Seven Springs Adventure Module

Yesterday we went for our first ETC Fundamentals Adventure Module to Seven Springs Mountain Resort, about an hour’s drive from Pittsburgh. Activities include skiing and snowtubing (and eating), all fully organised and sponsored by ETC! =)

The first activity was skiing, with a 1-hour lesson given to everyone, beginner or intermediate. Although I skiied 2 years ago in Montreal, I kinda forgot and decided to join the basic lessons again on the bunny slope. It took us a while to get our boots and equipment together. The first time I learnt skiing was without the poles, but this time we all have the poles. The instructor thought us basic stopping and turning, and we went up and down the slope a few times.

After some practice, Meng, Seewon and I decided to take the “Polar Bear Express” chair lift to the top. The first incident was that my friends were too slow when getting unto the chair lift and they were pinned down by the chair, one person on top of another. It was a scary sight. Fortunately they managed to stop the lift and assisted them to get out of their skiis. We managed to get on the next lift. The chair lift was kinda scary and unstable and sometimes you wonder if you will drop down. Haha. At the top, I was afraid I would make the same mistake as the first time I skiied – not coming down fast enough and hence falling under the chair lift. Fortunately, I managed to come down fast enough.

We took one of the easiest trail. The first part was quite gentle, and it was a good practice for myself as I slowly began to remember my skiing skills. My friends kept falling as it was their first time. We reached a sharp curve and I managed to go down very slowly by opening up my legs very wide. After a while, I managed to get the hang of the S-shape maneuver as we went downhill. Later, we reached a very sharp U-turn which was very steep as well. No way one can go down straight. I decided to go on the outer circumference and slowly down, and fortunately I didn’t fall. In fact, I didn’t fall for the whole day except for one when taking out my skis. Lol.

After that, we had lunch at a function room, which was some DIY sandwiches and nice soup! After lunch, it was snowtubing time! We have 2 hours to snowtube as many times as we want. The queue was really long, but there was a nice magic carpet to bring us to the top. There are 2 grades of slopes, one higher and one lower. We tried the lower one first, then slowly everyone decided to stick to the highest one as the interest curve was higher. Haha. After a while, people started to form groups to come down together. It was quite funny as the groups become bigger and bigger, and soon, there were like 6-8 people in one straight line. We realised that it isn’t very feasible as the last few would usually get detached or fall apart. Lol. Twice, they even hit the sign at the top before even going down as the train was too long! haha. Later, another group found out that forming 2 columns is a more stable group and they did that. We had to pass our ring attached to our tube to the person behind us. I took some videos, it was really really funny at the end as the first person would usually smash against the fence/wall and get bumped out of his/her tube. Haha.

After snowtubing, some of them went for drinks, while the rest of us went back to ski. Meng and I managed to ski many times down the beginner’s trails with different combinations, getting the hang of it already. I managed to find out how to conquer the sharp curve better each time. Later, we tried to find another trail, but we ended up coming back to the same trail as we got lost and there were not enough signs. After a while, we managed to find 2 seniors and we went up together to find the Lost Boy’s trail, which is longer and easy and fun. It was like a never ending straight downslope, with a climax at the end when the slope became steeper. However, two of our friends kept falling and was lagging behind. It became a question of whether I should wait for them. Team spirit and camaraderie? I gave them some tips, and then I decided to go down first and wait for them at the bottom.

At the bottom, we waited for them for about 20 minutes. We have to take another chair lift up and then come down another route to go back to the main area. My friend was shocked as he thought there was another route to walk back and he is not good enough to conquer another slope. We had to go anyway, and this time, this chair lift was a long and tedious ride. The snowing didn’t help as we were eating snow most of the time. Haha.

We decided to go by the deer path, but my friend got lost as he was trying to put his skis on (he fell), and he couldn’t find us. We had to call him and wait for him. Thank God for phones. He managed to catch up. The two seniors were surprised that the trail still merged with that sharp u-turn point which they wanted to avoid. lol. Well, we finally managed to go down in the end, about 30 minutes late for dinner.

Dinner was an awesome buffet with lots of seafood, pasta, salads, soup, and cakes! It was a good spread, with fresh salmon and crab and oysters, and lots of cheese, some meatloafs with horseradish (I like the wasabi-like taste), and the desserts were very very delicious, although it was pretty standard American fare. After dinner, we set off for home at 8pm.

Awakening – Jews for Jesus

AWAKENING is an eye-opening documentary about the Jews in New York City who are passionate about Jesus like never before. It is the beginning of the prophecy of the 144,000 mentioned in the Book of Revelations in the New Testament of the Bible. I am sure this documentary will inspire Jews, Christians, and other people from around the world, with the movement possibly spreading to other major cities with both Jews and Gentiles present. It is about bringing the gospel to the hearts of the people who matter to God most – the Jews as God’s chosen people, as well as to the rest of the world – the Gentiles.

Carefully touching the challenges of evangelism in a cosmopolitan city like New York, the documentary reveals how Jews can be fulfilling the Great Commission in their own bold manner, sometimes in ways not seen in other Christian evangelism efforts. It is a testimony of the love of Christ being poured upon the streets by the children of God who are not ashamed of their identity, their culture, their roots, their race and their Savior. This film certainly answers what it means to be His salt and light in the world, and is a great example to many Christians to follow. The methods should not different; for we are not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of salvation for those who believe (Romans 1:16).

Arriving in Pittsburgh

I still can’t believe that more than 30 people came to bid me farewell. I felt so shy, honoured and appreciated. They were my care group mates, my video department friends, my NS friends, my previous church buddies, and my NUS friends. Thanks to everyone who came! I also made a short speech and said that it is amazing how we are such a big church yet we have such kingdom friendships in a small setting. It is truly amazing and brings a sad yet happy smile to your face when you step through the immigration.

The 30-hour flight seemed never ending. Tried not to sleep on the first leg but ended up taking naps because some of the movies were too boring. It didn’t help that the screen on the 747s are the older ones and hence smaller and dimmer. But the SIA food was good, really good and huge portions. The second leg after Frankfurt was good as it was quite empty, and we could lie down on the seats and sleep. The few hours layover at JFK was boring, at an airport that has nothing much to do. Although I just discovered that the Delta terminal now has iPads for internet surfing, which is a great improvement. The 1-hour flight to PIT was interesting, felt like in a private small jet.

As expected, Pittsburgh is cold. The last time I experienced such cold winter was when I was touring NY with Josh. But Pittsburgh is colder as it goes below 0 degrees Celsius. The first few days was mild, but it began to snow and get colder, to -10 deg. I didn’t felt long johns were useful in the past, but now I think they are useful (although I still prefer not to wear them as it is too hot when indoors in school). But the weather is kinda irregular as well, there are some days it rained instead of snow, and then the next day it becomes a sunny 10-15 deg like California. Quite amazing. Snow is quite fun, haven’t seen so thick snow, but shoveling snow isn’t fun.

It took us like 3-4 days to find apartments as this is the low-key season. We had to make many calls and only managed to tour 3 different apartments and decided on the best one. Although for all of them, it is at least a 20-min walk to school. But nevertheless, it is still better to stay near school as the public transport here is horrible, unreliable, and infrequent. The one we chose has 3 bedrooms, just nice for 3 of us, and has washing machine in the house, which is very convenient. And the unit number is 3355, triple triple grace grace! Settling in took us 1-2 days, as we had to drive to IKEA and Walmart to buy our furniture and groceries, it’s like buying a whole house of stuff from the departmental store. When we finally could sleep on our own bed in our own room instead of the hotel, it was a sign of relief.

Also, I had a cold and sore eyes in the first week, probably due to my body adjusting to the weather. The sore eyes infection caused mucus to clog up my eyes every morning, and it was very uncomfortable. Thank God it is gone now. My eyes shall not grow dim nor my strength abated!

Pittsburgh is a pretty boring city compared to other cities I have visited. My relatives keep telling me that they want to visit me some day, then I always tell them there’s nothing much to do here. I was right, there is really nothing much to do here, even though this is USA most “livable” city. The downtown is pretty dead at night, although there were many theatres and they try to bring in some broadway plays. There’s supposed to be some nightlife in the Southside, but doesn’t seem to be as happening. There’s a few attractions, but most of them are not that interesting or large. The only time I saw downtown crowded was when there was an open house of art galleries. And there are no subway train systems, only a lousy “T” LRT train which doesn’t bring me to anywhere useful so far. The only cool thing about Pittsburgh is the Duquesne Incline and the wonderful views of the 3 rivers on Mount Washington. There’s also no Chinatown here, although there are still Chinese restaurants scattered around.

And about school! The Entertainment Technology Center, for some reason, is located in the middle of nowhere, although at a very scenic spot by the river. There’s like no amenities or FOOD nearby, although fortunately there’s some free dry food and snacks in our kitchen. Classes are really cool, with the legendary Randy Pausch’s Building Virtual Worlds, Visual Story (which is my favourite as it is about filmmaking), improvisational acting (like playing Who’s Line is it anyway), and fundamentals. The lecturers are very passionate, and the environment is very inspiring with many movie posters, props and all kinds of memorabilia around, from Star Wars to Harry Potter. There’s even Super Mario stickers in the toilet wall, and an irritating talking robot which greets you when you step out of the lift lobby. The only sad thing is the usual gender disproportion, and also there are too many computer science majors versus art-related majors, which sort of defeat the original purpose of putting left- and right-brain people together. However, Randy Pausch says, in the “dream-fulfillment factory”, you are not just learning how to make video games, but how to work with one another.

Thanks to BVW, looks like my weekends will always be burnt as deadlines are every Monday. I would definitely need this as my verse for the semeter:

He has filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom and understanding, in knowledge and all manner of workmanship, to design artistic works, to work in gold and silver and bronze, in cutting jewels for setting, in carving wood, and to work in all manner of artistic workmanship.

Exodus 35:31-33