Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Life in Words

Most of the time I just post pictures with comments, because 1) we take a lot of pictures that are too cute not to share and 2) it's faster! But I'm a writer at heart, and I've always processed things better through writing them out. And, there are moments that can't be captured by a camera...

Take Friday for example. A typical day...

The morning was like most: somewhat rushed as I tried to fit everything in with a baby who's up and rolling by 6 AM, make and eat breakfast (a feat in itself sometimes!), skype parents, take Hadassah outside to get energy out and fill water jugs, read her stories, put her down for a nap, and get some quick cleaning done before my Chinese tutor showed up at 8:45 AM. Though it may seem like the day was just starting then, I'd been up for 4 hours!

I don't feel I have enough time to study. Chores take time, a baby fills lots of time, cooking 3 meals a day takes time, and in those minutes I have to myself, lately I've been using them to do some digital scrapbooking. I've learned that doing something creative is REALLY good for me. While I often don't miss all of the things that filled my time as a single dancer and teacher and director, after living and breathing creative things for years, I can't do completely without design. ;) Cooking and cleaning are an art in themselves, but I find delight in arranging pictures. And though I've always preferred scrapbooking by hand, for a mom, digital scrapbooks seem the way to go (no mess, and you can do a little when you just have five minutes!). Plus, with all the Groupons and sales, it can cost less to get a book than it would be to just print the pictures. So... since 2014 is in the last quarter, I've decided it's more than time to finish scrapbooking 2013's photos. And reliving the memories of our first year of marriage is so much fun!

Anyways. So when my Chinese lessons roll around, on Wednesday and Friday mornings, I haven't always studied much. But, my teacher is really good. She explains things well and because I studied more words at the beginning, as we're now learning things topically (like how to order food or take a taxi) I already know a lot of the vocabulary. It's exciting learning more sentences, and that particular Friday morning, as I arranged scrambled words into the right sentence structure, she said, "Anna, you are a genius!" While I feel FAR from a genius, it is encouraging that language learning is going well (she says we're going too quickly through the lessons!) and that things are making more sense. I haven't yet learned to decipher/read any of the Chinese characters (we're just learning the phonetic way to write it right now) but I'm beginning to understand more. My goal is to write out all the sentences I can make from the words and topics I've learned and study them to be able to use them more when we're out. Hopefully with the national holiday meaning my lessons are canceled this week, I'll take the time!

Once my lesson was over, I got online for a few minutes of Facebook so that my brain could de-frag. Being a student of Chinese leaves me excited, but also makes me feel a little overwhelmed after an hour of it! Soon Hadassah woke, and it was on to making lunch and cleaning broken up by playing with her, taking her away from items she wasn't to touch, and preventing a few falls. ;)

After lunch, encouraged by the fact that my teacher said my language was going well, I typed "can you wash this blanket?" into Google translate, practice the Chinese they gave me over and over (encouraged that I recognized a word and the sentence structure!) and headed out with a comforter in a bag and a baby on my hip. We'd bought the blanket used and then found it was too big to fit in our tiny washing machine. So, a good excuse to check out the shop that looked like they did laundry located right outside of our complex!

Walking into the store, I said the sentence I'd practiced the whole way there, but then didn't understand the guy's response. Oh well. He looked at it, nodded his head, and asked me a few things I didn't understand, but then started writing a receipt, which showed he could wash it. I asked how much it would cost, and was relieved to hear it was just 40 quai - the equivalent of under $7 USD! I was also very thankful that the Chinese use the same number system and writing as we do, as the receipt showed when I was to come back to pick it up. He asked me something else that I didn't understand, but finally guessed he was asking if I'd pay now or when I picked it up, and got my money out. The whole time he kept smiling at Hadassah, which made it less awkward. She really opens a lot of doors for us.

We live among a kind people. The vegetable stand lady always points to blemishes on vegetables if I don't see them and offers another, better one. Same at the fruit stand. People get the door for me, and once I even had the guard at the gate put my water bottles in her bike basket, drive it back to our building, and even insisted on carrying them up the stairs for me! I tried to tell her I carry them every day and it's no problem, but she's being kind... Maybe it's just because I have a baby or look helpless, but I think it's that the Chinese are just really kind. We feel accepted and loved here.

Since the musical boat ride was almost right outside the laundry shop, I let Hadassah enjoy it again. Two people came up, one man trying to ask me things. I had to say "I don't understand" yet again, and offered the explanation "Měiguó" (American). It gets kind of tiring feeling a little dumb and unable to speak with most of the world around me. But, it's learning humility, patience, and gaining an empathy that will last for others in my situation.

Hadassah scanned the keys to get us back into the complex, and the guard in her little booth gestured to a stool next to her and said "Zuò" (sit). I smiled and took a seat, and she took Hadassah. A week or two earlier she'd had me take a picture of her with Hadassah, looking so pleased when she saw it on her phone. She took a picture of Hadassah in her cute outfit (what people do with these photos I don't know, but Hadassah gets pictures taken by everyone... so I've just gotten used to it!) and let her sit on her parked e-bike and honk the horn. Hadassah, of course, loved it! After a few minutes of smiling, I got up to go, and we hadn't walked 10 steps before running into a college girl I'd seen a time or two before, who pointed to her cheek and said "kiss!" and Hadassah actually complied!

Walking a little further, we had some mommy and 'Dassah time in a little gazebo, where I reflected. Living among SO many people ALL the time has made both of us eager for a life more in the country one day, should God so bless. But it is a unique opportunity to live in a place that I can't walk for more than a few minutes without interacting with someone - a smile, a wave, a stop-and-try-to-talk... May these daily interactions be a blessing to someone. And it gives me more incentive to study!

Life continues. It's tiring. It's blessed. It's thrilling. It's hard. It's feeling more like home, but when I say "I'm looking forward to going home one day" I'm talking about America still. But we're praying that we use our time wisely here, that we impact some through these weeks and months that fly by, and that God continues to guide us as He faithfully has. His grace truly is sufficient for each new day.

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