Ever been on a bullet train in China? I liken the experience to being in an airplane just before it lands and watching the landscape zoom so fast outside the window before you feel the rumble of touch down. Only, on a train, the zoom never ends, and the rumble is a softer continuum that is always there. This week we took 2 trains between Shanghai and Tianjin and passed many a platform like the one below.
Yesterday, Mother's Day, was probably one of my more memorable days in the last 4 (almost 5) years of celebrating this day. Kids both with high fevers at a friends house. Me staying home with them packing while everyone else went to church. Boarding a train with 2 very sick kids dosed with ibuprofen, and 6 hours to watch the scenery go by.
Luckily this time, we each had our own seat. (This is the first time this has happened, I must be honest....
it's the much better way to go! (None of this sharing 2 or 3 seats business!) And the kids were for the most part, calm.
Most of the time at least.
The other part of the time, we took turns exploring the train, finding the dining car...
Looking out the window at some very picturesque landscapes. It made me want to stop and get off! At least now I know what's between Shanghai and Tianjin and all the unexplored territory. I think this picture was taken somewhere around Chuzhou. The best part about traveling by train over a vast area is actually seeing where you're going. Most times, the view is even better than driving and definitely more up close than flying!
Though we assembled this last night in the dark and had our first garden salad along with dinner (and a million mosquitos) on our porch, I woke up this morning to see this lovely site waiting for me. Slowly but surely we are making progress on the porch and making it a nice place to be out in. Dave spent last Sunday getting all kinds of planters and dirt and those bamboo plants for me as an early Mother's Day gift. So sweet.
We boarded a train Wednesday afternoon and 8 hours (a vveeeerrrry long 8 hours with many 20 minute stops at countryside train platforms) later, we arrived.
"Mommy, why do we have to go back to Shanghai?" Josie's question tonight had changed from her declaration this afternoon that she doesn't like it when we go on so many trips and "why can't we go home to Shanghai now?"
This could be part of the reason for Josie's reluctance to return home.... Princess ability and a partner in crime....
We tourned the new TIS yesterday... very impressive. We certainly were in awe of what's taken place there. My personal favorite: the garden at the new TIS.... so awesome for young kids. I'm definitely gathering ideas for what we could do in Shanghai.
the mud pit...
And of course, the art room.
It was fun to re-visit some familiar things too. My first Art 1 class made these tables and chairs about 11 years ago... Truth be told.... the idea of painting tables came about when I didn't have a lesson plan prepared while the class walked in the door. But, I guess it didn't really matter anyway. The chairs however, that was a very carefully planned and executed lesson plan!!
Can you imagine how much joy it gives me to see my daughter sitting here painting now?
I think we look pretty good together as co-workers don't we? I certainly enjoyed our 6 years together!
And our kids are pals.
We made a blitz (well, 5 days, I guess a good amount of time) trip to visit friends and attend a wedding on Saturday. Seeing as Tianjin has been our home for so many years, it's fitting for us to come back and see so many familar faces and so many new things as well!
The most amazing, clearly, is the new TIS which we left 4 years ago and now are amazed at what's taken place here. We're also able to walk some familiar streets and spend time with good friends. Which we love.
A huge blessing to our lives here in China is our Friday morning date. This Friday we took a bike ride to check out a pile of old palates-- our friends had gotten a bunch earlier and constructed a table out of them. I though maybe we could use some of the re-claimed wood to build a patio cover of sorts.
Well, we only looked at the palates and decided we needed a lot more effort and supplies to build our own patio! The palates remain where we found them for now.
Instead, we biked back to our local community temple for a sit in the park and a bubble tea. Coming here on a regular basis helps us to remember that we live in China.
He looked at me across the rickety outside table, and our eyes met. The bare light bulb strung between telephone poles lit the freshly grilled veggies on the tin before us and we both felt that excitement of a first date. Over Chinese street food.
I told him I loved his heart.
He said he loved me.
He asked me if he could kiss me. His first kiss.
A first kiss bending over a table full of veggie and tofu chuar on a back street in Tianjin was a pretty romantic and unforgettable moment.
If you are us.
On May Day this Wednesday, while all of China has a holiday and the street food scene is in full swing, it seemed to be time to re-visit our old dinner standby. And re-visit us. Six years later.
There was a hustle about the village, and rickity tables and plastic stools set up everywhere. Everyone was out with their carts full of food and cold beers. We sat down in the midst of the night life, much like our old experiences. Sipping beer from flimsy plastic cups, eating grilled veggies on a stick.
Everything was almost the same.
This little girl very intent on knowing every detail about what street food is and what we like and why it's spicy and did we really have a first date at a place like this? Did Daddy kiss Mommy over the table? Where else do we have dates and why are the pieces of bread spicy when they don't look spicy and what treats are at home waiting for us and "I'm cold Daddy can I have your sweatshirt?"
Times they are a changin'
But these kids, they appreciate the night scene, the hustle and bustle of street food and interesting sights and smells. The change is totally worth it.
Morning comes early in our house. Usually by 6 am everyone is awake and ready for the day. When it's a good morning and we're working in the way I'd like to as a family (which is less than I'd like to admit), we have some kind of bible story time together. I so miss the sunday school program that I was involved with getting going at our church in Vancouver, but I now have the book and some resources here, so we're using a couple of the Young Children and Worship stories in our morning times together.
Because we set such a routine during out Bible times together in the past, when I get the story box out and have something prepared, the kids really enjoy it and now, after over a year of practice, they listen intently and ask lots of wondering questions, digging deep into the parable themselves. I think that's one of my favorite parts of this curriculum, is hands-on storytelling and something physical to hold on to.
A couple days ago I was inspired to take the parable of the leaven to the next level. To REALLY see what yeast does to flour and water and oil..... The kids are young so I'm not sure if they completely grasped the metaphore of yeast being like the Kingdom of God, but they did get their hands involved (and eyes and taste buds!)
We made bread. (again)
Will it rise?
In the meantime, on a more practical level, it's time to replenish the peanut butter supply. These ingredients seem to do the trick quite nicely. Raw peanuts, salt and sesame oil.
Simply roast in the frying pan...
And pop into the blender/grinder for a couple of minutes being sure to blend into a smooth paste.
Did the bread rise? You bet! Because strawberries are also out in season and priced well, I bought a bunch in the market to make some jam. I don't have pectin here but I found that using equal parts crushed berries and sugar, adding a finely chopped green apple for pectin and a lemon's worth of juice to boil together for a good long time produces some pretty good strawberry jam!
At least it's a hit with the fam.
I don't know if I'll have the stamina to produce from scratch all of our bread, jam and peanut butter all the time, but I enjoyed this recent experience:)
And so did they. Maybe someday the story of the leaven and the flour will make sense about how the Kingdom of God grows, but for now, they might understand what miracle happens when all these things come together under the right circumstances. Something sweet indeed!