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.
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.