Malia’s entrance exam

(Written by Kristin)

Thank you for those of you who have responded to our petition to p-ay for Malia’s entrance exam to elementary school. That day was a normal day in China for us which means we had no idea what to expect!! I’ll confess that I’ve been worried for the past six that the school would test her and use her low score as an excuse to not let her in. Lots of unnecessary worry, it seems. Doesn’t it say somewhere in the Good Book about not worrying?

Last Thursday Kai’s teacher called me and said we can register Malia. Finally!! When we met she explained that we were registering her for the entrance exam. And what I understood from that day is that Malia was being entered into the system under Teacher Wang’s recommendation. That in itself is amazing to me because it means that having a foreign kid in her class has not been all bad (??). It’s been good enough that she’s recommending it! Good news! Friday night at 9:45pm she called and said the test was the next morning at 8:30. “You want to be there early; 8:10 or 8:15. ?? (MoLi; Malia’s name means “jazmin” in Chinese) needs to bring a pencil box with pencils, eraser, ruler, and markers.” That’s the pretty standard supplies every student needs. She also said we needed a very specific invitation card to get into the school compound and we’d have to enter through the west gate. She said she would come up with a plan (???) to get the card to me because once she got to school she wouldn’t be able to come out. It felt like a top secret mission.

I slept fitfully. My main areas of worry were that Malia doesn’t know simple Chinese characters or math terms in Chinese or how to write her name in Chinese. Does she know all the colors? I was one nervous mama!!

Saturday was supposed to be our Sabbath day. It’s disappointing when looking forward to a day of rest and have such a sudden change of plans the night before. Then to be overwhelmed for your six year old daughter’s elementary entrance exam. Ugh!! Ok, so I internalize a lot of unnecessary feelings! I know, I know.

The next morning Teacher Wang called me at 8am. “I left the invitation at a restaurant across the street. You only have to ask for it. Zhang Ming Kai’s (???) name is on it. You should leave soon in case traffic is bad.” She was really looking out for us. Malia and I were ready and jumped on my electric bike. I was just arriving at the restaurant when she called again. “Are you here yet? It’s about time to be here.” “I just need to cross the street.” She was really looking out for us. It took me the whole walk across the street and up the alley before I got the envelope open. She had taped it so tight. Inside was just a simple card that said “invitation” in English. I had no chance to look inside or on the back. We were at the gate and the guard (whom I recognize) was holding out his hand and I hand him the ticket. Surrounding the gate was a crowd of people. Either they had accompanied other parents and children who were testing or they were hoping to get in for testing. Have you every read or watched “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” when Charlie and his grandpa are going into the factory with their golden ticket? That’s how I felt.

Meanwhile, sweet Malia, hand in mine, was starting to squeeze tighter and tighter. Holding onto me with both hands. There’s lots of other people around; don’t forget that! A few teachers were outside directing us where to go and one male teacher that I don’t recognize asked me, “????????” Are you Zhang Ming Kai’s parent? I nodded. Who was it? Was it someone who knows our situation and might work in our favor? Had I talked to this teacher on the phone? I don’t know. Oh well…

On the soccer field we were lined up; children on one side and parents on the other. I was expecting to walk with M into the building and now realized that we were being separated. She lined up bravely and walked off with 40 other students into the school and into some classroom to take her test. Before she left I said, “Malia, write your name in English, okay?” She nodded her head. Later she said she didn’t write her name at all because she doesn’t know how to write it in Chinese. Great! One test in 300 with no name on it. It is humorous, I guess!

Teacher Rosy, Kai’s English teacher, was helping Malia’s class get inside. She, along with the other teachers, made a big deal over Malia. “?, ????????“ Zhang Ming Kai’s little sister! I felt a moment of panic watching Malia walk away with her pig tail swaying and pink backpack on her back. She was so brave! Much braver than me!

My line of parents was paraded away to wait in the auditorium for the test to be done. We sat watching videos of a teacher in BeiJing telling us how to raise our children. Teacher Wang was paired up with our line of parents. I realized while being led away that I actually have a tiny bit more experience than these parents. I already have a child in second grade in a Chinese school. Most of these parents are registering their only child in first grade. And though they have a HUGE advantage on us, they’ve never actually done it. We have!! I know some of what needs to happen and I know some of the teachers!! Wow! Let me soak that in a minute!

While still outside in line I immediately made a new friend, Feng. She was there with her daugher, Apple, who was also testing. They bought their apartment in the apartment complex next to the school specifically because there was an elementary school attached to it. Her English is very good and we had a 30 minute, very meaningful conversation. She is a university teacher and part of her teaching needs to be done in English. She said that if her students don’t have English names she tells them to look in the Bible. She asked me if I read the Bible or believe in Jss. I said, “Yes, do you?” “I believe in Buddha,” was her reply. Good to have that clear! We chatted some more then at one point she mentioned the teacher on the parenting video was comparing Chinese parenting to American parenting style. She said, “We always compare and always are compared to someone, something better.” I was dismayed. “But American culture isn’t all it’s presented to be.” I went on to say how I think in the West we need to learn better how to respect our elders. My new friend asked, “You know Confucius?” “Yes, I know about Confucius.” “Confucius teaches us to obey and to respect no matter what. Even if we have different ideas or might want to ask why we don’t, because we’re taught to obey and respect.” It is one of the biggest differences between East and West culture. She continued with an example: “You know the ferry that sunk in South Korea?” “Yes, I know” It’s very big news in Asia and has shaken East Asians to the core, especially Koreans. In some ways it is like 9/11 for them. She continued, “If that same situation would have happened in America everyone would have been saved.” I had to agree with her. We North Americans may fight and bicker and dislike people different than us, but when there is an emergency we pull together because we value life!!! From her perspective all the young people on the ferry died because they were following culture and obeying. Only the ones that disobeyed lived. Profound! I’m still percolating that one!

After 40 minutes we were given the OK to get back in line and parade back out the soccer field double file and stand in line till our children were also led outside. Very organized and professional! A little over the top, maybe? Regardless, I was impressed. Malia’s class was the first to come out and she was at the back of the line. She saw me and hugged me so tight. What a brave little girl! We tried to get information out of her. What was on the test? Did you understand? At one point she said that they were allowed to color whatever they wanted. At first I was imagining a test paper covered in doodling, but later I realized they were given freedom to draw any picture they wanted. She drew an apple tree like her desk mate. I asked later in the evening if there were any math questions. She said no, but one question asked how many legs a frog has. She said, “I wrote 4, but some kids wrote 3.” The next question was how many legs a bee has. She didn’t know, but one of the teachers in the classroom told her it has six. So she wrote 6! My Chinese friend laughed when I told her this and said, “That’s how Chinese show love.” Telling a cute foreigner kid the answers to the test. Right!

We still don’t have a definite, definite answer, but it looks like Malia will get into Kai’s school this fall. I’m writing that with weak faith. We’ve lived in China long enough to know things could change in an hour. We don’t know what’s best for our family; He does. We continue to find that “in quietness and trust in our strength.” Have you heard the song “Oceans”? “Spirit lead me where my trust is without boarders…” This journey through Chinese school is a test to see if our trust has boarders. Lord, expand our boarders!!

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Kristin’s recent blog post about Napkins.

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One Child Policy

Some friends of ours recently posted a great concise version of the Population control and how it is implemented here in our country.
Chech it out HERE.

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some NEW tradition ~ some OLD tradition

Time to post. A blog. Where did the year go? Today was Christmas and we celebrated with some NEW traditions and some OLD.

As I have mentioned to some that I have focused on the shepherds this year.
The anticipation that they must have felt.
Yet, unsure if they were dreaming or if it was reality. In seeing the manger and the humble beginning of a Messiah they were filled with incredible hope! Finally a savior!! I never wish the world to end with disasters and such (i.e. Mayan and now Chinese thought) But in one sense I am filled with anticipation of a day when all this is wiped away.
the pain.
the suffering.
the struggle.
Because on the other side, I know there is pure, perfect peace. We have a HOPE! Come back to the heart of worship. Beside the manger. See the Lord. Worship Him.
“I’m coming back to the heart of worship and it’s all about you, it’s all about you, Jesus…”

Ok, on to the traditions ~~~~

NEW tradition–specialty coffee. Made three Ethiopian Coffees. Tasted the differences then mixed them all together. Ahhh…that was good. Why Ethiopian you say? They are some that speculate that one of Wisemen came from Ethiopia. It’s a stretch but whether it is true or not, at least the coffee was delightful. Hah, maybe their names were Sidamo, Limu and Yirgacheffe…ok, now i have gone tooo far. I digress.

New Tradition–red french toast. Some simple food coloring into the egg mixture makes for a more exciting bit of french toast. No need to justify this–it’s simple. Everyone knows Red and Christmas go together. :)

Old Tradition–act out Christmas story with stuffed manager scene. While sometimes this is difficult to do given attention spans of ‘some’ of our children, it still is a tradition we keep. Since I was young my family always acted the story out through this hand made stuffed nativity. This year we even pulled it off in Chinese at another party at a local coffee shop. (Sorry, no pics of this)

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.
Old Tradition–eat meal. Of course we had a Chinese/Western meal. Pork and DouFu.

Ok, so I confess, I was a bit proud of my jello. But after all how hard is it too make? ? Just takes patience and a fridge.

Ok, SO I know the obvious is that WE REALLY NEED TO GET EVERYONE AN UPDATED PHOTO OF THE FAMILY. Hang on. It will come. Blessings to everyone–Merry Christmas!
We love you!!
Kevin from us here at EAC.

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Xi’an: a city

Here is just an update/reminder on our city which plays a significant role in future of China and beyond.

Fun fact: “the first million population city in the history of human civilization”

Some highlights from our city…based on 2010 info:

  • Xi’an has a history of 3100 years
  • Xi’an has eight rivers
  • the starting point of the Silk Road
  • one of the top six largest airports in China
  • 1,100,000 university students.
  • 600,000 in public ( national universities)
  • 500,000 in private universities
  • plus training centers and research institutes
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our friends – saying goodbye

Our Honduran friends left. After a short trip through the US, they’ll soon be in Honduras again with their family and friends. Yesterday someone asked us about “our” Hondurans. We laughed, but in all honesty we’d have them back in a heartbeat. They have become very dear to us and it’s so weird to think they’re not just a phone call away. We appreciate the wisdom and gentleness they brought to our times together. They are on to good adventures, other challenges. We wish them every good and perfect gift that can come from above. We wish them a blessing of hope, perseverance, and joy. Mucho amor y abrazos, amigos!


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Foreign kid in Chinese school

As foreigners in China we hear horror stories of foreign kids’ experiences in Chinese school. The mildest response being “I just don’t like it” to stories of being publically shamed in class because you flunked a test by a few points; a preschool child disciplined because their picture was colored a little different from the original drawing shown by the teacher; classroom size: 50 students to 1 teacher, etc. These are the worst of the worst. The normal or good stories we don’t hear. There’s always hope that the fast-paced development of China is also reflected in the education system. Because of these stories can you understand my hesitancy to put our six year old (or any of our children) in the Chinese school system?
(Notice I use “my” because Kevin’s perspective has been different than mine.)

I do want them to learn Chinese and I did want to try Chinese school, but my plan was to wait until all three children were in elementary school and they could go together and, if necessary, defend each other against evil teachers intent on ruining them. Oh, the desire to control… On top of this I was really enjoying homeschooling; it was a challenge and stressful balancing all three children here at home, but enjoyable. We had an awesome Kindergarten year and I saw Kai come to love learning (especially reading and science).

In February a fellow worker from the US told me of two conversations she’d recently had with other long-term workers. One mom was very glad they had put their kids in Chinese school for the lower grades. This particular family tried to put their kids back in Chinese school after an extended home leave but the kids couldn’t keep up. The advice was to start with lower grades and go as far as you can. The second conversation was from a mom who has homeschooled all her children all the way to high school.
She was feeling burnt out on homeschooling and wished they had put their kids in Chinese school when younger.

I resisted the idea. I fought the idea. Giving up homeschooling was hard, but I realized that Kai and I were beginning to butt heads every day and he needed more challenges than we could give him. After all, Kev and I are both oldest siblings raising an oldest son and a daughter who acts like an oldest sibling. Only Kian is free of the “older sibling” syndrome in this house (and he is definitely the baby!).

Our neighborhood friend, Qun, has a son a few months older than Kai. Chao Chao and Kai have become good friends over the past year and a half. Last year Chao Chao attended all day kindergarten. The times he and Kai could play were late evening or weekends. I don’t like the busy lives of Chinese children. There’s little time to play and relax, BUT if you want to relate to Chinese families it needs to be done on their time and with their schedule, right?

Qun was researching appropriate elementary schools for Chao Chao. His kindergarten uses a German education philosophy. I don’t know exactly what that means, but the kids spent a lot of time playing; different from normal Chinese preschools. Qun and her husband, like all parents, want the best education they can provide for their son. We became intrigued with their processing and decided to jump on the wagon and pursue sending Kai to a Chinese first grade.

There were two school options…
The first is across the street. We went one day to inquire. They wouldn’t let us in the gate. “We don’t take foreign students because our teachers are not equipped to handle Chinese Second Language students.” A very warm, hospitable welcome! Another foreign family was looking into putting their daughter in that school. Her father works for a local university connected to the school and with a letter of recommendation from his boss, she was on the list. They offered to ask about getting Kai in as well. We just couldn’t decide.

Second option: a school that’s further away (12 minutes by electric bike), but they were very welcoming when we went to visit. Yes, they take foreigners. Yes, we could do half days. Yes, we could pick and choose classes. What a difference! Qun had chosen this school for her son. It comes highly recommended because the kids don’t have as much homework. Plus, as part of the normal curriculum (which is not as important to us) they learn traditional Chinese poetry (san zi jin), calligraphy, and art. If we decided to send Kai to the school, could we carpool with Qun? She was willing to carpool, especially on the mornings Kevin teaches. (Well, she would carpool; we would electric bike pool.)

What if Kai hates his class, teacher, school…?
What if he absorbs some crazy teaching that will mess him up for life?
What if kids pick on him?
What if he gets made fun of?
What if the teachers think it’s a bother (ma fan) to have a foreign student?
What if , what if?…

They would not give us a discount for half days; we would have to pay full price. Why not send him full days? The day I went to pay tuition I was freaking out. What are we doing?!?!?!?!? Kevin looked at me calmly and said, “It’s just one semester. He doesn’t like it, we pull him out.” A voice of reason! OK, we can do this.

The day we registered I asked Kai if he wanted to stay at school for lunch or did he want me to pick him up. He wanted to stay because Chao Chao is staying. For first graders they also have a dormitory where they can take a nap. Convenient, huh? There’s a two-hour lunch break for eating and resting. Kai leaves the house at 7:30 in the morning. We pick him up at 4:20 pm. And then there are special weeks like this one when they go to school Monday through Saturday, so he can have a week off for Mid-Autumn Festival and National Day.

I never, ever thought this would be the path for our family. Never thought my six year old would be fully immersed in the Chinese school system. He is and for him right now it’s the best thing. I know it’s hard and he gets tired. I know the teachers do not always use discipline methods we approve, but he is thriving!! We are very proud of him! Very!

For now it’s good all around. I have some time to get projects done. My pr-yr life has benefited! I’m learning first grade Chinese characters. And Kai is excelling in English and Math. ? It’s only by grace and His guidance that we’re surviving at all. I’m so very, very, very thankful!


P.S. Below are a few pictures of the entrance to Kai’s school. I was too distracted to take pictures. If you haven’t seen it yet here’s the video of how we get to school.




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Xi’an TV Tower

So we decided to do a quick random trip last night over dinner time. whether that is smart or not, has yet to be determined. But I am absolutely amazed at how flexible my family has become. This venue has not been open that long, maybe only several months.

So in the back of my mind I recently have been thinking that if there is a ‘clearish’ day, I want to take the family to the top. Today was that day. Below are several photos that we shot from the top. It is the tallest place we can go in Xi’an.

To me it is still significant to view sunsets from this location simply because, west of the this city very few people have had a chance to hear the good news. We continue to pr.y and serve towards this cause. Equipping others to share the fathers love in these areas.

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

To me, this photo is rather significant. It describes the kingdm of the “already but not yet”. It shows that we still reside in world tainted by sin. This photo is taken directly from the camera, after some cropping. I shot it through the glass that was already blurred by smog and dirt. Beyond the glass is the beautiful sunset. Someday when the kingdm comes in it’s fullness we will see clearly and enjoy pure, untainted, intimate, fellowship with the Father, Son and HS.


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Hello to all,
Here is a quick view into a school morning. And then what it is like for us to go pick up Kai. He is truly enjoying himself and the learning. We are very proud of all of our children. They seem to be doing really well this fall. I will begin teaching in a week or two. So I am spending a bit of time preparing for class, finishing a TESOL degree online…etc..

How do we go to school from Kevin Bucher on Vimeo.

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I just want to say a quick thank you to all of you who have been lifting us up over the last few weeks. So, Thank You! As I was filing the photo below, I realized that I had taken it while someone (a thief) was trying to pry open our front door to our apartment.

It struck me that we often go to ‘other’ sources of water, fountains that look appealing, or a scenic falls but many times fail to drink from living water that the father provides.

In these recent days we are going to the father for strength and security and peace. May you too, go to the fountain of living water to never thirst again.

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