Tag Archives: Guilin

Peace for the moment

Warning: International move in progress…and shown, along with reverse cultural shock,  to also have side effects of extreme sappiness.  Please humor me these next couple of weeks, dear readers!

Feeding the fish in Guangxi, Guilin.

Maybe things aren’t working out perfectly, and maybe they’re even about to get really, really hard, but just as there’s been grace for moments like these, I’m reveling in the peace, God’s peace, that’s been washing over me these mesmerizing last days in China.

Walking with friends in downtown Yunnan, Kunming.

It’s such a peace that’s got the husband and I dreaming with a reckless abandon (rather than worrying with wracked paralysis!) about what’s in store for the future.  As we sort through two years of papers and research and clutter and life here, I find myself looking over at him and being ever so thankful for his goodness, his curiosity, his companionship.

Evan and I in Guangxi, Yangshuo on our third anniversary.

As I walked back to the orphanage the other evening with one of my Chinese friends I told her the gist of how my husband and I got to China, how it was he, who ten years ago came here for two summers and found himself drawn to the culture, the people, and the place.  But in varied twists of fate, he never made it back, and went sifting through a bundle of doubts and questions and frustrations and miraculously through all of it found his way to seminary.

And as we became friends, fell in love, and eventually married, he told me of that dream to return to China and his passion captivated me as well.  So without knowing that the seemingly rash actions I took at the time–enrolling for Chinese 101 with the undergrads and beginning this study of Chinese foster mothers despite the plans I had to write my dissertation on Mexican women in the Pentecostal movement (I’ll get to that project one day!)–were the stuff of faith, I began to feel my way toward this place, China, as well. 

Girls playing in the Li River, Guangxi, Yangshuo.

And as I told this story to my friend the other evening I said that I’m not too certain of many things in my young life, but despite the wildness and the difficulty of it all, I’ve always been fairly certain that Evan and I were meant to go to China together.

It’s funny because when we first got here, everyone we met in China wanted to know if it was Evan who followed me here or the other way around, and despite my incessant claims that we’d very much come here together, because we both wanted to be in China, I could tell that didn’t make sense to them, not grammatically, not culturally, not logically.

Hiking the rice terraces with my family in Guangxi, Zhongliu, June 2012.

So it is that peace comes to us, surpassing all understanding, and settling into the cracks of ill-conceived plans, pushing aside our greediness for things like power and security, and our obvious limitations.  And so people who need each other find each other and not logically or fantastically, but quietly and providentially.  And peace lives and breathes in a place where faith is rich and alive, and the rest is just details.  That place, for my husband and I, has been China.

My husband and I in Green Lake Park, Yunnan, Kunming, June 2012.

Where have you found peace?  And what has God made you certain of this day?

Guilin fare: camellia oil tea and potato noodles

A view from Diecai peak in Guangxi, Guilin. Photo by Evan Schneider.

After long days making foster visits this past week, and tramping all over the city of Guilin, I sat down with my Chinese friends to drink Guilin’s famous camellia oil tea and munch on potato noodles.

Guilin oil camellia tea to the left complete with rice puffs and peanuts, and piping hot plates of potato noodles to the right and the top of the frame.

Funny how I had been to Guilin I think five times over my past two years in China, but I’d never sat down for a bowl of the traditional green and ginger tea, with its crunchy rice puff and peanut accouterment, nor had I sampled the hearty, plump potato noodles.  We mingled with the locals after dark in the roadside stands, stooped on little stools at short tables- Chinese style.

But we made careful not to imbibe too much of the bitter brew…apparently the caffeine can easily keep one up all night!

Chinese ladies perform tai chi by the Li River in Guilin. Photo by Evan Schneider.

Well, that’s a double whammy for the China bucket list (see items 8 and 10).  And an overall 5/10, not too shabby, with a mere week left here in China– I’ll take it.

Saturday morning thoughts from China

Ah, Saturday morning…

…when my husband and I flop onto the couch in our South China highrise, gulping down as much coffee as possible, and feigning as though we have all the time and no cares in the world.

My husband having coffee and breakfast in Yangshuo, China, on our anniversary, 2011.

Sure I came in last night on the train late from Guilin, my body covered with bites from God knows what that lives somewhere there in the orphanage, my pack on my back and my heart heavy with signs of hope and despair among the children in foster care and within the orphanage walls.

And here now we sit in the mess of our half-packed apartment…

…but–deep breath–all that can wait for another moment.

For now it is Saturday morning in sunny South China, our second to last one, in fact, and I’m turning my thoughts to the ones that let giant hope leap into my heavy heart.

As in I’m thinking and praying about the children with Down Syndrome who I met, so happy in foster care with their foster mother, and being put on the list for international adoption.  Praise God!

Foster siblings playing.

And the little eight-year old autistic girl I met on the last visit of the week on Thursday, down a little country road, where in view of the setting sun she pronounced characters so clearly and deliberately, reading and knitting for us, with her foster mother looking on, proudly grinning from ear to ear, and going on and on about how gifted her child is.

A view of Myanmar from the remotest of country roads in rural Yunnan. Photo by Evan Schneider.

Gifted.  Not disabled, not strange, not marred.  Gifted, good, and beautifully and wonderfully made.

A foster mother and her foster daughter.  Photo by Evan Schneider.

And that’s when the tears came, plump stinging ones, the kind that are impossible to control because you’ve been reminded so deeply, so palpably in your gut what love is again, and it’s so beyond our human capability, and yet so plainly visible in our midst.   And you’ve been reminded of our limits as humans but of God’s ability to do great things with our smallness.

And so I might be sitting on my couch here, wondering how I scarcely lived without coffee this past week, how I went without a mirror, how I endured the bug bites and the dirt and the grime, not to mention the heartache of these children, but I also know in a matter of just a few weeks I’ll be somewhere else wondering how I will be able to live without China.

Holding a tiny baby just placed in a foster home.

God, make me to breathe deep this breath of God in all its goodness, because all things are for a season, and in this season I have been richly blessed by China, these families, and your goodness in a world of suffering.  Amen.

One last train trip

Gulping up coffee this morning, packing up, and getting ready for my final Chinese road trip–this time to Guilin, to visit foster families and say goodbye to the wonderful Chinese NGO staff who’ve been so generous with their time and energy as I complete my research here in Guangxi.

On the train in China. 

I know I must be about ready to head back to the US, because my heart is not leaping at the thought of train travel the way it was once upon a time.  I’m looking forward to that last week of sleeping in unfamiliar places, unbearable heat, and torrential downpours (one of which we got caught in yesterday afternoon!).  This will be my last hurrah as I call it, and I hope it brings joy and closure.

I’ll be out of internet range for the next week.  So See you in a week or so, and thanks for stopping by.

A view of the Li River in Guilin at sunset. Photos by Evan Schneider.

Guangxi Travelogue: Guilin and Ping’ an

My family walking alongside the Li River in Guilin.

Well, that China Bucket List of mine is getting shorter and shorter.

Not only did my Dad and my sisters make it to China, but we took a train ride back to the lovely city of Guilin…

My sisters and I on the train to Guilin.

where we climbed the sun and moon pagodas…

…and Diecai peak, from which we admired the karst formations cutting through the modern cityscape.

But then it was onto the rice terraces, where we stayed in the picturesque Zhuang town of Ping’ an…

The Dragon Back Rice Terraces.

…and hiked with our new friend, a Yao woman, named Xiao Pan…

Our guide, Xiao Pan.
You can see our destination at the top of this photo.

…to her village, Zhongliu.

The Yao village of (Guangxi) Zhongliu.

We lunched in Zhongliu on potatoes, green beans, and pork, and the walked back to Ping’ an, a journey that takes Xiao Pan one hour, but took us over two.  We certainly stopped to take in the beautiful views, though, along the way.

The rice terraces were a wonderful adventure, one I’m rather disappointed I waited so long to take on, but also one I’m also glad to have enjoyed with my family while they were in China.

My husband and I amidst the rice terraces.

Photos by Evan Schneider.

Where did May go?

Yes, I know it’s already the fourth of June, but I’m stunned.

May seemed to just fly by…what do you think?

For me, May highlights included:

A view of the countryside in South China.
Evan and I on Halong Bay.
A photo of me and my grandparents from spring 2008.
  • A myriad of foster visits
  • Perhaps my last trip to the countryside to see the disabled kids who are thriving there in foster care
  • A visit from dear friends and a jaunt back to Hanoi and Halong Bay, Vietnam
  • The passing of my lovely Grandfather
  • My twin sister’s seminary graduation (it really feels like just yesterday she started her classes at Denver Seminary.  Congratulations, Julie!  Now both twins graduated from seminary: praise God!)
  • Our fourth-wedding anniversary
  • Experiencing God’s blessings, grace, and joy!
Photo from my seminary graduation in 2008….
…and the twin’s this May. See the resemblance??

And looking forward to in June:

Come on ride the train…

Boarding the train on our trip to Guilin.

I’ve mentioned in my Current Loves section at the top of this blog that I am currently, utterly in love with train travel in China.  

So, when the flight times to Guilin proved inconvenient this past weekend, we decided to get ourselves a soft sleeper and “rough” the five hours coasting past beautiful scenery and enjoying one another’s company in our private cabin.  

See, while I’m into train travel in China, I realize how fortunate I am to be able to afford to travel in comfort, rather than the typical experience for the average Chinese traveler, which can involve hard sleepers, hard seats, or even worse (see this previous post for a heavy dose of that reality).  I’ve been on trains during holiday season, and it’s not pretty.

Chinese passengers on the train.

We shelled out a little extra money to sit on what they call “soft” beds all the way to Guilin and back, and it was quite pleasant.

So, what exactly do you do on a five-hour train ride?

1.  Admire the scenery, punctuated by lots of oohs and ahhs and take thousands (ok, tens) of photos that your meticulous husband will later subject to his extra critical eye, and delete all but two, one of which he, himself, took!

This is the one that I took!

2.  Play cards, of course!  Euchre and Monopoly Deal were the two staples of this trip.

Playing euchre on the train.

3.  Eat instant noodles!  Chinese trains have boiling water on board, which means most people go the instant noodle route.  We also snacked on sunflower seeds, oreos, almonds, raisins, and granola bars, but I’ve seen Chinese passengers bring a wide variety of fruits (my friends actually cut up a watermelon on board on one trip!), zongzi (glutinous rice with meat stuffed in reed or bamboo leaves), salty eggs, and all sorts of dried meats.  Instant noodles was the most Chinese we got in the food department for the train ride, though.

Pouring boiling water into the noodles using the thermos in the cabin.

4.  Giggle with good friends.  The time passed so quickly in the company of friends we hadn’t seen in far too long.  Here they are on the train ride home, and still smiling!

Our friends on the first trip to China!

What are some of your favorite travel memories, and why??