Thursday, April 21, 2011

Palm Sunday in Korea

So, I was yearning for a church to attend on Palm Sunday. Hoping to sing some Hosannas and see little kids with palms in the aisles. But the church we attend currently doesn't do that sort of thing. I thought, "Why not try the church down the street? Even if I don't understand the service, I might hear songs and see kids." I don't exactly know what denomination the church is, but it's Christian, so I thought I would give it a try.

I timed my entry so I'd arrive right at the start. No use trying to greet people I can't talk to. I entered the church alone just as the service was ready to go. First thing I noticed was that the pews in the small church were full of middle aged to elderly Korean folk. The only kids around were the two alter boys. The next thing I noticed was that 99% of the women had their heads covered in white lace. I didn't. Oops.

Thankfully, two women in the back row didn't have their heads covered either, so I took a seat next to them, removed my coat and took out my Korean/English Bible. There WAS a bit of singing Hosanna, but it sounded more like a dirge than celebration.

I listened to prayer, more prayer, liturgy, and prayer (at least that is what I think was going on) and read my Bible. An alter boy up front yawned big as day. After awhile I noticed that all the women (no, EVERYONE) had their arms covered. Oops! While I was dressed nicely, I didn't have long sleeves. I discreetly put my coat on over my dress so as not to offend anyone further.

I wish I could have understood more than "Christo", but I did what I could. I repeated phrases during call and response and prayed silently. What a strange sensation it all was.

After a while I snuck out a bit early and headed up the hill to the Catholic's prayer garden. There I was able to read my Bible some more in the sunshine with the statues of Mary and Joseph with baby Jesus to keep me company. The sun was bright and the trees blooming. It was a lovely Spring day!

So, while I can't say I'll venture back to the church down the street, I did manage to find some peace, comfort, and joy just as needed.

Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Thinking of Home!

Just a bit over two months remain and our minds are more and more on coming home to Wisconsin. We're missing family and friends but trying to keep our minds on the day-to-day needs. We're anxious to sit on the back deck with family, friends, or old neighbors taking in the sunshine while the kids play and just talking about every day matters. How I miss a backyard and a deck with a grill. I need a grill!

Dad's been spiffying up the cabin for our return, even going so far as to get air conditioning installed prior to our arrival. Thanks, Dad!

I've been telling people that Brent will be comatose within the first week from overdosing on steak. We just don't get big portions of meat here - especially beef. And the beef that we do get is from Australia. Sorry, Australia, but your beef isn't as good as USDA. I'm anxious for some great pizza and Seroogy's Chocolate!

On the home front, we've been enjoying further exploration of the city of Seoul and what it has to offer. Now that the weather is nicer, we're heading out again. We went to the zoo found at Seoul Grand Park. The grounds are extensive - reminded me somewhat of the Miami Zoo. Anyhow, the highlight was a polar bear that totally entertained the crowd with his water antics - including standing on his "hands" in the water and sticking his back paws up in the air. He did this at least 6 times for our amusement (and his own, no doubt).

If you'd like to see us when we are back to the mid-west, leave a message on Facebook or leave a message here. It's easy to do and requires no sign-ups!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

An American in China

Our family recently spent five days in China touring Beijing and Xi'an. I'd like to reflect on that experience through stories. Pictures can be found on my previous post.

Several times while there, I had to pinch myself. Was I really in China? Was I really ON the Great Wall? Was I really at Tieneman Square and the Fobidden Palace? Was I really viewing the Terra Cotta Warriors in person? I kept thinking, "No one I know from back home has had this opportunity. What a fabulous, once-in-a-lifetime experience." I kept reminding our children, one of whom asked if we could go to London next, that they may never be back here again.

You can easily search for pictures and history on any of the landmarks in Beijing and Xi'an, so I won't go into much detail about that here. But I do want to share things that I don't think I'd find elsewhere. For example, our first tour guide Wendy has a husband and a two year old daughter. She talked a bit about the 1 child limit in China and how it affects families. She grew up with siblings so she could identify how this rule plays out. While it is true that families that can afford to pay the government to have a second chld, most families (like Wendy's) have just one. Boys are still preferable. Her daughter is two years old. The culture is consisting of only children. No siblings. No cousins. Each child is the apple of the parents and the grandparents eye! And they are getting spoiled. Imagine - almost all children are only children; that means if mom won't give "it" to me, dad might. If dad won't, grandma might. If gramdma won't, grandpa probably will. In the end, even her two year old already knows how to play the game and is getting spoiled. I can only imagine what this looks like in the classrooms.

There is also the matter of "keeping up with the Joneses." As her daughter grows she will be expected to play piano, dance, learn languages, and a myriad of other things. "There's no time for play. Competition is fierce," Wendy lamented.

Also, families don't move around much. Generally, the parents of the new husband are to provide means for a house. Once a house is owned, no one is moving. Others would question why you would move - financial problems? Why are you selling? Also, couples don't generally marry until a home is secured.

This brings me to the next tidbit of longevity in housing. We had the opportunity to tour the Beijing city center, a 700 year old community. Many of the families living there have lived in their homes for generations. As a part of our rickshaw tour, we were able to enter a home and talk to the woman of the house (with translator handy). The home we visited was quite small, containing stone walls and exposed concrete floor, and decorated nicely with traditional Chinese items. The family living there was sixth generation! Their kitchen area contained a small refrigerator, stove, and a few appliances - no counters. Their dining area was adjacent; the hostess had a small table and a few stools to sit on. There was also a bureau that was generations old. Everything felt cramped! But they managed to have a bird that greeted us with "Nee-how!", fish, and a turtle. We didn't get to see the bedroom, but it was next door. One needed to exit the kitchen and enter the courtyard to get to the bedroom. Apparently there are also shared bathrooms and a shared kitchen for the residents there who consider themselves family after living in community for so many generations. This part of town is coveted by some because of its wonderful location. The cost of living there, therefore, is rather expensive.

Here's another little tidbit. Our tour guide in Xi'an, Linda (who is about my age), told us that when she was a little girl her parents would talk about the poor kids in America who didn't have much to eat. This was to motivate her to clean her plate. (Sound familiar?) She also told us that she and her classmates would imagine that if they dug far enough they could dig all the way to America! (Also, familiar!) Guess what? She hadn't known that we said the same things as kids!

Lastly, I have to say something about all the construction going on! Both in Xi'an Beijing (and Shanghai for that matter) we saw SO MUCH construction happening. I'd never seen anything like it! Driving in just one area of the city we could easily see 5 buildings being worked on with all the cranes sitting there. At one point I counted 12 cranes all in one area.

So, China had much to offer. And I have to say, I LOVED having private tour guides!