Posted by: Steph Rice | 25/05/2013

Photos!

Click here for my Facebook album. The photos are not necessarily in order and all of them aren’t there because Facebook doesn’t seem to like me very much, but most of them are there!

This one has to be my favorite.

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Posted by: Steph Rice | 23/05/2013

And We’re Back!

We are back in the United States! We landed at Dulles and made it through customs and are on the bus on the way to Richmond. Any potential traffic aside, we will be home in about two hours! See you soon!

What a day! It was the last day of doing anything tour-like and then a flight and then a fancy hotel for our final exam. We started off with a visit to the China Christian Counsel Office in Shanghai, not to be confused with the Shanghai Christian Counsel, which is a regional office while CCC is a national office. We spoke with a pastor and CCC member who has been with the CCC since its inception. He was ordained in 1966, the year the cultural revolution began, and was sent to a reeducation camp. It was inspiring to hear from him and about the progress the Chinese church has made since then. They certainly have much more work to do and more pastors to train, but they have a robust training department in order to complete that task.

After that we spent a ton of time being complete tourists. Toni and Stella took us to the Oriental Pearl Tower, which is similar to the Space Needle in Seattle, but in Shanghai. We took a ride to the top and ate at an amazing buffet that spun within a room that was spinning. It was a trip. The food was delicious and I ate too much and it was awesome. We went down to a few different observation decks and were able to see the entire city. The Plum Tea 5 made their public debut on the glass floor of the top observation deck. Many bystanders were impressed.

Then it was time to head to the airport, which was sad. It was hard to say goodbye to Toni, and especially Stella who has been with us the entire time. But it had to be done and we made to Gimpo airport and had smooth sailing through baggage and customs and made it to our airport limos. They were certainly fancy and then we walked into an incredibly nice hotel. Korean Air had to change our flight a few weeks ago so they are putting us up in the Hotel Regency Incheon. We had our final exam discussion in the bar and lounge and now our only task is to survive the 13 hour place ride tomorrow. I will let everyone know when we make it to DC and I plan on hopefully continuing the blog as I continue to do some studying based on what we learned and experienced. Thanks for reading!

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At the CCC office.

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Dessert! There were quite a lot of ice cream choices…

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The Plum Tea 5 singing their signature song, You Raise Me Up

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Sung Hee and I at the top!

Posted by: Steph Rice | 21/05/2013

Day 15: Shanghai CCC, ECTS, and Jelly Fish

Today was our last full day in China and it was awesome. We first visited with the Shanghai Christian Council and learned about their work and about Christians in Shanghai. We learned a lot more about the relationship between the government and the church, as well as some of the challenges the church is facing in attracting young people. Many of my previous learnings were confirmed on the fact that the church and the government are two separate entities, and even though the Communist Party is atheist, it values harmony with others and therefore works with the Christian church. Tomorrow we are visiting the office of the China Christian Council and will hopefully be able to learn more about their structure since they are the group that makes major decisions on doctrine and polity.

We had lunch near the office and it was delicious. There was everything from duck to dumplings to fried rice to ribs, to shrimp, to everything else. We now know that Sung Hee really likes shrimp and peanuts. After lunch we took a drive (and a nap) and headed to East China Theological Seminary, which is a provincial school serving eastern China. They have a BA program and are especially known for their Church Music program. We had a wonderful conversation with one of the deans about the different challenges they face, which happen to be very similar to the challenges we face in the US. The main issue we discussed was the difficulty of finding a balance between educational quality and spiritual formation. We also received a wonderful gift of leather bound notebooks.

Next was an hour of shopping in the Yu Garden, which has a lot of shops filled with traditional Chinese wares that tourists tend to buy. We had a good time. There was also a lot of ice cream places so apparently tourists really like ice cream. Then it was time for dinner, which is where the jelly fish came in. There was a perfect moment when TJ put a few pieces of what looked like noodles in his mouth, took a bite, and then Toni mentioned that it just happened to be jelly fish. The look on his face was priceless. The night only went down hill from there with a lot of laughing and giggling and singing. After dinner we got a workout walking down East Nanjing Road, which is where all the nightlife in Shangahi seems to be. It was incredibly impressive to see and plus there was karaoke! We sang our hearts out for two and a half hours to celebrate our last night in China and really our last night of the actual trip. Tomorrow begins our trip home with a stay in a hotel in Seoul before heading back to D.C. It’s bitter sweet getting ready to say goodbye. We shall see how it goes.

 

Shanghai CCC.

Shanghai CCC.

 

East China TS.

East China TS.

 

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Singing “My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion.

 

Posted by: Steph Rice | 19/05/2013

Day 14: St. Paul’s, Bullet Train, and Shrimp Heads

Goodbye Nanjing, hello Shanghai! We spent our last few hours in Nanjing this morning visiting St. Paul’s Church. It was founded by Anglican missionaries 100 years ago and the service runs similarly, except they have six services every weekend and the sermon was about an hour long. It was great worshipping with Chinese Christians today especially since I was not even sure that was legal. It has been wonderful to learn that not only are there churches in China, there are seminaries and they even have their own Bible printing company that send Bibles all over the world. There is certainly nothing like experiencing something first hand.

We stopped by some parks on the way, including the mausoleum of Sung Yat Sen who moved China from a feudal system to a republic. There were a lot of stairs so only a few of us made it to the top while the rest enjoyed some ice cream. Then we walked through a park with a lake and enjoyed the beauty as well as some good music. Then it was on to the train station. We took a bullet train to Shanghai and it was awesome. It’s a lot like being in an airplane but with a lot more room. We had a smooth transition even with all our luggage.

We met our local guide, Tony, at the station and headed to the hotel. The skyline of Shanghai is beautiful. There are a lot of tall buildings with bright lights. We had a very tasty dinner at the hotel, including shrimp with their heads still attached. Ben B. and TJ had their first shrimp heads and said they were pretty good.

We only have one and a half days in Shanghai and then the journey home begins. We are certainly going to live up the next few days.

 

 In front St. Paul's Church with the senior pastor.

In front St. Paul’s Church with the senior pastor.

 

 Hanging out at the lake.

Hanging out at the lake.

 

 Leaving Nanjing...

Leaving Nanjing…

 

 

Posted by: Steph Rice | 19/05/2013

Day 13: Massacre Museum, China Gates, and Haagen Dazs

It was another rainy day in Nanjing so we did all of our inside activities including the Nanjing Massacre Museum, the Nanjing Museum, the China Gates, and a Confucian Temple. As would be expected, the Nanjing Massacre Museum was depressing, but it was also enlightening and made me think theologically about the concepts of peace and justice and war. There was also not nearly enough time in one day to visit the entire museum so I will certainly have to do some more reading. I read a book by Iris Chang to prepare for the trip, but that was a while ago. (Just a note, the Nanjing/Nanking Massacre was when the Japanese army invaded Nanjing in 1937 and killed an estimated 300,000 soldiers and civilians in the span of a month, as well as raped women and burned down 1/3 of the city.)

The Nanjing Museum displayed artifacts from the first inhabitants of China to modern day. Everything was interesting and it was great to see the progression of the city, which used to be the capital of China. We had another awesome lunch and had some free time so Sung Hee and I walked to Starbucks for an American food fix. Then we headed to the China Gate, which is a gate of the wall that surrounded Nanjing when it was the capital. It was incredibly beautiful and had a great view of the city at the top. After that we spent the evening in an area surrounding a Confucian Temple. There were shops and restaurants outside the temple and beautiful stone carvings telling the story of Confucius inside the temple. We visited the temple and did some shopping. De’Anna, Sung Hee, and I had another American food fix with some fries at McDonald’s and then the group headed to Haagen Dazs for a treat! We leave early tomorrow morning for church so of course all the ladies stayed up late talking. It was a relaxing day of touristing and experiencing the city.

 

 A cross commemorating the dates of the Nanjing Massacre.

A cross commemorating the dates of the Nanjing Massacre.

 

 Visiting the China Gate.

Visiting the China Gate.

 

 Confucius in the rain.

Confucius in the rain.

 

 Sung Hee was embarrassed when the guys started singing "You Raise Me Up". They sang it a lot.

Sung Hee was embarrassed when the guys started singing “You Raise Me Up”. They sang it a lot.

 

 

 

Posted by: Steph Rice | 18/05/2013

Day 12: Jiangsu, Nanjing UTS, and Karaoke

Another full day with a fun ending! We started off at Jiangsu Theological Seminary. The school was founded in 1992 and has grown significantly since then. We were able to meet with the president, a few professors, and students. The school serves the northwest region of China, which is large, and has about 300 students. The school services thousands of Christians in 4,000 churches with only a few hundred pastors. They are working hard to recruit news students and insiders, including having a distance learning program.

We were invited to lunch at Nanjing Union Theological Seminary, where our guide Stella graduated from. We met with one of the New Testament professors who gave us some information on the relationship between churches in China and the government. They are separate entities that work together. The government does not control the churches but the churches need to act within the law in order to carry out their mission without being limited by the government.

Our next stop was an amazing experience. We visited the Amity Printing Company, which prints Bibles and Christian reading materials in all different languages and sends them all over China and the world. Last year they celebrated the printing of their 100 millionth bible, with the last 50 million printed in the last five years (they started in 1987). We got a tour of the factory and it is impressive. They have several machines from all over the world because of a partnership they have with the United Bible Society. Recently they worked out a system with a Chinese paper mill and now they can get 99% of their paper locally. They also produce Bibles in Braille and provide them at low cost to people for life. They do a ton of social work and literacy programs. It was a great experience.

We made a stop at the Amity Christian Arts Center where there was a ton of Chinese art. It was refreshing to finally see Biblical stories portrayed with Chinese characters. There’s also a wood carver who makes portrayals of Bible stories. Some of us were able to get some examples of his work to bring back. Again, absolutely beautiful.

Dinner was very nice and delicious. Stella and Joseph are really good at picking out food for us by now. They know we love meat so its not too hard. But then again we like veggies and some spicy but not too spicy and so on. After dinner we ventured out for more karaoke! Joseph found us an awesome place that was really nice and had a great selection of English songs. The only problem was that we could only search by song in alphabetical order. I think we made it through E before our hour was up. We had another awesome time and I think we may just try to make this a world tour and go again in Shanghai. We kind of love karaoke.

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Outside Jiangsu

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President Blount’s book was at Nanjing’s library!

At Amity Printing Co.

At Amity Printing Co.

 

Ben G. rockin' it at karaoke!

Ben G. rockin’ it at karaoke!

Posted by: Steph Rice | 17/05/2013

Day 11: Temple of Heaven, Louis, and Donkey

Today was a nice relaxing day of travel from Beijing to Nanjing. Plus there was shopping. In the morning we walked around the Temple of Heaven, which is where the emperors would go to worship their god(s). It was a large place with several buildings, one of which is made completely out of wood with no nails. It was impressive.

Next we made a stop at a market where we could buy nice (probably fake) designer stuff for really cheap. I found a Longchamp bag that works as a perfect carry on for all the gifts we got in Korea and those I’ve bought for others. De’Anna finally got her Louis Vuitton purse she’s been wanting since we left for this trip. And all for under $50. It was awesome.

We spent our last lunch in Beijing eating well. There was even some donkey meat that apparently tastes like salami. We were able to give a big thank you to our local guide, Judy, as well as our awesome van/bus driver. We were dropped off at the airport and eventually made it to Nanjing. It was a nice short flight of an hour and a half and then we boarded another van/bus and saw our awesome hotel. Then it was quickly off to dinner of more awesome food and more donkey. While its rainy in Nanjing, we are already having a great time and have been promised a trip to karaoke tomorrow night.

We’ve started a habit of singing whenever we get in the van/bus. Usually we can only sing the chorus because we forget the rest of the words and then move on to the next song so it’ll be nice to have lyrics in front of us. And a melody.

ImageJudy playing a kind of Hackey Sack at the Temple of Heaven

ImageThe Temple of Heaven

ImageDonkey!

Posted by: Steph Rice | 16/05/2013

Day 10: Great Wall, Ming Tombs, and Duck Feet

I don’t think I’ve ever walked up so many stairs at one time in my life. I’m not sure what I expected from the Great Wall but it was certainly not what happened today. It was an incredible feeling to make it to the top, but it was certainly not easy. It took two hours for me to walk all the way up and then back down. Down was certainly much easier. It was a gorgeous view. I’ll post a few pictures here and then more when we get back to the states. We were all very proud of Tommy for going all the way up to the top (faster than me, by the way). He was asked a few times by people how old he is and he was always older. Only Tommy could be 64 and climb the Great Wall. TJ, Tommy, and I climbed to the top and the Bens did a full loop. Go Great Wall 5!

Lunch was a buffet at the Cloisonn Factory and then a LOT of shopping. They make pottery out of copper in the factory and they have everything from vases to jewelry to figurines to everything else. It was awesome.
Then we visited the Ming Tombs and saw the coffins of emperors and empresses. It was slightly underwhelming after the Great Wall. Plus there were more stairs. It was cool to learn about the burial techniques and see some of the things they were buried with. It was also interesting that people threw money in certain exhibits. Judy said it was a Chinese superstition that happens at temples.

We had an interesting run in with some Beijing police when trying to visit Peking University on the way to dinner. We wanted to take a look around and our guide Judy had done it the year before. Apparently since then they changed a policy and required foreigners to have a professor sponsor them to get in. Judy tried her hardest to get us in but they stood firm on the policy so we just got to dinner early. We ate at a sort of dinner theater. The food was delicious and very interesting. There was duck feet, bone marrow soup with the bone still in, whole chickens and fish, and a lot of other stuff. Ken, TJ, Ben, and Ben tried the duck feet. Apparently it was spicy and a little firm but pretty tasty. The show was great. There were some things that weren’t my favorite. I did enjoy the plate spinner and the guy who could change his masks mid-dance, especially when he surprised De’Anna and Tommy with the changes. We have videos that I will link to later.

On the bus ride back to the hotel we had some karaoke time featuring Kenny Mack and Stella. We are definitely having a good time. You can tell because we were still having fun even after a very full day. We have one week left and it should prove to be awesome.ImageAt the bottom of the steps

.ImageAt the top!ImageDuck soup!ImageOne of the acts at dinner.

Posted by: Steph Rice | 14/05/2013

Day 9: Gongwash, Tiananmen, and Duck

Today was our first full day in Beijing and it was certainly that, full. This morning we visited Gongwash Church, which was the first church to open after the end of the Cultural Revolution in 1980. In 2005 they had visits from President George W. Bush and Condoleezza Rice. They have about 5,000 members, 500 volunteers, and six pastors. They have Bible study groups Tuesday through Friday and five services on Sunday. There’s usually a line and people have to wait for the next service to get in. Their senior pastor and an associate are both women who have been serving the church since the 1990s. We sat down and spoke with both pastors about the church, as well as the differences between American and Chinese churches. We learned about registered and unregistered churches. Gongwash is a registered church, which means they are allowed by the government to have religious activities in a designated area. Unregistered churches are technically illegal but they are allowed to worship. Neither church is allowed to speak out against the government in public. There is tension between registered and unregistered churches, but there is also the hope of dialogue. We were told by members of registered churches that the government does not control what the churches teach but they are monitored in a way. There is an overseeing body in the China Christian Counsel, which is not officially run by the government, that makes decisions on church policy.

For lunch we were treated to Beijing Peking Duck by Mr. Cai, a leader in the Three Self Patriotic Movement. It was delicious and incredibly filling. Not only was there duck and all the fixings but we had all kinds of side dishes, salad, soup. It was quite a spread. De’Anna, TJ, and Ben B. even had duck brains when eating half a duck head each. I was grossed out. The rest of it was awesome.

Next we walked through Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. Tiananmen is the largest city square in the world and the site of the famous picture during a protest there in 1989. The Forbidden City was built in 1490 when one of the emperors decided to move the capital of China to Beijing. According to our guide, 50,000 to 80,000 people visit there every day from all over China and the world. There are even more people on special holidays. The city is beautiful with so many buildings. A lot of it has been touched up or redone but there is still some of the original brick work and paint. All of the pillars are original and are made of a single piece of wood. There is also a stone carving that is incredibly long that was brought to the city by freezing water on the road during the winter so it would slide easier. It was quite a site and quite a lot of walking.

After some rest time we went to a dumpling restaurant near the Beijing CCC office. There were so many dumplings! And more soup and salad and veggies and rice. Using the lazy susans today was an interesting exercise in group cooperation. It wasn’t easy at first but we figured it out enough to finish most of the food.

Tomorrow we visit the Great Wall, Ming Tombs, and Cloisonn Factory. There will be a lot of waking and a lot of pictures!

ImageIn front of Gongwash Church with the pastors and our guides, Judy and Stella.

ImageSo much dumpling!

ImageDuck!

ImageThe Forbidden City

ImageKen walking through Tiananmen Square. He had extra sun protection.

ImageBen B. needed some sun protection too.

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