Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Be Strong

Lesson from China: Be Strong. Trust yourself. Trust God. And Be Strong

In the past I have been known for being passive, sometimes a push-over, mellow during most conflicts.  I don't like arguing. I don't like pushing my point; I'd rather listen to others'. I don't like interjecting others' conversations; I'd rather be polite and wait even if I need something urgently. (Although, around my family and close friends, these inhibitions usually go out the window. But I'm talking about being passive in public situations here)

Antonyms of Passive: acquiescent, apatheticasleep, bearing,compliantcooldocileenduringflatforbearing,going through motions, hands off, idle,indifferentinertlaid-back*, latentlong-suffering, moony, motionlessnonresistant,nonviolent, patientphlegmaticpoker-faced,quiescentquietreceptiveresignedsleepy,staticstolidsubmissivetractable, unassertive,unflappable, uninvolved, unresisting, walkingthrough it, yielding

I do not want to be these things!

However, in China, I really had to learn to be strong. If you are passive, you won't get on the bus and you will be late for class. Instead, you have to pick up your skirts and shove yourself ahead of the other Chinese scrambling to squish into the already air-tight packaged bus. If you are passive you will spend WAY too much on everything that you buy. You have to bargain and bargain hard! And if you are passive no one will listen to you. You have to voice yourself to save your butt from getting run over by an absent-minded scooter driver, or stick up for your church, or make it clear that even though your Chinese ain't that great you are still an intelligent human being.

Pre-lesson Regrets: I was bargaining for two shirts and I was not going to go any higher than the price I had already stated. The lady wasn't budging either, and she was getting VERY uptight. (#1 Useful Rule of Bargaining: When its going nowhere, walk away. If they are willing to bend they most certainly will. And if not, you'll know you were definitely asking for too little and you'll have to go up a bit in the next shop.) So I make my move, not really caring if she'd stop me or not, and start walking away telling her I'll just keep on looking. The mad lady then grabs my arm in a tight lock, both her hands on my left forearm. She gets mad at me and bitingly persuading me to buy the shirts at a higher price. I should have yanked my arm away! I should have told her to LET ME GO RIGHT NOW! I should have gotten mad so she'd see how bad of a person she was being. But instead I was passive. I let her control me and I just sat there waiting for her to let me go. Man I hate that I did that! What a limp dead chicken I was!

After wrestling the Chinese in taxi cabs, on subways, buses, buying fruit and clothes, and in speech, I got stronger. First of all, I felt more confident putting myself on the line because I understood the buses, the bargaining, and the people better. Second, I felt more confident in myself as a person because I really am intelligent! I do not deserve to be pushed around. I know I am more capable than that, so I forced myself to be stronger.

Application: Taking the taxi to the airport, no-one knew which terminal to take me to. This was bad, because the terminals are extremely far apart and I'd probably miss my flight to Seattle if I went to the wrong one. The Chinese dad tells the taxi driver to take me to terminal 3 and she heads towards terminal 3. I'm pretty darn sure I need to go to terminal 2. I feel like I should. My ticket looks like I should. But they don't trust me because I'm a little white girl with bad Chinese. However, I persist, and taxi finally takes me to terminal 2. And you know what? I was right! If I would have been passive I would have missed my flight. But instead, I went with my gut and insisted on being heard. And it all turned out well.

I am grateful for this lesson because I think it will be extremely useful in Bulgaria. No way can a sister missionary in Bulgaria be passive and wishy-washy. I need to be strong and confident! I am sure that I will become even worlds stronger serving in Bulgaria. You can just call me Arnold Schwarzenegger. :)

(I know, my editing skills using Paint are phenomenal!)

Monday, August 6, 2012

Cease-Fire and Peace

There has been a cease-fire with Grandpa. Peace is in the land.

It all started with me making breadsticks for dinner. This was a scary feat for several reasons.

1. I didn't have the right ingredients. I didn't have any garlic salt, any cheese, and I didn't know what kind of yeast or flour I was using.

2. I didn't have any measuring cups. Chinese homes don't measure. So, I guestimated. It was exciting.

3. I didn't have a normal baking pan. So I made do with what I had---a circular pan!

And you know what? It turned out all right. The bread wasn't very garlicy--I was afraid of using too much real garlic so I used very small amounts. It didn't rise the same way it does in America. And it didn't have any of the good herbs in my American garlic salt. But it was warm, squishy, good (even if its flavor was simple) bread. And the family really liked it! Score! Grandma wants my recipe. :)

During dinner I had some very good discussions with my Chinese family. We talked about different dialects in China. They taught me a bit of their local dialect which was really fun. We also talked about different languages and their different difficulties. I can talk about languages. It was great! I got to be  a part of the conversation!

Grandpa loves to show me how good he is at speaking English. He gave me a thumbs up and said "OK OK."

After dinner I was putting the extra bread away while grandpa washed the dishes. He said to me--"You can become a teacher." Which was the nicest thing he's said to me and it meant a lot.

Peace has ensued in the land! Hallelujiah! The magic of good bread!

Tibetans for Mormonism--Stick it to the Communist Man!

As luck would have it, my tutor for this study program is an adorably kind Tibetan girl named Jade. To say the least, she has a unique perspective on China and Communism.

After the two inquisitions into my religion last night at dinner (as seen on latter post) I received a third today from Jade.

We were talking about weddings.

Jade: "What are American weddings like?"

Me: "Because of my Church, my wedding will be different. We go to a temple to get married (she looked up a temple to see what they look like). I have never been to a Mormon wedding in the temple but I know that they are very simple and beautiful. After the wedding everyone gets together for a celebration. We usually eat food and dance. Its very fun."

Jade: "So your wedding is different from other western weddings?"

Me: "Yes, definitely."

Jade: "I heard something about your Church! I heard you don't have abortions."

Me: "No, we don't have abortions. We want to protect children. We love children. Before a girl is pregnant she can take pills to control when she gets pregnant. But after she is pregnant she should protect the baby."

Jade: "I think this is very good. Tibetans also think this way. We want to protect our children. You know what? You should go on your mission to China!!!!"

Me (heart turned really sad): "I would love to, but I can't."

Jade: "Why not!?"

Me: "Because of the Chinese government. It restricts the Mormon Church in China."

Jade: "Why!"

Me: "The Chinese government allows 5 main western churches in China and the Mormon Church is different from all of them. So it has restrictions. For example, international Mormons cannot meet with Chinese Mormons. The international Mormons meet together on Sunday, and after we leave, the Chinese Mormons can come meet together."

Jade: "That is terrible! That is so unfair! I hate Communism!"

(keep in mind we're in a public coffee shop surrounded by people.)

Me: "My Church wants to respect the government and follow their rules. And the relationship between my Church and the Chinese government is getting better and better, so in the future we will be able to meet together."

Jade: "That is good. I hope in the future your Church will have more freedom in China."

From your lips to God's ears sister.

Mormons at the Chinese table

What happens when your religion comes up during dinner conversation and by law you're restricted on what you can say?

It gets pretty awkward.

I have come to a decision though. The Church is not allowed to PROSELYTE in China. I understand this and am doing my best to follow it. However, when it comes to defending my Church and clarifying its stances as an organization, I am all up for sharing my true opinion. I'm not teaching Gospel truths or inviting people to come to Church, I'm just clarifying things they've heard about the Mormon Church.

Example #1:

(remember that these conversations take place in Chinese, so my answers aren't as good as they could be otherwise)

Auntie: "I read an article on your church and it said your church has A LOT of money."

Me (flustered to death.  PLEASE DON'T KILL ME COMMUNIST PARTY! PLEASE DON'T DISOWN ME CHURCH!): "If the Mormon Church has a lot of money, they use it to help people. The leaders of my church don't get paid for what they do. They have their own jobs, and then after work they give time to help the Church. They don't get money. The church gives lots of money to help other people. For example, when there was the huge earthquake in China, my Church sent a lot of money and help to China." (I thought about explaining tithing, but thought it'd be too much like proselyting)

Example #2: 

Chinese dad pulls out "7 Habits for Highly Effective Families" by Stephen L. Covey in Chinese.

Chinese dad: "This guy used to be the president of BYU, right? He just died"

Me: "I don't know who the past BYU presidents were. I only know the present one. I know he just died, though, because my friends posted quotes from him on Facebook. He was very smart."

Chinese dad: "Well I heard that he was. He's in your Church, right?"

Me: "Yeah, he's very well known in my Church. He wasn't a prophet or anything though."

Chinese dad reads through the chapters with me. (Be Proactive; Begin with the End in Mind; Put First Things First; Think "Win-Win"; Seek First to Understand . . . Then to Be Understood; Synergize; and Sharpen the Saw)

Chinese dad: "I was wondering which of these chapters is most like what your Church teaches."

Me (After looking over the chapters and their intros): I think they are all very similar to my Church's teachings, but Put First Things First (or in other words, put FAMILIES first) and Think "Win-Win" (working together for a common goal) are the most important.


So, what do you think? Did I screw up? Did I accidentally proselyte? Please don't kick me out of the Church. And please don't arrest me, I don't want to go to Communist jail.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Painting is for the Soul

Grandpa made me upset again tonight. I was eating dinner with the family, and Auntie was explaining to me the history between two Chinese cities. I was getting the gist of it, even though there were some words I didn't understand. Grandpa buts in--"She doesn't understand what you say." And then he goes back to his food, satisfied he has made it wide and clear that I am stupid. And then no one talks to me because its awkward. I eat a bit more food, save face (by not crying), and then leave, saying I'm full. As I go back to my room I hear them talking about me, assuming I can't understand. 

And what do I do when I'm upset? 

First I stand on my head. For reals. I practiced my head stand for a few minutes.

And then I painted. Because painting heals the soul. It gets me in my zen, where I don't have to think about problems, calculate answers, or use the left side of my brain at all. Rather, I can just play with colors, create lovely little things, and be at peace with the world. 

This one is a Chinese proverb. It says that drips of water carve stones. Or as my good friend in Alma 37 says, by small and simple things are great things brought to pass.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

中国矛盾:China Contradiction

China is very contradictory for me. I love it and I hate it. Let's go through a list, shall we?

Love: Ancient culture. I love being surrounded by a culture that has such ancient roots, going back thousands of years. Even the language is the longest constantly spoken language in the world. Which makes it confusing, but completely awesome!

Hate: Spit. People spit on the streets all the time. And not just a short little spit. Like, cough it up and huck a loogie kind of spit. Right by my feet. SO GROSS!!!!!

Love: Church. The branch here is absolutely fantastic. Everyone is united by their love of God, a knowledge of God's love for Chinese people, and a desire to help China in some way. I love being a part of such an international group from completely different backgrounds, united in this wonderful purpose and frame of mind.

Hate: Staring. Yes, I am white, good job for figuring it out. I am so sick of people blatantly staring at me. And its bad enough when the person on the subway stares at you for 15 minutes, but its even worse when they stare at your body, looking you up and down, with no shame. This has only happened a few times but it makes me feel so gross and hostile. Look at me again and I'll punch you.

Love: Food! Oh my goodness, there are some fabulous restaurants here. Talk about dumplings, yogurt (China's yogurt is GREAT!), soup, Chinese bread, Japanese restaurants, Italian restaurants, it is so good! Gosh I love food.

Hate: Bad food. Unfortunately, campus doesn't have much good food. Which means that every day for lunch I have to resort to bad food. The campus cafeteria food is basically various vegetables and meats smothered in oil, rolled in salt, and polluted with MSG. Ugh. I hate those three things. They make me bloated, grouchy, and fat. Not a good thing.

Love: Traffic. I love meandering through traffic, its so fun! Its like solving a jig-saw puzzle or playing a computer game. Only your life is in the balance, ha ha! But seriously, every time I successfully cross the street when the crosswalk wasn't on yet, I feel so successful and authentically Chinese. Its great not having to wait for your turn in traffic.

Hate: Human roadblocks. Chinese people don't understand how to move out of the way. If they're walking towards you, they'll just run into you. Its so obnoxious. Or if they're walking in front of you, sometimes they'll get distracted and just stop right in the middle of the walkway so you can't get around them. Or in the subway, when its clear you need to get by to get off, they'll just stare at you and not move. MOVE DANGIT! YOU'RE WASTING MY TIME!

So pretty much every day is this mix of really high highs and really frustrated lows. I suppose that's better than having a completely mundanely average experience though. China is anything but average.