Sorry for the short hiatus. What can I say, adjusting to a new, much much larger city has proved to be much more challenging than previously anticipated. But I’m back, I hope, for now, and writing to you directly from my new apartment. And when I say new, I actually mean that the building is old, and when I say apartment, I really mean a room in a building. Not sure if ‘apartment’ is the best word, but we’ll call it that. Apartment shopping was tough, especially for someone who has been living out of his backpack for the past 3 months+, I just wanted to get settled! Frustrated after a few days of searching, I decided on one that is in a good location, albeit very humble by USA standards. Again and again it seemed I had the option of a modest one bedroom where I could save money, or share a 3 bedroom apartment, that’s really nice, but pay double living with who knows? I opted for the former. But on the plus side, I’m living inexpensively, in a very ‘Chinese’ neighborhood, less than 10 minutes to the subway and within seconds of a dozen tasty Chinese restaurants. Did I mention I could eat at any of them for about a dollar?
The view out my apartment window.
I must admit, Shanghai has been trying. It rains everyday, the city is massive, people here aren’t quite like the kind-hearted country Chinese I’m used to, and it costs an arm and a leg to do anything. I arrived in a monsoon, and went to the hotel where all the teachers would be staying for orientation. I had a cool hotel roommate from Canada, a brother too! Praise God. Unfortunately, he was placed in a school a few hours outside of town, far away from mine, so we couldn’t room together. The first week was rough; in fact I was on the brink of packing up and moving down south where I knew I had community and a ministry waiting for me. After much prayer, I decided to stick it out, and see what this city will bring. I still have many unknowns and uncertainties, but I know that I need to give those things to the Lord. Pray that I can surrender all my rights, so that I needn’t worry about what the future holds, not even one bit. I know exactly why I was struggling too, that’s the worst part. I believe I came to Shanghai for my own purposes, not God’s. I wanted to save some money, meet tons of people, play hockey or do whatever else (Shanghai literally has everything). No where near the top of that list was ‘God.’ He changed my attitude around, and I have a new focus, that whatever I do here, ‘whether in word or deed,’ that He would be the reason. I soon realized living for my own purposes was quickly digging me deep into a hole that would never satisfy. It reminded me of my past, a place I never want to go back to, so I let God have it, and He straightened me out. I’ve decided to just try and take it one day at a time, and let Him work through me here in all I do. Pray that this will continue! Tomorrow holds what tomorrow holds; as for today, I do what He has set forth for me to do.
But alas, I started teaching, moved into my apartment, and things are turning around. I’ve met loads of people. The lady at the apartment entry gate (they call them aunties in Chinese) told me she is a believer! We chatted a bit, me with my broken Chinese, her with her lightning fast Chinese with Shanghainese accent. Yes Shanghainese is a language, completely different than Mandarin, so when they speak Mandarin, it’s not very standard. They use a few different words down here as well, so it will take some getting used to. When I walked outside for lunch today, the ‘auntie’ was talking to another girl and excitedly flagged me over, and introduced me to her, a girl named Zhen Yi (Jenny). She is also a believer! And lives a few doors down. She has good English as well, and has been to Minnesota before, totally random. She has her own business and lots of free time, and offered to help me with my Mandarin. My landlord lady is also a Mandarin teacher at a local university! Between those two, hopefully I can really hit the books this year. Please pray for my landlord as well, as she has been reading the Word, but is still unsure about it. Lots of divine appointments these past few days! Her name is Judy, and I will definitely be talking to her again soon about the Good News. I’ve also met loads of people at the foreigner churches here in Shanghai, and there is lots of churches! I’m getting connected quickly, which is great. My early struggles here were perfect evidence of how the lack of community can really affect me. I feel that starting to change now, so I thank the Lord.
Teaching…hmmmm. Teaching is interesting. I have 5 classes, 2 1st grade classes, 2 2nd grade classes, and 1 3rd grade class, and I see them each 6 times a week. My schedule is pretty sweet though: 1-5 Tues-Fri, and 8-5 Sat with Sun-Mon off. The kids are very cute, some of them are awesome, some of them terrors. The 1st graders have no English, so that has been a unique challenge, but I feel we finally made a little progress Saturday with learning names, and phrases like ‘Nice to meet you.’ The 3rd graders can actually speak pretty well, I was pleasantly surprised. Their still crazy though. Discipline is a challenge, some of the kids have it, others have none. I believe it will get better, but these first 2 weeks have really tried my patience. I always thought I was a patient person, but these past few months in China have crushingly proved me wrong. Thank you Jesus, for revealing that to me. Please pray that I would do my best to be a good teacher, and that supernatural patience and joy would overcome me as I do this job.
A shot of one of my grade 2 classes.
I also joined a hockey league! Tryouts were last week, and the draft on Saturday. I’m not sure which team I’ll be on, but I will keep you posted. It’s sort of a bizarre feeling carrying hockey gear around China; no one knows what the heck it is. But I’m really hoping to have some ministry opportunities with this, I feel really strongly about it in fact. At tryouts I met a cool dude who was a believer too! Found out he goes to the same church I’d been to also. So we hung out yesterday with some of his friends and had dinner. I pray this league will be a great way to connect here in Shanghai, and spread some love around.
All in all, I’m making connections everyday, and things are going well. I was thinking today about how I really have nothing to complain about. I have the tendency to think about ‘what if’?’ a lot, and other things I could be doing instead. But right now I just gotta trust that God has me where He wants me, and is going to use me here, for His purposes, not mine.