Time Flies When You're Having Fun!
8:46 AM | Author: Nikki Checketts
Dajia hao!

Man, this week flew by so fast! I taught my students genres of music, mainly classical, jazz, blues, rock and roll, pop, country, disco, latin, hip hop, and alternative, and they all LOVED it! I have a lot of music so I had tons of samples of music and they all loved it. I also let all my students dance to the music if they knew how, otherwise I just danced to it for them so they new how to. Some new how to dance to rock and roll, others the cha cha, and many could dance to hip hop. Some of my students even sang sang along to some Elvis, The Beatles, Michael Jackson, Backstreet Boys, Brittney Spears, and Taylor Swift when I played some samples and we did some karaoke (they call it KTV here). Madi taught her students sports and the song "Take Me out to the Ball Game" and while demonstrating "kick", she hyperextended her knee so she's been in alot of pain this week which hasn't been alot of fun. I hope she feels better soon, but she's been a really good sport.

Oh, funny but sad story, so Thursday Madi and I decided to have peanut butter and honey sandwiches for lunch and the bread slices we cut were about two inches thick so it was funny to watch her eat it. Then as I was taking pictures my camera fell and the lens got jammed. Well I tried to straighten it out with my teeth but I ended up accidentally biting the lens part off and it broke in my mouth, and I turned to Madi with a stunned "Uh oh" look and said "Oopth" (Oops, except I had stuff in my mouth). So my camera is pretty much broken and I can only take purple pictures. I'm going to see if I can get it fixed this week, otherwise I'll either have to have home send me one or buy one for much more expensive here, which I wouldn't especially like to do, but I need a camera here so...But it does make me bust a gut laughing every time I see the pieces of my camera.
So...hopefully that wasn't the end of my camera, but we shall see...hehe, that still makes me laugh.

So this weekend we went out to Daoxian, where Quincy and Lawrence live. Okay, so let me give you a brief layout: Madi, Sam, and I live in Yongzhou (Ling Ling), Shelby and Cierra live in Shuangpai (where we were last week for church), Matt and Kristal Carter live in Dong'an (where we were 2 weekends ago for church), and Quincy and Lawrence live in Daoxian (where we went this past weekend). We had some really good jiaozi (dumplings) in peanut sauce and it was a good peanut buttery taste. Then a native named Mike, who apparently went to Hong Kong and was baptized a month ago and he's WAY cool, helped us get a ride up to the Moon Caves, which is this beautiful mountain landscape with some giant shallow caves for sacred burials and there are 2 cave-arches and the geology is wicked awesome! Too bad I didn't have my camera so I hogged Madi's, but she was too busy trying to get around so she didn't mind as much. ;) We worked together. We realized once again that our picture-taking styles are way different. It's ok though. Life is great! The moon caves were so amazing! So huge, breathtaking, gorgeous. Sometimes it is hard to believe I "live here" and I am experiencing all of this first hand. These are the moments that are changing my life. It's crazy to think about. I almost don't want to come home anymore (if there was a temple here, the temptation would be far greater), because the land is beautiful, the way of life is simple and wonderful, and the people are so genuine. I prefer not to think about going home because that makes me sad. I will say that as of right now, here are some of the most frequent things I miss about the US: cheese, the FDA, being able to drink out of the faucet or eat off the table, my family (especially Tristan), any sort of sanitary environment, and people who I can communicate with easily and casually. Here they all speak different dialects and so I have to learn those. I know enough to communicate what I want, but not enough to be fluent and understand everything and communicate fully my impressions, thoughts, and feelings as deeply as I hope to be able to someday.

Bruce is a student here who studies philosophy, and he comes over to my apartment and talk about it all the time. Now we don't talk too much religion, but he knows I believe in God and my religion is very important to me and he shares his thoughts and feelings with me and we discuss politics a bit, which are totally different views, and it's just cool. I think he just likes our apartments because not only can he practice English, but the Spirit can be felt and all their stresses leave for a while...like a temple. Many students feel that I way, I do believe. He also has showed me some cool sites to share a bunch of music so I'm going to do that before I go home (take THAT iTunes! :P). It is perfectly legal, no joke. "Of course it's legal," said Bruce, "It's a free country!" Haha. He is a way neat guy, always telling me more about Chinese traditions, customs, and beliefs, and he speaks very good English. I constantly find myself in a pickle of deciding whether to speak Chinese to them to practice mine or encourage them to practice English by only using English. Usually I choose the latter unless they understand only a little, and since they are the people I am around the most, I don't find myself in as many opportunities to speak Chinese as I'd like. I'm trying to look for other ways to use it and pray in Chinese and such so I can use the new things I've learned, but much of what I learned at school is fading. Darn. But it will get better; I think a big thing was culture shock, but now that I'm out of it, I have bigger fish to fry.

So yeah, a camera here is a MUST and I haveto figure out what to do soon. Everywhere I go I learn new things, and every day there are things I'm wishing I could take pics of, but Madi can only take a small amount of pics until the package arrives from her family, and we take so many different styles that we'd constantly be wanting to be taking pics, and that can be really inconvenient, so yeah, I will figure it out this week. Being out here is so incredible! All the customs and cultural experiences are shaping who I am and who I will become. I love it here. I would love to come back here and live a while. Not to stay permanently, but for a while would be great. Back at home it's rush rush rush, and out here it's slower, one-thing-at-a-time attitude, and it's very refreshing. Every day I try to make count, because the number of days here are limited. I'm getting on top of my scripture masteries and prepping more for my mission now, while at the same time I am in shape and staying that way. I think I am probably 143ish lbs and it's great! I love how the non-rush lifestyle makes me eat healthier because I contemplate more what I do eat, and at the same time I get out and burn energy so I'm in good shape. It makes me happy. I'm pretty content with the personal progress I've made here, but I do think I need to get out and do more, regardless of what Madi and Sam decide to do, and until now I've sort of just followed Sam around or planned things with Madi. I feel comfortable enough now that I want to get out and explore things myself. Don't worry, I'll stay in safe places, but there's just so much to do and explore and it would really give me more opportunities to practice and learn more Chinese.

I got back from Daoxian on a train (there and back were actually my first times ever riding a train, and both ways there was only standing space) tonight (Monday the 29th), and this week I think I'm going to teach my kids about Bands. I taught them genres last week so this week I was going to have them do their own bands and teach them band vocabulary, since they love music so much, it would give them discussion topics and phrases to actually communicate things that are cool to them. I am totally open for other ideas, so if you have any, please fire away and give me some suggestions.

This upcoming week will be exciting! Classes flew by last week and I'm sure these lessons will go very well and fly by as well and before I know it a large group of us will be heading to Yangshuo this weekend! Apparently everything is in Guilin or Yangshuo, and we hit Guilin on our way there! Man, I am so excited for my upcoming adventures, so stay tuned! Life is so good!
I love you so much!

Nikki Checketts
C/o Zhou Zhixi
Foreign Affairs Office of No. 1 Middle School of Yongzhou City
Hunan Province, P.R. China
Post Code: 425006

"All You Need Is Loooove..."
2:09 AM | Author: Nikki Checketts

Love is everything. It gives you something to live for and to die for; it gives you purpose and the more love you have the more purpose you find in life.
This week I taught my students about Valentine’s Day (accompanied with St. Patrick’s Day in some), and it has been the greatest experience here in China! Love…oh a wonderful thing called love makes an eternal difference. In my lesson I talked about St Valentine dying in the name of love, how we show love for each other in the America, and I had them write poems from their heart, giving stickers to the ones who would stand and read theirs aloud. As I listened to these teenagers testify the power of love in front of their peers, a sweet Spirit entered the room and I could feel Heaven pouring smiles upon these precious children on God.
These students live in a boarding school here in Yongzhou far from their families, only able to see their families on holidays, while their parents and grandparents pour everything into their education and depend on their success in the world for the future well-being of the entire family. So much rests upon the shoulders of these youngsters, and when it comes to boyfriends and girlfriends their parents and teachers forbid it because it could undermine their success in the world. To hear these students pour out their hearts for the love of their families, the forbidden romance for their secret sweethearts, and the fear of the pressures of the world, my heart cried with them. I cannot explain my tender experience except to say this: that our hearts became more unified in those classrooms, the Spirit was felt, and I could feel an added strength enter the room and see burdens being eased on the backs of these beautiful soldiers.
At the conclusion of the lesson, we all sang the famous song “My Heart Will Go On”, by Celine Dion. The Spirit in that classroom flooded out the windows, I am sure, when they got to the third verse and sang with all their hearts:

“You're here! There's nothing I fear
And I know that my heart will go on.
We'll stay forever this way.
You are safe in my heart
And my heart will go on and on…”
Oh the power of love! The power of God’s love for His children is full, whole, encircling, enfolding, perfect, warm, enlightening, uplifting, strengthening, beautiful! Perhaps I have learned more from my students this week than they learned from me; to know that they felt the sweet Spirit of their Father above brings me the purest joy. Some of the students were even moved to tears, and others were beaming like Heaven. Oh I love these children so much!
The poems that the students wrote will be some of my personal souvenirs; they are my greatest tangible treasure here in China. I picked a few of my favorites, below:
“I want to tell a story,
A story about shmiley.
Do you know the meaning?
You will know. You will see.
The meaning is
‘See how much I love you’” (Crystal)
“I open up my wallet,
I find no money.
I open up my pocket,
I find nothing.
I open my heart,
I find you!” (Dawn)
“If you are alone,
I will be your shadow.
If you want to cry,
I will be your shoulder.
If you are happy,
I will be your smile.
Whenever you want a friend,
I will stand here waiting for you.” (Lucifer)
“The time is long,
The history is too.
But nothing can be longer
Than me as I love you.” (Jack)
“I want to fly,
But I have no wings.
But Mother gave me happiness and love.
They are more than wings,
And I will use them to fly.” (Price)
“I write your name in the beach,
The wave took it away.
I write your name in the sky,
The wind took it away.
I write your name in my heart,
And it will stay forever.” (Sophia)
“I always see you in my dreams,
But I don’t see you.
I can’t help missing you,
As you always stand in my heart.
Oh Mother, I am tired.
I want you to be near,
But I can’t always see you.
Maybe I should work hard,
Just for your love to me.” (Tina)
“There are 3 things I need:
The sun, the moon, and you.
The sun for the day,
The moon for the night,
And you forever.” (Kay)
Aren’t they just the most wonderful? I feel like a mother sometimes. One of my students came over to my apartment after my classes for the day were done (this week I’ve been sick so I didn’t go anywhere or do much), and she was feeling stressed and her family has problems, so we just sang together until she felt more relaxed and at peace, then when I said goodbye to her and gave her a hug, she said “You give me the feelings of my mother.” I love love. So much! It is the medicine for all wounds and the source of good.
Needless to say my classes made my week and have been etched in my heart for all eternity. I got sick probably over the weekend in Dong’an but it didn’t hit me until Monday. Through God’s grace I was able to have enough energy to teach my classes the way He intended them, and every day once classes were over I was drained. By Friday though, I was lively and healthy as a lark-there are miracles here in Ling Ling every day. I don’t think I could ever believe that God forgets about us, because He sure has remembered me every day this week and has taught me to see and be a part of so many blessings! Not too much else happened this week except students coming over and me being sick, but Madi and I did, with a lot of time, exploring, and patience, make some excellent jiaozi (dumplings), Oh, and Madi and I explored our beautiful campus and the forest around it a little bit. So that was our week! I can feel your prayers and I soon hope to feel some letters as well! :D Or maybe even a nice package with chocolate would…be…nice…haha, only if you want to. Thank you for all you do and your love! It makes a world of difference even a world apart.
For church this past Sunday (March 21st) we went to Shuangpai where Cierra and Shelby live. It’s always good to travel, but then it’s good to come home to Lil Ling Ling too. I love it here! This week I’m teaching about music genres, so that should be pretty awesome! Hopefully my kids love the classes as much as I do…haha. Life is the best!!! Sometimes I wish I could stay here forever…just the simple lives full of meaning, family unity, and peace is just beautiful.

Lengshuitang, Dong'an, and Exploring Home (Ling Ling)
12:34 AM | Author: Nikki Checketts

This week I was thrilled to really start teaching English, English, English- done with intros, rules, etc, and this week I decided to teach Animals and adjectives. Well my first two classes were fantastic, but then I got told that I wasn’t supposed to teach until further notice because they hadn’t figured out our schedules completely yet. Well they’d given us our schedules, but they’d put us teaching a class the same time another teacher was supposed to, so it was a game of ‘whoever gets to the classroom and starts teaching first gets the class’ type of thing, which of course meant we always won and they were having issues with that. Here in China they like to keep everyone on their toes at their will by deciding schedules last minute-well apparently that didn’t work so well here, so I only taught two classes this week, which made me a little sad, but it’s life!
Instead I made good time of my free week! I FINALLY HAVE A KITCHEN!!! The foreign teacher who lived here before me never used his kitchen- he would go out to eat or keep snacks in his fridge or on top of it. After spending about 4 hours cleaning it, hunting down the propane guy for 3 days to fill up my tank, pressing the school for a rice cooker (as well as to fix all my electricity problems…which there were a lot), I finally got to cook in my kitchen! I made an egg-tomato rice dish and some vegetable fried rice in a wok, which I am excited to try at home! Oh cooking makes me so happy, especially knowing I’m learning how to cook foreign food. Sam is awesome. He taught me how to cook and I love it. Remember how I used to not like cooking at all? I guess I’m growing out of it. 
On Tuesday I got my bank account set up and me, Madi, and our liaison talked about the idea of religion and even though we couldn’t talk about ours he knows about our standards and thinks they are good and our religion must be very good to send out such great teachers who have self control, dependability, and who are so happy. That made me happy too. Tuesday night our student, Twinkle, came over and made Madi work out at 11pm and then she spent the night to take us to a town about 45 minutes away the next day. Needless to say we are living it up here, joining the culture with hardly a reservation-the people are just so wonderful out here! Well the next day we went with Twinkle to Lengshuitang and got to visit Twinkle’s boyfriend’s “adopted mother”s primary school, which pretty much made my week! Have I mentioned how much I LOVE Chinese children? Well I surely do! Madi and I sang them some songs and then we all ran outside (all 170+ of us) to play the ultimate game of “Duck Duck Goose”. Well the game didn’t go according to plan, but just being able to see the children, talk to them a little, take pictures with them, run around the playground together, and laugh together just filled every part of my heart with joy! There is a great light in their eyes and purity, and just thinking that this generation will probably be able to accept the gospel and become missionaries pierced my heart. I love these people so much- they are some of the most beautiful people I’ve ever met.
Thursday I got to go to my first birthday party here, and that was fun. We just had it in one of the outdoor garage restaurants. Basically someone brings a cake (they are very beautiful but don’t taste all that good), we sing happy birthday, the birthday child makes a wish, blows out candles, and then everyone starts eating cake. It goes like this: Step 1: Cut the cake, Step 2: Pretend to be enjoying the cake, Step 3: Grab a piece of your own cake and shove it into the face of the person nearest to you OR better yet into the FOREIGNERS’ faces! Madi and I knew it would happen, but why not become a part of the culture? It’s so much more fun when you get involved with the Chinese people. They are so good and sincere for the most part, and it’s so hard not to love them.
This week has just been beautiful! It’s been in the 60’s and 70’s, and one day I just sat up on the roof of my 8-story apartment and read all afternoon. Oh life is so good here! I can communicate all I really need to here, but I would really like to practice conversational Chinese, which is a little more work, but I’m trying my best. I found the post office here! I pretty much know where a lot of things are here in town. For church this past week we went to Dong’an, where our area leader Matt Carter (and his wife Kristal) live, and Madi and I were quite proud that after only being there a few hours we knew our way around town. Culture shock is pretty much over, I realized that this week, and it made me happy!
Actually, almost everything makes me happy here! A functional kitchen, friends to talk with, wonderful students to teach, little children, little opportunities to share glimpses of my testimony, my wonderful roommates Sam and Madi who make being here so much more fun, my acceptance into BYU Idaho for Fall semester, traveling new places at my own leisure, opportunities I have every day to practice my Chinese and make friends, glorious Chinese food, a warm apartment with everything I really need, time to change my habits and become the person God wants me to be, the prayers I feel from back home, everything! What is there NOT to be grateful for?! It’s all here! Yeah fresh water running through the pipes, my comfortable bed, a bunch of friends around that speak my language, and American luxuries would be nice, but I am perfectly happy here. All those I could give up if I had to-I love it here so much! People live so simply, happily, and they work hard for what they get. It’s wonderful to be around people who aren’t always trying selfishly to jump to the next big thing, stepping on eachother, worrying about a million things to do…so nice. ;)