People of Kunming: Rebeca

18 12 2017

This is Rebeca. She is from a city in southern China and teaches English to twelve- and thirteen-year-old students. Here is a taste of our conversation together:

“Everyday, I’m a little busy. I have class [from 7am to 5pm], and then I correct some homework [until 7pm]. It’s very routine; afterward, I eat, then I sleep.

“The first most important thing in my life is work. The second most important thing is when I get do fun things, like meeting new friends, making foods I like to eat, and doing sports I like, which is any sport besides running long distances. I like playing ball sports. The third most important thing in my life is my family. Besides myself, my parents are the most important to me, and I hope they can have the best health possible.

“If I could change one thing about my life, I would change my work. But changing it is impossible now. I would not want to be a teacher, I would want to be a policeman . . . When I was young, I thought policemen were heroes and were very cool because they had guns. Even though you can’t have guns in China, I have a dream! I admire policemen because they enforce justice.

“[The worst thing in the world is] age. At my age, I am pressured to marry. My family members will all stress that I need to look for a boyfriend.”


People of Kunming: A Series

13 12 2017

Ever since moving to Kunming, I’ve been hoping to share a little about the lives in this city. Thus begins “People of Kunming.” Each month, I hope to give a snapshot (literally) of the people who have touched our lives: their hopes and dreams, goals, and beliefs. Although this culture is very different from us, we are still connected in the most fundamental ways under the sun. Enjoy!


Wonders of a Chinese Wedding

5 04 2017

One of the most universal events around the world (not surprising, since the God of the universe instituted it), weddings seek to unite two individuals in the presence of their Maker. Yet, throughout time, our cultures influence the styles, traditions, and even the ceremonies into diverse and unique customs. Along with passing the college entrance exam and the birth of a child, marriage ranks very high in the life of a Chinese individual.

I Love You

Here is a list of eight interesting and unique thing you may not know about contemporary Chinese dating and weddings:


1. Finding Your “True Love”

“A man who chases two rabbits catches neither.” –Chinese Proverb

In the current times, being well-educated is an essential part of Chinese culture, stemming from the Cultural Revolution’s push for higher education. Many parents stress the importance of studying and doing well on tests and insist that it leaves little time to entertain the thought of a boyfriend or girlfriend. Yet, immediately after college, family members start asking–and even setting up blind dates (xiang qin 相亲)–for their recent college graduate.


2. Buying the Necessities

“Dig the well before you are thirsty.” –Chinese Proverb

In China, a male that wants to ask for a woman’s hand needs a few things that money can buy. He is generally required to first have bought a house and a car (and possibly pay something like a dowry fee to the female’s family) before he asks for her hand. Additionally, his future family will want to know how much money he earns to make sure that his job is suitable to support the family.


3. Choosing a Lucky Day

“To succeed, consult three old people.” –Chinese Proverb

Fortune Teller

Match makers and fortune tellers predict if a female and male will be compatible. They also decide on a “lucky date” for the ceremony. Photo Source

It’s not only important to find someone suitable, but also to get the blessing of the matchmaker. If the matchmaker does not find the birth dates of the two individuals to be compatible according to the Chinese zodiac, they would be unwise (traditionally) to go forth in the process. Additionally, the fortune teller is needed to select a lucky date for the couple to wed.


4. Hong Bao 红包: Wedding Gifts

“If you want happiness for a month — get married. If you want happiness for a year — inherit a fortune.” –Chinese Proverb


“Hong bao” means “red packet” and is usually filled with a large sum of money, something related to the number 8 being preferable.

Money is an especially coveted concept in China, so not only are Chinese weddings elaborate, but the wedding guests do not usually give gifts like westerners. Instead, they give a “red packet” called hong bao, filled with money. It is important to give enough money and to give the right amount of money at a wedding. For example, giving 800¥ ($116) would be acceptable, as the number 8 signifies prosperity or success; where as 250¥ ($36) would be insulting, given that the numbers represent a “stupid person.” Hong bao are also given on birthdays and during Spring Festival.


5. Importance of Colors

“An invisible red thread connects those who are destined to meet, regardless of time, place, or circumstance. The thread may stretch or tangle, but will never break.” — Chinese Proverb

The color red has always been an important symbol for China, and this is no less true during weddings. In fact, the colors white and black are often used during funerals, so it is usually inappropriate to wear those colors. However, white dresses in China are becoming increasingly popular due to western influence.


6. Making Noise

“To be heard afar, bang your gong on a hilltop.” –Chinese Proverb

Weddings around the world tend to be noisy and joyful. In China, it is common to hear fireworks going off during the day as a sign someone just got married. The purpose of the fireworks is to scare away any monsters or ghosts that would seek to bring bad luck to the newlyweds. Most weddings also hire a middle-aged brass band that will play a slightly-out-of-tune melody in front of the house or the hotel.


7. Seeking Her Han: Before the Wedding

“All things are difficult before they are easy.” –Chinese Proverb

One of the most important parts of a Chinese wedding ceremony actually happens the morning of the wedding. Traditionally, family and friends will gather inside and outside the house, munching on snacks, waiting for the bride to get ready, and anticipating the groom and groomsmen’s arrival. Once everything is ready, the bride waits for the groom on her bed (which is usually covered with a symbolic red comforter), while the groomsmen go through a series of tasks that the bridesmaids have set up, ultimately stalling the groom from entering the bedroom. Some possible tasks the groomsmen might face include biting bread into the letters “LOVE”, doing push ups, “breaking down” the door, singing a song, and finding the bride’s red slippers. If they fail, the have to pay the bridesmaids in hong bao. If they succeed . . . they might still have to pay the bridesmaids in hong bao.


8. Gan Bei! The Party

“With true friends… even water drunk together is sweet enough.” –Chinese Proverb

And finally, the most anticipated part of the whole process–the meal! You may have thought that Chinese weddings were similar to western weddings, where the ceremony and reception holds the highest importance, but actually, the ceremony is much more private and comparatively insignificant compared to eating and celebrating together (unless it is a Christian wedding, where there will usually be a more public ceremony).

The food is served at the home or a hotel, and is generally lavish and plentiful (think whole fish, lobster, crabs, chicken, and a whole host of fruits and vegetable dishes). While guests are eating, the bride and groom will go around to each table, pouring alcoholic drinks and toasting the guests with the words “gan bei!” which means “cheers!” and signifies that the person will drink the whole glass of alcohol. It is also common to see performances by the bride and groom or close friends, and people don’t always dress up in their “Sunday best” for these events as they do in the west.


These Are the Days He is Building

19 01 2017

A beautiful day in my city of ShaoXing, China, overlooking the many canals.

Generally, I prefer to post pictures and let them speak for themselves. And I’m about to do just that–create a few posts with pictures from the blessings of this semester.

But just this once, I’m going to take a few extra lines to give credit to our Father who is my constant hope and strength, and who only tears down in order to build much stronger.

I thought about how to communicate my life this semester, and I figured that I could sum it up by telling you a little about our “rubbish street.” Generally, it’s a bustling place, where the students hang out after hours and eat what they describe as “delicious” food. But this semester, rubbish street changed. In face, it didn’t just change, it got torn down.

We first got wind of this when our favorite restaurants started clearing out their shops. One day, they were there, the next day, gone. This is the nature of China. Nothing is consistent; change is a given.

Next, the homes and restaurants were gutted and the city put up barriers so you couldn’t see what was happening. Then, demolition. It was a sad few weeks to walk past our favorite street and listen to the crash of concrete and see how our rubbish street had, indeed, become a self-fulfilling prophecy.


This woman is still selling street food, despite the destruction behind her.









But then, something else started to take place amidst the heaps of rock and steel. We started to find our old friends popping up in nearby locations. The other side of the street suddenly was occupied with life and new stores. And we were excited every time we were reacquired a friend or a food that we had been missing.

People often ask me: “How is China?” which is a bit of a daunting question. China is many things. I am many things. And when you bring two different things together, even more happens. Kind of like those science experiments you all did in high school, only this is life we’re talking about.

There is a time for everything, and sometimes God allows things to be torn down, even if it’s just the many obstacles we construct to make us think we are in control. I’ve actually come to appreciate the changes I see in China. I don’t always like the reasoning they destroy and tear down, and I almost never know what is going to happen in the future, but it’s also not in my control. It probably shouldn’t be.

Sometimes people in China say that they can “chi ku,” which means to “eat bitter.” If you never eat anything bitter–if you never experience changes and life circumstances that are out of your control–you never notice how new life keeps popping up on the other side of the street. You never get excited for the things that God again blesses you with, like unity, friends, a home, health, beauty, family, praise, love, etc.

This semester has personally been full of change for me. God has done some tearing down and some building up. We’ve gone on grand adventures, and we’ve shed a few tears. We’ve been unsure, but then we have prayed. Through it all, He has reminded us again and again that He is bigger and it’s okay when we don’t know the answers.

In the end, HE always constructs His houses (us) with a grand design in mind. In a few years, our quaint rubbish street will probably be a place to shop and drink tea and eat “delicious” food. I honestly don’t know. But I know that I always want to be ready for change. Change in the context of China might mean future uncertainty, but change in the context of Christ never just ends there–it means transformation.


“For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” -Hebrews 11:10

Good News of Great Joy

27 12 2016

We decided to do a service project at a local school with some friends, and we got to present the Christmas story and sing some Christmas songs. It was so fun, albeit a little crazy because we only had 20 minutes to practice.

Hao Chi 好吃

25 11 2016

This year, instead of winging it (pun intended), we actually hired a car to go get our traditional Thanksgiving turkey. We ate some noodles and then killed “hao chi 好吃,” which means “good food” in Chinese. I spent the next day trying to figure out how on earth to de-bowel and cook it…



Biking Before Breakfast

5 11 2016

November 5, 6 AM, 6 people, 70 degrees, 120 kilometers to go, pumped tires, fruit, boiled eggs, and excited anticipation.

Thus began our bike trip to Ningbo.

We originally planned the trip for two days, but it was beautiful outside all day and we had no mishaps (blown tires, accidents, falls, etc.), so we made the trek in about 13 hours. When we arrived, we feasted on Brazillian barbeque and spent time together.


The beautiful overlook from the Ningbo bridge near “lao wei town” (foreigner town).