Sunday, February 24, 2008

Ride to Church

Erika in Shang Hai with 2 new friends

We have received a few emails from Erika who is safely in Woxi and getting adjusted to the many differences in China--the first being no heat in her building, and wearing several layers of clothes to bed and while teaching. The children also wear their coats and insulated sweaters in the classroom.

She has one American friend, Michelle, who has also just arrived in the city--but not close by. She wondered how they would find the church today. Here is what she wrote:

Yeah church today.. Oh boy that is a story in itself, I hope everyone is sitting down. Ok, so church began at 9 30. This means that my day began with the sound of my cell phone alarm at 5 45 am. I get up, dressed, make some bread and peanut butter, get the addresses, maps, etc. I get to the bus stop around 6 30 am. I needed to get on bus 24, ride for 13 stops, then get off at 'nan chan si.' So i count them, and listen to the announcements of each stop.. which are in Chinese.. but i can understand road names because they end in 'Liu'. Anyways, so i get off at 'nan chan si', and i am supposed to then catch bus 51 to 'chang jiang qu le bu'. Simple enough, yes? so I get off, and i am looking at the postings at the bus stop. 113, 28, 53.. pretty much every possible numeral combination except 51. So, I am getting worried. The time was then 7:10, and I was supposed to meet Michelle at 'chang jiang 'at 7 :30, and I still had 12 stops to go.
So, I cross the street and ask the guy, "Hey, does bus 51 come here?" ( I always try English first just in case- and I try teens/ young people because they sometimes have learned English in school and their English is usually better than older people, especially old people who don't know any more English than "bya bya" [bye bye]). So anyway, the guy is like 'My English is not good". So I'm like "wu shi yi?" and I'm making some insane driving gesture probably. So then he's like "ah ah", and points up the street. So I cross the street and run to the bus stop a block ahead. I read the sign. No 51. now I am starting to get desperate. So I ask another girl "wu shi yi?" She looked at the postings, and said "mei you." -means 'don't have'.

So I was about to walk away, and she is like wait, let me call 116 for you. I guess it's some kind of information hotline. So, she calls and talks to the lady, and then tells me to walk to the end of the street -back the way i came- and turn right and get on some other bus.. I forget now which one it was. An old lady was listening nearby, waiting at the bus stop, and she says (in Chinese), 'no no you walk up the other way, and turn right'. Then the girl tells me that the lady will walk me there, so I walk with the nice lady, and she is rambling on, and I understand a little. She is telling me to get on bus 35. so we get to the bus stop, and there's a thing in Chinese characters that says all the names of the stops.. it sure would be helpful if i could read it. So she points to one, and says that its 'chang jiang qu le bu'. So I counted, and it was 11 stops away from where we were, so 2 seconds later, bus 35 pulls up and the lady pushes me on and shouts something to the driver. It was very helpful of her. She had walked all that way to the other bus stop with me, and she wasn't even getting on the bus. And that other girl made that call for me. It was very nice of them. s

So I ride the bus, and about 20 minutes later, arrive at the bus stop where I was supposed to meet Michelle. I arrive at 7: 40, after an hour and ten minutes of traveling. So, I get there, expecting to see Michelle waiting- I had told her 7 30, and she is not there. I start freaking out. She doesn't have a cell phone, so I can't call. So I wait around for about 5 minutes and its freezing and the wind is blowing and my purse is so weighed down by my food and water stash that the strap of my purse is digging grooves into my shoulder. So, I'm exhausted and frustrated and about to declare a complete defeat and give up, when finally I see her coming slowly toward me (she had bought some uncomfortable shoes so she couldn't walk normally).

So, we get a taxi. It is about a 20 minute ride, and cost 42 yuan. Well, they don't think its important to give exact change, so it cost 43 yuan. Michelle pitched in 20. So you thought that we were at church? No. The taxi took us to a member family's house. Ron and Erin Mullet and their 4 kids. We got there at 8:04. We waited for about 25 min for the rest of the family to get ready. Then, we get in the car, and drive 45 minutes to Suzhou. Yes, then we were at church.

Anyways, I am worrying about running out of money, so after church, we drove back to the Mullets house. When we were going to leave, the dad offered to pay for the taxi back. I felt bad, but I was thinking it would be about 70 yuan total for both me and Michelle to get back to our apartments. I was thinking we'd probably split the bill. Well, I wasn't sure, but I did know that I only had 800 until the end of march, and all these taxis add up fast. So, I was like 'Are you sure? I promise we will pay you back as soon as we get paid'. And of course hes like 'No, don't worry about it ', but I will have plenty once I get paid, and I will definitely pay him back if he lets me.

Anyways, turns out that the taxi ride from the Mullet's house back to my kindergarten was literally about 8 minutes. So, basically, because I had no map, no resources, and extremely limited Chinese, I took 2 hours to get to the Mullet's house that was about 4 miles away. Taking the bus to meet Michelle was hugely backtracking. Anyway, although I am frustrated, I am relieved to know that the Mullet family is so close to me. They said lots of times that I could come over whenever I wanted. They said I could show up for dinner any night of the week. They even invited us to FHE. [Family Home Evening] I would like to take advantage of that. They had us over tonight for dinner and we had pot roast. I ate so much. I was really happy to eat something without rice, but I know that tomorrow it will be back to rice every meal. They said they would take us to Pizza Hut whenever we want. That family is awesome, I really do like them a whole lot. I'm really glad that we found them. When I was making all the calls last night about church, they were telling us we would have to take a taxi to a train station, ride 45 min, then another taxi to church. I was getting really discouraged and was about to give up, so I was really relieved when Sister Mullet offered us the ride. Hopefully next week will be better. Wait, let me rephrase, Next week will be better.

As a mom, I'm very happy to hear about the friendliness of the Chinese people who have helped her, and of the generosity of the Mullet family who share a bond with her as members of our church and who have made her feel so much more at home there.


Christie said...

What a story! How difficult for her, but she was so persistent! How wonderful to have the Mullet family there to help her out.

Tracy said...

Oh, my goodness. I will never complain about driving to church again. That is crazy. How nice and comforting to you that she has people taking care of her.

Kent and Leisy said...

wow! it sounds like a mission to me :) she is going to have so many great opportunities!
I was at the library here in Toledo yesterday and found all of your books! I was pretty excited and told my friends from storytime that we are related :)

Mendy said...

What a good girl to go through all of that to get to church! And unbelievable that she rode those buses to end up right near her own place. How frustrating!

Jenni said...

Oh I bet that was hard to read about your daughter so far from home! I am so impressed by how persistent she was and I'm so glad she has member friends to help her and feed her pot roast!!:)

Jann said...

What an amazing experience she is having. I am glad she has found friendly helpful people there. It must be a relief for you as her mother.

Kellie said...

How exciting for her to be growing so much and having these marvelous experiences. I will look forward to reading more about her time there.

Deb said...

what a great story! it's so fun to hear about erika's adventures. thanks for sharing it with us!