Well well well, I haven’t been good with stories lately, have I? I shall have to make up for it here. But first, a quick rundown on all the busyness that has kept me from writing thus far!
Youth work continues to be crazy busy, and I love it! I love visiting IAB (a nearby international school) and am feeling like a part of the school community. I even got to be a guest judge at a talent show! I’ve had several opportunities to speak, at youth church, youth group and IAB, and I’m getting more confident and improving as I go. I actually enjoy speaking more than I am anxious about it now! I will be teaching a 3-hour seminar at the upcoming Expat Youth Conference this weekend which I am really looking forward to. I’ll also be hosting the high school girls from my church – there’ll be 15 people sleeping in my house on Saturday :)
Youth in Asia blog continues along, and I’m very proud of the high standard of content we’ve had up lately, from a wide range of authors. In more youth/Asia related news, I will be in Thailand from April 3-11 assisting at a conference for Ms working in south-east Asia. I will be co-leading the youth program with Christina, and helping with music at the main conference sessions. I’m actually leaving the Beijing conference early and getting to the Thailand conference late – much craziness! A couple I knew in Australia will be at the conference, and I am looking forward to catching up with them :)
I raised support for my Cambodia and Thailand trips this year. Cambodia was covered entirely, and Thailand is mostly covered (at this point I think it will cost me $300-$400). It’s certainly been humbling to depend on others to fund the work I’ve been doing, but at the same time I am more convinced than ever that I am in the right place, doing the right thing. I have had some amazing connections/conversations with kids both in Beijing and overseas (kids I still keep up with from my youth work in Australia, and TCKs who have left Beijing for their next destination) that have encouraged me, and confirmed the importance of what I do. Some things are more important than money, and I’ve come to the conclusion that I would rather invest time in these kids than invest money in a bank (although of course I do wish for more financial stability!)
So – onto the stories!! I have one from each of the first three months of this year :)
Church on the Beach (January)
In my last update I promised this story. In January I spent two weeks in Cambodia, during which time I assisted with a TCK retreat. We drove 5 hours from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville, a popular beach town. On Sunday morning we drove to the beach, and walked around the bay, past the sandy beaches, past the outlying guesthouses, along dirt/shell tracks… eventually we stopped in a quiet corner shaded by trees, where perfect turquoise water softly washed up on beach that was more shell than sand. We sang on the beach, then most of the kids climbed a big rock and sat there while our speaker told stories and gave a wonderful message. It was a perfect moment – the warm sun, the cool water, the sound of the waves, the wonderful group of people… even the guy filming us all with his big videocamera was just part of the experience ;)
Chair Skating (February)
Another story I promised! The week before Chinese new year, an American family my sister knew in Perth came to Beijing on a visa run (they had just moved to southern China). I was able to meet up with them several times, and really enjoyed it. One afternoon I took them to Houhai to go chair skating! Chair skating is a popular winter pastime in Beijing, where constant sub-zero temperatures over winter leave most canals and lake frozen solid. Houhai is one of the most well-known (and best set up) locations. It’s become more high-tech in recent years. We paid a deposit and took a swipe card at a booth on the edge of the (fenced in) lake. Down on the surface we chose from a range of ice-going equipment – there were skates, ice bicycles, and different kids of chair sleds. We took three two-seater chair sleds. Picture two metal slats, and soldered to them a small box with ratty carpet on top, in front of a wooden primary school chair. Now, put an adult in the chair, and a kid on the box, and give them pointy metal poles (maybe half a metre long) to propel themselves along the ice with. Fun, no?? We had three sleds and did plenty of racing around the ice. An hour of chair skating cost $15 for all 6 of us. We moved on to Hutong Pizza for pizza and beer, and I even found a stall selling my favourite toffee strawberries on the way out. A great winter outing in Beijing!
Cardboard Shantytown (March)
Through January and February 111 teens in Beijing raised money for the World Vision 30 hour famine. In the end they raised over $38,000 – very impressive! According to World Vision, that is enough to feed over 100 kids for a year. We ran an overnight activity for the kids who were fasting, and it was a great time. A big part of the event is education, and empathy-building – helping our kids to understand more about the situations that kids in poverty around the world deal with. At 9 or 10pm we turned out the power in the building and “evacuated” the kids outside. We then told them that while it took them over 3 minutes to get out of the building, the Haiti earthquake happened in 32 seconds. In 32 seconds, tens of thousands of people lost everything. We sent the kids to find piles of “rubble” we had prepared, to make their own shelters for the night. They built their own cardboard shantytowns to sleep in overnight. Despite the mild weather of the week before, the temperature dropped to -3C overnight. I think at least half the kids were still out there at 4am when we had the first rain in Beijing in like 6 months – then we brought them inside. On Sunday we took them to a home for blind orphans to help with yardwork and other tasks, then broke the fast with a meal made from World Vision recipes for food served to severely malnourished kids. (For more stories and photos, see the post on the Youth in Asia blog).
April is shaping up to be a BIG month, so I’m sure I’ll have plenty of stories for you again soon (ish?)