If you didn't know, I spent three weeks in China! My mom and I just arrived back in the States on Monday after 24 hours of traveling. I'm very happy to have my feet back on the ground, at least for a while. Our time in Jinan was challenging, fun, and different all together. The Lord taught me so much more than I ever could have anticipated. I went into the trip with an excitement to work hard and put every ounce of effort I had into the ministry. By the end God had me humbled and marveling over His power!
The way the camp was organized gave us very little free time. We woke up early for devotional time, ate breakfast, had class until lunch, then down time (that we used to build relationships with the kids), had afternoon activities until dinner, then had an evening activity. After all of that was said and done we had English corner for the kids to talk to us and practice speaking. When the day finally ended we would clean off all of the sweat, and slip into our rock hard beds. I couldn't describe a better life. Each day I would wake up full of joy, and I would end each day with peaceful exhaustion.
I'm not going to get into every detail, but I have some fun pictures from day one all the way up until the end that I'd like to share!
I started my journey with some light reading material. I brought a journal, a couple books, my Bible, and a notebook filled with notes and photos from my sweet boyfriend.
When we first arrived at our camp it smelled like it hadn't been inhabited for a long time, but the rooms were big and the bathrooms were even bigger.
It was like staying a hotel! We even had western toilets!
Our first day with the children we had to sign them in and then give them a test to place them in the correct classroom based on their knowledge of English. My job was to help them sign in and give them an English name if they didn't have one yet.
We wrote down a bunch of names for them to choose from so they could have an English name. Some of them had already given themselves really unique names that were based off of famous characters. Some of them had really common names and we constantly had to figure out ways to differentiate between the many Lindas, Davids, and Alices.
Our kids all lining up outside before we had placed them.
This was the room that Class One was in! I spent many hours in this cute room during my time in China. Our classroom teacher, Natalie brought all of the decorations!
A few folks from my team climbed a mountain up to a pagoda that overlooked the camp and the surrounding town. It was a fairly clear day, which gave us only a slightly hazy view.
These are some of the AMAZING Chinese assistants we had helping us during camp. The two on the ends were helping in my classroom. They had incredible amounts of patience!
I didn't know how much I would love these children when I took this picture. I never would have guessed I'd know each one of them by name, and be in love with their sweet quirky personalities.
Some of the kids preparing for the opening ceremony.
The lovely Michelle and me! Michelle is from China, but has been in the States for college for the past few years. She attended a Bridging the World English camp when she was younger! It was so useful to have her on our team. Not only could she push the children to learn better English, but she could relate to them in Chinese as well.
These are our dormitories that we lived in.
We had a swinging bridge to cross over murky water. It sounded like it was going to break, but we had fun pushing it back and forth.
Playgrounds in other countries seem so much more fun, and dangerous than playgrounds in the States.
We had a beautiful view of a garden behind the camp.
Michelle and I spent some time with a local farmer. She let us weed the garden for her!
I loved the way this sign looked. I was hopeful that it said something inspiring. Michelle told me it just meant grass.
Here are some of the obstacle courses at the playground. They were all really fun!
This little girl spoke better English than most Americans. Her personality was sparky, and unpredictable. She told us she wanted to become a scientist so she could find aliens.
This is how our food was served to us everyday. If the kids got to it before we did, it was slim pickings, but there was always plenty of rice and watermelon!
One night after our meetings we watched a Kung Fu camp light off a paper lantern. They allowed us to do one too! The kids also taught me a little Kung Fu.
Our first day of classes!
Natalie also prepared workbooks for each child!
The girls working on a dialogue.
The boy on the left was the shining star of Class One. Not only was his English impressive, but he was as sweet as could be. We always knew we could count on him to do the right thing.
Uno was the favorite game of our campers. We played almost every other day.
When it rains in Jinan it pours. This isn't a waterfall, it's run off from the mountain down stairs.
It looks almost like the Chocolate river in Willy Wonka, except for all of the trash that was in it.
Random airplane at the camp.
Cutest little old man I've ever seen. He smiled so big it was infectious.
We played twister in 95 degrees. Even though it was really hot and miserable the kids enjoyed it, and refused to give up until they won.
Then we taught them how to play American Football! I don't even like football, but this was so fun. I also got pretty decent at throwing and catching.
One night we had a big birthday party so we could play games and eat cake. The cakes were so pretty! I was impressed with how smoothly everything went.
Jinan is famous for their fresh springs. The water is so clean you can drink it.
Some classy ladies and me.
We experienced Chinese street food too! I had "chicken" on a stick. I keep telling myself it was just chicken, but I know that that probably isn't true.
Then we taught the children about Easter. We were allowed to teach Christian versions of Easter and Christmas as long as we also taught the American cultural side as well. So we taught them about Easter eggs and sent them on a hunt, but we also took our opportunity to teach about Jesus and what He did for us on the cross!
Me with a few of my favorite people.
Cutie pies on the last day of class! Goodness they will all be missed.
After camp, we went to Beijing for a couple days to tour and debrief. Of course we went to the Great Wall. I was sick with a head/chest cold at this point so I didn't really climb it, but it was pretty to see.
We did a bunch of other touring like seeing the Forbidden City, we watched an acrobat show, we did a tour of Hutong on rickshaws, and did a bit of shopping. It was an exhausting few days, but we got to see a lot of really cool things.
Oh yeah, and we met my sister-in-law's family!!!! This was the highlight of our time in Beijing. We were all so busy, but we made it work. Lele's dad is on the left, her niece Jin Xuan is in her mom's arms. Then my mom is holding her niece Jin Yi. We had a blast with them even though we couldn't speak the same language. I guess that's the cool thing about family. The bond goes far beyond spoken words. We had the help of the wonderful Michelle to translate, but next time we go back, we want to be able to communicate with them as well.