Sunday, January 25, 2009

Happy (Chinese) New year!

2 Corinthians 5:17 (TNIV)

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

Yes, it's another slide show by Christa! Try & maximize the screen for the full color impact, even though you'll also probably have to scroll up and down a bit. sorry, I'm still on that learning curve... :) Happy New Year!!!
New Year of the Ox

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Finding Our Way

If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,” and you make the Most High your dwelling, no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent. – Psalm 91:9-10

Three weeks in Hong Kong and no disasters yet. Just educational experiences.

Cultural Excursions
Last week was a “Mom & me” week with my 15 year old son, as his school didn’t begin until this week. I don’t recommend that you try this at home.

We started the week by going to the Hong Kong Heritage Museum right here near our home, which was pretty much a disappointment… a lot of old documents behind glass. True, a few somewhat murderous looking swords and one extremely cool sculpture of a Buddha with long eyebrows down to the ground. Not sufficient for entertaining said 15 year old.

To make up for it, I told him he could choose our next excursion. I was hoping for Disneyland Hong Kong since I have never, ever, been to any Disneyland. Son pronounced this idea “gay” and we settled on Ocean Park, touted as a combination amusement park and Sea World.

Ocean Park has something like the world’s longest escalator, so that was a good start. Next we came upon this roller coaster thing where you dangle out over the ocean. I kept listening to the one thing I could understand, as we stood in a much too short line – warnings (in Chinese & English)that people with high blood pressure, heart conditions, etc. should not go on this ride. Son was making fun of me continually yet ignored my suggestion that I just watch while he rides alone. So I spent Wednesday night, all night, sleepless, trying to determine whether that tight feeling in my chest was just a residual from the ride or something I should go see a doctor about. Probably good that I had forgotten what the Hong Kong equivalent of 911 is.

I’m fine, thanks for your concern. Looking back, I think it was actually a muscle sprain from hanging on so tightly to the hand grips of the Metro on the ride home. We ended up going home during rush hour and it was madness, about a zillion black haired people squished together into the compartment.

So towards the end of the week I was going to cook this nice healthy meal, a beef stew with a minute bit of beef (meat is extremely expensive here), some spinach type stuff, carrots, onions, garlic, and I even found a can of tomato paste to add! Then I made my fatal move: I saw, I purchased, and I added a little packet of hot Sichuan powdered soup starter. Big mistake. So extremely hot, not even hot food lovin’ husband Wayne could eat more than a bowlful. So we mixed in some more water. Then a whole bunch of rice. And potatoes. Nothing helped, now we just had a LOT of leftover hot rice, potato Sichuan soup-stew.

Ok, those of you who know me know that to say I am directionally challenged is a very kind description of my utter helplessness in finding my way around new places. Or even some places I’ve been living awhile.
Here in Hong Kong I have the added hardship that there is some Chinese thing against straight lines. I think there’s a theory about evil spirits not being able to travel a straight line, so bike paths, roads, walkways all seem to wind and then take inexplicable turns at odd angles.
Then there’s the problem that when I think I can orient myself by, say, the Mc Donalds around the corner or the shop across the street, lo and behold, at the next corner there’s another McDonalds and a jewelry store, pet palace, or handbag shoppe which looks exactly the same as the last one. Each subway stop also seems to have at least two identical bakery shoppes (useful for stress snacking, but not good for finding out which way is home).

Then we have to add the confusion (to me) of traffic which uses the British pattern of driving on the left side, and the fact that the number “four” in Cantonese sounds something like the word for death, so sometimes the fourth floor is missing in buildings, and in the gigantic mall near our home there are escalators that skip floors and floors that comprise different levels.

I have to confess I do not yet know my way dependably to the nearest grocery store (Park N Shop, where you can’t actually park) even though I’ve been at this grocery store on at least 5 different occasions. I think. Then again, it may have been 5 different stores that looked the same.

So, yesterday I did my grocery shopping on-line for the first time (the only way to go, says my new Norwegian acquaintance), and I’m pleased to report it was a success, and I felt very modern and sophisticated. They really did come by in a little white truck to deliver my groceries, and delivery is free! Ok, so I accidentally only got one kiwi instead of the four I thought I ordered and I got a whole case of "beef noodles pots" (I just wanted to try out one) but I now have enough soy milk to last until summer and I didn’t have to schlep it up the hill.

Life is good! God is great! Stay tuned for upcoming reports with a slightly more spiritual bent…

love to all,


Saturday, January 17, 2009

Adventures in Snacking

Does not the ear test words
as the tongue tests food?
-- Job 12:11

Words, words, words. Our ears can't tell the difference yet, between Mandarin Chinese (the official language of China and the language taught in schools) and Cantonese Chinese (the actual language everyone speaks here in Hong Kong).

To be honest, sometimes when people try to speak English (like the taxi driver, or the grocery clerk, or the team of cable-installers who have been to our house three times now to hook us up to t.v., an event that our son, especially, has been anxiously awaiting) -- it also sounds like Chinese to us!

I think I'm beginning to be able to tell the difference between Chinese and Japanese written characters at least. But not before I made the mistake of buying this bag of snacks, thinking I was trying out some authentic Chinese tidbits. Looks kinda yummy, no? But then I got to thinking how odd to advertise a snack with pictures of little dead fish on the bag.

So, I opened it up and behold, the little dead fish are actually part of this yummy snack of cookie covered peanuts!

And the fish are dusted with a little sprinkling of... sugar!

And it's not Chinese at all, it's imported from Japan.

Then I think of the seminary students who come to Hong Kong from Myanmar, Cambodia, Vietnam, students for whose ears Cantonese is as unfamiliar as it is to us, and how they struggle to communicate with us and each other in English, which is a second or a third language for them. Even the students from Hong Kong have the challenge of trying to understand these fellow students, along with some of their foreign teachers, who teach in English.

So sometimes you get surprises when you don't yet understand. And you've got to keep testing things out, the words, and the food.

My family could not believe that I ate half the bag, little dead fish and all.

But I don't think I'll buy this particular snack again.


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Living out the Vision

He asked me, "Son of man, can these bones live?" 
      I said, "O Sovereign LORD, you alone know
-- Ezekiel 37:3 --  Ezekiel was a crazy prophet who was convinced that old bags of bones could get up &  dance...

Wayne's first day "on the job" was at an all day faculty & student retreat where he ended up, quite accidentally or maybe not, in an evangelical christian dance workshop, led by an enthusiastic troupe of Hong Kong dancers!  

So, Wayne started his brilliant academic career with a dance.

The first day of actual classes at the Lutheran Theological Seminary of Hong Kong was Monday January 12th, 2009.  That same day we received this e-mail from a friend, one of the deans at Iowa State University:

"I still remember the first day I met Wayne [in 2001]. He popped into my office on campus to talk about getting his Ph.D. so he could teach in an “international” Lutheran seminary...  now that goal, that dream, is a reality!"

The fifteen students in the "Marriage & Family Counseling" course come from: Cambodia, Vietnam, Nepal, Indonesia, the People's Republic of China, as well as Hong Kong itself.  Meeting them, working with them, learning from them, teaching them, moving in new ways with them, is a dream come true.  Old bones can stand up & dance!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery

okay, I've worked all day to try & figure out how to embed this slideshow... I hope it works and I hope you all enjoy it! Just call me your favorite pastor-technogeek :)
Wayne is on an all day retreat with his new colleagues and students, I'm eager to hear what he reports when he gets back. Meanwhile, enjoy the show below! testing, testing...


Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Full days, full bellies

"When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you." 
-- Jesus acc. to Luke 10:8

 Wayne had a wonderful time on his birthday, choosing among the vast array of mysterious street foods, topped off with a delicious torte from one of the local European-style bakeries.  If Eric looks a bit skeptical in this picture, there's good reason for that.  You never know exactly what is really in these dishes.  Notice the beverage selection below:  Where do you think this water really comes from?

On my own birthday, two days later, I wanted to go someplace where they spoke English, so we walked about two miles to a place the Lonely Planet city guide labeled as "touristy".  I was really ready for touristy.

Instead, we caused yet another  commotion upon entering the restaurant, as a parade of waiters and waitresses came to our table, eager to take our order, and each in turn dumbfounded to find that we spoke no Chinese.  Finally, a very official looking manager type person found a menu for us that offered some, by no means comprehensive  English clues to the dining possibilities.  With the help of several nearby groups of diners, all trying to be kind and obviously eager to be try out their schoolbook English, we managed to order some great big shrimp, crisp-roasted pork, and luscious dark green stalks of something the waiter had referred to as "spinach", along with a huge whole crab, which we didn't think we had ordered & hoped was just a free bonus, but which turned out to be, uh, rather expensive.  Oh well, we'll be eating birthday dinner leftovers for a few more meals this week.  God is good!



Friday, January 2, 2009

A new day dawns...

Just a few photos...
-- the first morning in Hong Kong, a window of our new home
--Wayne & I on our first excursion into Shatin, the district where we are living; Population of this little suburb of Hong Kong: 637,000!
-- our kitchen. I can't wait until our shipment arrives from home, as we have almost no dishes or utensils... our first purchase in Hong Kong has been a rice cooker!
-- note the 14 foot plus ceilings! It's cool now (in the 40's at night, gorgeous sunny 60's in the day) but they say we will be very grateful for the high ceilings and huge ceiling fans when summer arrives.

Stay tuned, I will definitely have pics of the seminary soon (fascinating, and incredibly beautiful), and maybe I will summon up the courage to take some pictures of the marketplace (a basketful of live frogs awaiting their turn for the soup cauldron is vividly etched in my brain, but I forgot my camera yesterday)

lots of love to you all, Christa

and then some hellos...

"... so do not worry about your life... consider how the flowers grow...
not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these...
how much more will your Father clothe you, you of little faith!..."
-- Jesus acc. to Luke 12:22f.

With only one minor unexpected excursion, our flight plans proceeded exactly according to plan. We beat another snowstorm out of Green Bay, had just enough time to eat breakfast in Detroit,
flew in a great big double-decker 747 to (surprise, surprise) Tokyo, Japan, where, after a 3 hour layover we climbed on board the same jet for the final 4 1/2 hour flight to Hong Kong, arriving exactly on time -- two hours before 2009 began.

Dr. Lam, the president of the seminary, and Janie & Ted Zimmerman, fellow ELCA missionaries, gave up their New Year's Eve to come and pick us up in the airport, squeezing all of us and our luggage into two tiny cars.

Yes, those are live orchids, and the keys to our new home, and the 2009 calendar, gifts to begin our new lives of discovery, adventure, and service in Hong Kong!

More goodbyes and then...

"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life..."  --Jesus acc. to  Luke 12:22

First some more goodbyes...

Saying goodbye to the dog was, of course, just a warm up for saying good- bye to my Mutti
(my 84 year old mother) ...

and the older two boys, nearly adult but not quite, you know.  Just not quite.

One more time we loaded up "stuff", nine bags, yes nine of them stuffed into our mini-van, as the older boys chauffeured  us to our Green Bay hotel.  Worried? nervous? 
afraid? heart sick? who, us?