Saturday, May 14, 2011

Discovery

I remember as a kid always wanting to be a lawyer. I would tell my parents that when I get older I was going to be a lawyer, make large amounts of money, and take care of them with that money. At that point in my life a lawyer was something anyone could be if they wanted. Unfortunately, I will probably never become a lawyer, and my mom is going to have to live in a nursing home one day. :) (My mom said she would kill me if I ever did that to her.)

I recently read a great book for the second time in my life. It is called The Alchemist written by Paulo Coelho, a Brazilian writer. The book is about a shepherd who lived life by following his heart. He was not a crazy person. He was not rebellious, mean, or arrogant. However, he was thought of as unique and different by the people around him. When coming into new towns he always had exciting stories to tell from all his traveling as a shepherd. See, the shepherd was growing up having the same belief as when he was a child, that anything can happen if you really want it. As he got older he did not let life and the people around influence what he wanted to do. He continued to believe that if he wanted something he could have it. He was given the challenge of traveling to the Pyramids in Egypt and finding a buried treasure. Despite what people told him along the way, or whatever got in his way, he never gave up on his dream. Even a dream as crazy as a buried treasure. He just did not simply believe what people said, he choose to see for himself the truth behind the treasure.

I still remember today thinking that way as a child. Like the time I started to build a roller coaster in the field in front of my house. I did not finish it, but it was not because I believed I couldn’t, I just got bored and started to think of the next great thing I COULD do. Now granted, some things I thought of as a child were crazy and probably will not ever happen in life no matter how much I believe it. Like jumping off a shed with a towel on my back and starting to fly, but I had to discover that for myself.

Today, as I think back on life I can not think of when all of that changed. At some point in my life I started to believe what people around me told me, what my environment told me, and what my culture told me. I believed that I would never be a lawyer because I was not smart enough in school or part of the right family. I was told that things that sounded exciting to do in life will probably never happen because you will not have the money. I was taught that a certain way of living was right and everything else was unrealistic.

I find it amazing how much we let life and things around us influence how we live and how we think. It is natural. Even today, certain things we once thought of as wrong are being considered right because of our surrounding. When I came to China many people told me I was crazy. They were so worried by the things they have heard about the people and the culture. Movies, news, history, and media created an idea of how things are here today. Now granted, some were true, but the people here did no fly in the air or can do 50 karate kicks in one jump. They do not all like rice. They do not all wear silk clothes with the pointed hat on their head. However my culture told me how it was, so I believed. The funny thing is that now I have to defend America against unrealistic ideas the Chinese have about us. I will be honest, Gossip Girls has really not helped.

As a Christian or just someone who believes in God, we like to believe things are a certain way because people around us tell us how it is, how culture tells us it is, or we even choose to believe a certain way so we can feel safe or right. Some people blindly believe what they are told or hear without going to the source to see what it really says. Much like how coming to China showed me that it is nothing like we make it out to be. I had to search and seek the truth for myself.

I am reminded of Acts 17:11. Paul, the same Paul who wrote most of the New Testament we follow today, was speaking to the Bereans. The Bereans here could have simply believed what Paul was saying, but they choose to EXAMINE the scripture to see if what Paul was saying was true. PAUL!!! Examining the words that PAUL told them!!! This is not any everyday person! This is Paul, the apostle! The same Paul that was blinded by Christ, and then healed! The same Paul that was given the job of taking the Word to the Gentiles! This Paul could perform miracles! Paul was taking beatings for this Word he was teaching!! Who are they to question Paul? They were simply men trying to discover truth and not blindly believing what they hear. Personally, I think if it is alright for men to question “Paul”, then why is not okay to question others who speak about the Word? To simply discover and see what they say is true. And I do not mean to try and prove them wrong but to make sure what you have heard is true.

I challenge you not to simply go through life blindly believing everything you are told. And don’t take what I am saying the wrong way, I am not saying don’t trust people or ever believe people. We have many things we can learn from the people around us. However, take additional time to DISCOVER the truth behind what you hear. It could be something as simple as trying sushi for the first time. (I know, raw fish, how can it ever taste good) It could be traveling to a foreign country to really see how other people live. Or it could be moving to a new city despite living in one place your whole life.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

My Classroom

I thought I would make a video and show you my classroom. I am really bad about showing people where I live so I am going to try and do a better job with that.
video

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

One crazy adventure! The final chapter

The final chapter

So we are on a cold, uncomfortable, and smoke filled bus. The bus station said it will be a 17 hour ride. There is a little baby that is scared of me. Oh, and the worst blizzard in China’s recent history is on the way.

Hours 1-5: By time we got out of the city of Wuhan it was already snowing pretty hard and it was dark. By the speed of the bus, you would have thought it was a bright sunny day in the summer. We were on a normal highway for about the first 3 hours. Then we turned down a smaller road that was a little rougher. Kind of like turning down a country road. It pretty much remained like this the rest of the trip.

About the 5th hour we stopped to take a break and to get some food. It was around 10PM. I noticed that we have been going up hill over the last hour but did not think to much about it. However when we got to the rest stop I decided to go to the WC (bathroom) before I got back on the bus. Not to go into to much detail, I will just say I was doing #1. The toilet was nothing but a hole in the ground. Something I have grown use to in the country areas of China. The only difference about this hole is that I never heard anything hit a bottom. I thought that was a little strange. So after I finished I decided to walk around the building to see what was going on. Why did I not hear a noise. Well, I could not walk around the building because it was built over a cliff!! As I noticed the cliff, I also heard water. About a 100 feet below was a stream, and that was where “it” went. This also brought to my attention how high we have gotten over the last hour.

Here is the only photo we took. The windows always had moisture on them so it was not the best for pictures

Hour 6-13: It was really dark, still snowing, and getting colder. Earlier, every time I looked at the baby it would cry, and it was nice that the baby had finally gone asleep. I was looking out the window when I noticed a light very far away, and way below us. A realization hit me, I WAS VERY HIGH ON A MOUNTAIN!!! I mean hundreds of feet up!!! And next to the road was a straight down cliff to where the cars in the valley were.
If you know me, then you know how scared I am of heights. I suddenly found myself hanging on to things for safety and looking for ways to get off this bus if something happens. We were high for a long time. Eventually, I fell asleep.

Around the 13th hour I was awaken to a sudden slamming of the brakes. The sun had started to come up so I could see what was going on. We were still on top of some mountains, there was an accident in front of us, and instead of any kind of guardrail along the road there were nothing but small poles with a little cable connecting to each one. Oh yeah, and a straight down cliff. Then the scariest thing ever happened. The bus started to slide on the snow and ice towards the edge of the cliff. The next thing I know there were men jumping off the bus and placing whatever they can under the tires to wedge them. It stopped the bus. Whew!!! After that they decided to put the snow chains on. Something I thought would have gone on long ago.

Hour 13-17: It took a while to get through the accident. A bus had slid into the mountain edge and stopped traffic both ways. After we got through we started to go down the mountain. I was assuming that we were getting close to Chongqing. We got low enough where they could take off the snow chains. However, I still did not see any signs of a big city. So I started to ask around to see if anyone knew any English when we got to a rest stop. I finally found one man who could speak just a little. I asked him how close we were and all he could say was something about 6. We were suppose to be there at around 10 AM, and it was 10 AM when I asked him this. So I figured he meant 6 PM that night, or in 6 hours. Both were not answers I wanted to hear. Now our 17 hour trip has turned into 23-25 hour trip. After our break we got back on the bus, and it started to happen again. We were going back UP into the mountains!!!! Before we knew it we were back at the top of the mountains. Back to straight down cliffs, snow on the road, and a driver that thought he was in a NASCAR race. I have never gone so fast on snow in my life. We finally got high enough to where the bus started to slide backwards down the mountain, so we got the snow chains out again.

Hour 17-?: Over the day I finally got the little baby to warm up to me. I could get him to smile a little at me, but that was about it. Then grandma did something with the kid that haunts my dreams to this day. He had to go #2 and needed a place to go since they do not use diapers here. Normally parents will put them over grass or a trash can to go, but we did not have either. So, grandma opened some newspaper and laid it out on the floor. That is where little man went. Right next to me!!!!! It gets worse. Grandma then just covered it with more newspaper and left it there. Right next to me!!! A few hours later when we stopped to take a break everyone started to walk on the newspaper and track it down the aisle. It was sick!!!! So on top of everything that has already happened, I now had “that” next to me on the floor.

It was getting dark and we were still on top of the mountain. It was a sign that we were still not close. Right before it got dark the bus stopped again. There was nothing around but everyone got off. I was tired and cold and did not move. I was in a very dark place at this point and had checked out mentally hours ago. I was not moving until we got there, whenever that would be. I shortly found out why everyone got off. Our bus started to cross an old wooden bridge that I would have not felt good walking across. I figured out why everyone got off. They were not even brave enough to stay on the bus. These are the same people that seemed at ease the whole time in the mountains, but this bridge scared them enough to get off, and here I was on the bus. Oh, by the way, the drop under the bridge was several hundred feet down.

After the bridge we started to go down again, it was the last of the high mountain roads. It was probably around 6PM by then. We should be there soon!!!

Hour 25-?: We stopped for dinner. I found the guy who knew a little English and asked him again about the time. He said about 6-8. ARE YOU KIDDING ME!!!! Again, I had to assume it was 6-8 more hours, or 6-8 in the morning. We ate dinner and continued on. The rest of the trip was not that eventful. We went though several small villages and let people off the bus. I was far off in my dark place. We were able to get in touch with the guy who was in charge of our boat trip and told him about getting in sometime over that night and he got us a really good place to stay. Finally around 3 in the morning, 34 hours later, we reached Chongqing. Our hotel was warm and amazing, and even though it was 3 in the morning and I have been traveling for 34 hours, I took the hottest most amazing shower ever.

The rest of the trip was great, even though it was very cold. Since this trip I have not traveled on any long distance buses in China. I have been on a few more sleeper buses, but only in hot places, where there are no mountains, and outside of China.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

One crazy adventure! Part 3

Before I get to the final part of my story, I believe it is key to create the setting for you so that you can truly understand the final blog.

So, last thing I mentioned was that we decided to purchase sleeper bus tickets. And like I said, I thought a sleeper bus was an awesome idea... I stand corrected.

Side note: 2007 was a unusual year of weather for China. They had a blizzard and cold front that made it as far south as northern Vietnam. The temperatures dropped very low and caused problems all over China. Power outages, train crashes, and loss of lives all happened from this front. We were about to get on the bus the day the front started to make its way into our area of China.

When we purchased out tickets we asked about the time it would take to get to Chongqing. The time they gave us was about 17 hours. We left at around 5pm. That would put us in Chongqing around 11-12am the next morning. Keep this in mind!

Now to the setting of the bus. I will start off saying that the sleeper bus setup is nothing like I thought it would be. I expected this nice area for you to stretch out. That there would be plenty of room to sit-up and move around. I pictured a step up from a regular bus. Less people, and more room. Well, it was the complete opposite!! Instead there were 3 lines of beds. One down each side, and one up the middle. So, you might think, “hey, you still have plenty of room to sit-up.” Wrong!!! It was bunk beds! I was amazed that so many beds could fit in one bus.

Everyone knows that I am a rather large person. Both big and tall. So, I have learned over time that I never get the opportunity to travel comfortably. I have learned to just deal with it. What you may not know about me is that my feet are extremely claustrophobic. I cannot stand to have my feet pinned down or restricted in any way. Sleeping bags are not an option, and I cannot stand when people tuck sheets under mattresses at the foot of the bed. Well, the setup on this bus was my worst nightmare. Not only were the beds small but you tucked your feet under the bed in front of you. So, where my upper body laid was angled up, this allows for the feet of the person behind me to stretch under your upper body part of the bed. I had two problems with this. One, I was not putting my feet into that small area for 17 hours. Two, I was to long to do it even if I wanted too. Instead, I had to stratal the bed. One foot in one aisle, and the other foot in the other aisle. It was not comfortable at all.

Here are a few photos for you





You may have noticed that I still have all my winter stuff on in these pictures. One normally takes things off and gets comfortable on long rides. Well, one normally is not sitting on a bus in 5 degree weather, with no heat on the bus. That’s right, NO HEAT!!! It was COLD!!! And, if you look at the picture again you will see a blanket on me. Yeah, it only is big enough to cover just a small portion of my body. It really did no good.
Three more things real quick. In addition to the uncomfortable bed and no heat, we had to deal with smoking. People still do it here with no consideration for other people. So, we had about half the people on the bus smoking all the time. It left a constant haze in the air. Every time Emily opened the window to let some smoke out people would fuss at her for letting cold air in. I vote cold air over lung cancer any day, but that is just me. Then we had two Chinese movies playing on the TV over and over again. They came across as an early 80’s movie in America. A lot of smoking, gun fights, regular fights and half naked women. Kind of like any Steven Segal movie. Just bad acting all around. Then the third thing. A little kid was in the bed next to me with his grandmother, and this kid was scared to death of me. So, anytime I turned that way the kid would just start screaming in terror, even if I was just looking out the window he would start. So, I had to look forward or the opposite way.

For the final part of this adventure it will be important for you to remember all of this stuff. Especially the kid, the time to get there (17 hours) and the weather (cold and starting to snow).

Sunday, February 27, 2011

One crazy adventure! Part 2

Part 2

Okay, now that we got the destination out of the way, let’s now focus on how we got there.

Some of you may be familiar with how people get around in China but others may not. So, before I start into the worst, most adventurous bus ride ever I am going to talk about some of the common forms of transportation in China.

As we all know, just about everyone in America owns a car. Okay, not every person, but most will own one at some point in time. Most families will commonly have 2 cars. Some kids will get one for their 16th birthday. However, in China, mass transportation is still the way to go. Not saying that you will not see cars here, more people are owning cars each year in China. A car is a huge status symbol. People owning cars is becoming a major issue with moving transportation through a huge city. But, your everyday average Chinese will still use mass transportation.

In a city, like the one I live in, taxis, buses, and a soon to be finished subway are the most used form of transportation. Then when you want to travel to other cities you will usually go by long distance buses or train. Side note, I use to like to take trains but have gotten over it since being here. Well, except for the really fast train to Shanghai. It is faster then Nascar. I think we have got close to 220mph on it. Side note ended. Also, airlines are starting to compete with trains as another major form of transportation. A train ticket to Beijing from Hangzhou will cost around 400 yuan and take about 11+ hours. You can usually pay 500-700 yuan for a 2 hour flight. Just a little more but saves a lot of time. At times we can even find flights cheaper than trains.

My first year in China I still loved to take trains. And it was still the cheapest way to cover a long distance. When I say long distance, I mean a LONG distance. We lived in the city of Ningbo my first year in China. It is a coastal city, located on the east coast of China. On a map you need to look for Shanghai and then look below it to find Ningbo. Compared to a US map, it might be in the area of Savannah, Georgia, or maybe a little north of it. The city we were heading to was called Chongqing. It is where the boat trip started. Looking at a US map it might be in the area of Utah, not exactly Utah, but just think about the distance compared to where Savannah is.

We needed to take a train to get there. But, one thing about traveling with trains in China is that you cannot purchase tickets all the way to certain places. You purchase a ticket so far, then you get to your destination and then purchase your next tickets. This does not always go smoothly. There can be times where you show up to your destination and go to purchase your next tickets, but there are no tickets available for the next 1-5 days. So, you either get standing tickets or you wait.

So, we went to the train station and got our tickets to Wuhan. It was a 12 hour overnight train, and was about the halfway point to Chongqing. We were going to have to wait to get tickets to Chongqing after we got to Wuhan. We get to Wuhan, get in line only to find out there will be no tickets for 3 days. It was a Friday and our boat reservations were for Sunday night. Doing the math, you can quickly see that we are not in a good place. After waiting for 3 days, we would then have another 15 or so hours of traveling on the train before we would get there. Making it about 4 days until we get to Chongqing. We talked to a few people around the train station and was told that we could get a bus to Chongqing from Wuhan. We decided that we would check it out. Lucky for us they had tickets leaving in a few hours and it was going to be much cheaper then a train. So, we got the tickets. And we were told that the bus was a bus with beds on it. I have never heard of a bus with beds on it but was super excited about getting to ride on a bus with beds. In my mind, it was the greatest idea ever. Or at least I thought it would be...

Next up: The bus ride

Thursday, February 17, 2011

One crazy adventure! Part 1

The story I am about to tell took place about 4 years ago. I have told this story to many people and every time I finish telling it everyone says I should write about it. So, I decided that now is the time to do it. It will be a long story so I decided to write it in several different parts. I will try to post the whole story over the next 2 or 3 weeks.

I will begin the story by telling you a little about the culture of China and why we travel for over a month each year. I will also mention something about what we were going to see that caused this adventure.

We break up our holidays in America over a 1 1/2 month period. A week for Thanksgiving, then we go back to work or school. Then we get another break for Christmas and New Years. Well, in China they take off for about 1 1/2 month straight from school. It is at this time they have all their major celebrations. Chinese New Year, lantern festival, birthdays, etc. At this time the schools want us to leave their campus. That way they do not have to worry about us and they save money on utilities. It is to expensive to go back to America so we usually travel. (I know, traveling is so bad. Poor little Kevin. :))

My first year here in China, me and my friend Emily decided that we wanted to go to see the Three Gorges before we went south to warmer places. The Three Gorges are one of the many things you should see in China according to the Chinese and all the books on what to see or do in China. They are a series of rivers and canals that run through some mountains in central China. The Three Gorges are connected to the Yangzhe River, Asia’s longest river. It runs from the mountains of Tibet, in western China, to Shanghai, located on the east coast.

Here are some pictures for you










I will finish this blog saying one more thing about the Three Gorges. About 15 years or so ago China began to build the largest Dam in the world on the Yangtze River. This dam has caused many debates over safety and the destroying of cultural sites and relics. After the dam was completed, everything before the dam started to rise. Here is a quote from an article I found talking about how much the water will rise, "The river was blocked in June 2003 at the end of phase 2 of the construction project, and the waters started to rise. In 2004, the water was 443 feet above sea level, but will eventually reach 575 feet above sea level in 2009." That is a crazy amount of water being contained by the dam. In fact, some think the Sichuan earthquake may had been caused by all the weight added by the rising water on the fault. We decided to go see the Gorges because of the rising water. We wanted to see some sites before they were buried under. Some of the sites we got to see where just weeks away from shutting down for good. The Gorges are still there but you much less of the mountains today.

Coming soon, part 2

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sugarcane Kevin

Many may not know this but Vietnam is much like China when it comes to celebrating the New Year. However in Vietnam they call it Tet. Many of the same things that are done in China are also done in Vietnam.

The place we are staying at is called Mui Ne, and is located close to a bigger city called Phan Thiet. Phan Thiet is a fishing village for the most part. The few nights leading up to Tet, the city of Phan Thiet hosted a night market and carnival to help bring in the New Year. We were invited to come one night by a Vietnamese person we got to know, and her husband. We jumped on our motorbikes, (we being Stan, Juliane, Justin Hill, Shannon Hill, and their son Conner), and rode to the night market and met our friend Jane and her husband there. (If you came last year with us, you might remember Jane from the Sunset restaurant. Stan got to know her really well.)

As we were walking around seeing the sights we came across some people making sugarcane juice. I had it one time in Cambodia and thought it would be neat to have everyone else try it. We sat down and Jane ordered for us, and she paid. Nice people the Vietnamese!! While we were watching it be made I remembered how on one season of The Amazing Race they had to make some for themselves and drink it. I thought it would be cool to try it myself. So, Jane asked for me and this is what happened.
video
I became a sugarcane juice salesman.