December 28, 2007

Our Last English Corner, Holiday Break, and "the Repairman was very SICK!"

What a Day Friends and Family,

Last night was our final English corner at the college with some games and laughter. Before students showed up, the foreign Engish teachers were talking about the upcoming week and what days we thought we had off for the New Year Holiday. We all had different information about the days off. Ryan and I were told that we had Monday and Tuesday off but we needed to teach on Saturday to make up for Monday classes. They do this so that they have the days off consecutively together even if that means teaching during the weekend. But then they asked us to switch our afternoon class to Friday so that we could attend a English corner at the Middle school on Saturday. We said okay but then the college called back saying that we don't have to make up our classes on Saturday at all. Great! But the next day we talked she told us that we did not have to teach at all next week so that the students can study for the final tests. Okay, then! Then she said that the English corner at the Middle school was canceled. So that means that we don't have anything for a week in a half and we only have to give our finals the last week in a half that we are here. A week ago we didn't even know that we had Monday and Tuesday off but now we have a week in a half off. We're glad to have the time off to enjoy relaxing and hanging out with friends. Since we didn't know that we had this time off some of our students don't know what groups they are in for their final so somehow we need to contact those classes. Before the finals, we hope to take some pictures of each of our classes as a memory of each class. I'm really going to miss my students and the fun times we have had together in growing and sharing special qualities we have to offer. My students have been so wonderful to Ryan and I. I hope that they know how much they mean to me. I told one student that we will not return next term and she teared up. I really hope that we can stay in contact but a lot of my students don't have email, they don't have as much resources to computers as we do. My students have impacted my life and I cherish the times we had together.

--Kealy with one of her students and Elaine, a teacher from the Phillipines--

--Elaine, Kealy, Ryan and Appiah, a teacher from Ghana--

--Kealy with more students--

--Kealy and Appiah doing Kung Fu!--

Today we hung out with some true friends that we care about very much. We enjoyed bowling together on the sixth forth of a building in downtown Nanning. They even had shoes that fit Ryan and the other guys. We had a great time, it felt like bowling in the states. It's truly amazing the people God brings into our lives and the connections that can be made so quickly and unconditionally. The families we have come to know and love will always be close to our hearts and the times we have shared. We truly feel loved and accepted for who we are by our wonderful friends here in China. Later, we went to a Pizza Buffet that was greatly enjoyed and it even had free drink refills, which is extremely rare in China.

--Ryan staying warm in front of our new space heater--

Before we left for todays outing we had an experience here at home with our toilet. Our Western toilet was placed on top of the Eastern toilet leaving a small hole for our shower water to drain into. One of us flushed the toilet today and had a great surpise when our toilet backfired and stuff came flying out of the small hole from underneath our toilet, filling upour bathroom floor. We thought since it was coming from the Eastern part of the toilet maybe it was clogged so we descided to flush the Eastern part of the toilet but that only filled up the Western toilet with the unspeakabe. Let's just say it was hard to eat our next meal. So we called our landlord and they said they would fix it while we were out. When we got hope we found a note in the door expressing their concerns, the note said, "The toilet is ok now. But it was really very dirty this time. so much so that the repairman felt very sick. They want to give you some advice in case it happens again." And then they listed four suggestions on how to prevent toilet cloggage. We laughed really hard for a long time and are still chuckling as we write this. We feel really bad for the repair guy but the sewer system is a little different then what we are used too. Why would stuff come flying out of a hole in the ground when you flush? What a day in China. We are so glad that they came and fixed it.

What will tomorrow bring? We will keep you posted!

Kealy and Ryan

December 26, 2007

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year--ETA January 25th

Hello Friends and Family,

Merry Christmas! We hope that your last few days have been filled with love and joy as you celebrate together. We have missed being near you during the holidays. We had a wonderful time here with our friends, relaxing together and enjoying the peace and joy of Christmas. We also had some wonderful and amazing food and our now rested with belly's full. We are stocked up on candy as well for rest of our stay here in China. Speaking of our stay here in China, we have purchased plane tickets back to Oregon and will be arriving home at 7 AM on the morning of January 25th. We are excited to be home and see all of you but we are also trying to take the most of the time we have left we so many wonderful friends here and students as well. We have only a week and a half left of regular classes and then two weeks of testing and then we will be off to the Dolphin Bay Resort in Hua Hin, Thailand for five days of relaxation and rest before returning home. We hope to ride elephants, ride moped, kayak and walk on the beach during our stay at the resort on the beach. It has been getting colder here so we are looking forward to the tropics of Thailand, but we also bought a space heater here and have been sitting next to it the last few days, watching movies we received for Christmas, as well as a video of the Wolves and my talented brother Mark, playing football, which has been a great treat. We will keep you posted as we continue to prepare for 're-entry' and can't wait to see all of you soon. Here are some pictures from our holidays here in Nanning.

Ryan and Kealy Thorson

Kealy with the staff of the salon where we go to get our hair washed (about twice a week)

Kealy with some of the wonderful gifts we received on Christmas from home and from ME!

One of our new best friends here in Nanning

Kealy and I with cameras ready on Christmas morning

December 23, 2007

Merry Christmas Day One--2 feasts in 2 hours and 'I want to sit next to the pretty girl'

Hello Friends and Family,

We are trying our best to enjoy the Christmas holidays here away from you and creating new/different experiences while we are here. So Christmas will be in a three day installment for us while we are here. After a wonderful time with friends earlier today and a great Sunday afternoon nap, we got dressed up and went to the nicest restaurant with the best food around...Pizza Hut!!! Kealy wore a beautiful skirt and I put on a tie and suitcoat for the first time since arriving in China. We went to Pizza Hut and had a great feast with Pizza, soup, dessert and many other great foods fit for a king. We had a great time talking and sharing about Christmas' in the past and enjoyed each others company.

After arriving home from our delicious feast we got a call from our friends here at the middle school and they invited us to a christmas dinner they were having at one of the local coffee shops. We decided to go and wound up having another incredible feast. They barbecued corn, beef, chicken and had popcorn and icecream too. We had fun talking with many of their friends who are Chinese nationals. We talked about Christmas and they shared some Chinese words with us while we shared some more English words with them. They are enamored with Kealy's smile and told her tonight they she looks like, 'the beautiful women we see in the movies!' One of them named YaYa sat down next to Kealy and said 'I want to sit next to the pretty girl!'

Ryan enjoying one of our four meals of the day. Normally we don't eat this much:0)

Its been a busy and wonderful last week with lots of chances to spend time with friends and the next two days while be just as wonderful as we continue to celebrate Christmas here with our 'adopted' family. Santa Claus arrives for Kealy and I tonight and tomorrow morning we are going to open our Christmas gifts from family and each other. We hope the anticipation and excitement of Christmas is reaching your hearts as well. After our second feast it was cold walking home so we decided to skip the rest of the way. It was fun, but we forgot we were extremely full and hadn't exercised in four months!!! Have a great to you soon.

Ryan and Kealy Thorson

December 20, 2007

Hibernation and the joy of teaching

Hello Friends and Family,

We've had a lot of fun this week playing Christmas games with our students, giving away lollipops and sharing the Christmas story. As you can tell from Kealy's jacket over her pajamas, the weather is getting colder here and we are finding ourselves more apt to be covered in blankets indoors watching West Wing than out and about doing too much. Although sometimes our concrete walls and tile floors are not great insulators and tonight it is actually warmer outside than in. We have been spending time with other friends in their warm apartments this week and they are sharing their Christmas goodies with us...peanut butter fudge, home made cookies with real chocolate chips and we shared our almond roca stash with them as well.

This evening we had our weekly English corner at the college and I (Ryan) had a nice time talking with some of my students and even got to expand on the Christmas story with some of them, which was really fun. While I was talking with my students I saw about six students walk up to Kealy and pull her out of the group she was in and they took her to the corner where they handed her a gift bag of Christmas presents from one of her classes. The bag was full of gifts and when we arrived home Kealy opened the bag. Inside was a Santa Snoopy that was really cute, a Santa and House snow globe, two suckers, Chinese friendship knots and a notebook. Inside the notebook, each student in her class had written a special note to Kealy, wishing her Merry Christmas, gluing pictures to their note, and telling her how beautiful her smile is and what a great teacher she is. The last note expressed the hope that we could share the notebook with people in America as well. It was a wonderful gift that has to be one of the best parts of teaching and a meaningful gift, when students write you to show their appreciation.

We have one class left each tomorrow and then it is a four day Christmas Vacation!!! The college gave us Christmas Eve and Christmas Day off without penalty and we are celebrating Christmas over the next four days with the college, each other and some of our wonderful friends here in Nanning who have adopted us for this Christmas away from you. We will keep you posted on our celebration festivities and hope that you are continuing to prepare your heart to celebrate Christmas, too. Talk to you soon.

Ryan and Kealy Thorson

December 17, 2007

4 Days of Shopping, 9 Christmas Parties, And a partridge in a pear tree

Hello Friends and Family,

We apologize for the expansive passage of time between our consecutive posts. Apparently the Christmas season here is busy as well. We have been enjoying preparing and buying gifts for friends, family and each other during this time. This past weekend we canvassed the town of Nanning searching for gifts. We always enjoy buying gifts for each other and friends and so we had fun time. Some of the places we went even had Christmas decorations up, which made our mood all the more festive. We were surprised how many stores had christmas trees in windows or santas in the shop. After four days of shopping its safe to say that I (Ryan) am tired and Kealy is just getting started! This week for our college classes we are throwing each of our nine classes Christmas Parties! We are playing games and sharing the story of Christmas. We have played Christmas bingo, Scattegories and sang the Twelve Days of Christmas and showed American decorations such as stockings and ornaments that have been sent to us from home. The students laughed when the bottom of one of the ornaments mailed to us from America said 'Made in China'. We have also obtained 'VIP' status at the local Pizza Hut. Now they know which booth we like to sit at (second floor, by the big window) what we order (onion rings, curly fries and the super supreme pizza), and we get free gifts or prizes too! It has been fun going in there often as a couple of students work their as well.

Our one big announcement is that, after a lot of prayer and discussion with each other, family and friends, we have decided not to renew our contract with the college here and return to Oregon sometime in late We have loved our time in China immensely and have learned many things, made new friends, developing a deeper love for our world and for America and grown closer together in our marriage and our faith. We feel that God is calling us back to Oregon to embark on a new adventure after completing the goals and experiences that we desired to have (as well as experiencing a lot of unexpected things) while in China. It will be hard to leave our friends here and the slower paced schedule of this interesting culture, but we are excited for the future, whatever it might be. We are not sure exactly what God has planned for our next adventure. I have applied for a position working with youth at our church in Salem, but a decision has not been made about that. Kealy will most likely spend some time substitute teaching, but that is as much as we know. Please continue to pray for us as we explore options and share our decisions with the college and our friends here. It will be hard for them to hear and hard for us to leave them after such a short time together. But we are so very excited to return to Oregon with new perspectives and ideas and an excitement and enthusiasm for whatever the next step might be. We also look forward very much to seeing each of you and sharing our experiences with you. Thank you for your love and support. We'll continue to keep you posted.Talk to you soon.

December 8, 2007

Good Health and Electric Bike Adventures

Hello Friends and family,

Just wanted to let you know that my dear wife is feeling better and is on the road to recovery. We had a fantastic time yesterday (Friday) with some friends here celebrating their daughter's one year old birthday party. A one year old birthday party is a very big deal in China, even more so than in the U.S., because the infant mortality rate here can be very high, so it was a special day and we were honored to be a part of it. Not only did we get to attend the party but we got to help set up ahead of time. We arrived at the apartment approximately 4 hours before it started and my first task was to go to the supermarket to pick up eggs, apples, plates, chips and forks for the party. I could have taken a taxi, but our friend had a electric bike that he said I could ride to the supermarket and back. So I hopped on for my first adventure of controlling my own transportation in China. Now, the one rule in China when it comes to traffic is that there ARE NO RULES. Not everyone really obeys the stop lights, no one puts blinkers on and NO ONE looks before changing langes. Luckily for me, the supermarket wasn't far and there was a seperate lane for motor and electric bikes. So I aggressively swerved in and out of lanes and dodged pedestrians and potholes through the streets of Nanning. I made it to the supermarket and went to park the bike outside. After the guy watching the bikes had to help me put the kickstand up on the bike, I finally found the door that led my inside the supermarket.

The supermarkets in China are an adventure in themselves. And for someone like me, with spatial oritentation disabilities, it was disarming and destabilizing. The initial entry into the supermarket doesn't feed you into an open area where you can see all of your options and pick your row, but rather weaves you in and out of different 'mini-stores' selling tea or medicine until you get past the electronics and household appliances and finally reach the food. Again, I have problems at supermarkets in the U.S. without my wife and she was busy helping back at the apartment so I was on my own. I was able to find the apples in the produce section, no problem. Then, after realizing the eggs were in plastic wrappers, not in cartons, I found those as well. The plates I had bought before so that was a breeze. But the...oh yes...I also had oil on my list. I finally found the oil aisle (say that ten times fast) and saw a row of different colors, shapes and sizes of oil. I think I called my friend who I was picking up the items for maybe six times while at the supermarket and he was starting to wonder if I would return at all... ever. But I found the oil that was 'about a gallon, with the picture of the fish and corn on it' after about ten minutes and victoriously headed towards the checkout counter when I realized I hadn't found forks yet. I went back to the area with the paper plates but the forks weren't next to them. I tried to ask a worker at the supermarket if they had forks, but my chinese is not so good, so i said 'chopsticks' in Chinese, which I knew, then tried to explain that it was forks i needed. After awhile of her thinking I was a crazy foreigner with no language skills, she said a word I recognized as forks and I said, 'Dui' which means, 'correct'. She said 'me you' which means, 'we don't have'. Exhausted and saddened, I phoned my friend for the seventh time and informed him of the bad news. 'But alas,' we conspired, Wal-Mart was new and next to their apartment. So I got to make two trips on the electric bike. After buying the goods, getting the kick stand back up (with help again from the guard) I navigated my way back to their apartment (again difficult with my spatial orientation disability) and set out for wal-mart. I arrived at wal-mart and the plate and utensil section I found with ease. But as I combed through the plastic utensils, I realized that they only had one packet of forks and the rest were spoons. The packets had eight forks and our friends were expecting fifty people, so eight forks would not be enough. I again, with my awful Chinese, tried to ask the worker where the rest of the forks were hidden from foreigners in desperate need of them, but of course, she couldn't understand me, and I think she began to try and explain to me that forks and spoons are the same thing. We came to an impass in our language exchange, and while she made a valiant effort, I realized my mission for forks had failed. But to the rescue came our flexible and forgiving friends who I called for the eigth time and they said, 'the spoons will work and buy chopsticks too'! Crisis averted, the world was saved and I returned triumphantly to the apartment, we set up tables and chairs and the party was a big success. It was fun to be a part of and see so many foreigners and nationals celebrating a birthday together. The food was outstanding and the friendships even better and I can now check off my list of transportation experiences in China; riding an electric bike through randomly dangerous traffic to the supermarket and sitting on a chair in the back of a truck delivering tables and chairs to apartments for the party. What a day!!! Thanks for listening. Talk to you soon.

Ryan and Kealy Thorson

Kealy and the birthday girl!

December 5, 2007

Back Online!

Hello Friends and Family,

Sorry we have been radio silent for so long. On Saturday night our time, they added cable TV to our apartment complex, but accidentally cut the internet wire, so we have been 'disconnected' to the world for the past four days. We are finally 'alive' again, though, and able to talk and e-mail and post blogs. It was weird not being connected to everyone in the states, we definitely felt like we were in a different country and culture then. It has been a pretty 'normal' week here in Nanning. The weather is a steady 60-70 degrees with an occassional cool breeze. We are beginning to teach our students some Christmas songs and different Christmas customs, like decorating Christmas trees. On Tuesday night, our National friends, Celia and Amy, came up to our apartment and we played games together which was a lot of fun. Amy put on one of our santa hats, then brought up the fake tree from her parents apartment and decorated it in our living room. It was a lot of fun playing games together and we shared some English and Chinese words while playing. Unfortunately, this morning my precious wife starting feeling a bit ill and has continued to not feel well for the whole day. She has been in bed trying to rest, but has been nauseas and vomiting most of the day. Please be 'thinking' about her and 'mentioning' her to our mutual friend whenever you think of us these next couple of days. We are blessed to have a friend here who is a doctor and he is giving good advice, but its no fun watching the one you love the most feel this way, so please be thinking about Kealy today. We love you all and we are so glad we are connected to you again. Talk to you soon.

Ryan and Kealy Thorson