Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Life is good!

This week has been one of those weeks where I'm not so super busy and I actually feel like I have time to breathe at school and time to enjoy life a bit. Makes me think life should be like this more often! :)

Yesterday in math class we did our cooking lab, after learning how to divide, multiply, add, and subtract with fractions. We made pina colada smoothies and Cornflake wreaths. The kids had a lot of fun, and despite a few slightly chaotic moments, the teacher did too! :)

Here's the crazy crew working on the cornflake wreaths...

...and the finished product!

Tennis has been going well. We have our first match coming up on Tuesday. I've been staying after practice on Wednesdays to play with my colleague, and fellow coach, Liz, which has been a lot of fun.

Off to bed for me!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Odds and Ends

This is going to be a quick post, because it's getting late and I need to go to bed. :) It's been a pretty good week. We had no students Wednesday-Friday, but held a conference at our school for Christian school educators. We had around 900 educators at our school! Gary Chapman-author of "The 5 Love Languages" spoke multiple times throughout the conference, which was really good. Then there were lots of good workshops to attend as well. All that to say, tomorrow the kids come back! Should be's hard to believe we only have 3 weeks of school left before Christmas!

Today after church I decided to get some dumplings at a little Chinese restaurant Jen and I found last week. After that, I finally hit the I've been longing to do for so long now! :) However, I didn't have my skates so I had to use some nice chunky plastic, dull-bladed ones...not quite the same...but fun nonetheless. :) After that I came home and took a nice Sunday afternoon nap and then went to Maria's where we hung out with some of her students that she taught English to and decorated for Christmas...good times! Oh, how I love Christmas!!!

Well, to end this blog, here are 3 indicators that "I'm not in Kansas anymore"!!!

1. I was approached by a monk for money this week while walking back to the train station after shopping at one of the markets.
2. One of Maria's students that I hung out with tonight was named "Fish"..."Dragon" couldn't come! :)
3. Unfortunately I've dropped my cell phone multiple times lately. Today I dropped it and my natural reaction was to say, "Aiya!" (It's similar to "Oh no!" or "Ugh...", but I swore I would never say it because it drove me nuts.) It's gradually working it's way into my vocabulary.

That's it for today! Thanks for reading. Blessings on your day! :)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


A few times a week I browse to see what’s going on in the world. I just finished watching a video about refugees in the Congo, where there is horrible violence going on. Children are being taken directly from their schools and forced to be on the front lines fighting against their government. If they turn back in fear, they will be shot immediately. I’m left speechless.

It’s one of those things I typically have a hard time wrapping my mind around. It seems so distant and because of that distance—almost unreal. However, I now know two refugees here in HK that have left the Congo in hopes of finding refugee here. I now have faces to put to this suffering. I now have had the opportunity to travel to many places in the world and witness the fact that so many people live in desperate situations from day to day. To walk through roads in Cambodia where families of 5 or 6 people are living in a small hut about 8 ft. by 8 ft., with tarps for the ceiling and walls and a few pieces of bamboo for the floor, is a humbling experience. Seeing children who go to schools with absolutely no supplies—let alone electricity—yet have an eagerness and excitement for learning, makes me realize I am so blessed. I am blessed beyond my wildest imagination! And because of the fact that clean, running water, electricity, a comfortable home, food whenever I’m hungry, and many other luxuries are so normal for me, I all too often quickly forget that so much of the world lives a very different way.

So much of the world lives in fear. So much of the world lives in uncertainty of what tomorrow will bring.

I think it’s great and absolutely right to be thankful for the situation that God’s placed us in, but more than thankfulness is necessary. I believe as Christ-followers we are called to act. Some may be called to give of their time to serve these people or fight for their rights. Some may be called to give money to help organizations who are working to improve their lives. We are all called to pray.

However, sometimes it’s praying that is so difficult when it comes to unjust situations. I know that God has a plan for suffering, but as a human, I don’t always understand it. I don’t think I’m supposed to. I serve a God God who says (Isaiah 55:8-9),

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,"…
"As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

I must have child-like faith and seek to be Jesus’ hands and feet in this world during the days I’m given.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

10 Exciting Things...

10. It's cooling down in HK and starting to feel like fall! :)

9. I'm all caught up on my grading...finally!

8. I got to play tennis yesterday with a co-worker, which was super fun!

7. Thanksgiving's coming up, and although I'd love to be home to celebrate with my family (and play Bunko!), we're having a Thanksgiving feast with some of my co-workers on Saturday.

6. The MS Drama is this weekend.

5. We're going to decorate for Christmas very soon.

4. Tennis season has started and we had a fun practice yesterday.

3. There may be snow in Beijing when we visit in December!

2. My student asked me if she could go "eat her medicine" today...(okay...that's not really exciting, but I thought it was funny! :))


Saturday, November 15, 2008

Week Without Walls

This past week I ventured up to Yangshuo, China-- a rural farming community-- with 24 students and 3 other teachers from school. We travelled by an overnight train to Guilin and then caught a bus in the morning. Here are some students hanging out in one of the cabins. That was a fun experience, even though it was dark the entire ride! :)

We arrived to Yangshuo on Monday morning and pretty much jumped right into the adventures of the week. We started by checking into our "hotel". It was an old converted farmhouse out in the countryside. The scenery was absolutely beautiful! We had breakfast every morning on the terrace overlooking the fields and mountains...not a bad start to the day! Then, we visited a village called FuliTown, where we learned how to do Chinese fan painting. This village is well-known for their fan painting, so it was neat to see part of the process. They say it takes 200 steps to make a fan...including growing the bamboo and rice needed for the process. Wow! Here's my fan before it was bound.

The rest of the week we spent the mornings serving at a local school there. We taught English lessons, did crafts, and played games with the 2nd-4th grade students. Being able to see behind the scenes of a rural school in China was very interesting and caused me to reflect on a lot of things.

Here are a few observations: When we arrived each morning around 8:30 a.m., the students had reading time in their classrooms. I'd peek in the classrooms and was amazed to hear the students reading out loud, even though no teacher was present! Teachers didn't necessarily seem to be an integral part of the education process there. I could be wrong, and maybe we just didn't see them, but we really didn't see the teachers in the classrooms once when we were there. I'm sure part of that was because we were kind of taking over the lessons for the mornings that we were there. However, even in the younger students' classrooms, I never saw teachers in there. Also, during lunch time, we noticed that the students had like a 2 hour break! No supervision seems to me that much of the education there is self-taught.

The classrooms were very basic...a chalkboard, desks, and a teacher table...that's literally it. However, the classrooms did boast some amazing views! Here's the view out the 3rd grade classroom...

Every morning they have an all-school exercise break where they all gather together outside and do a little exercise routine. I tried the first morning, and quickly realized how uncoordinated I am! :)

I led the craft time with the students and was blown away by how excited the students were about the little paper and gluesticks! It really made me realize how blessed we are to have any supplies we desire on hand when we need them. At the same time, I realized how great of a responsibility we have to be good stewards of what we're given. We had lots of fun doing all sorts of crafts, from God's eyes to paper weavings to sticky styrofoam pictures to friendship bracelets to scratch art and many other activities.

The bathroom at the school were also another interesting provider of culture shock. The "stalls" were about chest doors, just a little "trough"....definitely watched the amount of water I drank during the mornings!

All this to say, we had a really great time serving at the school and getting to know the kids. I actually really appreciated the stress-free environment, and it really made me question what the major stressors are in my life. I get frustrated b/c I know there has to be a happy medium. I do not think that China has it figured out, because so many of their people are living in poverty and do not receive the proper education to escape this cycle. I don't think HK or the US has it figured out either, because we chase after so many material things and activities that we're often too busy to enjoy the company of the people that we love. So...much to reflect on...I just know that I want to simplify my life.

In college I heard the phrase "too blessed to be stressed", and in many ways that's very true. We have so many things that would qualify us as "blessed"...comfortable homes, clothing, food, jobs, friends, family, etc. We don't have to worry about where our next meal will come from, how we will sleep at night, how we will stay warm, etc., and for those very reasons, I'd agree...we are very blessed. However, sometimes it's those very things that make us stressed. It feels like a chase sometimes. I'm not saying that it would be less stressful to live in a hut in Africa or a small brick and mud house in China. I'm just wondering again where the happy medium is.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Away from HK...

Today was a great day to get away from the busyness of life as I know it lately! I went on a hike with some friends up over Cloudy Hill and into one of Hong Kong's untouched (practically) valleys. It was so beautiful! No high rises, developments, concrete was so great! I just walked through the beautiful COOL breeze (another uncommon thing in HK) in amazement of our God, the Creator of everything. He is so into the details and I was just happy I was able to enjoy it.

Then, tonight I went out to eat to celebrate a friend's birthday and home to pack for this next week, which is Week Without Walls-- our school's program where all students go on some type of trip for the week. Some are service trips, some educational, and others recreational. Mine is a mixture of a service trip and a recreation trip. I can't wait! I'll be travelling with 24 middle schoolers and 3 other teachers up to Yangshuo, China where we will have the opportunity to teach English lessons, do crafts, and play games with students at a local school there. It's going to be awesome! So, if you think of it, you can pray for me. We're leaving tomorrow afternoon and taking an overnight train up first time doing this! :)

Monday, November 3, 2008

Adventures in Being a 6th Grade Teacher...

One of my Bible classes fell in love with this Bible books song that I taught them at the beginning of the year—so much so that they usually break out in song at least once every class period! Sometimes at appropriate times and other times not…I will admit I find it hard to stop kids from singing a Bible song on their own volition! But, sometimes it’s necessary.
Anyways, if you go to and type in Miss Neevel, it should come right up. The quality isn't so good, so I'll have to see if I can fix that. After begging me for weeks to record it, I present to you the Bible books song...enjoy! Keep in mind…this is students begging teacher, not teacher begging students! J And that’s just one reason I love these guys!

Another interesting part of my day came when I took my math class on a “field trip” to the grocery store. We’re studying division with decimals, and in HK they don’t put the unit prices on the items like they do in the States. So I created an activity where kids basically have to go bargain hunting and figure out what brands are the better deal…anyways, that’s not the point of my story!

After they’re done with their investigating and they receive my initials, I allowed them to go and buy a treat and wait outside…ok, beautiful! So we all got our treats and we’re walking back to school, and I hear some of the boys talking about how one kid has an alcoholic drink. I’m thinking there’s no way! So, I go over to him, casually ask him what he bought and he shows me his “apple ale”. I’m still playing it cool, but decide to look at the ingredients. I don’t think it’s alcoholic, but it does have yeast in it! AND…another one of my students had a root beer of the same brand, which had “non-alcoholic beverage” written across the top. This one…nothing! So, I’m like, “Hmm…let me take this.” I can just imagine the headlines… “HK teacher gets fired for allowing alcohol as part of a middle school math field trip!”

So, I take the drink back to school and talk with several “investigators”—the principal and some teachers—and we’re not sure whether or not it actually is alcoholic. Hmm…how many teachers does it take to determine whether or not a drink is alcoholic??? I’m just waiting for the parent to call! Haha…oh, the joys of being a teacher! I have to admit, it definitely added some excitement to my day. Days are never dull as a middle school teacher…that’s for sure!

Thursday, October 23, 2008


Today's been a pretty good day...busy & productive. It's amazing how many things happen in one 24-hour period!

Here's something those of you who know me well will appreciate...I opened my closet this morning and was greeted by an unwelcome guest...a gecko! YIKES...I screamed, of course, but the volume of my screams over spiders and other living creatures has gone down over the years as I'm trying to "toughen up"! It's pretty hard though! :)

Anyways, I proceeded to the bathroom where I saw another one! Jen's mom sent her a net as a "gecko catcher"-- mostly as a joke, because they're pretty fast and can sneak back in anyways. However, we thought we would get some relief from catching the little guy and tossing him over the balcony. :) So, I had the net in hand, but we were both too wimpy to actually do anything with it, so we both watched for awhile, and cringed every time it moved, until was too fast and active to catch. Then, it was out of sight, and we banged on the wall and it didn't come out. It must've disappeared through the wall...wishful thinking! :)

So, that was my adventure for the day!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I love...

I love parents...

Whoo hoo!!! I just finished our parent's night meeting for Week Without Walls. I will be leading a trip of 24 middle schoolers up to Yangshuo, China coming up the second week of November. To be honest, I wasn't really looking forward to the long night, but I have to say every time I meet with parents I'm so refreshed! It just allows me to have a whole new perspective on the kids I see everyday. The love and concern the parents have for their kids is so great to see. It also makes me realize that the work I do at school with these students is appreciated and even if the middle schoolers make it appear that information goes in one ear and out the other, we are making an impact on some level...good stuff!

I love my students...

Here's a few recent quotes:

Joe (not real name): comes running in my room, "Today was the weirdest day!"
Ms. Neevel: "Hey! Why's that?"
Joe: "A girl came up and hugged me...ahhh!!! so freaky..."

Susie: "Ms. Neevel, can I touch your hair?"
Ms. Neevel: "Uh...sure? Why?"
Susie: "He dared me!"
Then, they all laugh hysterically. :)

I love life...

Lately I've been virtually facebook-less, because our internet at home isn't working, and I have to say it's been pretty nice...besides falling behind on replying to friends' messages. I've loved coming home and cooking, going for runs, spending time in the Word, or reading other's been so nice. It makes me realize how dependent I am on computers in general and on communication. I really thrive on communication from my friends...maybe it's time to re-consider how I spend my time.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Challenge of Being a Disciple of Jesus

I'm reading a book called "Jesus for President" by Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw. It deals with a lot of politics and has ideas and an approach that we don't often hear. I find myself so caught up in the's full of so many of my heart's desires. It's also a very interesting book to read around election time. :) Here's a short excerpt that I found very convicting & interesting:

"Remember when ole John the Baptizer sent his disciples to ask Jesus whether he was the one they were expecting and he didn't answer them with a simple yes? Jesus instead told them to go tell John what they saw him doing. He knew that John could read the trail of crumbs. John knew that when lepers were healed, the blind saw, the dead rose, and the good news was preached to the poor, the one they were awaiting was indeed here.

What does our trail of crumbs look like? If someone asks if we are Christ-followers, can we say, "Tell me what you see"? Is there enough evidence to prove that we are taking after the slaughtered Lamb? What if they ask the poor around us? What if they ask our enemies? Would they say that we love them? Christians haven't always looked like Jesus. Perhaps the greatest barrier to Christ has been Christians who pronounce Jesus so loudly with their lips and deny him so loudly with their lives."

While sometimes the ideas sound great in theory, at times I do question what they might look like in real life. However, as Christians, Jesus didn't promise us we'd blend in with the world and its ideas. On the contrary, he stated quite the opposite.

Luke 6:22 states, "Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man." Not exactly what we hope for as Christians!

In John 15:18-19 Jesus makes it clear, "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you."

Let's face it...some of the things Jesus calls us to are absolutely foolish in the world's eyes...but we are not to base our lifestyles on the standards of the world. We are to be set be generous, selfless, forgiving, loving, and sacrificial. It's a great challenge that I contemplate and strive to fulfill every single day.

Monday, October 13, 2008

What is this world coming to???

Today in my face group, I noticed this buzzing noise and I looked at Eugene, one of my sixth graders, and he gave me the sweet, innocent little smile that he does and says, " it I can't use this?" Not knowing what it was, he went on to explain that it was an ELECTRIC ERASER!!! Apparently it's too much work to move your hand to erase the pencil marks, so this electric mechanism will do it for you!!! We are truly in the 21st century! :) I just thought it was funny...and perhaps a bit over the top! However, if I was in sixth grade, I would totally want one...or five! Anybody remember squiggle pens??? One word...amazing! :)

Saturday, October 11, 2008

An A+ Day!

Wow! Today was such a great day! I woke up around 7:45 without an alarm...amazing! I was back in bed for a nap around 8:30! haha...

This morning I went on a hike with some friends. We hiked Lion Rock, which is a pretty big mountain here in HK. The climb was pretty steep, but it never ceases to amaze me how quickly you can leave the hustle & bustle of the city filled with high rises, people, and noise and find peace and greenery! I always love hiking here. It's such a much needed retreat for me, and I just feel so at home in nature. It's so easy for me to sense the presence of God in nature.

Upon arriving at the top, we were presented with amazing views of sooo much of HK. I was blown away by how far we could see in every direction. It was fun to pick familar places out and be amazed at how small everything seemed from up so high.

After the hike we all went out to eat for a well-earned Thai meal, which a couple of us voted as the world's best food! :)

Then, I went home to find our land lady and a repairman at our apartment. We got new ceilings in our kitchen and bathroom, which was definitely a good surprise! After a long hike, it was definitely reading and nap time for me! What a great Saturday afternoon treat! :)

To top off an already great day I went to my friend Ashley's apartment for girl's night. We ordered pizza and just spent a lot of time talking. I knew about half of the girls there and the other 1/2 were new to me, so that was fun to meet some new people. Ashley got these conversations starters called "Table Topics" so we read some of those and had some really good discussions. It was just so refreshing to spend time laughing and having meaningful conversations...just what I needed to finish off my day!

Here were a couple of questions that I found very interesting:

1. Do you tend to live more in the past, present, or future?
I know this is an area God is still working with me on! For those of you who know me well, you know that I'm a huge reminiscer! I love to look back on past events and share "remember when?" moments. I don't think this is always bad, but at times I find myself longing for the past and not enjoying the moment. The amazing thing is that when I look back on my life, I'm amazed at home much I've enjoyed every single stage of my life. I think it's a testimony to God's faithfulness. He gives us certain things for certain seasons, and although it's sometimes hard to switch seasons, God knows what we need and He's so faithful to provide. I try to keep that in mind as I'm entering this new season of my life.

2. How do you think our culture will change in the next 100 years?
This seems like a very fitting question considering the times we're currently experiencing. With financial crisis right around the corner (or perhaps already here for many), wars waging in many parts of the world, and the widespread advance in technology, I'm very curious to see what the world will look like in 100 years.

It was so interesting to me to hear people's responses. We talked a lot about how social interactions will be largely affected due to advances in technology, and others shared that perhaps Jesus would come back within the next 100 years. Now of course we can't know that, and the Bible even says in Matthew 24 that He'll come at a time that we don't expect Him. (42"Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 43But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. 44So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.)

However, it really made me consider the fact that we should constantly be living our lives as if Jesus will return today. Do I live with a sense of urgency for spreading the gospel and making Jesus my #1 priority every day, or do I get caught up in my own busy agenda?

4But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. 5You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. 6So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled. 7For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. 8But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. 9For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. 10He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. 11Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:4-11)

Well, time for me to head to bed for the night!

Friday, October 10, 2008

6th Grade Party Time!

I sit at my computer tonight and I can't help but beam with joy. Just two hours ago my apartment was filled with extremely energetic sixth graders. I had my FaceGroup (homeroom) over tonight for pizza and games, and it definitely brought me back...

It doesn't seem that long ago that I myself was in their shoes. So I try to remember what it was like in the days we'd go to Tony's Pizza after the big 6th grade rollerskating excursions & fill that place with energy & excitement. I distinctly remember 2 highlights: the couple's skate at the roller rink :) & shaking large amounts of salt and pepper into the extra sauce at Tony's to make very interesting and inedible concoctions.

The reason I say all this is because I need to bring myself back to these days daily as I work with these students. It all happens quite naturally, because when you hang out with 6th graders you quickly find out they're some of the most fun, energetic, moldable...and crazy people you'll ever encounter...and I love them! The energy is contagious....I can't help but smile when I'm with them.

As I mentioned earlier, it seems like just yesterday I was having crazy sleepovers and being the goofy middle schooler that I was. Therefore, it's not too difficult to relate to them on a "fun level". However, sometimes I struggle with how I can be a spiritual leader to them outside of class, because their shells seem hard to break at times. It takes a lot for them to open up. But when I think back to when I was their age I was most shaped by the everyday attitudes & actions of the people around me. It is the love, patience, joy, peace, and calmness that is only found in Jesus Christ that I try to embody each day, hoping they will see that life is truly good when it's lived as a surrender to Christ daily.

Again...I think back to a few hours apartment was filled with students who (on their own initiative) wanted to make up a talent show. They had 7 minutes to prepare their acts, and "Wow"...haha....there was a lot of randomness, but it was beautiful. The innocence of children is beautiful, and at times I'm reminded to go back and find joy in the little things. These kids teach me well! :)

Friday, April 11, 2008

Here goes...

I'm deciding to jump into the 21st century and try my hand at blogging in an attempt to keep you all better updated on my life here in Hong Kong. I'll try to write about what's going on here, what I'm learning, thinking about, etc. Enjoy and feel free to leave your comments!