in when the door was jammed. Turns out Ayi was in the neighborhood and she ran her key over to me on the condition that I pay for her taxi fair. Let me clarify here, that this is not a greedy move. For someone who only makes 130$ from me, a taxi fair is a luxury that is not indulged. So I said gladly, and 15 minutes later she came running into the building, handed me her key, told me to pay her tomorrow, and ran back out. Thank heavens. I was in.

Then Daniel and I talked about dinner and what to do. He text me on his way home and said "Let's do Coyote." sounds good to me. So I turned on Pushing Daisies, which by the way should never have been cancelled, and started to organize things for my trip home. 45 minutes later, Daniel text me and said he was at Coyote and was I coming. Well, yes. I had no idea that I was supposed to meet him there.

There are two times at which it is a nightmare to catch a taxi. During shift change, from 4:20-5:00 and after the work day, 6:00-6:30. It was not 6:15 and I had to wait nearly 15 minutes for a taxi. But I got to the restaurant (using 9 of my 30 kuai) just fine. I had a delightful dinner of soup that burned my throat a little, a quesadilla with black beans, and some guacamole (new recent favorite acquired taste). To top it off we indulged in this rare treat:

Look carefully and home made pumpkin cheese cake with white chocolate chips made in China and eaten at a Mexican restaurant. Jealous? You should be. It was amazing. We bough 2 pieces. One we shared there, and the other we will share tomorrow night for out at home date. It was so good.

Then we had the fun of giving our taxi driver directions home because he didn't know where it was. This, by the way, is only the 2nd time this has happened.

All in all, it was a pleasant day, though, despite the challenges. It made me grateful for things like cell phones with translation apps and cheap taxi rides.

I am looking forward to being home on Tuesday and seeing as many of you as possible. I can't wait to taste things like my grandma's cranberry jello. Oh,. So. Good. To sleep on a soft bed, to smell fresh air, to indulge in quiet. I know, "quiet you say," well yes. Even though I am often home alone, I can hear cars, wind, boat horns, the songs blared over the loud speaker for the kindergartners to exercise and have recess with, and the grinding. The jack hammers have quit for the time being, thank heavens, and all it is now is pounding with like a sledge hammer.

Well, have I been entertaining this post? I hope so. I hope all of you Americans that read my blog are grateful for the traditional Thanksgiving that will be yours this year. Enjoy some pie for me, okay?


My generous husband

Daniel is starting something for Christmas this year that I hope all of you will participate in. I also hope that it will become a yearly tradition.

The program is called Heifer International.

It is a program to which you can donate money to help provide a farm animal to a rural family in need. The animals given are the kind that will help sustain the family for years. Daniel has elected to donate towards a water buffalo, his new favorite animal.

Water buffalo are used for plowing fields and other heavy transportation needs. Should you feel inclined to donate, as little or as much as you feel comfortable with, please do. The water buffalo will go to a family in South East Asia. All that is needed is $250.

Here is Daniel's webpage.  Help him, help you, help him.Get it?


Little Treasures of Xiamen

Here are some weird tidbits from my outing today. All these were taken with-in 10 minutes of each other. This is my visual adventure every day.

Check out these eyebrows. 
 No joke. They are totally real.
 Which was funny, because his wife had her eyebrows colored on because she didn't really have any.
 You diggin' this style?
And my favorite, the backwards sweater thing. I'm not sure what she was trying to accomplish.

My regular sightings in China are such a delightful part of my day.


A Chinese Wedding

On Nov. 2 we had the opportunity to attend the Xiamen wedding of the workers from Lifetime. Both Lori and her new husband work at Lifetime.

Weddings here are a huge deal. You are invited to attend a nice dinner. Instead of registering of giving gifts, you give money in a red envelope. It ends up being anonymous.

You are greeted at the Hotel (it's usually at a hotel) by the Wedding party, bride, groom, maid of honor and best man. The Maid of honor takes the red envelopes for them and the best man does this:
That's right, he has a tray of complimentary cigarettes.

All of us with the wedding party.

 The dinner table. That's a carafe of wine.
 A video shows the whole time of the photos they had taken previously. They were beautiful.
 The dinner guests at our table.

 Lori and her husband. There was a 15 minute presentation where they say things, drink wine with interwoven arms, and do a champagne waterfall thing.
 Then we all toasted to them. Then an 8 course dinner begins.
Then the bride changes to another dress and the couple goes around and does a toast with every table.
The bride with our beautiful Selena. Selena was the Maid of Honor. Poor girl didn't want to drink any wine because she didn't want to get drunk but when they went around and toasted at each table, some tables made her switch out her alcohol free drink for real wine. She was a little tipsy by the end of the evening. Daniel said the next day she wasn't her usual stellar self. We sure do love her though.

It was a fun evening, but one we don't feel the need to repeat. Because of the free cigarettes (three packs at each table) there were no inhibitions by the guests to smoke in the dining hall. When we got home and undressed we smelled like cigarettes down to our garments and we had to change. It was interesting to attend and we wish the new couple all the best!


Zhang Zhou Temple

I don't actually know the name of the temple, but it is the town of Zhang Zhou. We stopped there on our way home from the Tulou buildings. The sun was setting so my pictures aren't all that I hoped, but I did get some good ones.

 This tree is called a ficus macrocopa. It sends down roots from its branches into the ground thus growing into a huge tree. The monks have facilitated some of the roots of this tree.

It was a nice end to our day.


My flea bitten adventure into the wild...

Or as everyone else called it, a trip to another set of Tulou Earth Buildings. This time we went out to the Dadi cluster. It was a beautiful drive to a very large round building. Here are some photos from along the way. 

Our journey had some amazing sights like:
 Carrying a bike on a motorcycle.
 Small trucks full of pigs.
 Amazing tea farms.
 Rows and rows of neatly planted and trimmed tea bushes.
 Farmers drying their tea leaves.
 People transporting the tea leaves.
 Nicely dressed people transporting the tea leaves.

And then we arrived. This little woman here kept telling Selena something in the local language so I had no idea what she was saying. She kept pointing to me and then touching her face. Selena told me she kept saying my skin was beautiful. I guess that inability to hold a tan is pretty in China.

 She let us take her picture. Don't mind me, look at the cute little Chinese woman. She was collecting plastic bottles to turn in for money. All the old ladies are doing it.

Here it is. The Big daddy. It has a diameter of about 75 meters.
This is the highest floor. It has this "hidden passage" all along the outside.

Then we headed over the other Tulou near it. On the way we were warned of danger.
 I think. Translation?
And then this was apparently the danger.

This is one of the tea "fields" where they are currently harvesting. 

We all know how safe it is to combine water and electricity and they have taken it to heart here.

This is where, when I sat down because I was so blasted tired, and I was bitten repeatedly by fleas. I saw the little black buggers and I think I can now count over 40 bites. They are worse than mosquito bites. I have scratched the top off many of them and they hurt more! Thank goodness for prescription itch cream. I hate fleas.

The paving stones were kind of cool. 
Then we went for lunch. At 2 pm. After most of the restaurants had closed. Selena and the driver found us a little restaurant in the local city and we asked if they would still cook lunch.
 So up the stairs we went to an amazing lunch of 8 or so dishes of traditional Chinese food, many of which I liked.
 I grabbed a picture of the kitchen on our way out. They whipped up those dishes so fast.

Then we one more place to see before the sun set.

 Check back tomorrow....