China Jubilee

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Adrift in a New Culture August 18, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — missjubilee @ 6:15 am


For those who live overseas, it is a fact of life that the initial culture shock of arriving in a foreign place is often not as challenging as the reverse culture shock on returning “home” at the end of one’s time abroad. I’ve been aware of this challenge since I was a child, having heard my parents’ conversations with other adults about their difficult transition back to the US from Tokyo in 1989. This spring as I prepared to transition to the US from Qingdao, I wondered what form it would take for me, Adult Third Culture Kid, experienced world traveler, and someone who has visited the US almost every year of my time abroad. I really couldn’t imagine, though I didn’t think I would be exempt.


As early as my second day in the US people were asking me how I was doing with adjusting to being back. My answer – one blog post notwithstanding – was pretty much “Ask me after school’s started and I’m a month into my ‘new normal.’ Right now it just feels like a regular summer home with a little job searching thrown in.” Well, a week after moving to my new town, I’ve begun to find out just what it can be like!


There needs to be back story, of course. I’ve had two main overseas transitions as an adult. When I first moved to China 9 years ago, I only knew a friend of a friend via email, and he wasn’t in my part of town, so it was something of a rough landing, but the other foreign teachers (who had mostly arrived a month before me) took me for dinner the second night, let me use their shower when my place didn’t have a water heater the first week, and included me in their road trip to Kaifeng a week after I landed. The school also assigned me two student aides who were friendly and super helpful, for example by ordering my first jug of drinking water and teaching me how to get more, and by finding me a large bath towel when all I could find in my limited and overwhelming forays to the supermarket were hand towels. Between the sweet students and the solidarity of “we’re all foreigners together” among the other expats, I found some solid ground and learned to stand, walk, and eventually electric-bike my way around life there.


Then I switched to an international school with Leadership Development International. LDI does an amazing job of preparing for and welcoming new people, for example sending lists of what to pack and what’s available on arrival, and providing meals for the first week in-country. Even though I’d already been in China for 4 years and in some ways hit the ground running, I appreciated all the care. One of my favorite parts of each new school year has been helping to host and welcome the new staff. Then when I prepared to leave, the company provided counseling, prayer, acknowledgement and affirmation in large and small gatherings, printed devotionals, and more. Pretty much my only moment of return-to-US crying this summer was when I received their last package and realized I was now “outside” – though when I mentioned it to the person from the home office who called for my debriefing later that month, she told me they’re still praying for us, so I’m never totally “out.” No organization is perfect, but that was pretty awesome, and I knew when I was leaving that it would be a while before I found another community like that.


Arriving back in my “home” culture, I spent the summer where I grew up, mixing with other internationally-minded believers and even some friendly Chinese students, so I landed on ground I knew pretty well how to stand on – indeed, I kind of felt unfairly blessed, and I thanked God for the soft landing. But now I’m in a new city, with a new community in my workplace who don’t know me and whose local culture I’m new to, with neighbors who do speak my language but don’t work at my school (instead of either one or the other), where people don’t fit neatly into the two categories of “Chinese” or “expat like me,” and oh, all sorts of things are different, large and small. Various experiences this week left me feeling like I was totally lost and drifting, without anywhere to put my feet, any ground I was sure of. None of it was done “to” me with negative intent, it wasn’t even all negative, but it all hit me out of left field, and by Thursday noon I was sobbing on the shoulder of one of the two co-workers I’ve started to get to know so far, who bless her heart just held me and let me cry.


And then at home that evening I opened the Word to my daily-reading bookmark at Psalm 138, glanced across the page at 139, started sobbing again as I felt God reach out and hold me.


“No one here knows me” – 1 O LORD, you have searched me and known me!
2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
3 You search out my path and my lying down,
you are acquainted with all my ways.
4 Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.


“I’m lost in a new place” – 7 Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
9 If I rise on the wings of the morning
and dwell across the sea, (<- exactly what I did when I left for the airport at dawn)
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.


“How long will it take for anyone to really know me here?” – 13 For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. (<- as one who loves knitting, that verse always feels like it’s a little love-nudge to me straight from God)
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it full well.


“I feel overlooked and unseen” – 17 How precious concerning me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast the sum of them!
18a If I would count them, they are more than the sand.


“I’m having trouble sleeping in the middle of the night” – 18b I awake, and I am still with you.


“I don’t understand how certain things are handled here surrounded by ‘my’ culture.” I won’t write out verses 19-22, but when I’ve heard this psalm preached on, what stuck with me is that after a harsh outburst against those who are opposing God that seems to pretty clearly land David over-the-top into sin himself, David continues with this prayer:


23 Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
24 See if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!


“O God, search my heart too! YOU are my solid ground! I know that you know me fully, better than I know myself; that you are always where I am, no matter where I move; that you see me completely and think about me constantly; that even in the watches of the night I am still with you — thus I can open up my pain and confusion, not just for comfort, but also to let you gently bring out my own sin in the situation for us to deal with together, and trustingly follow you in the way everlasting!”



The Prius July 27, 2014

Filed under: Faith,Life — missjubilee @ 4:53 am

What kind of car is your current dream car? When I was younger I wanted one of those strange ones that had a pickup bed attached to a car-looking front rather than a truck cab. Then I wanted a CRV, at least until the nation was innundated with SUV’s and gas became expensive and “bad.”  I probably switched to liking the Prius best about a decade ago, but I didn’t really give it a lot of thought since I was living overseas.  Last fall I started wondering whether I could save up to buy a used one on my return to the US (answer: nope, not yet!), and this summer I rented one for a weekend trip.  I wasn’t overwhelmed with its actual pick-up-and-go power, it felt like the car was working kind of hard at times, but in general I enjoyed it quite a lot, especially the expensive console it had which I would probably not pay for in a car I bought (GPS, bluetooth for my iPhone’s audiobooks and to accept calls hands-free, etc). And of course when I went to fill it up and found how little gas it took to fill a tank that had lasted for so many hundreds of miles, I was quite happy. I’ve been noticing them everywhere on the road these days – for example, I counted 6 of them in 2 miles one day during rush hour, and when I pulled out onto the main road to begin the trip in my rented Prius, I waited behind a pair of them at the traffic light!

But I got to thinking as I drove: Why am I giving so much of my attention to a “thing,” something that isn’t really important for life and just makes me want something I don’t have? We’re told to keep our minds on Christ and to pray without ceasing, for one thing.  For another, I just read Psalm 119 recently and was challenged by the writer’s constant focus on God’s word.  And then again we are told to give thanks in all things.  Could I notice God’s hand at work in my life, his power and beauty evident in the land around me, or other signs of his glory and grace, and THANK him for it, as often as I noticed a Prius?  

Well, I haven’t yet made a complete change of focus, but at least some of the times now when I spot a Prius on the road, after the initial “Oh, another one!” and vague wish to have such a nice car of my own, I am reminded also to find something to thank God for right here and now.  And that may be the best thing of all about the Prius.


Keepers of the School

Filed under: Entertainment — missjubilee @ 4:21 am

I just read the Keepers of the School series and have to share how much I liked them! Andrew Clements is one of my favorite writers for the fifth-sixth grade age group. His characters are all interesting in some special way – even the main character in Just Average, a book that was definitely asking to be written after so many stories about students who are in some way extraordinary.  Lately I’ve gotten a little tired of noticing some of his writing techniques, kind of like how I felt watching local plays by the fourth year of college – you can only see the same person pretend to be so many characters before you can’t ignore that the voice and face are the same, unless you happen to go to school with someone like Gary Oldman, and you can only read so many books by one author before you start to tire of certain sentence structures.  An example in my own words: “And that way she knocked on the door? It sounded like a drummer setting the pace for a marching army.”  The grammarian in me is a bit sore from the sentence fragment feeling it gives me.  But I keep reading what he comes out with and enjoying it.

Benjamin Pratt & the Keepers of the School was Clements’ first series for this age level, and while the first couple books felt like he should have just written one longer novel (and I still feel that way after finishing all 5, even though it would be a big departure from the usual length of his books), I feel like he needed all that space to really develop this incredible character.  The student at the center of it all, Ben, isn’t a gifted writer or athlete, isn’t a genius nor an inventor, isn’t rich or famous, none of that, and at first both he and the reader are wondering what his role is at the center of the unfolding plot, and why he’s the leader when his two friends are both quicker with facts than he is.  What he eventually figures out is that his role as leader is crucial to holding the team together so that they can solve the puzzles needed to save their school. Watching him deal with setbacks and frustrations, through Clements’ third-person-limited narration, is a beautiful picture of both leadership and a very mature ability to put aside strong feelings and keep thinking through a problem. I haven’t taught sixth grade myself, but I kept thinking how I haven’t known a lot of children who are at this level, and that there are plenty of adults out there who also struggle with this ability!  One of the students who joins in mid-series is almost constantly annoying in various ways, and Ben succeeds in dealing with it in positive ways almost all of the time, keeping the group working together and the project moving forward, with his thought process there for the reader to see.  Amazing.

Clements also shows his respect for people in not making anyone the “bad guy,” as he’s shown time and again when students have to deal with adults who may oppose them for one reason or another but in the end the students understand that the adults have the students’ best interests at heart, and they are able to respect each other even if they still disagree – generally they’re on the same team by the end.  In this case the opposition is pretty stiff but there is a good conclusion (if a bit too quick), and the while it starts out super-secret among the children, they do get help from carefully-chosen adults and bring their parents into what’s going on.

As for the actual plot, (I know, “Finally,” right?) I don’t want to give much away, but it’s a treasure hunt kind of story, with the students searching for clues to save their school (and town) from developers who want to tear down the historic harborside school to put in an amusement park.  The man who built the school around the time of the American Revolution left behind “safeguards” for future generations to use to protect it, but it’s a race against time for the kids to find them and put them into play against the huge corporation that’s ready to tear it down after the last day of school, especially as they need to dodge the industrial spies posing as janitors who are keeping an eye on them.


Be at rest once more, O my soul June 26, 2014

Filed under: Life — missjubilee @ 11:54 am

“Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the LORD has been good to you!…
I will sacrifice a thank offering to you and call on the name of the LORD.
I will fulfill my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people,
in the courts of the house of the LORD – in your midst, O Jerusalem.
Prase the LORD.” (Psalm 116:7, 17-19)

I’m a week and a half into my job search. It’s one of those things in life that you enter with no idea how long it will take to “complete” because it’s not just up to you.  (Come to think of it, in that way it’s similar to the desire to be married – except that at least there are straight-forward ways to “put yourself out there,” network, and negotiate a new job quickly once you find it, whereas the process of finding a spouse is so much tougher to navigate!)  You don’t want to read all the places I’ve tried and responses I’ve gotten or am still waiting to get, and I don’t want to go back over them for that matter.  Job hunting is one of my least favorite things to do, within the realm of my current experience, but I want to focus on TRUST, and resting in what God has done, what he has said he will do, and Who he is in my life.

“Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the LORD has been good to you!”

I want this to be my verse for the job hunt.  He has done so much just in this transition, in addition to all he’s done before in my life, and in addition to his great works of salvation and sanctification in my life.

:Realizing that I’m a more qualified, experienced job hunter than last time I sought a job in the US right out of college and then right after being fired from my first job. It’s funny to actually feel like I’m competent at some things.
:Safe flight and luggage all arriving without extra luggage fees
:Comfortable, familiar, and convenient place to stay until I find that job (the house where I grew up)
:Time with family, one-on-one and together
:Generous amount of money in the bank. I am quite capable of spending it WAY too easily and quickly, but I’m trying to be careful and not immediately go out and replace everything I parted with in Qingdao before moving back, nor grab at every special-to-this-location experience such as egg rolls, movies, or Busch Gardens
:Able to give joyfully to various places, thanks to the aforementioned money in the bank
:Car to drive, generally in good shape, and money to rent my dream car (Prius) for a road trip in July
:Plans to see people from fellowship and honor a friend’s wedding on that road trip in July
:Technology to stay connected with friends who are traveling for the summer or still in China, including what I *think* is a good cell plan
:Various international interactions – a party with people who live internationally, a weekly outreach to international students who are working at the beach for the summer, weekly prayer and hearing reports from missionaries,… even just checking that the food is gluten free for mom in Chinese and having the waitress easily switch languages with me, somehow that made me even happier than when people stop to exclaim over my language abilities. J (Plus it was almost like real Chinese food, not just American Chinese food – I’m grateful to the friend of a friend at the party who recommended this new place!)
:And best of all, supportive people – Michelle J, Eric W, Joan C, Beth F & others in that group, my family, and maybe a new friend or two.

“I will sacrifice a thank offering to you and… fulfill my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people,…” When I first read this I thought, “When I finish my job hunt, that’s what I will surely do!” But reflecting back on verse 7 and how the Lord has been good to me, I want to thank him NOW before others!  God, you are so overwhelmingly good to me!  My soul CAN rest in you for the future without worry, because I have seen your generous blessing and guidance in my life as well as in the lives of others* and in your Word.

*Footnote: I’ve been reading “Goforth of China,” and I highly recommend it! It had me crying on the plane in conviction and joy, and standing in awe of what God can and will do through one life to touch tens and hundreds of thousands, and how he worked mightily in China ten or eleven decades ago.


Welcome back to the USA! June 15, 2014

Filed under: Life,Shopping,Travel — missjubilee @ 9:09 am

This may or may not be the first in a series of posts, but I wanted to keep a list for my own memory and to share a little what I encountered when returning to the US.  I’ve put it into 3 categories: Things I’m glad to (re)discover about America, Things I’ll need to re-adjust to, and No country’s perfect.  I’ll try to keep that final category to a minimum. I don’t want to focus on the negative, and while I’m sure I’ll have days in the next few months where I deal with reverse culture shock in huge doses, I think a lot of it will come back to me re-adjusting, not issues with things outside of me.

Things I’m glad to (re)discover:

  • Blue skies with puffy white clouds in the day, stars at night, regularly
  • Time with family, such as helping out around the house with my brother, going for a walk with my mother, and sitting at a cafe with my father
  • The convenience of having a car waiting just for me a few meters from the front door of the house
  • The variety of things available in the grocery store (this fills me with joy on every. single. visit.)
  • The convenience of centralized air conditioning (conditionally)
  • Being able to access my blog, other blogs, videos, and social networking without a VPN and at playable speeds
  • Walking into a bookstore, being greeted by the clerk who knows me from past visits, and finding what I want on the shelf.  (Probably also the large public library system, but I think I’ll avoid that till I find a job, kinda like eating your brussel sprouts before having some cheesecake.)

Things I’ll need to re-adjust to:

  • Waxed apples. I didn’t mind before I got used to eating them unwaxed, but now I feel like “How can anyone ever choose to wax an apple?”  Oh well, I may not enjoy my daily dose as much for a while, but I’m pretty sure I can get used to this… and maybe find a good source of fresh-off-the-tree each fall!
  • The variety of things available in the grocery store. Ha, yes, this is on both lists.  I think I need to make a rule for myself that I can only spend $5 on items not on my shopping list when I go into Kroger or I’ll come out with an overflowing basket and an empty bank account.
  • Climate-controlled buildings that make me wish I was wearing jeans and a sweatshirt in the summer.
  • Working in the US. Well, looking for work first of all! But I know it’ll be different from the last few years. Also finding an apartment here, and working out somewhere/how, etc, etc.
  • Daylight savings time. Even if I didn’t like 4am sunlight (weirdly, I do), the bright light outside at 8pm is making it hard for me to fight jet lag by going to bed early!  I am going to have to re-learn how to do life in summer here, especially if I actually get a job that doesn’t have summers off. Now there’s a new thought!

No country’s perfect:


  • Arrive in China as an English-speaker and you may be a bit confused by the Beijing airport, but it’s generally well labeled in English as well as Chinese and some people speak enough English to help you.  Arrive in Singapore from anywhere and there are 4 different alphabets on the signs not only in the airport but all around the city.  Arrive in a major US city’s international airport and you get yelled at in English if you can’t read the signs for which customs line to get in – some airports have Spanish and English on the signs, some just English, so far I haven’t noticed anything with a different alphabet at all.  I actually talked to someone about this in Chicago, and she said some airlines supply a translator to assist people with finding the right customs line (eg an airline employee who speaks Japanese waits there when a flight from Tokyo arrives) but others don’t.  I say, why doesn’t the airport deal with it intelligently? At least signs in one Romance language, Chinese, Arabic, and maybe a Cyrillic or Southeast Asian language, would that be too much to ask? It still leaves out some of the world, but it would cover a pretty large swath of its population.  English may be a popular language, but there will always be people who chose something else to study or who simply didn’t learn it (eg Chinese grandparents, I’ve helped a few of those over the years…). Could we require all airport staff who work in that area to spend a month living overseas somewhere they don’t speak the language, perhaps?

Recent photos September 8, 2013

Filed under: Cooking,Craft,Life — missjubilee @ 7:53 pm

Life is staying full here, though I’ve had some down time this weekend. Here are a few little things.


Supper in under five minutes. Leftover leftovers and fresh fruit. Leftover celery, cooked rice, and a little leftover eggplant were combined with some onion, garlic, salt, curry powder, along with a can of kidney beans and an egg, the last item only because I am apparently incapable of frying up anything with leftover rice without putting in an egg. Anyway it made two dinners for that week plus one more in the freezer that I ate tonight. I’ve never had anything quite like it, and this time at least I can say that with a happy rather than “blech” face!


Here’s the blech – mold on two books I took from home when I finished high school. So sad. I will replace Hind’s Feet but the other would probably be difficult to find since Mom bought it in college so I’ll try wiping it down with vinegar.


Last night I babysat an actual baby for the first time in a while. Isn’t she cute?


Today while I was picking up some shirts from the tailor I also picked up more blue & white fabric half-meters. I’m not sure yet if the quilt it becomes will have the yellow mixed in or just more whites. Or even if it WILL become a quilt, since I’m pretty busy now and I don’t plan to ship fabric to the land of JoAnn’s and such when I leave! At least not quilting fabric. Maybe a bit of the batik blue & white prints that I’m basing this selection around (in the foreground).


Such pretty beans growing in the cul-de-sac by my building.



Stella watching the sunrise. It was the physical connection to a message I’d heard last weekend from John Piper about the glory of the Lord being revealed.


Psalm 121. My heart has been tender as I’ve been stretched. It’s not easy learning to rely on the Lord for strength. Right now for instance it’s Sunday evening and I’ve felt a lot less urgent and hungry in my prayer and reading times the last 48 hours because it’s not crunch time – it’s school that is pushing me beyond my strength. But oh how this psalm ministered to me one day this week.

Posting these photos reminds me, I’ve posted most of them before, some on FB and some on WeChat. It’s been great to connect with friends on the latter app, especially people I knew in ZZ. Have you tried it? It’s the English version of an app that’s actually Chinese (I think), and it’s similar to Voxer but with more features. Plus easier to find people – so far I have about 30 connections on the one and about three on the other! The main feature they share is the ability to send short audio clips back and forth, like a time-delay walkie talkie. Not very delayed, unless your Internet speed is slow. If you haven’t tried either app, pick one and give it a go!


American in China August 31, 2013

Filed under: Life,Travel — missjubilee @ 8:11 pm

This weekend I’m at a training conference in Shanghai for the math curriculum our elementary school uses. I’ve been to Shanghai twice before, both times in transit to other places but with a short stopover planned to see or do things here. This is the first time I’ve actually come TO Shanghai, and the first time I haven’t had any special plans related to location. Not that things haven’t happened anyway.

Last night our whole group went for dinner at a steak house in the same part of town as our hotel (which in a big city like Shanghai isn’t saying much in terms of closeness!) I would estimate that our group ate about 2 kilos of pure beef, ten potatoes’ worth of baked/mashed/fried goodness, plus my Caesar salad (ever since summer I’ve been trying to eat minimal meat so that was about the only thing on the menu for me – but someone did share a couple bites of his steak with me and it was delicious!) So that was a very special meal.

Today the conference started. On the bus from the Best Western – which is pretty standard for here, nice but since it mostly caters to Chinese people I could give you a long list of ways it differs from one in the West – as I was saying, on the bus to Shanghai Amer. School, another teacher warned me about the shock of the area we were going to. She was spot on. We drove through a pair of ornate gates into a manicured expanse of golf course, suburban homes, and extensive school complex. O.o Wow. We were all staring around ourselves wondering if the Enterprise had come back in time again and Scotty had accidentally beamed us all to an upper-middle-class neighborhood in the States, or perhaps dropped a suburb from there down in China.


After the meetings today I stayed an extra three hours to work on assignments for my current grad class with the wifi in the secondary library. It was good to have some alone time. More to come when I get back to the hotel hopefully (most of the staff was planning to go out and see the city tonight). I borrowed a couple books to read, then went out to wait for the taxi that had been called for me.


While waiting in the gorgeous Shanghai evening, I watched frequent groups of electric scooters buzzing past on the mostly-deserted roads. My thoughts over time:

-Hm, I expected foreigners here but those are Chinese folk. I should not have made assumptions! Chinese families can afford super-ritzy homes too, after all. (Make no mistake, they would be upper-mid homes in the States, but on the edge of a crowded Chinese city these places are opulent.)
-Wow, there have been a lot of Chinese people going by and no foreigners at all. Hm.
-Oh look, a white mom and daughter walking the dog and roller blading.
-Wow, a white man walking up with a drink in his hand, walking past the guards and into the school, I bet he’s a teacher going to get some grading done on a Saturday evening.
-Oh, some white, English-speaking boys playing in their yard, how cute.
-There goes another… and another… and another electric scooter with a Chinese person on it.
-Hm, I’m noticing two different trends here. White people walking around. Chinese people all headed towards the exit on electric scooters.


Suddenly I felt like I was in a scene from “The Help,” China version, though presumably (hopefully?) without the bigotry and prejudice that underlay the American story. The work day was ending and the hired help were headed home. At least, that’s the story I settled on in my mind, in this little piece of American – and Chinese – life in China.

Input from others? Information I’m missing regarding the situation? For the record, I have hired help of my own here, have BEEN hired help myself one summer in the States, and I mean no judgement on the institution in general nor on this specific case by comparing it to that movie/book – it’s just not something I grew up with and thus a surprise when I notice it all over again in a new context/way. Surprise makes us uncomfortable and hopefully reflective. So I thought I’d share the moment of surprise here to look back on one day, and for feedback from readers.



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