Monthly Archives: September 2010

Soccer strands, and unites Beijing reminiscent, part 2

I managed to get Olympic soccer tickets for a preliminary match in Tianjin. Tianjin is a city an hour away from Beijing.

We took the bullet train from Beijing to Tianjin—it was only 30 minutes. It takes more than an hour to go some places in Beijing!

We cheered on our U.S. men’s soccer team and I felt the bond many feel when watching their country compete in the Olympics, only this time I was experiencing it firsthand.

Tianjin missed the memo about transportation and major worldwide sporting events. Not only were there not enough trains going back to the host city, none were leaving late enough for fans to make it and see the entire event they paid money for. We had to leave the Nigeria v. The Netherlands game we had tickets for early.

Our theory was Tianjin wanted to make money off the tourists by creating a situation where tourists would be obligated to stay in their hotels and not take the 30-minute bullet train back to Beijing.

As my friends and I talked, taxi after taxi passed, already carrying passengers. We enlisted a “bread box van,” as they are called in Chinese, to take us to find a taxi. The driver collects six-inch stools from private drivers who rent them for events like these so they can sit and listen to the event on their radios.

When we found a taxi and finally got to the stadium, we had missed our train and the last train after it.

We were not alone. Many other foreigners and locals found themselves trapped in Tianjin.

Our numbers grew, and before we knew it, we had a posse. A Chinese friend, American teacher and another student joined us, followed by the teacher’s brother and another English teacher and their new-found Ugandan friend.

The ticket sellers we could wait for the 3 a.m. train and purchase standing room only tickets. We decided against this. Ten minutes after this they sold out.

Two women wearing the official American soccer jersey and a father and son from New York joined the ranks.

I admired their jerseys and remarked how we had tried to find American jerseys in the markets in Beijing and were repeatedly shown David Beckham’s L.A. Galaxy jersey.

One of the ladies is the wife of one of the U.S. coaches and they opted to stay in Beijing instead of Tianjin with the team.

I tried to make small talk with a 10-year-old boy who was there with his father. He had caught a grasshopper in the stadium and was toting him around in a box with holes poked in the top.

What did you feed it? I asked.

Grass, he said.

Also included in our numbers was a middle-aged Indian couple who had tickets to events every day of the Olympics. They, along with the soccer wives, were sold tickets earlier that day for a train that never left, or left early.

While our Chinese friends tried to strike bargains, my friend and I made a deal with a Tianjin taxi driver to take a group to Beijing. We sent the soccer wives and father and son in that taxi.

Our Chinese friends told us that because of the restrictions for the Olympics, they might not make it to Beijing. In an effort to keep crowds down, Beijing set limits on cars coming into the capital that weren’t registered within the city.

“We are calling the government,” someone informed me.

Right.

The police called us an eight-passenger van for the 13 of us who remained.

Our head count now stood with, three American teachers from Ohio, a young, four- months-pregnant couple from Ohio, one Chicago native, one Ugandan soccer player, two Chinese students, an Indian couple, an Oklahoman, a third culture kid and our Chinese driver.

We wedged into the van, some sitting and squatting in the decade-old van. The driver told us to be careful of the middle seat, it is not secured, so the passengers in the backseat supported us.

We began to feel like illegal immigrants. The driver told us that what we were doing wasn’t legal. He wasn’t supposed to drive into Beijing because he has Tianjin license plates. We would have to stop and be searched he said, and may not make it in.

I found out that the three Ohio teachers were believers and have mutual friends in Beijing.

The Chicagoan works for an animation company and frequently travels to North Korea, and may get to attend their “opening ceremony,” that is supposedly going to copy China’s.

In the dark, the Ugandan man smiled and his teeth shone in the dark as he told us his wife is expecting a baby. They now live in Australia. With the windows open in the van, I missed the soccer connection in his life story. Throughout the entire ordeal, his face always wore a smile.

Soccer talk further united us during the van. We talked about that night’s game. We discussed our favorite football clubs and players. We swapped stories about playing soccer and injuries we sustained while playing.

When we stopped at the first checkpoint we decided to take a group picture to commemorate our one and only evening together. After applying for a traffic permit and being waved through a checkpoint, we made it to the outskirts of town.

The first taxi called to say they made it safely. We finally made it safely too.

Not only did we get to see Olympic soccer, we had the kind of adventure movies are made from.

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Beijing 2008 reminiscent

I got to go to some Good Luck games! Good Luck games are pre-Olympic games intended for athletes to test the facilities and for the Olympic volunteers to practice medal ceremonies.

I was able to see synchronized swimming, fencing and basketball. The synchronized swimming took place in the “Water Cube” in the Olympic Green. The Water Cube is an architectural masterpiece. The bubbles on the exterior regulate the temperature inside. From inside you can look up and see the hollow bubbles.

Fencing was also in the Olympic Green. The basketball match I saw was the USA women’s team versus Australia.

I got to go to the Bird’s Nest! I got to see track and field, another Good Luck Games event.

The stadium is huge. Just being in it makes you feel like you are part of something amazing.

All the events were going on at one time, so it was difficult to know where to look. My best friend from Baylor came to visit during this time so she also got to come. My mom also got came to visit and came to the track and field meet.

I took my friend to all the usual sights: Great Wall, Temple of Heaven, Summer Palace, Forbidden City, Tiananmen and the Pearl Market. It was fun seeing things through a newbie’s eyes.

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A step back in time

I thought I’d share a series of journal entries I wrote during my study abroad in China in 2008.

January 9, 2008 — Written from Nanning

So much is uncertain about this semester, and yet, God is giving me a peace. I know it will be good, but I am not sure what the semester will look like. In February, I will be making the move up to chilly Beijing to settle in to a semester of intensive Chinese.

Yesterday we went with the good friends of ours to a small, ancient village in the Chinese countryside.

After a very long and bumpy van ride, we came to the impoverished Song dynasty town. Houses from the Ming and the Qing dynasties were still standing. The houses have plaques with English explanations of their historical value and significance. Sun Yat Sen, known as the modern Father of China, was supposed to have made plans for an invasion in one of the dwellings.

The town had so many elderly people—with wrinkled and weathered faces—not dissimilar to the state of the village. Many of the backs of the elderly were stooped over from carrying the weight of decades.

I marveled about the history they have seen. Some probably were born around 1911 when China became a republic. They all lived through the Cultural Revolution. One woman we talked to was 94 years old. The town had no cars, and the China she lived in was a struggling republic. She may have been in the village when Sun Yat Sen came through.

We also saw new life. Puppies scampered in the streets like it was their domain. Many toddlers waddled around in layers of sweaters that would rival Randy’s layers in the movie “A Christmas Story.” It really wasn’t that cold, but the Chinese believe children must be dressed to the hilt in January– regardless of the outside temperature.

We ate delectable local seafood on a boat. Next to the boat, women spent their afternoon washing their clothes in the muddy banks of the river in metal washbasins.

The trip was an interesting peek into an old town trying to attract tourists.

Stay tuned for more installments from 2008…

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Uncle Sam’s Plantation

It’s modern-day slavery. It’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin on Uncle Sam’s Plantation.

Star Parker’s book is a vehement presentation of how big government enslaves America’s poor in a vicious cycle. Parker came out of the same background she writes about having been on welfare.

Parker talks about how welfare, taxes and minimum wage helps, not hurts.

I think her argument could have been presented differently, but I think is very close to hitting home. The book began abruptly and Parker’s tone of anger carries throughout the book. She makes it seem like she’s best buds with Rush Limbaugh as well, which concerned me.

Welfare keeps people dependent on Uncle Sam, Parker argues. To stay on welfare, people must meet certain job requirements, such as agreeing to not get a job. For many in poverty, the security in knowing you have money coming in outweighs the risk of trying to find a job that will probably pay less than the welfare check.

Poverty in the US is not decreasing. Welfare is decreasing the likelihood of the American dream coming to fruition and making it hard for rags to riches stories to take place, Parker argues.

One example Parker gives in minimum wage. Increasing minimum wage drives employers to raise qualifications and education requirements for those they hire because they can’t afford to hire as many people. This rules out many in poverty who don’t have the education or experience many employers are now demanding.

“A thriving economy is not the solution. Although the poor need free enterprise, capital investment, and rising productivity in order to obtain better living standards, the lack of a sustainable moral code and value system brings such endeavors to naught,” Parker writes.

Unless values and morals are addressed, Parker argues, the problem will perpetuate. Moral relativism is not helping Americans.

“Values are transmitted through family, which is why much of the black community is in moral free fall and the rest of American society is unraveling as white family life collapses. Children learn from what they observe. With so many children born outside of marriage, in families with no father present, core values are missing from daily life, and children are forced to look outside to popular culture for guidance.”

Schools and governments are teaching it’s OK for men to sleep around and father children by many mothers and not commit to a long-term relationship.

Raising taxes hurts the poor too, Parker argues. I won’t get into all of her arguments, because there are many, but you get the picture.

Despite many issues, of which I’ll not go into, I think this book hits on many issues Americans need to grapple with. Are our current policies beneficial? Are we helping or hurting the poor? What does welfare do to our economy? Discussions need to happen. The blinds need to come off. This book was an eye-opener.

This book was provided to me by Thomas Nelson’s BookSneeze program. My thoughts and opinions are my own.

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Immanuel’s Veins

Ted Dekker’s newest book, “Immanuel’s Veins” is a dark and riveting tale of redemption. Dekker paints a beautiful tale of sacrificial love that points to Christ’s love. The book is set in the 1700s, in what used to be Moldavia but is now present day Moldova and Romania. (I Wikipedia-ed it)

This is the first book of Dekker’s I’ve read. I read the 367-page novel in one evening. Though slightly melodramatic at times, “Immanuel’s Veins” kept me going.

I think many times we take sacrificial love for granted. We take for granted that blood was shed for our lives. We take for granted the high price that was paid for our lives. Dekker’s book poignantly refreshed in my mind the value of sacrificial love.

The book is a little dark and there were several scenes I was uncomfortable with. Some elements in the book might be disturbing to some. Evil is portrayed vividly in Dekker’s book. But, I think many times in the 21st century, evil is sugarcoated and we underestimate how truly horrid and awful our adversary us. Dekker’s message is a powerful one and he communicates it well.

I don’t want to share to much more, for fear of giving away the plot. Pick up a copy. It’ll make you re-think the way you view good and evil.

Thomas Nelson’s BookSneeze provided me with an advance copy of this book. My thoughts and opinions are my own.

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Outlive Your Life

The world would be different if Christians stood up and did something about it.

I’m not talking about the amorphous body that we like to refer to when talking about the need for social action and justice. I am talking about you. You are the body of Christ. I think many times we tend to forget ourselves when talking about what the body of Christ should or should not do.

Like the Good Book says, (said in Tevye’s voice from the Fiddler on the Roof) don’t point out the speck in your neighbor’s eye when you’ve got a plank in your own.

Max Lucado’s book, “Outlive Your Life,” talks about making a difference — letting our actions live past our lives.

“May you live in such a way that your death is just the beginning of your life,” Lucado writes in his opening chapter.

Lucado draws from the book of Acts to share and show how the early church’s actions ring throughout the annals and panels of time.

Oh, if the church of the 21st century were to live in such a way that each of us are Cornelius’ and Phillips.

Changing the world and making a difference starts on an individual level. It’s the everyday choices you make. It’s choosing to help refugees get settled in American life, it’s giving your leftover meal to a beggar and it’s inviting people into your home. Outliving your life starts with the people around you.

Lucado’s book is a needed message for me and for you.

Thoughts?

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The Butterfly Effect

I know some of you have been pondering, maybe even musing, at my choice for the name of my blog. I’m really happy to share the meaning and reason for my choosing this as my blog’s title.

The butterfly effect was not my own invention, although I wish it was. It’s actually a scientific theory. In 1963, Scientist Edward Lorenz came up with the butterfly effect.

His theory is, as summarized by Andy Andrews in his book, “The Butterfly Effect” :

 

“A butterfly could flap its wings and set molecules of air in motion, which would move other molecules of air, in turn moving more molecules of air— eventually capable of starting a hurricane on the other side of the planet.”

 

The scientific community laughed at Lorenz. But, his theory was deemed accurate and is now called The Law of Sensitive Dependence Upon Initial Conditions. If you ask me, The Butterfly Effect, is easier to say and understand, but I guess scientists need to invent fancy names to sound smarter.

His theory doesn’t just refer to butterflies, but to people. In essence, one act, as simple as a flap of a butterfly’s wings, makes a difference of cosmic proportions.

“When you know that everything matters—that every move counts as much as any other—you will begin living a life of permanent purpose,” Andrews says, quoting a man he met.

I heard about the butterfly effect long before reading Andrews’ brief book, but reading it enforced and expanded my affinity for this theory.

The butterfly effect is a call to live a life of permanent purpose. Everything I do has a meaning and purpose. The lives I touch with each flap of my wings matter. If everyone lived life with this same determination the world would be a different place. God intended us to bring glory to Himself.

Andrews gives several examples of the butterfly effect applied in life. Because George Washington Carver, yep the peanut guy, took interest in Henry Wallace, the former vice president under Franklin D. Roosevelt, Wallace became interested in agriculture. He became the Secretary of Agriculture and later hired Norman Borlaug. In the 1940s, Borlaug hybridized high yield, disease resistant corn and wheat for arid climates. This saved two billion lives from famine.

The idea in Andrews’ book and for my blog is this:

“You have been created as one of a kind.
On the planet Earth, there has never been
one like you … and there never will be again.
Your spirit, your thoughts and feelings, your
ability to reason and act all exist in no one else.
The rarities that make you special are no
mere accident or quirk of fate.”

You have been created in order that you might
make a difference. You have within you the power to change

Of course the power comes from God and not ourselves. God has a specific mission for each of our lives. Don’t ever feel like where you’ve been placed is insignificant. You’ve been placed there for a time a season and a reason.

What is your butterfly effect?

Most likely, we won’t know that until we reach heaven. Until that day, let’s keeping flapping our wings.

Thanks to Thomas Nelson’ BookSneeze, I was provided with an electronic copy of Andy Andrews’ book, “The Butterfly Effect.” My thoughts and opinions are my own. I enjoyed and appreciated his book as it fits nicely with my blog.

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