Monday, May 4, 2009
Monday was our down day . . . well not really. I had the day dedicated to working on Doctrine. Writing on the book is not a happy thought at all. But it has to be. So I applied seat of pants to chair and wrote.
When Sherry got up, we talked for a while and then walked up to get some breakfast burritos from the street cart. They were patient with my non-Chinese as I pointed to onions and hot sauce shaking my head and saying, “No.” The “No” didn’t work but head shaking and smiling did. Soon mine was done and I ordered Sherry’s. “Yes” to onions, “No” to cilantro and hot sauce. But the lady half of the team threw the cilantro on anyway, the husband’s words coming too late. I signaled it was OK. But he wasn’t happy. He yelled at her pretty strongly. She didn’t react visibly. I wondered what she was feeling. We enjoyed the burritos as we strolled back to the apartment.
Writing came to a blessed break when Jason called for lunch. We went to the laundry service to drop off our dirty clothes. We’d been warned that the lady had no English at all. But she was friendly and we began sign language negotiations. Four loads, she signaled. I took out 40 RMB. She picked up detergent and asked something. As we tried to guess what, Jason walked in and released us from the adventure. As I suspected, she was asking if her detergent was OK. Turns out many people bring their own detergent. They talked about timing. She was busy and the clothes would not be ready until tomorrow. That was when I was really glad Jason was there. I have no idea how we could have made that connection.
We went over to where Krista works in the community center to meet her. The taxi dropped us at Johnny Mo’s Diner! Yes, it was a 1950’s style diner with hamburgers, french fries, bottomless drinks, and rock and roll piped in directly from San Francisco! Things like this make it clear we are in the ex-pat part of town.
After lunch, I went back to Doctrine. Sherry and Jason went to get their hair washed and their head massaged in the process. After that, Sherry stayed for a foot massage. Thirty minutes of expert work on each foot. Sherry was blissed! She even violated a strong cultural rule and tried to tip the lady. It was refused. Still surprises us both.
After working on Doctrine all day, I was glad when Jason came to take us to meet with the TEF leaders at Dan and Crystal’s home. Their buildings were very nice and their hospitality even better. We talked about many things before he suggested that I plug my computer into his flat screen TV. We were off for another teaching time, this one from Vintage Church. We worked through the gospel from Acts 2 and then the definition of church from the same passage. Again, lots of questions as they saw the implication for what they were doing at TEF.
As we finished, John asked if I’d like to come speak at their SMIC elementary school English teachers’ Bible study. It sounded like fun, so I agreed. But in the night I woke up with my head working on what would be best to talk about. Weird head.
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
John met me and toured the school. It was fun to see the children happy and excited about school. They were preparing to go outside, not for recess, but for exercise. In typical Chinese way, they all got in straight lines and did unison exercises. I can’t imagine American kids doing that!
The teachers gathered in their work room. All were Americans except one from Russia and one from Zambia. Very friendly group. I told them that since they are teachers, I needed to give them a quiz. There was laughter. I asked about it. Turns out that if you make a mistake on a quiz, you have to pay! I gave them a multiple choice quiz on the first thing YHWH ways about Himself. Only one got it right, the fellow from Russia! We had a fun time studying.
Sherry and I had our adventure today: The first time out by ourselves. We headed for the front gate to get a taxi. I showed him the piece of paper with the subway station written in Chinese. He nodded as we got in and off we went. We’d been warned: the ride was about 14 RMB. Don’t let them take you for a ride! We’d been there once before and I have some general directions in my head. No problem. Direct route, fair fare.
But then we had to find the “House of Flour” to meet Nate. They said the food court is right there and the House of Flour is right next to KFC. The taxi dropped us off at the back side of the complex so we went in by the restrooms. I was pretty sure we were in the right place, but seeing the guy doing his business without bothering to shut the door had me wondering. But in a moment we were in the very large food court and in another moment, we saw the “House of Flour” and Nate. I asked him what it was. A bakery maybe? “Think Death by Chocolate,” he laughed.
We boarded the subway and headed for downtown Pudong, the same stop we’d done our other day down there. We bought a milk tea, but with coconut in it rather than the normal tapioca pearls and waited for Nate’s wife of three days, mother, brother and one of his wife’s teachers, a woman from Switzerland.
After introductions, we hopped back on the subway and headed to People’s Square. That’s pretty much a tourist thing, so we went north into old Shanghai. Nate knew this wonderful hole in the wall dumpling place. It’s places like this that made Shanghai famous before the government decided to make it a financial and technical center of China.
We jammed into a table, the grizzled owner gruffly shouting his directions for us. Soon we had Faunta and the dumplings began to arrive. They make them all right there in the restaurant, using ingredients purchased in the night market. They serve until they run out: don’t be late! They come in a bamboo steamer by the dozen. We had nine baskets for the seven of us. I took one, eager to see how they were. As I bit on it, the juice insid
e spurted out, burning my lips and splattering my shirt. Welcome to the joys of authentic dumplings!
Well satisfied, we set off to see Yuyuan gardens, an ancient garden dating back 1559. It’s hard to describe the place: lots of strangely distorted stones, huge koi in the large ponds with very Chinese bridges to take you to pavilions with intricately carved furniture that has to be super uncomfortable inside, surrounded by trees and plants enclosed in walls topped by long dragons. In the background the super towers of Pudong faded into insignificance.
We went into a place with paintings by famous artists. The pressure to purchase didn’t let up! I kept saying, “very nice,” and kept walking. A lady was doing one of the painted on the inside bottles. I was really curious how it was done so I stopped to watch. More sales pressure: I’ll put your names inside one,” she smiled. I was ready to do it when Sherry was captivated by a prism type bottle. So suddenly I was in a buy mode. We did some bargaining, with Nate’s help, but I’m sure we paid a lot more than we should have. The painter fellow got more hopeful, but we kept walking.
Sitting on the veranda of one of the pavilions in the shade was a wonderful way to get into stories. I asked Nate’s perspective on things in the electronic engineering world of China. He said the US guys were still the leaders by a long way when it came to innovative thinking. It was mere manufacturing and lower level tech stuff that went to China, leaving the US guys free to do the leading edge stuff. I was intrigued that he specifically denied Tom Friedman’s “Flat World” theory.
Jason had suggested that we might do dinner together if we got home in time. So tried to call. His phone was powered off. I tried several times, went to their house and buzzed. No luck. So Sherry and I went to a local restaurant that we knew had pictures and English translation on the menu. We were quite successful at picking a couple of good dishes from things like sautÃ©ed eel and turkey tongues in sauce and earth worms (really!!). We couldn’t figure out how to order rice so I got some fried rice pictured in the menu instead. It worked great.
As we headed home, the young woman behind the bread cart wanted to sell us a delicacy. I thought that would be a good thing, so I stopped. It turned out she had some English, just enough to make communication almost possible. We got to laughing as she kept apologizing and pretty much repeating anything I said. I picked something and we made the deal happily.