Oct 25, 2009

Saturday Evening Under the Stars.

Last night was the beginning of the Hangzhou Expo. I'm not sure what that means, but there was a huge fireworks show to celebrate the opening of the Expo. I went to my friend's house and watched the fireworks from the roof of their apartment building. I love these people, and watching the sky light up for over 30 minutes with them was really magical. We grilled a chicken that the boys bought live and then killed (their new fave thing to do, apparently) and had a bird's eye view of the July 4th-esque celebrations across the Hangzhou evening sky.

Some photographic evidence:

Also, today was baby Joseph's dedication service. Remember that baby shower I told you about? Well the baby has arrived! It was meaningful and lovely to be in a room of people from all over the world dedicating this little baby to a life lived on purpose. I can't believe how good Anne looks only 2 weeks after delivering the little bundle of joy! I taught Sunday school, but was there for the dedication.

Here's a few of my Sunday munchkins from Nigeria and Malaysia. They're growing up so fast!:


a few quotes from this weekend to enlighten and entertain...

(In sunday school class)
Me: "who were the pharisees?"
Kid from Venezuela: "MONSTERS!"

(wisdom from a male Chi.nese friend)
Him: "American women are like elephants. Chi.nese women are like deer. Who wants to hunt an elephant, when you can easily have a deer? Elephants are strong and powerful and deer are gentle and do whatever you want...you Americans say - deer in headlamps?"

So...I leave you with this sentiment...don't be a deer in headlamps.

Oct 24, 2009

"I move to keep things whole."

I'm having one of those, "I'm freaking obsessed with my life" weeks. Don't you just love those?

Nothing on my thesis is getting done (cue minor panic attack) because there is just too much life to be lived! I am holing myself up in this apartment and tying myself to this desk (thankfully, with a window view) so that I will hopefully finish before this Wednesday. But first, I feel like paying attention to you, little blog.

Yesterday was the inauguration of my new woman's poetry group. My dear friend and I have been talking about wanting some kind of book club or poetry group since last year and well, it was always one of those things that gets talked about, swooshed around in the air, but never actually comes to pass.

In the past two months we have become good friends with some of my friend's co-workers at her university she teaches at. They are English Professors and can talk about even the most abstract ideas in clear English. We have been getting together to share life experience and stories with these women, talking about the greater meanings in life. They have so much incite and so many questions/comments about love, divorce, faytth, commitment, and the future. So we get together to talk, prey, and encourage each other as best as we can.

We finally decided to be proactive and start meeting, just us four, as a book/poetry club and gave ourselves the first assignment to bring 2 poems each, not quite knowing what to expect.

Yesterday we spent 3 hours dissecting the likes of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, EE Cummings, Whittier, and Anabelle Leigh. It was amazing. We just went around the table and read one of our poems and then discussed it, allowing each person's viewpoints to soak in and be respected.

While we were waiting for the last of us to arrive, I sat with my large macchiato, trying to navigate my way around the massive mountain of foam on the top of my cup. The 3 of us early birds were discussing how we chose our poems when low and behold a familiar sound began to play over the coffee shop speakers...the N'Sync Christmas album.

I, true to form, grabbed my pen and sang along, serenading my friends until their ears threatened to bleed. My American friend and I sat taking in the moment...October 23rd, sitting in a coffee shop in Chi.na, with Chi.nese friends, talking about EE Cummings and listening to Justin Timberlake and Lance Bass serenade us with, "Under My Tree." I got a little teary eyed at the lines for, "I'll be home for Christmas," then blamed it on the caffeine spike, :). It was a perfect Chi.na moment. A cautious blend of wacky, entertaining, and meaningful.

We have decided to meet 2x a month, since we see each other outside of the poetry group and don't want to meet so often that it becomes a burden or a routine, we want to be fresh.

I am really thankful that so many relationships that I have here have been becoming more meaningful. I am so glad that I stayed here another year because it is easier to integrate into society and really become a part of things once the daily grind is more manageable. I used to have panic attacks going to the grocery store or trying to find the right bus stop (still do, sometimes), but it is all more manageable because I have so many people I can depend on. I have so many more purposeful relationships now that life in Chi.na is not so exotic. I just hang out with my pengyou's (friends) at coffee shops and read poetry.

Here's the poetry fab 4...Hannah, Francis, Aviva, Me.

Aviva brought in a poem that really resonated with me and the other women...I want to share it with you. We tried to dissect it, pulling apart the lines hoping for answers. But in the end we decided to let it be, allow it to just exist as a piece of encouragement and not something to chew to bits. Here it is:

Keep Things Whole by Mark Strand

In a field
I am the absence of field
This is
always the case.
Wherever I am
I'm what is missing.

When I walk
I part the air
and always
the air moves in to fill the spaces
where my body's been.

We all have reasons
for moving.
I move
to keep things whole.


Oct 21, 2009


My friend Seneca loves to analyze everything about everyone. This is true to her psychology master's degree that she just finished before popping over to Asia to psychoanalyze the crazy people who decide to live here.

We were talking yesterday and I was telling her about my recent obsession with baking/cooking/recipe blogs/allrecipes.com/taking taxi's to every grocery store to look for tomato paste/Julie and Julia.

She said that people who love to bake are nurturers. That molding ingredients together and then waiting for them to create something delish is an act of delayed gratification. There is power in the waiting.

Ponder that one.

And after you do...here is a recipe I created for honey cookies. I am doing my best without a baking sheet/real oven/cake pan to create delicious things for my friends. I now have a busy schedule that includes a poetry group on fridays, Book Study on Tuesdays and Saturdays, and english corners throughout the week. I think it is a good gesture to show up with something a little reminiscent of home (sugar?) to warm everyone's bellies.

And it's really entertaining to watch Chi.nese people eat sweets.

Jessica's Chi.na-Friendly Yummy Honey Cookies of Happiness

1/2 cup soft butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup honey
1 egg
1.5 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

(I would probably put applesauce in this if I was in Ame.rica, but alas, there is no applesauce in this land).

Mix butter, b. sugar, honey, and egg until it looks nice. Stir in the flour, slowly though, so it doesn't over take your bowl. Stir in b. soda, salt, and cinnamon. Take a big deep breath in because it smells so good. Bake in a toaster oven (or a real oven if you are lucky enough to be one of the privileged few who have one) for 7-9 minutes on 190 celcius. (that's 375 for you Amer.icans).

They will be cake- like in consistency if they turn out anything like mine. Share with others, this is the way to world peace.

Happy Baking, and waiting, and nurturing. :) If you try out the recipe, let me know how it goes!

Some Pics:

Cinnamon apples. They taste surprisingly close to Cracker Barrel's! I made these for Book study when I had too many apples to finish before they went bad.

At work at my new adopted family's house: pizza crust mix from Ame.rica and really, really expensive imported olive oil that I cannot afford but gladly use from others. :)

The finished product! Veggie pizza, minus cheese! Those circles on the pizza are boiled eggplant...soooo good.

Bon Appetite.

Oct 19, 2009

Toddler Urine and Patriotism.

Yesterday I got peed on at the grocery store.

I was standing in line in front of my cart and talking on the phone when I felt a steady stream of warm liquid hitting my shins. I looked down to see that I was standing in a puddle of yellow. I quickly looked to my left to see a tiny toddler sitting in the front of the cart beside me. He was wearing Chinese "crack pants", pants that babies and children wear that have slits in the crotch so that the children can squat on the side of the road (or anywhere for that matter) and relieve themselves. The child's little wee wee was spraying all over me in the grocery check-out line.

What kills me is that the mother didn't even say sorry or acknowledge that it was disgusting and embarrassing. I was just stunned. I pulled out of the line and hung up my phone call and contemplated just leaving, but I had spent an hour there and really needed bunny food so I pulled my cart into another line and tried not to count the seconds that the baby pee was seeping into my legs. It took me about 45 minutes to get home via public bus.

The new catch phrase in this country is that, "Ch.ina is becoming more powerful" because of the national holiday, global crisis, economic woes in the US, etc, the Chin.ese think that they are the up and coming society. Which frankly, scares the crap out of me since I am getting spit on in the street and peed on in the grocery store.

...here is a little article from the satirical newspaper The Onion...

enjoy, with a grain of salt, a say a little pra.yer of patience for me...


Oct 18, 2009

Babies, Babies, Babies.

Dear G0.d,

When is it my turn to have one of the dozens of orphan babies that I hold every week? It's like a sick joke, "You can hold them and love them, Jessica, but you have to wait." -love, G0.d. Ughhghgh.

Today was amazing. Yet again I am amazed at the way I am provided for over and over again.

Last night I was with friends when I received a text from one of the Chin.ese doctors that I tutor. He said that he was making a visit to the Hangzhou Children's Welfare Institute and wondered if I wanted to join. Well, I make visits to children's hospitals in the area often and thought of blowing him off because I missed chur.ch last week and needed to be there this week.

Something in me ticked though, "don't give up opportunities for your life work and thesis" so I agreed to go.

We met this morning at my gate at 8:30 and taxied to the west part of town. When we pulled up to the gate I had to hold back tears. I was finally gaining access to the new Hangzhou orphanage facility. I have wanted access to this place for about a year now, hoping and wishing and pray.ing that I would one day get to go there because foreigners that are by themselves and live in Ch.ina are not allowed. Especially because I have some underlying circumstances in my Ch.inese past, I am really not allowed. This is something I have pra.y.ed against however, and could not believe that I was actually there!

My friend told me to "keep silent" when we went through the gate, which ended up not being a problem at all. We just walked right in. I clung to his side for dear life, just looking around me trying to take it all in. There I was, at the most renowned facility for orphans in Eastern Chi.na. Finally.

The reason my friend was visiting was because there is a delegation of Ame.rica..ns from Red Thread Charities visiting this week. He is acting as a delegate from his hospital and as a medical assistant/translator. He went yesterday and thought that it would be the perfect opportunity to get me into the facility since there is a troupe of Amer.icans, I could just slide right in and observe. Which is exactly what I did.

The Red Thread team is a group of doctors, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and audiologists from Minnesota, most of whom have some tie to Chi.na through adoption. They all have the desire to give back and do a trip a year in different cities in Ch.ina screening orphans.

The idea is that is an orphan is screened by an Ame.rican doctor in their facility in Chi.na, that that child will be more "adoptable" in the international adoption circuit. There have apparently been some instances in the past when a child was "misdiagnosed" and arrived in Ame.rica with some ailment to unsuspecting parents.

The team is also training the Chine.se doctors in physical therapy techniques and giving suggestions for foster kid's treatment. Many of the kids that we saw today have gingivitis, skin conditions, and external tumors.

I was able to talk to the founder, who is a Chi.nese woman who now lives in MN and met some incredible people who I felt has similar life-goals. It was also fun(ny) to be with such a large group of Americ.ans. I almost felt like I had an identity crisis. When I was in Ame.rica over the summer it was okay because I was in my home environment, here, I was in my Chine.se environment, with my Chine.se friend and was surrounded by Ame.ricans who are loud, wear backpacks and slouchy jeans and sneakers, yell across the table, and laugh from their bellies. Gosh, I love Ameri.ca. But being with a big group of them is overwhelming. haha.

Please check out the charity and support them in any way that you can...through thought or deed. The work they are doing here in Mainland is critically important to the adoption of dozens of orphans each year. What a powerful, tangible way to live.

In other news, here are some photos from this past week:

me, Yvonne, and Hannah getting coffee at West Lake. It is so beautiful it never gets old.

Happy Birthday to Ilan! My new favorite group of people and I celebrated his special day with homemade pizza, cake, improv indoor games, and KTV. Perfection.

Hannah and I loving our Chinese lives. Every day.
Dora, me, and my homemade eggplant casserole.

Till next time...Bisous.

Oct 14, 2009


My Grandparents at Mt. Kilimajaro, February, 1979.

I want to be like them.
Two down-to-earth people who created a stable family life and yet didn't give up their ideas of traveling the world. One day I want to tell my grandkids stories of my travels and tell them that it was because of my grandparent's stories that I harbored a desire to explore.

They are in Vegas this week, because after 53 years of marriage they haven't been to 'Sin City" and want to see what all their friends have been raving about - shows, lights, festivities.
They never stop exploring. And neither will I. I love you, Mamaw and Gramps!

Oct 12, 2009


So, it has been brought to my attention by my dear Jennie, halfsie, fellow world traveler, lifeline, that I forgot a few important details of our trip. Because sooooo much happened and I don't want to bore all 3 readers completely to death with my life, I left some things out. They are:

On Tuesday we spent the day at Gulangyu. This is an island that does not have any cars or motor vehicles on it which = awesome.

We took a 5 minute, free (surprise!) ferry to the island from Xiamen and were greeted with the same touristy mumbo-jumbo that exists across Mainland. The island was, however, reminiscent of Europe and *more civilized* cultures. It was a charming place to visit. We walked around forever and ate more seafood oddities and climbed up the "Sunlight Rock Park" to see a bird's eye view of the island and blue waters surrounding. It was gorgeous, even being surrounded by a million people and their screaming children. The best part about Gu Lang Yu (besides being incredibly cute) was that the cool thing for Chinese tourists was to buy cowboy hats. I have never seen a Chinese person wear a cowboy hat before and when we were sitting at lunch Jennie said, "what are they, a bunch of cowboys?" And I looked around and realized, there must be a sale! haha, I'm not sure what about Gu Lang Yu makes people want to buy cowboy hats, but it sure was entertaining for a good 4 hours.

Our friend Wesley (a chinese teacher in Shenzhen - whose home village we all visited last October Holiday, exactly a year ago) had biked from Shenzhen to Xiamen with a group of his friends. This journey took over five days to complete and he conveniently arrived in Xiamen the day before we were to leave. Him and two pengyou's hopped on over to the island to join us for dinner. One of the fellow bikers happened to be a co-worker of Jennie, and neither knew that each other would be there, which was a cute surprise. We ate (surprise!) seafood and then wandered to a "snack street" as if we needed to eat more. Did I mention the food is great there?! haha. We had peanut soup, which was probably one of the most delicious things I have ever eaten. Ever in my entire existence. We walked around and chatted in a beautiful mix of English and crappy Chinese until the bikers were tired and went to their hotel. The Crew (jennie, nick, and I) decided to eat more and so we got some mango ice (literally shaved ice covered in slices of mango and mango juice stuff) and practically had to roll ourselves back to the Xiamen University dorms. It was cool to see Wesley after a year. We decided to visit every October holiday, which might mean next year he is coming to America! haha. Who knows. This world is crazy.

Trip update: complete.


Info on Gu Lang Yu: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gulangyu_Island

Oct 9, 2009

Post-Travel Lethargy...

All I want to do today is lay around in my underwear and read Rumi. The million things that need to be done today are secondary.
A particular favorite of this hour...

When I am with you, we stay up all night.
When you're not here, I can't go to sleep.

Praise God for these two insomnias!
And the difference between them.

The minute I heard my first love story
I started looking for you, not knowing
how blind that was.

Lovers don't finally meet somewhere.
They're in each other all along.

We are the mirror as well as the face in it.
We are tasting the taste this minute
of eternity. We are pain
and what cures pain, both. We are
the sweet cold water and the jar that pours.

Watch the dust grains moving
in the light near the window.

Their dance is our dance.

We rarely hear the inward music,
but we're all dancing to it nevertheless,

directed by the one who teaches us,
the pure joy of the sun,
our music master.


thanks for the memories...

My apartment looks unloved. This is the state it find itself when I return from traveling. My trusty, purple, LLBean backpacking pack has every zipper unzipped and is laying with random belongings spewing from its holes in the middle of my living room. A weeks worth of smelly traveling clothes are laying all over the floor waiting to be washed and hung on the patio to dry. 8 days worth of China dust has settled onto my window pains and cloaked my hardwood floors so much that right after my shower last night my feet were layered in soot. My sheets aren't clean. My hot water heater is taking forever to re-boot after being turned off for over a week. Books left over from the plane, boat, and bus rides lay waiting to be placed back onto the shelf where they belong, in height order. My jewelry is scattered everywhere on my dresser and I'm not quite sure where my deodorant is.

This is the part I dread (the only part, mind you) about traveling - the putting back together of my life as it once was after taking it apart to experience something new.

Inevitably, travel changes you. One cannot possibly encounter such challenges, differences of culture, opinion, language, and witness such beautiful things and not come away unchanged in some small manner.

That's why it takes me so long to put everything back together. And maybe also because all I want to do is sleep. For 10 years.

My sleeper bus from Xiamen to Hangzhou returned yesterday morning around 7:30am. I taxied home, skyped my family to let them know I was alive, and then crawled into my un-made bed for the duration of the day. Around 4pm met with my friends Amanda and Hannah for some home-made fajitas and sharing of travel adventures.

I feel content with another travel week completed successfully. Because it would take me 8 million years to explain everything in detail...here is a time-line. More so that when I'm 90 I will remember, than for entertainment value.

Wednesday, September 30: taught full day of classes, left at 3:30 to catch my 6pm bus. There were no taxi's so I attached myself to a student heading to the same bus station. He led me on a maze of busses through town (in the pouring rain) and we ended up both missing our busses. He was an angel sent to me though, because without his help I never would have made it to the bus station at all. At the station I push my way to the front and show the workers my ticket, a man grabs my hand and leads me into a parking lot to a bus and points to a bed. I climb on and hope that I am on the right bus. I call Kai dying laughing at the whole thing and he says, "you think this is funny but you scare me to death." I realize that I have no water and no food for the 15 hour journey. C'est la vie.

Thursday, October 1: Arrive in Xiamen Bus Station at 8:30am. Wander around looking for Jennie and Nick, realize we are at different bus stations and take a taxi to them. There is craziness on the streets because of it being China's 60th Birthday. We get food at a small local shop and check into our Chinese hotel. We went to a bookstore where we made a life-changing purchase of the book, "WEI SHEN ME WO SHI NU HAI?" Those of you who understand that, enjoy. Nick then spent the afternoon catching up on beauty sleep and Jennie and I wandered until we found the beach. What struck me as so strange was that everyone was fully clothed! I was prepared with my swim suit, but there was no way we would be the only people half-naked while the Chinese marched around the beach in more clothes than I have hanging in my closet. For dinner we went to JJ's Western Grill. It is half owned by a fat white dude from Texas and has "welcome to Texas" and redneck sayings everywhere. After a few rounds of Tiger, we got Nick to ride the mechanical bull. The waiters and waitresses wore shorts that read, "Keep Austin Weird".

Friday, October 2: We had called around asking for available hotels since we had only booked one night and - low and behold, there was nothing. So in the late morning hours decided there was only one thing to do - go to Tai.wan. hahha. Xiamen is considered a coastal access point between the *cough* twwwo count.ries and Jennie had looked up how to get from Xiamen to Taipei, Tai.wan's capital. So we set out with our packs with the mantra of "Taiwan or starve", we would not eat a meal til we got there. (we're dumb). The plan was to find a ferry that would take us to Jinmen Island - an island owned by Tai.wan and a point of military contention between the *cough* twwwwooo coun.tries. There we heard that we could go to the regional airport on the island and book a ticket easily for the 45 minute flight to Tai.wan. Once in Taipei we would have to find a place to sleep. If somewhere along this line something failed - well, that was not an option. Getting to the ferry terminal was the hardest part. The beginning of anything is always the hardest, I think. We ended up paying a large chunk of cash for what we thought was a ferry that would take us to Jinmen, but was actually a 3 hour scenic cruise. hahaha. It wasn't funny then, but it is now. We finally found what we were looking for after consulting with many police officers and stamped out of China and boarded the pontoon ferry headed for Jinmen. Somewhere in this hour my camera decided to break. Not cool. Since Chinese national are not allowed into Taiwan I wondered at who the other people on the ferry were - they looked like business men and there were no other obvious tourists. Jinmen Island was cool, there were alot of monks and soldiers walking around, an interesting juxtaposition. The regional airport was small but busy, and lacking an security whatsoever. They thankfully took visa (if not, we would have been screwed), and we booked a ticket on Mandarin Airlines for the next hour. As you may know, I would rather eat my own poop then fly on a no-name airline, but at that point I was really hungry and we were still abiding by "Tai.wan or starve". So I had no choice. haha. Once the plane landed in Taipei, we say the city lights the capital is so famous for, and we thought "let's eat." The visitors counter man, who was obviously straight and obviously wearing two coats of eyeliner, helped us book a hostel and off we went into the land of the Taiwanese...feeling like it was the longest day of my life...

Info on Jinmen Island: http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/taiwan/kinmen.htm

Saturday, October 3rd: Checked out of our hostel (not because you could see straight into the shower from the bedroom, though that would be a good reason) and went to the National Palace Museum. This is one of the top 5 museums in the world. All the treasures from Beijing and the Forbidden Palace are housed here where they were moved during the Sino-Japanese War. the coolest thing in the museum was a piece of meat carved out of jade. Super cool. We spent pretty much the whole day there and then went to see Taipei 101, the world's tallest building. From there we went to a night market where we couldn't stop eating. Tai.wanese food is incredible! I wasn't quite sure what we were eating sometimes, but it was good! Then we took a bus an hour south to visit Nick's from from his college days at UCLA who is back in his homeland of Tai.wan. We met him and his girlfriend and sat around drinking Tai.wan beer and watching Minority Report. And talking politics fre.ely. (what a treat). We went to sleep (Hank's absent roommate never thought he would have 2 american girls in his bed, haha) and were woken by vicious shaking. I thought Jennie was having a seizure. She thought I was trying to get her attention. We heard Nick running down the hall, "Is that an earthquake?!" And we bolted into the hallway where all 5 of us slumbering pengyou's stared at each other as our 14th story apartment wiggled out of our control. I was scared. For all 4 seconds that it lasted. Then we went back to bed laughing that that was the second earthquake us MAIS'ers had been through together.

National Palace Museum: http://www.npm.gov.tw/en/home.htm

Sunday, October 4th: We sat around Hank's place all morning and he brought us breakfast. Milk tea and egg wraps. DELISH. Tai food scores again. He helped us book a hostel back in Taipei and then he drove us back to Taipei because he had to drive his girlfriend home and smooze her parents with mooncakes. It was raining. We found our hostel: TaiwanMex. It is owned by a creepy Mexican dude who has been in Tai.wan 6 years and has an affinity for American girls. The room was small but super cheap and we never put the make-shift showers on the rooftop to use. There were some other interesting travelers there that made for entertaining conversations in the wee morning hours. We put our stuff away, used the internet, then went to the Museum of Modern Art because it was close by. I don't appreciate modern art quite as much as others in the population, but it was still really fun and reminded me of my sister. Hank and Renee met us there and we went to the MODERN TOILET restaurant for dinner. We wandered the streets together in the rain and then parted ways with our hosts. We set off to experience the famed Tai nightlife, but because of some "issues" we ended up at KTV, singing our usual playlists of Asia and America's greatest hits.

Modern Toilet Restaurant:

Monday, October 5th: The typhoon hit. And I didn't want to fly. But we had made hotel reservations back in Xiamen and were supposed to be making the plane/ferry trek back to the mainland. We watched the weather for about an hour and then decided to head to the airport just to see what was up. (hopefully what was up was planes). All of the flights going to other destinations had been canceled but since Jinmen Island was the opposite direction from where the typhoon was coming from, we were able to book a ticket for the next hour. The turbulence was intense, but we made it. This was when things got interesting. You see, Tai.wan does not take Chinese debit cards (political issues affect all areas of life) and the island does not take visa. When we landed on Jinmen Island we had no cash, only visa cards. We didn't plan this efficiently. So we were for all intents and purposes stuck on the island indefinitely. Jennie whispered, "let the adventure begin..." and I knew that it is in these moments that The Crew shines. We all got to work talking to different people in broken Mandarin. I went to the ferry counter and decided to just tell them our situation. "Wo men mei you qian." (We don't have money). "Wo men you mei guo de hi you zhong guo de ca" (we have american and chinese cards). "Wo men de jia zai Zhong guo" (Our home is China) "Wo hai pa" (I'm scared). haha. I have found that with a little prolonged eye contact and throwing in "I'm scared" at the end of anything gets the job done. A man responded dramatically to the situation "YOU HAVE NO MONEY?!" and led me over to an airplane counter. I wasn't quite sure what was going on, but a woman got on a cordless phone and had me fill out some paperwork and show her my visa credit card. Eventually through broken dialogue I realized that we were purchasing a ticket through her company and the company would give us cash to pay the ferry guys with. So on my visa statement it will say that I bought plane tickets from her company when really we were getting cash - using an airplane company as an ATM. Awesome. We made it with 15 minutes to spare to get on the last ferry of the day. It is my firm belief that all things work together for good. And that I would have died 5 times by now if it weren't for the unfailing kindness of perfectly placed Chinese people. Thank you, kind Jinmen Island residents. Thanks to you, my friends and I are not re-creating Gilligan's Island right now. We got back to Mainland and called our hotel to find out that they had given away our room. haha. Nick called around and reserved us a room at Xiamen University in the overseas student dorms. We went to an amaaaaaaazing Chinese restaurant and ordered enough food to feed 985743 people. Corn, meat on a stick, fish, cauliflower, onions...so delicious. Again, we piled two single beds together and called it a night.

Tuesday, October 6th:

Wednesday, October 7th: We slept in and re-packed all of our junk into our backpacks before asking the hotel to keep our bags for us as we wandered Xiamen one last time. Some of us wanted to walk around the university and because of random cracking in my ankle I wanted to preserve energy so I sat on a bench and read for a few hours. Jennie joined me and we decided to make a plan to meet up at Pizza Hut for a hearty going away meal. We ordered tons of food, shrimp ball pizza crust and popcorn chicken pizza. So good. And I have no idea how to make a pizza without corn now. Jennie and I sat talking about how great Amer.ica is and spurting random patriotic statements before we spurt out into a string of patriotic melodies. In Pizza Hut. It was a beautiful 10 minutes of cheering the red, white and blue. haha. The more I travel, the more I love my country. Nowhere compares. We went back to get our packs and I headed to the bus station alone to hop aboard my 15 hour bus back to "reality".

No matter how many places I go, there are still so many places I want to see. In every trip there are experiences that challenge, scare, annoy, and uplift the spirit. Each new destination is a part of God's world that exists completely outside of my understanding until we meet. And in those meetings I learn more about Him, His people, and my own flaws and strengths.

There is a lack of pictures because my camera is still broken... :(

Thanks Xiamen, Jinmen Island, and Tai.wan for the memories!

Next destination, January, 2010? TBD. :)

Oct 5, 2009

Earthquakes, Typhoons, and Candy, OH MY.


last night there was an earthquake. and as I type there are bugs crawling all over the computer at the TAIMEX hostel we are staying at. To be short and sweet, we are having a blast.

Taiwan is awesome but the awesomest thing is this wonderful discovery:


I looked online for a picture to show you and there wasn't 0ne...but please believe that there is a brand of chocolate called @always@ and it is chocolate ith pop rocks inside! It is amazing! It says @jumping candy@ on the wrapper and I had to try it. Sooooo good.

Last night we took an hour train to one of Nick's friends from UCLA's house. He is Taiwanese and was an international student at UCLA several years ago. We stayed at his apartment and him and his girlfriend were gracious hosts. Today they drove us the hour back to Taipei and we went to the MODERN TOILET restuarant. So awesome.

There will be more to come...there are others who want this public computer....

still sending love from Taipei.....

Oct 2, 2009

Love From Taipei.

Greetings from Taiwan!

After an insane occurence of events (which is to be expected by this point in China-living and Asia-traveling) my beloved traveling crew and I have found ourselves in an internet cafe in the capital of Taiwan, full to the brim of curry and rice and not quite sure where we will be staying all week.

For the Chiense National Holiday we get 8 days off...and we are not ones to waste any days that could be spent on the road. Our original plans were diverted because of lack of available train tickets and we literally just looked at a map and decided to meet in the middle: the beautiful coastal town of Xiamen.

Well, when we arrived in Xiamen yesterday morning (I did a 15 hour bus ride by myself!) we tried to book hostels and were faced with the fact that anything in our price range was booked. So what do we self-professed travel junkies do? Figure out how to leave the country of course. Jennie and I went to the beach while Nick slept in the hotel and then we went to a western restaurant owned by some white dude. It was Texas themed and had "welcome to texas" signs everywhere. It was like being back at home, hahaha. sort of. We ate chips and salsa, and pizza and wings...and I paid for it dearly throughout the night, probably inhaling a half bottle of Pepto. Thank You Know Who for Pepto!

Xiamen is a gateway city in Taiwan. So we decided, why not? Surely Taiwan would have hotels since it isn't techincally their holiday this week. After many failed attempts at getting to the right ferry terminal (one of which resulted in an expensive, 2 hour "sightseeing tour" where we thought it would take us to the Island we needed to get to but didn't :/) we found our way to the ferry terminal and bought tickets to Jinmen Island. This island is claimed by both Taiwan and China and to get there we had to go through customs and check out of China. Which is always fun.

On Jinmen Island, we exchanged money then found a cabbie to drive us to the regional airport (which was full of monks and had no security whatsoever) and bought tickets for a flight leaving one hour later (at 5:20 - on Mandarin Airlines....skeeeetch).

45 minutes in the air later, we spotted the city lights of Taipei from the plane windows and soon landed on this controversial island.

At the teeeeeny airport we found a help desk manned by a gorgeous Taiwanese man with perfect english who booked us a hostel within 10 minutes of our arrival. We took the MRT subway and 30 minutes later we sauntered into our hotel laughing at our adventure. I still can't believe that this morning we weren't sure if we would make it to Taiwan, and if/when we made it here if we would have a place to sleep. We were actually going through our heads of where we could sleep....a 24 hour karaoke establishment, an internet bar, any bar...

When we got here we found out that Taiwan banks do not accept Chinese debit cards. Nick is our new "tian ge ge" sugar big brother, because without his donation to the life funds, we would all be stuck here penniless. haha.

So far Taiwan is awesome. It is clean, modern, clean, the people are friendly and fashionable and clean. Their manners seem to be good and the streets are bustling even at this late hour, which we plan to make the most of.

We only booked one night at our hostel because it is way expensive, so tomorrow we will go on another hunt for a place to rest our heads at night, but it's no worries to us. I think we have become such "seasoned" travelers that the details son't really bother us. Like, we don't know anything about Taiwan. We are planning on asking locals things to do for our 3 days here.

On Monday we will make the flying/boating trek back to the Mainland and stay in Xiamen for 2 more nights since that town is so precious. Wednesday night I will bus back to Hangzhou.


I love my job. Because it gives me a chance to travel. We do all of this with practically no money because travel in Asia is so cheap once you are here. This is the perfect opportunity to go wherever the heck I want, which judging by today's festivities, is easy to do.

If there's a few things I know for certain it is this: that the world is small, accessible, and meant for exploring, people are the same everywhere you go, and every place you go changes you in some small way.

Now if you will excuse me, I have some exploring to do... :)