New Year

A few nights ago I attended a new year’s performance at a friend’s school. It is common practice here to hold large-scale performances, complete with self-choreographed dances and lots of singing. I didn’t get to stick around for the whole thing but here are a few photos from what I saw.

The decor: balloons and Christmas lights (known here, I guess, as New Year’s lights).

Hail to the motherland (this is the performance my friend was in and thus the one I was most interested in).

Love the paper lanterns. And the ribbon twirlers.

Pulling out the ever present camera phones for a snapshot.

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Holiday Parties

This is the season of general merrymaking. We’ve hosted several Christmas parties with local friends this month, which have been times of great encouragement.

One of Michael’s friends prepared a particularly thoughtful gift: homemade cookies.

He carefully prepared these sugar cookies at a local bakeries (people in this country do not usually own ovens) and painstakingly spelled out “Merry Christmas Happy.”

He also made Michael a cookie bearing the character 麦 (mai) which is Michael’s Mandarin name.

Yum!


Christmas

This morning…

We woke up at 6.15 (thanks, Michael! although of course I loved it, Christmas morning was made for early rising). We drank some Santa’s White Christmas coffee and Michael and I exchanged presents. He got an Atlanta Braves Jason Heyward jersey, and I got a bread machine!!!

Then we called the Gregory’s in America and opened presents together. We all wore matching pajamas. It was awesome.

I have to insert a note here about Skype–last time I lived here I didn’t really do the video chat thing but I have loved it this year, especially during the holidays. We may be far away but this makes us feel almost like we are home.

At 10 we went over to some friends’ apartment for a Christmas breakfast feast (cream cheese bread, cheese grits, keish, cinnamon rolls, and fruit salad) and to exchange Secret Santa presents.

After Christmas-ing it up all morning, we came home and took a massive nap. Before Michael and I headed out for an afternoon run, we opened up the bread machine and spent some time figuring it out. Considering that all the instructions and labels were in Mandarin, I’m calling the fact that we’ve already managed to successfully use the basic setting a huge success.

Folks came back over Christmas night to watch A Christmas Story and eat tomato basil and pumpkin soups, and then we wrapped up the day by Skyping into the Farnsworth family Christmas in Birmingham.

Although we very much missed being home with everyone, we had a great Christmas and are so grateful for our family back at home and our friends over here. Merry Christmas everyone!


Tidbits

-Christmas can come now! After weeks of anxious waiting (the postal service here is erratic, to say the least), last night we got our Christmas package from the Farnsworth family. The Gregory boxes (yes there were TWO! and they sent us CHRISTMAS PAJAMAS! and a candle that smells like EVERGREENS!) came through last week but I was beginning to think that an enterprising customs agent might be holding my family’s box hostage. But it’s here, with pecans and marshmallows and all sorts of surprises that we’ll find out about on Saturday.

-A few weeks ago some of my American friends and I attended an English Corner hosted by one of my friends. In case you don’t know what that is, it is basically an event where lots of college students flock together and practice speaking to one another in, you guessed it, English. As Americans, we are a big attraction at these events. I mean, I basically feel like a superstar at these things. Anyway, my sweet friend, a freshman, worked so hard and did a great job organizing English games and getting everyone to mingle with one another. My favorite moment, though? When she told us that we needed to “line up and see who is the fattest.” Oh dear. Thankfully we eventually figured out that she actually wanted to see who was the “fastest,” which is not nearly as scary for a bunch of American girls who are already at least twice the size of all our slender Asian friends.

-On the up side, I’m not sick anymore! Hurray! On the very down side, I passed that cold off to Michael, who’s now fighting the same cold, fever, headache, and sore throat that I had. Yuck and more yuck.

-Monday night, we made a life-altering discovery. A mere 45 minute bus ride away, there is a grocery store that sells butter and cream cheese and regular cheese and some types of cereal and barbecue sauce and mustard and asparagus and oh my goodness this was good news. I’m sure this grocery store discovery sounds like the most boring thing in the world to those of you in America but to us it was heaven. Asian food is awesome but it certainly wasn’t what we grew up eating and sometimes you just need to have a taste (pun intended) of home. Plus, if we hadn’t found this store I wouldn’t have been able to make Cream Cheese Bread which is a Christmas morning staple for the Gregory family. So, I’m thankful.

-And, finally, a few pictures of our Christmas decorations. Please excuse me as I experiment with our camera. Michael is teaching me, but I’m  a slow learner.

Rooms lit solely by Christmas tree lights are one of the world’s best things.

Our “mantel.” We didn’t bring stockings with us from America, so I went to our local fabric market and convinced a kind elderly woman who owns a small knitting booth to make these for us (for less than $10). She was so confused when I explained that I wanted these stockings to be big and that I wanted to be hang them, not wear them. But she did a great job (I think) and now we have Christmas stockings! Side note: the black-and-white photos are pictures of our grandparents. I love being able to see these tangible reminders of our loved ones and our roots.

Evidence that our families love and miss us. We miss you, too!


S’mores

I promised earlier that, at some point, pictures of our fire pit would be forthcoming. Well, that day is here. Look at this glow!!

Michael built the fire pit earlier this fall after I found this link on my favorite decorating site. We are really thankful that our apartment has an awesome porch where we can sit outside and look over the city.

Having the fire pit during this autumn/winter has really been wonderful. We’ve had many nights of fellowship and hot chocolate sitting out on our front porch with our Asia family. Last night we were able to make real, 100% legitimate s’mores thanks to a package sent to us by Samantha, a friend of our friend Talia (that’s Talia above!).

They were every bit as delicious as they look!

Oh, and this is QingQing, Talia’s poodle. (Side note: translated into the language here, poodle means “fancy expensive dog.” Sounds about right, huh?) QingQing is kind of our mascot. What she lacks in brains (which is a lot) she makes up for in lovability and spunk.


Well, goodness

The Christmas season is upon us here in Asia and, just like at home, we are busybusybusy. This is definitely our most hectic season: we’ve got Christmas parties to throw, friends to meet with before they head home, oh, and exams to prepare for. Here the holiday break comes in mid-January through mid-February for the local New Year’s (also known as Spring Festival), so for now we’ve got to keep pushing on through with class, which has been rather hard these last few weeks. The motivation to keep studying hard wanes as the semester continues on…we have so many other things on our plate as well! Thankfully, we have heat in our classroom (last time I lived in Asia I was not so lucky) so I don’t think anyone will end up with frostbitten fingers (this did not happen to me but did happen to an acquaintance!). Anyway, I  think our Thai classmates might not make it if we didn’t have heat in the classrooms… chilly temps is one thing they are not used to.

Right now I’ve found the time to catch up on blogging (along with e-mails and reading) because I’m stuck in bed sick. Again. I’ve always been kind of proud of what I believed was my healthy immune system but this year has really shown that belief was ill-placed! I’ve spent more time sniffling, sneezing, or nursing an aching stomach than ever before, and I don’t like it at all, not one bit. I thought before coming over that I might spend a good bit of time taking care of Michael (who regularly got sick the last time he was in Asia) but I never expected that I would be the one with a shoddy record. Just goes to show, I guess. Oh well. I’m resting up today and am grateful that, as not-fun as this is, it’s just a simple cold and this, too, shall pass.

Amidst the general busyness of the month, we are trying to pause and fix our eyes on Emmanuel. Perhaps more this year than ever before, I have been loving Advent as it reminds me of the hope and the longing of this time as we mark the season in a place where Christmas is not widely observed. Here is what it says on the guide we have been following this year:

“The first candle we light is the candle of Prophecy. This draws attention to the hope of the coming of a Messiah as it weaves its way through Old Testament history. As God’s people were abused by power- hungry kings, they longed for a true king: great David’s Son who would be greater than David himself, who would shepherd them as his flock and who would have the healing and renewing power of God in his hands.
This year, we chose the themes of Peace, Joy, and Love for our second, third and fourth candles, respectively. While the prophecy, peace, and love candles are purple, the pink candle symbolizes our joy at Christ’s coming. It brings to mind the joy of the proclamation made to them in the fields and the joy they felt as they knelt before the Child in the manger.”



Merry Christmas!

It’s a bit tricky sending Christmas cards out when you live overseas, but we did it. And just in case you missed it, here are the glamor shots that were lucky enough to make our yearly greeting card.

This beauty was taken around Thanksgiving–note Michael’s lovely facial hair. He was quite proud of that beard and worked on it for quite awhile (my expression is not meant to convey my feelings about said facial hair). We didn’t plan it, but we ended up in our matching Disney marathon T’s from January.

And this was taken just after the beard (much to my relief and great joy) disappeared, on our balcony here in East Asia.