“God is Red” — intimate untold stories of Christians in China

A persecuted Chinese author, “luminous writer, and not a Christian himself, Yiwu profiles the extraordinary lives of dozens of Chinese Christians, providing a rare glimpse into the burgeoning underground world of belief that is taking hold within the officially atheistic state of Communist China” and “offers a uniquely objective and insightful perspective on the position Christians occupy in mainland China.”

“”These trips have exhilarated me, lifting me out of my drunken depression,” he recalls. “In these remote corners, I have discovered a center point, where East met West, and although there has been a collision of cultures, there is now a new Christian identity that is distinctively Chinese.””


Chinese immigrants vs. Laowai expats

I always try to imagine parallels and differences between Chinese immigrants raising their kids in North America and us raising a family China. Our first child is due in the middle of Julywas born seven weeks early, and if all goes well we’ll move back to China in September (our families would never have forgiven us if we’d had our child on another continent!), so when I spend time with Chinese friends on this side of the Pacific it often makes me imagine what it will be like for our daughter (and her future siblings) in China. Even though Chinese immigrants and 老外 expats both live in a country and culture not their own, I wonder if their experiences are more different than they are similar.

For example, I recently stayed three nights with a Chinese family in Baton Rouge, Louisiana for the second time. The parents came to the U.S. as adults when their now teenage son was two. They have two other especially cute kids: a six-year-old son and a four-year-old daughter.

Within the local Chinese circles that this family runs in, the general level of English is better than most other Chinese I know — actually, some of them have better English than a lot of Americans (especially in Louisiana)! However their strengths are reading and writing (lots of advanced degree holders from LSU), and when talking they’re still more comfortable in Chinese, which was great for me.

Although all three of their kids understand Chinese, the youngest two will only respond in English. I don’t know if they can’t or just won’t speak Chinese. When the four-year-old speaks, you can hear a southern U.S. drawl in her vowels, especially when she’s disappointed: “Aw may-an!”

It’s such a common situation for Chinese immigrant families. It seemed the parents of the Chinese kids at the local Saturday Mandarin school in south Baton Rouge were all struggling to not let their kids lose their family’s language.

This probably won’t be our problem in China. While Chinese immigrant families to North America often struggle unsuccessfully to raise kids who retain their family’s culture and language of origin, North American 外国人 in China (few if any truly immigrate to China) have the opposite problem: getting so thoroughly sucked into the foreigner subculture in their jobs and social lives that they abdicate the opportunity to pick up serious levels of Chinese. Their kids grow up in the international school system or home school, if they even stay in China long enough to grow up. I’ve only heard of a North American kid losing their English once, and that was in a book where the kid’s parents had moved to China in the 50’s to join the Revolution.

In Tianjin there were tons of foreigner kids (most?) who couldn’t speak Chinese; they spend their whole China experience inside the foreign bubble. Chinese immigrant kids, by contrast, typically go through the American school system. The only foreign kids I met in Tianjin that could speak Chinese (and they spoke fantastic Chinese) were the exceptions; their parents had gone out of their way to put them through Chinese kindergartens and some primary school, rather than start them in international schools or home schooling like most foreigner families.

Still, it’s a scary thing to imagine — your kids not being fluent in your own language, not being able to communicate smoothly with you or your parents or your siblings or your nephew and nieces! That must be just a brutal experience for immigrant families in Vancouver and the grandparents who can’t talk with with their grandkids.


If blogging is a little slow for the next little while, here’s why:

L was born 7 weeks early at 9:21pm on May 23! She’s 4lbs 10.5oz, 18.5 inches. Jessica is doing great, despite the unexpected emergency surgery, and L is in the NICU getting stronger every day. If you’re Facebook friends with either of us, then you can see photos.

We’re aiming to move back to China in September, but blogging will be less frequent (but not totally absent) until then.

P.S. – Chinese name suggestions most welcome! But we make no promises. Her family name is 陆。

P.P.S. – As tempting as it is, we wont be turning this into a baby photo blog. We’ll keep writing China stuff here, and just make a different blog for the baby photos! :)

Lunch with the Old Boys, and other high priorities

This morning it dawned on me that I could alter my daily routine and make time to have lunch on the corner with the bike repair crowd in our neighbourhood. The weeks are counting down until we take a hiatus in Canada for a few months, and recently I’ve been feeling more and more like I haven’t spent enough time with people. I had lunch with Mr. Lù and Mr. Zhāng today, and when the river freezes they’re gonna teach me how to ice fish! They’ll be more people there tomorrow.

The don’t call it a language “barrier” for no reason, and one of the mistakes I made — maybe ‘mistake’ is too strong a word — in our first year of language study was spending probably too much time trying to talk with neighbours. When your language is that limited, it just isn’t that helpful language-wise to spend a whole afternoon with one group of people, all of whom have zero English. You can only say and hear so much, and then things just get more awkward and frustrating. (During the first year Jessica did less talking and more book study, and now she’s kicking my butt in Mandarin.) But now that we’re over a year and half into language study there’s a lot more we can do. It’s a little frustrating that right when we start to feel like we’re getting somewhere in the language and could actually really start getting to know the neighbours, we’re returning to Canada for a few months.

But there are — believe it or not — things in life that are more important than learning Chinese, and we’re looking forward to lots of hugs and good times with them while we’re in North America!


Sometimes the future implications of your current life choices hit you out of the blue. What do you suppose this guy was thinking that second his gaze hit the camera?


I’ve realized for a while now that if we have boys, they probably won’t grow up playing hockey. And I haven’t yet figured out what else they might do instead. What else is there for boys to do?

Even more distressing, I just suddenly realized this evening that if we have daughters, chances are good that at some point, they will want Hello Kitty stuff. In our house. But I suppose maybe we could use that to get them to take up guitar (you really ought to click that link).

I think I’ll just try not to think about it, and maybe it will go away. Besides, I’d take Hello Kitty over North America’s current popular female role models any day.

All that to say, the magnitude of the impending consequences of choosing to raise a family in a very foreign culture is something that only dawns slowly on my consciousness. Man, that was a bad sentence. We don’t/can’t yet really comprehend the implications of our choice to settle in China. But I hope we can grow into the kind of people and family who can handle the consequences when they come.

ps – We borrowed the photo from this fantastic news blurb called: “Bad Thai cops to endure Kitty shame,” which is worth even more of a click than the Hello Kitty Fender guitar site.

Leaving for Taiwan

We were intending to settle in Surrey, BC for the year to finish up that last year of grad school. There’s plenty of opportunity to study Chinese culture and language in greater Vancouver, and it was relatively close to the university. We planned to work part-time while we finished our studies and continued preparing for language school in Tianjin, China in February 2007. We’re still doing all that, except we’ll be in Taiwan instead of Vancouver.

When we committed to an extra year of full time graduate study we never dreamed that we’d get to complete it in Asia! We are overwhelmed with the ways in which we’ve been blessed. Taiwan may not be the Mainland, but it’s about as close as you can get.

Soon after arriving in Surrey Joel applied for a Teaching Assistant position at his old high school, Pacific Academy. P.A. came back with an offer for both of us to work as elementary school English teachers in a satellite school P.A. is opening in Taipei, Taiwan this January. We hadn’t even unpacked our bags yet from our sojourn in the Untied States, but after prayers, interviews, more prayers, and more interviews, we accepted.

The upsides are numerous. Aside from the cultural exposure, our total costs for the year will consume less than one of our two salaries; we’ll be able to save much more than we could have in Surrey. Our employers are accommodating our schooling requirements, flying us back for our June session in California and providing us with computers and high speed internet to do our distance learning in Taiwan. In the summer we’ll return to BC with some of our Taiwanese students to teach in P.A.’s international student summer program and take about three weeks of vacation with family before returning to finish out the year in Taiwan.

There are some downsides, too. Having much less time than we anticipated with family and the SBCC is the biggest – we leave January 4 and we just got here at the end of November! That, and balancing full time English-speaking jobs with 9 credits each of grad work per semester leaves little time for formal language study and running wild in the streets (two of our favourite overseas activities). We’ll be diving into the local culture less than we have in past overseas experiences.

We leave for California January 4, and Taipei, Taiwan on January 13. Our contract ends in mid-January, 2007.

It’s official – we’re delayed one year

We finally made some decisions. Here they are:

– We have moved our leaving-for-China target date from February 2006 to February 2007, because we’ll need an extra year of school.

– We’ve applied to a school in Southern California. It will take us year to complete the remaining Intercultural Studies and International Development courses. We’re actually pretty excited about getting into their particular program for a lot of reasons – one being that for much of their offerings they use a “block” model of graduate education rather than the standard 3-credit lecture format. They’ve done this for 5 years and love it.

– We’re leaving Baton Rouge, Louisiana for Surrey, British Columbia, Canada on November 17. It’s about 45 hours of driving time, but we’re hoping to drop in on some conveniently-located friends in Colorado and Montana. We’ve gotta get there in time for Julia’s starring role in Fiddler on the Roof!