For the first several years we lived in China, we had no place to hang out with friends after church – no place to have a family retreat. Sporting facilities were inconvenient or expensive. Since some friends of ours opened the Fountains, a community center, we are much more able to “Make ourselves at home” (their slogan) in Guangzhou.
Each Sunday after church, some of the congregation shuttles over to this facility for a nice lunch, fellowship, and fun. One of my favorite things to do is to join sixteen to twenty others in a game of Ultimate Frisbee on the large, lush, green field. Most of the people have never played before but others are more experienced. Ultimate Frisbee is an active game so everyone gets plenty of exercise!
After playing Frisbee, I sometimes buy a slushie for 3 yuan at the newly developed café. Designed like a Starbucks, the coffee shop has colorful modern art on the walls, cushy couches and chairs scattered around the room, hard chairs and tables in the center, and the cashier’s counter at the front. The sell frappuccinos, mochas, espressos, pearl milk tea, smoothies, and cakes. Many people gather there relaxing and talking for the afternoon.
Other popular Sunday entertainments at the Fountains include checking out and returning books in the library; roaming around outside; watching a movie; playing ping pong, foosball, and air hockey; or sliding down the hill on toboggans. Sunday afternoons at the Fountains are some of my most enjoyable times!
One Friday a month we attend Home School Meet Ups at this community center. Once we arrive, we get some water and head to the movie theatre where we give presentations on previously decided topics. Some of those topics have been on drama and poetry; machines; special needs and handicaps; plants and medicine; and once we had a science fair.
When the presentations are finished, we go down to the cafeteria to get lunch, which usually consists of hot dogs, fruits, sandwich items, and veggie sticks. Afterwards we have forty-five minutes of free time, which I usually spend in the library. Next, we have art classes, followed by reading time in the library. The books read are on the topic of the day for the Home School Meet Up. We end with a team sport such as football (although Americans call it soccer), a foosball or air hockey tournament, or a game like “Capture the Flag.”
The Fountains is one of my family’s favorite places to stay for a weekend with Jeremy’s and Jason’s families (our older brothers). We rent several rooms, each one sleeping two or more people, at the Guesthouse. The Guesthouse has a Western-style kitchen with a dishwasher, an oven, and a garbage disposal, all of which most Chinese houses don’t have! It even has a clothes dryer! It’s almost like a quick visit to America. We feel so spoiled when we stay there, but the cost is less than $10 a person making it very affordable.
Relaxing together, we might play a game we borrow from the game room; talk and pray; have discussions; play an outside sport such as croquet or Frisbee; or play with my niece Angela and my nephew Caleb in the children’s play room.
Lala’s and Caleb’s favorite thing to do in the kids’ room is to have pretend tea parties. Sitting around the table, they daintily drink their tea while “eating” fake food. Angela, being half-Chinese, will give Caleb a fish head to “nibble”. In America you might think, “Ew, that’s disgusting!” but here that is the favorite part! After they finish their tea party, Lala “washes dishes” in the pretend sink and puts them away.
When we stay at The Fountains as a family we usually reserve the movie theatre one night. After dinner, we pop corn and borrow a movie from the library. Then we sit in the comfortable chairs and watch a film on the big screen! We try to pick a movie that all of us, down to Lala and Caleb will enjoy.
On Sunday mornings, we take a shuttle from there to the church, making it more convenient to worship the Lord together. Afterwards, we return to the Fountains for the Sunday afternoon meal and activities. We are thankful for such a marvelous place to have a family getaway.
Though there are many things that we can do at The Fountains, our number one choice is the library! About twelve thousand books in the English language line its shelves. It is rare to find this many English books in one place in China so this is really a great blessing for us. One of the best things about it is that we can borrow schoolbooks there, which saves us time and money. Another nice thing is that it has free wifi and computers available for use. We can also check out CD’s, movies, puzzles, games, and educational resources.
From time to time, our family goes over to help organize the library. The last time, we browsed through books, which had been donated to see if they were suitable. Then Faith entered them into the computer, put bar codes on them, and categorized them. The library is so great that even working in it is fun!
Though none of these things may sound that exciting to those of you who live in America, these experiences are uncommon here so are special treats for us. We are very thankful for such a convenient, comfortable, and exciting place to go. It really does live up to the slogan “Make Yourself at Home” and makes our lives in China happier!
So long for now!