Search Results for: "china"

China then and now–Children

Recently Joann and I talked about the Esther Expedition at the monthly gathering of the China Outreach Ministries near the University of Minnesota. We’ve told our story several times to different groups, but this was the first time to a mainly Chinese audience.

We included a few slides of then-and-now photos– shots we took trying to duplicate pictures in Esther Nelson’s albums, 1924-1951.

Afterward, one Chinese student asked if we could show more of those. I promised him I’d post some. For today, I’ve gather some shots of children.

In the early 1930s, Esther wrote home asking if someone could send designs for a kiddie car that she could give a local woodworker. In December 1936, she wrote: I do have so much enjoyment at Christmas time in making things and giving to the children. I knit a couple of suits for two children, had two kiddie cars made for others . . . 

 nelson kiddie car









Here are a couple of kiddie cars in 2012:


Nelson Kiddie car








In Esther’s day, baskets carried many things, including babies. Today too.

nelson baby basket





Nelson baby basket IMG_9574








Baskets also weren’t and aren’t bad for keeping tabs on baby on the ground too.

Nelson baby basket









Little boys in every generation seem to be unsmiling about dressing up.

1940s. Photo by George Cole, colleague of Esther Nelson

1940s. Photo by George Cole, colleague of Esther Nelson












In cold weather, you still can see toddlers dressed in thick quilted clothes, chin to toe. And that’s indoors too where it may be as cold as outdoors. At this point, I’m going to mention something that will seem perfectly normal to most of my Chinese readers, and quite the opposite to most of the rest of you. Look at the red pants of the modern-day little girl. There’s a gap in the middle. She’s in church, so there’s cloth (the white center section) wadded in there, but otherwise, there’d be nothing–just an open middle from front waist to back waist, as you can see in last photo, taken last year.

Nelson quilted toddlers IMG_1229









Nelson toddler pants






Well, that’s all there is for today, so I guess there’s just one thing left to say:

The End.

The American in China diet

Addition: If you don’t apply #11, all may be lost–except weight, that is.

My month in China revealed to me a new weight loss plan. Yes, there are already too many diets out there, but hey, summer’s coming and we’re always hoping something new will make the difference this time. Also, I know there’s already a Chopsticks Diet. But that plan is Japanese and mine’s Chinese.

Here are the rules, based on eating at streetside cafes in Sichuan, China. Remember, in China, it’s family style all the way. (You’re on your own adapting the plan for home.)


1. Chopsticks are the only utensil you may use for eating, no matter how inept you are. In fact, the more likely you are to make a fool of yourself, the better. That in itself is an appetite inhibitor. No stabbing of food is allowed. The only exception to this chopsticks-only rule is that you may use a spoon for soup broth if a spoon is offered without your asking, and looking pitiful is not allowed. Also, there are no finger foods in this diet–chopsticks all the way. (Survival tip: Cheap wooden chopsticks have better friction than fancy plastic or ivory-looking ones.)

2. Eat from whatever you want that is put in front of you. But  don’t pig out on just one thing; remember all the dishes are for everyone. Be polite.

3. From the meat dishes, choose the pieces that aren’t mostly fat. Don’t worry, that’s not rude. Most of the Chinese friends at the table love the fat pieces.

4. If you have any say in what’s ordered at a restaurant, put in a request for vegetables. Even if they’re cooked in more oil than you’d normally use, they’re good for you and tasty. I loved the stir-fried greens.

5. There’s no clean-plate prize. You don’t have to eat all the rice that’s in the bowl at your place. But if you do, it’s no big deal. You don’t have to eat every  bite of every dish you try. But if you do, it’s no big deal.

6. Now, here’s a biggie. It goes against everything I’d tell you in any other cross-cultural situation. In this plan, you must hold onto every bit of American table manners you’ve learned. Do not adapt to Chinese table manners. Do not hold your rice bowl up to your mouth and slide the last bit of rice in with the side of your chopsticks. Do not hunch down with your chin practically in your bowl. Do not slurp up your noodles. If you don’t adapt to those Chinese styles, you’ll have to slow down to eat really carefully to keep from dropping rice and slippery potstickers and greasy sauce onto your shirt. The only exception to this anti-cultural rule is with a bowl of soup: After you’ve used your chopsticks to eat all the pieces, and if no spoon is offered for the broth, you may pick up the bowl and drink the broth.

7. Especially in Sichuan, go for the dishes that are at least one notch spicier than your comfort zone. This will numb your taste buds, which decreases appetite.

8. If food is offered that you’ve never eaten before, you must try it. That includes, but is not limited to: pig snout, deer tendons, cross-sections of octopus arms, fungus water. . . .

9. Here’s another biggie. When everyone else is finished eating, you’re done too. Put down those chopsticks, no matter how much you want more. If you’re still hungry, stop at the market on your way back to your hotel and pick up some fruit. You are not required to use chopsticks when you’re eating your fruit.

10. If you’re a tourist, I probably don’t need to add this, but I will anyway. Walk. Walk. Walk.

11. Eat Chinese meals. Do not set foot into an import shop, where you’ll find too many of the things that tempt you most. I don’t even dare name them.

So, to summarize the most important points:

  1. Use chopsticks only.
  2. Retain American table manners.
  3. Stop when everyone else is finished.
  4. Walk. Walk. Walk.
  5. Eat Chinese food.

* * * * *

Before you ask, yes I did follow this plan even before I identified it as a plan. And yes, I did drop some pounds. (Thanks for noticing, Char.)



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China now: “Green” Christmas lights

Joann Pittman is a news junkie–particularly news from China. That’s pretty good for me, getting myself oriented for our Esther Expedition in March.

I keep learning new things about China from her, for example this article and video revealing what may be happening to your discarded Christmas lights. Who knew!

China now: ping an ye (Silent Night)

Christmas? During Esther Nelson’s years in China, no one knew anything about Christmas except western foreigners. And besides missionaries and the handful of Chinese converts to Christianity, no one would have been worshiping the Christ of Christmas.

But things have changed dramatically since then, even since as recently as 1997. Joann Pittman describes Silent Night, as Christmas is called in China.

The day is well known now, but still only a handful (comparatively) worship the Jesus whose day it is.


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How big is China?

We’ve  got a large map on the wall that faces me when I’m sitting in “my” seat in the living room. I look at it a lot, so I should have known the answer to Joann’s question:  How big is China?

But I didn’t. Do you?

Check out Joann’s “picture-is-worth-a-thousand-words” answer.

DG in China

With my eyes on China, this blog post from Desiring God caught my eye this morning. Now to watch out for the announcement of the first DG book published in China!

Easy armchair travel to China

As I mentioned earlier, a lot of my preparation for writing Esther Nelson’s story is not necessarily directly about her. Some of my reading is about China or Sichuan, in particular, from the time when she lived there–1924-1951.

Another good source of atmosphere and sense of place and culture is movies, especially ones that are made in China by Chinese people. This means subtitles, but if I’m going to be visiting, isn’t that part of the place and culture too–Chinese language that I can’t understand? (Not much anyway, but Joann’s Survival Chinese Lessons should help me be not totally at a loss.)

Not One LessBut movies. Here are a couple that will take you to China with me. Not One Less has a contemporary setting which seems far from contemporary, but that seems to be the nature of much of rural China. I fell in love with the 13-year-old main character. I was amazed to realize that none of the actors is professional.

The Road HomeThe basic setting of The Road Home also is contemporary, but most of the story is a flashback to earlier days. It’s interesting to observe that live in the village a couple of generations ago is not very different than now. But even more entrancing is the gentle romance of the new teacher and a young woman of the village.

Both are available on DVD, but can be streamed for free by Amazon Prime members and otherwise for a small rental fee.

China and Christmas

At, I wrote how Esther Nelson is affecting my Christmas, and how China is playing into it all.

Esther Expeditions: Packing light

After the first Esther Expedition, I told you what a boon it was to be able to wear my carry-on. My Scottevest with its dozens (or however many) pockets held so much I was able to use only a backpack and a carry-0n roller bag for a month of traveling and research in Sichuan, West China.

IMG_9461This May in Sweden, during the 2nd Esther Expedition, Scottevest was my partner again. This time the vest was the Scottevest Featherweight.

Today Scottevest is offering that vest and quite a few other great pocket-full red, white, or blue men’s and women’s  products for at least 40% off. This is an amazing discount. 

I’m not seeing an ending date for the sale, but it’s for only as long as products last.

You’d be wrong if you think Scottevest is only for travelers. I know people who love the variety of Scottevest  products so they don’t have to carry a purse, or because they’re in a wheelchair and want to have personal items within easy reach, or they’re parents or grandparents who need to have hands free during outings with the children.

When you check out the sale, I’d appreciate your connecting through the Scottevest link in my righthand sidebar here. Thanks!

Esther Expedition 2: The Ice Age did its bit

sweden-map-584The Ice Age did its bit to drive farmers of the 19th century in southern Sweden away from the homes of their forefathers. When mighty glaciers ground their way from the north, they pushed boulders southward as if each ton of stone were a pebble. Eventually the mountains of ice suffered a slow, melting death in the next age—global warming. What had been the frozen, bulldozing front edge crept backward leaving the earth of tiny Blekinge County imbedded with truck-sized monuments of that long ago era.

In the 1100s, when the Vikings turned from seafaring to farming, the men in Blekinge turned their strength and wiliness toward a battle against boulders. Soil was the victor’s prize—land to be plowed if it was the farmer who won.

Even now, there are fields—if an expanse can be called a field when scattered through it are outcroppings that, like icebergs, are nine-tenths below the surface—fields that would make you think the rocks have won the soil there. IMG_8252But the determined farmer won’t concede. He leaves his tractor in the barn so it won’t be knocked apart by crashing into the immovable enemy. Instead, he curves his way between the barriers with his scythe to cut hay for his animals.

The glacier did its damage by delivering stones to Blekinge before it retreated. Then, as if that weren’t enough, the earth continues its own effort to squeeze out the pieces that were ground deep under its skin. IMG_8256So when a field seems finally cleared, it’s not final at all. Every planting season there are more rocks available to make taller the miles of stone walls dividing fields. But a stone wall can go only so high, and once a barn is raised or a foundation is laid, all the rest are rolled onto growing piles of discarded rocks in a corner of the farm.

Some time in the 1800s Nils Nilsson began to farm in Kåraboda, a cluster of three or four farms in the Parish of Kyrkhult in the county of Blekinge. Or maybe it was Nils, his son. IMG_8238Even if you’d never met him or his family, you would know his father was named Nils, because his full name was Nils Nil’s Son—Nils Nilsson, that is. And since his father was also Nils Nilsson, that means there was an earlier Nils. Perhaps there have been Nils Nilssons since almost the beginning of time.

After a while, all of Nils’ sons–including Nils Nilsson– had left for America, except Sven Nilsson, who farmed the rockiness with his father until, in 1891, Sven hoped there might be a better way, so he went to an auction and bought himself a new coat and a blanket (Johanna Maria still needed the one they slept under together), and he sailed to America to prepare the way for his IMG_8330wife Johanna Maria Karlsdotter and their five children. In 1893, she and the children joined him in Minneapolis. Ester Svensdotter (=Ester, Sven’s daughter), 3 years old, was the youngest. In America, they became the Nelson family, Swan, Johanna, Esther and the rest.

At first, Swan worked as an unskilled laborer in Minneapolis— until 1900, when he’d saved enough to buy land in Bogus Brook, Milles Lacs County, Minnesota. His years of labor in Minneapolis allowed him to return to the farming life he’d known in Sweden, except that the Minnesota soil was fertile and rocks were fewer and smaller.

So the Ice Age did its part in bringing little Ester Svensdotter to Minnesota, where she became Esther Nelson, grew up, found 1st Swedish Baptist Church and Jesus, and was sent by the church to Sichuan, China as a missionary from 1924 until 1951.

God works in mysterious ways. He knew how that Ice Age glacier would affect Sven Nilsson in 1891, even before the first Nils Nilsson was born.