Thursday, December 11, 2014

In the Second Week of Advent My Teachers Said to Me, "Today We'll Be Making Christmas Cards for People in the Community."

For the past couple years, the O.S.F. students have done two projects as we work towards Christmas and caroling. First, we make Christmas cards. Second, we bake cookies. In the past, both have been to hand out while we're caroling, and, of course, the students could hand out some to their friends as well. This year, some of the cards we made will also be passed out at a local nursing home to the elderly who live there.

Last night's activity was making Christmas cards. This year we went all out on supplies: colored paper (even gold and silver!), pipe cleaners, felt, markers, sparkly fuzzy balls, stickers, and more. Mark told the students was that the goal would be to have 20-25 cards to hand out by the time the students were heading back to their dorms. He put up a slide with different Christmas sayings: Merry Christmas (not Mary Christmas or even Marry Christmas), Joy to the World, and Silent Night. There were also several pictures including nativity scenes, stars, snowmen, Christmas trees, and angels. Last week the students had learned about the different symbols surrounding Christmas and what they represent or remind us of, so I added that they could think of last week's discussion and apply those ideas to their cards as well if they were so inclined. We hit the play button for the Christmas playlist. Then, it was off to the races! Most of the colored paper was still in huge sheets, so Mark, Emily, and I worked on cutting it down to the size of a regular sheet of paper. The kids chose a base paper to work with, the most popular colors being white, green, and red, and then started decorating.

At their tables listening to the goals for the evening.

Cutting the paper down to size

Hard at work...

The final products
By the end of the evening, we had 28 cards to hand out. Goal met! Their cards exceeded my expectations. Whether they were hand drawn or covered in craftiness, the students had done really well. Some of the cards were in English, others were in Chinese, and some were bi-lingual. What a great way to share the greatest gift of the season, Jesus, with the people around us! :)

"She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." Matthew 1:21

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Goodbye Thanksgiving, Hello Christmas!

The end of November into the beginning of December is a time of transitions. We're transitioning from the sweltering weather of summer to the cooler weather of winter. We're switching gears from baking pies and roasting turkeys (to celebrate Thanksgiving) to practicing our Christmas skit, baking cookies, and singing carols (for Christmas). At school, we're preparing for Christmas activities, while continuing to push towards the end of the semester with all the administrative stuff, like grades and reports, that it brings with it. And at church, we're transitioning from one church year to another. And in the midst of all the busyness that is sweeping around us, it's good to stop for a few moments and reflect.

Two weeks ago we were celebrating Thanksgiving, and when you have five Thanksgivings to prepare for, it can be pretty hectic and easy to get lost in the amount of work to be done. Now, none of the Thanksgivings had to be coordinated and prepared by any one soul, which is a blessing, because that would have been quite the daunting task! But even with many hands making the work lighter, there was still a lot to get done. After we were done with all the Thanksgiving festivities at school, the Americans still had one more Thanksgiving to prepare for: the BIG Thanksgiving that we host every year at the Practice Hotel. We invite people from Friday Night Bible Study, church, our offices, and other friends to come over. The Americans prepare traditional American Thanksgiving food and we ask that our friends bring a dish to pass too. As with most years, my contribution was desserts. Friday night, after Friday night Bible study, Sean and I spent three hours baking pies and cakes for Saturday. There's a lot of baking and cooking to be done in order to be ready for Saturday evening, so we all take different turns and shifts in the kitchen. The past few years, I've taken late Friday night. This year, I actually used the school kitchen for the baking, which helped to speed things along because its ovens are larger and can maintain a higher temperature better. Saturday evening arrived, the turkey was delivered, and the guests arrived. I enjoyed reconnecting with some friends that I hadn't seen for a while and relaxing. Before starting the feasting, we all sang, "Give Thanks," and then there was a prayer. At the end of the night, everyone helped with take down, which made it go a lot faster.

Sean and I with some of our baked goods late Friday night.

Stephanie helping to bilingually label the different dishes.

Everyone enjoying good food and fellowship.

This past week we've started transitioning into Christmas prep. Different singing groups are starting to prepare their songs for the big Christmas service at church. The Americans have started to read through the skit for this year's Christmas chapel at school. We talked about Christmas symbols at O.S.F. We're discussing different Advent lessons for Friday Night Bible study. And last night, a week after the big Thanksgiving, a bunch of us got together to start assembling the LEGO Christmas village at Andrew and Noel's accompanied by hot chocolate and Christmas carols.

Hard at work sorting by color and assembling the village

Well, the first floor is complete...
Through all the craziness that is the holiday season - especially here, but really anywhere - I am reminded of how much I have to be thankful for. I have wonderful friends and co-workers, both at school and on the team, and all over the world. My students brighten my days with their energy, their excitement for learning (at least the little ones) and their different perspectives (more so the older ones). I have a roof over my head, food on my table, and a healthy body that allows me to bike everywhere I need to go. And I'm thankful to God for providing all these things for me. Truly my cup runneth over. :)

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Four Thanksgivings Down... One More to Go

This week has been a week full of Thanksgiving here at school!

E1 and E2 were combining to perform two different skits for their program on Wednesday, so Monday afternoon E1A and E2A, and E1B and E2B met up for their first, and only, practice together. The E2 students were narrating, while the E1 students acted behind them. Both skits focused on different historical parts of Thanksgiving. A classes' skit talked about the pilgrims going to talk to the king, and why they left England. B classes' skit addressed the voyage on the Mayflower and life once they arrived in Plymouth. Practices ended up taking up the entire period, but overall, I thought it went well. :) My favorite part was the one line, "And one baby was born" and then one of the students would go "Wah! Wah!" but instead, the whole group said, "And one people was born!" Sadly, I wasn't able to watch their final performance, due to having CE Thanksgivings going on at the same time.

Tuesday morning all the CELA teachers met up in Office 2 to shred chicken for the Kindergarten Thanksgiving. Their program consisted of the teachers putting on a Thanksgiving inspired skit (also about the pilgrims and the Indians), along with eating their own little Thanksgiving feast. First, one of the national teachers explained in Chinese the story of the first Thanksgiving and what would be happening in the skit. Then the CELA teachers and assistant teachers put on the play. After the skit, the kids and teachers set up the kindergarten playground for the feast, moving tables and chairs from their classrooms to the playground. It was great to see even the pre-K kids helping out. After that, it was time for a prayer, and then we were finally eating!

Chief Massasoit getting her head dress attached.


Some of my K3 students enjoying the feast.

It's time for Charlie Brown!
Wednesday afternoon was when the BIG Thanksgiving celebrations took place at CELA and for my CE students. E1-E2's Thanksgiving took place at the same time that I had CE6 and CE5. In both my CE classes, we had a Thanksgiving themed class and party. Last week I had told both classes that I'd bring a snack, and then if any of them wanted to bring something to share, we would have a party. At the beginning of class, we read Squanto and the First Thanksgiving so that they had a bit of background about why in America we celebrate Thanksgiving. Then I asked each of them to share something they were thankful for. Their answers included: family, friends, teachers, and God, which I thought was pretty cool! Then we handed out snack and watched "Charlie Brown's Thanksgiving. After everyone in CE5 had taken one piece of cake I told them that there were still a few pieces left so if anyone wanted seconds they could come up and see me. Sure enough, I left with a pan that had been licked clean. :) Several of the kids told me how much they enjoyed the apple spice cake! Then it was off to the E3-E6 Thanksgiving celebration, which started with a feast. There was turkey, pumpkin soup, rolls, pumpkin seeds, craisins, and gravy. The students had just under an hour to eat, which included seconds and thirds for many of them, before we headed over to Luther Hall for part two of our Thanksgiving activities. Each grade had been assigned a different book about Thanksgiving. Now it was time for a trivia game which pitted both sections of the same grades against each other to see who could answer questions about their classes book first. The winning class got a bag of chips to share. Since there were still 15 minutes left after the trivia had been completed, the E6 students went back up to class and finished watching Snoopy's version of the pilgrims crossing the Atlantic on the Mayflower. E6A enjoyed their chips while they watched. All in all, I think they had fun!

Lined up and getting their food

Time to eat!


"Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.  For the LORD is the great God, the great King above all gods."
Psalm 95:2-3

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Start of So Many Thanksgivings

...And thus begins the season of feasting (which is loosely defined as whenever the first "Thanksgiving" activities start taking place through sometime in January)! Last night kicked off the beginning of Thanksgiving activities with the O.S.F. kids baking apple spice cake and watching A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. We had about forty students sign up. When they started arriving we asked the kids to set their bags in the back of the kitchen, wash their hands, and then we broke them into four groups. The girls all arrived first. The boys were a little late, but they were still in time to catch most of the instructions. Several of them apologized on their way in. No worries.

All of the ingredients were out on two tables that were pushed together in the front. Three of the four groups' tables had recipes on them (the last group had to share). Once everyone was in a group and at a table, we talked through the ingredients and had a quick apple peeling and cutting demo. Then it was off to the races! We had about seven teachers there, which was great because it meant that every group had at least one teacher at their station, Graham could walk around and take photos, and I could float as well. I started out by handing out knives, with the warning, "It's not a race. It's better to be careful and slower and have all ten fingers than to be really fast and only have three." Then I handed out apples. For the first part of the evening I hung out by the ingredients tables so that as kids came up looking for one thing or another I could point it out to them and help them measure it out. But as kids finished measuring out the flour, sugar, vanilla, spices, etc, I had a chance to sort of walk from table to table.

Peeling apples

Out of the bowl and into the pan

Still slicing and dicing...
I think all the groups took my warning seriously, since for most of the groups, all the other ingredients were mixed together before the apples were ready to be added. But, better safe than sorry. :) Of course, as with every mass baking experience, there are stories to tell. Eggs break. 1/2 a cup of water is added to the batter instead of 1/2 a tablespoon. But nothing that we couldn't bounce back from. After everything was mixed together and poured into a pan, it was put in the ovens. The kids then washed their dishes and cleaned up their stations. Since I knew it would take around 30 minutes for things to bake, Mark lead the kids over to the religion department to watch A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. And by the time that finished, the cakes were being pulled out of the ovens.

First out of the oven

The finished products

The students gave them rave reviews, even the ones that were a little darker. The teachers thought they turned out alright too. All in all, I'd say success was ours. Praise God!