Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Leprosy affects us all...

Long overdue I return to give you a update on my Christmas happenings. This year, a small contingent of friends packed our bags, bought 2,000 yuan worth of gifts and traveled out beyond the reach of Wuhan into the countryside of China to find grandparents. They had no children, but they were grandparents, their love, their sorrow, their history bled through their eyes and we could not withdraw our gaze. It penetrated my very soul, to look into their eyes. We loved, we laughed, we cried and for a single moment we found the true meaning of Christmas...
Here, deep in the land of a modest living at best they lived, far from convenience, far from running water, electricity, far from many of the joys that each and every reader of this blog has. There is one thing they have that lacks in my heart, peace. We sat with an older man, who was watching his vegetables growing and wondered what he was thinking of, it was the calm of the morning sky, the quiet joy of wind in the trees. He found peace much like each and every one of the 50 Leper victims that we came to live, love, and cry with. 
Our group was not the only one there, a rather sizable church group from Wuhan happened to take this opportunity to visit and share the Word and sing songs reminding the people that were that that "No matter your plight, no matter your pain, Jesus loves you and will not turn you away because you look different." 

  Its true, mankind has cast them aside and keeps them from being involved with most of the hustle and bustle of modern day life because they are broken, they are different, but... to me at least they are loved. I would gladly share my home, my food and my life with any one of those beautiful people.
This doctor, pictured, was a resident for 40 years to this leper colony, he achieved all of this degree's  just so he could help his friends. Dedication of a man worth shaking the hand of and you better bet your life savings that I did... twice! Last but not least, the future of China was present here as well... everything that was good about humanity was seen this wonderful day, I look into the eyes of the child here and I see hope in her eyes. A hope that love is stronger than ever here... that it spreads like a wildfire into the hearts of so many lost children, that strength that lay dormant in such a wonderful people is awakening. May His will be done here because there are too few of us to handle this... the harvest is far to big... we are tired but He gives us hope, strength, and joy. 

Monday, October 17, 2011

"We must take the pass over the mountain!!!"

Huashan Mountain, as the Taoists call it, the "Flower" mountain. This was a life changing experience, even as we drove up to and parked at this place, the Mountain ridge was veiled in mist. To this, we battled with waves of people to get tickets to take on the mountain. It was such a beautiful sight, there is just something mystical and magical about mountains and these were NO exception. It really did not matter what I thought, every moment of my day was filled with J.R.R. Tolkien's legends and stories. This had to be one of the most amazing highlights of my entire life. As you can get a small feeling for in the pictures, this was just what we saw upon arrival, I could just feel the ancient legends and lore of the Celts and Vikings just pouring from my veins as I walked up and prepared to truck to the base of where we would begin the longest, most dangerous day of my life.

It was like something from the gates of paradise, to be honest I could not even imagine what my eyes were seeing when I was there. It was as if the very hand of the Heavens reached down and painted perfection upon the landscape. I did not know at this time, while my jaw was on the floor and my eyes were drinking in the sight, that I would be tested to the very edge of my safe zones, that my very life was in peril and that one false step could be my last.

So I ascended to the cloud veiled heavens, tearing away my earthly failures, forgetting my wounds and my pain. This may have been a Taoist mountain but there was a man seeking the face of God there. I have lived for years in shadow kept darkness, longing for the chance to feel the Son again. Here, thousands of miles from my home and the people I love I found Him again, by no means does that mean I am a good man. On the contrary, it has taken me a journey across the world, into the mountains, and into the jaws of some of my deepest fears for me to realize how broken and poor I am. The red cloth you see represented on the chains are prayers, hopes, dreams. Things that people bring to the mountain to have fulfilled. Sadly they did not have one that was black so that I could leave a marker for the darkness that I left behind. I left sorrow, fear, hatred, and so many other foul things behind on North Peak that I didnt even realize it until my in depth work now.

The journey down was an even bigger test. If you have ever seen Lord of the Rings, Return of the King. You will know that Sam and Frodo had to climb a horrific looking stairway, so hardcore looking that you would never imagine that it really existed... I am here to tell you that it does and that I climbed it. When you go down a stairway like that with nothing but a chain between you and a 7000 foot drop it changes you, especially when you know that there is no other way but the way you must go. I find it interesting that sometimes there is but one path, the hard way. I think we live our lives like this sometimes, we wish for simplicity, for an easy answer and all that is there is the hard way down. If you wish to ascend to the Heavens then you must be prepared for a perilous return.

It took many hours of walking but every step was worth it. Every moment to reflect, every second to realize that this life is not about me and that I cannot do everything by myself was worth it. I could return home now honestly in my heart but I know that I have more to do here. I think of you, my family and friends often and hope that your journeys lead you to places beautiful but I hope that you do not have to cleanse your mind, heart, and spirit like I. To ascend broken so that hope can be returned, may my return to you be without incident and may the same sun that shines on my face today, come to you tomorrow. Love to you my friends, brothers, and sisters.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Adventure, excitement... a jedi craves not these things.... good thing I am a member of the Fellowship!

So here I am, a couple of days post Xi'an and feeling much better after a bout of homesickness that welled up as my cherished brother was getting married far away from me and I could not attend. There is so much to talk about, lets start with the trip itself. So, Xi'an is one of the oldest standing cities still in China with much of its ancient architecture still intact. As you can see in the picture across from this text, much of the city was full of a feeling of ancient and modern mixing together. It was surreal to know I was walking through buildings that had been standing longer than my own Country had been even discovered. Xi'an itself is considered to be the end gate for the Silk road, so in turn of course the markets are very East meets
West when it comes to how things are traded and bartered. I for example, did much of my shopping in the Muslim district where the Bazaar was. It was almost like some kind of dream, being able to walk in and out of so many shops, having people hawking over items and fighting over prices. I have become a rather cut-throat haggler because of this district. Some of the shop keepers knew me rather well and would say "We like you but fear you, you fight for your price while many people from the west just buy things and we enjoy the profit." another lady had to pull me aside and ask "please, do not cut me so deep when you fight for your price..." It was interesting because even then, they were trying to find a weakness to play so that they could get the upper hand on me and my money.

There was just so much happening in the time we went there. We spent time at the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda and climbed to the top. Where we "supposedly" had a chance to be close to a finger of Buddha, which I suppose is pretty intense if you want his finger. After which we tried to go to an Indian restaurant that was nearby, in turn got lost and went the wrong direction then asked a man in a suit playing hackysack with his waitresses if he knew where this place was. He decided to take us ALL the way across 3 city blocks in his suit to take foreigners to a restaurant that was not his and asked nothing in return, I was very grateful to say the least but he insisted that he had to get back "most likely to hackysack..." Apart from that fun little bit of running around we walked a section of the wall and enjoyed some time to ourselves.

I also enjoyed watching an evening of Tang Dynasty music and theater and of course, who can go to Xi'an and not go see the Terracotta Warriors, this is my update for now. I need a totally separate blog post for my journey to Huashan Mountain and all of the stories that belong there so at this point I will leave you to read and enjoy my pictures. Until later this week when I am not so busy, ciao!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Chasing the Spirits of the past.

Time for an update I think, Satuday was teachers day and Shelley was the absolute best to me. She guided me via bus, which was intense in of itself, into Wuchang district where she took me to a street market where we tried ALL kinds of local food. We then walked across a MASSIVE bridge dedicated to Mao that crosses over the Yangtze river and had one of the best conversations I have ever had.
I really feel comfortable here, I do not know if it is the guidance of the friends I have or just the culture itself but I really have had no adjustments problems to speak of. I mean, there are things that people have a hard time getting used to, such as everybody and their grandmother hacking loogies but my family does that anyways lol, so most of it is small potatoes. ACTUALLY, no, I cannot get used to breakfast here, I am barely skimping along and I want pancakes, bacon, eggs, and I do not want to have to hunt it all down and make it here UGH! Ok, rant over haha. I will try to get a picture of Vera and Shelley so that you know who they are, they are the most wonderful young women here, they are really the best native friends I could have asked for. Along with Mark's gang of miscreants, Hubert, Fan, and Eric... those boys just split my sides when we go shopping for things, they are hilarious. 
  Ok, so Sunday was a big day during the festival, so we went to a museum where I saw some of the original works of Lao Tzu, better known as one of the founders of Taoism, and writer of the Tao Te Ching which is what I was looking at... yea, be jealous! 

Living here, out on my own, learning to adapt to a new lifestyle and a new being has truly changed me already. I have grown to enjoy the mindset of living that flows from my mind and heart. When a student asks me about myself and what is different spiritually I reply "For me, I see all races as a single people. We are a human race, not Chinese or American, we should strive to encourage each other and better each other's lives because we care, even about those who we do not know."

    It is good to know in my heart that I am in a place where I belong, where I can make a significant difference for a good a peaceful cause. Where our hands toil in the earth and the seeds of knowledge grow, that is a place where the tree of wisdom can truly flourish. If you believe in anything specific or if you look to the stars and dream the unknown, hope and strength come from once again riding the river of time and seeing where it takes you, even if sometimes you must sit upon the bank and let it pass by while you contemplate why you are flowing the direction you are.

   More to follow later tonight or tomorrow when I clean up more photos and contemplate more. Cheers!

Monday, September 5, 2011

I was a movie star!

This update has been a long time coming, I am very sorry for how long it has taken to get here but a TON of good things have been happening. Through the weekend I grew to know my city, Wuhan China, she is beautifully broken. This is the biggest and most full of life city I have ever had a chance to see, let alone live in.
This picture was taken from the roof of my apartment complex. This is but one section of the city lit up in the night sky.

     In other news, I have spent my ENTIRE weekend on the set of a major motion picture being shot right here in Wuhan. How wonderful it was to actually be with stars from the other movies that Chris and I enjoy so much when it comes to our Three Kingdoms movies.

The man standing on the left of the last picture is Nathan, he and I have become very close friends and he is like the cultural big brother trying to keep me out of trouble that I do not see. Such as one of my students that I am currently talking to that is trying to hook me up on a date with a girl.....

 The man in the middle is Peter, the coolest man EVER and my Co-Teacher, this guy seriously has made much of my time here so welcoming that I cannot describe to you how I would have survived without him. The horrid outfits we are wearing are our sailor suits and we are on a massive ship where the picture is being shot on for the second day.

Finally to finish out this massive update, let us talk about the director of the movie and how excited he was to have us in the picture. He took us to the most amazing restaurant, and Gambe'ed us under the floor with Biajo. Which is a Chinese hard liquor, though it would have been insulting to refuse it because he bought everything and it was EXPENSIVE.

This meal was needless to say, pretty intense. I tried everything, including the Eel which was very good, though its spinal bones were left to be desired...

Large fish from Yangzi river, eel, chicken, prawn, sparrow, pig fat, spicy frog  *the whole thing* an assortment of sweet breads and all sorts of other things!

Finally I just want to let everyone know how grateful I am that you are following my adventures. They are sometimes pretty tough but I am living life like I never would have dreamed so in truth I am more happy than I think I ever could have been if I had not taken on this charter. I will deeply meditate to the Big Man upstairs and I hope that everything continues to rise as it has been, rough patches and all!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Early morning enjoyment!

Well, its about 6 am here and I am up and ready for the day, sort of. I thought I would stop by and drop off a little ramble that I had while on my flight from Ghoungzhou to Wuhan. It has been a wonderful experience so far and I am really happy I have made this change in my life, I just hope I can help my students enjoy English lessons as much as I am enjoying China, only time will tell. Here is the rant.

       "Just thought I would jot down some thoughts while I am flying over the pacific. I would have to say the language barrier is much easier to get past than I thought, though this could perhaps be attributed to the international flight being well suited to two major languages. Only time will tell if my confidence holds out beyond Ghoungzhou and Wuhan.

     I am very happy to write down while I can remember, that I made two new friends today while I awaited the arrival of Mark to the airport. Jenni is a young lass that is heading to the northern provinces to study for a semester and has a VERY lovesick Japanese boyfriend back home waiting for her. Meanwhile, very little is known to me about Hilary, she is a very beautiful young woman and seems she is heading to tour around the same area as Jenni so while we were talking the two hooked up to meet and help each other out. Mark is drugged out of his mind from a lack of sleep and I am slow to follow, perhaps it is about time for me to rest my eyes for a few."

 All in all, it has been such a wonderful start to my year, "Jackie Chan" Nathan and my personal trainer surprised us by giving us food treats and then only telling us what we were eating AFTER we finished, the biggest surprise was the Camel cheese, its very sweet. It is wonderful here, once you get past the pollution and massive city smell and I honestly hope at least 1 person decides to come and visit me so that they can get a taste of the big wide world we live in, even better is that Wuhan is real China, not dolled up Shanghai or Beijing. More to write later, I want to get my day started! Zaijian!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Tomorrow is the big day!

I have to say, I am so very exited about tomorrow but there is a somber atmosphere about it. Some of my dearest friends are taking it pretty hard... I can honestly say that I have never felt like I have made THAT big of an impact on their lives but it honors and humbles me so much to see them mourn my departure. I sit here at a nice cool 11:00 at night, really not believing that I will be on a plane tomorrow and even bigger... in China on Wednesday. Happily though, friends have been sent ahead to prepare the way and I shall meet with them soon enough to enjoy the company of a new host.
I will be totally frank for a moment, sorry if you don't know him. *poor attempt at a pun* I feel like I have been stuck in a deep rut for quite a few years now, it seems that perhaps my dear friend Jesse was correct. He spoke to me when he returned from his trip over... he said "Jay, you must drive to tear of the shackles of this place, it will consume you if you do not. We cannot stay here for too long for I already feel sense of loss and lost nature returning to me here." Now they are moving far to the south, it will just be so wild to see what is done with this trip... though I would have to say I am somewhat flustered that friends are already gambling on "Will he bring home a Chinese girlfriend..." and "Will he come back? Doubtful since he is actually going to be respected as a hard worker there!" I can honestly say that, though its nice to hope that someday soon I will find a wonderful woman who will love me for me, I am letting life drive on in the direction it needs to go. I have tried to control life too much before and it ended up in deeper heartache than I would EVER like to remember. I am going for my students, for my co-workers, and to go and continue to heal myself. A journey of a thousand steps must always begin with the first. Perhaps I will finally find a place to rest my head and be at peace again. Who knows?

So, I will return to create my next entry when I am safely and peacefully over in China. I promise you it will be not just an adventure for me, but one for everyone who comes with me through this Blog. I will not try to get too deep but there may be points where you just have to flat up skim sections.

It was Erwin McManus who enlightened me to a little gem such as this. "He created us not so that we could count the day's of our lives, but so that our lives could count." I hope I am taking hold of all of this gifted time that pours down upon me. To have been so close to death's door and come back, I know so truly that I am not on my own time. What is "our time" exactly? I mean here we are, the wind blows through the trees and yet we deafen ourselves to peace by covering our ears with the loud noise of a busy life and demands upon ourselves that can never be accomplished. Sadly I am getting tired and still fidgety due to knowing the amount of stress that awaits me when the sun rises again. May love always flow down upon you my brothers and sisters, know that I hold you deep in my heart and that I carry you to far off lands.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Testing out a different camera and new applications for photos.

Well, I finally changed my camera, mostly because I could not lug the ol' D5000 around but since I traded it to a young up and coming professional photography student it was all worth it to see her face light up about the camera. Here is a fun little bit of play I have had with my first test picture, nothing fancy, just did a clean up then as swipe to black and white and did some color selection. I also did a Vignette to cut down on the corners to make it look nicer.
 We will see where it leads but I am totally exited about this transaction :-)

Preparing the path.

It was G.K. Chesterton who was quoted for saying "fairytales do not teach children that dragons exist, children already know that dragons exist. Fairytales teach children that dragons can be slain."

This quote has been echoing through my mind all this week. From my insane taxi drivers in Chicago, to overcoming sickness to get my shots, to being able to miraculously fit everything I need in my suitcases. Needless to say, my fairytale is happening here and now. This weekend I must face the inevitable sorrow filled goodbye to many family and friends that will come to see me off as I pass into legend in our little hometown area.

My mind races, I know that we, as people, tend to believe that the grass is always greener on the farther side of the path. With such an attitude, we always set ourselves up for disappointment, but I cannot help but wonder what awaits me. I have such a good group of new friends, dare I say brothers and sisters awaiting my arrival. Only wednesday will tell as I leave on Monday. I will hopefully continue this along as time rolls on, until then though, goodnight.