Jul 18, 2011

Ahoj, from Prague!

I feel like I have been dropped inside a fairy wonderland.

Prague is everything I could have hoped for.

Cheese and baguettes. Friends and conversation. Castles and history.

Come along....

The Prague Castle at night:

my classmate from Chi.na in his native land! And my old college roomie! Worlds collide.

Bread Dumplings, Gravy, and Czech Beer:

the Lennon Wall:

The Charles Bridge:

Old Roomies (loves) at the Dancing House:

view from the Castle:

flying over Paris:

There aren't enough positive adjectives to describe how I feel. I guess mostly: blessed.

And soon my sister arrives. Things are about to get awesome(er).


walk slow. xoxo.

Jul 13, 2011

On the Road Again...

And I'm off!

I'll be spending the next three weeks in Europe - eating as much cheesebreadgelatocarbs as possible, looking at ancient things, and spending time with people I love. I'm expecting great things. I think it's good to set the bar high on trip hopes.

My packing strategy has morphed over the years. I now just throw a bunch of junk in my backpack and realize that what I don't have I either A) don't really need or B) can buy when I get there. All that's important is the money and passport, everything else is replaceable/live-with-out-able. It's a good philosophy. (for me, at least).

Here's some travelin' pics from the past....

Harbin train station, 2009 (before we unknowingly got on a trian for 36 hours in hard seats)...

flying to Shenzhen, February, 2011...
on a bus in Bangkok after an overnight bus ride from Phuket, 2010...

I love that purple backpack, it serves me well! And it gets to soon greet a new continent!

"Roam abroad in the world and take thy fill of it's enjoyments." Sa'Di.

And I'll see you along the road, hopefully!

walk slow. xoxo.

toothbrushes and singing.

One of the greatest joys of my life is being a link for people.

I often feel like a corner piece. When I met my new classmates at the uni this year, I linked up several classmates with my old students to be language partners. Seeing their friendships grow made me feel needed, important, and happy. I like being the catalyst and then watching the relationships go on and grow on their own.

Last Christmas I was given 4 tickets to the international fellowship's Christmas Party. I invited my 4 fave Chin.ese people: Michael, Christina, Stone, and Lin. Stone couldn't come, so Lin brought her mom and the bunch of us (along with some of my foreigner friends) sat around a table and had a grand ol' time.

At that party, Michael and Lin became acquainted and I introduced Michael hoping that the orphan hospital (Lin) and my work hospital (Michael) could work together on charity issues.

Well, that relationship has exceeded my wishes and hopes and has become a beautiful thing. Michael routinely visits the orphan hospital and takes groups there to volunteer. Last week, a group of doctors from America spent the day singing, playing games, making dumplings, and helping bath the children. They also gave translated lectures on child-care and hygiene to the nurses. (some of my students were the translators! I'm so proud!)

Today I met with Michael and he shared the pictures and stories with me. Honestly, I was a little sad that things go on without me. That human part of me was like, "hey! Why didn't I get to go!" But then I looked at the big picture and realized that's not why I am here - to see things and hoard experiences.

One day I will leave Chi.na, and it is my greatest hope that these activities will continue. And they will. They don't need me. I get to be lucky enough to be here, to be a small catalyst, but the work is not in my hands. It's bigger than me. It's a freeing thought.

I am thankful for those Americans whom I will never meet. They shared joy with the children, brought them toothbrushes from America (better quality), and were another solidifier for the relationship between the two hospitals.

This all brings me great, deep, unspeakable joy. It's reaffirming. Even though I have a bad attitue towards Chi.na 75% of the time (it's been a hard year), I know that this is my life. I haven't mis-stepped, and I can't go anywhere else just yet. There's more bridges to build.

Here's some pictures from last week's trip, all taken by Michael:

toothbrush donations:
dance, little one, dance:

my boss's boss, Annie and the girl we've been sponsoring for 2 years (missing a left ear)...

I wish there weren't any orphans in the world. But there are. So we must do something. Anything. Toothbrushes and singing. Anything.

walk slow. xoxo.

Jul 12, 2011

Christmas in July.

The worst thing about living abroad is saying goodbye.

I've gotten to the point where if I meet someone and find out they are staying here less than a year, I don't even try to get their phone number and be friends - what's the point, they'll just leave soon!

I am super blessed to have a strong support system of long-termers - even a few friends that have been with me through it all the last 3 years. In a lifestyle where people come and go with each passing month, having stable friendships has been such a lifesaver.

In this season of goodbye's, it is even sad to see those friends off for the summer!

Tonight was Hannah's last night in HZ for the summer. She's heading back to the Motherland of freedom and blue sky and Publix.

A few of us met up for homemade tacos (you can do wonders with flour and water!) and then indulged in Steph's Christmas Pudding from England. She left it to me today and told me to celebrate it next Christmas (since she won't be here) :( :( But I decided I couldn't eat Christmas Pudding witout my fave Brit, so we all partook of it together after our taco feast, after singing a few Christmas carols to mark the occasion. Awesomness.

After the pudding, we took some pics, watched Veggietales in Chi.nese, then said 800 hour long goodbyes. Steph and Hannah won't be seeing each other again, so the obligatory, "I'll come visit you, you come visit me..." conversation took place.

Goodbyes are really all the same.

Your heart is thankful to have met this person and sad to be parting because it means an era is over, but you also realize that people come in and out of your life all the time. You pledge to hold onto the good, celebrate Christmas in July, and hope one day to meet again, even if just in a better place.

I cycled home just in time to get my nightly call from my mom, who then skyped me on her iPhone. I then got to do my new fave thing - go on errands with my mom and sister. Today I went to the shoe store, sat in the car with my mom while my sister went into the bank, and road in the car with them. It's fun to be together, it almost feels like I'm really there in person!

With all these goodbye's lately, I'm so glad that I soon get to say some very special HELLO'S! To my family!!! I'll see my sister in a week and my parents in 2 weeks....weeeeee!

Now that's even better than Christmas Pudding in July!

walk slow. xoxo.

Jul 11, 2011


Dear Ch.ina,

Money can't buy you class.


a citizen of the developed world who is offended by you on all levels today.

PS. let's make tomorrow better, ok?

Jul 9, 2011

corn, mongolians, and moments.

I'm in a weirdo mood today.

Just tired. And reflective. And sensitive to blood sugar dropping. I was shaky and irritable while tutoring because I didn't eat enough. (tutoring from 3-7:30 is annoying A: because it's every Saturday and B: because it means a late din-din).

By the time I met up with my friend Jes to get our hairs done, I was gunning for some grub.

So we grabbed steamed black corn on the cob. I so wish I had a picture.

So there I was biking through downtown, one hand on the handbars and the other hand holding a cob of black corn wrapped in a plastic baggy - and shoving it in my face one huge, chewy, yummy bite at a time.

And I had a moment.

(Don't you love those?)

This was my thought: I am riding a pink bike around Chi.na on a Saturday night eating a corn on the cob with my hands. Weaving in and out of cars and pedestrians. I'm awesome. This is awesome.

Moment over.

Then I went to the hair place and decided I might cheat on my usual hair dude - Qu Ping, with the newly-returned-from-a-year-in-Japan hair dude who is Mongolian and has curly hair scaling down his back. Just because he looks so exotic and I want to hear his stories. And who doesn't want a Mongolian to do their hair at least once in life?


walk slow. xoxo.

Happy Birthday, Ting!

So, Miss Ting Ting is making her rounds around my bloggy blog!

First, graduation....now, a birthday!

Tonight we met at the imensely popular West Lake location of Grandma's Kitchen - the yummiest most delectable place to eat in Hangzhou. (my humble opinion, haha).

See, doesn't that look luscious?!?!

Even the decor is different - more "modern" than most places around town. I especially loved these pots that reached to the ceiling and had writing on them...

Table Awesome (3 tables of friends were at the gathering) - including a professor in the back who is making some rounds visiting some people in the area.

the birthday girl and her beau, and her rabbit cake...

now that's a genuine smile if I've ever seen one!

It was a wonderful night. I'm so thankful to have these friends in this place.

walk slow. xoxo.

Jul 6, 2011

Republished: "in love" weight.

I originally published this post 2 days ago then took it down after some family comments hurt me unintentionally. I realized, however, that this is just part of the story and I want it to be documented, because I view this blog as my diary.

So, without further emo discussion...the deleted blog post:

I haven't really been talking about this on the blog because it's such a complicated issue for me...but I really want to document the work I've been doing the past few months. And I think it's helpful for other foreigners trying to be healthy in this land devoid of nutritional facts/healthy snacks/calorie counts. (there's no nutrition facts on foods here).

I want to talk about weight.

I joined the gym a week after my ex-love announced his quickie marriage. It was stress relief to keep me from attacking every Asian I saw. My chants of, "6 feet under, 6 feet under," while on the elliptical/treadmill soon changed into, "the healthiest me I can be, the healthiest me I can be." My goal of relieving stress quickly changed into a personal goal of being healthy and more fit.

I was (and still am) nervous to call what I'm doing "losing weight." The mental ramifications of being "on a diet" for me are tough. Instead I'm focusing on "intuitive eating and excercising."
I eat what I want - there are no "off-limits" foods. I eat when I'm hungry. I don't decide what excercise I'm doing until day-of. If it's not a group exercise class day, I'll wait til I get to the gym, look out over the gym floor and ask my body, "what it wants to do today." Then I honor that. No game plans, no schedules.
Allowing myself not to feel trapped inside guidelines has been a breakthrough.

After 4 months...I have hit my first goal weight! I'm doing this in increments...this weight has been dubbed my, "in love" weight. I am now at the weight I was my first year in Ch.ina when I felt sexy, loveable, and womanly - a time when I liked pictures taken of me and was comfortable in my clothes.

I think I look awesome, powerful, capable:

So how did I do it?

1. Cut back drastically on Chin.ese food. (crap is loaded in oil/salt/MSG).
2. Become bff's with the veggie market lady and start eating raw carrots at night instead of your fave, "bacon vegetable" crackers.
3. Taxis = just say no. bike. bike. bike. walk. walk. walk. 1am 4 mile walk home? Just do it. 4. Go to the gym 6 days a week - no matter how many times the gym cleaner ladies say, "look the fat girl is back." Soon you won't be fat and they'll still be the gym cleaner lady. You win. 5. Don't be afraid to be the flabby white girl in every class the gym offers: step aerobics/yoga/belly dancing/hip hop/spinning - try it all and stick with the ones you like.
6. No more soda. (ok, just a little bit).
7. Eat. Eat a lot. Never be hungry for longer than an hour. This will make you crazy and obsessive and binge eat.
8. Find protein sources. Tofu/peanut butter/nuts are your friend.
9. Carbs are also your friend, but that loaf of bread that you purchase and then eat in 2 days is not. Single or 2 day serving purchases only.
10. NO FAT TALK. If you are mean to your body, it will be mean to you. Be nice to your body. When I get on the elliptical I thank my body for working hard, during step class I tell my legs how strong they are. In yoga, I tell my core that if it works hard, it will be easier next time. As I lift weights, I sometimes look in the mirrors and smile. (This one has been hard - but important, can't say I haven't slapped my belly and told it to, "go away.")

According to the whatevers of whateverdom, I am still 14 pounds overweight for my height. I'm not sure what my next goal weight will be. I haven't decided what is best for me yet. I'm thinking maybe 10 more by October, 15 by Christmas. That will make 30 pounds in 10 months - which is right about the pace I'm going now (.5 - .75 pounds a week).

But I don't like numbers. All of that is just an estimate.

It's hard around here with all the fat talk from the natives.

Last week I went to get my bike seat fixed and was told my seat broke because I am, "sooooo fat." My dad called very soon after that interaction and was privy to the anger and emotions that these comments cause. I feel like it's the freakin' devil attacking my sanity.

But then things like this happen:
I went to the blind masage place alone before the HSK. When I layed on the table, the massager felt my back and asked who I was again. "It's Xiao Mei (my chin.ese name)," I said.
"No, you can't be Xiao Mei, you are smaller than Xiao Mei," she said as she touched my shoulders and back.

YESSSSSSSS. That comment deleted a bunch of the negative ones from strangers on the street.

Anyways, this has been a large part of my life this semester that has gone quiet on the bloggaroo...It may seem like a simple subjec to some, but to other people (like me) mentioning weight is a very vulnerable act.

But it's part of the story. So it belongs here,too.

I guess I can only hope that someone reads this and knows that they aren't alone - emotional eating/binging is not uncommon and entirely misunderstood. This is just my story.

Addition: *I have never lost weight healhfully. In the past it has always been a starve/binge pattern. So this time around, I am determined to do it the right way (and the slowness of the weight loss is killllinngggg meeeeee, but worth it in the long run). That's why these past few months have been so special, I really feel like I'm "doing it right" this time.

I don't know why I binge. But I do know that being yelled at for binging as a teen/young adult made me do it more. I don't know why it happens when I'm in good places in life, as well as in bad. I don't know why a random comment from a family member about, "coming to realization," and losing weight makes me want to eat everything in the fridge. Maybe I'll never understand. But I do know that I am on a path towards a heathier, stronger me. A me that binges sometimes. But then forgives herself.

walk slow. xoxo

what's your favorite season?

Mine is waxberry season.

....followed closely by, "hang-out with your friends, get hair washes, massages, bike through the city, and go shopping," season. Which, if you followed me around all day today...is the season you would guess I am in.


walk slow. xoxo.

Jul 5, 2011

First Fourth.

It was my first 4th of July in Ch.ina.

And just how does one go about celebrating the Fourth of July in Chi.na?

With a giant feast of pork burgers, veggies, fruit salad, and mashed potatos....

with friends from all over the world...

with sparklers lit on the roof of a 7 story apartment building...

with random shouts of, "AMERICA!" and "LIBERTY!"...

with Ch.inese lanterns floating into the night sky...

Happy Fourth of July, America, from a land far away. The longer I live away from you, the more I love and appreciate you, your lifestyle, culture, people, and freedoms.

walk slow. xoxo.

Jul 2, 2011

Dear Me.

I've hit that teacher-burn-out phase.

Classes are over. (!)
I leave for Europe in 2 weeks. (!)
Many of my friends have gone travelling or returned to their home countries for the summer.

So this past week as I pondered what to do in my classes about an hour before they start. I had an "aha!" teaching moment. (love it when that happens!)

Have you seen the, "Dear 16 year old me," or whatever skin cancer ad campaign rolling around social media lately? I recently watched the short clip and spent some time googling the "Dear Me," book series where people write letters to their 16 year old selves.

Perfect lesson for an advanced ESL class. Bingo!

I sat on the bus on the way to work and wrote my own, "Letter to my 16 year old self," while the Chine.se dude next to me looked over my shoulder. I wondered how much he could understand, if any.

Then in class I instructed my darling doctors to talk to themselves. To think of who they were at 16 and write themselves an advice letter. I told them it was a "creative writing" excercise to work on their fluency and I would give them as much time as they needed.

I was nervous a little tiny bit.

Would they be vulnerable? Would they think I had gone off my rocker making them be all personal? Would they take it seriously? Would they be bored? Would they have the vocabulary to express themselves accurately or would they get frustrated?

Then I read them my letter as an example (word up to ESL teachers - ALWAYS give examples).

And when I looked up from reading my letter, two students had tears in their eyes and all of them were silent. (my class is usually high-energy, so that was a little uncomfortable/weird for me).

"Um, guys, are you ok? Why are you so quiet?" I asked.
"We are thinking," head nurse Lucy responded.

Then they began to write. And write. And write.

They wrote for over 25 minutes. In another language. Creatively. That is so hard. I was so proud.

When they all seemed to be slowing down their pace, I instructed them to find a stopping place and that we would share. All of them ended up reading their papers outloud.

It was incredible.

The amount of depth in the letters was surprising and beautiful. I didn't mean for class to turn into counseling class, but it happened. I see it as my mission here to expose my students to new ideas and to encourage personal reflection (something Ch.inese culture does not encourage). I always want my students to think about themselves, about who they are and what their purpose is. But sometimes there have been roadblocks as students are not willing or able to go deeper.

My students exceded my expectations. (as they often do). :)

They told their 16 year old selves to not study so much. To tell their parents what they really think instead of doing whatever they say. They told themselves to play more, make more friends, and not feel immense stress over the Chin.ese highschool tests. They told themselves that they would be happy as adults, so do not worry. They told themselves to study English harder so that their adult lives would have more opportunity. They told themselves that their lives would get better as Ch.ina got richer, so do not worry if they don't have enough to eat or wear.

When class ended I wanted to squeeze each of their faces and smother them with gratitude.

It was one of those days I used to have all the time at my old job at the university. Those days where you know you are in the right place at the right time. You know your life is ordained to be this way. I don't feel this way at school (in fact, quite the opposite). One of those days where you know you are supposed to be with the people you are around. Nothing is random.

I love my monkey butt doctors and I'm so glad I don't have to quit. (I also wonder about my ability to create conncetions with AMERICAN college students...at my new job...hmmmmm???)

And because I'm an over-sharer....here's my letter to my 16 year old self:

Dear Jessica,

Oh girl, you have the whole world ahead of you. Your highschool years will seem like so long ago by the time you are my age. Enjoy these times. Don't wish to be older, as I know you do. Relish these days because your life will no longer be this simple. The things that worry you now will be long forgotten in the days to come. So soak in the small things. Do not take for granted every second you spend with your family and friends because one day you will live far away from them.

Do not worry about your future. Your wildest dreams will come true. But they will not look like you think they will. They will be wilder.

Spend your youth growing closer to God and building a good foundation for yourself. Because your young adulthood contains hardship. You will be hurt by those closest to you, you will live without physical comfort, you will cry as much as you laugh, you will be confronted with ideas very different from your own...but you will be made stronger through it all. And you won't regret a thing.

Be careful with your emotions. You have the power to lift up or destroy. And both will happen. Learn to navigate your emotions.

Do not worry when you feel out of control. Soon you will find that it is not you who has the ability to control anything. So let it go. Everything will be ok.

You are beautiful. Your height, hair, curves. All made by a Father who doen't make junk. Stop hating yourself for being bigger than average. Others will not understand your cycles of punishing yourself with food. Don't expect them to. I can't give you the answers, you must find them out for yourself, but I can tell you this, being hard on yourself will only hurt you.


Allow yourself to be loved. Boys are not scary creatures. True girlfriends are not fairweather.

Choose joy. Don't take how good you have it now for granted. Life will get harder. Awesomer. Grander.

You will be blessed, child. Keep this in mind as you live. As much as is given to you, will be required of you. That's serious stuff.

It's going to be a wild ride. And you're going to love it.


Yourself. (age 24).

walk slow. xoxo.