18 August 2014

Questions Answered

So, you guys, Wow! I  was incredibly impressed with the questions you all brought up, you gave me a bit of a challenge writing this post! Prepare to find the answers to everything you ever wanted to know (except for what you forgot to ask) in this post.


From Miss Nutralicious: "How on earth did you guys both end up in Michigan (of all places) at the same time?"

Now that's an unlikely tale. Immediately out of high school Angel attended University of La Verne in California for a year--however, he knew he wanted to study nursing, and at the time, the waiting lists for nursing schools in California were years long. He was chatting with his pastor at the church he was attending and mentioned the problem with nursing school...his pastor was from Michigan and had attended Calvin College, and he recommended Calvin College's nursing school to Angel. Angel knew himself well enough to know that if he didn't start going to college for nursing right away, he'd never follow through and get an education, so he packed up and headed off to Michigan to start school in January 2005. He ended up doing the 5 year path through college.

Which brings us to me--graduating high school in 2008. I looked into different options for getting my college degree in Malaysia, but those available at the time really weren't ideal for my needs and interests. I was born in Michigan, most of my extended family lives in Michigan, so in order to not be completely alone in the world and to save money, I decided to choose a college that would allow me to live with my grandparents and commute. I had 3 different colleges in Michigan under consideration, ditched the first one when I decided I didn't want to be an engineer, and then between the other two, chose the one that offered me the best financial aid package, which happened to be Calvin. And THAT'S how a 24 yr. old super-senior and a 17 year old freshman from different sides of the world happened to be in the same place at the same time.

From the same lady:  "Are school children in China required to take English classes?"

Yes--grades 1-9 are mandatory in China, and English is mandatory at all levels (though in some regions I've heard that English education doesn't begin until grade 3, in ShenZhen it starts at grade 1). As far as I can understand, grades 10-12 are not mandatory and aren't free, but the students who do go to grades 10-12 are required to continue in their English studies.

From Amanda: "What made you decide to major in Chinese?"

Like nearly everyone, I changed my major after entering college. The original mechanical engineering idea fell by the wayside when I hated Calculus during my senior year of high school. What I've always wanted to do was to be a writer, but the thought of majoring in English did not entice me, and I wanted to come out of college with a completely new skill that I hadn't possessed when I started, so I came up with the idea of majoring in International Business and minoring in Mandarin Chinese. It took less than one semester for me to decide I was never going to be a business woman so I switched my major to Mandarin, and took every English and Performance class that I could fit into my schedule on the side. My Mandarin professors were amazing--I discovered quickly that I loved learning foreign languages and also took 1 year of Japanese and 2 years of Spanish in college (I was planning to take 3 years of Japanese to get a minor but then Angel came into the picture).

From Meg: "How did you two meet?"

Well, there's an ancient history blog post way back here that tells the whole "love" story in 3 parts--but the short answer is that once upon a time, on my very first day of college I really wanted to make friends, and decided that the best way to make friends would be to put my name on the email list for the college Bible study group and start attending meetings on Friday nights. Angel was the guy in charge of the table. It was NOT love at first sight.

 We had a little mountain hiking adventure this weekend after classes were done for the day. Our hotel is one of those buildings in the background, the rest are apartment buildings or student dorms.

 Believe me when I say I was on no running team in 2014. Angel's work apparently forgot that they also hire male nurses and gave him a girl's shirt.

Hiking Mountains in ZhuHai

From Suzanne: "How did you decide what city to choose in China?"

We ended up going to China with the very first recruitment/training program that I clicked on when I started researching teaching English in China. That's a coincidence, though, we did do our research and decided that we liked the benefits that this program offered the best. Our program, CTLC, only works with the public school system in Shen Zhen, so if we wanted to be in this particular program we had to go to Shen Zhen. We liked the location because it's in South China...remember how much I dislike winter? I had no desire to move from Michigan to yet another place that would be just as cold in the winter. Also, here in Shen Zhen we're right across the border from Hong Kong, so travel to other Southeast Asian countries is very convenient (it wouldn't surprise anyone if I said I had an eye on a trip to my hometown, right?).

From AwesomelyOz: "Why Asia?"

Southeast Asia has played a key role in my life ever since my family moved to Malaysia 10 years ago. When Angel and I got married, Angel never had any intention on living outside the USA, and I thought I would be okay with that. It turned out that it only took a quick visit to Malaysia and a few unexpected events for Angel to decide that he wanted to move--and of course I was up for it. I think I've mentioned before that this living abroad thing really isn't about seeing the world and experiencing everything the globe has to offer for us--we both simply have a really strong love for this specific part of the world--for me, I think it's partially inspired by the fact that I think sadly too many Westerners treat SE Asian peoples as exotic novelties to be experienced than as normal people to be known well and loved well. I hate that. We're here to add 2 to the number of Westerners who aren't here for the "exotic experience."

From Lauren: "Will you do a home tour when you get more settled?"

Most definitely. I can't wait to find out what our new home will look like. At this point I don't really know what to expect, but our housing is provided by the school we work for, so it's a matter of take the assignment we're given and enjoy it. :)

From Tayler: "How did Angel's family feel about both of your decision to live in China?"

You're pretty astute to point out that us moving to this side of the world wasn't quite such ecstatically good news to Angel's family as it was to mine. If I remember correctly, Angel's mom was the first person he told when we made the decision last August, even though at that point we didn't even know what country we'd be moving to. His parents were quite saddened to have their oldest son deciding to move even farther away from them (its not like Texas and Michigan are next door neighbors in the first place). But they've handled the news with grace, they've had a year to get accustomed to the idea, asked a lot of questions about our plans for the future, and who knows, perhaps someday they will want to come and visit us. In the year before we moved, Angel's younger brother and his wife bought a house in the same neighborhood as Angel's parents and moved in with plans to settle down there. I think that is a great comfort both to Angel and to his parents--Angel knows that Nestor and Brittany are there if his parents or teenage brother need anything, and Angel's parents have 2 of their sons and their 1 grandson all close by so they don't feel alone in the world. Angel's brothers are very excited over our move and we're definitely working on talking Nestor and Brittany into taking their baby Noah for an overseas adventure to visit us when he gets a little older.

From Annie: "Has Angel said goodbye to his nursing career for good?"

No, nursing is still on the table if the opportunity arises. He's maintaining his license and keeping up with continuing education. Hospital nursing most likely won't be possible because Angel is only fluent in English and Spanish. The most likely type of nursing jobs he could get would either be in a private clinic that catered to expats or as a school nurse at an international school. But for now, he's a teacher. We shall see!

From Jennifer: "How do you guys blend your western religion with the deeply-rooted, eastern traditions of your current home?"

First of all, I wouldn't necessarily say 'blend' because we're Christians, not a hybrid of multiple religions. But this is definitely an interesting question. In my own experience, I've really appreciated the benefits of living in in a culture where religion and morality are viewed more highly than they are in the US. In America, I have been ridiculed and looked at strangely and ostracized for faith-based life choices (beauty school, I'm looking at you!)--but in Malaysia I never was. Much of my community there was Buddhist, Muslim, or Hindu, and most of us could appreciate the fact that we shared a lot of the same moral values even though we differed immensely on theological beliefs. I've attended and will continue to attend parties hosted by my friends for holidays with religious roots (and I will invite them to my own Christmas and Easter celebrations). The call to prayer at our local mosque woke me up every morning throughout my high school years...and I've also taken classes on Eastern religions and philosophies, so I have gotten to know a bit about both the practical everyday side of some of these religions as well as the philosophical side. I personally don't go into any temples or religious sites of other religions--I firmly believe that they shouldn't be treated like curiosities and tourist attractions, but taken seriously, because I want my own faith to be taken seriously. The fact that that the countries I've chosen to live in don't offer their citizens full religious freedom does make me very sad, as that is a right that I treasure.


  1. Ha! I'm excited to go back and read your meet up story!!!

  2. Great questions and well put answers! I'm sad I missed the opportunity to ask anything - though I'm sure I can e-mail you anytime ;)

  3. I think it's interesting you're living abroad not because you want to travel the globe but because of your love for that specific part of the world. I have a friend who is madly in love with Japan - not traveling the world, just Japan. She wants to teach English over there eventually and despite her parents holding her back (they're small town USA and want her to be small town USA too and never experience anything) I really hope she gets there because it's her dream.

  4. Wow these are some really great questions and equally great answers. I'm excited to see your home tour when you get settled.

  5. I was wondering how you chose China too, so I'm glad you answered. And, if a friend of another religion got married or had another life event celebration in their place of worship, would you attend that? It's honestly something I have never thought of before...

  6. You got some really awesome questions! Loved hearing the answers :)

  7. Such great answers! I am excited to follow along on your guys' China journey. :)

  8. So THAT'S how you ended up in MI! Now it all makes sense! Thanks for the explanation. :)

    I really wish that a second language would have been mandatory when I was in school. I SO wish that I could speak something (anything) besides English. I took 3 years of French in high school and remember almost none of it. I have tried a few times to learn Spanish on my own and have been unsuccessful. Hopefully one day. It's on my lifetime to-do list! Meanwhile, I think it is very cool that you are helping teach kids such an important skill.

    Thanks for answering my questions!

  9. Super interesting! It's fun to read people's life stories. That is crazy how God put you and Angel together at the same time.

  10. So, I am sure you've blogged about this, but my mind is escaping me. Are you guys planning on living in China long term, or have you signed up for just a few years? Also, I will have you know that I did not change my major after entering college. I knew I wanted to major in English ever since middle school, and that's what I did :) Is Calvin known for Chinese majors? I feel like that's such a random language to have enough people want to take to have a major for it. How many other people majored in that?

  11. Great questions and I am so embarrassed that my Cantonese is barely understandable though I lived in Hong Kong until I was 8. My mother's family is from the same area as when you are teaching and I remember when we were kids heading to visit my grandma and bringing all kind of goodies for our families. It was amazed me how there's so much culture yet they are still so infatuated with technology.


  12. Definitely excited to see your home tour! China looks so beautiful... Are there lots of places to hike where you are, or is it more of a city? I don't know anything about Shen Zhen haha but it looks awesome.

  13. Why thank you for answering my question :) I think it's nice that you both ended up getting on the same page and worked together to make it happen. Team work! Glad that Angel won't drop his nursing career - it's not an easy one to get started in and would be a shame to drop that. I mean really many people "talk" about moving to X but you guys did it so kudos! Hope your training is going well :) -Iva

  14. I've been wondering how you've been, so this has been a great post to catch up with!

  15. what a great day to discover your blog.. a very interesting read

  16. Love it - I had always wondered how religion worked in eastern cultures, even more-so middle eastern cultures. I'm glad to hear everyone is respectful and yes, freedom of religious pursuit is absolutely an American-borne right, I believe. We may not eat well, or do smart things with our money, but we got the "freedom" part down! HAA

  17. This all sounds so exciting! Can't wait to read more of your adventure :-) Laura #JackofAllTrades xx

  18. So many great questions and thorough answers. You answered some of my questions too, Rachel. I always wondered how you two ended up first in Michigan and now with this China opportunities. In Albania they require children to learn English from 3rd grade and forward which I think is great. =)

    Enjoy your time in China and keep us updated with everything.

  19. I love this! So many questions answered!

  20. What a lovely, fantastic, open post, dear Rachel. I think I might just have to ask folks to query Tony and I in a similar fashion one day. :)

    ♥ Jessica

  21. Your blog is always so lovely! This Q&A post was really interesting.
    I teach 7th grade Language Arts students in St. Louis County. I've been wanting to get international pen pals for my students (ages 12-13) to help them with writing and realizing their similarities with people their own age in a different part of the world (all of my students also take geography this year). If (and this is a very big if) you meet any students who would like pen pals from the US, feel free to email me!


  22. This is all so interesting! I am so excited to keep up with your new adventure! :)

  23. Interesting to find our more about your why's and how's! Hope all is going well that side.

  24. So I should've read this post before leaving a comment on the last one, haha! So you majored in Mandarin! That explains your skill at writing Chinese characters! I was wondering about that. :)