This is just a reminder that these are repeat blogs… sadly the provider I used in our first year is no longer a website, so in order to keep an online record of the early days in China I am publishing the old ones again. In bold are the additions or things I have noticed second time around!
“Foreign ID Holders” was what the sign said as we entered Dushu Lake Church. A Church that would not be out of place in any western city or town. A red brick building with a spire that can be seen from afar, but due to it being in a park – is difficult to navigate to when up close due the trees hiding it. On the concourse is a massive statue of Jesus, and then behind him are some arches and through the arches is a huge cross overlooking Dushu Lake.
The Church’s website ( http://thesif.org/getting-to-sif ) says that for first timers it can be difficult to find… Martin didn’t quite believe that, especially when we did eventually see the building from the road. However, we had hailed a taxi, Martin showed the driver where we wanted to go, and thankfully Martin kept the map open so that we could follow our journey. We kept the church in sight as we neared it, but then instead of turning towards it, we kept going. Martin pointed again at the map, the driver dutifully turned around and then we proceeded to turn off every junction on this main road until the driver finally asked for directions. The service started at 11am, and at 2 minutes to 11 we walked in. Now whilst we were on time, it does not sit well for a Presbyterian, particularly on my Dad’s side to enter a church 2 minutes before the start time. My father instilled in me to be early for church. Sunday morning was never a time to dawdle, we were always in church early. And it is because of this that I hate to be late, indeed 10 years ago (now 14 years ago) I was early for our wedding.
The church is in beautiful parkland that we will explore when it is not 30 degree + heat. On our way through we saw many many couples having their wedding photos taken. In China is is tradition to have photos of the bride and groom taken before the wedding in full wedding regalia (and in many different outfits too). The best of today’s sights was a bride, groom and photographer hunkered down having a fag break. No camera on hand to take that photo more’s the pity.
Church was thought provoking and interesting. Lots of singing with the words on a powerpoint. Worst bit the missing “u”. Savior and Honor. Also we have been trying to instil in Eleanor that it is Amen – A as in apple. But of course the worship leaders are American and so the American pronunciation it is then!
Suzhou International Fellowship is friendly and we were made to feel welcome despite my reticence at having to stand up and and say we where we were from. Martin told me to say I was from Northern Ireland – which I did before adding that we all had lived in England. My bit of pride in my home country did me good, as afterwards we were approached by a woman from Dromore who actually lives in our compound and had previously worked in the Ulster Bank. So it was a little bit of the home accent. The newbies from today were from Germany, South Korea, Peru, America and us.
Last night and tonight saw us eat at a street food market in the Hudong Neighbourhood Centre. The plaza was full of tables with vendors selling their wares. Some of it was a bit iffy, but we reckoned that as there were no internal repercussions from the food we ate on the Saturday night, then we were ok to chance it again on Sunday evening. Noodles, meat on skewers (not quite sure what the meat was – but we are fine) and a banana pancake type thing were the orders of the night. I also had fish on a stick – the fish I recognised as mackerel was delicious.
Yesterday (Saturday) saw us all on Bus 47. It takes us from our door step in SIP (Suzhou Industrial Park) to downtown, and therefore Martin’s school. Or in the case of Eleanor and I to a large craft store. Eleanor on Tuesday has to go to school as a superhero. Now even if our stuff was not in shipping, Tuesday’s task would still have caused me problems – Eleanor does not have any superhero clothing – either here, in a ship or elsewhere. Nor does she have a mother who is terribly crafty. Having said all of that, I have borrowed a cape and spent what would have been a small fortune in the UK (next to nothing here) on items that Eleanor and I have now crafted into a “mother nature” suoerhero costume. Something which Eleanor designed herself with me only adding a few stitches here and there. Maybe… just maybe I can do this craft malarky.
Lunch was at the Bookworm, a cosy old characterful building it serves food and drink (including Magners) and is a library, games room, music venue, coffee shop and also venue of an annual book festival. This place is a marvel and is popular with expats and locals. It served decent coffee for Martin, cider for me which was a good accompaniment to my lasagne.
Tonight we have had fork and sheet lightening, a bit of wind and rain. Tomorrow I would like for it to be a bit cooler, but that might be wishful thinking.