Tuesday, December 14, 2010


We were warned that adjusting back to home would not be easy. We shrugged, but it was true. After all these months we are still adjusting.

When we arrived home we had many things to do. The first ten days were spent with buying a car and dealing with paperwork. We bought a car more quickly than ever in our lives, although we had enjoyed driving the Mustang we were lent when we got home. Buying insurance was not so pleasant either. The time on hold waiting for our health insurance companies and their answers was disconcerting. Living for the first time with no landline also had its trepidations., Then on to our bills and bank and how everything was now to be done. That was all before the tree in the backyard came down. In America you need to do everything now.

We had ten days because Renee had a class reunion the next weekend. We drove our new car across Pennsylvania to Beaver. Enjoying our time there with Renee's classmates was a good break from the issues at home.

From there we drove to North Carolina to see Ned and Lia and their family. We had not seen live our new grandson, David. What a nice experience to visit them and slip into their hectic life for a couple of days. We loved getting to play with Anna Rose and David, watch Anna Rose dance and then to see Lia best all of her times in a "fun" triathelon in Winston Salem. While there we met up with Renee's sister Melanie and family. Fortunately Laurel and Chad and their two children were also home this summer from Nanjing so we got to see them as well. On the way home we stopped and visited good friends Ann and Ed Rocap.
Arriving home we prepared for the arrival of Lee and her family. They are home from Turkey, and Lee and David and the four kids moved in just in time for Lee and Renee to celebrate their same day birthday together, a rare treat. It has worked out well all around. At first Lee took care of all of the meals and they helped with the shopping and tidying. Then as Lee's delivery date got closer Renee took over most of those duties. We have enjoyed renewing our connection with the Grandchildren - Rebecca, Joshua, Samuel, and Peter. They have enjoyed the space and the outside. The Fall leaves, of course, is always a special time. Now they stare out the window hoping for snow.
Lee's delivery date came and she had her fifth child in our home. The midwife arrived in the wee hours of the morning and by get up time we had a new grand child, Andrew Gabriel. We are remembering the experience of a newborn at home. Pleasant memories. Along with this, there have been several visits from Dave's parents from Maryland and his sister and her husband from nearby Cherry Hill, New Jersey.

Renee has resumed many of her activites at church. I am trying to wait although I connect with two different groups of men, not all from church, each week. I have joined the Board of a Chinese mission group and I continue to study Chinese. We both have tried to keep up with our Chinese friends through QQ instant messaging. We have had two Chinese visitors, even though the Peace Corps said not to worry because it was doubtful any of these friends would arrive at our door. Ned has completed a fourth book, Clay, which should be published next year. Lee has also completed and published a book, The King Will Make a Way. You can purchase it HERE. Both are blessed and a blessing. It is also a blessing to be with our old friends especially at this time of Christmas. There is a lot of love around here.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


Our friends kept asking when the school was going to have a party to end our time here. We kept saying no we would just end our time quietly. Then they would ask well will the Peace Corps have a big party for you. Well no actually when we leave the Peace Corps it will be just us two. So no BLAST to end our service. It turned out that we were wrong - the BLAST - just came from another source

We left for ChengDu on July 22. We arrived and began meeting with former students who came to see us to say goodby. Thanks to Natalie and Nancy, then thanks to Fisher and Wu Jun Wen, and then thanks to David and Roy. Ned and Lia arrived the next day and we had a day to recover and see a little of ChengDu. The highlight being dinner with our host family from two years ago. He JiMing and his wife, He RongRong, they met us with his mother and son and nephew and we shared a great dinner and some time together.

The next morning we were to meet Charlie and Nicole. Now you have heard about them several times. They were students way back in Model School in July of 2008. Then we saw them again several times. This last year they have been in the United States going to school. They were home for the summer and had originally agreed to take us into the mountains of SiChuan Province. But the elements did not allow as there were floods and mudslides just where we planned to travel. They were coming to take us to see the Pandas and to their hometown to meet their families.
The Panda reserve is very interesting. Somehow we got off the well travelled path and got to see some of the Pandas up close and personal. We had a good time wandering around the park and taking pictures. Ned and Lia were using this time getting to know Charlie and Nicole and vice versa. Instead of going to their home we went to a Buddlist Temple in XinDu. The temple is typical of the Buddhist temples we saw in China. I had told them I wanted Ned to get a chance to see one while he was in China. Then off to the hometown.

When we arrived we went to a business club where Charlie's father was waiting. Nicole's father we had met on the road and Charlie's mother was attached later to make a three car caravan to the dinner. It was a formal dinner around a huge table for the families and drivers and us. We had a grand time around the table talking. Among the highlights was the getting of an English name for Charlie's father. He now is known as "Chuck." A good time was being had by all when Chuck began to plan out time with his son. He wanted to go up the mountain with us so we needed to change the day and the mountain - but all that was fine with us. The four of us were then escorted to a great hotel where we spent a good night.

The next day we toured the sights of the town a park with memories of the Three Kingdoms and a market where they were catching Ducks. Then to Charlie's home where Nicole was studying and his mother and her cook had made us a great lunch. We had a Mah Jong lesson and a short rest and then off to the town's tower and park. We climbed the tower, rang the bells, and then walked through the woods and by the lake. Charlie spent some time on the phone all day. He and a classmate were in the process of establishing a car wash in the town, and they had business to do. One treat was we got to meet the business partner and good friend - we had hot pot together with bibs and all. Then back to the hotel and get ready for the mountain.

The next morning we were packed and ready to go. But plans had changed. Charlie's father had decided that we should go to E Mei Shan, one of the grand mountains of China. So we headed west to LeShan where we were to meet his father and then tour the Giant Buddha. We met up along the road - went to a boat on the Chang Jiang (Yangtze) - and had lunch with some business friends. They then escorted us to LeShan and the Buddha and to a private meeting room so we could meet the Abbott. Eventually our time ran out and off we went to E Mei with more escorts.

We arrived just in time to catch the last tram to the top, We walked around above the clouds, had dinner and got to bed early for an early morning sunrise at the top of the mountain.
The morning did come early. We and the other guests huddled in our coats and hurried to the top of the mountain hoping for a sunrise. The day was sunny but there were a lot of clouds. The sunrise was beautiful, but not the spectacle you get to see once in awhile. The sun did rise and cast its rays on the golden Buddhas at the top of the mountain. Quite an adventure for those still new to China and one most of our friends in YongChuan had never seen. We spent the afternoon hiking on the mountain up to a Taoist temple and through a bamboo forest. A great way to see the mountain. The mountain is famous for its notorious monkeys. We saw some of them but they paid no mind to us. After a late lunch we headed towards ChengDu, but there was to be another surprise.
On the way Charlie got another call from his father. He had arranged for us to meet his spiritual advisor, a monk who is 108 years old. He lives in a monastary on the outskirts of the city. When we arrived we were brought in and given an audience. I was able to use my limited Chinese to tell him about ourselves and ask about him. He then blessed each one of us who were given a prayer bracelet and a book commemorating his 100th birthday. Then off again to ChengDu where we stayed in the Royal International House Hotel. Five Stars all the way. We freshened up for dinner.

Dinner was held at an exclusive restaraunt where they serve only 12 meals a day. Charlie's father arrranged the meal for us with his classmates from his MBA school. The 12 of us had this amazing meal. I was at first scared that there would not be enough food becausethe first plates seemed to have little. I should know better. Each of the sixteen plates that came were masterpieces of food presentation. I am going to post here pictures of three of them so you can get a look. It was remarkable along with the toasting and the warmth of the friendship which had grown over the week with Charlie and his father. The Father is constructing the new campus of SiChuan Normal University. When it is ready he had me promise to come back and teach. I don't think I can turn him down.

The next day off to YongChuan to have our last good byes and to finish packing and closing up of our apartment. We arrived and had fish on the street with LIsa. The next morning we took pictures of and had our last meal of Du Jiang and You Tiao with Bao Zi. For lunch we went to my karate studio where we met Yang Lu and his family - showed off our Tai Chi and took pictures before having a lunch. It was one of the hardest goodbyes because with no English it is doubtful I will met them again. The evening was spent with our and Ned's good friends Teacher Liu and Jia Ping. Again they prepared for us and we exchanged gifts and songs and pleasant memories forever. The next morning we were up and everything ready to go. Ned and Lia were going to the airport on the 3 o'clock bus because of their early morning flight the next day. We had lunch with Becky and her family. As Ned said the restaraunt food is beautiful, but there is nothing better than home cooking. Another round of goodbyes and gifts and off to the bus station. Ned and Lia were off and we returned home for the last time.

Our last meal was with my good friend Wu Zhong Jun, the Horticulture teacher tennis player. He took us and a couple of our student friends for dinner. We had a great time around the table and in the food and in the walking home again. I am sad now as I write it, but at the time cveryone was upbeat The next morning we cleaned as best we could before students arrived at 10. Several of Renee's and then my students came to say goodbye and carry luggage for us. Mr. Liu the driver whi brought us to YongChuan was the one who took us away. At the airport two more friends arrived for a farewell - David our good friend and Renee's tutor and James the China Mobile Rep for our campus. Goodbye.

The flight home was long but uneventful. Chongqing to Beijing (where we ran to catch our plane), Beijing to LA (where we laid over after customs for 4 hours), LA to Phildelphia. Our dear friend and helper Theresa met us at the airport. Our luggage came quickly and we were home. Home enough to stop at Tom Jones for breakfast where we saw John Vairo. Then to 7 Cook Road a last picture and soon a nap. Home again.

Monday, July 19, 2010


Time has been going by quickly. June was the last of many things. Much of the month is spent in exams. Classes are easy, but sometimes long. It was the last of the Saturday parties and dancing. It was the last of two years of PI Qiu Wednesdays. (A few of the boys are trying to extend that a little into July) It was the last shao kao. It may to our surprise be our last visit to XingHU which we grew to love last year,

It also though was the time of freedom, and we have been able to do some traveling locally. During the Dragon Boat Festival, we flew to Wuxi. Remember last summer it is where we went to visit a family of four generations. It was a chance to see them again to spend time with the three brothers and to be part of that family. They just accept us as if we were. We share great times around the table drinking our bowls of beer. This trip they took us to AnHui where they are building their new factory. It is interesting to see how they treat the employees and make arrangements to care for them as they move to a new home. The grandfather and I climbed his mountain, and he introduced us to some of his friends. I was touched because the calligrphy I had sent for his 90th birthday is now hung prominently in their home.

Our second trip was to Tongliang. Tongliang is the home of the dragon. Several students had told us to go and one student invited us. Over a broken road we traveled. We arrived to no student and no phone number that worked. Tongliang people speak putonghua so they could understand me. We got a taxi driver who got us to a nice, cheap hotel. The clerks could understand that we want to see the dragon, and they arranged for tickets and transportation. We got some rest and went to dinner. The student called (he had changed his number). He came and we and a friend went to the show. The local TV people interviewed us, and we had front row seats. The dragons were beautiful and the fire dragon dangerous. Worth a night if you are in the Chongqing area.

Our friends Mr. Li and Shelly from Jiangjin agreed to go with us to Si Mian Shan. We went to Jiangjin stayed in their new home and then went by bus up into the mountain. The mountain was beautiful and the air fresh. Si Mian Shan is famous for its waterfalls (over 100) on the mountain. We saw and walked around the largest of the falls. We got a pass that rode us from site to site so we were able to do three of the seven highlights in one day. We stayed over night on the mountain. The next day the bus picked us up and we rode for about an hour to one of the other faces of the mountain to see the second largest fall. Because it is out of the way it was the first time Mr. Li and Shelly had seen this fall. We walked into a gorgeous valley and saw the fall from many perspectives. Many Chinese come and spend the holiday here. They walk every morning and evening in the cool.

Teacher Liu and Gao Ping then took us to their hometown. We went to HeChuan. It was about an hour and a half from YongChuan. We met the parents who are living in a brother's home. We then went to a sister's home where members of the family gathered to have a meal with us. We had a great time around the table and with the family. One of the nephews has very good English from working as an interpretor for a Chinese company in Africa. He traveled with us for these couple of days. First we visited the Fishing Village which turns out to be a castle over looking the river on a cliff where they held off the Mongols for about 40 years. We had an interesting and quiet walk. We then drove to Jin Yun Shan to enjoy the air and walk to the summit. We stayed overnight here. We did not complete the adventure because of a heavy rainstorm, but we did not fail to get soaked either. We visited Mr. Li's school Southwest University in BeiBei in the afternoon before heading home.
These are adventures in between we have been eating as people keep having Last Suppers. A few students are still around so we are not alone and several of our treacher friends and community friends are here so we are enjoying our last days in YongChuan. Tomorrow we head to ChengDu to sign out. Ned and his wife, Lia, will arrive, and we will see some more sites and the subject on the next blog.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Break In

I'm breaking in (at the bequest of my parents) to write a little about China. It looks like they have taken stuff from my blog and pasted it in theirs already, so I'll keep this brief.

At least they couldn't snag the pictures. In fact, that has been a challenge for my parents. They are unable to post pictures on their blog. They have been left with the misfortune of entrusting the task to me (which is why there are not always pictures on my parents' blog entries. It is no one's fault but mine).

China is beautiful. I told this class so many times, they began finishing the sentence for me. Sure, it's got its problems. (My parents complained of more than a few.) But in general, the place and the people are delightful. It was an honor to visit. I hope to visit again soon.

What I'd like to mention is that my parents have had a great impact. But they also would be quick to add that they have been the beneficiaries. There is a spring in their step that wasn't there two years ago. There is a courage in my mother. There is a passion in my father. China has done wonders for them. I know it will be difficult for them to leave (though we will be happy to have them return.)

The thing is I'm proud of them. How many 66, then 67, now 68 year olds do this sort of thing? I told one class last week that when I grow up, I'd like to be just like them. Doubt I will. But it will be fun to try.

Monday, June 7, 2010


Emails from China - 5

May 31st afternoon:


i teared up reading your last email. i really do miss you so much. i talk about you a lot to people, so it feels like you're here sometimes. and i think there will be some people that you will meet when you come here this summer. which is cool. i want to show you some things for sure. it took me four days, but i'm finally settling in here. of course tomorrow i'm leaving. ha!

today was like the others. both mom and dad had classes this morning. the way they do classes is 45 minutes then a break then the same class for another 45 minutes then a new class. i guess it is sort of like block scheduling. so my dad had me for the first 45 minutes. he had the kids perform songs for each other. they had to pick an english song, learn the vocabulary and the meaning and share it with the class. some did better than others. but it was entertaining. of course that meant that i had to sing as well. last night about 2am i decided to do Love Story by Taylor Swift. I thought they would all know it. turns out it was a good choice. they knew the song and love songs are pretty much the only songs in china. pretty hilarious. next to the michael learns to rock song which i think has got to be a government consipracy or something, the next most popular song is My Heart Will Go On. every one sings it. hilarious! so i played my mom's mini-guitar and sang taylor swift to the students. then i sang My Girl as a duet with my father. we were a hit. i think they have low expectations.

then i went to my mom's class and spoke for the second part. after a short introduction, i told the students they could ask me anything, and i would answer them. so they ripped up scrap sheets of paper and asked me everything! they asked me all kinds of stuff. of course they are interested in what i do for a living. they think being a writer is like the coolest. so i play into that a bit. ha! if they only knew! just kidding, i didn't want to give them a false impression. i tell them you are a doctor and they all think that is the very coolest thing in the world. i play into that. i tell them about our kids. they want to know our love story (of course). they ask if we spank our children. they ask why i have red (blond) hair when my parents don't. i say, "now that's a great question!" they ask me about what i think of china. I say it is beautiful. and the people are beautiful. and they ask about america and i tell them that in every city there are people from china and europe and africa and south america and so they would not feel like a foreigner if they came. which i think is mostly true. it is a lot of fun. it's most certainly in my wheelhouse. ha!

then, i went back to dad's class and did it all over again. so that was 8am-12pm. then we ran to the bus and went to the DVD store where they have befriended the woman who works there. her name is Becky. newly married. she is absolutely wonderful. she took us to her apartment which she shares with her husband, her parents, and her grandparents. they cooked us a feast. i drank many drinks with the father. i learned that if someone was "Goombwa!" that means "bottoms up" and it is culturally advisable to chug your glass (which they fill to the meniscus. it means long life or something. that God the glasses are small! we ate great food.

the food really is wonderful here. and it's not that weird in general. they cooked us all classic dishes from the area and it was like green beans and beef and potatoes. so it's not crazy. Becky is pregnant, and i offered your services. when you meet her this summer you will be more than happy to oblige. she is truly delightful. and she really deserves a better lot than she has in life. her husband Edward (named after Edward Scissor Hands) does not know English, but understands about a tenth of what i say. I told him he must learn. i hope he will. her father is thinkking about selling the business and going into toilets! ha!

he asked many questions about western toilets. on which i have much experience. but in selling them, not any. i hope i didn't lead him astray. i guess everyone needs one. i mean sort of. then it was off to the next place.

my dad took me to his dojo. where he learns kung fu or something. i couldn't totally understand what exactly he does there. anyway, it was closed. but on the building they have pop's picture. actually two. i guess he is good publicity. ha!

then we went to the senior center where he takes tai chi class. we were very late. so they berated him (jovially). then he talked in chinese for 20 minutes. and i just smiled. then they did the class. the 48 and the 24. which are the movements i guess. of course i had to as well. it was very humbling. all these 70 year olds doing the moves and i'm looking like a...i don't know what i look like but it couldn't have been pretty. then we jumped on a bus.

we have a tiny break. which i'm spending on this long email. then going to dinner with more people.

i'll pass out. and wake up by bugle at 6am and head to the bus stop! unbelievable. what a wild adventure. i have realized that i do not have many skills. i would not be a very good businessman. really i'm not very good at anything. i can't build things. i'm clutzy and clumsy and not very precise. but i think i would be a very good ambassador. i am certifiably nice. my one credential. i am very good at being a good guy. it's in my wheelhouse. so this trip as been pretty wheelhousy. because i have had limited time with lots of people. not long enough to really screw anything up. ha! i guess we all have a skill. some more marketable than others. i love you. miss you. i'm glad to be married to you and not my parents. it will be good to be home.
Lord willing tomorrow!

Posted by Ned Erickson at 4:59 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Wednesday, June 02, 2010
Emails from China - 4

May 30 night:


we had french toast this morning! with chopsticks. have i told you yet that you are going to need to learn how to use them? because you are. i think my englsih writing is turning into the way that i am speaking english to the chinese. very choppy. and robotic. ugh. when i get back home you are going to have to bear with me for awhile. i have learned one big thing. my father does not and will not stop. he cannot say no. and if there is an idle minute then it is a total utter catastrophe. just like me! ha! i am not as bad, at least i don't think i am, maybe i'm worse, regardless, i certainly get this tendency from him. it is amazing to see the similarities between us. shocking. and scary! but lots of fun, too.

we went to a house church this morning. (my folks took pictures, i'll upload them when i get them.) we met a guy on the way who my parents knew and invited him along. Don Shuan or something. (my Chinese is hooked on phonics. i'm sure i spell nothing correctly.) Don Shuan is a really great guy. opera singer. i think he studied in italy or just studied italian singing, it is hard to tell. the church as you can imagine was in this gray cement dungy room. mostly college students. this morning was actually bible study which is much better i am told, because church is listening to one guy speak chinese for 45 minutes. that would definitely send me over the edge. i played a couple songs. amazing grace and how great thou art while they sang. they sang several songs in chinese. then we studied acts 18 and had a discussion. pretty cool.

we bought my bus ticket for tuesday morning. yes, my parents are dropping me off at the bus station in Yongchuan, then i will take a two hour bus ride to the airport in Chongqing and hopefully find my airplane and then go to beijing and then hopefully, find my plane, and then go to chicago, and hopefully get an earlier flight so i can get back home to y'all. i have a growing respect for global travelers. the plane over here from chicago to hong kong was 15 and a half hours. i slept at first, read, tossed, turned, took about as much as i could take, and looked at my watch and it had only been 4 hours! i had 11 and a half more to go! it was a miracle i survived it.

anyway, we came home, ate lunch then i stretched for twenty minutes because i was sequestered into playing soccer in the adult league with teach liu.

they are manchester united. we played arsenal. most are physical education soccer majors. (the soccer team.) we were a bunch of teachers and a couple of ringers i think from town.

i was given shoes. they were basically converse all stars with stubs on the bottom. they were two sizes too small, but they gave me slightly better traction. it had rained earlier. the field was thinner than astro turf.

i played well until i developed a plethora blisters. ha! i had to leave at halftime to rush to dinner at the other school campus.

xing hu. is the name of the town. (where i ate my first chinese meal with the students on day 1.) it is beautiful. a huge man made lake. with an island of flowers. the campus is right on the water. we went walking around and met up with students. they were all very cool.

we ate show cow which is basically like our mongolian barbecue, where you pick a bunch of meat and vegetables, and a guy stir fires it/deep fries it.

we had lots of laughs. good time. celebrated my dad's birthday. they gave him a kobe bryant piggy bank. i think i am going to give it to david as a present. i need to think of something for you and anna rose.

we then were coerced/forced (which did not take a twisting of any part of my father's appendages) into going to KTV which is the classic kareoke bar. it was everything you imagine a kareoke bar in China to be. we bought a case of beer. and sang chinese kareoke into the night. i don't know how to spell kareoke.

and sorry, lia, that i'm using these emails to chronicle the trip. i have barely a spare second (i'm serious). it's crazy how busy they are keeping me. i have this haze over my eyelids at all times. it is also very polluted. very very polluted. which puts a haze onto everything as well. so i sang I Want it That Way (twice, with two different chinese dudes) then Hero (which i thought was enrique, but it turned out to be mariah carey). the chinese guys definitely love the ballads. a couple of them, john and len (i think) really could sing lights out.

my parents sang Puff the Magic Dragon (truly worth the price of admission. classic moment.

then i ended it with We Are the World in honor of the trip i was on (and Jonathan Murfee). we finally called a cab and escaped. i'm emailing now because my dad is IMing his students/ He can't stop! am i this bad? i'm so sorry, lia! anyway, it is good to know where i get my bad habits from. and it truly does make coming to China for only a week worth the trip. i guarantee you i have done as much China in these four days as i could have done in a month on my own. i could not have lasted much longer. it is nutso!

tomorrow I am attending (performing) for four classes. then traveling into town to meet my dad's Tai Chi master. then we are eating "hot pot" for dinner with a whole nother crew of people i have not met. i'm tired just thinking about it. but i love you, lia. i have thought to myself that i was glad that you are not here sometimes because the velocity at which we are doing things is lightspeed. seriously, every minute i am being introduced to somebody or trying something new. or on my way to some fire to be thrown into. so i have thought that it was good for you to not be here. at the same time, i wish you could have experienced everything with me. china is cool the people are wonderful. and i miss you so much. and i miss the kids of course. i am not sleeping any better here than at home. it's 11pm and i will be awoken by the bugle at 6am. ugh. i love you! good night.

Posted by Ned Erickson at 6:25 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Emails from China - 3

May 30th morning:


i knew david would walk as soon as i left! ha! tears.

let's see where did i leave off. i think i told you about tennis. ate lunch on a street. fish and assorted vegetable. then we came home. the tennis player's name was futichen. we also played doubles with a gal (name too difficult). when we took her picture she said she looked ugly because she was too brown.

skin color is a big deal here. especially for girls. just the opposite than the usa. the paler you are the prettier. strange how stuff like that goes. i played with two other fellas. and my father of course. my email writing is turning into the english that i speak here in china. it is choppy and short and clear. maybe not so clear. it will probably take me days to get back to regular.

about fifteen people came over in the afternoon. they were very likable. two girls were the most likable. jolene and free (above photo). i think i am going to try to connect them with some college students when i get back so they can start an american friendship with folks their age. there was a couple who came with a little boy the age of david. it may me miss the little fella. his name was shuay.

i played guitar with this guy named charles. he said it was one of the greatest moments of his life. ha! something must have gotten lost in translation. he told me about the most popular song in china. it is called Take My to Your Heart. by this band called Mike Loves to Rock i think (actually Michael Learns to Rock). it is pretty classic. you'll have to listen to it. seriously, every person in china loves this song. (i've done a bit of research. this is a danish band that sings in english. they are connected somehow to bmg in taiwan. i think it is some kind of conspiracy by the chinese government. i don't want to say more because i'm afraid they may revoke my visa).

it was time for dinner. we went to my mother's tai chi instructors apartment. her husband is a chinese teacher at the school. her name is jai ping. the way they described this woman to me was that she was the lady whose dog bit my mother. turns out my mother was bit by her little yappy dog a week after the Peace Corps had sent a memo warning about rabies in China. mom spent a week at a hospital in Chongqing. we went to her house for dinner. the first time mom has been back since the incident. i heard the dog yapping as we entered.

turns out, jai ping is one of the most delightful human beings i have ever met. her laugh was classic. and the way she spoke english was the way we should all speak english...loud, deliberate and full body. i could not stop laughing. which made her laugh. which made us all cry because we were laughing so hard. her sense of humor was remarkable. she calls her husband teacher liu. to his face. all the time teacher liu teacher liu. he is a football fanatic. i am going to play on his team tomorrow in a game! he is 46 years old. and came home remarkably drunk. it may have been the alcohol but teacher liu is possibly the funniest human being on the planet. he called me his little brother. i called him my little brother because he is only something like 5'1". he said "i am your big brother, and you are my big brother!" and he laughed so hard i had to hold him up. he was remarkable. the whole night was remarkable.

he autographed his book of poetry for me. he described it as love poetry though none of the poems were written about his wife. we had a rendition. we did tai chi in the computer room. they made me play guitar. it was virtually impossible to leave their apartment. but we finally made it home. i was very tired. but after all the stuff of the day it was difficult to sleep. plus, the biggest mistake of this trip was that i forgot earplugs. china is very noisy. i don't think people have any real sense of how their actions appear to others. everyone butts in line. no one waits turns for anything. the women hock loogies. and there is a rule. it may even be written, but it is certainly followed that you must be quiet until 6am. but at 6am you can be as loud as you want. some guy played saxophone outside my window for 45 minutes. no lie. they have a wake up bugle for the students at 6:20am. no lie. it's ridiculous!

the town and campuses (my parents live in one and teach in two). they are both beautiful. i don't know if i'll get pictures of them but they are very beautiful. but there is so much construction in the town that there is dust on everything. you breath dirt all day. and the haze is something to get used to. ok. that's all for now. breakfast time and another full day awaits. i love you.

Posted by Ned Erickson at 12:06 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Emails from China - 2

May 29th afternoon:


This morning I made some instant coffee which actually tasted good. Then we went to eat breakfast. It was dumplings that you dipped in sweetened soy milk. Very tasty, and some funnel cakelike substance that you dipped as well.

They are having a festival here so there are lots of balloons. Everything you can imagine for sale. Including cars! Want one?

Saw the end preparations for a wedding.

We came home and grabbed tennis rackets, and played for a couple hours.

They have tennis students here (that is their major). I demolished them. So I guess if all else fails, I can be a tennis major in the middle of nowhere in China. They are actually good hitters. Just need a little guidance. Until then, the world is safe from their dominance. It was a lot of fun. We ate with one of them (Futichen, the boy) for lunch.

A full fish and vegetables. Very good. I stuck to the middle of the fish and left the head and tail for the others. I think my parents have set up an "open house" to meet their son this afternoon. So I'll be shaking a lot hands, and bowing, and trying my best to stay awake. It's 1:46am! back home. I've actually adjusted well. I think I just planned it out to be tired when I got here (which is not hard being on a plane) and my body rebooted fairly well. We are going to need to practice chopsticks. Otherwise you will not be able to eat when you come. Other than that, I think you will be fine here in China. People are very kind, and there is a sweetness about everyone. It is not a difficult place to visit. Tonight, we're going to a bar for some live music. Hopefully, I won't pass out from exhaustion. I love you.

Posted by Ned Erickson at 11:40 AM 0 comments Links to this post
Emails from China - 1
Just returned from a whirlwind trip to China. My parents live there (Go Go Peace Corps!). And I was finally afforded the time to puddle jump over the Pacific (or perhaps the Arctic (I think we may have flown north)) to visit them. It was three days of travel and four days of visiting, but it was more than worth it. We fit in more stuff in four days than I usually do in a month. So much that I don't know how best to chronicle it here. The plan for now is to record it through emails to Lia (edited...I'll save you the mushy stuff, most of it.) (Come back later to see more photos...My parents should be sending me theirs). Anyhow, here goes:

May 27th night:

I made it! I'm brushing my teeth and getting ready to bed.
Life is good. Miss you lots. Write more tomorrow.

May 29th morning:


We had a full day yesterday. After breakfast I went to my mother's class. She taught for the first half. I answered questions for the second half. It was a lot of fun. The kids were great. Then we took a bus ride out of town to the other campus for lunch with students. Food was great. This little outdoor "restaurant". The craziest thing I ate was crawfish. But we also had things like mashed potatoes and a dish that tasted like french fries. The food was great to be honest. Then, we came back and visited with a couple students who were practicing Chinese. That was a bit painful because I was about to pass out from being so tired. But the kids were nice. It was definitely fun to see my parents in action. They are most beloved. Everywhere we go. Seriously, they are like the rock stars of Chongqing or wherever we are. I think it is Yuchuan (actually Yongchuan). Then we played ping pong for a couple hours with some students. That was a ton of fun. They have about fifty tables. Everyone is filled. Praise Buddha, I managed to hold my own!

Then we ate dinner for my father's birthday . Ate this "cake". With "icing" they drew an "old man". Tasted like foam and pineapple. The "forks" are toothpicks.

A student from another school came (Gary).

Then we headed out for a performance. It was like a variety show of skits. I was in the front row. (Like I said, rock star.) Which was great except listening to Chinese and the warmth and the jet lag definitely was putting me to sleep. I survived. It was entertaining which was helpful. The biggest laugh came from this guy dressed in drag. He started with a leg routine from behind a curtain. The Chinese have such nice legs and no hair, so it took awhile to figure out it was a man. But once we did, it was hilarious. I didn't understand a thing, but the students were very theatrical and most boisterous. The last skit was a "version" of the Little Prince. They took some liberties. Then we came home and I passed out. My folks are waiting for me to head out for breakfast. I just chugged some instant coffee (not bad). Another full day awaits. I love you.


Saturday, June 5, 2010

Old Friends and New

If you have been wondering about the people in our lives, Renee told you about some two weeks ago and today is my turn.
Some friends from last year have sort of vanished - Xiao Wan was maybe our best friend. His college moved to Chongqing. The move meant getting together was difficult. He then has had some family trouble and now a job. We still chat online, but our summer travel together will not happen. Sean the student who wanted to be a doctor did not pass the test. He will stay another year and work at improving his score. (Most people do worse the second time.) Gao Bin, one of my tutors also failed the GRE and now is scurrying to try to find a job. My other tutor, Jackie, failed at his duck business and now hopes to find a job in Chongqing. The others from last year continue to be an active part of my life.
Colin, the English teacher, has also moved to HongHe so I see him regularly. He is busy preparing his home for his wife to move into. He is painting this weekend. When it is ready she will move from XingHu to here. Two good times a week I ride the bus with him from HongHe to XingHu. He agreed to try and speak with me in Chinese. So for about an hour a week I get to practice Chinese conversation.

John and Paul have remained good friends. I meet with them every Wednesday for lunch. Paul has become a class leader. He is very busy, but we try to have lunch. He also then is able to keep me informed about what is going on and to invite me to things. John has also become a leader. He is the English Academy's tutors helper. He also was one of the two majors chosen for membership in the Communist Party. It should be good for his career. John has also been my interpreter now several times and does a great job. I have met his family and know his girl friend.

My best adult friend has become Wu Zhong Jun. He teaches Horticulture. I am not sure but he seems to be maybe the number two man in the department. We met through tennis. He began calling me to come and play and through that have played with more of the adults this year. He then had us to his home and to dinner. We have been out now several times. He is a good enough friend that he drove me to the airport to pick up Ned (This is not a simple task and it was his first drive to there.) It is good to have a friend who will try to say yes.

Another adult friend is Li Hai Bing. I met him at Lisa's (Renee just wrote about her) birthday party. He is a PE teacher at the school. He teaches martial arts. I have wanted to learn another form of Tai Chi called Tui Shou. He agreed to teach me. We have been meeting twice a week for English lessons and Tai Chi lessons. Through him I have gone to the Senior Center and met many other wonderful peopple. We have been out together a couple of times to shows and dinner. I am his "best" friend.

Many of my long term students friends are not my students. They are PE majors. Allen, business PE, Wu Fan, medical PE, and Fu Da Quan, tennis PE. All three of these young men have been great to me. They keep me informed. They try to help me and entertain me. I can count on them whenever I need company of information about XingHu.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Something Old and Something New

Someone just wrote and reminded us that we had not published a blog for awhile. She was thinking that must mean that we were already home. No, not yet. Rich has been patiently waiting for me to be responsible this time, and as usual I have been waiting for an inspiration. Can't wait any longer. Just do it. By the way, this is Jolene, a girl Rich met his first year of teaching in YongChuan. She has become a friend, and a good example of a determined, energetic Chinese student who is working hard to develop a prosperous future.

These next two blogs are to be about friends, so I want to update you on some old friends and introduce you to three new ones. First, the moms and babies.

Last year we mentioned several times the young families who were living all around us in our apartment building. Four of the babies that were born last year became favorites. This year all the families have moved to the new campus area, as we have, but we are all living in different apartment complexes and rarely see each other. I had the idea of setting up a play date at our apartment on a Saturday morning. I arranged a corner table with kid stuff and prepared to watch and enjoy. Soon after ten, the moms (4), grandmoms (2), husband (1) and toddlers (4) arrived. I was expecting an American style playdate where the children played by themselves and the parents had some time to chat. Not so. These children mostly clung to their moms and grandmoms. I think they have little play date experience. We had Xia and Le Le (who is the beauty of the bunch), Sally and Shuai (handsome), Di and Xing Xing (star) and Gui Feng and Bao Bao (just means "baby") You know that most babies in China do not wear diapers so the play was punctuated by frequent running trips to the bathroom. They all left at 11:00, probably relieved that no disasters had occurred and that they had satisfied my desire to see them all. As they left, I felt my first real sadness about leaving China. Except for maybe Sally and her son, because she is a good friend, I don't think I'll ever see those little ones again.

You may also remember Becky, our Chinese friend who sells DVD's. Big changes have occurred in her life. First of all, she is married. The picture shows her with her new husband, Edward. She gave him his English name after Edward Scissorhand because he loves movies and because he often helped her mom cut the yarn that she sold in the corner of their shop. Edward is a country boy, and we enjoyed delicious food at the day long wedding celebration in his home village. We like him very much. Second, the newly-weds and Becky's parents are closing out the DVD business and planning to open another kind of shop. And third, Becky is pregnant:) They are not ready for such an event, but they are getting very excited. Please pray along with us that all will go well with the pregnancy and the delivery.

I can't remember if we put on the blog that I was bitten by a dog, but I was. Not much harm done, though going to Peace Corps headquarters to get preventive rabies injections and being observed for a week did interrupt my schedule. Out of it all, though, has come a lovely friendship with Jia Ping, a teacher at our school and one of the dog's owners. We have a symbiotic relationship: I help her with her English, and she teaches me Tai Ji Chuan. We laugh all the time about who has the better student. Very generously, she provided me with a real Tai Ji outfit. We went into Yong Chuan to "old" street, up a hill and down an alley to a nondescript door. Inside was a woman beside an ironing board, her husband eating in front of the television, and dozens of outfits in various stages of completion. She measured me, not writing anything down until she was all finished. Her only comment was, "She's a big girl." Indeed.
The fourth friend I would like you to meet is Sandy. Sandy is my latest language tutor. She was a student of mine last year and had seemed to want to stay in touch, so when my tutor David no longer had enough time to come here to help me, I asked Sandy if she would be interested. We have had a good time together, and I was happy to be able to tell her that when I took my language exam in April, I had moved up a level. I was glad to be able to tell her that good news because she was determined to regard any failure on my part to be a failure on her part. Not so. This week I hope that we are going together to visit a special school in Yong Chuan for the blind and the deaf. I have hopes of finding out if they can utilize student volunteers and maybe learning some other ways we could help them. Sandy is a sweet and conscientious girl. I am lucky to have her help.

Last but not least is Free. Once long, long ago my college roommate came to visit me and we talked so much that my throat was dry and sore and I could barely speak. It's almost like that with Free. She loves to read and we have read and discussed several books over these two years. Now she is giving me a brief outline of Chinese history punctuated by many stories that seem to flow effortlessly from her mind. I think she is much smarter than I am, and I am constantly amazed by her insights into literature. Besides that she has boundless enthusiasm and energy. I would like to borrow some.

I told Rich yesterday that some days I would like to go back to America tomorrow and some days I would like to stay in China forever. He says he understands. We have been very blessed by our time here and hope to have many opportunities to share some of joys and concerns with you, face to face, even though we have been warned that you may not be so very interested:) We love you anyway.