It was a whirlwind summer, and although I had promised myself I would try and blog more (the barrage of blog posts never came), post more pictures, etc, I never really got around to doing much of that. However, I didn’t do those things because I was actually living in the moment, spending time with family and friends, enjoying nature and loving life. I am so thankful for the people and places we were able to see this summer. We spent a lot of time with family both in Minnesota and in Texas. We visited Seoul, South Korea for a few days and then came back to Qingdao.
What a difference a year makes!
Already, having only been back for a short while, we feel like we are home. We know how to get places, we moved into a new apartment that we absolutely LOVE, and we can get by with our basic survival Chinese. Even now, as I’m blogging this, I am sitting by my window, looking out over the ocean, watching as the waves come in and crash against the shore. I am soaking in the clear skies and sunshine (both of which were scarce last year).
So, what’s new? All of these things could be a blog by themselves but then I would never get around to writing them, and you would never have the chance to read them, so… it’s a Hodge podge, but here it is.
First of all, we moved! We prayed about changing apartments last year around May and we began our search. We had a lot of help from friends but we kept striking out… either the place was for sale and not for rent, or it wasn’t furnished, or it was out of our price range. We began to get discouraged but continued to trust the Lord to lead us to the place that would be right for us. We desperately wanted a view of the ocean. We are less than half a mile from the sea and we decided that when else in life will we have the opportunity to have an apartment with an ocean view??? (Unless we decide to move to Hawaii or something) Anyways, a friend of ours who worked at our school decided at the last minute that she wouldn’t be returning next year, and she invited us over to see her place again. When we got there, we remembered how incredible it was! Despite the ugly floral wallpaper and upholstery, and in spite of the nasty stick-on things all over the apartment (we’ve got the Eiffel Tower, an airplane, fireworks, and a huge, monstrous lime-green tree in the bathroom), the apartment was amazing. The view from this place was unmatchable and the price fell right into our budget. All these things kind of converged to make it possible for us to move in here. So, when we got back from Seoul, we began to pack our things to prepare to move. After some minor setbacks (those are for a later blog), we were on our way. We hired movers who were quick and efficient (and cost-effective) and within a few days of being here, we were all settled in.
We got to see our friends Catherine and Justin and their baby Elijah, who was born the day before we left Qingdao for the summer. It is crazy to see how much he has already changed, but I loved getting to see them and get in some baby time!
We met some of the new people who will be working at our school and spent Tuesday night showing them around town. We took them down the road from their hotel (the same place where we stayed just a year ago) and showed them Shiloaren beach, then ventured out on the bus to Marina City and May 4th Square, two iconic places in Qingdao. We had a lovely evening together, coupled with beautiful weather, and then had dinner downtown at Canvas, a restaurant that a co-worker owns. It was a really nice night.
On Wednesday we were able to have some friends over to our new home for a housewarming party and it was so much fun! We finally have a big enough space to entertain guests and it was so great to see our Qingdao friends again!
So… after our housewarming party, some good friends, the Mosby’s, took us out to look for a scooter. Now, Trent has been asking for one since we moved here last year, sometimes playfully, but other times seriously. Then Heather and Zach bought one. Heather was telling me some of the benefits of having one and then, earlier this week, when we went downtown to Qingdao University to play some b-ball, we got to test it out. It was a pretty smooth and efficient way to get around! After contemplating the pros vs. cons as well as our timetable if we were to decide to get one, we decided it made a lot of sense to do it, and to do it quickly while the weather is still nice. We decided that it would make our daily trips so much easier, we wouldn’t have to wait for cabs (or pay so much to get around), and it would give us more freedom to come and go as we please. In addition to these things, we could also resell it when we decide to go back to the States. So, all of those factors considered, we decided to buy our own. Heather and Zach met up with us Thursday afternoon and we headed out to Scooterville, China. When we arrived there were plenty of bikes to look at, some bigger than what we were looking for, some smaller. We really liked how theirs drove, so we kind of wanted the same one or a similar model. We ended up with the same bike, but ours is black. It’s pretty sweet looking and we really like it. If you would have asked me what my favorite part of being home for the summer was, I might have told you it was freedom. We had our independence back… things didn’t take 7 times as long as they should like they do here, we could just hop in our CRV (or whatever vehicle we were driving) and go wherever the wind would take us. This purchase has allowed us to have that beautiful “F” word here as well. We look forward to the many adventures it will take us on!
Speaking of adventures, Trent and I took our first major one on our own Friday afternoon. We took the bike out and went exploring. We rode it all the way up by Laoshan Mountain and we spent the afternoon taking in the cool ocean breeze and watching the humongous waves come in to shore in front of a glorious backdrop of mountains. It was so clear and the temperature was perfect! It was a most delightful afternoon and we look forward to many more like this.
Saturday we had our first “Back to School” outing (insert sobbing and summer withdrawal symptoms here) with both the returning and new staff. We took a school bus to the Tsingtao Museum and brewery where we got to see some of the history of our city’s namesake beer. After the tour we all got some beer and enjoyed getting to know the new people and catching up with the old. Then we went out for a fancy Chinese dinner where we also got a “cultural performance” with dinner. The performance was made up of several parts- two people sang some folk songs, then there were people doing traditional Chinese shadow puppets, followed by Chinese paper cutting and a (clown) magic show. Dinner was very… Chinese… with a lot of things we don’t particularly like to eat. We stuck to the things we know and like such as fried rice and French fries (yep, even in China). Of course there were Sea Cucumbers and all sorts of other interesting looking sea food (been there, tried that). All in all it was a nice outing but a reminder of our short time left (insert sobbing again).
Last, but certainly not least, our last day of freedom before school started… Sunday. We spent our morning at our fellowship, enjoying the friendships and wisdom of our brothers and sisters there. We went out for Korean food for lunch and then Trent and I biked down to the beach (on our bicycles) to go play in the waves. We felt like kids, body surfing and jumping in the waves. It was fantastic! The water was nice, the waves were huge and the sun was out. It was a perfect last afternoon. Then we went back and headed out for dinner again with our good friends, the Esser’s. The four of us took the baby and went for Korean barbeque and chose some Doc Galbi to finish off the night. An ice cream bar later and a scooter ride home and our summer vacation was officially over.
Instead of being incredibly sad that our vacation is over, I am going to be thankful for every smile, every laugh, every story and every hug that was shared this summer, at home and here in Qingdao. I’m thankful for friends, who here are like family. I’m thankful for blue skies and beautiful days. I will look forward to what this year has to bring and will welcome new challenges with an open heart. New school year… bring it!