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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Peals of Pentecost

"Pentecost and the public life" is the subject of an exciting article at First Things . Here's a snippet:

What does a Spirit-filled society look like? We should ask what it sounds like. For the first thing Paul says is that the Spirit makes us noisy. “Do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit,” he says (Eph. 5:18). Though he condemns drunkenness, Paul implies that the result of being filled with the Spirit is quite similar to the result of being filled with spirits. “They are filled with new wine,” said the skeptics about the babbling disciples at Pentecost (Acts 2:13). It was a plausible mistake.

For Paul, the Spirit doesn’t make us placid and mild, quiet and retiring. When we’re filled with the Spirit, we cannot not speak, and our speech breaks out in boisterous psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. Being filled with the Spirit means being filled with music, in our mouths and in our hearts. A marriage filled with the Spirit is full of noise, harmonious and melodious noise, joyful noise. C.S. Lewis wrote that a Christian society would be a joyful society, rollicking, lighthearted, exuberant. Paul agreed.

It's a short, but encouraging read.

Summer Reading Challenge 2007

Seasonal Soundings is hosting a Summer Reading Challenge. No pressure other than compiling a list and publishing it during the first few days of June. The Challenge runs from June 1 to August 31. I'm going to participate in hopes that it will be a good form of accountability for me! I have many books I intend to read, but often find other ways to fill mr hours.

My list, while small, is ambitious for me considering that I'll be continuing to teach my children. But here goes! My list:

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

How about this for socialization?

This statement sums up exactly what was the "straw that broke the camel's back" in our decision to homeschool:

"Think about the shift that occurred somewhere whereby the school and not parents now has the authority to determine if an absence is 'excused' or not."

Read the rest of the post at The Common Room blog entitled, "It Could Happen Here" . A shocking look at where far-left influences have led education in one European country. Sadly, the US may not be far behind - my apologies to Mrs. Cromelin, my sophmore year English teacher, who informeed me that a particular argument I'd proposed could not be made because, "The US is not Sweden." She was right, but maybe I wasn't so far off after all.

Today in History

Today I received my daily "This day in history" email where I noted that today is the Feast day of St. Joan of Arc. I had recently borrowed, purely by chance, Josephine Poole's book Joan of Arc from a friend. So that was a pleasant addition to our planned school for the day.

In addition to the St. Joan book, we also borrowed, from the library, the delightful children's classic Crictor by Tomi Ungerer. This was one of my favorite books as a child, but I hadn't really remembered that it was set in France. Crictor is a sweet, funny story with wonderful illustrations that add to the humor! On page one is a lovely drawing of a "typical" (if there is such a thing) french gothic cathedral, which was a nice segue from a tale of a 15th century saint to a present day "Madame Louise Bodot". So, we got a double dose of France today. :)

I highly recommend Poole's book if you are looking for a nice picture book to discuss Joan of Arc. All three of my children enjoyed it - 11, 7, and 5. The illustrations are really lovely and address her martyr's death truthfully, but gently. There is a helpful timeline of her life and beatification on the last page and a good map on the front and back liner pages.

Friday, May 18, 2007

A Literary Meme

I saw this at The Common Room blog.

Here's what you do:
1. grab the book closest to you
2. open it to page 161
3. find the fifth full sentence
4. post the text of the sentence to your blog
5. don't search around for the coolest book you have, use the one that is really next to you.

The book right beside my computer is The Latin Centered Curriclum by Andrew Campbell. I'm working on next year's (and this summer's) lessons and am referring to it frequently as I type our lesson plans. I really recommend it to anyone currently or considering a classical education for their family.

Ok, when I turn to p 161, there are only 3 complete sentences and some lists of books, so I'm going to find the fifth full sentence on the next page that has a fifth sentence. That would be page 165. Here is the sentence:

Is it accurate to claim, as one Christian curriculum publisher does, that the "classical Greek approach focuses on Greek literature and man's reasoning. The Hebrew methods focus on God's Word and faith"?

If you post the meme on your blog, let me know!

Hurrying past beauty

I was checking through some of my links today and came across this article via a link at SpunkyHomeSchool. It is a long read, but has video of a mini-concert by one of, if not *the* best violinist, so that alone makes it worth it! The article is wonderful - funny, articulate and thoughtful. It will make you stop and think how many times you've hurried past a masterpiece.

Now, I'm going to see if I have the "Chanconne" to hear it in its entirety.

China Experience - Changsha, Hunan

On 4/5/07:

It is about 3 in the afternoon here and you all are tucked snugly in bed. This morning Kim and Phoebe stayed "home" instead of doing the sightseeing. Phoebe has been a little fussy and had a hard time sleeping the past day. So, Kim decided they both could use a little downtime. (Turns out that she has an ear infection- more on that later)

The group went to a lovely river-side park for a stroll. The park was built 2 years ago. The landscaping looks much more mature than that, though. We saw many, many grandparents out with their grandkids (preschool age) and lots of kites flying. There were a couple of men practicing their katas (karate "routines"), too! An interesting cultural note - pre-potty trained babies/kids wear split crotch pants and NO diapers. You often catch a glimpse of a cute little bum here and there. Hahaha! This particularly cracks me up because they bundle the heck out of their kids (three layers are mandatory regardless of the weather!) and then let their little bums catch the breeze!

After the park the bus driver took us for a quick drive out to the countryside. Every inch of green in the country is cultivated for agriculture. The only things not cultivated are the roads and homes. :) We saw rice paddies, fish "ponds" (small lakes), and water buffalo pulling plows. The bus pulled off the highway so we could get some photos.

Peter, our guide, wandered down to a group of farm houses where the owners were beginning to congregate to watch us. He spoke with an owner of a particularly large home and asked if we could come in (or was invited). They were very gracious to invite us in to see how they live. Their home was very simple, but quite modern inside. We didn't actually go in, but peeked in the front door from the courtyard. I felt a little conspicuous and didn't take any photos of the interior. I'm sure they wouldn't mind, but it just seemed too intrusive.

Before we left the owner pulled out a pack of cigarettes and began passing them out to us. Peter explained that this is customary. These are a very expensive item and they share them to be hospitable. He said, "Even if you don't smoke, it is best to take one." So, I did (we all did). Tell Uncle Josh I've got a Chinese cigarette for him!

Before we left, I asked Peter if he'd ask them if I could take a photo with them. They very graciously obliged and Peter took the photo of the two ladies and I. Again, they really enjoyed that I could show them the photo on the digital back.

Then we drove back to the city and had lunch. Kim and I might go out to explore a bit...we'll see how Phoebe feels.

Ok - about the ear infection. Three of the babies were roommates - Phoebe and two others. The two others have ear infections and now Phoebe does, too. We are SO BLESSED to have a doctor with us - Dr. Ivory! His family is adopting (they live in Colorado) and they are traveling with us. They have three kids (11, 9, 6 - girl, boy, boy) and their eldest daughter is with them. Matt has been so wonderful! He's given all the kids a good physical and dispensed some medication that he brought.

The government gives them physicals before we leave, but they are very cursory. The medical information they send home with the babies is really not very good either. So, it is very reassuring to have a doctor in our travel group.

Just FYI - very interesting, Kim and I thought there would be many first time parents, but most of our group already have kids. Some are adopting for the second time and some have 2 or more children. Two of the families have grown children and are adopting now that their children are grown!

Ok - gotta run. We are trying to get out into the city before it gets too cool!

China Experience - Changsha, Hunan

On 4/4/07:

Good Evening - it is Wednesday evening (I think - good gravy, I'm so confused...). It should be your Wednesday morning, right?

We've been going to bed pretty early and waking by 5:30 or 6 the past few days. All the sightseeing and the excitement of the babies is exhausting! We watch a little CNN International, but Chinese soap operas are about all that is one otherwise. Oh, we do get the National Geographic channel. But I'm too tired to follow much of what the TV is saying anyway! (I know, can you believe that?) The Chinese commercials are the best - Kim and I crack up at those.

Yesterday we all tried to go to Wal-Mart, but instead Jane (a CWA employee – head of the China program) took us to a local supermarket. It was AWESOME and very inexpensive. On the way there we went through an alleyway where there were lots of little stalls selling vegetables and fruits. Then further on we came to the meat area - WOW! They really do eat EVERYTHING in China. :) We got some interesting and somewhat gross pictures. Of course, it is only gross to us because we aren't used to seeing our meat processed before our eyes. At least you can see how healthy the animal is before you eat it. :) There were chickens, ducks, eels, turtles, frogs, all manner of fish, and lots of meat (beef, pork, etc). In the supermarket we picked up diapers and formula and other odds and ends.

As we were checking out, there was a line of Chinese grandmas all getting their feet massaged (with those little machines you've seen being sold at Christmas time and such). They love the babies - but they loved Phoebe the most. (I think because she is so chubby!) Kim turned her around so they could see her and they all clapped. They do this to get the babies' attention. So we took her over to them and they went crazy! We got some cute photos. One of the ladies was very adamant about getting a copy of the photo (luckily we had Jane there to interpret). We'll email Jane the photo and she'll drop it off at the store for her. (Many Chinese do not have mailboxes.)

After the supermarket, Jane took us to a little "shopping mall" - just various stalls and independent vendors. It reminded me a bit of the bazaars of the middle east (like we saw in Turkey). It is so much colder here than we'd expected (58 was the high today - we'd expected it to be in the 80s and 90s) that many of the parents needed warmer clothes. Very cute baby clothes - at local prices (a few dollars for jackets and pants). All the Chinese look astounded to see this group of 20 some Westerners with little Chinese baby girls wandering around. They love to see the babies. Kim is very good to let them come see Phoebe and talk to her. Two young women stopped and said hello to Phoebe. We got their photo, too. (They love to look at the photos - so it is wonderful to have the digital!)

Kim and I both agree that, although we LOVED the sights we saw in Beijing, by far our favorite is just being out seeing the chinese! We both loved the walk through the city and markets yesterday. Some of our group are not so enthusiastic. In fact some are downright negative about it. (I'm also surprised that many of them are pretty ignorant about the culture and history of China - not the details, but the major points of Chinese history.) Kim and I are both really enjoying the culture and the people.

After the markets, we went home and had dinner in the hotel again. The food is good, but Kim and I would LOVE to venture out. It is better with the babies to stay in the hotel, though. We did have some spicy food last night. It was delicious - but I'm sure they toned down the spice for the "laowai" (noble foreigners).

Today our guide took us to a local park and then Wal-Mart. I'm not sure which I loved more. The park was just beautiful and HUGE! Magnolias, camelias, camphor trees, azaleas, miniature irises, acuba and more - everywhere! In the middle of the park was a good-sized amusement park with a big roller coaster (not in operation yet). Many groups of Chinese meet to do Tai chi, folk dancing, sing, play music, etc. We saw violins, flutes, and a traditional Chinese string instrument (played like a cello, but very small - fits on the lap...and shaped very differently). I'll try to get a photo the next time I see one. The park was full of people like it was a Saturday afternoon!

After the park we headed to the Wal-Mart SuperCenter. Kim and I had so much fun here! Because it is so chilly, I needed a warmer jacket. So I found one - a nice denim jacket for $12. (Btw - I had to buy an extra large - which is the same as a small in the US. I know this because we compared it when we got back to the hotel) Also got a couple of basic cotton tops - $2 each. Kids - I got you each a set of Chinese calligraphy brushes (these were in the children's school supply aisle). They were only about 15 cents for a set of 3 brushes. I bought a set for each of you and for each of the Thomasson kids. I'll need to find an ink stone and ink stick for you, too.

A very Chinese Walmart - all sorts of interesting produce and the meat department was fascinating and a little stomach-turning at the same time. :) Chicken feet (and I mean just the little claws - all fried up for you), pig hearts, chicken necks (for human consumption!), dried sting rays (whole), and lots more.

Chinese love to try out their english with us. (and we love to try out our very limited Chinese) Two young ladies came up in Wal Mart and said, "Hello" and we spoke for a moment with them. They, of course, doted on Phoebe. We complimented their English which sent them over the moon! (Even little kids will try saying "Hello" and "Good bye" in English. In the park today - we passed two groups of preschoolers on a field trip, I guess, (the cutest kids you've ever seen!) and many of them said "Hello"!)

The electronics department was to die for - so CHEAP! Erik, remember the SD card I just bought for the camera? It cost like $60 - I could have gotten it here for under $15. Can you believe that? I did need some batteries - they are also ridiculously cheap - I think I got 14 batteries for $4. That would have cost me nearly $20 in the US. I was a little worried they might fry the camera, but I double checked and they are the same voltage. :)

For lunch we stopped at the KFC (yes, KFC) just outside the WalMart (our guide paid - all our meals are included in the fees until we get to Guangzhou). Kim and I were a little bummed that they didn't take us somewhere for Hunan food, but we did have a chicken wrap with chinese vegetables and sauce. Phoebe ate "potato paste" - that's mashed potatoes to you and I. :) She loved them!

The Wal-Mart is inside a larger mall - Kim and I may take a taxi down there later this week and check out the rest of the mall. The prices are so good and the merchandise will be interesting.

Tomorrow we go to either another park or an embroidery "factory" (depends on the weather). I'm not sure we'll have a chance to purchase Hunan embroidery anywhere else, so I may buy some. (By the way - I'm holding out well on my cash. I've made one purchase on the MasterCard here, but otherwise I've used cash. And the MasterCard purchase was not huge - approx $60...just didn't want to run out of cash.)

Oh - one other thing about what you can discuss via email here in China - don't worry about it. I wondered if I'd be able to get onto Christianity Today to send those eCards - but had no problem. I don't think it matters. Besides, the Olympics are coming here in 2008 and I think they are trying to look as "open" as possible! :)

Ok - I need to head back upstairs. Our laundry is due back soon and I need to make sure I got all my clothes back! :) I love you all!

from China with LOVE,

ps. Remind me to tell you the "Taiguile" (**pronounced Tie Guay Leh) story in my next email! It is very funny and I can't believe I haven't told you that, yet.

China Experience - Changsha, Hunan

On 4/3/07:

Good news - renting the computer is much cheaper here in Changsha! We are trying to get some photos uploaded today, we'll see how that goes. Check the blog late on Tuesday and maybe they will be there. :)

After we talked (Mon night/Tues morning) we came back to the hotel and had pizza. It was pretty good, too. We are taking some time to email and then we will be heading to Wal-Mart around 4. One of our guides will take us down there via taxi and then we can grab a taxi back when we are ready. Shouldn't cost more than $1 for taxi each way.

I'm glad you told me more about how things are going. I'm relieved as it sounded like maybe my kids (especially Halen) were sad or having trouble. But, it sounds like everyone is getting along all right. I may try to send eCards to them.

**On the phone we discussed the trip to pick up Phoebe. We went to the provincial (Hunan) government headquarters in Changsha. We walked into a room where there were a number of adults holding all ten of the babies. They called each baby’s Chinese name and the adoptive family belonging to that baby stepped forward with their paperwork. The paperwork was checked and the baby was handed over.

Some babies were screaming, some were quiet as church mice. Phoebe was the chubbiest and quietest. We found out later from the orphanage director that she was considered a difficult baby and we suspect they fed her a lot to hush her up (which is why she is chubby). More paperwork was done and fees paid. We went back later to do final paperwork (later in the week).***

Today is a bit quieter as everyone is getting settled with their babies. Tomorrow we go sightseeing in the morning and then are on our own in the afternoon. I told you how lush it is here on the phone. I'll take some photos so you can see, too. It is also a more typical "city" than Beijing. I guess kind of like DC - it is not a typical American city either, is it?

Our hotel room overlooks an elementary (possibly middle school, too). It is very large with 4 or 5 buildings each 5 or 6 stories high. We can see right down a wide walk way between two buildings into the courtyard (soccer field and track area). I watched the kids put up the flags this morning while the anthem played. Very cool! At lunch time many of the parents meet them and bring them lunch. Because this is a tropical climate, they do the mid-day "siesta" here, too. Although I don't think they nap - they do go home for lunch and come back to work and work later in the evening.

The hotel where we are staying is REALLY nice. I'll take photos - very fancy!!! The beds are hard as rocks...but feel really good. :) Nice linens, down comforters, and down pillows! Kim and I have both commented that the staff speak English better than in Beijing. Don't know why I'm surprised by that, but I am. We've had all our meals at the hotel so far while in Changsha...hoping to go out for some spicy Hunan tonight. We'll see. Many of our group are quite negative about the food, preferring to stick with American fare rather than enjoy the chance to have REAL chinese food. Oh, well. Kim and I are REALLY enjoying it!

You'll be glad to know that I am taking my Cipro. I got a little bit of a sick stomach (not at all bad - probably more related to traveling in general), so I decided not to take a chance. You have to be so careful about the tap water - when you wash your face, take a shower, etc. So I just decided to take the meds as a precautionary. I'm still being careful about the tap water, but I don't have to worry about it.

I've started "Three Cups of Tea" - I can tell I'm going to like it! But I am realizing that I really brought too many books. I just couldn't decide what I might be in the mood to read!

China Experience - Beijing

On 4/1/07:

Farmor asked about wildlife on the streets in Beijing --HAHAHA! No there is not much, because they EAT it ALL! I'm not being politically incorrect - Beijingers say it, too.
**side note added later: By the way, the Chinese pronounce Beijing with a hard “j” – Bei-Jing not Bei-jhing, like we do. So, if you hear me pronouncing it that way, you’ll know why!

Seriously, there is very little wildlife in Beijing. Even birds are pretty scarce. That is probably partially because, yes, they will be eaten, but also because of the lack of natural areas in the city and the pollution. There are trees and such in small parks and strips along roads, but no large tracts of green space. When you have 14 million need every square inch just to house them. :) ** Also, it is still very late winter here, so many animals had not come out of hibernation, I suppose.

We are trying to keep these emails short as we have a very early morning tomorrow. We have to have our luggage out by our doors by 7:30 and then the bus leaves for the airport at 8:30. We fly to Changsha and will meet Phoebe Lin shortly after we arrive at the hotel. It will be a CRAZY day tomorrow, so please understand if I am unable to call or email. But, I will TRY!!!

Today we had a VERY long and full day of sightseeing. We started the day at Tianamen Square and the Forbidden City. They are all in the same complex. Tianamen Square was huge - and imposing. The Forbidden City was wonderful! I really can't do it any justice - but do have lots of photos, good postcards, and an (inexpensive, but good) souvenir book. We even came home with a small piece of one of the original (600 yrs old!) cobblestones. They are going to tear the old ones out and replace before Beijing Olympics. (That just makes me CRINGE that they would just replace the old - but it is a very Chinese thing to do. Why keep old when new is better? ARGH!) So, we found a couple of good-sized chunks to bring home.

(Also - more photos taken with the "big Americans" in Tianamen Square. :) That's just funny!)

(** side note – I’m not sure why I didn’t mention this in the email, maybe because it would be hard to explain to the kids…but Tianamen Square was a bit overwhelming. Hard not to try to imagine where that infamous tank and student might have been.)

Then we visited a jade factory and had lunch at a cloisonne factory. Hmm...I think we are starting to learn that "factory" in Beijing really means tourist trap. But - the jade was gorgeous and the REAL thing. And, because it is government-sponsored, it is better than taking your chances with fake or bad quality by buying on the street.

After the "factory" -we drove to the GREAT WALL! It actually started to snow while we were getting off the bus. None of us had warm enough clothes - but we wrapped up the best we could. The wind was really whipping!

Most of our group went one way and the Kim and I went another. It is very steep in parts and the views are fantastic. But, it is hard to really appreciate the Great Wall from a limited section...I think you really have to walk huge lengths of it to get a feel for how dramatically long it is.

Many funny things - a marching band from Naples FLORIDA was performing on the Wall. We heard "Hang on Sloopy". Very odd - not at all Chinese. But somehow it actually made sense - the Wall is very touristy. Still worth it to take the hike and say you've stood on the Great Wall of China, though. Lots of funny signs and other stories I'll have to share later. We hear there is even a bobsled ride (sort of a roller coaster) at some point on the Wall - the side we didn't go to. Also saw a camel! Yes, a REAL one with 2 humps!

I've come to the conclusion that Beijing is a "rubbly" place. Lots of rubble around. Just piles of it here and there - in the city and even more so outside the city.

Also, the painted lane lines on the streets are really just suggestions. Drivers are very creative here.

Beijing is a city totally at work - every square inch of it. People are repairing cars, fixing bicycle tires, selling all manner of stuff, carting large loads on bike-drawn trailers, drying laundry, tending shops, etc. Everywhere you look people are doing stuff...not just going somewhere to do stuff. They aren't bustling off somewhere...they are right there working away.

Also - you can always tell a Party building or other official government building -these are always the most well-kept. They also tend to have a very imposing air about them - which is certainly the point. I guess the same would be said in the US, too. But, here it is such a dichotomy with the rest of the city.

I've enjoyed Beijing...all the Chinese we've interacted with are warm and good-natured. Tomorrow (Monday) a new city!

Ok - that is all for tonight! Zaijian! By the way - you'd be so proud of me, I'm really trying to use my little bit of Chinese whenever I can! Kim and I even learned to say "Good Evening" - "Wan An". :) Our friendly Business Center lady taught us that.