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!