Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Day Seven

This was my first Sunday Morning in China. You know, not the "Sunday Morning" as in a particular time of day and position of the sun, but the "Sunday Morning" as in the designated time with other believers in some sort of structured setting. If you didn't already know, there are quite a few government regulations concerning religion and Christianity. It is a very complicated situation that I don't pretend to understand, but what it comes down to is that there is an international church that meets right next to where I live. It is an "international" church because according to government regulations they have to check passports at the door to make sure only foreigners attend. It is close and Jerry and JD go there,so I went and checked it out.

Overall, it was a really cool experience. The worship was led in a pretty familiar contemporary style, but the band was a mix of Americans and Filipinos. The sermon was delivered by a gentleman from Africa (Kenyan I believe). The attendees were American, German, English, Filipino, African, Asian--- ok, from pretty much everywhere! The whole service was in English, since that is everyone's common language.

This was my first ever real experience with moving and not really knowing anyone at a new church. It really makes me regret not spending more time welcoming new people at church. It wouldn't be till weeks later that I would make any real friends at church.

The Whitneys have some Chinese friends who invited them over for dinner that evening, and I tagged along with them. We were there from 2:30-8:00. That is quite a long time, especially for a first visit! I think it went well. It was, of course, awkward. I mean that situation would be awkward in America, on my home turf: visiting the home of someone I haven't met yet, staying there a long time, only knowing the people I came with for a week. Ya, awkward. But add in the culture and language factors, and I think just about everyone was just trying to stay afloat.

One of my goals while in China is to learn how to make some Chinese dishes, so I jumped right in with the cooking. We were preparing a traditional Chinese New Year dish: Jiaozi. Basically it dumplings filled with meat and vegetables, which you boil and then dip in soy sauce. I "helped" make the dough, prepare the garlic, roll out the dough into small circles, and pack the circles with filling. I say "helped" because I did most of those things wrong. I never could get the dough into proper dumpling circles for packing. Mine always had holes in them or were the lopsided shape of Australia. The Wangs, however, had no trouble. They could make perfect circles in all of five seconds. My packing skills weren't great either. Jiaozi dumplings are supposed to have almost no extraneous dough. Like this:

I couldn't quite get my dumpling edges to be that small (I blame my big hands), so there were large flaps of dough protruding from the top of mine. Every time I made one and submitted it to the Wangs for approval, they would kind of laugh. I finally asked them what was so funny, and they said that my jiaozi looked like pig ears! Everyone had a good laugh at that.

Most awkward cultural moment? When they offered left-overs to take home. What do I do here? Is it polite to take them? Or to refuse? Or to refuse and then take them? In the end I just did what an American would do, and hoped it wasn't too offensive.

Its funny, but I really liked the Wangs. Even though I couldn't really understand them. How does that work? I mean they certainly communicated their wonderful character to me, even with my lack of Mandarin and their rocky English. Maybe there is more to communication than language after all. Maybe it is who you are that communicates the most to others. An encouraging thought for a man swimming in a language and a culture not his own.

~J.L. Smith

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