Thursday, October 30, 2014

Science Fiction Entry for Writer's Challenge

Discovering Heroes

            Thud.  “Ouch.” Ashley Royce rubbed her backside and when she saw that no harm had been done she gingerly arose from her position and scanned her surroundings to see if anyone had seen her awkward entrance.  Apparently not.  The nearby crowd was focused on some kind of a fight.  Ashley peeked around the lone tree she had landed under to see if she recognized any of the contestants.  No such luck. 

            A turbaned man ran past her shouting “Did anyone see what I just saw?  Unbelievable!”
            Reaching out to touch his shoulder Ashley asked, “And what was that sir?”

            “The giant has been killed.  No one thought he could do it but Israel has prevailed,” the man answered looking back at her over his shoulder. 

            Ashley stood frozen for a moment as she thought about what had just been shared.  No, it was not possible.  Or was it?  The next man she stopped confirmed her suspicions.  “Did David kill the giant?”

            “You have heard of him?  No one really knows who is he is” he answered as he ran away to share the good news with his family nearly tripping over his sandals. 

With no one listening Ashley whispered to the air, “Heard of him you ask? Isn’t he just one of the most famous kings in the Bible?” Picking up the dusty Bible she nearly flung it into the jubilant crowd.   And just like that she was back at the archeological site wiping her brow from the extreme heat. 

Crunch, crunch, crunch.  Leaning against the bed with her elbows on her knees Ashley carefully ate the last bag of her favorite American chips and in between licking her fingers for every last crumb explained her predicament to Callie, her best friend and team dog.  It had only been an hour since her discovery and already trouble was brewing, she could just feel it.   How could she keep a secret of this magnitude and who could she trust to help her?

Kneeling down before the tattered Bible on the floor Ashley experimented.  The last time she had traveled to the time of David and Goliath by accident.  Cautiously she opened the pages to her favorite passage, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6.  Just like that she was transported to what she could only guess was the time of Jesus’ ministry.  Again she was on the edge of a crowd underneath the only tree she could see.  Callie was by her side busy with licking the chip package she had been eyeing for a long time.  A booming voice broke through the stillness “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33 ESV).  Ashley didn’t recognize the voice but she knew there was only one person it could belong to. 

Elbowing her way through the crowd as gracefully as she could Ashley soon found herself face to face with her Savior.  As he spoke the next verse his eyes seemed to bore right into hers with some kind of a warning.  A warning for what? She didn’t know what tomorrow would bring but took his words to heart to only worry about today and its troubles (Matthew 6:34 ESV).  Somehow everything would work out and in the meantime she could enjoy the adventure of experiencing firsthand the lives and times of her favorite Bible characters.  Maybe she could learn a thing or two from her heroes. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Humor Challenge

True Confessions of a Laowai (A.K.A. Foreigner in China)
The following are humorous situations that actually occurred while I was living or traveling around China. 
1.                     My most embarrassing moment: While trying to introduce my 60 freshmen students to various American actors and actresses, I mistakenly turned to the sex scene of a Tom Cruise movie.
2.                     Someone told me that teaching English in China makes you important but not important at the same time.  What that means is that you think you are there to improve people’s English but the school wants to save face by using your employment as an advertisement to attract more students.   The same goes for attending parties, getting asked to teach English in your spare time and various other situations where you find yourself the only foreigner in a room full of Chinese. 
3.                     Conversed (in Mandarin) with Chinese who never once looked at me but instead at my companions who were not a part of the conversation. 
4.                     Invited friends over for “porridge” instead of “Western food” (spaghetti). 
5.                     Conversation with a student who never attended class: “Hi, how are you?” Reply: “How are you?” He may have been the university basketball star but he didn’t pass my class.
6.                     Endured Chinglish (English with Chinese grammar) like this: “I want to play with my boyfriend this weekend” from my students.
7.                     Joined an Australian wife eating bugs and watched her husband’s priceless reaction.
8.                     Made shocking statements in class like “Tom and Jerry are not Disney” and “There are a lot of poor people in America too”.
9.                     Watched people’s reactions as they tried to push their way into a crowded elevator. My baby’s stroller was taking up the extra space they thought we had.  Some people are insistent. 
10.                 Walked into restaurants and pointed at other people’s dishes to order our dinner.
11.                 Played badminton with students and a broken racket flew over the wall leaving a student holding the handle.
12.                 First time I heard the song ‘Yesterday Once More’ I honestly answered that I didn’t know the song.  By the time I left China I had memorized every word.
13.                 Saw a self-proclaimed 24/7 convenience store in our complex that closed at midnight and was still not open at 7 a.m.
14.                 Ate what I thought was a grape that turned out to be a Sichuan pepper. Found out why they should never be eaten.
15.                 Scared a man, not my fiancĂ©, and myself by climbing up the ladder to my bed on an overnight bus after a bathroom stop in the middle of the night.  Turns out I had entered the wrong bus.
16.                 Even after five years in China I had to repeatedly answer the question about how I knew Mandarin so well (I took two years in college) and how I could use chopsticks so well (I grew up in Hawaii with many Asian restaurants).
17.                 Birthday parties in restaurants sometimes ended in gigantic messes with frosting everywhere (including our faces and hair) and no one actually eating the cake. 
18.                 In the land of the one child family policy (China) we answered the question “How many children do you want?” with “Twelve” at our Chinese wedding banquet as a joke. 
19.                 At tourist spots a fellow traveler would tell Chinese tourists that the handsome young man we were with was a movie star.

20.                 On a flight between two cities read an in-flight magazine customer satisfaction survey.  It asked for your e-male. 

Autobiography Challenge

Hallelujah No Translation Required

Tears.  Why oh why won’t you stop?  Why am I a complete mess this morning?  There must be a reason. If I don’t pull myself together soon I don’t know what is going to happen.  Why does he have to leave? Can’t he see that I am in no state to be left alone for an hour let alone a week?  I can see it clearly now, he is off on his mission in the countryside and all I do is watch romantic comedies all day (every day) and eat Western food.  Maybe he’s right.  I will bankrupt us grieving alone.  Oh, so that’s it. Rachel went to heaven one month ago.   Didn’t the book my mom sent me say that anniversaries are super sensitive?  That makes total sense now.  Please, oh please, take me with you!

My inner dialogue was forgotten a week and a half later as we made our way down the meandrous road on a bright summer afternoon after a successful week of village doctor training in the Yunnan countryside.  The views were spectacular with the steep mountain on one side and a deep river valley on the other punctuated by whole communities of rural villagers with their houses precariously built into the mountainside.  Conversations flowed easily broken only by the occasional honking of our driver’s horn rounding the next bend on the narrow road, making our presence known to anyone going up the mountain path.  We were making great time on a trip usually reserved for overnight buses. 
Up ahead we came to a sudden halt.  A group of Lisu villagers were gathered in the middle of the road prancing around in a circle singing what were obviously praise songs.  We couldn’t understand any of their words except the intermittent “Hallelujah”.  No translation needed for that one.  We had stumbled upon a church celebration! 
Having been on the road for a couple of hours we took the opportunity to stop for a rest.  We must have been quite a sight, an international array of doctors and their families piling out of the car.  Standing on the sidelines we watched in amazement as everyone danced in synchronization without skipping a beat.  It wasn’t long before the bravest among us was answering their call to join them.  Grabbing hands, one by one we succumbed to clumsily learning new steps while being watched.  The universal language of smiles and laughter eased our embarrassment and lightened our hearts.  We arrived as strangers and parted as friends having participated in an act of worship together praising the same God no matter our languages or dancing skills. 

The impromptu mingle may have lasted only a few moments but the memories will stay with me forever.  In fact, that was the defining moment of the best summer I had in China and the best therapy for my broken heart after losing my first child to miscarriage.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Love and Grace Challenge

M is for Missionary

            “Ladies, ladies.  Please settle down and find your seats.  We are about to begin.” Using her hands, Hannah Saunders shushed the crowd of women.  “Who is ready to begin digging into God’s Word?  I know I am.  We have a great weekend planned but first let us get to know each other.  I want you to locate someone you don’t know and find your similarities by asking a few questions. Look to the screen above me if you need suggestions. Go.”

            Lisa Sparrow glanced at the list provided and patiently looked around for a newbie she could encourage.  She had been coming to these retreats since moving to China eight years ago and had been blessed every time.  Finally spotting a timid woman in the corner she approached her and boldly asked the first question on the list.  “Do you enjoy cooking?”

            A shocked Olivia White answered, “No, I don’t.  Do you?”

            “Not really.  My favorite phrase of my husband’s is ‘Honey, let’s go out tonight.’  It always makes me feel special.  Managing a household is hard work!  Oh, by the way I’m Lisa Sparrow.”

            Shaking the extended hand Olivia smiled, “Olivia White, nice to meet you.  I guess the next question is ‘How long have you been married and how many children?’”

            “Ten years and two children.  What about you Olivia?”

            “Six months, no children.  We just arrived here so that answers question three.”

            Not missing a beat Lisa continued, “We have been doing M work eight years and I have to say that this particular resort is my favorite place to visit.  I always come away from these weekends refreshed.  Have you had much time to travel yet?”

Confused, Olivia asked, “Excuse me Lisa, but what is M work?”

“M work is our term for what we do here.  It is short for missionary work,” Lisa answered matter-of-factly.   

”Oh, I see.  That makes sense.  To answer your question we have not had time to travel yet but we plan a trip to Chengdu soon to visit the U.S. Consulate.”

            “So, you are American then,” Lisa concluded. 

            “Yes, from Arkansas.  What about you?   Where are you from?  I hear an accent but I don’t do well with placing them yet,” Olivia lowered her eyes and whispered. 

            “The U.K. just outside of London.” Gingerly placing her hand on Olivia’s arm Lisa encouraged, “And don’t be ashamed of that Olivia.  You will learn quickly about other cultures when you meet enough people.”

            “I hope you are right,” Olivia nearly shouted over the timer signaling the end of the icebreaker. 

            “Lisa, do you want to introduce us to your new friend?” Hannah the M.C. asked.  “Please stand up both of you.”

            Avoiding eye contact an embarrassed Olivia held tightly onto the only person she knew in the room. 

            “This is Olivia White from Arkansas, United States.  She is newly married and newly arrived in China.  First time doing M work.  Her answer for love and grace was lovely.  I hope she can share it if asked.  Ladies please let us give a warm welcome to Olivia.”

            Quieting the applause Hannah first thanked Lisa before turning to Olivia, tenderly asking,  “And what have you learned about love and grace in your walk with God so far?”

            Gaining confidence Olivia asserted, “Love is boundless and Grace is immeasurable.  But, neither exists without the other.   Just like George Bailey in ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ I shudder to think what my life would be like without either one of God’s gifts.  If you haven’t watched the classic American film I highly recommend it.”

From the back of the room a loud “Amen to that one,” came from an African-American sister, Sheila, who stood up and continued, “I love that movie, watch it every Christmas. But I love that comparison even more.  It makes you think.  Life without God’s love and grace?  No thank you!” Sheila shook her head. “Thanks for sharing Olivia and I know that we all look forward to getting to know our new American sister serving HIM in China!  Can I get another Amen?”

A unified chorus of “Amen” resounded in the room and reverberated off the walls changing forever the life of timid Olivia White embarking on a new adventure.