Sunday, October 25, 2009

Thoughts on long distance.

I have had a somewhat furrowed brow lately when a certain subject comes up: long distance relationships.

People mean well when asking about Evan and I's relationship status, but there's a part of me that is frustrated by the question. Let me explain...

Evan and I will have been dating for 2 years next month and over half of that has been apart. Not by choice, mind you, (I mean, I did choose to move to China...) but it's just the way life and the Lord has lead each of us as we are two separate individuals. Often people ask us, "How are you guys doing?" And of course I love to answer positively, but often the question is asked with a little doubt and hesitation. Especially when other guys ask Evan how he is doing with it. Like are you two still okay, still together, still willing to do this, etc.? Are we going to survive this distance or fail? I find myself a bit frustrated at this stereotype - as true as it may be.

I know the statistics of long distance relationships are slim and many (if not most) do not work well or survive. But I think the survival is based on what the relationship is founded on:

- friendship
- love
- commitment
- loyalty
- honesty
- trust in each other
- trust in the Lord
- A LOT of determination
- surrender of a life that I do not own, both mine and his

It has to be - whether you are living in the same city or across the world. It doesn't change. You're still two different people, with different pasts, different baggage, faults, perks and quirks. It's work to be with someone, choosing to be selfless, honest, give and not always receive, take when it's sometimes difficult, to listen, to share.

But an ocean, continent, or time zone doesn't change that - or I don't think it should.

I left US soil with tears in my eyes as I looked at that tall, handsome, bearded man. But I never for an instant thought this was going to fail when I chose to go to a whole new world for 2 years while he continued living in his. And I don't see it in the future, ever.

So long distance stereotype, take that: 2 wonderful years and going strong! And here's to many more wonderful years together - whether physically present or not.

AND for all of you that do ask, I mean no disrespect. I thank you so much for lovingly asking how we are doing. And I love to tell that we are, still, amazingly well. :)

Friday, October 23, 2009

The most beautiful candy in the world

Or it has to be close.

I was given a little box of candies for my birthday by a dear friend in Hong Kong. I opened it to discover these magnificent little works of sugar.

Check out these little beauties:

They are made of 2 gum drops and decorated with hard sugar frosting -
you have to lick quite hard to remove their features and accessories.

A blue penguin holding a basket with bread and an apple inside.
How cute is that?!?

a penguin
a monkey complete with scarf and leaf
a duck complete with basket and decorated egg
and a yellow tiger holding a small bunny

Amazing. I almost hate to eat them they're so fantastic.

But alas, they are slowly disappearing...

Sunday, October 18, 2009

It still happens...

Today was a beautiful breezy Sunday in Shantou. After finding out this past week that our new 2nd grade teacher is a fellow believer (um so rad!!!), AND that she goes to church weekly at the church behind my house, I asked if I could join her for service today. Though I only understand about 5% of it, I still went and I still try. ha.

I crossed the street to "Love Church" meeting my new friend and her cheerful face. We climbed the stairs to the 2nd floor of the building where the main sanctuary is located, and sat down in one of the long, yellow, wooden pews. An elderly lady eagerly sat down next to me asking if I spoke Chinese and looking in awe at my thick English Bible. She patted my arms enthusiastically telling me I was beautiful.

A few minutes later, a woman came in and sat a few pews before us. She was holding a very small baby. Several women crowded around her and a hushed conversation and questioning began to ensue. My friend went over to ask what was going on. I was amazed, shocked, and horrified to hear her report:

The baby, a little girl, maybe a few months old, was found on the side of the road with a bag of clothes and, I think, a note scribbled on some scrap paper that the ladies were passing around. The one woman had heard her crying and found her. Apparently, the little baby is sick. She was "thrown away" my friend told me in broken English. The women all gathered around, passing her little body from one pair of brown weathered arms to the next, the baby's little head flailing about, her little black eyes staring up blankly. They rocked and hushed her, trying to feed her from a bottle that was found in the bag. They sifted through the rest of the bag finding a small pile of clothes, some canned milk, and shook their heads. She was so small. Abandoned. "Thrown away."

My heart just broke.

Was it because she was sick? A girl? No money to take her to the doctor? Or no money to feed yet another mouth in family? All probable reasons that happen everyday here. I have students whose siblings have been sold for money. I will never know the answer.

I talked to my friend Gen in Cambodia tonight and after I told her the story she asked dumbfounded, "Now what will happen to her?"

I don't know...

Somewhere in this city tonight is a woman without her baby. Does she cry? Does she care?

It still happens, everyday.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Green Oranges?

China has these wonderful green oranges, yes, green, that are just going out of season right now. I bought this one for about a yuan and a half = about 2 US cents. ha.

Isn't it lovely?

They have NO seeds, are juicy and sweet, and peel SO easily.
The perfect afternoon snack - or anytime!

Side note: I've never lived in a country where fruit and vegetables actually go out of season completely (us spoiled Americans...) so I'll have to say goodbye until next fall.

In other news: I've completely fallen IN LOVE with Etsy! Check it out for all things wonderful, handmade, amazingly creative, original and craft-sy: ---->

Monday, October 12, 2009


I love TOMS shoes !!!

I have purchased 2 pairs, loved one to death (in which my big toe now peeks out), and would buy one in almost every color if I could afford it. ha.

You buy one pair ranging from about $42 - $65 and another is donated to a child without shoes in a poverty stricken country. TOMS is currently working in several countries in South America and Africa. It is a growing company, gaining more recognition and respect nationally and globally, and continues to deliver fab, comfy, original, colorfully fun slip on shoes.

Evan and I have matching ones ---> :)

They're a bit expensive considering you could go to Payless and get a pair for under $20, but there's a great feeling about spending $42 dollars knowing a beautiful child will get to enjoy them too. And you get to kick around in them which is oh so fun. People ask me about mine all the time and I love telling the story. "One for One" as TOMS says.

To read more, go check it out ---->

Yay for happy, feel-good shoes - literally!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

New Goal...

I have a new goal for myself.

It's a bit selfish but also artistically challenging.

When I first came to China I blogged quite a bit. But after a hard drive failure, China's relentless internet blocking, and slow VPN service, I just gave up - unless there were big thoughts.

BUT I want to change that...

I am committing to try to post at least 3 times a week, both thoughts and photos (Lord knows I have 1000s of images!), whether deep and thoughtful or random and silly, to share my life with those few to stop by. By doing this, people may follow my blog (woo!) and I may challenge myself to edit and post photos consistently. I do on my other site --->

AND images are always more fun, right?

So...I begin with some randomness...

My current CD wishlist (that I'm stealing sneak peeks of via itunes, myspace, and youtube):

Hillsong United's new "Tear Down the Walls"

David Crowder Band's new "Church Music"

Vertical Horizon's new "Burning the Days"

Any other musical suggestions?

Not that I have any money to buy new cds...ha.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Birthdays, Blessings, and A Bounty of Love

ha. Do you like my alliteration?

Yesterday was my 24th birthday, my 2nd birthday celebrated in China, and will be probably be one of the most memorable in my life. I awoke early to a bright sunshine and walked my usual jaunt through dirty streets to school. I arrived and was greeted with a few shy "Happy Birthday"s. When I entered my 2rd grade class however, I was quickly shooed out. As faces giggled with anticipation and finally motioned me to enter, I was greeted with a big chalk banner that read an enthusiastic "HAPPY BIRTHDAY JENNIFER KAYE GERBERDING!" ha. I had used my name in a lesson once about vowels vs. consonants and had written out my entire name on the board for the kids to see (how many vowels? how many consonants?). The teacher had taken note and remembered. After proudly declaring "Happy Birthday" they ran at me and literally hurled letters, cards, and precious pieces of paper gifts in my face.

My 3rd grace class was much of the same: a written message of well wishes from the teacher, TONS of cards and gifts, and proud smiles. They also sang at the top of their voices the o-so-familiar tune (slightly altered due to lack of English knowledge) and beamed with pride. Oh, and my first graders told me "Happy Birthday" too - just in Chinese. They don't know it in English.

Lunch time concluded with one of my 3rd grade students, a smart yet needy little boy, delivering a cake to my office desk. Apparently his father owns a cake shop. A whole Chinese cake. wow.

I also decided to be adventurous and try cook/sort of bake a boxed Funfetti cake in my rice-cooker...

yes, my rice-cooker.

And it worked. sort of. well, basically.


The day ended with dinner out with my dear friends Anita and Terry and joining their father and family for his birthday celebration - it turns out we're birthday buddies!

Cards. Drawings. Paper foldings. Songs. Gifts. Hugs. From both students AND teachers (the teachers were definitely involved). 2 cakes. Time with dear friends who let me be a part of their family for the evening. A beautiful and blessed birthday with more love than I truly expected. I am humbly surprised. It was a love I have not experienced from this Chinese world that I have been a part of for the past year.

And thanks for all your Facebook messages, friends. I definitely felt your love from around the world.

Ah, birthdays.
Growing older.
Growing up.
Hopefully, growing wiser and more like Jesus.
I am truly filled with joy.

Anyone want some cake?

Monday, October 5, 2009

Beautiful Cultural Exhaustion

I have just returned from 5 days of vacation (or "holiday" as they say here) staying with a friend in Hong Kong and then visiting her small hometown/village of Dongguan for Mid-Autumn Festival.

I am absolutely culturally e x h a u s t e d !

This past month of September was busy: first month of school, getting back into routine and schedule, planning lessons, new students, new Chinese classes, connecting with friends outside of school, and trying to balance my heart and head. It finished with 8 days vacation and the chance to see and experience some Chinese culture as never before.

After boarding a train (I find train travel rather romantic by the way...) we traveled a quick 45 minutes to the small town of Dongguan, China. We grabbed a taxi and made our way to her home in the city: a four-story cement and tile home with a gate, patio area, and room for PLENTY of family. I spent the 2 day period with about 25 family members, visiting 100 year-old ancestral temples, viewing small clustered family homes in now abandoned villages, walking through farm land, eating raw sugar cane, touching the leaves of growing vegetables, chasing chickens, seeing Sally's home in another village, walking ancient streets, seeing rural Chinese life, hiking hills in the setting sun, watching ancestral worship practices, experiencing a fire dragon dance in the town square, taking photos, seeing faces and places I have never dreamed of.

Before all this chaos of the senses, I was able to be quiet and read a bit and was greeted with a verse that I so want to exemplify my heart, my soul and my life, now and always:

Two things I ask of you, O Lord; do not refuse me before I die:
Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.
Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, "Who is the LORD?"
Or I may become poor and steal and so dishonor the name of my God.

- Proverbs 30:7-9

I have experience so much, both around the world and in China, that has challenged me deeply on what it means to truly have enough, on how to live, fully. I have slept on floors, under stars, on planks, in makeshift beds, in churches, in tents, in hotels, in homes. I have eaten with my hands, with chopsticks, sat on stools, in the dirt, in buses, on chairs, and eaten foods I would never have tasted otherwise. I have showered with buckets, in fancy showers, with hot water, icy water, in old pink tubs. I have rubbed shoulders with people who have more than plenty, and I have sat with people with almost nothing. I have found joy both places - but it's usually with the less.

What do I truly need in this life?

I only want enough. That is what HE promises to those who are HIS children. But what is enough? I am learning more and more that it is: the love of family, of friends, clothes, no matter what color or brand, sturdy shoes, a full tummy (of rice, vegetables, or even chicken feet), a roof over my head. I want to constantly be dependent on HIM and not myself, so that I may see that HE is the sustainer of my life, not me. It is not my working, striving, or saving. While good, it's all a matter or perspective and motivation. I want to truly believe that in riches or poor, HE is faithful, present, and providing. Always. Giving enough.

Dongguan, China: A beautiful yet broken city, one bound in tradition and superstition, one of age and simplicity, one full of family, who despite differences, are still family.

I am grateful to have walked in their shoes for a day.