Monday, January 29, 2007

Are You a Gentleman?

I got this little quiz from my wokmate Ross - a bit of fun
I am 56% Gentleman

Generally you act like a gentleman, but sometimes you're careless with your manners.
Most people know that you're trying your best - and that's usually good enough.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

More China Photos

A traditional Chinese village outhouse - reminded me so much of an Aussie dunny

Me getting the Miao treatment at a cultural dinner and show we attended in Kaili

Bamboo scaffold was a common sight in the construction of some large buildings in both Kaili and Guiyang.

Kate and Matt doing puppets at one of the primary schools

Monday, January 15, 2007

China Post 8

Saturday 13th January
After a couple of early starts and late nights we took the opportunity to have a sleep in this morning. The children enjoyed their corn flakes for breakfast and James and Grace took Annette and I out for a Singaporean breakfast of fried carrot cake that neither looked or tasted like carrot cake and Singaporean coffee with condensed milk.
When we got home we packed our backpacks and headed off to Singapore Zoo - praying that the weather would clear. We had agreat day at the zoo and after some early rain it stayed clear most of the day. Ron and Marilyn met us at the zoo at 6pm and after having tea there at KFC we went together to the night safari which is a separate section of the zoo that focuses on nocturnal animals. It consists of a 45 minute tram ride with an optional 30 minute walk in the middle. We had a great but the kids were pretty tired by the time we got home. All of them fell asleep in the car.

Sunday 14th January
We walked to Bartley Christian Church this morning. There are a number of Balwyn families who attended this church prior to migrating to Australia. We went to the 11am service and Pastor William Lee (who was the guest speaker at last year's Balwyn church Easter camp) took us and the Freemans to lunch. After lunch we went to Dennis and Linda Heng's apartment with the Freemans and Lailin and Hao. The children swan in the pool (in the rain) supervised by the men while the women went shopping. We all went out for tea and a game of ten pin bowling. We got back to James and Grace's at 10pm.

China Post 7

Thursday 11th January
We had an early morning today rising at 6am for a 7:30am departure from JianHe. We had a good journey to Guiyang on expressways most of the way. It is very mountainous in the areas we have visited and the expressway was a combination of tunnels and bridges for much of the trip. At one point we passed through 17 tunnels in a 30 minute period. The tunnels ranged in length from 200m - 900m. We arrived in Guiyang at 11:30am and after taking our luggage to our hotel room we went out for lunch. A group of us who were craving western food went to Pizza Hut. It was very expensive by Chinese standards but was about the same as what we would pay at home - 55 Yuan for a family Pizza - about $9- Australian. The quality control was very good and it tasted just like home and the kids loved it so much we went back for tea later in the day. The afternoon was spent shopping and resting. Annette and Kate went out shopping and Annette bought some woollen dress pants and a top for 120 yuan ($20 AUD). Matthew, Thomas and I rested and watched some sport on TV. The hotel had a free wireless so I was able to catch up on Cameron White's superb performance in the 20/20 and Harwoods surprise inclusion. We got an early night ready for an early start tomorrow and a day of flying.

Friday 12th January
We woke at 6am and took our bus (which we have had with our driver Yang Su Fu for the whole trip). We arrived at Guiyang airport at 7am and after a long time to check in the 25 of us (5 left yesterday for Japan and other parts of China) we went straight to our plane and left for Guangzhou. After arriving in Guangzhou we walked a few hundred metres to the international section of the airport and checked in our baggage and went through customs without a hitch. We looked through the shops and had lunch at a "western" restaurant. We had hamburgers and spaghetti which were ok but not really fully western. We left Guangzhou at 1pm for a four hour flight to Singapore. James Seah (brother in law of David Tey - the business manager at Kingsley) picked us up and took us back to his place where we'll be staying for the next few days. James and his wife Grace took us to a shopping centre to buy breakfast cereal and milk for the kids and we had McDonalds for tea. Annette and I chatted with James and Grace before going to bed. Annette, Kate and I are in the guest room and Matt and thomas are sharing a large bedroom with Ezra and Esmond - James and Grace's sons. Oir first impressions of Singapore are very positive - it is very clean - but also very wet at the moment - it has not stopped raining since we arrived.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

China Post 6

Saturday 6th January
A bit of a quieter day today. We left the hotel at 9:30am and went to the same village as yesterday. The team bought 7 radiant heaters for the classrooms and gave $800 yuan to help with their electricity costs. We also gave the children beanies, toiletries and some snacks. We did about 30 minutes of teaching and then did a concert with puppets and dramas. There were about 40 children - I think word had got around that we were coming and every child in the village turned up. We left the village and after walking our 30 minutes back to the bus we arrived back at the hotel at 2:30pm for a late lunch.
When we eat at the hotel we sit at three large tables holding 10-12 people on each. We have a large bowl of rice and 5-8 dishes to share on each table. The dishes are a mix of vegetables, fish, pork, prawns, chicken, tofu, and egg. It's been interesting to explore different foods or familiar foods prepared in different ways.
We had a free afternoon today so we caught up with clothes washing, sleep and shopping for snacks. Andrew Chan was sleeping so I borrowed his laptop and plugged it into the the internet cable in our room to clean out my email. I had 496 messages in my Kingsley inbox. In the 3 hours I had the computer I had two 10 minute blocks where my email pages loaded properly. The internet connection here is very patchy. The Age newspaper and Baggygreen were loading ok, however, so I had a chance to catch up on news and cricket. I'm glad Cameron White got picked in the one day squad - funnily enough I had a dream last night that all these obscure unknown cricketers from other states were picked to replace the retirees and Cameron White was overlooked - I was very disappointed.
When we were out shopping last night were noticing people spitting on the footpath - which apparently is ok here. But we also noticed that people were spitting on the floor in the shopping centre too - you have to watch where you step. We've also noticed that a lot more people smoke here. Itls been difficult to adjust to eating in smoke filled restuarants and even though there are no smoking signs in the lifts (the only ones we have seen so far) people still smoke there too. I took a good photo of bamboo scaffold on a building of around 20 stories and will post it if I get an opportunity.
Welre going to church tomorrow and doing a concert and medical clinic from the church building in the afternoon.

Sunday 7th January
We left the hotel at 9:30am and arrived at the village at 10:30am. Our big bus could not take us all the way to the village. We parked off the main road and a vehicle form the medical clinic ferried us to the village in 3 loads. The medicos and translators went in first and started treating people. The medical clinic was set up in the village church which was about a 100m walk down a steep rocky path which was quite difficult carrying four cases of pharmaceuticals and all the PA Gear and musical instruments.
We packed up the clinic and had lunch in one of the local houses - they killed and cooked four chickens for us. The church service began at 1:30pm and our team did songs, dramas, testimonies and Ron Freeman preached. There were around 100 villagers in attendance. The church is state sanctioned but they are allowed to operate freely. Following the service the medical clinic was reopened and we left the village at 4:30pm. Around 50 patients were treated with the most common ailments stomach ulcers and arthritis and most of those treated were elderly.
We were treated to dinner by the foreign affairs officials - which was a real gesture of goodwill since it was these same officials that initially blocked us from teaching in the high school.
We went to what I could only describe as a Chinese Propoganda Theatre Restaurant. All the staff were decked out in chinese military outfits and there was singing and dancing on stage. It was so loud we had to put our hands over our ears. The chinese singing was extremely high pitched - I'm surprised the glasses weren't shattering. Our group got up on stage and performed an item in English to a rousing ovation. We got back to the hotel at 9pm and packed our bags ready to travel to JianHe tomorrow.

Monday 8th January
We left Kaili at 8.30am and travelled most of the way to JianHe by expressway which made the trip smooth and uneventful. So smooth that most of the group slept through the journey of 90 minutes. We arrived at JianHe and transferred into 7 four wheel drives for the 30 minute drive to the village. The road was equivalent to a fire access path in an Australian forest. The new village primary school has just been completed and some of the money was contributed by the Balwyn church. The whole village was there to greet us when we arrived and most were in traditional Miao costumes. We participated in the official dedication ceremony. Ron Freeman gave an address and talked about the truth of Christ because the school is called Truth of Christ Primary School. Ben Sia spoke on behalf of Partners International who organised the fund raising for the school and a representative from the Seattle Chinese Baptist Church (another major contributor) also spoke. There are three from the Seattle church who have now joined with our group. I did the prayer of dedication and other local dignitaries spoke. One of them spoke of Miao custom. They have a saying: If you can talk you can sing, if you can walk you can dance and if you can eat rice you can drink wine. The team did a drama and puppets to close the festivities.
We had lunch in the house of the village chief. All the food was grown by the villagers. On the way to the village we passed some pear orchards which are maintained by the same village - there were men pruning the pears.
After lunch we drove back down to JianHe and to our hotel. We were very spoilt at our hotel in Kaili - it was four star and very comfortable. Our hotel here is adequate at best - the rooms are cold, the bathrooms are dirty and wet and it is in a general state of disrepair. However, this is the best hotel in the area. The kids had a lukewarm bath and we all went to bed at 8pm.

Tuesday 9th January
We had breakfast at the hotel this morning - rice porridge, eggs, and steamed dumplings. We left the hotel at 8:45 in a 20 seater bus and 2 four wheel drives. I didn't think the bus would make it up the road but I shouldn't be surprised after what I've seen over the past 10 days.
We spent the morning walking around the village and seeing people doing their daily chores of gathering water, weaving and cleaning. We played a basketball game agaist the village boys and won 17-10.
In the afternoon we taught english and ran a medical clinic. The clinic attended to 30 patients and will see more tomorrow. We left the village at 4:30 and arrived back at the hotel at 5:30pm.

Wednesday 10th January
We went to the same village today leaving the hotel at 9am and getting to the village just before ten. We ran the medical clinic all day and saw another 50-60 patients. Yesterday there were two villagers with presenting problems that required ultrasounds to determine the extent of the problem in each case. One man, the only Christian in the village had a growth on his thyroid and a seven year girl who hasn't been able to walk since birth has recently lost her ability to speak also. The team donated 1000yuan to each of these cases to get them to Guiyang and to have an ultrasound conducted.
In the morning we played games with the children and the female members of the team were fitted out in traditional Miao costumes for photos. Matthew and Tom were also dressed in boys costumes. We taught English in the afternoon and made kites with the children. We left the village at 4pm and arrived back at the hotel at 5pm. Annette sorted out the three cases of pharmaceuticals before tea. Our three doctors are all unwell and the full day of clinic has taken a lot out of them. We had dinner at the hotel and had a team debrief because we're losing some team members before tomorrow night when we arrive in Guiyang.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

China Post 5

Thursday 4th January
Our most eventful day in China so far. After early devotions at 7:30am we headed off on a 40 minute drive to the home village of the foreign affairs official who gave us to go ahead to work in the KaiLi school. Forty minutes turned into 5 hours as we encountered roadworks and traffic jams the whole way. The worst jam had us at a complete standstill for over 40 minutes. The drivers here are absolute lunatics, road rules are not observed and with the frustration of roadworks and traffic jams people did crazy things. Over half of the traffic was coal trucks hauling coal from the mine to the power station closer to town. The remainder of the traffic was buses and taxis with the occasional private car. Overnight rain had turned the contruction areas (over 50% of the whole route) to mud which made it all the more treacherous. Our bus driver was amazing, he got us places I didn't think possible. The coal trucks would pass us with only inches to spare - one actually scrapred the back corner of the bus. This did not please our driver because he owns the bus - this also ensured that he drove more conservatively than the local buses. We reached the mountain village at around 3pm and did some dramas and puppets for the primary school children - they loved it. We noticed how short the children were the ten year olds were shorter than Matthew. It is partly due to poor nutrition - the children only eat 2 meals a day ad man y have to walk up to two hours to school and back eachday. It was very cold there - the pine trees were iced and it looked like they were covered in snow. The trip home was a bit quicker - only 2 hours. Our three children did remarkably well under the circumstances - hardly a complaint. Thomas slept for two hours which helped - however he is still awake now at 9:45pm. We wash our underclothes and lighter clothing in the wash basin most evenings and hang it on a line over the bath (thanks Mum Mc for those extra clothes lines). It takes about 2 days to dry. We take our larger clothing items to a nearby laundry to have them washed, dried, ironed and folded for 2 yuan (35 cents Australian) a piece. Tomorrow we visit two more villages - a school in the morning and medical clinic in the afternoon - they're only meant to be 30 minutes away but we'll wait and see.

Friday 5th January
The 30 minute estimate for our travel to today's village proved accurate the roads were very good. However the bus ride was followed by a 30 minute walk up a steep road to the village. We spent the morning teaching primary school children aged between 7 and 11. There were only about 20 students in this village primary and they didn't know any english expect hello. We played games like Duck, Duck, Goose and Simon Says.
When we finished teaching at noon we asked the children to take us back to their homes to see where they live. Annette, Kate, Tom, Lailin and I went to Shin Fei's (Boy) house. His mother was there with his 2 year old brother. The house had an outdoor cooking area and four rooms downstairs and a loft. The father works as a handyman in the closest town and is home only 6 months of the year.
In the afternoon the medicos (3 doctors, 2 medical students, a nurse, a pharmacist (Annette)) went to another village nearby to run a clinic while the rest of us stayed at the village school and did more teaching. We arrived back at the hotel at 5:30pm and walked down to the main shopping centre to have Suntray chicken - which is like KFC. Afterwards we went shopping and bought woolen gloves for Matt, Tom and I and thick woollen socks for all the kids. We also bought shoes for the three kids for a total of $20- Australian.
Again it was very cold - only 1 degree. This seems to be the norm now so I'll only mention if it is different from this.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

China Photos

My class standing on the fourth storey balcony at the School
Matt holding a bunch of paper flowers made by the school children

China Post 4

Wednesday 3rd January
Today was a bit more relaxed. After breakfast and devotiones we headed around 10am to a Miao village. It was very cold today - only about 1 degree when we left the hotel.
The village we visited performs cultural dances and singing for tourists but it was still an authentic Miao village. We paid 500 yuan for the 30 of us to see the show. The villagers greeted us as we arrived and offered us rice wine from horns (which is their tradition). We were told not to touch the horn with our hands or we would have to drink the whole horn full but if we let htem touch we horn on our lips we only had to take a sip. There were a number of different musical items and dances and after they finished they had handicrafts for sale and if it wasn't for the rain I'm sure we all would have bought more things from them. We bought small versions of traditional Miao instruments which are a cross between trumpets and pan flutes for the boys and silver bracelets for Kate. When Annette and I initially asked a price for the bracelets it was $100- but Auntie Alsie bargained them down to $10 (about $1-50 Australian). When the villagers saw that we had bought something they mobbed us and we had to escape through a back door.
When we got back to Kaili we visited the sports stadium which would hold about 25,000 people. The rest of the afternoon was free so Annette and I took the opportunity to catch up on sleep. The chef in the hotel cooked a special "western" dinner for us tonight - roast chicken, roast potatoes, roast pumpkin and pumpkin soup.
Tomorrow we're working again doing some medical work in a village, interacting informally with the village children, and performing some of our concert items.

China Post 3

Tuesday 2nd January
We put on a concert for the school children today. The team did three dramas, a puppet show, two testimonies and we sung two Christmas carols. Ben spoke to the children about the meaning of the words in Silent Night. Each of the three classes of children also performed songs in English - "Kookaburra Sits on the Old Gum Tree", "Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy Down in my Heart" and "Amazing Grace".
The principal of the school is very grateful for what we've done in the past four days. He wants a team to come for longer next year. We are praising God, that after it looked like we would not be able to do anything in the school, we have been able to have such an impact.
When we left the school today many of the children were crying. It was very emotional. My heart wants to stay here and help these children - many of them are extremely poor. We pray that these few days will be an encouragement for them. The children made paper bouquets of flowers for each of the team. My small group of girls gave me 365 paper oragami stars to help me remember them each day.
We had the afternoon off today. Thomas and I had a sleep. I have a head cold with headaches and fever so I am trying to get as much rest as I can. Annette, Kate and Thomas walked to the main shopping district of Kaili with others from the team. It is very cold here today - our coldest day yet. It was 2 degrees at 10am this morning.
For the past three days on our bus trip to the school we have seen a young boy sitting and begging in the middle of the footpath. We think he is blind and physically disabled. There are no means of caring for these people in the Chinese health system and this is their only means of survival.
Annette and Kate are both feeling the beginnings of a cold - please pray for our health and others team members who are unwell.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

China Post 2

Monday 1st January
We met together as a team for devotions at 8am as normal. It's great to hear each other's stories of why and how they came to be on this mission trip. Many of us were moved by the poor state of the accommodation for the boarding students at the school. They sleep 28 to a room no larger than our loungeroom without heating and with glass missing from some windows. The children have to wash their own clothes in cold water and eat in their classrooms because they do not have a dining room large enough. Despite these poor living conditions the children are bright and many have hopes and dreams for the future. Many recognise the value of having good English so they are gratefulto have us here to help them with their pronounciation in particular. The children do not have much sporting equipment so some of the team bought basketballs, soccer balls and badminton sets for them to use. Today was our third full day of teaching at the school and we are starting to build good relationships with the children in our small groups. We have 6-8 teachers in team with 40-50 students in each class. So each teacher has 5-7 children in their small group. Some of the children are starting to ask questions about faith and we have had opportunities to talk about the real meaning of Christmas.
We have lunch back at the hotel most days and the children are doing very well with trying new and unfamiliar foods. Yesterday we had lunch at the school. We cooked spaghetti for the children in our classes - ingredients brought all the way from Australia. Today we made no-bake chocolate and oatmeal cookies with the children in their classrooms.
We have been shopping to a large supermarket not far from the hotel. It's like a super Kmart and we have been able to purchase some familiar tastes like chocolate, soft drink and chips for snacks. Thankfully the hotel has bread available for breakfast so the children are happy with toast. I'm not sure how they would cope with rice,noodles or dumplings for breakfast for 2 weeks.
We're doing a concert for the school children tomorrow morning so I hope to have a report for you on that tomorrow.

Monday, January 01, 2007

China Post 1

After a short stopover in Singapore, we flew to Guangzhou and arrived there at around 11:30am. We thought that we may have to wait until 8pm to fly from there to Guiyang but Alfred managed to get a 3pm flight and we arrived in Guiyang at 5pm. Guiyang is a large city and we were amazed by the number of tall buildings as well as the amount of construction taking place. We were picked up at the airport by bus and went to our hotel in the heartof Guiyang. The hotel was very nice (about 3 star by our standards). We ate at KFC - mostly for our children's sake - the last western food for about 2 weeks. It was all spicy and you could get a duck wrap as well as a chicken wrap.
We left at 8:00am the next morning (Friday) by bus for Kaili. We arrived at our hotel near lunchtime and after settling in we went over the road to a restaurant for lunch. Kaili is also a large city surrounded by farms and countryside. One thing I've noticed is the absence of birds and other wildlife - everything gets eaten. Both Kaili and guiyang were a constrast of wealth and poverty. There is western influence here especially in food and fashion but there is also a lot of traditional chinese culture.
We had meant to start teaching at the High School on Friday afternoon but the foreign affairs department heard of our arrival who contacted the city mayor who contacted the school principal to say that we were not allowed to do anyrthing at the school. Ben, Alfred and Alsie tried to get a meeting with the government officials to ask to be given permission to work in the school. We were given permission to visit the school and talk to the children that the Balwyn church sponsors but it looked like we would not be able to teach. After returning from the school on Friday afternoon we had dinner and met to talk and pray about the situation. We met again in the morning before breakfast to pray and we also heard that the principal had gained a hearing with the mayor amd government officials. At 10am we heard that we were allowed to enter the school and teach but we had to be careful not to talk about our faith.
So as it has turned out we have been teaching all day Saturday and today. It has been quite exhausting because we had only planned on teaching in the morning and having the afternoon for preparation. Annette and I are tired tonight. There are three teams of teachers and Annette and I are heading a team each. The kids are doing very well and are loving the adventure. They are very popular with the chinese children. We are building good friendships with the children at the school and it will be sad to leave on Tuesday.
Last night we went to a large restaurant which features traditional Miao food, music and dancing. The food was delicious - although there is quite a lot most of us don't dare to try. After eating we went outside and joined the tribal people in their traditional dancing. It was great fun. I seemed to be targeted throughout the night. When we were eating the waitresses came in and fed each of the men and then poured wine (or in our case - coke) down our mouths. All the men got the treatment once but I got it four times. When we danced outside we did a spiral and when we went past other people the Miao would bump you with their hip. I think everyone of them picked me out and bumped me when I went past. Then when the dance finished 6-8 women picked me up and hurled me into the air about four times. It was great fun and everyone was laughing - especially Annette and the kids.
Sorry it's been so long to get a post up - it's been hard to get an internet connection since we got to China.