Feb 28, 2010

buckle in with a bit of a grin.

Last night a dear old friend of mine took me to dinner to ask me to be business partners with him. He has a grand idea and wants me to join in what would be a huuuuge commitment of time (we're talking - years), work, emotion, and energy. It was incredibly unexpected and humorous. I still don't quite believe that he is serious or that this could really happen.

Our conversation made me proud of him, that he is dreaming and acting on those dreams. It reminded me of an old poem I read forever ago and after scouring the wonder of the internet I found it-

It Couldn’t Be Done

By Edgar Albert Guest

Somebody said that it couldn’t be done
But he with a chuckle replied
That “maybe it couldn’t,” but he would be one
Who wouldn’t say so till he tried.
So he buckled right in with the trace of a grin
On his face. If he worried he hid it.
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
That couldn’t be done, and he did it!

Somebody scoffed: “Oh, you’ll never do that;
At least no one ever has done it;”
But he took off his coat and he took off his hat
And the first thing we knew he’d begun it.
With a lift of his chin and a bit of a grin,
Without any doubting or quiddit,
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
That couldn’t be done, and he did it.

There are thousands to tell you it cannot be done,
There are thousands to prophesy failure,
There are thousands to point out to you one by one,
The dangers that wait to assail you.
But just buckle in with a bit of a grin,
Just take off your coat and go to it;
Just start in to sing as you tackle the thing
That “cannot be done,” and you’ll do it.

So that's what's on my mind today. That and the dwindling supply of Dayquil that has been keeping me (barely) afloat as of late. 4 more doses and my immune system is on its own. Uh oh.

walk slow. xoxo

Feb 26, 2010


I have eaten the same meal for 5 out of the 6 days I have been home. Feng Xie Chou Dan Mien. (translated = tomato fried egg noodles). It is a beautiful mixture of scrambled eggs and fresh tomatoes poured over a helping of hand cut noodles. It is considered "fast food" here in Chin.a and is served in small shops with green signs of Mecca by the local muslim population. It costs about the US equivalent of $1.10 and considering there is the US equivalent of $13.00 in my chine.se bank account right now (thanks, Thailand), I can afford to eat for 12 more days. It's a good thing my favorite dish is super cheap (and that I get paid Monday).

Yesterday at lunch I went to my usual spot for this dish in Xiasha (the town where I work, not live). It was incredibly busy and so I was told to sit in the upstairs area. I have never gone up there for fear that I will bring the whole place crashing down (architecture isn't as...stable...in the country) and because I am usually wearing heels to work and heels on tiny stairs = a gamble I'm not willing to take.

So...I went upstairs and was pleasantly surprised to find that the muslim family who runs the restaurant keeps their veggies up there! Piles of heads of lettuce, a plastic bag of carrots, and a table covered in peppers littered the floor. I laughed and snapped this photo from my table for one:

Then I thought to myself what grade this would get on the popular news segment in Tampa that rates restaurants. A 4? 3? Warrant for closure? Who cares...the food is goooooood. I wonder how long it takes for the restaurant to go through all these veggies? One, two days? My meal did not have any of these ingredients (where do they keep the tomatoes and eggs? who knows!) How does this compare to the back room of a McDonalds in the US?

I ate my plate of noodles while counting the heads of lettuce, then slowly made my way down the stairs without incident. Another delicious Chi.na meal. Another funny glimpse at how our cultures are so different.

I do not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of all the lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any.


Walk slow. xo.

Feb 25, 2010

Speaking of Real Life...

February 24, 2010. 10 am English class.

Class assignment: interview your partner and then share the memorable aspects of their Spring Festival with the class. Also share what makes their family unique and how they are feeling right now.

Candice: "What makes Kris' family uniq-uh is that he had three dogs. But he is now feeling very sad because 2 of the dogs were stolen during the Spring Festival. Kris and his family think the dogs were maybe stolen to be sold to a restaurant. Kris is very sad."

Kris: "yes."

Me: "I am so sorry to hear this, Kris. Oh, and, dogs are not food."

Feb 24, 2010

I want to go everywhere.

5 countries. 7 flights. 11 new stamps in my passport. a million more reasons to be thankful.

Another Chin.ese Spring Festival has come and gone, leaving me yet again with the feeling that I have "beat the system." A 7 week paid vacation just seems unnatural. Living in a place where travel is incredibly cheap, teachers all over Asia just like me hit the road to experience something new, something different, something life changing. I am no exception (flashback to He's Just Not That Into You. Anyone?)

I am not sure if I will ever attempt solo travel again. I flew to Malaysia where I met up with some old friends, but was basically alone, then traveled by bus to Singapore and stayed there alone, and then met with my usual traveling crew for a week in Thailand.

Malaysia and Singapore were an awesome combined experience as a solo female traveler, but it is something I wouldn't readily sign up for again. Traveling alone, without a phone, and really no clue what was going on was exhilarating, horrifying, and wonderful. I kept the mantra "it's me, G0.d, and the open road" in my head the whole time. I enjoyed moving at my own pace, being completely random with my time, and spending as long as I needed having diarrhea without feeling guilty for hogging the bathroom. But by day 5 I was singing to myself in the Singapore subways, talking to myself on the bus, and narrating my every move as if being watched by a third party. "Jessica is now sitting on a bus alone in Malaysia chatting with a man from Bangladesh. Should she give him her real name? Time will tell..." running through my head all day.

(fyi my name was "Merry" to everyone sketchy that I met and I was always "on the way to meet people" when men asked where I was going. Gotta be smart.)

The solo part of the travel was wonderful though in that it really was the contemplative, self-friend making journey that I had hoped for. I think I became my own friend, learned more about G0d's faithfulness to me, and basically just enjoyed my own company.

When traveling alone you meet a lot of really random, cool people. A few of my most memorable encounters include a businessman from Bangladesh on a bus to the Batu Caves who was earnest in telling me I was going the wrong way (I wasn't) but was precious in his desire to help me find my way (I knew where I was going), my deaf foot massager in Kuala Lumpur who was chastised for writing me notes while she was massaging me asking me questions. I started spelling things to her in sign language and she taught me the alphabet in asian sign language, it's different than ASL! crazy, the Canadian girls in my KL hostel who are only 3 weeks into their year around the world and are still worried about how they look in pictures (precious souls), and the Swedish boys who drunkenly woke me up in my Singapore hostel and scared the crap out of me, only to find they were in the wrong room. I wonder about these people. What brought us all to that corner of the world. I hope they are happy. I hope they are content. Wherever they are now. Without several people helping me along the way who knows where I would be at this point - when traveling alone you depend so much on the honesty and kindness of others for directions, security, and general merriment. It was a good experience.

Once I got to Thailand I was ready for some laughter with people other than myself. And I was meeting the perfect 2 people to provide that entertainment. I cannot say adequately how much I love traveling with those two. This was our 4th big trip together and we just have it down to a rhythm. We joked about how comfortable we had gotten with each other. Waaaay too comfortable to be considered normal or sane. So much so that the 3 of us shared a double bed for 5 nights until we reached Bangkok in order to save money on a hotel room. We had to pretend only 2 people were staying in our hotel, so one of us had to wait while two of us went/ to/left the room and the third person (usually Nick) had to follow a few minutes later. haha. When we boarded a 12 hour overnight bus and had to sleep in seats it felt weird to be away from them. hahaha. Personal space, what does that mean?

Thailand was as picturesque and fascinating as I expected it to be. Despite all that is in the news of instability, I felt safe the entire time. (I actually felt much less safe in Malaysia - weird). Nick has multitudes of extended family in Thailand so we were able to stay with some of his relatives outside Bangkok. It was an interesting experience. After weeks of being independent, it was hard though to adjust to people telling us when to shower and go to bed. We were able to visit a few key points in Bangkok (lovingly called "the Banger" by members of our traveling crew). Everything from the waterways to the temples just sparkled in the sunlight. At one point Jennie told me, "let's take pictures of shiny things!" and that is how I will remember Thailand, by her colors, juicy fresh fruits and blue water. Thailand is hogging up so much of G0.d's artistic ability. It's unbelievably beautiful.

I had a hell-ish return home after flying into Guangzhou rather than Shanghai, getting a fever and missing my bus because of my clock still being on Thailand time. I got another bus, this one being 24 hours, but it was overbooked and I didn't have a bed, I slept in the aisle. Then I got diarrhea and the bus potty was full and so I was squirting onto a full squatty. That was fun. It's those moments when I wonder what I am doing here. Why I put myself through this. Then I remember that I am so blessed to be here, doing what I love and growing in these crazy experiences. It's nice to know what you are capable of - not by your own strength. People really are limitless in their ability to withstand hardship. We only place limits on ourselves, that is what I think.

This trip was fun. I am so glad that it was able to happen so suddenly. Three weeks ago I was in America. Now I am journaling about my travels in Southeast Asia. This is the life I always dreamed of.

I kept wondering if I would want my daughter to do this one day, to pack up a backpack and head off around the world alone with only some plans drawn out on computer paper with a sharpie pen. At first I was like, no way, I would never want my daughter doing the things I do..it would scare the crap out of me. Then I decided, on a bus in Singapore looking for the Lau Pa Sat market, that as soon as my children are in their 20's, they will be free as birds.

And I'll be telling them about that time I was 23 and in Thailand with my awesome travel friends, snorkling with the bright yellow fishies, climbing temples to overlook the Bangkok skyline, and buying boat tickets to anywhere.

I cleaned out my purse the other day and found 5 currencies in it and just smiled. It's cool when the world feels so small.

Now it's back to work for 17 teaching weeks. I've missed my little lovies, and even after all this adventure, it is nice to think of having a routine again.

PTL for another grand adventure. Where next? I'm thinking...Japan.

Cheers. xo.

Feb 7, 2010

Nevermind. KL Rocks.

As my last post suggested...I kind of freaked out when I got here.

But yesterday was amazing, KL is now a vast city of wonder to me, and I am enjoying this time.

I think Freya Stark says it best:

“To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world.”

bisous. xoxo.

Feb 5, 2010


I'm in Malaysia. Going back and forth between absolute joy in my freedom and absolute panic in being alone and suspicious of everyone around me.

The next 5 days are going to be a great lesson in trust, I think.

Tomorrow I will have lunch with a Malaysian friend who lives here now and that should calm my heart.

I hope.

Now off to my pungent room shared with some fat girls from Indonesia.

What the hell am I doing here?

cheers. xoxo

Feb 4, 2010

"Kites Bring Joy"

Two days ago I flew to Weifang.

There is only one flight a day from Weifang to Shanghai and it is a little baby plane that flies into a regional airport. (first and last time I fly regional airlines in China - enough said).

I needed to visit my friend Song Zi Jia. I had promised him that I would visit over the Spring Festival, then decided that because of weird Chin.ese mentalities and traditions it would be best if I was not a visitor during this time of the year. I planned a trip to SE Asia and then avoided telling him I wasn't coming because I was scared of his reaction. Well, when it came up after I got back from Ame.rica that I would not be visiting he was upset. So, I found that regional flight and zipped up north for 40 hours of Chin.ese family time, not really knowing what to expect or what the expectations were of me as a foreign female guest. (and the first foreign friend of his to be introduced to his fam).

I took the train to the Shanghai domestic airport and had my flight delayed like 890 million years. Finally around 9pm I arrived in the teeeeeny tiny Weifang airport. He was waiting patiently in the snow, all people waiting had to wait outside. He explained to me that I would be staying in a hotel so that the neighbors would not see me and talk (ha) and we took a taxi to an amazing 5 star hotel. It was glorious. I felt so spoiled. We ate a late dinner and then he left me to my 5 star accommodations. I took an hour long hot bath and walked around in a bath robe until I couldn't keep my eyes open anymore. I wish I hadn't had that comfort so close to when I was in Amer.ica, because in a few months I could really use a hot bath.

Anyways, he met me for the breakfast buffet early yesterday morning and we drank amazing coffee and ate fruit and eggs. Yum. He had a whole day planned of going to sights around the city, complete with a car and driver supplied by his dad's work. (his dad works for the government).

First we drove about an hour to the town where his dad works and we visited a dinosaur digging site. There was a small museum complete with the "first magical bone in Chi.na". Supposedly if you touch it and rub your hands up and down it three times and make a wish it will come true. The sad thing is, these people believe that crap. (was that harsh?). He kept telling me to make a wish so I exaggeratedly put my hands on it and asked for perfect scores in Zhejiang University. Our personal tour guide must not have been happy with my exaggerations because I heard him whisper to her in Chinese, "she's a Christi.an, she doesn't believe in that stuff".

We walked around a dinosaur park and then saw a digging site for some bones. It was funny because the tour guide said that the last generations of villagers living on that site were finding the bones and grinding them up to make Chin.ese medicine. After the area became more developed, scientists tested the bones and found that they were dinosaur bones. I also learned that in Chin.a the young men call ugly girls "kong long" or "dinosaurs". I will be using this eventually on myself to make someone laugh.

We then went to a beautiful hotel and had lunch with his dad. I was a little embarrassed because his dad and his dad's boss were wearing suits and I was in my Target skinny jeans and boots. Oh well. Life goes on. There was the formality of toasting and asking me random questions until his dad started going off about the Pacific War and Ameri.cans helping the Chinese, and I had nothing to say. Zi Jia later told me that my conversation skills in Chin.ese are awkward, to which I replied that I have nothing to say about the Pacific War and I'm not the awkward one. :) I spent the lunch hour trying to hide the fact that I was completely unaware of protocol and Chin.ese manners in that sort of situation. I felt like I had just been drug in from the pasture and stuck at a fancy lunch with people who talk like aliens. haha. But I survived, thanks to grace and laughter.

We ate amazing food and had over 8 dishes left over after we had been eating for 2 hours. Yum.

We then went to a kite making factory/tourist site. It was so beautiful. Ladies were lined up painting paper kites in a assembly line fashion. Purple ink was splattered first like a fan and then the final product resembled an eagle with yellow claws extending to the earth. The last lady in line was creating the body of the kite out of bamboo with her bare hands. It was wonderful, I could have watched them all day. I kept wondering if they are proud of their kites and how they must feel to see them flying in the Spring time. (the international kite festival is held in Weifang every spring).

We then went back to the hotel and took a nap after all that running around town (me still fighting jet lag) before meeting his mom for dinner. She is a precious 4 foot something CHinese woman who rocks a fur coat like none other.

Dinner was still very nice, but more relaxed than lunch with the dad. I was still not hungry when we sat down to eat and she kept asking if I was upset why I wasn't eating a lot. So to not insult her, and not end up barfing, I proceeded to eat almost the entire plate of white carrot slices placed right in front of me by the waitress. They were the only non-meat, non-heavy dish on the table. I never want to look at another white carrot again. ha. I ate them for about 30 minutes straight. haha.

We then went to the room and watched tv and hung out until I passed out while Zi Jia was watching Forrest Gump. He'd never seen it before. I woke up around midnight with him excitedly wanting to tell me all about the movie because he loved it. I told him that I had seen it a thousand times, and yes I know that Jenny loves Forrest, and please let me go back to sleep.

This morning's breakfast was just as wonderful as yesterday's, except the part when Zi Jia raised his voice at me while we were watching CNN and a segment came on about Prez. O's upcoming visit with the DL, and Ameri.ca's recent sale of some special items to Tywan. I just shooshed him and told him I didn't want to fight about our countries' politics because we do not directly influence that. (of course I told him this after saying, "well you're the one who lives in a censored reality"...that didn't score any points :/). Gotta work on using my filter...

We wanted to go see Avatar today before my flight home but when we got to the theater we found that the movie had been dubbed in Chin.ese. I said I didn't care watching it in Chin.ese but he really wanted to see it in English so we left and wandered to a park commemorating kites. I was secretly so happy the movie didn't work out, because we had so much fun at the park. It was a beautiful day, not snowing and not too cold - amen. Then we went to lunch where I ordered a "waldorf salad" and was given watermelon and honeydew covered in yogurt, sprinkes, and raisins. hahaha. After a wonderful lunch in the restaurant where there are curtains around each table, we headed back to the hotel to pack and meet his mom who would drive us to the baby, scary airport.

The whole trip was wonderful. I sat with my gifts from the family (a box of chocolates from his mom, a gold-plated statue from his father, and a hand-painted kite from Zi Jia) and I started to tear up. This family was so good to me and I didn't do anything to deserve their kindness. It occurred to me on the bus home from Shanghai to Hangzhou that as much as I hate it here, I love it here. The extent of my disgust for so many things here is matched by my absolute joy in the relationships that I have. I am sure this experience and knowing this family will influence my decision to stay longer or not in this ridiculous country.

[the plane ride back had its own entertainment - besides turbulence. I was obviously frightened when the cabin lights kept flickering on and off and the gentleman next to me leaned over and said softly, "nothing the worry". I was so thankful for that small sentiment and we began talking in english. He asked me right away where I was from and when I replied, "Amer.ica" and said quickly while nodding his head at my legs extended into the aisle, "big girl."

Surprisingly enough, I didn't begin to hate him for that comment, and we had a nice chat all the way back to Shanghai. He is going to Las Vegas next week for a business trip, which I thought was really awesome. It will be his first time out of the country and I was excited to tell him to have a great trip and welcome to my country.]

I feel like there is so much more to say. But instead of boring you further with the details of my random life, I will go eat some more Dove truffles from Mama Song and wish you well.

Have a wonderful day.

Cheers. xo.

ps- here is some photographic evidence that there is at least one Chin.ese man taller than me...

Feb 2, 2010

Culture: what a wonderful thing.

I lost a dear friend in HZ this semester. My Malay.sian mentor and her husband decided to pursue seminary in Wake Forest and whisked away their family to the gloriousness of North Carolina. She was the head of the orphan min.istry (that I now am in charge of - oh dear) and she wore many hats at HICF. Her departure from Hang.zhou was very sad for a lot of people, including me. But nevertheless I was really happy for her new life in Ame.rica and all the wonderful things that will come out of it.

I heard from her for the first time today and loved her email. I think it really shows the beauty of a person who is from Mala.ysia, who used to live in Chi.na, and now lives in Amer.ica. I love the inter-cultural-ness of her discoveries. And it made me miss Ameri.ca even more. What an easy place to live for many people. (I know not all in Amer.ica have it easy, but golly gee it's a different world than most).

Here are some excerpts from her email that I found awesome:

Well, my family and I lived in a rented 3 rooms apartment and it was a walking distance to the schools my children and my husband and I going. It was a good location with a few shopping marts around and with clean and friendly neighbourhood. Today when it snowed, we realised that many people came over to our area to do snow boarding or sledging. It seems we were hit by winter storm but we were not aware of the seriousness. We are fine here like nothing happens. We had some fun there as well. It just snowed last night and today it was about one feet thick. Tomorrow many churches are not have services due to the snow. The palce we rented were not furnish with sofas, bed and mattress and the washer and dryer. So we were busy going to places to shop and we were blessed when we found some furnitures were on clearance sale. Well, having to buy furnitures for just 2-3 yrs of stay. Anyway, it was a good buy. My apartment were carpeted and it has central gas heating system.The house is heat proof and we really feel very comfortable here. We would love to have 4 rooms, but when we went around there were not many houses for rent with four rooms.Anyway, we got queen sizes bed for the three rooms so that we could have guest to stay with us.

I started my class last Friday and it was like my first day back to school experienced. ha ha ha. Anyway, I was treated with an interesting and a humorous lecturer who tells joke every now and then. Amazing. !!. It was a good start for me.
Shopping was easy for me and there are cheap precook pizza, fish chips, meat loaf, ... Wow, it makes my student life easier. Ha ha....
I think I am going to like it here. No traffic jam, no spitting, people are polite, and they greet you whenever they meet you. I spend less time on the roads and more time walking and enjoying the air and environment around me.
There is no hassle in enrolling my children in their school. They are very efficient and they asked for a few documents and there they enrolled them on the same day. They even gave them their computer password, etc.

Living in Amer.ica sounds like a glorious dream. Let us all be thankful and put even the small things, like central heat, fresh air, pre-cooked meals, clean sidewalks, feet of air between cars on the street, and school systems that encourage laughter into perspective. Please, fellow Ameri.cans don't become complacent and forget the bounty that you have; the bles.sings of convenience and comfort, even in a time of financial hardship for so many people.

I'll be remembering C and her family as she settles into life in a new culture (again). Join me?

Cheers. xoxo.

Feb 1, 2010

I Miss Florida.

I got guilted into a spontaneous trip up north...leaving tomorrow and returning Thursday, just in time to leave for Mala.ysia on Friday. (talk about never a dull moment - haven't unpacked from Ame.rica, and I'm off on another airplane from Shan.ghai). I'm nervous because it is a Chin.ese home-stay situation that could potentially have awkward implications. Level of awkwardness potential: 11 on a 10 scale. I'll update you, little blog, after the fact. (I know you're riveted). I'm currently racking my brain for an appropriate visitor gift. I'm currently leaning towards blueberry muffins made from a mix brought from home. That's nice, right? Hm...

When I asked if I should bring my winter coat I was told, "It was snowing, but now it is getting warmer and warmer." Well, I'm not exactly sure what the Chin.ese idea of "warm" is, but when I looked up the weather, this is what I got...

Weather for Weifang, Shandong, China

- Add to iGoogle

2°C | °F
Wind: NE at 11 km/h
Humidity: 31%

3°C | -6°C
Partly Sunny
1°C | -4°CWed
Mostly Sunny
3°C | -6°C
Mostly Sunny
6°C | -3°C

I'm bringing my coat. And 8 pairs of long johns. And a kleenex to wipe my tears as I dream of Florida...

In other news...I miss my sister...

Cheers, xo.