Update on our New Little Addition to the Family

•May 29, 2018 • 4 Comments

Hello everyone! It has been a fast few months. I cannot believe that our boy Noah has already turned 3 months old on the 26th of May. I have been planning this post for some time and have been wanting to give you all another update. I miss all my friends and family back home in Fayetteville, North Carolina. God has greatly blessed us, it’s hard to believe that I am almost finished with my second year in China. My company has decided to hire me on again, but we will be moving to another part of Guangzhou. We will be moving to an Ancient City that is over 800 years old. I will definitely take photos of Nansha 南沙 before we leave and I will also take some photos of our new location.

I’ll keep it short because I believe you guys are more interested in looking at the photos of Noah 诺亚 instead of reading whatever I have to say! Please enjoy the photos and remember to keep us in prayer. Please be praying for us to have the able to visit the USA soon, I have been really missing you all today.

Zhujiang River Tour

•May 11, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Well, this is not exactly the post that I have been preparing for the last couple of days, but it is one that I have been wanting to share with everyone. Guangzhou is the third largest city in China and it definitely has some really cool places to explore. If you have an opportunity to travel to GZ, I would really recommend taking a river cruise down the Zhujiang River. Especially at night, it can be a really amazing experience to see the beautiful lights and buildings.

These photos are from a trip I did with my friends the first year I came to Guangzhou. It was around December 2016. I went with some of my closest friends here, Jeremy, Sushma, and Kimberly (their little girl). It has been a great blessing to have them in my life. They helped me a lot when I first moved here to Guangzhou.

In the last photo, this is the tallest building in Guangzhou. It’s known as the Guangzhou Tower or Canton Tower. If you are interested in checking it out, you can go to the metro stop labeled 广州塔 or Canton Tower. Sometimes they will change the lights or have advertisements on the tower.

Anyway, I am working on some of last two year’s camera roll. I want to make sure to share more about my experience here in Guangzhou. This is just a quick post. Take care!

A New Howard Family Addition

•February 27, 2018 • Leave a Comment

 

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One of the happiest moments of my life. 

 

The past year and a half have been completely life-changing. God finally brought me back to China, I met my soul-mate, I got married to her and yesterday God gave us the cherry on top Noah Connor Howard. This was one of the most difficult things I have ever experienced, but it was also one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.

These are some of the photos of our new little Howard addition to the family. Isn’t he beautiful?! I learned a few things just within the last two days, that I hopefully will never forget. God has really blessed me with one of the most amazing women I have ever met. My wife Elizabeth is made of the strongest fibers. She was willing to go through the pain of childbirth because she deeply loves me and wanted to give our family children. That is one of the greatest acts of love any person has ever shown me. My only wish is that God will bless me with a full life to share my love with her and my gratitude for all she has done. Being with her during birth was a great time of reflection for me.

The second thing that I learned is just how much God really has blessed us. After they released Elizabeth and little Noah back to their room, we dedicated Noah to God and re-dedicated our family to the Lord. I want the Howard family to wholeheartedly serve the Lord. This birth has placed a lot of things into perspective for me in my life. My life was changed in a moment, but I wouldn’t ever wish to go back. I cannot see my life without my dear wife or Noah!

Farming for Dragon Fruit

•February 24, 2018 • Leave a Comment

If you would like a closer look at some of these photos included,
please feel free to click on them. 

 

I was going through my photos this afternoon and I stumbled across some photos that I had originally wanted to share with everyone. When I first came to China, I got locked out of my WordPress account because I had enabled Two-Factor Authentication. Instead of using my Google Voice phone number, I used my local Ting number (back in the USA) to set up two-factor. Just a friendly reminder, don’t set up two-factor if you might lose access to your phone number. I kept my Ting account back home, but their service does not support international roaming. Anyway once I got access back to my WordPress website a couple of months ago, I just now realized there are so many things that I have not shared with you all back home or my other friends around the world.

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火龙果 or Huǒlóng guǒ or Dragonfruit is a fruit that I always thought was kind of weird looking. I really had only seen this type of fruit when I traveled to Hong Kong or Mainland China, so for all I knew, this was an Asian fruit.  My current place of employment was so kind enough to organize a special retreat for all our teachers to travel to a farm that specializes in organic Dragonfruit. It definitely was one of the prettiest farms or plantations I have ever been. I was having a conversation with our head supervisor, Amos, and he mentioned that Dragonfruit is not indigenous to Asia, but actually Mexico. He said that the Spaniards during the Age of Exploration had brought the fruit to Asia to trade for other commodities that only were available in Asia. He also told me that the pepper was not originally native to China also, which equally surprised me. I thought it was interesting to see how globalism has really impacted a country and it’s cuisine. When we think of Szechuan or Hunan cuisine, we think of super spicy peppers. But to think that it was because of globalism that really brought these foods to another continent and allowed parts of the Chinese culture to adopt it into their everyday life, it’s pretty cool.

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As you can see, this was really a breathtaking sight. I also learned that Dragonfruit is actually a member of the cactus family. This particular cactus grows along the ground, but there are some insects that will eat away the Dragonfruit if left on the ground. This particular farmer built these concrete constructions in order to secure his crop from spoiling. This was a very nice destination I got to travel to in Guangzhou when I first moved here. I hope you guys learned a little and enjoy the photos! I have some exciting posts that I will be working on in the upcoming weeks! I am looking forward to sharing them with you all! So please stay tuned!

 

All iPhones Are Not Created Equal

•February 16, 2018 • Leave a Comment

iphone-6-china-ad-1.jpegI thought I would do this blog post to help those thinking that they want to buy an Apple iPhone or other Apple device here in China. Let’s learn from my mistake. Most of you know that not only does the Great Wall exist here in China, but also the “Great Firewall of China”. There is a big misunderstanding of the Great Firewall, most Americans or Western news outlets report on the side of China not allowing social media sites like Facebook or Twitter. These are not the only things that are blocked in China, the real truth is that a large majority of websites or content is blocked that originates outside China. This would include academic websites, news outlets, certain games or apps, and even some banking websites. Some of these sites or content may not be blocked, but the traffic to those websites are slowed down to a crawl.

Well, I knew this coming to China and I was a strong advocate for Google’s Android devices. I love the openness of Android devices and the competitive pricing, but I knew Google phones work poorly in China unless it’s a Chinese forked version of Android. Before I moved to China, I decided to switch back to iOS because I knew Apple devices worked pretty well in mainland China. I had bought an “international iPhone SE” in the USA and once I arrived here in Guangzhou China, I found out they sold me the wrong version. The Apple store in Raleigh North Carolina had mistakenly sold me the US model. The USA model of iPhones does not support China’s 3G, 4G, or LTE networks. I was only able to use Edge, which is very slow. Now to Apple’s credit, they called the Crabtree Valley Mall, where I purchased the iPhone and spoke with the salesclerk that sold me the phone. He admitted to remembering me telling him that I was moving to China and wanted to use this iPhone overseas and Apple was quick to accommodate me. The only problem was I was now in China. They told me they would be happy to replace my iPhone with a Chinese model, this is where it gets messy…

Before I made the switch with Apple, I emailed the representative and asked if the Chinese iPhone model was an international model. They assured me that the Chinese model was an international model and could do everything the USA phone could do. Unfortunately, they were wrong.

I could be wrong, but ever since I received this iPhone, it didn’t seem the same as my USA model. I noticed the battery wasn’t as strong and that some of my Apps don’t seem to work with the same reliability as my previous phone. My friends here in Guangzhou told me I was just imagining it. Well, during the time I’ve been in China, China has decided to limit Skype calling and has blocked access again to Whatsapp. At first, I didn’t think it was a major deal, because I still had FaceTime. Except the problem is I found out that the mainland Chinese iPhone has disabled some FaceTime features because they didn’t want to compete with the local Chinese apps and because they supported encrypted voice calling. You can video with FaceTime, but they have disabled the audio calling with FaceTime via a hardware switch on the logic boards here on every Apple device in China. After doing a little digging on the internet, I have found out that in other countries, Apple often disables certain features or even installs hardware switches in their devices to kowtow to the local governments or companies in that region.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Apple products. But increasingly Apple is beginning to get too friendly with local governments and monopolies. Their products may be great, but this is a major flaw in proprietary software and hardware. Apple’s number one priority is to its shareholders, they don’t really have the customer in mind. This disappointing news along with some other choices Apple has decided to enforce have made me begin to question my involvement with Apple and their platform in the future.

Anyway, my conclusion is to be careful about buying Apple devices abroad. They might not function similarly to their American counterparts. If you are in China and you want an Apple device that supports all the features Apple has to offer, I would suggest buying in Hong Kong, Macau or Taiwan. At least for the moment, these places are selling fully featured Apple equipment. But who knows what might happen in the future. It might be better to buy in Korea or Japan. If you are interested in reading up more about how Apple is crippling their devices in mainland China or how they are compromising the utility of their products, you can read more about it with the links I provided below. Thank you for reading!

https://www.techinasia.com/apple-facetime-audio-disabled-china-iphone-ipad-models

http://www.zdnet.com/article/facetime-audio-disabled-in-china/

https://www.theverge.com/2017/7/29/16062172/apple-chinese-app-store-vpn-censorship-crackdown

https://www.cultofmac.com/487200/developers-really-think-mac-app-store/

https://www.imore.com/why-doesnt-iphone-use-usb-c-instead-lightning

This is a Gun Issue, This is a Mental Issue, and More Importantly, This is a God Issue.

•February 16, 2018 • Leave a Comment
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Hebrews 13: Love and Sacrifice Go Together

I am tired of hearing about “this is not a gun issue” or “this is a gun issue” for that matter. Or “it’s a mental issue” or “it’s not a mental issue”. Wake up, everyone! IT’S BOTH! And we need to fix BOTH!!!!!!!! Now how do we fix both? I dunno, I believe in the second amendment, but I also don’t believe our American forefathers anticipated this to happen in America’s future. America has fallen into a country that mocks right and praises wrong. We allow everyone to define their own truth/ reality. But we have had a long history of mentally ill in America (since the beginning of mankind for that matter) and guns have existed since the foundations of our country (with the Second Amendment). There is only one thing that has changed. 

 
You cannot teach a handful of morals to a person and expect them to decide based on circumstances or however they feel at that moment. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it”? Jeremiah 17:9 “…and for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. Romans 3:23.
 
I recently watched a TedTalk- you can watch it here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YtAR_OGzlcg&t=827s I am going to state the obvious, look at the statistics mentioned in the video and look at the dates in the decline in America’s moral compass. This guy is not even a Christian, but he makes some very interesting points!
 

Then let’s look at this idea of the “new normal” for America. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bX4qUsgHa4Y. Don’t try to tell me that this is not related, it’s a symptom that our country and it’s people are breaking and are flawed, corrupt individuals. It’s time to wake up America, do it for our future.
 
It says in 1 Peter 5:6- Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you. The same words are echoed in James 4:10. It’s a simple process, “Repent, therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out.” Acts 3:19.
There is no hope for the future of America without God at the center. There is no hope for your life without God at the center. America and the people of America, you are all in my prayers.

Why I’m Furthering Myself from Social Media

•February 12, 2018 • Leave a Comment

 

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Photo courtesy of pixabay.com

When I first came to China, I was getting pretty upset almost daily with the restrictive nature of the internet here. Almost access to every western or non-Chinese website or app are blocked here in China. That means when I first got here, I had restricted access to almost everything that I used regularly on a daily basis. No Facebook, no Google, no Twitter, no WhatsApp, no Youtube, well you get the picture. In fact, there are many websites that are blocked because they rely on other websites that are blocked. The websites that are not blocked, typically are slowed down to a crawl. But even though there are days in which I am a little annoyed with how slow a website that I might use is going because it is not a Chinese website, it is becoming more of a blessing than I originally realized. I thankfully still have access to some News Podcasts and Tech Podcasts that I follow, but I want to talk about some of the issues I have been reading or following up on concerning social media and the news media in particular.

Long story short, I have been listening to a very well tech journalist, Leo Laporte, since I was back in high school. He used to be a tech personality on the TechTV cable network, but eventually, the cable network went under. So Leo Laporte decided to take his ideas and passion for technology to the internet. He launched his own technology network online under the title Twit (This Week in Technology). He has podcasts or shows that literally talked about everything with a chip in it. I cannot keep up with all of his shows, but to name the three I try to keep up with are Macbreak Weekly, Windows Weekly, and This Week in Google. I used to keep in touch with his radio broadcast The Tech Guy, but unfortunately, I just don’t have the time anymore.  One of the main topics lately on one of his shows in particular (TWIG- This Week in Google) has been the social hacking of some of these IT tycoons like Google, Amazon, and Facebook on us. I used to think when I was younger that things like internet addiction weren’t really a thing, but as I am been experiencing more of life, I see that it is becoming a big problem, particularly with the youth.

 

I have been a teacher for the past six years now, I have been blessed to teach in my home country of America and I have been equally blessed to be currently teaching Guangzhou, southern China. I have been able to see the impact of social media in two countries and being removed from my old social networking habits, I have been able to reflect on them. Students are sometimes downright aggressive when you try to separate them from the phones or laptops. I’ve even had some students in America tell me, “I will die for this phone”, here in China, I have had students yell trying to be confrontational. What is exactly happening to our youth and for that matter, ourselves?!

I didn’t really see just how much time I was focused on social media inside the USA than I really was. But the topic just doesn’t end there. I noticed that media itself was beginning to consume my life. The 24-hour news media cycle, who basically constructs stories in order to keep you glued to the news (which by the way are entirely negative stories), the TV networks are all dedicated to distracting you from what really matters. I cannot really fathom just how much of my life has been lost because of these forms of mindless entertainment. Now I have realized I have been talking quite a lot already, so perhaps I should end my thoughts here, but I would like to make two closing points.

I have been mentioning American or Western social media networks competing for our addiction, but the same is happening in China. Corporations like Tencent (they developed WeChat and QQ) are using the same social hacks that make us constantly reaching for our cell phones.

The second thing I would like to say is that I have come to the conclusion that these mass media corporations are pushing an entirely different culture on me (even us!) and are trying to rob us of our independent ideas. Please keep these words in mind from the Apostle Paul, “15 So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision – you’ll see it yet! 16 Now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it. 17 Stick with me, friends. Keep track of those you see running this same course, headed for this same goal. 18 There are many out there taking other paths, choosing other goals, and trying to get you to go along with them. I’ve warned you of them many times; sadly, I’m having to do it again. All they want is easy street. They hate Christ’s Cross. 19 But easy street is a dead-end street. Those who live there make their bellies their gods; belches are their praise; all they can think of is their appetites” Philippians 3:15-19- quoted from the Message translation of the Bible. 

I will write some more on this topic in the near future, but for the time being, here are some of the articles that I have been reading in the meantime that pertain to this topic. I would like to encourage you all to check some of these out. God bless

Harvard University Article on Social Media Affecting Health
Cornell University Article on Internet Addiction
The Vice Article on Facebook Addiction
The Guardian Article on Facebook Addiction

 
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