We're back in Flagstaff, which is sunny, but we still have two feet of snow in our backyard. On the remainder of our spring break, we spent a couple of days in Phoenix, where we went on a very familiar hike and managed to shred Jack's pads to bits. He could barely walk for the rest of the week! That gave some support to the idea of Jack living with my sister Rhonda, where he would have a relatively sedentary lifestyle, just walks around the neighborhood. She doesn't really want another dog (having her husband's aging Dalmatian is trouble enough), but this is what happens to dogs in my family, we just keep switching them around.
For the end of the break week, we traveled to Prescott to play in our friends' church, primarily the Rutter Requiem. I have been organizing players for Lenten and Advent cantatas for a few years now, and it was bittersweet to play my last gig for awhile. The choir and orchestra were quite surprised by the news, but hugely supportive and interested in our entire story, which we told ad nauseam until our young high school friend Emily could tell it just as well. I especially enjoyed showing the picture of the auditorium at SCIS, which is a thing of beauty. We also pitched Jack's plight to a few of our friends, so we're keeping our fingers crossed. Jack did nothing to aid his cause, generally barking his fool head off at almost anyone who moved, but he made a fan of our even younger friend Andrew, whose current dog is a bit blind and deaf and is not quite up to the lifestyle of an active boy.
We've had a few Flagstaff anecdotes as well this week. In his spare time, Joe has been checking out the school lunch menu to see what we might get to eat when we are there. In the spirit of preparation, we had lunch at Hunan East, where I had egg drop soup, lemon chicken and fried rice. I used a spoon for the soup, but for everything else I used my chopsticks and Joe even complemented my ability to get a good quantity of rice on my sticks. It wasn't a bad first effort, I guess, and the manager recommended a trip to the Chinese Cultural Center in Tempe to pick up some good jasmine tea (which is served with the meal at Hunan East and is quite nice). When we got back from lunch, I saw a couple of my neighbors shooting the breeze, so I went over to tell them about the plans. They were both pretty surprised, especially after I informed one of them (a college graduate) as to the geographic location of Shanghai. It's not the first time in this journey that someone has said in all sincerity, "Shanghai? Where's that?"
We came across a great quote from the book "China Road" regarding the state of Christianity in China. I had heard about this book from interviews with the author, Rob Gifford, and knew that Joe would enjoy it as much as I did the first time I read it. It has many funny and also brutally honest parts, but here is what Mr. Gifford says about Chinese Christians: There is a purity and an intensity to Christian believers in China, and it overflows in their prayers. Mention Christianity to ordinary Chinese people, and they are not burdened by vision of crusading soldiers, fornicating popes, or right-wing politicians. They have heard about this belief relatively late in the faith's long and winding history, and for them it is a matter of the heart. I can't imagine a more exciting place to be a Christian, or a more beautiful statement of how the faith can be lived. They really do come as children, just as Christ commands, so how will this sophisticated seminary graduate measure up?