All of us face challenges. In America, our challenges are usually not as difficult as people who face civil war in South Sudan, where children walk miles each day just to find a safe place to sleep. Yet many people think life is easy for Americans. I say, not true. Which do you think was more difficult for this American (Lonna Lisa Williams) to do:
1. Leave my California home in October, 2010 for Russia to teach English because I could not find a job in my own country even though my grandfather graduated from Yale University, was a professor at UNC, and handed the torch of education to my teacher mother and to me. Endure a long winter where I wore chains on my boots to run across the ice that coated every surface. Teach English to 13-year-olds only to end up speaking and reading in Russian because no one really wanted to speak English and hated America. Even though my grandmother was Russian, I learned their alphabet and simple words as a child, and I look Russia, most people avoided me because I was the “Amerikanka.” Discover that Vodka is easier to get than good tea, Russian food is bland and full of potatoes, and everyone shares alcohol and violence in the 3rd-class wagons of the Russian train from Samara to Moscow. Endure the 17-hour journey with 50 bunks to a wagon, accidentally stepping on a sleeping Russian woman who screamed when I descended from my top bunk. Cry on the trash bin in the back of the wagon. Kiss a Russian stranger between the wagons, in that blessed cold, dark connector, as snow fields slipped past and a full moon shone on frozen rivers. We, Russian and American, kissed without words, like lovers from a war movie who will never meet again, showing how tragedy is really, really Russian and American.
Wonder where lively Christians are? Check out Shanghai, China. I visited Shanghai Christian Fellowship (also called Shanghai Community Fellowship). I saw people from many countries, races, and cultures singing together with love and peace. To get there, I traveled 4.5 hours on a speed train, 40 minutes on a subway, and on foot. I also had to rent a hotel room and eat out. So next time you complain about going to your church down the street on a Sunday where people don’t seem to really care about Jesus or each other, watch my video. Christ rose from the dead, and Christians are happy about that! The People’s Republic of China allow Christians to meet in this historic church, and for certain services only foreign passport holders can attend. Next time, you’re in Shanghai, check it out! Watch the video. If you like travel adventure, also check out my books.
Shanghai Christian Fellowship is a church packed with people from all backgrounds and cultures
West Lake at Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province (near Wenzhou)
After living and teaching English in China for 2 years (and teaching in Russia for 6 months and Turkey for 2.5 years), I have learned a few things that may help anyone who comes to Wenzhou-Kean University (WKU) or any other place in China. My background as a journalist helped me compile facts from a variety of sources and summarize them here. Enjoy!
Get RMB (Chinese currency) cash at the airport in China before you leave the airport or as soon as you can find a bank. Nobody accepts dollars or other foreign cash, and the only places I’ve discovered that accept American credit/debit cards like Visa are the nicer hotels (especially in touristy areas), Pizza Hut, and Starbucks.
If possible, bring a working laptop computer. You will need it! Many American or other foreign smart phones may be difficult or impossible to fit with a Chinese SIMM card, especially at China Mobile. Unicom is the best company to find SIMM cards to fit non-Chinese phones. You can buy a cheap, basic Nokia mobile phone that can display English and Chinese texts (SMS) and send and receive calls (with other features like a calculator, calendar, and flashlight) for only about 170 RMB (less than $30) online, but you need a Chinese person to order it for you from taobao.com, the really cheap and great Chinese internet-ordering sight where everything is much cheaper than in the stores.
I went to West Lake in Hangzhou, China in May and saw so many colorful flowers and people. Walk with me by the lake, on paths across stone bridges, through parks, temples, pavilions, and historic buildings with statues. West Lake is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang Province. For 2000 years it has been the source of inspiration for poets, artists, photographers, and even filmmakers. My students told me the romantic story of the immortal White Snake who became a woman and fell in love with a mortal man. The turtle god of the lake was jealous, so he imprisoned her under a pagoda. However, the man still loved the White Snake Woman, and they were eventually reunited and had a son. This story has been made into television series and films. Emperors from many Chinese Dynasties visited West Lake and inscribed its famous “Ten Scenes” with poetic names like “Two Peaks Piercing the Clouds,” “Three Ponds Mirroring the Moon, and “Orioles Singing in the Willows.” As far back as the 14th Century, Europeans visited West Lake, including Italian explorer Marco Polo, who wrote that Hangzhou “is the most splendid heavenly city in the world.” Spring and romance are here in China!
People of many countries, colors, and cultures celebrated Easter together at Hangzhou International Christian Fellowship in eastern China on April 5, 2015. The church was packed, and many people stood or sat at the sides and sang joyfully together to celebrate that God loved the whole world so much that He sent His Son, Jesus, to die for sins of everyone and then rise again with a promise of eternal life. The Nigerian pastor spoke about Christ’s resurrection and message of love, hope, and unity. Continue reading →
My daughter Jessica was born in September, so by her first Christmas she was old enough for me to carry around and look at Christmas lights. Her small blue eyes widened at the amazing colors and brightness. Now she is 22 and lives in California. I am teaching English in China. This is my 5th Christmas away from home. I went out last night to a colorful, cobblestoned street by the river in my Chinese city near Shanghai and was amazed at how the lights lit up like a fairly-land. I thought, “Jessica could see this.” Continue reading →
China has some amazing modern architecture in over-the-top hotels such as this one near Shanghai. Traditional flowers blend with modern angles and chandeliers. If you come to China, take some time to explore such places on a rainy afternoon. If you like my posts, please check out my books.
Ginkoa Biloba leaves blanketed the courtyard outside the high school classes where I teach English near Shanghai, China. This colorful display cheered my students and me. Later we went to Starbucks to celebrate a strange kind of Thanksgiving with a student’s birthday cake and flavored coffee. Half of the students paid attention to my speech about Thanksgiving, and the other half played with their mobile phones. Such is life in China. If you like my blogs, please check out my books.
China always surprises me. I find the most unexpected things in the country where I’ve been teaching English for the past 9 months. My life often feels surreal, like I’ve wondered into another universe. When I was walking by the Songhua River in Jilin Province (northeast), I spotted these giant fake flowers that were left over from the Dragon Festival. They were near the entrance to the dragon boats. See more photos and enjoy the serendipity of China with me.
I’ve always loved exploring hotels. They have endless hallways and so many different types of rooms, nooks, artwork, and cafes. See various rooms from hotels all over China, like the elegant blue one (above), where you can relax with a cup of tea; and the techno red KTV room (below), where scantily-clothed women will feed you nuts and alcohol while you sing and dance to music.
See more Chinese hotel photos here and explore more rooms.