27 December 2009

Merry Christmas from China!


This month has been full of activities. On December 9th, there was a Relief Society Christmas party. It was an amazing turkey dinner full of delicious food that I happily stuffed myself with. Nowadays, salads never seem to be plain-they always have cranberries and vinaigrette and feta cheese and stuff. So you know I stuffed myself especially with those.

For an activity we sang “Karaoke style” Christmas songs. One or two of the sisters would choose a song and go up to the stage and sing and dance. Of course a lot of the dancing was improv like but I was still impressed how a lot of the sisters were able to coordinate their dance moves with the one next to her. Some of the sisters were so hilarious, that I couldn’t stop cracking up. (Especially our Relief Society president.) She is so full of life! Everything she did, she did it with a goofy smile that made us laugh.

I participated in the “12 days of Christmas song” and with two other sisters acted out all of the actions of the song. It was funny what one of the sisters came up with so I followed her lead and it was a big hoot for the others to see

After the singing, we all presented one of our “collections.” Each sister was allowed time to talk about their beloved collection. I don’t really have any “collections” here in China so I brought my big binder of family stories to share. I shared the one about my great grandma Charlotte Ann Able and how she had an enormous pain in her head and that after a blessing the pain shot out of her body via her big toe. They really like the story.

On December 10th I had the YW activity where we made applesauce-cinnamon gingerbread man ornaments and decorated them for the tree. I think I made a previous post about that. The ornaments all turned out pretty cute.

December 12th was our Branch Christmas party. Ramsey was the star of the play! =) The story starts off with a father (Ramsey) and his daughter. She wants to open a presents and he tells her that before that he wants to share with her the real meaning of Christmas. So throughout the play, he is describing events (like a narrator) while some of the branch members act out the scene. I sang a solo “Oh Little Town of Bethlehem.” Everyone really liked Ramsey and said his acting was very natural. (Even his little laugh when “his daughter” would say something cute.) He really brought warmth to the Christmas pageant.

On December 15th our University held a Christmas dinner/party for all the foreign teachers and students in the university. Ramsey and I came a little late and we were looking for a place to sit and one side were tables for Chinese people and the other side were all Western looking people. I was thinking “hmmm” are they segregating us? So we chose the Western looking people side and after sitting down found that they all looked really young. Could these be teachers? No. They were all foreign students. We had sat down on the wrong side. We were sitting next to British students and one French student and the other side with all the Chinese people were the admin and teachers who were specifically invited. I came to the realization that we were the only official foreign Western teachers (at least, that showed up). It was very strange feeling. What was more strange was that most every table was filled with British students. I couldn’t hear one American accent! I felt like I was at a Harry Potter Hogwarts –like Christmas party. Even the feel of the feast felt like I was living in Hogwarts and there was this girl next to me that I swear looked just like Hermione and talked liked her too. It was the weirdest thing!

But anyway, the food was good. Chinese are so good and preparing marvelous feasts. They are so good at trying to make us feel welcome too by even making some traditional Western food like “Chicken nuggets” and “French fries”. (Hehe) I stuck with the roast duck and other such food.

They had a lot of games and drawings. Ramsey won a stuffed animal. They also had a Chinese Santa Clause that I desperately wanted to take a picture with so that I could have that as my Christmas picture. Can you imagine how truly awesome that would be?! Ramsey and I giving a cheesy smile with a Chinese Santa in the middle!?

December 17th was the combined youth activity. We made edible gingerbread men and decorated them with candy with a frosting-type glue that was edible but also dried hard. It was really cool what all of the kids came up with. Here is one picture. They are all so clever!

On December 19th Ramsey and I gave talks in Sacrament. We were the “Christmas” speakers. I talked about the compassion and service that Christ performed throughout his life that we must emulate and Ramsey talked about the reality of Jesus Christ.

That night we had dinner with Cameron Archibald. His wife had left for the states four days previously and he was just finishing up work before joining her. He made us a fabulous Italian dinner. I really like the Caprese salad that was tomatoes with mozzarella covered with balsamic vinegar. Afterward we watched videos he made of their trips which was a lot of fun and really inspired me to travel more.

On December 20th we got invited by this family in our branch called the Mauermans for FHE. They made us a really delicious dinner. The cornbread was amazing! We also watched Charlie Brown’s Christmas and made our own Christmas paper with paint. Ramsey’s was of course amazing because he a fabulous artist. I tried to make plaid and it turned out sub par. Ramsey also showed their kids how to make origami frogs. They ate that up. He is super good with kids.

On December 21st Ramsey and I went Christmas shopping. The best part of Christmas in China is that all the stores are decorated for Christmas but there isn’t the Christmas rush and mass chaos that is usually there the week of Christmas. We strolled around the shopping centers walking around lighted Christmas trees, finding gifts here and there. It was a really romantic date and we tried Pizza Hut for the first time in China. The atmosphere was so different. It was a nice sit down restaurant, very large in size with chic décor. The pizza was amazing. Ramsey commented that it was a lot less greasy then the Pizza Hut in the states.

On December 24th Ramsey and I got invited to another couple in our branch called The Coffins. They live about 30 minutes away in the suburbs. Their house is gigantic! Very majestic looking like tudor style. Definitely the biggest I’ve seen in the branch. I think there were four stories. It really looked like a castle. They prepared an amazing feast for us and some other couples in the branch. We had turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, corn, homemade strawberry jam, salad, homemade rolls, 4 homemade pies etc… Everything was so fabulous. Afterward, we acted out the Christmas story with hand puppets while reading Luke 2. The kids seemed to like it. It was a great evening, and I really felt the Christmas spirit. On our way home waiting for a taxi, Ramsey and I bought this really plush warm blanket from a street vendor for super cheap. It’s the little things like that, that I love. =)

On December 25th Ramsey and I went to work. You may be thinking to yourself-“Work on Christmas??” Well it states specifically in our contract that we're entitled to the day off but I felt like it could be fun to work anyway and do a little “Christmas class.” A couple of the students gave me Christmas gifts like a homemade scarf and a pair of earrings. I prepared two Christmas cartoon shorts and put about 9 Christmas song lyrics on a powerpoint and downloaded all of the Christmas music. The first two classes went really well. They really enjoyed singing “Rudolf” and “Feliz Navidad” and “Deck the Halls.” I was having a lot of fun with this really cool green laser pen I had bought off the street for super cheap. I was using the pen to point to the projected lyrics for them to sing along and that way I could walk around the class and get everyone enthused. But in my last class, we were in the middle of singing “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” when all of sudden some girls in the back starting screaming in horror. I rush over there and one of my students “Summer” is having an epileptic seizure. It was a very long one too! She kept shaking violently. All the while the music was still blasting. It was so creepy to have such cheerful music going on during such a horrifying event. I asked the students if Summer had any medicine and they said no and that it was the first time she had ever had one. After the seizure, Summer looked like she was falling out of consciousness and so I told them to keep her awake while I went to get help. A shuttle bus arrived to bring her to the school hospital. All of the students were crying while the song kept repeating itself. I finally had the chance to turn it off. I don’t think I can listen to that song ever again now. Not just because of the seizure but because of all my students crying while it cheerfully played on. I ended class early and let the students check up on their classmate.

When I got home I did some Internet research and I found out that I may have caused the seizure. There is something called photosensitive epileptic seizures that are caused by bright lights, especially bright lights quickly contrasted with dark light. I do remember I was getting a little crazy with the green laser pen. I was bouncing it around from each word with the beat and I think the rhythmic and constant brightness of it caused the seizure. The students also told me that Summer hadn’t slept the night before and I read online that can also be a contributing factor. So, needless to say, I feel like a scum.

That night I made a Christmas dinner for Ramsey and we watched two movies-“The Proposal” and “The Rocker” The latter-one was far more enjoyable. Everyone should see it!

During the movie we heard some firecrackers go off. We looked out our window and they were right there! So big!!! Someone was letting them off in our neighborhood! And they were the big professional kind like you see at the 4th of July. The awesomest part was that the whole show was "finale-like" meaning for a good 15 minutes 5 fireworks would go off that the same time. Let's just say it was the most awesome firework show I've ever seen. Soon I heard police sirens so I think my neighbor got arrested. =( All for celebrating Christmas! JK ;)

Ramsey and I opened our presents. This is my favorite one from him! A microwave! Yay now I can pop strange Chinese popcorn! In all seriousness, I love this present!!!

On December 26th one of my Shanghainese friends, BingBing, and I went shopping for boots and had lunch with her boyfriend Charlie at a soup place. I had this soup that had sugarcane and waterchestnuts in it and it was the best soup I’ve ever had in my life. And that’s saying a lot. I had 5 bowls. I couldn’t help myself.

Later that night Ramsey joined us and we got invited to BingBing’s house and her mother cooked us an extravagant meal. Her mother is an amazing cook! And she prepared about 12 dishes for all of us! I tried things that I would never try if I knew what they were beforehand. Let me just say, duck feet and frog legs are indeed delicious!!! Why are Americans so scared of them? It was one of the tastiest things I’ve ever had. Maybe because of how she cooked it-the sauces and spices were to die for! It was so fun eating with her mother, father, and two uncles. I was really happy that I could communicate with them and even understand a lot of what they were saying. It was one of my “proud of my Chinese abilities moments” amidst all of my “I really suck at Chinese moments” that overwhelms me everyday.

So as you can see it was a month full of amazing food and thanks to China I still haven’t gained the weight back! =)

Well it’s my birthday tomorrow! Happy 25th birthday to me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


  1. So I'm reading all of your idyllic pre-Christmas moments and then the seizure begins and you end w/ eating duck feet? that's where you lost me. I think I'll go back and read about the feast in the tudor mansion or dinner w/ Cam. Sounds a lot more appetizing. Anyway, about the seizure...who knew? At least you were enthusiastic prior to causing postential brain damage (JK) Happy New Year! I'm seeing your mom next week.

  2. What a fantastic month. Sounds like you got a lot of feasts and still slim. Dennis and I are on a diet not too fun but at least its working.