The Third Day

Monday: First treatment was not too bad. Took a little longer than I expected. Place was packed; everything beeping, nurses were hopping. Almost felt a little guilty sitting in my recliner overlooking a park with a lake and fountains. I do have a job to do. I have to pee.
Felt alright for the rest of the day. Had chicken and rice for dinner (even cake and ice cream). Finished the night with some 30 Rock. Slept alright until 3:00am. Not sick, just awake. Read some.
Tuesday: Laurel Baird drove me up. Had good conversation and no problems. flow was good with the IV, but pretty irritating. After the skin around my vein turned pink we switched to the right hand. Much better!
Pastor Seda came to visit and take me home. It was delightful. Shannon was busy preparing for what sounds like an amazing evening with the Women in the Church so I took the dog for a walk (after borrowing keys from my folks to get in the house).
Mike and Nate came over to boost my spirit and rot my brain with some video games.
Thankful this morning for a good night’s sleep, minimal side effects, and some time with Pete Clark. Tonight we are watching Groundhog Day.

Joy in the Shadows

We have had no shortage of adventure since our return to the States, yet finding the right reason and the time to keep posting has eluded us. Well, no more! The support of our family, friends and casual readers was vital to our well being while in China, so we feel it makes sense to reach out to you all again at this time as we enter a new challenge in His calling.

Today is my (Luke’s) first day of chemotherapy. Honestly, that’s the beginning of the good news. The only bad news is that I have cancer. That, and treating the cancer is going to take me out of teaching a few weeks.

You may be wondering why my tone seems so casual and upbeat. The back story is that we have been dealing with this since about the same time last year. It may have even begun earlier than that with the abdominal pain I experienced in China. Long story short: I’d been working a few months when I felt some discomfort which, after an examination, lead to an ultrasound confirming the need for a biopsy, which proved seminoma testicular cancer. CAT scans indicated spread, and I was treated with radiation for stage 2b seminoma over Christmas. All this was effective and kept private because the prognosis was good and too much attention was likely to cause us stress. Things seemed to be resolved until a few months ago when lymph nodes around my collarbone appeared larger than in previous scans.

This is starting to sound a little heavy, so I’ll share again: this is mostly good news. We are looking at 99% CURE. I have a state job with benefits; the school is highly supportive; my family is there for me; my doctors are caring; my church is stuffed with brothers and sisters who have already walked this road… I am overflowing with THANKS!

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Make Haste?

One of our dear teacher friends has been back in China serving a shorter term project and sparked an idea on her blog about haste that I would like to share.

http://lifeafterchina2012.wordpress.com/2013/12/24/china-update-2/

So what is the meaning of “haste”? I tend to think of it in a positive connotation. I think of Boaz, who Naomi predicted would set things up with Ruth “this very day” and I think about how the book of Mark is written with “immediately” littered everywhere. So this haste concept is something deeper than mere speed or timing. It must be in Saul who could not wait for Samuel to perform the sacrifice, in Peter getting nearly everybody killed by lopping off an ear of all things. “Let’s not be too hasty, ‘Peter!’l Its an impatience that promotes carelessness and is probably driven by uncertainty. Haste is the twisted sister of procrastination.

Keep building on the cornerstone and you’ll have a good time!

Luke B. Siler

Silerquest Returns!

When we set out for China, we knew that we wanted to keep a blog so that our friends and family could get a sense of what we were experiencing on the far side of the world. I chose the name “silerquest” thinking it was generic enough for us to both use and to continue to use even after our adventures in China had passed.

And passed they have—by nearly four months! So, what now?

Now it’s a little harder to know what to share. Everything was new and interesting and different, and now things are just interesting, but less objectively so. It will take a different kind of thinking. If you’ve been kind enough to follow us this long, and have even caught yourself wondering how we’ve adjusted these last few months, we hope that future posts will continue to nurture the small bond between us and brighten your day.

The big news is that Luke is teaching English at a public high school! It is a lot of work and very challenging, but he loves it and feels he is in the right place at the right time. Shannon is bravely taking on the task of substitute teaching. So far, she loves it and is rediscovering her heart for kids of all sizes. We’ve also been blessed with a Chinese roommate who is living with us for a semester while she attends a local college. It’s these kind of situations that make it hard to believe in chance. Her name is Rasha, and things have been going great.

More thoughts and details to come. Thanks for sticking with us!

The “next week” emotions

It occurred to me yesterday morning that I said out loud, “We’ll be home next Friday.” Could that really be true? Many of you reading this are maybe just as shocked as me or your more ecstatic. I am super excited to be back, but what started clicking in my mind was the fact we won’t be here in Langfang. No words really, just some tears.

The most interesting emotion has been the closer we approach our departure date, the more it feels like home here. I do think of many things being back in Dover (and America): family dinners, hugging our dog, Chick-fil-a, Chiptole, being with our like-minded family on Sunday mornings, singing and more. But it just feels weird to not come back to our little apartment, ride on the back of Luke’s bike, walk up three or four flights of stairs to class, have my fruit, vegetables and eggs weighed before I get to the cashier, walk across the road in the middle of traffic, get on a train to Beijing and so many more habits.

The weirdest feeling, that I didn’t think I would have, is we won’t be in class with these wonderful students. Some of them even tell us how great it’s been to “grow up together these past two years.” With each student hangout and dinner we have more joy-sorrow. A recent funny time I became emotional was during my movie final exam. I was proud of them answering a forty-eight multiple choice test plus a few short answers. I just stared, and admired them knowing how much I’ll miss them.

They will definitely be in our hearts, in our memories, in thousands of pictures on our computer, and in many conversations back home. We are not just bringing ourselves, luggage, and gifts home, we’re bringing a new life filled with Chinese wonder and love for which we are excited to share more with you in person!

The last and Best Club!

“This was the best English Club I have ever had!”

–Shannon Siler

“It was like the emotional impact of a whole English week in one night!”

–Luke Siler

“I laughed, I cried, it moved me, Bob”

–Larry the Cucumber

It was a night when everything went right and we’d learned a lot from our previous clubs. We were super pumped because it was our last one and we had guests! We also pushed back the start time and made sure we did a run through the day before. We also put our best efforts into promoting the event. I hung some posters (even in the bathroom); I mean there are many girls that go in and out of there. The work paid off and this time there were few conflicts with student schedules. We heard many students tell us they were coming, so we expected a decent crowd. Some were even there before we were, 30 minutes early and they steadily continued to come. One of the best mental pictures I have is when we were having a lifting up time, eyes open, to see students keep coming up the stairs. We believe there were at least 200 students! It was jammed packed, no seats left!

During our mixer, it felt like a wrestling match/stadium. We played Finger Jousting. Partners had to try and poke the other with their hands held together. Students got really into trying to win and the audience was in an uproar shouting for winners.

The laughter and excitement just kept increasing. Luke and Jaime had been doing a run-on skit about training for a race. This club they had something a little extra to show. The three of us made a short video of them running around our campus doing silly things. I didn’t think the students could get any louder than when watching that video. They were hysterical. It was a big hit!

We were supported with our great friends Jess and Nikki. They most help us with a hilarious skit, Pass it down to Lulu. For those of you who don’t know, a couple (Luke and I) go out on a date, but there are no seats together. He tries to pass down candy, popcorn, a drink, an arm around the shoulder and even a kiss. It ends with the girl NOT passing back a kiss, but a slap on the face and leaving with another guy. (In our skit, Jaime so kindly played that role, wearing a sign that said “boy” for clarification to the students.) The students made it easy for me to perform my role of staring ahead to watch “the movie.” It was great to for me to see the enormous crowd surrounding us; some standing on the chairs so they had a good view, others with their cell phones out taking pictures and video. I was loving their smiles of laughter.

The night closed with Jaime speaking about Hope. She really did an amazing job. She had the students think about what they put their hope in and what happens if it is taken away. It led to great discussions just after club, and we trust there will be more conversations in these last days over meals and hangouts.

Club wasn’t quite over yet. We sang, My Heart Will Go On, one of China’s favorites. Jaime surprised us by dedicating the performance to Luke and I. It was a moving tribute.

Well, when you combine those two things, there were many tears from students. I was greeted at the end of the night with great hugs expressing their sadness for us leaving. It was unexpected, yet an honor; a great way to remember our last Club together. Thank you Father!

28 Days

Luke here: We will be back in the U.S.A before you know it. Between now and then, there is just enough time to make or break a habit, or survive a zombie apocalypse. Best of luck to you! We’d like to fill you in on where we’ve been and where we’re going.

We anticipate finishing strong! This countdown has created in us a sense of urgency that we believe will make our final month in China one of the best. At the same time, being faced with such a huge transition from our life in China back to America is emotionally daunting. Can’t wait to go home; don’t want to leave. It may even be harder on our students who hold us in such high regard despite our best efforts to the contrary. I think for them it will feel like the end of Mary Poppins after the wind changes and she takes off again. Come to think of it, I hope it is exactly like the ending from Mary Poppins: she leaves because the relationships that were broken are now restored, and she isn’t needed anymore.

Here is Shannon with some highlights from the last few weeks:

· English Club: Started with a draw of Ninja, Cowboy, Bear. We did this mixer game last year and it was a big hit! The students did a great job impersonating these figures, however there were many re-do’s as they held up the same action. Jaime and Luke continued their skit of Jaime’s training where this time we had students help. They attempted to pull another’s arm off of their head (it would take about three paragraphs to explain what this means) and ate as many Marshmallows as they could (Chubby Bunny) to the song Roxanne. One of the boys ate every marshmallow; the other quit trying after two; two girls ate slow and the last group had to spit it out. One of the best parts this night was teaching them a new song, The Hop. An old classic 50’s song, but the students got into it and picked up the tune quick. Luke completed the evening talking about character. He gave great examples and some challenging questions.

· Taco Night: I invited Alice over for some tacos. I surprised myself that we have been in China for almost two years and I never shared tacos with her before. It, of course, was a good time watching her enjoy a new Western food. She liked the taco meat and tortilla chips, but she did pass on the cheese. I guess you must be American to enjoy cheese. The next best thing at the table was the discussion of her cute shirt. She was wearing a t-shirt with a heart that had headphones on it, like ears. The string of the headphones continued to the bottom into script writing of Listen to your Heart. I told Alice I really liked her shirt because I liked the phrase. She replied with “oh thank you, I bought it but I don’t know what it says.” Words cannot express her reaction as she put together the words, the picture and the meaning. She was in great surprise with an “OH! I like it very much.”

· Movie Nights: Luke invited some guys over, so I decided to plan a movie at one of the girl’s dorm. Luke watched The Sixth Sense and I watched 27 Dresses, because for some reason Finding Nemo wouldn’t play on their Chinese computer. Luke was especially thrilled to watch The Sixth Sense again with people who hadn’t ready seen it. Simple, fun.

· Graduation Pictures: Our dear friend Lynn is graduating! She was my Chinese tutor last year. In China, there is not a big graduation ceremony. Instead, the students rent a cap and gown from a local store and invite friends(because they’re the closest) to take pictures with them around the campus. Then sometime in June they will take class pictures and receive their certificate. We were honored that Lynn asked us to take pictures with her!

Luke again:

So there you have it, or at least some snap shots with literal ones to follow. Time is moving. We’ll write more soon!

Long Awaited

It’s been so long, I had to look back at our own blog to see that it’s been a month since we’ve written. Sorry friends! April was packed with fun and fellowship, but busy. Here’s a recap of the last month of our lives.

English Club!

We finally had the chance to have an English Club It was awesome; excitement all around. After a small delay of a projector taken out of our room right before our eyes, we held club in the room next store. The students were patient and enthusiastic. The students and us were brought out of our comfort zones a little with two games: scavenger hunt (where some students had to take off their shoes) and a decorating contest on the teacher’s faces. Students used peanut butter and Goldfish like crackers to decorate our faces! It was an interesting feeling and I had no idea what I looked like until seeing the pictures.

A grand performance was given with stars DJ Longhorn (an old, retired coach) and Mia (training to be a runner). Mia found DJ on QQ (China’s Facebook) to help coach her, but finds out he hasn’t coached in a very long time and uses a unique set of techniques for her training.

I had the pleasure to talk about perseverance. The Father gave me a great confidence and joy as I read my quotes, which were really from the Word! I felt like I was talking to my friends and not giving a lecture. I could see the students sincerity in listening and thinking about persevering. The talk was just the beginning of conversations with students.

Girls & Guys Weekend

All the girls went to Baoding and all the guys came to Langfang. I enjoyed the time of relaxation, laughs and great TACOS! We had a Thai massage which, let’s just say, was different and interesting. (I’ll include of picture from the IECS talent show that displays some of the techniques.) From what I’m told the guys enjoyed zipping around on go-carts and grilling a massive amount of shish kabobs on a tiny grill.

Mom & Dad Siler visit

Words cannot express how grateful we are to have had them come to “our China.” In America, we were blessed to live right behind them across the alley. This is the first time they’ve had to travel more than 5 minutes to see us. Thank goodness they made the trip! We took great pleasure in having them stay in our little apartment for their whole stay, even for quieter times of playing Ticket to Ride and watching Robin Hood together. They both were troopers through every different forms of travel: walking way more than we do in America, biking, buses, trains, taxis while meeting many of our friends, and visiting classes. They also bought us bikes, and Dad got to visit in person the strange hexagon shape he had long wondered about from Google Maps. We are so thankful for your visit Mom & Dad!

Easter continues

Dyeing eggs, for Easter, is a common tradition mainly for kids right? But why do we, as adults, not do these fun things for ourselves? My last memory of dyeing eggs is from high school with a group of friends that we called ourselves The Rat Pack. We all got together at one house, dyed lots of eggs together, let them dry and then had an egg hunt. The fun part, at least for me, was we continued to have hunts by each one of us taking turns to hide the eggs. It was fun to relive this memory by sharing it with my friends.

I invited Jaime and her student friends plus three of my student friends to come over. The week leading up to Easter became quite busy, but I still really wanted to dye eggs together. I remembered in America there is the Easter Monday, but for us it was Easter Tuesday. We should be celebrating Easter everyday anyway. I must tell you how much fun I had even in the preparation. I was super excited to set up the table just right for all of us to stand around, each material having a specific place. I was so proud I took a picture.

You possibly can tell by the pictures how exuberant the girls were. Emily, Alice, Amelia and Claire oohed and ahhed with every egg. They were very creative drawing on the eggs too. I enjoyed watching them and taking pictures more than actually dyeing the eggs. I wrote my name on one and dyed it purple, but when the girls chose their eggs to take home, Alice took it with her. She is too funny, but it was special for me.

We didn’t want to end the night there. We gathered around to play UNO. That was my first time playing with Chinese students and it was the best game of UNO I’ve ever played. Each one of them was unique in their responses, reactions and way of playing. Alice and Emily took over the energetic side, Claire was quiet and kept to herself until she had a really good play and Amelia was just plain sweet and cute. My favorite from Amelia was, “It’s okay, Shannon, your turn” as a skip card played against her. The game continued bringing a new meaning to me of everyone is a winner. After the first person won, Alice’s words, "We can just continue on right? Let’s go on." Instead of starting a new game, we continued play until the last winner. It was fun to watch and hear the alternating uno shout with them singing to Adele’s Someone like You.

As I hugged each one goodnight, I was reminded how much I liked being with the whole group. More often I spend time with one or two students, but having a group together allows me to grow closer to each individual in a different way. "Both are okay!" (another great phrase I will remember from China)

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